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article imageInvestors turn back on fossil fuels at Paris climate summit

By Mariëtte Le Roux, Adam PLOWRIGHT (AFP)     Dec 11, 2017 in World

Major investors vowed Tuesday to move away from Earth-warming fossil fuels as world leaders met in Paris seeking to unlock new cash to save humanity from climate "doom".

Two years to the day since 195 nations sealed the Paris Agreement to avert worst-case-scenario climate change, banks and companies announced billions of dollars of intended divestment from coal, oil, and gas at a finance-themed climate summit.

But conference host France, as well as the UN and World Bank, said efforts to shift the global economy into a green energy future were too little, too slow, as a report warned that melting Arctic ice will trigger extreme weather worldwide.

"We are losing the battle," against climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron told delegates. "We are not moving fast enough."

Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the climate summit in Paris
Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the climate summit in Paris
Eric FEFERBERG, AFP

For his part, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said continued subsidies of fossil fuel amounted too humanity "investing in its own doom".

"We are in a war for the very existence of life on our planet as we know it," Guterres told more than 50 heads of state including Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto, Britain's Theresa May and Spain's Mariano Rajoy, at the summit called by Macron.

- 'Damning vote of no confidence' -

$100 billion climate aid pledge by rich nations
$100 billion climate aid pledge by rich nations
Alain BOMMENEL, AFP

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said unprecedented Arctic warming -- twice the planetary rate -- was the "new normal", and will have global consequences.

"The Arctic has traditionally been the refrigerator of the planet," said Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA's Arctic Research Program.

"But the door to that refrigerator has been left open."

The Paris Agreement, which took more than two decades to negotiate, seeks to limit average global warming to under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Under it, countries have pledged non-binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas.

US President Donald Trump has rejected the deal, calling climate change a "hoax", and vowing to restore jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced to loud applause Tuesday that the lender would "no longer finance upstream oil and gas after 2019".

Greenpeace hailed the move. "The World Bank -– as one of the world's most powerful financial institutions -– has sent a damning vote of no confidence to the future of the fossil fuel industry," said campaigner Gyorgy Dallos.

French insurer Axa said it would speed up carbon sector divestment, pulling 2.5 billion euros ($2.9 billion) from companies which derive more than 30 percent of their revenues from coal.

- Trump rejection 'misguided' -

About 200 protesters gathered in the Paris streets  meanwhile  demanding that France pays "not ...
About 200 protesters gathered in the Paris streets, meanwhile, demanding that France pays "not a single euro more for fossil energy".
GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT, AFP

Dutch bank ING said it would have "close to zero exposure" to coal power generation by 2025, and a group of more than 200 global investors launched a campaign to pressure the world's largest corporate carbon emitters -- including BP, Airbus, Volkswagen and Glencore -- to go greener.

According to the International Energy Agency, green energy investments of about $3.5 trillion per year will be needed for the world to stay under the 2 C limit -- double current spending.

"While the challenge is great, we must do everything in our power to meet it. We know it is the difference between life and death for millions of vulnerable people around the world," said Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji who presided over UN climate talks in Bonn last month.

On current emissions trends, the world is on course for warming of 3 C, experts warn, with life- and asset-threatening superstorms, sea-level rise, floods and droughts the result.

Trump came under fire from all quarters on Tuesday.

His rejection of the Paris pact was "politically short-sighted and misguided, economically irresponsible, and scientifically wrong," said former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

But American businesses, regions and local government leaders have pushed on, regardless of the federal government.

- 'Picking up the slack ' -

The countries that have signed the Paris Agreement  and their greenhouse gas emissions
The countries that have signed the Paris Agreement, and their greenhouse gas emissions
Simon MALFATTO, AFP/File

"It doesn't matter that Donald Trump backed out of the Paris Agreement," said former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the face of the R20 network of regional climate actors.

"We at the subnational level, we're going to pick up the slack."

Still, many remain concerned about climate finance for developing countries, of which the US -- the world's biggest historical greenhouse gas polluter -- has traditionally been a major contributor. Trump has vowed to slash climate finance and withhold $2 billion pledged to the Green Climate Fund.

Developing nations need the money to ease the costly shift away from fossil fuels, and to shore up defences against climate change-induced weather disasters.

Rich nations, who have polluted more for longer, pledged in 2009 to muster $100 billion per year in climate finance from 2020.

On 2015 trends, total public financing would reach about $67 billion by that date, according to a report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

burs-mlr/adm

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