human activity and the destruction of the planet

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Is a world institution for climate and energy needed?

Nick Butler, writing in the Financial Times, argues that a new global institution, rather like the WHO, is needed to ensure the continuous momentum of moving towards a carbon-free world.

pushing bike in floods

His sub-title is:

“Establishing a structure to direct the green transition is key to success”

and he starts his article as follows:

“The debate on climate change has focused over the past year on the setting of national and corporate targets around the objective of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. It is time to move the debate on and put in place the detailed steps necessary to get to that goal and the institutional structure to bring together the many elements of the challenge and the response.

The ad hoc, hand-to-mouth approach is clearly inadequate, as shown by the recent failures and disappointments of the UN’s annual COP process. An established, trusted international organisation is needed to combine both analysis of the challenge and the development of practical solutions.

So far 20 countries have now signed up to the pledge of delivering net zero by 2050, while more than 100 are discussing the target.”

He then goes on to outline how some major companies, such as Qantas, Nestle and Microsoft, have set themselves targets for becoming carbon negative. He believes that the direction of change is clear and makes the case for an international organisation to oversee the process, giving direction and advice, and co-ordinating research, rather like the World Health Organisation has been doing regarding the coronovirus outbreak.

He believes that the International Energy Agency (IEA) is the place to start.

In Chapter 8 of my book, I also argue for the establishment of a new international body, though I do not go so far as Nick Butler in setting up how this might happen.  In this chapter, I describe what the United Nations has been doing about climate change, through the UNFCCC, but believe that a more focused approach is needed.  Here is a quotation from p.221 of my book:

Global co-operation is the idea I have promoted throughout this book, because I believe it is the only way to produce the kind of rapid changes in human activity that are needed if we are to save the world from destruction. We are all in this together, so the divisiveness that is promoted by some groups and countries is just not appropriate. The world is facing a crisis and we need to join hands and work together to solve it.

So, what are the factors which are likely to limit global co-operation?

  • the massive size of the global population;
  • differences in national priorities, ethos and cultures;
  • differences across the world in how climate change is affecting individual countries;
  • lack of trust between nations;
  • ideological differences;
  • other crises seem more important to address, such as terrorism, migration etc;
  • risks to national economies;
  • fears that other nations will not do likewise;
  • fears of being left behind in trading competitiveness;
  • unwillingness to give up prestigious possessions, power and status.”

Nick Butler is coming at this idea from a different angle. Rather than seeking the co-operation of individual nations, he encourages some of the largest companies in the world, who have the largest emissions, to start acting responsibly.  Maybe, if they lead the way, then nations will follow.  But we are running out of time.


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Countries prepare for a 2018 meeting to check on the progress of the Paris Agreement

This information has been copied from the website of the UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

“Preparations for an important formal discussion next year between countries – known as the “facilitative dialogue” – on progress to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement were advanced at a meeting in Rabat, Morocco, on September 7-8, 2017.

The detailed results can be seen in this meeting note from the Presidencies.

Preliminary thinking announced at the meeting by country heads of climate change delegations and the incoming and outgoing UN Climate Change Conference Presidencies Morocco and Fiji would structure the dialogue around three key questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

The presidencies will continue to engage with countries on preparations before reporting on this to the next COP23 climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, on 7-16 November 2017.  During this conference, delegates, journalists and observers are invited to visit 18 beacon projects, which demonstrate the energy transition that Germany is currently going through. See:

In Paris, in 2015, countries agreed to hold the dialogue which, among other objectives, will be focused on solutions to meet the Paris Agreement goals and will look to encourage rising ambition of country’s national climate plans (NDCs).

The in-coming Fiji Presidency is keen for countries to engage in the spirit of Talanoa, a Fijian term that refers to a mutually beneficial building of relationships and sharing of ideas. This underpins the objective of the dialogue where countries aim to gather information and resolve problems with each other, in an atmosphere of transparency and inclusiveness.

The dialogue will consist of two phases:

  • The Preparatory phase will start at the UN sessional climate change meeting period in May, 2018, and will end at the beginning of COP24, at the end of the year. However, it is expected that Parties will start work earlier through national and regional discussions.
  • The Political phase will take place at COP24 and is intended to attract high-level political attention and focus on the objectives of the dialogue, in particular, how to achieve more in the next NDCs from countries.

To help transparency and inclusiveness in the process, the UN Climate Change secretariat will be creating an online platform before May to gather all inputs to the dialogue.