Welcome to this edition of the Fresh Air Brief, a weekly overview of trending climate news, and upcoming meetings, events and issues that our tcktcktck partners & peers are tracking. Fresh right now:
- Mexico’s president enacts national climate change legislation
- 400ppm – a troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide
- The world’s shifts to Rio de Janeiro, as Rio+20 Earth Summit gets underway
Mexico’s president enacts climate change legislation
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has signed the national climate law, passed by Mexico’s Senate in April. Mr Calderon said on Twitter that the law would make Mexico the “first developing country with integral legislation against climate change.” The measures set targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2020 and by 50% by 2050, and increasing the use of renewable energy to 35% by 2024.
Troubling new milestone for carbon dioxide
Monitoring stations across the Arctic this spring are measuring more than 400 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. So far, only the Arctic has reached that 400 level, but the rest of the world, which stands at 395 ppm will follow soon. Read more here.
An unsustainable track despite hundreds of internationally agreed goals and objectives
International efforts thus far failing to reduce greenhouse gases like CO2 aren’t the only sustainability-related government commitments falling short on results. UNEP’s fifth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5), released Wednesday, assessed 90 of the most-important environmental goals and objectives and found that significant progress had only been made in four. The report finds that an ambitious set of sustainability targets can be met, but only with renewed commitment and rapid scaling-up of successful policies. More on the story here, here, here and here.
Climate impacts could cost Latin America $100B each year by 2050, cities prepare for climate impacts
According to a new report released by the Inter-American Development Bank, damage from climate change could cost Latin American and Caribbean countries $100 billion per year by 2050 if average temperatures rise 2C (3.6F) from pre-industrial levels, as is seen likely. The collapse of the coral biome in the Caribbean, the disappearance of some glaciers in the Andes and some degree of destruction in the Amazon basin were climate change damages highlighted in the report. More on that here and here. Meanwhile, a new survey on the climate change preparedness of 468 cities worldwide, published by MIT this week, found that 95% of major cities in Latin America are making plans to deal with the adverse impacts of climate change, compared to 59% of such cities in the United States. More here and here.
300,000 Malians flee drought, war and famine
A recent report by the UN refugee agency predicting dramatic increases in the number of people driven from their homes – by intertwined causes like conflict and climate change – was tragically illustrated by accounts from refugee workers in the Sahel this week. Reports of thousands of Malian refugees fleeing violence in their country is being viewed as a dark and exemplar case of the knotted challenges of food security, climate change and conflict in Africa. Alice Thomas, climate displacement manager for Refugees International, said tens of thousands of destitute Malians are pouring into countries already hit hard by starvation, lack of water and crop failures. E&E has more on the story.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is adding depth to our understanding of the implications the natural gas boom on countries’ efforts to address climate change. While low prices are helping shift the economics of energy away from dirtier energy sources like coal and helping lower emissions in some places, they’re also disrupting efforts to stand up clean energy infrastructure. The IEA warned that a tripling of shale gas from fracking could stop renewable energy in it’s tracks by 2035, while still leaving us on a path to unsafe climate change. IEA chief economist, Fatih Birol, warned that “renewable energy may be the victim of cheap gas prices if governments do not stick to their renewable support schemes,” adding that “a golden age for gas is not necessarily a golden age for the climate.” Read more here, here and here.
WHAT OUR PARTNERS ARE FOCUSED ON NOW
The world’s attention turns to Rio de Janeiro
Government leaders and negotiators, scientists, unions, businesses, and activists (including myself and many of our TckTckTck partners) are gathering in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, for this month’s Rio+20 Earth Summit. We’ve been barraged with grim reports on the state of the planet and frightful warnings about the effects of current growth trajectories. At the same time, we’ve seen a wave of hundreds of credible big ideas for how we could change course and improve people’s livelihoods around the world, while restoring our faltering economies and the state of the planet.
The backdrop isn’t pretty. Governments’ efforts on many of the focused initiatives born out of the first Rio Earth Summit, 20 years ago, have fallen short due to a lack of political commitment and disagreements over burden-sharing and blame. And if we focus on governments’ collective efforts to prepare for this meeting, we’ll see what WWF Director Jim Leape saw at preperatory meetings in New York last week: “two likely scenarios – an agreement so weak it is meaningless, or complete collapse. Neither of these options would give the world what it needs. Country positions are still too entrenched and too far apart to provide a meaningful draft agreement for approval by an expected 120 heads of state.”
However, countries’ collective failure to find a common path forward is not the whole story. We’ve also come to Rio to learn about, showcase and celebrate a series of eye-catching initiatives proposed by individual countries, UN bodies, NGOs and businesses, often working together. In the vacuum left by multinational discord, tens of thousands of leaders who are tackling environmental and social challenges in local communities around the world have gathered to share learnings and lay out their vision for the future they want.
In addition to government negotiations, here are just a few of the key events and initaitives we’re tracking:
- Youth Blast / Conference of Youth international – a multi-day conference where youth leaders from around the world are gathering to share their concerns, hopes, and plans to ensure their future and that of future generations
- Breaking Down Political Barriers to Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform – IISD, UNEP, Switzerland and New Zealand lay out pathways for breaking through the political barriers to fossil-fuel subsidy reform
- Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform – in addition to side events laying out plans to break through some of the political barriers to eliminating perverse subsidies, Avaaz and 350.org are among our partners petitioning world leaders directly, and Oil Change International is encouraging members add pressure by voting up the issue of perverse subsidies in the UN-organized Rio+20 Dialogs.
