TckTckTck The Global Call for Climate Action Fri, 22 May 2015 21:03:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF Fri, 22 May 2015 21:02:14 +0000 Fossil fuel subsidies currently exceed global healthcare spending. Creative Commons: Petr Štefek, 2005.
Fossil fuel subsidies currently exceed global healthcare spending.  Creative Commons: Petr Štefek, 2005.

Fossil fuel subsidies currently exceed global healthcare spending. Creative Commons: Petr Štefek, 2005.

A new report by the International Monetary Fund estimates that fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels.

The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not being made to pay the external costs by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These costs include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution, as well as to people across the globe affected by extreme weather conditions driven by climate change.

Cited by the Guardian, Nicholas Stern, climate economist at the London School of Economics, said:

This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.

Lord Stern also said that even the IMF’s vast subsidy figure was a significant underestimate:

A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.

The IMF, one of the world’s most respected financial institutions, said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%.

It would also reduce the number of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 50%, which amounts to about 1.6 million lives a year.

Furthermore, the IMF said the resources freed by ending fossil fuel subsidies could be an economic “game-changer” for many countries, by driving economic growth and poverty reduction through greater investment in infrastructure, health and education, as well as cutting taxes that restrict growth.

The true cost of fossil fuels

David Coady, the IMF representative in charge of the report, said: “When the [$5.3tn] number came out at first, we thought we had better double check this!” The broad picture of huge global subsidies was “extremely robust”, Coady said. “It is the true cost associated with fossil fuel subsidies.”

The IMF estimate of $5.3tn in fossil fuel subsidies represents 6.5% of global GDP.

Just over half the figure is the money governments are forced to spend treating the victims of air pollution and the income lost because of ill health and premature deaths.

The figure is higher than a 2013 IMF estimate, because new data from the World Health Organisation shows the harm caused by air pollution to be much higher than thought.

Coal is the dirtiest fuel, in terms of both local air pollution and climate-warming carbon emissions and is therefore the greatest beneficiary of the subsidies, with just over half the total.

Oil, heavily used in transport, gets about a third of the subsidy and gas the rest.

The biggest single source of air pollution is coal-fired power stations and China, with its large population and heavy reliance on coal power, provides $2.3tn of the annual subsidies.

This is followed by the US ($700bn), Russia ($335bn), India ($277bn) and Japan ($157bn). The European Union collectively allows $330bn in subsidies to fossil fuels.

The costs resulting from the climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions account for subsidies of $1.27tn a year, about a quarter of the IMF’s total.

The IMF calculated this cost using an official US government estimate of $42 a tonne of CO2 (in 2015 dollars), a price “very likely to underestimate” the true cost, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The direct subsidising of fuel for consumers accounts for just 6% of the IMF’s total.

Other local factors, such as reduced sales taxes on fossil fuels and the cost of traffic congestion and accidents, make up the rest.

The IMF says traffic costs are included, regarding increased fuel prices as the most direct way to reduce them.

UN’s climate change chief Christiana Figueres said:

The IMF provides five trillion reasons for acting on fossil fuel subsidies. Protecting the poor and the vulnerable is crucial to the phasing down of these subsidies, but the multiple economic, social and environmental benefits are long and legion.

Barack Obama and the G20 nations called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies in 2009. However, little progress had been made until oil prices fell in 2014.

In April, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, told the Guardian that it was ‘crazy’ that governments were still driving the use of coal, oil and gas by providing subsidies.

“We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now,” he said.

Reform of the subsidies would increase energy costs. However, Kim and the IMF both noted that the existing fossil fuel subsidies overwhelmingly benefit the rich, with the wealthiest 20% of people getting six times as much as the poorest 20% in low and middle-income countries.

The call for national subsidy reforms

Gaspar views the current low oil and coal prices as a “golden opportunity” to phase out subsidies and use the increased tax revenues to reduce poverty through investment and to provide better targeted support.

Subsidy reforms have been put into practice in dozens of countries including Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco and Thailand.

In India, subsidies for diesel ended in October 2014. “People said it would not be possible to do that,” noted Coady.

Coal use has also begun to fall in China for the first time this century.

On renewable energy, Coady said:

If we get the pricing of fossil fuels right, the argument for subsidies for renewable energy will disappear. Renewable energy would all of a sudden become a much more attractive option.

Shelagh Whitley, a subsidies expert at the Overseas Development Institute, commented:

The IMF report is yet another reminder that governments around the world are propping up a century-old energy model. Compounding the issue, our research shows that many of the energy subsidies highlighted by the IMF go toward finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, which we know must be left in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change.

Developing the international cooperation needed to tackle climate change has proved challenging.

At the same time, a key message from the IMF’s work is that each nation will directly benefit from tackling its own fossil fuel subsidies, as Gaspar said:

The icing on the cake is that the benefits from subsidy reform – for example, from reduced pollution – would overwhelmingly accrue to local populations.

By acting local, and in their own best interest, [nations] can contribute significantly to the solution of a global challenge.

The path forward is clear: act local, solve global.

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Patricia Garcia & Peter van den Hazel: The health benefits of fighting climate change Fri, 22 May 2015 08:34:17 +0000 Air pollution in Anyang City, Henan Province, China. Creative Commons: 2013
Air pollution in Anyang City, Henan Province, China. Creative Commons: 2013

Air pollution in Anyang City, Henan Province, China. Creative Commons: 2013

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Anti-coal campaigners target Commonwealth Bank in Australia and elsewhere Thu, 21 May 2015 20:39:01 +0000 Anti-coal protestors occupy an Australian bank. Photo courtesy of Australia, 2015
Anti-coal protestors occupy an Australian bank. Photo courtesy of Australia, 2015

Anti-coal protestors occupy an Australian bank. Photo courtesy of Australia, 2015

Customers of the Commonwealth Bank are turning up the heat on the institution this week, with thousands of people around Australia and around the world protesting at more than 50 bank branches every day until Saturday.

The protesters are calling for the bank to publicly rule out investments in destructive coal projects in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

The first action launched Monday morning in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Global actions are happening in New York, London, Paris, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Auckland, and more.

Opponents of new projects in the Galilee Basin say that extracting the coal buried there would cause significant damage on to the local environment and would contribute to climate change.

Developing the basin would ls entail massive water use, with Adani’s proposed Carmichael Mine slated to suck up 12.5 billion tonnes of water per year, three times the amount of drinking water consumed by the entire state of Queensland a year.

Adani is also seeking financing for a expansion for the Abbot Point coal terminal, which allow greater volumes of Galilee Basin coal to be exported abroad. Plans for the expansion have met staunch opposition, in part because building the project would involve dumping millions of tonnes of dredge into the country’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

According to estimates, if all the coal in the Galilee Basin was extracted and used it would singlehandedly burn through 6% of the global carbon budget, exacerbating the problem of climate change.

A landmark study recently published in the scientific journal Nature found that if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, more than 90% of coal reserves located in major coal producing countries—including Australia—need to stay in the ground.

Eleven major investment banks, including HSBC, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citi and BNP Paribas, have already ruled out financing Adani’s controversial and struggling project.

Activists are now looking to secure Commonwealth Bank’s commitment to pull out from the project.

While many of the bank’s customers are threatening to divest if it does not stop funding destructive coal projects, some have gone even further and have occupied bank premises, shutting branches for a considerable amount of time in Melbourne and Adelaide Wednesday, and in Sydney on Thursday.

Aside from environmental concerns, Adani’s business practices combined with rapidly falling coal prices could make the decision to cut ties with the conglomerate an easy one.

In April, Adani was caught fabricating job and royalty figures, the Abbot Point coal terminal has been rated the third worst threat to corporate reputation of any project globally.

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Sign the petition: Support Greenpeace India Thu, 21 May 2015 20:33:53 +0000 Greenpeace India
Greenpeace India

Picture courtesy of Greenpeace India

Greenpeace India may shut down by June 2015.

Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich told Firstpost:

On 9 April, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) blocked our domestic accounts due to absurd technicalities, which we are challenging in the court. Over 68 percent of our funds come from more than 77,000 Indians. These funds have been frozen and our work to protect India’s environment and people is being forced to stop. We are in discussion with lawyers on our line of defence.

In his address to the Greenpeace India staff, Samit Aich asked them to prepare for the imminent shutdown of the organisation after 14 years in the country.

“Greenpeace India has one month left to fight for its survival with the threat of an imminent shutdown looming large. The NGO has been left with funds for staff salaries and office costs that will last for just about a month,” a Greenpeace India statement said.

Calling it “strangulation by stealth“, the global green body also challenged the home minister to stop using arbitrary penalties and admit that he is trying to shut Greenpeace India down because of its successful campaigns.

It said that the home ministry’s decision to block its domestic bank accounts could lead to not only the loss of 340 employees but a “sudden death” for its campaigns which strives to represent the voice of the poor on issues of “sustainable development, environmental justice and clean, affordable energy”. Aich said:

I just made one of the hardest speeches of my life but my staff deserve to know the truth. We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown and to fight MHA’s indefensible decision to block our domestic accounts.

It said that following allegations over foreign funding, Greenpeace India has been the subject of a string of penalties imposed by the MHA, all of which have been overturned by the Delhi high court. The latest is blocking access to domestic bank accounts funded by donations from over 77,000 Indian citizens.

The Government had earlier barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect by suspending its licence for six months and froze all its accounts, alleging it has “prejudicially” affected the country’s public and economic interests.

While Greenpeace India is currently preparing its formal response to this decision as well as a fresh legal challenge, Aich expressed concern that the legal process could extend well beyond June 1 – when cash reserves for salaries and office costs will run dry, the statement said.

“The question here is why are 340 people facing the loss of their jobs? Is it because we talked about pesticide-free tea, air pollution, and a cleaner, fairer future for all Indians,” he said.

Priya Pillai, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India whose overseas travel ban was overturned by the Delhi High Court in March, said that due to all this a chilling message will go out to the rest of Indian civil society. Priya said:

I fear for my own future, but what worries me much more is the chilling message that will go out to the rest of Indian civil society and the voiceless people they represent. The MHA has gone too far by blocking our domestic bank accounts, which are funded by individual Indian citizens. If Greenpeace India is first, who is next?

Add your name to the growing petition to show your support for all the amazing work Greenpeace India has accomplished and to help ensure that this fight for a greener India continues.


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Join the No Dash for Gas global call for climate action Thu, 21 May 2015 19:15:18 +0000 global call for climate action

This May and June, youth, faith leaders, and members of labour, development and justice organisations from across the world will call for the just transformation away from fossil fuels to be scaled up so that it can address our biggest problems – climate change, social inequality, unemployment and poverty.

We will stand side by side to ensure governments know that the people are demanding and driving action – we are building citizen-owned, locally based solutions, and strengthening a movement that will keep growing until we achieve a complete, just transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy in citizens hands.

We call on all people to join together at this vital moment and to organize actions which showcase the right kind of decisions governments need to make to drive forward the people- powered transition to a world free of climate change, unsafe and dirty energy and inequality.

Will government leaders support us actively in powering this transition or will they stand on the wrong side of history?

On the 30th and 31st of May the international mobilisation will be kicked off in France by Coalition Climat 21 with activities across the country.

During those days, groups across the globe will be making the same demands and others will start of their activities leading into early June focusing on the G7 meetings in Germany as well as the UNFCCC session in Bonn.

These weeks will serve as a global launch of a year of action, being crucial to connect the dots of the amazing people power 2015 and beyond will witness.

The global call for climate action will take the message of the transition away from fossils and to renewables to the people with both boots on the ground and online activities.

In France, actions, initiatives and demonstrations of all sizes will fill the cities. Other countries will see rallies in front of Parliaments, other direct actions, and citizen involvement at the G7 meetings. There will also be concerts that will gather audiences in the tens of thousands.

All of this will be backed by online activities, making it possible for people all around the world to voice their call for climate action/justice.

We welcome all initiatives of all sizes across the world to join this moment, which can be done as an individual activity or as part of an already planned event.

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Sign the petition: Save the Arctic and stop Shell Thu, 21 May 2015 18:35:31 +0000 Stop Shell
Stop Shell

Port of Seattle. Creative Commons: 2007

The US government just gave oil giant Shell the go-ahead to drill in the pristine Arctic, putting our climate and the ocean’s majestic wildlife under grave risk.

But there’s a way we can stop this.

Before Shell can get to the Arctic, their monster ship needs to gear up in Seattle. But one man has the power to turn Shell away — Seattle’s green mayor Ed Murray. 

He’s already told Shell that they don’t have permission to service their rigs in Seattle, but they’ve essentially said that they’re coming whether the City likes it or not.

Now it’s up to Ed to decide whether to lay down or go all-in for the Arctic. We know he’s with us, but it takes real guts to stand up to one of the most powerful companies in history.

Let’s show the Mayor that the whole world stands with him and the people of Seattle in doing whatever it takes to say “Shell No!” to Arctic drilling .

Experts are clear that drilling the Arctic is extremely dangerous and far too hazardous for our fragile climate. The closest Coast Guard station is more than 1,000 miles away. If anything goes wrong, which Shell’s own plan says is likely, there would be literally nobody to help and nothing they could do about it.

But what’s really incredible is that they’re even considering unlocking a whole new form of extreme oil that scientists say is 100% incompatible with preventing runaway global warming. 

Profits for Shell or a safe climate for all of us — it should be an easy choice.

The fight in Seattle is getting red-hot right now. Shell’s rig arrived in Seattle Thursday, just in time for huge actions in the Port that caught global headlines and local leaders’ attention.

On Monday, Mayor Murray served Shell with legal notice that they have until June 4 to stop breaking the law or leave.

Mayor Murray has always stood for the environment, but he now has a once in a lifetime chance to stand up for all the people of the world, and put his lawyers and police force between Shell’s oil rig and the vast, fragile Arctic.

Our fate depends on what he does next — let’s show the Mayor some love and make sure he’s ready to take a stand on June 4.

Sign the Avaaz petition to show Mayor Murray that you stand behind his decision to say “Shell No!”

