Day 13 – December 12th, 2015
DO WE HAVE A DEAL?
After a long process that formally started at COP20 in Lima, a Climate Agreement has been finally reached. It was a long day at Paris Le Bourget where delegates could be seen walking around the halls showing signs of tiredness mixed with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, something in their lookssaying “we will make history today”.
Today, delegates from around the world, members of the UNFCCC Secretariat, UN observers, and of course the media, gathered at 5:30pm at the Plenary Session room and Laurent Fabius addressed the audience saying “the proposed text contains elements that we thought were impossible to achieve before”. Yet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of the decisions being made, reminding with a similar message as Christiana Figueres opened COP21, by saying “…the world is watching”.
The full document of the Paris Agreement is available to download at the UNFCCC site (http://unfccc.int/meetings/paris_nov_2015/in-session/items/9320.php). The question now is: what are the main outcomes of this agreement? To give an overview of this deal, these are the main points highlighted by the World Resources Institute:
- Long-term goal of achieving net zero emissions. In fact, the Paris Agreement aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stay “well under 2 degree Celsius” with a long-term objective of staying below 1.5 degree Celsius
- Enhanced transparency to ensure that commitments are made
- Climate finance to support developing countries
- Every 5 years countries strengthen climate actions. This was pointed out as a “novelty” in this type of agreements
- Adaptation is the central pillar to help world’s most vulnerable
In addition, 10,000 new initiatives were created during COP21, some of which have been presented in these daily summaries. More than 187 countries submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and have shared national action plans. Also, more than 127 hectares of degraded land in Africa and Latin America to be restored, and USD$1 trillion in solar investments to be mobilized by new global alliance. Finally, more than 400 cities to set targets that could cut emissions in half, 114 companies will use science-based targets to set emissions goals, and finally, 20 countries to double clean energy R&D (source: http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/12/paris-agreement-turning-point-climate-solution). On the other hand, the agreement does not consider sectors such as aviation and transport too cut greenhouse gas emissions; and the oil and coal sectors are not specifically addressed in the text.
Yes, reaching an agreement is a very important step but it is not the end. The effort of the negotiators during more than a year and, in particular in the last two weeks, has to be acknowledged. However, the great challenge ahead is the implementation of the agreement and for that, there is not a plan. We should celebrate but we must not get stuck to that moment. This step should serve as a stepping stone to move forward but with a well-defined and science and data supported plan. It is time for collaboration between governments, industry, organizations and the civil society. The world must not take a step back. As FC-ES clearly stated on December 10th at the side event, this is the perfect opportunity for engineers to provide their expertise to design national plans, which are based on scientific data, that support governments to successfully accomplish their emissions reduction targets. This is not the time to forget about future generations, to let politics take over and wipe out the efforts made so far; it is the time for collaboration and more importantly, it is the moment to act.
Day 12 – December 11th, 2015
THE WORLD AWAITS
As the Comite de Paris closed up his last session on December 10th, Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, mentioned that “the new draft of the COP21 text points out towards an ambitious agreement”. To this encouraging message, the following day Ban Ki-Moon joined the high hopes of reaching an agreement focused on tackling climate change, but reminded countries that in these crucial hours “the governments must use time wisely”.
These are indeed the most important hours of almost two weeks of negotiations between more than 150 countries that, with different needs and ambitious, have come to Paris to pledge for a new agreement that helps the world to stay under 2 degree Celsius, limit which the IPCC scenario has provided as the maximum temperature rise before facing terrible catastrophes.
While the negotiations are going, it is a good opportunity to mention the highlights in terms of agreements, coalitions and funds reached so far at COP21. First, on this day Canada and France signed agreements to with the Green Climate Fund to contribute in the efforts to address climate change. France has increased its contributions to the Green Fund to EUR 774 million. Meanwhile, Canada, a country that in the past dropped out of the Kyoto Protocol and is now back in the climate change fight under a new government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has signed an agreement for CAD 300 million. H.E. Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said “Canada is committed to supporting developing countries increase their capacity to mitigate climate change, adapt to its adverse impacts, and improve environmental sustainability, which underpins the health and livelihood of their people”. The Green Climate Fund is integrated by approximately 40 countries and is a key operating entity under the financial mechanism of UNFCCC (source: http://www.greenclimate.fund/-/france-and-canada-convert-their-pledges-into-usable-resources-for-gcf inheritRedirect=true&redirect=/media/newsroom).
