The Changing Political Climate on Global Warming


Against all odds and expectations, the Paris Conference on climate change was a partial success. For the first time almost 200 governments agreed on reduction targets for emissions, on external controls, and on an aim to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees.
While according to many experts these results are not good enough, they nevertheless constitute significant progress.

So, the questions are:

Why did this happen now?

And how can we navigate between the unrealistic expectation that the postindustrial countries will agree to reduce their living standards to make energy consumption more sustainable, and the equally unrealistic assumption that developing countries should agree to slow down their growth?

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 4 years ago

    I hope that in the era of global regionalization and tense regional conflicts governments started to realize that without a common agenda the world may really fall apart. Governments cannot find a consensus on regional issues, however climate change is now so obvious to everybody, even most the hardest of skeptics, that it has started to become a symbol of the need for unified actions. Hence some progress but still not enough to outweigh regional conflicts and disagreements. However compared to the situation even a year ago, this is really progress. There is a feeling that results of the Paris Conference and also political changes in Myanmar strengthened by changes in Venezuela, Argentina and probably in Brazil will pave a way toward a global regionalization that fosters unity together with a simultaneous possibility for pluralism and real democracy.

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  2. Sergei Medvedev 4 years ago

    I think that the idea of living standards, especially in the developed countries, already entails strict environmental controls, and leaving a clean ecological footprint. In this sense, by agreeing to limit themselves in emissions, the Western societies do not sacrifice that much but rather act on the basis of a broad social consensus. Enlightened self-regulation (especially in the Protestant societies, e.g. in the Nordic countries), together with the market incentives for clean products and businesses create a totally new post-materialist ethos.

    However, it is not only limited to Western societies. Countries like China and Kazakhstan also put forward bold environmental programs, seeing this as a bid for a higher reputation, and better capitalization in the global marketplace which is becoming increasingly green. In this sense, enlightened self-interest does not contravene emission controls, especially when countries like China see the rapidly deteriorating environmental situation at home.

    Finally, growth in the developing countries is also becoming greener, as sustainability becomes a market necessity. In this sense, provided with modern technologies, in 2015 there is no inherent contradiction between sustainability and economic growth, as was the case some 20 years ago, and this new situation has been reflected in the Paris document.

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  1. XIAOCHEN ZHANG 4 years ago

    Why Paris is not another Copenhagen?
    In 2009, many people declared COP15 in Copenhagen the last chance to save humankind. And though the Copenhagen pledge promised the mobilization of climate finance to the tune of US$100 billion per year by 2020, it was seen as a failure by many and “a terrible fiasco” by the president of France. After that, public debate centered on the Paris climate talks as a last-chance saloon.

    While no single agreement can or should be seen as the “last chance” on climate, we can rest assured that Paris is not going to be another Copenhagen. Janos Pasztor, the UN Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change may have said it best in a Reddit session:

    "In Paris, we have already 185 countries who have submitted their national climate action plans to cover both mitigation and adaptation. The national plans submitted by countries are ‘bottom up’ (nationally determined). The attitude of the private sector has changed tremendously over the last 20 years, and it now looks for a strong agreement. The science is much more certain than it was back then. Finally, the impacts are now visible and measureable. So we are in a very different, and much more favorable situation for an agreement."

    As an official UN delegate in Copenhagen, I closely followed the negotiations in the Bella Center for two weeks straight, and I noticed several barriers that made progress difficult:
    •Without securing the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and effective financial support for developing countries’ low-carbon development, many parties were reluctant to make a commitment for long-term cooperative action.
    •Many developed countries were reluctant to set targets without similar targets being set by major developing countries.
    •The private sector had very limited access to, as well as impact on, the negotiations. The public sector was left to try to fix this global problem by itself.

    Constrained by both the political imagination at the time and the readiness of all key stakeholders, Copenhagen could not overcome those barriers. Paris, however, is different, and I believe we’re in store for a transformative agreement. Here’s why.

