In the run up to the next UN Climate Summit at the end of the year with less than 6 months to go it’s worth reflecting on how much work still needs to be done to reach a globally ratified agreement and to question whether we have the right political players in place to deliver the policy results required. Whilst the world experiences dire political turmoil and extreme unrest in a number of regions such as Ukraine, the Middle East and Afghanistan redrawing historically significant geo-political boundaries, one truly wonders where we will be on the road to protecting our scarce and diminishing global resources and whether as a species we can create a future worth living for. The newest report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes humanity´s near future at a tipping point of rapid, irreversible change with catastrophic impacts. We just don’t know when.
There’s no quick fix but the human influence on the climate system and the environment is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system. The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions.
It’s not just the climate that’s of concern but biodiversity, access to uncontaminated food and clean air are just as significant. Post-Fukushima radiation levels near US & Canadian shores continue to increase. Pacific Ocean fish have been contaminated. Bee populations continue to decline. Albert Einstein once said “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” Apocalyptic you might think. We haven’t reached that point yet, but some worrisome indicators suggest dramatic drops in the bee population globally are likely to impact crop production and in places like China where they are already hand pollinating crops.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has provided clear messages and breathtaking facts on the road ahead in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).The IPCC established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information concerning climate change, its potential effects and options for adaptation and mitigation, is now the definitive voice on the road ahead and can help us decide how we navigate it.
Latin America will play host at the end of 2014 to the next big UN Climate Change Conference. It is the last step towards the potentially pivotal 2015 UN summit in Paris, France, where a new international climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol that was adopted in 1997 is expected to take shape. The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serves as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol from 1 to 12 December hosted by the Government of Peru, in Lima. While this will be the next conference in the annual series, more attention will probably be directed toward the 2015 conference in Paris. The overarching goal of the conference is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above current levels.
Cumulative emissions of CO2 mean extreme surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped right now so the focus has to be on Climate Mitigation and Adaption. This therefore now requires a considerable climate change commitment to limit future emissions of CO2.
Leading statesmen and woman like President Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Dilma Rousseff will represent each of our nations alongside other institutional thought leaders such as WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), The World bank and The United National Environment Programme and Ministers of 194 countries. Should your organisation or business have a voice in the COP20 process?
Through some combination of market forces and regulatory intervention a “low-carbon” scenario will unfold in the not-too-distant future to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The UN Climate Change Convention has for example, already opened up many opportunities in clean energy development. Numerous projects under the umbrella of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the UNFCCC secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative stand as proof of what can be achieved.
Technological innovations will allow us to better confront our obligations on mitigation and improve our adaptation abilities. The big challenge is trying to get our energy production linked to alternative, renewable, non-conventional sources. All of this is totally linked to technology. That is the reason why technology transfer and capacity building are two of the crucial topics to be discussed at the next COP. Topics like urban development, and modifying building methods to internalise the concept of sustainability are also of importance.
Stakeholders at the UNFCCC COP20 control the Worlds trade. Sustainability is now a business imperative and making your voice heard within this forum of governments from the world’s largest economies should be a key part of your stakeholder engagement, government affairs and policy strategy as the growth opportunity for greener and cleaner innovations and technologies abound.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute a leading advocacy and opinion piece to the next Edition of UNFCCC COP20 – Climate Change the New Economy. The UNFCCC COP 20 Summit is the crucial staging post in the negotiations, attracting up to 30,000 participants from approximately 194 ministerial countries, ahead of the fundamental legislation in Paris, for COP 21 in 2015. Sir David King, Special Representative for Climate Change to the U.K. government believes that COP 20 is ‘in many ways more important than next year’s Paris Summit as it has to deliver the groundwork for a scheduled agreement in 2015.’
Iain Patton is Founder & CEO International Green Awards, Director of Ethical Team and Consultant to Climate Change the New Economy and various other sustainability focussed organisations. Connect to me on LinkedIn here.
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