Talking climate in Bonn

Paul Allen has just arrived in Bonn to take CAT’s message to the UN climate change talks. Here he tells us why he’s there and what he hopes the talks will achieve.

From 6th to 17th November, many thousands of delegates, researchers and climate justice activists from across the globe will gather in Bonn for the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference (COP23). Whilst the logistics of the conference are being handled by Germany, the presidency of COP23 is officially held by Fiji, an island state whose very existence is threatened by climate change.

One thing is increasingly clear: the window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees is closing fast. Restricting the increase in temperature is the key to humanity having a better chance of preventing runaway climate chaos. We are already witnessing an increase in extreme weather events in many countries across the globe. While those of us in the Global North may be able to adapt, people in the Global South often do not have the same resources available. The consequences are gravest where the people are the least to blame for climate change – so it’s good that Fiji has the chair.

Fiji clearly understands that to deliver progress on the pressing schedules of the Paris Climate Agreement there is a need to build a global ‘Grand Coalition’ of action between all levels of government, business and civil society. At a two-day pre-COP meeting, the President and Prime Minister of Fiji told delegates: “Nations cannot protect themselves individually without all the parties to the Paris Agreement doing what they have already agreed to do and more.”

The Paris Agreement represents a turning point in international cooperation to combat climate change. But delivering on Paris will require a drastic reduction of global carbon emissions through a rapid end of coal, oil and gas, as well as financial support to the affected countries and the rapid transfer of cutting-edge technologies to promote the worldwide transition to renewable energy.

The good news is that the costs of clean technology solutions are falling faster than expected, the scale of implementation is increasing, and over the past three years global emissions have levelled off – in many ways, the trend is our friend. But if global warming is to be limited to between 1.5C and 2C, global emissions must peak before 2020 and then begin a rapid decline towards zero. The Paris Agreement’s ‘ambition mechanism’ commits countries to come together every five years to take stock of progress towards longer-term goals and to ramp up commitments. The first of these begins in 2018, so this year’s COP23 will be vital in laying the groundwork.

I will be presenting our Zero Carbon Britain work at a range of official side-events around the negotiations. Demonstrating that we have the tools and technology to deliver on the Paris Agreement empowers people to increase their ambition, whilst giving hesitant decision makers no excuse for inaction. The Zero Carbon Britain project offers the hard data and confidence required for delivering a zero carbon future, from modelling energy supply and demand to exploring ways to overcome the social and political barriers to change.

I have been booked to present at three official COP23 side-events, including an event in the UK Government pavilion. In addition, CAT is joining the Global EcoVillage Network and a range of other solutions-focused practitioners to run an official COP23 conference event titled ‘Achieving the Paris Agreement: A Symposium on the Power of Community-led Action for Carbon Drawdown’ on Saturday 11th November, midway between the two weeks of negotiation.

It is good to remember that it will not only be governments that will be active in delivering on the Paris Agreement; tens of thousands of people from cities, states, companies and civil society organisations are already taking action by delivering real life projects on the ground. Many will be at COP23, but many will also be active in their own local area, running events celebrating local solutions and linking them to the global process.

You can explore the official UNFCCC process here.

The Climate Action Network offers a guide to the COP process.

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