12 billion tonnes in the gigatonne gap
The UN’s credibility is again at risk as governments meet in Warsaw next week for the 19th UN convention on climate change. The green line in the UN’s graph, below, is the 2 degrees carbon reductions pathway. As for the yellow, orange, red and purple paths, as Lord Stern remarked yesterday “the potential implications could fall outside of all past human experiences.”
This week’s UN report says that the “carbon gap” – the difference between what the world has pledged to do about climate change and what it is doing – is widening. A gigatonne is a billion tonnes. By 2020 the gigatonne gap could be anywhere between 8 and 12 billion tonnes of excess carbon emissions. That’s the route to crossing into the danger zone of a more than 2 degrees rise in global temperatures. So what will the UK and EU bring to the Warsaw conference? And what are the trade union demands this time round?
The UK goes into the talks as a leading player in the EU delegation, supporting ambitious carbon reduction targets abroad, while seeming willing to cut so-called green taxes” at home as a response to the upsurge in domestic energy bills. Nevertheless, the Energy Secretary has called on the EU to adopt a unilateral EU target for 2030 of a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions on 1990 levels. In the context of an ambitious global climate agreement for the period beyond 2020, the EU’s target should increase to up to a 50%. While the UK opposes any extension of the EU’s renewable energy targets beyond 2020, the core issue here is the EU’s overall contribution to the negotiations.
While this conference will not produce a new agreement, the UK acknowledges that a lot of work has to be done in Warsaw in persuading governments of the need to close the carbon mitigation gap. This means that all governments must increase their ambition in 2014 – either with new pledges or increased ambitions – as fair contributions towards a below 2 degree goal. Similarly, more work lies ahead on finance for developing nations and climate change adaptation.
Workers & Climate Change, the ITUC submission to Warsaw, links energy and industrial policy in a call for urgent action, based on the latest climate science:
- A global regime which ensures a high likelihood that it will keep the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees, or 1.5° if possible, above preindustrial levels.
- Just Transition: The new UN agreement must honour the commitment made by Parties in COP17 on the importance of ensuring a “Just Transition which will create decent work and good quality jobs in the transition towards a low emission and climate-resilient society.” A strong message to the working people supporting labour and human rights in the transition is key to show government’s commitment to fight climate change in a socially just manner.
- Developed countries to urgently increase the ambition of their economy-wide targets, and go well beyond the 25-40% reduction compared to 1990 levels which was necessary by 2020. We also call on them to take the lead in taking commitments for the year 2050, in such a way of aligning them to Fourth IPCC report recommendations and the soon to be released IPCC Report.
- Even though the entry into force of the future agreement will only take place in 2020, parties must urgently increase the ambition of their mitigation policies and plans in all possible sectors and at all relevant levels: local, national, regional, international and global.
In October, a group of EU environment Ministers issued a joint statement, Going for Green Growth, with a series of strong messages:
- Policy uncertainty is deterring urgently needed energy investments
- Indecision today risks locking in higher costs tomorrow
- Europe’s energy security is at riskand fossil fuel import bills are rising
- Unlock energy investments to build a modern and competitive low carbon energy infrastructure.
The Ministers’ report was designed to help persuade recalcitrant Member States, among them Poland who will chair the UN conference, to accept that opportunities outweigh the risks of urgent action