The Road to Paris – A crucial time in history

By Marguerite Marshall 

This December representatives from 192 countries will meet in Paris to try and solve perhaps the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced – climate change.

According to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), 97 per cent of the world’s climate scientists say humans are causing climate change. If we don’t act now to stem it, increased violent weather will bring enormous suffering.

The Paris meeting will be the 21st to address global warming since the first was convened in 1992 by the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

The meeting aims to pass a new agreement covering the post-2020 period. For the first time developing countries will be required to take action because they are now significant Green House Gas emitters.

To help developing countries switch to renewable energy and adapt to climate change, the UNFCCC has set up a Green Climate Fund paid by developed nations at $US100 billion a year by 2020. It is to be raised from public and private sources and possibly a Robin Hood Tax – (a tax on financial transactions).

Australia’s actions make a difference as we are the world’s second biggest coal exporter and the fourth biggest producer. Australia is the world’s 15th biggest GHG emitter, according to the Australian Climate Council.

The government plans to submit our emissions reduction target in June. The Climate Change Authority’s draft recommendation is that Australia should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025.

The US target is up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, China plans to peak emissions by about 2030 and the EU plans a 40 per cent cut below 1990 levels by 2030.

By November the UN aims to assess whether commitments are enough to stop the world overheating – and if they are not, to point out by how far they will miss the target.

The UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and the European Union climate chief Miguel Arias Canete, said the meeting could be valuable as a step towards effective action.

To have a reasonable chance of a safe climate, 80 per cent of global fossil fuel reserves must stay underground, according to the Climate Council and other experts.
But world governments spend nearly $2 trillion annually subsidising oil, natural gas, coal and electricity production estimates the International Monetary Fund.

Renewable Energy could supply the world’s electricity needs by 2050 according to the WWF and other bodies. Technology to store the sun’s energy to provide electricity day and night is being used in several countries including the US.

It’s difficult for governments to deliver rapid change. But business can.

In 2010 worldwide the cost of solar panels plummeted 40%. In 2014 a Bloomberg report found renewable electricity is as affordable as fossil fuel in 55 emerging nations across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Strong business and grassroots action could tip the scales and help our leaders take effective action.

What can individuals do?

  • visit, call or write to MPs by the June deadline for Australia to submit its target, and demand at least the CCA target of 40-60 per cent by 2030
  • buy solar panels and hot water systems or 100% green power.
  • Be energy efficient
  • Use public transport.
  • Check our superannuation, shares and banks are not investing in fossil fuels

Marguerite Marshall is a UCA member trained to give presentations Solutions to Climate Change by Al Gore (managed in Australia by the Australian Conservation Foundation), and also as a presenter for Beyond Zero Emissions with the University of Melbourne Energy Institute. Contact:

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