Bonn climate talks hear messages of hope

Upbeat tone at climate talks as global cities and German regions commit to tight targets

International government officials participating in the UN climate convention in Bonn, Germany. Photograph: EPA/Matthias Balk

International government officials participating in the UN climate convention in Bonn, Germany. Photograph: EPA/Matthias Balk

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:01

Messages of hope about how major cities, regions and even some countries are forging ahead in the battle against global warming were delivered here yesterday to delegates attending the latest UN round of talks on climate change in Bonn, Germany.

Finland has become the latest country to aim for an 80 per cent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. After this was enshrined in law last week, environment minister Ville Niinistö said it would make Finland “a pioneer of the low-carbon society”.

Despite repeated calls from the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition in Ireland, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has declined to set an explicit target for 2050, merely pledging that the Government would implement whatever goals are agreed by the European Union as a whole.

Mark Kenber, chief executive of the Climate Group, which works with businesses and governments to promote a “clean revolution”, pointed out that Wales, Scotland, California, New York, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia had all set target cuts of 80 per cent by 2050.

He said North Rhine-Westphalia – regarded as the economic and industrial powerhouse of Germany – is dependent on coal for 75 per cent of its electricity, yet it had still “taken on targets in line with the science”, in a lesson to other coal-dependent regions.

Californian targets

California aims to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and is now involved in a carbon-trading scheme with Quebec, in Canada, which is also committed to achieving ambitious targets.

Mr Kenber said the same was true of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“They’re not doing it for fun or because of a moral imperative,” he told The Irish Times. “They’re doing it because they want to be competitive.

“And the governors of both states said to me that they came out of recession sooner than other US states as a result.”

Mr Kenber noted that Scotland, Upper Austria and the Australian province of Tasmania had all committed themselves to achieving 100 per cent renewable energy for electricity generation by 2020. “Scotland is well on its way there and very confident of achieving the goal.”

Mark Watts, executive director of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which now includes 68 major cities with a combined population of more than one billion, told delegates that they were all committed to taking “real, measurable actions” to reduce emissions.

Public transport

He said none of them were building highways anymore to cater for traffic, and instead putting the emphasis on expanding public transport as well as walking and cycling.

They were also using their building control systems to promote “carbon-neutral” construction, he added.

Delegates at the Bonn talks had their last chance yesterday to test-drive the award-winning Tesla Model S, billed as the world’s “first premium electric sedan”.

It can be charged in just 30 minutes and was described by the Wall Street Journal as “hard-core amazing”.

The UN climate conference continues until Friday.