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COP21 A Health, Technology, Energy, Transportation Agreement

Conference of Parties (COP) 21 also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference shall be the first UN negotiation with the aim to achieve legally binding and universal agreement on climate, to reduce global warming by 2°C, and 5% reduction in greenhouse gases. COP21 will be held at Le Bourget from 30th November to 11th December 2015. At the time of the conference, Le Bourget shall be known as the blue-zone area in Paris for UN delegates and public bodies’ attendees.

The Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 in partnership with UNEP, will convene more than 500 attendees at an expanded two day session (7th to 8th of December), to further increase the facilitation of partnerships and to bring greater scale to business innovation on climate change.

Pre-Paris meet

During the Responsible Business Forum in Singapore (RBF Singapore; Marina Bay Sands & Gardens by the Bay) earlier this month from the 3rd to 4th November 2015, international delegates of which 80% of the companies were global corporations attended the event.

Mr Tony Boatman, Director of Innovation at Global Initiatives, mentioned a few take home-messages at RBF Singapore, ‘The biggest emitters have signed up to cut down their emissions by 2030. We recognize the complexity, and we are not comparing apples to apples. Countries that are responsible for two-thirds of carbon emission have signed up for COP21, with the aim of 40% reduction to 1999 emissions-level.’

‘What we do know that the commitments will be made in Paris will not be enough, it will not be enough to cap the emissions at 2 degrees,’ said Boatman. COP21 will not be enough and there are a lot more to be done. Outside governmental corporations should be taken into consideration in the protocol for the reduction in emissions.

To save Planet Earth before it is too late

The COP21 universal agreement will include actions for sustainability in businesses, supply chains, logistics, agricultures and global consumer networks. The opportunities for sustainable and responsible finance to be shared for business behaviors to go beyond short-term financial gain in ventures and investments framework. Most importantly, for public and private companies to recognize business opportunities to go green and sustainable.

There shall be an increase use of biofuels in commercial and private transports, e.g. aircrafts, road vehicles, etc. This further illustrates the need for further advancement in biofuels research development.

At RBF Singapore opening plenary address, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said, ‘This is not a natural disaster it is a deliberate man-made disaster, it is vandalism on nature.’ And an encouraging news at RBF Singapore is that the blueprint for Singapore to be sustainable is already available.

‘If you truly believe in democracy that we breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat the same food, then you need to believe in sustainability in the long-term.’ Dr. Balakrishnan will be attending COP21 in December 2015.

Products have to be made from sustainable materials in order to be placed on the shelves for purchase, and transparency must be valid in the supply chain and product distributions. These are some of the practical considerations for long-term survival. Dr. Balakrishnan emphasized that one of the duties for Singaporeans is to prepare and build up resilience against the deleterious consequences of climate change. Public awareness on climate change and sustainability can be raised by giving incentives to individuals who makes an effort to transform the country to a better place and a green-er nation.

‘Sustainability efforts cannot be unilateral,’ as mentioned by Dr. Balakrishnan at RBF Singapore 2015.

Who should cut the ‘Cake’?

Brought forward by industrial revolution, developed nations enjoy access to advanced technology, better accessibilities to remote regions in their respective cities and towns, better food packages that are bound to the regulations of Good Manufacturing Practices, etc. However, it is not practical and maybe ridiculous, to ask big emitters to slash carbon emissions and greenhouse gases to absolute zero while developing countries are still removing trees in the forest.

In June 2015 at The Hertie School of Governance in Berlin Germany, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC secretariat shared her perspectives on the upcoming COP21 and the World’s response to climate change. ‘Developing countries that were left behind during the industrial revolution, and now to be left behind the energy revolution? That would be unfair.’

Figueres recognizes the challenges in developing countries, and it is a huge challenge for developing countries to continue their economic growth without greenhouse emissions. ‘No country has done it before, and we are asking developing countries to do the same when they have other development urgencies on their agenda.’ Rather than to place an expectation on the pace for developing countries to lower carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, and to balance the ecosystem, countries can choose which pace may suit them better in conjunction to their economic growth; GDP.

‘Every country is going to contribute, different ways and paces but every country has to contribute.’ Figueres placed a metaphoric illustration on climate change and sustainability policies; countries are as of similar to cars driving along the motorway and in accordance to their preferred paces they shall take the respective lanes. The pace may differ, but ultimately they are heading towards the same direction and to the same destination; to make the world a better place to live in where clean drinking water is available and the ecosystem is balanced.

What’s the difference between COP21 and other COPs or other Climate Change protocols; e.g. Kyoto protocol?

COP21 is a legally binding agreement for all countries. ‘It is not for self-interest, rather it is for climate change, for a positive agenda,’ said Figueres. And it is time for policy to be guided by science. ‘At COP21, there will be a gap between what we are doing and what we should be doing.’ Figueres then further emphasized that the gap between doing and should be doing will be drawn closer in progression of time.

