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Your Source for All Things Ecology
Updated: 9 min 36 sec ago
By Lauren McCauley
The weight of plastic waste clogging the world’s oceans threatens to exceed all fish by 2050 if the world’s seemingly insatiable appetite for the material continues at the current explosive rate, warned a new report presented on Tuesday.
In fact, according to the study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation along with the World Economic Forum, “plastics production has surged over the past 50 years, from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014, and is expected to double again over the next 20 years.”
The study—The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics (pdf)—introduced at the opening day of the WEF’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland is the first of its kind to comprehensively assess global plastic packaging flows. The report makes an economic case for what it calls the “New Plastics Economy,” described as “a new approach based on creating effective after-use pathways for plastics; drastically reducing leakage of plastics into natural systems, in particular oceans; and decoupling plastics from fossil feedstocks.”
Among the findings, which are based on interviews with over 180 experts and on analysis of over 200 reports, the study estimates that roughly 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year—”which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute.” This amount is expected to double by 2030.
“In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight),” the report continues.
What’s more, the report estimates that only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling and even less for plastics in general. After sorting, only 5 percent is ultimately retained for subsequent use, which is far below global recycling rates for paper (58 percent) and iron and steel (70–90 percent).
Further, the report examines the carbon impact of plastics production, given that over 90 percent are derived from “virgin fossil feedstocks.” Plastics production represents roughly 6 percent of global oil consumption and “If the current strong growth of plastics usage continues as expected, the plastics sector will account for 20% of total oil consumption and 15% of the global annual carbon budget by 2050.”
The report argues that single-use plastics, and plastic packaging specifically, represents a net loss for the economy, as its limited value is outweighed by these negative impacts. It states:After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or USD 80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. A staggering 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure. The cost of such after-use externalities for plastic packaging, plus the cost associated with greenhouse gas emissions from its production, is conservatively estimated at USD 40 billion annually – exceeding the plastic packaging industry’s profit pool.
“Linear models of production and consumption are increasingly challenged by the context within which they operate, and this is particularly true for high-volume, low-value materials such as plastic packaging,” said Ellen MacArthur, an accomplished British yachtswoman turned foundation chair.
The researchers conclude that in order to get closer to the goal of a “circular economy”—where “consumption happens only in effective bio-cycles; elsewhere use replaces consumption”—both the public and private sector must work towards the goal of creating plastics that can be both recycled and composted.
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Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much.
The 2015 temperatures continue a long-term warming trend, according to analyses by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York (GISTEMP). NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2015 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data. Because weather station locations and measurements change over time, there is some uncertainty in the individual values in the GISTEMP index. Taking this into account, NASA analysis estimates 2015 was the warmest year with 94 percent certainty.
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Last year was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.
Phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the tropical Pacific Ocean, can contribute to short-term variations in global average temperature. A warming El Niño was in effect for most of 2015.
“2015 was remarkable even in the context of the ongoing El Niño,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Last year’s temperatures had an assist from El Niño, but it is the cumulative effect of the long-term trend that has resulted in the record warming that we are seeing.”
Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced record average temperatures last year. For example, NASA and NOAA found that the 2015 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the second warmest on record.
NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations. These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heating effects that could skew the conclusions if left unaccounted for. The result of these calculations is an estimate of the global average temperature difference from a baseline period of 1951 to 1980.
NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but a different baseline period, and different methods to analyze Earth’s polar regions and global temperatures.
GISS is a NASA laboratory managed by the Earth Sciences Division of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.
NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites, as well as airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. The agency develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.
The full 2015 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation are available at:
The slides for the Wednesday, Jan. 20 news conference are available at: http://go.nasa.gov/2015climate
For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:
The National Solar Foundation Press ReleaseThe Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2015 finds that the U.S. solar workforce grew by more that 20% for the third consecutive year. More than 35,000 solar jobs were added in 2015, bringing the U.S. solar workforce total to nearly 209,000; an increase of 123% since 2010.
The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar research and education organization, today released its sixth annual National Solar Jobs Census. The new Census 2015 found that the U.S. solar industry employed 208,859 Americans in 2015, a figure that includes the addition of 35,052 solar workers over the previous year, representing 20.2 percent growth in solar industry employment in the 12 months preceding November 2015. Solar employment grew nearly 12 times faster than the national employment growth rate of 1.7 percent during the same period.
“The solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “Employment in solar has grown an extraordinary 123 percent since 2010, adding approximately 115,000 well-paying jobs. Our Census findings show that one out of every 83 new jobs created in the U.S. over the last 12 months was in the solar industry – 1.2% of all new jobs. The Solar Foundation is proud to play a vital role in delivering comprehensive solar jobs information to key decision makers about the technology’s tremendous contributions to the U.S. economy.”
The solar workforce is larger than some well-established fossil fuel generation sectors, such as the oil and gas extraction industry, which shed 13,800 jobs in 2015 and now employs 187,200 people. The oil and gas pipeline construction industry, which employs 129,500 workers, lost 9,500 jobs (U.S. BLS) during the same period. The solar industry is already three times larger than the coal-mining industry, which employs 67,929 people (JobsEQ 2015Q3). Solar employers surveyed expect to add more than 30,000 jobs over the next 12 months. The expected increase of 14.7% would bring the count of U.S. solar workers to 239,625 by the end of 2016.
Respected U.S. leaders and companies lauded the National Solar Job Census 2015 findings.
“The U.S. solar power industry continues to grow and create jobs, providing further evidence that promoting economic growth and fighting climate change can go hand-in-hand. The Solar Jobs Census helps fuel this progress by offering policymakers and investors the clean energy data they need to make informed decisions,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P., philanthropist, United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities & Climate Change, and three-term Mayor of New York City.
“The continued growth and vitality of the solar industry is welcome news, especially after world leaders convened in Paris and signed an historic agreement recognizing the importance of climate change and of renewable energy as a way to help address it,” said Rick Needham, Director, Energy and Sustainability at Google. “As the largest corporate procurer of renewable power in the world and one of the largest corporate investors in both utility scale and residential solar, we’re doing our part to support solar not only because it provides clean, renewable power but also because it makes great business sense. And with the launch and recent expansion of our Project Sunroof, we’re helping our users explore whether solar makes sense for them and provides a pathway for cleaner power, economic savings, and more jobs.”
“Solar is surging. Renewable energy deployment is on track to transform our world, helping to lessen our reliance on coal and other polluting fossil fuels,” said Board of Los Angeles County Chair and former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. “Solar’s growth will continue to be robust in coming years. With wider solar adoption, thousands more high-quality jobs will be added to the economy that help propel us forward and advance our economic and environmental goals.”
“As the Census underscores, solar is providing a tremendous boost to our economy while meeting public demand for clean, affordable energy,” said Andrew Birch, CEO of Sungevity, the largest privately held solar installer in the U.S. “We’re extremely proud to be one the fastest growing solar companies in the U.S. – and part of an industry that’s creating hundreds of thousands of high-quality jobs.”
“Americans want good-paying jobs, and solar jobs are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy,” said former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. “Our citizens are making and installing those solar panels, and with the right policies, the U.S. can create hundreds of thousands more solar jobs here at home. What more needs to be said?”
The Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership conducted the National Solar Jobs Census 2015. The report includes data collected from more than 19,000 U.S. businesses. The results from the Census are based on rigorous survey efforts that include 287,962 telephone calls and over 44,220 emails to known and potential energy establishments across the United States, resulting in a total of 2,350 full completions for solar establishments in the U.S. The sampling rigor in the known and unknown universes provides a margin of error for establishment counts at ±0.85% and employment at ±1.99% at a 95% confidence interval.
“Census 2015 shows that solar company growth has been remarkably consistent over the last five years, despite an uneven jobs recovery in the U.S. over the same period,” said Philip Jordan, Vice President at BW Research Partnership. “Indications point to this sustained, upward trajectory continuing apace in the months and years ahead as the U.S. transitions to a clean energy economy.”
