TckTckTck The Global Call for Climate Action Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:00:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Antarctic peaks reveal sea rise threat Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:00:45 +0000 sea rise threat
sea rise threat

Creative Commons: David Stanley, 2014

Authored by Alex Kirby, re-posted from Climate News Network

British researchers have reinforced recent evidence that melting in the Antarctic caused by the warming of the Southern Ocean could ultimately lead to global sea levels rising by around three metres.

Their findings are in line with the results of a study that said six more decades of ocean warming could destabilise the ice beside the Amundsen Sea, starting a cascade of ice loss that would continue for centuries.

That 2015 study, which used computer simulations, was the work of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.

But the UK scientists used a much more direct method of assessing the landscape to establish how the West Antarctic ice sheet might respond to increasing global temperatures. They just examined the mountain tops that stick up above the ice.

Levels of ice

In what they say is the first study of its kind, the researchers were able to work out how the levels of ice covering the land have changed over hundreds of thousands of years by examining the peaks protruding through the ice in the Ellsworth Mountains, on Antarctica’s Atlantic flank.

The team from the University of Edinburgh, Northumbria University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre assessed the changes on slopes at various heights on the mountainside, which showed the levels previously reached by the ice sheet.

They also plotted the distribution of boulders on the mountains deposited by melting glaciers, and used chemical technology − also known as exposure dating − to show how long rocks had been exposed to the atmosphere and how old they were.

The scientists report in Nature Communications that their results show how, during previous warm periods, a substantial amount of ice would have been lost from the West Antarctic ice sheet by ocean melting.

This remains a troubling forecast since all signs suggest the ice from West Antarctica could disappear relatively quickly

But it would not have melted entirely, which they say suggests that ice would have been lost from areas below sea level, but not on upland areas. The study shows that parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet have existed continuously for at least 1.4 million years.

John Woodward, professor of physical geography at Northumbria University, is one of the leaders of the study, which was supported by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and the British Antarctic Survey.

He says: “It is possible that the ice sheet has passed the point of no return. If so, the big question is how much will go and how much will sea levels rise.”

His fellow leader, Dr Andrew Hein, research fellow and manager of the University of Edinburgh’s Cosmogenic Nuclide Laboratory, says: “Our findings narrow the margin of uncertainty around the likely impact of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on sea level rise. This remains a troubling forecast since all signs suggest the ice from West Antarctica could disappear relatively quickly.”

Massive consequences

If the West Antarctic ice sheet were to melt altogether – something that is not likely to happen this century – the world’s sea levels would rise by 4.8 metres. That would have massive consequences for coastal communities worldwide. The melting of the West Antarctic glaciers accelerated threefold over the 21 years to 2014.

What happens to the ice sheets of the Antarctic continent could cause even more profound changes to the Earth. The East Antarctic sheet had for decades been thought to be more stable than its western neighbour, but that is now less certain.

Two scientists from PIK reported in 2014 that they had identified how a relatively small loss of ice there could ultimately trigger a discharge of ice into the ocean that would result in unstoppable sea-level rise for thousands of years ahead.

Another study, published in 2015, predicted a doubling of the rate at which the ice shelves across Antarctica will melt by 2050.

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UK citizens ‘show the love’ for a clean energy future Thu, 11 Feb 2016 10:20:24 +0000 'show the love'

From schools, to churches, the Women’s Institute to sports teams and surfers, UK citizens will come together this Valentine’s Day to show their love of climate action.

Wearing their green hearts on their sleeves and writing love letters for the climate, this week, individuals, organisations, and businesses will be standing up for all they could lose to climate change, while also leading the charge and joining the unstoppable movement going 100 per cent renewable – calling on their government do the same.

The UK is making progress: its emissions fell eight per cent in 2014, thanks to warm weather, the deployment of renewables and a reduction in coal. But recent cuts to clean energy support have seen the country roll backwards and new, ambitious policies are needed to get it back on track.

Key Points

  • The spotlight is now on MPs to live up to the climate commitments made in their citizens’ name. In Paris last December the UK joined nearly 200 other nations in supporting an end to the fossil fuel era demanded by its citizens. Central to this commitment will be an ambitious fifth carbon budget – for 2028 to 2032 – backed up by strong policies that help drive the 100 per cent renewable energy transition.

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Pause on US Clean Power Plan doesn’t change the realities of its benefits Thu, 11 Feb 2016 10:09:52 +0000 Clean Power Plan
Clean Power Plan

Creative Commons: Robert S Donovan, 2014

A Supreme Court decision to pause or “stay” the immediate implementation of the Clean Power Plan may serve as a speed bump for the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from coal power plants, but it won’t change the health and economic benefits of the plan.

Wednesday’s decision means the Clean Power Plan is to be delayed until at least June, when the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit considers briefs and arguments against the plan submitted by a group of coal-friendly states, utilities and other interests.

Although the Clean Power Plan is being challenged, the White House has been quick to dismiss fears that it will impact its Paris Agreement contribution.

Meanwhile, the unwavering momentum to transition away from coal continues to grow in the US, even among communities living in the states challenging the Supreme Court rule.

Key Points

  • Most states are eager to tap into the multiple benefits of the low carbon transition. Over two-thirds of Americans support the Clean Power Plan and want climate action to be prioritized, while 61 per cent of people living in the states suing to stop the plan are actually in favor of it. Moving the US to a safer, healthier economy is smart policy, as the Clean Power Plan would allow the country to tap into the $54 billion in potential health and climate benefits.
  • Around the world, smart money is moving away from coal and cashing in on renewables. In the US alone, major business and investment leaders are lending their support to the Clean Power Plan, and renewable jobs are booming, with those in the solar industry growing 12 times faster than jobs in the overall economy since 2014. Outside the country, from China to the EU, major economies are also tapping into the benefits of renewables.
  • The Clean Power Plan is the first step to the US meeting its Paris pledge, while reaping the benefits. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), if the world doubled its current market share of renewable energy to 36 per cent by 2030 – which the Clean Power Plan helps to do – global GDP would see a boost of $1.3 trillion. This would put the “Paris climate goals within reach,” while simultaneously strengthening the economy.

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European wind makes strides, but falls down global leaderboard Wed, 10 Feb 2016 11:10:13 +0000 European wind
European wind

Creative Commons: Consumers Energy, 2014

Wind energy is booming across Europe, but the continent risks being outshone by China as some EU countries fail to offer long term certainty to investors.

Wind power now meets over 11 per cent of the Europe’s energy demand, according to new figures released by the European Wind Energy Association, and accounted for 44 per cent of all new power installations in 2015 – more than any other form of energy.

But while momentum continues to build for cheap, clean wind locally, globally, the European Union is being piped to the post by China, where policies to reduce dependence on coal and clean up its cities’ air have driven a dramatic increase in clean energy.

With just six of the 28 EU states having clear renewable targets or policies in place post-2020, Europe could miss out on even more investment and find itself lagging behind its emerging economy rivals at a time where it should be leading the unstoppable transition towards a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

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Japan green lights new, soon to be stranded, coal assets Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:06:31 +0000 coal assets
coal assets

Creative Commons: Chris Lewis, 2008

Japan has missed the memo about the dire economic and climate risks of fossil fuels, with its Ministry of the Environment taking a u-turn and preparing to ease its opposition to new coal power plants.

In 2015 Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa refused to endorse new coal projects on grounds that they would be inconsistent with the country’s target to reduce emissions 26 per cent on 2013 levels by 2030. However, with nuclear restarts proving slow and coal prices slumping, short-term economic self interest appears to be winning out over Japan’s responsibilities on climate action.

Almost all advanced economies are abandoning coal, as are those – like China – looking for clean development.

However, Japan has is not only looking to build 47 new coal plants at home, it is also supporting new coal abroad, allowing more dirty energy infrastructure to be locked in at time when the international community is cleaning up the climate mess fossil fuels have created.

Key Points

  • The days of advanced economies burning rocks and dinosaurs for energy are over. Japan is one of the only advanced economiesstill looking at coal, and it is likely to be a short lived disaster ending in stranded assets and further economic decline. The future is renewable, and those that fight it will only become increasingly marginalised economically and politically.
  • Japan is gambling its economy and the climate on coal for short term economic gain. While the shutdown of its nuclear fleet in 2011 afforded Japan some sympathy for rising coal use; oil and gas use has been dropping in recent years, and the country now has both a booming renewable industry and precipitously declining population projections. Japan has plenty of energy, and it is now expanding the dirtiest source purely because the fuel is cheap at the moment.
  • Locking in new coal infrastructure hurts international action on climate change. Japan’s support for coal at home and abroad is at odds with both its emissions reduction commitments, and to the spirit of international cooperation on decarbonisation following the Paris Agreement.

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UK fracking fight heats up as Lancashire appeal begins Tue, 09 Feb 2016 10:16:05 +0000 uk fracking
uk fracking

Creative Commons: Nicholas A. Tonelli, 2012

The debate around the UK’s fledgling fracking industry is once again raging today as planning inspectors begin to hear Cuadrilla’s appeal against the rejection of its plans for exploratory drilling in West Lancashire.

The industry was dealt a major blow last June, when Lancashire council voted against Cuadrilla’s bid to drill for shale gas. But the council’s resolve is now under threat as a public inquiry could see the its decision overruled.

Such a decision would set a dangerous precedent for other fracking fights, fly in the face of intense local opposition to the controversial process and risk huge environmental and health impacts.

And as dirty energy companies find themselves falling victim to a volatile market, with prospects looking increasingly bleak, the UK government’s continued pursuit of fracking at all costs would also see the country locked into risky fossil fuels at a time when much of the world is already transitioning towards a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

  • Local opposition to fracking is formidable, and so is support for renewables. Opposition to fracking continues to outstrip support,according to the government’s latest attitudes survey, and the greater people understand the controversial process the less they like it. Meanwhile 78 per cent of the public are in favour of renewables, such as wind and solar, with just four per cent showing opposition.

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Oceans are heating up at the double Mon, 08 Feb 2016 10:25:01 +0000 oceans

Creative Commons: Güldem Üstün, 2015

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Ocean temperatures first collected during one of the great 19th-century voyages of exploration confirm one of the consequences of climate change: humans have managed to warm even the deepest parts of the ocean.

A new study in Nature Climate Change calculates that the amount of heat absorbed by the ocean has doubled in the last 18 years. A third of this heat has collected in the depths at least 700 metres below the waves − and the same region is rapidly getting hotter.

Peter Gleckler, a research scientists at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California, and colleagues started with data collected by the world’s first modern oceanographers aboard the British survey ship HMS Challenger in 1872-76.

Deep-sea soundings

Challenger circumnavigated the globe, sailed 70,000 nautical miles (130,000 kilometres), collected 4,700 new species, and made 492 deep-sea soundings and 283 sets of measurements of water temperatures.

With such systematic findings, the American research team could begin to make estimates of how ocean temperatures have changed between 1865 and 2015.

They calculate that, since 1970, around 90% of the Earth’s uptake of heat associated with man-made global warming, as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, has been absorbed by the oceans.

In effect, they have used the evidence collected from the depths by 19th-century scientists aboard a three-masted, square-rigged wooden ship to settle a 21st-century puzzle: where has the heat from global warming actually gone?

“It’s a bit of a mixed blessing. Once the ocean heat uptake settles down again, the rate of warming is likely to return to what it was”

The American researchers considered the ocean as a kind of three-layer cake, from surface to 700 metres, from 700 metres to 2,000 metres, and the deepest layer of all, below 2,000 metres.

They then used climate simulations, historical measurements and readings from autonomous floats to compare the changes in the ocean temperatures over the historical era.

And their conclusion seems to confirm an already existing answer to one vexed question: has there been a real slowdown in the rate of increase in global warming?

The answer seems once again to be no. The predicted temperature rises that are not being recorded in the thin layer of planetary atmosphere are instead being absorbed in the oceans that cover more than two-thirds of the globe.

There are huge uncertainties in the conclusions. Oceanography is expensive, and oceanographers are fond of complaining that humans now know the surface of Venus better than they know the surface of the Earth, 70% of which is covered by deep ocean.

Emerging evidence

But the latest study confirms a pattern of emerging evidence. So even though many climate scientists thought they already knew the answer, the study has been welcomed.

“The ocean takes up an enormous amount of heat, and an increase in the rate of uptake is one reason why the pace of global warming appeared to slow somewhat until last year,” says John Shepherd, professorial research fellow in Earth system science at the University of Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre, UK.

“But it’s a bit of a mixed blessing. Once the ocean heat uptake settles down again, the rate of warming is likely to return to what it was before.

“The extra heat will remain in the ocean, where it may affect both ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns, and so contribute to unusual weather patterns such as El Niño, or it may be released to contribute to more rapid or prolonged warming later on.

“It’s certainly not a cure for climate change, nor any reason to be less concerned about it.”

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Morocco: First phase of world’s largest solar farm now in operation Fri, 05 Feb 2016 13:57:10 +0000 Kasbah Tifoultoute near Ouarzazate, Morocco. Creative Commons:, 2009.
Kasbah Tifoultoute near Ouarzazate, Morocco. Creative Commons:, 2009.

Kasbah Tifoultoute near Ouarzazate, Morocco. Creative Commons:, 2009.

Morocco’s king has switched on the first phase of what is set to become the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, providing electricity for 1.1 million people.

Situated on the edge of the Saharan desert, the power station will be the size of Morocco’s capital city when completed in 2018.

At 2pm local time on Thursday, King Mohammed VI switched on Noor 1, the first stage of the power plant located at the town of Ouarzazate, followed by laying the foundations for Noor 2, the next stage.

Noor 1 had been due to open in December but was delayed by unspecified “agenda concerns,” according to Maha el-Kadiri, spokeswoman for Masen, Morocco’s renewable energy agency.

It provides 160 MW of the ultimate 580MW capacity, which will, once in operation, help Morocco save around 760,000 tons of carbon emissions every year.

Noor 1 will provide electricity to 650 000 locals, from dawn until three hours after sunset.

Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435 million of the $9 billion project’s funding, said:

It is a very, very significant project in Africa. Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.

According to Climate Investment Funds (CIF), the costs of CSP are still relatively high and demonstration projects are limited, which often deters investors.

However, the Ouarzazate solar project reflects CSP’s increasing reputation as a promising technology.

Around $3.9 billion have been invested in the project so far, including $1 billion from the German investment bank KfW, $596 million from the European Investment Bank and $400 million from the World Bank.

The International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11% of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP, especially from power stations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Morocco plans to generate 42% of its energy from renewables by 2020, with one third coming from solar, wind and hydropower.

The north African country will also host the next UN climate conference in November. It is hoping to use this as the springboard for an even more ambitious plan to source 52% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The country’s energy minister, Abdelkader Amara, said at a meeting during the Paris climate summit:

Between now and [the next conference], many projects will have come to light and we will prove that we can match our energy demands with renewables.

Such a move would lead to further cost reductions of solar energy. CIF estimates that if international banks and governments deployed another 5GW of solar energy, electricity production costs could fall by 14%. Scaling that up to 15GW would cut costs by 44%.