    Countries had already set national commitments by the time the negotiations started. According to a WRI analysis, among the 184 country climate plans (also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs), approximately 80 percent of them set a target for mitigating national greenhouse gas emissions covering around 94 percent of global emissions in 2010 (excluding LULUCF) and 97 percent of the global population. A further 3 percent of global emissions are coming from international aviation and maritime transport. Almost 1 percent of global emissions are covered by countries that are not parties to the UNFCCC.

    These INDCs have reflected both the countries’ climate ambitions and national circumstances. These INDCs have minimized the risks of failure due to a lack of meaningful targets or lack of participation from a majority of countries.

    Major economies have demonstrated positive political dynamics. In November 2014, U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi announced new climate targets, which have become the new foundation of close climate collaboration between the two countries. The EU-China Joint Statement on Climate Change released on June 29 has also paved the way for positive cooperation. And changes are afoot in India, where more than 300 million people still lack access to electricity. Despite this, India pledged to reduce emissions per unit of GDP by 20 to 25 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 33 to 35 percent by 2030. In its INDC, India also committed to have 40 percent of its installed electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources.

    With these ambitious commitments and clear signals for collaboration, the risks of failure due to a lack of collaboration between major economies is also at a historical low.

    Strong policy engagement from the private sector has reduced uncertainty for negotiators. In Copenhagen, the private sector had a marginal role to play in the negotiations—even though business actions to reduce emissions and enhance adaptive capacity are extremely important for an international climate solution. During Copenhagen, climate change was seen as a public-sector issue, and many worried that a bold agreement would actually harm the competitiveness of the economy. That concern is not apparent in Paris, where business leaders of all stripes are calling for an ambitious Paris Agreement.

    Endorsed by hundreds of business and investors, the eight “policy asks” produced by We Mean Business coalition has laid out an actionable framework on what a transformative Paris agreement could look like. Business has sent clear and strong messages to negotiators: We want a climate agreement, we want it to be bold, and we want it now.

    The private-sector’s emissions-reduction commitments are improving the confidence of policymakers that business will be a partner in implementing a transformative agreement. By taking ambitious actions to address global warming, companies will not only be more competitive and climate-friendly, they will increase their credibility in advocating for an enabling policy framework. A rising number of forward-looking businesses and investors are doing this now: Working together to understand the risks, develop tools, and shift their investment toward a low carbon pathway.

    Through the We Mean Business coalition, 501 businesses and investors that represent more than US$7.1 trillion in revenue and US$19.5 trillion assets under management have made 812 commitments to lead on climate and build a thriving, clean economy. As Statoil CEO Eldar Sætre said in an oil and gas event at the Paris talks Monday, “We need to embrace low-carbon solutions as a business opportunity rather than as a threat to our industry.”

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  2. XIAOCHEN ZHANG 4 years ago

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  3. Ye Shengxuan 4 years ago

    Most of countries have already realized the importance of environmental protection, just take China for example. Due to the serious effects of smog, a great number of Chinese citizens begin to ask for the government to adress this huge problem. So, currently Chinese leaders not only focus on economic growth, but also pay more attention to the environmental governance. With the development of global civilizaition, more and more countries would like to narrow down their diputes, and take collective measures to tackle the challenge of global climate change. In this globalized world, our global citizens can make a difference to make this world better, and the success of Paris Conference on climate change is the best evidence to reflect our humanbings common interests and strong determination.

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  4. AW 4 years ago

    I would completely support Sergey's argument: higher environmental standards go hand in hand with higher quality of life. Everybody wants to live in green cities, use high-tech public transportation and breath clean air. As bad environment becomes the most prominent cause for protests in China, the Chinese government grows more interested in a more sustainable development. Less emissions does not automatically mean less live quality, it actually means more technologies and smarter cities, grids and transportation.
    And I think that now, with some many hot conflicts on the world environment is a welcome cause to cooperate for many countries, which otherwise have difficulties with each other.

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