Trump won’t deter us on climate change

Trump won’t deter us on climate change

By H.E. Gemedo Dalle, Senator Loren Legarda and H.E. Edgar Gutierrez

Even the recent outcome of the US elections cannot stop those of us dedicated to battling climate change.

No country has said it will walk away from global action. To the contrary, countries including China, members of the European Union, Japan and Saudi Arabia have all reconfirmed their commitment to implement the Paris Agreement. Others, such as Australia, Pakistan and Italy, have even joined the agreement in the days since the US elections. French President Francois Hollande and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have called on President-elect Trump to drop his campaign pledge to cancel the Paris Agreement; Ban called the Paris Agreement “unstoppable.”
Together they send a resounding message: The countries of the world will forge on. Those that do will be better off by skipping all the downsides of a 19th century development model characterized by the burning of fossil fuels to achieve economic growth, while cashing in on more jobs, more growth and a higher quality of work and life.
Climate change poses an existential threat to vulnerable countries around the world. Inaction in the face of worsening climate shocks risks moving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals beyond our reach. Tackling climate change, on the other hand, presents opportunities. The case for highly ambitious efforts on climate change is now so compelling that addressing global warming is no longer about burden sharing on emission cuts. It is now about securing the most benefits by taking action.
When the world came together to produce the Paris Agreement in December 2015, all nations agreed to limit warming to well below 2 degrees. In that pact, now already in force, we committed to pursue efforts to ensure temperatures would even be half a degree lower at just 1.5 degrees, only just above the warming we have experienced to date.
Half a degree Celsius — it doesn’t sound like much, but it is a number that could transform the face of the world as we know it.
At the first global talks after the Paris Agreement, held in Marrakech, Morocco, this month, we are presenting new research from the United Nations Development Program, and science and policy institute Climate Analytics, as commissioned by the more than 40 member countries of our Climate Vulnerable Forum. The report, the Low Carbon Monitor, demonstrates with great clarity just how much of a difference half a degree can make.
If we pass 1.5, new weather extremes will gravely imperil countries like the Maldives and the Marshall Islands as well as large, populated low-lying territories in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Egypt, with sure-fire submergence under rising seas. Going beyond 1.5 degrees of warming means the virtual disappearance of the world’s coral reefs within the lifetime of most people alive today. It would also increase heatwave spells for multiple regions by an entire month yearly and raise risks of crop yield losses for key breadbasket areas of Africa and Central America by 10-15% in the coming decades.
Keeping warming down also does more than reduce risk; its benefits can save lives. Greenhouse gas emission controls will help tackle the problem of air pollution, which already causes more deaths than alcohol or tobacco. The need to curb emissions also motivates expansion of renewable energy. Current policies would still leave over 1 billion people without electricity by 2030. In fact, to achieve universal access to energy 14 years from now, 60% of new energy must come outside of traditional grids. The logistical and infrastructure advantages of renewable energy are plain for all to see.
The required action to keep us below 1.5 is just too ambitious, some say. Well, Costa Rica has gone more than 200 days in the past year with 100% of its energy production derived from renewable sources.
In fact, it is possible that keeping warming below 1.5 degrees might spur greater economic growth. According to the new estimates released in the report, it could raise global economic output by $12 trillion by 2050 in particular because countries would avoid so many of the devastating impacts associated with higher levels of warming. The benefits of tackling climate change can also be passed on to workers. Producing energy from coal or oil creates the least possible jobs, whereas sustainable biomass or renewable hydro-energy have among the highest employment contributions. Ambitious climate policies could thereby double global energy jobs come 2050.
For all to have access to these benefits, the least developed, low- and middle-income developing countries like Ethiopia, Costa Rica or the Philippines still require partnerships with more advanced countries, investors and industrial pioneers to access new clean energy technologies, to bridge investment shortfalls when they leave the polluting carbon path, and to develop skills and know-how that remain the domain of large and advanced economies.
Renewable energy costs are already substantially lower than just a few years ago. Already they are competing at cost with carbon-intensive energy in a low-price oil market still distorted by hundreds of billions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies. According to the Low Carbon Monitor report, if all embrace low emissions development, renewable energy could be five times cheaper or more by 2050, a vision of a low-cost energy future we believe everyone wants and deserves.
Limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius can and must be done. We will make it happen not just to survive, but also to thrive.
The article was jointly authored by Gemedo Dalle (Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Ethiopia), Senator Loren Legarda (Chair of the Philippine Senate’s Permanent Committee on Climate Change), and Edgar Gutierrez (Minister of Environment and Energy in Costa Rica).
Read more at: CNN: Trump won’t deter us on climate change

1.5 to stay alive: UN’s warming goal feels the heat

1.5 to stay alive: UN’s warming goal feels the heat

Climate Home
By Saleemul Huq

One of the most hotly contested and far reaching outcomes of the Paris Agreement agreed last December was the inclusion of the long term warming limit of 1.5C above pre industrial levels. Going into that summit on the 30 November 2015 there were only around a hundred of the most vulnerable countries from small island states, Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Africa Groups who supported the inclusion of the goal.

