Towards the end of a fossil fuel-based economy

Image_ELPAISImage: Drought in Sudan (Arne Hoel, World Bank)

Certainly, the main battle has been lost already: the great amount of greenhouse gases that we have already emitted since Industrial Revolution is likely to cause a 2ºC temperature rise in the global average temperature, with respect to Pre-industrial levels, by the end of the century. Only this 2ºC temperature rise would have very grave and unacceptable consequences for those communities that are more vulnerable to climate change. What is needed now is to stop the increase of temperature, mitigate the problem and adapt to it. Of mitigation and adaptation, as well as finance (Green Funding for the Climate, starting in 2020 with 100 billion dollars each year), the 195 countries that are expected to achieve a global deal to contain the problem, will discuss in Paris. However, the fact is that the national commitments on greenhouse gas cuts that 154 of these countries have already pledged to the United Nations, on  a volunteer basis, will not be enough to contain the global warming to 2ºC, as emissions will continue to rise until 2030, decreasing pace little by little, and finally slowing down. To limit the global warming to 2ºC, we need to cut emissions between 40% and 70% by 2050 and reach net zero emissions by the end of the century. The commitments presented will not achieve such levels from now to 2050. Thus, if we do no act more boldly and we continue with the same inertia, we will reach a global warming of 3.7 – 4.8ºC temperature rise, according to the IPCC, which imply great risks for food production and security

As we can see, the diagnostic is tough, but we cannot allow the importance of the situation to lead us to paralysis. On the contrary, we must go further and progress faster. We must be more ambitious and undertake courageous measures. Fortunately, there is some good news too. Practically all countries and all major economies will be in Paris. In Kyoto, however, the USA and China, among many others, were missing, which made the Kyoto Protocol insufficient, covering just 11% of global C02 emissions. Today, on the contrary, 90% of global emissions (China, USA, EU, and the vast majority of countries) are under the commitments already presented to the United Nations. What is now needed is a new form of governance in the Climate Movement. We cannot lose another decade, not anymore.

The mechanisms of control and funding that must be applied to all new policies (urban agriculture; renewable energies; non-motorized mobility; sustainable architecture; resource conservation and ecosystem services’ protection; reparation of damage, etc.) are the heart of the discussions and negotiations. We need to completely change direction, through disruptive innovation. Towards where? Towards biomimesis, sharing economy, ethical finance that serves the real economy, responsible consumption, transparency, co-responsibility, new socially-responsible and environmentally-sustainable enterprises that create social and environmental value.

Good news also come from the civil society-led movement, which has reached an unprecedented scale and impact, much higher than in previous conferences. launched a global campaign to divest from fossil fuel, having expanded already to 188 countries and divested several trillion dollars worldwide. The campaign points at the fossil fuel industry for its responsibility in the climate crisis. In Spain, 400 social organizations have formed the Alliance for the Climate with the goal of raising social awareness on the importance of achieving a satisfactory agreement in Paris. Demonstrations have not just been limited to NGOs, but have also attracted -and this is where the Climate Movement is extremely meaningful-, to many enterprises and economic agents. For instance, the specific campaign “1 Million for the Climate” targets not only civil society organizations and individuals, but also the administration and companies alike, to show their commitments #PorElClima (“For the Climate”).

Green businesses, particularly SMEs, are joining the Climate Movement as well, via “Ecopreneurs for the Climate 2015” – The Global Week of Green Business and the Climate Movement. It will take place the week of November 23-28, right before the COP21. Workshops, debates and seminars will be hosted in many European cities, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Seville and Valencia. It intends to foster discussion on the different challenges related to climate change, and to co-create business solutions that are economically viable and socially empowering, in order to face these challenges.

We must seize this momentum to build pressure on our leaders. The widespread feeling that failure in Paris is not an option, and it is indeed our last chance, must translate into a universal, ambitious, and binding agreement. Paris must signal the end of the fossil fuel-based economy, and set a definitive roadmap towards a sustainable economy, one that involves all actors, with the goal of finishing the century with the problem “under control”.

Original source, EL PAIS (27 November 2015):

Translators: Luis Morales Carballo and Jesus Iglesias Saugar (Greenbiz – Green Business Spain)