Abu Dhabi, 5 May 2014 — Leaders from governments, businesses and civil society organizations meeting at the Abu Dhabi Ascent explored new approaches and initiatives that can vastly expand climate action.  The best of these initiatives will be developed further and announced at the Climate Summit, hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September.

“The Abu Dhabi Ascent has brought many key actors from across sectors to look at concrete deliverables for the Climate Summit,” said Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme, who summarized the progress made during the two-day Ascent. “The path to the top is beginning to emerge from the mist. We can now see many steps which need to be taken individually and collectively to achieve a successful Climate Summit on 23 September.”

The ideas and initiatives have been coalescing around nine action areas that include promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewables, reducing short-lived climate pollutants, reducing deforestation, climate-friendly agriculture, climate action in cities, promoting low-carbon transportation, improved resilience through adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and financing for climate action.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their latest report, found that 78 per cent of emissions were caused by burning fossil fuels. To limit climate change, the report said a 40-70 per cent reduction in the use of fossil fuels was needed by mid-century.

Among the three initiatives introduced at the Ascent aimed at promoting renewable energy was the Africa Clean Energy Corridor, which plans to accelerate the renewable use in Africa by building regional markets.  A proposed Global Geothermal Alliance, a public-private partnership, aims to reduce the financial risks of resource development in parts of Africa – which can be higher than other regions. And many small island developing states welcomed the Lighthouses initiative to help them meet or even exceed their renewable energy targets.

The Abu Dhabi Ascent introduced new approaches for improving energy efficiency that will bring together a range of different actors to build on proven business models and technologies in areas such as buildings, lighting and appliances, vehicles, and district heating.  A workshop in July will help take the initiative forward as a potential contribution for the Summit

 Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

An innovative initiative to reduce potent, but shorter-lived greenhouse gases such as methane was introduced by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.  The Oil and Gas Methane Initiative partnership will undertake a systemic approach across oil and gas production to identify the main sources of methane emissions, apply cost-effective mitigation technologies and practices, and report progress in a transparent, credible fashion that demonstrates results.

Oil and gas industry leaders, countries and NGOs discussed how to get this partnership off the ground, with Southwestern and PEMEX stepping up to announce they are prepared to join.

Participants also worked to ensure the Global Green Freight Action Plan – that aims to reduce the amount of black carbon emitted by 20 per cent globally by heavy-duty diesel freight. Participants also committed to work towards the launch the Pilot Methane Facility by the Summit – an innovative financial mechanism to fund shovel-ready methane projects with a commitment to conduct the first auction round this year.

Finally, public and private sector leaders  promoted a global phase down of the production and consumption of hydroflurocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the world, increasing by 10-15 per cent annually in some countries and are projected to increase to as much as 20% of total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, without immediate action.

Forests

Reducing emissions from deforestation could amount to almost a quarter of potential greenhouse gas reductions by 2030, with significant additional environmental and social co-benefits.  Government, business, and indigenous and civil society leaders came together at the Ascent to discuss practical yet ambitious ways forward.

Representatives of key forest and donor countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Peru, Germany, United Kingdom and Norway, together with major consumer goods companies and financial institutions, such as Unilever and Barclays, committed to work together with indigenous communities and agreed on a shared vision and action plan for combating deforestation with the aim of bringing concrete announcements to the Summit.

Tropical forest nations were urged to adopt ambitious national plans for reducing deforestation through  governance, land-tenure reforms and pro-growth economic policies, while developed nations were urged to support these actions through results-based payments and other tangible financial incentives, as well as technical assistance and capacity building and the private sector were urged to eliminate deforestation from its commodity supply chains. Paul Polman of Unilever challenged governments to commit to zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020 – on par with many companies of the Consumer Goods Forum.

 Agriculture

Abu Dhabi participants endorsed the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, which aspires to enable 500 million women and men farmers, fisherfolk, livestock keepers and forest dwellers to practice to climate smart agriculture by 2030 – simultaneously increasing yields sustainably, enhancing resilience, reducing emissions, and helping to preserve forests, top-soil and fish stocks. A coalition of supporters committed to work together for the Alliance to be launched at the Climate Summit.

Additional deliverables were introduced as well, including NEPAD’s African Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (engaging 25 million farmers by 2025) the Climate and Clean Air Coalition initiative to reduce methane emissions from livestock and rice production (twenty countries co-chaired by Canada and Nigeria are in the coalition) the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (which has forty country members) and sourcing climate-smart products by global food companies.

Cities

With cities now accounting for up to 70 per cent of emissions, and with urban populations expected to double in the next two or three decades, the success of climate action in cities will determine, in large part, global success in addressing climate change.  At the Abu Dhabi Ascent, two initiatives were proposed for Cities– a Compact of Mayors and Transformative Projects.

