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The Global Climate Marches have commenced with over 60,000 people marching for action in Melbourne today – the largest climate event of its kind ever held in Australia. Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of others around the world will take to the streets in more than 2,300 events in 150 countries – to turn up the heat on leaders heading to the Paris Climate Summit on Monday. Frontline community representatives, unionists, faith leaders, NGOs, families and celebrities will call on governments to forge an ambitious new global climate agreement this December that speeds up the just transition from fossil fuels to 100 per cent renewable energy and protects vulnerable people from worsening climate impacts. The UN climate talks come on the heels of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta, a gathering where member nations are traditionally expected to address threats to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations, and – in this case – to produce some additional momentum for a Paris outcome that successfully tackles the biggest of these threats: climate change. As world leaders move from the first set of meetings towards the next to collectively address the climate crisis, they will be expected to outline a sustainable model to run our societies that delivers on climate stability, clean energy solutions and poverty alleviation. After a year that has seen unprecedented momentum and public support for climate action, with most nations launching national climate action plans to tap into the multiple benefits of joining the clean energy transformation, Paris is now expected to deliver the first truly universal climate agreement that gives the world a fighting chance to keep global warming below the internationally agreed 2DegC limit. The tasks for governments over the next two weeks are clear: build on the strong momentum and use the clear public mandate for action to craft an agreement that includes a long-term goal to decarbonize the economy over the coming decades, an ambition mechanism that strengthens national targets every five years, the $100 billion per year in climate finance pledged towards decarbonization and climate resilience in developing countries, as well as an adaptation goal and a loss and damage mechanism to address irreversible and permanent climate change impacts.
The Paris climate summit, COP21, which begins on Sunday evening in the French capital, takes place at a critical moment. A successful agreement in Paris will accelerate the transition to the low carbon economy necessary to keep the climate safe. It will establish an enduring framework within which governments can work together to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2DegC – the temperature goal previously adopted by world leaders – or ideally, 1.5DegC, as the most vulnerable nations are calling for. It will shape the development of the real energy economy in the months and years after Paris.
While there have been previous attempts to reach an international agreement, momentum today is stronger than ever before. There is a bigger political will to drive home a strong deal than at past summits, as shown by the national climate pledges – or INDCs – over 160 countries have already submitted to the UN in the run-up to the Paris summit. These pledges cover over 90 per cent of global emissions and show that most countries are now on board with the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Alongside the strong political will, the falling costs of low carbon technologies such as solar and wind power show that a clean energy future is feasible and affordable. At the same time, fossil fuel companies have been losing ground, with fears of stranded assets meaning investors have been pulling money out – recent figures show as much as $34 trillion of fossil-fuel revenues could be at risk over 2015-40 if the world decides to get serious about meeting the 2DegC target – projects being cancelled, and profit margins crumbling.
In the last few days alone, diverse groups from CEOs to academics have spoken out in favour of a strong Paris agreement. And civil society has been calling for rapid, ambitious action on climate change all year long. In a range of marches, conferences, debates and mobilisations throughout the year, people around the world have shown that they realise the crucial importance of enabling and assisting the ongoing transformation to a 100 per cent renewable economy.
This weekend, in the last two days before the summit begins, people will take to the streets around the world for the climate once again. While the terrible tragedy of the 13 November attacks in Paris means the marches in the French capital have been cancelled, those in Paris will still be making their demands heard in other ways, such as by joining in virtual marches, forming a human chain and having others march for them.
Elsewhere in the world, organizers are expecting hundreds of thousands to participate in more than 2300 events in more than 150 countries. In the Americas, there will be marches from Trinidad and Mexico to Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil. Despite it being Thanksgiving, cities across the US taking action include Los Angeles, Washington, Oakland and Austin. In Canada, there will be a demonstration in Ottawa and across the country. In Asia there will be marches in New Delhi and across India, in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, China, Japan and more. In Africa, days of action are planned in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Kampala. In Europe, climate activities will take place in a wide range of cities from Amsterdam and Berlin, to Lisbon and Rome, to Kiev, London and Budapest.
Following this weekend of activism, the Paris summit will last two weeks: the first day, 30 November, will be the ‘leaders’ day’ when Heads of State gather. They will then leave their negotiators to take over for the first week, who will be joined by country ministers in the second week of the summit. The summit ends on 11 December, or a day or to later, if it runs over time as previous COPs have.