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Proposal to dim New York’s city lights at night to save energy Thu, 21 May 2015 09:13:48 +0000 The iconic night skyline of New York City may be subject to energy saving measures. Creative Commons: Donut, 2006.
The iconic night skyline of New York City may be subject to energy saving measures. Creative Commons: Donut, 2006.

The iconic night skyline of New York City may be subject to energy saving measures. Creative Commons: Donut, 2006.

New York’s famous city lights may be lowered at night if a new bill introduced by a council member is passed.

The proposal from Donovan Richards Jr., would see office high-rises should turn off their lights at night as a way to cut energy costs, help migratory birds and relieve light pollution.

Richards said:

We need to be doing everything we can to conserve energy. This is a commonsense measure. It’s not going to cost anybody a lot of money.

Richards’ proposal is aimed at commercial buildings at least 20 floors high, and would requires them to turn off the lights after midnight if no one is inside.

Landmarks, such as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, would be exempt, as well as the city’s brightest nighttime tourist draw, Times Square.

Currently, whole floors can be seen lit up at dusk in high-rise buildings in midtown Manhattan, even long after most workers have left for the day.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 71% of New Yorkers support the new proposal.

Richards said his proposal was partly inspired by a trip to Paris last year.

The City of Light has had office and shop buildings turning off their lights at night time for the last few years.

Richards is convinced that if Paris can do it, New York City can, too: “We should be the world leader for conservation.”

At a hearing of the measure last month, critics raised issues of safety.

They questioned whether the law would add more onerous regulations for building owners and raised concerns over the potential for fines.

Scott Kardel, managing director of the Tucson, Arizona-based International Dark-Sky Association, which advocates against light pollution, supports the proposal:

No one’s talking about plunging people into darkness and chaos like you get when there’s a major disaster. It’s really just dialling it back when there’s an opportunity to do that. It’s not going to change significantly the ambiance at street level.

Bird conservationists say lowering the light level would also support migrating species, many of which fly at night time and can become confused and disoriented by bright city lights.

“It would be a wonderful message from New York City to do this,” said Susan Elbin, director of conservation and science for New York City Audubon.

Utility company Consolidated Edison said it was reviewing the proposal. Richards said he would be talking to stakeholders like building owners and the New York Police Department.

There is no timetable for any legislation to come up for a vote.

Richards’ proposal fits in with the recent announcement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that non-essential lights in buildings run by New York state would be turned off between 11pm and dawn during spring and autumn, which are the peak bird migration times.


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UK coal consumption heads for record low, as another plant shuts its doors Thu, 21 May 2015 08:51:07 +0000 UK coal consumption
UK coal consumption

Creative Commons: Mario Goebbels, 2014

The UK could soon see coal use fall back to levels last seen during the industrial revolution as yet another uneconomical coal plant shuts its doors.

On Wednesday, energy operator SSE announced the closure of its Ferrybridge coal-fired power station in West Yorkshire, blaming rising costs, citing the need for the UK to “phase out coal as it moves towards a more sustainable energy mix” and acknowledging the “political consensus that coal has a limited role in the future”.

The company says it hopes to avoid job losses and aims to re-deploy the plant’s 172 employees within the company.

The plant – which generated around 9 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 – was forecast to lose £100 million over the next five years.

Other coal power stations are also vulnerable as coal generation proves increasingly unprofitable across the country and around the world.

Today’s announcement comes as new analysis shows that the UK could be on course for a record low in coal consumption in 2015, thanks to the UK government’s decarbonisation drive, EU air pollution rules and falling gas prices.

Department for Energy and Climate Change projections show an end to coal use for electricity generation by 2023 if low gas prices persist, and in February the three main political parties signed a joint pledge promising the complete phase out the use of unabated coal-fired power.

Tumbling coal use has also caused UK greenhouse gas emissions to plummet.

The UK’s ageing coal-fired power stations are responsible for 79 per cent of power sector emissions. In 2014, UK coal use fell 23 per cent on the previous year, and hit the the joint lowest year for consumption in records dating back to the 1850s.

This drop in coal contributed the majority of the 10 per cent fall in UK emissions experienced in 2014, the largest carbon dioxide reduction on record for a growing UK economy.

Meanwhile, the UK’s coal power stations are responsible for an estimated 1,600 premature deaths, over 360,000 lost working days and between £1.1 and £3.1 billion in medical costs every year.

New research, released this week, also warns that attempts to water down EU pollution laws for coal plants could cost around £500 million in healthcare and sick days in the UK alone.

With a growing body of evidence showing how getting out of coal will protect the lives of UK citizens, shield the country from an increasingly volatile coal market, and help it meet its target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050, on 1990 levels, there is little argument left for continued investment in this dirtiest of energy sources.

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Global green energy jobs top 7.7 million in 2014 Wed, 20 May 2015 11:34:19 +0000 green energy jobs
green energy jobs

Creative Commons: Wayne National Forest, 2009

The economic benefits of the growing global renewable energy sector are on full display this week as concerns about energy subsidies cast into doubt the wisdom of propping up polluting fossil fuels.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported Tuesday that 7.7 million people are employed in the renewable sector worldwide.

The number, which covers people employed directly by renewable energy firms and throughout the supply chain, marks an 18% rise on the 6.5 million jobs recorded in 2013.

This increase also coincides with an uptake in global renewable energy investment, reversing two years of decline last year.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said:

Renewable energy continues to assert itself as a major global employer, generating strong economic and social benefits worldwide. This increase is being driven, in part, by declining renewable energy technology costs, which creates more jobs in installation, operations and maintenance.

If we continue to invest in renewable energy and its multiple economic, environmental and social benefits, employment in renewables will continue to climb. IRENA’s research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, would result in more than 16 million jobs worldwide.

According to the report, solar is the largest employer worldwide, with some 2.5 million jobs worldwide, up from 2.3 million last year.

Wind power also passed the million job mark last year, up from 834,000 in 2013.

green energy jobs - sectors

Number of renewable energy jobs per technology. Source: IRENA

Meanwhile, geographically China, Brazil, and the United States boast the largest overall employment figures.

In Australia, where attacks on renewable energy are commonplace, the resulting policies have cost the nation billions, both in terms of employment and investment.

The astounding growth of renewable energy sources even managed to outshine “shocking” numbers from the International Monetary Fund showing that fossil fuels are globally subsidized at the rate of $10 million dollars a minute.

The IMF found the cost of these subsidies, along with the external costs associated with extracting and burning coal, oil and gas, adds up to $5.3 trillion each year.

As concerns mount about some of the world’s richest companies receiving huge taxpayer handouts, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is demanding that governments redouble their efforts to fight climate change, add new jobs in the emerging green economy, and ensure a just transition to renewable sources of energy.

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200 days out from Paris climate talks, momentum grows for global deal Wed, 20 May 2015 10:17:27 +0000 paris climate talks
paris climate talks

Greenpeace activists met at the Brandenburg Gate to call on governments to commit to a 100% renewable future. Courtesy of: Greenpeace, 2015

With less than 200 days until the UN climate summit in Paris, governments met in Germany this week to continue the momentum towards securing a new global agreement for taking on climate change.

Environment ministers from 35 countries met together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande as part of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin this week, to discuss key points of the global climate agreement to be signed this December.

Hollande and Merkel called for urgent and ambitious action to limit global temperature rise below the internationally agreed 2C threshold and called on all nations to submit clear, formal promises on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The two leaders also reaffirmed the need for a complete energy transition, where fossil fuels are phased out and clean energy is phased in.

Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics with Greenpeace said:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent an important signal today when she reaffirmed the long term goal of global decarbonisation – a necessary first step for a global energy transition towards 100% renewable energy for all. However, this goal can and must be reached by 2050.  We must not delay it until the end of the century.

Outside the conference, civil society groups joined the momentum.

Hoisted a six-metre high model of the Eiffel Tower converted into a wind turbine, Greenpeace activists met at the Brandenburg Gate today to calling on leaders to “commit to a global energy transition.

These calls come on the heels of Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum urging governments to support a strong climate deal that holds global warming to no more than 2C.

The private sector is also getting in on the action.

This week’s summit is part of a series of high level meetings happening along the “Road Through Paris,”, which includes the Business and Climate Summit happening in Paris later this week and the G7 meeting in June, where leading corporations and major economies are expected to back a long term goal to phase out fossil fuel emissions as part of the Paris agreement.

As anticipated, national climate plans so far submitted by countries such as Canada, the EU, the US and others move us closer to, but not all the way to, a safe climate.

The spotlight is now on the G7 to “rise to the biggest challenge humankind has ever faced”.

NGOs are looking to both Merkel and Hollande offer a long term goal to phase out emissions and phase in renewable energy, and further drive momentum towards the UN climate talks in Paris.

Alix Mazounie, international policy lead with RAC France said:

For France to take the lead and secure an ambitious and durable agreement, it is crucial François Hollande step up climate action in France. Our energy transition is not fully under way: we are not even on track to meet our 2020 renewable energy target and French utilities are still massively investing in coal power plants abroad. This is not setting the right example for the rest of the world and is undermining our capacity to stabilize climate change below 2C. France has two hundred days left to clean up its act.

The pressure is particularly on Merkel as campaigners call on her to make the right choice in her “defining last moment” as G7 host and “establish herself as the… ‘climate chancellor’”.

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Antarctic ice is under attack from sea and air Tue, 19 May 2015 18:09:27 +0000 Lemaire Channel, Antarctica. Creative Commons: Christopher Michel, 2005
Lemaire Channel, Antarctica. Creative Commons: Christopher Michel, 2005

Lemaire Channel, Antarctica. Creative Commons: Christopher Michel, 2005

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

Scientists have measured the rate of thinning of the great sea ice shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula and have identified the mechanisms at work above and below the shelf.

The collapse of floating sea ice makes no direct difference to global sea levels—but the effects could nevertheless lead to higher waters everywhere.

Paul Holland, of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and research colleagues from the US report in the journal The Cryosphere that they used satellite measurements and radar studies between 1998 and 2012 to confirm that the Larsen C ice shelf has lost four metres of ice, and is a metre lower at the surface.

Warmer waters

This is the largest of three shelves that have been under study for decades; the Larsen A and Larsen B shelves have already broken off and drifted north to warmer waters.

The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming regions of the world: 2.5°C in the last 50 years.

“What’s exciting about this study is we now know that two different processes are causing Larsen C to thin and become less stable,” says Dr Paul Holland, lead author of the BAS study.

Air is being lost from the top layer of snow (called the firn), which is becoming more compacted, probably because of increased melting by a warmer atmosphere. We know also that Larsen C is losing ice, probably from warmer ocean currents or changing ice flow. If this vast ice shelf − which is over two and a half times the size of Wales, and 10 times bigger than Larsen B − was to collapse, it would allow the tributary glaciers behind it to flow faster into the sea. This would then contribute to sea-level rise.

A collapse of the shelf could occur within a century. When the two companion Larsen glaciers broke away, the glaciers that flowed from the ice-capped continent towards the sea began to accelerate.

Offshore ice, held fast to the shoreline, is a factor that helps keep glacier flow at its proverbially glacial pace. Once it has gone, the frozen rivers of ice onshore naturally begin to flow faster.

“We expect that sea-level rise around the world will be something in excess of 50 cm higher by 2100 than it is at present, and that will cause problems for coastal and low-lying cities,” says David Vaughan, director of science at the BAS.

“Understanding and counting up these small contributions from Larsen C and all the glaciers around the world is very important if we are to project, with confidence, the rate of sea-level rise into the future.”

The study is a confirmation of earlier research in which other groups, using different approaches, have already identified shelf ice loss and have warned that Antarctic melting could accelerate. Satellite-based measurements have also linked glacial melting with an acceleration in sea level rise.

Precision measurement of sea level rise is not easy. Oceans rise and fall with the tides, the water isn’t level anyway, and salinity and temperature differences in the oceans, and gravitational anomalies in the ocean basins, all mean that the ocean surfaces naturally undulate.

And the continents don’t keep still. Land surfaces from which researchers base their measurements also slowly rise or fall.

Accelerated rise

Christopher Watson, senior lecturer in the School of Land and Earth at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that a different approach to the problem suggests that—contrary to previous estimates—sea level rise has accelerated in the last decade.

He and his colleagues searched not just global positioning satellite evidence from the surface waters but also from the land for signs of “bias” in the data. They also used evidence from hourly tide gauges from around the world and recalculated the rate of change.

What they found was that, overall, sea level rise in the last two decades has been at a rate just under, rather than just over, 3mm a year.

But the overestimate for the first six years of the survey had been much higher, which in turn suggested that the rate of rise had actually accelerated during this century, in a way that is consistent with the rate of glacial melting—at least from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice caps.

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Divestment movement heats up as Oxford Uni rules out polluting investments Tue, 19 May 2015 07:19:46 +0000 Oxford Uni
Oxford Uni

University of Oxford. Creative Commons: Samuel Musarika, 2014

The divestment movement took another step forward this week, as one of the world’s oldest universities announced it will exclude the most polluting fossil-fuel investments from its £3.8 billion endowment; one of the biggest in the UK.

Citing ethical grounds, the new policy commits the university to “avoid future investments in coal and tar sands”.

It follows in the footsteps of other UK institutions distancing themselves from risky, climate-polluting fossil fuels, including Glasgow, Bedfordshire and SOAS universities and most recently the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine.

Bill McKibben, founder of welcomed the decision, saying:

Oxford may be the greatest university on our planet, and if anyone thought its great age might keep it from shaping the future, this decision should prove them wrong. Today it has offered great leadership on the crisis of our time.

The news also comes as the University of Washington became the latest high-profile US university to announce it would end its dirty relationship with coal.

Oxford’s decision increases the pressure on institutions, such the University of Edinburgh, that continue to put polluters ahead of the views of their staff, students and alumni.

Edinburgh students have been occupying a university building since Wednesday last week, in response to the its failure to make a commitment on divestment.

Oxford’s announcement has been welcomed by students and academics as an important victory.

