Six Months until Paris Climate Conference
With six months to go until the climate change conference in Paris in December, how optimistic are the prospects for scoring real progress toward controlling global warming? (See blog posted October 28, 2014 at http://fiftyyearperspective.com/paris-2015-un-climate-change-conference/.) The expectations are largely on the shoulders of the countries charged with setting limits on CO2 emissions. However the general consensus has been that political considerations will constrain the ability of governments to approve meaningful commitments, especially when decisions are framed in a context of a trade-off between controlling emissions and adding jobs.
A hopeful sign is detectable in a series of articles by Pilita Clark published in Financial Times over a two-week period starting May 27th. That first article, titled “Climate Campaign Wins Over More Senior Executives,” reported comments by Gerard Mestrallet, chief executive of French energy giant Engie, referring to carbon dioxide as “the enemy.” He told Financial Times, “Business is today leading the way in fighting against climate change. It is not just governments pushing the issue any more.”
Insurer Axa announced it is exiting €500 million worth of coal investments and committing to €3 billion in green investments. Bank of America has three times as much credit extended to renewables as it has in coal mining. The article also cites over 1,000 companies and investors that have called for a price on carbon, including the world’s largest asset manager as well as energy companies.
A second article in the May 31st Financial Times reported that Europe’s largest oil and gas companies have asked the UN to involve them in planning to stop global warning. “We owe it to future generations to seek realistic, workable solutions to the challenge of providing more energy while tackling climate change,” executives of Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total, Statoil and others wrote in a letter to Financial Times.
A June 3rd article reported on the announcement by Ikea that over the next five years it would spend €500 million on wind power and about €100 million on solar energy. Another €400 million will go to helping people in countries most impacted by global warming. This latter commitment has been a stumbling block for wealthy countries. As a privately-held business, Ikea is less constrained in making such commitments than public companies. But as the previous articles noted, large investors are inclined to agree.
Finally, as the G7 countries were meeting in Germany for discussions on the global economy, Financial Times reported on June 8th that G7 leaders agreed that the world should phase out fossil fuel emissions in this century. They backed a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 40 to 70 percent of 2010 levels by 2050. They also addressed helping poorer countries adjust with $100 billion a year from public and private sources.
While these words need to be turned into actions, the flurry of activity is a hopeful sign that business and industry see benefit in aligning their interests with climate change activists leading up to the negotiations in Paris.