A Sting Exclusive: Paris Climate Change Summit, a defining moment for humanity, by Ulf Björnholm Head of UNEP Brussels

COP21 Logo Paris UN

Written by Mr Ulf Björnholm, Head of the UNEP Brussels Liaison Office

With world leaders and governments struggling to find solutions to immediate problems such as extreme poverty, terrorism, economic crisis, unemployment and migration, we now also need to collectively rise to the challenge to simultaneously counter a more long term, but equally serious, threat to human wellbeing and survival: climate change. In fact, avoiding climate change is not only a goal in itself, but will also address many of our short-term challenges.

The Climate Summit in Paris in December must be a success, and by this I mean that it must provide the overall direction, inspiration and resolve to fundamentally change society’s course. This is no small objective and it will not be easy to achieve – but if we fail in Paris we risk passing a point of no return, resulting in escalating climate change with very serious and unpredictable consequences.

Let us take a step back and reflect on where we stand, 23 years after the adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio, 1992.

On one hand, there is no room for complacency. The Kyoto Protocol was an important step forward but its commitments only cover a limited number of countries and a fraction of total world emissions. The Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009 agreed on the overall objective to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius, but fell short of creating the compact and consensus needed for real change. And while there are some positive signs of a major shift from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy, and from overconsumption to resource efficiency, we are still very far from reaching a low carbon society.

On the other hand, we have to accept that profound societal change is not achieved overnight. In order to come to grips with climate change, we must challenge the way we think, the way we make our income, the way we live our daily lives. And we will have to step out of our comfort zones. This is a tall order.

What makes it even more challenging is that we already know that even a successful outcome in Paris will not provide all the answers. The recent UNEP Emission Gap Report shows that even if we implement all the countries’ commitments tabled for the Conference, we are still unlikely to reach the 2 degree target.

The good news, however, is that we in are better placed than ever to reach a good outcome in Paris.

First of all, nobody who wants to be taken seriously will challenge the scientific consensus (as confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report) that climate change is happening, that it is mainly caused by human activities, and that we have to act urgently to avoid its worst consequences. Never before have we seen such a high level of awareness, interest and engagement on this issue.

Secondly, more than 160 countries to date have submitted national climate action commitments, covering more than 90% of global emissions. We are getting closer to a truly global agreement, where all countries contribute to the solution, while taking into account different starting points and capacities.

Thirdly, key stakeholders such as CEOs, city mayors and civil society organisations are engaging more than ever before. Collectively, they contribute to making the transformation to a low carbon society a possibility, through renewable energy investments, sustainable consumption and production initiatives, and awareness-raising. The role of the private sector and the financial system is particularly important. After all, action on the ground is what actually makes a difference in reality.

The Climate Summit in Paris will need to bring all of this together, and set out a clear direction for the future. I believe that four key issues will determine whether the Paris Conference is considered a successful milestone in addressing climate change:

  1. We need an unambiguous formal outcome in the form of a strong and ambitious political consensus document, to which all countries will sign up to and that addresses both mitigation and adaptation, backed by adequate financial resources.
  2. Countries must actually implement their climate commitments – the so-called INDCs; climate change will not be averted by empty promises. UNEP and other UN organisations will provide advice and support to countries’ efforts.
  3. A process needs to be put in place to ramp up ambition levels into the future, with a goal of eventually reaching the 2-degree target; even a highly successful Paris accord will have gaps which need to be addressed later on.
  4. All non-state actors should showcase, and receive recognition of, climate action undertaken and in the pipeline, to inject new hope and creativity for everyone.

If these requirements are met, I believe the world will get the message, and that we will maximise the possibility of getting to grips with global climate change.

In the end, transformation and change is driven by either fear or inspiration, and the dominating driving force often determines the manner in which we try to solve the problem at hand. The Paris Summit must certainly underscore the seriousness of the threat of climate change and the risks of inaction. But perhaps even more importantly, it must manifest that it is possible to keep climate change under control in a way that creates wealth and prosperity without continued reliance on fossil fuels and overexploitation of our natural resources and the environment.

About the writer

Ulf Björnholm is the Head of the UNEP Brussels Liaison Office

Ulf Björnholm is the Head of the UNEP Brussels Liaison Office

Ulf Björnholm, a national of Sweden, is an expert in European and international policy on sustainable development and environmental policy. 

Prior to joining UNEP, he served in the European Commission where he had a leading role in developing a proposal for a new EU Clean Air Policy, presented in 2013. Linked to this, he participated actively in international UN negotiations relating to air pollution.

