From the front lines of cli­mate change

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

On April 22, dig­ni­taries rep­re­sent­ing no fewer than 175 par­ties signed the global cli­mate change agree­ment con­cluded in Paris in De­cem­ber, set­ting a record for the adop­tion of an in­ter­na­tional ac­cord. The show of sup­port is heart­en­ing. It pro­vides hope that the mo­men­tum that led to the break­through deal in De­cem­ber re­mains undi­min­ished.

But se­cur­ing an agree­ment in Paris was just the first step on a long road to­wards pro­tect­ing the global cli­mate and the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries. The sign­ing cer­e­mony was the sec­ond. Next comes the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process; 55 coun­tries, rep­re­sent­ing at least 55% of global emis­sions, will need to rat­ify the agree­ment to en­able it to en­ter into force.

The good news is that the process is al­ready un­der­way. In Fe­bru­ary, Fiji be­came the first na­tion to rat­ify the treaty, fol­lowed by three other small is­land states. All four are mem­bers of the Cli­mate Vul­ner­a­ble Fo­rum, a group of 43 coun­tries – in­clud­ing Costa Rica and the Philip­pines, which we rep­re­sent – on the front lines of cli­mate change. Mem­bers of the fo­rum fought tire­lessly for an agree­ment in Paris, and we will do ev­ery­thing within our power to speed up its en­try into force.

The Paris agree­ment of­fers the world its best hope of slow­ing and ul­ti­mately stop­ping changes to our cli­mate. Left unchecked, global warming will threaten the health and safety of our peo­ple, dam­age the ecosys­tems on which we all de­pend, and – through ris­ing sea lev­els – put the very ex­is­tence of some coun­tries in jeop­ardy.

And yet, if the bat­tle against cli­mate change is to be won, the Paris agree­ment will not be suf­fi­cient. The vol­un­tary emis­sion-re­duc­tion com­mit­ments con­tained in the so-called In­tended Na­tion­ally De­ter­mined Con­tri­bu­tions (INDCs), sub­mit­ted by 187 coun­tries by the end of the talks, will not be enough to pre­vent dan­ger­ous cli­mate change. And for those coun­tries that are most vul­ner­a­ble to the harm­ful ef­fects of global warming, far more needs to be done if cat­a­strophic ef­fects are to be avoided.

Early cal­cu­la­tions have sug­gested that if all of the INDCs were fully im­ple­mented, av­er­age global tem­per­a­tures would still rise by the end of the cen­tury to 2.7 de­grees Cel­sius above pre-in­dus­trial lev­els. That is con­sid­er­ably be­yond the al­ready dan­ger­ous ceil­ing of two de­grees set in Copen­hagen in 2009 and in­cluded in the Paris agree­ment.

New re­search, from Cli­mate In­ter­ac­tive and MIT Sloan, sug­gests that tem­per­a­tures could rise even higher – by 3.5 de­grees Cel­sius. The Cli­mate Vul­ner­a­ble Fo­rum has long ar­gued that even two de­grees of warming risks cre­at­ing un­bear­able con­di­tions for some coun­tries. That is why it has fought to limit the rise in tem­per­a­ture to 1.5 de­grees – an am­bi­tion that was in­cluded, thanks to the fo­rum’s ef­forts, in the Paris agree­ment.

That seem­ingly small dif­fer­ence mat­ters. As the lat­est re­search shows, it would have a dra­matic and mea­sur­able im­pact on ex­treme weather events, water avail­abil­ity, crop yields, co­ral-reef degra­da­tion, and sea-level rise. And it will be the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple – ru­ral women, the sick, the old, and the very young – who are most at risk. For the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries, lim­it­ing the tem­per­a­ture rise to 1.5 de­grees is not just an as­pi­ra­tion; it is a mat­ter of sur­vival.

The goal is an am­bi­tious one. But vul­ner­a­ble de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are com­mit­ted to help­ing achieve it. The V-20 group of fi­nance min­is­ters of vul­ner­a­ble na­tions re­cently com­mit­ted to in­tro­duc­ing car­bon-pric­ing mech­a­nisms across 43 mar­kets within ten years.

We have also pledged to im­prove fi­nan­cial ac­count­ing, so that the costs of cli­mate change and the ben­e­fits of cli­mate ac­tion are in­cor­po­rated into eco­nomic pol­i­cy­mak­ing. Costa Rica has just ap­proved a law pro­mot­ing elec­tric trains, and leg­is­la­tors are de­bat­ing a bill to pro­vide in­cen­tives for elec­tric ve­hi­cles and buses.

Such ini­tia­tives are more com­monly as­so­ci­ated with ad­vanced economies than with de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. And the rich world does have a mo­ral obli­ga­tion to move first and faster – with poli­cies, tech­nolo­gies, and fi­nance – to re­duce the emis­sions that cause global warming. But we also recog­nise that de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to act and that do­ing so can gen­er­ate im­mense eco­nomic, so­cial, and pub­lic health ad­van­tages for their cit­i­zens.

We can­not suc­ceed on our own; this much is cer­tain. The Cli­mate Vul­ner­a­ble Fo­rum rep­re­sents a tiny share of global emis­sions. We need the in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries and the gi­ants of the de­vel­op­ing world to re­dou­ble their ef­forts to re­duce their emis­sions, so that global warming can be lim­ited to 1.5 de­grees. Only then can dis­as­ter be averted.

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