The full National Solar Jobs Census 2015 report is now available at http://TSFcensus.org.
A new and highly interactive map featuring Solar Jobs Census data broken out by state, county, and legislative districts will be available at http://SolarStates.org in mid-February.
About The Solar Foundation:
The Solar Foundation® (TSF) is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to increase understanding of solar energy through strategic research and education that transform markets. Since 2010, TSF has published its annual National Solar Jobs Census, which established the first credible solar jobs base line for the U.S. TSF is considered the premier research organization on the solar labor workforce, employer trends, and the economic impacts of solar and advises many organizations on the topic. TSF is also a leading provider of educational materials on the economic impacts of solar for local governments through its work with the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, TSF chairs the National Solar Schools Consortium, a group of stakeholders seeking to make solar a larger part of the national K-12 system. More at TheSolarFoundation.org
About BW Research Partnership:
BW Research is widely regarded as the national leader in labor market analysis for emerging industries and clean energy technologies. BW Research provides high quality data and keen insight into economic and workforce issues related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, recycling, water, waste, and wastewater management, and other environmental fields. The principals of the firm are committed to providing research and analysis for data-driven decision-making. More at bwresearch.com
- Giant icebergs leave trail of carbon sequestration in their wake – a month after they have passed
- Geographers analysed 175 satellite images of ocean colour which is an indicator of phytoplankton productivity at the ocean’s surface
Pioneering research from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography discovered melting water from giant icebergs, which contains iron and other nutrients, supports hitherto unexpectedly high levels of phytoplankton growth.
This activity, known as carbon sequestration, contributes to the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, therefore helping to slow global warming.
During the study, which is the first of its kind on this scale, a team of scientists led by Professor Grant Bigg analysed 175 satellite images of ocean colour – which is an indicator of phytoplankton productivity at the ocean’s surface – from a range of icebergs in the Southern Ocean which were at least 18 km in length.
The images from 2003-2013 showed that enhanced phytoplankton productivity, which has a direct impact on carbon storage in the ocean, extends hundreds of kilometres from giant icebergs, and persists for at least one month after the iceberg passes.
Professor Bigg said: “This new analysis reveals that giant icebergs may play a major role in the Southern Ocean carbon cycle.
“We detected substantially enhanced chlorophyll levels, typically over a radius of at least four-10 times the iceberg’s length.
“The evidence suggests that assuming carbon export increases by a factor of five-10 over the area of influence and up to a fifth of the Southern Ocean’s downward carbon flux originates with giant iceberg fertilisation.
“If giant iceberg calving increases this century as expected, this negative feedback on the carbon cycle may become more important than we previously thought.”
The Southern Ocean plays a significant part in the global carbon cycle, and is responsible for approximately 10 per cent of the ocean’s total carbon sequestration through a mixture of biologically driven and chemical processes, including phytoplankton growth.
Previous studies have suggested that ocean fertilization from icebergs makes relatively minor contributions to phytoplankton uptake of CO2.
However this research, published January 11, 2016 in Nature Geoscience, shows that melting water from icebergs is responsible for as much as 20 per cent of the carbon sequestered to the depths of the Southern Ocean.
By Lauren McCauley
The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday filed suit against Volkswagen, charging that the German auto-maker deliberately rigged cars to cheat emissions tests resulting in potentially millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions and untold damage to the atmosphere.
The civil suit, filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards. Further, the complaint states that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by bringing to U.S. market vehicles that were designed differently than the company had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA.
Environmental groups have estimated that the cheating scandal caused at least 32.2 million tons of extra carbon pollution into the atmosphere, equal to roughly 6.8 million cars.
“What Volkswagen did wasn’t just consumer fraud, it was a crime against our climate and against future generations relying on us for a livable planet,” Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center of Biological Diversity, said after the scandal first erupted in September when the EPA sent a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to the manufacturer and its subsidiaries.
CBD had previously calculated that Volkswagen should owe as much as $25 billion in fines for damages to climate and air quality. In a statement on Monday, Galvin said he was “heartened” by the development and urged the DOJ to pursue the full estimated compensation for the emissions cheating.
In addition to its environmental impact, pollution by nitrogen oxides (or NOx) has been linked to grave health problems, namely asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses—with children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory disease particularly at risk. What’s more, recent studies have shown that the direct health effects of NOx are worse than previously understood, and may also include damage to lung tissue and premature death.
Monday’s suit seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. According to the EPA, it does not preclude the government from seeking other “legal remedies.” Though Giles noted that “recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward.”
“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said assistant attorney general John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”
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- In a historic moment, all the world’s countries came together to signal that it’s game over for fossil fuels
- By supporting such an ambitious deal, governments have shown unity with the world’s most vulnerable
- For world leaders, the hard work begins now. A Paris agreement is not the end point, but rather a tipping point for the climate movement
195 countries reached across traditional divides today to unite behind the greatest moral challenge of our time and seal the deal on a historic climate accord.
The Paris Agreement is an inclusive, ambitious, science-based deal that recognizes the urgency and scale of action required to address climate change, and hastens the transition from dirty to clean energy that is well underway.
The Paris Agreement heralds the end of the fossil fuel era, giving the world the tools to drive emissions to net zero, to protect the world’s poor and vulnerable, and to address the desperate pollution situation in India and China.
People have been peacefully marching on the street for years, while diverse groups like faith, health, parents, unionists, Indigenous peoples, cities, businesses and investors among others have long called for climate action. Civil society will continue to put pressure on leaders – starting today and ramping up in the next few months – to ensure real world change continues to accelerate. In the spirit of this global response to the global climate crisis, the Paris agreement puts forth a new imperative to make a real and lasting difference.Get the detailed background on what was achieved here. Key points
In a historic moment, all the world’s countries came together to signal that it’s game over for fossil fuels. Faced with the fundamental shift already taking place in the world’s economy and no longer able to ignore the growing calls for climate action, 195 governments have, today, used their collective strength to protect the public and forge a legally binding agreement tackle the growing threat of climate change. This includes a commitment to a long-term goal to bring emissions down to zero and a regular review of national commitments every five years to get us there.
By supporting such an ambitious deal, governments have shown unity with the world’s most vulnerable. As the impacts of climate change hit home in communities around the world, from Chennai to the Philippines to the UK, the voice of vulnerable communities has been heard in Paris like never before, and the new agreement recognises their needs and concerns. It keeps the door open to limiting warming to 1.5DegC, while setting a bar for increasing support for the most vulnerable people, including scaling up finance.
For world leaders, the hard work begins now. While Paris marks the beginning of the new era for climate action, there is far more to be done by governments to further accelerate the transition to a 100 per cent renewable future and ensure that communities can adapt and are protected from climate impacts. All eyes are now on nations to use the commitments enshrined in the Paris agreement to urgently speed up the ongoing energy transition at a national level, and come back to the table and increase their climate commitments as soon as possible.
A Paris agreement is not the end point, but rather a tipping point for the climate movement. Everyone has is at risk from a warming planet, and scaling up action early will bring benefits for us all. As the gavel goes down on the UN climate talks, people from all walks of life are already pushing harder to keep fossil fuels in the ground – choosing instead a just transition to a future powered by renewables. As the transition gets stronger and faster in a post-Paris world, citizens around the world will continue to hold governments and corporations accountable as they work to make the spirit of the agreement part of the fibre of life.Our full brief on the what Paris delivered
Our team from TreeAlerts.org have pulled together a full brief on the outcome of the Paris Climate Change Conference:HISTORIC CLIMATE AGREEMENT REFLECTS REAL WORLD CHANGE,
PROTECTS VULNERABLE PEOPLE
Check it out to find an in-depth overview of COP21’s outcome – analysis on what’s in the new accord and what it means; quotes from our partners and peers; and a number of links to resources to better understand what’s happened and what comes next.
