Vulnerable countries show the way as world leaders pledge climate ambition

Intro

All eyes were on world leaders as the UN climate conference officially kicked into gear today in Paris. Faced with record numbers of people taking to the streets around the world to show their support for a renewable energy future, nearly 150 heads of state presented their own nation’s ambitions for the coming weeks. But it was the world’s most vulnerable nations that stood out today, as they signed a declaration pushing towards a 100 per cent renewable world by 2050, a complete decarbonisation of the global economy, and a limit to global temperature rise of 1.5DegC. Markings of strong global momentum were also noted from leaders forging international alliances, such as India’s prime minister Modi with the international Solar Alliance program. Businesses also stepped in, most notably with the multi-billion dollar clean energy research initiative launched by Bill Gates, offering yet further proof that the renewable energy transition is underway and gathering momentum. As Heads of State leave Paris, their final task is to take their inspiring words from the opening day and empower the negotiators they leave in their stead to produce an agreement which can accelerate the transition towards a fully renewable-powered future, while reducing poverty and protecting vulnerable people from the impacts of climate change.  

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Key Points

  • Heads of state took centre stage in Paris, but it was the world’s most vulnerable that stole the show. The Climate Vulnerable Forum – including countries from the Philippines to Sudan, Ethiopia to Bangladesh – today showed what climate leadership looks like when they launched a bold call for a 100 per cent renewable future by 2050, joining other major economies, including the G7 in supporting a complete decarbonisation of the global economy. As over 140 other heads of state also took to the stage in Paris to set out their ambitions for the coming weeks, including US President Obama’s pledge support to vulnerable countries on resilience and China’s re-commitment to achieve a peak in emissions as soon as possible, this year’s pivotal climate summit kicked off with a sprinting start.
  • Public and private sectors have made unprecedented commitments and pledges to boost clean energy technology, help the poorest nations cut emissions, and lower climate risk. Bill Gates and other tech investors launched a clean energy fund backed by 28 of the world’s richest investors, which will see a doubling of money for clean energy research funding in the next five years in 20 countries including the US, France and India. Along with 100 other countries, India also announced a global alliance to massively expand solar power. Meanwhile a new $500m World Bank fund, supported by four European nations – Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland – will help developing countries cut their carbon emissions.
  • Backed by people power and political momentum, negotiators are now fully equipped to finalise an ambitious universal climate agreement. 785,000 world citizens marched for the climate this weekend, and another 3.6 million people have signed a call for a meaningful agreement, delivered to leaders in Paris today. Combined with today’s public and private sector action, there is irresistible momentum for change as the summit begins. As leaders leave Paris, negotiators will be able to run with their inspiring words in order to drive forward an ambitious agreement which accelerates the ongoing transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and protects everyone – especially the most vulnerable – from the destructive impacts of climate change.

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New pledges and commitments

Leaders at COP21

 

