Last week, the latest UN Climate Change Conference was held in Bonn, Germany. It was the first such conference to take place since the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and with Syria becoming a signatory during the conference, the US is now the only country in the world not to be a party to the agreement.
The conference again brought the topic of climate change to the centre of the international political arena and amid the general calls for action and greater urgency, concrete commitments were made. I will discuss some of the key take-aways here.
1. Launch of Powering Past Coal Alliance
The UK and Canada spearheaded the launch of a new initiative aimed at phasing out traditional coal power. Although there is no firm timeframe commitment, the alliance’s declaration states that traditional coal power needs to be phased out by no later than 2030 in the OECD and EU28, and no later than 2050 in the rest of the world.
The alliance was joined by more than 20 entities including Denmark, Finland, Italy, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Mexico, the Marshall Islands and the US states of Washington and Oregon. Michael Bloomberg also pledged $50m to expanding his anti-coal US campaign to Europe.
However, notable abstainees from the pledge included the US, China, India and Germany.
2. Launch of Ocean Pathway Initiative
With Fiji holding the rotating presidency at COP23, it was expected that there would be an initiative focussing on the oceans and climate change. As a Pacific Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Fiji is particularly vulnerable to the destructive effects of climate change on the oceans, through rising sea levels to overheating.
The Ocean Pathway initiative has reaffirmed the Call for Action issued at the UN Ocean Conference earlier this year and seeks funding for ocean health and maintenance of ecosystems from UN climate change funding initiatives. The initiative has also launched the Oceans Pathway Partnership to link existing ocean activities and promote cooperation.
3. Financing climate action
During the conference, a number of significant funding commitments were announced, including:
- Adaptation Fund: This fund, established under the Kyoto Protocol, finances projects and programmes that help vulnerable communities in developing countries adapt to climate change. To date, it has committed US$462 million in 73 countries. This year, it was officially committed to serve under the Paris Agreement framework and country contributions have exceeds the 2017 target with contributions of EUR 50 million from Germany and EUR 7 million from Italy.
- Norway and Unilever fund: US$400 million fund established for public and private investment in more resilient socioeconomic development. The fund will invest in business models that combine investments in high productivity agriculture, smallholder inclusion and forest protection.
- Amazon rainforest fund: Germany and the UK have committed US$ 153 million to fight climate change and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
- Initiative 20×20 investment: World Resources Institute announced a US$ 2.1 billion investment to restore degraded lands in Latin America and the Caribbean.
4. Launch of Below50 Initiative
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched the below50 initiative, initially in North America, South America and Australia, to create greater demand and more markets for sustainable fuels, i.e. fuels that produce at least 50% less CO2 emissions than conventional fossil fuels. The initiative aims to bring together the entire value-chain for sustainable fuels and scale up their deployment.
Finally, despite US’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Michael Bloomberg’s “We’re Still In” coalition of US cities, states and companies, was out in force at COP23, showing the world that large parts of America are still fully committed to the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
And as the conference delegates begin to reflect on the week’s achievements, the biggest hope is that the commitments are kept and promises are delivered. With record levels of funding now being directed towards tackling climate change, there really is no excuse not to act.