You are here

Climate, Energy & Transport

As the U.N. climate change conference in Doha, Qatar (COP 18) rapidly approaches, the urgency of climate action has never been more evident. Extreme weather has wreaked havoc in many corners of the globe, most recently with Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in loss of life and severe economic hardship in all the countries in its pathway. Many countries—from the United States to those with far less capacity to respond—are still trying to comprehend what happened and how much it will cost to get back to normal.

They also understand that this just may be, to quote New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “the new normal.” The World Bank Group has just released a shocking report of what a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer would look like. We must hope that when delegates arrive in Doha, they grasp the urgency of this issue, recognize the immediate and far-reaching threat to human security, and summon the necessary political will to craft an ambitious and equitable global response.

What Can We Expect This Year as Countries Meet for COP 18?

Last year’s meeting in Durban, South Africa was a potentially important turning point, launching a new round of negotiations to create a legally binding international agreement by 2015 to limit global average temperature increase to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. However, after three consecutive years of rather “big moment” COPs, Doha is more about giving operational momentum to the decisions reached in Durban. COP 18 will likely confirm the design of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, bring some long-standing work streams to a successful close, and set the parameters for the negotiations leading to a new international climate agreement in 2015.

The global renewable energy industry has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. Renewable energy capacity (excluding hydropower) has more than doubled since 2005. In 2011, new clean energy investments reached a record $257 billion (a six-fold increase from 2004), and approximately half of the world’s new electric capacity came from renewable sources. These gains came despite the tumultuous backdrop of a global financial crisis and a rapidly changing clean energy technology industry - one that’s experiencing increased global competition, rapidly falling industry prices, and oversupply in the solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind sectors.

However, the benefits of the clean energy industry have not been shared evenly around the world. WRI’s new working paper, Delivering on the Clean Energy Economy, shows that countries have varied widely in their success of growing renewable energy industries that achieve both global competitiveness and domestic benefits. The main reason for this variation lies in the types of national policies the countries have in place.

According to our new research, countries who have been successful with their clean energy development have:

  • Taken a Comprehensive Approach: Policies are integrated at the national level

  • Sustained Policy in a Predictable Manner: Policies have an established lifetime of at least three-to-four years to enhance industry certainty

  • Implemented Targeted Policies: Policies address the needs of different technologies and target the needs of the entire value chain

Over the next 24 hours, citizens worldwide who are concerned about our changing climate can tune in to a unique, global event involving hundreds of experts. 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report is a live, online broadcast led by former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore. (Mr. Gore is also a WRI board member.)

The event will feature news and discussion on climate change from all 24 time zones. I will join a panel discussion at 10 p.m. EST tonight to discuss the U.S. response to climate change, as well as how business is responding to our changing planet. (Check out the panel on the Climate Reality Project website).

As climate change impacts are becoming more apparent, this is a critical moment for people around the world to engage in this issue.

“Two years ago at the UNFCCC conference in Cancun, negotiators agreed that the world would seek to limit global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius,” Andrew Steer, WRI’s president, said during a recent press call. “We are not on track for that. We’re a long way off, and the situation is very urgent.”

That’s why the upcoming U.N. climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar (COP 18) are so critically important. As sea level rise, wildfires, and devastating droughts showcase, climate change’s impacts are already being felt across the globe. Meanwhile, extreme weather events—most recently, Hurricane Sandy—serve as powerful reminders of what will likely become more and more the norm if action is not taken. When negotiators meet in Doha at the end of this month, they’ll need to figure out a way to make progress, both to finalize the rules of past decisions and how to come to an international climate agreement by 2015.

Listen to a recording of WRI's press call on the upcoming Doha climate talks.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Now that the election is over, elected officials need to return to the important act of governing. Building a low-carbon energy future will be essential for the country’s continued prosperity and security.

Yet in recent months, we have witnessed a heated national debate—and significant misinformation—about public investment in clean energy and the government’s role in America’s energy future. Below, we seek to inform a path forward on this critical issue by separating fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Funding Renewable Energy Is a Waste of Taxpayers’ Money

In fact, federal investments in solar, wind, and geothermal companies, largely through stimulus funds, proved to be a success.

