Climate Change is back in the News


, | September 6th, 2018

The last few years have started to place climate change back on the political map, not in respect to astounding stories of climate denial but because the foresight of scientists such as James Hansen[1] finally seems to be coming to fruition.  Last autumn witnessed the most devastating North Atlantic Hurricane season on record. A season that the poorer Caribbean counties are only just started to recover from, some may say just in time for the next one. Europe has experienced exceptional heat waves, globally the planet has exceeded numerous temperature maximums and worryingly some planetary system appear to be showing signs of failure. Perhaps most worrying for anyone living next to the sea, is the collapse of the arctic ice sheets. It’s starting to be pretty obvious to everyone except the incumbent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that we are entering a new normal, one of increased and less predictable weather.

Currently the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC), signed into force back in 1994, are meeting in Bangkok to progress negotiations on the rule book for the Paris Agreement. The negotiations have so far been convened in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration but based on the first three days there still remains a lot of work to do. So what are the key areas where further work is required?

The scientific community is nearing the completion of a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on keeping within 1.5oC[2]. It’s clear from the full report that this is extremely unlikely and we are falling behind efforts to meet the Paris Agreement. Current commitments as document in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) landing us well above 3oC warming. This will have catastrophic global impacts but mostly on the poorest, those least responsible for the problem in the first place.

One of the sticking points in the negotiations and obvious here in Bangkok is finance, or the lack of it. The developed world made a pledge in Copenhagen to provide support to the developing world to respond to the losses caused by climate change. The promise was for $100Bn in addition to existing development budgets to finance climate action. The global community rapidly mobilised the Green Climate Fund as the conduit for this funding, but sadly the promised level of funding is not being met and the majority of the funding is going on Business as Usual mitigation projects with little going to adaptation, and no mechanism in place to cover Loss and Damage caused by irreversible climate change. As we are seeing for some people and communities climate action is already too little and too late, they are living with the consequences of a changed climate.

But who should pay for the irreversible consequences of climate change, should the polluters pay? One simple way to do this would be the introduction of a climate damages tax[3]. A fossil fuel extraction charge levied on producers of oil, gas and coal to pay for the damage and costs caused by climate change. The use of the substantial revenues raised would be allocated, for the alleviation and avoidance of the suffering caused by severe impacts of climate change in developing countries, including those communities already forced from their homes.

Finally on technology, something close to the hearts of myself and my colleagues at Practical Action. Technology is critical to limit warming to less than 1.5°C. The Paris Agreement proposes a technology framework, meant to provide guidance on technology as a means along with finance and capacity. The Technology Mechanism that came out of COP 16 in Cancun, is great but has had limited achievements. It has been stymied by lack of funding and struggled to get past the first stage of top down, gender blind technology needs assessments. The framework was meant to enhance the process to deliver technology to support transformational climate action, by bringing more actors on board and by empowering the voice of local communities and national governments. The sort of participatory action necessary to deliver in the spirit of the Paris Agreement. Parties seem to have lost their ability to dream big and develop the technology framework that the world needs, unfortunately it feels like we are stuck at square one[4].

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/jun/25/30-years-later-deniers-are-still-lying-about-hansens-amazing-global-warming-prediction

[2] http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

[3] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/the-climate-damages-tax-an-idea-whose-time-has-come/

[4] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/skeletons-castles-and-closets-a-reflection-on-technology-negotiations-at-sb46/

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