On the other hand, the Lima-Paris Action Agenda launched the “4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate” which is integrated by a hundred partners including international organizations, private foundations, international funds, NGOs, developing and developed states, and farmers’ organizations. This objective of this initiative is to protect the carbon stock in soils, as the latter can store big quantities of carbon and contribute to the limitation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (source: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lpaa/agriculture/press-release-lpaa-focus-agriculture-at-cop21/).
Finally, recognizing that the transformation of the energy system in the world is the core structure of the climate action, hundreds of governments together with businesses and cities made several commitments as part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda aiming to accelerate the energy transition. These initiatives point out that the energy sector, which accounts for more than two thirds of the global greenhouse gas emissions, must be a main driver in the efforts of keeping the global temperature rise within 2 degree Celsius. According to these commitments, in order to change the energy sector, the world should focus on three objectives:
- Utilize all technologies and push forward new R&D
- Increase ambition to change among all regions of the world
- Mobilize funds that enable the transition
As an example of commitments made to speed up the transition of the energy sector, India elaborated on its International Star Alliance (ISA), which was launched recently and aims to align countries with abundant solar potential to promote the development of solar energy technologies. Another interesting initiative put in place was the Africa Clean Energy Corridor, regional platforms that accelerate the deployment of renewable energy at a larger scale thanks to the optimization of resources. Many more initiatives regarding the deployment of renewable energies were launched as part of the Lima-Paris Agenda, and can be found here: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lpaa/renewable-energy/press-release-lpaa-energy-renewable-energy-and-energy-efficiency-can-unlock-climate-solution/.
From the examples mentioned before, there is no doubt that through research and development, policy-making and funding, several programmes and technologies are now available to address issues in different fields. In the side event hosted by the Grantham Institute, which was discussed in detail in yesterday’s summary, Professor Vad Mathiesen from the Danish Society of Engineers stated that the technologies based on renewable sources have been available for a long time and are there, ready to be used. It is necessary then to create a well-defined plan that integrate all these ready-to-implement technologies and initiatives to provide solutions that deliver concrete results.
Day 11 – December 10th, 2015
STAYING UNDER 2°C?
A typical question that arises regarding the “hot topic” of keeping the global temperature rise within 2 degree Celsius is: What internationally collaborative actions, policies or investments are needed by the energy sector to deploy low carbon technologies on a global scale?
To this challenging question, the panel led by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London in collaboration with the Carbon Trust, The Institution of Chemical Engineers, the Danish Society of Engineers (IDA), the Global CCS Institute, and Future Climate – Engineering Solutions ask: Do the technologies exist for a 2°C world?
The event kicked off with interesting remarks made by Phillip Benoit from the International Energy Agency, who said that “energy efficiency, renewables, and CCS, all have a role to play in limiting the temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius”. On the other hand, Mr Benoit said that it is necessary to think about renewables and policy in a different way, and not as a bolt onto the fossil fuel system. To these comments, he added that in the case of energy efficiency “it is vital to keeping GDP high and emissions low”.
Ajay Gambhir from the Grantham Institute presented an energy modelling that showed the need by 2030 to decarbonise at 7-14% a year, which is a huge task. However, the Apollo solar programme, which Mr Gambhir has been closely involved in, demonstrates that it is possible to achieve grid parity by 2026. With this, Mr Gambhir provided a great example of the role that R&D can have in bringing solar costs down.
Continuing with the topic on energy produced from renewable sources, Professor Brian Vad Mathiesen from the Danish Society of Engineers, opened his presentation by saying that “energy savings is not rocket science” adding that “conversion to 100% renewable is a technical option with an economic reach”. These statements are results obtained from scenario modelling and plans developed by Professor Mathiesen, who mentioned that there is enough waste heat in Europe to supply the continent’s entire building stock. Therefore, he concluded, a lot of the technologies needed to address climate change are already available, and thus it is now a matter of policy engineering and financial engineering that should be done.