Dr Felix Pinkert Lecturer of Philosophy, University of Oxford said:

By excluding investments in coal and tar-sands extraction, the University of Oxford demonstrates that universities can carry out their academic mission while also acting with moral integrity in their investment choices.

But campaigners warn this latest move is just the “first step towards a fully sustainable investment policy”, urging the university to go further and fully divest from all fossil fuels and increase transparency around its investments.

Yesterday’s decision only applies to directly owned shares, not all investments made by the university’s fund, and does not commit the university to divesting from all fossil fuels.

In particular, the exclusions for coal and tar sands only kick in for companies where over ten percent of their production comes from either of these sources, which means that Oxford can continue to invest in companies like Shell and BP even though they have significant tar sands projects.

Andrew Taylor, Fossil Free Campaigns Manager at People & Planet said:

When it comes to big oil this is a cautious first step. Tar sands need to be kept in the ground and universities should divest from any company digging them out. If you live in the shadow of tar sand extraction and your baby been air lifted to hospital after drinking the water after a spill, it doesn’t matter if under 10% of the culprit’s production comes from tar sands.

This Saturday, over 70 Oxford alumni will hand back their degrees in protest of the university’s failure to fully divest, while over 850 alumni have pledged to withhold donations to the university until it makes such a commitment.

The message from campaigners is clear: It’s wrong to wreck the planet, and wrong to profit from that wreckage.

Institutions moving away from dirty energy are heeding the warnings from the world’s leading scientists that large swathes fossil fuels must stay in the ground to avoid the worst climate impacts, as around the world people take to the streets to push institutions and governments to tackle the climate crisis.

As world leaders prepare to sign a new global deal in Paris this December, divestment provides a means for citizens to challenge the social license of fossil fuel companies, take back power from the dirty energy industry and demand climate leadership.

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Tell your Senators: Don’t diss Pope Francis Mon, 18 May 2015 20:55:03 +0000 Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Pope Francis speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Creative Commons: European Parliment, 2014

Earlier this year, Pope Francis held a climate change summit at Vatican City where he said:

Human induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity…If we destroy creation, creation will destroy us.

That’s why our partners at Environmental Action are so encouraged that Pope Francis plans to release a Papal Edict on the dangers of global warming and our moral obligation to solve it right before he visits the U.S. later this year.

And in anticipation of his visit, he has sent bishops to meet with Congress to discuss environmental stewardship and climate change.

You would think with nearly a third of the House of Representatives and more than a quarter of the Senate describing themselves as Catholic, the Pope’s message would hold sway.

But instead, some members are indicating that their, “schedules may not permit them to attend.”

Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity and we must listen to and exchange ideas with all leaders who are concerned about its implications on our citizens and planet.

As the leader of over 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis and his envoys are in a unique position to speak to the moral and ethical challenges of climate catastrophe, and to aid our efforts to stop global warming.

A person who can command the attention of 1.2 billion people should to at least merit a meeting with 100 Senators.

Join with Environmental Action and contact your Senators today and tell them plain and simple: Don’t Diss The Pope.

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Join the Global Day of Action to stop dirty energy Mon, 18 May 2015 17:43:27 +0000 Global Day of Action
Global Day of Action

Participants in the People’s Climate March make their way through the streets of New York City. The march, two-days before the United Nations Climate Summit, is billed as the largest climate march in history. Picture courtesy of Global Day of Action

Saturday, May 30th, the first Global Day of Action (GDA) will kickstart the international mobilization against climate change, fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Starting at the end of May and leading into June, thousands of people will be standing up, taking to the streets, and flooding online channels.

The activities will be many and varied, but they will all have the same purpose; make world governments see that they have the chance to join with us to accelerate the new world powered by renewables and driven by people.

Use the day to shine the spotlight on the problems that cause you concern and demand urgent action!

The fossil fuel industry is dragging us into a climate change nightmare, while being in bed with politics. They (those that are continuing to lock us into a fossil fuel present and future) are in need of a serious Wake-Up call to get out of fossil fuels/dirty energy and nukes.

This GDA will be a get-up moment and a stepping stone for the climate justice movement cumulating for the UN Climate Conference in Paris coming December. You’ll see it growing in size and strength until the goal of 100% renewable energy for all is reached – energy that’s all green all the time.

We call on all people to join together at this vital moment to organise actions and activities against the problems of climate change and to showcase that the global climate movement is getting up and becoming stronger day by day.

Join the online force by spreading the Toolkit across your social media channels, to your grassroots networks, your local volunteer groups, your supporters.

Plan your own action, link your existing campaign work to the #GlobalPowerNap to showcase the broad existing climate movement. To show that you and your campaign are part of the movement use the hashtag #GetUpAnd + Your Campaign message.

You can also join other supporters on the streets on May 30!

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Tell the Associated Press: Deniers are not skeptics Mon, 18 May 2015 17:08:27 +0000 Associated Press
Associated Press

The New York Times is currently reviewing its inaccurate use of the term “skeptics” to describe climate science deniers. Push the AP Style Guide to do the same. Picture courtesy of Forecast the Facts

Those who deny the reality of climate change are not “skeptics.” Period.

But even so, top US newspapers are still calling climate change deniers “skeptics” — and lending them legitimacy in the process.

Forecast the Facts is currently talking with editors of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more about this problem — but so far, these newspapers have fallen short of making any hard-and-fast rules about how they report on climate deniers.

While these leading newspapers have promised to take this problem into account in their climate reporting, they continue to misuse the term “skeptic.”

That’s why we’re setting our sights on the industry leader in setting journalistic standards: the AP StyleBook.

If we all act now, we can push the AP to uphold accuracy and fairness when it comes to reporting on climate change.

The Associated Press have responded to similar campaigns before. In 2013, following sustained public pressure, the Associated Press established it would no longer use the term “illegal” to describe immigrants in its StyleBook — and numerous major media outlets followed suit.

We’ve got momentum. If enough of us act right now, we can score a major win for factual accuracy in climate reporting.

Sign the petition from Forecast the Facts and tell the Associated Press: Establish a rule in the AP StyleBook ruling out the use of “skeptic” to describe those who deny scientific facts.

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Hundreds take to boats in Seattle to protest Arctic drilling Mon, 18 May 2015 13:19:40 +0000 Arctic drilling
Arctic drilling

Courtesy of: Marcus Donner/Greenpeace USA, 2015

Hundreds of people came together in Seattle this weekend, in a huge protest against oil drilling in the Arctic by the energy giant Shell.

The Paddle in Seattle protest brought together activists of all ages and culture, including indigenous peoples from as far as the North Slope of Alaska to protest Shell’s plans.

The activists took to kayaks, canoes, sailboats and paddle boats in the protest, gathering near Shell’s 400 foot tall Polar Pioneer drilling rig.

Courtesy of: N Scott Trimble/Greenpeace USA, 2015

Courtesy of: N Scott Trimble/Greenpeace USA, 2015

The rig is the first of Shell’s two massive oil rigs arrived at the city’s port.

Shell wants to use the rigs to explore for oil off Alaska’s northern coast in the coming months.

Last week, President Barack Obama risked his reputation as a climate leader when his administration gave Shell conditional approval for Shell to begin drilling exploratory oil wells in the Arctic.

Campaigners warn that oil and gas drilling operations in this most sensitive part of the planet, has a 75% chance of resulting in a spill.

Courtesy of: Joe Nicholson/Greenpeace USA, 2015

Courtesy of: Joe Nicholson/Greenpeace USA, 2015

Alli Harvey, Alaska representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, said:

Science is as clear as day when it comes to drilling in the Arctic: the only safe place for these dirty fuels is in the ground.

Once out on the water, the “kayaktivists” gathered in formation and displayed signs and banners reading: “Climate Justice”, “Oil-Free Future”, “Shell No, Seattle Draws the Line”, and “We can’t burn all the oil on the planet and live on it.”

At the center of the protest was a “People’s Platform”, a 4,000-square-foot barge powered by renewable energy.

The platform was used as a stage for speakers, a band and a tall screen that showed images of people expressing their opposition to Shell’s plans.

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Canada announces commitment for 2015 climate deal Mon, 18 May 2015 08:54:54 +0000 climate commitments
2015 climate deal

Creative Commons: 2010

Canada announced it will cut carbon pollution by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 as part of this year’s international climate negotiations in Paris.

While any action regarding Canada’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions is an improvement over its current situation, the proposed target is far weaker than pledges from the US and EU.

The US has committed to cut carbon pollution 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025—five years ahead of Canada’s deadline, while the European Union will drastically outpace Canada with its commitment to reduce carbon pollution by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Canada’s plan for cutting dangerous greenhouse gases is also filled with loopholes and falls short of what’s needed to legitimately combat climate change.

73% of Canada’s skyrocketing carbon emissions over the last 25 years is directly attributable to the the Alberta tar sands, yet this Canada’s climate action plan includes nothing to address the tar sands issue.

Instead this plan focuses on international offsets as part of a scheme to reduce carbon pollution while relying on “questionable” carbon accounting practices in the forestry and land use sectors.’s Cameron Fenton said:

These targets are a nice gesture, but for now that’s all they are, because the numbers here simply don’t add up. There’s no way Canada can hope to cut emissions by a third while this administration is still pursuing every possible opportunity to dig up the tar sands. Scientists have told us over and over that averting climate disaster means leaving virtually all tar sands in the ground; and until our government starts taking real steps to achieve that, these announcements are little more than pie-in-the-sky PR.

Its weak climate plan places its people, communities and economy at risk by failing to ensure the country joins the global march toward clean energy.

The announcement places Canada alongside Japan as one of the biggest climate laggards in the G7.

Louise Comeau, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada said:

What’s needed is a moratorium on new oil sands development and a complete phase-out of coal from the electricity sector combined with a commitment to replace these dirty sources of energy with renewable energy supported by investments in energy efficiency and conservation. Unfortunately, today’s announcement, while a step forward, does not put Canada on track to deep decarbonization.

In a matter of weeks, the G7 countries are set to meet in Germany and climate change will likely be on the agenda.

While Canada’s climate action plan is deeply flawed, it does show that nations are committed to this year’s climate negotiation process as they continue to submit concrete plans for avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

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Edinburgh students: You refused to divest so we’ve occupied Fri, 15 May 2015 10:49:08 +0000 divest

Courtesy of: People & Planet Edinburgh, 2015

Authored by Edinburgh University People & Planet, re-posted from Invest Ethically

We have just occupied one of the main University management buildings -Charles Stewart House – as we’re thoroughly disappointed with the University’s failure to commit to divestment from fossil fuels. Edinburgh came down firmly on the side of short-term economic interest, with little to no acknowledgement of the long-term repercussions of their investments.

We are occupying because:

* The University of Edinburgh have not committed to divestment.

* The process surrounding the decision to not divest has been extremely un-transparent.

* The decision not to divest has been contrary to the will of students and staff.

* The process surrounding the decision to not divest has not delivered any immediate results.

* People and Planet, the initiators of the campaign, have been excluded from all working group meetings and announcements.

* We’ve had three years of debate and empty promises, the time for action is yesterday.

Yesterday the University of Edinburgh failed to make any commitment to the staff and students, who for the past three years have demanded divestment. After failing to recognise our voice we therefore have decided to take matters into our own hands and up the campaign to make the University listen. Our occupation will last until the University meets our original demands of committing to full divestment from all fossil fuels with them being totally screened out of the investment portfolio over a five year period.

Yesterday the University Court claimed it would use the institution’s ‘leverage of [their] investments to bring about change that reduces carbon emissions in the fossil fuels and other sectors’. However, the proof against green-washing ‘engagement’ has been reiterated on countless different platforms. As Bill McKibbon states, ‘these companies are unlikely to engage in action that will put them out of business’, as is evidenced by BP’s recent decision to pull out of renewables. The fact is, if the University had an interest in changing behaviour it would have started at home by divesting. Divestment would have seen Edinburgh join a global campaign of universities and other forward-thinking organisations, which have divorced themselves from the grip of fossil fuel industries.

In regards to the University’s investment policy, the official press release states, ‘The University will withdraw from investment in these [fossil fuel consuming and extracting] companies if: realistic alternative sources of energy are available and the companies involved are not investing in technologies that help address the effects of carbon emissions and climate change.’ Firstly, this wording is vague and leaves the option of no divestment open. Secondly, the reason there are no large-scale alternative energy sources is because of the failure to invest in them. Despite a three-year process, it seems the university misunderstands divestment. Divestment does NOT mean a cessation in the use of fossil fuels immediately, instead it is about starting the shift from fossil fuels to a renewable economy. Divestment is designed to create space for alternatives to grow.

This non-decision brings into question the validity of the University’s decision-making process. This process began after students voted in favour of the policy in 2012 followed by student representatives starting to raise the issue in board meetings. In 2014 the University ran their own consultation which found staff, students and the public in favour of ethical investment. A year after their consultation we still have zero commitment to change. The University refused to issue their working group report until yesterday and refused student’s entry into the press conference where the decision was announced. At the most important stage, they neglected their responsibility to students.

So we’re not taking it any more, we’re occupying to make a firm stand that the campaign will not be going anywhere until the University commits to fully divest and we will be ignored no longer.

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Ruth Davis & Nick Mabey: A story of hope and responsibility for environmentalism Fri, 15 May 2015 10:35:47 +0000 environmentalism

Creative Commons: Beverley Goodwin, 2013

Authored by Nick Mabey and Ruth Davis, re-posted from E3G
Nick Mabey is Chief Executive and a founder director of E3G and Ruth Davis is Political Director Greenpeace UK

Last Thursday’s surprise election result has forced fundamental debate and reflection in the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, as they ask themselves what went wrong with their conversation with the people of Britain and what can be done to renew it?

Similar questions have been troubling environmentalists since the 2008 financial crash, which seemed to push climate change and nature conservation into the background of political life. The 2015 election campaign compounded that feeling as environmental issues barely registered in the political debate. What kind of movement should we invest in, to re-connect us with peoples’ lives, and to enable us better to reflect their concerns and identities?

Slowly but surely, some answers are emerging based on pioneering work over the last few years. Whilst there is much to do, we believe the green movement should use this moment to welcome change and become more politically effective.

