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2007-2008: The Climate Group Perspective

Date
30 January 2008

Climate change shot to the top of global agenda in 2007, propelled by significant publications, like the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and global events culminating with the UNFCCC conference in Bali. In the business and political realms, talk no longer centred upon questions of whether to address climate change, but finally turned to how.

2007: Ground Covered

The °Climate Group and our members and partners actively facilitated these developments. In early spring, The °Climate Group joined with eight major UK companies and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to unveil 'Together' a campaign that makes it easier for individuals to find positive ways to reduce their emissions. We co-convened the second C40 Large Cities Climate Summit and hosted the event's final plenary session, which focused on creative financing for sustainable infrastructure, such as clean energy and energy efficiency projects in cities. This past November, The °Climate Group, in partnership with IETA and the World Economic Forum, launched the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS): the world's first global standard for the voluntary carbon offsets, the VCS promises to enhance the integrity, transparency and confidence in the global carbon markets.

Increasingly in 2007, businesses showed real interest and investment in climate action. McKinsey & Company made waves when they published "A Cost Curve for Greenhouse Gas Abatement"; this groundbreaking assessment of emissions reductions across geographic areas and business sectors found that over one-quarter of the reductions required to have a reasonable chance of keeping global temperature increases below 2°C could be achieved at no net cost and most of these could be achieved with existing technologies. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) separately released reports committing to act on climate change after concluding the risks it presents too costly for businesses to ignore.

In November, the IPCC's 4th Assessment Report, which synthesized findings published earlier in the year, declared, among other things, that climate change is now "unequivocal"; that the world is already seeing its first impacts; and a combination of mitigation and adaptation measures are now essential to address it. The 2007/2008 UNDP Human Development Report sounded a clarion call on climate change, warning that without immediate action the world faces "unprecedented reversals in human development."

2008: The Road Ahead

With such momentum behind it, 2008 promises to be the year in which political action on climate change change takes shape.

 

Major corporations sprang into action over the year. In the spring, HSBC announced its groundbreaking HSBC Climate Partnership, pledging US$100million to support The °Climate Group, along with Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF in a five-year push against climate change. Just a few of the other major corporate commitments include: Google and BT announced groundbreaking investments in renewable energy; Marks & Spencer unveiled its eco plan, Plan A; and Virgin launched the first-ever onboard emission offsets programme. Just a few of the many other impressive corporate commitments made throughout the year came from the likes of Yahoo!, Dell, Citigroup, Walmart, and Cadbury Schweppes.

Governments, across nations, states and regions, showed increasing recognition of the need for urgent action. In early 2007, the EU agreed to slash GHG emissions setting a target of 20% unilateral reductions by 2020, increasing to 30% if the US and other industrialised countries commit to making comparable cuts. Leaders at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm saw through to a landmark deal to support action on climate change and to complete negotiations on a post-2012 UN multilateral framework by 2009, although the US and Russia continued to resist specific emission targets.

Despite this resistance at the federal level, within the US, commitment to the issue was in abundance. Florida's Governor Charlie Crist unveiled a series of climate initiatives committing the state to ambitious emissions reductions, and with the membership of the Northeastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) reaching 10 states in 2007 sub-national acknowledgment of the need for action is unquestionably strong.

Similarly indicating a step-change in leadership on the issue, newly-elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ratified Kyoto and pledged Australia's full support for the post-Kyoto negotiations on combating climate change. News of the ratification was greeted with cheers from the delegates at the UNFCCC conference at Bali, where halting and at times acrimonious negotiations lead to a last-minute breakthrough, with the decision to complete agreements on a global climate deal by 2009 (although the level of ambition of this deal remains uncertain).

The spring will see the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Groups created under the Bali Work Plan, which will set the agenda for negotiations over the subsequent 18 months. The end of the year will prove especially important, as the COP14/MOP4 meet in Poznan this December, marking the halfway point of the global climate negotiations and where parties will decide whether and how to move forward to the 2009 deadline.

Japan, as chair of the 2008 G8 has proposed climate change as a lead focus for this year's Summit, with a particular focus on delivering an effective framework for the post-2012 climate agreement. Contributing to this meeting will be the findings from the Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development process. The GLOBE G8+5 Climate Change Dialogue will continue their meetings, as government, business and civil society leaders from the world's leading industrialised and developing economies collaborate on a climate package proposal to present to the G8 heads in Japan.

Important events loom on most national horizons. In Europe, the European Commission's energy and climate change package, which includes rules on the post-2012 emissions trading scheme (ETS) and sets a renewable energy target of 20% total energy consumption by 2020, will be the subject of discussion and (potentially) approval by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers at the European Spring Council. Meanwhile, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his support for global, national and local action against climate change in January, and has charged the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change the task of developing India's national climate policy.

The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing give China the opportunity to showcase its environmental achievements as host to the world's first "green games." In November, all eyes will inevitably turn toward the US presidential election, the outcome of which has enormous implications for the future of the global climate negotiations.

We enter 2008 with positive momentum: Political interest and activity has surged to new levels; business leaders and civil society are taking action and increasingly, working together. Still the challenges and the obstacles ahead of us are clear. Unprecedented levels of cooperation and commitment are needed if we are to truly progress the fight against climate change.

The °Climate Group will continue to add its energies to this effort. This year we look forward expand our role globally, as our offices in Australia, India, China and the United States continue to grow and the Together campaign launches internationally. We will continue working closely with our members and partners to develop innovative, practicable climate solutions and to realise the many and exciting opportunities the low carbon economy brings.

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