UN Climate Chief Praises China, Warns the Rest of the World

By: | January 22nd, 2014

Renewable and green energy received a significant morale boost to start the new year with the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change advising investors to pull money out of fossil fuels and look to renewables going forward.

Christiana Figueres made the remarks saying that investors are in breach of their energy responsibilities by continuing to pump money into fossil fuels at the expense of alternatives.  Citing “clear scientific evidence”, Figueres stated outright that investors should place some money in green assets.

The climate chief’s comments were made to The Guardian with specific reference to the International Energy Agency’s $1 trillion plan to move from a coal and oil-driven economy to a renewable one by the year 2030, with the hopes of keeping warming below a “dangerous threshold” of 2C.

Figueres stated that investment needs to be accelerated in order to meet that goal, where it is currently $300 billion a year. “From where we are to where we need to be, we need to triple, and we need to do that – over the next five to 10 years would be best – but certainly by 2030,” said Figueres.

Her comments were repeated and reinforced at a conference in New York amongst an audience of investors. “The continued and dangerous rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is in large part the direct result of past investments in energy and mobility systems based on the use of fossil fuels,” said Figueres.

“New investments must now assist in reversing this unsustainable trend, and quickly if the world is to have a chance of staying under a 2C temperature rise.”

This isn’t the first time that Figueres has criticized the investment in fossil fuels, having castigated the coal industry last November over its spending on carbon.

However, in what comes as a surprise, Figueres praised China’s new attitude to reducing emissions. While China is  the world’s highest emitter of greenhouse gases, it has since begun addressing the problem with new energy policies and standards for construction and vehicles as well as embracing solar energy for the future. Much of the pressure for policy change in China has been in response to the burning of coal.

“They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she said of China’s efforts, “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.”

Figueres’ next aim for tackling climate change is signing a new treaty in 2015, which will replace the notorious and much-debated Kyoto Protocol, from 1997. It is expected that each country will make certain contributions such as rolling back on fossil fuel investment opposed to committing to reduction of emissions. Such deadlines have been missed by many countries since 1997.

Jonathan Keane

Irish journalist writing on business, tech and engineering.


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