Posts Tagged ‘CORIM’

Peru climate summit to draft global climate business plan for next thirty to fifty years, says UN climate chief

Monday, September 29th, 2014

By Felix von Geyer

Energized by over 300,000 climate demonstrators who marched through New York ahead of United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon’s climate summit last week, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) told a Montreal audience on Friday to expect a draft global agreement in Peru this year to address climate change.

“We must, can and will” address climate change, Figueres told the 600 delegates assembled at the Principles for Responsible Investment conference on Friday morning before she listed a host of pledges and commitments that had poured from the New York summit earlier that week.

Three major pension funds committed to invest up to $31 billion into renewable energies to help decarbonize the energy sector in the battle against climate change was one major initiative. A further $100 billion of pension funds were likely to be divested from fossil fuels. The eagerness of 75 of the world’s governments alongside 1,000 global corporations to call for carbon pricing, whether through a cap and trade emissions trading scheme or carbon tax was another major step forward, said Figueres.

Moreover, if the Rockefeller brothers whose ancestor JD Rockefeller founded Standard Oil that later split into what is now Exxon Mobile and ChevronTexaco could divest the Rockefeller Foundation’s investments from oil as they announced last week, then “there is something in the air,” said Figueres.

Figueres asked PRI’s delegates to help her by undertaking three tasks in her quest to find a major global climate agreement in Paris in 15 months’ time.

“Help me to scrub the lobbying practices to avoid systemic risk and avoid human pain,” she said, referring to the lobbying process of the fossil-fuel industry that has helped prevent progress on addressing climate change beyond a broad commitment at the 2009 Copenhagen summit to avoid exceeding two degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures.

Moreover, Figueres called on investors to maximize their ability to influence Finance Ministers around the world and make them realize that any draft text Peru’s Environment Minister is looking to craft for agreement in Paris in December 2015 is “not an environment agreement but a major technological, economic and risk opportunity,” she said.

Only the previous day, the PRI members had made the ‘Montreal Carbon Pledge’ to track the carbon intensity and profile of $3 trillion of its funds that are otherwise estimated at a total of $22 trillion. Figueres’ third request was direct: “Take that Montreal Carbon Pledge to $22 trillion,” she stated.

Ultimately replacing the old fossil fuel infrastructure with a new energy infrastructure would transition to a better quality of life for everybody by reducing energy insecurities; immigration costs; transportation costs and health costs.

“To get there, we must have the future very, very clear,” said Figueres as she called for “global peaking (of emissions) over the next ten years and then carbon neutrality to restore what the Industrial Revolution disturbed.”

Later during a lunchtime talk at CORIM, the Montreal Council for International Relations, Figueres spoke of further commitments made in New York: the forestry sector pledged to halve deforestation by 2020; palm oil producers committed to zero net deforestation by 2020 while 500 million farmers worldwide sought to move to smart agriculture. Furthermore, an 8,000 kilometre energy corridor through Africa would provide renewable energy and six transnational oil companies were committed to best practices and reporting in acknowledgement that “We’re part of the problem but we can be part of the solution,” Figueres told the diners.

Any global climate agreement in Paris would need to chart the course for the next thirty to fifty years – “way beyond the electoral cycles of anyone,” stressed Figueres who asked the room to put pressure on their subnational governments to address climate change and not to give up on national governments.

“Here’s the truth: the transformation in the energy sector and other sectors will be so huge that we cannot afford to leave behind a country, a family or a person,” the UN’s climate chief declared.

Quoting Montreal-born singer/songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Everybody Knows,’ Figueres added that “Everybody knows – that we can do it. And everybody knows that deep in your heart that we have a choice about the future,” she said, stressing society had a choice to move into a low-carbon future either by crashing into physics or developing its policies.

“And everybody knows that it’s in everybody’s interest to move into that future with fifteen months to get this right. If not, it will take ten years to get around the table again and we will have economic disruption and a political crisis,” predicted figueres.

“Political stamina” essential to shift biodiversity at heart of green economy – Felix von Geyer

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Biodiversity underpins the healthy ecosystems that we commonly call “ecosystem services,” the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity told the Montreal International Relations Council (CORIM) at a lunchtime meeting on Wednesday as he called for governments to show more “political stamina” to place biodiversity at the heart of a sustainable, green economy.

A transition to a green economy must recognize how biodiversity is the basis of the economy, said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias who became Executive Secretary of the Montreal-based UN CBD earlier this year.

De Souza Dias stressed measures to conserve biodiversity are in fact investments, not costs, as he indicated that the private sector was now increasingly alert to the reality that genetic resources are much greater than the sum of their molecules and genes and that all companies benefit directly or indirectly from ecosystem services.

Germany was the first country to introduce biodiversity guidelines for the business sector but now all governments have to implement their agreements and commitments. While there would likely be some trade-offs, de Souza Dias called for governments to integrate their taregts into national and local strategies. To this end, “political stamina” is fundamental in the creation of “win-win scenarios and policies” he said.

“We’ve reached the limits and we’ve nowhere else to go. We need to take better care of our planet,” said the Executive Secretary as he underlined the need for sustainable consumption and production.

Understanding biodiversity does however require greater modelling. Despite the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, it is estimated that little more than ten percent of the species have been catalogued. Despite this, de Souza Dias estimated that a third of all biodiversity could be lost in the coming decades if average global temperatures exceed two degrees Celsius due to climate change.

Greater scientific knowledge is essential to making decisions and four UN bodies have come together to form the new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES) that will be located in Bonn.

De Souza Dias was quick to caution that natural science could only go so far and that social scientists were essential in understanding more about the human species. One of the Convention’s own recent contributions to human organization, the 2010 signing of the Nagoya Protocol, will allow equal access to genetic resources for the purposes of benefit-sharing among the international community once fifty signatories ratify the Protocol for it to come into force. Currently eight ratifications have taken place with the remaining ratifications expected during the next two years, said de Souza Dias.

“Biodiversity is a complex issue – even more complex than climate change,” declared de Souza Dias who called for IPBES to adopt a bottom-up approach incorporating local, national and regional assessments in understanding the challenges of biodiversity and ecosystem issues and how to address them.

However, financial mechanisms and regulations have a part to play. Where current international commitments seek to preserve seventeen percent of continental territory and ten percent of marine area, it is estimated that this investment could require anywhere between US$200 billion to US$600 billion and at present it is unsure where this money will come from.

Presently there is no ideal financial solution to addressing biodiversity and ecosystem services. “We are still looking for the best,” de Souza Dias told New Orator after his speech as he took the example of fisheries.  Annually, the global fish trade has been estimated to be worth US$80 billion but the industry receives government subsidies worth almost half that value, not to mention fossil fuel subsidies, he added.

De Souza Dias pointed to the New Zealand experience as the example of a licensing round where the government holds bidding rounds for fishing licenses. In the same way as the principle of revenue neutrality in pricing greenhouse gas emissions where money raised through carbon taxes or auctioning carbon credits under a cap and trade scheme, the money used by the New Zealand government is distributed to fund people subsequently out of work to help them find other employment.

As he pointed to the famous collapse of cod fish-stocks off Canada’s east coast over twenty years ago – that are yet to recover – de Souza Dias underlined the complex nature of addressing biodiversity. “I’m not optimistic that technology will solve our problems,” he told New Orator. “I think we need to be more humble,” he concluded.