Change for the better

New ways of thinking, talking, organising and acting are all there for the taking, which derive their power from the open nature of modern politics. Nothing is stopping us embracing devolution, promoting far higher levels of citizen engagement in decision making, and seeking out and working with a whole range of non-state actors in solving problems. In fact much of the decentralisation we already see happening has its roots in the environmental and local planning campaigns of the past decades. We can choose now, to ground our movement in such creative relationships. Doing so will be risky and ambitious – but it will also be fun.

But to make this our lodestar, first we will need to acknowledge the fact of our own success – and take responsibility for how this success has, and will, change the lives of people in Britain.

Because with David Cameron’s re-election as Prime Minister, our country will enter its eighth successive Parliament under a government that accepts mainstream scientific advice about the risks of climate change, and is committed to address them. We are still not cutting energy demand or reducing carbon pollution fast enough, but this is a journey that most other English-speaking countries would give their eye-teeth to repeat.

Conservation is a British tradition

Moreover, it is a journey that reflects the distinct environmental traditions of both our biggest national parties – Labour and Conservative – as well as wide-spread public support for the protection of wildlife and the stewardship of our shared natural resources. Its tangible manifestations are not just the world’s first Climate Change Act, but an enviable network of protected wildlife sites; laws to safeguard endangered species from persecution; cleaner rivers and less polluted air.

Britain has also been a leader internationally not just on climate change diplomacy but on wildlife trafficking, biodiversity conservation and marine protection.

Fairness in the green economy

These are impressive gains – but we will only be able to build on them, if we understand that they also create winners and losers, fairness and unfairness – even vested interests on our own ‘side’.

Because when laws are passed that mean developers must minimise their impact on nature, we in turn need to help them find alternatives that deliver benefits for the wider economy. There are legitimate concerns around housing that need to be considered alongside our own.

When we advocate for increased investment in new energy technologies, we must be vigilant about how the costs and benefits of such investments are distributed, so that it is not the low-paid or struggling businesses that carry the risk, whilst the rich reap the rewards.

And when we argue for reforms to farming policy or fishing policy, we need to be in the room with the people who farm the land and fish the sea – accepting what our ambitions mean for their lives and livelihoods, and co-operating with them to find solutions that are locally grounded, and work for all our good.

Success is already happening

Where this happens, we can move mountains. The alliance between local fishing communities and Greenpeace, championing a fairer and more sustainable allocation of fishing quota, has been one of the most positive stories of the recent election campaign.

And the battalion of environmentalists, businesses, consumer groups and anti-poverty campaigners pushing to make Britain’s homes warmer and our energy bills smaller through the Energy Bill Revolution coalition should be rewarded with equal success.

Similarly inspiring stories could be told about the work of the solar schools initiative, or the plans the National Trust are developing with Sheffield Council to renew and protect that cities green spaces. But this is only a start.

A chance for cities and regions to choose

With a new government promising significant spending on infrastructure alongside greater powers for our cities and regions, new possibilities open up. What role can we play in enabling greater choice and transparency around this investment – so that the people of Salford, Slough and Swindon are able to shape their future energy and transport systems?

And as we debate our future in Europe, how can we make a distinctive contribution – not simply by insisting on the status quo, but by ensuring that the principle of subsidiarity is fully applied in our own sector. This would help us focus on the places where the EU truly protects our shared heritage, and strengthens our shared security and competitiveness – including building a European energy market that works for citizens not just utilities.

The environment movement has always been attracted to the local

Our solutions often grow out of a sense of place, and are built on a desire for self-sufficiency and control over our own lives, as well as the wish to tread lightly on the earth. We have also always looked to the future and been both a driver of innovation and an early adopter of technologies that reduce waste and cut costs. These are legacies we can call on now, as our politics opens up to new forms of participation, and our energy system is revolutionised by the potential of decentralisation.  When these forces are combined with a mature internationalism, which fosters co-operation where it is needed to support mutual security and deliver sustainable development, we have a story of hope to tell that will appeal to many far beyond our existing base.

Over the years, we have made our case for the protection of our natural inheritance – and here in the UK we have often won it.  We have laws, targets, principles and policies.  Now we need to go out and show how these can work to make our country and the world a safer, more prosperous and fairer place.  This will require more openness to the concerns of other constituencies and people; we need to listen harder not just shout louder. Environmental issues are firmly at the heart of policy making. We need to continue to grow ourselves, so that the voice we raise in these debates is thoughtful, generous and fully alive to the common good.

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Pope Francis steps up calls for Catholics to support action on climate change Fri, 15 May 2015 10:20:38 +0000 Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Pope Francis is informed about the Catholic Climate Petition by GCCM representative (Tomás Insua, Argentina). Credit: Fotografia Felici

With the Papal encyclical on climate change approaching, Pope Francis is stepping up his call for leadership, urging Catholics around the world to sign a new petition for bold climate action.

The eagerly anticipated encyclical, expected next month, will provide an ethical foundation for action to address climate change in the lead up to the UN talks in Paris this December.

Ahead of this call for action, the Global Climate Catholic Movement (GCCM) is responding to the Pope’s message that climate change is “a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act,” rallying catholics around the world to take action.

By endorsing the petition, signed by his Pontifical Ceremonieri, Monsignor Guillermo Karcher, Pope Francis has once again signalled his intention “to lead Catholics into an active response to climate change” as he, this week, warned the rich and powerful that God will judge them on whether they fed the poor and cared for the Earth.

Co-founder of the GCCM, Tomás Insua said:

Pope Francis was very supportive of the work we are doing to engage Catholics around the world in a coordinated response to climate change. The Pope even joked that we were competing against his encyclical. His endorsement of our work is extremely important to raise awareness within Catholic circles globally, and to collect more signatures.

Climate denying voices, such as the US-based Heartland Institute, have criticised the Pope’s upcoming Encyclical on climate change.

Such premature criticism has been described as “absurd” by the Pope’s closest advisor, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, but it importantly illustrates just how fearful those preaching inaction are of the Pope’s moral authority, and an increasingly vocal faith community.

Faith communities around the world are already taking action on climate change.

Two weeks ago the Vatican hosted a high-level climate summit stating that “decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative”, while Pope Francis’ closest advisor Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga hit out at climate sceptics on his visit to the US this week.

Meanwhile, the United Church of Christ in the US, the Church of England, the Quakers in Britain, and the World Council of Churches have all taken steps to divest; the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) is fighting coal expansion; and faith leaders from around take part in fast for the climate on the first day of each month.

Climate change is an inconvenient political problem, but it is a great moral challenge that all must rise to.

The Pope is already being criticised for joining a politically charged debate, but with the world’s poor being hit first and hardest by climate change, and the very existence of Pacific Island nations at risk, his moral authority, message of hope, and call to action for Catholics worldwide is desperately needed.

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Crowdsourcing climate solutions Fri, 15 May 2015 10:00:26 +0000 crowdsourcing

Creative Commons: Simon Cocks, 2010

Authored by Nick Dowson

An online community is attempting to use crowdsourcing to tackle one of the greatest problems facing the planet, the threat of climate change.

The crowdsourcing platform, Climate Co-lab allows people contribute their own ideas to tackle the problem.

Set up by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Climate Co-lab breaks the challenge of climate change down into smaller problems or ‘questions’.

‘Contests’ are then held, with the public invited to submit proposals for solutions, which can then be debated and commented on.

By breaking the problem of climate change down into different parts, it can be made easier to solve, and the crowd’s’ collective creativity is used to brainstorm solutions to these smaller problems.

This in turn means that many people’s ideas can be employed in the struggle against climate change, whilst proposers can get feedback and exposure from the online community for their suggestions.

So far 1,000 proposals have been submitted to the site so far, which has an online community of 34,000 registered members who can comment and rate proposals.

Current questions include ‘what can be done to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change?’ and ‘how can we scale-up sustainable landscape management…?

Two winners are picked from each contest, one judged by the site’s team of staff, and the other by registered members.

Plus, each year, judges award $10,000 as a grand prize to one of the individual contest winners.

Last year’s grand prize winner was a proposal for ‘Green Job Skills Training’, providing technical training for fitters of heating and air-conditioning equipment to ensure it is as efficient as it is designed to be.

A proposal for a carbon tax was also given an ‘honorable mention’ by the site.

Emily Reichert, one of the judges of a recent contest to help the US city Somerville fulfill its target to be carbon-neutral by 2050, told the Boston Globe:

What the platform allows you to do is to access a community that is already engaged in addressing climate-related issues on a global scale, rather than going in a room and hiring a consultant and making it a closed-door process.

As well as a summary of their idea, proposals must include information on who will take action, where the project will happen, and how much emissions will be reduced, as well being able to list other benefits and costs of the project.

Actions are categorised on the site according to this ‘who, what, where, how’, meaning that the site can be used to browse a huge variety of actions and ideas for tackling climate change.

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G20: Food wastage is an ‘enormous’ global problem Fri, 15 May 2015 08:55:41 +0000 Household Food Waste in New York, USA. Creative Commons: petrr, 2008.
Household Food Waste in New York, USA. Creative Commons: petrr, 2008.

Household Food Waste in New York, USA. Creative Commons: petrr, 2008.

Food wasted by consumers is an enormous economic, environmental and societal problem, and nations should ensure excess food is given to the hungry instead of being thrown away, G20 agriculture ministers have said.

At a two-day meeting in Istanbul, the ministers focused on problems of food security and nutrition, also taking the impact of climate change into account.

In their final communique, ministers said a reduction in the amount of food wasted would improve food security.

The ministers said:

We note with great concern the significant extent of food loss and waste … and their negative consequences for food security, nutrition, use of natural resources and the environment.

We highlight this as a global problem of enormous economic, environmental and societal significance.

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or roughly 30% of global production, is lost or wasted annually, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in its report ‘Food waste footprint: Impacts on natural resources’ last year.

According to UN agencies, this would easily feed the world’s 800 million hungry.

In developing countries, food is lost because of improper storage or transportation. However, in rich nations it is often just wasted.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday ahead of the meeting:

In the developed world, it’s really about reducing the size of portions. It’s about making sure people understand precisely when food is no longer good for human consumption.

I think there’s a tendency to throw things away more quickly than need be.

According to Vilsack, food is the single largest component of solid waste in US landfills. It also acts as a large producer of methane gas, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted from human activity in the country.

To fight the problem of food waste, countries need better estimates of the amount of food they waste, as well as the economic impact of food loss, the G20 ministers said.

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Tell the US Department of Energy: Stop the bias against renewable energy Fri, 15 May 2015 01:15:49 +0000 bias against renewable energy
bias against renewable energy

Black Rock Solar’s first photovoltaic array in Gerlach, Nevada. Creative Commons: Black Rock Solar, 2008

Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy releases the Annual Energy Outlook, an important report about the future of energy in America.

It forms the basis of energy policy and investment for both the government and businesses by providing projections and cost estimates for various sources of energy.

But here’s the problem: This report chronically overestimates the cost of renewable energy like wind and solar while underestimating the cost of dirty fossil fuels every single year.

It’s a bias that tilts the playing field toward dirty fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, and away from the clean energy sources that are crucial to combating climate change and jumpstarting America’s clean energy economy. It’s time to put that to an end.

The recently released 2015 report projected that by 2040, the U.S. would increase its consumption of renewable energy by only 2 percent. According to the same report, the U.S. will only add 48 gigawatts of solar generating capacity by 2040, while solar energy experts contend that half of that amount will be added by 2016 alone.

Meanwhile, the report continued its pattern of underestimating costs for dirty fossil fuels like coal and fracked natural gas.

Furthermore, the report doesn’t base any of its estimates on planned or predicted changes in public policy that will have a dramatic effect on future U.S. energy consumption, including fracking bans that would significantly raise the cost of natural gas, extensions of tax credits for solar power, and impending EPA rules that will limit carbon emissions from power plants and lower the United States’ dependence on coal.

This out-of-touch, head-in-the-sand analysis about America’s energy future is unnecessarily prolonging a reliance on dirty fossil fuels, putting our climate and health at risk while holding back a new wave of clean energy jobs and investments.

It’s time to end the bias.

Join with CREDO Action and tell the U.S. Department of Energy: Stop the bias against renewable energy.

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Tell Governor Brown: Stop contaminating California aquifers with wastewater Fri, 15 May 2015 00:34:59 +0000 California aquifers, wastewater contamination
California aquifers, wastewater contamination

An injection well in Northern California. Creative Commons, 2013

The state of California is currently facing a clean water emergency in the midst of its severe drought.

Regulators recently admitted that for years the oil industry has been illegally dumping millions of gallons of wastewater, including waste from fracking, into the state’s protected aquifers.

Yet—in an outrageous move—the state is allowing the contamination to continue.

The oil and gas industry has been injecting wastewater and other fluids into protected aquifers through about 2,500 injection wells, in direct violation of federal and state law.

Yet despite acknowledging the threat to the water supplies, the state has shut down only 23 of the wells. And now, in order to avoid “inconvenience” to the industry, the state is giving drillers up to nearly two more years to contaminate aquifers that could be used for drinking water. Earthjustice Staff Attorney Will Rostov said:

Instead of halting the operations of these underground injection wells, these regulations allow DOGGR to delay shutting down illegal operations for nearly two more years. This is DOGGR outrageously re-writing the law to allow needless and unlawful contamination of drinking water during a severe drought for the benefit of the oil industry.

Earthjustice is challenging this outrageous action in state court, but they need your help to put additional pressure on the governor.

In the midst of a massive drought, California should not be catering to the oil industry at the expense of its dwindling fresh water supplies.

Join with Earthjustice and tell Governor Brown to put an immediate stop to this illegal water pollution and protect California aquifers from further contamination now.

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Sign the petition: Stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Fri, 15 May 2015 00:02:54 +0000 Trans mountain pipeline, kinder morgan
Trans mountain pipeline, kinder morgan

Help the Tsleil-Waututh Nation stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline. Picture courtesy of SumOfUs

Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan wants to put North America’s coastline and communities at risk — all for more profit from yet another flawed tar sands pipeline.