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Tools and Resources

Leaders’ speeches and statements

Pledges and commitments

General COP21

National context

Reports, studies and other useful links

Key Quotes

Leaders’ statements

  • “There is such a thing as being too late. When it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us. But if we act here, now, if we place our short term interests behind the air that our children will breathe and the water our children will drink, then we will not be too late for them.– U.S. President Barack Obama
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  • “Tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind … Let us join hands to contribute to the establishment of an equitable and effective global mechanism on climate change, work for global sustainable development at a high level and bring about new international relations featuring win-win cooperation.”China’s president China’s Xi Jinping
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  • “I am not choosing between fighting terrorism and fighting global warming. These are both challenges we have to overcome,” – French president Francois Hollande
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  • “In damaging our climate we become the architects of our own destruction. While the planet can survive the scorching of the earth and the rising of the waters, the human race cannot,” – Charles, Prince of Wales
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  • Climate justice demands that the little carbon space we still have, developing countries should have enough room to grow,” – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi
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  • “History is calling. This is a pivotal moment for the future of your countries, your people and our common home, our planet. You can no longer delay,” – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon
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  • “An environmental debt needs to be paid.” An international court for environmental justice should be set up. “It is not understandable that we have courts to force countries to pay financial debts but we do not have a court to enforce environmental debts.” – Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa
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  • “The international community is on the verge of a new era in combating climate change … Our responsibility is to sign a fair, inclusive and legally binding agreement.”Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan
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  • “The international community is on the verge of a new era in combating climate change … Our responsibility is to sign a fair, inclusive and legally binding agreement.” – Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga
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  • “The climate bill has finally come due. Who will pay? Right now it is being paid by the smallest and most vulnerable. We see a small toll exacted every day as our shorelines are surely eroded. Small island communities are among the first to pay the price of climate change but no one will escape forever.” – Baron Waqa, president of Nauru
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  • The Paris Agreement must send a message to the world that if we’re to win the battle against climate chagne, the fossil fuel era must draw to a close, to be replaced by a clean, green energy future, free of carbon pollution that is harming our health, stunting our growth and suffocating our planet. – President Christopher Loeak, Marshall Islands
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  • “Obama’s speech to the UNFCCC and other heads of state set an optimistic and pragmatic tone that both celebrates the progress countries have made coming into Paris and recognizes the urgent need to accelerate our efforts to address climate change.” – The Nature Conservancy’s Andrew Deutz, Director of International Government Relations
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  • “This morning, President Obama made the case that all the incredible momentum that we have seen in recent months can and should be transformed into a strong, significant agreement among nations to act in Paris and beyond. President Obama has already committed to taking his leadership from the podium to the negotiating table, signalling a new financial contribution to help the most vulnerable nations prepare for the effects of the climate crisis and preparing to sit down for a dialogue with the leaders of island nations tomorrow. But, as he noted, we cannot stop there. Clean energy is more affordable and more accessible than ever before. More than 160 countries are at the table already with commitments to slash emissions. Record numbers of people around the world have taken to the streets calling for action – and their calls are being echoed in corporate boardrooms nationwide. Now, it’s time to make it count and fight for an agreement that puts us on a path to tackle the worst effects of the climate crisis, protect the most vulnerable communities, and grow a just, equitable clean energy economy.” – Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
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  • “President Obama made it clear that the US is aware that the world’s poorest people are the first to feel the worst impacts of climate change – and that the US has a responsibility to do something about it. We’re pleased the US recognizes this – but now the US must deliver on a Paris agreement that really catalyzes action for the poorest and most vulnerable populations,” – Tonya Rawe, Senior Advisor for Policy and Research, Food & Nutrition Security Unit, CARE USA
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  • “Research shows that dangerous climate change impacts will increase significantly, if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees. Over 100 vulnerable developing countries already back the 1.5 degrees temperature target for the Paris agreement – it’s a question of their survival. But it is encouraging to see leaders such as France’s Francois Hollande and Germany’s Angela Merkel acknowledging that 2 degrees may be too much for many countries. The 1.5 limit and the means to make it happen must be anchored in the agreement.” – Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator
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  • “World leaders sent a clear message today that climate change is no longer a distant reality. The damage to rising seas and increasing typhoons is the present and it’s tearing apart the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet. Obama and many other leaders should be commended for shining a spotlight on the plight of the world’s poorest. Leaders have now thrown themselves a gauntlet to address the current and devastating impact of climate change over the next two weeks.  The same rich countries speaking up for the world’s most vulnerable now urgently need to match their words with action – and what they have put on the table so far is not anywhere near their fair share of climate action. Countries must agree to keep warming to below 1.5 degrees, provide adequate money to help poor countries adapt, and include clear and unequivocal lines on tackling the current and future loss and damage in the agreement.” – ActionAid’s Harjeet Singh, Climate Policy Manager
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  • “Obama’s speech to the UNFCCC and other heads of state set an optimistic and pragmatic tone that both celebrates the progress countries have made coming into Paris and recognizes the urgent need to accelerate our efforts to address climate change. The President acknowledged that Paris can be the turning point towards a low carbon future – one that is more prosperous, healthy and secure for all.  He addressed the critical elements we need to agree on here including more ambitious commitments, a structure to ratchet up commitments at least every five years, transparency to build confidence and accelerate efforts, and financing to help all countries both reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.” – The Nature Conservancy’s Andrew Deutz, Director of International Government Relations
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  • “While we are well on our way to making meaningful reductions in carbon pollution, there is significant work that remains.  An agreement is Paris is essential for getting us started toward a safe pathway that avoids catastrophic climate change, but continued leadership from the United States and the global community will be needed to preserve a safe, livable world for future generations.” – League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Board Chair Carol Browner
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  • “The president made it clear today: World leaders, now gathered in Paris, must develop a climate agreement that is about ambition. Ambition to chart a course to a low-carbon future that shifts us away from dirty energy. Ambition to protect people whose very survival is threatened by climate change. Ambition to vault clean energy innovation forward so we can clean up the air faster and create more jobs in communities around the world. – Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council
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  • “This won’t be a walk in the park to a new agreement. This is crunch time, and brutal negotiations are about to kick off, because lives are on the line. We need to have a long-term goal to phase out fossil fuel emissions, because we need to know where this agreement is leading us. Also, everyone knows there needs to be money on the table, but no one knows yet how much or who is going to pay. Developed countries say they want to see new countries starting to contribute, but the question is, if rich countries get signals that other countries are willing to complement their efforts, will they respond by committing to new numbers?” – Tim Gore, Oxfam
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  • “In Copenhagen, Heads of State arrived at the end, and all they could do was to try and stop a sinking ship. That ship is no longer sinking. The 150 Heads of States in Paris today have the opportunity to be the compass and provide the wind for our sails, that will lead this ship to a safer climate future.  The destination is clear: keeping average temperature increase well below 20C to have a chance to avoid irreversible impacts for planet and humanity.” – Pierre Cannet, WWF France
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  • “It is the suffering of vulnerable countries that has led to us being here in Paris to tackle climate change. But the cruel irony is that, as it stands now, the Paris deal won’t be enough for them. The current pledges add up to about a 2.7 degree world, when these countries need a 1.5 degree one to survive. It’s like when a lizard’s tail is caught by a predator—it will break it off so that it can escape. These vulnerable countries are in danger of becoming the lizard’s tail, and of being sacrificed while the rest of the world escapes the perils of climate change.”  – Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid
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  • “The EU needs to show solidarity with the vulnerable countries in their pledge for phasing out all emissions by 2050. EU’s current position on the long term goal is too weak to keep open a possibility of limiting warming to no more than 1.5DegC or 2DegC. Numerous businesses also support the goal of decarbonization by 2050, because this timeline provides them more investment certainty and thus helps to unlock their climate ambition. A goal to end the use of all fossil fuels in the next few decades enshrined in the Paris agreement would provide a strong signal for all companies and investors to shift investments and financial flows from fossil fuels to renewables”. – Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe
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  • “As almost 147 world leaders gather in Paris today to call for a good deal on climate change, there is an air of hopeful expectation, that feels different from previous conferences. While the Paris agreement is unlikely to give us everything we need it could be the beginning of what must in the end become a real long term legally binding agreement. It must keep global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees (and ultimately 1.5 degrees) and move to a zero carbon economy by 2050.” – Paul Cook, Tearfund’s Advocacy Director

