A lot has happened in the months since COP 24. To begin with, there were climate/weather-related disasters in several countries. Further:
1) Youth protests. After Greta Thunberg’s performance at COP 24, her protest action has taken off. In many countries, pupils and students sometimes demonstrate weekly for better climate policies, with the provisional peak of a turnout of 1.6 million young people in more than 100 countries on March 19, 2019. See a video report here: https://www.facebook.com/350.org/videos/599414933857359/ .
2) New Green Deal. In the US, Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and ditto Senator Ed Markey are making significant progress with the New Green Deal. This is an ambitious plan to make the US as a whole climate neutral by 2050, through a socially responsible transition. The key objective is to maintain 1.5C. An important part is 100% renewable energy within ten years. The NGD is widely embraced, also by organizations with which the WCC cooperates.
3) Geoengineering. Switzerland has taken the initiative to put geoengineering on the agenda of the annual UNEA (United Nations Environment Assembly) (March). Geoengineering means technologically intervening in terrestrial processes, e.g. making clouds, putting small particles in the atmosphere to reflect solar radiation, etc. It is controversial, but is being talked about more and more. It was not possible to reach a consensus on this during the UNEA, but this subject is expected to become increasingly important in the coming years.
N.B. Just before the UNEA in Nairobi, a plane (Boeing 737 Max) crashed on its way there from Addis Ababa. The WCC has lost a staff member. A number of international environmental lawyers also died.
4) Divestment. The process of divesting from the fossil industry continues steadily. At the beginning of March, the Norwegian state fund (one of the largest institutional investors in the world) decided to start withdrawing investments from the oil industry, while it stopped investing in the coal industry a few years ago. A few weeks later, 22 Dutch investors decided to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry, worth about 200 million euros, see https://www.ad.nl/economie/rijke-nederlanders-stappen-uit-beleggingen-in- oil-and-gas-this-is-a-clear-signal~aa36e5aa/ . And on March 22, the Austrian Catholic bishops’ conference announced that it would stop investing in all industries that extract fossil fuels or make products from them. To this end, the ‘divestment commitment’ of the Global Catholic Cimate Movement will be signed. After Belgium and Ireland, it is the third national bishops’ conference to do so.
5) Faith organisations.
– The German EKD has compiled a discussion paper on the importance of Agenda 2030 (the 17 SDGs must be achieved by 2030), especially aimed at secular and ecclesiastical policy makers. Click here for information.
– The Ev. Lutheran Church of Finland aims for climate neutrality by 2030. To this end, a special energy and climate strategy was developed and signed on 26 February.
– On February 27, the Church of Scotland called on the Scottish Government to make the country climate neutral by 2050 at the latest. Read the relevant speech here.
– An ecumenical conference will be held in Oslo from May 25-28: Churches’ contribution to a sustainable society, subtitle “Between hope and despair – what to do and how?”. A co-production of the Norwegian Church and ECEN.
– The German Kirchentag, June 19-23 in Dortmund, will once again pay full attention to climate and sustainability, including with a panel entitled “Environment, climate and justice – act now” on June 20.
– An ecumenical ‘sustainable’ preaching project has started: www.sustainable-preaching.org. Preachers/priests are requested to share ideas.
5) EU climate policy. Until recently, Germany was the major climate driver, but that position has been taken over by France. This country wants to be climate neutral by 2050 (= no more greenhouse gases emitted than are absorbed). In addition, France is calling for a special EU climate bank, and is making this an item for the European elections on 23 May 2019. Germany, on the other hand, is having great difficulty getting rid of the lignite and coal industry: a draft climate law that must guarantee climate neutrality in 2050 is not yet completed. Political analysts fear that Germany’s position will weaken the European Germany-France axis. And then there is the Brexit, recently postponed to ….???? Should Brexit go ahead, the UK will no longer be subject to EU climate policy.
6) Netherlands. Our country is currently the worst performing country in terms of climate within the EU, see https://www.energiecomparing.nl/nieuws/nederland-het-verst-achter-met-klimaatdoelen . Since the appeal in the court case Urgenda vs NL State was won by the plaintiffs last October, the Netherlands is now forced to develop better climate policies. Nevertheless, parties are struggling to get the Dutch climate agreement off the ground. Initially, it was refused to include a CO2 tax in the agreement, which led to environmental organizations walking away from the negotiations (‘climate tables’). Since February/March, however, the Rutte cabinet has indicated that it is still in favour of a CO2 tax, although it has not specified what that should look like. A decision is expected at the end of April. Calculations by, among others, the Centraal Plan Bureau show that the policies outlined in the agreement are not expected to be sufficient to achieve the targets (49% emission reduction in 2030 and 95% in 2050), but are an important step in the right direction. The most recent election results (state elections of 20 March 2018) indicate that the Netherlands, like other countries, is increasingly confronted with political polarization [in my opinion partly caused by uncertainty/fear among citizens with regard to climate policy and its consequences: unfair financial distribution, migration, etc.].
7) First UN Climate and SDGs Synergy Conference in Copenhagen, early April. Main points: more synergy is needed, climate measures must create jobs and help achieve the SDGs, so no more trade-offs or greenwashing; there will be a UN platform to share synergy knowledge and best practices; more work needs to be done to protect forests and oceans through multi-stakeholder partnerships; a Cool Coalition has been formed to promote the transition to clean cooling systems (including air conditioning). The outcomes of this conference will go to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York July 9-15, 2019, where SDG 13 (Climate Action) will be vetted. For a press release, see https://unfccc.int/news/experts-leaders-agree-on-key-ways-to-mobilize-accelerated-action-for-climate-sustainable-development.