The agreement reached in Paris is a diplomatic success but it is not enough to drive a global commitment for limiting the global consumption of fossil fuels starting from now. Former Italian Corrado Clini environment minister shares his thoughts with Vita International.
Why the Conference of the Parties to Climate Change Convention was so important ?
Until the early Eighties the international scientific community sent out the warning about the increase in temperature and global warming. According to the climatologists the “greenhouse effect”, mostly caused in the last 150 years by heat-trapped anthropogenic gases released into the atmosphere, is the responsibility of global warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most widespread anthropogenic gas, produced by the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas).
In 1992, the Rio Summit on sustainable development adopted by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, and in 1997 the COP 3 approved the Kyoto Protocol to reduce the CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, in the last 25 years CO2 emissions continued to grow because of the increasing global demand of energy supported by fossil fuels.
A paper released in July by the former NASA climatologist James Hansen and by 16 scientists found that “ice sheets are melting faster than expected, the sea level could soon be up to five meters higher than it is today by the latter part of this century, unless greenhouse gases aren’t radically slashed”.
Europe, United States and emerging countries (leads from China and India) have different economic and energetic models. The Cop21 conference was able to get them to agree?
The demand of energy is growing in the so called “emerging economies”, like China and India, and in the developing world with more the 1,3 billion people without access to electricity. According to the International Energy the demand of energy will grow in the next 20 years about 35%.
Taking into account that limiting fossil fuel consumption is the key for CO2 emissions reduction, and considering the right of the emerging and developing world to grow, the challenge is to supply the increasing energy demand with “carbon free” fuels: mainly renewables and nuclear.
While in the USA and Europe the driver of CO2 emissions reduction is mostly energy efficiency, in the emerging and developing world the driver is innovation in energy technologies and services, in order to meet the demand without increasing emissions. The challenge of “decarbonization” will be won in Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. This is the reason why the COP 21 was very important, as well as a “postponed opportunity” (2020) for the the key issues. The agreement reached in Paris is a diplomatic success but it is not enough to drive a global commitment for limiting the global consumption of fossil fuels starting from now.
COP 21 was not able to set the “platform” and to identify the actions to “decarbonize “the global economy: in other words, to meet the increasing energy demand with low carbon fuels and technologies in the emerging and developing world. Unfortunately climate change is not waiting for the next step in 2020.
Do you think the Green Climate Fund will help the poorest countries fighting climate change?
The Green Climate Fund will work if it will be a driving force to move private and private investments towards the innovation in energy services and land management. If the Green Climate Fund is going to act as a traditional tool for international cooperation, the amount of its financial resources are a peanut in comparison with the needs.
Italy has the dubious distinction of EU country with the largest number of premature deaths due to smog. How to explain this situation? Our environmental policies are really so ineffective?
The environmental pollution in the urban areas of Europe is a common issue of many countries. This is the reason why European Union is committed to improve the policies and the measures to reduce the pollution from the industries and the traffic.
I don’t believe that the Italian situation is very different from the other most populated and industrialized countries of Europe. Maybe the difference is in the accounting and classification of premature deaths. Nevertheless we have to work more and more for addressing the environmental pollution from traffic with the building and better management of effective mass transportation infrastructures.
Photo:getty/ ALAIN JOCARD