Climate, Secretary General's Climate Summit and Paris

As often is the case i am at JFK waiting for a flight and I thought on the eve of the Climate March (see previous blog) and the Secretary Generals Climate Summit I would make a few reflections. These are informed from my experiences in the UNFCCC and the last two weeks in New York.

Climate Summit

On the Secretary General's Climate Summit there are now some 120 heads of State confirmed (which doesn't include Australia's Head of State). For those who are not UN hacks like me the Climate Summit is not an official UN General Assembly but a Secretary General's initiative so a very very soft fora but an important one. This Secretary General has made climate a vital part of his second term priorities and is trying to lead from the front and for that he deserves credit. The Climate Summit is not part of the formal negotiations leading up to Paris in 2015. What is expected is that Heads of State will make NEW commitments. There will be a Private Sector Forum which will focus on carbon pricing and it is hoped new commitments from the private sector and other stakeholders.

United States 

The Summit will give us a clearer idea of the lay of the land 15 months out from Paris. In November the US will hold their mid term elections and this may according to polls return a Republican Climate denying Senate. For President Obama to be able to deliver anything he signs in Paris he will need 60 votes in the Senate.  At present he will not be able to do that and from January when the new Senators take up seats that will be probably impossible.

What will be critical for the 2016 US general election is a solid campaign in the Senate seats that are required for the 60 votes to return Senators that will pass a ratification of what is agreed in Paris.

So what can Paris do well its a bit like the run up to Copenhagen at the moment there seems to be a lack of appreciation among some of the NGOs and European governments about how the US political system works.

President Obama indicated his view on Paris at the end of August. In the New York Times under the headline "Obama Pushing Climate ACCORD in lien of Treaty" it said:

"The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions without ratification from Congress."

Paul Bledsoe one of the top climate officials from the Clinton administration said:
"If you want a deal that includes major emitters, including the US, you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time."

So the ground is being set for a new 'Copenhagen Accord" or rather a "Paris Accord".

Paris Accord

So what should be the elements be of a Paris Accord? Here are some of my ideas:

  • Voluntary Targets: These should keep us under 2 degree rise in CO2 and be monitored annually;
  • Funding for the Climate Fund: Governments have made commitments in Copenhagen, Durban and other UNFCCC meetings on this these should be realized NOT out of present ODA but in addition;
  • Technology Transfer: New technologies particularly on re-newables  should be shared these can be done through the Global Environmental Facility and the Climate Technology Fund;
  • Private Sector: Subsidies for carbon based energy should be stopped over a period of time - while being sensitive in developing countries to the role they play and being able to support the role out of renewables to compensate;
  • Private Sector: Support for private sector renewables being supported by a World Bank/IFC Earth Bond to cover risk;
  • Private Sector: Companies move their pension funds into green technologies and away from fossil fuel companies;
  • Stock Exchanges: Companies should be required to produce their ESG reports to be listed,
  • Stock Exchanges: These should be caped for CO2 emissions based on today and then a reduction of companies listed CO2 outputs over a period of time.
Sustainable Development Goals

Next year governments will agree the replacement for the MDGs and these will be a set of Sustainable Development Goals. At present 17 and that includes a goal on climate but more importantly it includes goals on energy, food, water, infrastructure, cities, sustainable consumption and production and economy. These can play a CRITICAL role to help deliver the targets and us keeping under 2 degrees.

A Final Thought

"We are faced with the fact my friends that tomorrow is today. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Over the bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words 'Too Late!'" Martin Luther King jnr


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