On Climate Change Policy, Reality and Perspectives

A play in several acts, and we are only at the beginning.

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Ambassador of France to Kazakhstan Francis Etienne

 

Act 1: COP21 culminated with the Paris Agreement on Dec. 12, 2015.

A milestone: The first legally binding agreement on climate change, in which 196 parties aimed at limiting the rise in global temperature (well below 2°C) compared to pre-industrial levels (1880–1899). To do so, the states have set the target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050 and 100 percent by 2100. States are also required to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and to review their national commitments every five years.

Climate change is not only about environmental preservation. It is about security: security against natural disasters, security against climate change-induced migrations and conflicts (water scarcity, desertification). “Inaction would be a disaster for the world, a dismay for future generations, and a threat for world peace,” President of France François Hollande has said.

 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared last year that, “The world now has a universal, fair, flexible and durable climate agreement.”

But our work is not over, he said. In fact, it’s only starting.

“It is urgent to act. We have no plan B because there is no planet B.”

 

Act 2: Ratification of the Paris Agreement.

It came into being on Nov. 4, 2016, barely a month ago. It came pretty quickly, actually; quicker than we anticipated: so far, 111 countries, representing 77 percent of greenhouse gases emissions, have ratified the agreement, including France and Kazakhstan. This is huge. This is the right way to begin to act.

A new milestone, the agreement will benefit and support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.

Of course, some people may hinder this process. They may claim that Kazakhstan should not refrain from polluting, because its population were victims of mass Soviet pollution. But these people lack long-term vision. They do not realise that polluting less today means suffering less tomorrow. And these people may answer that everybody around Kazakhstan keeps polluting. But Kazakhstan can be not only an economic leader, but also a moral and an ecological leader in its region.

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of its independence, Kazakhstan can become a leader in addressing global challenges like climate change.

 

Act 3: A new stage that requires us to translate words into tangible, effective reality.

We have to set up an agenda.

That was the work of COP22 in Morocco: the adoption of 20 measures related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Partnership for Marrakech was launched at the end of COP22 and includes the 2050 Pathways platform of 22 states, 15 big cities, 17 regions and 196 companies. Its members want to achieve even greater objectives.

COP22 focused on action items in order to achieve the priorities of the Paris Agreement, especially related to adaptation, transparency, technology transfer, mitigation, capacity building and loss and damages.

One of the key issues was money. But there are good examples to follow. For instance, France joined the Nationally Determined Contributions Partnership (NDC Partnership) and the French Development Agency promised to allocate $30 billion to facilitate transitions towards greener economies in developing countries.

A roadmap confirming that the developed countries will mobilise $100 billion per year was adopted in Marrakech.

France agreed to participate in the CREWS initiative, which aims at developing early warning systems against natural disasters.

Africa is showing the right way: cooperation was the heart of African countries’ actions during the COP22. Central Asia could do the same, by rejuvenating the Aral Sea Fund for a start, then moving step by step towards greater environmental cooperation.

In the Mediterranean area, a lot is done to promote scientific work on the region, to increase investments in waste and water treatment, to protect the coasts and prevent the drying-out of seas. The same could also be done for the Caspian and the Aral seas.

With COP22, there is a specific focus on cities, which are responsible for 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (the construction sector alone is responsible for 20 percent). According to the World Bank, adaptation to climate change could cost from $80 to $100 billion. Eighty percent should be invested in cities in order to keep the rise in global temperature to less than 2°C. The participants of the conference underlined the role played by local authorities regarding these issues, adding that national governments should support them.

Two examples:

Jordan has implemented a programme to reduce water consumption in mosques in 2015, and has reduced their consumption by 50 percent. Morocco is also planning an ambitious programme to make mosques greener and consume less water and less energy (all energy sources are to be reduced by 40 percent and 5,000 jobs and 900 small businesses are to be created).

Is everything planned? No, some issues remain. Let’s mention two:

More needs to be done and national contributions must be higher if we really want to achieve the objective of the Paris Agreement.

Divergences around the use of the different funds and financing arrangements (attenuation for developed countries, adaptation for developing countries) have to be resolved.

 

Conclusion: A few ideas.

Yes, 2016 is promising to be the hottest year in history.

“Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” was the proclamation of the Marrakech meeting.

Yes, renewable sources of energy and green technologies are costly, and so is the energy transition. It would certainly be more rational and less costly to guarantee investments instead of increasing subventions. This would also promote public-private partnerships and reduce the risk for investors.

Yes, the transition will take time and may be painful. It will be the responsibility of the leaders to organise a smooth transition for taking care of the environment and the people in the framework of the UN. Assessing the results of COP22, its president, M. Mezouar, formulated three priorities: financing, adaptation actions and capacity-building. There’s work to be done but the path is bright: COP23 is being prepared now and Fiji, the next organising country, has everything to lose without a world effort against global warming.

Do not think that climate change is only about the environment: the economy is the first issue. Today, 90 percent of newly produced electricity is renewable. There is a huge market to conquer, and you have the possibility to be part of it. Therefore, political choices must be made to balance competing interests (industry, agriculture, energy, society). Individuals and groups can take actions and concrete steps to protect the environment. It’s for you to choose.

 

The author is Ambassador of France to Kazakhstan.