Climate: the urgency to act

Since at least the late 1970s, science has known that human emissions of greenhouse gases profoundly alter the Earth’s climate. Yet, nothing has been done in time to make a difference, and the most recent studies almost always conclude that the past forecasts were too optimistic.

Words

Anne-Sophie Garrigou

The Beam’s editor-in-chief, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, reports from COP25 in Madrid


40 years that we know. 40 years that politicians and the international community have ignored the warnings of scientists. 40 years that companies — including fossil fuel companies, but not only — have lied to people.

Global greenhouse gas emissions increased at an average annual rate of 1.5% over the last decade, reaching a record high last year. And as long as we will continue to burn fossil fuel, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase.

Today, everyone acknowledges that time is running out to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. But the pace of action is way too slow to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and recent studies show that the commitments made by the 197 signatories to curb climate change are insufficient: they put the planet on a warming trajectory of 3.2 °C by the end of the century, far from the objective of 1.5 ° C.

At COP25 this year, the message is clear, we need to “Raise the ambition” and increase everyone’s efforts to submit more ambitious climate plans. “The COP25 is a COP of the action,” says Conference President Chilean Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt.

“My call to you all today is to increase your ambition and urgency” called António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations in his opening speech. “Ambition in mitigation, ambition in adaptation, and ambition in finance” he added.

Launched at COP22, the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action aims to bring the power of non-Party action to the forefront to help increase the pace and ambition of climate action. What we call non-Party stakeholders in UN jargon, are businesses, cities and regions, and civil society. Today, all of these actors are delivering climate action and their role is essential in the global fight against the climate crisis.

“The bottom line is that active participation by all of us — governments, businesses, investors, regions and more — is needed if we are to overcome the climate emergency we currently face,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.

The Yearbook of Global Climate Action 2019, present some of the recent solutions and initiatives introduces by the so-called non-Party stakeholders.

=> In Climate Action 100+, 370 investors with over USD 35 trillion in assets collectively ask major corporate emitters to reduce emissions and address climate risks;

=> the Seacology initiative to restore mangroves which has cultivated over 800,000 mangrove seedlings and replanted approximately 480 hectares in Sri Lanka to build resilience to the impacts of climate change, provide carbon storage and protect livelihoods;

=> in RE100, 200 companies have committed to 100% renewable energy, sending financial signals to the energy sector to develop renewable energy.

 

Despite the increasing scope of action, a lot of challenges remain to raise ambition sufficiently, and governments have an important role in setting the long-term direction that drives transformation.

The 2019 Yearbook suggests some important recommendations to accelerate the pace of action. It comes at no surprise that one of the most important recommendations is about financing. “Finance is needed to fund the transformation of the economy and all non-party actors should access the finance they need.” I can’t believe that we still have to mention this, but the yearbook also encourages governments to switch their subsidies and incentives away from fossil fuel-related areas and towards renewable and sustainable solutions that will enable the world to reach a net zero-carbon economy by 2050. This is essential. Governments should also remove barriers to implementation of solutions and set incentives for sustainable consumption. “Without adequate national policies, planning processes and funding, non-Party stakeholders will not be able to achieve further and faster emission reductions and resilience” states the document.

“Our choices matter. Climate-thoughtful choices add up to meaningful levels of ambition, especially when markets and policymakers recognize these actions and reflect them in products, policy and programmes,” said Ms. Espinosa.

The Yearbook shows that when all actors — government and non-governmental, public and private — step up the pace of action, we can still have a chance to achieve the Paris targets and avoid the worst effects of climate change. But there is no time to waste. There is an urgency to act.


 

* Picture copyrights: UNclimatechange. Patricia Espinosa (UN Climate Change Executive Secretary) and Antonio Guterres (Secretary General of the United Nations) at COP25 in Madrid.