Paris Primer : The Road to Paris

The Road to Paris – A Crucial Time in history

Gerard Siero

Anglican EcoCare Commission

 

This December representatives from almost 200 countries will meet in Paris to try and solve perhaps the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced – climate change.

According to NASA, 97% of the world’s climate scientists say humans are causing climate change and if we don’t act now to stem it, increased violent weather will bring enormous suffering.

The Paris meeting will be the 21st to address global warming since the first was convened in 1992 by the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

The meeting aims to pass a new agreement covering the post-2020 period.  For the first time, developing countries will be required to take action because they are now significant Greenhouse Gas emitters.

To help developing countries switch to renewable energy and adapt to climate change, the UNFCCC has set up a “Green Climate Fund” paid by developed nations at $US100 Billion a year by 2020.  It is to be raised from public and private sources and possibly a Robin Hood Tax – (a tax on Financial Transactions).

Australia’s actions make a difference because we are the world’s second biggest coal exporter and the fourth biggest producer.  Australia is the world’s 13th biggest GHG emitter, says the Climate Change Authority.

The government plans to submit our emissions reduction target midyear.  The Climate Change Authority’s draft recommendation is that Australia should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2000 levels by 2025.

The US target is up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, China plans to peak emissions by about 2030 and the EU plans a 40% cut below 1990 levels by 2030.

By November, the UN aims to assess whether commitments are enough to stop the world overheating – and if they are not, to point out by how far they will miss the target.

However heads of the Paris deal, don’t expect the pledges to meet the 2°C target above pre-industrial time, according to a report in The Guardian of 4 February 2015.  But the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, and the European Union Climate Chief, Miguel Arias Canete said, the meeting could be valuable as a step towards effective action.

Significant progress could be made, Canete said, if the US, China and the EU made ambitious pledges as they produced around 50% of world emissions.  Adding pledges from all G20 countries (which includes Australia), would make a substantial impact.

Another major concern is that the 2°C target is not strong enough to save low-lying islands, some coastal nations, and agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.  Ms Figueres, scientists and more than 100 of the most vulnerable countries maintain that a 1.5°C limit is needed.

To have a reasonable chance of a safe climate, 80% of global fossil fuel reserves must stay underground, say the Climate Council and other experts.

But world governments spend nearly $2 trillion annually subsidising oil, natural gas, coal and electricity production estimates the International Monetary Fund.

The good news is that in 2014 for the first time in 40 years, global greenhouse gas emission levels stayed level with emissions from the year before, despite no economic downturn as global GDP grew 3 percent.  This was largely due to China burning less coal and using more renewable energy.

Renewable Energy could supply the world’s electricity needs by 2050, according to the WWF and other bodies.  Technology to store the sun’s energy to provide electricity day and night is being used in several countries, including the US.

Yet now globally, renewable energy supplies only about 20% of global electricity.

There is hope.  China’s emissions could peak by 2025, which would enable the global 2°C target to be achieved, according to Professor Jiang Kejun of the China Energy Research lnstitute.  However as noted, China plans to peak its carbon emissions by about 2030.

It’s difficult for governments to deliver rapid change. But business can.

In 2010, worldwide the cost of solar panels plummeted 40%.  A 2012 UN report (Associated Press) claimed that solar panels were competing with the retail cost of electricity in Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, even as government subsidies had been lowered.  In 2014, a Bloomberg report found renewable electricity was as affordable as fossil fuel in 55 emerging nations across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Strong business and grassroots action could tip the scales and help our leaders take effective action.

Please join us in the Global People’s Climate March on Sunday 29 November (poster attached).

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