Thursday, 4 December 2014

Is Paris better than Copenhagen?

Ah Paris, home of arts, croissants and love, and with any luck the future of our planet. September 2015 sees the next stage in Global Climate talks head to the French Capital. For many the last major talks in Copenhagen 2009 where a let down, plagued by petty fighting a lack of concrete policy, the Accord represents ‘little more than the lowest common denominator’ (Falkner et al 2010). So why should next year be any different? A recent lecture at the Grantham Institute co-run by the French Embassy gives us reason to hope. If you’ve got a spare hour it’s worth watching but if not read on.

Economics have changed
The first point raised was economic. 2009 was only a year after the world was plunged into recession, we’ve seen earlier how when unemployment and GDP are suffering people are less concerned about climate change (Brulle et al 2011) and as government policy and action reflects public opinion, impetus for spending on mitigation was extremely low in 2009. Although real wages are still suffering the economy is recovering, Britain in particular is on the up and was able to pledge £720million ($1.13Billion) to the Green Climate Fund. The price of renewables also continues to fall solar is energy is now cost competitive WITHOUT subsidies in many locations with the price on track to drop 400% since the 2009 (Candelise et al 2013). Even with the UK removing the Renewable obligation support, solar will be cheaper next year than this, and that money can help mitigate in other areas. Just take a leaf through Lord Stern’s new report on the New Climate Economy, it certainly provides a lot more hope for green growth than in the past.

Global Agreement
In 2009 China viewed climate change as something that happened elsewhere, it was caused by, and affecting the West but China itself was just fine. America meanwhile did not have Congress approval for a legally binding treaty, China then used this as their out, they wouldn’t sign unless the US did. But just last week both countries have reached a climate agreement. In a joint statement America promised to reduce by 26-28% whilst China will increase energy from zero emissions sources by 20%, at a time when for the first time ever Chinese Coal consumption and production are falling in response to air quality. The legality remains a critical part of negotiations, but increasingly in Obama’s final years he’s relying on executive action, this move could prove crucial with a Republican Congress and Senate and helps create a much more positive atmosphere heading into Paris. 
Climate Change is here
China is finally addressing its air quality, David Cameron has attributed flooding in the Somerset Levels to Climate Change, and most importantly wine production in Bordeaux is on its way down. The last few years have seen a spate of examples which may or may not be attributed to climate change but can certainly help sway political action. Although Myers et al (2013) found that personal experience of climate disasters is only likely to reaffirm your position on climate change, visual effects such as flooding or pollution at least inspire action on a local level which can help support national pledges.

There are still ten months until Paris, first we have the Climate Change Conference in Lima next month which will see each nation commit to commit a reduction. A roundabout method but this is how international politics work. There should be great hope following talks in Peru, but for now there is a positive air surrounding the next year of Climate negotiations.

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