GENEVA, Switzerland, February 10, 2015 (ENS) – Business is taking a new, more prominent role in urging government negotiators to take bold climate action by quickly halting greenhouse gas emissions as countries begin their next round of UN climate change talks.

officials

Co-Chair for the Geneva climate talks Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria, left, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and Co-Chair Daniel Reifsnyder of the USA (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

The talks opened days after the World Meteorological Organization confirmed that 14 of the 15 hottest years recorded have all been in the 21st century. The UN agency expects global warming to continue “given that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the increasing heat content of the oceans are committing us to a warmer future.”

The current round of talks opened Sunday in Geneva where negotiators will advance the draft text of a new, universal climate change agreement set for adoption in Paris at the end of this year.

Government delegates, under the leadership of two new co-chairs, Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria and Dan Reifsnyder of the United States, will sharpen the draft negotiating text that countries agreed at the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, in Lima last December.

The B Team, CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies such as Virgin founder Richard Branson and Unilever chief Paul Polman, are calling on world leaders to commit to a global goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the climate talks in Paris this December.

They urged business leaders to match this by committing to long-term targets.

In a February 5 letter to the UN’s top climate official, Christiana Figueres, the B Team leaders, who also include Tata International’s Ratan Tata and telecom billionaire Mo Ibrahim, say that by committing to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, governments will demonstrate they are setting the world on a clear, low-carbon trajectory.

Polman

B Team leader Unilever CEO Paul Polman (Photo courtesy The B Team)

“Our ambition – a global goal of net-zero greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 – builds on recent talks at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, and is grounded on an assessment of the latest scientific research, business risks and the economic costs of failing to keep within the 2°C threshold,” the B Team letter states.

They say businesses will respond by embedding climate action into their strategies, which will drive investment in clean energy, scale-up low-carbon services and technologies, create jobs and support economic growth.

The B Team letter urges governments “to end all fossil fuel subsidies, and to shift this capital to help scale affordable renewable energy solutions to enable wider economic transformation.”

Finally, the letter asks both businesses and governments “to ensure the benefits of responses to climate change flow to vulnerable and impoverished communities that suffer disproportionately from climate change and are least equipped to cope with its impacts.”

Branson and former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz in 2013 formed the global nonprofit to help companies develop a new way of doing business — a Plan B — that puts “people and planet alongside profit.”

Another group, We Mean Business, a coalition of organizations working with thousands of companies and investors, has set out its key “business asks” to the UN climate change negotiations in Geneva.

Characterizing bold climate action as a “historic economic opportunity,” the group said that business expects the negotiations to help them capture that benefit by, “Investing political capital in increasing climate ambition during this decade, finalizing the elements of a new climate agreement that will be agreed in Paris, pushing for national contributions to climate action to be at the highest end of the ambition spectrum, and committing to net-zero-emissions well before the end of this century.”

This is “the only way to provide the consistent and predictable policy environment business needs to unleash a wave of innovation,” We Means Business said in a statement.

These business leaders are calling on governments to set targets that, if met, would address the climate challenge. This goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 will unleash a wave of ambition and action, shift capital and create massive job growth,” said Figueres, who is coordinating the UN climate talks.

Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said, “Innovative businesses are increasingly aware that bold climate action represents superior returns. Both We Mean Business and New Climate Economy reports prove the point. Now it’s time for more businesses to sign-up to science-based targets, reduce their climate risk exposure and capture this historic opportunity for people and our planet.”

co-chairs

Geneva climate conference Co-Chairs Daniel Reifsnyder, US, left, and Ahmed Djoghlaf, Algeria (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

The nonprofit World Resources Institute says the 2015 negotiations open on a hopeful note. “We come into the year with momentum from 2014, which included the UN Climate Summit in New York, the US-China climate action agreement and more than $10 billion in pledges for the Green Climate Fund,” the organization said.

Negotiators will discuss how to create an effective legal architecture for the agreement. The Paris Package will include a number of legal components – the Agreement itself, as well as a series of decisions that spell out how to implement that Agreement.

“Put together effectively, the Paris package could not only decide what to do, but decide an implementation plan of how to do it,” says the World Resources Institute.

A key area of discussion will be whether or not to establish “cycles of action,” regular intervals at which countries will ramp up their domestic action plans, on a predictable schedule, such as every five years.

Countries decided in 2009 to keep global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F), but there is an opportunity to make that more specific, such as a goal to phase-out greenhouse gas emissions or fossil fuel use in the second half of the century.

Countries are also considering proposals for a long-term goal on adaptation, which could help build resilience in communities around the world.

Devastating weather patterns and increasing temperatures will last into the foreseeable future as global warming is expected to continue, the United
Nations World Meteorological Organization, WMO, confirmed last week as it explained that 2014’s ranking as the “hottest year on record” is part of a
larger climate trend.

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Storm batters New Brighton, UK, Jan. 10, 2015 (Photo by Ruth_W)

“The overall warming trend is more important than the ranking of an individual year,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Analysis of the datasets indicates that 2014 was nominally the warmest on record, although there is very little difference between the three hottest years.”

High sea temperatures have contributed to exceptionally heavy rainfall and floods in many countries and extreme drought in others, the UN agency says.

Twelve major Atlantic storms battered the United Kingdom in early months of 2014, while floods devastated much of the Balkans throughout May. The monthly precipitation over the Pacific side of western Japan for August 2014, meanwhile, was 301 per cent above normal – the highest since area-averaged statistics began in 1946.

At the same time, crippling droughts struck the continental United States while Northeast China and parts of the Yellow River basin did not reach half of the summer average, causing severe drought.

Jarraud says the diverse climate impact which afflicted nations around the planet throughout 2014 were, in fact, consistent with the expectation of a
changing climate.

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