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Reinsurers call for action at climate change summit

Politicians must act to cap global warming when they meet at a United Nations summit at the end of the year as the financial and humanitarian consequences of natural catastrophes become ever clearer, reinsurers meeting at an industry conference said.

The $600 billion reinsurance industry helps insurance companies pay damage claims from hurricanes, floods or earthquakes and can help people and companies get back on their feet after a disaster.

The UN’s climate boss warned this week that national promises to cut emissions so far would cap warming at an unacceptably high level, heightening concerns in the insurance industry about politicians’ lack of resolve.

“Definitely we expect political courage to move in a direction that shows responsibility towards future generations and a certain interest in defending the sustainability of this planet,” Swiss Re’s Chief Executive, Michel Lies, told a news conference.

Swiss Re data shows natural disasters caused an average $180 billion in economic damage per year over the last decade, of which 70 percent was uninsured.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said big natural catastrophes can also lead to cuts in sovereign credit ratings — making it more expensive for governments to borrow money — with Latin America and the Caribbean most at risk.

These conclusions should help concentrate minds at the climate talks starting in Paris on Nov. 30, reinsurers said.

“What we can bring to the table is a credible price tag for the decisions that are taken or not taken, making sure everybody understands that in the short term you may not take a decision but you will definitely pay a price in the long term,” Lies said.

Weather researchers say global warming will result in more frequent and intense heatwaves, precipitation and storms. Warming needs to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to avoid the most devastating consequences in the form of droughts and rising sea levels, scientists say.

“Even if this goal is not fully reached, every step in this direction is better than no result at all,” said Peter Hoeppe, head of Geo Risks Research at reinsurer Munich Re.

In the meantime, there must be increasing focus on preventive measures such as flood defences that can help dampen the rise in insurance premiums in the medium to long term, Hoeppe said.

Insurers and Group of Seven industrialized countries are working to expand the availability of insurance to an additional 400 million people in developing countries considered at high risk.

“Climate change is happening, no question,” said XL Group’s Chief Executive, Mike McGavick.

“Insurers and reinsurers have to be at the forefront of transferring that risk,” McGavick said.

Credit: St. Louis Post Dispatch

Climate Change vulnerabilities on SIDS can be addressed through partnerships!

Climate change poses a threat to survival in the Southwest Pacific, and in most of the small islands around the globe. Photo: FAO/Sue Price

The global challenges facing the small island developing States (SIDS) are the international community’s collective responsibility, today stated the top United Nations official at the Security Council.

“Combatting climate change, promoting sustainable development and addressing the vulnerabilities of SIDS will demand partnership, capacity and leadership,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who recalled that the SAMOA Pathway is here “to guide us.”

Last year’s Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa increased global attention on their contributions to sustainable development – but also on their unique vulnerabilities, Mr. Ban reminded to the Council members, who were meeting for an unprecedented debate about the situation of these countries.

From traditional armed conflict to transnational crime and piracy, illicit exploitation of natural resources, climate change and climate-related natural disasters and uneven development, small island developing States face a range of peace and security challenges, according to the concept note provided by New Zealand, which holds the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for the month of July.

Caribbean SIDS, for example, are vulnerable to drug-trafficking and gang-related violence, noted the Secretary-General, while unreported and unregulated fishing undermine local economies. Through its Maritime Crime Programme, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is actively engaged to help these countries in these areas.

“Taken together with the broader vulnerabilities faced by many of these States communities, these challenges can disproportionately affect national stability, fuel conflict across regions and ultimately have an impact on the maintenance of international peace and security,” adds the Security Council concept note.

For the Secretary-General, the first priority must be to support these States in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

“Second, we need a post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals that address the needs of SIDS,” he continued.

At the recent Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, which took place from July 13 to 16, it was encouraging that the concerns of [that group of countries] were reflected, including in critical areas such as debt, trade, technology and Official Development Assistance, Mr. Ban noted.

“Third, we need a meaningful and universal global climate agreement in Paris in December,” stressed the UN chief, as small island developing States are on the front lines of climate change.

“Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu is only the latest in a long string of devastation that SIDS have endured and will continue to endure as long as climate change is not adequately addressed,” he warned, underscoring that Caribbean countries sometimes experience as many as five hurricanes in a season.

Rising sea levels, dying coral reefs and the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters exacerbate the conditions leading to community displacement and migration, threatening to increase tensions over resources and affect domestic and regional stability, the Secretary-General went on to say.

