Over the next few months, governments worldwide will be preparing their national contributions to our collective need to combat climate change. These plans will form the foundation of a new international climate agreement to be agreed in Paris in one year’s time. Collective ambition matters now more than ever. We all have a responsibility to make the choices that will lower the risks created by decades of greenhouse gas emissions and usher in an era of job-rich, more-inclusive, cleaner economic development.
Scientists have provided us with a remarkable consensus. We believe that with this evidence, we have the strong foundation for action. That’s good news, because climate action has to scale up now.
This week and next at the UN climate negotiations in Lima (COP20), there is a sense that gridlock may be easing. The U.S. and China – the world's two largest emitters – set a strong pace last month when Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping stood together and jointly announced their top-line commitments for cutting emissions. Their pledges, along with commitments from the European Union and donor support for the Green Climate Fund, auger well for the Lima talks. But this was always billed as the finance COP, and how we finance the transition to deep decarbonization and lasting resilience requires a coming together that has eluded us to date.
The past five weeks have given us what may be defining moments on the road to a Paris agreement that will lay a foundation for a future climate regime.
- On October 23, European Union leaders committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 and increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use by at least 27 percent by 2030.
- On November 12, during the APEC Summit in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping and United States President Barack Obama jointly announced their post-2020 climate mitigation targets: China intends to achieve peak CO2 emissions around 2030, with best efforts to peak as early as possible, and increase its non-fossil fuel share of all energy to 20 percent by 2030; and the U.S. agreed to cut emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
- On November 20, at the donor conference in Berlin, led by the U.S., Germany, and others, donors pledged about US$9.3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
China’s announcement in particular is considered by many to be a game changer. China, the world’s biggest emitter with its emissions accounting for more than 27 percent of the global emissions, is setting an example for other major developing countries to put forward quantifiable emission targets. The announcement will hopefully also brush away the “China excuse,” used by some developed countries that have avoided commitments on the grounds that China was not part of action under the Kyoto targets.
Executives from Alstom, the Swedish pension fund AP4, Deutsche Bank, and the French pension fund ERAFP joined finance ministers for an informal climate ministerial discussion about carbon pricing during this year's World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings. After the meeting, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group's vice president & special envoy for climate change, described the conversation and some of the takeaways.
Philippe Desfossés is the CEO of ERAFP, the French Public Service Additional Pension Scheme. He spoke about carbon pricing from an investor's perspective.
“I support putting a price on carbon because it fixes a market failure. Without carbon pricing, the market has no way to address the costs associated carbon emissions. These costs end up being borne by everyone, including companies and societies.
Sitting on the train heading back from New York to Washington D.C., gazing out of the window at stressed watersheds, I had some time to reflect on a very special Climate Week. What does it all add up to? Where does it leave us as a global community needing speed and scale in our climate action?
Much is being written. Let me add a perspective. Here are three thoughts amid my swirl of memories, moments and impressions.
Climate osmosis – the street reaches the hallowed halls
It was difficult to stand in the canyon that is 6th Avenue, with a sea of people stretching in both directions – environmental activists, nurses, pensioners, business people, every possible faith community, moms, a sprinkling of celebrity and a dash of statesmen – and not be moved. On the Sunday before the Summit, more than half a million people took to the streets in People’s Climate Marches in New York and more than 160 countries across the globe. The marchers demanded climate action from their leaders, suggesting that the politics of climate action, once considered too hard to handle, might no longer be as difficult as leaders think.
The reverberations continued for 48 hours and became a point of reference in almost every speech at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Leadership Summit. More than 120 heads of state and government came to hint and in some cases pledge action on climate change. New coalitions of governments, businesses, investors, multilateral development banks and civil society groups announced plans to mobilize over $200 billion for low-carbon, climate-resilient development. Forests and cities were big winners, landing pledges of around $450 million for forests and bringing together more than 2,000 cities in a new Compact of Mayors to help improve accounting of urban greenhouse gas emissions and the actions cities are taking to reduce them.
In a video shown at the UN Climate Leadership Summit on Sept. 23, 2014, German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks about her country's support for carbon pricing and how it can drive low-carbon growth.
Fred Krupp is the president of the Environmental Defense Fund, one of several civil society organizations supporting a price on carbon. He spoke ahead of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Leadership Summit about how a price on carbon could bring shared propserity and economic growth.
The People's Climate March drew people from all over the world to New York City today, and you could feel the energy in the air. Across town, government ministers are beginning to feel the sense of urgency, too.
The rising level of anticipation around the UN Secretary-General’s call for climate leadership has been palpable over the past few weeks, and especially so here in New York at the People's Climate March today, with Climate Week about to start and the UN Climate Leadership Summit just two days away.
At the World Bank Group, we have been fielding calls from our clients – companies and countries – who are asking for support and wanting to know how they can engage on the different climate initiatives that are coming together across all sectors of the economy.
Standing in my daughter’s school yard talking to other parents last week, we discovered that many of us would be joining the march. In our family’s religious community, buses were organized and rooms offered to those headed to New York to add their voices to the call for action. New York is just one location – the march organizers are talking about more than 150 other climate action events around the world.
Before stepping off, let me try to lay out how I believe this Summit can help spur action and achieve the speed and scale of action we need.
Frank Pegan is the CEO of Catholic Super, an Australian superannuation fund currently managing AU$5.21 billion. He spoke ahead of the UN Climate Leadership Summit about the value of carbon pricing for investors.