News

UN Climate Change conference

Neatly timed to coincide with the UN Conference on Climate Change in Marrakech, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) announced that 2016 will be the hottest year on record [1].  Over 10,000 attendees and 100 signatories of the Paris Agreement gathered in Morocco last week to reassure each other that climate change is not a hoax but a serious threat, particularly to the Eastern African and southern Asian countries that bear the brunt of droughts and flooding respectively.

The WMO took a little posse of 16 weather forecasters to the conference, to discuss the role that these very public figures can play in raising awareness of changes in weather patterns.  They value their status as scientists and wonder how far they could and should go towards expressing an opinion on climate change, particularly given the limited airtime at their disposal.  But an interesting debate, nonetheless.

Highlights of the past week include the publication of the United Nations Emissions Gap Report [2] which brought the depressing news that we need to shave a further 25% off current emissions targets by 2030 if we wish to keep our oceans cool.

The World Alliance for Clean Technology was also launched during the week by the Solar Impulse Foundation.  Bertrand Piccard, one of the pilots on Solar Impulse’s remarkable solar powered round-the-world flight, sounded a little like Elon Musk in his inaugural speech:

“We need to embrace clean technologies, not because they are ‘eco-logical,’ but because they are ‘logical.’ Even if climate change didn’t exist, energy efficient technologies would make sense to create jobs, generate profit and boost economic development, while also reducing CO2 emissions and protecting natural resources.” [3]

Yet another launch was the ‘Water for Africa’ initiative, led by Morocco and supported by the African Development Bank.

Climate science was on display with various country pavilions showcasing their own solutions to an urban future: Malaysia had a Forest City, India had a rail ring road and the UAE had solar plants.   On a slightly more prosaic note, there were sessions on the impact on health of poor air quality

In what is referred to, in the hierarchical terminology of the United Nations, as the ‘high level’ segment of the conference, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, broke with UN protocol by calling on the USA’s President-elect to honour his country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.  France’s President Hollande followed suit by insisting that the agreement was irreversible.   And the USA’s current Secretary of State, John Kerry, went as far as to say that a withdrawal from the Agreement would be “a moral failure, a betrayal of devastating consequences.” [4]

However, Mr Trump has shown that nothing galvanises him quite as successfully as a challenge to his judgement so all this strong language could just prove counter-productive.

[1] http://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/provisional-wmo-statement-status-of-global-climate-2016
[2] http://unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=27088&ArticleID=36295&l=en
[3] http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/world-alliance-for-clean-technologies-launched-at-cop22/
[4] http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/latest-kerry-fighting-climate-change-betrayal-43575508