The global landscape for climate action is changing quickly. The United States just announced plans to use its Environmental Protection Agency to limit CO2 emissions from power plants, and an advisor to China’s government said shortly afterward that his country, where six local carbon markets are now active and stricter pollution rules were recently approved, was considering national CO2 emissions controls after its next five-year plan starts in 2016.
These are the two leading greenhouse gas emitters, and they are stepping up their climate action plans as we move toward a new international climate agreement in 2015.
The push for effective action on climate change needs to come from many directions as the science makes clear the risks ahead. The World Bank Group along with others is calling on governments and businesses to support putting a price on carbon. Businesses, investors, and civil society groups have also been publicly calling for climate action. After the EPA announcement on Monday, more than 170 business leaders and investors, organized by Ceres, issued a letter of support for the planned U.S. regulations, calling them “a critical step in moving our country toward a clean energy economy.”
Evidence and Risk Management
Underlying this growing recognition of the need for policies that drive the shift to low-carbon, resilient economies is the science, spelled out in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
On Monday, as the U.S. EPA released its plans, IPCC lead authors Chris Field and Ottmar Edenhofer joined a discussion at the World Bank on the science of climate change and its impacts development. The impacts are evident in changes in water supplies as glaciers and snow cover disappear; in agriculture subjected to drought or excessive rain fall; and even risks of conflict, said Field, the co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II report on adaptation. It raises the risk to the poor, who have the fewest resources to adapt, but even the wealthiest societies are vulnerable to the impacts climate change.
Field talked about climate change in the framework of risk management – a framework that investors and business leaders are well acquainted with and which helps them now consider the risks and opportunities climate change creates for their sectors and businesses.
Climate change is a threat multiplier that adds new dimensions and complexity to the development challenges we’re already facing, Field said. “Fundamentally, the challenge of managing climate change is a challenge of managing and reducing risk. We know plenty, but we need a transition from the perspective of knowing lots to doing lots,” he said.