10 key moments that show 2014 was an important year for climate action

Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 6 minutes
19 December 2014

LONDON: With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it is time to look back at what climate stories have dominated the headlines and what has been achieved as we head toward Paris and a new global climate deal next year.

The return of the carbon market

January started with news of a rise in value of global carbon markets to US$62.5 billion. The analysis conducted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted an increase of 15% compared to 2013, but this was still well below the record of US$120 billion reached in 2011.

Later in the year, the World Bank Group reported in its State and trends of Carbon pricing that 39 national and 23 sub-national governments have launched, or planned to launch, carbon pricing initiatives. The total value of these emission trading schemes, accounting for 12% of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, was at the time around US$30 billion.

Most recently, China announced to launch the world's biggest carbon market in 2016 – while the North American regions of Québec and California held their first joint GHGs emission allowances auction.

Tackling non-CO2 gases

In March, the European Parliament passed legislation to reduce fluorinated gas emissions by two-thirds by 2030. Fluorinated gases are a group of GHGs that have a warming effect up to 23,000 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

Cleaner China and India

In the same month, while China promised to clean up its cities, in India the former Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi become Prime Minister. In the Indian state of Gujarat, Modi championed renewable energy, in particular solar.

Our India Director Krishnan Pallassana, India Director, underlined: “Renewable energy is not just an option in India, it is a non-negotiable pre-requisite for the country to reach its growth and development goals. Our recent work in Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal has demonstrated that clean and renewable energy is viable, equitable and accessible”.

Climate scientists deliver unambiguous warnings

At the end of March and start of April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its second and third part of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Generally recognized as the world's most comprehensive scientific review process, it’s divided into three working groups of hundreds of top scientists who analyze different aspects of the climate change science. The report published in March and April focused on "Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability" and "Mitigation of Climate Change".

Negotiations move ahead, bonds surge

In June, governments and delegates met in Bonn, Germany, for their mid-year negotiating session. “Governments showed new and higher levels of cooperation and positivity towards a meaningful agreement in Paris and the goal of limiting a global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius,” commented Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Climate Bonds Initiative, in partnership with HSBC, published a report last July stating that the total value of green bonds relating to climate change solutions reached a record high, growing from US$346 billion in March 2013 to an estimated US$502.6 billion.

“One of the biggest barriers to making the rapid transition to as low carbon economy is securing large scale investment in tried and tested clean technologies, such as building energy efficiency and LED street lighting,” Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group observed. “The emergence of a global green bond market can play a central role to overcoming this challenge and this report demonstrates its potential”.

Bold climate action = economic opportunity

In September, a major new report outlined how the world can safely reduce emissions and still reap economic benefits - if our business, government and finance leaders act immediately. The New Climate Economy report revealed that 50-90% of the actions required to cut emissions in most countries would also drive economic growth.

A few weeks later the We Mean Business Coalition released its first report, The Climate has Changed that showed how bold climate action was also delivering average returns on investment of over 25% for companies taking steps to cut emissions.

Climate Week NYC and Climate Summit break new ground

The Climate march, a mobilization of hundreds of thousands of people on the street of New York, opened the way to the biggest ever Climate Week NYC, which boasted a record 140+ affiliate events. Our week-long forum had an official role as the collaborative space for all events in support of the high-profile UN Climate Summit. Here many impressive announcements were made and new coalitions launched, with leaders committing to limiting global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius and agreeing a global climate deal in Paris.

Climate Week NYC was opened by leading political figures such as US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres.

They were joined by Tim CookCEO of Apple, Sir Richard BransonFounder of the Virgin Group, and executives from leading companies including BT, IKEA, HP, Lockheed Martin, Swiss Re and Unilever. The event added to growing business, government and civil society momentum in support of a new global climate deal at COP21 in Paris next year.

New major commitments from business and sub-national governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were also announced on the same day, such as We Mean Business. During Climate Week NYC, we also launched RE100, a new campaign to help increase the global market share for clean energy - so that by 2020, 100 of the world’s largest businesses will have committed to 100% renewable power.

EU commits to 2030 targets

In October, Europe was in the climate headlines with the EU’s adoption of a binding target of reducing GHG “at least” 40% by 2030 (compared to 1990), and increasing the share of renewable energy and energy efficiency by 27%.

“We have a deal on the EU 2030 climate and energy package - and that’s a good thing,” commented Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group. “Europe is the first major economy to agree on its climate targets ahead of the Paris conference in 2015 and its leaders should be commended for that. It gets the ball rolling and paves the way for others to follow suit in the coming months”.

A one-two punch for climate action

In November, the IPCC published its final synthesis report of the science of climate change. The report pulled no punches underlining the urgency of tackling climate change with ambitious and effective measures.

Then, China and US unexpectedly announced a game-changing climate deal. President Obama announced the US would nearly double its current efforts by reducing carbon emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. And for the first time ever, China set the date for when it will ‘peak’ its greenhouse gas emissions and start cutting its pollution - as 2030.

“This is the news that many governments and businesses have been waiting for,” said Mark Kenber. "It will help create the confidence for other national governments to follow suit and implement the measures needed to avert runaway climate change. It will give business the direction and certainty it needs to scale up clean energy and energy efficiency, and send the right price signals to drive investment in low carbon technologies."

“This commitment represents a crucial signal for the increasing number of businesses who have been reshaping their investments to drive a low carbon economy,” commented the coalition We Mean Business. “Businesses can be more ambitious if the right polices are in place. Let’s be bold.”

Not so good COP

December’s headlines were dominated by COP20 in Lima, Peru – the annual UN climate negotiations to set a draft agreement to pave the way to Paris next year. World leaders agreed on the 'ground rules' for the next negotiationa, spelling out how they will contribute to reduce CO2 in their own nations. The so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) will be submitted in the first quarter of 2015, well ahead of the Paris talks.

“The one thing to clearly emerge from Lima is that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of confidence-building among those involved in this process. Lima has given us a basis for delivering a global agreement in Paris next year,” said Mark Kenber. “But we urgently need to move away from the zero-sum game model of doing business and improve on what has been agreed in Lima if we’re to get the agreement we actually need. The INDCs are an opportunity for governments to set out what practically needs to be done to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050”.

By Ilario D'Amato

Want to read more about COP? As well as our pre and post-COP briefings we also produce COP20 coverage in our news and blogs and on Twitter. Our States & Regions events in Lima can be tracked on hashtag #statesandregions.

And in case you missed it, here's a brief background to the COP20 in Lima and our infographic showing the history of the COP negotiations.


Read our CEO Mark Kenber's response to the COP20 outcomes

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon