Governments on the spot as climate diplomacy gathers pace

Intro

In a week that saw climate change continue its return back to the top of the political agenda, negotiators, legislators, ministers and world leaders have all been discussing urgent solutions to the global climate crisis in different fora across the world. Negotiators and ministers gathering for the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn had reason to feel re-energised, after the world’s two biggest emitters – the US and China – indicated their willingness to make a bigger effort in the fight against climate change. In Brussels, heads of government from seven of the world’s biggest industrialised nations gave their backing to a new global deal on climate change in 2015. Legislators from around the world meeting in Mexico City began work on a ground-breaking resolution allowing them to strengthen national climate laws. And in London, governments and finance leaders examined new ways to fund climate action in developing countries.

While this surge in climate diplomacy is indicative of the threats posed by the crisis that is unfolding around the world, and of the upcoming deadlines for governments to manage these global risks and deliver solutions, civil society organisations are pointing out that most governments are still failing to walk the talk. That is why youth groups and NGOs mobilising at the UN talks in Bonn are ramping up the pressure on government leaders to secure a new global deal that means climate justice for all and leads to a phase out of fossil fuels by mid-century. Those trying to prevent the phase out – the world’s biggest emitting companies – have also received a powerful warning. The Heinrich Böll Foundation is calling for major oil and gas companies to be made liable for the climate damage they have caused in order to fill a fund for loss and damage incurred from unavoidable climate impacts. These events take place as new analysis shows that the need for urgent action couldn’t be clearer. Based on the scientific findings of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, experts from the  Climate Action Tracker initiative revealed this week that deeper emissions cuts are needed now if the world is to keep temperature rise below the critical 2 degrees C threshold.

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Key Points

  • A flurry of diplomacy this week shows that climate change is making a comeback at the top of the political agenda. From the UN negotiations in Bonn to the G7 meeting in Brussels, from the legislators summit in Mexico City to the inauguration of a Global Innovation Lab for climate finance in London, leaders from politics, business, law, science and the military are increasingly engaging with climate change – as the need for urgent and ambitious action is becoming clearer than ever. With just 18 months to go until a new global climate agreement is due to be signed at a summit in Paris, governments have been put on the spot for their failure to walk the talk, and face growing civil society pressure to ramp up and deliver a global solution to the climate crisis.
  • New analysis by Climate Action Tracker (CAT) shows that these discussions are not taking place a minute too soon, and that all countries must make deep and immediate cuts in emissions in order to stop runaway climate change. It warns that the world is on track to suffer as much as 4.6 degrees C of warming by 2100, well above the 2 degrees C threshold beyond which scientists project climate change will spin out of control. CAT says that plans announced by the US this week are not sufficient to move the world away from dangerous levels of warming, but insists that the massive growth in renewables in recent times “could be the start of a new positive trend”, paving the way for a “full decarbonisation of the energy sector”.

Background

A flurry of diplomacy around the world is creating new momentum in the debate about an effective response to the global climate crisis. This week has seen governments, legislators, businesses and experts meeting in various arenas to discuss how to increase ambition and ramp up climate action. In Bonn, Germany – where the latest round of UN Climate Talks are underway – two days of special Ministerial meetings – one for countries with existing commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and one for all countries to discuss pre-2020 ambition – provided opportunities for ministers to spend time building the all important relationships and partnerships vital to driving greater ambition. With just 43 Ministerial representatives out of a possible 196 attending, however, the opportunity to make a major step forward on the road towards a 2015 deal hasn’t been fully utilised

Across the world, several other important meetings have been taking place this week, which all have climate change firmly on the agenda. In Brussels, leaders of the G7 countries met to discuss a variety of issues including the global economic outlook, development and climate change. While Russia’s actions over the Ukraine crisis overshadowed the proceedings, G7 countries did manage to give their backing to a new global climate agreement in 2015.

However, NGOs warned that a stronger steer is still needed from leaders, accusing them of having “offered climate action with one hand, making good pledges on energy efficiency and renewables, only to snatch it away with the other, by continuing to trumpet indigenous hydrocarbon resources”. Ahead of the talks, NGOs stressed that G7 countries must not misuse the crisis to fast-track further fossil fuel development – including increased shale gas trade and development and the opening of Europe’s doors to tar sands. Instead they said the focus must be on sustainable solutions to Europe’s energy security, breaking countries’ dependence on fossil fuels and investing in genuine solutions like energy efficiency and community renewables.

Across the Channel in London, government officials were joined this week by representatives from the private sector to examine innovative solutions to climate finance. During a two-day Clean Energy Finance summit, experts from across the financial sector looked at options for raising the private finance necessary for countries to pursue low-carbon projects. The meeting also saw the opening of the Global Lab for Climate Finance – a new public-private platform aimed at spurring private sector investment in low-carbon, climate resilient infrastructure in developing countries. The meeting was not billed to be about putting pledges on the table, but about building investment principles and instruments to increase the financing of clean energy – a number of which will be taken forward to the UN Secretary General’s Leaders Summit in New York in September.

In another set of parallel negotiations, 400 international legislators are meeting in Mexico this week, in a bid to agree a ground-breaking “Legislators Resolution”. The resolution will commit the legislators to use their formal powers to review and strengthen national climate laws and help prepare the groundwork for a 2015 climate agreement. They want to use the resolution to scrutinise government negotiating positions, and are calling for a new generation of climate change agreements that would require governments to enact national legislation for the commitments they make in Paris is 2015. The legislators aim to counter the inadequate impact of the classic model of governmental negotiations and to ramp up action in the run up to the negotiations in Paris.

Military experts have also voiced their climate concerns this week, with a briefing by the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change warning that climate change is multiplying the threats to peace and stability, and forcing military leaders everywhere to adapt strategic planning. The briefing summarises the security findings from the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the leaders of defence communities and makes clear the impacts across the world, outlining potential flash points of conflict.

And there is growing pressure on governments and polluters from civil society and activist groups to take urgent action to address the climate crisis. During protests in Bonn, they called on governments to “stand with us or stand aside” in the fight for climate justice to protect “our families, our communities and our peoples across the world”. Following a walk-out at the climate conference in Warsaw last December, the organisations – including trade unions, social movements, environmental groups, gender and youth groups, and indigenous peoples – today handed a Declaration to the Minister for the Environment of Peru, Pulgar-Vidal; Laurence Tubiana, recently nominated as special envoy for the French Foreign Affairs Ministers; and Venezuela’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Claudia Salerno Caldera. The Declaration lists key demands for climate action in the run up to the Paris conference and concludes that “those who claim to represent us” must “either act in our interests or step aside”.

Climate Action International have used the Bonn conference to call on governments to take action to completely phase out fossil fuels and phase in 100% renewable energy by 2050. Meanwhile the youth climate movement has launched a new project to encourage young people to be engaged in the international climate process in the run-up to 2015 and ensure maximum pressure is placed on decision makers.

A new report, published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Climate Justice Programme, calls on the world’s top-emitting companies to be more accountable for their role in global warming by paying for their historical and future emissions. The report says high emitting companies should take on their fair share of the burden of climate change and pay into a fund for the victims of global warming. The authors propose a levy on fossil fuel extraction, calculated against both a company’s historic emissions and projected future extractions of coal, oil and gas. Over time it could be increased per year, and the funds could flow into the ‘Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage’ agreed during international climate negotiations last year. From there the money would be allocated to the world’s poorest communities and to those who have experienced the greatest impacts of climate change.

New research also shows that the need for urgent climate action has never been so great. Just one month ago reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that climate change was real, human-driven and required urgent action. Two weeks ago scientific reports also showed that a major ice shelf in Antarctica is melting at an irreversible rate; and one week later the World Meteorological Organization warned that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations had reached levels not seen in at least 800,000 years

New analysis from the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) further amplifies these warnings, arguing that deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed by all countries sooner to keep global warming below the 2ºC danger threshold. The analysis warns that the world is on track for 3ºC to 4.6ºC of warming by 2100, averaging 3.7ºC, based on analysis of current policy trends. It examines the new scenarios laid out in recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calculating the emissions cuts needed at global and regional levels by 2020, 2025 and 2030. With recent recarbonisation witnessed around the world – coal has seen a resurgence in many industrialised countries since 2010 – the analysts say that deeper cuts are now needed sooner than previously estimated and that recent announcements, like those by the US earlier this week, still fall far short of the level of action needed to stay below 2ºC of warming.

But more action can be taken and many countries are already moving forward, says CAT. In 2012 renewables made up just over half of total net additions to electric generating capacity worldwide, highlighting the real viability of rapid decarbonisation. While such an increase is still “levelled out by increased use of coal and rising energy consumption,” the analysts say the rise “could be the start of a new positive trend” and pave the way for “a full decarbonisation of the energy sector.”

