Here’s What International Leaders Have To Say About Climate Change

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It was time for the world’s heads of state to have their say on the climate change problems and opportunities. They have now done so at COP21. Presidents and prime ministers of nearly 150 nations — an unprecedented 75% — converged in Paris on Monday at the climate summit to pledge their nations to major efforts to combat the worldwide threat.

World leaders gather at COP on Monday (Sarabeth Brockley)
World leaders gather at COP21 on Monday (Sarabeth Brockley)

This huge majority (3 out of 4 international leaders) testifies that climate change is at the top of every nation’s political agenda. The general sentiment: Paris must deliver a fair, comprehensive, ambitious, far-seeing, and somehow binding agreement.

Speakers included Barack Obama of the United States, Xi Jinping of China, and Narendra Modi of India. These three international leaders represent the nations most critical to the success of Paris negotiations and the handling of climate change by the human race.

From President Obama:

“There is such a thing as being too late.”

“We have broken the old arguments for inaction on climate change.”

“One of the enemies we will be fighting at this conference is cynicism, the notion we cannot do anything about climate change.” [Especially true in the US, the world’s secont largest polluter, where political divisions between Democrats and Republicans threaten the necessary Congressional approval of a binding treaty.]

“Let’s show businesses and investors that the global economy is on a firm path to a low carbon future.”

“I actually think we’re going to solve this problem.”

From President Xi:

“Addressing climate change should not deny the legitimate needs of developing countries to reduce poverty and improve their people’s living standards.”

From Prime Minister Modi:

“It is crucial that developed countries adhere to their pre-2020 pledges to provide $100 billion annually to developing nations by 2020.” [So far, an optimistic estimate is that contributions only amount to about 60% of the total needed.]

India also has also contributed a major game-changer: a new alliance with France to provide solar energy access to the poor. The collaboration will include nearly 100 countries. It proves the point that the world can address and alter climate change and poverty with the same efforts.

Further remarks from international leaders include the following:

From French President Francois Hollande:

“I am not choosing between fighting terrorism and fighting global warming. These are both challenges we have to overcome.”

From Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

“Canada is back, my good friends. We’re here to help.”

From German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

For decarbonization of the world economy to be successful by the end of the century, we must limit global warming to under 2°C.

Germany’s Environment Minister has called for “enlightened” negotiations.

The EU is able to ratchet up climate ambition if needed.

From Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president of Iran:

“I wish to urge the UN system to initiate an assessment on the carbon footprints of war, conflicts, security and terrorism. Those perpetuating conflicts are in fact accomplices of the global warming process.”

The UNFCCC should assess the relationship between conflict and climate change.

Other elements from national principals and recent developments include talks on climate finance, fossil fuel subsidies, and carbon pricing.

Finance: Eleven countries have pledged $248m in new money for adaptation support to the most vulnerable countries on the planet. Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the US announced contributions today to the Least Developed Countries Fund.

European powers (Germany, petroleum-rich Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland) have teamed with the World Bank to create a $500 million green incentives fund to create incentives for developing nations to make low-carbon investment decisions. The new initiative will begin operations in 2016. At this time, contributing countries will make initial commitments of more than $250 million, halfway toward the goal. The fund will remain open for additional contributions until a target of $500 million is reached.

Fossil fuel subsidies: Almost 40 governments (about 20% of the total), along with hundreds of big businesses and international nongovernment organizations, are calling for accelerating action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. These subsidies involve approximately $5.3 trillion of money wasted on polluting coal, oil, and gas activities per year. In other words, the world is paying for quickening its own demise, and the money would be much better spent funding renewable energy sources or being earmarked for mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Among the nations are the US, France, Germany, and the UK. Other organizations include The B Team, the huge Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and We Mean Business. They say this action alone would reduce greenhouse gas emissions a full 10% by 2050.

Carbon pricing: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, with six heads of state (France, Chile, Ethiopia, Germany, Mexico, and Canada), introduced a Carbon Pricing Coalition. They called for pledging nations to follow up on their announced ambitions for Paris. In summary, putting a price on carbon will both combat climate change and transform the global economy by driving investment for a cleaner, greener future.

About 40 nations and 23 cities, states, and regions have already implemented or are in the process of pricing carbon. Their programs and mechanisms cover about 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Coverage will grow substantially when China introduces a national emissions trading system in 2017. The recent State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2015 from the World Bank reports that the number of implemented or planned carbon pricing schemes has almost doubled since 2012, and that trading is currently  worth about $50 billion.

France and India global solar alliance: The leaders of France and India, Hollande and Modi, announced an “international solar alliance” to put clean, affordable solar energy within the reach of all. More than 100 countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn will participate. The alliance will offer offer cooperation on better technology diffusion, faster cost reductions, and sound policy lessons to its partners.

Presidents Obama and Xi meet on the COP21 sidelines ( sideline accord: Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama met on the conference sidelines Monday to reaffirm their joint commitment to work with each other to ensure the UNFCCC conference produces good results. The two largest carbon emitters, the US and China produce about 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. Their joint pledges last November sparked a rush of climate commitments from international leaders.

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