The Compact of Mayors is envisaged as a joint initiative of city networks to accelerate and build on cities’ existing efforts. It will aggregate commitments and actions from a wide range of cities which have set mitigation targets work with cities to increase targets, report as well as disclose their carbon inventories in a rigorous, transparent, and standardized way. This will better integrate cities’ actions into national efforts will help countries to ‘close the gap’ and keep global warming to targeted levels.

The Transformative Projects in Cities initiative, which aims to upscale bankable projects on bus rapid transit,  LFG-e, urban drainage and planned city extensions, were  introduced and welcomed by city leaders, financial Institutions and the private sector.  These new business models based on private-public partnerships will promote more efficient delivery of basic services while reducing emissions and making investments more cost-effective.

Transportation

If current trends towards private motorisation prevail, worldwide urban transport greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 will be 30 per cent above their 2005 level. Great strides need to be made on energy transformation in the transport sector. At the Abu Dhabi Ascent, two global initiatives and one city-based initiative were launched to this end.

The international association of public transport (UITP) invited its 1300 member organisations in 92 countries to show their leadership position on climate through its climate declaration and announce investor ready, verifiable and reportable commitments to support the goal to double the market share of public transport by 2025 for launch at the Climate Summit in September.

The International Union of Railways (UIC), and their 240-member railway companies, invited partners to achieve a substantive reduction in transport carbon emissions with proposed targets of a 75 per cent reduction in specific emissions and doubling of modal shift to railways by 2050, supported by robust monitoring, verification and reporting.

Private sector participants also welcomed the Urban Electric Mobility Vehicles Initiative (UEMI) and the Action Platform, which will enhance partnerships between cities and companies as well as between city and national governments to increase urban electric mobility. It will facilitate city projects, raise awareness and develop policy and regulatory measures to increase sales of E-vehicles and promote investments in re-charging infrastructure.

Resilience, Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction

Collaboration was strengthened in Abu Dhabi around two resilience initiatives– the Resilient Cities Acceleration Initiative and Climate Information from El Niño to Action.  These initiatives aim to bring information for solutions to users, while responding to needs of government, communities and businesses and drawing on existing science, technology and innovations. Highlights from the Ascent included opportunities and existing mechanisms were identified that contribute to these initiatives particular needs of SIDS were clarified and a partnership between UNISDR and Esri was launched as a support to cities worldwide.

An initiative on insurance, which could be seen as one of the important tools for broader risk management strategy at the national and regional level was also advanced in a second session. Significant challenges remain in providing effective micro insurance products that buffer risks and help vulnerable communities to adapt to the changing climate. Through this initiative, lessons from years of insurance practice will help to shape responsive insurance mechanisms as well as introduce incentives for risk reduction in other financial instruments beyond the insurance sector, such as asset management, securities, equities and related regulatory frameworks.

Climate Finance

Leading financial institutions, governments and private sector participants at the Ascent concluded that both public and private finance must play a critical and complementary role in enabling the low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. Public policy support for regulation that recognizes and manages climate risk in investment decision making is also important.

Success on climate finance at the Summit would mean that a significant group of actors in the financial system commit to act jointly to improve the ability of the financial system to help tackle climate change and lay out a roadmap on how to deliver this by the Paris COP in 2015.

By the Summit more actors are invited to participate to accelerate progress in areas where there is already leadership. This includes accelerating the momentum for developing the green bond market which could double by reaching $ 20 billion by the Climate Summit and could double again by the time of the Paris COP is possible.  It is also an opportunity for shareholders and other investors, who are prepared to accelerate investment into low-carbon and climate-resilient opportunities, to articulate commitments at the Summit on how to use their influence as company owners to encourage the companies in which they invest to manage climate risk and opportunity, reduce asset carbon intensity and support dissemination of best practices.

The Climate Summit can also provide an opportunity for investors and corporates to join coalitions of public and private actors seeking to define and track climate finance.  Investors, corporates and the public sector could set internal targets to mobilize public and private finance for climate action. The public sector should commit to support and develop domestic capital markets that facilitate access by cities and corporations to finance and ensure policy predictability over a reasonable time horizon. The Summit can also help the  public sector generate support for the timely operationalization and substantial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund.

Economic Drivers

Representatives from countries, the business community and other stakeholders at the Abu Dhabi Ascent were invited to join a growing coalition of first movers to support efforts to ensure that carbon pollution is properly priced.  The aim is to demonstrate the global support toward a policies that would allow consumers and investors to know the true price of carbon as a necessary step to better manage investment risks and opportunities, redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate challenge, and tackle climate change overall.

Wrapping up the two-day Abu Dhabi Ascent, Helen Clark said, “The coalitions which came to this meeting and have been built on here now need to redouble their efforts to finesse deliverables for the Summit which will contribute to a successful COP in Lima and then in Paris next year.”

She added, “We must stay focused, action-oriented, and ambitious for a new global climate agreement which aims to see our world live within the two degree threshold.”