The leading politicians and influencers are becoming more united in the battle of finding the commitment for mitigation of the climate change. The climate change has been given faces by politicians like Macron making the slogan “Make our planet great again!”, and by civil societies affected most like Co-founder of an environmental NGO Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner opening the UN Climate Summit 2014 by her poem dedicated to her child on the existence of her home island.
The united commitment of politicians, people and the economy decision makers is evidently needed. However, to understand and observe the development, we need a fact-based and reasonably frequently updated framework that portrays the impact of climate change by the social, economic and environmental terms at national and international levels.
The debate whether the climate change exists, or whether we just observe random variation, has been a long lasting development. The traces of the long debate can still be observed in the careful wording used in the policy debate, when setting up the frameworks and monitoring systems. The UNECE statistical development of climate change related statistics has been developed within these requirements. It is an objective, informative and statistically sound framework and developed into feasible information system for national and international use.
From drivers to adaptation
The aim of the climate change related statistics and indicators work is to develop a statistical framework to support climate change analysis and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. The focus is on statistics that are needed for analysing climate change, its causes and impacts. These statistics are classified by five categories: (i) drivers of climate change, (ii) emissions, (iii) impacts, (iv) mitigation, and (v) adaptation.
The drivers of climate change are indicated by total primary energy consumption, % of fossil fuels in primary energy consumption, land use / cover change, total support for fossil fuels / GDP, total energy efficiency of the economy, carbon intensity of energy for the economy, cattle stock, and energy consumption by households / capita. For the bioeconomy and the circular economy the challenge is to develop sustainable solutions that minimize the impact to the environment.
Mapping the entity urge to the mitigation and adaptation
The mapping of the direct impacts immediately show the areas in which we have information gaps. For example, in many countries like in Finland, there is no statistical information on the economic impact of agricultural losses from droughts, floods and other severe weather events. This information will be available in the future.
In Finland, the climate change has quite likely been the cause for the never-ending rain in this autumn (2017). This in turn made the autumn sowing nearly impossible according to recent harvest estimates made by Anneli Partala, senior statistician at Luke. The rain also affected the harvesting, leaving the fields unharvested in many areas, or affected the quality of the crops. In other areas, the local heat and dry spells have affected the crops in opposite way.
The climate change related indicators are both important statistics for examining the development in a balanced way, but they also serve as a neutral tool for examining the policies and impacts that have on a global perspective the highest impact. The statistical indicators that measure the mitigation of climate change are:
- Renewable energy share in the total final energy use / consumption
- Share of climate change mitigation expenditure relative to GDP
- Share of energy and transport related taxes as percentage of total taxes and social contributions
- Total climate change related subsidies and similar transfers / GDP
- Average carbon price
- Mobilized amount of USD per year starting in 2020 accountable towards the USD 100 billion commitment
The impact of policies to adaptation of climate change are estimated through Share of government adaptation expenditure to GDP, Change in water use efficiency over time, % of population living in dwellings with air conditioners or air conditioning, Progress towards sustainable forest management and Proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture.
Climate change and sustainable development are closely connected
Most statistics identified by the framework can be produced by most countries with feasible development contribution. Currently, the framework is refined to identify methodologies for tier III indicators. This will utilize also recent and ongoing work of the indicators for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (Sendai Framework), and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (Paris Agreement).
To focus on Macron’s statement “Make our planet great again” – we recognize that our decisions and actions do not only have domestic and local impact but all actions make a stream of impacts affecting globally. The clever solutions of bioeconomy dealing with the wicked problems of reducing emissions and making the use of sidestreams in industrial production, can make a huge impact on the quality of life and security of livelihood on our globe. Further, we need the studies of plant genetics and climate conditions to be able to optimize the types of plants and species to adapt to the climate change, and to support food security.
The author is Director of Statistics at Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and a member of the UNECE Expert panel and the Task force of the Climate Change related statistics.