By Jon Crooks, published on The News Hub, 2nd December 2014
It has been a remarkable year. The climate movement has started to take shape. The People’s Climate March in New York, and in other cities around the world, prior to the UN summit in September felt like the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel industry. But the fight is still ahead and the final battle will be in Paris this time next year.
It’s easy to be negative when assessing progress on tackling climate change when you think back to the US Senate’s vote in 1997 – 95 to nil – to sink the Kyoto Protocol before it was signed, and more recently the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen summit.
There’s even some sceptics foolish enough to claim that the agreement between the US and China last month was a non-event, putting off any action until 2030. China’s 20% clean energy share by 2030 may not sound too ambitious at first, but it is. President Xi announced that China will install up to 1000GW of zero-emissions energy by 2030 (almost the size of the entire US power sector). This represents a step forward from the previous commitment in New York a month or so earlier to begin carbon reduction ‘as soon as possible’.
Sure, it’s been a rocky road and we’ve wasted too many years already, but maybe it’s that realisation that time is now running out that’s creating the momentum we’re now seeing. We’ve now had the benefit of a series of five reports from the IPCC, which can’t be ignored because they had to be approved by consensus between 195 member countries. These reports have allowed the climate movement to move on from arguing with climate sceptics about the science. That debate is over.
Whilst we still recycle our bottles and buy locally produced vegetables, we now realise that’s not enough. This is a global issue and it’s clearer than ever that there’s need for global cooperation. It’s now widely understood that if binding and effective commitments don’t come out of Paris next year, then limiting global warming to 2C is no longer an achievable goal.
Countries now need to put forward what they propose to contribute to the planned 2015 agreement in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by the first quarter of 2015, in advance of the December 2015 conference in Paris, where the new UN-backed treaty on climate change will be adopted. The EU, the US and China are the three biggest carbon emitters on the planet and have all come forward early to make their intentions known, which is seen as an encouraging sign.
But this Lima conference is more intended to provide clarity on what the INDCs need to contain. This will focus particularly on developing countries who are likely to have a range of options from, for example, sector-wide emission curbs to energy intensity goals. Delegates are expected to bring a draft of the new agreement to the table, but also delineate the technical processes behind the steps moving forward and provide clarity on how finance, technology and capacity-building will be handled.
It’s also about consolidating progress on adaptation measures as well as mitigation. This inevitably comes down to money and this is where the Green Climate Fund comes in. One of the main goals of COP 20 is to enhance the delivery of finance to the most vulnerable countries and this needs to be on top of commitments already there, not simply re-naming development aid.
2014 will be the hottest year in the planet’s history. That means 2015 needs to be the politically hottest the fossil fuel industry has ever come up against. The Lima conference is part of the fight but there’s a long way to go in this battle.