With a different perspective from renewables, John Scowcroft from the Global CCS Institute mentioned that CCS (Carbon capture and storage) is needed and available, but needs a strong policy framework to be implemented. He also added that currently there are 12 operating CCS projects around the world, and that the some industry sectors would need CCS to reduce carbon emissions.
Addressing the question from a new angle, Beatriz Fernandez from the Future Climate – Engineering Solutions (FC-ES) highlighted the experience of the global network integrated by engineering associations in developing national energy and climate plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These plans are produced based on data backed by scientific evidence and they are in line with the IPCC scenario of keeping the global temperature rise within 2°C. Therefore, Ms Fernandez emphasized that “engineers need to put words into action with numbers”.
But How do engineers fit in the climate change summit at COP21? The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are post-2020 commitments submitted by more than 180 countries ahead of COP21 which reflect the intentions of nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is exactly here that the opportunity for the engineering community opens up to work in collaboration with their governments and stakeholders to support the implementation of INDCs which demonstrate the countries’ commitments to reduce GHG emissions. Ms Fernandez concluded that FC-ES is at COP21 “raising the voice of the engineers that with their expertise want to collaborate and support the governments in accomplishing the commitments made at COP21 to deliver a sustainable future”.
Following on this, Stefan Simon Chair of the Energy Center at the Institution of Chemical Engineers (ICheme) added that chemical engineers can help to deliver better processes to reduce the impact of climate change. He added “the technology is there but we need strong policy to improve energy efficiency in the process sector”. In his conclusions, Stefan said that an agreement in Paris is proving elusive and that regardless of the outcome, chemical engineers can help. Finally, Tom Jennings from the Carbon Trust added important points to the discussion saying that clean cost-competitive technology can be achieved through a global collaboration.
The event provided a very good overview of the technologies available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, their availability and most importantly, that their feasibility is a reality. However, it should be stressed that despite having this technological knowledge, it is important to have plans that are based on scientific data and a strong collaboration between governments, stakeholders and the engineering community that with its expertise in the industry is eager to support the implementation of (hopefully) an ambitious agreement in Paris.
Day 10 – December 9th, 2015
MOVING TO A LOW-CARBON ECONOMY
The daily agenda at COP21 is full with interesting events covering diverse topics that are addressed from different angles, always with an audience that actively respond and engage. Today was not the exception as the OECD and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) ran the event called “Pathways to a low-carbon economy”.
During this event, different speakers presented alternatives to shift to low-carbon economies and the potential pathways to achieve it. Mr Feike Sijbesma, CEO of Royal DSM, mentioned that “putting a price to carbon will give a political reason to shift, but it’s not the only solution to climate change”. Royal DSM is one of the world’s largest raw materials provider and the angle from which the CEO of this company sees the decarbonisation of the economy is “reduce, enable and advocate”. In Mr Sijbesma’s words, reduce has been achieved by Royal DMS by decreasing its environmental carbon footprint by 25%, as well as reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by increasing 25% its energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies to supply energy to the operating facilities. Enable allows the business to become sustainable, for instance, Royal DSM has put in place strategies to make its supply chain more sustainable. Finally, advocate as Mr Sijbesma did at this event; in his words it is to “raise our voice for a climate change deal that is real, and that it’s transparent”, which considers the risk taken if the world does not change.
Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, CISL EU Director, mentioned that as part of the strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, there is a need to establish a new carbon trade system. This system is required to “establish a carbon pricing and constrain carbon emissions”. To these important remarks, Simon Upton, OECD Environment Director added that two thirds of global investments in energy go to fossil fuels. Currently, USD$53 million are invested in the energy sector, which according to information provided by the International Energy Agency, would have to be scaled up by 2035. To this challenge, it is important to keep in mind that investing in low-carbon technologies would bring a sustained growth and a real pathway to shift to greener economies.
The discussion held by the panel had interesting remarks regarding the potential agreement at COP21, one of them that the novelty of this agreement is that it would have reviews every 5 years. However, an interesting question was brought up as to why the carbon price has not been included in the agreements drafted in this second week. The event closed up giving interesting options for transitioning to low-carbon economies. It seems that from a policy point of view the pathways are “there”. However, the fundamental questions remain: “how to achieve those pathways” and “what the basis is” to map out the pathways. This is a crucial week for COP21 and there have been important announcements on potential drafts to make a deal in Paris, which reinforces once again the importance of collaboration hand-in-hand between policy-makers and organizations that provide pragmatic solutions to climate change based on data with scientific evidence; exactly what Future Climate – Engineering Solutions can do.
