Having arrived at the 3rd post in my Road to Paris 2015 Series, I thought I would clarify what I am setting out to do with these posts. If you have been following along, you will know that Road to Paris 2015 is about the United Nations climate change negotiations–in particular, about the important summit to be held at the end of this year in Paris, France.
So this is not a travel series–or is it? In a sense I am writing as a travel blogger. I am a climate change tourist–an explorer. I will become more informed and share tidbits that I gather, with you, my readers.
Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, international law, and politics.
Getting Oriented–Why is the Paris Climate Summit Important?
We (the world) are at a turning point. Climate scientists have told us that average world temperatures must not increase more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial averages if we want to avoid catastrophic environmental changes. They have estimated a “Carbon Budget“:–the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the atmosphere before the 2 degree ceiling is reached. Based on current emission trends, our world Carbon Budget will be used up prior to 2050. At the UN Paris Climate Summit, world leaders hope to arrive at a binding agreement that will set out major greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to take effect after 2020. Industrialized countries are being encouraged to make drastic cuts, aiming for zero emissions by 2050.
A key issue in climate negotiations is responsibility. Who is responsible for climate change and who will bear the cost? To date, the richest, industrialized nations have released the most greenhouse gases through activities such as large scale land clearing and burning fossil fuels for industry, transportation, electricity, and heating. Ironically, some of the worst impacts of climate change are being experienced by less wealthy, developing nations–impacts such as major storms, drought, and rising sea levels. Adaptation and survival costs are being faced worldwide and a major question is: ‘ Who will pay?’
Also on the table is how developing countries will be able to afford the cost of new technologies that will allow them to grow in clean, sustainable ways.
The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 in response to these financial challenges, by the countries who signed the 1992 treaty to address climate change (the UNFCCC–UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). Representatives of these countries meet almost yearly at Conferences of the Parties called “COPs”. The Paris Summit will be the 21st COP: COP21.
The purpose of the Green Climate Fund is to support developing countries in:
- limiting or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and
- adapting to the adverse effects of climate change.
There are two steps for getting funds in place. First, nations make a pledge and then, they sign an agreement to make it official. As of July 23, 2015, thirty-five governments made pledges for a total of USD$10.2 billion— but only USD$5.8 billion has been committed to in signed agreements. The gap between pledging and signing is the gap between the intent of political leadership and the political hurdles that precede signing a deal. For example, the United States pledged $3 billion over 4 years, but signing has yet to be approved by Congress.
The Green Climate Fund Pledge Status Report lists the 35 pledging nations, the amounts pledged, amounts signed for, and the per capita amount of each nation’s pledge. It might be interesting to check this status report to see what your country has pledged and signed for.
There are many concerns about the Green Climate Fund: Will enough money be committed to keep the negotiating process afloat? What financial institutions should manage the funds? Which nations should get support and for what projects? Should support be in the form of loans or grants?and so on. Politics on a national level can be intricate, but on an international level, the complications are mind boggling. The next major meeting of the Green Climate Fund is in November and by then it is expected that they will be announcing some pilot projects–possibly to include small island developing nations and African states.
For more information about this topic, including some analysis, I would recommend a recent article published by Elizabeth Douglass for InsideClimate News: Climate Treaty’s Finances on Shaky Ground.