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Developing countries could leapfrog west with clean energy, says Hollande

French president says chance for poorer countries to skip fossil fuels and go straight to renewable energy is akin to mobile phone revolution in Africa

Developing countries have the opportunity to leapfrog the west in economic development, if they go straight to clean technology while rich countries struggle to wean themselves off fossil fuels, president Francois Hollande of France said on Wednesday. “They are going to be skipping the stage where industrialised countries were stopped fro a long time, for many decades,” he said. “We were dependent on fossil fuel, which means we now have to concentrate on the transition in the medium to long term of abandoning fossil fuels. But they have the chance to move immediately to the new technologies.”

He said clean technologies such as renewable energy were “dropping in price and will continue to drop”, while industrialised countries faced costs in having to scrap old infrastructure and rebuild it anew in a low-carbon fashion. Developing countries, many of which are constructing scores of new cities to house their burgeoning populations, would be able to build them in a low-carbon way, with better energy efficiency, he told the annual meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Paris. “In the old world, we are proud of our old cities, but [they are very inefficient],” he said. “But countries starting on the path of industrialisation can immediately go to new building [technology].”

He compared the opportunity with the mobile phone revolution in Africa, whereby as mobile phone technology dropped in price and became widely available all over the continent, there was little incentive to build conventional fixed line phones. “The digital revolution and the energy revolution will go hand in hand as in a sense we are talking about the same revolution,” he said. Hollande looked ahead to the UN conference in Paris this December, at which governments are expected to forge a new global agreement on the climate, with commitments from all to limit greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, when current commitments come to an end. He said countries had still not done enough to reach an agreement. “We know everything [about climate change] - we do not need another report, we do not need more experts. We know a lot about this, and we know the cost of inaction.”
He called for a price on carbon as this would encourage businesses to invest in low-carbon technology and to change their practices. “Set a price for carbon then businesses will change the way they invest and perform,” he said, echoing the six oil companies which earlier this week called for such a price. He also called for more transparency from businesses, and said France was leading the way by putting in place regulations that would require banks and investors to disclose their exposure to high-carbon assets. “We need to introduce rules that will channel investments,” he said.



The world’s least-developed countries have accused richer nations of failing to provide financial backing

The world’s least-developed countries have accused richer nations of failing to provide financial backing for a strong new global climate treaty. With little negotiating time left ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris later this year, diplomats from nearly 200 countries meeting in Bonn have reportedly made little progress, raising the possibility of a last-minute diplomatic fiasco, as happened in Copenhagen in 2009.
The mistrust between countries that built up in Copenhagen now threatens the Paris talks, said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is chairman of the 48-strong least-developed countries group. “The [UN] process is flawed by a complete lack of trust and confidence between rich and poor countries,” he said. “We need time. Because of this lack of trust we have no other way of proceeding. We have to go ahead with baby steps. We are not making much progress, but we are going in the right direction. There are so many issues. It’s a process of attrition.
“Every year there is a watering down of the commitments. It feels every year that we are losing out. Twenty countries contribute 80% of emissions, the rest 20%. Yet we in Africa are being asked to cut emissions. OK, we say, but help us. Give us finance, technology.”

Concern is growing that rich countries, which have together pledged to mobilise $100bn a year to help countries adapt to climate change, are so far unwilling to discuss how the money will be raised, said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a leading intergovernmental thinktank of developing countries. “The developing countries are disappointed that there seems to be little hope that the $100bn will materialise. They have no idea what will be available, so they cannot plan ahead. If countries really wanted a [strong] deal, they would be talking about finance by now,” said Khor. Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives, chief negotiator for the 39-member Alliance of Small Island States – countries highly vulnerable to sea-level rises and extreme weather events – said: “We have an enormous task. We need to speed up the work. The ambition for a good deal has not gone. Our target is still to negotiate to hold temperatures to a 1.5C rise. But achieving it is going to be difficult and may require dramatic efforts by humanity.” Jan Kowalzig, climate change policy officer with Oxfam, said: “The French government [which will chair the Paris meeting] is becoming extremely nervous. It has to show success. Everyone recognises the talks are going too slowly, but the US completely refuses to put anything on the table about finance. The developed countries are not ready to talk about it. Informally, they recognise they need to make concessions, but the big danger is that the $100bn becomes a clever accountancy plan. The developing countries would see through that. A few powerful countries would be happy with a weak deal. The US, China, Japan and India are not very interested in a strong deal because they would be bound by it.”
With only around 10 days’ worth of negotiations remaining after the Bonn talks close next week, no discussion has started on three vital issues: whether rich countries should compensate poor ones for the loss and damage done by extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change; how deep the overall emission cuts should be; and how countries should fairly share the burden of cuts.
So far, 36 countries, including the world’s biggest emitters, China and the US, have pledged to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, but, given the scale of current commitments, the world is on a path The world’s least-developed countries have accused richer nations of failing to provide financial backing for a strong new global climate treaty.

With little negotiating time left ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris later this year, diplomats from nearly 200 countries meeting in Bonn have reportedly made little progress, raising the possibility of a last-minute diplomatic fiasco, as happened in Copenhagen in 2009. The mistrust between countries that built up in Copenhagen now threatens the Paris talks, said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is chairman of the 48-strong least-developed countries group. “The [UN] process is flawed by a complete lack of trust and confidence between rich and poor countries,” he said. “We need time. Because of this lack of trust we have no other way of proceeding. We have to go ahead with baby steps. We are not making much progress, but we are going in the right direction. There are so many issues. It’s a process of attrition. “Every year there is a watering down of the commitments. It feels every year that we are losing out. Twenty countries contribute 80% of emissions, the rest 20%. Yet we in Africa are being asked to cut emissions. OK, we say, but help us. Give us finance, technology.”

Concern is growing that rich countries, which have together pledged to mobilise $100bn a year to help countries adapt to climate change, are so far unwilling to discuss how the money will be raised, said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a leading intergovernmental thinktank of developing countries. “The developing countries are disappointed that there seems to be little hope that the $100bn will materialise. They have no idea what will be available, so they cannot plan ahead. If countries really wanted a [strong] deal, they would be talking about finance by now,” said Khor. Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives, chief negotiator for the 39-member Alliance of Small Island States – countries highly vulnerable to sea-level rises and extreme weather events – said: “We have an enormous task. We need to speed up the work. The ambition for a good deal has not gone. Our target is still to negotiate to hold temperatures to a 1.5C rise. But achieving it is going to be difficult and may require dramatic efforts by humanity.”

Jan Kowalzig, climate change policy officer with Oxfam, said: “The French government [which will chair the Paris meeting] is becoming extremely nervous. It has to show success. Everyone recognises the talks are going too slowly, but the US completely refuses to put anything on the table about finance. The developed countries are not ready to talk about it. Informally, they recognise they need to make concessions, but the big danger is that the $100bn becomes a clever accountancy plan. The developing countries would see through that. A few powerful countries would be happy with a weak deal. The US, China, Japan and India are not very interested in a strong deal because they would be bound by it.”
With only around 10 days’ worth of negotiations remaining after the Bonn talks close next week, no discussion has started on three vital issues: whether rich countries should compensate poor ones for the loss and damage done by extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change; how deep the overall emission cuts should be; and how countries should fairly share the burden of cuts.
So far, 36 countries, including the world’s biggest emitters, China and the US, have pledged to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, but, given the scale of current commitments, the world is on a path to a 3-4C temperature rise. However, more than 150 smaller countries have yet to submit their carbon pledges. Kofi Annan, UN secretary general from 1997 to 2006, urged all countries to “seize the climate moment”. He added: “Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity today. The effects are being felt all over the planet, but not equally. In Africa, millions already feel the consequences of global warming. Yet millions more have never reaped the benefits that citizens in countries with high-carbon economies have long taken for granted. “Climate justice demands that the world seizes the climate moment. The window of opportunity for avoiding a climate catastrophe is open, but it is closing – and closing fast,” Annan said at the launch of the latest Africa Progress Panel report.
Leading environment and development NGOs urged David Cameron to act on his climate pledges and use the G7 conference in Berlin to support a global goal to reduce overall carbon emissions to zero.

“The Paris climate conference is the biggest opportunity in a generation to create momentum for a safer and more prosperous world. He can use it to build trust in developing countries by supporting a roadmap to $100bn of climate finance and support goals for a global goal to reduce overall carbon emissions to zero by 2050,” said the heads of Christian Aid, WWF, the RSPB and others.



The world’s governments and businesses need to choose wisely and invest in low carbon energy

The world’s governments and businesses need to choose wisely and invest in low carbon energy, not the dirty fossil fuels of the past, according to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
He said that climate change was striking faster than expected, but that the transition to clean energy was also accelerating. Ban also said, with a papal encyclical on climate change due to be published in June, that he welcomed the addition of Pope Francis’s moral voice to the debate. Ban stressed that the reduction of poverty around the world was inextricably linked to tackling climate change. “I have taken the climate change issue as one of my top priorities since I took over my job in January 2007,” said Ban. “This is a defining issue of our time.”