Mr. Björnholm has also held several positions as a representative and diplomat for the Swedish Government, both in Stockholm and abroad. In his role as a political advisor and negotiator on international environmental affairs for Sweden, he chaired and represented the EU at several UN/EU environmental negotiations during two EU Presidencies – in New York (2001) and in Brussels (2009). For more than seven years, he served as Environment and Climate Counsellor at the Swedish Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. Before joining the Swedish Government, he worked for local municipalities and for a youth network under the Swedish UN Association to promote the implementation of Agenda 21 in Sweden. 

Ulf Björnholm has a Master of Science from the University of Lund. In addition to being fluent in Swedish, Norwegian and English, he also speaks French and Portuguese. He took up his duties as Head of UNEP’s Liaison Office to the EU in Brussels on 22 April 2014. 

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

European Business Summit 2014: The role of youth entrepreneurship education in EU’s Strategy for Competitiveness

What options the new President of Ukraine has?

From Grexit to Brexit: UK industry now says the in/out referendum is good for your health

Global Citizen – Volunteer Internships

Draghi rehabs ECB into a tool to support growth and employment; a departure from Teutonic orthodoxy

The US bugged Europe: Is this news?

MasterCard at European Business Summit 2015: A focus on innovation will drive inclusive economic growth for Europe

Commission deepens criticism on German economic policies

Why lay people don’t expect anything good from G20

GREXIT final wrap-up: nobody believed Aesop’s boy who cried wolf so many times

A Sting Exclusive: “Doing ourselves a favour”, Vice President Dombrovskis underscores that this time growth has to come from within the EU

EntEx Organises 5 Summer Schools for Young Entrepreneurs across Europe in June/July 2014

“As German Chancellor I want to be able to cope with the merger of the real and digital economy”, Angela Merkel from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Pharmaceuticals conceal drug side effects with the EU’s Court blessing

No better year for the EU’s weak chain links

Eurozone needs more than some decimals of growth

Trump to run America to the tune of his business affairs

G20 LIVE: “International communities and leaders have great expectations for 2016 G20 summit in Hangzhou China”, Mr Wang Xiaolong, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s special envoy stresses live from G20 in Antalya Turkey

Ukraine undecided over a strategic partnership with the EU

China-EU Special Report: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang endorses China’s big investment on Juncker’s plan at 10th China-EU Business Summit

EU to negotiate an FTA with Japan

A critical European young voice on Net Neutrality: the distance between Brussels and Washington

TTIP’s 11th round starts in Miami but EU-US businesses see no sunny side

The ECB again takes care of the bankers not the people

Commission’s feeble response to financial benchmarks fraud

Fair completion rules and the law of gravity don’t apply to banks

Towards the Rise of the United States of the Atlantic?

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

Syria: Why did the US-Russia brokered ceasefire collapse? What does the duo care for?

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

EU security and defence industry prepares positions for ‘producers’ and ‘customers’

Greece’s last Eurogroup or the beginning of a new solid European Union?

Financial Transaction Tax: More money for future bank bailouts?

How much more political is the new EU leadership? Does this include personal bend?

COP21 Breaking News_07 December: “Remove Roadblocks to Climate Action”

Eurozone: Inflation plunge to 0.4% in July may trigger cataclysmic developments

“C’est la vie”? French recession and unemployment to linger in Eurozone

China Unlimited Special Report: The trip to China

May a parody constitute a copyright infringement? European Court of Justice to give the answer

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “It is the implementation, Stupid!”, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble points the finger to Greece from Davos

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate Change needs to be demystified”, Anneli Jättenmäki Vice President of European Parliament underscores from Brussels

MWC 2016 LIVE: Getty chief says one in four new images from phones

The EU pretends not knowing what happens in the Western Balkans

Austerity lovers and ‘relaxationists’ fight over the EU budget

Although Greece is struggling to pay salaries and pensions Varoufakis is “optimistic”; the Sting reports live from EBS 2015

Why the merchant ships can pollute the atmosphere with CO2 quite freely

Do the EU policies on agro-food smell?

An EU Summit without purpose

EU seeks foreign support on 5G from Mobile World Congress 2015 as the “digital gold rush” begins

On Human Rights Day European Youth Forum calls for end to discrimination of young people

Greece may offer to China a European gateway

Court of Auditors: EU spending infested with errors well above the materiality threshold of 2%

Migration has set EU’s political clock ticking; the stagnating economy cannot help it and Turkey doesn’t cooperate

Brussels wins game and match in Ukraine no matter the electoral results

Summer JADE Meeting 2015: We came curious, we left inspired

The Parliament sets the way for the European Banking Union

ECB is about to lend trillions to banks

A Sting Exclusive: why the environment is important to your health, by UNEP’s Head for Europe

German stock market is not affected by the Greek debt revolution while Athens is running out of time

“If they think they can slave an entire nation, then they will just have the opposite results!”, Alexis Tsipras cries out from the Greek parliament

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

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