Skip to main Content

EU, UN, World Bank insist on new global climate agreement

25 September 2012
EU, UN, World Bank insist on new global climate agreement

NEW YORK: Today the UN’s Christiana Figueres, EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, and Rachel Kyte of the World Bank, came together to discuss the international climate negotiations with the business community ahead of COP18 in Doha this November, where they shared their support for a new global agreement.

At the event, which was hosted by The Climate Group and Bloomberg LP, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened discussions with: “In this country it is important to start with the science”, referring to the US’ hesitant climate dialogue. She praised domestic legislation, referencing the seven countries that already boast comprehensive legislation and the 118 with renewables targets – which she said is double 2005’s figures – before focusing on the global level: “We’re mobilizing capital. Trillions in clean energy would not be there without the negotiating process. While this is good news, we are lagging behind if you compare political and private investments to where we should be according to science.” She continued: “All can be explained with two words: tipping point. We must make the low carbon economy the norm. We’re not there yet, but we’re definitely moving.”

Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Action, European Union, explained how Europe is reducing emissions thanks to earlier commitments made, and answered her own question of whether it is ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ action that is most needed, with: “Of course we need both. Actions made locally, regionally and nationally complement the international efforts.”

Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank applauded the international framework for allowing finance, policy and science to come together, but said we are now seeing it reach constraints. She contested: “We have to take the climate change conversation out of its bubble and into cabinet rooms and boardrooms. It is happening, but it is an effort. We must keep the engine – the convention – but drive the energy of the convention in other ways.” One way of which Rachel Kyte recommended, is the work of Connie Hedegaard in linking Europe’s carbon markets with developing economies’.

America's new leadership

Christiana Figueres pulled the conversation back to the US when she said: “It doesn’t matter who is elected on the 6th November. It doesn’t affect the science of climate. […] Whether or not the parties agree, it doesn’t change the cost to the farmers of this country who have suffered from this year’s drought.” She said “a simple cost-benefit analysis” will show the incoming leader what to do, yet currently America is letting countries like China take the lead. “China leads the world in solar and wind technology. Why does the US allow that? If the technological skill and entrepreneurial spirit of this country allows this, there will be serious economic effects on this country. The new leader will have to answer to that.”

Rachel Kyte also condemned the US Government for not talking about climate change enough. She said we need to implement regulations so that “firms at the cutting-edge in the green economy can progress at speed and scale. Otherwise it’s going to be state by state – and America will fall behind.”

Hopes for Doha

Christiana Figueres shared positive hopes for the Doha COP18 climate talks. She said: “There is a groundswell, a momentum building. It is a combination of top and bottom action, a confluence of both that is dramatically different to last time. This time it will be successful."

Comparing Europe’s economic crisis, Connie Hedegaard suggested “a smarter way of thinking about growth and integration” as strategy for this new round of negotiations. She also reminded the audience of the competitive element to the clean energy economy: “There is demand in the future for energy and resource efficient products. It is a race to deliver solutions and get the markets.”

The cost of inaction

Answering a question from the audience about the cost of inaction, Christiana Figueres referenced the Stern Review: “The monetary cost of action is much lower than the cost of inaction. But GDP doesn’t measure what is most important – the human cost of inaction cannot be measured in dollars or euros.”

Connie Hedegaard agreed on the human element but reiterated the financial cost of inaction: “We must avoid the inbuilt decision that if we continue as business as usual, it will cost us nothing. […] There are huge costs, and the insurance industry knows this already; the US drought for example was such a blow to them.”

Rachel Kyte even called for a new measurement of cost: “We created GDP at the end of a crisis, World War II. We are now at a new crisis and need to create a new form of accounting to help us make different decisions at all levels.”

Global agreement

Christiana Figueres said to accelerate progress we must celebrate the success stories in every sector – much as our Clean Revolution Campaign sets out to do – and Rachel Kyte reiterated the need for a global agreement to allow for the clean revolution to happen at speed and scale. Christiana agreed, using the EU as a successful example of a legally binding agreement. Concluding the high-level and inspiring discussion, she insisted: “We absolutely need a convention. It won’t be easy; it will be exponentially more complex than the Kyoto Protocol. But we absolutely need a global agreement.”

Read more about the cost of inaction for America at

Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank, is interviewed in NYC.

Latest from Twitter