There are 200 days before the UN climate negotiations start in Paris. These talks will set out the path that countries will take towards decarbonising their economies and avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
If all goes well, by Christmas, we will have a clear internationally agreed plan on how each country will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions; how they will adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already taking place; and how we will fund all of these changes.
If the talks go badly, we could end up with another stalemate like the Copenhagen climate talks of 2009, where there was agreement on the science and need to limit the rise in global surface temperature, but a failure to set real targets for countries to reduce their emissions.
A likely outcome this time will be somewhere in between and, from now to December, I will be part of our team that aims to persuade the international negotiators that they need to take some big steps forward to make the Paris deal as ambitious as possible.
This time around, we will be in a stronger position to reach a deal. All of the participants understand the urgency of tackling climate change and many political leaders have invested their time, effort and reputations on reaching a meaningful deal in Paris. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, held a climate summit for world leaders in New York last year to help give further impetus.
Nearly all countries are expected to make pledges to reduce or limit their emissions in advance of the talks, as well as goals for adaptation and required levels of international support. The pledges from the major industrialised and emerging economies are expected to cover all major sources of greenhouse gas emissions within their territories – and this forms a large share of the global total.
These pledges can be assessed collectively in advance of the Paris talks to see if they are consistent with what the science tells us is enough to stop the worst effects of climate change. If they are found wanting, which at the moment it looks likely, it will be for the Paris talks to provide the framework so that countries can further ratchet up their ambitions in the future in order cap and cut their emissions and to decarbonise their economies.
The Paris talks later this year are important but they are not the end. There will still be a lot of work to do. Firstly, we must hold the signatories of the climate deal to account to make sure that they have set themselves sufficiently ambitious climate targets. Secondly and more importantly, each country must take practical steps to implement the Paris deal and to decarbonise their economies and cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
Earlier this year, David Cameron, alongside other party leaders, signed The Climate Coalition’s pledge to seek a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal which limits temperature rises to below 2°C. He also agreed to work across party lines, to agree carbon budgets in accordance with the Climate Change Act and to accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy efficient low-carbon economy and to end the use of unabated coal for power generation. Both in the run-up to Paris and the months and years afterwards, WWF-UK will continue to push the UK government to deliver our fair share of global emissions reductions.
Our goal is to help create a world where people and nature thrive and therefore we must help address the biggest environmental problem the world faces. It is important to us many of the places, habitats and species we are working to conserve will be increasingly vulnerable to future climate change. A strong deal in Paris, one that helps to limit the threats that unabated climate change will bring, can only make our conservation work easier.
What you can do to help
On 17 June, we’ll be joining our Climate Coalition partners in the Speak Up event in Westminster. If you haven’t already signed up, there is still time to join me and thousands of people for an inspiring day at the Houses of Parliament and be part of the UK’s biggest ever meeting with MP’s on climate change.