If the architects’ plans are realised fully, the produced energy will eventually be exported north to Europe, and eastwards to Mecca, as well as making Morocco significantly less dependent on energy imports.

Duarte said:

Morocco knew their demand for electricity was growing at 7% a year and that they were dependent on imports for 97% of that energy. They had a vision to promote renewables at a time when oil prices were high and they undertook regulatory reforms, put institutions in place, and they have done a great job.

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Brexit would return Britain to being the “dirty man of Europe” Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:00:18 +0000 Harbour pollution in Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire. Creative Commons: Martyn Gorman, 2005.
Harbour pollution in Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire. Creative Commons: Martyn Gorman, 2005.

Harbour pollution in Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire. Creative Commons: Martyn Gorman, 2005.

A group of leading environmentalists have warned that the UK could become “the dirty man of Europe” again, with a return to poor air and water quality, filthy beaches and weak conservation laws, if it was to leave the European Union.

That’s the warning of the steering committee of E4E (Environmentalists for Europe); a group that includes former ministers, a former EU commissioner and a former head of the Environment Agency.

It collaborates with green groups to persuade voters that Britain leaving the EU – often referred to as “Brexit” – would set back the country’s conservation and air pollution laws back by many years.

The UK’s referendum on EU membership may come as soon as June.

Caroline Lucas, Green party MP for Brighton, a former MEP and a member of the group that launched on Wednesday, said:

The EU has a strong track record of tangible environmental improvement. It was the EU’s political decision in 1990 to cap emissions of greenhouse gases by 2000 that formed the cornerstone of the 1992 UN climate convention.

Britons have the EU to thank for [many of the] protections we have in place. It’s EU standards on air pollution that are forcing the government to clean up its act and key EU rules on healthy rivers, clean beaches and wildlife conservation have had a very positive effect.

Craig Bennett, director of Friends of the Earth and also part of E4E, said:

As a boy, trips to the coast were often spoiled by filthy beaches and sewage-filled seas. The prevalence of acid rain won us the title of ‘dirty man of Europe’. Thanks to EU action, this now a thing of the past. The UK cannot win the battles of the future – against climate change, air pollution and the destruction of the natural world – on its own.

Stephen Tindale, a former head of Greenpeace who is not part of the group, said that Britain could in theory follow Norway and set higher environmental standards, but, in practice, Britain was more likely to become “the dirty man of Europe” again – a title it received in 1973 when joining the EU.

At this time, Britain was the only western European country that failed to control pollution from cars, power stations and farming, tried to undermine European pesticide controls, and evaded nitrate regulations and bathing water directives.

Legal pressure and the threat of unlimited fines forced it to clean up its act, however, with current government plans, it will still breach laws on air pollution and water quality for the next five years.

The green vote, which stretches across political parties and collectively represents up to 7 million people, has traditionally demanded strong European pollution and conservation rules.

However, says E4E in its mission statement, “far too often environmental issues have been brushed aside by national parliaments”.

Former EU environment commissioner Stanley Johnson, a co-chair of the E4E group, said:

By being in [the EU], Britain benefits from environmental legislation and funding not only for the fight against climate change and pollution and in its efforts to preserve nature and wildlife, but also through the creation of jobs and financing for research and development here at home.

Nature author and journalist Michael McCarthy, also part of E4E, said:

It is European directives which have forced the sewage out of Britain’s bathing waters and the acid rain out of Britain’s atmosphere; which are getting rid of the most dangerous chemicals in our environment and the carbon pollution of our motor vehicles; which are pushing the clean-up of our rivers and the switch to renewable energy; and which, of course, are watching over our wildlife, and that of the rest of Europe.

Other members of the E4E steering committee include Lord Deben, chair of the UK Climate Change Committee which advises the government, former environment minister Richard Benyon MP, Matthew Spencer, director of the Green Alliance and conservationist, and comedian Bill Oddie.

All those interested are able to sign up on the E4E website in order to voice their support for the campaign and receive updates by e-mail.

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Fossil fuels in trouble amidst price glut Thu, 04 Feb 2016 16:48:56 +0000 fossil fuels in trouble
fossil fuels in trouble

Creative Commons: Roy Luck, 2012

Amidst plummeting prices for oil and coal, companies betting on risky, out-dated fossil fuels are finding themselves losing the battle for survival against the clean energy future.

As oil prices continue to drag, Shell reported an 87 per cent decline in annual profits this week, leaving thousands of the company’s employees bearing the brunt. Statoil andBP have both also reported steep declines in earnings.

Oil is not the only industry in trouble. In the latest blow to the declining coal industry, UK based SSE has announced plans to close three units at one of its ageing coal plants, reporting economic challenges.

In Australia, unconfirmed reports show the country’s largest planned coal mine in the Galilee basin could also be facing yet more turmoil and energy company AGL has announced it is abandoning coal seam gas operations.

With renewables booming – and making countries both wealthier and healthier in the process – these latest trends show there is really no reason to cling to volatile fossil fuels, and the companies getting ahead of the curve and diversifying their portfolios are already seeing the benefits.

Meanwhile, those that continue to fight for fossil fuel market scraps will only face greater instability as the world transitions towards a 100 per cent renewable future.

Key Points

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Investors tip balance towards renewables Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:28:04 +0000 renewables

Creative Commons: NHD-INFO, 2012

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Global investment in renewable energy, against expectation, now outstrips spending on fossil fuels.

Across the planet, economies have been either dependent on or addicted to fossil fuels for 150 years, but there appears to be global momentum towards better energy use and more sustainable approaches, according to a new study in Nature Energy journal.

Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter, UK, argues that change is on the way.

Not everybody shares her optimism. It isn’t clear that governments everywhere are acting on their own declared principles, and the argument still has to be won.

Reducing emissions

But there are clear signs of change, as demonstrated by the 195 governments that promised at the UN climate change summit in Paris last December to try to contain average global warming to around 1.5°C ­principally by reducing carbon dioxide emissions released in the combustion of fossil fuels.

Professor Mitchell says: “While the world is still dependent on fossil fuels, because energy systems have long lives, it has got to the point where more than half of global electricity system investment is in renewables, rather than fossil fuels investment.

“It is a sign that, globally, we have moved our public policy discourse and investor preferences from the old ‘dirty’ energy system to a clean one.”

“Nations have realised that meeting their climate change reduction commitments is no longer as expensive as they thought

She sees two changes that are fundamentally altering both practice and mindset.

One of these is the rapid uptake of what she calls variable power renewables – academic shorthand for wind and solar energy – within just a few countries or states. Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Spain, California and Hawaii all derive somewhere between 25% and 43% of their electricity from these sources.

The second change, which builds on the first, is a greater understanding of the value of flexibility for the secure operation of energy systems. This process began more than 40 years ago, during an energy crisis precipitated by some of the oil-producing states. There was every incentive at that time to diversify.

Fall in costs

But the increasing adoption of renewables has led to a fall in costs, which has in turn encouraged further investment.

A few nations, such as the UK, remain dominated by conventional energy systems, Professor Mitchell says, but most now support a move to a sustainable future.

“They are just trying to act as good global neighbours and have realised that meeting their climate change reduction commitments is no longer as expensive as they thought, and it helps, rather than makes worse, the security of their energy systems,” she says.

The recent UN agreement has led to strong support for the sustainable energy policies declared by individual nations. “However, these statements need to be backed up with appropriate governance – policies, institutions, incentives and energy system rules – to make sure they are implemented and successful,” Professor Mitchell stresses.

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Nicolas Delaunay: Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2016: Renewables full throttle! Wed, 03 Feb 2016 10:47:49 +0000 100% renewable energy
renewables full throttle

Creative Commons: K Ali, 2008

Authored by Nicolas Delaunay, re-posted from Values Added

As the first global gathering after COP21 in Paris, the Abu Dhabi  Sustainability Week was an interesting place to gauge the global  temperature, so to speak, on the climate front: will we see a continued  momentum or will the Paris agreement fade away in light of the current  economic and geopolitical instability? I caught a few soundbites to find it out, within a plethora of panel discussions and side events between the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), International Water Summit (IWS) or IRENA’s General Assembly.

The beginning of the end of the ‘Fossil Fuels era’

With the COP21 heroes on stage – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Christiana Figueres (UNFCCC Executive Director), Laurent Fabius (French Foreign Minister, COP21 President) or newly appointed Climate Champion Laurence Tubiana – one would have expected a full plate of triumphant declarations. This wasn’t to be. Well, perhaps just a tea spoon by Ban Ki-Moon “the Paris agreement is a triumph for people, the planet and multilaterism”when Laurent Fabius camouflaged his in subtle reverse psychology: “It would be tempting, despite the French reputation for modesty, to take all the credit. The truth is different: there was a political, economic & technical maturity around the issue”. Overall, a rather sobering mood dominated the week, focused on ways to “turn political ambition into practical action” as noted by Dr Sultan Al Jaber (UAE Minister of State and special envoy on Energy and Climate). Ban Ki-Moon quietly set the scene: “the shift away from fossil fuels must start immediately. Over the next 15 years, trillions of investments will be needed in infrastructures. These investments must go towards clean energy.”

Many of the interventions that followed, fed the sentiment that the green hammer used by Laurent Fabius to seal the Paris agreement, also sealed the fate of fossil fuels. A reality taking a particular significance in a region still highly dependent on them. “Paris signs the beginning of the end of the Fossil Fuels era, said Wael Hmaidan, International Director of the Climate Action Network. The first thing is to grasp the concept and understand it’s a reality. There is a window for fossil fuel use of 40 to 50 years [ie if we are to reach net zero emissions in time to slow down climate change way below the 2 degrees C increase as per the agreement]. This is a good opportunity for the Gulf region, given that the most cost-effective and accessible reserves come from it. The best way to fully decarbonize our energy system by mid-century is a 100% shift to renewables, something the region also needs to prepare for.”

Detailing what lies behind such a systemic shift sounded nearly as sobering: “Moving away from fossil fuels by 2050 practically means we need to accelerate our current rate of renewable energy installation by a factor of 55, assuming economic growth continues.” says Dr Sgouris Sgouridis, Associate Professor of the Masdar Institute. For the UAE – even as the first Gulf country to have initiated the diversification of its economy from oil – this raises broader ‘preparedness’ issues: “For the level of transformative change required by 2020 and onwards, it is critical that all levels of government, business and the public are well aware of the economic and social opportunities coming with climate action” pointed Tina Latif, Policy Advisor at the Directorate of Energy & Climate Change at UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “A lot of work is needed on capacity building, developing the local knowledge and the institutional structures that will have the mandates” to drive this transition. Tanzeed Alam, Climate and Energy Director at EWS-WWF, agreed while also taking UAE officials at their word: “Dubai government mentioned 75% clean energy by 2050, 30% by 2030. We would like this translated as UAE’s renewable energy target and reflected in its updated INDC. Recent weather events such as the record high temperatures in Irak or Iran last summer, predicted to be more frequent, only show that climate change threats are very real for the Gulf region and could threaten the way our economies would function and generate value. This demands urgent national action and leading by example.” Calls like this to translate ‘words on paper’ into concrete policies were a strong leitmotiv of the week. “We heard: we will celebrate the last barrel of oil. Make it a reality!” insisted Wael Hmaidan.

Renewables: full throttle!

The FT/Irena Question Time Debate event at IRENA’s magnificent headquarters in Masdar City, gave a sense of how much Renewables were the hot ticket of the moment, looking at the sheer number of delegations in the room. An insider confirmed: “IRENA is the UN agency with the fastest expanding membership (168 countries members in 4 years)”. Another clue was the indefectible smile of IRENA’s Director General, Adnan Amin: “We are at an exceptional time for Renewables. We set a new record for Renewables investments but this is still not enough. In a new report we estimate that doubling the share of renewables by 2030 would provide half the CO2 emissions reductions needed, the other half coming from Energy Efficiency”. Let alone creating over 24 millions jobs and expanding global GDP by 1.1%.

High spirits on renewables would not even be curbed by the low price of fossil fuels: “There are four macro drivers that are here to stay” started Alex Thursby, group CEO of National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD): “the energy gap between supply and demand, the commitment to decarbonize global economies, a desire of nations around the world to diversify their energy supply and accelerating investments in technology.” Add to it a financial community increasingly educated about renewables or low interest rates globally and, Alex Thursby predicted, ”the speed of renewables uptake will surprise everyone and low commodity prices will not prevent it.”

“We are ready to be competitive and make the transition [to renewables] cost free to the economy” said Jim Hughes, CEO of First Solar. “We can do this by relentlessly driving down costs through innovation.” If such confidence was to be expected by executives from the sector, a bold statement by the UAE Minister of Energy, His Excellency Suhail Al Mazrouei, made a strong impact: “I would like to see the UAE export renewable power to Europe, rather than fossil fuel.”

What about Finance? “Capital doesn’t flow on symbolism, it flows on tangible policies

If the cost-competitiveness of renewables is getting second to none, the policy direction after Paris is crystal clear and interest rates are low, surely the trillions of $ required to finance the shift to a decarbonized economy will come to the table, right? Hang on… why have private investors not yet rushed to the party? Since Paris, speakers on the hot seat are no longer the usual ‘procrastinating’ policy makers but financers… Enter Kyung Ah-Park, Head of Environmental Markets Group at Goldman Sachs: “You need a trifecta ‘Capital, Technology & Policy’. There is ample capital that wants to make its way to renewable energy. Technology is definitely happening. What we need now is to align policies.” Kyung Ah-Park won a few hearts as she illustrated her point: ”there is still affirmative market distortion in the form of fossil fuels subsidies”. The fact Goldman Sachs is still affirmatively investing in fossil fuels was diplomatically left aside. But sitting on the same panel, Christiana Figueres gave her most forceful attempt at reassuring Kyung Ah-Park on the policy side. “The message from Paris is abundantly clear: we are moving away from Fossil Fuels and stepping our efforts to foster economic growth, decoupled from emissions. There are very clear and transparent milestones as well as the strongest of levers ensuring this will happen: each INDC was carefully crafted and researched to reflect countries’ own national interests!” It visibly takes more to faze the soft-spoken Kyung Ah-Park: “There is no doubt COP21 is an incredible milestone and Paris was high in symbolism. But capital doesn’t flow on symbolism, it flows on tangible policies. To give an example, the day after COP21, solar stocks rose by 3%. The day the US Congress announced an extension of solar investment tax credit to 5 years, they rose by 30%!”

