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Climate Change

How civil society and others achieved the Paris Climate Agreement

Duncan Green's picture

Michael JacobsA brilliant analysis by Michael Jacobs of the success factors behind last year’s Paris Climate Agreement appeared in Juncture, IPPR’s quarterly journal  recently. Jacobs unpacks the role of civil society (broadly defined) and political leadership. Alas, it’s over 4,000 words long, so as a service to my attention deficit colleagues in aid and development, here’s an abbreviated version (about a third the length, but if you have time, do please read the original).

The international climate change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 was an extraordinary diplomatic achievement. It was also a remarkable display of the political power of civil society.

Following the failed Copenhagen conference in 2009, an informal global coalition of NGOs, businesses, academics and others came together to define an acceptable outcome to the Paris conference and then applied huge pressure on governments to agree to it. Civil society effectively identified the landing ground for the agreement, then encircled and squeezed the world’s governments until, by the end of the Paris conference, they were standing on it. Four key forces made up this effective alliance.

The scientific community: Five years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was in trouble. Relentless attacks from climate sceptics and a number of apparent scandals – the ‘climategate’ emails, dodgy data on melting Himalayan glaciers, allegations surrounding its chairman – had undermined its credibility. But the scientists fought back, subjecting their work to even more rigorous peer-review and hiring professional communications expertise for the first time. The result was the IPCC’s landmark Fifth Assessment Report, which contained two powerful central insights.

First, the IPCC report introduced the concept of a ‘carbon budget’: the total amount of carbon dioxide the earth’s atmosphere can absorb before the 2°C temperature goal is breached. At present emission rates, that would be used up in less than 30 years. So cutting emissions cannot wait.

The other insight was that these emissions have to be reduced until they reach zero. The IPCC’s models are clear: the physics of global warming means that to halt the world’s temperature rise, the world will have to stop producing greenhouse gas emissions altogether.

The economic community: But it was a second set of forces that really changed the argument. Since the financial crash in 2008–2009, cutting emissions had fallen down the priority lists of the world’s finance ministries. The old orthodoxy that environmental policy was an unaffordable cost to the economy reasserted itself. A new argument was required.

Who are the barefoot solar sisters…and how can they help forest communities?

Ellysar Baroudy's picture
Photo credit: Lisa Brunzell / Vi Agroforestry
 
In Kenya, a group of Maasai grandmothers provide an inspiring example of how simple actions can transform societies and how, when empowered, women can break down barriers between men and women.

These women never had the opportunity to attend school. But now aged between 40 and 50 years old, they found themselves with a new task. They received training and were tasked with installing and maintaining solar lighting systems in their villages.
 

Historic climate signing, for this and future generations

Max Thabiso Edkins's picture
 
Photo: Leigh Vogel / Connect4Climate


On Earth Day, April 22, history was written. World leaders from 175 parties (174 countries and the European Union) came together at the United Nations to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The signing ceremony far exceeded the historical record for first-day signatures to an international agreement. 

African women help their communities go solar

Carolyn Lucey's picture

Also available in: Arabic | Spanish

Wamayo’s solar lantern has helped her tailoring business grow.



This number cannot be emphasized enough – more than 1 billion people around the world live without access to electricity, and 2.9 billion still cook with polluting, harmful fuel like firewood and dung.

As we celebrate Earth Day, we're looking at the ways to bring energy access to those communities and transform lives, and at the same time, protect our planet’s resources. How can we make sure that the right progress for communities is the right progress for the planet? 

The good news is that the world is constantly coming up with new technology to address this challenge. We have portable, phone-charging solar lamps and energy efficient cookstoves that are affordable and practical for communities living off-the-grid. The challenge now is how to make sure the right technologies are available in affordable and sustainable ways to the communities that need them most.

Solar Sister is a social enterprise that recruits, trains, and supports African women launch clean-energy businesses in their communities, selling lights and cookstoves to their neighbors. We are organized around the principle that women must be intentionally included in discussions around energy.

4 questions, 4 answers. What’s next after the Paris agreement?

John Roome's picture



Today, April 22, 2016, marks a key moment for the world with the signing of the historic Paris climate change agreement. A record number of world leaders are expected in New York at the United Nations Headquarters for the high-level signing ceremony.

It’s a clear sign that people recognize that the changing climate is impacting us now – the recent record-breaking temperature, spread of infectious diseases, and climatic conditions, are increasingly alarming and must be dealt with before it’s too late. Now is the time for action and for countries and governments to deliver on their promises made in Paris.

I’ve answered some questions that will better help explain why the signing of the Paris Agreement is critical and how we in the World Bank Group are stepping up our efforts to help countries deliver on their pledges.

Earth Day 2016: In a rapidly urbanizing world, cities hold the key to a greener future

Kevin Taylor's picture
Photo: Mricon/Flickr
This Earth Day, we have good reason to celebrate. It’s been a year that saw historic commitments along the path of our collective response to climate change and how we will live on the planet in this century.
 
In September, global leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals and are now working to put them into force to end poverty, while also combating climate change and ensuring that our future is prosperous for all people.
 
The Paris Agreement reached at COP 21 last December represents our best foot forward toward cutting carbon pollution and building resilience to the climate threats we face. And that momentum continues this week, as leaders from around the world gather in New York City to formally sign the Agreement to turn those promises into action.
 
Increasingly, that future will be more urbanized than ever before. 6 out of 10 people on the planet will live in cities by 2030. However, more than 820 million people live in slums and this number, sadly, is increasing. Fortunately, more and more local leaders are stepping up efforts to make cities more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and productive to address the global challenges of climate change, poverty, and inequality.
 
This year, we can celebrate another global commitment in the launch of the Compact of Mayors. Nearly 500 mayors and local officials have signed the Compact to mark their pledge to tackle climate change. Most of these leaders were in Paris for COP 21 to call on nations to follow their example.
 
It is critical to seize this momentum to turn the promise of the Paris Agreement, SDGs, and Compact of Mayors into reality. For climate change, we need to significantly reduce CO2 emissions as soon as possible, as the window for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change is rapidly closing.

Chart: Countries Where over 80% of Electricity is Renewable

Tariq Khokhar's picture

A fifth of the world's electricity production in 2012 came from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower. The International Energy Agency estimates this could rise to a quarter of the world's production by 2020.

Note: I picked "over 80%" just for emphasis - I was surprised by the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Zambia where hydropower is a big part of the energy generation mix. You can see a map with values for all countries with available data here.

Four months after Paris, renewed urgency on climate action and financing

Donna Barne's picture

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim speaks with Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, and Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England and chairman of the G20’s Financial Stability Board. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

The world must move quickly to fulfill the promise of the climate change agreement reached in Paris four months ago and accelerate low-carbon growth, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said on the opening day of the Spring Meetings.

More than 190 countries came together last December to pledge to do their part to halt global warming. The result was an unprecedented agreement to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5° C.  


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