- [GEEF 2018 Plenary Session] Climate Change & Sustainable Development
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Seven speakers addressed the pledge to leave no one behind, the heart of the 2030 Agenda, and how climate change adaptation and mitigation mechanisms can serve to deliver that pledge. In addition to exploring proactive and practical approach to climate change, the speakers shared some of the best practices in order to reconstruct the narrative on the issue, and change the framing from risks and uncertainties to opportunities for co-benefits. These co-benefits include improvements in human health, fewer conflicts over resources, reduced dependency on energy imports, and a greater social inclusion.
- Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University
- Robert Orr, Professor and Dean of University of Maryland School of Public Policy
- Shamshad Akhar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Executive Secretary of ESCAP
- Yoo Young-sook, Former Environment Minister of Korea
- Howard Bamsey, Executive Director of Green Climate Fund
- Oh Joon, Former President of the UN Economic and Social Council
- Frank Reinoud Rijsberman, Director-General of Global Green Growth Institute
To achieve the level of ambition that science and the planet require, we need strong leadership by individual countries as well as the involvement of every citizen on the planet. We must support developing countries. We must mobilize the coalitions of actors industry by industry and sector by sector. For instance, oil and gas companies must retool themselves as energy companies. Universities must push themselves out of their comfort zone and apply their research to public policy process.
We also need to adapt to climate change that is already happening by making significant investments in the SDGs. Climate investments and other SDG investments must be integrated. Finance must be motivated to move to the right places faster, and multi-stakeholders that stood behind the Paris Agreement must be motivated into further action.
The Paris Agreement was reached 6 years after the talks over climate change negotiation collapsed in Copenhagen. If we could do that in 6 years, the money is out there, and the will is there, we can achieve what is necessary for this planet and everyone on it.
- Shamshad Akhar, Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
CO2 emissions in Asia Pacific have grown from 28% of global emissions in 1970 to 58% in 2015. The region’s emissions intensity is the second highest in the world. Research suggests growth and sustainable development of Asia Pacific will significantly be impacted by climate change, and the cost of inaction is considerable. Asia Pacific’s GDP could decrease by over 3% by 2050 and by 10 percent by 2100. The cost of action, in contrast, is relatively modest. Transitioning to a low-carbon pathway under the 2 degrees scenario is estimated to cost the region between 1.4% to 1.8% of the GDP by 2050. Our dilemma is that one percent increase of per capital income induces 2.5 percent increase in carbon emissions. Therefore transitioning to low carbon pathway means decoupling economic growth and emissions.
To work on the regional climate action agenda, Asia Pacific leaders have set up an energy inter-governmental committee which looks at the issues of energy transition in the region, and focuses on promoting energy security and energy connectivity through regional cooperation and integration. In addition to energy transition, we are working on promoting energy efficiency by changing regulatory standards and offering fiscal incentives. For example, China and India, the largest emitters, have set mandatory energy intensity targets, covering 85% and 40% respectively of their industry consumption. Market mechanism, especially the carbon pricing mechanism, is also gaining momentum in Asia Pacific.
When it comes to financing, there are plenty of resources available but our challenge is to mobilize them. Work needs to be done at the national level to mobilize domestic resources and leverage private finance through credit enhancement, mitigation measures and risk mechanisms. We must also solicit financing from the private sector, slash fuel subsidies, strengthen financial intermediation and issue more green bonds.
Asia Pacific has the resources to drive the climate agenda and energy transition. The fulcrum of global governance and multilateralism is moving from the West to the East. There is an increased understanding among policymakers on climate change. The political commitment in the region is getting stronger. The biggest dilemmas we must overcome are the vested interests and culture.
-Yoo Young-sook, Former Environment Minister of Republic of Korea
2015 is one of the greatest years in the history of humankind. The SDGs and the Paris Agreement were adopted and formed a fundamental basis for peace and prosperity of Earth. Well before that, in 2008, Korea announced a low-carbon green growth policy to effectively address climate change, while achieving sound economic growth and environmental sustainability.
The most important element for the successful and effective implementation of both the Paris Agreement and the SDGs as well as the low-carbon green growth policy is to build and maintain strong political will and leadership at the highest level. When Korea’s low-carbon green growth policy took off, a presidential committee was established and played a central role in terms of policy coordination and implementation, involving multiple government agencies, including the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To build a framework to implement the low-carbon green growth policy, Korea created ‘the green triangle’ involving the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) for policy ideas, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for funds and the Green Technology Center (GTC) for science and technology research. This unique example of Korea’s experience may well be relevant to other countries regarding how to develop efficient SDGs implementation scheme.
