The UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris 30 November-11 December is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reach a new international agreement to combat climate change and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy. World leaders attending the summit are aware of the urgency we face. However, to judge by their national contributions pledged so far, more ambition will be needed to keep global temperatures from rising above the agreed limit of 2ºC. The “carbon entanglement” of our economies is keeping us on a collision course with nature.
Three key points will help world leaders and representatives of business, labour and civil society to strike an effective new deal on climate change at the crucial UN summit on climate change in Paris and accelerate climate action in 2015 and beyond.
When the International Energy Agency (IEA) was formed in 1974, concern over climate change was in its infancy. While the greenhouse effect was known it was not widely recognised, and the debate about the long-term effect of CO2 emissions was confined more or less to academia.
Climate change is the pre-eminent challenge of our time. We need financing to mitigate and adapt to its impacts.
There is a growing awareness that mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions is not only about introducing new climate policies, but also making sure that existing measures and regulations do not run counter to climate goals. In other words, governments should not undermine with one hand what they are seeking to achieve with the other. There is no better example of this problem than fossil fuel subsidies.
World leaders attending the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris know they have a rare opportunity to forge a new international agreement to combat climate change and set forth a pathway towards a low-carbon world. More ambition will be needed by all sides if global temperatures are to be prevented from rising above 2°C, the agreed threshold for preventing catastrophic climate change. But even without that target, unleashing a low-carbon future makes sense for health, costs and sustainable development.
New innovative firms are needed to help step up the fight against climate change. That means new policies to encourage business dynamism, not least in the energy sector.
In bringing mobility to generations of women and men, motor cars opened the gates to the modern world–to freedom and independence. But this progress came at a cost: personal transport now generates 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Renault and Nissan have developed a range of zero-emission electric vehicles, which now represent the most effective way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and offer motorists an exciting new driving experience…
Policy makers should do much more to encourage pension funds and other institutional investors to put their ample assets into sustainable energy infrastructure. The wins would be significant. The question is how?
Policies that are not aligned with efforts to fight global warming risk hindering the transition to a low-carbon economy, and can worsen climate change. They should be addressed.
A structural shift to a low-carbon economy will entail gains in jobs, but also losses, and the first jobs to be lost are not those that you think. A just energy transition will be needed, but how?
The human economy is a physical system embedded in society, which itself is embedded in a finite global ecosystem. The primary goal of the economy should be to meet basic human and social needs, now and in the future, without degrading the global ecosystem services upon which all life depends. How can this be done?
"We want to step out of the vicious circle of an economy which is an increasing drain on resources, and enter another circle… Paris is fully committed to combating climate change and determined to move forward as quickly as possible." –Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris
An ecological transition has been necessary for many years. It has now become vital. Faced with the prospect of the total destruction of people and the environment, we must send out an equally uncompromising wake-up call on the ties that bind humans and nature.
Oil, gas and coal represent over 80% of energy use worldwide, and are a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and other unhealthy pollutants. These fossil fuels also drive the likes of transport, industrial output, lighting, heating and construction, and naturally their use is heavily concentrated in urban areas. Roughly half the world’s population live in urban areas, and as towns and cities are an important generator of emissions, they must also play a key role in the fight against climate change.
Faced with heavy pollution and congested roads, Paris is turning to electric vehicles to restore air quality. Its incentive policies for all forms of transport should inspire cities all over the world to follow suit.
In Paris, a major redevelopment in the illustrious Clichy-Batignolles district has set environmental goals of unprecedented ambition, paving the way for contemporary urban planning that offers better solutions to energy and climate concerns.
A residential site on the rue Saint Charles in the 15th arrondissement of Paris was the first retrofit under the Climate Plan led by the city’s property management agency, Régie Immobilière de la Ville de Paris (RIVP). The project proved complex but exemplary, not just in its implementation and execution, but also in terms of managing relationships.
Over the last century, resource extraction from non-renewable stocks has grown while extraction from renewable stocks has declined, reflecting the shift in the global economy base from agriculture to industry.
Near to the Paris ring road, shielded from the din of the motorway by an apartment block, nestled between two high-rises, lies an oasis of peace. It is a community garden created by Multi’Colors, and is just one of the many “urban sanctuaries” it has created in underprivileged neighbourhoods in and around the French capital.
Already a showcase when it was opened for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower continues to light the way forward today, with sustainability being a feature on the monument’s new first floor unveiled in 2014.
How will workers’ current skills match new requirements for labour in a green economy? So far, few countries have put in place real plans to address this question, yet there is risk of a significant mismatch between skills and jobs. Would you know who to call if your geothermal system crashes? Should construction workers learn new skills for retrofitting buildings?
Freshwater is essential for life, yet makes up only a tiny fraction of all water on earth. In many areas, especially arid and dry regions, underground aquifers are the only source. Even in less arid regions, groundwater provides an essential resource: in fact, some 2.6 billion people worldwide rely on groundwater resources. Farming is one major reason: over 60% of irrigated agriculture in the US uses groundwater, and in Spain more than 70% of irrigation comes from below ground reserves.
If the world is to make a dent on climate change, breaking the arm-lock of fossil fuels is inevitable. After all, limiting the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2°C by the end of the 21st century demands curbing greenhouse-gas emissions between 40% and 70% by 2050 compared with 2010 levels, which means replacing fossil fuels–coal, oil and gas–with low-carbon energy sources and developing technologies to capture and store CO2.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide have been trending upwards for decades. A small group of large countries is responsible for the lion’s share of these global emissions.
In tackling climate change, it makes sense for policymakers to know which sectors greenhouse-gas emissions are coming from. Our chart shows the main sources for European carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, including electricity supply, manufacturing, households and transportation. Household emissions are largely generated from fossil fuel energy used to heat dwellings, but some of the other industry sources are more complex.
Don't miss this video from the United Nations Development Program, where two scientists tell us just why they are running and cycling all the way from the poles to Paris.
A warming planet and a flat world economy have propelled the issue of investment in clean energy to the top of the policy agenda. The question has become all the more crucial in view of the landmark global summit on climate change to be held in Paris in December 2015.
In my first climate change lecture, nearly two years ago, my key message was that meeting the challenge of climate change required us to achieve zero net greenhouse emissions globally by the end of this century.
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