Day 9 – December 8th, 2015
ENGINEERS AT THE CENTRE OF THE CLIMATE CHANGE AGENDA
The Engineering Summit of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) at COP21, brought together diverse engineering associations around the world, which debate around the challenges that engineers face in the implementation of strategies that tackle climate change in a pragmatic way.
Mr Jorge Spitalnik, President of WFEO opened the summit remarking important points about the Kyoto Declaration, which was a science-based and provided evidence for solutions to address issues such as providing drinking water, sanitation, energy, etc. The target of reducing CO2 emissions diversifies the technologies for energy efficiency and energy conservation solutions. The Kyoto Protocol did also provided measures to implement risk reduction, and finally but not least, to guarantee a prosperous and safe society.
Likewise, the representative of the Director General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO, highlighted that “engineers will play an essential role to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing technologies for sustainable development”, as it is important to remember that 17 of the SDGs are related to science and engineering.
Additionally to these messages, Darrel Danyluk, Chair WFEO Committee on Engineering and Environment, mentioned “engineers are providing with energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. However, engineers need to be involved in climate change by considering environmental, social and economic factors when addressing issues; designing, operating and maintaining; and during the planning, mitigation, and response to this important challenge.
Darrel delivered a powerful message saying that “engineers need to put words into action”, which he pointed out was the focus of the Engineering Summit and “has to be the message at COP21”. Engineers, he continued, need to provide scientifically based information “for accuracy, not precision…and engineers need to communicate needs for climate change because engineers are important to address issues as we forward to implementation”.
The Engineering Summit reinforces the importance of the Future Climate – Engineering Solutions project. To the message Darrel Danyluk delivered, from the FC-ES perspective would be “engineers need to put words into action, with numbers”. COP21 is unfolding as the perfect scenario to achieve a great deal to tackle climate change and to transition to a new era driven by zero carbon emissions. However, there still is a big challenge ahead of us: Implementing the agreement. FC-ES experience in developing energy and climate national plans, based on scientific evidence and data, puts this powerful global network at the heart of the implementation of the expected Paris Agreement at COP21.
Day 8 – December 7th, 2015
TIME IS OVER FOR FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES?
On the opening day of the UNFCCC Convention of Parties (COP21), the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key presented the Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform Communique to Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary.
The Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform is a coalition integrated by approximately 40 governments, businesses and influential organizations calling for accelerating actions to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, which would help to help keep the global average temperature increase within 2 degree Celsius. Governments spend $500 billion of public resources per year in subsidizing fossil fuels. Removing them would reduce GHGs by 10% by 2050. Even more, the money could be reallocated to other sectors such as education, health care, infrastructure, etc. (source: http://www.corporateleadersgroup.com/resources/news-items/paris-climate-change-conference-opens-unprecedented-call-governments-businesses-end-fossil-fuel-subsidies)
On the eight day of COP21 an important topic was discussed at the event called “Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Climate Change: National action and international phase out”, which was organized by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). This event gathered ministers of environment and energy from different countries such as Sweden, Finland, Morocco, New Zealand, Switzerland; as well as the IISD CEO, Scott Vaughan; the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol; and Felipe Calderon, the former president of Mexico and current Chairman of the Global Commission on the Economy of Climate.
During the session these leaders highlighted the importance of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and provided concrete examples of successful cases. Borge Brende, Norway Minister of Foreign Affairs highlighted that US$100 billion are estimated for climate financing by 2020, and fossil fuel subsidies account for 5 times that budget. Mr Brende pointed out that the money allocated for subsidies could be used for education, air pollution reduction programs, health care, etc. The Ministry of Sweden, Ibrahim Baylan, mentioned that removing the subsidies is “morally right and good for the economy” and that “fossil fuel subsidies are poor social welfare policy”. In the case of Sweden, the price of carbon tax in the 1990s was 29 euros, and will increase to 110 euros by 2016. With the carbon tax, during the period from 1990-2014, the GHG emissions were reduced by 24% and GDP grew by 62%.
