COP 23 developments to watch

By Sara Murphy. GreenBiz, 2 November 2017.

View the original article here.

In the lead-up to the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the U.N. Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it would be hard to exaggerate how different this year feels compared to recent years’ meetings. There is no Paris Agreement to forge, as there had been two years ago. And then there’s the matter of the Trump administration’s announcement of its intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, even as it will attend COP 23.

Negotiators will continue to focus on developing the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement, including the reporting and review of countries’ climate efforts; a new five-year cycle to assess progress and update parties’ contributions; and the use of market-based approaches. Countries also will need to leave the meeting with clarity on the facilitative dialogue, a process to take stock of the collective climate efforts of governments that will take place next year.

It is unclear what role the U.S. government will play at this year’s negotiations, but some observers believe that its stance will carry limited weight as the private sector moves to fill the void.


Indeed, on Tuesday, the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Executive Director, Erik Solheim, said he believed the United States likely would achieve the Paris Agreement’s aims regardless of the Trump administration’s stance, noting that “all the big American companies” were moving to comply. States, cities and companies that make up more than half of the U.S. economy have declared support for the Paris Agreement. A highlight of COP 23 will be efforts to demonstrate the continued engagement and ambition of non-state actors.

To that end, a coalition of U.S. cities, states, businesses and universities have launched the We Are Still In campaign, which will feature across various aspects of the COP 23 program. We Are Still In, which says it represents more than 127 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy, will host a pavilion at COP 23 highlighting the various facets of U.S. climate action. It will be the first of its kind to be sponsored exclusively by non-federal U.S. actors.

In a parallel action on the global front, the Climate Chance Association made public Tuesday the final list of signatories of the Agadir Declaration (PDF), “Stepping up climate action and goals together,” a world road map of non-state actors working to strengthen the action. It is the most widely signed declaration of its sort by non-state actors.

Emissions data

On Thursday Thomson Reuters with CDP published the “Global 250 Greenhouse Gas Emitters” report (PDF). It finds that 250 corporations in oil, gas, mining, automotive, manufacturing and related industries such as cement are responsible for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. Ten percent of global emissions come from only 15 firms, led by PJSC Gazprom and Exxon Mobil. Overall emissions among these 250 giants remain largely flat, but should be falling to meet Paris Agreement goals. The authors find hope here:

Companies such as Total, Ingersoll Rand, Toyota, Iberdrola and Xcel Energy, among a small but increasing group of others, are executing on strategies to diversify and decarbonize their business models in heavily carbon-intensive sectors. Their plans, begun a decade or more ago, have proven business results and provide a pathway to a profitable low-carbon future that stretches to 2050 and beyond.

Emissions gap

It’s a good thing so many entities around the world are apparently stepping up to the plate, because the grim reality is we’re not doing such a hot job on meeting our existing goals. Indeed, a new report out from UNEP finds  a huge gap between the Paris climate change goals and reality. The most recent Emissions Gap report — an annual audit of progress toward the Paris goals — found that current emissions reduction pledges are about a third of what’s needed to keep average global warming within 2 degrees Celsius.

The report lays out ways to get back on track, particularly in agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transportation. Technology investments in these sectors — at an investment cost of less than $100 per ton of CO2 avoided, often much lower — could save up to 36 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents (GtCO2e) per year by 2030.

Much of the potential across the sectors comes from investment in solar and wind energy, efficient appliances, efficient passenger cars, afforestation and curbing deforestation. Focusing only on recommended actions in these areas — which have modest or net-negative costs — could cut up to 22 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2030. These savings alone would put the world well on track to hitting the 2-degrees Celsius target, and unlock the possibility of reaching the aspirational 1.5-degree target.

The report emphasizes, though, that we have to start now if we have any hope of avoiding catastrophic warming. Researchers calculate that for a reasonable chance of hitting the Paris goals, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 and the gap must be closed by 2030. The original country emissions reduction goals will be revised for the first time in 2020. If we miss that opportunity to get the numbers right, the report warns starkly, it “would make closing the 2030 emissions gap practically impossible.”

Climate Policy Tracker

So, we’ve established two things: We’ve got a lot of work to do if we want to spare our planet some horrible stuff, and the private sector seems to be stepping out where government is dragging its feet.

As serendipity would have it, businesses can keep track of climate policies affecting their operations and supply chains using a freely available online tool, the Climate Policy Tracker, launched Wednesday. Businesses can use the tracker to search for the most relevant policies to them, filtered by geography and sector, revealing critical information to factor into their strategic planning.

The tool currently includes business-relevant policies from the European Union, South Korea, India, Japan, China, the U.K., Brazil, the United States and South Africa. More countries, and eventually city and state policies, also will be included over time to eliminate the need for companies to check multiple sources.

Bovine emissions

Lest this has all been a bit too somber, we leave you with cow farts.

FAIRR, a $4 trillion investor network campaigning on factory farming, is urging world leaders to put “cows over cars” by prioritizing livestock emissions at COP 23. The livestock sector emits more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector, yet FAIRR research shows that not a single developed country has a concrete plan to tackle livestock emissions in its Paris goals.

The 10 largest agricultural emitters in the developed world create emissions equivalent to 1.6 billion barrels of oil, or 4.5 percent of global demand annually. FAIRR is hoping to change that.