Nature and Biodiversity

Why 2018 must be a pivotal year for climate action

With extreme weather a daily reality, change is overdue. Image: Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Emily Farnworth
Director, Centre for Climate Engagement, University of Cambridge
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Future of the Environment

The reality of climate change is starting to bite. More extreme weather conditions are no longer a prediction – they are real and they are happening today. Action is needed to prevent the situation becoming much worse. During 2018, there are several opportunities to raise awareness about the solutions, demonstrate progress and ramp up ambition to do more – starting now.

The World Economic Forum will release its Global Risk Report ahead of the Annual Meeting in Davos at the end of January. The climate remains high on the agenda for the fifth year running, with recognition that we are reaching crisis point in many parts of the world. Government, business and civil society leaders will meet at the event to discuss the unintended but dire environmental consequences of continuing to rely on old economic growth models and assumptions about wealth creation that are hindering investment in low-carbon and climate-smart solutions. More holistic thinking will be encouraged to reduce emissions, build resilience and plan for a structured transition to a low-carbon economy.

Heads of major international companies and members of the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders will meet to discuss the changes they have been instigating in their businesses and across their value chains, and to agree the action that is needed to encourage other businesses to do the same. This critical group of leaders is helping to drive progress in the real economy, by demonstrating the positive benefits of clean growth to government leaders around the world. The Annual Meeting will also highlight the role of other critical actors, including cities, states, civil society, technology pioneers and social entrepreneurs, to show that, despite the enormous challenge that climate change poses, it is possible to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions with effective and accelerated action, and push towards transformational – not incremental – shifts to low-carbon solutions.

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This message will be carried forward throughout the year to reinforce the urgency of the problem, and to gain momentum for changes in policy, and investment and business strategies. The spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in Washington, DC, in April will provide an important platform for the investment community to discuss climate finance – in particular, finding solutions to unlock the financing needed to build climate resilience and low-carbon infrastructure in parts of the world that need it most.

In June, Canada – one of the national governments leading the way on climate action – is hosting the G7 meeting. Climate change and clean energy are core themes of the meeting, and will enable the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas to reflect on the policy measures, incentives and increased ambition needed to drive clean growth. It will also be critical for these leaders to show they can work together to solve the climate challenge globally. In the US, there is concern that leadership on climate action is lacking at the federal level. However, this is compensated for at the state and city government level, where some of the most innovative policy measures and forward-thinking transition plans are being implemented. California’s Governor Brown is hosting a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September to demonstrate this leadership. The event will showcase climate action by states, cities and businesses around the world, and is expected to provide a “tipping point” moment in mainstreaming climate action.

The climate conversation will be kept alive from San Francisco to New York, where 10 days later, against a backdrop of the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Climate Week NYC will provide another opportunity to highlight progress being made by key players. It will also link up these efforts to the broader sustainable development agenda, building the recognition of the interrelated nature of climate change to a whole range of environmental and social issues.

After that, the focus of climate action activity will shift from North America to south-east Asia in October, where Indonesia will host the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank. This is a significant location for the climate conversation: the region urgently needs to transition from coal to low-carbon energy, and to stop the unsustainable deforestation taking place – two actions critical to reducing net emissions.

UPDATE Projected emissions as of Nov. 1, 2017 Charts on the 2015 Paris Agreement that went into action on Nov. 4, 2016: Global temperature deviations, projected green house emissions and a list of the countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement embed code and instructions:
Image: Reuters

Discussion of forests in Indonesia will highlight the important role of natural carbon sinks. However, all uses of land and oceans are relevant to the debate. Although not traditionally a key date in the climate action calendar, it is worth flagging up the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2018. From a climate mitigation perspective, the effectivemanagement and protection of a range of natural systems is as critical as the switch to low-carbon sources of energy. Building bridges between the climate action and biodiversity communities could open up critical benefits for a wide variety of stakeholders.

At the end of a very busy year, the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) will take place in Katowice, Poland. Fiji and Poland, as COP presidency champions, will have been leading discussions with non-state actors throughout 2018, and will provide a reflection on the progress made. This should give confidence to governments that the sentiments behind the Paris Agreement are gaining momentum across all areas of the global economy, making it easier for them to raise ambitions by 2020.

There is no doubt that 2018 will be a busy year for climate action. It will be interesting to look back this time next year, to review which states, cities and business have truly stepped up their climate action and delivered the change that is needed. So make a date with climate action in 2018, and play your part in making it a year of unprecedented progress.

Selected climate action dates for 2018

• 23-26 January: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos, Switzerland

• 8-9 June: G7 Leaders’ Summit, Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada

• 12-14 September: Global Climate Action Summit, San Francisco, US

• 24-30 September: Climate Week NYC, New York, USA

• 10-22 November: 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP14), Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

• 3-14 December: 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24), UNFCCC, Katowice, Poland.

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