Scott Vaughan from the International Institute for Sustainable Development provided examples of countries that area making efforts to reduce the subsidies and reallocating these resources. For instance, the Philippines have increased its expenditure in health care programs, while India has removed subsidies to diesel and diverted them to irrigation programs and microfinance of solar energy technologies.
The position of the International Energy Agency was also in line with the other leaders. Fatih Birol, IEA’s Executive Director, simplified the case of subsidies saying that “carbon price is one of the best solutions to climate change. A carbon price discourages fossil fuels and subsidies encourage them”. The great question from the audience was of course, “and what is China, one of the biggest polluters, doing about it?”. President Calderon addressed the question by saying that China has increased its energy efficiency in 19.5% per GDP, which translates to 1.5 billion CO2eq not pumped into the air. China was acknowledged for its efforts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and, Calderon added, the future G20 reunion will be a great opportunity to take on this topic in a deeper way.
The Friends of Fossil Fuel Reform makes an important call to remove subsidies to fossil fuels and, as Fatih Birol expressed, 175 of the INDCs are based on two things: Improving energy efficiency, and increasing the use of renewable energies. Therefore, this is the time to “phase out subsidies”. After a great exchange of ideas from world leaders a question remains to be answered: What is the next step?. And to answer it, Tim Groser, New Zealand Minister for International Climate Change Negotiations, concluded the session with important remarks “The technological, pragmatic, operational approach is the next step to a fossil fuel subsidy reform”, and added, “a healthy percentage of INDCs address fossil fuel subsidies”. At the center of this much needed practical approach is Future Climate – Engineering Solutions, its global network of professional engineering associations develop plans on how to accomplish the commitments made through the INDCs to reduce GHG emissions, and how to transition to an economy no longer dependant on fossil fuels.
There is indeed a long way to go before important subsidy cuts are made, but initiatives like this should encourage governments, businesses and organizations to provide practical solutions to address these issues. We cannot wait any longer, we have the resources to make it happen and FC-ES is a great example. Tim Groser said “10 years ago when discussing about this topic this was an empty room”. Today, we were in a full room of people leading the way to a substantial change.
Day 7 – December 6th, 2015
As the first week of negotiations officially closed today, there are important milestones and agreements to be made in the last week of negotiations at COP21. On Saturday, December 5th, negotiators agreed on a draft text but it leaves hundreds of points to be discussed by negotiators next week.
Today, Laurent Fabius President of COP21, convened the team of facilitators integrated by 14 members who will be responsible for assisting him throughout this week in order to ensure a successful convention.
The first meeting was held on Sunday with access only to Parties to address on the following topics: Acceleration of pre-2020 Action, Workstream 2 excluding pre-2020 finance; Support of implementation (finance, technology, capacity building); Differentiation, in particular with regard to mitigation, finance, and transparency; Ambition, including long-term goals and periodic review. Following to this, the first meeting of Comite de Paris will meet up on Monday, December 7th.
Miguel Arias Canete, European Climate and Energy Commissioner, expressed that “All the difficult political issues remain unsolved and will be solved by the ministers”, and he added “it’s easier to get a weak agreement than a strong agreement” (source:http://www.reuters.com/article/us-climatechange-summit-idUSKBN0TO0C820151206feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews#pvyFDlqpqdQOidYl.97).
It is important to remind ourselves that COP21 will not define specific measures or targets, those should be/would be set by each country. However, the Convention does aim among other targets, to create a legal framework on relevant issues such as climate finance in developing countries, and to set a long-term goal to shift from fossil fuels.
Definitely the pressure is on, but with that all the hopes and ambitions from hundreds of people around the world that have stopped being “witnesses” and become “doers”. We shall not let our future generations down, this is our time, “We must, we can, we will”.
Day 6 – December 5th, 2015
IT IS ACTION DAY
Action Day aimed to enhance implementation of climate action through showcasing the most important commitments made in Lima-Paris Action Agenda and demonstrating how a low-carbon and resilient world could be; as well as the intrinsic relation between climate change and the sustainable development goals.
During the development of COP21, there have been many discussions about how to mitigate climate change, what the low-carbon and renewable-energy technologies are available, the importance of financing and investing in projects that provide cleaner and “smarter” cities, among many other solutions. However, in Action Day a very important topic–and for many a sensitive one- was discussed: Putting a price on carbon.