Solar Alliance

  • “Spearheaded by Prime Minister Modi, this global collaboration between developing and developing countries is critically important to boosting universal energy access and spurring economic development. This bold effort could bring affordable solar power to tropical villages and communities worldwide.’’ – Jennifer Morgan, Global Director, Climate Program, WRI
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  • “India’s leading role in this initiative is particularly noteworthy. Prime Minister Modi stands alongside other leaders of emerging economies in demonstrating how international cooperation can spur clean energy access and advance economic development.” – Andrew Steer, President & CEO, World Resources Institute
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  • ‘’The launch of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a historic step for global cooperation and a much needed boost for a low-carbon future. Under India’s leadership, the ISA could inspire and support several developed and developing countries to advance on a clean energy pathway by lowering financing costs, developing common standards, encouraging knowledge sharing and facilitating R&D collaborations and co-development of technologies to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) announced earlier this year.’’ – Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW (Centre for Energy, Environment and Water), India
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  • ‘’The solar club follows the ambitious renewable energy targets that India has set for itself by 2022 and takes it forward. It is my belief that INSTA could foster technology development that will ensure a faster scale up of solar systems in various economies, particularly promoting improvement in storage technologies. It will ensure that the energy access and energy scarcity situation, which India and a number of developing countries are grappling with, is addressed on a war footing.” – Srinivas Krishnaswamy, Chief Executive Officer, Vasudha Foundation India
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  • ‘’Till now, most of the foreign investments have come into India from private sources. Only around US$0.5bn has come in through official channels, multi-lateral and bi-lateral financing agencies. Enhancement of flows from this channel will further boost the efforts of private enterprise, and the adoption of green power in India” – Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance studies, Australasia at IEEFA
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  • “So far, for investments in solar in India, while loans from domestic sources have their challenges, foreign loans are less costly. However, the currently high hedging costs make these foreign loans more expensive than domestic loans. Innovative low cost hedging instruments can help foreign loans become cheaper. Cheaper loans would translate into further reduction in the cost of solar power in India. The proposed solar alliance may help by permitting effective exploitation of economies of scale and comparative advantages of different countries in research and development, manufacturing, innovation and finance, while also allowing them to access technology and best practices from each other.” – Jai Sharda, Managing Partner, Equitorial Research, a financial research firm based in India
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  • ‘’We welcome today’s announcement from India’s Prime Minister. Accelerating the development of solar power will spur the creation of new jobs and significant economic development as well as helping those in areas that are still lacking access to electricity […] We want COP21 to send a strong signal: as government leaders work steadily to reach a solid climate agreement, business will be there to support a sustainable development for all.”   – Cyrus Mistry, Chairman, TATA Group
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  • “The International Solar Alliance announced by Prime Minister Modi is indeed slated to be a landmark movement in the wake of rising energy deficit. Bringing nations with high solar resources together and unlocking potential of renewable energy to light billions of lives is very critical today. This announcement fuels the aspirations of India, aligning it to Sustainable Development Goal 7, of providing clean and affordable energy to all […] At YES BANK we are extremely committed to contributing towards this climate goal. COP21 has the potential to strengthen partnerships and establish business innovations in climate change. We are now one step closer to a strong climate deal.”  – Rana Kapoor, Founder & CEO, YES BANK
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  • ‘’The developing world needs more energy, and in India we are clear that renewables are the way to go. We have seen an exponential increase in installed capacities and the country is at the brink of breaking into top five solar power producers in the world. […] The International Solar Alliance will be a platform for all of us in sunshine countries across the globe, to scale up access to energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Through initiatives like the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative, which Welspun Renewables are co-chairs of, business is showing it can be part of the effort in securing a low-carbon future for all of us.” – Vineet Mittal, Vice Chairman Welspun Renewables
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  • “A truly brightening move! CDP India wholeheartedly welcomes and supports PM Modi’s global endeavour to band together sunshine countries in order to upscale solar power. As an anchor partner of the RE100 campaign, we are delighted that this move sends a clear signal to the world at the historic COP21 in Paris. This will undoubtedly encourage global corporates to initiate more bold steps in utilising solar power […] ’This initiative is bound to have a knock on effect on other forms of renewable energy.  Leading businesses including Infosys, IKEA, Swiss Re, BT, Formula E, H&M, KPN, Mars, Nestlé, Philips and many others have already joined the RE100 campaign to commit to using 100% renewable power.” – Damandeep Singh, Director, CDP India
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  • “Scaling up renewable energy in India is undoubtedly one of the key steps to ensure, the world stays on track to avoid the dangerous consequences of an increased climate change. At Infosys, we committed to go 100% renewable, because we know it makes good business sense. The International Solar Alliance is the further evidence that the world is acknowledging it too.” –Ramadas Kamath, Executive Vice President & Head of Infrastructure, Facilities, Administration, Security & Sustainability, Infosys

Faith

  • “The momentum towards change has come, and it might be stronger than we understand.” – Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches

Development banks

  • “Africa has already been short-changed by climate change. Now, we must ensure that Africa is not short-changed in terms of climate finance. The African Development Bank stands fully ready to support greater climate financing for Africa”, – Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.
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  • “Climate finance is critical to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts. However, finance alone is not enough. It is imperative that we combine increased finance with smarter technology, stronger partnerships and deeper knowledge,” – Takehiko Nakao, President of ADB.
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  • “With their long experience as leaders in climate finance, the Multilateral Development Banks are making important contributions to combatting climate change, using their strong base of expertise to step up green finance, policy advice and the mobilization of crucial private sector funding.  For its part the EBRD is further scaling up its climate finance activity through the implementation of its recently approved Green Economy Transition approach,”  – EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti.
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  • “It is only by working together that we will meet the challenge of climate change. I am optimistic that by pooling the efforts of the Development Banks to attract the private finance that is so critically needed, we can transform the ambitions of the leaders into a reality on the ground,” said President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer. “For its part,  the EIB is committing to provide US$100 billion by 2020 for climate action and to step up what we do in developing countries – in particular for those most vulnerable to global warming.”
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  • “In the run-up to COP21, we have worked with many countries in designing their national contributions towards tackling climate change. Following the Paris conference, we will help countries to translate these into investment plans that successfully attract the necessary capital for full implementation.” – IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno.
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  • “On climate change, the development banks are shifting into high gear. We have the resources, we have the collective will, and we have a clear roadmap in the national plans that our clients have submitted ahead of Paris.” – Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.

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