What are the elements up for negotiations at the COP21, and what are observers calling for? Above and beyond the countries’ mitigation pledges, there are many elements which experts say must be agreed to ensure countries can implement their actions and build an enduring regime. These include:
– Legal nature – The Paris outcome is likely to include a legally binding section and a range of other legal instruments. Legal nature is one element for measuring the political intent of countries, but the other elements listed below are also important.
– Long-term collective goal – All countries have agreed it’s necessary to keep global warming below 2degC to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. However, many companies and investors find this goal difficult to measure their spending against. Therefore having something more operational that governments, investors and others can benchmark their decisions against will help to make 2DegC meaningful for the real economy, for example the NGO call for a phase out of fossil fuel emissions and a phase in of 100 per cent renewable energy as soon as possible but not later than 2050. Such a goal also keeps open a possibility of limiting climate change to no more than 1.5DegC and increases the probability of the 2DegC limit being respected.
– Ambition mechanism – If the conditional and unconditional INDCs are fully implemented, they are expected to produce around half of the emission reductions needed by 2030 for the world to take the least costly path to hold warming under 2DegC. As a result, negotiations are partly focused on setting up a system to bring countries back to the table soon to discuss deeper emissions cuts. This ‘ambition mechanism’ should enable countries to step forward regularly every five years and increase ambition. For the greatest impact, the first review should take place prior to 2020.
– Transparency and accountability – the rules and assumptions which underpin how countries count their emissions are crucial to ensuring environmental integrity. Verification is critical to ensure that countries understand the international expectations upon them to abide by the rules. These elements are crucial to provide other countries, corporates and investors with the confidence that countries will abide by the rules and implement their actions.
– Financial support – empowering the world’s poor to cope with the impacts of climate change and develop in a less polluting way is perhaps the most important issue to be resolved at the Paris climate summit. Specific elements up for discussion are: reaching the $100 billion of climate finance promised annually by 2020 and scaling it up consistently afterwards, the proportion of funding that goes towards adaptation, the potential for quantifiable targets for richer countries, if new donors should be included in the future agreement.
– Adaptation – The impacts of climate change are already destroying livelihoods and aggravating poverty. A long term adaptation goal would link efforts to adapt to levels of emissions. Moreover, observers are calling for the issue of loss and damage – when the impacts of climate change are too severe to adapt to – to be firmly anchored in the agreement, and for adaptation to receive public financial support.
– Loss and damage – As the impacts of climate change become more severe, adaptation is no longer an option. In this case, countries are beginning to look at some of the implications for this unmanageable situation. One of the first issues this raises is how to attribute climate change to a specific event that causes loss and damage, understand and document those impacted by such events and then identify how to redress their loss. NGOs say loss and damage should receive public financial support.
– Immediate ambition – As part of the agreement from the 2011 Durban climate summit, countries embarked upon a work programme to increase ambition immediately, before a new agreement in Paris kicks in. At present the discussions in the negotiations focus on identifying areas of potential for more ambition. More action sooner has the potential to deliver a host of first-mover advantages, while waiting to switch from dirty to clean energy or failing to leapfrog is expected to come with a big price tag.
Immediately following the Paris climate summit there is likely to be much analysis and attempts to evaluate its likely impact. There are also upcoming meetings in the next few months for leaders and decision makers to discuss the outcome. These include the European Leaders meeting of 17-18 December; the World Economic Forum on 20-23 January 2016; the 15-17 April World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings and 26-27 May for G7 Leaders.
Whatever happens in Paris, the ongoing transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is inevitable and picking up speed. People, businesses and investors are driving it, and governments gathering in Paris have a chance to boost it. On the eve of the Paris negotiations it’s clear that people all over the world support climate action. Faith leaders from all religions are talking about the moral imperative, and bankers and analysts are warning against the economic risk from continued investment in fossil fuels. Economists are outlining the benefits of climate actions, actions that are also our only chance to build or protect prosperity. Scientists are underlining the urgency of action if we want to protect civilization as we know it, and doctors are highlighting that ultimately our lives depend on getting this right.
So a lot is a stake in Paris, and everything is possible. More and more voices say the fossil fuel age is nearing its end, and the world is embarking into a new renewable energy era. Paris looks like it will be the moment where the world collectively comes to terms with this and makes a decision to move ahead, together, faster.
