UN Climate Summit 2014: LIVE BLOG

WRI will be liveblogging during the 9/23 summit, tracking major announcements and offering expert commentary throughout the day.

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Climate, Energy & Transport

Why Is China Investing So Much in U.S. Solar and Wind?

The world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters—the United States and China—have been forging a growing bond in combating climate change. Just last week, President Obama and President Xi made a landmark agreement to work towards reducing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas. And both the United States and China are leading global investment and development of clean energy. The United States invested $30.4 billion and added 16.9 GW of wind and solar capacity in 2012. China invested $58.4 billion and added 19.2 GW in capacity.

U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy was the topic of discussion at an event last week at the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s China Environment Forum. Experts from the World Resources Institute and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) looked at this cooperation from a seldom-discussed viewpoint – China’s renewable energy investments in the United States.

China’s Growing Overseas Investments in Renewable Energy

As new WRI analysis shows, Chinese companies have made at least 124 investments in solar and wind industries in 33 countries over the past decade (2002 – 2011). The United States is the number one destination of these investments, hosting at least eight wind projects and 24 solar projects. The majority of the investments went into solar PV power plant and wind farm development, while a few investments went into manufacturing or sales support.

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Is it too Late to Combat Climate Change?

This post originally appeared on the National Journal's Energy Insiders blog.

Climate change impacts are already being felt in the United States and around the world. The latest International Energy Agency (IEA) report confirms that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hit an all-time high last year.

Is it time to give up on reducing emissions? Absolutely not.

Better to Pursue Climate Action Now

While things may look bad today, unchecked global warming will exponentially increase the human and economic toll of responding to a permanently altered planet. A recent report from the World Bank outlines the devastating effects of a global temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial levels: flooding of coastal cities, risks to food production, unprecedented heat waves, increased frequency of killer storms, and more. This is not the future that we want to leave our children and grandchildren. Nor can we simply adapt to this future – even if we wanted to.

The IEA makes it clear that acting now will be less costly than waiting until later on. We should be moving toward a low-carbon future, investing in low-carbon energy systems, and preparing our infrastructure for oncoming climate impacts. According to the IEA, delaying action would increase the costs by having to retrofit energy sources and risking their becoming obsolete. The IEA lays out four sensible measures that countries can undertake to curb growth in GHG emissions by 2020—and which come at no net economic cost.

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U.S. Faces a Week of Extreme Weather and Signs of Climate Action

Another season of extreme weather events is upon us. A severe storm, with winds up to 70 miles per hour, whipped its way from Illinois to Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Colorado is experiencing one of its worst wildfires in history—the Black Forest Fire has burned 15,700 acres, displaced more than 38,000 people, and impacted 13,000 homes. These events are reminders of what the world will look like as our climate system moves into increasingly dangerous and unfamiliar territory.

This week also brought a trifecta of events with significant implications for climate change.

The latest report from the International Energy Agency revealed that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hit an all-time high in 2012. These emissions are driving up global temperatures and increasing climate instability. The IEA concludes that it’s not too late to change course, but the window for action is closing rapidly.

Our current response to climate change is grossly inadequate. Fortunately, there are some signs that the winds are starting to change.

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Signs of Trouble and Progress as Bonn Climate Talks Wrap Up

Much like recent extreme weather events in Europe and the United States, this month’s intersessional in Bonn, Germany could be described as volatile. But despite some “stormy” discussions, rays of light could still be seen in some areas.

The low point that seems to be generating the most attention is Russia preventing a key UNFCCC working body from making any progress. Russia, along with Ukraine and Belarus, blocked the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), which works on both substantive and administrative implementation issues, from moving forward on its agenda. Russia appeared to still be upset about the process during a last-minute decision at COP 18 in Doha, when the rules for the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol were quickly gaveled through over their objection. Refusing to let the body take up its work unless it included an agenda item on procedural issues for the climate talks as a whole, Russia rejected numerous attempts at compromise.

The blockage in the SBI discussions created noticeable ripples of nervousness throughout the negotiating hall. But in spite of the intermittent gloominess, there were also clear rays of light. What emerged most palpably was an insistence by nearly all the countries here that these kinds of tangles must be avoided, and that they are committed to moving forward on the key issues facing the UNFCCC negotiations and, not incidentally, the world.

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5 Insights from Developed Countries' Fast-Start Finance Contributions

Sven Harmeling, Takeshi Kuramochi, and Steffen Kalbekken also contributed to this post.

How are we going to deliver climate finance at a sufficient scale to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change? Parties to the UNFCCC--including those at this month’s intersessional in Bonn--are struggling to agree on the answer to this question. The UNFCCC established a Standing Committee on Climate Finance to take stock of global progress towards this goal, while a work program on Long-Term Finance will continue this year.

As these various groups debate the future of climate finance, it’s important to look back at progress and trends thus far. The fast-start finance (FSF) period offers important insights into how different developed countries are approaching the challenge of delivering international climate finance. These lessons can inform future efforts.

Major Insights from the Fast-Start Finance Period

Developed countries report that they delivered more than $33 billion in FSF between 2010 and 2012, exceeding the pledges they made at COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009. But how much of this finance is new and additional? How has it been allocated, and what is it supporting?

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4 Topics on Clean Energy and Climate Change Obama and Xi Should Consider

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

When President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping meet in California this week, they will be seeking to build trust and chart a course for improved relations. While tensions abound over various issues, clean energy and climate is one area where cooperation can work.