Resources

Coverage

Carbon majors paying for loss and damage

G7

Legislators conference

Climate Action Tracker

UN

Images and Video

Video: G7 Summit, Brussels – press conference EU

Tools and Resources

Global Climate meetings

Growing public pressure for climate action

Urgency of the Climate Crisis

Key Quotes

NGOs call for urgent action

  • “There are alarm bells going off all over the world and yet our leaders don’t seem to notice and the collective response is totally inadequate. It is like a fire is raging outside our homes and instead of using fire hoses we’re using squirt guns to put it out. Even worse, fossil fuel industry is trying to block firefighters from coming to our rescue and put out the fire. And some people are even claiming there is no fire.” – Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • “In Warsaw, we left because governments were not taking their responsibilities to tackle climate change seriously. We came together again here in Bonn, across very diverse groups to tell them we’ll not surrender until we build the strong climate movement we need, one that pushes for a just world, for the jobs of the future, and for a planet that is preserved for future generations.” – Anabella Rosemberg, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) climate advisor
  • “These negotiations are a matter of life and death for many who live in vulnerable countries – where worse typhoons and droughts mean much more suffering. We will continue to take action against those who claim to be leaders, calling on them to take up our solutions and beat back the vested interests that want business as usual and dress it up as progress. We have come together to reiterate to all “leaders” in the UN climate negotiations that they are dangerously off track in addressing the climate emergency. We are calling on them to listen to the demands and solutions of people,” the Declaration says. “We  are back, far more strengthened in giving voice to those who are already acting with the urgency needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. People are mobilizing everywhere and taking to the streets in bigger numbers and increasing intensity to stand up to vested interests and fight for their future and those of the next generations.” – Lidy Nacpil, Director of Jubilee South – Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, from the Philippines
  • “Civil society walked out of the climate talks in Warsaw in frustration at the toxic influence of dirty energy corporations and the dangerous positions of many national governments. Now we’re back, stronger, calling for the just, people-centred solutions the world needs to tackle catastrophic climate change. The European Union’s current position at the talks is dangerously inadequate and unfair, according to the organisation, and will force those developing countries least responsible for climate change to undertake the majority of the effort and cost to tackle it. It also risks dangerously high levels of global warming.” – Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe
  • “In the climate change game, the European Union is not even on the bench, it’s amongst the spectators. If the EU is serious about defeating catastrophic climate change, then it needs to step up and do its fair share on the pitch. This means more than 20% emissions reductions before 2020, binding climate and energy targets for 2030, at least 60% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and ambitious energy efficiency and renewables targets.” – Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe
  • “Communities are suffering irreversible losses due to climate breakdown, now. Governments must stop pandering to multinationals, and put new money on the table to compensate developing countries, and help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. We need equity and global justice now, for the sake of both current and future generations and especially the billions of young people living in the Global South today.” – Jamie Gorman, campaigner for Young Friends of the Earth Europe

Climate Action Tracker

  • “The world must start preparing for a rapid decarbonisation of the energy and industry sectors within the next decade, reversing the recent recarbonisation of the sector seen since 2000, and going to zero emissions by around 2050. “One of the major challenges for Ministers at the UNFCCC meetings in Bonn is to take concrete steps to arrest and reverse this adverse trend in decarbonisation.”- Dr Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.

G7

  • “G7 leaders missed turning the energy crisis with Russia into an opportunity to steer Europe and the world onto a clean energy path that will save Europe money and prevent the worst impacts of climate change at home and abroad. G7 leaders offered climate action with one hand, making good pledges on energy efficiency and renewables, only to snatch it away with the other, by continuing to trumpet indigenous hydrocarbon resources, which are expensive, unproven and dirty like shale gas. Europe’s dependence on dirty energy is pushing up fuel prices and driving climate change, which means higher food prices in Europe and across the world. If leaders don’t break their fossil fuel habit, poor people in Europe may be left to choose between eating and heating. Ahead of the Ban Ki-moon climate summit in September, Europe and the G7 should take bold steps to wean us off dirty fuels and promise cash for the new global Green Climate Fund to help the world’s poorest countries tackle climate change.” – Natalia Alonso, Head of Oxfam’s EU Office
  • “Both for the sake of environmental protection and also energy security, it is very important that we step up our efforts to fight climate change. 2015 will be a crucial year and I am confident that the world can count on our ambitious contributions in the run-up to the UN climate conference in Paris. We have all agreed at the G7 table that this is the key date. We are hoping to have a multilateral agreement and this besides the national commitments that are already being put in place. On that point, I have specifically welcomed and congratulated President Obama on the recent measures he announced domestically.” – EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso
  • “Energy dependence drives dangerous climate change as much as it fuels conflicts. G7 leaders might sound like they agree, but they’re bluffing. Their plan for energy security focuses on swapping Russian oil and gas for dirty and risky energy from elsewhere. Let’s not kid ourselves: timid steps by Obama and the EU to cut carbon emissions are not enough. Only a shift to an efficient energy system run fully on renewables can free our economies from the shackles of energy dependence and unlock a healthy and sustainable future.” – Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly
  • “This energy security crisis is a wake-up call for Europe to shift course on energy and cut its dependence on dirty imports once and for all. Energy savings and renewable energy can kick-start a revolution in clean, high-tech, home-grown power generation. Instead, G7 leaders continue to pander to the fossil fuels industry, which depends on the same energy sources that got us into this mess in the first place. This attitude will keep Europe hooked to dirty energy, sacrificing both security and the climate.” – Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly
  • “Under the guise of energy security, G7 leaders are pushing a corporate-driven agenda of dirty energy. This will lock in fossil fuel use for decades. The only path to energy security is to break the stranglehold of fossil fuel imports, prevent further shale gas development, and develop our own clean, community-owned renewable energy resources.”- Colin Roche, extractives campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe
  • “We walked out of the climate talks in Warsaw in frustration at the toxic influence of dirty energy corporations on the talks and the positions of many national governments. We’re seeing the same story with the G7. Instead, Europe needs to leave fossil fuels in the ground, and promote greater energy efficiency and community-owned renewables – to deliver a more secure future for us all.” –  Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe
  • “Heads of state have today continued their policy of low ambitions. While energy security is the word of the day, a real strategy is lacking. In 2012, the EU spent €421bn to buy 53% of its energy from abroad. The Commission’s own analysis shows that the development of renewable energy and energy saving measures can reduce energy imports significantly. Instead they want to slip quick-fix measures through the back-door without public discussion (such as CCS or fracking). These will only profit big business, while shifting the bill to the wider population and environment. We will fight for a true and comprehensive energy transition, focusing on renewables and energy efficiency. For that we need clear and consistent policies and investments in the future. European leaders must not miss this opportunity to create ambitious and binding targets, crucially linking CO2 emissions to energy efficiency.” – European Green Party Co-Chair Monica Frassoni

