COP 23 Side Events Address Removal of Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Subnational Climate Action in the US: 13 November Highlights
Photo by IISD/ENB | Angeles Estrada
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During a side event titled, ‘Filling the Void: US State-Driven Climate Leadership,’ California Governor Jerry Brown highlighted the Global Climate Action Summit to be held in September 2018 in San Francisco.

Christiana Figueres, Mission 2020, characterized the Paris Agreement as a unidirectional highway leading everyone to a decarbonized global economy by 2050.

A side event titled, ‘Implementing Paris and the SDGs through Fuel Subsidy Reform and Taxation: Country Best Practices,’ discussed international efforts to remove fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewables, public transport and energy efficiency.

13 November 2017: On Monday, 13 November, COP 23 side events focused on, inter alia: climate actions being taken at the subnational level in the US; implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through fossil fuel subsidy reform and taxation; and women leaders making cities inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

In addition, the UNFCCC Secretariat signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) to signal continued cooperation on Regional Cooperation Centres (RCCs). The 2017 Low Emissions Solutions Conference (LESC) also convened, aiming to create a space for in-depth dialogue with policymakers on implementing ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) at scale by taking action at the city, local and project levels.

A side event titled, ‘Implementing Paris and the SDGs through Fuel Subsidy Reform and Taxation: Country Best Practices,’ discussed practical national and international efforts to remove fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewables, public transport and energy efficiency. Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, Finland, noted actions Finland is taking on the issue, including: a tax on carbon emissions; legislation to be proposed to phase out coal in energy production by 2030; electric vehicle purchase subsidies; and a target for 30% renewable content in all fuel sold. He urged coherence across sectors, including climate and trade policy.

Speakers emphasized that more than US$425 billion is spent each year on fossil fuel subsidies, and introduced the idea of clean energy subsidy swaps. They noted that a carbon tax can be implemented in a step-by-step approach to ensure a smooth transition without jeopardizing energy security or support for the poorest. Participants also highlighted a long-term perspective to considering climate change within the context of the SDGs; and a combination of education, inspiration and empowerment to “win over” citizens. The event was organized by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Governments of Finland and Denmark, Climate Parliament and the University of Eastern Finland.

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stressed that climate change needs to be communicated as a health issue, emphasizing that this would have a greater chance of triggering action than the intangible “sea-level rise” message.

During a side event titled, ‘SDG 11: Women Leaders on Making Human Settlements Inclusive, Sustainable and Resilient,’ an all-women panel discussed gender issues and inclusiveness as key variables for achieving the SDGs and implementing the Paris Agreement. President of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine spoke on the necessity of education, emphasizing decentralized cooperative modes of leadership to empower women and climate champions. Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, Mayor of Malmö, Sweden, emphasized the need to include cities in decision making and highlighted her city’s commitment to implement the SDGs. Speakers emphasized, inter alia, that the future of the Paris Agreement will be played out in cities. They underscored: the need to localize the SDGs and enhance spatial planning according to sustainable principles; the lack of knowledge about accessing funding as a major obstacle to making cities more resilient; and energy efficiency as the most effective way to accelerate energy solutions and save resources which could be invested in other areas such as infrastructure and education. The event was organized by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

During a side event titled, ‘Filling the Void: US State-Driven Climate Leadership,’ governors from the US discussed their commitments on clean energy, pollution control and emission reductions. Oregon Governor Kate Brown noted concerns that climate impacts will exacerbate already existing economic disparities in communities of color, and in low-income, tribal and rural communities in Oregon, and described the development of a carbon pricing strategy. Washington Governor Jay Inslee said climate change is “the largest economic opportunity since the invention of the steam engine,” and that the states and companies that invent green technologies will be “the greatest wealth creators since the Medicis.” Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stressed that climate change needs to be communicated as a health issue, emphasizing that this would have a greater chance of triggering action than the intangible “sea-level rise” message.

California Governor Jerry Brown highlighted the Global Climate Action Summit, which will be held in September 2018 in San Francisco, and will bring together subnational actors including cities, federal states and corporations to discuss their climate commitments and action plans. Moderator Christiana Figueres, Mission 2020, characterized the Paris Agreement as a unidirectional highway leading everyone to a decarbonized global economy by 2050, and said that “even if one vehicle is parked on the sidelines, other vehicles should keep their eyes on their own lane.” This side event was organized by the US Climate Alliance.

Side events also addressed progress on the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Integrated Approach Pilots (IAPs) and how early lessons learned from the sixth replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-6) could be used to enhance programmes in GEF-7, running from 1 July 2018 through 30 June 2022. They also considered: catalyzing implementation of the Paris Agreement in the RCCs in Bangkok, Kampala, Lomé, Panama and St. George’s; scaling up implementation for accessing REDD+ payments; and the future role of the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) Facility in unlocking finance for ambitious mitigation action. [ENBOTS Coverage 13 November] [IISD RS Coverage of the REDD+ Side Event] [IISD RS Coverage of the LESC] [IISD RS Coverage of the NAMA Facility Event] [IISD RS Coverage of Selected Side Events] [IISD RS Coverage of COP 23]

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IISD Reporting Services is producing ‘ENB on the side’ (ENBOTS), providing coverage of selected side events, special days and other events held at the UN Climate Change Conference. This Daily Update brings you the highlights.


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