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.
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.
Photo: Climate Group
As world leaders descended on Manhattan this week for the UN General Assembly, the blocks around 44th street got ever more gridlocked and noise decibels from the omnipresent motorcades tested the patience of locals and visitors alike.
Away from the main hubbub, Monday I joined Tony Blair, Prince Albert of Monaco, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and a number of Chairman and CEOs from top companies to talk about climate change and efforts to get the world onto a cleaner growth path.
Tuesday, hosted by Bloomberg L.P., I was in conversation with Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Cristiana Figueres. The discussion covered the role of the UNFCCC past, present and future in what has happened and needs to happen to arrest climate change. From the need to change the narrative, accounting systems, risk appetites and ambition, to whether the convention is an umbrella for action, or should encourage actions outside its framework, to where will the funding come from for adaptation and resilience as climate change bears its teeth, it was a great conversation showing sensible hope.
Climate Week, an annual event here in New York City organized by The Climate Group is calling for an American “Clean Revolution.” At their opening session they issued a report saying such a revolution could grow the US economy by $3 trillion.
While climate change seems to be a “non-issue” in the US election, jobs and competitiveness are not. Competitiveness in the global green economy is not an issue for the US alone.
Faced with conclusive scientific evidence of the impacts of climate change, especially on the world's poorest, and a new global agreement some years off, we're in a ‘make-or-break’ decade for action on global climate change.
At 4.30 on Sunday morning, after 36 hours of overtime (a record), the 194 country members of the UNFCCC pulled a rabbit from the hat. Special flights had been put on by South African Airways as a way to encourage delegates not to leave.
Putting the Puzzle Together
Three big pieces of the jigsaw needed to fall into place in order to clinch the `Durban Platform’. First, a new commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, without which developing countries would have walked. Second, a road map towards a truly global deal to be effective by 2020 at the latest, without which the EU wouldn’t sign on to a new Kyoto. Third, the launch of the Green Climate Fund, without which developing countries wouldn’t sign on to such a global road map.
Putting the pieces together required compromise and was accompanied with brinksmanship, emotion, and millions of words spoken, usually repeating what had already been said. The outcome, however, is highly positive for the long term prospects for a deal, and delivered all that could reasonably be hoped for (see my earlier blog: Will Durban Deliver?).
Thus, in a nutshell, delegates left Durban having agreed on:
- A new commitment period under Kyoto for the EU and 11 other countries beginning January 1, 2013.
- An agreement to negotiate a global deal by 2015, which would be effective from 2020 with "legal force" applying to all countries.
- A Green Fund launched, with regional groupings to nominate board members in the coming three months. Board selection will be very important since most operational details yet to be designed.