Jean-Charles Seghers: States and regions delivering a low carbon economy

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8 July 2015

Jean-Charles Seghers, Compact of States and Regions Manager, The Climate Group, writes about the first set of results from the pioneering global reporting platform – and how we can keep momentum for non-state actors going ahead and beyond of the global climate talks this December.

Last week marked a milestone for sub-national climate leadership. At the World Summit Climate & Territories in Lyon, France, we announced the results from the first-ever reporting period of the Compact of States and Regions.

On the stage, surrounded by many others members of The Climate Group States & Regions Alliance, Premier Jay Weatherill of South Australia proudly conveyed that these ‘Compact governments’ already represent 10% of the global economy and around 5% of global emissions.

This is a fantastic result!

For premiers, governors and ministers to give the go ahead to report through a global platform is groundbreaking. After all, companies started disclosing their emissions years ago as part of their corporate social responsibility or ‘purpose’ programs.

STATES AND REGIONS

The Compact outcomes presented at the summit in Lyon are a true testimony to the ambition shown by state and regional governments.

For the first time, through the Compact, they will get continuous global recognition for the hard work they undertake every day in setting targets, implementing policies and adapting to local realities.

Let’s not forget that in many regions, the majority of climate change adaption measures fall on the shoulders of these sub-national governments.

A few months ago The Climate Group CEO, Mark Kenber, urged countries around the world to look at the Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) as investment plans for the future. Setting in place short, medium and long-term plans toward a low carbon economy creates a level-playing field for companies to innovate and invest in those countries, creating green jobs and low carbon prosperity along the way. Because low carbon investment ‘makes business sense’: a message we have also heard from the most progressive companies around the world.

The Compact for States and Regions provides an opportunity for states and regions around the world to put forward their own low carbon plans, showing companies and investors they are serious about fighting climate change – while taking responsibility toward their citizens by publicly disclosing their emissions data.

CLOSER TO COP21

Lyon, where the first set of Compact data was revealed, is only a two-hour train ride away from Paris, which will soon become the climate center of the world as home to COP21.

The French presidency is seeking to be more inclusive by giving a prominent space to the so-called non-state actors – regions, cities, companies and investors. President Hollande added last week: “It is at the local level that climate history is written. If we want a fair, binding agreement at the Conference of the Parties later in December, we need the contribution of everyone.”

This inclusive approach is one that should be welcomed. By involving more players, it is far more likely that the momentum that we see now can be continued past COP21.

When the new global climate agreement has finally landed after years of disappointment and the media has shifted their attention away, that’s when we need to ensure climate ambition remains steep.

And with annual updates, the Compact aims to keep its finger on the pulse long past Paris.

But to have an effective impact on the climate talks, we must be able to quantify the level of ambition of states and regions, and what they can potentially deliver in the longer term. 

POST PARIS

The Compact of States and Regions is crucial in this process. It is the first-ever single, global account of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets made by state and regional governments. With it, we hope to spur an informed, scientific discussion.

We are talking of governments representing 220 million people, accounting for US$8.3 trillion GDP. It is a social and economic revolution.

And importantly, it is a clean energy revolution, driven by a total of 85 targets so far related to GHG reduction, energy efficiency and renewable reported to the Compact – with some of them committing to reduce their emissions as far as 90% by 2050 and 100% by 2060.

As our States and Regions Director Libby Ferguson said recently, sub-national governments are the “unsung climate heroes” of this fight.

Their policies are often ambitious, carefully designed to respond to real problems of their citizens, but too often these great results don’t get the credit they deserve.

The Compact is there to fill this gap.

It serves to celebrate those who commit to improve their – and our – environment, through a clear and verifiable mechanism. And it incentivizes other sub-national governments to follow these bright examples, showing how reducing emissions will trigger the prosperous, low carbon economy of the future, while at the same time protect citizens.

We need a unified, vibrant voice to make this happen. And the Compact is a fundamental component to achieving this revolution.

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