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Latest Issue Brief: Making the UN Secretary General's Climate Summit Count
18 Sep 2014

The upcoming United Nations Climate Summit is a precursor to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris to be held in December 2015. Against this backdrop, CEEW CEO, Dr Arunabha Ghosh, has recently written a brief titled 'Making the UN Secretary General's Climate Summit Count: An Opportunity for Credible Climate Leadership'. The ideas highlighted in the brief were presented in draft form at a workshop on "Effective International Climate Agreements" organized by the Centre for International Governance Innovation in June 2014.

Dr Ghosh has highlighted the following key messages in the issue brief:

  • The UNSG's climate summit must have three objectives to succeed: giving heads of government a platform to lead on different themes; allowing for multiple small group deals and issue linkage; and managed well with the process being perceived as inclusive and legitimate.
  • An effective climate agreement would offer opportunities to leverage three growing demands: (i) from the poor for access to basic services (and their willingness to pay); (ii) from the middle class for better quality of life and thereby efficiency in resource use (energy and water availability, air and water pollution, health impacts, food price inflation); and (iii) from the upper income strata (in developed and developing countries) for better returns on investments in technologies and new business opportunities. The latter could be termed as "inflection capital" or investments, which although highly risky, could if successful alter the energy and economic structures of societies.
  • Structured around access, efficiency, and inflection capital, the UNSG's summit would provide a platform for heads of state to demonstrate their willingness to act on issues on which they and their countries could deliver. In addition, heads of state could convene or participate in one or more small-N meetings to bring along other like-minded leaders. The process would not be exclusionary, but with an open membership approach to ensure legitimacy.
  • Examples could include but not be limited to: China and India on renewable energy manufacturing and deployment; India, Kenya, Thailand and others on decentralised clean energy services; United States and Japan on energy efficiency; France, Netherlands and other EU countries on adaptation to water stress and water use efficiency; United States on energy storage; Germany on integration of renewables in the grid; China, Europe, India, Japan and the United States on alternatives to HFCs; Mexico and the Philippines on agricultural R&D for drought-resistant seeds; Brazil and Indonesia on new technologies to monitor rainforests; etc.
  • This approach would have three merits: First, it sets out a roadmap for action at scale (across countries) rather than merely reporting and monitoring country-specific policies and registry of limited actions; secondly, it prioritises action now on several fronts, thereby building the trust necessary for an eventual multilateral climate agreement; thirdly, it overcomes the concerns about voice of small countries; small-N groups under the proposed arrangement would not be exclusive clubs but have open membership to evolve into large-N models.
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In India, around 74 million rural households lack access to modern lighting services and a larger proportion of the population (around 840 million) continue to be dependent on traditional biomass energy sources
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