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OPINION: G20 holds keys to our safe climate future


Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Maria de Fátima Monteiro Jardim, Minister of Environment of Angola and Chair of the Least Developed Countries have issued this statement as the G20 meet in Antalya, Turkey. This article is published in the G20 magazine this week.

As G20 leaders gather in Antalya, they will have on their minds what promises to be the most important global meeting of a generation – the Paris Climate Change Conference.

In 2008, G20 leaders met in Washington in a bid to bring the global economy back from the brink of collapse. The consequences of failure in Paris would be no less dire, and the impacts surely more tragic.

After years of diplomatic momentum-building, the prospects are good for adopting a new global climate change agreement in Paris. More than two-thirds of the countries of the world, including all G20 members, have presented their proposed post-2020 emission reduction targets for eventual inscription in the Paris Agreement.  And perhaps even more importantly, we have all sectors of the global economy on board.  Almost every company, every city and every community now accepts the need to act.

While the momentum is strong, there is no escaping the fact that the targets on the table are still falling way short – we are still on track for around 3⁰C or more of global warming. This would not only spell the end for some of the world’s low-lying island states and vulnerable coastal states, and least developed countries, but  it would also unleash the biggest ever breakdown in global security, and gradually drag the world economy into a downward spiral from which recovery would be very difficult, if not impossible.  To get us back on track, the Paris Agreement must therefore be designed for “ambition”.

To do this, the Paris Agreement must first build on the G7 Summit in June and signal a clear break from the past by setting a common goal to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, and to fully decarbonize the world economy by the middle of the century.

Second, despite the attempts by some G20 countries to lock in low ambition through to 2030, we need to ensure that the targets currently on the table are seen only as a starting point. We need to have a process to ramp them up regularly to take into account new science, and better and cheaper technology.  We think this should happen every five years, beginning in 2020.

And third, we need to recognize that doing a deal for the future in Paris will require an atmosphere of trust, and some important political reassurances. As a start, industrialized countries must set out a credible pathway to deliver the $100 billion a year in climate finance they promised by 2020, and then to go further in the decade that follows.  This support will be crucial not only for reducing our own emissions, but for adapting to the impacts to come.

Thankfully, the world has already begun the necessary pivot to the new climate economy. Last year, the world economy grew by 3 percent, but for the first time, global emissions did not rise in tandem with it.  New research from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate has found that investing in low-carbon cities could save the global economy $17 trillion by 2050 and prevent emissions equivalent to those of a country like India from reaching the atmosphere on an annual basis by 2030.

Despite the positive signs, the G20 cannot afford to leave all of the heavy lifting to Paris. As last year’s meeting in Brisbane showed, history is not kind to those who seek to ignore the biggest economic threat of our generation.  And as the G20’s own Financial Stability Board Chairman Mark Carney said recently, “the challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance with what might come”.

This year’s Antalya Summit must seize the opportunity to build momentum for Paris. One area of possible focus would be for the G20 to make good on its promise in 2009 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.  A recent report by the Overseas Development Institute found the G20 was still spending almost $90 billion a year supporting fossil fuel exploration activities, more than double what the industry itself is investing.  This makes no economic sense – as the G20’s own energy ministers declared last month, the G20 possesses three quarters of total renewable energy deployment potential around the world, and more than seventy percent of investment potential through to 2030.

More than most, our two countries know just how difficult this transition can seem. In different ways, fossil fuels have been the lifeblood of our development.  But just as the unleashing of solar power across the Marshall Islands and an unprecedented five-fold increase in hydro power in Angola has showed, everything can seem impossible until it is done.  The same applies to our agreement in Paris.  And together, we must get it done.

 

 

Image: Majuro atoll, Marshall Islands, credit Elizabeth Switaj, flickr.com

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