COP21 is a facilitated system and, to encourage countries and people to do more to save the environment before it is way too late. The agreement will include the evaluation of the engagement on climate change and sustainability issues for each country. There shall be no backsliding with each step has to be more ambitious, and ultimately to reach the common goal; to lower carbon emissions and to reduce global warming. It is to prevent the repeat of history, e.g. COP15 and Kyoto Protocol.

But not all provisions are equally binding in the same ways. Some provisions are international, for instance, obligations for carbon planning. Carbon managements shall be under domestic legislations because trajectories of carbon are likely to differ from country to country, and may be estimated using different methodology and recorded using different documentations.

"We are able to do more together than by an individual alone", said Figueres.

Moving towards zero emissions in transport and logistics

There were mixed reviews on the possibilities to achieve zero emissions in transport and logistics. At the panel session RBF Singapore 2015, most delegates agreed there is a possibility to achieve zero emissions. Delegates include: Stephan Schablinski (Director for Sustainable Supply Chain Solutions, DHL); moderator of the panel session, Sophie Punte (Executive Director, Smart Freight Centre), Rachid Yazami (Professor for School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technology University), Justin Gadbois (Head of Sustainability, Maersk), Mark Cameron (Regional Director, South Malaysia & Singapore, Scania), and Oliver Risse (Managing Partner, OneNorth Ventures, Floatility)

Most of the panelists agreed it is possible to reduce emissions to zero, and if not, perhaps 90% reduction in emissions.

Sophie Punte thinks that though there may be many good inventions such as 3-D printing to solve some existing problems, there is still a lack of efficiency to transport one product from a place of origin to another. For instance, the transport of freshly pressed orange juice from Florida to the Philippines.

‘We need to take steps to move towards zero emissions,’ said Mark Cameron. ‘What we are seeing today is the exciting steps being taken, continued in the field of biofuels, battery technology, the heart of organization of vehicles, and all of these are taking one step towards zero emissions in Europe.’

‘It is possible to achieve zero emissions because we have no choice,’ said Prof. Rachid Yazami the inventor of lithium battery and who is currently a professor at NTU in Singapore. However, Yazami highlighted that there are some hurdles to achieve the goal, and he gave the use of electric cars in mega cities as an example.

The challenges according to Prof. Yazami:

  • the costings of electric cars in comparison to regular-diesel or petrol cars;
  • on whether it is convenient and practical to drive an electric car in mega cities;
  • the mileage that an electric car can cover with the batteries installed;
  • fire hazard safety;
  • materials have to be recycled and environmental friendly;
  • Sustainable materials: materials to have the capability to store large amount of energy, and yet recyclable

Oliver Risse is totally convinced that zero emission is possible, ‘It is just the matter of time.’ Risse also suggests that solutions are all in the mind, and it is not just about having new devices or technology. The solutions are within or should start from consumers’ purchasing behaviours, e.g. in Europe, there are strong connections from the residents to buy daily products from their local or regional markets.

When there is no plan B

Is COP21 going to stunt developing countries’ growth? Who is going to have the hardest time?

‘It will be the developing countries that will have the hardest time. We are asking developing countries to continue their growth without greenhouse emissions. A huge challenge for developing countries, as no country has set an example before.’ A quote by Figueres which is stated in the earlier text of this article. Developed countries will have to provide the necessary aids to developing countries to prevent further disruptions on biodiversity, ecosystem and on climate.

COP21 universal agreement may be a demanding request on developing countries. However, Figueres addressed the concern that the purpose of the agreement for developing countries is to protect the growth that the countries have had, and to spur further growth. ‘By allowing these countries to grow with technology, finance, and to enable them to jump over or leap-frog the kind of development we have over last decades, and without greenhouse emission.’

‘There’s no plan B, because we have no plan B. It is difficult, but there’s no other option,’ said Figueres.

‘Devil is in the detail, but there’s a lot work to be done. As the agreement is good for the national and global economy.’ Figueres remains optimistic about COP21 agreement and she reckons policy-makers are on the right track towards a universal agreement.

The COP21 conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

Source: Asia Pacific Biotech News, Yuhui Lin

 In this box:

  • The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP15 in Copenhagen where an agreement to success Kyoto Protocol was unfortunately not realised and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

  • Immediate action, and already taking place, for an agreement to lower CO2 emissions, better carbon management plans and coalition.

  • China’s air pollution costs around 5 to 10% of their GDP. According to some estimates, the removal of air pollution in China adds on 5% GDP COP21 agreement has to look into long-term plans: GDP and CO2 emissions.

  • CO2 emission has increased and ecology balance was lost during the industrial revolution, and it has to be restored.

  • COP21 meet will not be enough for the reduction in global warming by 2°C and 5% reduction in greenhouse gases.

Recommended reading materials:

  1. COP21: https://www.cop21paris.org/
  2. Nick Rowley’s view on Sustainable Supply Chain: https://www.robertsbridgegroup.com/our-views/sustainable-supply
  3. Unilever’s comment on climate change and its impact: https://goo.gl/ZkEiZ2
  4. Watch video of Christiana Figueres at The Hertie School of Governance in Berlin Germany: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_H_FR6JrPU

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