Day 11 of the Paris Climate Change Conference
- Latest draft text is ambitious, but significant work remains
- Ministers negotiating through the night to deliver a new global climate deal
We’re rolling this quick update out at just past 2 am on Friday morning. COP21, the Paris Climate Change Conference is still underway, with ministers once again working through the night to usher in a new global climate agreement.
There are many important impacts of this deal, but three stand out particularly:
195 Countries, the world, has committed to tackling climate change and they have all done it together. Almost every country made a contribution in the run up to this meeting and that spirit of constructive co-operation has pervaded this meeting.
The developing countries have made it clear for years that this agreement needs to reflect the fact that the developed countries, and the fossil fuels they have burned, have caused most of this problem to date.
But every country now acknowledges that all countries, big and small, rich and poor, have to act if we are to avoid further dangerous interference with the climate system.
On that basis it is vital to all parties that the deal is Fair if it is to be legitimate and sustainable, and we see the building blocks of a fair deal in this text.It’s ambitious
The long term goal as expressed here sets the objective for the reduction of greenhouse gases to zero this century. That means 100% clean energy by mid century. The fossil fuel era end here in Paris. It will take some years to complete the transition, but this deal will massively accelerate the growth of clean energy infrastructure, scaling the technology we already have and driving further innovation.Everyone has won something significant in getting this far
and that was the only way this agreement was ever going to be reached. It’s fair, fairly ambitious and creates the platform we need for the final Paris Agreement.Grist that caught our eye
Marshall Islands Minister, Tony De Brum, offered a reaction to the text that helps capture the sense of ambition within in the coming hours:“There is a clear recognition that the world must work towards limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that it would be much safer to do so. With this, I would be able to go home and tell my people that our chance for survival is not lost.”
“The language on emissions neutrality sends a clear signal that the world will rapidly bend the emissions curve and phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century. Governments and businesses across the world would know that renewable energy is unquestionably the new game in town.”
Dr. Bettina Menne, Climate Lead, WHO Europe brought the health perspective:
“This new Presidents’ text takes us one step closer to a Paris Agreement which could secure this future, protecting the public from the impacts of climate change – the defining health issue of this century. A strong agreement in Paris must bolster community resilience, strengthen our health systems, and help tackle inequalities.”
Speaking at a press briefing Friday evening, Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the WRI’s Climate Program, warned that work to finalize the will be difficult:
“At this critical summit, the negotiations must be exceptional. The big question is which leaders are going to step forward to grasp this moment and make the agreement both fair and ambitious? Ten days ago leaders came to Paris calling for a strong climate agreement. Now those leaders need to start picking up the phone and work together to turn those words into action.”Resources
GreenTV produced a video on of all the numbers that are thrown around in these negotiations. They also pulled together a quick summary of the Fossil of the Day Award went to pretty much every country in the world, because we need everyone to step up as the negotiations near an end (pics here).
Day 10 of the Paris Climate Change Conference
- Steam-lined text released Wednesday, retaining options for a credible pathway to 1.5ºC
- US to double grant-based support for adaptation in developing country’s by 2020
- Ministers work through the night with a new draft due out early Thursday afternoon
The movement for a strong Paris outcome is gathering support from across the spectrum as COP21, the climate summit enters its last few days. Civil society groups, including trade unionists, youth, gender, and Indigenous peoples united today for a sit-in inside the summit venue, calling for an ambitious Paris deal that delivers on emissions reductions as well as finance and support for the most vulnerable and justice for impacted people.
A new text was released on Wednesday afternoon. The latest draft contains options that could anchor the majority of countries’ calls for limiting climate change to 1.5ºC and options for a credible pathway to deliver – speeding the renewable energy revolution, scaling-up ambition, climate finance and climate resilience over time – are still on the table.
Many of our partners commented, calling on countries to choose the strongest possible options in COP21’s final hours. Mohamed Adow, Senior Climate Advisor, Christian Aid said:
“The next 24 hours are critical. This is where the real negotiations will begin. We really need countries to fight to keep in the high ambition options on climate finance, the long term decarbonisation goal and a ratchet mechanism to ensure the agreement evolves to meet the needs of a changing world.”
With lots of work ahead, COP President Laurent Fabius announced that parties would work through the night and release a new draft early Thursday afternoon.News, links & useful grist that caught our eye
In Paris, the US announced plans to double its grant based climate finance for adaptation by 2020, encouraging other countries to follow suit. According to The Hill, back in Washington, President Obama is working the phones. He’s called a number of heads of state, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Tuesday to discuss the progress.
IndyACT called out the continued obstruction of Saudi Arabia in an advertisement in Wednesday’s Financial Times, making the case that “it is in the economic interest of Saudi Arabia to diversify its economy, and reduce its dependence on the fossil fuel trade. Any shock in the energy market, such as the current low oil prices, will heavily impact the Saudi’s economy.”
In addition to the sit-in that brought together civil society from across the spectrum, a number of additional actions added pressure for a fair and ambitious Paris outcome. Survival Media has pictures of the house-sized polar bear Greenpeace dragged into Le Bourget to support their call for ‘Climate Action Now.’ and a ‘Fossil Free Culture’ action at the Louvre Museum.
Today’s Fossil of the Day award went to Argentina and Australia. Both countries are supportive of the 1.5ºC degree goal – which is a good thing. Unfortunately, both governments have played a different game on the domestic front – making moves Tuesday in support of their respective coal industries.
- Newly unveiled 100 country-strong “high ambition coalition” includes 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the US and the EU
- Civil society gathers for massive action laying out what’s needed to reach limit warming to 1.5ºC
- New text expected mid-day Wednesday, with the deadline set for a final versionThursday
Government delegates worked through Tuesday and into Wednesday morning trying to identify bridges between different options in the text. Topic-focused groups that started Sunday, initially addressing cross-cutting issues, have expanded to include more sections of the agreement including Loss & Damage and Adaptation.
We’re starting to see a more clear picture of the partnerships shaping the agreement – with news of a 100 country-strong “high ambition coalition,” including 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the US and all of EU member states breaking Tuesday. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, continues to carry blame for blocking key pieces on ambition that might unlock a deal.
Germany announced US$50 million for the Adaptation Fund, which received a welcome reception. Bigger questions about climate finance remain elusive. China, Brazil and South Africa joined India in rejecting a key OECD study claiming that developed countries have already mobilised two-thirds of their US$100 billion annual climate finance by 2020 pledge.
The French COP President, Laurent Fabius, clarified the process moving forward, with a clean text due out at 1pm Wednesday. His call for a final text to be delivered Thursday.News, links & useful grist that caught our eye
As negotiations head into the final stretch, the pressure is now on governments to deliver an agreement that can create a pathway to below 1.5DegC of warming. Our partners staged a massive action strengthened that call, with street theater for negotiators and demands that a Paris deal sets out an ambitious long term vision, delivers the necessary mechanisms to achieve it, and helps protect the world’s most vulnerable people from the worst climate impacts.
Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Australia are failing to deliver on climate change policies, according to an annual assessment of 58 nations’ climate action. Denmark topped the ranking, released by Germanwatch and CAN Europe today in Paris, followed by the UK, Sweden, Belgium and France.
E3G Executive Director Nick Mabey laid out what we have in store for the next three days in an oped on Climate Home; breaking down the interests of oil producers, forest nations, high-tech trading centres, low lying and desert countries all have distinct interests to protect. This is where it gets serious.
- Ministers’ dig into remaining issues as pressure builds to deliver on new global climate agreement
- Positive moves toward agreement on 1.5ºC, while important details on how to achieve it fall short
- Global greenhouse gas emissions reached a plateau in 2014, according to new report
Ministers arrived in Paris and are getting down to business in high-level negotiation sessions at COP21. They face a distinct choice between a deal that that can keep climate change in check and one that would see climate chaos. High-level meetings kicked off Sunday night, digging into the cross-cutting issues like differentiation and climate finance, that have limited progress to the margins of key issues over the last week. Two major developments were the focus of many our partners Monday.
