Urban-LEDS logos banner

Scientists plot path to climate stabilization at pre-COP Paris science conference: Transformative solutions are urgently needed

From 7 to 10 July 2015, the international scientific community gathered at the “Our Common Future under Climate Change” (CFCC15) conference taking place at the UNESCO Headquarters and Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France. The 2,000 scientists from about 100 countries explored in 165 sessions the current understanding of all dimensions of the climate change challenge, looking at the full range of mitigation and adaptation options that can lead to sustainable, equitable solutions across all nations and regions. Several sessions touched upon the need to urgently identify and scale-up transformative actions that have significant climate change mitigation and adaptation impact.

Copyright INRA, C. Maitre

The messages conveyed by the scientists are of serious concern. Despite the best intentions, progress regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction has been rather meager until now. As of July 1, nineteen Parties submitted their Intended Nationally Appropriate Contributions (INDCs) – these countries were emitting 55% of global GHG emissions in 2012. However, according to a study presented by M. Den Elzen, PBL- Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, these INDCs amount to only about 20% of the reductions needed to limit global warming to 2°C in order for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Nevertheless, solutions are being explored and underway and multi-stakeholder collaboration is the only way forward as Laurence Tubiana, French Ambassador for the UN climate change negotiations, reiterated: “I am amazed at the variety of scientific and interdisciplinary work I have seen in the past 4 days. Scientists are working, with many partners, to develop long-term pathways at the scale of cities, economic sectors like agriculture and national economies, with strong focus on making solutions operational.” With all eyes on COP21 he further emphasized: “We need the COP21 to be the political answer to that work, and show that the transition to a decarbonized and climate-resilient economy is not just necessary; but also that it is feasible (politically, economically and technologically); and even beyond that, that it is inevitable, and underway.”

An example of this cross-cutting engagement was a session on ‘Transformative solutions for urban sustainability governance’ that ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability co-organized with the Stockholm University and the University of Waterloo, which also had the participation of the Australian National University and the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions on July 9 within the framework of the conference. The session discussed, among other topics, the need for decentralized solutions, including examples of local level actions as well as methodologies, tools and other resources available to support cities in their institutional transformation process towards a low-carbon climate resilient and sustainable future. In this regard, the GreenClimateCities (GCC) methodology is a key instrument for institutional transformation at local level with a successful track record in programs like the Urban-LEDS project which is supporting 29 cities from four emerging economy states in this change process. The session participants were also invited to disseminate and encourage their cities to participate in the Transformative Actions Program (TAP), a collaborative effort of networks of local and subnational networks spearheaded by ICLEI which aims at collecting and presenting ambitious, cross-cutting, multi-sectorial, inclusive and innovative mitigation and/or adaptation actions by local and subnational governments to be presented at the climate change (COP) meeting of the UNFCCC later this year. At this stage 100 proposals per year are envisaged, fairly representing local and subnational governments of different sizes around the globe.

Cities were also at focus in a closed dialogue session focusing on local governments in which Ronan Dantec, French Senator and Counselor of Nantes Metropolitan area, called upon a group of scientists engaged in urban issues to continue to research and build the body of knowledge on possible solutions for the urban future, to support decision-makers. Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Columbia University, stressed that broadening the mandate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to include data and knowledge at the subnational and local levels would be extremely important.

The conclusion of the scientific conference: Emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases must eventually fall to zero to stabilize the global climate. However, there is also still cautious optimism that growing political momentum means the two degree Celsius climate upper limit is still within reach: a two in three probability of holding warming to 2°C or less will require a budget that limits cumulative future carbon dioxide emissions to about 900 billion tons, roughly 20 times annual emissions in 2014.

Official press release of the meeting: http://poolo.kermeet.com/Data/kmewexV7/block/F_c2e9cb922b825520f98c84fe053052ed559fb09d15715.pdf

Scientists’ statement:http://poolo.kermeet.com/Data/kmewexV7/block/F_bedaa0dbe3d01a517f0fa7eb11d4b1a4559fae1ae868b.pdf