It seems like in 2014 “the world” finally started to take climate change more seriously. Governments around the world began to respond to the growing threat of a changing climate. According to David Doniger, Director of the US Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air Programme, “2014 is the year in which a lot of these initiatives took form and became public. … So this has been a big year”.
I believe the initiatiatives listed below (in a chronological order) are the most significant ones that will provide a boost for international efforts to reach a global, legally binding deal on reducing emissions beyond 2020 – a deal to be negotiated at the UN climate meeting in Paris in December this year:
- June: in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new federal regulations governing power plants (the main source of greenhouse gases in the U.S) that aim to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. And although it could take at least a year for the regulations to become final, Doniger says those long-awaited rules are the centrepiece of President Obama’s effort to fight climate change.
- September: the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced to withdraw from investing in the fossil fuel industry and switching investments to ‘clean energy’, joining the fossil fuel divestment movement – a growing coalition of philanthropists pledging sell out more than $50bn in fossil fuel assets. The Rockefeller’s move was seen as a “critical accomplishment of 2014” for the growing movement by gofossilfree.org
- The fossil fuel divestment campaign, seen by many as a key step forward in tackling climate change, has grown significantly over the course of 2014. Between January and December, the number of commitments by campuses, churches, cities, states, hospitals, pension funds, and other institutions – both in the United States and abroad – have more than doubled, from 74 to 181, representing over $50 bn divested in total. All 2014 accomplishments are listed here.
- The momentum of positive international action was stepped up with the largest climate change protest ever – The People’s Climate March with over 300,000 demonstrators – in New York City ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September.
- At the climate summit in Brussels in October, European Union leaders endorsed a binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 (from 1990 levels).
- The China-US joint climate change agreement, signed in November, announced unilateral measures to reduce the two countries’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. China has agreed to cap its output by 2030 or earlier if possible, while the US agreed to reduce emissions by up to 28% by 2025. Both sides also spoke about jointly pushing negotiations at a climate change conference in Paris next year, and to cooperate on clean energy and environmental protection.
- In December in Lima, UN members have reached an agreement on how all countries – both rich and poor – should tackle climate change. Delegates have approved a framework for setting national pledges to be submitted to a summit next year.Many disappointed climate activists were quick to say that the talks “failed to deliver a fair and ambitious outcome” (Friends of the Earth International) and branded the agreement “very week indeed” (WWF) or “an ineffectual compromise”. And the agreement was less ambitious than many hoped for and many decisions were simply postponed. But I agree with the BBC News commentator Matt McGrath: “the fact that 194 nations assented to this document means there is still momentum for a deal in Paris. Much tougher tests lie ahead.” We can’t argue that it was an important step “on the road to Paris”.
- In addition, the appointments of special envoys on climate change by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were also significant: John Kufuor, the former President of Ghana, and Jens Stoltenberg, former Prime Minister of Norway (in Dec 2013), and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland (in July 2014), who will “interact with global leaders ahead of the Climate Summit, to forge political commitment towards finalizing an agreement in 2015.”
2015: The Year of Climate Action
I have recently joined a campaign group that, in a nutshell, aims to “provide positive influence and support the goals of Paris 2015” so that the general consensus is increasingly in favour of action to control climate change. I am hoping to report on the group’s meaningful and effective activities in this blog. Let’s ACT to make 2015 the year of climate action that will culminate in a global consensus in Paris. Because we only have one planet.