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Five days and Five years on Climate Change

It’s just less than five weeks until Christmas.  But it is an unusually quiet time for me.  For the last five years, this time of year has been incredibly hectic for another reason – the climate change negotiations.  This year they’ll be taking place in five days time, in Durban in South Africa.

The first ever climate change negotiation I attended, five years ago, was also in an African setting – in Nairobi in Kenya.  Back then, my job was focused on publicising the findings of the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change, which I had worked on and which was published in October 2006.  

Over the last five years, things have certainly changed.  Back then, the idea of climate change being an economic issue was alien.  The Stern Review changed all that, and meant, for example, that Economic and Financial Ministers from all over the world attended the subsequent climate negotiations in Bali and Poznan in 2007 and 2008 respectively.  Back then, the issue of “climate finance” was not even a recognisable phrase.  Now, it is one of the key issues that the UK negotiates on.  In Durban, countries will be discussing how to complete the design work next year for a new – the “Green Climate Fund” and how to get it actually working.  Back then, only developed countries such as the UK had targets to reduce emissions.  Now, large emerging economies like Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico also have national emissions reduction targets, albeit voluntary and, in some cases, conditional on international financial assistance.

So if things have changed substantially over the past five years, what about this next conference in Durban?  Will it deliver even more “big change”?

Although things have moved on in the last five years, there is still a lot of work to do.  In particular, many countries still need to be convinced that taking action on climate change won’t limit their growth or poverty reduction aspirations.  Indeed, many ordinary people like you and I need to be convinced about this.  I know many people who think that doing something about climate change involves paying through the roof for renewable energy and/or giving up a whole host of things we love doing.

Until these views shift ubiquitously, the people representing their countries at the climate change negotiations will find it very hard to negotiate differently to how they negotiated last year or the year before. Lord Stern has recently warned of risks of “lethargy” in negotiations.

But it’s not all negative. There is change afoot. For example, South Africa’s Government is due to unveil, in Durban, an ambitious new initiative  that will create the potential for tens of thousands of jobs directly (and many more indirectly) and attract tens of billions of dollars of private investment, through building of up to 19GW of renewable energy by 2025. That’s over double the current total installed renewable capacity in the UK. Testing this kind of initiative and commitment in a country that is also the largest carbon dioxide emitter in Africa could represent the start of a real shift in attitudes worldwide. Other African countries have similarly big ambitions for green growth – Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Kenya, for example.

That’s why after five years, Christmas will be an unusually quiet period for me. This time, I won’t be going to the climate change negotiations in Durban.  Instead, I’ll be staying in the UK to help find the best ways to help developing countries test this crucial question about the compatibility between action on climate change, economic growth and poverty reduction.  I’ll also be writing a few more blog posts about some of the topics and issues my colleagues will be working on in Durban – so do watch this space!

Filed under: Climate Change

Comments: 3 Comments on Five days and Five years on Climate Change
Posted on: Nov 23 2011

3 Responses to “Five days and Five years on Climate Change”

  1. roger parker says:

    Hannah, They say bureaucrats couldn’t run a sweet shop because of the regulatory and risk-adverse mindset they have; thereby not having the requisite entrereneurship and enterprise necessary to run a business and to have the creativity and risk-taking qualities necessary to produce the future products and services to keep the business afloat.

    I know this might be a simplification but it goes to the heart of the matter in terms of making the quantum leap forward in terms of energy & resource efficiency and renewable energy production to cut carbon emissions.

    A recent classic example of the bureacrats response is the recent action and publicity to halve, yes halve, the Feed-in-Tariff for Solar PV. Never mind the fact that it is still out for consultation so in theory a decision has not been made but the publicity spin of the 50% cut in the Tariff has effectively killed this RE buzz dead.
    Don’t they ever learn. The answer is No, because addressing finacial budgetry compliance, having a ‘silo’ mentality, and having their values affronted at the thought of people making a profit at the public expense is more important than harnessing and maintaining this buzz and then sensitively deceasing FiT in steps at the same time as diversifying the buzz into other areas and schemes. Everybody – PV manu’ers, installer, suppliers, etc would then have had time to adjust. But no, they used an arbitary mallet to smash the PV FiT walnut and killed it dead – and all on a false assumption for the ROI of 4.5%. Hopeless. No idea.

    Set against this way of managing the change, the fundamental change, the behavioural change, necessary to acheive the 30% Carbon reductions by 2020, and the 20% of electricity generation by Renewable Energy (RE) by 2020, Hannah, I dont see how all the talking and all the policies and all the strategies are going to make the requisite amount of change if this Government kills the first green shoots of RE production stone dead before this industries enterprise and entrepreneurship has had time to flouish and become embedded and make the change. God help us all if this is How this government and these bureaucrats are going to fight the War on Carbon.

  2. admin says:

    Hi Chel. We estimate this will mean at least 65,000 jobs in the insulation and construction sector by 2015. For more info on skills/jobs visit – thanks, DECC Comms

  3. chel says:

    Can any one tell me with the news of:

    14 billion worth of private sector investment in home energy improvements over the next decade will help insulate households from rising global energy prices and create thousands of jobs in the British insulation and construction sector.

    Do we know what this means in terms of skills and qualifications?

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