There was good news on Loss and Damage. It sounds like Saudi Arabia is one of the exceptionally few (perhaps sole) governments blocking 1.5ºC from landing in the final Paris agreement, preferring the current, higher-risk, warming limit of 2ºC.
At the same time, there’s concern that even as governments move toward a more ambitious long-term temperature goal, the essential details on how they’ll achieve it are falling short. There’s pushback on language that could send clear signals to markets, like ‘decarbonization.’ There’s no agreement on a clear political moment before 2020 enabling us to review and improve the existing national climate action plans. According to Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser:“What we can’t do is wait for the first review or stock-take to happen in 2024 or 2025, because that will set in stone the current pledges. And we know that they are no-where near tough enough to deliver 2C, let alone the 1.5C which the most vulnerable countries want.”
There is also concern over what’s included the ambition mechanism – with the role of adaptation and the means to implement climate action plans falling short of the progress and clarity we need.News, links & useful grist that caught our eye
As the news broke today that global greenhouse gas emissions reached a plateau in 2014, a flotilla of announcements from both countries and companies at the Paris climate summit confirmed renewable energy’s pivotal role in the future global economy. Saint Lucia became the 29th nation to join an island renewables initiative and made a deal that will see its governor general’s residence powered by the sun. India presented more details of the international solar alliance launched last week, and African nations started building towards their new target of 300 GW of renewables by 2030 by signing a sustainable energy agreement with potential donor nations.
Business is also taking strides towards being clean and green: Coca-Cola, Microsoft, BMW and Google are the latest of over 50 companies to commit to going for 100 per cent renewable electricity through the RE100 programme, with Google intending to triple its renewable energy by 2025. A newly launched ‘Global Geothermal Alliance’ is set to achieve a 200 per cent increase in global installed capacity for heating by 2030, as well as a 500 per cent increase in power generation.
Greenpeace head Kumi Naidoo and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson on behalf the B-teamheld a joint press conference echoing demands for a 1.5ºC warming limit, a strong long-term goal, and an ambition mechanism with five-year review cycles to ratchet up national climate action plans, starting no later than 2020. Branson also emphasized the need for governments to deliver adequate public finance for developing countries, and end fossil fuel subsidies.
As groups from business and health, to faith and parents, as well as local and national governments in both richer and poorer nations throw their weight behind a fully clean energy future, it is clear that renewables are good for everyone.
Avaaz is naming and shaming #ClimateCriminals – shining a light on the most insidious fossil fuel lobbyists attending the talks. The group posted over a thousand ‘Wanted’ posters and handed out flyers across the French capital, highlighting their attempts to derail the climate deal.
Young people from the US are putting pressure on their government to support a strong climate agreement by tweeting #DearToddStern and let the US State Department know they are watching. And an emerging network of climate concerned parents rolled out a new campaign called #DearTomorrow, asking leaders in Paris to deliver a deal that keeps hope for future generations alive.
Saudi Arabia won another Fossil of the Day today for calling for ‘no discrimination’ against any form of energy sources, including fossil fuels.
While the number of people mobilizing around Paris is unprecedented, many of them have kept their focus on local fights. Under growing pressure from climate campaigners to#KeepitintheGround, the Obama Administration announced a last minute delay for a fossil fuel auction scheduled for this Thursday.
Survival Media Agency have a great selection of photos in and around the climate talks, including a great albums from this weekend’s indigenous peoples’ flotilla action, the Global Village of Alternatives, and the latest protests urging climate ambition and support for the1.5DegC temperature goal.
Activists also joined together this weekend to send a large scale visual message for 100% renewable energy.
Day 6 of the Paris Climate Change Conference
- Draft Paris agreement forwarded to Ministers to resolve remaining issues and ultimately secure a new global climate agreement
- Breaking with tradition, French COP President to begin higher-level negotiating sessions on Sunday afternoon
- Outside of Le Bourget, health leaders from around the world gather for Climate and Health Summit, warning that world’s health hinges on a fossil free future
The years-long working group that hosted negotiations toward a new global climate agreement – ‘the ADP,’ as it’s been known colloquially – closed on Saturday afternoon; passing the remaining work on to Ministers under the leadership of the French COP President.
The text being handed to ministers is largely unchanged since Thursday, with progress on sections covering Loss and Damage, Pre-2020 climate action, and on the margins of other issues key issues like the cycles of ambition, the long-term goal, transparency, finance and adaptation. Unresolved cross-cutting issues like how much climate finance will be available to support implementation and when, as well as how countries capacities and responsibilities are defined, continue to hold back more meaningful progress.
OPEC countries Saudi Arabia and Venezuela stood out for their efforts to water down the long-term goal. Both earned the (dis)honor of civil society’s Fossil of the Day award Saturday for opposing ‘decarbonization’ in a crucial contact group. Venezuela and Saudi Arabia seem to be reluctant to do anything that might endanger their oil profits. Venezuela doubled down on low ambition when their head of delegation, Claudia Salerno, criticized the long-term goal, calling it ‘a slogan’ in a press conference.
Governments reiterated their priorities during the COP’s first plenary session on the new text Saturday evening.
While Sunday has traditionally been a day for bilateral and coordination meetings, France will host negotiations on Sunday evening, diving right into the draft agreement.News, links & useful grist that caught our eye
Outside of the COP, our attention was focused on a relatively new but quickly growing entrant to the climate space – the health sector. Calls to action representing more than 1,700 health organizations and over 13 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals are urging governments to reach a strong agreement that protects the health of patients and the public.
Paris played host to the Climate and Health Summit Saturday, where health sector leaders – backed by the calls from millions of doctors and nurses – turned to governments to urge a strong Paris agreement that accelerates the transition to 100% renewable energy, in order to best protect the health of their citizens across the world. Over 8,200 hospitals and health centers in 16 countries have pledged concrete climate action, and numerous doctors and health workers attending the Paris climate summit came together yesterday to share success stories of carbon-reducing and awareness-raising actions already carried out.
- Saudi Arabia stands out for role blocking ambition in the Paris agreement
- Finance and other unresolved cross-cutting issues limit progress to the margins of key issues
- Loss & Damage and Pre-2020 ambition appear to move in positive direction
Friday began with a new version of the draft Paris agreement, capturing more progress on the margins of core issues and shrinking the text from 50 to 46 pages. The co-chairs leading the process also published a separate document with ‘bridge proposals’ that could further consolidate options in the draft; setting the stage for ministers to take over starting Saturday.
Frustrations and anger are pointed squarely at Saudi Arabia for blocking progress across multiple issues. We hear they’re pushing the Arab Group to stop privately or publically acknowledging calls, led by vulnerable countries, to strengthen the Paris agreement’s long-term goal from limiting warming at 2ºC temperature rise, to a safer limit of 1.5ºC. The Kingdom’s negotiators are also resisting the text on ‘shifting the trillions’ within the finance section and have blocked the results of a major scientific review supporting the need for a stronger long-term goal. Saudi Arabia’s negotiators’ efforts seem to be dividing the Arab Group’s members, with leadership from Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan pulling in the other direction while embarrassing their nation and the Royal Family.
Discussions on regular cycles to review and improve countries’ climate action plans are challenging. On the review, Africa, AILAC, Mexico and the EU are pushing for strong ambition. Others, China among them, are attempting to water it down. China, India, and the Arab group have asked that ‘5 years’ is bracketed and references were cut from other areas.
The picture on Loss & Damage looks more positive than it did Wednesday. We’re also hearing good things from partners who are focused on aspects of the deal that could boost Pre-2020 climate ction.
All of the substantive issues – related to transparency, cycles of ramping up action, Loss & Damage, and Pre-2020 climate action – remain hindered by a lack of clarity and confidence that finance will be delivered as promised by developed countries.
