The United Nations Climate Change Summit in Paris, held from 30 Nov – 12 Dec 2015, has reached a new universal agreement to tackle climate change. This is great news but there will still be much to do to put it into action and to ensure what has been agreed is enough. The sooner we stop using dirty fossil fuels and the quicker we switch to clean renewables the better.
The new agreement aims to limit global warming to “well below 2°C” and to aim for no more than 1.5°C. Already the increase is 1°C and current plans, at best, will limit the rise to 2.7°C. So the agreement includes a pathway for continued review, which will require ever more demanding action over coming decades.
Backed by 196 countries, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal world membership and aims “to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system”.
New research shows that governments in the G20 group of the world’s major economies are subsidising production of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal), when much of it cannot be used if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.
The Empty Promises report from the Overseas Development Institute details the scale and structure of fossil fuel subsidies in the G20 countries. The evidence points to a publicly financed bailout for some of the world’s largest, most carbon-intensive and polluting companies.
G20 countries are creating a ‘lose-lose’ scenario by directing large volumes of finance into high-carbon assets that cannot be exploited without catastrophic climate effects. This diverts investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power. The scale of G20 fossil fuel production subsidies calls into question the commitment of governments to an ambitious deal on climate change.
In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the UN and the World Meteorological Organisation to provide the world with a clear scientific view on climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.
The IPCC’s fifth assessment report in November 2014 concluded:
“Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed on all continents. If left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.
“However, options are available to adapt to climate change and … ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range, creating a brighter and more sustainable future.
“We have the means to limit climate change,” said R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
Wivey Action on Climate is a new group set-up in October 2014. We aim to raise awareness of climate change, to support national and international campaigns and to encourage local action through simple steps in our everyday lives.