On the eve of the Paris climate summit hundreds of thousands of people around the world will take to the streets in over 2300 events in 150 countries to turn up the heat on governments, demanding that they forge an ambitious new global climate agreement this December. Around the world frontline communities, unions, renewable energy champions, climate activists and a host of other groups will demand that governments deliver an agreement to help keep fossil fuels in the ground, finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy for all and protect vulnerable communities from the worst impacts.
Following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, mobilisations there have been banned. French activists are calling for people around the world to march in their name and in solidarity with them and others affected by terror attacks in Beirut, Baghdad and elsewhere. They will find creative ways to make their calls heard both inside the Climate Summit and around the world. Activists say there are few better responses to violence and terror than the movement’s push for peace and hope, and there couldn’t be a more important time to work for climate justice and the peace it will help bring.
With these mass mobilisations, government leaders, ministers and negotiators gathered in Paris will find it hard to avoid the irresistible momentum for change. They will feel the moral pressure to get their act together if they don’t want to end up on the wrong side of history. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets to demand that leaders get on board with the just transition to a safer, more stable world powered by renewable energy – because it makes sense for people, our economies, and the environment.
Governments can show climate leadership by signing a global agreement that accelerates the just transition towards a clean and prosperous future. The Summit will need to build on the national commitments made by over 160 countries over the course of the year, which for the first time signalled the world’s collective intend to end the fossil fuel age and to embrace the renewable energy era. These pledges are taking us closer – but not all the way – to keeping global warming below the internationally agreed 2degC limit, or the 1.5degC limit advocated for by over 100 vulnerable countries. More action is needed to unlock more benefits for public like better public health, new jobs and massive cost savings.
Building on the unprecedented momentum for action, civil society groups advocate for a Paris agreement that includes an ambition mechanism to scale up national targets every five years – towards a long-term goal of decarbonizing the world over the coming decades. Experts also highlight the need for robust financial and technological support for the poorest and most vulnerable countries to reach a fossil free future where poverty is a thing of the past, and where communities can build resilience to severe climate impacts and deal with the loss and damage caused by those impacts they can’t adapt to.
There is more public and private money for climate action than ever before, and investors are starting to shift the trillions they have in risky fossil fuel assets towards renewable energy. Countries including Canada, Germany, France, the UK, Japan, and even emerging economies like China, alongside companies like Ikea and billionaires like Bill Gates, have all guaranteed billions in climate finance. But aid organizations and development experts argue that in Paris it’s time for all rich countries to keep their promise of providing $100 billion in annual climate finance by 2020 and scaling up from there to deliver reliable financial support to the poorest already suffering from climate change.
Global momentum for climate action is at an all-time high. This year, the G7 committed to phase out fossil fuels, the world’s largest pension fund decided to divest from coal, faith communities led by the Pope called for urgent climate action on moral grounds, medical professionals warned that unabated climate change would undo 50 years of progress on public health, and business leaders and economists stated that a strong climate agreement would lead to better future growth.
The growing consensus in favour of making deeper cuts in carbon pollution faster is also a result of climate impacts hitting countries all around the world more violently and more frequently. Air temperatures have reached record-breaking levels, ocean temperatures are the hottest they have ever been in 50 years, and the incidence level for freak floods and heatwaves are at an all-time high. The impacts of carbon pollution already affect some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities by altering the planet’s natural systems along with the livelihoods of the people and communities who rely on them. New science suggests that, without urgent action, climate change could plunge 100 million people into poverty.
Fossil fuel lobbyists are looking increasingly desperate in their attempts to prevent the inevitable transition from dirty to clean energy. The industry spends millions of dollars everyday to lobby governments and politicians to promote false solutions, at a time when renewable energy is becoming more cost effective and efficient, leaving massive doubts over the future of dirty energy, such as coal which is already in terminal decline, with stock market values crashing and companies filing for bankruptcy. From the OECD to individual countries, support for fossil fuel companies is scaling back at historic levels, and major fossil fuel projects from coal plants in Poland to pipelines in the US and mines in Australia are collapsing. Many agree now that the writing is on the wall, and that Paris can politically confirm a trend we already see in the markets and in public opinion.
When the UN climate negotiations draw to a close, civil society will ensure that governments understand that they must build on the Paris outcome. They will be held accountable to their moral obligation and political responsibility to manage risks, and to their commitments to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The future is bright as opinion polls from all around the world show overwhelming majorities are demanding solutions. Civil society groups are already gearing up to build on the victories scored so far and to continue to challenge new fossil fuel projects around the world in 2016.
Via The Tree
Related video added by Juan Cole: