Recent days have seen some important signs that the momentum needed to ensure a successful climate change treaty is agreed in Paris next December may finally be building. A major climate change protest took place in London today while the week just ended saw the first pledges of emissions reductions being submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn.
Switzerland was the first country in the world to submit its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution), initiating a process that will see the 194 member states make public their INDCs in the runup to the Paris summit. By the end of the week, the European Union had also submitted. So we now know that Switzerland intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50% by 2030 over 1990 levels while the EU’s pledge is to a ‘binding target of at least 40%’ by 2030 over 1990 levels.
The crucial process that may finally see the global community take decisive actions to begin to rein in runaway emissions that cause global warming and ever more destructive climate change has finally begun. A study by the NewClimate Institute published during the week foresees a first wave of submissions between now and the end of March and a further wave in September.
This showed that, of the 81 countries studied, very few intend to submit by the end of March, about one third have initiated the process for agreeing targets while another third have yet to do so. Nearly half indicated that they have yet to set an internal timetable for their submission. Many face challenges with limited expertise and even a lack of certainty on what to include in their submissions.
While this may seem disconcerting, about two-thirds of countries report that they intend to include long-term goals for emission reductions while most will also include policies, specific actions and broader plans for institutional development. This shows therefore that countries are taking on board a broad interpretation of what is required that lends the whole process more credibility.
Meanwhile, various initiatives being taken around the world show a similar level of ambition in finally facing the enormous challenges of climate change. Not least among these is the decision of the editor of the Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger, before he retires next summer to give prominence to the issue of climate change because of its overwhelming importance for the future of humanity.
Not only is this reported in a front-page editorial but today’s edition (Saturday, March 7th) is produced in wraparound that contains a lengthy extract from Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (Penguin, 2014), the front page of which contains no text but the following quote from the book:
‘We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. And we don’t have to do anything to bring about this future. All we have to do is nothing.’
This is an exceptional level of recognition and commitment by a major world newspaper of an issue that has been largely neglected throughout the mainstream media until now. It is a major sign of hope.
Somewhat less well know but of a similar magnitude of importance is the launch recently of CapGlobalCarbon, a civil society initiative to establish a Global Climate Commons Trust that would initiate a limit on the amount of coal, oil or gas that could be extracted through issuing licences to fossil fuel companies establishing the amount of fossil fuel that could be extracted. These would be based on the latest climate science and the amounts permitted would be reduced each year. The scheme would be enforced by governments. For further information read John Jopling’s paper on the Green House think tank website.