World Summit of Legislators

  • “Having been the lead European negotiator at the Kyoto talks, it is clear to me that success at the Paris COP in 2015 will require a new type of climate agreement that learns the lessons from Copenhagen. The World Summit of Legislators will politically test and agree a blueprint withcdomestic legislation at its heart”. – Former UK Deputy Prime Minister Lord John Prescott
  • “With the support of GLOBE, Mexico has passed ambitious climate legislation. The World Summit of Legislators is a crucial opportunity to share experiences of colleagues across the world, to build a global coalition of parliamentarians against the damaging effects of climate change, to challenge inaction and to politically test a new generation of climate change agreement to enable success at Paris in 2015.” – Mexican Ambassador for the World Summit of Legislators, Congresswoman Marissa Ortiz Mantilla
  • “It is no exaggeration to say that the clean revolution we need is being carried forward by legislation. Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement. At the national level, it is clear that when countries enact clean energy policies, investment follows. At the international level, it is equally clear that domestic legislation opens the political space for international agreements and facilitates overall ambition.” – Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres
  • “2014 is the year we need to step up climate action. Legislators have a critical role to play in raising political ambition and ensuring that effective laws and regulations support low carbon and resilient development”. – World Bank Group Vice-President and Special Envoy Rachel Kyte
  • A global, comprehensive and legally binding deal on emissions reductions in the UNFCCC in 2015 is imperative. As we work towards that agreement, it is clear that domestic legislation has a fundamental role to play in building consensus and cementing ambition, which is why GLOBE’s work is so important. The World Summit of Legislators is the next crucial step in this journey and the outcome will set the framework and agenda for success in Paris.”- Lord Deben, Chairman of the UK Statutory Committee on Climate Change, Honorary GLOBE President and former UK Secretary of State for the Environment

Heinrich Boell report

  • “The big oil and gas companies can no longer dodge their legal and moral responsibility to pay for climate change loss and damage their products have caused. They need to assume real responsibility in line with the polluter pays principle, firmly anchored in environmental law. Top international companies, such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, BP, Gazprom and Shell have made huge profits with fossil fuels while the victims of climate change, often in the poorest regions of the world, are faced with ruin.” – Barbara Unmüßig, president of the Heinrich Boell Foundation
  • “In the Philippines and elsewhere the lives and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable communities are being torn apart by extreme climate change. At the moment it’s the poorest who are bearing the cost of climate change. It’s time to turn that logic around. In international law we have the “do no harm” principle which is also applied in other areas, covering oil spills and nuclear accidents. It must now be extended to the loss and damage from man-made climate change.” – Naderev (Yeb) Saño from the Climate Change Commission in the Philippines
  • “We need to put our economy on the fast track to phase out fossil fuels and to safeguard our climate. This levy on fossil fuel extraction is an important step in that direction.” –  Julie-Anne Richards from the Climate Justice Programme

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