A U.S. report was offered for a conference on how the global battle against climate change is progressing—but it wasn’t put there by the United States.
A group of Caribbean islands led by St. Lucia posted the 2017 U.S. National Climate Assessment special report—released under the Trump administration in November—as one of its submissions ahead of Sunday’s dialogue on progress and ambition for the Paris Agreement. It’s a forum intended to encourage countries to increase the ambition of their Paris pledges by 2020.
“The climate of the United States is strongly connected to the changing global climate,” begins the executive summary of the report, which the U.S. Office of Global Change released after a deadline had lapsed. It is part of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which will be completed in 2018.
It’s unclear whether the islands were making a political statement by offering the report. The United States has made no submission ahead of Sunday’s preliminary Talanoa Dialogue discussion on the sidelines of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Bonn, Germany. The State Department confirmed that the United States will participate in the Sunday session.
So the highly vulnerable islands might have intended the submission as a dig against the Trump administration for its Paris retreat and lack of financial assistance to at-risk countries like them. But a separate submission points to the report’s section on the Southeast and the Caribbean, which details threats from changes in ocean circulation and other impacts.
A total of 48 countries provided submissions ahead of Sunday’s discussion, but many did so on behalf of groups. St. Lucia represented CARICOM, a group of Caribbean states, while Saudi Arabia led the Arab Group. In all, 178 countries were represented, and numerous think tanks, states and advocacy groups’ offerings were among the 417 submissions.
Sunday’s session will include a series of closed-door meetings among relatively small groups of participants from government and other sectors. There will be a report out of it, which is intended to inform another dialogue this December in Poland among ministers and heads of state.
The Fijian presidency of the negotiations, which named this Talanoa Dialogue forum after the island nation’s storytelling tradition, has focused it on three questions: “Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?”
Where are we?
Several developing nations used this question to drive home the fact that developed countries have been releasing carbon dioxide emissions far longer, and in far larger quantities, than they have.
Palestine, which became a party to the UNFCCC in early 2016 to much fanfare, submitted a statement to the Talanoa platform that is identical to one submitted separately by Saudi Arabia on behalf of other Arab countries. It places the fault for climate change squarely on the shoulders of the Industrial Revolution that began in England in 1750.
“Studies that assess past emissions conclude that advanced industrialized countries are responsible for most of current emissions and consequently adverse effects,” it argues.
CARICOM points to a meeting it held on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s upcoming report on the importance of containing warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—a level that it says is key to its members’ survival.
Ethiopia, on behalf of the Least Developed Nations group, noted that extreme weather has displaced more than 200 million people worldwide in the last decade.
Rich countries, meanwhile, used the question to highlight their emissions-reduction progress to date, as well as the need to do more. The European Union, for instance, touted its success at decoupling emissions from economic growth and noted that its share of global emissions nearly halved between 1990 and 2012.
On the non-state side, the London School of Economics submitted a statement citing “significant scope for improvement” across the world’s largest 20 economies. While the world now has 1,500 climate laws in place, “the link between national climate legislation and the Paris Agreement process is still insufficient,” the researchers said.
The African Development Bank pointed to a global adaptation funding shortfall of $28 billion annually and scant private-sector interest in poor countries and islands. The Global CCS Institute and the International Emissions Trading Association touted carbon capture and storage and emissions trading, respectively.
Where do we want to go?
China, which has often played the developing country champion in these talks, said the objective of the climate process should be not only to contain climate change but also to elevate populations out of poverty.
“The global climate goals should be equitable,” China argued, adding that food security, energy access and other goals must be balanced against the need to rein in warming, at least in the developing world.
Shell Oil Co., one of very few corporations to meet an April deadline that allowed submissions to be published, touted its “Sky” scenario, which “we believe to be a technologically, industrially, and economically possible route forward, consistent with limiting the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C from pre-industrial levels.”
How do we get there?
Fiji will give up the presidency of the process to Poland in December, and its future leadership role on the Talanoa Dialogue is uncertain.
Still, it used the platform it created to tout its domestic response to warming and to call for international help adapting and relocating segments of its population to higher ground in response to sea-level rise.
Norway’s submission proposed that the world decarbonize its transportation sector, which currently accounts for 23 percent of global emissions, through electrification.
“This transition should be seen in connection with transformation of the energy systems,” it states.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.