And the 500-person Tsleil-Waututh Nation — an Indigenous community based on British Columbia’s west coast — is standing in its way, with unwavering opposition and legal rights that could stop this project in its tracks. Rueben George, Sacred Trust Initiative, Project Manager of Public Engagement for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said:

Our laws establish a sacred trust, a responsibility to care for our lands, air and waters. The federal government has forced us to go to court to defend ourselves and our territory. We will fight this unilateral and one-sided review process, and this project with all legal means.

If the Trans Mountain pipeline is built, it will pump a whopping 890,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Pacific Ocean, where it would be loaded onto hundreds of mega tankers and shipped overseas.

A serious oil spill would devastate an already-stressed marine environment and risks collapses in the remaining salmon stocks and further contamination of shellfish beds, wiping out Indigenous fishing and harvesting rights.

This pipeline amounts to another project that, if built, will exacerbate the climate change crisis and put the surrounding environment and communities at risk.

The SumOfUs community has been working hard to oppose these extreme energy projects.

Last fall, Canadian members raised over $80,000 to support Indigenous legal challenges against the Enbridge tar sands pipeline.

Recently, over 54,000 members submitted comments to the White House on Keystone XL, joining together with allies to apply enough pressure to delay the project for over two years — and counting.

And now, they are going to stand with the Tsleil-Waututh and stop the Trans Mountain pipeline in its tracks.

Join with SumOfUs in their fight against these dirty energy projects that threaten our climate and environment. Sign the petition to stand with the Tsleil-Waututh and send a message to Kinder Morgan to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline now.

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Raise the heat on CommBank: 19-23 May Wed, 13 May 2015 21:03:47 +0000 Raise the Heat
Raise the Heat

Photo courtesy of Go Fossil Free

The Go Fossil Free divestment campaign is at a critical stage in the fight to stop the Galilee Basin mega coal mines that, if built, would cook the climate and trash the Great Barrier Reef.

Right now, Indian mining giant Adani is calling upon The Commonwealth Bank to help them finance the Abbot Point coal port in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, the first step in unlocking nine mega coal mines in Australia’s Galilee Basin.

CommBank is already the second largest Australian financier of fossil fuel expansion on the Reef. If they pulled out of this project, it would send a massive signal to the finance world that it is time to move beyond fossil fuels.

To date, eleven major investment banks, including the major lenders to Australian coal, have publicly ruled out involvement in the project. It’s time for CommBank to follow their lead.

Over the past 18 months, thousands of CommBank customers have left the bank in protest over their fossil fuel funding. But to get CommBank out of the Galilee Basin, this movement has got to grow more than ever before.

That’s what Raise the Heat — 19-23 May — is all about.

It’s time to step things up and put CommBank’s reputation on the line — either they heed this call and publicly rule out their involvement OR they face a creative & unrelenting campaign.

Join with thousands, taking part in hundreds of actions at dozens of branches around the country and the world to Raise the Heat on CommBank!

You can find and sign up for actions at your nearest branch here.

On Saturday 23 May Raise the Heat will reach a crescendo with cya CBA actions in five cities. These bottomline-shaking events will see hundreds of customers say ‘cya’ and move millions out of CommBank.

Cya CBA  will also be a celebration of all that has taken place during Raise the Heat and so whether you’re a customer of CommBank or not this is a crucial moment to join.

RSVP to the cya CBA finale in your city now: Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth.

Raise the Heat is our first opportunity to demonstrate the power of our movement. And we will continue to flex our collective power until CommBank sees no choice but to side with the climate and the Reef and say no to financing the Galilee Basin and Abbot Point.

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Shell rigs prepare to dock in Seattle amidst Arctic oil uproar Wed, 13 May 2015 20:54:07 +0000 Port of Seattle. Creative Commons: Don Wilson, 2004
Port of Seattle. Creative Commons: Don Wilson, 2004

Port of Seattle. Creative Commons: Don Wilson, 2004

Royal Dutch Shell is moving forward with plans to dock two of its Arctic drilling rigs in the port of Seattle despite orders from port commissioners urging the company to wait.

The Port of Seattle’s board voted Tuesday to ask Shell to delay the arrival of its drilling rigs in the face of public outcry from residents of one of America’s greenest cities.

Backed by a controversial decision by the Obama administration to open waters off the coast of Alaska to oil drilling, Shell plans to use the Puget Sound as a home port as it conducts exploratory oil drilling. The announcement from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Monday unleashed waves of criticism from environmentalists, who accused the administration of putting “big oil before people” and said that the plan would expose the fragile region to a catastrophic spill.

Opposition to Shell’s Arctic ambitions has reached a fever pitch in Washington State, where activists in Seattle and elsewhere are trying to foil the company’s plans while raising awareness of the potentially catastrophic impacts of Arctic drilling on the global climate.

Protesters in kayaks and onshore gathered earlier this week in Port Angeles, Washington as the 400-foot tall Polar Pioneer—one of Shell’s two Arctic-bound drilling rigs—arrived on its final stop before embarking for Seattle.

The Coast Guard ordered activists on the water to stay 500 yards away from the Polar Pioneer when it was moving and to keep clear of its anchored location by at least 100 yards.

On Tuesday, another group of kayak protesters met a second Shell rig, the Noble Discoverer, as it stopped in Everett, Washington on its way to Seattle.

While Shell’s rigs bear down on the city, confusion about the legality of docking them at the Port of Seattle remains murky.

Last week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said that Shell’s plans to moor at the port’s Terminal 5 is not in compliance with a permit that designates it a “cargo terminal.”

Mayor Murray has instructed the port to reapply for a new permit, a process that could take months and disrupt Shell’s plans to reach the Arctic in the region’s short summer drilling window.

A Shell spokesman maintained that the permit is valid, and said that the company does not intend to modify its plans to use leased space at Terminal 5. Shell also looks likely to ignore the resolution passed by port officials on Tuesday.

Jason Kelly, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, fired back at the company.

“Should Shell bring the rigs to Terminal 5 before the appropriate permits are in place, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development will evaluate the situation and could issue a notice of violation,” Kelly said in an email to the Associated Press.

Shell’s decision to dock in the Port of Seattle against the wishes of the city’s mayor and port authorities is likely to touch off a new wave of protests this coming weekend.

Critics of Shell say that the company’s efforts to drill in the Arctic’s icy, dangerous waters will result in a serious oil spill. A recent study released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management affirms this, saying there is a three in four chance that a major oil spill will occur if oil and gas development takes place in the Arctic.

Scientists say that Arctic drilling could also be game over for the climate. According to research published in the leading scientific journal Nature, the world cannot burn any of the Arctic’s vast oil and gas reserves if global warming is to be contained to the internationally agreed level of 2 degrees Celsius.

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Students occupy University of Edinburgh in wake of divestment let down Wed, 13 May 2015 13:00:07 +0000 University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh. Creative Commons: 2012

Students are pushing back on the University of Edinburgh’s decision not to divest from fossil fuels, occupying the university’s management buildings.

On Tuesday (12 May), the university ignored the calls of students, staff and alumni calling for it to divest from dirty energy companies, sparking accusation that it had bowed to pressure from the fossil fuel industry.

The university has the third largest endowment in the UK, after Oxford and Cambridge, totalling £291 million.

It currently has around £9 million invested in fossil fuel companies including Total, Shell and BHP Billiton.

The move not to divest was passed on Monday at a meeting of the University Court – the highest decision-making body in the university – and goes against a recommendation made by the university’s Central Management Group in April which urged the university to divest from coal and tar sands.

The refusal has provoked a strong backlash from student campaigners, who had called on the University to follow in the footsteps of Glasgow, Bedfordshire and SOAS who have all committed to divest.

Internationally a total of 28 universities have moved their money out of fossil fuels.

Friends of the Earth Scotland finance campaigner Ric Lander said:

The University has missed a clear opportunity to take a moral lead on tackling climate change and stand up for environmental justice. The University appears content to have its money invested in the world’s most polluting companies including Shell, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. These companies are oil drilling in the Arctic and mining coal in virgin rainforest. Any investment policy which continues to allow investment in such irresponsible companies is not fit for purpose.

Occupying students have said they will remain in the University of Edinburgh buildings until it meets their original demands and to the full divestment from all fossil fuels and screening them out over a five year period.

In a statement, the students said:

We’re thoroughly disappointed with the University’s failure to commit to divestment from fossil fuels. Edinburgh came down firmly on the side of short-term economic interest, with little to no acknowledgement of the long-term repercussions of their investments.

The students have also argued that the process surrounding the decision to divest was un-transparent, and contrary to the will of the students and staff.

Kirsty Haigh, student campaigner with Edinburgh People & Planet, said:

Despite the university’s public consultation showing overwhelming support for fossil fuel divestment, the university has put money before climate science. Heads of the School of Engineering, in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry, have been scaremongering throughout the process. Departments funded by the industry were over-represented on the investment advisory committee, whilst some schools had no representation whatsoever. Climate change is the most urgent threat the world is facing, and today’s announcement tells us the university is not taking it seriously enough.

The decision followed a three-year campaign calling on the university to end its relationship with fossil fuels.

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Bank of America announces cut in fossil fuel lending Wed, 13 May 2015 10:11:05 +0000 The Bank of America in Columbia, South Carolina. Creative Commons: Billy Hathorn, 2012.
The Bank of America in Columbia, South Carolina. Creative Commons: Billy Hathorn, 2012.

The Bank of America in Columbia, South Carolina. Creative Commons: Billy Hathorn, 2012.

The Bank of America will cut its lending to the coal sector in a bid to scale down its financial involvement in fossil fuels, citing the future risk posed by greater regulation and competition from natural gas.

During its annual meeting last week, the financial services giant announced a new coal policy setting out plans to reduce lending to coal extraction companies and coal divisions of broader mining firms.

Andrew Plepler, the bank’s head of corporate social responsibility, said:

With regard to coal, over the past several years we have been gradually and consistently reducing our credit exposure to companies focused on coal mining. Our new policy reflects our decision to continue to reduce our credit exposure over time to the coal mining sector globally.

The announcement is the latest in a series of moves from large institutions and companies pointing to a wider fossil fuel divestment tendency.

Several universities and asset owners including the Rockefeller Foundation have been making arrangements to terminate their carbon intensive energy investments.

Earlier this week, the World Bank released the report ‘Decarbonising Development’, urging three key steps for a carbon-free future: the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, a price on carbon, and the avoidance of decisions that lock in soon-to-be-obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure.

Bank of America said the new policy is due to the increased pressure from universities and environmental groups, such as the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) which had been campaigning against the bank’s involvement with the coal sector for the past four years.

The bank said in a statement:

From these engagements, we have developed a coal policy that will ensure that Bank of America plays a continued role in promoting the responsible use of coal and other energy sources, while balancing the risks and opportunities to our shareholders and the communities we serve.

Amanda Starbuck, RAN’s energy programme director, described the announcement as representative of a “sea change” in the investment world:

It acknowledges the responsibility that the financial sector bears for supporting and profiting from the fossil fuel industry and the climate chaos it has caused. In real terms, this means the bank is turning its back on the coal mining industry and committing to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

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World Bank urges three key steps for a carbon-free future Wed, 13 May 2015 09:17:44 +0000 carbon-free future
carbon-free future

Creative Commons: 2014

Momentum towards the inevitable clean economic transition has received two significant boosts in recent weeks, with Elon Musk pulling the notion of renewable energy storage out of the too-hard basket and into consumer’s laps, and the World Bank today laying out the steps countries need to follow to affordably stabilise climate change.

Warning that costs will grow if world governments do not act now, the World Bank report Decarbonizing Development: Three Steps to a Zero Carbon Future emphasises the need for fossil fuel subsidies to be eliminated, a price to be put on carbon, and to avoid decisions that lock in soon-to-be-obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure.

Countries can put their economies on a pathway to zero emissions, according to the World Bank.

But action to get there has to start now, says the report.

Rachel Kyte’s, the World Bank’s special envoy for climate change said:

Choices made today can lock in emissions trajectories for years to come and leave communities vulnerable to climate impacts.

The new report aims to be a guide for policymakers in both developed and developing countries to put them on the path to a “zero-carbon future.”

The report calls on government to plan for the long-term and avoid quick fixes that could undermine the end coal, such as swapping coal for gas.

It also calls for a price on carbon alongside other policies to encourage changes in investment and behaviour and for help for those negatively affected by the energy transition.

While greater ambition is needed universally, countries like Germany and France are moving in the right direction and providing valuable templates for the transition to clean energy economies.

California and Hawaii understand the benefits such a transition holds, even if the US government is pretending it can continue to support fossils.

Meanwhile, countries like Canada, Australia and Japan are keen to talk up their inadequate promises to reduce emissions, but are pushing for greater coal use that will lock in even more fossil infrastructure and blow the global carbon budget.

And while China remains a coal behemoth, the tide there is beginning to turn.

The world’s biggest emitter installed more wind and solar in 2014 than it did coal while continuing to scale back its reliance on the dirty fuel, as demonstrated by the recently announced plan to shut down more than 1,200 coal mines.

According to the World Bank, putting low-carbon infrastructure in place and setting long-term climate goals needs to happen now to set up a successful outcome at the year-end climate talks in Paris.

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Obama greenlights Shell’s Arctic drilling plans casting doubt over his climate legacy Tue, 12 May 2015 17:15:21 +0000 Creative Commons: USGS, 2009
Shell’s Arctic drilling plans

Creative Commons: USGS, 2009

President Barack Obama’s reputation as a climate leader took a hit on Monday when his administration gave its blessing for Shell to begin drilling exploratory oil wells in the Arctic.

The move contradicts recent positive actions the US has made on climate, including last year’s historic emissions reductions deal it with China.

It also flies in the face of recent peer reviewed findings that there is absolutely “no climate-friendly scenario in which any oil or gas is drilled in the Arctic.”

According to the study published in Nature, the world must choose between drilling for Arctic oil and maintaining a safe, liveable climate.

