United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres called for more engagement from businesses that promote low-carbon strategies to help governments worldwide speed up the shift to a green economy.
Almost 200 nations will meet in Durban, South Africa, from Nov. 28 until Dec. 9 to discuss climate-protection rules for the period after 2012, when the current emission-reduction targets for developed nations under the Kyoto Protocol expire. Ironing out a global agreement is a step-by-step approach, meaning the slow pace of international policy will continue, Figueres said.
“The willingness of governments to move forward is severely handicapped unless business provides the impetus,” she told an eco-innovation summit hosted by the Lisbon Council non-profit policy group in Brussels yesterday. “I stand before you with a clear request: help us break the vicious cycle, help us convert it into a virtuous cycle that can empower new growth, create jobs in new sectors, help alleviate poverty and stabilize climate at the same time.”
The UN talks to fix a post-2012 climate agreement, which involve extending emission-reduction goals under the Kyoto accord and creating a new globally binding treaty under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, have stalled amid differences between rich and developing nations.
Countries including Japan and Russia have said they don’t want to extend the Kyoto treaty. Their absence, along with that of the U.S., which has never ratified the treaty, as well as China and India, would leave the Kyoto pact without targets for the five biggest national emitters of pollution from burning fossil fuels.
While the step-by-step approach to international climate will keep the pace of negotiations slow, businesses will have to wait “a little longer” for the policy clarity they need, according to Figueres. At the same time they can step up pressure on governments to implement low-carbon policies and encourage their business partners to shift to green strategies, she said, encouraging companies to be more vocal.
“The global economic transformation still needs to be lifted from being a somewhat absurd dream,” she said. “Progressive business has the power to change both the consumer and supplier behavior and turn it into powerful voter support that gives policy makers a clear space in which to act.”
Discharges of greenhouse gases, blamed for climate change, must be reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the global average in the pre-industrial era and avoid more intense heat waves, floods and storms, a United Nations scientific panel on climate change has said.
“There is a dissonance between the step-by-step approach and the urgency of science,” Figueres told the seminar. “But there’s a lot of action occurring. Companies, cities, states, investment groups, insurers, they are all moving forwards.”
She said the 27-nation European Union is in “a very important position” to help craft a solution that would be acceptable for other countries. Last month, the bloc’s environment ministers agreed that Europe would consider signing up for a second commitment under Kyoto only if the treaty guarantees environmental benefits and other nations determine a roadmap for a legally binding global deal.
“Durban needs to address both further commitments of developed parties under the Kyoto Protocol and the evolution of the broader mitigation framework under the Convention, while ensuring differentiated participation of developing countries,” Figueres said.
The International Energy Agency said in its annual report yesterday that delaying a global climate deal is a “false economy,” because for every $1 of investment avoided before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increase in greenhouse-gas emissions.
World discharges of carbon dioxide may rise by 43 percent between 2010 and 2035 without a strong emission-reduction mechanism as fossil fuels remain the main source of energy and coal becomes the number one fuel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said Nov. 8 in its world oil outlook.