Pathway to Paris #12: Two key new entries to the climate discourse

A biweekly climate briefing for municipalities


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In this Issue #12

  • Papal Encyclical

  • China announces climate targets in the lead up to Paris

  • A remarkable court ruling in Holland

  • An unusual statement from the global health community

  • Cities gather in Paris in December

  • Cities as global changemakers

  • Featured network: Divest Invest

Papal Encyclical

The most notable event of 2015 so far with respect to climate action, the Papal Encyclical commanded responses from current and potential political figures, the UN, economists and everyone in between. At seventy-five pages long, the Encyclical states that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing humanity, and that it is a moral issue requiring respectful dialogue with all parts of society. There are many notable quotes, but of these one that caught our attention:

“In some places, cooperatives are being developed to exploit renewable sources of energy which ensure local self-sufficiency and even the sale of surplus energy. This simple example shows that, while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference.”

China announces climate targets in the lead up to Paris

In a submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, China announced that it will cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic production by 60-65% from 2005 levels. To achieve this goal, China will double its installed wind capacity to 200 GW and quadruple the solar power installed to 100 GW. Following an earlier agreement between the US and China, US and Brazil jointly pledged to increase renewable electricity production to 20% of the total by 2030, tripling production in the US and doubling production in Brazil.

A remarkable court ruling in Holland

A Dutch environmental organisation, the Urgenda Foundation, brought forward a case on behalf of 886 Dutch citizens requesting more significant action on climate change. As a result, the court ordered the Dutch government to increase its efforts to achieve a 25% reduction in emissions over 1990 levels by 2020. West Coast Environmental Law analysed the implications of this decision for similar Canadian law suits, indicating that there is not direct transferability but that the case does provide inspiration.

An unusual statement from the global health community

The Lancet

Co-benefits of efforts to reduce GHG emissions from the Lancet.

“The effects of climate change are being felt today, and future projections represent an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health.” This is the leading statement from The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, a collaboration of dozens of researchers from around the world, including the World Health Organisation. The Lancet report cites research estimating that cutting carbon emissions would cut premature deaths from air pollution by 500,000 a year in 2030, 1.3m in 2050 and 2.2m in 2100. Other work in the US shows the boosts to human health can be worth 10 times the costs of cutting emissions. The report is jam packed with powerful references and charts and is set to be a key document in the climate discourse.

Cities gather in Paris in December

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael R. Bloomberg, announced that they will co-chair the Climate Summit for Local Leaders, on December 4, 2015 during the Climate Summit in Paris.

Cities as global changemakers

The C40 network of megacities partnered with global consultancy ARUP on an international study
to identify the legal and governance powers that cities have to advance climate action. A major conclusion is that cities are unique in the range of services- and therefore- influence they can exert in operating services, funding investments, enacting policies, promote goals and build partnerships. However, the report notes that some cities are limited in comparison with the leaders and increased powers would facilitate much greater action, for example on the energy performance of buildings.

Featured network: Divest Invest

With a membership of more than one hundred philanthropic trusts, foundations and family offices with over $5 billion in assets under management (AUM), this group have committed to divest themselves of fossil fuels and invest in the low carbon economy. Prominent European trusts, foundations and family offices made their commitment public last week, joining existing signatories such as Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and the Wallace Global Fund. As the fossil fuel divestment movement explodes across universities, pension funds, hospital and cities, the philanthropic sector has stepped up in an unprecedented way and with global collaboration, representing the largest number of institutions committed to date. The network intends to increase the number of signatories in the the lead up to COP21, Paris in December.

A briefing prepared by SSG’s Office of the Research