There’s been a massive effort by our partners to defend provisions on human rights, gender equality, a just transition and other important issues under attack. Thursday’s ‘bridging proposal’ text suggests moving the issues from the operative part of the agreement into the preamble, where they wouldn’t be binding. The effort appears to be driven by Norway, the US, and… wait for it… Saudi Arabia.
Another draft of the Paris agreement is due out Saturday morning, with negotiators expected to hand the results of their work up to ministers in the afternoon. Our partners are hopeful that ministers can recapture some of the momentum expressed by Heads of State earlier this week.World’s health hinges on fossil free future
As COP21, the Paris climate summit reaches its halfway point, calls to action representing more than 1,700 health organizations and over 13 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals are urging governments to reach a strong agreement that protects the health of patients and the public. In an unprecedented global medical consensus reflecting support for climate action never seen before, they stress that climate change is a “medical emergency” that could undo 50 years of progress on public health. Air polluted by the same fossil fuels that drive climate change kills 7 million people per year, and global warming contributes to the spread of deadly diseases, extreme temperatures, rising sea levels, as well as food insecurity and violent conflict. With the health risks of climate change undeniable, the World Health Organisation is just one of many medical associations calling for action on climate change. At the same time, the sector is walking the talk and showing some impressive leadership when it comes to cutting emissions and divesting from fossil fuels. Over 8,200 hospitals and health centres in 16 countries have pledged concrete climate action, and numerous doctors and health workers attending the Paris climate summit came together yesterday to share success stories of carbon-reducing and awareness-raising actions already carried out. At today’s Climate and Health Summit in Paris, health sector leaders – backed by the calls from millions of doctors and nurses – are turning to governments to urge a strong Paris agreement which accelerates the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy, in order to best protect the health of their citizens across the world.
According to Dr Patrick Bouet, a health expert involved in the effort:“Climate change is above all a question of public health. Doctors are in the front-line in responding to the harm from climate turmoil. We have a privileged position and a moral duty to protect and promote the population’s health. An imperative is to appeal to professional medical organizations to call on local politicians to limit emissions in our towns.” News, links & useful grist that caught our eye
It was a big day for actions at Le Bourget. With finance remaining a key sticking point, youth and NGO representatives welcomed negotiators to the conference with a push to#StopFundingFossils. The G20 countries alone spend over $450 billion dollars a year on production subsidies for fossil fuels.
CARE handed out small paper mache ducks to delegates reminding them not to duck the adaptation problem. Following Wednesday’s Fossil of the Day going to the IMO and ICAO, a very conspicuous group of animals raised the issue of aviation and shipping emissions being the ‘elephants in the room.’
On the margins of the negotiating halls, 15 countries join an effort to press for action at the nexus of ocean and climate issues – dubbed #BecausetheOcean on social media. The group – announced plans to work on an ocean action plan under the UNFCCC starting in 2016.
- New text out Thursday shows uneven progress, with finance remaining a key sticking point
- Germany joins France in developed country support for more ambitious long-term goal
- New Climate Risk Index details the huge destruction caused by extreme weather events in 2014 across the globe
Thursday’s climate talks opened with buzz over the release of an updated negotiating text and descriptions of hardening positions that seem to contrast with the essence of Leaders’ statements earlier this week.
The latest version of the draft agreement captures some of the progress made in topic-focused meetings over the last few days. We saw progress made around the edges of core issues like mitigation, and there’s a sense that the text is more readable overall. Key cross-cutting issues like finance and support for implementing the transparency provisions don’t appear to be moving – at least on the surface.
Expectations that we might see the release of a major report on climate finance, laying out developed countries’ plans to achieve their US$100B goal, went unrealized. Instead we heard rumors of delay over fears that it failed to adequately address questions around post-2020 climate finance or balance funds for adaptation. All three issues will need resolution before we see a return to Monday’s ‘can-do’ spirit.
In a stocktaking meeting on Thursday evening, co-chairs agreed to put out another, more consolidated, version of the text out Friday morning – giving delegations the chance to make further progress before handing off the results of their work to ministers on Saturday.News, links & useful grist that caught our eye
Germany held a press conference early Thursday morning where the country’s environment minister said the agreed 2C goal was too weak and 1.5C “must be mentioned” in a UN treaty. Germany’s move toward a more ambitious long-term goal follows French president Francois Hollande’s assertion that global warming should be limited to 1.5C “if possible”, in his speech to world leaders on Monday.
In a CAN-International Press Conference today, Oil Change International’s Alex Doukas said: “The truth is there is no need for rich countries to resort to dodgy accounting practices, we know where we can find some of that much needed cash.” Today, the group released new analysis showing that G7 countries, along with Australia, spend 40 times more on support for fossil fuel production than they do in contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
Germanwatch released their latest Climate Risk Index today, detailing the huge destruction caused by extreme weather events in 2014 across the globe. While the report showed that the world’s poorest nations are most at risk, it also says no country is immune to the threats of rising temperatures.
A coalition of parents groups from around the world brought their call to action to COP21 today, presenting UN climate chief Christiana Figueres with a petition calling for a strong, ambitious climate agreement.
Meanwhile, young people were also out in force today at Le Bourget. The Canadian Youth delegation took part in an action calling on their new government to ensure youth are both seen and heard when it comes to climate change.
Indigenous leaders from forests of Latin America, Indonesia and Africa also brought their voice to the COP today, welcoming governments’ contributions to date but calling on leaders to take stronger and faster action.
Fossil of the Day today, went to Denmark as Environment Minister, Lars Christian announced he was in favour of scrapping his country’s ambitious national carbon reduction target of 40% by 2020, while also signalling the government’s intent to amount of money it would pledge for climate finance.
Yesterday, Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner spent some time with the UNFCCC talking about how poetry can help engage people on climate change. Kathy joined four young spoken word artists in Paris this week to perform climate poetry to audience across the conference and city. The five poets also took part in the final stretch of the Run for Your Life. In their moving performance, they brought the pebble that’s been carried all the way from the Arctic to the UN climate talks venue in Paris.
Day 3 of the Paris Climate Change Conference
Resources from tcktcktck.org
- Investors are shifting the trillions – more than 500 institutions representing over US$3.4 trillion in assets have made some form of divestment commitment
- Negotiations on draft text move forward, but major unresolved issues like finance are slowing progress across the board
- UN aviation and shipping bodies awarded ‘Fossil of the Day’
Government negotiators continued their work toward consensus on the Paris text – in focused spin-off groups and informal meetings – on Wednesday. We’re hearing reports that bridging proposals are helping consolidate positions, effectively streamlining text on various elements. But major unresolved issues like finance are slowing progress across the board. How developed country governments plan to scale up annual climate finance to US$100 billion annually by 2020; how they’ll ensure a significant portion of that finance goes toward adaptation; and confidence that climate finance will increase after 2020 remain crux.
Efforts to protect the wins we’ve secured, enshrining important social dimensions into the draft agreement are in full swing. Our partners are fighting to ensure human rights, indigenous rights, inter-generational equity, gender equality, and a just transition aren’t weakened or dropped.
They’re also actively and visibly campaigning to support the most ambitious options central to the agreement, like the long-term goal for the complete decarbonization of the global economy. Focused spin-off groups are scheduled to wrap Thursday evening, giving the co-chairs time to revise the text and present it at least once on Friday, before handing the process over to ministers on Saturday.News, links and useful grist that caught our eye
We know the Paris agreement is an opportunity for governments to significantly bolster our climate change resilience and speed up the clean energy transition, but Wednesday offered up even more evidence that the move away from fossil fuels is inevitable. 350.org dropped shocking numbers on the quickening pace and massive scale of the divestment campaign, announcing that more than 500 institutions representing over US$3.4 trillion in assets have made some form of divestment commitment to date.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Bill Mckibbon described the movement’s impact as having “permanently changed the energy finance landscape. No responsible institution wants to be financially or morally implicated in yesterday’s fuels.” Costs are dropping, demand is rising and both the business and moral case against fossil fuels are gaining mainstream acceptance. Fossils are falling, just not fast enough.
