Session of the United Nations climate negotiations October 2 in Panama City. Source: International Institute for Sustainable Development

Session of the United Nations climate negotiations October 2 in Panama City. Source: International Institute for Sustainable Development

Panama is only a short hop from the Caribbean islands now home to Worldwatch Institute’s Low-Carbon Energy Roadmaps project. But, it’s a big leap from the national renewable energy strategies being developed in the Caribbean to the tense efforts just wrapping up in Panama City to agree on global climate change reduction goals.

The Panama meetings from October 1-7 marked the final preparatory negotiation before the next United Nations climate change summit convenes in Durban, South Africa from November 28-December 10. With many issues on the negotiating table, countries made surprising progress on providing funding for climate change solutions, especially in developing countries. Countries also pushed big issues like a new global climate agreement and the next stage of the Kyoto Protocol onto an already overflowing agenda for Durban.

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The C40 Summit was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a C40 participating city

Several international organizations have collaborated recently to combat climate change in the world’s largest cities. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced last month that they will be combining the resources of the Clinton Climate Initiative, a program of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which Bloomberg chairs, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities.

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The World Bank and other MDBs are increasing funding for renewable energy

Commercial lending for sustainable energies has slowed in the wake of the financial crisis, but support from multilateral development banks is on the rise. This multilateral support, however, only accounted for almost one-eighth of the global sustainable energy investment in 2009. Recent estimates suggest that the public financing needed to achieve a stabilized global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius far exceeds this amount.

Despite this limited means, support from multilateral banks is critical in developing countries transitioning to a sustainable energy sector, as these institutions provide technical assistance, concessional loans, and guarantees that can help mitigate the perceived risks associated with renewable energy technologies. The banks also play an important role in building the conditions that enable investors and commercial financiers to plan investments in these sectors.

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On Monday evening, Worldwatch hosted a well-attended official side event at the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancún titled “Low-Carbon Energy Roadmaps: Insights from Those Who Are Leading the Way.” The event explored Worldwatch’s unique approach to designing energy roadmaps worldwide and highlighted a handful of countries that are making measurable progress in the path toward low-carbon development.

Dan Kammen speaking at the Worldwatch event

The panel consisted of Norbert Gorissen from the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMU), Rae Kwon Chung from the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (and South Korea’s former climate ambassador), the World Bank’s new renewable energy czar Dan Kammen, Jiang Kejun from the Energy Research Institute of China, and Nelly Cuello from the Dominican Republic’s National Council on Climate Change. The meeting was moderated by Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin.

Following an opening presentation by Alexander Ochs, Worldwatch’s Energy and Climate Director, the panelists shared thoughts on how their countries (or in Kammen’s case, the World Bank and California) aspire to position themselves as leaders in creating low-carbon development strategies. Each of these players is moving ahead with ambitious policies even in the absence of real progress at the international level.

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