By Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary
This year’s climate change conference takes place in Poland, a country that has become one of the world’s most successful transition economies, and has overcome many hurdles in that process. Now Poland hosts the 2013 round of UN climate negotiations: the next step on the path to the greatest economic transition of our times. COP 19 is itself an essential step towards the new and universal climate agreement which governments will deliver in 2015. But COP19 is also a prime opportunity to showcase the groundswell of action and policy across governments, business and civil society that will underpin that agreement and take us from a high-carbon, high-risk world to a low-carbon, low-risk way of living and doing business.
This year’s findings of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make it crystal clear that this transition is imperative to safeguard the hard-won economic gains of the past and leave a liveable world to our children. Many recent studies echo what the IPCC clearly shows. Alongside the launch of the IPCC’s findings the consultancy Price Waterhouse Coopers recently issued a report that called climate change “The mother of all risks”. This is true, but it is also true that climate change is the mother of all opportunities.
Climate policy news is increasingly positive and shows the conditions to act on climate change are constantly improving around the world. At the domestic level, more than 30 countries have climate change legislation and more than 100 have renewable energy regulations. More than 300 cities are already implementing climate smart policies and measures. Warsaw as host city of the UN Climate Change Conference is a case in point –it has this year announced its goal to reduce 20 per cent of its carbon emissions by 2020, generating green jobs and increasing quality of life for citizens.
On the business side, momentum is also growing. Companies around the world are investing more and more in green buildings, clean energy and efficient transportation because there is value in ensuring energy security and controlling costs. More than $1 trillion dollars has been invested in clean energy technologies to date, and decreasing costs of renewables makes future investment more attractive. And according to the Carbon Disclosure Project, a majority of the top 500 companies see value in assessing climate risk and investing in resilience.
These trends open space for political ambition at the international level. In turn, global talks need to harness and reinforce the momentum building towards low-carbon and high-resilience at national, regional, municipal and business level in strategic and effective ways. This can be accomplished, if countries meeting in Warsaw progress on three core tasks.
First, work will continue to define details of the universal climate agreement set to conclude in Paris in 2015 and to raise current ambition to fight climate change for the world to stay below the internationally agreed maximum two degrees Celsius temperature rise. This effort is critical to reinforce and boost political and business action on climate at all levels of society.
Second, governments will look to progress on crucial finance and technology support that developing countries require to green their economies and build resilience. New channels of technology and finance support to developing nations are coming online soon, notably the Green Climate Fund and the Technology Mechanism. Now governments need to move toward full implementation of support and ensure that finance is ramped up towards the agreed goal of US$100 billion annually by 2020 — money which is needed to catalyse and redirect greater investments.
Third, governments need to further enable developing countries to respond to climate impacts. The poorest and most vulnerable already keenly feel the impacts of climate change, such as increased incidences of droughts and floods and extreme weather. They will be even harder hit in the future. Above all, concrete institutional arrangements to better protect the most vulnerable populations against loss and damage caused by slow onset events such as rising sea levels need to be firmed up.
This year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw is the opportunity for governments and business to both demonstrate their will to step up climate action and demonstrate what they are already doing. People around the world need to be inspired and get a better sense of what exactly is possible today to fight climate change in all areas of society.
A Business Forum on the margins of the Warsaw meeting organized by the UN and the Polish host government will showcase contributions that business and investors can make towards climate action. Cities and regions will gather for the first ever “Cities Day” that highlights their actions. And a Gender Day will showcase women’s role in meeting the climate challenge.
The UNFCCC Secretariat’s “Momentum for Change” initiative will showcase so-called “lighthouse activities” in three areas: women’s action on climate change, improving the lives of urban poor, and innovative climate finance. These activities illuminate the path forward to low-carbon and more resilience. In addition, the initiative will launch a new area that focuses on contributions the information and technology sector is making to curb emissions and increase adaptive capacity to respond.
As opportunities for climate action prove beneficial to business bottom line and governance goals, more and more key players will want to be at the centre of action on climate change. This needs to accelerate and ramp up action at all levels, creating more opportunities for more countries, more businesses and more individuals to drive forward the new, sustainable economy. The budding transition is being quickly transformed into a fully formed clean energy and climate-resilient revolution. Forward, upwards and faster from Warsaw!
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