Climate resilience was another big theme. ActionAid, Care International and WWF released their report on “Climate Reality in the 21st Century,” examining the real life reality of loss and damage, while outlining recommendations to ensure the international community’s response can adequately address the issue in Paris. US CAN also drilled down on the issue in a press conference, focused on why the issue of loss and damage is important for developed and developing countries alike. Tonya Rawe from CARE USA told journalists, “This is something that every country is grappling with but a lot of vulnerable countries lack the capacity to really address.”
Another new report from Oxfam breaks down the idea of carbon inequality – showing that the poorest half of the population are responsible for just 10% of emissions, while the world’s richest 10% are responsible for around half of global emissions.
Resources from tcktcktck.org
ICAO and the IMO earned today’s Fossil of the Day award. The multilateral organizations tasked with curbing emissions from international aviation and shipping – equivalent to the emissions of Japan and Germany combined – are currently exempt from being included in the Paris Agreement and are doing their best here to keep it that way. Without action, emissions from bunkers will grow 270% by 2050 – sinking any chance of limiting temperature rise to safe levels.
Our friends at Green TV deserve some love. They’re posting exceptional daily COP21 video summaries and regular short explainers on key issues and events as they happen.
The Tree team also pulled together a communications brief summarizing recent updates on the renewable energy transition, painting a clear narrative with a library of links, quotes, and suggested actions to back it up.
From press conference land – Friends of the Earth International laid out their expectations for the COP, focusing on the energy revolution; CARE and CAN US both hosted pressers focused on Loss and Damage; and the Climate Matters talked about the latest climate science with Dr James Hanson.
The Climate Action Network is publishing daily ECO newsletters, laying out their case to negotiators.
There’s a slew of quality blogs on with updates from inside the negotiations from our Climate Trackers. Our Paris team is also writing for newspapers around the world. You can find some of those stories via their twitter group.
We’ll also keep you abreast of developments in the wider world of climate activism and action at tcktcktck.org.
As the Paris climate summit gets rolling, signs of the world’s unstoppable shift from fossil fuels to renewables are coming thicker and faster than ever.
Following India’s newly launched solar alliance, yesterday, African nations committed to reaching 300 GW of renewable energy by 2030, which will double their current energy capacity and make it 100% clean.
As the political momentum for full decarbonisation increases, uniting rich and poor nations, new figures show coal and fossil fuels are on their way out even faster than predicted, with coal consumption set to shrink by up to 4% this year.
Tom Sanzillo, IEEFA’s director of finance said:Evidence continues to mount that the world is beyond peak coal consumption and that its appetite for thermal coal is waning. This trend has gathered remarkable momentum in 2015, as seen in sharp consumption declines in key coal markets. Much of this phenomenon is being driven by technological innovation and rapidly falling costs across the renewable and energy-efficiency sectors. Much also is being driven by emerging policies and investment strategies rooted in the recognition that a transformation is under way and now is the time to seize the day.
As demand declines and risk grows, investors are retreating, with banks Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and ING among the latest institutions to announce cuts to coal financing, bringing the total sum divested from fossil fuels to over $3.4 trillion – 50 times higher than just a year ago.
As the global flow of money changes course, the world will be watching to see whether governments follow suit by putting people ahead of polluters, providing the promised $100 billion per year to support those least responsible for but most vulnerable to climate change, and scaling it up after 2020.
New research highlights the urgent need to boost this trend, showing that coal plants already running will push emissions 150 per cent above what the internationally agreed 2C global warming limit requires unless taken off-line, and those planned would, if built, put emissions as high as 400% over.
Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics said:More than 100 countries are calling for the Paris agreement to reference warming limits of 1.5 degrees. Yet even electricity production from existing coal plants far exceed the range of such scenarios. At the same time, we know that emerging economies like India would see so many co-benefits from reducing air pollution and other health issues its people are suffering from.
Pressure is thus zooming in on countries like Turkey, Japan and Australia who still cling to coal despite its danger to health, communities and the climate, and on those banks that have so far failed to see the writing on the wall and continue financing dirty energy projects.
Unless these few remaining fossil fuel junkies wean themselves off coal, oil and gas rapidly, they risk ending up left behind in a dirty energy past as the rest of the world embraces the just transition to the renewable energy era which – as today’s host of announcements and reports confirm once again – is already under way and picking up speed.
The World is Watching
All eyes were on world leaders as the UN climate conference officially kicked into gear in Paris.
Faced with record numbers of people taking to the streets around the world to show their support for a renewable energy future, nearly 150 heads of state presented their own nation’s ambitions for the coming weeks.
But it was the world’s most vulnerable nations that stole the show.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum – including countries from the Philippines to Sudan, Ethiopia to Bangladesh – showed what climate leadership looks like when they launched a bold call for a 100% renewable future by 2050, joining other major economies, including the G7 in supporting a complete decarbonisation of the global economy.
Markings of strong global momentum were also noted from other leaders, including US President Obama’s pledge support to vulnerable countries on resilience and China’s re-commitment to achieve a peak in emissions as soon as possible, kicking this year’s pivotal climate summit off with a sprinting start.
Bill Gates and other tech investors launched a clean energy fund backed by 28 of the world’s richest investors, which will see a doubling of money for clean energy research funding in the next five years in 20 countries including the US, France and India.
Along with 100 other countries, India also announced a global alliance to massively expand solar power. Meanwhile a new $500m World Bank fund, supported by four European nations – Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland – will help developing countries cut their carbon emissions.
As Heads of State leave Paris, their final task is to take their inspiring words from the opening day and empower the negotiators they leave in their stead to produce an agreement which can accelerate the transition towards a fully renewable-powered future, while reducing poverty and protecting vulnerable people from the impacts of climate change.
World Leaders mark new highpoint in political momentum as COP21 officially opens
- Heads of state took centre stage in Paris, but it was the world’s most vulnerable that stole the show
- Public and private sectors have made unprecedented commitments and pledges to boost clean energy technology, help the poorest nations cut emissions, and lower climate risk
- Backed by people power and political momentum, negotiators are now fully equipped to finalize an ambitious universal climate agreement
After a weekend filled with inspiring calls for climate action around the world, COP21 officially kicked-off at Le-Bourget in Paris on Monday. Over 150 Heads of State attended a leaders summit, eager to show they’re moving in line with the overwhelming shifts toward public demand for a renewable energy-powered and climate resilient world.
Leaders statements and announcements marked a new highpoint in the growing level of political momentum which has been on the rise for years. A coalition of vulnerable country leaders committed to the strongest ever call from UN member states – with a bold call for a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050, a complete decarbonization of the global economy, and a limit to global temperature rise of 1.5DegC. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President François Hollande announced a widely anticipated new alliance, inviting over 100 solar-rich countries to facilitate widespread implementation of solar projects and infrastructure. The US and 18 other countries have pledged to double funds for clean energy research to a total of $20bn over five years, boosting a significant parallel initiative by investors who see opportunity in leading the energy transition. A number of countries also announced contributions totaling US$248 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund.
As the Paris talks transition from bold calls for action and commitments from leaders, back to the challenging work of agreeing on the details of a new global climate deal, negotiations are energized. It remains to be seen whether leaders’ governments will back-up their words by delivering over the next two weeks.News, links & useful grist that caught our eye
Not every country reflected the spirit of this moment in the same way. In the first Fossil of the Day Award for COP21 both New Zealand and Belgium were called out for their climate inaction. For New Zealand, the Fossil was awarded for the hypocrisy it showed when it joined a side-event and urged countries to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies, while at the same time shelling out $80 million dollars to prop up dirty industry. Belgium was shamed by civil society for remaining one of the few EU countries lagging behind on their emissions reduction and renewable energy targets.
A new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development puts the climate finance challenge in context. While developed countries boosted the Least Developed Countries Fund by US$248 million, the report estimates that the cost of all 48 Least Developed Countries implementing their post-2020 climate action plans to be around US$93 billion per year.
The numbers are in from this weekend’s mobilization. 785,000 world citizens marched for the climate this weekend, and another 3.6 million people signed a call for a meaningful agreement, delivered to leaders in Paris today. Combined with today’s public and private sector action, negotiators have a clear mandate to finalize an ambitious universal climate agreement.
By Tierney Smith
While the big news story of the day took place outside the conference halls – as over 570,000 people took to the streets around the world to call for strong climate action – inside the halls the work also begun.
The latest round of talks follows an intense 12 months for the climate and in a year that saw air temperatures reach record-breaking levels ocean temperatures hit the hottest point in 50 years, and the incidence level for freak floods and heatwaves reach an all-time high, global momentum for climate action has never been higher.
Over the past 12 months the G7 has committed to phase out fossil fuels, the world’s largest pension fund decided to divest from coal, OECD and and countries have rolled back support for fossil fuels to historic levels, and projects and pipeline from Poland, the US and Australia are collapsing.
Meanwhile, faith communities led by the Pope called for urgent climate action on moral ground, medical professionals warned that unabated climate change would undo 50 years of progress on public health and one by one business leaders and economists back a strong climate agreement for its role in helping fuel better future growth.
On top of this 160 countries have launched their national climate action plans, committing to slash emissions and tap into the multiple benefits of joining the clean energy transformation, making the Paris climate summit different to any previous attempts to strike such a deal.
Governments in Paris now need to harness this global momentum and public support for climate action, and deliver the first truly universal climate agreement that gives the world a fighting chance to keep global warming below the internationally agreed 2DegC limit.
In doing so, governments must spend the next two weeks in building a framework that ramps up action over time, every five years, in line with the complete decarbonisation of the global economy.
This deal also need to include provision for the finance and support needed to help maximise countries’ ambition levels and help vulnerable communities tackle the impacts of climate change, and provide an adaptation goal and a loss and damage mechanism to address irreversible and permanent climate change risks.
The impacts of carbon pollution already affecting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities and new research suggesting that without urgent action climate change could plunge 100 million people into poverty.
Against such warnings it have never been more important for countries to unite to put speed up the transition away from dirty energy and towards a clean renewable future, protecting health and helping create a world free from poverty.
What are the elements up for negotiations at the COP21, and what are observers calling for? Above and beyond the countries’ mitigation pledges, there are many elements which experts say must be agreed to ensure countries can implement their actions and build an enduring regime. These include:– Legal nature –
The Paris outcome is likely to include a legally binding section and a range of other legal instruments. Legal nature is one element for measuring the political intent of countries, but the other elements listed below are also important.– Long-term collective goal –
All countries have agreed it’s necessary to keep global warming below 2degC to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. However, many companies and investors find this goal difficult to measure their spending against. Therefore having something more operational that governments, investors and others can benchmark their decisions against will help to make 2DegC meaningful for the real economy, for example the NGO call for a phase out of fossil fuel emissions and a phase in of 100 per cent renewable energy as soon as possible but not later than 2050. Such a goal also keeps open a possibility of limiting climate change to no more than 1.5DegC and increases the probability of the 2DegC limit being respected.– Ambition mechanism –
If the conditional and unconditional INDCs are fully implemented, they are expected to produce around half of the emission reductions needed by 2030 for the world to take the least costly path to hold warming under 2DegC. As a result, negotiations are partly focused on setting up a system to bring countries back to the table soon to discuss deeper emissions cuts. This ‘ambition mechanism’ should enable countries to step forward regularly every five years and increase ambition. For the greatest impact, the first review should take place prior to 2020.– Transparency and accountability –
The rules and assumptions which underpin how countries count their emissions are crucial to ensuring environmental integrity. Verification is critical to ensure that countries understand the international expectations upon them to abide by the rules. These elements are crucial to provide other countries, corporates and investors with the confidence that countries will abide by the rules and implement their actions.– Financial support –
Empowering the world’s poor to cope with the impacts of climate change and develop in a less polluting way is perhaps the most important issue to be resolved at the Paris climate summit. Specific elements up for discussion are: reaching the $100 billion of climate finance promised annually by 2020 and scaling it up consistently afterwards, the proportion of funding that goes towards adaptation, the potential for quantifiable targets for richer countries, if new donors should be included in the future agreement.– Adaptation –
The impacts of climate change are already destroying livelihoods and aggravating poverty. A long term adaptation goal would link efforts to adapt to levels of emissions. Moreover, observers are calling for the issue of loss and damage – when the impacts of climate change are too severe to adapt to – to be firmly anchored in the agreement, and for adaptation to receive public financial support.– Loss and damage –
As the impacts of climate change become more severe, adaptation is no longer an option. In this case, countries are beginning to look at some of the implications for this unmanageable situation. One of the first issues this raises is how to attribute climate change to a specific event that causes loss and damage, understand and document those impacted by such events and then identify how to redress their loss. NGOs say loss and damage should receive public financial support.– Immediate ambition –
As part of the agreement from the 2011 Durban climate summit, countries embarked upon a work programme to increase ambition immediately, before a new agreement in Paris kicks in. At present the discussions in the negotiations focus on identifying areas of potential for more ambition. More action sooner has the potential to deliver a host of first-mover advantages, while waiting to switch from dirty to clean energy or failing to leapfrog is expected to come with a big price tag.
A lot is at stake and everything is possible in Paris.
But, whatever happens, the ongoing transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is inevitable and picking up speed, and it looks like it will be the moment where the world collectively comes to terms with this and makes a decision to move ahead, together and faster.
With the UN climate talks coming up quickly, it’s important to understand climate science basics. Learn our top climate terms below.
Republished with permission from The Climate Reality Project
We’re at a historic moment with the UNFCCC COP 21, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 21st Conference of the Parties, in Paris set to begin next month. With world leaders from 195 countries negotiating to reach a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions, expansive news and media coverage is guaranteed. What’s also guaranteed in this coverage is a host of scientific jargon and acronyms that can be overwhelming to follow, let alone understand.
So this week we’re breaking down climate science to its most basic key terms and phrases to help you better grasp what’s going on in the world with climate change, both at the UN climate talks and beyond.
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s jump right in. Below is our list of the top terms you need to know to understand the basic science and political sphere of climate change.1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
The chemical compound carbon dioxide (also known by its shorthand CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas and driver of climate change. It’s an integral part of life cycles on earth, produced through animal respiration (including human respiration) and absorbed by plants to fuel their growth, to name just two ways. Human activities are drastically altering the carbon cycle in many ways. Two of the most impactful are: one, by burning fossil fuels and adding more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; and two, by affecting the ability of natural sinks (like forests) to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.2. Greenhouse Gas
A greenhouse gas is a chemical compound found in the Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and other human-made gases. These gases allow much of the solar radiation to enter the atmosphere, where the energy strikes the Earth and warms the surface. Some of this energy is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation. A portion of this outgoing radiation bounces off the greenhouse gases, trapping the radiation in the atmosphere in the form of heat. The more greenhouse gas molecules there are in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped, and the warmer it will become.3. Emissions
In the climate change space, emissions refer to greenhouse gases released into the air that are produced by numerous activities, including burning fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, and melting permafrost, to name a few. These gases cause heat to be trapped in the atmosphere, slowly increasing the Earth’s temperature over time.4. Weather vs Climate
It’s all about timing when it comes to differentiating weather and climate. Weather refers to atmospheric conditions in the short term, including changes in temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, brightness, wind, and visibility.
