January 2014: a huge month for global climate ambition

Five events taking place through January will shape how the world talks about climate change in 2014 and beyond

Obama gives his 2013 State of the Union address (Source: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama gives his 2013 State of the Union address (Source: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By Sophie Yeo

1 – Obama’s State of the Union address
On January 28, the world’s most powerful leader will have the attention of the largest audience he is likely to command all year. How President Barack Obama chooses to broach the subject of climate change in his 2014 State of the Union speech will set the tone and guide the actions of US attempts to tackle climate change over the coming year. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said in his 2013 speech – a promise which he fulfilled with his Climate Action Plan. This year is his chance to bring those seeds into bloom.

2 – European Union 2030 climate package
The EU’s 2020 climate goals – already practically achieved – are due to expire in six years, and this is the year the EU will decide how to replace them. The first draft of its 2030 package is due to be released on 22 January. It is expected to prove an emissions reduction target of anywhere between 35 and 45% – but will it also provide renewable energy and energy efficiency goals? Many, including Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, have spoken out in favour of their inclusion, though the UK is firmly in the opposite camp.

Belgium’s environment minister Melchior Wathelet told RTCC: “We have to make real investment, we have to make progress. That’s true in CO2 emissions, but especially maybe in energy efficiency because we know what we can do.”

3 – Greece takes on EU presidency
Greece, still plagued by its economic troubles, took on the presidency of the EU on New Year’s Day, which means Athens will chair high level EU meeting for the first half of 2014. While its financial position is already dominating headlines, the country is also planning on putting its unique slant on climate change policy, prioritising renewable energy and marine resources – or “blue growth”.

“In Greece, our most valuable asset is climate and nature… We do think Europe could be a leader in a low carbon economy if Europe and the neighbouring countries adapt even more and better strategies of renewable sources of energy,” Greek MP Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou told RTCC.

4 – World Economic Forum annual meeting
The World Economic Forum will have its annual meeting from the 22-25 January, with one full day dedicated to climate change. The forum aims to address the challenges posed by a rapidly shifting global system, including politics, economics, social issues and technology.

Christiana Figueres, chief of the UN’s climate change body, told RTCC: “They have chosen topics where they believe there can be transformational change, in particular in those areas that require the coordination or collaboration of both private and public sector. It’s asset owners that can truly make a difference and must make a difference where substantial capital is going to flow over the next 10-20 years.”

5 – World Future Energy Summit
The World Future Energy Summit will take place from the 20-22 January in Abu Dhabi, where world leaders, international policy makers, industry experts and more will gather to discuss renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. In 2013 France President Francois Hollande told delegates the planet faced an environmental “catastrophe” if countries failed to invest in renewables.

Speakers this year include IEA director Maria van der Hoeven and World Energy Council president Marie-Jose Nadeau. As well as talks, an exhibition of the latest technology will see the launch of dozens of new renewable energy and energy efficiency products, including an electric plane.

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