It is well known that carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for global warming and can come from different sources. At the moment, the carbon trading mechanisms are in place, that allow to “trade” (as its name says) green credits to “pay” for exceeding limits of emissions. However, this strategy has not proven to encourage companies to invest in technologies or to think about solutions that can reduce emissions. Therefore, during Action Day putting a price on carbon was strongly emphasized as essential for success in the international response to climate change.
“Pricing carbon is not the only thing, but a necessary thing”, said Rachel Kyte, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the World Bank. In her message, Kyte mentioned that there is a need to take carbon pollution out of the economic growth model, and this entails “energy policy reform, energy subsidy reform, and putting a price on carbon”.
To this topic there was a response from international participant such as China that announced seven pilot emissions trading systems, and its intention to have a national trading system in 2017. Meanwhile, the city of Quebec started a low carbon dioxide price per tonne, with businesses integrating the cost and the province reinvesting the income. Another example, different to the previous ones, is the province of British Columbia in Canada, that has had a carbon tax for several years and the province of Alberta has intentions to follow up on the same steps (source: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/financial-flows/carbon-price-needed-for-climate-change-success/) .
But Action Day will go beyond the scope of COP21. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, announced the Climate Action Summit 2016 which will be held on May 5-6, 2016 in Washington, DC, USA. The summit aims to maintain momentum after COP21 to act on climate change to deliver concrete solutions in areas such as cities; land use; resilience; energy; transport; decision-making tools; and finance. This important gathering will be integrated by leaders of business, governments, civil society, academia, and cities and localities. The event will be sponsored by organizations that include the World Bank; the Global Environment Facility; the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; We Mean Business; the Compact of Mayors and Michael Bloomberg; and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.
Today, negotiators from almost 200 countries adopted a draft text that, according to the French Envoy Laurence Tubiana, “major political issues must still be resolved”. This draft will be discussed by foreign and environmental ministers on Monday, December 7th at COP21 in Paris Le Bourget. The gaps in this draft text which was acknowledged by politicians and other stakeholders must be closed in further negotiations. As Laurent Fabius, President of COP21 and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development in France, said in his remarks at the concluding session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhance Action, “this meeting is not only about climate change, or the environment, it is about life”.
Day 5 – December 4th, 2015
EDUCATION IS KEY AND SMART CITIES TOO
Day 4 at COP21 saw the young generations raising their voices to demand politicians, industry and society to implement real and concrete actions to fight climate change. Their demands did not come empty but full of proposals and the commitment to engage in tackling this crucial challenge with their creativity, energy and solutions.
The energy and enthusiasm demonstrated by the young groups at COP21 creates momentum to take on another important topic: Education. This is essential to create deep and concrete changes in lifestyles, which are much needed to foster a sustainable development. To address education and propose its integration in the climate change agenda, Ministers of Education from different countries participated in the Ministerial Event on Climate Change Education and Sustainable Development organized by the French Government.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, emphasized that “Education for Sustainable Development is so important…sustainability must start on the benches of schools” because, as she continues, “lasting sustainability begins in the minds of men and women”. Part of today’s generation is making big efforts to do things differently, to “think outside the box”, while others are still reluctant to change –and how difficult is that in any scenario. However, with the power of education we can dream of future generations more aware and concerned about the planet and every aspect of life that it involves. In the international platform that COP21 is, strong messages have been sent from different parties demanding to embed education as part of the solutions to climate change, and this is an unavoidable demand that cannot be ignored.
Investing in climate smart cities was another topic addressed on this fourth day. According to the UN, 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions come from urban areas, and cities produce almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions (source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52731#.VmHrIvNOOt_) .
Rachel Kyte, the World’s Bank Group’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, mentioned that in the next 30 years another two billion people will move into cities; therefore “we have to find a way to help cities get the financing necessary to become livable, green, competitive, job-rich cities”. These findings were provided in a report by the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, which was launched with the support of Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of the City of Paris, Michael Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-Generals Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. This report highlights that it is possible to have policies that improve the infrastructure of cities to make them “smarter”, and that unlocking financing mechanisms to achieve it is much needed.
