World Bank Head Warns Against Post-Paris Lull on Climate

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By Dean Scott

April 14 — World leaders and ministers may be poised to take a victory lap of sorts at the April 22 New York signing of the 2015 Paris climate pact, but the head of the World Bank essentially warned nations April 14 against too much self-congratulation.

While there was plenty of “intensity and pressure” on the nearly 200 nations that agreed to the Paris accord in December to get a deal, “there really was a sense that once you did this, then the pressure would be off,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group.

The next big hurdle, he said, is to “change the incentives” with a global shift away from those favoring fossil fuels to encouraging renewable energy and broader acceptance of carbon pricing. More than 130 nations are to attend the April 22 signing ceremony at United Nations headquarters in New York, including some 60 world leaders (70 ECR, 4/12/16).

Catherine McKenna, Canada's minister of environment and climate change, said countries can ensure continued progress by signing the Paris Agreement either at or soon after the April 22 UN ceremony and then quickly implementing the deal domestically. She and Kim spoke at a forum on turning the Paris climate agreement into action at the spring meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“The first thing we need to do is to make sure we maintain the momentum” from the December talks in Paris, McKenna said.

“We can't just rest on our laurels [where] we have a signing on Earth Day and then we all go home,” she said.

Making Good on Goal

The U.S. and China both vowed in March to sign the accord at the April 22 ceremony held in conjunction with Earth Day—and “take their respective domestic steps” at home to join the pact by the end of 2016 in hopes of spurring other nations to follow suit (62 ECR, 3/31/16).

Kim said supporters of climate action essentially need a second wind to push for the kinds of policies that will make good on a key pledge in the Paris deal: to keep global temperature rise “well below” a 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) increase over the preindustrial era and to “pursue efforts” to hold the line at no more than a 1.5 degree C rise, or 2.7 degrees F (239 ECR, 12/14/15).

“If we assume that signing the agreement in Paris will lead to all these changes in time to keep global warming below 2 degrees—I think we're sadly mistaken,” the World Bank president said.

Living Up to Pledges

Unlike previous climate agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol, which applied only to developed nations, the Paris deal includes pledges from the U.S. and the European Union but also China and India, which are to be backed by domestic laws or policies.

The U.S., for example, has pledged to cut its total greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels, based in part on more stringent vehicle efficiency rules and appliance standards but also power plant carbon pollution limits, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently stayed.

But Kim said there won't be enough progress “if we wait until everyone lives up to their [part of the] agreement” without a global shift in policies that support the pledged actions to cut emissions.

Fulfilling the promise of the Paris Agreement is possible only “if we move forward with carbon pricing [and] take very focused action on reducing the cost of renewables [and] if we pair that with investment opportunities for institutional investors so that they can actually get a higher return out of investing in what they believe in” such as renewable energy, he said.

—With assistance from Andrea Vittorio in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com