The Planet is Overheating: Let’s Take Action Now!

published on 19 September 2018
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surchauffe, planète
One year on, on 26 September, New York hosted the first meeting to take stock of the progress of the Paris One Planet Summit in a difficult context for the planet: global warming is at boiling point, as shown by the latest studies conducted on the years 2017 and 2018. But in the midst of record temperatures, the mobilization of the international community is not abating.

While some still had doubts, the period we are currently experiencing should dispel any questioning. With heatwaves this summer in Northern Europe never seen before and 2017 the warmest year since records began at the end of the 19th century (excluding cyclical phenomenon caused by El Niño): the Earth is heating up like a pressure cooker.
 
This disturbing observation has been made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US federal agency responsible for observing oceans and the atmosphere, in its climate report in 2017, which was released in the middle of the summer. The document, which was prepared with support from over 500 scientists from 65 countries, starkly lists its findings:

In 2017, the quantities of greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere reached new records. (…) The growth rate for CO2 has almost quadrupled since the early 1960s.

53.5 °C… on Earth

Several countries, including Argentina, Spain and Bulgaria, have reached a record level for average annual temperatures. In 2017, Mexico beat its record for the fourth year in a row. Huge peak temperatures have been recorded in several parts of the world, such as 43.3 °C on 27 January in Puerto Madryn (Argentina), the highest temperature ever recorded at this latitude. The world temperature record in May was also beaten in Western Pakistan, with 53.5 °C in the shade. The threshold of the unbearable is not far off. 

“This is not a future scenario. It is happening now.”

Worrying phenomena related to abnormally high temperatures have been observed everywhere: at the poles, in the oceans, in the tropics. The upper part of oceans (up to 700 m) contain a quantity of heat never seen until today. Yet oceans absorb over 90% of the additional heat caused by greenhouse gases. Ice caps are continuing to melt and there has been a significant increase in extreme rainfall and severe droughts, while the number of hurricanes has “only” exceeded the upper average of the past 30 years.
 
2018 is not over, but is in keeping with this. In Paris, the record of 1947 measured in the Montsouris district with 87 days at over 25 °C has just been broken. And 2018 “is shaping up to be one of the hottest years on record, with new temperature records in many countries”, sums up the Deputy Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Elena Manaenkova, in a press release issued at the end of July. The data are “consistent with what we expect as a result of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. This is not a future scenario. It is happening now”, she emphasizes. 


 

We are currently getting into the hard part of global warming. Unfortunately, only disasters accelerate awareness and decision-making.

Hervé Douville, researcher at the National Center for Meteorological Research (in “Les Échos”)

Despite this difficult context, “it is not too late”, wants to believe the climatologist Jean Jouzel, who will be coming back in early October for the 48th plenary session of the IPCC on limiting global warming to 1.5 °C, the core objective of COP21. 

Reasons to believe this

Despite the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, almost every other country in the world continues to be mobilized to limit global warming, not to mention the “dissident” large American cities and the State of California, which alone is equivalent to the world’s sixth largest economic power. 

Global warming is neither irreversible, nor inevitable. In this context, there are an increasing number of upcoming political deadlines, starting with the follow-up meeting of the Paris One Planet Summit, organized on Wednesday 26 September in New York. This summit provided the opportunity to take stock of the commitments made during the first edition of the summit in December 2007 and fast-track the implementation of the Paris Agreement, in particular by encouraging the financial world to do more for climate action. The message will be repeated at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF, organized in Bali from 13 to 17 October, and during Climate Finance Day on 26 November. 

In New York, leading Heads of State, the United Nations, business leaders, economists and representatives of civil society looked at the progress achieved with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The density of the international agenda until the end of the year, which will end with COP24 in Katowice (Poland) in early December, completes the message: we need to take action.

Development actors in the front line

This sense of urgency is shared by the major banks and development agencies. Backed up by States, these institutions commit to large-scale projects which make a real improvement to the daily lives of people. National, regional, multilateral or bilateral, from the North or the South: they all have the objective of facilitating transitions and redirecting the economy towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which is playing this leading role for France, fits in fully with this movement. It operates in a number of sectors – biodiversity, renewable energies, water, education, etc. – and supports the transition towards a safer, more just and more sustainable world. For AFD, the present and future over the climate issue are set out in four major objectives. Audrey Rojkoff, Deputy Director of AFD’s Climate Division, gives the details: 

Objective + climate finance

Half of AFD’s operations already have climate benefits: “This amounted to EUR 4bn in 2017, the objective is to reach EUR 5bn by 2020.” The principle is simple: finance projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make societies or ecosystems more resilient to climate change.

Objective + climate ambition

AFD takes a long-term approach, with a 100% Paris Agreement rationale: “All our financing must now be consistent with low-carbon and resilient development.” In practical terms, the in-house project evaluation rules have been enhanced, in order to better measure their climate impact, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Instruments for technical assistance and research capacities are also implemented to help partner countries define their climate strategies. In other words, there is no longer a place in AFD’s portfolio for development programs that are harmful for the climate in the long term.

Objective + climate partnerships

Actively participating in the implementation of the Paris Agreement implies redirecting financial flows towards green investments. It also means “improving, with our partners, our practices for climate mainstreaming in our activities”. For example, via the public/private finance coalition for the climate Climate Action in Financial Institutions, or with the International Development Finance Club (IDFC), the network of the 23 largest national and regional development banks. 
 
Objective + innovative financial tools

Agence Française de Développement now issues climate bonds on the markets. These green bonds allow it to finance projects that contribute to the fight against climate change. It also offers credit line programs, such as SUNREF, AFD’s green finance label, which aims to bring about ecological transition projects in cooperation with the banks of partner countries.

Finally, promoting financial innovation also means “better assessing the financial, physical and transition risks.” What is this about? The physical risk results from the economic losses caused by climate change (storms, heatwaves, etc.). The transition risk may result from the economic effects of the measures taken to move towards a low-carbon society, such as the carbon tax. For AFD, a better understanding of these risks means being able to continue to offer adapted and secure financing to its partners.

Worldwide cooperation, the mobilization of all sectors which make up human activity: the fight against climate change will only be effective with joint and concerted action. “We can’t do it alone”, confirms Audrey Rojkoff. “It is by mobilizing all the vital forces that we will win.”  

Further reading