Last month, the United States and China released a statement declaring that joint action on climate change can “set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world.” These two countries have the opportunity to tackle this global challenge, helping keep the world within 2 degrees Celsius of temperature rise, and embrace clean energy on the path to a low-carbon future.

Given the stakes, business leaders should be paying attention.

Clean energy is one of the most important growth sectors in the global economy. It has been projected that $2.3 trillion will be invested in clean energy by 2020, reaching $269 billion last year. China was the number world’s top clean energy investor in 2012, with a record $68 billion. China’s investments are not only within its borders. China’s total overseas investment in 2011 extended to over 130 countries and topped $60 billion.

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6 Lessons Brazilian Cities Learned from Greenhouse Gas Inventories

This piece provides insights from a recent Greenhouse Gas Protocol seminar in Brazil. The Seminar was part of WRI’s Sustainable Cities Initiative funded by the Caterpillar Foundation.

Last week in São Paulo, WRI, ICLEI, C40, USP-IEE, and EMBARQ Brazil jointly brought together more than 200 Brazilian city officials and experts to discuss how to use the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC) to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cities. Representatives from Brazil’s federal and state governments, as well as city-level governments including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Piracicaba, shared their experiences in conducting GHG inventories and implementing local climate actions.

Brazilian cities and municipalities vary in the status of their efforts to collect GHG data and conduct emissions inventories. The event focused on emissions management efforts so far. Below are six lessons highlighted by participants in the discussion:

1. Strong political commitment is crucial for success. Many cities in Brazil have made strong political commitments to address climate change. For example, Rio and Belo Horizonte have created municipal climate change laws with mandatory GHG reduction targets. Rio’s target is to reduce emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, while Belo Horizonte’s is 20 percent by 2030. In both cases, city-wide GHG inventories have been conducted to inform and track performance toward these targets.

2. The inventory is the first step in low-carbon development. Participants stressed the importance of the GHG inventory process (see figure below) as a planning tool to help cities assess their emissions, identify emission sources, set reduction targets, prioritize mitigation actions, and track performance. For instance, Belo Horizonte’s inventory found that the transportation sector is the city’s major source of GHG emissions (71 percent); this information will help the city identify reduction measures. Prof. Jose Goldemberg, former federal Minister and São Paulo State Secretary of Environment, stressed that GHG inventories help cities identify key emission sources and implement low-carbon technologies. Nelson Moreira Franco, Director for Climate Change Management and Sustainable Development for the City of Rio, stressed that the “GHG inventory is a powerful instrument to manage emissions and influence policy-making.”

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Global Signs of Leadership on Clean Energy

This post originally appeared on the National Journal's Energy Experts blog.

As evidence of climate change mounts, President Obama has made it clear that tackling this issue will be a priority in his second term. Yet, as weeks go by, the administration has been slow to clarify its strategy. With each passing day, it becomes harder and more expensive to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, other global powers are moving forward--and many of them carry valuable lessons which American policymakers can look to. The most successful countries are showing national leadership, strong and consistent policies, and commitment to clean energy.

Where, then, are signs of progress on clean energy?

Germany’s Energiewende: Leading the Way

High on the list is Germany, whose ambitious energy transformation strategy--or “Energiewende”--aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 to 95 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. This will be achieved by enhancing energy efficiency, reducing primary energy consumption by 50 percent, and ramping up renewable energy to at least 80 percent of electricity consumption in the same time-frame.

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Building on Momentum: 2 Ways to Make Progress at the Bonn Climate Talks

Delegates at the April UNFCCC intersessional in Bonn, Germany made some encouraging progress. As negotiators gather again this week, it’s important that they build on this progress and take action on two key topics: raising ambition, and establishing core elements of the 2015 international climate action agreement.

Indeed, there’s an even greater sense of urgency since delegates met for the April intersessional. The world crossed a perilous and alarming threshold, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels exceeding 400 ppm, a level that has not been experienced in at least 800,000 years and possibly not for millions of years. Plus, this may be the last intersessional before COP 19 in Warsaw in November. Negotiators must move forward on raising ambition and establishing the 2015 Agreement if COP 19 is to have a successful outcome.

Raising Ambition Now

The need for countries to make more ambitious emissions-reduction commitments remains self-evident—even more so, now that the world has exceeded 400 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In Bonn, negotiators are set to focus on the transformation of the energy system.

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Turning Climate Action into a Reality

This post was written by Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile and a member of the high-level advisory panel for the Climate Justice Dialogue. The Climate Justice Dialogue project is a joint initiative between WRI and the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice. This piece originally appeared on Reuters Alertnet.

Global emissions just crossed 400 parts per million, an ominous threshold for the climate. Despite this marker, there are signs of new life for international climate action, including during the recent United Nation’s climate meeting in Bonn, Germany.

It’s become abundantly clear that in order for the world to reach an international climate agreement by 2015, the usual approach isn’t going to work. World leaders need to find common ground and work toward solutions. They need to engage their citizens and infuse new passion into the issue. Climate change is not just an environmental issue – it is one of the great moral tests of our times.

In Chile, we know all too well the impacts of climate change, marked in particular by more frequent droughts and increasing water scarcity. This affects people and our economy across sectors, from agriculture and manufacturing to mining and energy. Sadly, the people most affected by climate change are the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

In the face of this challenge, we need a new narrative that engages people and presents the issue as a social and economic story rather than as just an environmental one. We need to create a world in which people prosper but without increasing pollution. This is not a distant dream, but a real possibility.

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