As world leaders come together at the UN General Assembly to adopt new sustainable development goals, climate change activists gear up for Climate Week in New York City and the Pope brings his message to the United Nations, a shared vision of our future is coming into clear focus.
If we are to eradicate poverty, we need to tackle climate change. And since 2008, the $8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF) has been showing it is possible for countries to pursue sustainable development in a way that does just that.
More than two decades ago, the world agreed on the need to confront climate change.
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emerged in 1992, spawning a variety of negotiating forums with the goal of preventing catastrophic impacts from planetary warming caused mostly by polluting societies.
It's easy to overlook the progress that has occurred since, because we still have so far to go. Droughts, flooding and cyclones that already seem to be the norm are just the latest warnings of what is coming, and preventing much worse requires immediate and aggressive action to drastically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
China, the biggest source of CO2 emissions globally, accounts for more than 27 percent of the world's emissions. China is the first developing country to control CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Once a national carbon market is established, which could be as early as 2017, China will overtake the European Union (EU) to become the biggest carbon market in the world. The Chinese market will significantly alter the balance of power in global carbon markets in the mid-term. Significant challenges remain, and the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is helping China to overcome them with a project in Shenzhen that addresses key barriers to carbon trading.
Fundamentals of Emissions Markets
Once a liquid carbon market has been created, trading will mostly happen via forward and futures contracts. These instruments help companies to protect themselves against volatile prices and to hedge their carbon position. In the EU, exchange platforms emerged as one of the main mechanisms aimed at simplifying transactions, reducing risk and facilitating transparent pricing. As trading platforms, exchanges can facilitate price discovery and offer hedging products.
The financial sector and financial institutions (FI) play a fundamentally important role in an emissions trading system. It is to be expected that most companies in China will trade with the help of intermediaries; only large emitters will trade directly at an exchange. Thus, FIs will be in a position to offer trading-related services, as well as advisory products, to clients subject to mandatory CO2 regulation.
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.
By Kerry Adler, President and CEO of SkyPower
The fundamental inequality that exists between emitters of carbon and the victims of its devastating byproduct requires global cooperation and intervention beyond our willingness to act thus far. Today, we have the necessary technology, ingenuity and global monetary tools to incentivize a shift to cleaner energy.
Placing a price on carbon enhances the competitive position of renewable energy technologies, such as utility-scale solar, relative to fossil energy, thus encouraging migration away from high-carbon fuels. It is an important step, and it can be supported with other initiatives to ensure accountability.
In the private sector, transparency regarding carbon emissions is essential. With the advent of the Internet and the plethora of information available today, it is not only possible, but imperative that emitters of carbon are held accountable in a public forum.
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.
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.