Action on climate change needed
Some small island states, such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean or Tuvalu in the Pacific, face serious risks to their survival if we do not take effective action to address climate change and curb rising sea levels.
At a dinner convened jointly between France and the UK in London last week, a group of representatives from such small island states described the severity of the threat they face. They are understandably pushing hard for all nations to do more to cut emissions and help prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
The threats facing the rest of the world are no less grave. To preserve a climate that can support a healthy, prosperous population, we must limit global warming to no more than 1.5?C or 2?C.
The shape of the international climate deal set for agreement in Paris is becoming clearer. More than 150 nations have announced their commitments to reduce emissions. Many have also pledged increased finance to help the poorest and most vulnerable nations adapt to the effects of climate change.
The UK and France are leading by example. By 2030, the UK would have halved its emissions compared to 1990 and is on track to meet the target, set out in law, of an 80 percent reduction by 2050. France would cut its emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 and its new Energy Transition Act provides mechanisms to finance renewable energies.
We are also committed to supporting developing nations to strengthen their resilience and manage the risks of a changing climate. British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced that the UK is to provide ￡5.8 billion (US$8.97 billion) between April next year and March 2021. At the same time, French President Francois Hollande announced that France is to increase its annual funding to fight climate change from a current 3 billion euros (US$3.3 billion) commitment to 5 billion euros by 2020.
Nevertheless, as the representatives from small island states made clear, the sum of all commitments to reduce emissions is not yet enough to ensure their sustainable future.
We should see these commitments as a baseline. We can do at least this much.
These commitments take us 15 years into the future, and so reflect a huge range of economic, social and technological uncertainty. The future can be promising.
And the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris needs to build even greater ambition. [Editor’s note: The meeting starts on Nov. 30.]
A change in direction is already visible. Evidence released by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that the global economy grew by 3.3 percent last year, while emissions only grew by 0.5 percent. This suggests that economic growth is increasingly decoupled from greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the pace of change is increasing. 37 nations have now put a price on carbon.
China is to join them in another two years’ time. The world is now adding more renewable energy capacity than coal, natural gas and oil combined. The cost of solar cells has fallen by about 80 percent since 2008 and more investment is being ploughed into clean energy technologies all the time.
China added 9.9GW of new solar electricity capacity in the first three quarters of this year alone — equivalent to more than a 10th of the UK’s entire domestic power generation. Many small island states have also adopted ambitious renewable energy targets in the past year.
This transition has economic benefits beyond reducing climate risks. For example, the low carbon economy and its supply chain now employ about half a million people in the UK and France. In the case of the UK, this sector contributes more to GDP than the automotive industry.
These opportunities would only become clearer over time and the incentives to take advantage of them would be greater.
The threat facing us all is very real, even if it is not as apparent to all of us as it is to the inhabitants of the small islands states. There is a role for everyone in confronting it.
The Paris conference must be a watershed moment, leading us into an era of green economic development and opportunity.
We are confident we can find an effective response — through human ingenuity, innovation and determination — to the greatest challenge our civilization has ever faced.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns is minister of state at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Annick Girardin is minister of state for development and Francophony at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Published in Taipei Times / Mon, Nov 02, 2015