While the weather is always changing, especially over the short term, climate is the average of weather patterns over a longer period of time (usually 30 or more years). So the next time you hear someone question climate change by saying, “You know it’s freezing outside, right?”, you can gladly explain the difference between weather and climate.5. Global Warming vs Climate Change
Many people use these two terms interchangeably, but we think it’s important to acknowledge their differences. Global warming is an increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature from human-made greenhouse gas emissions.
On the other hand, climate change refers to the long-term changes in the Earth’s climate, or a region on Earth, and includes more than just the average surface temperature. For example, variations in the amount of snow, sea levels, and sea ice can all be consequences of climate change.6. Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels are sources of non-renewable energy, formed from the remains of living organisms that were buried millions of years ago. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil to produce energy is where the majority of greenhouse gases originate. As the world has developed and demand for energy has grown, we’ve burned more fossil fuels, causing more greenhouse gases to be trapped in the atmosphere and air temperatures to rise.7. Sea-Level Rise
Sea-level rise as it relates to climate change is caused by two major factors. First, more water is released into the ocean as glaciers and land ice melts. Second, the ocean expands as ocean temperatures increase. Both of these consequences of climate change are accelerating sea-level rise around the world, putting millions of people who live in coastal communities at risk.
Global average temperature is a long-term look at the Earth’s temperature, usually over the course of 30 years, on land and sea. Because weather patterns vary, causing temperatures to be higher or lower than average from time to time due to factors like ocean processes, cloud variability, volcanic activity, and other natural cycles, scientists take a longer-term view in order to consider all of the year-to-year changes.
Renewable energy is energy that comes from naturally replenished resources, such as sunlight, wind, waves, and geothermal heat. By the end of 2014, renewables were estimated to make up almost 28% of the world’s power generating capacity, enough to supply almost 23% of global electricity. Because renewables don’t produce the greenhouse gases driving climate change, shifting away from fossil fuels to renewables to power our lives will put us on the path to a safe, sustainable planet for future generations.
These two abbreviations are best described together as they work hand-in-hand. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an environmental treaty that nations joined in 1992, with the goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
Meanwhile, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC is a yearly international climate conference where nations assess progress and determine next steps for action through the UNFCCC treaty. This year marks the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21), which will be held in Paris beginning November 30. Here, a historic global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is on the table and, if passed, will mark a landmark achievement in the fight against climate change.11. INDC
INDC stands for “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution.” In preparation for the UN climate talks later this year, countries have outlined what actions they intend to take beginning in 2020 under a proposed global climate agreement. These plans are known as INDCs, which will play a big part in moving us forward on the path toward a low-carbon, clean energy future.12. IPCC
IPCC is the acronym for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. First set up in 1988 under two UN organizations, the IPCC surveys the research on climate change happening all around the world and reports to the public about the current state of our scientific knowledge.13. PPM
PPM stands for “parts per million,” which is a way of expressing the concentration of one component in the larger sample. Climate scientists and activists use the term to describe the concentration of pollutants, like carbon dioxide or methane, in the atmosphere. Many scientists agree that carbon dioxide levels should be at 350 PPM to be considered safe; we’re at about 400 PPM right now and this number is growing by approximately 2 PPM each year.14. Pre-Industrial Levels of Carbon Dioxide
Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide refers to carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Scientists estimate these pre-industrial levels were about 280 PPM, well below where we are today.15. Methane
Methane is a chemical compound that’s the main component of natural gas, a common fossil fuel source. Just like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Methane accounts for about 10 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions (using 2013 figures), second only to carbon dioxide.
Many people don’t understand the negative effects of methane as an alternative to other fossil fuels. While methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, it absorbs 84 times more heat, making it very harmful to the climate.16.Mitigation
Mitigation refers to an action that will reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions, such as planting trees in order to absorb more CO2. It can also include developing and deploying new technologies, using renewable energies like wind and solar, or making older equipment more energy efficient.
Stay tuned for more climate science coming up in future blog posts. In the meantime, get active by telling world leaders to create a strong climate agreement in Paris
Photo: © 2012 martinak15/Flickr cc by 2.0
Analysts say the DRC, one of the world’s poorest countries, has more credible plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from forestry than several more developed states.
by providing them with the resources necessary to fulfil them”
By Alex Kirby
An African country whose people are among the poorest on Earth has won plaudits from US scientists for its clear and detailed plans to reduce climate-warming emissions from its forests and farms.
The strategy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – rated next to bottom of the 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index in 2013 – is described as “robust” by the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
They also rate it as better than those produced by three other more prosperous countries struggling to combat deforestation − Brazil, India and Indonesia.
The UCS analysed the intentions of several countries for limiting global warming emissions in the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sectors as outlined in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – action plans submitted to the UN climate change convention (UNFCCC) explaining how they will reduce their emissions in the 2020s.Deforestation hotspots
In a report called “INDCs, Take 3” − the final section of a three-part series UCS has released − the scientists say the INDCs from Brazil, India and Indonesia are disappointing, despite their status as deforestation hotspots.
In contrast, they say, the DRC’s plan is robust and in line with a trend that sees smaller countries doing more to reduce their land use emissions than more populated countries.
Doug Boucher, the report’s author and director of the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative at UCS, says: “The land use sector, which accounts for about one-fourth of total global warming emissions, can’t be ignored if we want to solve the problem of climate change.
“The climate mitigation potential of agriculture and forests is great, and needs to be fully realised to prevent the worst consequences of climate change that will occur if global temperatures rise by more than 2°C.”
In its INDC, Brazil says it will reduce its overall carbon emissions by 37 percent by 2025, with or without international financing.
But, the UCS says, this does not include the country’s AFOLU emissions. It says its greatest concern is the “inadequate” Brazilian pledge to eliminate only illegal deforestation in the Amazon, rather than limiting all forms of deforestation across the entire country.
Indonesia’s INDC is also problematic, the UCS says. About 63 percent of Indonesia’s global warming emissions come from the AFOLU sectors, mostly because of deforestation for large-scale agriculture.
The report says it is therefore worrying that Indonesia’s INDC – which proposes a 29 percent emissions reduction by 2030 compared with business-as-usual, or 41 percent if it receives international financing – fails to suggest a goal for ending deforestation or peatland clearing.“I’m hopeful that the developed world will respond to the DRC’s plans
by providing them with the resources necessary to fulfil them”
“Indonesia currently has a moratorium on clearing primary forests and also banned peatland clearing in 2010,” Boucher says. “But the plan doesn’t say whether these commitments will continue, let alone what sort of new initiatives will be implemented to achieve their overall emissions reduction goal.”
Unlike the other countries examined, India is already planting more trees than it is felling. Its INDC lists an overall goal of reducing global warming emissions by 33 percent-35 percent by 2030. But the analysis says it “lacks the clarity necessary to effectively gauge India’s ambition, especially with regard to the AFOLU sectors”.
Of the four countries examined, the UCS says, the proposals by the DRC − home to the largest area of the Congo Basin rainforest − were the most clearly defined.
The country offers a 17 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 compared with business-as-usual, and gives a breakdown of how much of this will come from each sector and to what extent each goal depends on international help.Clearer detail
“The DRC’s plan is clearer and includes more quantitative detail than plans submitted by far richer nations,” Boucher says. “And their proposed reductions are in line with the amount of emissions they can and should cut, based on the extent to which their emissions have contributed to climate change.”
He told Climate News Network: “The governance challenges that the DRC faces in implementing the plans it has presented are enormous. But recent years have actually seen some steps forward among the Congo Basin countries, including reducing an already low rate of deforestation and improving forest monitoring and management.
“So I’m hopeful that the developed world will respond to the DRC’s plans by providing them with the resources necessary to fulfil them.”
The four countries examined in the analysis, together with China, the European Union, Mexico and the US, make up 57 percent of all land use sector emissions.
“We analysed climate pledges from countries that could make or break climate progress worldwide,” Boucher says. “It’s clear that to be climate leaders, these countries will need to make significant revisions on land use in their INDCs if we hope to effectively tackle emissions from this sector.” – Climate News Network