None of the developed countries and also none of the larger developing countries such as China or India supported the inclusion.

Over the following twelve days, by effective diplomacy of the vulnerable countries groups, the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) under the leadership of the Philippines and the High Ambition Coalition led by Marshall Islands and USA along with strong support from civil society groups every single country was persuaded to include it in the agreement.

That was a great victory for the vulnerable countries in terms of global diplomacy and advocacy. However, now comes the hard part of implementing that agreement.

There are many voices challenging the possibility of keeping below 1.5C given that we are already above 1C from pre-industrial levels.

The next battle will now take place in the scientific community to determine the feasibility of keeping below 1.5C.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , at the request of the UNFCCC, has agreed to prepare a Special Report on 1.5C to be published in 2018 in time to inform the Global Stock Take that year.

The initial scoping meeting for that Special Report was held in Geneva last month and the outline for the report was developed for approval by the IPCC Plenary meeting in October in Bangkok.

In order for the IPCC Special Report on 1.5C to have sufficient peer reviewed scientific literature for an effective assessment it is important for the scientific community , both natural as well as social sciences , to carry out relevant research and publish in time for the IPCC to cite their articles.

The conference on 1.5C: Meeting the Challenge of the Paris Agreement held in Oxford this week has brought together natural and social scientists from around the world to highlight this need to generate scientific evidence on the potential to actually reach the 1.5C target.

We know it is still possible to limit warming to safe levels – that is abundantly clear from presentations at this week’s event.

But the bottom line on whether or not the world is able to keep below the 1.5C level depends on political will from the leaders of governments to take necessary actions but even more on the willingness of the ordinary people in every country to push their leaders to do the right things.

Even though keeping global temperature below 1.5C may be extremely difficult, it still remains possible if the needed actions are taken by leaders and supported by people around the world.

Humanity will have to show whether we are up to the challenge.

Saleemul Huq is director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University of Bangladesh and Chair of the CVF Expert Advisory Group.

Read More at: Climate Home: 1.5 to stay alive: UN’s warming goal feels the heat

It’s time to shift to disaster preparedness

Reacting after crises just won’t work anymore as we face more of them

Thomson Reuters Foundation

By Helen Clark, Cesar V. Purisima and Stephen O’Brien

Leaders are gathering this week for the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The Summit presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take meaningful actions to better address current humanitarian needs and reduce them in the long term.

Over the past 20 years, a significant portion of those needs have stemmed from the impact of typhoons, floods, droughts, earthquakes and other natural hazards that have claimed 1.35 million lives and affected on average 218 million people per year, mostly in developing countries. Beyond the lives lost, the devastating impact of disasters on socio-economic development has surpassed $1.3 trillion since 2005. Add to this the impact of conflict and other crises, and the world faces unprecedented humanitarian needs, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Second World War.

In this context, two things have a critical role in our ability to better handle the surge in humanitarian emergencies.

The first is whether governments, civil society and international institutions have the courage to heed what experience tells us and reform how we approach humanitarian crises.

Reform entails a fundamental shift from a seemingly constant state of reactivity to emergencies. Our actions must be designed to reduce and be better prepared for risks. Underlying factors that trigger the next disasters are often well recognized by countries and the international community. In most cases we know precisely how they can be addressed.

Simply put, we can no longer afford not to invest heavily in prevention and preparedness. Between 1991 and 2010, less than 0.5 per cent of the approximately 100 billion dollars of annual Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been spent on disaster risk reduction. Only a fraction of this has gone to preparedness. And yet, the potential and the consequences of failure are profound.

These sums compare to over $25 billion spent annually on disaster response and to the trillions of dollars of disaster losses. When every dollar spent on prevention and preparedness is known to save countless lives, not making that necessary investment is a violation of our collective responsibility.

The second and even more profound concern is the gathering climate emergency. 2015 broke records to become the hottest year on record and all signs point to 2016 being even hotter. Science now indicates that some 90 per cent of disasters are somehow climate-related. Last week, the World Meteorological Organisation showed we are perilously inching close to the 1.5 degrees limit beyond which the most catastrophic impacts are all but sealed.

