COP-21 climate agreement must be seen as ‘in the interest’ of the people, expert says

Aligning emissions reduction plans with individual national interests will be crucial towards achieving systemic change for environmental protection goals.

simon buckle (photo credit: COURTESY SIMON BUCKLE)
simon buckle
Aligning emissions-reduction plans with individual national interests will be crucial toward achieving systemic change, an industry expert told The Jerusalem Post this weekend as countries around the world prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December.
“We need a process that really delivers,” Dr. Simon Buckle, head of the Climate Change, Biodiversity and Water Division at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said by phone from Paris on Friday.
“We’ve got to find a way to make sure that each country will get onto a pathway that will take us collectively to a world that, by the end of the century, is onto zero net emissions.”
Buckle is in Israel this week to participate in Tuesday’s “Innovation and Sustainability Conference,” convened by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Economy Ministry and Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, ahead of the Conference of Parties (COP-21) in Paris later this year.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Environment Ministry officials plan to announce the results of inter-ministerial work on Israel’s greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2030.
Participant nations in COP- 21 are aiming to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement to ensure that global warming does not surpass 2 degrees. The summit will be the 21st such annual conference to occur as a result of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, during which countries adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Prior to COP-21, all participant nations are expected to submit their intended national determined contribution (INDC) plans, the terms of which can vary according to their individual national conditions.
Following the inter-ministerial committee’s recommendations on greenhouse gas emission targets, the government will need to approve Israel’s INDC – a decision Environmental Protection Ministry officials hope will occur by September, enabling INDC submission to the UNFCCC later that month.
Buckle emphasized to the Post that the Paris conference marks a very important stage in the global struggle to fight climate change.
“We’ve had agreements before, conferences before and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise,” he said. “We haven’t managed to reduce emissions at a global level.”
While acknowledging that INDC plans alone, without subsequent action, would not be sufficient toward curbing the temperature climb, Buckle stressed that such a notion “doesn’t undermine the importance of Paris.”
“That accentuates the importance of getting a good agreement in Paris,” he said.
An agreement at COP-21 toward curbing the global temperature rise must appeal to the participant nations, he explained.
“You have to have an agreement that people see is in their interest,” he said, citing potential benefits like quality of life and traffic congestion improvements.
“All of these things are immediate drivers for changes in behavior.
Buckle served for years as an expert in the sector prior to his November 2014 appointment to the OECD. From 2007 to 2014, he was the climate policy director at the Imperial College of London’s Grantham Institute, where he also played a key role in the creation of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology’s Climate KIC. He also served as a British diplomat for 21 years and has a background in theoretical physics.
Among the other participants at the Tel Aviv event will be a number of Israeli and international experts, including representatives from the UNFCCC, Deutsche Bank and DENEFF – the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency.
By instituting green-growth policies, governments can bring their citizens tremendous health benefits as well as improved daily life quality through low-carbon transportation mechanisms and increased energy efficiency, Buckle explained. Many such measures, he continued, “can be done at low or negative costs” and so do not pose significant upfront financial burdens.
As far as Israel is concerned, Buckle said the country could benefit from reducing its dependency on fossil fuels; taxing the usage of coal at higher rates; and rapidly developing solar energy.
“Over time, the system has to move further and you either do that by having renewables or nuclear,” he said.
Israel does not have the option to install nuclear energy facilities, however, because it refuses to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
As a result, it would be worthwhile for Israel to invest its efforts in continuing to advance its renewable energy and smart-grid systems, according to Buckle.
Countries around the world may face challenges to varying degrees as they move forward with programs to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, but Buckle reiterated the idea that many infrastructural improvements can provide citizens “a broader benefit rather than just the climate change benefit.”
Moving forward, governments, therefore, must consider projects with both short- and long-term benefits, making the right incentives available, he stressed.
One positive step many countries could take would be implementing carbon prices – essentially, charging for greenhouse gas emissions – to counteract the dramatic fall in global oil prices, Buckle explained. He particularly praised Indonesia and India for beginning to institute productive reforms in their oil sectors.
While advancements made at COP-21 will be critical, people “on the ground” at home will be responsible for really putting into place suitable incentives and other measures that drive change, he added.
“The key thing about Paris is that it has to give quite a strong signal that countries are serious,” Buckle said. “The countries, by giving their individual commitments on emissions reductions, will have to follow up.”