In the corridors and sessions at the UN climate talks in Lima over the past two weeks, there has been extraordinary power and energy. We’ve seen material action as the financial sector starts to transform how it thinks about long-term risk. Coalitions are working together on tax reform, regulatory reform, and putting a price on carbon, and country after county is saying that they have been able to clean up their regulatory framework and put themselves in a position to grow.
Rachel Kyte's blog
The Paris negotiations where the world will be writing a new international climate agreement are just a year away, and here in Lima, delegates from around the world are discussing their national commitments and contributions that will largely determine the level of ambition in that 2015 deal.
As we trace the path to a resilient and decarbonized economy, we must keep in mind that the Paris agreement will set a framework for the period post-2020. What happens until then?
The science tells us that, even with very ambitious mitigation action, we have already locked-in warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Climate change impacts such as heat-waves, droughts, storms, and other weather extremes may be unavoidable.
The high-level segment of the UN climate talks is starting here in Lima. It's a different mood today than in previous climate talks and a different conversation, with both a sense of urgency and clarity of objective. There has been a lot of discussion around carbon pricing, in particular, with representatives from countries, cities, states and industry saying the question now is how quickly we can move.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that to rein in climate change and keep global warming under 2°C, we will have to start reducing emissions now and get to near net zero emissions within this century.
That won’t happen without healthy forests and soil storing carbon, and it won’t happen without climate-smart land-use practices that can keep carbon in the ground.
Together, agriculture, forestry and other land use changes account for about a quarter of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The sector can be a powerful source of emissions, but it is also a powerful carbon sink that can absorb carbon dioxide, providing a pathway to negative emissions. The IPCC authors estimate that with both supply-side and demand-side mitigation efforts – including reducing deforestation, protecting natural forests, restoring and planting forests, improving rice-growing techniques and other climate-smart agriculture methods, changing diets, and reducing the immense amount of global food waste – we can effectively reduce a large percentage of emissions from the sector and increase carbon storage to move the needle toward net zero.
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.
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.
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.
In the weeks running up to the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States, out of frustration and a sense that they must look after themselves, a new alliance was born: the Coalition of Atoll Nations on Climate Change. Or, as President Tong of Kiribati called it, the "alliance of the sinking". The coalition comprising Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Cook Islands, and Tokelau, with Micronesia associated as part of their territory, is atoll territory.
These nations have tried everything to bring their situations to the climate negotiators' and development organizations' attention and have their special situation recognized. With just 15 months until the Paris climate negotiations, they seek in a group to be able to support each other and to make themselves heard.