“Leading by example,” many of these countries have been accelerating their own transition to renewable energy to secure a sustainable energy future. But, to support SIDS in their actions to combat climate change and adapt to its impacts, “a politically credible trajectory for mobilizing the pledged $100 billion dollars per year by 2020” is needed, he explained.

The Green Climate Fund will need to be up and running before the Climate Conference in Paris in December, but a “meaningful, universal climate agreement” must be adopted, concluded the Secretary-General.

Credit: UN News Centre

Gold Standard Sustainable Cities Framework

The Gold Standard Cities Programme is developing ground-breaking solutions that will unlock the finance needed by cities around the globe for low carbon development.

Urbanization and climate change will be defining issues of the 21st century. Half of the world’s population resides in cities and it is expected that by 2015, the world will have over 350 cities with more than one million inhabitants each.

Cities are already feeling the impacts of climate change and they will increasingly be susceptible to rising sea levels, inland flooding, frequent and stronger tropical cyclones, periods of increased heat and the spread of diseases. To mitigate climate change and to adapt to these impacts, it is estimated that by 2050 more than a trillion U.S. dollars in investment will be needed for cities but currently, less than 2% of climate finance is channeled into urban projects due to a lack of reliable monitoring, reporting and verification on project performance and outcomes. Further, the World Bank estimates that of the 500 largest cities in the developing world, only about 4 percent are credit worthy in international financial markets, making it next to impossible to access finance for low carbon development.

The Gold Standard Cities Programme is a ground-breaking results-based finance framework through which cities can develop, audit and verify urban programmes – in order to catalyse and scale up the currently missing investment.

Supported by WWF, initial work used suppressed demand methodologies to determine that slums in Delhi emit 6.1 million tons of CO2 annually which can be reduced to 2.8 million tons by the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Establishing this baseline for slum areas was not only cutting edge research but a critical pre-requisite for climate finance to flow. Without a baseline it is impossible to verify emission reductions – the whole premise of results based climate finance. Until now, this has been a key barrier to funding urban low carbon and pro-poor development through climate finance.

The results-based finance framework, developed initially for Delhi, has been designed to be replicated in cities around the world, giving investors confidence that they have a global benchmark with which they can measure urban low carbon and sustainable development outcomes.

Major cities in China, the Middle East and Turkey are in the process of joining The Gold Standard Cities Programme.

For more information about The Gold Standard’s work with sustainable cities, please visit:

New funding structures to deliver clean energy and development in cities

Financing cities of the future: Tools to scale up clean urban development

The Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance – to stimulate investment into low carbon and climate resistance urban infrastructure

Credit: The Gold Standard

COP 20 to Lay Foundation for Paris 2015 Agreement

The UN Climate Change Conference is now underway in Lima. The meeting, which runs from December 1 – 12, is expected to lay the foundation for an effective new, universal climate change agreement in Paris in 2015 while also raising immediate ambition to act on climate change in advance of the agreement coming into effect in 2020.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has this year warned against rising sea levels, storms and droughts as a result of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, and highlighted the many opportunities of taking climate action.

Last week, the UN Environment Programme underscored the need for global emissions to peak within the decade and then to rapidly decline so that the world can reach climate neutrality – also termed zero net emissions – in the second half of the century.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Convention said:

“Never before have the risks of climate change been so obvious and the impacts so visible. Never before have we seen such a desire at all levels of society to take climate action. Never before has society had all the smart policy and technology resources to curb greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience. All of this means we can be confident we will have a productive meeting in Lima, which will lead to an effective outcome in Paris next year.”

In Lima, governments meeting under the “Ad Hoc Work Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” (ADP) need to define the scope and the type of contributions they will provide to the Paris agreement, along with clarity on how finance, technology and capacity building will be handled.

Countries will put forward what they plan to contribute to the 2015 agreement in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by the first quarter of 2015, well in advance of the Paris conference in December of next year.

The Lima conference needs to provide final clarity on what the INDCs need to contain, including for developing countries who are likely to have a range of options from, for example, sector-wide emission curbs to energy intensity goals.

Ms. Figueres welcomed the leadership of the EU, the US and China, who have publicly announced their post-2020 climate targets and visions.

“It is hugely encouraging that well ahead of next year’s first quarter deadline, countries have already been outlining what they intend to contribute to the Paris agreement. This is also a clear sign that countries are determined to find common ground and maximize the potential of international cooperation,” she said. 

