Countries have together what it takes for more and better climate action worldwide

November 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Insights

This article is contributed by Jovin Hurry, who is reporting from Paris.

The UNFCCC Secretariat has launched a New Interactive Guide, which helps to explain the climate change regime and its intergovernmental process to a wide audience, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

By providing the ‘big picture’ with interactive graphics, the Guide tries to explain the why, what and how, for e.g. why countries came together to combat climate change, what issues are covered by the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, and how the intergovernmental negotiation process works.

Last week moreover, the UN’s top climate change official UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres presented a new report packed with best practice climate policies from across the world.

The report reveals a wealth of existing opportunities to immediately scale up reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to attempt to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

With the ease at which the issues can be now be disseminated and understood like the Guide; with the sharing of detailed models and go-to-reference templates that work such as the “Climate Action Now” report; and with different blocs making their voices heard louder like the SIDS, countries now are in a much better position than before to execute on their pledges.

Countries have the tools to implement effective policies across key thematic areas, to not only reduce emissions rapidly but also to advance goals in 15 other critical economic, social and environmental areas in their intended national climate action plans.

There should be no reason with the availability of partners, blueprints and tool-kits to cost-effectively catalyze action for countries not to take the Paris agreement to the next level of long term ambition.

Realistically though, countries would do well to analyse these ready-made portfolio of actions to technically craft on how they can reach their own Sustainable Development Goals, while delving into what is holding them back in taking climate action to scale.

The barriers are manifold and complex.

On carbon pricing, around 40 national and 20 subnational jurisdictions have or are planning to introduce a price on carbon. What would be an adequate price on carbon that will encourage investment in and use of low-carbon technologies and fuels?

On subsidies, around USD550 billion was spent on direct fossil fuel subsidies in 2013. The G20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum have all pledged to reduce such subsidies with several developing countries. How to manage these subsidies such that they do not work against investments in low carbon fuels and clean energy?

On finance and capacity-building, it is a fact that developing countries need much enhanced support to access technologies and to finance up-front costs. From where can be brought the quintessential USD1t a year in the energy sector until 2050 to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius threshold?

On institutional, regulatory and legal frameworks, a huge number of institutions charged with implementing or overseeing climate action need to be equipped with appropriate resources. How will the governments adjust their strategies, regulations and laws to catalyze further national and non-state actor action?

While keeping these hurdles in mind and working on them, countries can optimistically move forward.

Non-state actors are already playing a significant collaborative role with governments as showcased in the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) portal.

Actors around the world are working ard on areas like renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport, land use, carbon capture, use and storage, and controlling non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

On renewable energy, the Republic of Korea smart grid initiative makes use of digital technology to manage flows of power more efficiently for integrating a large volume of distributed, intermittent, low-carbon generation while improving energy efficiency.

On energy efficiency, the National Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme in Denmark offers cost-neutrality for participants by allowing them to pass costs on to end users and flexibility to trade credits received.

On transport, Mexico City has consistently expanded its bus rapid transport system since 2005. One tenth of its users have shifted from private cars. This is now a textbook example.

On land use, China plans to increase net forest area by 40 million hectares by the end of 2020 compared with 2005, and is doing so by combining afforestation, forest protection and sustainable forest management policies and practices. It is also integrating forest carbon into its national carbon emissions trading system pilot programme.

On carbon capture, use and storage, a carbon tax in Norway has increased over time, creating an incentive to store CO2 and resulting in sequestration of 0.9 Mt of CO2 each year.

On controlling non-CO2 greenhouse gases, the EU Emissions Trading System has helped reduce N2O emissions from nitric acid plants. N2O emissions in 2013 were 85 per cent lower than in 1990.

Countries have what it takes for more climate action worldwide. Their specific and cooperative actions will help reduce emissions while increasing multiple co-benefits towards climate change adaptation and building more resilient communities.

As hundreds of thousands of people around the world took to the streets on November 28 and 29 in more than 2000 events in 150 countries to turn up the heat on leaders heading to the Paris Climate Summit, let’s remember that the resources are here and available. It’s about making a choice and executing it diligently.

The new guide can be found here: http://bigpicture.unfccc.int/

The new website can be viewed at: http://climateaction2020.unfccc.int/

The Global Climate Marches can be tracked online via the hashtag: #climatemarch

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