Bill McKibben Co-founder said:

Shell helped melt the Arctic and now they want to drill in the thawing waters; it beggars belief that the Obama administration is willing to abet what amounts to one of the greatest acts of corporate irresponsibility in the planet’s history. Arctic oil, like tar sands, is exactly the sort of carbon we need to leave underground if we’re going to have any chance of avoiding catastrophe.

Allowing any oil and gas drilling in the Arctic is a failure of the United States to protect the world from the worst consequences of climate change, and the Obama administration’s willingness to allow oil and gas drilling operations to begin in one of the most sensitive parts of the planet – where there is a 75% change drilling operations will result in a spill – weakens Obama’s claims that climate change will be one of his “legacy” issues.

Susan Murray, Vice President at Oceana, said:

Once again, our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth… Shell’s need to validate its poorly planned investment in the U.S. Arctic Ocean is not a good reason for the government to allow the company to put our ocean resources at risk.

Shell has not shown that it is prepared to operate responsibly in the Arctic Ocean, and neither the company nor our government has been willing to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of Shell’s proposal.

While the Obama administration failed to stand up to Shell, the company still faces a number obstacles before drilling can begin in the waters north of Alaska.

Shell still needs to secure seven other outstanding permits and deal with a fight over the oil giant’s plans to moor rigs near Seattle.

Seattle’s mayor remains a vocal critic of Shell’s plans to have its Arctic drilling rigs dock at the Port of Seattle and a number of citizens plan on blocking the rig’s entrance to the port by arranging a kayak flotilla this weekend.

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Reshuffles, renewables & the UN climate talks: What the new UK govt means for the climate Tue, 12 May 2015 17:03:43 +0000 Tory government
Tory government

Creative Commons: Herman Pinera

As the UK Conservative government celebrates its shock victory in last week’s elections and Prime Minister David Cameron begins to appoint his new cabinet, campaigners and green business groups are urging the government to show early support for the low-carbon transition.

With the Conservative manifesto pledging to end public subsidies for onshore wind power, maximise the recovery of UK oil and support shale gas development, commentators warn the party’s election victory could serve a severe blow to Britain’s green energy industry.

Meanwhile they warn the potential re-negotiation of the UK’s position in Europe could leave the country distracted, “weakening their ability to drive a strong climate agreement in Paris”.

Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G warned:

If the UK votes to leave the EU then expect a complete revision of UK climate and energy policy. If the UK does not vote for ‘Brexit’ then the Eurosceptic majority in the Tory party will remain a drag on attempts to create a single European energy market and strengthen delivery of EU clean energy and climate change goals.

There is too much legal, business and political momentum invested in decarbonising the UK economy to expect major shifts in domestic policy, beyond immediate cut-backs in support for onshore renewables and energy efficiency. However, over the course of a Parliament there is a real risk the UK could drift seriously off track in delivering carbon budgets, precipitating an intense political fight over maintaining targets

Campaigners have urged the government to offer early support for the low carbon economy, to ensure jobs, protect UK citizens and ensure success at the UN climate talks this December.

However, the unexpected appointment of Amber Rudd as the UK’s new energy and climate change secretary has been welcomed by campaigners.

Quoting Margaret Thatcher ahead of the election Rudd, showed her support for the green agenda, saying: “‘The core of Tory philosophy and for the case for protecting the environment are the same’… Her words are as true today as they were then.

Simon Bullock, senior climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:

Amber Rudd has already acknowledged the need to boost renewables and increase investment in energy efficiency – and importantly she recognises the devastating impact that climate change will have without action. Her department now needs to make urgent decisions to get the UK off fossil fuels, not least by phasing out dirty coal, and reducing our energy demand and carbon emissions through major investment in energy efficiency and clean renewable power.

Green groups see the promotion of “really green and no-nonsense” Rudd as a “hopeful sign that the Government remains committed” to its cross-party pledge to uphold UK carbon targets, push for an ambitious UN climate deal and phase out unabated coal-fired power stations.

There is as yet no date set for a phase-out, and campaigners say and “early priority [of the new government] should be the systematic and phased closure of the UK’s coal-fired power stations.”

Emma-Lucy Pinchbeck, head of climate and energy at WWF UK said:

As a signatory to The Climate Coalition Leader’s Pledge, David Cameron is committed to progressing policy in line with the Climate Act, fighting for a global deal on climate change, and driving forward the low carbon transition. We will support the Prime Minister and his new Government to make good on these pledges, so that Britain may realise the economic benefits of acting on these ink-and-paper promises.

Ending coal would send a strong signal ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris in December, reduce the UK’s dependency on imported Russian coal, and be one of the cheapest ways to quickly reduce carbon emissions, in line with the Conservatives commitment to “cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible.

The new Conservative government will represent the the UK at the UN climate talks in Paris at the end of the year and at next month’s G7 meeting in Bavaria, where climate change will be high of the agenda.

With 2015 such a crucial year for climate change, all eyes will be on the government to ensure that it continues to drive climate momentum, that it keeps the UK at the forefront of action and that it plays a key role in securing an ambitious outcome at the Paris climate talks.

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Hawaii sprints forward in race to 100% renewable energy Mon, 11 May 2015 23:41:07 +0000 Solar farm, Kauai. Creative Commons: Wolfram Burner, 2014
Solar farm, Kauai. Creative Commons: Wolfram Burner, 2014

Solar farm, Kauai. Creative Commons: Wolfram Burner, 2014

The US state of Hawaii set a new standard in the global transition to clean energy last week by passing a bill requiring 100% of the state’s electricity to be generated by renewable sources within three decades.

The measure was approved by an overwhelming majority of the Hawaii state legislature. The House voted 50-1 to pass the bill, and a Senate vote of 24-1 in favor of the measure sent it to the desk of Governor David Ige (D).

Ige has until May 15th to either veto or sign the bill. If the bill is signed into law, Hawaii will become the first US state to set a timeline for the complete phaseout of fossil-fuels in the electricity grid.

Hawaii currently has a renewable portfolio standard that requires renewables to make up 40% of the power mix by 2030. In 2013, Hawaii got 18 percent of its electric power from renewable energy.

The bill’s passage was praised by environmental organizations and lawmakers alike as a critical step to lower electricity prices while fighting climate change.

Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation called the 2045 goal “a visionary policy,” while Hawaii State Rep. Chris Lee (D) honed in on the expected benefits to ratepayers.

“Local renewable projects are already cheaper than liquid natural gas and oil,” Lee said. “Moving to 100% renewable energy will do more to reduce energy prices for local residents in the long term than almost anything else we could do”

As the price of renewable energy falls, is adoption is becoming more widespread. Since 1998, the cost of putting solar on a typical American house has dropped by more than 70%. In remote locations like Hawaii, where shipping costs drive the prices of fossil fuels sky high, investments in renewable energy are widesly seen as commonsense measures.

Elsewhere in the United States local governments are beginning to forge long term plans to shift away from fossil fuel dependence.

Burlington, Vermont grabbed headlines earlier this year by becoming the first American city to run on 100% renewable energy, while a number of other cities including Georgetown, Texas and Fort Collins, Colorado have made commitments to reach zero emissions by shifting to clean energy.

On the national level, the United States formally submitted a climate action plan to the UN in March, promising emissions reductions of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

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Sign the petition: Stop wasting California’s water on fracking Fri, 08 May 2015 21:40:21 +0000 California's water
California's water

Cracked soil. Creative Commons: Mike Baird, 2013

California is suffering a severe drought that scientists predict might be the worst in a 1,000 years.

Sensibly, Governor Jerry Brown mandated the first-ever restrictions on water use in the state: a 25 percent reduction.

Insensibly, he excluded some of the biggest water users from these restrictions, including fracking.

In 2014 alone, fracking, a method of extracting oil and gas, used 70 million gallons of water. Most of that water is removed completely from the hydro-logic cycle, never to be seen or used again.

In response to an announcement by California Governor Brown on the state’s water crisis,’s Linda Capato issued this statement:

California can’t spend its way out of a water crisis any more than it can frack its way out of the climate crisis. More money is as much besides the point as shorter showers, when such a huge portion of this problem comes from Sacramento’s willingness to let oil companies pour millions of gallons of fresh water down holes across our state in exchange for crude. If Governor Brown was truly serious about doing more than nibbling around the edges of the water crisis, step one would be obvious: place an immediate moratorium on fracking in our state, and prevent the pollution of more than 2 million gallons of fresh water per day.

With the world coming off its hottest year on record, scientists have implicated climate change in amplifying the drought as it fuels record-breaking temperatures that have obliterated snowpack, converted snow into rain, and dried out soil.

Mounting evidence also suggests that climate change may be linked to the dramatic drop of precipitation in California—the result of an unusual high-pressure weather pattern that blocked storms from the state.

The dramatic conditions in California provide a frightening preview of climate impacts to come. A major study released last month by Stanford University researchers predicts that by the middle of the 21st century nearly every year will be warm or extremely warm in California.

These conditions will make prolonged droughts more likely, leading to devastating wildfires and causing headaches for farmers and communities whose livelihoods depend on access to water.

California simply cannot afford to waste valuable water resources on dirty fossil fuels.

Take action now: Sign the petition from Earthworks and tell Governor Jerry Brown to ban all water use for oil and gas extraction!

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CURE India (CLEAN UP & RECYCLE FOR ENVIRONMENT) Fri, 08 May 2015 19:45:16 +0000 Clean up & recycle for environment (CURE) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) established in the year 2014 with a vision to provide wholesome environment to our present as well as future generation. The basic philosophy adopted is intergenerational equity between Industrial pace for growth in present and ecosystem left for future. Sustainable mode of development becomes only solution to bring a balance among all the driving forces for the current global economy. CURE supported by experts in field of Environment, sustainable development, law, industry and related area.

Follow: CURE India >>

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Pope Francis could lead one third of Catholics into climate fight Fri, 08 May 2015 18:59:48 +0000 Pope Francis. Creative Commons: Catholic Church of England and Wales, 2013
Pope Francis. Creative Commons: Catholic Church of England and Wales, 2013

Pope Francis. Creative Commons: Catholic Church of England and Wales, 2013

One third of Catholics would go green if Pope Francis issued a declaration on climate change, according to new polling.

The poll of 1,049 English and Welsh Catholics found that 33% would adjust their lifestyles to include such actions as driving less and recycling more if the Pope issued a statement calling for action on climate change.

72% of the respondents said that they worried about the changing climate’s impacts on the world’s poorest people, and 76% percent said that they felt a moral obligation to help the victims of global warming.

Responding to the poll’s results, Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at Cafod, said:

While the data shows us that almost two thirds of Catholics have engaged with the climate debate already, what’s most telling about these results is how many Catholics link the impact climate change is having on vulnerable people with their faith, which calls us to protect the poorest in society.

The poll comes as the Pope prepares to release a much-anticipated encyclical on man’s relationship to the environment, which is expected to hone in on climate change.

Since being elected, Pope Francis has consistently spoken out about the need to protect creation and protect the poorest and least fortunate from the effects of environmental degradation.

With December’s Paris climate talks looming, though, the pontiff has ramped up his efforts to engage Catholics on the issue of climate change even more, framing climate action as a moral imperative.

Last week, the Vatican held a climate change summit that brought together faith leaders, researchers, and business leaders to discuss the challenges posed by the global warming—including longer droughts and more severe storms that will hit disadvantaged people first and hardest.

The event featured a keynote speech from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and resulted in a declaration being issued by the Vatican’s science academies calling climate change a “dominant moral and ethical issue for society.”

The document also said that the Catholic Church can work with other religions to take a leadership role in “mobilizing public opinion and public funds to meet the energy needs of the poorest 3 billion people, thus allowing them to prepare for the challenges of unavoidable climate and eco-system changes.”

Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical has reportedly been completed, and is undergoing translation into the world’s major languages. Its release is expected to occur in early summer.

The Pope also may broach the subject of climate change when he addresses the United States Congress and the UN General Assembly later this year in September.

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Sign the petition: Release full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Fri, 08 May 2015 18:58:01 +0000 Trans-Pacific Partnership
Trans-Pacific Partnership

This secret “trade” deal would eviscerate broad swaths of regulations that protect consumers, workers, the climate and environment and the soundness of the US financial system. Creative Commons: GlovalTradeWatch, 2012

Recently President Obama lashed out at activists and elected representatives who have opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as the next NAFTA and a secret corporate giveaway, saying that “when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”

In response, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, two of the leading opponents of TPP, said they agreed with President Obama that the American people should dig into the facts on the proposed deal. However, this would require the Obama administration to declassify the draft of the deal, because right now the public isn’t even allowed to read it.

In a letter to the president, Sens. Warren and Brown wrote:

The American people should be allowed to weigh in on the facts of the TPP before Members of Congress are asked to voluntarily reduce our ability to amend, shape, or block any trade deal. The press and the public should be allowed to examine the details that corporate executives and lobbyists have already been allowed to influence for years. Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate instead of being muzzled by classification rules. Before Congress votes to facilitate the adoption of the TPP, the American public should be allowed to see for themselves whether it’s good deal for them.

Sens. Warren and Brown are absolutely right. This secret “trade” deal would eviscerate broad swaths of regulations that protect consumers, workers, the climate and environment and the soundness of the US financial system.

And it would set up a legal regime where corporate profits trump the policy priorities of sovereign governments–and that’s just the stuff we know about.

The Obama administration should immediately release the TPP text to the public and Congress so citizens can have a spirited and informed public debate on the largest trade deal in US history.

Sign the petition from CREDO and Daily Kos standing with Sens. Warren and Brown and become a citizen co-sponsor of their letter to President Obama.

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Chinese banks could be the “last straw” for doomed coal industry Fri, 08 May 2015 15:05:39 +0000 coal industry
coal industry

Creative Commons: Kym Farnik, 2010

The Chinese financial sector has been called upon to support air pollution control and help drive the country’s clean energy transition by cutting lending to coal-related industries.

According to a new study, released by People’s Bank of China Research Institute and Greenovation Hub, bank loans were the main source of external financing for 168 coal-related companies between 2008 and 2014.

The study points out that if Chinese banks cut the loans for the coal projects to 40% of 2013 levels, China could limit coal use to around four billion tonnes by 2020, realising the pledged target announced last year.

