The Climate Negotiations in Paris - Time for Change

29/07/2015 23:23 BST | Updated 29/07/2016 10:59 BST

This year is a critical year for decisions about the future of the planet and its people. Two high-level government meetings will take place: the UN Summit on global Sustainable Development Goals in September, and the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year. These two meetings are the culmination of long, intensive processes, and present governments across the world with the chance to make bold decisions. If they rise to the challenge, they can set us all on a path to address the inter-connected crises of poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and climate change.

There is overwhelming evidence of the climate crisis and the crisis of environmental degradation, for example in our oceans. There is also a growing realization that these crises are driving more poverty, inequality and conflict. As WWF we believe that real transformational change to the way our economies are run is necessary to get us off this current unsustainable path. A fundamental transformation of our energy and land use systems is needed, and it is also clear that this transformation will require leadership at all levels: from governments, businesses, communities and each of us.

The climate negotiations in Paris this year are therefore much more than just another inter-governmental meeting. They provide the opportunity for political leaders to take important and bold decisions to put the world on track for a just transition to a low carbon and climate-resilient future. Other key stakeholders are recognizing the important role that they too can play, such as the private sector, trades unions, faiths, local and other sub-national governments and importantly, millions of citizens.

We've already seen some important political momentum, with many countries submitting national pledges for the UN agreement, promising funding for the Green Climate Fund and engaging in a wide-ranging diplomatic exercise in the run up to Paris.

However, neither national pledges nor promises of finance add up - yet - to what is needed. Many analysts, including the IEA, have pointed out that the climate actions offered so far will not keep us below the 2°C temperature increase which has already been agreed by governments and is required to avoid dangerous climate change. Those governments who committed to delivering $100bn in climate finance up to 2020 have not managed to explain yet how they will make this happen. It is, in short, clear that governments will need to up their game in Paris, and that a gap will remain between what is urgently needed and what they are able to do now.

If we already know that Paris is both critically important to get on the right path, but also likely to fall short of all that we need so that further steps will be required to stay on that path, how then can we judge its outcome?

Recently, a broad coalition of environment, development, faith-based groups, trades unions and social movements published a "Peoples Test" on climate change, showing what the criteria might be. Building on that test, we believe that any outcome in Paris will need to be measured against the following fundamental questions:

1. Does it help catalyze immediate, sizable emission reductions in line with climate science and equity in the short term (before 2020) and the medium term (2025)?

2. Does it help build towards a long term goal that shifts us away from dirty energy towards 100 percent renewable energy by 2050?

3. Does the Paris outcome recognize that a gap remains between current ambition and what science tells us we need for a safer world?

4. Do governments create a clear and impactful plan to address this 'gigaton gap' through mechanisms to ratchet up the initial targets, and incentives for cooperative action among governments, the private sector and other non-state actors?

5. Is there enough certainty that the resources required to achieve transformational change, such as finance and technology access and transfer, will be forthcoming especially in vulnerable and poor countries?

6. Does the outcome deliver protection to impacted communities? Does it have strong commitments on adaptation and loss and damage? Does it address security for livelihoods, water and food?

7. What incentives are there to promote sustainable solutions such as renewable energy and what disincentives for unsustainable solutions such as fossil fuel subsidies amongst others?

WWF, as part of a growing and mobilized global climate movement, recognizes that the multi-lateral process dealing with climate change, the UNFCCC, is but one of the places where solutions to climate change can be had. Paris is not the end, but an important milestone that can set the bar for work on these other fronts. When we leave Paris our attention will need to turn to the national, regional and local work where we can urgently scale up our actions on climate, hopefully backed up by international agreements from the COP to spur this.

Many examples of good solutions already exist. Some progressive businesses have changed their models and practices towards climate-friendly and sustainable alternatives. Local governments are stepping up and demonstrating alternatives in urban and rural environments, and people in many places across the world have provided community-driven and -owned alternatives such as decentralized off-grid energy solutions.

The world cannot afford to continue on a "business as usual" path that ignores the connections between climate action, poverty, and human development. The recent release of the Encyclical letter "Laudato Si" by Pope Francis captures this well by calling for "a new and universal solidarity" among the human family to create an "integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature."

WWF stands ready to join hands with millions across the world for a better life for all in harmony with nature, especially the poor and the vulnerable. As a starting point we remain committed to working hard to secure a good and substantial outcome in Paris later this year.