2 April 2016: Parties to the UNFCCC are making major announcements related to the Paris Agreement and its objectives. The actions described in this Update are also important for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts). A number news items reported here will also advance SDG 7, especially Target 7.2 to "increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix."
State of Palestine Accedes to UNFCCC
As of 17 March 2016, the UNFCCC has a new Party. Ninety days have passed since the State of Palestine deposited its instrument of accession on 18 December 2015, meaning that the Convention has 197 Parties. [UNFCCC Press Release]
US, China, India to Sign Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement was adopted by the Parties to the UNFCCC on 12 December 2015, at the Paris Climate Change Conference. However, for the Agreement to enter into force, at least 55 Parties accounting for at least 55% of global emissions need to sign and then accede to the Agreement.
In a joint statement dated 31 March, China and the US announced they plan to be among the 100+ countries expected to sign the Agreement on 22 April 2016 (Earth Day) at a high-level signing ceremony hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The US and Chinese Presidents say in their statement that they will “take their respective domestic steps in order to join the Agreement as early as possible this year” and encourage other Parties to do the same. [US-China Joint Statement] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [Climate Action Press Release]
In addition, the world's fourth largest emitter (after China, the US and the EU), India, announced that it would also sign the Agreement on 22 April. The announcement was made by Prakash Javadekar, Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister, on 2 April at a conference held at the University of Mumbai titled 'COP 21 – Building Synergies, Shaping Actions.' [Government of India Press Release]
A Shift to Implementation
In preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC, which took place in November-December 2015, the COP initiated a process by which countries put forward their "bottom-up" pledges for post-2020 action. These pledges became known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and, thus far, 189 Parties have submitted INDCs. A country's INDC will serve as its initial NDC when entering into the Paris Agreement, unless it decides to revise it and submit the updated version upon ratification or acceptance of the Agreement. Although it is hoped that the Paris Agreement will enter into force in 2020, various countries have reported that they are already taking steps to implement their INDCs.
UK Eyes Legislation to Enact Paris Agreement
Addressing lawmakers in the UK, Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State at Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), has announced that the Government is committed to writing a net-zero emissions target into law and will come up with a plan to do so later this year after the Committee on Climate Change has reported its recommendations in October-November. The provisions of the Paris Agreement indicate that net emissions should reach zero by the second half of this century. Current UK law calls for an 80% reduction by 2050. [Climate Action Press Release]
Clean Energy Actions
Various countries, including Australia, China, the EU and India, have recently taken steps to boost their deployment of clean energy, which will further their climate mitigation targets.
On 30 March, the 13th EU-India Summit convened in Brussels, Belgium, where the two sides issued a joint statement outlining their renewed commitment to collaborating on clean energy and climate. With an emphasis on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, one of the stated objectives of the new Partnership is supporting and strengthening the respective capabilities of the two Parties to implement their INDCs to the Paris Agreement. The countries will agree on a work programme soon, but expect that it will include actions like realizing India's first offshore wind farm, deploying building codes, cooperating on smart grids, and conducting joint research and development (R&D), among others. [EU-India Summit Webpage] [EU-India Joint Declaration on a Clean Energy and Climate Partnership] [European Commission Press Release]
Nur Bekri, Head of China's National Energy Administration (NEA), announced that the country plans to add 15-20 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity every year for the next five, tripling solar capacity by 2020. Bekri spoke at the 9th Asia Solar Energy Forum, hosted on 21-23 March, by the NEA in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The plan is expected to wean China off coal and help it reach its climate change targets. [ADB Event Webpage] [ADB Press Release] [Climate Action Press Release]
The Government of Australia has announced an A$1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund to provide both debt and equity to Australian businesses to help emerging clean energy technologies move from demonstration to commercial deployment. According to the press release, the Fund represents a “reinvigoration” and “refocusing” of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which will jointly manage the Fund. ARENA's portfolio will expand to include energy efficiency and low-emissions technology. The Government expects the Fund to contribute to its goal of reducing emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, as outlined in its INDC. [Government of Australia Press Release]
Other countries' climate actions have focused on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR).
Pledging its full support for the Sendai Framework for DRR, the French Government outlined a series of measures to reduce disaster risk in the context of addressing the impacts of climate change. Noting the vulnerabilities of French municipalities and overseas territories to climate change, Ségolène Royal, Minister for the Environment and current President of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC, announced plans for an awareness campaign, training for 1.4 million parents, teachers and students, modernization of public alert systems using sirens and mobile phones, and increasing preparedness in 2,500 municipalities with high flood risk. Royal met with Robert Glasser, Head of the UN Office for DRR (UNISDR) and proposed a week of awareness-raising activities in conjunction with the International Day for DRR on 13 October. Glasser welcomed the proposal and highlighted France's leadership in the areas of climate change and DRR. [UNISDR Press Release]
The close ties between climate change and disaster risk are being acknowledged and addressed in Thai cities as well. The 'Low Carbon and Disaster Resilient Cities in Thailand' initiative brought together the mayors of 15 municipalities to sign onto UNISDR's Making Cities Resilient campaign and commit to local targets to reduce GHG emissions. The local level actions will aid Thailand in meeting its national INDC target of reducing emissions 20-30% from business-as-usual (BAU) by 2030. [UNISDR Press Release]