“Countries are working hard to increase emission reductions before 2020, when the Paris agreement is set to enter into effect. Pathways on how to accomplish this will also be a key issue before nations in Lima,” she added.

Governments need to work towards streamlining elements of a draft agreement for Paris 2015 and explore common ground on unresolved issues in order to achieve a balanced, well-structured, coherent draft for the next round of work on the text in February next year.

In addition to progress made to date towards a Paris agreement, the political will of countries to provide climate finance is increasingly coming to the fore. 

At a recent pledging conference held in Berlin, Germany, countries made pledges towards the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund totaling nearly $ 9.3 billion USD. Subsequent pledges took this figure to $ 9.6 billion, so that the $ 10 billion milestone is within reach.

“This shows that countries are determined to build trust and to provide the finance that developing countries need to move forward towards decarbonizing their economies and building resilience”, Ms. Figueres said.

In the course of the 2014, governments have been exploring how to raise immediate climate ambition in areas with the greatest potential to curb emissions, ranging from renewable energy to cities. 

As part of the “Lima Action Agenda”, countries will decide how to maintain and accelerate cooperation on climate change by all actors, including those flowing from the Climate Summit in September, where many climate action pledges were made.

“We have seen an amazing groundswell of momentum building this year. One of the main deliverables of the Lima conference will be ways to build on this momentum and further mobilize action across all levels of society. Society-wide action in concert with government contributions to the Paris agreement are crucial to meet the agreed goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius, and to safeguard this and future generations,” Ms. Figueres said. 

Further areas where progress is expected in Lima

Accelerating ratification of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol

  • Countries that are Party to the Kyoto Protocol have a further opportunity to contribute to ambitious emission reductions before 2020.
  • The Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol needs to be ratified by countries before it can enter into force. The ratification process needs to be accelerated and clear accounting rules adopted in Lima so that the amendment enters into force by the Paris meeting.

Providing transparency of developed country action

  • The first round of the newly established “multilateral assessment” of developed country action to curb emissions will take place in Lima, with 17 countries assessed.

Building resilience to climate change

  • As climate change impacts worsen and impact the poor and most vulnerable, governments urgently need to scale up adaptation to climate change. The conference needs to agree on how National Adaptation Plans of developing countries will be funded and turned into reality on the ground.
     · Countries will also work to agree a work programme for the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, and elect the members of its Executive Committee.

Financing the response to climate change

  • Governments will work to scale up and coordinate the delivery of climate finance and of the various existing funds. A focus will be on identifying ways to accelerate finance for adaptation to climate change.
     · Governments will also recognize the initial capitalization of the GCF, which is expected to reach USD $ 10 billion by the close of the Lima conference.

Forests

  • Countries meeting in Lima will further work to provide support to avoid deforestation. Several developing countries are expected to submit information which would make it possible for them to obtain funding for forest protection.

Providing technology to developing countries

  • The Lima meeting is expected to fully operationalize the Technology Mechanism, especially the Climate Technology Centre and Network.

Fostering carbon markets

  • Governments meeting in Lima are expected to clarify the role of carbon markets in the 2015 global agreement and set a work programme for next year to design and operationalize new market mechanisms.

Other highlights in Lima: 

UNFCCC Pre-2020 Action Fair
As part of the efforts by countries to accelerate pre-2020 climate action, the secretariat is organizing a fair 5, 8 and 9 December in Lima to showcase how action is being scaled up and how many countries and non-state actors are taking action and setting an example. It will be complemented by an exhibition that will run for the duration of the conference.

UNFCCC NAMA Day
A special whole day event will take place 6 December on developing countries’ actions to reduce emissions with the help of so-called “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” (NAMAs). NAMAs are plans of developing countries to reduce emissions and to develop sustainably which can be supported by developed countries. The UNFCCC secretariat has created a registry to match requests for and offers of support.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres is scheduled to give the opening UNFCCC press conference in Lima at 13:15 on 1 December.

See the UNFCCC press section for a tentative overview of press briefings at the conference, which will all be webcast live and on demand.

See the note on logistical media arrangements for COP 20.

See also the Peruvian host government website.

Credit: UNFCCC Newsroom

About the UNFCCC 

With 196 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties. For the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. In Doha in 2012, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol adopted an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which establishes the second commitment period under the Protocol. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
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