Elections, heat and youth power: Climate tipping points for 2024?

Volunteers prepare voting slips for the local voters, as part of election preparation, ahead of the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 5, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Volunteers prepare voting slips for the local voters, as part of election preparation, ahead of the general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 5, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

What’s the context?

We asked experts what they think might spur effective climate action in 2024. Here are their ideas

  • Major global elections in 2024 to influence climate action
  • Pressure to meet COP28 fossil fuel promises growing
  • Risks, including extreme heat, rising

LONDON - With a raft of key global elections scheduled for this year, and a new agreement to "transition away from oil, coal and gas this critical decade" in hand after COP28 in Dubai, what will 2024 bring for climate action?

We asked top climate analysts and activists for their predictions, from potential "tipping points" to reasons for optimism, even as climate-changing emissions continue to rise:

What are key pressure points for climate action in 2024?

Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

"The foremost challenge for the world in 2024 is to start bending the curve of global emissions. If this is not accomplished in the next two years, we will firmly close the door to holding global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

"COP28 in Dubai gave us - 10 years overdue - finally a workable plan towards phase-out of the prime cause behind the climate crisis - oil, coal and gas.

"2024 must be the year where countries and financial institutions in particular are put under pressure to start implementing what they have agreed upon - to 'transition away from oil, coal and gas this critical decade in line with science'.

"If the Dubai Agreement becomes one more example of empty promises, then we tip from big to massive trouble." 

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Philippines climate justice activist:

"We need to take every chance we can to pressure world leaders to choose climate justice. They are making decisions every day, in international meetings and assemblies, but also at home.

"We have to ensure that climate is on the agenda of every meeting because the climate crisis is amplified by and amplifies all other aspects of our society and economy."

Are countries serious about transitioning away from fossil fuels?

Mohamed Adow, founder and director, Power Shift Africa:

"We now have leaders on the record committing to transition away from fossil fuels. Any leader, especially in the rich world, needs to be hammered if they are caught opening a new coal mine or signing off new licenses for oil and gas drilling."

Johan Rockström, Potsdam Institute:

"This is the big test: Will countries get serious?

"Sweden, my home country, chose to violate the Dubai agreement in December when the government presented its new climate action plan to increase emissions until 2030 (by relaxing targets and economic policies on transport), while focusing all attention on achieving net zero by 2045 (betting on nuclear).

"This is a clear violation of the Dubai agreement to 'transition away this critical decade'. If all other countries go the Swedish way, the Dubai statement will be worth nothing."

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Can 2024 elections spur climate action?

Ritu Bharadwaj, principal researcher for climate change, International Institute for Environment and Development:

"The global elections expected in 2024 are crucial for climate action. The upcoming U.S. election will be particularly significant – with potential for significant policy redirections post-election.

"Climate-fuelled cross-border migration is also emerging as a significant issue and is expected to become an important political agenda in many countries.

"In emerging economies such as India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, which are also poised for elections this year, the interplay between growth, development agendas and climate policies will be crucial."

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, global climate and energy lead, WWF:

"After some progress made in recent years, it would be a major blow for climate action to see politicians who deny climate change or seek to delay climate action taking power at this critical time.

"However, the Paris Agreement on climate change has shown its resilience to political change in recent years. It has shown it is an instrument with a clear long-term vision that can survive short term challenges."

Are new sources of climate cash on the horizon?

Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa:

"Taxing the obscene profits of fossil fuel companies would be one source of climate finance. Making polluters pay is a common-sense course of action.

"These companies are responsibility for wrecking our climate and so it makes sense to tax them and use those funds to help clean up the mess they're creating."

Harjeet Singh, global partnerships director, Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty:

"New finance for climate needs should primarily come from the budgets of wealthy countries, who readily allocate hundreds of billions for fossil fuel subsidies, military spending, and bank bailouts, yet fall short in providing sufficient climate finance.

"This hypocrisy must be challenged, ensuring their contributions match their historical responsibilities.

"Additionally, innovative funding sources like redirecting fossil fuel subsidies, imposing levies on fossil fuel extraction and taxing financial transactions could generate substantial funds for a wide range of climate actions, from mitigation to adaptation and dealing with climate impacts."   

Johan Rockström, Potsdam Institute:

"We must look at carbon pricing and greenhouse gas fees, such as on container traffic or flight tickets. During the pandemic, container prices increased dramatically without killing the global economy, or having massive impacts on individual consumption.

Are there climate tipping points - good or bad - ahead?

Cassie Flynn, global director of climate change, U.N. Development Programme:

"Climate impacts have been devastating and economies are rippling from them. It's going to take years, if not decades for countries to be able to recover from some of these very extreme impacts. I think we're going to see how countries really grapple with the emergency of the climate crisis on their doorstep.

"But also, one-in-five cars now sold is an electric vehicle. The cost of renewable energy technologies has plummeted, with solar panels down 99% since 1980. This is remarkable.

"We're starting to see the costs of this green transition really start to become its own tipping point and accelerating in real time."

Rachel Kyte, visiting professor at the Blavatnik School, University of Oxford, and co-chair of the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative:

"Extreme heat events will concentrate minds. At city levels, more mayors will appoint heat czars, and under-investment in cooling technologies, including those that can work where electricity is unreliable, will be addressed.

"Resilience within communities is a function of social ties. The care for the youngest, eldest and weakest, and how that informs organising and spending priorities is the natural territory of women and women's organising.

"Whether it's women as heat czars, women fighting for their children's right to breathe, or women holding methane monitors in low-income communities around LNG terminals, this is their moment."   

What reasons for optimism do you see?

Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa:

"We've just seen the world agree to phase out fossil fuels, while meeting in a petro-state. That's a hugely significant step in the right direction. 

"Seeing the climate movement in the Global South beginning to raise its voice loudly is a very encouraging sign that the whole world is starting to wake up and declare that they will not have their future and their climate destroyed by the greed and ignorance of fossil fuel interests."

Rachel Kyte, University of Oxford:

"Kenya has tried to flip the narrative of Africa as the subject of ever-decreasing aid and concessional financial flows to one of Africa's continental renewable energy hyperpower, with a young population demanding a different future.

"With increased attention on the mineral and metal supply chains for the renewable energy revolution and their preponderance under African soil, perhaps 2024 will be the year when we have a more serious conversation about moving production to where the abundant clean energy and minerals are rather than shipping energy and minerals to where production capacity was.

"That would provide a more effective antidote to the fears of green colonialism as oil and gas producers seek "offsets" in the carbon sinks of African forests and mangroves without commitments to transparency or integrity."

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, activist:

"The youth movement continues to grow and diversify tactics and strategies to create change. We're now seeing more youth negotiators and more youth legislators, but also more youth activists, campaigners, journalists, writers and more.

"The more people know about the climate crisis and that there is something wrong, that it is because of how our global economy prioritises profit over people and the planet and that there is something we can do about it, the more that we will gain a critical mass to push for systemic change."

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