Green Cross Chief Operating Officer Adam Koniuszewski joined a panel of experts at the Palais des Nations in Geneva as the Moroccan and French Missions to the United Nations hosted a discussion of the upcoming COP22 in Marrakesh.
“If we really want to accelerate success, we can’t wait, we have to move further,” said Koniuszewski. “We have to stop subsidising fossil fuels, start thinking seriously about pricing carbon, and we have to scale up. Otherwise it’s ‘business as usual’ – and today it is ‘business as usual’ that is the real threat to the our health, our wellbeing, to nature, to ecosystems and our future prosperity.”
Koniuszewski noted that the global cost of fossil fuel pollution to health alone was about 2 trillion USD in 2015, according to a recent report from the IMF. This report found that governments worldwide effectively subsidised fossil fuel consumption to the tune of 5.3 trillion USD in 2015, a whopping 6.5 per cent of global GDP. When the destructive incentives to the carbon economy stop, clean energy solutions will really take off.
There have been positive developments, though.
“Every day last year, 500,000 solar panels were installed around the world. In China, two new wind turbines were set up every hour. And this is happening despite enormous carbon subsidies,” Koniuszewski continued.
Jonathan Lynn of the IPCC, Ambassador Elayne Whyte-Gomez of Costa Rica, Maria Neira from the WMO, Maria Luisa Silva of UNDP, Cyriaque Sendashonga from IUCN and Brigitte Eale Mukundji from Africa21 joined Koniuszewski on the panel. Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Auajjar and French Ambassador Elisabeth Laurin opened the event.
“COP22 will be an excellent opportunity for South-South cooperation,” said Lynn, noting the promised focus on developing economies.
This was echoed by Mukundji, who said: “African countries are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change – although the continent has barely contributed to greenhouse gases, it feels their consequences.”
This is the challenge for COP22, where the Paris Agreement commitments must be turned into concrete action.
“Three words embody what is needed to ensure the Paris Agreement’s entry into force: Action, innovation, and knowledge-sharing,” said Whyte-Gomez.
Sendashonga added: “with the INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions] that states have pledged to fulfil, this COP presents a unique opportunity to make the right choices to protect biodiversity.”
Silva agreed: “The Paris Agreement is at once a message to the world and also a plan of action for the years ahead.”
If the right measures are taken, the potential benefits are far-reaching.
“Everything that is being considered as ways to combat climate change will also serve to protect the health of the population,” said Neira, who sees the Paris Agreement as a huge opportunity to improve wellbeing.