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Pressure to ditch fossil fuel projects increases as severe weather picks up

Dec 13 2017 19:05
Yolandi Groenewald
Climate change

Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany where the IPCC is currently conducting talks on climate change. (Martin Meissner, AP)

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Paris - Pressure is mounting on businesses to divest from fossil fuel projects, with the World Bank also announcing this week that it would stop financing oil and gas exploration and extraction projects by 2019, to add to its ban on new coal projects.

World leaders and global financial institutions gathered on Tuesday for the One Planet Summit in Paris, organised by President Emmanuel Macron and the French government, that took stock of how far the world has progressed in its fight to prevent runaway climate change.

The meeting comes as severe weather events are on the increase worldwide. 

Centre stage at the summit was financing, both how funding fossil projects such as the Thabametsi and Medupi power stations was falling out of favour and more commitments to invest in renewable power to curb greenhouse gasses.

The summit built momentum and pressure to exclude fossil fuel projects from future financing mechanisms, which will make the financing of any large scale fossil fuel project in South Africa increasingly difficult. 

Macron has emerged as a champion to battle climate change, at the time when US President Donald Trump announced that his country would exit the hardfought agreement, signed two years ago in the French capital.

Richard Branson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elon Musk attended the conference, while Senator John Kerry represented the US, promising to ensure that the US would still continue the fight in its cities and states without Trump.

An official in the French presidency told Fin24 that the summit was to take stock of what has happened since the agreement was signed, while also focusing on the financial commitments made.   

He added that Macron and Argentinian President Mauricio Macri had ensured that climate change would be a main theme on the G20 agenda, with the G20 meeting taking place in Argentina next year.

The US was welcome to rejoin the agreement at any time, but the agreement will not be renegotiated in any way, the French presidency stated.

Throughout the conference, where the World Bank had a significant presence,  delegates pledged a host of new financial commitments.

Developed countries two years ago promised to put up $100bn per year into a green fund, which they would deliver by 2020.

The funds are needed to help developing countries adapt to a low carbon economy, while also building climate resilience to mitigate the effects of climate change.

South Africa, in the annual climate change negotiations, have warned that they would not be able to meet their climate pledges if the developed world did not fulfil its promises about funds to help the country to ditch coal.

Other developing countries have also demanded that the developed world honour the promises made at the Paris Agreement.

While several heads of state attended the high level summit, South Africa - who has political clout in the climate change space - only sent an energy department official, due to the building political tensions back home on the eve of the ANC’s elective conference.

Climate Action Network (CAN), a global network of over 1 200 NGOs working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change, said the summit delivered many positive initiatives.

This included the World Bank’s commitment and insurers vowing not to back fossil fuel projects.

But CAN warned that the pledges are not enough to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

“We know from the 2017 United Nations Emissions Gap Report that we are not on track,” it said. The report stated that countries needed to triple efforts, step up both private and public finance and accelerate the deployment of renewables to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep warming below 1.5°C.

It said despite dire weather events this year, many governments, private and multilateral development and financial institutions are still funding fossil fuels worth billions of dollars.  

“This undermines the Paris Treaty and is a complete waste of time and money that we can no longer afford.”

Governments, banks and other major actors must immediately shift investments from the energy of the past - the dirty fossil fuel industry of coal, oil and gas - towards 100% renewable energy, the cheapest, healthiest and most productive energy source.

Countries must also move towards energy efficiency and sustainable land use to prepare for a fully decarbonised economy by mid-century latest.

CAN concluded that the summit was good for the momentum needed for 2018.

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paris  |  investors  |  climate change
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