“I have been urging all sectors of society to choose wisely and invest in the low carbon pathway,” he said. “Over the next 15 years, the world will make a massive investment in new infrastructures, in serious renewable energy. We can invest in the low carbon economy or we can invest in dirty technologies.” “Climate change is happening much much faster than expected,” said Ban. But he said the transition to renewable energy was speeding up also, as businesses became increasingly aware of the advances in technology and falling costs. “We will see a much quicker pace of investment pattern changes,” he said. Last week, insurance giant Axa announced it was pulling €500m from the coal sector and putting €3bn into green investments. Ban confirmed that Pope Francis, who he met last week, will speak at a UN meeting in New York in September. Ban added: “I’m looking forward to the Pope’s encyclical on the subject, who would add some moral voice on this issue.”
The branch of the UN tasked with delivering a climate deal in December has already added its “moral voice” to the fossil fuel divestment campaign, which is persuading investors from major financial institutions, charitable foundations, universities and churches to dump their fossil fuel investments. Current fossil fuel reserves are several timeswhat can safely be burned, leading campaigners to argue that investing in companies that are searching for more coal, oil and gas is highly risky to both the climate and investors’ capital. The Guardian, whose parent company has divested, is running a campaign asking the world’s two biggest health charities to divest.

Ban said he was in agreement with the Pope that “ending poverty, embracing human dignity and addressing climate change are interlinked”. Ban said: “Climate change and sustainable development, they are the two sides of one coin.” Some fossil fuel companies argue that restricting the burning of coal and other fossil fuels would hinder progress in reducing global poverty. But the latest report from theUN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, produced by thousands of the world’s foremost experts and approved by 195 nations, concluded that climate change, driven by unchecked fossil fuel burning, “is a threat to sustainable development” and would “prolong existing and create new poverty traps”.

Ban said he was optimistic that the world’s governments would reach a climate agreement in December. “There is a strong sense by world leaders from governments and business and civil society that this is the time to reach an agreement,” he said. “There are still some significant hurdles to be overcome. However, all the countries ... believe that they should do it and they can do it.” “At this time, what is most required is political will by the world leaders of the governments and political will and wise investment by the business communities and also a strong support and engagement of civil society,” he said. “I encourage citizens to press for climate action using peaceful and democratic means.”
The UN climate negotiations resumed in Bonn this week, with officials attempting to pare down a draft text less than six months to go until the Paris summit.



Need for clear outcome on pre-2020 climate action

The first negotiation session of UN talks on climate closed with an increasing focus on the need for immediate action on climate change. The talks produced the first draft of a possible "Paris Agreement" which will be negotiated throughout the year, before being finally agreed in the French capital in December.

The final day of talks were heated over exchanges about 'carbon markets' and as hundreds of organisations from across the world warned of risks to the right to food if misguided policies on land use and climate are applied. Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, in a briefing to the press, quoted the letter saying, "land is essential for our food and our livelihoods. It is the basis of our communities, our cultures and our spiritualities... We cannot allow policies and actions that will further threaten peoples' rights to food, to land and the commons."

Commenting on other areas of interest at the negotiations, observers said the following

On pre-2020 action
"Geneva drew a line in the sand between those governments who are taking the warnings of climate science seriously, and are looking to protect the wellbeing of their citizens and those who seem more interested in protecting short term 'business as usual' interests. Those that recognize the urgency of the climate crisis demanded concrete steps to increase action in the critical pre-2020 period through stronger targets, more finance and technology transfers and by focusing on transforming our polluting energy system. The outcome is still up in the air but it's clear that deeper emissions reductions in the short term will need to be part of any effective agreement in Paris." Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate, Friends of the Earth (EWNI).

On draft text produced:
"There is now a draft text produced in a transparent process, that's a basis for serious negotiations in June. If they continue with this way of working we may avoid the controversies of last minute texts that haunt past UN summits. However, it was concerning to see developed countries blocking a proper discussion on the need for urgent pre-2020 action." Meena Raman, Negotiations Expert at Third World Network. On the longterm goal of negotiations and the emissions budget:
"We welcome the fact that strong, clear proposals on setting a long term emissions budget and sharing it fairly are in the draft text for the first time. These proposals from Bolivia and Ethiopia are getting serious attention. Agreeing on a global target on the limit to pollution is essential. Persistent refusal by developed countries to do so shows they are the real obstacles to solving the climate crisis." Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator at Jubilee south Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.

On false 'solutions' - land issues and carbon markets: "Africans are increasingly worried about some of the so-called climate 'solutions' that are proposed here. Some of these failed experiments like soil carbon markets and land use in mitigation are thinly disguised code for incentives to grab up African land as we have seen happening over the last couple of years. Governments must learn from the biofuels disaster and stop such proposals in their tracks." Mithika Mwenda, General Secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

On the issue of adapting to climate impacts and 'loss and damage':
"Given the lack of seriousness in proposed climate targets from rich industrialized countries, we must consider what these weak targets mean for the real world. Weak targets mean devastating climate impacts and developing countries will need to address those harms, supported by compensation and other measures. The issue of loss and damage and compensation is still very much on the table in Paris and will be as long as proposed climate action remains so weak."Harjeet Singh, International Manager, Resilience and Climate change.