Briony Brookes is head of PR and communications at Cape Town Tourism. Spending the best part of her career in radio as head of Brand for KFM and Cape Talk, she then spent some time in the investment industry with Sanlam and Old Mutual before joining the exciting world of tourism just over two years ago.ByRobin Fredericks
Kate Owen is Uber SA marketing manager for Rides and Eats, based in Johannesburg. Having been at Uber for over four years, Kate has covered the marketing for Uber South Africa, the brand campaigns for Uber SSA and now research and strategy.
Prior to this, Owen gained through-the-line and digital marketing experience working for Ogilvy and Mather Johannesburg where she operated in a client service role working with international brands across the retail, FMCG and broadcast sectors.ByRobin Fredericks
On July 7, G20 leaders will gather in Hamburg for their annual meeting. One likely outcome: another clash over climate change between the host government, Germany, and United States president Donald Trump.
The question of what is fair in climate politics is hugely important.
Trump’s definition of fairness – “America First” – is probably not mutually acceptable to most other nations. But countries will hesitate to scale up their ambitions unless they are convinced that others are doing their fair share.
To address this question, we have put together our third annual stocktake on their progress in a report – coordinated by the global consortium Climate Transparency – that determines how far the G20 has come in shifting from fossil fuels to a low-carbon economy.
The report, compiled with 13 partners from 11 countries, draws on a wide spectrum of published information in four main areas (emissions, policy performance, finance and decarbonisation) and presents it concisely, enabling comparison between these 20 countries as they shift from dirty “brown” economies to clean “green” ones.
The G20 have also proven to be a nimble policy forum, where soft policy making can happen. And there is less concern than in the past that the group would seek to replace the multilateral process.
This means these governments must lead the way in decarbonising their economies and building a low-carbon future.
The beginning of a transition
According to the Climate Transparency report, the G20 countries are using their energy more efficiently, and using cleaner energy sources. Their economies have also grown, proving that economic growth can be decoupled from greenhouse gas emissions.
So we are beginning to see a transition from brown to green. But the report also reveals that the transition is too slow; it does not go deep enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals.
Canada has the highest energy use per capita, followed by Saudi Arabia, Australia and the US.
India, Indonesia and South Africa all have low energy use per capita (India’s per capita rate is one-eighth that of Canada). Poverty in these countries can only be addressed if people have access to more energy.
Today, renewable energy is increasingly the cheapest option. Still, we found that many G20 countries are meeting their increasing energy needs with coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
According to the Climate Action Tracker, which monitors progress toward the Paris agreement’s temperature goals, coal should be phased out globally by 2050 at the latest.
Between 2013 and 2014, the G20 countries’ public finance institutions - including national and international development banks, majority state-owned banks and export credit agencies - spent an average of almost US$88 billion a year on coal, oil and gas.
Yet many of the G20 countries are now looking at phasing out coal, including Canada, France and the UK, which have all established a plan to do so.
Germany, Italy and Mexico, too, are considering reducing their use of coal or have taken significant action to do so. India and China continue to be highly dependent on coal but have recently closed and scaled back plans for a number of coal plants.
Countries at the bottom of the rankings are Japan, Indonesia and Turkey, all of which have substantial coal-plant construction plans, and Australia.
Despite their repeated commitment to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, the G20 countries are still heavily subsidising fossil fuels. In 2014, together, the G20 provided a total of over US$230 billion in subsidies to coal, oil and gas.
Japan and China provided, respectively, about $US19 billion and $US17 billion a year in public finance for fossil fuels between 2013 and 2014.
There is good news, though: renewable energy is on the rise. The G20 countries are already home to 98% of all installed wind power capacity in the world, 97% of solar power and 93% of electric vehicles.
In most G20 countries, renewables are a growing segment of the electricity supply, except in Russia, where absolute renewable energy consumption has decreased by 20% since 2009. China, the Republic of Korea and the UK have all seen strong growth.
Generally, the G20 countries are attractive for renewable energy investment, especially China, France, Germany and the UK – although the UK has now abandoned its policy support for renewables.
National experts asked by Germanwatch, a Climate Transparency partner, generally agree that their respective G20 country is doing quite well on the international stage (with the exception of the US) but lack progress in ambitious targets and policy implementation.
China, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Mexico and South Africa are ranked the highest for climate action. Countries with the lowest climate policy performance are the US, Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Dealing with global data
Putting together this G20 stocktake has had its challenges. The choice of indicators involves value judgements, which often become only apparent once national experts begin discussing them.
Enabling the international comparisons necessary to measure progress on climate requires information that is accurate, verifiable and comparable. The underlying data comes from very diverse economies with different legal systems, different regulations and reporting methods.
International organisations, such as the International Energy Agency, have often done extensive and very careful work to develop comparable data sets but these may not always be consistent with data from in-country sources. Exploring these differences helps us to improve our understanding of the data and the underlying developments.
The existing reporting and review system of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the source of much of the data that makes these comparisons possible.
The real challenge the UNFCCC process faces in the next few years as it finalises the “rule book” for the Paris agreement is how to develop an enhanced transparency system that will be robust and detailed enough to provide the relevant information for its five-yearly assessment of global progress on addressing climate.
Even so, the UNFCCC is constrained by the extent to which countries are able to see beyond their narrow interests.
Independent assessments such as Climate Transparency’s, which remains mindful of different perspectives but is not limited by national interests, can play a vital role in helping to increase the political pressure for effective climate action.
The Conversation Africa The Conversation Africa is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community. Its aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues, and allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation. Go to: https://theconversation.com/africa
About the author
Niklas Höhne, professor of mitigation of greenhouse gases, Wageningen University. Andrew Marquard, senior researcher on energy and climate change, University of Cape Town. William Wills, research coordinator, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
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