The study shows loans totalling up to 5.5 trillion RMB were handed out of the six year period, primarily concentrated in the mining sector.

“Most banks have no clue how to evaluate the cost of the environmental impact from projects,” said Yuan Jia, Financial Research Institute of the People’s Bank of China.

This funding for coal mining has contributed to a massive capacity glut in the sector,

Coal’s downward trend in coal production and use has continued for 35 months now, and over 80% coal companies are facing losses, leading the study to warn of an increasing risk of loan defaults as China tightens air pollution controls.

If China’s financial sector fails to join the global momentum to clean economies, they will miss out on the huge economic opportunities and advantages that are appearing.

Scientists warn that most of world’s fossil fuel reserves are already “unburnable” under the 2C climate goal.

This includes the majority of China’s reserves.

Yunwen Bai, Director of the Climate and Finance Policy Centre, Greenovation Hub said:

[China] should offer easy access for (clean) energy companies to borrow money at a lower rate, build a green investment bank and issue green bonds to direct investment into green and clean businesses.

Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Citibank, Morgan Stanley have recently been joined by French banks to abandon coal. China’s banks are being left behind, even as air pollution controls are tightened around them.

Meanwhile, continued investment in renewables, energy efficiency and emission reductions is also contributing to a gloomy outlook for coal, especially as China is hailed for its leadership in renewable energy investment.

As China is crafting a systematic green financing policy framework, and more global financial agencies are stepping away from fossil fuels due to an increasing risk of stranded assets in a carbon-constrained world, it is a clear signal for Chinese financial sector to address the current huge gap of financing that are hindering the nation’s war on pollution and its efforts of energy transition.

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Carlos Nobre: 2015 is crucial for the future Thu, 07 May 2015 21:22:02 +0000 Brazilian deforestation. Creative Commons: CIFOR, 2013
Brazilian deforestation. Creative Commons: CIFOR, 2013

Brazilian deforestation. Creative Commons: CIFOR, 2013

Authored by Carlos Nobre, re-posted from the World Resources Institute
Carlos Nobre is one of Brazil’s best known climate scientists. He was the Director of the Center for Earth System Science and Senior Scientist at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) of Brazil, Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Research Network on Global Climate Change (Rede CLIMA), Scientific Director of the National Institute for Climate Change Research and is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Climate change poses a serious threat to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Maintaining the current trajectory of global warming will leave our world irrevocably changed, with warming far beyond 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and potentially devastating impacts on the planet. If we act quickly and courageously, we can immediately start to decarbonize the global economy and limit climate change.

To do this, however, political leaders from around the world must act resolutely this year to guarantee a better future for coming generations and for all other species. It is for these reasons that we from the Earth League – an international network of leading global scientists – are launching the “Earth Declaration,” a manifesto of eight essential elements of actions needed at the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December. They are:

  1. Limit global warming to below 2 degrees C, maintaining this as the maximum limit for global warming to avoid the risk of potentially dangerous climate change.
  2. The maximum carbon emissions produced by human society on a global scale – in other words, the limit of future carbon dioxide emissions – must remain below 1 trillion tons (1000 gigatons of carbon dioxide) to provide us with a reasonable chance to hold the 2 degree C line.
  3. Intensive decarbonization actions, starting immediately, to secure a zero-carbon society by mid-century or a little later is key to future prosperity.
  4. Every country must develop plans for the decarbonization of its economy. Wealthy countries and modern industries can and must assume responsibility for decarbonization long before mid-century.
  5. We must unleash a wave of climatic innovations for the global good and allow universal access to existing technological solutions.
  6. Climate change is already happening. We need to massively increase public support for adaptation strategies and measures for the reduction of losses and damages in developing countries.
  7. We must protect carbon sinks and vital ecosystems, our best friends in the fight against climate change.
  8. Governments must provide additional support for developing countries to deal with climate change at a level that is at least comparable to current global development aid.

Brazil has stood out globally with a 36 percent reduction in emissions in the last few years, cutting its gross emissions of 2.36 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2005 to 1.52 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012, according to estimates by the Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation. This is mainly due to the reduction of around 80 percent of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and, on a smaller scale, the reduction deforestation of the Cerrado biome.

Read more: World Resources Institute>>


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Petro-state “dynasty” shakedown shocks Canada on election day Thu, 07 May 2015 19:00:41 +0000 Winning 53 seats— nine more than needed for a majority government —  New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley will now lead Alberta’s provincial government. Creative Commons: Dave Cournoyer, 2014
Winning 53 seats— nine more than needed for a majority government —  New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley will now lead Alberta’s provincial government. Creative Commons: Dave Cournoyer, 2014

Winning 53 seats— nine more than needed for a majority government — New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley will now oversee Alberta’s provincial government. Creative Commons: Dave Cournoyer, 2014

In a landslide win for Alberta, Canada’s historically most conservative province broke a 44 year habit of voting in oil-driven leadership.

Winning 53 seats— nine more than needed for a majority government —  New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley will now oversee Alberta’s provincial government. Notley beat out Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, who was widely criticized for running Alberta’s economy into the ground.

Failing to diversify its tar sands-heavy economy, Alberta reached a financial low point following the oil market crash earlier this year, leading most Albertans to seek drastic change. Alberta’s leaders placed big bets on the tar sands industry’s ability to drive the economy, only to have them fall through when plummeting oil prices ushered in economic catastrophe.

Some are expecting the NDP to run the provincial government by favouring a different approach, including proposed energy royalties, increased corporate income tax, and decreased governmental support for tar sands pipelines.

This drastic change in political landscape has left oil industry giants shaking in their boots as they approach a future of uncertainty — a prophecy that is already taking shape in today’s tumbling tar sands stock prices.

Expecting the new leader to be “more attuned to [..] social issues” in his city, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said:

“Albertans had a real choice between very different visions of what this province should be and it looks like they voted for the Alberta they wanted, not the Alberta they didn’t want.”

Canadians headed to the polls with the environment—and their pocketbooks—in mind. Drawing in the strongest voter turnout in decades, this victory is being called one of “the most seismic shifts in Canadian political history.” In Canada, opposition to tar sands pipelines is spreading from coast to coast and provincial leaders are finally beginning to get the message.

Despite this major turning point for Alberta, some are cautioning that it might be too soon to know what energy proposals lie ahead.

Andrew Leach, an economist at the University of Alberta said:

“This is why you’re seeing so many different reactions right now […] You get people who say the NDP will turn Alberta into Norway. Or that it will be a complete disaster for the oil industry. Or others arguing that the election won’t change the industry that much because there’s not that much room to move.”

As history unfolded in the province commonly known as “the Texas of Canada,” many will be watching the country closely in upcoming months as the federal elections in October approach.

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Climate change threatens one in six species Thu, 07 May 2015 16:14:49 +0000 American Pika, an animal whose habitats are threatened by climate change. Creative Commons: 2010
American Pika, an animal whose habitats are threatened by climate change. Creative Commons: 2010

American Pika, an animal whose habitats are threatened by climate change. Creative Commons: 2010

Climate change could drive one in six species of animal and planet life to extinction.

That’s the finding of a new study, published in the journal Science, which found an average global rate of extinction of 7.9% – that’s one out of every 13 species.

If global carbon emissions continue to rise, the extinction rate would move to one out of every six species by the end of this century.

The study is noteworthy for the large scale of collected data used to compile its findings.

University of Connecticut ecologist Mark Urban analyzed data from 131 peer-reviewed studies, every climate extinction model ever published.

Over the last couple of decades, there have been a number of studies connecting climate change to extinctions.

Those studies often focused on one species or a group of related species such as butterflies. Other studies were based on different degrees of rising global temperatures.

These studies often produced different estimates for extinctions as a result.

To gain a clearer picture, Dr. Urban discarded any research connected with only a single species that might artificially inflate the data in his analysis.

He concentrated on 131 studies on plants, amphibians, fish, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates spread throughout the earth.

Urban found that by a surface temperature increase of 2C (3.6F) 5.2% of species would become extinct.

A rise of 4.3C (7.7F) would see the extinction rate rise to 16% of species.

The rate of extinctions would not increase steadily but would accelerate with rising temperatures.

The earth’s temperature has raised about 0.85C (1.5F)  since the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Some scientists project a rise of 4.5C (8F) as global emissions grow.

Species respond to temperature changes by shifting their ranges.

Scientists have found that, on average, species ranges have been shifting 3.8 miles towards the planet’s poles per decade. Scientists fear that the continuing rise of global temperatures will make finding suitable habitats difficult for many species.

As these pressures increase, populations may begin to decline, slowly dwindling towards extinction.

The areas of greatest risk to biodiversity are tropical ones in South America, Australia and New Zealand, according to the research.

Tropical forests contain some of the highest concentrations of the world’s species. The Amazon rainforest alone contains one in 10 of all the world’s known species.

Durban believes that the climate models accuracy could be improved if man-made habitat loss in the form of cities, farms and other barriers were taken into account.

Habitat loss is major source of extinction for the world’s species, along with unsustainable hunting and fishing. But these other sources are compounded with the damage climate change presents to biodiversity.

Other scientific experts feel that the situation could be even more dire for the earth’s species. John J. Wiens, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, said the extinctions “may well be two to three times higher” than Urban’s estimates.

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World Bank’s pension investments clash with its ethical standards Wed, 06 May 2015 20:58:10 +0000 World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Creative Commons: MONUSCO/John Bompengo, 2013.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Creative Commons: MONUSCO/John Bompengo, 2013.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Creative Commons: MONUSCO/John Bompengo, 2013.

The World Bank invests part of its US$18.8 billion (£12.4 billion) staff pension fund in industries such as coal and tobacco, despite the institution’s own calls for ethical, low-carbon investment.

According to a Reuters report, an internal staff post from the bank’s treasurer said that around 40% of the pension fund’s equity holdings are actively or passively invested against equity index funds, which include companies in industries associated with environmental and health problems.

Two World Bank sources, who asked not to be identified, showed Reuters internal discussions between staff and managers on an internal site as well as a research note compiled by employees which gives details of the holdings, expresses concern about the pension, and questions why the bank has not turned to ethical alternatives.

The bank refuses to lend funds to developing countries investing in tobacco and coal, with the exception of the poorest countries where coal-fired electricity is the only option currently available.

The Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) Global Climate 500 report, assessing the world’s top 500 investors on climate-risk management, ranked the World Bank pension fund a “laggard” in transparency and protecting assets from climate risks.

It also ranked lower than the pension funds of companies such as British Coal and the Azerbaijan state oil fund.

Julian Poulter, chief executive of the initiative, said:

It’s very difficult for the bank to take a position where it is promoting sustainable growth and not managing the risks in their large portfolio – or telling anyone about it.

Although financial returns for staff are a priority for the pension fund, investment analysts say that it could be directed to pre-screened or tailored funds that exclude companies failing to follow environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.

The bank’s pension fund assets are held in a separate legal trust administered by its Pension Finance Committee (PFC), chaired by the World Bank’s chief financial officer and including a mix of members from management, staff and retirees. External managers run the funds on a day-to-day basis.

The PFC did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

The World Bank said in a statement to Reuters that it does not comment on specific pension investments, adding that it opts for a “principled yet pragmatic approach” within the fund’s overall requirements that considers ESG risks and opportunities “where material and relevant.”

The call for ethical investment

The World Bank is currently conducting a review of its corporate sustainability policies. However, it says its pension fund investments are not included in that review since they have a separate governance structure.

Participation in the pension fund – a combination of defined benefit and 401k-style savings – is mandatory for World Bank employees. It has about 1,5000 current employees and around 10,000 retired beneficiaries.

Not all beneficiaries are calling for change. Kenneth Lay, the vice president of the 1818 Society, the World Bank alumni group, said the fund should focus on maximizing returns.

While there is some evidence that ESG investment can improve “risk adjusted performance,” Lay said, “there is also extensive literature reaching the opposite conclusion.”

According to the employees’ research note, some of the pension’s holdings are invested in the Russell 3000 index, which tracks the performance of the 3000 largest US companies including coal producers Peabody Coal and Arch Coal and tobacco giant Philip Morris.

The note also mentions funds tied to Morgan Stanley’s MSCI index including major fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil.

MSCI and other indexes offer portfolios excluding companies in industries with perceived ethical problems.

In its statement to Reuters, the bank said were it to consider such funds it “would have to be convinced of their superior return and risk properties in order to make the investment consistent with fiduciary responsibilities.”

Last October, some employees argued on a blog post on the bank’s in-house website that the bank’s target of 3.5% annual real returns could be met through socially responsible investments, and raised concerns of the contradiction between the bank’s official ethical principles and the nature of its pension fund investments.

Although bank employees have investment choices within their plans, no ethical alternatives are offered, they said.

In response, Madelyn Antoncic, treasurer of the World Bank, posted that “things aren’t always black and white”, citing the case of a bio-medical subsidiary of tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., which is working to develop a vaccine for the Ebola virus from modified tobacco leaves.

Antoncic, who oversees more than $140 billion in World Bank assets as well as the pension fund, said that 60% of the plan’s equity holdings are in separately managed accounts.

Several other large pension funds have shifted towards more ethical investments.

Norway’s $850bn Government Pension Global Fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, announced in February that it had moved out of companies connected to Alberta’s oil sands and gold miners.

Last December, the UN staff pension fund, worth $53bn, invested in two low-carbon funds by BlackRock and State Street.

Kevin Bourne, a managing director of ESG at the FTSE Group, said:

Just two years ago, investments that met ESG principles were the domain of smaller funds; now interest has spread to the largest pension schemes in the world.

Further to the Global Climate 500 report, AODP and ClientEarth have announced to take legal action against pension funds failing to recognise their legal duties to protect their assets from climate risks.

It is to be hoped that through this increasing pressure from pension holders and supporting NGOs, more and more pension funds will direct their portfolios to ethical, low-carbon investments.

