Skip to content

We Must Swallow the Alarm Clock!

July 25, 2016
Christiana Figueres, former United Nations Climate Change Chief (Photo: UNclimatechange, CC licence)

Christiana Figueres, former United Nations Climate Change Chief (Photo: UNclimatechange, CC licence)

Post 9 in a series on the 2016 Hay Festival

“We must swallow the alarm clock,” Christiana Figueres told a vast audience at the Hay Festival.

Figueres was the UN Climate Change Chief responsible for guiding the Paris Climate Convention to agreement in December 2015. In conversation with economist Nicholas Stern at Hay, she described how this accord was achieved. One factor was the falling price of renewables. Paris marked the decoupling of greenhouse gas emission from GDP, a big leap for developing countries.

Other factors were political, expressed in three numbers:

  • The number two: two large nations that took action at home and together – China and America;
  • The number 195: the nations that agreed to the accord;
  • The countless number of parties to the convention – not just central governments but also states, provinces, industry sectors and corporations.
Nicholas Stern prepared the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change (The Royal Society, CC licence)

Nicholas Stern prepared the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change (The Royal Society, CC licence)

Both Figeures and Stern were optimistic that the Paris Agreement was a turning point, that there would now be progress towards the goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C.”

“Impossible is not a fact, but an attitude,” said Figueres. Her positivity was inspiring, but I was thinking of countries like my own, Australia, who signed on to the agreement with no intention of abiding by it. Then someone asked a question about such delinquent nations. We are becoming less dependent on central governments, said Figueres. Private sectors and state/provincial governments are where the main action is. Corporations understand that it is in their interest. “Who wants to do business on a dead planet?”

The insurance industry has already determined that a world that goes above two degrees is uninsurable.

And people want to work for the companies of the future. Figueres sees new technology as the answer to poverty because it will create many jobs. Its high installation requirements make it labour-intensive.

Patricia Espinosa, the new Executive Secretary of UNFCCC (Embamexsep, cc licence)

Patricia Espinosa, the new Executive Secretary of UNFCCC (Embamexsep, cc licence)

A further reason for optimism, she says, is that climate change deniers are becoming extinct because of incontrovertible evidence. (Has she met any Australian politicians?)

Figueres has now completed her two terms as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and has been replaced by another powerful woman. Patricia Espinosa is a former Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to Germany, with 30 years of experience in international relations. Espinosa’s special interests are in climate change, gender equality and human rights. She will be in charge of implementing the accord that Figueres brought to fruition.

 

Heads of Delegations at Paris Climate Change Conference (Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana, cc licence)

Heads of Delegations at Paris Climate Change Conference (Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana, cc licence)

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: