If we do not succeed in staying below the target of keeping temperature rises below 2C over preindustrial levels, the consequences are likely to be far-reaching and disastrous. We will see a dramatic rise in sea levels, by up to a metre in this century alone, a greater frequency of violent storms, increased desertification, with hundreds of millions of people experiencing water scarcity, and radical changes in entire ecosystems. This will pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of large swathes of people, causing unprecedented refugee flows and, in the worst case, new conflicts and wars.
Recently, military strategists around the world have declared that uncontrolled climate change constitutes a global security threat. In February this year, US secretary of state John Kerry called climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”, and a threat to democracy and our entire way of life.
In May, 16 US generals, writing in a report entitled National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, warned that climate change will pose at least as great a threat to national security as the Cold War or transnational terrorism. Economist Lord Nicholas Stern echoed this warning recently in The Guardian.
Many people regard the UN climate summit in Paris next year as the last chance for the world to unite on a climate agreement that will enable us to meet the 2C target.
Little time remains before then, but there are vital stops along the way for the international community to demonstrate its commitment to addressing global warming. One was the recent G20 meeting in Brisbane, another is the pledging conference in Berlin this week, which aims to mobilise resources for the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF). The task of the GCF will be to support developing countries through measures to promote climate change adaptation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The new red-green government in Sweden has promised $580m (£370) to the GCF. This contribution, which covers the period 2015–2018, is the most ambitious contribution per capita of the countries that have so far announced their intention to support the GCF.
It is well known that in purely factual terms, climate change will have the greatest impact on countries that are already poor: countries around the equator and small impoverished Pacific islands that face the threat of disappearing completely or being laid waste by extreme drought or flooding. It is therefore imperative to show our solidarity with those who need economic support.
At the same time, no country in the world will be immune to the consequences of climate change, and no country today can act alone to protect itself from global disasters. Sweden today is being severely tested by the strains imposed by the instability of the world around us. We receive unprecedented flows of refugees from wars and disaster, some of which have likely been caused by climate change.
This summer Sweden suffered exceptionally violent natural disasters – the largest forest fire in our history, and floods and torrential rain that destroyed houses and knocked out infrastructure. Similar disasters have occurred in the Balkans and the UK this year, while extreme waves caused astonishment this summer on the coasts of Spain and Portugal.
The GCF is pivotal in furthering international momentum to tackle climate change – by strengthening mutual confidence among all the parties involved and catalysing new capital that can help the world switch to clean, renewable energy.
We should not forget that this fund will potentially create millions of new jobs and lead to development and prosperity. The recent New Climate Economy reportindicates that $45 trillion needs to be invested in new energy infrastructure over the next 15 years, regardless of whether the energy is clean or dirty. The difference is that we will achieve a sustainable society if we choose clean.
Tackling climate change does not mean we should abstain from prosperity and development. Quite the contrary.
The GCF is not a charity; it is an investment for our collective future, for a secure world where we can all enjoy the welfare that our unique living planet can actually give us.
The Swedish government hopes and expects that many more of the developed countries will put enough money into the new GCF this Thursday to allow it to send a real signal that the world is jointly taking its responsibility and that we believe that investments in clean and renewable energy are possible. We cannot continue on the same track any longer, when both scientists and military experts warn us so emphatically what will happen if we do so.
There is another way. Let us take it.
Isabella Lövin is Green MEP for Miljöpartiet De Gröna (Sweden). She serves as Minister for International Development Cooperation in the Löfven Cabinet since 2014.
11/29/2014 – 06:30