World leaders meet in New York to catalyze action on climate change, Ben & Jerry’s slims down emissions while making cows happy and China says that it’s a big deal.
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22 September 2014 | It’s not too late for serious action to address climate change. That’s a key message heading into this week’s Climate Summit 2014 hosted by United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which will be the largest gathering of global leaders in history to ponder the climate challenge. More than 120 heads of state from major emitting countries such as the United States but not China and India as well as hundreds of business leaders and civil society representatives will travel to New York City this week to work together to build momentum for a strong, global climate agreement in Paris in 2015. The aim of the Paris climate talks will be to limit the average rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution to 2 degrees Celsius the warming that climate scientists have deemed safe(ish) for the planet. But some climate experts believe that, given the current trajectory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is too late to meet the target, and that governments should acknowledge this dilemma and work on anticipating and adapting to the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Bob Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning within the Executive Office of the Secretary General, UN, predicted significant announcements and progress during the summit, including commitments to finance the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF was formally established during the UN Conference of Parties in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 and features a stated goal of raising $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries with climate change adaption and mitigation activities, but actual monies have been slow to materialize to date. “We need funding to flow in many different ways from many different channels,” he said during a Center for American Progress discussion on September 17. “But the Green Climate Fund is an important piece of the architecture. The Secretary-General has called for an initial capitalization for the Green Climate Fund of between $10 billion and $15 billion. We will see a good down payment on that.” One important policy measure that needs to happen is pricing carbon and getting these prices right, said Rachel Kyte, Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change for the World Bank. Corporations all around the globe are adopting carbon prices for business planning purposes, according to a new CDP report, although settling on a price that actually instigates changes in behavior to reduce carbon emissions remains an open and often controversial question (see Climate Finance section below). Ahead of the summit, the World Bank has invited organizations to sign a statement that declares that carbon pricing is a necessary step to tackle climate change and making the economic case that there is nothing to be gained by waiting to address the climate problem. “If you wait, it simply gets more expensive,” Kyte said. “What we expect to see (this) week is a remarkable leadership group self-selected of countries, states, cities and companies that are all pricing carbon already or are working through how they are going to price carbon.” An announcement is also expected next week about the so-called New York Declaration on Forests in which countries and other partners will pledge to take concrete actions to slow emissions from tropical deforestation, building on commitments by consumer goods and other companies that pledge that no forests will be cleared to make their products. “I think it’s so incredible what’s happening in the forest sector right now,” said Nigel Purvis, CEO, consultancy Climate Advisers, which was reportedly involved in preparing the document. “We’ve seen a complete revolution. In the last year, we’ve gone from having almost no companies with commitments to being deforestation-free in their palm oil supply chains to 60% of the global market that has committed to, by no later than 2020 and in many cases immediately, eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. This revolution that is happening within the private sector is giving momentum to the international negotiations and policy discussions.” Purvis also cited the “REDD Rulebook,” the guidance on how countries can harvest available data to create reliable snapshots of their forests over time and to use this information to create deforestation reference levels to be recognized by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as a sign of the progress being made in addressing deforestation. Negotiators agreed on the basic tenets of the Rulebook in Warsaw during the most recent round of international climate talks. “That’s the part of the Paris agreement that’s ready to go,” he said.
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