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Greater political will on part of biggest polluters critical

News from Nicaragua | Friday, 20 January 2017 |

On 18 January, Professor Gabi Hegerl, a climatologist named as one of the world’s most influential scientific minds, warned that things are ‘getting tight’ for efforts to prevent dangerous global warming. http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/time-running-out-to-avoid-%E2%80%98dangerous%E2%80%99-climate-change-as-2016-confirmed-as-hottest-year-says-leading-climatologist/ar-AAlZa63?li=BBoPRmx&OCID=ansmsnnews11

This followed confirmation that 2016 was the hottest year on record with temperatures already 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the average between 1850 and 1900.

This validates warnings by Nicaragua of the need for much greater political will on the part of the largest emitters to speed up the shift to low carbon economies.

‘The technology exists, the capital exists, the urgency exists, what is lacking is greater political will on the part of the largest polluters.’ Dr Paul Oquist, Nicaragua Minister for Public Policy

Dr Oquist spoke at a seminar on climate change at a Latin America Conference in London on 25 November, 2016 https://latinamericaconference.wordpress.com/

The following is a summary of the key points Dr Oquist made in his presentation

On rising carbon emissions and who bears responsibility

The part per million of CO2 in the atmosphere is on a relentless rise. We’ve already reached 1.1˚C above the pre-industrial levels. 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years since records began 167 years ago.

Those responsible for emissions are the only ones who can solve the situation. The top 20 emitters account for 78% of the carbon, and 76% of the world Gross National Income (GNI). Only they have the resources to solve the problem.

Of the 914 gigatonnes of emissions between 1751 and 2010, 63% have been traced to investor-owned entities: this means that in corporate terms ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Mobil and Chevron are among the biggest historic emitters.

Article 51 of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change states that nothing in the agreement should be interpreted as implying compensation for damage to countries that are least responsible for carbon emissions but suffer the worst consequences.

Nicaragua argues that the only scientific way to deal with this is for largest emitters to cut their emissions by the largest amount and also to compensate the damage suffered by the world’s poorer countries.

On how renewable energy and other carbon reduction measures could be financed

There’s money and the technology to solve the problem, but the political will is missing. At present corporations in Japan, South Korea, in the EU and the US are sitting on trillions of dollars of cash as equity markets are at an all-time high, and the corporations and sovereign bond markets have very low yields.

There’s about US $8 trillion in corporations and sovereign wealth bonds, which isn’t being used. That’s irresponsible. All these funds are being concentrated in 1% of the world population – it needs to be redistributed. It could be invested in renewable energy, reforestation and energy efficiency. There could be good projects with good rates of return, which would have an enormous redeeming social value in investing.

Their investors are hi-tech firms – we’ve made them rich by buying their machinery and software, so they should be sensitive about the scientific predictions of where this world is going to be in 50 years’ time, if they do not invest now in measures to combat carbon emissions.

Potential future consequences of accelerated climate change

Desertification is increasing on all fronts. In the Sahel animals are dying, crops are being lost. Lake Chad is now a puddle, and going the way of the Ural Sea. Europe doesn’t know what to do with a million war refugees, but UNDP estimates there could be 45 million refugees from the Sahel if their subsistence agriculture collapses.

The UN Convention on biodiversity could collapse – right now at a 1˚C temperature rise we have an extinction rate of 2.8%, at 2 ˚C it will be 5.2%, and at 4.3˚C it will be a catastrophic 16% disappearing each year.

Critique of the Paris Agreement

If the Paris Agreement contradicts other agreements made at Rio: The Convention on Climate Change, the Convention to combat desertification and the Convention on biological diversity.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) demand more water and more food, better nutrition and health, to reduce poverty. But the world of a potential + 3°C of the Paris Agreement would lead to less water, less food and worse health and nutrition, and more migrants.

The urgency of action now, social mobilisations critical

2025 will be too late – the next spin of the Paris roulette wheel is on a completely voluntary basis. We need action now. We need to look for where the money is, and how to pressure to put it into action.

The money and the technology exist, we just need the ambition and political will but politicians are not going to move unless there is social mobilisation to put pressure them.

Dr Oquist's powerpoint presentation is available from NSC on campaigns@nicaraguasc.org.uk