2016 will be the hottest year on record, says world met agency

US will be ‘rogue’ country if it ditches climate accord – Mary Robinson

Mary  Robinson said she sympathised with Americans who had lost their jobs in polluting industries such as coal. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Mary Robinson said she sympathised with Americans who had lost their jobs in polluting industries such as coal. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

This year is set to be the hottest year ever recorded globally, beating 2015’s record temperatures, the World Meteorological Organisation has said.

Global temperatures this year are approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and 0.88 degrees above the average for 1961-1990, which the WMO uses as a reference period, provisional figures show.

As a result, 2016 is on track to be the hottest year in records dating back to the 19th century, and 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have occurred in the 21st century.

The provisional assessment has been released to inform the latest round of UN climate talks in Morocco which are focusing on implementing the world’s first comprehensive climate treaty, the Paris Agreement.

It comes as a study suggests carbon emissions have seen “almost no growth” in the past three years, marking a break from rapidly rising output in the previous decade and raising hopes that emissions may have peaked.

But the election of Donald Trump as the next US president has raised concerns about the international fight against climate change, which he has previously described as a hoax created by the Chinese to make American manufacturing uncompetitive.

‘Rogue country’

Former president Mary Robinson said the US would become “a kind of rogue country” if it pulls out of the Paris accord, leaving the world more vulnerable to droughts and other climate extremes.

“It would be a tragedy for the United States and the people of the United States if the US becomes a kind of rogue country, the only country in the world that is somehow not going to go ahead with the Paris Agreement,” Mrs Robinson said.

The deal aims to hold climate change to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius of warming by moving the world economy away from fossil fuels.

The agreement provides for $100 billion (€93 billion) a year in international funding from 2020 to help poorer countries develop cleanly and adapt to the already inevitable impacts of climate change.

Mrs Robinson, who now runs a foundation focused on seeking justice for people hit hard by climate impacts despite having contributed little to the problem, said she was confident other countries would continue their backing for the accord regardless of any action taken by the United States.

“I don’t think that the process itself will be affected (if) one country, however big and important that country is, decides not to go ahead,” she said on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Marrakesh, due to end on Friday.

But a pullout could mean a “huge difference” to already difficult efforts to gather enough international finance to help poorer countries develop their economies without increasing their emissions, “which is what they want to do”, she said.

“The moral obligation of the United States as a big emitter, and a historically big emitter that built its whole economy on fossil fuels that are now damaging the world - it’s unconscionable the United States would walk away from it,” she said of the threat to withdraw from the Paris deal.

Life without water

However, Mrs Robinson said she sympathised with Americans who had lost their jobs in polluting industries such as coal, many of whom supported Mr Trump in his election campaign.

“Clearly they’re hurting at the moment,” she said, calling for assistance to help such workers retrain and win new jobs in a clean energy economy.

“But it’s not a future to go backward into coal and have higher emissions in the United States,” she warned. “The impact of that will be felt by poor communities and poor countries all over the world.”

As a UN envoy for El Nino and climate change, she said she had been in dry regions of Honduras where women told her they no longer had water as a result of worsening drought.

“I saw the pain on the faces of those women. And one of the women said to me, and I’ll never forget, ‘We have no water. How do you live without water?’ ... I’m hearing that all over the world,” she said.

If the United States backs away on adopting clean energy, it also would be handing China the leadership role in a key new industry, she said.

“That’s not what so many states, businesses, cities and academic communities and local communities want in the United States,” she said.

She urged Americans upset about the proposed changes in US policy to make their voices heard.

“People in the United States have to get up and make a big noise, and business in the United States has to make a big noise about this,” she said.

In regards to Ireland’s climate change issues, Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten began his four day visit to Marrakesh on Monday.

He is leading the Irish delegation for the political phase of COP22, the global climate change summit, which signals the start of negotiations on how to implement the Paris Agreement.

“Ireland has shown a strong commitment to playing its part both domestically and on the global stage,” he said.

“Since playing a role in reaching the Paris Agreement last year and enacting our first ever climate legislation, we have also been engaging with the European Union on our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030.”

Mr Naughten will highlight the success of Ireland’s plastic bag levy initiative that was introduced 14 years ago. It resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the use of plastic bags.

The Minister had previously said he was “fully aware of the challenge” in meeting Ireland’s short-term emissions target.

Mr Naughten was responding after the Environmental Protection Agency said Ireland would breach its greenhouse gas emission limits either this year or in 2017, and would not meet targets for 2020.

However, Mr Naughten said he was “satisfied that the national legislative and policy framework” was in place “to advance actions on climate change mitigation”.

Friends of the Earth Ireland director Oisín Coghlan said he hoped Minister Naughten would outline “concrete examples” Ireland would take to in climate action.

“Really Ireland needs to show it is serious in taking action,” he told The Irish Times.

“Ireland has done little or nothing in climate change in the last five years.”

He said the Government needed to introduce a fair payment for solar electricity so people were paid for the excess energy they generated and increase investment in clean public transport.