The dinosaur awakes – How quickly will it move; how clearly can it think?

Disclaimer: this blog was written prior to the results of the US election.

Humanity has woken, after a quarter-century of fitful slumber, to the fact of climate change.  Dangerous climate change.

The 1992 Framework Convention spoke of ‘dangerous’ climate change.  It did not speak of ‘catastrophic’ change, primarily because those present never thought for a moment global emissions would rise to their current levels. For 24 years we have blended denialism, prevarication and rivalry in a fateful mix that has thwarted rapid and rational remedial action.

Paris last year (COP-21) was the turn-around.  With few exceptions, governments, corporates, firms and households, and indeed the media, now accept the threat of dangerous climate change. And with few exceptions, we embrace the challenge of saving ourselves from it. There is no doubt, a sea-change has occurred.

The question then is, has that global change occurred in time, and even so, do we have the collective capability, the unbearable political lightness of being, to reduce global emissions on a downward curve through 2030 and ’50 that allows the temperature to stay under 2.0°C?

The answer is being developed at the COP-22 in Marrakesh, which started today.

I am at Marrakesh for the conference, as part of the NZ delegation.  My participation, I think, helps develop a national consensus for stronger climate policy.  It is what lies behind Parliament’s new cross-party climate group, GLOBE-NZ.  It is what I think lies behind the Minister’s support for the group, and for the consultancy work we have commissioned for ‘alternative but equally effective transformational pathways to carbon neutrality for New Zealand’.

There is no time left to look back now; only time to work together.  We in the Green Party will continue to challenge the Government on climate policy, but with a healthy respect and with a search for collaboration.

The existential challenge, here at COP-22, is ‘ambition’ – the national targets to reduce the global emissions curve.  ‘Top-down’ is out now; ‘bottom-up’ is effectively in. We are, therefore, wilfully and consciously reliant on enlightened self-interest to save ourselves.

The challenge to us, as a species, is historically unprecedented. United Nations Environment Programme calculates that current pledges for 2030 are 25% above the 2.0°C pathway and will result in a temperature rise of 3.4°C – ‘catastrophic’ in other words.  So, now the Paris Agreement is in force, can we bring forward at COP-22 a new-found resolve to make the 2018 ‘facilitative dialogue’ a meaningful review of our collective efforts in global mitigation?  Challenge 1.

Challenge 2: how quickly, how effectively, can we replace, or complement, the Kyoto Protocol rules with a new Paris rule-book for post-2020. A rulebook that embraces all 197 parties of the Framework Convention (assuming the remaining 97 non-ratifying states do so), and includes forestry rules, carbon credit-trading rules, the role of agriculture, a transparency framework, and guidance on adequate climate financing for technology transfer and adaptation. A rulebook for implementing the International Framework for Loss and Damage, for blending in the aviation, and hopefully a shipping, arrangement with the Paris Agreement.

There is no guarantee the behemoth that is the UN multilateral negotiating machinery will be up to the task.  If we had half a century, it would be.

The creature is awake, now.  But how fast will it move?  How quickly can it think?

If we only had time.