Breaking the climate deadlock : a great report

While browsing the many articles published on TreeHugger I came across one that read “The most important report you’ll read this year”. Quite a catchy title for quite important news.

According to the Climate Group, the debate over global warming is over as it is occurring and as all developed nations are now acknowledging it as a fact and want to act against it.

The former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (above) gave a speech to support this new report with realistic solutions that was targeted at G8 countries during their meeting.

Here are some extracts of the speech :

The problem of climate change is now, almost universally understood and acknowledged. This is in itself a major achievement. But now is the moment to get serious about the solution.Such a solution has to be global. It must include America and China.

(…) Our’s is a report drawn up by experts but guided by a politician.

(…) As such it is explicitly designed to be a practical way through; not yet another campaigning polemic to wake the world up to the challenges of global warming.  The world has woken up.  But now it needs to know what to do.

The report warns of the danger of a yawning chasm between, on the one hand the calls for radical action from scientists, environmental groups and people rightly alarmed at the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet; and on the other, the anxiety of decision makers in politics and business, who share the aims of the radical action but worry about whether that action is realistic.  Long-term everyone accepts that the needs of economy and environment are in partnership.  Short-term there is a clear tension.  And we live in the short-term.

The report tries to design a way to bridge this chasm. There is a blunt reality that we need to acknowledge amongst all the talk of targets, goals and obligations.

The climate demands, over time, a radical, transformative change in the nature of the world economy, moving from growth built on carbon dependence, to environmentally sustainable development.

But we need to be clear about the size of the task. The US emissions are still growing.  So are those in Japan. In Europe they are static.

China and India are set, rightly, to industrialise and move their vast hundreds of millions of poor people from subsistence agriculture to the modern economy.

We are talking of a global 2050 target of at least a 50% cut in emissions.  But let’s be clear.  This date is decades away and decades beyond the political life of any government. The key challenge is to describe a realistic pathway to it.

That implies shorter term goals. But these are immensely demanding, asking developed economies to move from growth in emissions to significant cuts within 10-15 years.

(…) And, above all at this point, it should be noted, our knowledge of the issue is constantly evolving.  Though we talk as if the science were certain – its overall purport may be, the precise details are often open to substantial debate.

Therefore what this report proposes, is an approach to the Copenhagen agreement at the end of 2009 that does not attempt a deal that tries to resolve all issues up to 2050 or even 2030 or 2020. But instead begins a process that will then undergo revision and adjustment as our knowledge improves and the facts become clearer.

So we propose:

  1. Set a clear direction in Copenhagen and get the action under way. (…)
  2. Carry on through to next year’s G8 the informal process whereby G8 and the developing world major economies continue to try to resolve core questions. (…)
  3. There are a plethora of really tricky questions that need answering before a serious negotiation can work.  We detail these in the report. (…)

The G8 should agree a work plan through to next year, to get this work done. For example:

How do we raise the money? Is there a place for auctioning credits? If so, how would it work? Is the CDM the right mechanism? Can it be reformed? How do carbon markets link up? Should the developing world have access to them? How do we transfer technology?

In this, Phase 1, we have identified the 10 building blocks of a global deal.

  1. The global target
  2. An interim target
  3. Developed world commitments and carbon markets
  4. Developing world contributions
  5. Sectoral action
  6. Financing
  7. Technology
  8. Forests
  9. Adaptation
  10. Institutions and mechanisms of action

We have tried in this way to isolate the key elements that will need agreement and the further work to clarify each of them.  We also identify significant facts whose significance is nonetheless often lost.

Energy efficiency would provide around one quarter of the gains necessary and, incidentally, save money. It requires special focus..

The vast majority of new power stations in China and India will be coal-fired; not “may be coal-fired”; will be. So developing carbon capture and storage technology is not optional, it is literally of the essence.

Without at least some countries engaging in a substantial renaissance of nuclear power, it is hard to see how any global deal could work.

For developing countries to grow sustainably they will need funds and technology, otherwise they will not be able to peak and then reduce emissions within the necessary timescale.

Deforestation amounts to around 15-20 percent of the entire emissions problem.

Certain key sectors like cement, steel and of course power most of all, account for a huge percentage – almost half of all emissions.

Airline and shipping emissions, though only 5 percent today, are a fast growing part of the problem.

Done right, the costs of abatement will be manageable and probably less than predicted; and there are potentially real opportunities for the new low-carbon economy that will develop.

(…) The aim of phase two of the report will be to try to show how the building blocks can be arranged in a cohesive global deal.  In particular we will try to bridge the chasm earlier described between the entirely understandable demands for radical action to save the environment and the equally understandable desire for countries to enjoy economic growth and prosperity in a world in which the majority, at present are still poor.

Finally, some good news. It is clear the deal can be done. Indeed long term there will be benefits not just to the environment but to the economy in doing it. But short-term we need to get it right. That is what we will try to help.

If all this interested you, I strongly recommend you to read out the full report, available here. If you have no time to read more than seven pages, the executive summary is here for you.

There are solutions, we now need the political will to appy them…

To infer this article, here are some names that are part of the Climate Group : Google, BP, Dell, HSBC, Tesco, Starbucks, Virgin… And local administrations like California, London City, the City of New York, Los Angeles, Ontario, Quebec, some Australian States… Not a couple of small businesses and places.

Hope all these voices will be heard as they speak as one.

1 thought on “Breaking the climate deadlock : a great report”

  1. Pingback: Sustainable development and much more… » What is exactly sustainable development ?

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