Pessimists may be confidently gloomy about 2016 -- anemic world economy, rising inequality, terrorist threats, disastrous weather -- but in the area of sustainable development, they are wrong. WRI President and CEO Andrew Steer notes that we have much more reason for hope at the start of this new year than we did at the beginning of 2015.
The inclusion of cities at COP21 demonstrated a new narrative, explains WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities Director Ani Dasgupta. There is now widespread recognition of cities as global problem-solvers, capable of tackling broad issues like climate change.
In the aftermath of the historic climate agreement in Paris, WRI’s President & CEO Andrew Steer discusses major features of the agreement and what comes next.
The core message of New Climate Economy (NCE) – that economic growth and climate action can and must go together to spur 21st century development – has started to bring real change in at least four countries on three continents.
Taking the concept of intertwined economic growth and climate action from discourse to policy action is critical to shifting to a lower-carbon, more prosperous world. That requires changing the thinking of finance ministers and other economic decision-makers about environmentally sustainable opportunities.
Through a major report and almost 30 research and country study releases since late 2014, and by participating in over 170 events in 40 countries, including face-to-face discussions with eight heads of state and more than 45 government ministers, NCE has begun to deliver change in China, Colombia, Ethiopia and India, among other countries.
To shift public discourse and unlock political opportunity, NCE deploys high-level spokespeople, in particular members of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, to deliver its message to target audiences in key countries and the media. By drawing on the varied strengths of its institutional partners – such as WRI for cities and land use, ODI on development or Tsinghua University in China and EDRI in Ethiopia – NCE can develop and spread the evidence base and messages in specific areas and countries. Strong communication and engagement, aligned with targeted research, drives NCE’s rising visibility.
As managing partner for the multi-institute partnership that has developed NCE’s work, WRI’s NCE team helps to deliver relevant analyses, management oversight and communications through the global office in Washington and country-targeted support for high-level engagement through international offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Turkey.
In China, NCE partner research on the energy security and air pollution benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions provided evidence that supported China’s plan to peak coal consumption by 2020 and emissions by 2030. In Colombia, after a discussion with President Felipe Calderón, the Chair of the Global Commission, President Juan Manuel Santos instructed his ministers to integrate climate across the country’s five-year economic development plan. Ethiopia is reflecting the NCE approach to urban planning in its next national Growth and Transformation Plan. In India, NCE partners are working on a renewable energy feasibility and financing program with the Ministry of Railways (the largest energy user in India by some counts) following discussions with President Calderón and other Global Commissioners and partners.
In the lead-up to the December 2015 Paris climate conference, more than 180 countries that account for more than 90% of global greenhouse gas emissions put forward post-2020 climate plans known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). WRI experts provided INDC guidance for use by all countries and worked with several governments to strengthen their plans. WRI also separately conducted an analysis that found that the ambitious U.S. climate target is achievable.
The INDCs have the potential to put the world on a path toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future. To be effective, these pledges should be ambitious and equitable, so that each country does its fair share to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The pledges should also be transparent in order to build trust and accountability and to make the collective impact of the commitments clear.
Key countries – some of which became catalysts in international negotiations culminating in the Paris climate conference – used WRI’s guidance, developed with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and technical support in developing their INDCs. WRI offered training about the guidance to three-quarters of the countries participating in the climate talks. WRI supplemented this guidance with an “Open Book” list of information countries should provide in their INDCs, focused on enhancing transparency, prepared in consultation with government representatives. Finally, WRI conducted an analysis that concluded that the emissions reduction target in the U.S. INDC – 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 – is challenging but achievable using existing legal authority. (WRI did not contribute to the creation of the U.S. INDC.)
WRI helped inform well-designed INDCs, allowing countries to signal to the world they are doing their part to combat climate change. Use of the Open Book list has enhanced the transparency and quality of information provided in INDCs, which will lead to greater accountability and help enable an understanding of whether country commitments are collectively ambitious enough to keep warming to below 2 degrees Celsius or to what extent additional action is needed.
WRI’s analysis of the U.S. target – the only independent, economy-wide detailed analysis of emissions reduction potential under existing authority – helped the world to view the U.S. target as credible and achievable, which contributed to momentum toward a strong climate deal in Paris.
Countries' new climate plans released this year represent the greatest collective commitment to reduce land use emissions even seen in international climate negotiations. Yet there's still room for even more progress during COP21.
Hearing Before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: “America’s Leadership Opportunity at the Paris Climate Conference”
Testimony of Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute
On December 1st, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute Andrew Steer testified in front of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology for a hearing about the Paris climate negotiations. Drawing on the latest research, analysis, and market trends, Andrew focused on three...
Interpreting INDCs: Assessing Transparency of Post-2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets for 8 Top-Emitting Economies
This paper evaluates the transparency of the greenhouse gas emissions targets presented in the INDCs of eight major emitters —Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, and the United States—which, together, contribute nearly two-thirds of annual global emissions. It...
More than 150 heads of state converged in Paris to kick off COP21 climate negotiations and show their resolve to tackle the climate challenge. In their opening speeches, leaders made it clear that they came to act. Many national leaders from developing and developed countries joined together to launch major new initiatives, some in partnership with the private sector.
More than ever, governments, companies and civil society organizations are committing to ambitious goals to protect the world’s remaining forests and combat emissions from deforestation. Political commitments to reduce deforestation include the Sustainable Development Goals, the New York Declaration on Forests, the...