Adnan Amin concurred: “Domestic policy is more important than anything else. There is lots of money in the system, especially with low interest rates. The question is which concrete measures can help mobilize more financing, reduce the cost of capital of renewables and their high perceived risk, how do we provide risk guarantees for investors?” Regardless of how fast investors will re-allocate capital towards renewables, many, including Dr Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of Masdar, think “we are now past the inflection point”. In this context, NBAD, which recently adhered to the Equator Principles perfectly timed its announcement of “committing $10bn to lending, financing and facilitating activities focused on finding new and environmentally sustainable solutions over 10 years.” Nathan Weatherstone, Head of its recently created Renewable Energy division explained: “our core clients are changing and more and more demand a stronger capability in sustainable finance. $48 trillion will be needed over the next 20 years for investment in energy infrastructures, this means huge opportunities for the banking sector, requiring all kinds of liquidity to come together to meet the funding. This is why we also encourage greater engagement between regulators, government, businesses and the financial community as it is incumbent on all parties to develop new procurement structures, new ways for doing business”.

In his Economic Review in 2007, Nicholas Stern labelled Climate change “the biggest market failure the world had ever seen”. Less than six weeks after a major step was accomplished in Paris, the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week helped to remind us that the biggest failure that could undermine the fight against climate change would be the inability of all incumbents (business, government and the financial community) to align their actions towards“the only direction in which we can move” as Christiana Figueres put it: “highly decarbonized and resilient economies.”

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Clashing climate visions in Iowa sets the tone for US leadership race Wed, 03 Feb 2016 10:11:34 +0000 Creative Commons: Stuart Seeger, 2006
Creative Commons: Stuart Seeger, 2006

Creative Commons: Stuart Seeger, 2006

As US presidential candidates sought to win over Iowans Monday evening, voters were given a taste of what lies ahead for the race to the White House, as contenders landed miles apart on climate.

Leading up to yesterday’s caucuses in Iowa – the first state to hold a vote – Democratic frontrunners flagged the urgency of acting on climate, with Hillary Clinton aiming to dismantle skepticism and Bernie Sanders placing emphasis on taxing carbon.

Among Republican contenders, views ranged from acknowledging climate change but downplaying its priority to fully dismissing the science behind the notion. Some candidates have even pushed to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Last night’s Republican victory went to Ted Cruz, while Clinton and Sanders remain virtually tied among Democrats.

Now, with just one week until the next major window for party voters in New Hampshire, the Iowa caucuses highlight where there are rifts and overlap among candidates on climate issues that matter to Americans; potentially thrusting these issues to the forefront of national debates.

Key Points

  • Failing to step up for the climate would be devastating for Iowans and New Hampshirites. According to the National Climate Assessment (NCA), Iowa will lose millions of dollars in flooding expenses alone if climate change isn’t contained to safe levels. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire – the host of the next major vote in this presidential election – rising temperatures are aggravating concentration levelsof pollutants in the air, posing major health risks, like asthma, for vulnerable groups including children and the elderly.
  • The caucuses and primary lay the ground for what’s really at stake for voters. Yesterday’s Iowa caucus and next week’s New Hampshire primary are a chance for presidential candidates to drive early momentum in their favour. But it also highlights what is a stake this November when it comes to climate change. While the early voting states are a magnet for attention, as the first two states to cast their ballots they will set the tone for voters ahead of the lengthy process to come.

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Misuse of EU funds leaves Eastern countries hooked on fossil fuels Tue, 02 Feb 2016 11:28:15 +0000 xxx
fossil fuels

Creative Commons: 2012

Europe’s clean energy transition is being hindered as billions of Euros destined for energy projects in Eastern and Central countries continue to prop up the region’s dirty infrastructure.

EU leaders have repeatedly vowed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, yet new research from Friends of the Earth Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network shows that just seven per cent of the €178 billion set-aside for infrastructure development is being invested in renewables, energy efficiency and SMART grids, with funds instead entrenching countries’ dependence on fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the integration of climate considerations – as required under EU law – remains superficial with some of the biggest receivers of funds, for example Poland, continuing to flout EU rules in a bid to pursue economically and environmentally disastrous fossil fuel infrastructure.

As the European Union takes stock of what the Paris climate agreement means for its climate and energy future, pressure is on it to live up to its ambitious promises delivered in the French capital and walk the talk on climate action. First step, says the report, paying closer attention to how it spends its money, and ensuring all EU-funded projects are in line with a fossil free future.

Key Points

  • Smart money is already moving to renewables. With clean energy booming, and its market share bounding upwards, investors are fleeing from fossil fuels and moving their money into renewables. This leaves those companies and governments continuing to cling to fossil fuels facing the consequences of their dirty choices and the damage they inflict on economies and communities.
  • The clean energy transition is in the EU’s grasp, but ambitious and steady policy is crucial. Once the front-runner on clean energy, the EU is risking locking itself into a dirty energy future unless strong climate and energy policies are put in place, and that EU funds contribute to its energy transition in a meaningful way. Failing to do so will leave the EU behind the rest of the world and missing out on huge clean energy investments, which would help ensure a happier, healthier and wealthier Europe.

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Ashen fingerprints of climate change all over Tasmanian fires Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:32:15 +0000 Tasmanian fires
Tasmanian fires

Creative Commons: Quarrie Photography, 2014

Heavy rain may finally be bringing some relief to firefighting efforts in Tasmania, but blazes continue to burn throughout world heritage areas in what has been dubbed a global tragedy.

With Western Tasmania suffering through the driest summer on record, at the end of the hottest year ever recorded globally, the fingerprints of climate change are all over this crisis.

The parks service warned as much, saying the lightning fires that have torched vast alpine areas should not be seen as “natural”, but rather as a reality of the new world of extremes we are heading into.

Intense bushfires are happening three times more often than they did a century ago, and as intact nature offers the best  defense against climate change, the loss of vast tracts of forest, like the Tarkine, is not only a tragic loss of unique species, but a loss that raises the risk of more and worse climate impacts to come.

Key Points

  • Climate change is making fires more extreme and more frequent. Fire has always been a part of the Australian landscape, but fire risk is growing rapidly as the world warms and sensitive ecosystems like the Tarkine are increasingly vulnerable. Unlike Australia’s eucalyptus forests which use fire to regenerate, once gone, the 1,000-year-old trees and peat that exist only in places like Tasmania’s world heritage area are gone for good.
  • Climate action must part of a holistic response to increasingly dire bushfire dangers. Properly resourced and trained emergency personnel, strong public education, and preventative measures are absolutely needed, but to truly respond to growing fire risks far more needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions, clean up national and global energy systems and economies, and protect and regenerate natural systems.

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Renewables offer quick fix for US emissions Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:21:24 +0000 US emissions
US emissions

Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley, 2010

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

The US could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation by 80% below 1990 levels within 15 years just by using renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, according to a former government research chief.

The nation could do this using only technologies available right now, and by introducing a national grid system connected by high voltage direct current (HVDC) that could get the power without loss to those places that needed it most, when they needed it.

This utopian vision – and it has been dreamed at least twice before byresearchers in Delaware and in Stanford, California – comes directly from a former chief of research in a US government agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Dr Alexander MacDonald, a distinguished meteorologist, was until recently, the head of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

Supply and demand

He and colleagues at the University of Colorado report in Nature Climate Change that instead of factoring in fossil fuel backup, or yet-to-be-invented methods of storing electricity from wind and solar sources, they took a new look at the simple problems of supply and demand in a nation that tends to be sunny and warm in the south and windy in the north, but not always reliably so in either place.

Their reasoning was that storage technologies could only increase the cost of renewable energy, and increase the problem of reducing carbon emissions.

So they modelled the US weather on timescales of one hour over divisions of the nation as small as 13 square kilometres to see what costs and demand and carbon dioxide emissions would be, and how easily renewable power could meet the demand.

They reasoned that even though wind turbines are vulnerable to periods of calm and that solar energy sources don’t do much in rainy weather or at night, there would always be some parts of the country that could be generating energy from a renewable source.

They then factored in future costs – the cost of both wind and solar has been falling steadily – and scaled up renewable energy to match the available wind and sunlight in the US at any time.

“An HVDC grid would create a national electricity market in which all types of generation, including low-carbon sources, compete on a cost basis”

“Our research shows a transition to a reliable, low-carbon, electrical generation and transmission system can be accomplished with commercially available technology, and within 15 years,” Dr MacDonald says.

The model embraced fossil fuel sources as well as renewable ones, for purposes of comparison. It revealed that low cost and low emissions are not mutually exclusive. The US could have both.

“The model relentlessly seeks the lowest-cost energy, whatever constraints are applied,” says Christopher Clack, a physicist and mathematician with theCooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a co-author of the study. “And it always installs more renewable energy on the grid than exists today.”

Even in a scenario where renewable energy cost more than experts predicted, the model produced a system that cut carbon dioxide emissions 33% below 1990 levels by 2030, and delivered electricity at about 8.6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). By comparison, electricity cost 9.4 cents per kWh in 2012.

If renewable energy costs were lower and natural gas costs higher, as is expected in the future, the modelled system sliced carbon dioxide emissions by 78% from 1990 levels and delivered electricity at 10 cents per kWh. The year 1990 is the baseline for greenhouse gas calculations.

Low-cost sources

The model achieved its outcome without relying on any new electrical storage systems. The national grid did need augmentation from nuclear energy, hydropower and natural gas, but the real innovation would be the connection of large numbers of low-cost renewable energy sources to high-energy-demand centres, using efficient new transmission systems.

It seems that HVDC transmission is the key to keeping costs down, and Dr MacDonald compared such power links to the interstate highways that cross the US, and which transformed the US economy 50 years ago.

“With an ‘interstate for electrons’, renewable energy could be delivered anywhere in the country while emissions plummet,” he says.

“An HVDC grid would create a national electricity market in which all types of generation, including low-carbon sources, compete on a cost basis. The surprise was how dominant wind and solar could be.”

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Copenhagen set to join unstoppable divestment movement Fri, 29 Jan 2016 14:50:01 +0000 Copenhagen

Creative Commons: Moyan Brenn, 2014

The city of Copenhagen is set to become the latest recruit to the unstoppable divestment movement, with its plan to sell off the coal, oil and gas assets of its 6.9 billion Krone (€1.29 bn) investment fund.

The Danish capital will join a movement worth over $3.4 trillion worldwide, followingNorway’s capital Oslo and non-European cities such as Newcastle, Australia, as well as over 500 institutions, universities, banks, companies and thousands of people, who have already pulled their money out of dirty energy.

With fossil fuels recognised as high-risk, volatile, toxic investments, the Paris Agreement signalling global recognition of the inevitable transition to clean energy, and renewables booming and boosting economies worldwide worldwide, Copenhagen may be the latest ambassador for the divestment movement, but it will not be the last.

Key Points

  • The divestment movement is growing across the world. What started with a few US universities has grown to become the fastest growing divestment movement in history, representing $3.4 trillion in assets. Yet the fossil fuel sector is still being funnelled vast amounts of public money. The faster governments move to end their association with fossil fuels and phase out subsidies, the sooner the final nail will be in the coffin of polluting and harmful coal, oil and gas.
  • Divesting from fossil fuels makes economic sense and is a “moral imperative”. Experts like the Bank of England’s Mark Carney have warned of the risks of tying money up in coal, oil and gas, and the G20’s Financial Stability Board is putting together a new global task force to track climate-related financial risk. Finances aside, keeping polluting, harmful fossil fuel behemoths afloat is simply not compatible with a safe, healthy future.
  • To reap the rewards of renewables, ambitious and steady EU policy is crucial. As investors flee fossil fuels, renewables are booming in much of the world: at the Paris climate summit major projects were announced from India’s ‘solar alliance’ to Africa’s plan to reach 300GW of renewables by 2030. Europe, the former clean energy front-runner, risks missing out on huge investments unless it ensures it has stable and ambitious climate and energy policies.

You can find more resources on this story here >>

Europe’s hot summers break 2,000-year record Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:59:34 +0000 Europe's hot summers
Europe’s hot summers

Creative Commons: George M. Groutas, 2010

Authored by Alex Kirby, re-posted from Climate News Network

The unusually hot summers in Europe over the last three decades are further evidence that human activities are largely responsible for recent global warming, according to new research.

The scientists say they have found no 30-year periods in the last 2,000 years that have exceeded the mean average European summer temperature of the years from 1986 to 2015.

This new data adds to the fears expressed by scientists only a week ago that parts of the Mediterranean and Arctic regions will heat up by 3.4˚C and 6˚C respectively above pre-industrial levels.

The new research says that already most of Europe has experienced strong summer warming in the past few decades, with severe heatwaves in 2003, as well as in 2010 and in 2015.

Historical evidence

Despite this, they report in Environmental Research Letters journal that the 1st century AD, and possibly also the 10th century, may have been slightly warmer than the 20th century, although the difference is not statistically significant.

The 45 scientists, from 13 countries, say their research now puts the current warmth in the context of the last 2,100 years, using tree-ring information and historical documentary evidence. Their interdisciplinary study involved the collaboration of researchers from Past Global Changes (PAGES), a core project of the global sustainability science programme, Future Earth.

During Roman times, up until the 3rd century, there were warm summers, followed by generally cooler conditions from the 4th to the 7th centuries. A generally warm medieval period was followed by a mostly cold Little Ice Age from the 14th to the 19th centuries.

The scientists say the pronounced warming early in the 20th century and in recent decades is well represented by the tree-ring data and historical evidence on which their reconstruction is based.

“We now have a detailed picture of how summer temperatures have changed . . . and can use that to test the climate models used to predict the impacts of future global warming”

They also say the evidence suggests that past natural changes in summer temperature are greater than previously thought, suggesting that climate models may underestimate the full range of future extreme events, including heatwaves.

This past variability has been associated with large volcanic eruptions and changes in the amount of energy received from the sun.

The scientists say their finding that temperatures over the last 30 years lie outside the range of these natural variations supports the conclusion reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that recent warming is mainly caused by human activity.

Climate models

“We now have a detailed picture of how summer temperatures have changed over Europe for more than 2,000 years and we can use that to test the climate models that are used to predict the impacts of future global warming,” says the co-ordinator of the study, Professor Jürg Luterbacher, director of the department of geography at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen, Germany.

Professor Luterbacher co-authored a 2014 report titled “The year-long unprecedented European heat and drought of 1540 – a worst case”, published in Climate Change journal. The report drew on more than 300 first-hand documentary weather report sources.

He and his colleagues wrote then that Europe was affected in 1540 by “an unprecedented 11-month-long megadrought . . . We found that an event of this severity cannot be simulated by state-of-the-art climate models.”

They concluded: “Given the large spatial extent, the long duration and the intensity of the 1540 heat and drought, the return of such an event in the course of intensified global warming involves staggering losses.”

Zika: As temperatures rise, epidemics spread Thu, 28 Jan 2016 15:20:24 +0000 Zika

Creative Commons: Stephen Ausmus, USDA, 2012

As the world continues to reel from extreme weather events, and waking up to the dangerous realities of climate change, the terrifying underbelly of global warming is currently being highlighted by an outbreak of the Zika virus in South America.

Discovered 70 years ago, Zika is spread predominantly by Aedes mosquitoes – which thrive in hot, humid climates and also transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

The tropical disease is present throughout the Americas, but as the world warms and the areas in which the mosquito thrives expand, so too do the areas at risk.

