UN Climate Change Conference Delegates Urge Faster and More Ambitious Action on Clean Energy
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend three days of the Bonn Intersessional Climate Change Conference, known as SB50, organized by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference. These conferences, held every year in June, and always in Bonn, are intended to provide the climate negotiators from national governments and civil society with an opportunity to work on interim steps that lead up to the more comprehensive negotiations that take place at the end of every year at what are known as the Conferences of the Parties (COPs).
This year ISES was involved in a very special event that was held on the Saturday (22 June) that falls between the two-week conference: the first World REnew Day, organized by our REN-Alliance partner, the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), and the GO100%Renewable Energy Platform.
The first World REnew Day was structured as an outdoor festival of free music and speeches at an outdoor setting in front on the UN Buildings where SB50 was being held. Stefan Gsänger, the Executive Director of the WEEA, and Rian van Staden, the Executive Director of the Platform, handled all of the organization logistics. ISES was an official supporter of the event, and I was one of the speakers. The plan is for World RENew Day to become an annual global event that falls on the first Saturday after the Northern Hemisphere summer solstice.
The real highlight of the 4-hour event, held on a bright, sunny warm afternoon, was the musical presentations of three renowned artists: Makeda, a well-known singer-songwriter from Bonn who, provided mystical and enchanting songs; Arieb Azhar, a popular folk-rock singer from Pakistan who, accompanied by his acoustic guitar and a rhythmic back-up group projects a deep and powerful voice, giving a vibrant rendition of Bob Marley’s “Wake Up”; and the high-energy singer Ruslana, also backed up by a solid rock band, who gave an outstanding closing performance that had everyone dancing and singing along in front of the stage. All of these musicians performed for free. They demonstrated their deep commitment to protecting our planet and its inhabitants from the devastating changes that human-cause climate change is bringing. Ruslana and her team generously provided her mobile sound system for use by all of the musicians and speakers.
The speakers that took the stage that afternoon have all dedicated their lives to promoting renewable energy and fighting against the human forces causing climate change. Stefan Gsänger served as the moderator, and his opening talk set the stage for why we should have a World RENew day as a way of focusing attention on some of the best solutions for mitigating climate change. Jean-Paul Brice Affana served as co-moderator and also gave opening comments and introduced many of the speakers.
Rian van Staden then talked about the need for 100% renewables, using a unique story-telling approach. Other speakers throughout the afternoon included Hans Josef Fell, Ashok Sridharan (Mayor of Bonn), Tasneem Essop (Executive Director of the Climate Action Network, or CAN), Thomas Cierpka, representatives from FridaysforFuture, and Andriy Konechenkov of Chernobyl.
My talk, which came near the end of the event, focused on how the solutions to the climate crisis are real and ready for full-scale adoption. These solutions are practical, economically viable, and will ensure a healthier, more prosperous and sustainable world than what we have today. These are the solutions that ISES has been promoting for over 60 years: solar and renewable energy technologies, which can supply virtually all of our end use energy needs. I noted how these solutions, coupled with more efficient and wise use of energy, if adopted more aggressively today will help us successfully address the climate crisis.
Franz Alt who produces the weekly newsletter Sonnenseite then closed out the speeches with a presentation of a special message conveyed to him by the Dalai Lama.
Because of its UN accredited status, ISES can participate in the SB’s and the COPs as an NGO Observer, and is entitled to organize a booth to present its work and to organize and participate in Side Events. This year the UN is placing a special emphasis on “Raising Ambitions”. These were words heard frequently at SB50 and will be the focus of the major UN Climate Summit being planned in New York City on 23 September. The need for raising ambitions is that, nearly 5 years after the signing of the Paris Climate Accord in December 2015, it is clear that the Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDC’s, which are the carbon reduction commitments made by all countries who signed the Paris Agreement, are inadequate to cap global warming to 2 0C, not to mention the 1.5 0C that was the preferred commitment spelled
out in the Paris accords. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in their recent landmark report, reaffirmed that we should not exceed this limit. The issue of getting more ambitious NDC commitments was discussed prominently at SB50 and was a key theme of many side events, including one that I attended, organized by CAN International, where results of studies were presented showing the daunting challenges we are facing, given that carbon emissions are on the increase and plans for numerous new coal fired power plants and other significant fossil fuel investments. This trend has been made worse recently in the U.S. by the removal of proposed Obama-era carbon-emission control strategies by the Trump administration.
But in closing I want to mention that I attended a very inspiring side event called Youth Rising, which featured a number of young speakers from the FridaysforFuture movement (as well as music from Makeda). At this event young people clearly demonstrated how they are committed to defend the planet from the imminent and long-lasting hazards of climate change.
Congratulations to Stefan and Rian for their efforts in putting together a very successful inaugural World RENew day. ISES looks forward to working closely with them, and to continue in its participation in and contributions to the UNFCCC process.