5 months ago

Climate Action 2012-2013


FOREWORD FOREWORD By Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Can the Rio+20 Summit of 2012 – convened two decades after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 – assist the international community to combat climate change, and in doing so provide much needed support to the UN climate convention at its Doha, Qatar conference? The answer would have to be yes. Rio 1992 spawned some of the landmark UN environmental treaties on biodiversity and desertification and of course on climate change. Rio+20 was different, and not a moment in history for more big treaty making. Instead it was far more about how a community of nations can actually implement what has already been agreed. As such it has provided perhaps fresh pathways towards realising a sustainable century, while also recalibrating wealth as fundamentally linked to a healthy, productive environment and fostering positive social improvements, including decent jobs. As a result of Rio+20, countries have now begun a process designed to lead to a suite of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to complement the poverty-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The SDGs underline that issues such as climate change, loss of the natural world, deforestation and pollution are everyone’s challenge and are unlikely to be resolved unless developed countries rapidly decouple growth from over-consumption of natural resources – fossil fuels included. The precise set of goals have yet to be decided but many may echo the challenge of climate and wider sustainability issues, sometimes in ways that seem unconnected at first glance. The European Commission, for example, is suggesting goals on food waste and food loss – one way of boosting food security and reducing hunger in a world where by some estimates more than 30 per cent of produce never makes it from farm to fork. But there is a climate contribution here too – every apple or sheaf of wheat lost or wasted represents a waste of fossil fuels used in, say, farm machinery, or electricity in storage facilities and supermarkets. Meanwhile, curbing these losses could also take some pressure off forests and soils and land – the deforestation and degradation of which are key sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Rio+20 also gave the go-ahead to an inclusive Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. Analysis 10

FOREWORD under UNEP’s Green Economy initiative indicates that investing about 1.25 per cent of global GDP each year in energy efficiency and renewable energies could cut global primary energy demand by 9 per cent in 2020, and by close to 40 per cent by 2050. Employment levels in the energy sector would be one-fifth higher than under a business as usual scenario as renewable energies take close to 30 per cent of the share of primary global energy demand by mid-century. Savings on capital and fuel costs in power generation would, under a Green Economy scenario, be on average US$760 billion a year between 2010 and 2050. This transition is under way – the latest figures from a UNEP–Bloomberg–New Energy Finance study shows that investment in new renewables stood at over US$265 billion in 2011, higher than investment in new fossil fuels. The decision by Heads of State in Rio to give the go-ahead for a 10 Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production also supports such transformations including in respect to energy and transport – again a 10 year programme and a potentially useful ally in combating climate change. As part of the Rio+20 outcome, governments in collaboration with the UN and others are exploring a new indicator of wealth beyond GDP, which is a crude measure of progress as it fails to take into account environmental and social impacts including climate change. “Every apple or sheaf of wheat lost or wasted represents a waste of fossil fuels.” Meanwhile several countries including Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa, in collaboration with UNEP and the Global Reporting Initiative, are taking forward corporate sustainability reporting. Around one-quarter of the companies tracked by finance houses report their environmental, social and governance footprints including greenhouse gas emissions – but 75 per cent do not. It is thus difficult for pension funds and other investors to know whether or not to invest in these companies and essentially reward those meeting high standards. The new initiative, supported by insurers and organisations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, aims to change the ground rules by making it an opt-out rather than an 11