This week, on the second anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, hosted the ‘One Planet Summit’. The meeting focused on increasing the likelihood of achieving 2015’s ambitious goals by securing climate finance and the support of private actors. It is notable that some countries were unrepresented – not just the United States, but Canada, India and others – but what was achieved by those that attended? And could they have achieved more?
Ahead of the summit, expectations were at best unclear and at worst low. But I came away persuaded that it added value to the process of financing a transition to low carbon, climate-resilient economies.
Macron set a key objective of making 12 major announcements at the summit on December 12th. This exerted political pressure on the high-level participants. The fact that Theresa May turned up to pledge despite ongoing Brexit battles is perhaps a testament to this. It is true that many financial institutions took this opportunity to repeat their big numbers on climate finance, green spending, and commitments to align with the Paris Agreement, but there were significant additional pledges and commitments. The World Bank announced an end to its financing of upstream oil and gas. Insurance giant AXA made a commitment to quadruple green investment and reduce coal exposure. These signal a shift away from fossil fuels of both public and private finance. It remains critical to keep these numbers in context – most G20 countries provide more public finance for fossil fuels than for clean energy.
The French president engaged more than the usual suspects (yes Arnie was there, no Leo wasn’t) and allowed those present to profile their commitments. It remains to be seen how far reaching this summit will be but as Jerry Brown the Governor of California noted, ‘we need political imagination and political will’, and Macron is fostering just that.
It is arguable that with exciting initiatives, defiance of the US and a heightened sense of collaboration, November’s annual ‘conference of the parties’ (COP23) on climate change generated a false sense of security. But the continuing support given to fossil fuels went largely unaddressed.
While new initiatives and finance for ‘green’ investments are important, to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals we need to transition away from fossil fuels more quickly.
At the One Planet Summit, we started to see some signs of this. The Powering Past Coal Alliance (launched at COP23 with 25 members) more than doubled its membership to 58 organisations, including high profile businesses, utilities and investors. That this happened in less than a month shows the impetus the summit deadline created.
It is very worrying, as recent ODI research shows, that Europe’s institutions provide €3.2 billion of public finance for oil and gas production per year. Consequently, one can hope that the World Bank Group’s bold, widely celebrated, commitment to end funding for exploration and extraction of oil and gas by 2019 will set an example to other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and public finance institutions.
To meet climate goals the world urgently needs to cease its support for fossil fuels. Ultimately, good will and enthusiasm are not what will get us there. We need concrete steps taken by countries and businesses committed to phasing out coal and all other fossil fuels.
It seems key global players may finally be stepping up to lead the way.
While references to adaptation are weaved throughout the climate finance objectives of the Paris Agreement, actors involved in the implementation of the global policy still demonstrate a lack of innovative ideas and an unwillingness to engage in the topic.
Macron reminded us that some government leaders who attended the summit are from countries that are already suffering devastating impacts as a result of climate change. Significant investments in adaptation are crucial to support the most vulnerable populations that are hit hardest. In this context, it is interesting to note that the issue of debt relief for resilience in developing countries resurfaced during the summit. The French President posted an ambitious objective for climate adaptation; to ensure, by 2020, that assistance for adaptation reaches €1.5 billion a year. This objective should inspire other donors to follow suit, but success will require a major overhaul of approach.
PRISE research has identified the existence of investment opportunities that are both climate resilient and profitable. To seize the advantages these opportunities present, a paradigm shift is necessary – one that promotes the adaptation capacities of private actors, rather than supports the green washing of investment projects as an afterthought.