Present global ambition to fight climate change is thoroughly insufficient and much remains to be done. However, the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw (COP 19) was a meeting that broke new ground, and we should not lose sight of what this meeting helped demonstrate to negotiators and the world. I am pleased that the conference achieved what it set out to do. Governments remain on track towards a new, universal climate agreement in 2015, communicating their respective contributions well in advance of the meeting in Paris that year. The required monitoring and reporting arrangements are ready for roll out in 2014. The Green Climate Fund will be ready for capitalization in the second half of 2014. And the rule book for preserving the world’s forests was agreed, as well as a way to address loss and damage caused by climate change impacts.
In addition to progress on key issues under negotiation, this COP was a true showcase of climate action being pursued around the world. Never before at a UN Climate Change Conference have so many examples of possible action to combat climate change been brought forward. Never before at a UN climate change conference has it been so apparent that a groundswell for real climate action is building. This is very encouraging for the UN climate negotiations and for everyone fighting climate change at all levels of government, business and society.
Warsaw’s vast National Stadium, the COP venue, was filled with great events showcasing action on the ground. Personally, that also meant literally covering a lot of ground inside the stadium, as I tried to attend the many events. By the end, my feet were sore from walking the considerable distances through the corridors of the huge building.
In parallel to the negotiations, the Caring for Climate Business Forum assembled business leaders from around world.At the forum, a group of NGOs and agencies published a key guide for responsible corporate engagement in climate policy that businesses can use to help set the agenda towards low carbon and high resilience. I met with business leaders to discuss what they can do more and was heartened by their sense of commitment. And I met with corporate leaders from the information and communication technology (ICT) sector who are playing a key role in tackling climate change.
Cities and regions were represented at the COP as never before. This is extremely important, given that more than half the global population lives in urban areas, which produce around 80% of energy-related emissions. Many mayors and governors are very vocal and have clear, practical ideas about what is required for a successful climate agreement in 2015, and how they can contribute to the growing momentum for action.
Possibly the most vocal “special interest” group at COP 19 was the group of activist women, highlighting the issue of gender equality and women’s power to fight climate change. Women quite literally rocked COP 19with moving testimonials of what they are doing and a vision of the safe world they see for themselves and their children.
Elizabeth Njoroge, Executive Director at The Art of Music Foundation at Gender Day celebrations during COP 19
Women play a key role in the UNFCCC secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative. In Warsaw, our initiative celebrated the 2013 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities to recognize climate actions that demonstrate positive results through innovative finance, women’s leadership and action by and for the urban poor.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and I were able to briefly give our sore feet a break by getting on bamboo bicycles, manufactured by women in Ghana, and celebrated by our “Women for Results” focus area of Momentum for Change. These bicycles, constructed from material that absorbs carbon dioxide, are a symbol of sustainable development, women’s empowerment and the desire to improve people’s lives.
In Warsaw, Momentum for Change launched a new initiative focusing on how the increased use of ICT can reduce energy use, cut greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to the effects of climate change. This is no small matter. According to a recent report, ICT can slash global greenhouse gas emissions by around 16% and cut 9 gigatonnes of carbon emissions – a powerful force in closing the emissions gap.
The key reason all these examples rock is because they are scalable and replicable. They show that a groundswell for climate action is happening and that much more can be done by working together. And they help change the climate narrative to a narrative focused on inspiration and opportunity – a healthy race to the top driven by innovation and new forms of cooperation.
Next year, I’m looking forward to a lot more showcasing activities and examples of a cooperative, growing desire to tackle climate change. For example, a significant chunk of the World Economic Forum in early 2014 will be dedicated to climate-related issues. In parallel to the core UNFCCC negotiations in June in Bonn, city and regional representatives will again come together to discuss climate solutions. And a next round of Momentum for Change activities will be celebrated at COP 20 in Lima.
Most importantly, I’m keenly looking forward to the UN Secretary General’s 2014 Climate Summit in New York in September – a venue for governments, businesses and civil society groups to put forward their contributions and plans to fight climate change, shortly before the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima at the end of the year, thereby providing crucial impetus towards the 2015 universal climate agreement.
We all need to make full use of these and many other promising opportunities that will arise in the course of 2014, as we did at COP 19 in Warsaw. Only then can we make sure that 2015 and all subsequent years rock in the way we want them to – low carbon, resilient and sustainable.
Christiana Figueres is executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Source: http://figueres-unfccc.net. Reproduced with permission.