That means more Yolandas, more Katrinas, and more Pams, year after year. On a less dramatic scale, it also means many more localized weather extremes that draw less attention but constantly wear down the resilience of vulnerable communities, disrupt development progress, and are an additional source of volatility.

The simple arithmetic of our response to climate change doesn’t add up either. Current emission commitments have us headed for several degrees of global warming with humanitarian implications that would be frightening to fathom.

To be clear, it is not just the many millions directly affected by drought, floods or storms that we need to protect – climate change is also a recognised driver of one of the biggest crises facing the world right now – displacement and migration. The influence of climate shocks on food production, prices and food security, as well as access to water, are also serious threats for stability and security in our world.

Climate impacts join the already toppling pile of highly complex stress factors faced by fragile states and vulnerable countries around the world. This recognition should set off alarm bells, spurring in all of us a call to do things better and differently.

That’s why the finance ministers of vulnerable countries led by the Philippines through the Vulnerable Twenty (V20) Group have agreed to form a new ‘Global Preparedness Partnership’ with the United Nations and the World Bank. The partnership ultimately seeks to make sure all vulnerable countries achieve a minimum level of readiness for future shocks. It should spur a fundamental shift in our response and place the emphasis on acting, not reacting. First on the to-do list will be to support 20 countries by 2020.

This effort has to go hand in hand with making the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change a reality. That means triggering a transformation of economies to cap warming to not more than 1.5 degrees and meeting goals on resilience and financing to adapt to the changes already taking hold. Not doing so will render our best efforts to contain humanitarian emergencies increasingly futile. We’d also face all the security challenges and erosion of development gains that come with such a failure.

Meeting in Istanbul, the world’s leaders should be asked what they will do concretely to shift the course of humanitarian crises. They should ask what they can do to support people on the frontline – both those in communities and those sent to help them. They do not have to search around in the darkness for the answer. Building on our experience and the instruments at our disposal, let us act with greater urgency and truly shift to preventative efforts with the courage – and sense – to break from the past.

Helen Clark is administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Cesar V. Purisima, is Secretary of Finance for the Philippines and chair of the Vulnerable 20 Group of Finance Ministers; and Stephen O’Brien is United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Photo Caption: A woman visits the grave of a family member at a mass grave for Typhoon Haiyan victims on All Saints Day in Tacloban city in central Philippines November 1, 2015, and ahead of the second anniversary of the devastating typhoon that killed more than 6,000 people in central Philippines. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The heat is on for workers

The heat is on for workers


By Emmanuel de Guzman

Sometimes the most dangerous things are the ones that creep up on you, rather than come all in one cataclysmic moment. So it is with heat stress on workers. A new report – released on International Workers’ Memorial Day has named heat stress as the biggest social and economic impact of climate change.
Why? Well, the rise in temperatures means that people – particularly those outside – can work fewer hours. During the times they do work, their health can be damaged. That means health costs go up, productivity is cut, and workers take home less pay – all of this causes the worst kind of ripple through the economic pond of mostly vulnerable countries.
Heat stress has already wiped several percentage points off the GDP of nations such as Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam and it is set to get worse. The cost of lost productivity globally due to warmer temperatures is anticipated to rise to more than USD2 trillion a year by 2030.
And of course the impact is worse in vulnerable, developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America – and on the lowest paid workers in those countries, such as those in the agricultural sector, where much of the work is still done outside.
Despite this, the impact of heat stress has largely been ignored. The economic costs of heat stress are not considered in climate models, national climate policies do not touch on it. This has, in part, to do with how complex it it is to integrate occupational health and safety science with climate change modeling and economic analysis.
But signing the Paris Agreement has shown the willingness of countries to come together and tackle these complex problems. The kicker that heat stress alone will mean 10% of working hours are lost – resulting in losses to GDP for economies like India, Indonesia and Nigeria of the same magnitude – should be enough of an incentive for us to tackle it. Certainly, it should make countries rethink how inexpensive climate action to keep warming to a minimum will be.
That’s why the organisations behind this report – and the vulnerable country governments in the CVF – will take its recommendations to the International Labour Conference in June, the leading global forum for employment policy. This should be the beginning of the whole world waking up to the enormity of the market failure of climate change that these news findings reveal. It’s in every country’s interest to bring this situation under control. Major economic losses to emerging economies will worsen the global economic outlook and curtail prosperity for everyone – wealthy investors that rely on market growth from developing countries chief among them. Not doing so also means accepting that more than a billion workers and their families, in total four billion people, are highly exposed to severe health dangers, pressures on income, food security and much more due to fast escalating heat.
This is a problem that’s too big to ignore. Fortunately, in the Paris Agreement, we have the tools to address the concern. Having adopted and signed it countries now need to demonstrate their fidelity to it, such as through steps by all parties to increase the ambition of their planned contributions to reduce emissions by 2020, if not earlier. Equally vital will be living up to commitments by ensuring steady progress towards $100 billion in additional finance for developing countries by 2020, half of which was agreed to support dealing with issues like workplace heat especially in vulnerable countries.

