Your 101 Guide to Ambition

27 June 2019

Parties [and political leaders] are clearly still struggling with the notion of ambition, despite all the guidance provided to them by the IPCC, NGOs, think tanks, the UN Secretary General, Greta Thunberg, and despite the increasing need to address impacts of climate change all around the world. 

ECO has lost count of how many times we”ve said that science’s role is to inform ambition. And we’re not referring only to the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C. New scientific studies (which missed the SR1.5 deadline for consideration) remind us that climate change could be happening faster than we originally thought. One recent example shows that if emissions remain unabated, Greenland’s ice will melt at higher rates than initially expected. The climate forecasts are now up to 80 percent higher than previous estimates of 35 inches (89 cm) of sea level rise. Europe is again this summer experiencing a heat wave – all you need to do is to step outside of the conference halls for a bit of empirical research. 

ECO has talked a lot about it, but since we’re not seeing ambition from you, we feel the need to unpack what we mean by climate ambition. Bluntly put, we want a credible and solid response to the climate emergency from all countries based on their different capacities and resources. A response to the demands of youth and the public outcry would include the following elements:

Mitigation: we need significantly enhanced NDCs that are 1.5°C compatible, ready for implementation, reflecting the country’s long-term strategies, and informed by science and in line with equity. The term “mitigation” itself can hide what’s really needed. Fossil fuels are the largest cause of the climate crisis. So in order to be ambitious you need to set goals to rapidly phase out the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and invest in a just transition to 100% renewable energy. You need to set ambitious short-terms targets of halving CO2 emissions by 2030. Developed countries should move fastest and assist developing countries. Justice and equity are essential to making this work. ECO wonders what is holding you back? ECO thinks it’s your lack of political will rather than the availability of technological solutions. 

Tackle the impacts: ah, you thought mitigation was all you had to do. But no, we also want increased support and means of implementation (aka finance, capacity building, and technology) for adaptation and for addressing loss and damage to the vulnerable developing countries, its people, and ecosystems.

When considering new ambitious climate initiatives ECO encourages you to think about restoring ecosystems and protecting existing ones. Protecting and restoring biodiversity rich ecosystems can close around one third of the mitigation gap and will strengthen adaptive capacity and resilience in a climate changed world.

And there is actually more: ECO would like everyone to be involved at all levels. Your national climate plans should be built with and for your entire society. It therefore needs to come with public participation (which is also a human right), accountability (willingness to hold other countries accountable for meeting their pledges) and gender responsiveness.

Luckily for the planet, this year you have more than one opportunity to increase your climate ambition and show leadership! It’s not only about the COP in Chile in December. In September, at the UNSG Summit, ECO would want to see meaningful commitments that put us on a climate safe path by 2020. “Bring plans, not speeches,” said UN Secretary-General Guterres. We’re with him for the Summit. For COP 25 and beyond, we need plans, we need transformative action. 

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