It’s been more than a week since the historic climate change deal was adopted in Paris. In recent blog posts related to this momentous event, we anticipated and celebrated the outcome. Now we ask D. James Baker, Director of Forest and Land-Use Measurement at the Clinton Climate Initiative, to tell us more about what it means and what else can be done to avert the catastrophic consequences of climate change.
How excited can we get about the climate deal reached in Paris?
I’m excited about the Paris agreement first because it showed an acute awareness among the 195 participating nations that society needs to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in order to avoid dangerous climate change.
Second, it was important that there was a clear understanding of the financial needs for developing countries to transition to greener sources of energy and to adapt to a changing climate.
Third is that nations agreed to measure, verify, and report progress every five years on reducing emissions. This is important to CCI because measurement and verification are key areas of expertise that CCI has brought to each of the countries where we work. Finally, the agreement noted the importance of landscapes and oceans for mitigating and stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the need for global action to restore degraded forests.
The agreement showed that nations are serious about dealing with the issues. The next step will be to transform those commitments into action on the ground. That is already happening as various countries announce the launch of new programs. A few examples include commitments to restoring 128 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes, protecting watersheds across the Andes, and new partnerships for rainforest recovery and storing carbon in coastal wetlands.
Tell us about the work CCI does and why it’s important to confronting climate change.
One area that is particularly relevant to CCI is restoring landscapes and avoiding deforestation both of which provide sinks for carbon. These were specifically mentioned in the Paris agreement as key near-term activities to slow the rate of increase of carbon in the atmosphere. Since the necessary changes in land management can be implemented now, they are a bridge to a low emissions future. To reinforce this point, on the opening day of the Paris meeting, 16 heads of state signed an agreement endorsing forests as a key climate solution in the context of equitable rural economic development. Through national programs, the CCI Ecosystems and Livelihoods program is helping countries rebuild forests and landscapes by providing better information and capacity building for resource management.
The Paris agreement also called attention to island states, where CCI is launching a program to help to protect and manage ocean and coastal resources and adapt to sea level rise driven by climate change. Agreements were also announced on islands, ocean management, and blue carbon, the storage of carbon in coastal and marine waters. CCI’s program to help islands reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and to make more energy efficient homes also directly address the need for emissions reduction. As I mentioned above, all of the CCI programs are built around measurement, verification, and reporting of emissions, a central element of the Paris agreement. In this sense, CCI brings important experience and expertise to dealing with the climate issues.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about climate change and the global response to it?
Dealing with climate change cannot be done with public finance alone. It will be important to unleash market forces and private finance at scale. The Paris agreement lays the basis for a new international emissions trading mechanism, sending a long-term signal to investors that countries support the emergence of a global carbon market. Renewable energy also needs new investment. At the same time that the Paris agreement was being negotiated, a number of high-profile entrepreneurs led by Bill Gates pledged to spark a new investment drive for renewable energy.
President Clinton is fond of saying “The work of the 21st century is to define the terms of our interdependence.” There is no more interdependent topic than climate change, which touches every part of our world. Finding an adequate standard of living for all people of the world with clean energy sources will require both awareness of what needs to be done and collective action to carry it out. The agreement in Paris was a good first step because of its broad acceptance. Now the hard work of implementation begins.