Planet Summit Developing Renewable Energy & Protecting

Greenhouse gases trap heat and make the planet warmer. Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.

Since 1990, gross greenhouse gas emissions have increased by about 2 percent. From year to year, emissions can rise and fall due to changes in the economy, the price of fuel, and other factors. In 2016, greenhouse gas emissions decreased compared to 2015 levels. This decrease was largely driven by a decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion, which was a result of multiple factors including substitution from coal to natural gas consumption in the electric power sector; warmer winter conditions that reduced demand for heating fuel in the residential and commercial sector
Global carbon emissions reached an all-time high in 2018, an extraordinary watermark in Earth’s history that underscores the need for faster and stronger action to address accelerating climate change, according to dozens of scientists. Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are likely to have increased by about 2.7 percent in 2018, after a 1.6 percent increase in 2017. The rise comes after a three-year period in which emissions remained mostly flat—providing hope to some climate activists that global carbon emissions had reached their peak. The increases in 2017 and 2018 seem to suggest otherwise.

The scientists project that fossil-fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions will hit a record high of 37.1 billion metric tons by the end of this year. And they estimate that total carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will also hit their highest level ever, at 407 parts per million—about 45 percent higher than their preindustrial levels. [Current] energy and climate policies are not sufficient to overcome the growth in economic activity or energy-use growth. So there’s no other alternative but to ramp up policies, basically, otherwise emissions will keep rising. The projections come during a season of urgent international discussions about the action required to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement.

It is required to keep global temperatures within a 1.5 degrees Celsius target. Global carbon emissions will need to fall 50 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. The rate at which nations would need to reduce their emissions each year in order to reach those targets becomes steeper, and less attainable, every year that emissions continue to rise.

As per UN report on emissions gap or the mismatch between the Paris climate targets and the actions nations are actually taking to reach them. It confirms that the climate action pledged by nations is “inadequate to bridge the emissions gap” and that if actions are not strengthened before 2030, the 1.5 C target will slip out of reach. Overall, it suggests that current Paris commitments would need to be tripled to reach a 2 C target and increased fivefold to reach the 1.5 C target.

The African continent is responsible for merely 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 65 percent of the continent’s estimated population of 1,3 billion people is considered to be directly impacted by climate change. AN HOUR east of Johannesburg, on the rolling highveld plains, six massive cooling towers sit around two belching smokestacks. The Kendal power station (pictured) is among the world’s largest, producing 4.1 gigawatts (GW) from burning coal. A few kilometres down the road there is another coal-fired plant, Duvha, which is only slightly smaller. An even bigger one, Kusile, is under construction next door.

When sub-Saharan Africa comes up in discussions of climate change, it is almost invariably in the context of adapting to the consequences, such as worsening droughts. That makes sense. The region is responsible for just 7.1% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, despite being home to 14% of its people. Most African countries do not emit much carbon dioxide. Yet there are some notable exceptions.

In this backdrop, global leaders, entrepreneurs, international organizations, and civil society met in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi to help accelerate focus and attention on climate investments in line with the Paris Agreement objectives. The stakeholders met under the auspices of the One Planet Summit (OPS), which also focuses on promoting renewable energies, fostering resilience and adaptation and protecting biodiversity in the continent. French President, Emmanuel Macron, and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, as well as World Bank Group Interim President Kristalina Georgieva and UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, co-chaired the conference.

The first regional edition of the One Planet Summit highlighted Africa’s role as a global partner with respect to innovative solutions for adaptation and resilience, and focused on renewable energy access and the protection of African ecosystems to foster and support sustainable growth while improving the resilience of vulnerable populations.

The ‘One Planet Summit in Nairobi: Africa Pledge’ held on the sidelines of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) and brought together representatives from government, the private sector, civil society, financial institutions and academia. Participants showcased successes and new initiatives, forged new coalitions and partnerships, and announced new commitments to develop renewable energy and protect biodiversity in Africa. The meeting sought to build momentum ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s 2019 Climate Summit in September.
Participants agreed on the Nairobi Call for Action on the Conservation and Preservation of Forests in Africa, which calls on all stakeholders to: undertake voluntary actions that contribute to halting deforestation; map key priority areas to preserve and identify activities that are undermining forest sustainability; and elaborate strategies for implementation, bringing together national and local authorities, the private sector and local communities.

During the Summit, the World Bank Group (WBG) announced plans to scale up climate action in Africa through USD 22.5 billion in new finance for the period 2021-2025. More than half of the financing will support adaptation and resilience in Africa. The funding is part of the WBG’s 2025 Targets to Step Up Climate Action, launched in December 2018 during the Katowice Climate Change Conference to help African countries manage climate risks while unlocking new investment opportunities.

Investment and innovation to harness nature could provide up to one third of emission reductions between now and 2030 to keep global warming under 2°C. In addition, the World Bank will help Rwanda and Kenya accelerate implementation of, and raise the level of ambition for, their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by helping to mainstream and institutionalize climate adaptation and mitigation across and within development sectors and governance levels.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) announced its intent to, inter alia: commit at least USD 25 billion towards climate finance for the period 2020-2025; support African financial institutions to align financial flows with the Paris Agreement on climate change; and launch the ‘Green Baseload’ facility to provide concessional finance and technical assistance to support penetration and scale-up of renewable energy to displace coal generation. The Bank also pledged to build the world’s largest solar zone across the Sahel and provide electricity for 250 million people, through ‘Desert to Power,’ and to provide technical assistance to 30 African countries to support NDC integration into the SDGs and national development plans.

Addressing the Summit, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, highlighted the need to: invest in green, sustainable infrastructure and finance; respond to the needs of the younger generation, and view climate action as an opportunity to deliver jobs and economic security; leverage the digital revolution for climate action, and ask digital and internet companies to power their new infrastructure and data centers with clean energy; and invest and innovate to harness nature, which could provide up to one third of emission reductions between now and 2030 to keep the global average temperature rise to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels.

The Summit was convened by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, French President Emmanuel Macron, Interim WBG President Kristalina Georgieva and UN Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed. The One Planet Summit is an initiative of the Government of France, launched in partnership with the UN, WBG and Bloomberg.

At the same time the fourth session of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) concluded with a strong commitment and pledge by delegates who attended it to speed up their actions toward protecting the Earth’s degraded resources. Despite starting under the shadow of the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, including at least 21 UN staff, the five-day event saw successful discussions and commitments by the delegates to a more sustainable path.

Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the UN Environment Program, said the week was productive, with governments agreeing on the way forward on a range of issues, from marine litter, micro-plastics, gender and environment, to sustainable consumption. Noting that the assembly brought together almost 5,000 delegates from countries that widely vary in economic circumstances, ecosystem, cultural, resources, history and politics, she said reaching the agreement was not an easy process.

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Writer is Staff Reporter Mélange for Europe & Coordinator Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR).