With this year’s first session of the UN climate negotiations to open on Monday, international politics surrounding the planetary climate crisis were taking on a split personality, according to NGO experts speaking at a press briefing today by Climate Action Network-International and the Global Call for Climate Action.
According to Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists' director of strategy and policy, on the one hand, there are some signs of progress on climate action.
More developing countries appear keen to adopt low carbon development plans, renewable energy costs continue to decline, and the US and China just launched a process to develop a set of joint actions that “set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world."
In addition, several key high-profile political actors, such as IMF chief Christine Lagarde and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, are calling for increased action on climate change.
But on the other hand, there are several signs that the world is not coming to grips with the severity of the situation, Meyer said, such as continuation of some US$1 trillion a year in fossil fuel subsidies, increasing efforts to develop unconventional oil reserves and expand coal exports, and the growing gap documented by UNEP between the reductions in emissions required by 2020 in order to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Centigrade, and the much higher level expected as a result of current national pledges of action.
"To top it off, we aren’t seeing the bold leadership needed by our political leaders to deal with the climate crisis, particularly those from developed countries,” Meyer said. “This must change – and soon – if we are to get the much more ambitious set of international and national actions that are required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Hope in the face of the climate threat was coming increasingly from developing countries.
Lina Li, climate policy researcher from the Greenovation Hub in Beijing, said after some positive domestic developments on the climate front, there was potential for China to do more on the international stage.
"The North-South paradigm that underpinned the international development and environment agenda is posing more questions than answers. Conventional wisdoms are being challenged while new imaginations are yet to be articulated. China’s new role, with the ongoing geographic power shift, will be identified within this context. This is one of the key questions that need to be addressed if we are going to achieve a fair deal in 2015," Lina said.
Meanwhile, this year's major climate negotiations will be held in Poland in November, a country renowned for blocking further climate action in the EU, according to Julia Michalak, climate policy officer for Climate Action Network, Europe.
"It’s difficult for the country that keeps looking back-ward to move the international process forward. Poland keeps mentioning its past achievement and has no vision on how to design its own climate policy, so it’s difficult to imagine it can offer a lot to international process."