Zika causes mild flu-like symptoms, but in pregnant women it is suspected to cause “microcephaly” – a foetal abnormality that limits brain development in the womb.

With 4,000 cases reported in Brazil last year alone pregnant women are being warned against going to this year’s Olympic games in Rio, while in Colombia, Jamaica, El Salvador and Venezuela authorities are urging women to avoid getting pregnant.

Commentators are calling for a targeted international response to the outbreak, to protect the lives of those on the frontlines of the crisis, which – like with all climate impacts – is hitting the poorest and more vulnerable hardest.

Key Points

  • As the Zika crisis shows, tackling climate change is a matter of public health. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns increase heat-related illnesses, reduce crop yields and disrupt access to clean water – all with huge implications for health. A warmer climate will also help the spread of infectious diseases as it allows mosquito populations to grow where they didn’t exist before, as well as increasing diseases that are transmitted by contaminated water and food.
  • Limiting global warming means benefits for climate, health and economy. With 2015 confirmed the hottest year ever recorded, its only through urgent emissions reductions – meaning fossil fuels are left in the ground – that communities will be protected from the ravages of climate change. By rapidly implementing the Paris Agreement and moving to a 100 per cent renewable future, governments will not only protect health and inhibit the spread of diseases, but will bring huge benefits for citizens and economies.

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Solar club builds up powerful alliance Wed, 27 Jan 2016 12:33:47 +0000 solar club
solar club

Creative Commons: U.S. Department of the Interior, 2015

Authored by Nivedita Khandekar, re-posted from Climate News Network

The foundation stone of a new solar power club of 122 nations has been laid in Gurgaon, India, by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the French President, François Hollande − cementing an agreement the two leaders made at the Paris climate talks last December.

The idea of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which promises a massive increase in investment in solar power in the tropics, started with the coming together of countries between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn that have 300-plus days of sunshine a year.

For all of them, solar power is potentially the cheapest form of generating electricity. And the plan is to provide electricity to millions of people who do not have access to power at present, while at the same time preventing the building of dozens of power plants that burn fossil fuels.

Foundation stone

The ISA will be an inter-governmental body on the lines of the UN, with headquarters in India. This building will be on a five-acre plot of land at theNational Institute of Solar Energy campus at Gurgaon, Haryana.

At the laying of the foundation stone, the two heads of state – President Hollande was in New Delhi as the chief guest for India’s Republic Day Parade yesterday – reiterated their commitment to the development of solar energy.

Modi has already proved to be a solar enthusiast, with more than 5,000 megawatts of installed capacity in India − the equivalent of five of the largest type of coal-fired plants.

He says: “If fossil fuel is used, it adds to global warming. If not used, the world would plunge into darkness. But the entire world says we need to reduce the temperature. The need is for alternative, sustainable and affordable energy.

“One of the ways to reduce temperature here is to use the sun’s temperature. We need to use one form of energy to fight the negative effects of another form of energy.”

Hollande praised the idea of the Alliance, which he described as “India’s gift to the world for combating climate change”. He said it “came from a country where, for millennia, yoga practitioners have greeted the sun every morning so that it shares its energy with the Earth.

“The challenge now is to raise at a global level the €1,200 billion in investment required to develop this energy by 2030. The aim is for 1,000 gigawatts to be installed over the next 10 years.”

“India’s electricity will grow threefold by 2030, but its non-fossil electricity sources will grow fourfold”

Hollande also listed the expectations from the Solar Alliance: pooling the demand for high potential countries to bring down financial costs; harmonising and opening up the solar markets to reduce the cost of investment; and, most important, enabling the necessary technology transfer between developed and developing countries.

The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Solar Energy Corporation of India each announced a $1 million donation to finance the new ISA headquarters and towards its running costs for five years.

Over the same period, the French Development Agency will allocate €300 million to developing solar energy in order to finance the initial projects.

Emission intensity

Continuing development of solar is important for India, which has 17% of the world population and is the third largest polluter, after the US and China.

India’s climate plan, published last year, promised to reduce the emission intensity of the country’s gross domestic product by 33%-35 % by 2030 from 2005 levels. It is aiming at 40% cumulative power from renewables by 2030, including a target of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.

So how are these developments and plans expected to change India’s energy mix?

Dr Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, explains: “India’s electricity will grow threefold by 2030, but its non-fossil electricity sources will grow fourfold.

“This means that there will be proportionately faster deployment of non-fossil (including solar) energy than coal or gas-based power. This transformation will be reflected in reduced emissions (against business as usual scenarios) and reduced emissions intensity of GDP.”

Hottest year on record has human fingerprints all over it Tue, 26 Jan 2016 11:42:24 +0000 hottest year on record
hottest year on record

Creative Commons: Scientific Visualisation Studio/Goddard Space Flight Centre, 2016

The world’s recent run of record-breaking warm years would have been near impossible without man-made climate change.

That’s the clear finding of a new study which showed that 13 of the 15 hottest year in the 150-year-long record have happened in the current, still young, century.

It comes as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirms that the global average surface temperature in 2015 shattered all previous records – reaching the threshold of 1DegC above pre-industrial temperatures for the first time.

Coming just weeks after nearly 200 governments agreed to work to contain climate change, the latest findings offer yet another stark warning for leaders of the need to urgently turn their Paris pledges into definitive actions.

Key Points

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Another blow for coal as Vietnam signals retreat Mon, 25 Jan 2016 15:13:00 +0000 coal assets
Vietnam - coal

Creative Commons: Chris Lewis, 2008

In yet another blow for the global coal industry, Vietnam has signalled its retreat from this dirty energy source.

In a statement, Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng said his government would review plans for new coal power plants, saying it will instead look to gas and renewables to power its electricity grid.

The latest news comes during an increasingly bleak period for the global coal industry, which has seen China announce huge mine closures, Indian coal imports and US coal production fall and more major coal players file for bankruptcy.

Key Points

  • Smart governments are moving away from coal. As governments’ pledge to end the fossil fuel era is translated into “implementation and action,” increasing renewables is the best hope of putting the “Paris climate goals within reach,” marking an increasingly bleak outlook for coal. Vietnam follows in the footsteps of a host of other governments including China, the US and the UK all taking steps to move away from the dirty energy source.
  • Betting on renewables, over coal, makes both economic and climate sense. Investment in renewables, and renewable energy’s market share, are bounding upwards, making countries wealthier and healthier. This leaves those governments continuing to cling to dirty coal with nowhere to hide as they find themselves facing the consequences of their dirty choices that increase damage to their economy, health and communities.

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Coal left out in the cold as China shifts to clean energy Fri, 22 Jan 2016 10:02:05 +0000 coal

Creative Commons: Greg Goebel, 2008

While China suffers through the strongest cold stretch in three decades, partly due to record arctic warmth, life is becoming colder still for the nation’s coal industry.

In 2015 the industry suffered over 90 per cent losses, as the largest coal consumer shifted towards cleaner energy sources to control air pollution and build a resilient economy.

Its coal fired power generation declined, by an estimated 2.8 percent last year, contributing to a two per cent drop in carbon emissions, while coal production fell 3.5 per cent and is expected to further decline in 2016– especially after China allocated US$4.6 billion to close 4,300 coal mines.

Coal imports also crashed by about 30 per cent, the biggest drop on record, which has “snuffed out the last flicker of hope” for large coal exporters, such as Australia.

With China continuing to lead global renewable investment and clean up its economy, it appears the transition away from coal will only accelerate, yielding more economic, environmental and health benefits to China’s people.

Key Points

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David Holyoake: The Creative Factory – What we learned about the new climate story Thu, 21 Jan 2016 17:23:50 +0000 Creative Factory
Creative Factory

The Creative Factory. Courtesy of: Forever Swarm, 2015

Authored by David Holyoake
David Holyoake is Co-Founder of Forever Swarm

Over an intense two weeks in Paris, something big was started.

No, I’m not talking about the new UN climate agreement, but instead the coming together of artists, poets, actors, campaigners and journalists to envision the new climate story.

On the sideline of the Paris climate talks Place to B-COP21 ran an impressive hub of civil society and media activity involving thousands of participants. As part of this – and as a collaboration between Place to B and Forever Swarm – I was fortunate enough to co-direct the Creative Factory, a unique think-make tank focussed on catalysing off-the-grid thinking for transformational climate change communications. The focus was to foster creative, cultural interventions to mainstream the social consensus for urgent action.

So, what did we learn?

  • The new climate story should have the shape and poetics of great stories that have mobilised the masses through history. When I asked participants of the Creative Factory what they thought was failing in the current approach of NGOs, scientists, and media in telling the climate story, the response was: a lack of joy or optimism in the solutions, a lack of beauty, a lack of humour, and a lack of a myth worth fighting for. We need to inspire change, reveal new pleasures, and renewed meaning that can spring from what the New Economics Foundation calls the Great Transition. Creativity can help normalise new values and behaviours in the mainstream cultural fabric.From the Bible, and the Torah, to the epic tales like the Odyssey and Gilgamesh, they all exist and persist in our cultural DNA. Buried deep in our psyches, their basic shape might give clues to encoding collective meaning. Whether it’s Martin Luther King’s ‘I had a dream speech’ or the teachings of Jesus these great stories seem to follow a basic shape of: struggle -> resolution (or redemption) -> new bliss. And are always imbued with the alchemical power of poetry in the way they are delivered or performed. Apart from fossil fuel phase out, neither the alternatives of the ‘struggle’ nor the ‘new bliss’ are clear enough for the mainstream when it comes to climate change.
  • We need a story of transition and emergence. One of our guest participants from the Institute of Desirable Futures (Alice Vivian) told us that we need to stop talking as if the world is ending, and instead speak as if ‘one world is dying, but another is being born in its place’. The environmental movement has not outlined a clear or comprehensive counter vision of how this new world could be or how it could lead to greater happiness. Many people implicitly grasp that climate is a systemic crisis. The slow collapse of an economic and values system that is failing us in multiple ways, will require far deeper changes than the clean energy transition alone if we are to succeed in preserving a liveable planet.Also discussed was the need for change makers to work towards a unifying narrative – and a common visual language to draw together the different threads of this transition. There are many disparate elements with a common thrust towards a new system. As well as unification, the new progress story should highlight new benefits, like moving towards a more meaningful society centred on happiness or well-being instead of economic consumption growth.
  • Fun, humour, new hedonism, and addressing our inner child can help! We had a guest talk from a man who spent five years condensing systemic analysis of the climate problem into a brilliant educational game that has just been released on Android. He taught us that play is how animals learn. We also read a graphic novel told through the characters of three frogs, by Camille Bissuel, one of our artists in residence. Both of these examples convinced us that more can be done to harness the power of play. Speaking to the child in all of us – issues can be simplified in an honest way. A managed transition away from consumption growth and away from our fossil fuel addiction also throws up new pleasures – shorter working hours, more leisure time, and new forms of social connectivity emerge from a lot of the academic thinking on ways to manage transition away from GDP growth.
  • We need a spiritual renewal, and to become more loving climate evangelisers. We were fortunate to engage climate communications expert and Guardian writer George Marshall, and Jamie Clarke, Executive Director of Climate Outreach with us. They helped us examine what the climate movement can learn from the great faiths, and the role of spiritual revival in the transition to a carbon controlled, sustainable world. We reflected on research that suggests that while people of faith can be more receptive to messaging delivered in the language of morality, judgment and blame still don’t work. We need to develop more empathy for people who are not like us, the disengaged, to understand their reasons and motivations. George Marshall stressed the importance of trustworthy messengers, suggesting the value of mobilising more stories of ‘climate sinners’ – the former climate sceptics, or high consumptives, from the political right – who have seen the light and joined the cause.
Creative Factory - Climate and Faith

Climate and Faith, by Tibor Miklos

  • We need to understand the motivational values of people who are not like us, and frame our messages in ways they can relate to. Many people who don’t care about the abstract notion of ‘stopping climate change’ actively resist such messaging because it is too politically marked – seen as ‘not for me’. We learnt that if we are to succeed in bridging the political divide, we must tailor our messages to tap into what motivates people who are not like us. We learnt that it can be more precise to tailor communication strategies by targeting motivational values (status, social acceptance, security) rather than audiences or age groups.
  • We need to move beyond, the ‘greenie’ frames in which climate change is entrenched. This was my number one take from George Marshall’s book ‘Don’t Even Think About it’ and something that most participants agreed with. We learned that we need new visual and verbal language. From our communications brainstorming that we tasked teams with, we learned the value of ‘surprise’ in helping reach new audiences. One team developed a clever game concept (a drinking game, with an online component) targeting young people, at a time when they are in search of personal identity and acceptance of their peers, to educate and normalise ideas around climate change and connection with nature.
  • There is a difference between ‘sympathy’ and ‘empathy’ when talking about climate impacts and climate vulnerable peoples. Studies prove that humans usually act because they feel – not because they think. Sympathy is feeling for someone, empathy is the more powerful experience of feeling with We also need to remember that it is often the personal stories, told honestly, that change us. This was brought home very strongly when Nigel Kelapa showed us images of his sinking home in the Solomon Islands, his people already making preparations to migrate. To foster empathy, we may need new rituals in mainstream culture. We can learn from the techniques of indigenous cultures and their proven ways of creating and maintaining empathy and morality through ritual/art. The arts have a huge and untapped role to play in normalising and emotionalising the cluster of interrelated debates around climate action.
  • The New Climate Story must be articulated through art and popular culture, and we must seek new iconography. There is currently a big disconnection between the environmental world and the worlds of popular art and culture, which is one of the reasons I co-founded Forever Swarm in 2015. Creative resources can also help media make these issues more topical and accessible (leaving aside for now the problem of vested interests that work against corporatized media from giving climate change the coverage it deserves).Popular trends in the arts are always giving us information, but sometimes it’s a whisper. We looked briefly at the role of aesthetics/fashion and how these can reinforce values, such as connection with nature, or certain ideas of identity or progress) in subliminal but pervasive ways. One participant said that a single image can seize the consciousness of the world, and help cement emerging cultural or moral norms. Think about the protestors standing before tanks at Tiananmen Square, or the image of the cellist playing in the bombed ruins of Sarajevo. Where is the powerful iconography for the climate movement?
  • We need to confront some of the taboos within the climate movement. Meat consumption is a huge part of the climate problem but hardly any one talks about it. The idea that we can ignore the dilemma of economic consumption growth, or that investment in new technologies alone will save us, is a myth. Confronting the tough changes and finding ways to talk about them is part of the new positive narrative for system change. Courage, can be just as important as ‘strategy’.
  • How we tell the story matters: we need to be emotionally honest and to improve the performance of leadership. We need to “be the change we want to see” as Ghandi said, but we also need to be more compelling in how we articulate and evangelise. Part of my vision for the Swarm is to re-purpose the role of the artist in society – to get poets and actors to coach our leaders, green parties, and all of us climate influencers in the language and performance of leadership. This is partly about a revival of the art of rhetoric, that indefinable spell that great leaders in the past knew how to weave over a crowd – something that seems to have evaporated in recent decades.

