COP21 Day 3 review: Water commitments begin pouring in

The third day of the Paris climate summit saw attention turn to water, an area that is often overlooked in sustainability due to its low cost but is absolutely vital to the functioning of many businesses, not to mention countries.

Twenty-seven businesses including GSK, Saint Gobain, Veolia, Danone and Diageo today (2 December) launched a new coalition called the Business Alliance for Water and Climate Change.

The group aims to reduce risks related to the quality and availability of water. Actions will include water impact measurement and reduction; reporting and transparency; collective action within river basins and taking stewardship of water use through the business value chain.

Cities and countries also got in on the water stewardship act, launching a flurry of new initiatives under the umbrella of the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation.

Broadly, the pact aims to make water systems more resilient to climate impacts. The initiative has already secured $1bn for its operation.

A group of 20 megacities, home to 85 million people also teamed up to form the Mega Cities Coalition –  a knowledge exchange platform and launch pad for water stewardship projects.

Everything else you need to know from Wednesday at COP21

Divestment movement passes $3.4trn

A flurry of commitments on Wednesday meant that more than 500 institutions representing over $3.4trn in assets have now made some form of divestment commitment according to

The new numbers are another impressive leap for the divestment effort, although campaigners are quick to point out that some of the commitments are only partial divestments, and the $3.4trn represents the total amount of assets represented by institutions, not the amount of money divested, which is difficult to track due to varying degrees of disclosure.

In the past week alone, 19 French cities and the French Parliament have endorsed divestment. In September last year, just 181 institutions representing $50bn in assets had made a divestment commitment. 

China to clean up its act?

China today said will upgrade its coal-fired power plants to reduce the discharge of pollutants by 60% before 2020. 

The move will save around 100 million tonnes of raw coal and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 180 million tonnes annually, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the State Council, or cabinet, as saying.

By 2020, China will have shut down plants that do not meet the energy-saving standard, according to a statement from the council. 

Rich vs poor

New research published by Oxfam showed that the richest 1% of the world’s population produce 175 times as much CO2 per person as the bottom 10%.

The richest 10th of the world’s population produce half the CO2 emissions, while the poorest half generates just 10% of them, the report adds.

The report adds to the pressure on rich countries to provide climate finance to the developing world whose citizens are often most at risk from climate change.

“Rich, high emitters should be held accountable for their emissions, no matter where they live,” Oxfam’s climate policy head Tim Gore said.

“But it’s easy to forget that rapidly developing economies are also home to the majority of the world’s very poorest people and while they have to do their fair share, it is rich countries that should still lead the way,” he said in a statement.

Do we even care?

Despite the climate talks hitting mainstream media and upwards of 700,000 people taking part in climate marches last weekend, a new survey of more than 2,000 people revealed that two thirds of the UK public are still unaware that the UN is holding climate change talks.

Once all survey participants were made aware of the UN summit, there was also pessimism about the potential for a climate deal to be reached ― with just 19% saying they were confident a deal will be agreed, compared with 64% who said they were not confident it could be reached.

“These results from a survey just ahead of the Paris talks are troubling and the low levels of awareness illustrate how disengaged the public is with political attempts to combat climate change,” said Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which carried out the survey.

And the winner is…

The Climate Action Network planned to hand out a Fossil of the Day award each day during the conference, but said that Tuesday’s events warranted a temporary replacement award: Ray of the Day.

This was given to the 43 nations from the Climate Vulnerable Forum who called for a Paris agreement that aims to achieve full decarbonisation and 100% renewable energy by 2050!

“This declaration is so big, so bold, that it makes lots of the other countries…look like fossils”, said CAN.

Friends of the Earth were less positive in issuing their own awards for the whole of 2015: Climate Pinnochios.

Chevron, EDF and BNP-Paribas were tagged with the Climate Pinnochio label “for their roles in undermining climate action and harming local communities”. EDF and BNP Paribas are both sponsors of COP21.

Juliette Renaud, corporate accountability campaigner for Friends of the Earth France said: “As long as BNP-P and EDF continue to invest heavily in dirty energy, they are part of the problem, not the solution.

“The public’s vote for two sponsors of the COP21 shows that citizens are not fooled by the greenwash polluting the talks and undermining efforts to reach an ambitious and equitable climate agreement.”

Brad Allen

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