Last Saturday, UN climate negotiators from 195 countries agreed on a historic climate change accord in Paris after two weeks of intense negotiations. While many of us were hoping for a hook that would support the use of markets, we were happily surprised to see the extent and detail on carbon markets that was ultimately included in the Paris Agreement.
The agreement reached by 196 countries at Paris to collectively work to limit the growth of global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is a landmark for efforts to avert the worst impact of climate change. At Paris, each agreed to do its part to promote sustainable energy. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa region are willing to do their share to mitigate climate change, as demonstrated by their respective Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.
The world forged a historic climate deal in Paris on Saturday, cheered on and celebrated by people around the world. Getting to that agreement has involved years of work and collaboration that resulted in what many of us thought we would not witness in our life time. The agreement is in—now it's time for us to help the countries we work with to put their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) into action.
Being in Paris was exhilarating. The World Bank Group team was active on many fronts—the support for carbon prices, the Africa Climate Business Plan, our work on renewable energy, energy efficiency and contribution to energy access. How do we waste less, pollute less and do more to promote energy access?
One such initiative that was strongly supported at COP21 was the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative. The one-page text that took almost a year of negotiations and discussion commits endorsers to end routine gas flaring in new oil fields and eliminate ongoing “legacy” gas flaring as soon as possible and no later than 2030. If all oil-producing countries and companies endorse the Initiative, it will make available approximately 140 billion cubic meters of gas each year. If used to generate electricity, this amount of gas could power all of Africa. The Initiative was initially supported by 25 endorsers—pioneers—who recognized ending routine gas flaring as an industry practice is a no brainer and an important contribution that oil and gas companies can make towards addressing climate change. Twenty-two more endorsers have joined since the Initiative was launched to take the total to 47 endorsers representing 100 million tons of CO2 emission reduction each year and more than 40 percent of gas that will no longer be flared. At COP21, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed, announced that Nigeria will endorse the Initiative—great news for the people of Nigeria, especially those who live near flare sites.
(See an inspiring video featuring Faith Nwadishi from Nigeria.)
With only 43% of its households with access to electricity, Odisha’s economic development lags behind that of other states in India. However, it is home to rich water reserves, wildlife, forest, minerals, and renewable energy sources, which together can help boost the state’s economy.
Let’s take the example of solar energy.
In recent years, Odisha and its international partners have set out to boost the development of renewable energy in the state and now aim to identify and scale up potential solar power sites.
Yet, challenges remain.
Despite 300 clear sunny days every year representing a huge solar potential (Odisha receives an average solar radiation of 5.5 kWh/ Sq. m area), only 1.29 percent of Odisha’s total energy capacity stems from renewable sources.
Considering that Odisha is planning to increase its solar capacity from 31.5 Megawatts (MW) to 2,300 MW in the next five years, the state must step up its efforts and enact relevant policies to meet its solar energy goals. This, in turn, could benefit local businesses and spur economic growth.
The mountain kingdom of Bhutan may not seem an obvious place to look for lessons on addressing climate change. But on a recent visit I was impressed with how much this small country has achieved and also with its ambition. Bhutan has much to teach South Asia and the wider world. These lessons are especially relevant as the world negotiates in Paris a new pact on climate change at the International Climate Change Summit, known as COP21, which we all hope will eventually move the global economy to a low carbon and more resilient path.
The talks aimed at agreeing a way to keep global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial era levels. There is widespread agreement that going above this threshold would have serious consequences. South Asia is among the regions of the world that is likely to be most affected by climate change. We are already experiencing this. There is increasing variability of the monsoon rainfall, more heavy rainfalls such as those that caused the recent flooding in India, and an increase in the number of droughts.
A World Bank report in 2013 predicted that even if the warming climate was kept at 2 degrees then this could threaten the lives of millions of people in South Asia. The region's dense urban populations face extreme heat, flooding and diseases and millions of people could be trapped in poverty. Droughts could especially affect north-western India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
These are big problems. They may look much bigger than anything Bhutan - a very small country in a populous region - can teach South Asia and the world. But I see three lessons. Firstly, a commitment to ambitious goals will be critical to save the world from climate disaster. To stop the world from warming too much, climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by up to 70 percent by 2050. Carbon neutrality (zero emissions) must be achieved within this century.
The Climate Change conference in Paris only confirmed what we already knew—that increasingly, there’s an overlap between conventional security threats of a military nature, which are focused on nations, and unconventional security threats of an environmental, social, and humanitarian nature, which are focused on societies and individuals. Thus, the phenomenon of climate change has brought about new security threats, such as internal conflict, terrorism, and instability.
More than 180 countries have submitted their intended national climate plans to get on a low-carbon development pathway ahead of COP21 climate talks, now underway in Paris.
Called the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), most include mitigation targets to be implemented by 2025 or 2030. But these plans are not just about numbers. Many of them, particularly those put forward by developing countries, also propose climate actions within the countries’ overall development framework, including adaptation. Hardly surprising, as after all, tackling climate change is about effectively managing a country’s economy.
This certainly seems to be the case for China.
The 2014/15 oil price collapse may actually provide an opportunity for the Gulf region to focus on “green” economic thinking and on maximizing energy productivity overall. Given their large hydrocarbon resources, the GCC in particular has a large stake in the global transition towards sustainable energy.
Today at the COP21 climate talks in Paris, people will gather and pay tribute to the life, vision and accomplishments of Maurice Strong who passed away November 27, 2015 on the eve of COP 21.
When he died in Ottawa at the age of 86, the world lost a crucial voice on the global environment and the urgent need for climate action. Ironically, Strong died on the eve of the Paris climate conference - for which he had laid the foundation over the last 45 years.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), full implementation of countries’ submitted pledges for low-carbon development will require USD 13.5 trillion in investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies from 2015 to 2030. That’s almost USD 1 trillion every year. This means all hands need to be on the deck if the global community is to address one of the biggest development challenges of our times.