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Daily Tck: Geneva marks the year’s first major benchmark on the road to Paris

By February 6, 2015 No Comments
  • First round of 2015 UN climate talks kick off in Geneva on Sunday
  • Economic case for climate action strengthened, while momentum for a complete phase-out of fossil fuel emissions grows
  • Governments to agree on draft negotiating text, setting the stage for a comprehensive global climate agreement to be struck in Paris this December

2015 is set to have a profound impact on the shape of our future. Starting Sunday – just weeks after the UN climate talks in Lima set the course toward a new global climate agreement in Paris this December – we’ll reach the first major benchmark in that journey. Our partners and peers have followed government negotiators to the UN’s office in Geneva Switzerland to capture years of work building out the elements of a more robust global response to climate change in a draft negotiating text. We’ll spend seven days trying to whittle down the 38-page Lima Call for Climate Action – which captured the full range of governments’ visions for how to respond to a climate changed and changing world – into more workable document that better enables their ever-slow but constant movement toward a deal.

2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. From the Arctic to the Marshall Islands, San Francisco to Sao Paulo and well beyond, communities lived climate impacts. Yet even more quickly than the challenges of a climate changing world took hold, we pushed and breathed life into solutions. As oil price volatility wreaked havoc on the most oil-dependent economies, new funds for wind, solar and other low-carbon energy technologies gained 16% over last year, and are expected to continue in to grow through 2015. The costs of a clean energy transition are dropping so fast that investors predict grid parity for solar by 2017 in 80% of global markets. And that’s fueling growth – in the US alone, the  solar industry dramatically outpaced the oil and gas sector, adding jobs 10 times faster than the overall economy. The ongoing transition from dirty fossil fuels to 100% clean renewables is not just underway, it is picking up momentum, driven by growing people power, renewed scientific urgency, clever businesses decisions and shifting energy investments.

Government leaders can decide to help speed up this transition further, or end up on the wrong side of history and spend the rest of their political careers cleaning up climate disaster after climate disaster. Some are already seeing the writing on the wall. In the past few weeks we witnessed steps toward more ambitious national climate policies. Low oil prices made it easier for governments like India and Indonesia to accelerate their phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies; an issue our partners have campaigned on for years. And just as China’s coal production fell for the first time since 2000, Beijing moved to ban massive new coal projects in the country’s eastern regions. China’s goal of peak coal could be in reach well ahead of the government’s stated 2020 target.

We also saw the toll of climate impacts and the need to quickly foster resilience rise to a pressing moral issue at the highest levels. The leader of the 1.2 billion member Catholic Church visited the Philippines in January, previewing an upcoming encyclical that will press his members into action at a scale never-before-seen. Climate issues also continued to feature in the agenda of business and political leaders who gathered at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. And just this week, a group of influential business leaders – including Unilever chief Paul Polman, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson and Indian business icon Ratan Tata – called for a worldwide commitment to “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They’re moving their own companies on the same track, they understand the risks climate change brings to their businesses’ viability, and they want governments to respond.

Much of what’s contained in the Lima Call for Climate Action is ambitious. But for every element of the agreement with an ambitious option – like net-zero emissions by 2050 – there are alternative choices with little or no ambition. Our work in Geneva and in the months ahead will focus on keeping the best options in and lining up government support as the text is whittled down. Work outside the negotiations and back in capitals will help push national governments as they prepare the substance of their individual contributions to the 2015 deal. These national commitments to climate action (or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions / INDCs) are due to start rolling in at the end of next month. Coupled with a strong negotiating text, countries’ national contributions will help accelerate the transition from dirty fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, and should chart a course toward increasing climate change resilience.

Look out for daily updates on the UN climate talks in Geneva, starting this Sunday.

News, links & useful grist that caught our eye

In Geneva we will see two new co-chairs take over the negotiations on the Paris agreement, Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria and Dan Reifsnyder from the US. Ahead of the talks, RTCC profiled these two negotiators, scrutinising the “two men with the climate in their hands”.

The guys at RTCC also joined a conference call with UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, where she laid out her expectations for the year ahead.

WWF shared its expectations for the meeting in Geneva, warning that negotiators need to adopt a “business unusual” approach in order to deliver the draft of a new global climate deal.

At an event in London this week, attended by the Climate Group, the IEA’s chief economist Fatih Birol explained why he is optimistic that a climate deal can be reached in Paris in December.

Adopt a Negotiator’s Avik Roy turns the spotlight on India ahead of countries’ INDC submissions. India is already moving on clean energy, the country’s environment minister is reported saying, while stressing the country does not want outsiders reviewing its climate strategy.

Resources

In addition to Daily Tck emails, you can follow Geneva’s play-by-play updates and dig into the issues through the lens of Adopt a Negotiator’s trackers on the ground.

Our friends at the Climate Action Network International plan to publish daily ECO newsletters laying out their case to negotiators.

IISD’s reporting service will publish daily summaries and photos here.

It looks like the hashtags to track are #UNFCCC and #ADP2015. We’ll join the conversation via @tcktcktck and @adoptnegotiator.

We’ll also keep you abreast of developments in the wider world of climate activism and action at tcktcktck.org.

Joshua Wiese

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