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UNFCCC calls for Climate Action Now: new report

Date
19 November 2015
UNFCCC calls for Climate Action Now: new report

NEW YORK: Countries are increasingly experiencing how climate action fosters economic prosperity, and a wide range of proven initiatives and policies can accelerate their transition to a low carbon economy, a new report by the UNFCCC shows.

The paper, distributed just days before the crucial climate talks in Paris, is directed at policymakers to show how keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius based on pre-industrial levels is not only feasible, but also urgently needed and economically viable.

The Climate Group has proven with many projects and initiatives that acting today will help avoid the worst effects of climate change while saving money through mitigation and adaptation. In particular we have showcased the ambitious actions of so-called ‘non state actors’ such as sub-national governments and businesses, which bring the technology and concrete policies necessary to accelerate emissions reductions.

The UNFCCC has supported non-state actors for 16 years, but they have also been “increasingly recognized by national governments,” said Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, at the press launch of the report. “National governments set the direction, but when it comes to actual greenhouse gas reductions or adapting, that occurs closer to the ground.”

Today there is more “understanding of the intertwined responsibilities between sub-national, national governments and businesses – which have the proper technology and easiest access to financing,” concluded Christiana Figueres. “All need to collaborate with each other. This is now very clear, and it’s an important piece of our work and of the construction of the Paris agreement.”

CLIMATE ACTION NOW

Despite a wide range of good practice policies, initiatives and actions existing, they are not enough to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption, according to the report. To close the emissions gap, policymakers must scale up low carbon investment by providing the right policy frameworks and financial support.

Taking climate action now is in the economic interest of all countries, the report points out. If emissions continue unabated and reach 55 Gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent by 2030, global emissions will need to be reduced by an unprecedented 6% annually between 2030 and 2050 to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius – increasing mitigation costs by 44%.

Scaling up the best climate practices would also lead to a series of co-benefits such as energy security, energy access and health improvement. However, the report indicates four barriers that regularly block this necessary climate action: a lack of institutional, regulatory and legal frameworks; a lack of carbon pricing; the existence of inefficient subsidies; and inadequate financial support for developing countries.

Climate action now

Image: Mitigation potential by 2020, from the UNFCCC report “Climate Action Now – A Summary for Policy Makers 2015

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Renewable energy is one of the easiest and fastest-growing solutions to solve climate change, with the potential to reduce global emissions by between 1 and 3 Gt CO2eq by 2020.

Excluding hydropower, renewables accounted for 9.1% of global electricity generation last year, up from just 1.8% in 2004. Investment in this sector has grown 500% since 2004, reaching US$270 billion in 2014 after a peak of US$318 billion in 2011.

This growing momentum led to about 58.5% of net additions to global power capacity last year from renewable technologies – which is more than from coal and gas combined.

Another striking co-benefit of renewables is improved energy access. Today, nearly 1.3 billion people in the world – almost a fifth of the global population – still do not have access to electricity. The Climate Group has just concluded the first phase of the Bijli – Clean Energy for All project, which has connected more than 60,000 people in rural India to clean, affordable solar energy.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Another overlooked area of climate action is energy efficiency, which the UNFCCC report explains has a huge potential. Reducing energy demand could save US$18 trillion globally by 2035.

Climate action now

Image: Potential for energy efficiency under the International Energy Agency New Policies Scenario by 2035, from the UNFCCC report “Climate Action Now – A Summary for Policy Makers 2015

Measures such as tax incentives, minimum energy performance standards for buildings and government support to industry to increase energy efficiency are also indicated as solutions in the report.

TRANSPORT

The transport sector generated 7 Gt CO2eq of greenhouse emissions globally in 2010, about a fifth of all energy-related emissions – a number that could double by 2050, the report shows. Shifting to a sustainable, low carbon sector by that date could save up to US$70 trillion, while enhancing citizens’ lives with decongested roads and healthier cities.

The main barrier is implementation of adequate infrastructure for low- and zero-carbon emitting vehicles, but today there are many new actions in this area, such as bike sharing and strategic urban planning.

LAND USE

Another big contributor to climate disruption is land use and forestry, which according to the report have the biggest emissions impact – followed by livestock. Agriculture, forestry and other land use accounted for about a quarter of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, or between 10 and 12 Gt CO2eq per year. With food production estimated to grow by 70% by 2050, it is crucial to address emissions in this sector.

Many countries are already taking action on this issue. For example, China has a target of increasing the net increment of its forest area by 40 million hectares by the end of 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

COLLABORATION

The paper concludes by highlighting the fundamental importance of international collaboration to address the global challenge of climate change. Investors, NGOs and sub-national governments must all play their role and create alliances, initiatives and partnerships, underlines the report.

The Climate Group is at the forefront of this call, with ambitious projects linking non-state actors and fostering the sharing of best practices.

In particular, the report highlights The Climate Group’s Compact of States and Regions, the first global account of the greenhouse gas inventories and reduction targets of state and regional governments. To date, the initiatives brought forward by the more than 40 signatories will reduce emissions by 2 Gt CO2eq by 2020 relative to the business-as-usual trajectory, and reduce emissions by 7.9 Gt CO2eq by 2030.

Another of our projects underscored by the report is RE100, which convenes the world’s leading companies to switch to 100% renewable power. Companies gain a better understanding of the advantages of following this path, and also benefit from peer-to-peer learning.

“We will move to a low carbon world because nature will force us, or because policy will guide us,” concluded Christiana Figueres. “If we wait until nature forces us, the cost will be astronomical.”

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by Ilario D'Amato

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