With President Obama’s re-election, he has the opportunity to extend his legacy and take on big challenges. Climate change stands high on the list of issues that need to be addressed. As the President said in his acceptance speech:

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

In the final days of the campaign, Hurricane Sandy provided a wake-up call about the impacts of climate change. Recent extreme weather and climate events make clear that ignoring climate change will be costly in human, environmental, and economic terms for the United States and the world. How President Obama addresses climate and energy issues will help define his legacy.

As America recovers economically, we can--and must--also protect the environment and safeguard people’s health. The economy, environment, and public health are not in conflict, but complementary--they cannot be sustained over time without each other. America needs to get on a path that builds economic strength through investment and policy decisions that reward clean energy and enhance climate resilience.

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol recently partnered with the UNEP Finance Initiative in a critically important endeavor – developing guidance to help the financial sector measure its ”financed emissions” and track reductions. These types of emissions, which are associated with lending and investments, are the most significant part of a financial institution’s carbon footprint.

We are seeking responses to a short (5 – 10 minute) online survey to assist us in establishing the content of the new guidance, which will supplement the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. The deadline for completing the survey is November 23, 2012.

As risk management experts, it’s essential that financial institutions have the necessary tools to consider the implications of continued investment in, and financing of, carbon-intensive sectors and companies. Some financial institutions have developed their own methodologies for accounting for financed emissions, but there’s a lack of consistency between them. Financial institutions need new guidance like that being developed by GHG Protocol and UNEP to adopt risk-management policies and lending procedures that address climate change in a systematic way across the sector.

This post originally appeared on Bloomberg.com.

Hurricane Sandy was a massive and deadly storm, extending more than 1,000 miles, bringing huge waves and more than 13 feet of water to parts of New York City. In Manhattan, floods swept away cars and overflowed subway stations. Along the Jersey shore, homes, property, and businesses were washed away in just a few hours. More than 8 million people in the northeastern United States lost power. Tens of millions more have been affected. And tragically, more than 160 people lost their lives. Outside of the United States, six Caribbean countries were battered by the storm, taking lives and destroying property as it struck. Some early estimates say the storm will cost $50 billion; others say it will be more.

Sadly, science tells us that this type of event will become much more common as our climate continues to change.

Climate change is here and its impacts are being felt today. As Governor Cuomo said earlier this week, “Anyone who says there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality.”

This post originally appeared in the National Journal's Energy Experts blog as a response to the question: "What Is Climate Silence Costing Us?"

The recent silence on climate change in the U.S. political discourse is extremely troubling. As we can see from the recent spate of extreme weather events, the costs of inaction are clear in terms of both environmental and economic impacts. If we are going to meet the challenge of the global climate threat, we need to have a real, rational discussion about climate change. Having that discussion requires national leadership on this issue.

The irony is that despite the relative silence on the campaign trail, U.S. public opinion on climate change is shifting, with a growing number of people recognizing that more needs to be done to address this issue. As WRI’s president Andrew Steer said in a recent New York Times interview, “On climate change, the political discourse here is massively out of step with the rest of the world, but also with the citizens of this country. Polls show very clearly that two-thirds of Americans think this is a real problem and needs to be addressed.”

Last week, ministers from 50 countries convened in South Korea for a “Pre-COP” meeting to prepare for the upcoming UNFCCC conference in Doha, Qatar (COP 18). Ministers confirmed their commitment to negotiate a new international climate framework by the end of 2015, as outlined in the Durban Platform agreed to at COP 17 last year.

While the Durban Platform gave new momentum to multilateral climate negotiations, the emissions gap remains large: The greenhouse gas reductions countries are currently willing to commit to don’t add up to the global reductions needed to limit warming to 2° C above pre-industrial temperatures. It’s clear that leaders need new ways to increase ambition enough to close this gap and reinforce the UNFCCC.

In this context, we are seeing a renewed interest in “clubs” – smaller groups of countries coming together to act on climate change, complementing the UNFCCC process. The question, though, is whether such clubs can make real progress toward closing the emissions gap.

Pages

Stay Connected