December 8 saw the completion of this year's meeting of over 190 nations that are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The meeting, formally known as the 18th Conference of the Parties, or COP18, was held in Doha, Qatar. Next year it will be in Warsaw, Poland. Accomplishments were modest - but the ambitions were also modest. This year's COP was seen as a transition year where the parties could advance progress toward a new legally binding instrument that would require actions of all parties (agreed last year in Durban, South Africa). The new agreement is to be concluded by 2015 and enter into force in 2020. Perhaps the biggest outcome of Doha was that it advanced progress toward a negotiation forum that includes all countries on the same footing, rather than continuing the old differences between industrialized and developing countries.
The climate issue is rising on the international agenda, due to the growing scientific, industry and government consensus that extreme weather events (2011 floods in Thailand; droughts in India, US, and Africa; unprecedented Arctic sea ice melting; typhoons and hurricanes in US, Southeast Asia) are outside regular climatic fluctuations and in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's predictions.
Just prior to the meeting, a number of traditionally conservative bodies--including the International Energy Agency and the World Bank Group - issued reports raising the alarm of potentially devastating impacts from an average global temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts generally agree is a realistic scale of warming we are heading for by the end of the century under a business-as-usual scenario. The Forum's 2013 Global Risk Report (to be published on January 8th) will reflect this consensus and highlight climate risk as among the top global risks, pointing to the need for political, finance, business and scientific leaders to redouble their efforts to develop a resilient systemic response.
Key Doha COP18 outcomes include:
• Recognition that we may not achieve the 2 degree Celsius global atmospheric temperature stabilization target: Participants noted with "grave concern" the widening gap between what countries have promised to do to reduce emissions and the growing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. They declared it unlikely that on the current path the world would be able to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times, a central goal of the United Nations process. Countries stated an intention to "identify and explore in 2013 options for a range of actions to close the pre-2020 ambition gap."
• Addressing the concept of "loss and damage" from climate change: Recognizing increasingly frequent extreme weather events, as well as slower-acting threats like drought and sea level rise, delegates adopted language urging more financial and technical support for the most vulnerable countries.
• Extension of the Kyoto Protocol: Delegates agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol a few years and to commit to more ambitious actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
• Climate finance: Wealthy nations delayed a decision on providing billions of dollars in aid to the countries most heavily affected by climate change. Industrial nations have pledged to secure $100 billion a year by 2020 in public and private financing to help poor countries cope with climate change, but have been vague about what they plan to do before then. Only a handful of countries, including the UK, Norway and the European Commission, have made concrete financial pledges for adaptation aid over the next few years.
The Forum's role
The World Economic Forum had a targeted, impactful presence at the climate change talks, as it launched a new partnership on 6 December with the UNFCCC's Momentum for Change initiative to showcase innovative finance solutions for climate change. The launch event featured a high-level panel that included the COP President from Qatar; UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres; ministers from South Africa, Vietnam and the UK; and leaders from pension funds, banks, environmental NGOs, insurance companies and other companies that have found bottom-up solutions to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation. Over 200 participants attended the session, including members of our Climate Change Global Agenda Council, members of the Green Growth Action Alliance (G2A2), and government champions from the New Vision for Agriculture and Water Resources Groups initiatives. The Momentum for Change Innovative Finance Pillar will issue its first call for projects in April 2013, with the aim of showcasing success stories at COP19 in Warsaw.
While the UN talks struggle to gain traction in securing a global deal, the Forum continues to advance effective actions at the national and subnational levels, through working with industry, government and civil society leaders to advance new models to finance a climate-resilient, profitable future. This is done through the Forum's G2A2, which was launched at the Mexican G20 Summit in Los Cabos with over 50 companies and public finance agencies.
The path forward
In 2013, climate change will be strongly on the agenda, as businesses and governments develop more pro-active strategies to mitigate risks and improve resilience to extreme weather events. Further, the UNFCCC process will continue to progress slowly toward a "global deal" in 2015. Therefore, it will be more important than ever to demonstrate momentum in delivering finance, climate adaptation and mitigation. The Forum's bottom up public-private-civil society initiatives like the G2A2, Water Resources Group and New Vision for Agriculture will continue to provide critical "lighthouse examples" of new frameworks of action to support and energize the negotiations. The Momentum for Change partnership will help us to showcase these and other leading examples.
At Davos in January, climate change will be front and center on the agenda. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and Dr. Jim Kim, World Bank President will attend the Annual Meeting, and participate in a number of sessions on climate finance, climate risk, green infrastructure, new sustainable business models, and the future of the climate and millennium development goals regimes.