Blog: Sign on the dotted line, but don’t forget the fine print is 1.5 degrees Celsius

Sign on the dotted line, but don’t forget the fine print is 1.5 degrees Celsius

The Huffington Post

By Emmanuel M. De Guzman

Anyone watching coverage of the Paris Agreement last December could be forgiven for thinking that countries had defeated climate change itself, there and then, once and for all. As a record number of heads of state and other government representatives gather in New York on April 22nd to reaffirm their vows to the Agreement and sign on the dotted line – fresh from the news that unprecedented amounts were invested in renewable energy last year – the feeling of momentum is palpable. As the minister of a country that has suffered severely from climate change, however, I would like to remind my counterparts that much of the work still remains to be done.

My country, together with other vulnerable countries grouped under the Climate Vulnerable Forum, fought tooth and nail to make the Paris Agreement as ambitious as it is. The Agreement’s very existence is historic and should be welcomed as a testimony to the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation in the face of threats to global peace and security.

For our nations, the most important provision we fought for – and won – in the Paris Agreement was the promise in Article 2 to endeavor to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. A 1.5-degree limit is the most ambitious target that is still achievable, provided we act urgently.

Keeping warming below this level would preserve most of the world’s coral reefs and glaciers. It would limit the spread of vector-borne diseases exacerbated by climate change, slow the spread of poverty in my native South-East Asia and provide a boost to the world’s plans to meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals it signed in 2015.

Nevertheless, even if the countries signing the Agreement this Friday also ratify it, the vision it enshrines is far from being realized. We’re still headed for a world 3-, 4- or even 5-degrees Celsius warmer. Such a world would create unbearable conditions for the one billion people who live in the member countries of our Forum. Failed harvests, wrecked infrastructure, a drain on emerging market growth, and migration out of worst-hit areas would also place immense strain on the whole world.

A massive increase in effort is already required to help those worst hit by climate change cope with the beginnings of these challenges. Under the new climate pact, obligations for financial support, technology sharing and measures to compensate for the loss and damage suffered by vulnerable groups that barely pollute would skyrocket if we don’t halt the warming.

We are doing our best to lead. Just last week, a meeting of our Vulnerable 20 (V20) Group of finance ministers agreed to adopt domestic carbon pricing systems within 10 years and called for an international tax on financial transactions to help fund efforts to tackle climate change. If small and poor countries can take such steps, any country can, especially developed countries who are expected to lead on emission cuts before 2020.

Adequately addressing climate change is not controversial. The world has already pledged to do this. Now urgency is key. Although the Paris Agreement is binding from 2020, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties tells us that, by signing it on April 22nd, the more than 130 countries present also agree to act in good faith ‘not to defeat the object and purpose of the treaty’ while it is pending applicability.

The Paris Agreement also gives all countries the option to re-evaluate and resubmit their current commitments to reduce emissions by 2020. All need to come forward by then with new commitments to take action not to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming. If they wait any longer, we are certain to miss that target, undermining the goal of the Agreement. For us, the target of 1.5 degrees is not a mere aspirational goal. It’s a matter of survival.

Achieving the required level of implementation need not be difficult. Up to 90% of new energy produced last year was fueled by new power from renewable energy sources. The world economy expanded again last year but emissions did not grow. The EU, one of the largest groups of carbon polluters, is already on track to overachieve its current 2020 commitments on emission cuts – this is a sure sign it should increase them. Not acting decisively prevents us from taking advantage of improved air quality, job creation and more stable energy prices due to a lesser emphasis on price-volatile fossil fuels.

In signing this Paris Agreement on the dotted line, governments cannot forget the fine print that all states agreed to take steps towards a world where we limit warming to only 1.5 degrees Celsius. Despite momentum, huge and urgent follow-up action is required to live up to that promise. Fortunately, the swifter we move, the better off everyone will be.

Emmanuel M. De Guzman is Secretary and Vice Chairperson of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, Philippines

Photo Credit: Flood victims boarding a rescue boat of Malawi Defence Force in Makalanga, Malawi. Photo credits: Arjan van de Merwe/UNDP