Day 4 – December 3rd, 2015
THE BUILDING SECTOR AND YOUNG GENERATIONS AT COP21
“There is a generation imperative to act on climate”, Christiana Figueres makes the headlines in social media, press conferences and official releases as the young groups take the stage at COP21. Throughout this day, a series of events were organized by young groups, which proved their commitment and ambition to provide solutions to climate change. This is an important remark in the whole spirit of the COP21 as young people are demonstrating their capacity to be agents of change and that engagement is not a matter of age or experience.
On the other hand, the building sector was one of the main topics discussed today. This sector is responsible for the 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and as such, plays an important role in reducing the risks and impacts of climate change.
Recognizing the importance that the building sector has in providing solutions to tackle climate change, the Alliance for Buildings and Construction was signed on Thursday, December 3rd. Integrated by more than 10 countries including Japan, United States of America, Norway, Mexico, Morocco, France, among others; as well as more than 60 organizations coming from the public and non-for-profit sector. The coalition aims to speed up and scale up the potential that this sector has to reduce emissions and to build more resilient cities with better infrastructure.
Ibrahim Thiaw, from UNEP and co-founder of this coalition, called for emphasized that, “what will be done in this sector is crucial for the future of developing countries”. Highlighting the need to provide solutions for a low-carbon building sector also opens opportunities to improve it. Despite the direct responsibility that the building sector has in emitting greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, according to the UNFCCC document, the sector has the potential to avoid 3.2 GtCO2 by 2050 through the implementation of technologies and state-of-the-art policies (source: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lpaa/building/press-release-lpaa-focus-building-20-countries-and-over-60-organizations-launch-an-unprecedented-global-alliance-for-buildings-and-construction-to-combat-climate-change/) . As the cities keeping growing driven by population growth, this initiative is well received to put in place strategies that help cut the emissions from this sector. This is a great step taken towards approaching this issues in a proactive way; however, the challenge has just began and a big responsibility is upon those members of the coalition to deliver results.
This fourth day wraps up with big announcements that try to keep the momentum going at COP21 and influencing the negotiations that are taking place. We have heard the voice of young generations demanding to make things different but most importantly, to make things happen.
Day 3 – December 2nd, 2015
The use of low-carbon technologies and implementation of renewable energies are only some of the proposed solutions to address climate change and to stay under 2 degrees Celsius – a new temperature increase range that has sparked a challenging debate within the scientific and international community.
Despite the efforts to mitigate the consequences of a changed climate, it is clear that the world will not be, and it is already not, the same. This stresses the need to prepare for a future and the vulnerabilities that many countries will face, some with a greater degree of risk. Therefore, it is imperative to build a resilient world that guarantees a sustainable development and that adapts to the impacts of climate change.
To address this, announcements were made at the “Resilience Focus” event part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda to create resilient societies and economies so that they recover from natural disasters in a faster way. As a result, initiatives for resilience strategies were proposed which include: The Climate Risks and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) that will mobilize US$100 million to support a coalition aimed to develop early warnings systems for more than 50 developing countries and small islands by 2020. Meanwhile, the G7 InsuResilience initiative will work with existing regional management groups to provide insurance services to people in vulnerable countries. In contrast with the previous initiatives with a reactive focus, the UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and 13 member part of the UN system launched the “A2R” (anticipate, absorb, reshape) initiative, which aims to strengthen the ability of countries to anticipate hazards, absorb shocks, and reshape development to reduce climate change risks (Source: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lpaa/resilience/press-release-lpaa-resilience-2-new-international-initiatives-increase-resilience-protecting-millions-of-people/).
However, any initiative aimed to provide solutions for a resilient world would not be complete if water management was left out of the strategy. As the UNFCCC puts it “water is the very foundation of sustainable human development”. Therefore, “The Paris Water Act” was signed which set up coalitions and partnerships with the objective of making river basins, lakes, aquifers and deltas more resilient to climate change and to reduce anthropogenic impacts on oceans. By addressing water and its efficient use, resilient societies are not only shaped but it contributes towards reducing poverty; an important objective part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); goals which are directly related to providing development at its most sustainable form by embracing economic, social and environmental benefits.
