100 Days to Paris. (UN Climate Change Summit COP 21)
100 days to Paris: Securing a Global Deal and Transitioning to a Low Carbon Future
This weekend marks 100 days to go until December’s UN climate change Summit (known as ‘COP 21’) in Paris. There are of course plenty of international meetings, but few, if any, are as important as this one. This is where the world decides whether or not to commit itself to a low carbon future in a legally binding way.
So, 2015 really is the decisive year for climate negotiations. To keep the global temperature rise below the 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius limit it is essential to secure a fair, ambitious international treaty in Paris.
Other multilateral meetings throughout the year have played into what will be discussed in Paris: the Financing for Development conference which took place in Ethiopia last month; the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development Goals (which will replace the current Millennium Development Goals) takes place next month; and the World Trade Organisation Ministerial also meets in December to see if the international community can unblock various obstacles to even freer global trade. All these events can help define the global direction of travel in the key areas of economic development, environmental protection, combating climate change and liberalising trade for the next two decades and more. The UK, with EU member states and Ghana all have an important role to play in reaching successful conclusions to these negotiations.
It is no coincidence that negotiations on the post-2015 international development goals take place at the same time as the climate negotiations. Without addressing climate change it will be impossible to eradicate extreme poverty and deliver sustainable development. The shared futures of present and future generations here in Ghana, in Europe and in the rest of the world are dependent on mutually beneficial and binding agreements on a global scale.
The need for ambitious action is clear and the facts are compelling:
• The costs of inaction from devastating climate change far outweigh the costs of mitigating it. Indeed, some estimates put those long-term costs at over 20% of global GDP each year, thereby threatening international security and stability. That mitigation, on the other hand, might only cost around 1-2% of global GDP.
• If we do nothing, global temperatures could increase by anything from 3 degrees Celsius to 7 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
• Even relatively small global temperature changes make a huge difference: the last ice age saw average temperatures only about 5 degrees Celsius cooler than todays.
• Climate change has already negatively affected global production of wheat and maize. A temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius would pose huge risks to global food security.
• We have already seen here in Ghana the effects of extreme weather, such as both flooding and drought, as the symptoms of climate change. Such weather events degrade the environment and damage people’s livelihoods.
For all these reasons, the EU has, and will continue to play a strong and active role in contributing to a global climate agreement. Recognising that we have a common responsibility to reduce global emissions, the EU submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in March. Our contribution commits us to a binding target of at least a 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels).
We are committed to transform Europe away from fossil fuel dependency towards a highly energy efficient, low carbon economy. Moving to a low carbon economy need not require a trade-off with economic growth. The two are compatible: indeed, green growth presents a tremendous opportunity. A recent authoritative study called the New Climate Economy gave us clear evidence that the transition to a low carbon economy will bring net economic benefits to all countries: new jobs, cleaner air, better health, lower poverty and more energy security.
There is support available to assist countries in this low carbon transition, and to adapt to a changing climate. Global pledges to the Green Climate Fund (a fund within the UN framework) are already at over US$10bn - almost half of which comes EU Member States. Developed countries have committed to mobilising $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020 from a range of public and private sources. Some African countries have already taken steps towards a low carbon economy through national climate laws and policies, such as Ethiopia’s flagship Green Economy legislation, South Africa’s Carbon Tax plans and Ghana’s National Climate Change Policy, recently adopted by Cabinet.
In addition, Ghana has released its third National Communication report to the UNFCCC Secretariat publishing the most recent research on climate warming, greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation actions. And the far-advanced Low Carbon Development Strategy and corresponding action plan will pave the way for access to the green climate fund in a short period of time through a set of timely prepared mitigation programmes.
On the energy side, Ghana has shown ambition and leadership for Africa with the 2011Renewable Energy Act, which commits to a total of 10% renewable energy by 2020. Ghana is well placed to take this ambition further, given the potential here for hydro, wind, biomass and solar energy which remain under-exploited. Solar technologies are now able to compete with coal on cost, and mini-grid and off-grid solutions are available. EU countries have experience and expertise in renewable energy that they can offer to Ghana.
So, we would encourage Ghana to consider how it can set out a clear commitment to a strong and long-term renewable energy focus, which would help access a range of financing opportunities. Such a vision could best help Ghana to harness the necessary finance and technical resources to provide for its growing population, providing sustainable viable and rewarding livelihoods, while maximising and protecting its natural resources.
We very much hope that Ghana will be a vocal advocate in Paris of an ambitious global deal that keeps all of us on track to achieve the grand goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to prevent the global average temperature from increasing beyond 2 degrees Celsius more than it was in the pre-industrial age.
British High Commissioner, Jon Benjamin