The agreement of COP21 is an important step forward, and leaves a lot to do, but it’s a race against time. From the perspective of cultural change, this race involves a twofold challenge of myth: to help mainstream society understand that many of the old myths about consumption, tech-fix, and our relationship with nature are broken, and offer compelling new stories that can take root in their place. But it won’t happen unless we involve the dynamics of our poets, film makers, writers and actors, in collaboration with our experts, reporters and campaigners. And that, is precisely why Place to B and the creative alchemy of the Creative Factory will be continuing. Do get in touch with us if you would like to be a part of this or collaborate in 2016!

Denmark broke world record in wind power in 2015 Tue, 19 Jan 2016 17:17:42 +0000 Model Wind Turbine Farm in Copenhagen. Creative Commons: tsaiproject, 2012.
Model Wind Turbine Farm in Copenhagen. Creative Commons: tsaiproject, 2012.

Model Wind Turbine Farm in Copenhagen. Creative Commons: tsaiproject, 2012.

Denmark broke the world record for wind power last year.

According to official data, 42% of Denmark’s electricity was generated from wind turbines in 2015, which represents the highest figure ever and the highest proportion for any country.

It also beat the country’s own record of 39% – set just a year before.

The figure also represents more than a doubling compared to data from 10 years ago.

The Danish government has committed to generating 50% of its energy from wind by 2020 and plans to be 100% fossil free by 2050.

According to Energinet, Denmark’s largest energy utility, 2015 was unusually windy, which was one of the main contributors for the record.

Furthermore, the high number of wind turbines, on- and offshore, has been a key ingredient in Denmark’s efforts to meet climate targets.

The Scandinavian country already has more than 1 200 megawatts of generating capacity installed offshore, and two other major projects currently under construction are estimated to add another 1 000 megawatts.

On one day, 2 September, Denmark operated without any central power stations being switched on at all, using electricity exclusively from wind turbines, solar cells, local combined heat and power plants and imports of hydroelectric, solar and nuclear power from neighbouring countries.

On another windy day in July, Denmark produced so much energy that it was able to meet all its electricity needs and sell another 40% of its power abroad.

In western Denmark, the region generated an energy surplus for 16% of the year, which was mostly exported to consumers in Norway, Sweden and Germany.

The country’s minister for energy, utilities and climate, Lars Christian Lilleholt, called the record significant and said:

Hopefully, Denmark can serve as an example to other countries that it is possible to have both ambitious green policies with a high proportion of wind energy and other renewables in the energy supply, and still have a high security of supply and competitive prices on electricity.

The current trend shows that the Danish government is likely to meet its goal of producing 50% of its electricity from wind by 2020, despite announcing plans to scale back its ambitious climate targets last summer.

The European Wind Energy Association (Ewea) reacted to the new figures by calling for a renewed focus on how large amounts of electricity could be integrated into Europe’s power systems.

Kristian Ruby, Ewea’s chief policy officer, said:

These figures show that we are now at a level where wind integration can be the backbone of electricity systems in advanced economies.

Renewing the economy: clean energy key to growth Mon, 18 Jan 2016 12:32:07 +0000 clean energy
clean energy

Creative Commons: Ed Suomine, 2013

While investors and global leaders crunch numbers this week to stabilize the global economy, experts are offering hard-hitting numbers linking renewables to a prosperous future.

Just a few days ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) revealed that if the world doubled its current market share of renewable energy to 36 per cent by 2030, global GDP could experience a boost of up to 1.1 per cent.

This figure would represent the equivalent of $1.3 trillion in growth – more than the combined economies of Chile, South Africa and Switzerland – and would put the “Paris climate goals within reach.”

The findings come as new figures show renewables investments hit a new high last year with China and the US topping the table.

Yet other regions are falling behind and could risk missing out: former clean energy leader Europe saw renewable investment fall to an eight-year low; and Australia is still turning a blind eye to the millions of potential jobs created and hundreds of billions of fossil fuel import dollars saved through renewables.

Despite efforts to stagnate the ongoing transition towards a renewables-only future, upcoming Davos meetings could act as a turning point for world leaders, setting apart those who are ahead of the curve and those who aren’t.

Key Points

  • Climate is at the top of the global agenda and is there to stay. Up until last year, climate change had been noticeably absent from the Davos agenda. Since then, a considerable number of sessions made climate change the focal point of their presentations in 2015, and during 2016 meetings — just one month after delivering the Paris Agreement — climate will once again be a topline issue for world leaders.  
  • Fossils are falling, but not fast enough. During last month’s Paris climate meetings, world leaders agreed to widen the way for a clean, safe future. While the momentum encapsulated in the Paris Agreement is in the process of “implementation and action,” replacing fossil fuels with renewables swiftly will allow the world to benefit from an energy transformation that protects millions of lives, creates new jobs, saves billions of dollars, and tackles energy poverty.

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Protesters evicted from UK’s longest-running anti-fracking camp Mon, 18 Jan 2016 12:25:24 +0000 Creative Commons: Vertigogen, 2015
Creative Commons: Vertigogen, 2015

Creative Commons: Vertigogen, 2015

Bailiffs and police have evicted protesters from the UK’s longest-running anti-fracking camp in Upton, Cheshire, months after high court ordered them to leave so that drilling could begin.

According to information from Cheshire police, nine protesters were arrested, and another two given a section 35 direction to leave, which bans them from returning for 48 hours. The police stated further:

Police officers will keep a visible presence at the location overnight and high court enforcement officers will remain on the site. Nobody was injured or taken to hospital during the eviction, and currently 20-30 people remain on Dutton Lane protesting.

The site in Upton has been leased by fracking company IGas Energy. The company has permission to begin exploratory drilling in the area until May.

Activists have been aiming to stop IGas staff from accessing the site until this permission expires.

The camp has been continuously occupied since April 2014, and fortified with tunnels, treehouses and a moat, since IGas was given a possession order in November last year.

Protesters locked themselves underground and high up on unstable structures in an effort to make the eviction as long and costly as possible.

Matt Bryan, a Labour councillor for Cheshire West, was one of the nine people arrested after he climbed on to a digger in an effort to delay the eviction because he believed activists were trapped underground.

Bryan said:

It’s a miracle nobody was killed. As soon as the police advised me that the appropriate measures had been taken, I removed myself and climbed down from the loader, at which point they arrested me for obstructing a police officer.

Karen Harris, an Upton resident and member of Frack Free Dee, a collective of anti-fracking groups located around the River Dee catchment, said:

We surveyed our neighbours and over 85% do not want this industry here or anywhere else. There is no community consent for this work to take place and we’ll be doing everything we can to defend ourselves.

There is a school within 500 metres of the site and houses within 200 metres. We’re not stupid, we can look to America for 10 years’ worth of evidence as to what fracking means for communities. We won’t have our health and environment ruined just to make a small number of people a large amount of money.


Currently, no protesters are at the camp according to police which remain on site. However, activists told the Guardian on Thursday they would not be defeated despite the police presence.

Anna Davis, 32, said:

It was really quite sad when the camp finally came to an end, but we will not be defeated and we are going to keep up the pressure. A visible opposition will remain at either end of the cordon.

Climate change slows onset of next ice age Mon, 18 Jan 2016 12:21:36 +0000 Jökulsárlón glacier lake in Iceland - a remnant of the last ice age. Creative Commons: Arian Zwegers, 2010
Ice Age

Jökulsárlón glacier lake in Iceland – a remnant of the last ice age. Creative Commons: Arian Zwegers, 2010

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Human beings have not just started to leave a unique geological stratum that will announce their existence long after the species has been extinguished. They may have altered a climate cycle that has been stable for millions of years and even cancelled – or certainly postponed – the next Ice Age.

Andrey Ganopolski and colleagues from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany report in Nature that they took a look at the conditions that determined the geologically recent cycle of Ice Ages.

The advance and retreat of vast glaciers over geological time are the consequence of a mix of factors involving sea, mountains, atmosphere, vegetation and the distribution of continents around the globe.

But ultimately what determines the rhythm of these events is what climate scientists call insolation: how much sun the Earth actually gets in a summer. The Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse, and the shape of the ellipse and the angle of the Earth’s tilt on its axis change subtly and imperceptibly over cycles lasting tens of thousands of years, which in turn alters the amount of sunshine striking the northern hemisphere.

And if the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are not high when the total insolation is near its lowest point, great thick sheets of ice begin to advance over Europe, Asia and North America.

This is enough to explain the last eight Ice Ages. The sequence is punctuated by “interglacials” that tend to last roughly 10,000 years before the ice advances once more.

But at the end of the last Ice Age something happened: humans had discovered fire, and then used it to invent agriculture and metal foundries, and then began to alter the carbon balance in the atmosphere, even before the discovery of fossil fuels.

“We are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented. It is mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism that shaped the world as we know it”

Geologists have a name for this present interglacial epoch. They call it the Holocene. “Even without man-made climate change we would expect the beginning of a new ice age no earlier than in 50.000 years from now – which makes the Holocene as the present geological epoch an unusually long period in between ice ages,” Dr Ganopolski said.

“However, our study also shows that relatively moderate additional anthropogenic CO2 emissions from burning oil, coal and gas are already sufficient to postpone the next ice age for another 50.000 years.

“The bottom line is that we are basically skipping a whole glacial cycle, which is unprecedented. It is mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism that shaped the world as we know it.”

Geologists have already proposed that the Holocene be renamed the Anthropocene, from the Greek anthropos for mankind. The interest in the Ice Age mechanisms is not new: in the 1970s, climate scientists began to ask whether a glaciated world could come back.

Within a decade, it became clear that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels would be too high to permit another immediate Big Freeze, and would go on rising.

What the Potsdam scientists have done, using climate simulations, is to pinpoint the intricate balance of insolation and atmospheric chemistry that controls the beginning and the end of an Ice Age.

Continuing rise

And once humans had begun to exhume all the ancient sunshine of the Carboniferous Period that ended 300 million years ago, and return it to the 20thcentury atmosphere as greenhouse gases, the combustion products of coal, oil and methane, the cycle was interrupted.

It is likely to stay warm for a period far longer than all recorded human history so far. Even if humans drastically reduce the combustion of fossil fuels this century, enough will enter the atmosphere to keep carbon dioxide levels high, and global temperatures and sea levels will go on rising.

“Like no other force on the planet, ice ages have shaped the global environment and thereby determined the development of human civilisation. For instance, we owe our fertile soil to the last ice age that also carved out today’s landscapes, leaving glaciers and rivers behind, forming fjords, moraines and lakes.

“However, today it is humankind with its emissions from burning fossil fuels that determines the future development of the planet,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the institute and one of the authors.

“This illustrates very clearly that we have long entered a new era, and that in the Anthropocene humanity itself has become a geological force. In fact, an epoch could be ushered in which might be dubbed the Deglacial.”

Andrew Watson, of the University of Exeter, UK, said the study confirmed what he and others had suspected for some time. “Humans now effectively control the climate of the planet.

If only we were wise enough to be able to use that power responsibly, this might be a good thing, as a planet that avoided major ice ages would probably be better for most of the species living on it. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve reached that level of wisdom yet.”

Another nail in coal’s coffin: US halts leases on public lands for better climate Fri, 15 Jan 2016 10:02:33 +0000 coal's coffin
coal's coffin

Creative Commons: 2013

The United States announced today it will pause granting permits for new coal mining projects on public lands for three years, sending another strong signal that there is no future in the already flailing coal industry.

Nearly half of American coal production takes place on federal lands, and Friday’s announcement is seen as another step by the Obama administration to control climate change following a historic agreement by 200 nations last month to transition the world towards a renewable-powered future.

From China to the US, the global coal industry has been in disarray for years as the health impacts and economic risks to investors become more and more apparent, while the cost of cleaner energy sources plummet.

Today’s move gives the US government time to analyze how to protect taxpayers from these risks while simultaneously addressing climate change.

Key Points

  • Halting coal leases on public lands directly takes on climate change and bolsters Obama’s legacy on climate. During the his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama called to “accelerate the transition away from dirty energy” in order to curb the climate crisis, and even pledged to push for change on leases that currently make it easier to extract coal on public land. Days later, the US President is fulfilling one of those commitments, and he has until the end of 2016 to craft even more climate-friendly policies that last beyond the end of his term in office.
  • Acting for the climate could place the US at the forefront of the global renewable industry. The future for coal is deteriorating faster than anyone imagined, with coal companies like India’s Adani on the verge of “junk” credit ratings.  Meanwhile in the US, the renewable energy narrative is turning out to be one of the success stories of the economic recovery as the country continues to maintain its lead in global wind power generation, while the booming solar industry now employs more solar workers than the coal industry.

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Climate and laws fan Brazil’s forest fires Thu, 14 Jan 2016 10:52:37 +0000 Forest fires
Forest fires

Creative Commons: Shankar S, 2014

Authored by Jan Rocha, re-posted from Climate News Network

Almost a quarter of a million forest fires were detected in Brazil last year – and the main cause of a huge increase is being attributed to climate change that brought about a year-long drought in much of the country.

Satellite data revealed a 27.5% increase in forest fires in 2015 compared with the previous year. The total number was 235,629, almost as high as the record of 249,291 in 2010.

Dr Alberto Setzer, co-ordinator of the Nucleus for Forest Fires at INPE − Brazil’s national space research institute, which monitors deforestation − says: “This (2015) was a year with less rain, and hotter than the historic average, especially in central Brazil, in the south of the Amazon region and in parts of the Northeast. Some regions registered temperatures 4°C above the average.”

These conditions favour the spread of fires, but Dr Setzer emphasises that it was not spontaneous combustion that caused the fires. “It was human activity, whether carelessness or deliberate,” he says.

Stark contrast

The increase in forest fires contributed to the general 16% increase in deforestation registered in 2015. And these figures present a stark contrast to Brazil’s commitment at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris last month to reduce carbon emissions by 43% by 2030.

To achieve this, the government promised it would ensure zero illegal deforestation. Yet a lot of deforestation is technically legal, thanks to changes to the country’s Forest Code.

Also in jarring contrast to the government’s Paris commitment are two bills now under debate in congress, which, if made law, will greatly increase “legal” deforestation.

One will overturn the ban on infrastructure projects inside indigenous territories, with a payoff to the communities of 2% of the value of the project.

The other will streamline the environmental licensing system for major infrastructure projects, such as roads and dams.

The existing system demands detailed environmental, anthropological and archaeological studies and public hearings before a project is given the go-ahead. Not only will this system be scrapped, it will be replaced with self-licensing by the very companies that plan to build the projects.

If the president sanctions both these bills, they will actively stimulate deforestation.

Studies show that most deforestation takes place around these big projects, because they open up access to previously inaccessible areas. They also show that indigenous reserves in the Amazon region tend to be far better preserved than surrounding areas.

If congress approves both these bills, and the president sanctions them, they will actively stimulate deforestation.

Last year’s fires occurred all over Brazil, but most of them were in the greater Amazon region, where three of the largest states, Pará, Mato Grosso and Maranhão, accounted for over 100,000 fires.

In Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, a dense pall of smoke from forest fires covered the city for most of the month of October, causing a big rise in respiratory problems among the population. Record temperatures of almost 40°C were also registered in October, the highest since records began 90 years ago.

Contributing factors, Setzer believes, are the rise in meat prices, which has encouraged cattle farmers to open up new pastures in forested areas, and the reduction in monitoring − the result of cuts to government budgets caused by Brazil’s recession.

Agricultural powerhouse

Of the fires, 8,000 occurred in the central region, where the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia share borders. This area, which encroaches on the cerrado, a vast tropical savanna ecoregion that is one of Brazil’s most threatened biomes, has become a fast-developing new agricultural powerhouse, producing soy, maize and cotton.

“We only get indignant when the fires are in the Amazon, but they are advancing on the cerrado, causing extensive environmental damage,” Setzer says.

In one of the few remaining pre-Amazon forest areas in Maranhão, the Arariboia reserve, the fire raged for two months, destroying much of the habitat of groups of uncontacted Awá indigenous people.

The monster fire, believed to have been deliberately ignited by illegal loggers, destroyed an immense area the size of 260,000 football pitches. The lack of firefighters contributed to the unchecked spread of the blaze.

A total of 999 fires for the first four days of January 2016 − an increase of 85% over the same period in 2015 – was recorded by INPE.

Meanwhile, weather forecasters say 2016 will be as dry as last year, under the continuing influence of El Niño. If the forecasters are correct, and the proposed government bills are passed, then 2016 will be a year of “burn, Brazil, burn”.

Obama kicks off countdown to seal end-of-term climate legacy Wed, 13 Jan 2016 17:11:55 +0000 climate legacy
climate legacy

Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House

US President Barack Obama has underscored climate progress under his leadership, calling on Americans to “invest in the future” by keeping the momentum going into the next presidency.

During his final State of the Union address, President Obama boasted about his country’s climate accomplishments in the last few months, notably helping to foster the Paris Agreement alongside nearly 200 countries.

He also pledged to push for change on public land leases for mining, which would have a significant impact on an already-ailing coal industry.

Shutting down climate science deniers, the president argued that they will find themselves “pretty lonely” as the rest of the world moves forward towards a low-carbon future.

As Obama spoke of climate risks and opportunities, he drew links between national security and climate stability, also taking the time to emphasize the benefits of renewable energy for people’s health and the economy. While most welcomed the president’s remarks, some fear that they are mostly rhetoric, citing his push for a Trans-Pacific

Partnership deal, which has been deplored by many environmentalists. With the president getting ready to pass the torch on to the next leader in the coming months, all eyes will be on candidates seeking to succeed Obama to follow up on these commitments and lead the ongoing global energy transition.

Key Points

  • Acting for the climate is rising in political popularity. In the US, the renewable energy narrative is turning out to be one of the success stories of the economic recovery, with the country maintaining its lead in wind power generation while seeing a sudden burst of solar employment. As Americans increasingly recognize that climate action and economic growth are not mutually exclusive, politicians are beginning to pay attention, too.
  • If the US is serious about the climate, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Yesterday, President Obama called to “accelerate the transition away from dirty energy” in order to curb the climate crisis, and even pledged to push for change on leases that currently make it easier to extract coal on public land. If the American government is truly committed to making climate a priority, leaders need to be ready to stand up to the oil lobby, continue investing in renewable projects and put an end to facilitating fossil fuel extraction both domestically and abroad.
  • 2016 is the final opportunity for President Obama to cement his climate legacy. In the coming year, the Obama administration will be able to craft policies that will last far beyond the end of his term. Be it how the US develops fossil fuels on public lands, if it decides to drill for oil in the Arctic or the Atlantic Ocean, and how the nation deals with the constant issues related to fracking, there are plenty of choices Obama can make to lay down his climate legacy.

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Humans’ indelible mark on new geological epoch Wed, 13 Jan 2016 09:46:24 +0000 new era
new era

Creative Commons: 2011

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Geologists are convinced that humans have left a mark upon the planet that will detectable millions of years from now.

Long after human civilisation has perished, there could be a stratum of fossilised rock and a geological time zone that says: “We were here.” So there is a case for calling the present epoch “the Anthropocene” − probably dating from about 65 years ago.

The term Anthropocene derives from the ancient Greek for humankind. And for more than a decade, scientists have been arguing about whether what is officially known as the Holocene epoch of the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic era should be renamed to indicate human impact. There have been arguments in plenty.

Humans have appropriated most of the world’s available fresh water for their own use; as miners, road-makers and city builders, they have become a greater earth-moving force even than wind, water and ice; and they have altered the composition of the atmosphere.

Dramatically altered

They have also dramatically altered the natural land cover, and have pushed into the shadow of extinction an alarming proportion of the other 10 million or so species that share the planet and its resources.

Climate and environmental scientists have frequently invoked the term Anthropocene to highlight the impact of humans on the planet, and even started to think about how and when to date the most significant evidence of change.

But Colin Waters, principal mapping geologist at the British Geological Survey, and colleagues report in Science journal that they put the question in a different form: to what extent are human actions recorded as measurable signals in geological strata? And would the Anthropocene strata be markedly different from the Holocene that began with the end of the last Ice Age nearly 12,000 years ago?

“Recently, there has been a rapid global spread of novel materials − including aluminium, concrete and plastics − that are leaving their mark in sediments”

The answer is, yes: the human geological signature could be discerned, across the planet, in materials that were not available in the same way in any previous epoch. The evidence will be, in every sense, concrete.

“Humans have long affected the environment, but recently there has been a rapid global spread of novel materials − including aluminium, concrete and plastics − that are leaving their mark in sediments.

Fossil fuel combustion has dispersed fly ash particles worldwide, pretty well coincident with the peak distribution of the “bomb spike” of radionuclides generated by atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, Dr Waters says.

Aluminium is plentiful in the Earth’s crust in compound mineral form, but refined aluminium is a marker of 20th-century human presence. So is concrete. The ancient Romans may have pioneered the use of this crushed and baked version of limestone, but as a universal and ubiquitous building material, it began to appear only in the last 100 years.

The combustion of fossil fuels has distributed soot, heavy metals and aerosols in mixtures and concentrations that had never existed before the commercial power stations, factories, railways and motor cars. And the atmospheric tests in the 1950s and 1960s of atomic and thermonuclear weapons left a series of “spikes” of signature isotopes.

Nitrate levels

Soil nitrogen and phosphorus levels have doubled in the last century because of agricultural use, and even in places where agriculture does not happen the nitrate levels in the lakes of Greenland are higher than at any time in the last 10,000 years.

And if the signature of altered ratios of “natural” materials was not enough, humankind will have left its mark in exotic plastic fabrics gathering in the planet’s oceans at an estimated rate in 2015 of 9 million tonnes a year.

The precise nomenclature of geological time zones is a convenience largely for professional geologists and palaeontologists. But the researchers do not see their argument as a purely academic one. Names tell us something.

“Quite unlike other subdivisions of geological time, the implications of formalising the Anthropocene reach well beyond the geological community,” they conclude.

“Not only would this represent the first instance of a new epoch having been witnessed firsthand by advanced human societies, it would be one stemming from the consequences of their own doing.”

Coal in trouble as fortunes fade Tue, 12 Jan 2016 12:06:51 +0000 coal

Creative Commons: Herry Lawford, 2005

If 2015 was “the year that coal broke”, 2016 is already confirming it’s unfixable.

China announced the closure of 1,000 coal mines, while 2015 US coal production was shown to be the lowest in 30 years, as yet another of the country’s major coal players filed for bankruptcy.

The coal industry complains it is being “vilified” as “public energy number one”, but fresh research shows the harm new plants would do.

Only a few nations now linger at the toxic coal party: Australia is exporting as much coal as it can despite the fact it’s making its citizens sick.

India is still banking on coal despite its renewable energy ambition. Poland and Turkey want to burn even more of the black stuff.

But with renewables making countries both wealthier and healthier, and a clean energy future indicated at the highest levels, there is no reason to cling onto harmful fossil fuels.

Those countries which do could face legal consequences, as well as dealing with the inevitable damage to their economy, health and community.

Key Points

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Tell Obama and the EPA: Stop the worst methane leak in history Mon, 11 Jan 2016 22:34:43 +0000 methane leak Porter Ranch Natural Gas
methane leak Porter Ranch Natural Gas

Aliso Canyon methane leak. Photo courtesy of Earthworks

Can you imagine if, during the three months of the Gulf Oil spill, President Obama hadn’t spoken about it, and hadn’t done anything to stop it?

Right now, the worst environmental catastrophe since BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill is underway in Los Angeles, but President Obama hasn’t gotten involved.

Since late October, an uncontrolled leak at SoCalGas’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in LA’s Porter Ranch neighborhood, has been spewing 50 tons per hour of the potent greenhouse gas methane.

Every day it continues is the climate equivalent of another 7 million cars on the road. But SoCalGas is saying it will be at least another two months until they can stop it.

Thousands of families have been relocated and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

But the largest natural gas leak in history requires nothing less than the full mobilization of federal resources to do everything possible to stop it as soon as possible — and make sure nothing like this happens again.

This climate disaster highlights the deep contradiction at the heart of President Obama’s energy and climate policy: Simultaneously committing to fight climate change, while overseeing a massive expansion — and lax regulation of — fracking and natural gas.

Methane is 86 times more potent in our atmosphere over 20 years than carbon dioxide. While natural gas generates electricity with lower carbon emissions than coal, the massive leakage of unburned methane straight into the atmosphere cancels out those climate benefits — and could make gas even worse than coal at hastening global warming.

Regulation of the industry has been pitiful. Stunningly, the Aliso Canyon storage facility — the second largest in the nation — hasn’t had a safety valve in place since 1979, and in fact was not required to by law.

And while the Obama administration is releasing rules to cut down on methane leaks from new sources, existing facilities are, incredibly, not covered by the rules.

This continuing climate catastrophe must be halted as soon as possible, but it is not a mere isolated incident. It is the inevitable result of failed regulations, and the continued promotion of fossil fuels that are incompatible with fighting climate change.

Unless we move away from fossil fuels, disasters like this are destined to continue.

During the Gulf oil spill, President Obama said “the tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.”

That was true then and is true now as Aliso Canyon continues its apocalyptic eruption. President Obama is running out of time to heed his own words.

Sign the CREDO Action petition to tell President Obama and the EPA: Stop the Porter Ranch gas leak and make sure this never happens again.

Emissions cuts boost health and wealth Mon, 11 Jan 2016 12:38:57 +0000 emissions cuts
emissions cuts

Creative Commons: Activ Solar, 2013

Authored by Tim Radford, re-posted from Climate News Network

Going green by switching to renewable sources of electricity could be good business for the US, according to new research.

A report by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California says that cutting greenhouse gas emissions meant that the US as a whole was $2.2 billion better off in 2013.

And as a result of reductions in other forms of air pollution associated with burning coal, diesel and oil, in accordance with legislation known as state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), the US was perhaps $5.2 billion the richer.

The RPS are state impositions on utility companies, requiring them to generate a proportion of their electricity from sources that do not burn fossil fuels and thus stoke global warming by emitting the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

Different requirements

The requirements differ from state to state, and only 29 US states and Washington DC right now have such standards. Some states are contemplating revising or extending their standards.

Some US researchers have repeatedly argued that wind and solar sources could power the entire US. But in a nation in which only 44% of people accept the evidence of climate change, there is no rush to put such arguments to the test.

But the differences such legislation makes are measurable − sometimes with surprising precision. Because fossil fuel-burning power plants use water to turn into steam to drive turbines, and as coolant, the standards save water. In 2013, utilities reduced their withdrawals by 830 billion gallons and cut consumption by 27 billion gallons.

The greatest share of jobs generated by renewable energy industries was in California, which in 2013 invested heavily in photovoltaic generation

The report’s authors call their findings “impacts”, rather than benefits, because what might benefit one part of the economy imposes a cost somewhere else.

And their study is careful to embrace all the uncertainties of calculations that involve not just industrial book-keeping but social economics such as health costs and environmental benefits.

So the benefits from greenhouse gas reduction overall – a drop of 59 million tonnes – could be as high as $6.3 billion, or as low as $0.7bn, depending on how you do the accounting. Reductions in air pollution could deliver health benefits valued at $2.6bn or $9.9bn, depending on how you calculate, and then put a value upon, reductions in premature mortality.

The authors found that RPS policies supported 200,000 jobs in renewable energy-related businesses, and saved consumers $1.2bn in reduced electricity prices and somewhere between $1.3bn and $3.7bn in reduced natural gas prices, because renewable sources displaced natural gas generation.

Vulnerable states

Although the accounting was conducted on a national basis, the report recognises that some states may have experienced more impact than others. The people who felt most keenly the reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions – down by 77,400 tonnes – from coal-fired plant were mostly in the Great Lakes, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Texas regions.

The people who benefited most from reductions in water withdrawal were in California and Texas − both states that are vulnerable to drought.

And the greatest share of jobs generated by renewable energy industries was in California, which in 2013 invested heavily in photovoltaic generation.

Altogether, the 29 states produced 98 terawatt-hours in 2013 (98 million megawatt-hours) of “new” renewable energy – that is, from plant built after the RPS standards were made into legislation. One megawatt-hour is roughly equal to the total amount of electrical energy used by about 330 US homes during one hour.

Although the new energy is just 2.4% of nationwide electricity generation, it represents a 3.6% drop in total fossil fuel generation.

Study: Climate change cuts crop harvests by 10% Fri, 08 Jan 2016 16:30:19 +0000 Creative Commons: Chris Hartman, 2009.
Creative Commons: Chris Hartman, 2009.

Creative Commons: Chris Hartman, 2009.

Extreme heat events and droughts may already be taking their toll on global agriculture, cutting cereal yields by up to 10% on average, according to new research.

Published in the Nature journal, the study may be first comprehensive overview of how climate change affects aspects such as crop area, yields and production around the world since the 1960s.

Researchers from McGill University and the University of British Columbia analysed national production data for 16 cereals in 177 countries, all of which were included in an international database of extreme weather disasters.

Notably, the percentage of crop losses was found to be higher in developed nations than in developing countries.

In North America, Europe and Australasia, harvest levels dropped by an average of 19.9% because of drought − 8% to 11% more than in developing countries.

According to the researchers’ analysis of the effects of around 2800 weather disasters between 1964 and 2007, the impact from droughts has also increased since 1985.

The researchers reported:

Present climate projections suggest that extreme heat events will be increasingly common and severe in the future. Droughts are likely to become more frequent in some regions, although considerable uncertainty persists in the projections.

Senior author Professor Navin Ramankutty, professor in global food security and sustainability at the University of British Columbia said:

We have always known that extreme weather causes crop production losses. But until now we did not know exactly how much global production was lost to such extreme weather events, and how they varied by different regions of the world.

