The Trump administration’s decision earlier this year to pull out of the historic 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, saying the Obama-era deal was an attempt to diminish the US economy and take jobs away, has not stopped incredible global momentum to curb global warming.
Environmental advocates believe that, amidst the shadow of the US decision, 2017 has seen progress in new climate action, ranging from the World Bank announcing it won’t fund upstream oil and gas projects after 2019 to a range of commitments from brown to green investments by companies joining the Global Big Shift campaign.
In a major initiative, the World’s No.1 polluter, China, this week announced plans to start a market-based carbon-trading system, initially in over 1,700 power-generating firms, to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius and aiming to cut greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
Taking the lead, French President Emmanuel Macron this month called “The One Planet” summit in Paris — the birthplace of the Paris Agreement — to mark its second anniversary, to speed up development of decarbonisation pathways by nations and to do something serious about climate mitigation and adaptations.
Observers say the summit was both a celebration of the historic achievement of the Paris Agreement and an opportunity for the countries that are willing to go further and faster in transitioning their economies to demonstrate the action they are taking.
“President Macron deserves a lot of credit for marking the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement by getting world leaders together. The climate challenge needs more than a single champion, but President Macron is certainly doing his bit,” British charity Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Change Advisor, Mohamed Adow, told IANS.
At The One Planet summit, more than 200 civil society organisations from nearly 60 countries released a letter calling on multilateral development banks, including the World Bank Group, and G20 governments to end public financial support for fossil fuels by 2020 at the latest.
With the US government withdrawing funds to deal with climate change, such as the $2 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund, the European Union announced nine billion euro climate finance contribution at The One Planet summit to achieve climate goals.
In a related announcement at the summit, 225 of the most influential global institutional investors, with more than $26.3 trillion in assets under management, launched a new collaborative initiative to engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to step up action on climate change.
The Paris gathering took place less than a month after the successful conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (COP-23) in November and was the first in a series of international summits to help countries to raise the bar and bolster their national climate action plans — crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals.
Interestingly, Trump is continuing support to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, one of the most successful international environmental treaties that celebrated its 30th anniversary in Montreal last month.
India, a signatory to the Protocol since 1992, has been proactive in compliance and played a key role in achieving the historic Kigali Amendment last year for phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
The parties to the Montreal Protocol committed $540 million for the developing nations during the joint 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Vienna Convention and the 29th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol that were held in Canada last month.
And the US alone will take a nearly 25 per cent share of the total funding.
“We’ve seen incredible support for the Kigali Amendment, and much of this is due to the fact that we’ve also had strong support from businesses,” UN Environment head Erik Solheim told IANS.
“The process is proceeding very well and financial support for the mechanism has also been very strong. As such, I’m optimistic that this trend will continue,” Solheim added.
At the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, India reiterated provisions for finance — both for adaptation and mitigation and technology transfer for climate actions from the developed nations.
A day after a major victory for India and developing countries on climate action before 2020 that the developed world agreed to discuss in subsequent two years, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan told IANS that provisions for finance, technology transfer and capacity-building support to developing nations are critical.
Stressing that COP-23 was crucial as it would set the stage for the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, accelerate pre-2020 action and firm up the modalities for implementing the Paris Agreement, he said India has undertaken ambitious mitigation and adaptation action.
The Centre for Science and Environment’s Deputy Director, Chandra Bhushan, however, believes this year was a damp squib as far as global environmental negotiations and actions are concerned.
“There is a big gap between the global action required and the collective action of countries to address issues like climate change. In 2017, this gap was further widened with the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement; 2017, therefore, was a damp squib as far as global environmental negotiations and actions were concerned,” Bhushan, who was given the Partnership Award by UN Environment last month for providing policy and research support to the negotiations during the Kigali Amendment, told IANS.