As these 3 days come to an end, we have seen interesting commitments that shift from the traditional topics covering the technology solutions to climate change. This demonstrates the intrinsic relation between poverty, natural resources and prosperous economies, and reminds us of the importance of approaching climate change in a holistic way.
Day 2 – December 1st, 2015
COMMITMENTS IN THE HORIZON
The second day of COP21 ends with highlights from the announcements made by different governments committing to accomplish specific targets across diverse sectors.
France, for instance, announced an investment of 2 billion Euros in renewable energy in Africa in 2016-2020. With this investment, the program will encourage the use of renewable energies such as solar, wind power, hydroelectricity, and geothermal energy. The projects financed by this program will register as part of the initiative led by the African Union on renewable energy.
However, the commitments to be made are not only focused on renewable energy sources. The role of agriculture in the climate change agenda was discussed as it is one of the sectors that is most affected by extreme climate and it also accounts for 24% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Responding to this challenge, governments and food and agriculture organizations joined the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) proposing six initiatives that aim to protect the long-term livelihoods of farmers around the world and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These initiatives are focused on four key areas: soils in agriculture, the livestock sector, food losses and waste, and sustainable production methods and resilience of farmers (http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lpaa/agriculture/press-release-lpaa-focus-agriculture-at-cop21/).
According to the LPAA forest initiative, each year approximately 12 million hectares of forests are destroyed. In response to this, governments, civil society and the private sector in favour of protection and restoration of forests raised their voices announcing a new focus on implementing partnerships with additional resources in order to ensure healthy forests as well as the sustainable farming that depends on them. This initiative comes in line with the clear message from Prince Charles calling for zero net deforestation as part of the LPAA initiative.
The initiative addresses: Protection for 400 million hectares of forest, in line with the Global coalition of Indigenous People; Zero deforestation commitments from commodity producers and traders; the New York Declaration on Forests to halt the loss of forests; Lima Challenge; and the Landscape Restoration Initiative.
Last but not least, New Zealand announced the submission of its instrument of acceptance of the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UN is encouraging governments to ratify their second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which is the international emissions reduction treaty. Its ratification is important for global climate actions leading up to 2020.
The commitments announced today provide a glimpse not only of the good will of countries to “save the planet”, but a clear demonstration that it is essential that all sectors of society are considered and integrated in the solutions to climate change.
Day 1 – November 30th, 2015
THE WORLD IS IN PARIS
The 21st Convention of Parties (COP21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change started on November 30th, 2015. In a remarkable attendance of world leaders to a UN event in a single day, more than 150 heads of state and government gathered to find solutions to tackle climate change, the greatest challenge of our century. At COP21, nations will pursue an agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions levels transitioning to low-carbon economies, while reducing poverty and fostering a sustainable development worldwide.
“You have the opportunity, in fact the responsibility, to finalize an agreement that enables the achievement of national climate change goals, that delivers the necessary support for the developing world and that catalyses continuously increasing ambition and action by all”. With this strong message full of hope, Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, welcomed the participants to COP21 reminding them of the vital importance of this world gathering and the impacts that their decisions will have in future generations.
World leaders took the stage at the COP21 opening ceremony to address an audience that reached beyond the physical walls of Paris Le Bourget, the entire world was watching. Their messages, shaped by the capabilities, opportunities, and aspirations of each country, showed a deep commitment from each nation to contribute to an ambitious agreement. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it “Climate change is in the national interest of all of us. The time for brinkmanship is over…a political moment like this may not come again”.
However, this time the rest of us are not here as witnesses. COP21 is not only about governments but demands an active involvement from businesses, the scientific community, academics, NGOs, civil society, and industry stakeholders. Taking a step forward towards the ambitious goal of combating climate change, Bill Gates launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a fund that will be fed by a group that includes more than two dozen public and private entities – which include national governments, investment fund managers, billionaire philanthropists, and CEOs of technology companies. The driver behind this coalition is to lower the cost of clean energy to make it competitive with fossil fuels, which according to Bill Gates, it is the best way to help developing countries to change to renewable energies without sacrificing economic growth. (More info: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/clean-energy/mission-innovation-clean-energy/).
In this first day, there are high hopes that concrete commitments start unfolding in the next ten days because as Christiana Figueres well said it “The eyes of the world are on Paris”.