His co-author, Corey Lesk, a geographer at McGill University in Montreal said:

Across the breadbaskets of North America, for example, the crops and methods of farming are very uniform across huge areas, so if a drought hits in a way that is damaging to those crops, they will all suffer.

By contrast, in much of the developing world, the cropping systems are a patchwork of small fields with diverse crops. If a drought hits, some of those crops may be damaged, but others may survive.

One positive note emerged from the findings: the extreme weather events had no significant lasting impact on agricultural production in the years following the disasters.

Ramankutty said:

Our findings may help guide agricultural priorities and adaptation efforts, to better protect farming systems and the populations that depend on them.

Californians come to grips with fracking risks during state of emergency Fri, 08 Jan 2016 12:36:26 +0000 fracking risks
fracking risks

Creative Commons: Earthworks, 2015

As the Porter Ranch fracking disaster threatens to plunge the US into the most significant environmental crisis since the Gulf Oil Spill, Governor Jerry Brown ordered “all necessary and viable actions” be taken to contain a massive methane leak at the Aliso Canyon gas facility on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

The leak, which occurred at the Southern California Gas Company’s fracking facility, continues to spew methane into the sky for nearly 12 weeks at a rate that now accounts for about a quarter of the state’s total emissions of methane.

The company claims that the leaked methane is harmless to the health of the families of Porter Ranch, though residents have been complaining of nausea, headaches and other symptoms, and a lawyer with the Environmental Defense Fund even called the leak “an environmental and public health catastrophe.”

More than 6,000 residents of Porter Ranch, California have applied to be relocated away from the fumes, though just over 2,000 have actually been relocated by the Southern California Gas Company.

Key Points

  • Failure to transition away from fossil fuels risks jeopardizing people’s health. The Porter Ranch fracking disaster happened so close to a major population centre, and beyond the mental stress resulting from relocating thousands of families, many of them are experiencing medical symptoms like nausea and headaches. Whether it’s methane from fracking for natural gas or dirty air near coal power plants, fossil fuels come with health risks.

Find more resources here >>

Warming fuels rise in methane threat Thu, 07 Jan 2016 10:11:23 +0000 methane threat
methane threat

Creative Commons: Madhav Pai, 2007

Authored by Alex Kirby, re-posted from Climate News Network

There is fresh concern among scientists over the rises they are detecting in one of the chief greenhouse gases, methane.

A team of researchers from universities in Sweden and the US says methane is increasing in the atmosphere fast enough for emissions of the gas possibly to rise by between 20% and 50% before the end of the century.

Over a century, methane is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the main gas contributing to global warming. But over a 20-year period, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2.

Many methane sources are poorly understood, including lakes at high northern latitudes. But the researchers hope this may change.

Water bodies

A study in Nature Geoscience describes how compiling previously reported measurements made at 733 northern water bodies − from small ponds formed by beavers to large lakes formed by permafrost thaw or ice-sheets – has enabled researchers to estimate emissions over large scales more accurately.

“The release of methane from northern lakes and ponds needs to be taken seriously,” says study leader Martin Wik, a PhD student at the Department of Geological Sciences and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University.

“These waters are significant, contemporary sources because they cover large parts of the landscape. They are also likely to emit even more methane in the future.”

“Efforts to reduce human-induced warming are even more urgent in order to minimise this type of feedback of natural greenhouse gas emissions”

Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as they are anywhere else in the world. At high northern latitudes, this warming means longer ice-free seasons. Together with permafrost thaw, this is likely to fuel methane release from lakes, potentially causing emissions to increase by between a fifth and a half by 2100.

Change on this scale would probably generate a positive feedback in future warming, causing emissions to increase still further.

 “This means that efforts to reduce human-induced warming are even more urgent in order to minimise this type of feedback of natural greenhouse gas emissions,” says a co-author of the study, David Bastviken, senior lecturer in environmental change at Linköping University. Sweden. “In a sense, every reduction in emissions from fossil fuels is a double victory.”

Faster than expected

Two reports published last month raised concerns that methane emissions could be increasing faster than expected.

The first found that the quantity of methane leaking from the frozen soil during the long Arctic winters is probably much greater than climate models estimate.

Another study by US scientists said lakes worldwide are warming by an average of more than 1°C every 30 years − faster than either the oceans or the atmosphere.

The warming is expected to increase algal blooms, and to mean global methane emissions will rise by 4% over the next decade.

China clamps down on coal Thu, 07 Jan 2016 09:56:39 +0000 China clamps down on coal
China clamps down on coal

Creative Commons: Herry Lawford, 2005

Authored by Kieran Cooke, re-posted from Climate News Network

China says it will not approve any new coal mines for the next three years. The country’s National Energy Administration(NEA) says more than 1,000 existing mines will also be closed over the coming year, reducing total coal production by 70 million tons.

Analysts say this is the first time Beijing has put a ban on the opening of new mines: the move has been prompted both by falling demand for coal as a result of a slowing economy and by increasing public concern about hazardous levels of pollution, which have blanketed many cities across the country over recent months.

Beijing, a city of nearly 20 million, issued two red smog alerts – the most serious air pollution warning – in December, causing schools to close and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors. 

A 2015 study estimated that air pollution – much of it from the widespread burning of coal – contributed to up to 1.6 million deaths each year in China. 

The country is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel. Emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial concerns in China have made it the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, putting more climate-changing gases into the atmosphere each year than the US and the European Union combined

Coal’s share falling

In accordance with an agreement reached with the US in late 2014, and in line with pledges made at the recent Paris summit on climate change, China aims to radically cut back on coal use in future.

In 2010, coal generated about 70% of China’s total energy: last year that figuredropped to 64% as more large-scale investments in renewable energy sources came on stream.  

Whether or not that decline in coal use will be speedy or ambitious enough to head off serious national and international climate change is not clear.

There are also questions about whether the coal-mining regions of China – predominantly in the north of the country – will ever recover from the environmental devastation inflicted on them.

Uranium risk

Vast swathes of land in Shanxi province, once the main coal production area, have been destroyed by mining: air and water pollution has caused a health crisis in many regions. 

The province of Inner Mongolia – bigger than France and Spain combined –  is now the main area for coal, accounting for about 25% of China’s total production, most of it through open-cast mining. Copper, lead and uranium are also mined in the province.

Indigenous groups of nomadic herders say their lands are being destroyed and water sources poisoned by mining, with ponds full of toxins littering the countryside. 

Concerns have also been raised about vast uranium deposits found near coal-mining areas. China’s fast-growing nuclear industry has complained that vital uranium deposits might be contaminated by coal mining: others fear that uranium-contaminated coal could be being burned in power stations, showering radioactive dust on the surrounding countryside and its inhabitants.

Hilary Lewis: Porter Ranch methane leak doesn’t bode well for climate Thu, 07 Jan 2016 09:50:00 +0000 Creative Commons: Earthworks, 2015
Creative Commons: Earthworks, 2015

Creative Commons: Earthworks, 2015

Authored by Hilary Lewis, re-posted from Earthworks

Have you ever seen methane? What about benzene? Or the chemical the gas company adds to make your stovetop gas stink, mercaptan? I asked residents at a Save Porter Ranch meeting in northwest Los Angeles if they had seen the pollution they knew was in their community, pouring down from the SoCal Gas storage facility on the hill behind town.

No one responded.

For months now, methane pollution has been billowing from the breached facility into their community. Families have reported bad odors resulting in headaches and nosebleeds. Over 1,000 families have already chosen to relocate and the school district recently authorized the two local schools to move out of the area. But no one had actually seen the pollution.

When an oil spill happens, you see it. At a coal fired power plant, you can often see the pollution blowing in the wind. But when a natural gas storage facility pollutes, what do you see?

Until now, you saw nothing. That’s because much oil and gas air pollution is normally invisible.

My colleague Pete Dronkers and I traveled to the community of Porter Ranch to show them the pollution they knew was there, but couldn’t see.

For Porter Ranch this was a critical step in gaining recognition for the problem. In Earthworks’ experience, showing someone pollution that is otherwise invisible makes it real, and helps catalyze much needed action. For many of the communities we serve, the polluter won’t admit there is pollution at all, so our videos are concrete evidence that something is wrong.

Earthworks uses a FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) Gasfinder 320 camera that is specially calibrated to expose otherwise invisible air pollution from oil and gas operations. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is one of about 20 gases it can detect. It also recognizes known carcinogens like benzene and other toxins like volatile organic compounds.

The camera is the same model that industry and government regulators use to detect leaks and other pollution associated with oil and gas. And Pete went through the three day training that FLIR recommends and state regulators also use to get certified to operate it. That, plus the $100,000 price tag, have kept this eye-opening technology out of the hands of the communities that need it most, until now.

What I saw in Porter Ranch was shocking. The black plume picked-up by the camera went on-and-on. But, unfortunately, I have seen it many times before.

Earthworks has filmed over 150 oil and gas facilities in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and other parts of California. While the camera shows the presence of the group of pollutants it detects, we can be relatively certain in this situation that the pollution is mostly methane because it was leaking from a natural gas storage field.

In Porter Ranch, and across the country, air testing is used to figure out exactly what type and how much pollution is in the air. Tests are ongoing in Porter Ranch, and have already found elevated levels of benzene. But no matter the facility, in our experience, almost everything is leaking something.

This pollution must be stopped:

  • Natural gas and natural gas drilling operations (mostly hydraulic fracturing a.k.a fracking) often bring up ‘hitchhikers’ like benzene with the natural gas that drillers seek. These pollutants can be harmful to human health and have led to documented health impacts for people living near compressor stations, pipelines, fracking facilities, etc.

Making visible the normally invisible pollution from oil and gas development is a critical step in generating the political will to take meaningful action on potent climate and health pollutants. The new climate agreement signed in Paris will fall short if we do not address all sources of oil and gas methane pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that would help us meet our climate commitments by cutting oil and gas methane pollution. But EPA’s proposal doesn’t cover existing facilities, or storage fields like the one near Porter Ranch. Hopefully we will learn from SoCal Gas’ disastrous Porter Ranch experience. Without strong standards that require cutting oil and gas methane pollution from all sources, our climate and our communities will remain at risk.

Read more: EarthWorks >>

Pressure on polluters set to grow in 2016, as year starts with storms Thu, 07 Jan 2016 09:39:57 +0000 storms

Creative Commons: 2008

With 2016 already forecast to be the hottest year on record, extreme weather events, like those which have battered countries across the world this New Year look set to become the new normal.

From floods in the UK to storms and unprecedented winter warmth in the US, forest fires in Australia and a North Pole ‘heatwave’, the conditions are being blamed on a record El Niño effect combined with rising global temperatures.

But while the impacts of climate change have never been so apparent, neither have the solutions, and with last month’s Paris Agreement showingleaders’ intent to achieve 100 per cent renewables, real world progress is set to gather speed.

Clean energy financing and installations will climbas fossil fuels slither, with a methane leak forcing Californians out of their homes the latest example of how dirty energy endangers health, communities and investments. And with its climate-denying lies, lobbying and greenwashing common knowledge, the big energy sector has run out of strategies to stay afloat.

While there are many unknowns ahead this year, what is certain is that civil society will continue to mobilise,governments crack down on coal, campaigners use the courts to impose change, and institutions and investors force polluters to come clean on their unsustainable business models. In this way, 2016 is set to bring a fully renewable energy system a big step closer.

Key Points

  • A warming planet means food shortages, droughts, unrest and suffering. The expected record-breaking global temperatures this year will have dire consequences on the world’s most vulnerable, helping disease to spread, stunting crop growth, destroying habitats and affecting water supplies. Only cutting carbon emissions and ending fossil fuel use will slow global warming and the destruction it does.

Find more resources here >>

Diego Arguedas Ortiz: Paris delivers the promised climate deal to resounding cheer and applause Wed, 16 Dec 2015 17:27:02 +0000 climate deal
climate deal

Courtesy of: Joel Lukhovi | Survival Media Agency, 2015

Authored by Diego Arguedas Ortiz, reposted from IPS
Diego Arguedas Ortiz is a journalist based in San José, Costa Rica.

The impossible was made possible. Governments from 195 countries around the world emerged here with the first universal agreement to cut greenhouse gases emissions and reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

After two weeks’ worth of intense negotiations at the 2015 Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, diplomats and ministers cheered the Paris Agreement as completion of a four-year long process with many checkpoints.

A French-woven process managed to avoid the fate of the failed 2009 climate summit, the last time such an ambitious agreement was attempted, and delivered a robust treaty that includes everything from financial obligations and the respect of human rights and ecosystems’ integrity.

“It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement. Today it is a moment of truth,” said French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, who chaired the summit over the two weeks.

After almost two hours in the Plenary Room and a quiet discussion over the choice of a verb in a critical article in the agreement (a “shall” instead of a “should”), Fabius was finally able to line-up delegates in their positions and pick up the thematic COP21 gavel: “It is a small gavel but I think it can do a great job.”

If ratified by the now signing parties, it would be the first globally legal agreement tasking every nation with addressing climate change. It will succeed the Kyoto Protocol which is now an obsolete treaty that never lived to its expectations and only charged developed countries with responsibility.

The resulting science-advised agreement managed to gather support from all the negotiating groups in the UN Climate Convention, from the bloc of small insular states to the alliance of industrialized nations.

“The text is not perfect but it is a good foundation for climate action,” declared the South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, after the ovation following its approval.

“This is a first step of a long journey,” concluded the minister, the first among those who spoke during the closing plenary.

Many of the delegates who took the floor during the night recalled the need for fuelling the Agreement’s implementation during the forthcoming years, specially at 2016’s climate summit to be held in Marrakech, Morocco.

Through this deal, the world agrees to limit the increase in global temperature to “well below 2C” and in pursuit of 1.5C, a target that might save the world’s most vulnerable countries, particularly atoll nations in the Pacific, Indian and Caribbean.

It also grants 100 billion dollars a year from developed countries after 2020, formalizes a mechanism established two years ago to address irreparable damage caused by climate change and defined a long term goal, which was defined as the balance between emissions and carbon sinks, something between 2050 and 2100.

The agreement came after two weeks of intense talks in the massive conference center at Le Bourget, in the outskirts of Paris, lead in the indaba format used for the Durban Climate Talks in 2011 which began the road for the Paris Agreement.

“Despite diversity and divergence, we have found common ground.” said Emmanuel M. de Guzman, Climate Change Commissioner and head delegate for the Philippines.

The negotiator stated that the summit “has given us 1.5 to survive and thrive. It’s now up to us all to bring that vision into reality,” through national actions and international cooperation.

Once again, the Philippines was among the leading voices during the climate talks, this time leading the charge with the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a self-defined “leadership group” of 33 countries that didn’t take part in negotiations but pressed hard on topics like the 1.5C goal.

“And now as one family of nations – as sisters and brothers of one world – we can move forward with greater resolve and ambition, hopeful of winning the fight against climate change. We may be vulnerable but we are also capable when we work together,” argued de Guzman.