- The Elders + Youngers – a series of online and public debates between four Elders: independent global leaders and past-heads of state; and four ‘Youngers’: leading climate change activists from Brazil, China, Nigeria and Sweden sharing lessons from the past and opportunities for the future
- the Adopt a Negotiator project – young people tracking their country’s roles in forging solutions to the climate challenges being addressed during Rio+20 and beyond
- 2nd Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment – trade union representatives from around the world gather to determine future commitments on key issues like climate change, green growth and collective bargaining for environmental sustainability
- The Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum – global business leaders gathering to make commitments to scaling sustainable business practices, advance and diffuse sustainable innovation, and stimulating broader collaboration between companies, governments, civil society and the UN.
- Rio+Social – a global conversation, focusing on topics related to #SocialGood and how new media can help foster positive solutions to the world’s biggest problems, comes at a time when the world gathers to discuss issues that affect us all.
- Fair ideas: sharing solutions for a sustainable planet – An IIED-organized forum sharing expertise, ideas and practical experiences from around the world that demonstrate what can be done to tackle poverty and unsustainable development.
- Date with History – young leaders from across the world have their vision the future they want and deserve. Their message is being carried to Rio in an address to world leaders
While Rio+20 will increasingly be the center of attention over the coming weeks, it’s not the only place our partners are actively engaged.
Environmental websites going dark to protest Canadian bill to silence tar sands critics
More than 400 groups, including nearly all Canadian environmental organizations went black Monday staging a one-day blackout to protest efforts by Canadian government plans to crack down on opponents Canada’s tar sands. Environmental groups were joined by all four Canadian opposition parties, displaying the message, “While our websites may be dark, our voices together are louder than ever.” The proposed budget bill exempts certain projects from environmental assessments, allows the Cabinet to override decisions by the country’s independent energy regulator, and strips environmentalists and others of their nonprofit status if they engaged in certain forms of advocacy. Read more here and here.
The fight for a strong EU Energy Efficiency Directive heats up in Europe
As negotiations on the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive draw to a close, most Member States have still not ‘got’ the benefits of saving energy. CAN-Europe is hoping to inspire action in Brussels with this short video. For an insight into how the EU’s most influential Member States are opposing an ambitious Directive, and for suggestions on what individuals can do, CAN-Europe created an action guide and Ranking of the Big Six EU governments’ performance. Only two weeks to go before negotiations end.
Sierra Club sets its sights on natural gas in the US
Our partners at the Sierra Club have been given much of credit for ‘killing coal’ in the US, having led many of the efforts that effectively blocked new coal-fueled power plants. They’ve recently added a new target to their hit list, ending support of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable-energy future and announced new campaigns against oil and gas development – including natural gas.
Greenpeace launches new Global Energy [R]evolution report
The report, Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook, includes a detailed, practical roadmap for reducing oil demand by around 80%, especially for the transportation sector. The Energy [R]evolution demonstrates there would be no need to exploit the Arctic and other marginal sources of oil, such as the tar sands in Canada, and offshore oil in Brazil, if more renewable energy powered our vehicles and if much stronger efficiency standards for cars were adopted in Europe and elsewhere. This new version of Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution Scenario incorporates new demand and transport projections, new constraints for the oil and gas pathways and techno-economic aspects of renewable heating systems.
RESOURCES & UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIESFollow Rio+20 on TckTckTck.org
We’re aggregating news and blog posts about our partners’ initiatives at http://tcktcktck.org/projects/rio. Most people are using the hashtag #rioplus20. And here are links and dates for some of the main events:
- 10th – 12th June, Rio de Janeiro – Youth Blast / Conference of Youth international
- 11th – 12th June, Rio de Janeiro – 2nd Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment
- 13th – 15th June, Rio de Janeiro – 3rd Preparatory Committee Meeting UN Conference on Sustainable Development
- 13th – 22nd June, Rio de Janeiro – Rio+20 Official Side Events
- 15th – 18th June, Rio de Janeiro – The Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum
- 15th – 23rd June, Rio de Janeiro – Rio+20 People’s Summit
- 16th – 17th June, Rio de Janeiro – Fair ideas: sharing solutions for a sustainable planet
- 16th – 19th June, Rio de Janeiro – Sustainable Development Dialogs
- 19th June, Rio de Janeiro – Rio+Social
- 20th – 22nd June, Rio de Janeiro – United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20
Tuesday, June 12th @ 14:00 GMT
Webinar – Achieving Low Carbon Growth: From Innovation to Market Expansion
Dr Daniel M. Kammen, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former World Bank Chief Technical Specialist for Sustainable Energy, explores a range of policy instruments used to support the deployment of these technologies across the world. Click here to register and learn more.
Thursday, June 14th @ 13:00 GMT
Webinar – IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 (ETP2012)
ETP2012 is the International Energy Agency’s most ambitious publication on new developments in energy technology, demonstrating how technologies – from electric vehicles to smart grids – can make a decisive difference in achieving the objective of limiting the global temperature rise to 2°C and enhancing energy security. This first in a series of webinars on results and recommendations from ETP 2012, will give overview of the project analysis and highlight the report’s key messages and recommendations. Click here to register and learn more.
Connect you with our partners in the trenches
As always, if you’re looking to dig into any of these issues and want to connect with our partners in the trenches, Fresh Air is here to help. Email me and I’ll try to make it happen: [email protected]
That’s all for this week’s Fresh Air Brief. We’re eager to learn how to make this as useful as possible, so all feedback is welcome. We’re also eager to accept suggestions for leads, content and opportunities you’d like to promote. Get in touch.
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Til next time.
By Joshua Wiese
About the AuthorJoshua Wiese is a project director at the Global Campaign for Climate Action. He runs the Adopt a Negotiator project and publishes our weekly Fresh Air Brief
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