The Road to Katowice: Increasing Global Ambition, Political Will on Climate Change Action

For Immediate Release

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Elliott Negin
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202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

The Road to Katowice: Increasing Global Ambition, Political Will on Climate Change Action

Statements by Alden Meyer, Rachel Cleetus, Peter Frumhoff at UCS

BONN, GERMANY - The United Nations’ annual climate talks, this year known as COP23, aimed at making progress on developing the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement—a worldwide commitment to reduce global warming emissions and limit the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius—is reaching its conclusion in Bonn. 

Below is a statement by Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and one of the foremost experts on the UN climate change negotiations.

“At this year’s climate talks, the Fijian presidency helped us build the vessels needed to carry us towards a clean energy future. Now it’s up to ministers and heads of state to fill these vessels with the political will to increase ambition on climate action. Countries agreed to launch the Talanoa Dialogue, aimed at identifying ways to close the substantial gap between commitments countries have put forward to reduce their emissions and the much higher level of ambition needed to meet the temperature limitation goals established in the Paris Agreement. This intensive process will culminate at next year’s climate summit in Katowice, Poland, and must lay the groundwork for countries to strengthen their Paris commitments by 2020.  

“Progress was made on developing the Paris Agreement implementation rules, but the pace of negotiations must pick up significantly if the rulebook is to be finalized in Poland next December as planned. But little progress was made on the critical issue of ramping up financial and capacity-building support to help developing countries deploy clean energy and other climate solutions, and to adapt to the mounting impacts of climate change; this must be a much higher priority going forward.

“Heads of state and ministers will have numerous opportunities over the next year to demonstrate climate leadership, starting with the One Planet Summit in Paris next month hosted by President Macron of France. Other key moments include the ministerial consultations organized by the Fijian presidency; two Ministerial on Climate Action (MOCA) meetings hosted next spring and fall by Canada, China, and the European Union; and the G7 and G20 summits to be held in Canada and Argentina, respectively.

“In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement no other nation has announced they will follow in his footsteps, and even war-torn Syria announced last week they will join the Paris Agreement. This leaves President Trump in not-so-splendid isolation on one of the most critical global issues.

“The White House event earlier this week promoting fossil fuels as a climate change solution was incredibly tone-deaf, and contrasted sharply with the conciliatory statement made yesterday by the United States undersecretary of state. Meanwhile, a broad coalition of U.S. cities, states, businesses, and NGOs here in Bonn projected a forceful message to the world that they intend to ensure the United States meets its emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement, despite President Trump’s irresponsible and ignorant stance on climate change. The U.S. is already nearly halfway to meeting its pledge to cut global warming emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, but much more must be done to reach that goal. 

Below is a statement by Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at UCS.

“With the costs of wind and solar power dropping dramatically, market trends are driving a global ramp-up of renewable energy. Nevertheless, this year global carbon dioxide emissions rose 2 percent after remaining flat for the last three years, making it clear that nations need to act with greater urgency in sharply reducing global warming emissions. Countries will need to greatly increase the ambition of their current emissions reduction commitments by 2020 to give the world a chance of meeting the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, with the highly anticipated scientific report on the subject by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expected to feed into this process when issued next October.

“Meanwhile, along with other parts of the world, this year the U.S. experienced some of the worst climate and extreme weather-related events to date. Hotter, drier conditions—often a fingerprint of climate change—contributed to a record-breaking wildfire season in the West. Similarly, many parts of the U.S. including Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, were ravaged by intense hurricanes fed by warmer waters.

“Unfortunately, many low-income and disadvantaged frontline communities around the world, who have contributed the least to global warming emissions, are now facing the greatest climate risks while lacking the resources needed to effectively protect themselves. That’s why the Paris Agreement calls for wealthier nations, who bear a greater responsibility for emissions, to commit to aiding developing countries cope with climate change threats and transition to a clean energy economy. However, a robust financial support package for developing countries remains elusive and is slated to be the main point of contention leading up to the December 2018 climate talks in Poland.”

Below is a statement by Peter Frumhoff, chief climate scientist and director of science and policy at UCS.

“We are now seeing dramatically increased interest in examining the extent fossil fuel producers should be held accountable for destruction inflicted by their products, fueled in part by the latest attribution research conducted by UCS and other scientists. Lawsuits—including in the U.S., Germany and Norway—are being increasingly utilized to help drive action on climate change and recoup the cost of damages. Given the current gridlock on providing financing to aid frontline communities endangered or irreparably harmed by climate change impacts, it begs the question of who should be paying the associated costs.”

Click here to view a recent paper by UCS examining the science of attributing climate change impacts to major fossil fuel producers. The results of their first-of-its-kind study recently published in Climatic Change, which finds that top fossil fuel producers such as ExxonMobil and Chevron are responsible for as much as half of the global surface temperature increase and roughly 30 percent of global sea level rise. The study examined attribution during two time periods—before and after 1980, when investor-owned fossil fuel companies were aware of the threat posed by their products.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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