Earlier on Saturday, Fabius had presented parties with what he considered to be a bridging proposal of the agreement, the fifth in the last two months alone. This was the agreed text countries signed in on Saturday.

The Agreement was acknowledged as a positive outcome by the majority of civil society observers, a signal of the growing transition from a fossil fuel dependent 20th century to a new economy based on renewable and green energy.

“The agreement’s temperature goal, net zero emissions objective, and processes to steadily increase the ambition of national emissions reduction commitments combine to send a clear message to the fossil fuel industry: after decades of deception and denial, your efforts to block action on climate change are no longer working.” said through a statement Alden Meyer Director of Policy and Strategy, Union of Concerned Scientists.

Many activists and even the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said they hoped the approval of the agreement would send a strong signal to private markets working in energy-related sectors to drop fossil fuels and invest in renewables.

Another major victory for sectors of civil society and international leaders like the former Irish President Mary Robinson was the inclusion of human rights and gender as a driving element for the Agreement.

After pushback from Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and developed nations such as the United States and Norway, the support of key players like Mexico, the Philippines and other Latin American emerging economies helped to keep their mention in the text.

Yet, experts were fast to acknowledge this was but one step in the urgently needed transition to a cleaner and more resilient economies.

“All countries have agreed upon the pathway to phase out all fossil fuels, but failed to make headway towards this common goal. This is why the hard work needs to continue after the summit”, said Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe.

Tom Burke: What the COP21 outcome means for fossil fuels Wed, 16 Dec 2015 16:39:51 +0000 COP21 Outcome
COP21 Outcome

Creative Commons: UNFCCC, 2015

Authored by Tom Burke, re-posted from E3G
Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G.

For a long time the fossil fuel industries have lived in a comfort zone. It was built on three key beliefs: the world would always need their products; energy technologies change slowly; governments will not act decisively to tackle climate change. Even before the climate summit in Paris there were signs that this zone was crumbling. Paris has blown it down completely.

The central political equation on which their comfortable house had been built has been changing for some time. The politics of climate change is increasingly driven by events. Things happen, and this year extreme weather events have happened across the world.

Facts can be argued with, but it is much harder to argue with the experiences people have. As these events have proliferated, creating compelling images of the human misery they cause and increasingly contributing to the flow of refugees, so the political risk of failing to act on climate change has increased.

Meanwhile the economic cost of climate action has fallen far more rapidly than was forecast. Because of this, renewable energy technologies for power last year attracted more investment globally than fossil fuels for the first time. This means they are also penetrating more rapidly into energy markets previously dominated by the fossil fuel industries.

This combination of the falling economic costs of action and the rising political costs of inaction was already changing the core equation on which the fossil fuel industries have counted for comfort. The agreement reached in Paris was better than expected. Unusually for any international treaty, as negotiations came down to the wire, ambition on some key issues increased.

Although much attention will focus on the detail of the text, the real significance of the Paris Agreement for the fossil fuel industries is the strength of the political signal that has been sent. As President Obama and many other leaders said, this marks a turning point. The world has come together and agreed to chart a pathway to a low carbon energy system.

The change already occurring in the core political equation of climate change will now accelerate. But it will be easy for the leaders of the  fossil fuel industries to lull themselves into a false sense of security. Although there are measures in the Agreement to make countries more transparently accountable for meeting their commitments, there is no formal mechanism for enforcement.

The temptation for the fossil fuel industries will be to believe that once the media spotlight moves away the desire of governments to fulfill their commitments will decline – ‘reality’ will reasserts itself. There are three big problems with this view: one political, one commercial and one financial.

The political problem is that in every country in the world there are large constituencies, in cities, in businesses and in civil society who are threatened by climate change. The Paris Agreement has strengthened their hand. As the impacts of climate change continue to grow they will continue to hold their national governments to account.

The commercial problem is that it may not be action by governments that makes the most difference. Another feature of Paris was the emergence of a much more diverse business voice. Until very recently public debate on climate change was dominated by those businesses keen to stick to business as usual.

Now we are hearing more from those businesses who want governments to move faster not slower to tackle climate change. Companies like Unilever with extended supply chains are already feeling the costs of a changing climate on products grown abroad such as tea. Other companies such as those making clean energy technologies see huge opportunities in a decarbonising world.

But perhaps most significantly for the oil companies, 13 CEOs, from the car industry, led by Renault, chose the Paris weekend to commit themselves to decarbonising transport over the next ‘two to three decades’. They anticipate 2 billion vehicles on the road by 2050 but are clear that ‘We cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels to power those vehicles…’ This commitment is a dagger pointing right at the heart of the most valuable part of a barrel of oil.

This changing landscape has not escaped the attention of the financial community. Global capital markets had already become wary about new investment in the coal industry prior to Paris following the impact of the debate on stranded assets. The insurance industry has recognised the scale of the threat a changing climate poses to its business for some time.

These anxieties were reinforced when the Governor of the Bank of England, and Chairman of the world’s Financial Stability Board made a speech recently pointing out the climate change posed a threat to the stability of the world financial system. Oil and gas investments are already high risk and returns on investment have fallen with the oil price. As investors’ perceptions of the relative risks of fossil fuels and low carbon technologies change so the ability of fossil fuels companies to raise capital will decline.

So, has the Paris Agreement buried the fossil fuel industries. No, but I can hear the sound of shovels digging.

Paris Agreement: Critical mass of nations to reach emission peak by 2030 Tue, 15 Dec 2015 16:43:22 +0000 Creative Commons: Nicolò Lazzati, 2014.
Creative Commons: Nicolò Lazzati, 2014.

Creative Commons: Nicolò Lazzati, 2014.

A critical mass of countries will peak their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as a result of commitments made as part of the UN climate deal agreed in Paris last Saturday (12 Dec), according to research by an environmental thinktank.

Data by the World Resources Institute (WRI) indicates that by 2030, 55% of global annual carbon emissions will be produced by countries that have reached or passed their peak emission levels, calculated as a proportion of 2012 levels.

Significantly, economic growth could soon no longer be linked to emissions growth, as the rates begin to decouple.

Due to improved energy efficiency and increased use of clean energy, global emissions neared a plateau last year, and even begun to drop in a number of countries, as economies continued to grow.

By 1990 emissions had peaked in just eight countries: Norway, Germany, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia.

By 1995 these countries had been joined by four others, the UK, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden.

At this point, these countries’ joint emissions totalled only 4% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, based on 2012 levels.

The WRI study suggested that, if governments fulfil commitments made before and during the Paris talks, emissions in China, Mexico, South Africa, and Brazil will peak, by 2030.

Notably, while China announced commitments to reduce its CO2 emissions by 2030, this commitment excludes non-CO2 emissions.

Non-CO2 gases account for roughly 20% of China’s total emissions. Only the CO2 emissions which are part of China’s peaking commitment were included in WRI’s calculation. The researchers assume that non-CO2 gases will continue to grow after 2030.

Kelly Levin, a senior associate with the WRI who led the research with institute fellow Jiawei Song, said the data on peak emissions represented a “major, positive tipping point”.

She said:

Now we are seeing some of the largest greenhouse gas producers commit to peaking their emissions, after which their emissions would fall. This is a significant departure from past commitments.

Coupled with the fact that many developed countries have already peaked emissions … [it] shows that we are moving towards a future that phases out emissions. This wouldn’t have happened without the contributions countries pledged for Paris.

However, Levin warned the changes would not come soon enough, since emissions would have to peak by 2020 if there was a chance of global warming being limited to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels.

She said countries needed to update their current commitments and increase their ambition every five years “so that global emissions peak and then decline even faster”.

Daily Tck: Historic climate agreement reflects real world change, protects vulnerable people Sun, 13 Dec 2015 19:14:09 +0000 historic climate deal
historic climate deal

Courtesy of: Emma Cassidy | Survival Media Agency, 2015

  • 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 have pulled together a full brief on the outcome of the Paris Climate Change Conference:

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.
Daily Tck: Day 11 of the Paris Climate Change Conference Fri, 11 Dec 2015 09:15:17 +0000 Paris climate change conference

The Daily Tck: A daily dispatch from the GCCA team at the UN climate talks in Bonn. Sign up to have them delivered to your inbox during the climate talks.

Paris climate change conference

Courtesy of: Emma Cassidy | Survival Media Agency

  • 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 2am on Friday morning. The Paris Climate Change Conference is still underway, with ministers once again working through the night to usher in a new global climate agreement.

The latest draft agreement shows significant progress since yesterday – our Climate Trackersrolled out an infographic documenting the changes.

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.”


Our Climate Trackers broke down Finance (here and here), Mitigation, Loss & Damage,Human Rights, Adaptation, and looked at some of the key men and women negotiating our future in these final hours.

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).

Possible Daily Tck Friday morning at 10am CST Monday

Things are moving fast, but we may host a Daily Tck meeting in Observer room 7 on Friday. If so, you can tune in live online. The Daily Tck meeting is a chance for civil society actors from across the UNFCCC to gather intelligence, share tactics and ignite collaboration. You can also sign-up for our COP21 mailing list, where we’ll share meeting notes and resources.

Catch the live-stream here:

The Climate Action Network is publishing daily ECO newsletters, laying out their case to negotiators.

The most useful hashtag for tracking the negotiations in real-time is #COP21. We’ll join the conversation on twitter via @tcktcktck.

Daily Tck: Day 10 of the Paris Climate Change Conference Thu, 10 Dec 2015 07:43:56 +0000 Paris climate conference

The Daily Tck: A daily dispatch from the GCCA team at the UN climate talks in Bonn. Sign up to have them delivered to your inbox during the climate talks.  

Paris climate conference

Courtesy of: Joel Lukhovi | Survival Media Agency, 2015

  • 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 Thursdayafternoon

The movement for a strong Paris outcome is gathering support from across the spectrum as 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 inWednesday’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.


Our Tree Team has a new alert summarizing some of the latest updates and coverage from Paris, and a slew of quotes from our partners and peers reacting to the new draft agreement and other developments from Wednesday.

Our Climate Trackers are rolling out incredible infographics to illustrate changes in the text andcountries’ reactions to updates.  Our Trackers also held out hope in the fight for including Human Rights in the Paris agreement. Keep watch for more updates from the trackers as the clock ‘tck’s down. Our Paris Tracker team is also writing for newspapers around the world. You can find some of those stories via their twitter group.

It’s been another busy day for the Green TV team too, who also joined today’s Aurora (the Polar Bear) action and the latest Fossil of the Day Award, as well as pulling together this great round-up of the role art and imagery has played at the Paris climate talks.

Four Pacific Islander spoken word poets, attending the UN climate summit as winners of the Spoken Word for the World competition, are featured by NBCNews today, highlighting the role their art could play in raising awareness of climate change.

Join our Daily Tck morning meeting live or online at 10am CST Monday

If you’re in Paris, join our Daily Tck meeting in Observer room 7 on Monday. If not, you can tune in live online. The Daily Tck meeting is a chance for civil society actors from across the UNFCCC to gather intelligence, share tactics and ignite collaboration. You can also sign-up for our COP21 mailing list, where we’ll share meeting notes and resources.

Catch the live-stream here:

The Climate Action Network is publishing daily ECO newsletters, laying out their case to negotiators.

The most useful hashtag for tracking the negotiations in real-time is #COP21. We’ll join the conversation on twitter via @tcktcktck.

Daily Tck: Day 9 of the Paris Climate Change Conference Wed, 09 Dec 2015 07:26:43 +0000 Paris climate change conference

The Daily Tck: A daily dispatch from the GCCA team at the UN climate talks in Bonn. Sign up to have them delivered to your inbox during the climate talks. 

Paris climate change conference

Courtesy of: Emma Cassidy | Survival Media Agency, 2015

  • 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 a pathway to below 1.5DegC of warming. Our partners staged a massive action which strengthened that call, with street theatre 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.


For a selection of graphics on what’s needed to keep global warming below 1.5DegC and the reality of coal check out the Climate Tracker flickr page.

Survival Media Agency published pics from a number of actions and events Wednesday, including a 1.5ºC action; a youth-led action calling for zero emissions by 2050; and an action on the links between health and climate change.

Join our Daily Tck morning meeting live or online at 10am CST Monday

If you’re in Paris, join our Daily Tck meeting in Observer room 7 on Monday. If not, you can tune in live online. The Daily Tck meeting is a chance for civil society actors from across the UNFCCC to gather intelligence, share tactics and ignite collaboration. You can also sign-up for our COP21 mailing list, where we’ll share meeting notes and resources.

Catch the live-stream here:

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.

The most useful hashtag for tracking the negotiations in real-time is #COP21. We’ll join the conversation on twitter via @tcktcktck.

Emissions stall as renewables move into top gear Tue, 08 Dec 2015 08:45:30 +0000 emissions stall
emissions stall

Creative Commons: 2010

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% 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% increase in global installed capacity for heating by 2030, as well as a 500% increase in power generation.

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.

All of those groups will be watching in the coming days to ensure ministers in Paris enshrine a path to 100% renewables in the text of a global climate agreement.

Including a strong mechanism to increase ambition and crucial financing and adaptation elements in the text, as well as addressing the issue of loss and damage, will help countries meet this goal and support those already reeling from the impacts of climate change.

Daily Tck: Day 8 of the Paris Climate Change Conference Tue, 08 Dec 2015 07:39:16 +0000 Courtesy of: Emma Cassidy | Survival Media Agency

The Daily Tck: A daily dispatch from the GCCA team at the UN climate talks in Bonn. Sign up to have them delivered to your inbox during the climate talks.  

Courtesy of: Emma Cassidy | Survival Media Agency

Courtesy of: Emma Cassidy | Survival Media Agency

  • Ministers’ dig into remaining issues as pressure builds to deliver on new global climate agreement
  • Positive moves toward agreement on 1.5C, 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. 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 1.5C from landing in the final Paris agreement, preferring the current, higher-risk, warming limit of 2C.

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 the 1.5DegC temperature goal.

Activists also joined together this weekend to send a large scale visual message for 100% renewable energy.


Our Tree team had a busy Monday, rolling out two alerts on the state of play and on somemajor renewables announcements.

The Green TV team have also been busy today examining the power of the renewable revolution and talking to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the role sub-national governments have to play in the fight against climate change. They also covered this last weekend’s Climate and Health Summit, where more than 1,700 health organizations representing over 13 million doctors, nurses and other health professionals called for a strong climate agreement.

For a selection of great graphics pulled together to help you share the story of the renewable energy transition, check out the Climate Tracker flickr page.

Join our Daily Tck morning meeting live or online at 10am CST Monday

If you’re in Paris, join our Daily Tck meeting in Observer room 7 on Monday. If not, you can tune in live online. The Daily Tck meeting is a chance for civil society actors from across the UNFCCC to gather intelligence, share tactics and ignite collaboration. You can also sign-up for our COP21 mailing list, where we’ll share meeting notes and resources.

Catch the live-stream here:

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.

The most useful hashtag for tracking the negotiations in real-time is #COP21. We’ll join the conversation on twitter via @tcktcktck.