LONDON, April 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - World
emissions must peak by 2020 and decline soon after that if
countries are to achieve their Paris climate goals and prevent
global warming from spiralling to harmful levels, a former U.N.
climate chief said on Monday.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledged to keep global
average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above
pre-industrial levels, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to
net zero in the second half of the century.
"In order to be a decarbonised economy by 2050, we have to
bend the (emissions) curve by 2020," said Christiana Figueres.
"Not only is it urgent and necessary, but actually we are
very nicely on our way to achieving it," she told the Thomson
Reuters Foundation before launching a campaign to get
governments, businesses, investors and other sectors behind a
The energy sector is well on its way to switching to
renewable energy sources, while transport is picking up the
pace, Figueres said.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have stayed
flat for the last three years, even while the global economy has
continued to grow, as countries adopted cleaner energy sources,
according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
India, Norway and Germany all aim to switch completely to
electric cars by 2030.
At least $1 trillion needs to be invested in clean
technologies globally by 2020, said Figueres, who finished her
term as executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on
Climate Change in July.
"The fact is that we're moving in the right direction," she
said, adding that green bonds alone are predicted to reach $200
billion this year.
Figueres said clean technologies are cheaper and carry a
lower financial risk than those based around fossil fuel use.
And cutting emissions has many short-term benefits such as
better health, job creation, and food, water and energy
security, she added.
Heavy industry and land use including farming and forestry
are two sectors lagging behind in cutting emissions, she noted.
"It is absolutely a no-brainer to restore degraded lands
because it's cheap and helps with food security and avoidance of
forced migration," she said. "We know how to do it ... Scaling
up on that is going to be the difficulty."
EMISSIONS DOWN, GROWTH UP
Ahead of the "Mission 2020" campaign launch, Erik Solheim,
executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, said the
world had made "remarkable progress" in fighting climate change.
"We know the problem and we know the solutions, but we are
not out of danger yet," he added in a statement.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol said an early peak of
emissions around 2020 is "critical", and is "well within reach
with existing technology and proven policies".
Britain, meanwhile, has both cut its emissions and grown its
economy more than any other G7 country over a 25-year period,
the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said on Monday.
In 2014 – the most recent year for which there are full
figures across the G7 – the UK's greenhouse gas emissions per
capita were 33 percent lower than in 1992, while GDP per capita
was 130 percent higher, the London-based ECIU said.
Emissions fell mainly because the country switched from coal
to gas to generate electricity, introduced energy efficiency
schemes to cut demand, and shifted to a more service-based
economy, the ECIU said in a report.
"If you have consistent policymaking and cross-party
consensus, it's perfectly possible to get richer and cleaner at
the same time," said ECIU director Richard Black. "Britain isn't
the only country that's done it - it's true for most of the G7."
TRUMP AND PARIS
Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an
executive order to roll back climate change regulations ushered
in by his predecessor Barack Obama, and in his election campaign
vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement.
Whether it would be better for the United States to stay in
the accord is not a "black and white situation", said Figueres.
If the United States remains, there is "full participation",
but if it leaves "it perhaps allows all the other countries to
move forward more quickly", she said.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting @Alexwhi; editing by Megan Rowling.;
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