UK Organizations Look Toward 2015 Paris Climate Talks

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A group of nongovernmental organizations from the United Kingdom has elaborated on the elements it sees necessary for the planned 2015 Paris climate talks among 196 countries to succeed. The group calls for all governments to accelerate their approaches to decarbonization significantly by initiating much stricter emission reductions and pursuing sustainable energy policies, with an end product of climate neutrality.

NGO advice for 2015 Paris climate talks
Paris 2015: Getting a Global Agreement on Climate Change

What else needs to be agreed? “To ensure meaningful action on climate change, the deal must contain the following elements:

  • Ambitious action before and after 2020
  • A strong legal framework and clear rules
  • A central role for equity
  • A long-term approach
  • Public finance for adaptation and the low carbon transition
  • A framework for action on deforestation and land use
  • Clear links to the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Green Alliance Trust, Christian Aid, Greenpeace, WWF, and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds prepared the manifesto. Addressing what has changed since the 1992 Rio meeting, the authors cite ever-accumulating evidence of destructive anthropogenic climate change through the IPCC reports and greater consensus on the IPCC’s conclusions.

They fully admit that the 2009 negotiations were “fraught and chaotic, with a last minute agreement emerging after frantic scenes on the conference floor.” However, the NGOs nonetheless maintain that international negotiations remain vital in confronting climate change and working for climate neutrality. The community of countries can build on individual national approaches, reassure others that they are not acting alone, and reinforce the common goal of a low-carbon future.

The institutional framework is much more developed than it was in 2009, they say. A clear timetable was reached in Durban in 2011 and amplified in Warsaw in 2013. The UN now has a functioning reporting system and perhaps most importantly, the Green Climate Fund has been established to back up national promises with action.

The group considers prospects for a 2015 agreement favorable, especially since the US and China shifted their positions in April 2013. Now recognizing that “forceful, nationally appropriate action–including large scale co-operative action” are necessary, the two powerful nations have agreed to work together on transport, energy efficiency, and other goals.

Despite a divided Congress, President Obama has committed to reducing emissions, making climate change a defining issue of his second term. China has an ambitious strategy to grow its renewables sector, with tough new laws on air pollution and strong action on limiting coal consumption.

They also refer to the formation of a new climate-based coalition, We Mean Business, by high-profile leaders of more than 500 global companies in June 2014.

Why is global agreement needed, they say?

A strong deal will make a significant difference to the ability of individual countries to tackle climate change. It will provide a clear signal to business to guide investment toward low-carbon outcomes. It will reduce the competitiveness… of national policies and create a simpler, more predictable framework for companies operating in different countries.

Economic prosperity, eliminating poverty, improving health, and building security are also beneficial outcomes linked to tackling Anthropocene challenges at the 2015 Paris climate talks.

The authors of Paris 2015: Getting a Global Agreement on Climate Change see a climate agreement as bringing huge benefits to the natural environment by retaining biodiversity and preserving the ecosystems upon which we all depend.

Finally, the NGO coalition advises on what will be needed after the 2015 Paris climate talks:

The agreement reached in Paris should not be seen as static. Instead, it should establish a framework to build from, with rolling commitments to reduce emissions and support adaptation. This should be on a five-year cycle, with a ratchet mechanism over time built into the system and a clear, long term goal.

The report precedes by only two weeks a gathering of world leaders in New York at a special UN climate change meeting called by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on September 23. Announcing the summit, Mr. Ban said:

I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale up, cooperate, and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement.

The report also comes only days after UN climate change secretary Christiana Figueres and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario Molina publicly implored the New York attendees to focus as well on decarbonization at a global scale.

Like a young person planning [a] career, a mayor looking at future demographics, or a corporation evolving a business strategy, there also needs to be a long-term view of where we want to be 50 years or so down the road. That long term vision is ‘climate neutrality’—i.e., not putting in more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than natural processes take out—as soon as possible in the second half of the century.

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