It’s time for businesses and governments to step up to the climate challenge and match words to actions.
This week at the annual international climate talks in Warsaw, companies, policymakers, and civil society participated in an event to deepen business engagement on climate policy. Such interaction could not have come at a more critical time.
Global emissions are on the rise. And last year, climate and extreme weather events alone cost $200 billion.
The world clearly needs to accelerate its response to the climate challenge. Businesses and governments need to work together constructively to raise the level of action and ambition. That means policymakers step up to provide a strong market signal and support, while companies come to the table with clear, public, constructive input.
Coal is emerging as a major topic of conversation at the United Nations climate-change negotiations currently taking place in Warsaw – and rightly so. Indeed, it is a discussion that the world needs to have.
The latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conclude that we are quickly using up our carbon “budget” – the amount of carbon that we can afford to emit while still having a good chance of limiting global warming to 2º Celsius. According to the IPCC, keeping the global temperature increase from pre-industrial levels below this threshold – the recognized tipping point beyond which climate change is likely to get seriously out of control – requires that the world emit only about 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC). More than half of this amount was already emitted by 2011. Unless we shift away from carbon-intensive behavior, the remaining budget will run out in roughly three decades.
As the UN climate meetings (COP 19) in Warsaw, Poland get down to serious business in their second week, the world beyond the negotiations looms large – both with challenges and with promise. It’s an important reminder of the stakes inside the negotiating venue.
Inside the negotiating rooms, things kicked into a higher gear yesterday. The co-chairs put forward a negotiating text laying out the key issues for establishing a new climate action agreement in 2015 (under the Durban Platform). Over the next several days, negotiators will grapple with four key issues.
While many people are traveling to Warsaw this week to participate in the international climate negotiations (COP 19), the city is also hosting another global conference: the International Coal and Climate Summit. It’s a troubling juxtaposition—coal contributes to 43 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a major driver of climate change. In fact, a new statement released by leading scientists suggests that nearly three-quarters of fossil fuel reserves—especially coal—must remain unused if the world is to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. In other words, limiting sea level rise, extreme weather events, heat waves, and other climate impacts requires staying within world’s “carbon budget”—which doesn’t include unabated coal use.
Adapting to the impacts of climate change—like heat waves, increased floods, and natural disasters—is an enormous challenge. It’s also one that comes with an enormous price tag. Although it’s difficult to calculate the extent of the costs, the World Bank estimates that developing countries need $70 to $100 billion USD per year through 2050 to meet their current and future climate adaptation needs.
The Climate Policy Initiative, however, estimates that in 2011, only $4.4 billion USD in adaptation finance went to developing countries. This leaves a gap of anywhere from $65.6 to $95.6 billion USD per year between what developing countries need and what developed nations are giving.
So who can help fill this gap?
A new Science paper provides the first high-resolution, global picture of annual forest cover change over the period 2000 to 2012. Prior to this research, the world lacked up-to-date, globally consistent forest data-- most information about forests is years out-of-date by the time it finds its way into policymakers’ hands.
Three key findings emerge from the new maps–and they point to solutions policymakers can pursue now.
As the risks that climate change poses to business becoming ever clearer, corporate executives are increasingly recognizing that policy action is essential. The Guide to Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy—from the U.N. Global Compact, U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, U.N. Environment Programme, World Resources Institute, CDP, WWF, Ceres, and The Climate Group—for the first time establishes a shared, practical definition of responsible corporate engagement. The new guide details three essential steps businesses can take to effectively engage in climate policy.
Strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change’s impacts will be costly, so success at COP 19 hinges on making progress on climate finance. It’s important that negotiators pursue three actions: scaling up adaptation finance; developing pathways to secure $100 billion in climate finance by 2020; and moving the Green Climate Fund forward.
One of the biggest successes from 2009’s COP 15 conference was securing funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Donor nations agreed to “provide new and additional resources […] approaching $30 billion for the period 2010–2012, with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation.” They also committed to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020.
But the agreement left a key question unresolved: how should funding be “balanced” between adaptation and mitigation? Should the funding balance be 50/50 between adaptation and mitigation or should it based on each country’s needs? Should funding include both private and public sector investment? These are some of the questions that negotiators will need to address during COP 19 in Warsaw.
But whatever they decide as being a “balanced commitment,” one thing is clear: finance for adaptation needs to increase in the coming years.