To counteract climate change, the Korean government also promotes the use of renewable energy, by setting a target in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce 37% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and increase portion of the use of renewable energy from 7% in 2016 to 20% in 2030. To implement this ambitious plan, many big scale projects have been actively led by the public and private sectors, and the Korean government is promoting participation of the citizens by providing incentives for community-based projects. I believe these various civil society- and community-based projects will contribute to not only Climate Action but other SDGs such as Affordadable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, as well as Partnerships for the Goals.
- Howard Bamsey, Executive Director of Green Climate Fund (GCF)
After the talks failed at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, a number of gems were salvaged from the wreckage. One of them was a commitment by the developed world to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 for the climate action in the developing world. As part of that commitment, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was born. We have a budget of $10 billion a year to combat climate change.
Our challenge is to find ways to use the small resources we have to change the world’s investment patterns so the trillions of dollars can be used to produce climate action. To do that, governments play a critical role. They must actively use the profit motive and strategically set the investment framework to stimulate climate-friendly technology development. So far, we have achieved a great success around the world. In the last few years, the cost of deployed solar technology has crashed by 80% and we are expected to reduce it by 50% in the next two years. If we get the investment framework right, we can cause the same sort of cost reductions in other technologies. GCF’s role is to encourage governments to continue to change the incentives for investments, while trying to reduce the risks for those who need profit to make investments.
Still, there are many gaps and challenges particularly with adaptation to the impacts of climate change we’ve experienced already and that are inevitable whatever mitigation actions we take tomorrow. In order to continue the climate action in the longer term, we have to produce new financial instruments, measure our risk more precisely, and continue to innovate.
- Oh Joon, Former President of UN Economic and Social Council
In the world we live in, climate action is a political issue, for instance, like free trade. When you look at the issue of free trade, there are segments in our society that are gaining more from free trade and other segments that lose more. While the winners usually stay quiet, the losers start to make noise very quickly and politicians listen. That is when it becomes a political issue. In reality, too many times, we make decisions that are not very rational, but based more on short-term consideration rather than long-term and collective benefits.
The same thing can happen to climate action. When you go for carbon emissions reduction, there are industries that are getting more negative impact than others. They start to complain, which will sound loudly to politicians. But this analogy entails a great deal of danger. In the case of free trade, we might be able to learn lessons and have a chance to redeem ourselves by learning from mistakes. But in the case of climate change, we might not have a second chance. If we apply the same rules of game or political dynamics, then we are in big trouble, and we already see a lot of it.
At the international level, one notable political move on climate action is the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. While the decision is unlikely to cause the U.S. to divert greatly from its mitigation or adaptation duties, we will no longer be able to see climate leadership as we have seen during the Obama administration. Who will be the next leader in climate change is a critical question for the world.
- Frank Reinoud Rijsberman, Director-General of Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)
Throughout Asia, the powerhouse of economic growth for the last couple of decades, people live with incredible negative consequences of development. In some countries, like Korea, people are aware of the environmental problems and governments are trying to address them. But too many others deny or turn a blind eye to their environmental issues because their economies need to grow. We need some conscious change in our economic approach in order to achieve sustainable development and green growth.
To push for green growth we played the moral card for a long time, saying renewable energy is expensive but better for the environment. Thanks to the advancement of new technology, that trend is changing. Solar energy is now cheaper than coal. Still, there is an economic price to pay such as stranded assets and opposition from the incumbents. Therefore it is not that easy to get agreement on the ground on what the acceptable solutions for the society are even though the overall economics is pointing in the right direction. On the other hand, there are times when the government might have the right idea but not the right policy. The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) helps the governments see the alternatives when it comes to renewable energy, put in policies and prepare viable projects.
If we apply more green growth ideas to development and finance it properly, we will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but revolutionize our cities. For example, when cars with the internal combustion engine will no longer be profitable, more people will turn to electric cars. Moreover, implementing autonomous electric vehicles as a transport service, like Uber, will solve traffic jam and parking problems. While climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are driving the idea of renewable energy and reorganizing our cities, the implications are great for many other Sustainable Development Goals for transforming our life in a way that is much more sustainable and inclusive.
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