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Climate change creates “new era” in Arctic Ocean Wed, 06 May 2015 20:36:39 +0000 Sunset over Arctic ice. Creative Commons: NASA, 2011
Sunset over Arctic ice. Creative Commons: NASA, 2011

Sunset over Arctic ice. Creative Commons: NASA, 2011

Rising temperatures from climate change are altering the Arctic, as the thicker, permanent ice of the past gives way to a new, thinner ice sheet that vanishes in summer. Norwegian scientists currently studying the phenomenon say that this constitutes a “new era” for the Arctic with far-reaching global implications.

Researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute have braved extreme temperatures and total darkness in the region’s coldest months to collect data on the condition of the Arctic’s ice. The team’s vessel, the Lance, is drifting with the Arctic ice in an area about 804 kilometers (500 miles) from the North Pole on a two year mission called the Norwegian Sea ICE Cruise.

The purpose of the research is to create a comprehensive assessment of all key aspects of the Arctic Ocean and the effect of rising temperatures on the region. Measuring what happens with the ice in the winter gives scientists vital data to improve future scenarios for climate change.

Last March, U.S. satellites from the National Snow and Ice Center observed that sea ice in the Arctic had decreased to its lowest level ever recorded. But Norwegian on-site research has found that the changes are even more profound: Over the last 25 years, the Arctic has lost a lot of sea ice but also moved from a multi-year sea ice system to a seasonal one where the ice is more mobile.

This new thinner ice reflects about 10% less solar energy. Half of the solar energy is absorbed in the ice— causing it to melt more quickly—while the other half penetrates into the ocean, raising the ocean’s temperature.

As Arctic Sea ice continues to thin, sea levels are expected to rise.

The thinner ice is also impacting the biodiversity of the Arctic.

Norwegian biologist Haakon Hop explains:

Typically, there’s much less life underneath first year ice — multiyear ice is more complex, with more ridging and typically has more animal life. So what has been seen around the Arctic is these animals that live underneath the ice — crustaceans, amphipods and copepods — the biodiversity has gone down and their abundance and biomass have also gone down in the areas that have been measured.

These animals provide important prey items for sea birds and marine animals in the Arctic. Thus disruption in the biodiversity of the animals below the ice will have larger implications for the biodiversity above it.

As more light enters the Arctic Ocean some species like plankton will flourish. But this may also have an effect on the animals that already live within the sea ice by diminishing their habitat.

The Norwegian Polar Institute has deployed tracking devices on the ice-floes to allow continued observation on the movement and thinning of the ice after the expedition ends in June.

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Tell Indonesian President Jokowi to cancel the Central Java coal plant Wed, 06 May 2015 17:04:54 +0000 Central Java
Central Java

Photo courtesy of Avaaz

The Indonesian government is trying to build a dirty, polluting coal plant in Central Java, and we need your help to stop it!

Local villagers have fiercely resisted the massive 2000 MW Batang coal plant for more than three years. Seventy-four rice farmers have steadfastly refused to sell their land.

The project would harm rice fields, destroy the rich fisheries of the area, and emit toxic air pollution.

It would also make it impossible for the Indonesian government to meet its greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

As a result of their opposition, local community members have been subjected to violence and intimidation. Villagers and local NGO workers have been beaten, shot at, threatened, imprisoned, kidnapped, and hospitalised, and the social fabric of the community has been ripped apart.

Just last month, the army and police moved into the area with large excavation equipment and started digging up rice fields, even though the landowners have not sold their land to the project.

Avaaz needs your help to stop this dirty project! Together we can send a strong message to Indonesian President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo that thousands of people around the world are supporting the villagers and their efforts to stop dirty coal and promote clean energy.

Sign the Avaaz petition to tell Indonesian President Jokowi to cancel the Central Java coal plant.

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John Sauven: A manifesto for a more sustainable world Wed, 06 May 2015 14:02:01 +0000 sustainable world
sustainable world

Creative Commons: NASA/Goddard/OceanColor/MODIS, 2014

Authored by John Sauven, re-posted from the Guardian
John Sauven is director of Greenpeace UK

Next year, the International Union of Geological Sciences will report on the outcome of one of the biggest scientific debates of our time: whether the Earth has entered a new geological epoch. For the last 10,000 years – a period that has seen the birth and flourishing of human civilisation – we have been living through the Holocene epoch. But there is an emerging consensus that this epoch may now be over, superseded by a new age: the Anthropocene. The age of humans.

The reason for this change is stark: our actions – colonialism, global trade, and coal – have had such a huge and decisive impact on the Earth that humans have become a geological force in their own right. But the destructive reality of this new epoch has only really hit home in the last half century.

Since 1950 we have seen an unprecedented global rise in the human population, accelerating extinction and climate change, urbanisation and industrialisation and the development of novel materials from persistent organic pollutants to genetically engineered organisms. Extinction rates are currently running at between 100 and 1,000 times the natural level. Even nuclear bomb tests have left their radioactive traces in tree-rings.

Today, we humans are eating away at our own life support systems at an unprecedented rate. What’s more, we are living in turbulent political times across the globe. Politics is broken and business-as-usual is taking us in the wrong direction. But what can be done?

Escaping old ideas, as Keynes said, is difficult. When ideas and concepts that benefit or represent one powerful group of people at the expense of the majority are universalised, they become the norms that shape our thinking: they become what’s ‘common sense’ and ‘natural’. We end up accepting a simplistic and beguiling mantra: more growth, more profits, more stuff. And, with it, the consequences: more climate change, more chaos, more extinction, more inequality. Create enough zeroes in the right places and you can make a desert and still call it progress. Meanwhile, the real stuff of life – the quality of the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the landscapes we live in – is often dismissed as the niche concerns of naïve and privileged idealists. This is where we are now.

Such distorted priorities have led us directly to the current destructive system. But we are conscious agents of the current destruction, and in that consciousness lies hope for the future. We know the damage we are doing, and we know we should and can do things differently. The challenge is to agree on how to use our powers for the common good.

Read more: the Guardian >>

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Tell major media outlets: Connect the dots between megadrought and climate change Wed, 06 May 2015 03:25:52 +0000 Megadrought

Extreme drought. Creative Commons: 2012

California is in its fourth year of its worst drought in 1,200 years. But, despite mounting evidence that climate change is fueling this unprecedented natural disaster, major TV networks have totally failed in their responsibility to connect the dots between California’s megadrought and climate change.

When the media fails to cover the link between extreme weather and climate change, it gives elected officials continuing license to promote fossil fuels and avoid confronting the fossil fuel industry – including California Governor Jerry Brown, who, while taking some action to address the drought, has refused to stop the fracking industry from further polluting our atmosphere and poisoning our water.

According to a recent study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, ABC, CBS and NBC failed to mention climate change in 89 percent of their stories on the California drought. And when climate change was mentioned, it was often to portray the science as in dispute.

This is unacceptable. Climate change is loading the dice for increasing droughts, wildfires, floods, heat waves and sea level rise that will fundamentally change every aspect of life in California – and, with the window of opportunity to reduce carbon pollution and mitigate these catastrophes rapidly closing, the media has a moral duty to sound the alarm about climate change when extreme weather events disrupt the lives of millions.

The link between climate change and drought is clear. Drought is caused by heat and lack of rainfall. While research is still determining the connection between climate change and California’s lack of rainfall the connection with warmer temperatures is clear.

A lack of rainfall is more likely to lead to drought in extremely hot years, which accelerates evaporation. And it’s indisputable that human-caused climate change is making extremely hot years more likely, which leads to more devastating droughts like this one.

In fact, 2014 was the hottest year in recorded state history and, by 2030, climate scientists expect every single year to be warmer than normal by historic standards.

Major media outlets have a responsibility to tell the truth and provide context so that the public can understand important events like California’s drought.

Given the mounting evidence that climate change is, as the Guardian put it, “turning the Golden State brown,” reporting on the drought while remaining silent about climate change borders on deception.

We have to challenge this utter failure to report the real news.

Tell major media outlets: Connect the dots between California’s megadrought and climate change.

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Sign the petition: Include electronic waste in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Wed, 06 May 2015 02:02:45 +0000 e-waste

India is aiming towards becoming an economic superpower and in such circumstances cleanliness becomes more logical. A clean home is more hospitable to its visitors and subsequently brings greater investment to Indian economy. Cleanliness directly promotes social growth and economic activity.

The Prime Minister’s call for Digital India has created great enthusiasm among people of India as well as abroad. Digital infrastructure, delivery of services and digital literacy are the aims of Digital India and electronic inclusion of people will strengthen Indian democracy with highly accountable and transparent government.

It is evident that this electronic inclusion will gear up the generation of electronic waste with computers, laptops, mobile phones and other telecommunication equipment as major source of e-waste.

E-waste consists of waste electrical & electronic equipment that are to be discarded. India generates about 1.5 Million tonnes of e-waste each year. UN predicted that by 2020 e-waste from computers would jump by 500 percent and from discarded mobile phones would be 18 times higher than 2007 level in India.

Electronic waste itself does not cause direct damage to us but unscientific processing of this scrap is detrimental to human health and well-being.

WHO in its e-waste and Child Health Initiative report has warned about these consequences of e-waste. National Green Tribunal has also expressed similar concern about e-waste causing broad spectrum of ecological damage.

Therefore, its about time that e-waste be managed through environmentally sound processes causing least harm to human health and environment and checking its diversion to landfills or incineration plants.

Indian government has recognised the problem of e-waste and has made e-waste (Management & handling), Rules, 2011 but due to lack of proper awareness among the private and government bodies the problem is being ignored.

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a national campaign by the Government of India to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country and help put focus on awareness and aims to ensure 100% collection and scientific processing/disposal reuse/recycle of Municipal Solid Waste.

Therefore, its only logical that e-waste is included in this campaign. This will generate awareness among citizens and will ensure proper management of e-waste.

CURE India has started a petition asking the Prime Minister to include the e-waste in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to help minimize damage to human health and the environment.

Please join CURE India in calling Prime Minister to include the E-Waste in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for a responsible Electronic Democracy and for a better tomorrow.

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American politicians take aim at climate science with NASA budget cuts Tue, 05 May 2015 19:30:01 +0000 NASA's budget for earth science research is the latest target for attack by anti-science Republicans. Creative Commons: Jessie Hodge, 2012
NASA's budget for earth science research is the latest target for attack by anti-science Republicans. Creative Commons: Jessie Hodge, 2012

NASA’s budget for earth science research is the latest target for attack by anti-science Republicans. Creative Commons: Jessie Hodge, 2012

Conservatives in the United States Congress are keeping up their longstanding effort to deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and prevent the federal government from reducing the greenhouse gas emissions causing it.

Their latest salvo? Anti-science members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology voted along party lines last week to dramatically reduce funding for NASA’s earth science programs. The proposed cuts amount to at least $300 million and could reach $500 million or more.

The bill would redirect some of the money currently funding earth sciences research to space-flight programs.

The GOP’s latest move has struck a nerve within the scientific community, which hasn’t minced words in its response to attempts to undercut scientific understanding of climate change.

NASA administrator and former astronaut Charles Bowden said that the bill “threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.”

Writing in the Washington Post, renowned meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd denounced the cuts as “reckless” and said that they would cost jobs and halt research that helps the American Navy prepare for the national security implications of climate change.

NASA’s earth science programs don’t just focus on climate. NASA researchers tracked the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and have made strides to better understand dangerous natural disasters like earthquakes and severe storms.

The need for such research will only increase in the years to come, as warming temperatures and rising sea levels intensify storms like Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan.

The impacts of such storms are far from trivial. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, extreme weather has cost the country $1.15 trillion over the last 30 years. David Heyman, the agency’s assistant secretary for policy, testified before Congress that without a concerted effort to build resilience to natural disasters “the trend is likely to continue.”

In Congress, opinions on climate change are sharply defined along party lines. An amendment affirming that “climate change is real” and that “human activity significantly contributes” to it was defeated in the Senate by a 50-49 vote. Every Democrat in the Senate voted in favor of the amendment, while all but five Republicans opposed it.

While President Obama, the most visible member of the Democratic party continues to sound the alarm about the impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, most prominent Republicans have chosen to bury their heads in the sand or try to plead ignorance with refrains of “I’m not a scientist.”

Of the major Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election, none has acknowledged that human-caused emissions are driving climate change, with most toeing the skeptic line.

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Tesla unveils energy storage battery for homes and businesses Tue, 05 May 2015 12:03:09 +0000 The Palo Alto Headquarters of Tesla Motors, producers of the new home energy storage technology. Creative Commons: Tumbenhaur, 2010.
The Palo Alto Headquarters of Tesla Motors, producers of the new home energy storage technology. Creative Commons: Tumbenhaur, 2010.

The Palo Alto Headquarters of Tesla Motors, producers of the new home energy storage technology. Creative Commons: Tumbenhaur, 2010.

In a move that could help solve a major challenge facing the low carbon transition, luxury electric car maker Tesla, has unveiled a series of batteries that will allow homes and businesses store renewable energy.

At the launch at a Tesla facility in California, Musk called the battery designed for home energy storage “the missing piece” in the transition to a sustainable energy world.

He told reporters:

The goal is complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world. This is actually within the power of humanity to do. It is not impossible.

The lithium-ion batteries, are designed to capture and store up to 10kWh of energy from wind or solar panels. This energy can then be used,when sunlight is low, during power cuts or at peak demand times, when electricity costs are highest.

The smallest “Powerwall” is 1.3m by 68cm, small enough to be hung inside a garage on or on an outside wall. Up to eight batteries could be “stacked” in a home, according to Musk.

Energy storage is seen as a vital part in the transition to a low-carbon energy infrastructure.

There has been an immense drop in price for solar power over recent years. In 2016 solar power will reach grid parity in 36 US states and it is projected to become the cheapest energy source within the next decade.

The only major limitation for the renewable revolution remains that it can only be generated while the sun is shining. Therefore, energy needs to be stored in order to be available as a reserve during other times.

Last year, the world’s largest private bank UBS told its investors that energy storage was the key to a future in which high-carbon power stations were redundant.

This explains why the arrival of Tesla’s new technology has been accompanied with much attention and excitement from the media and the tech sector.

Battery prices have been steadily dropping in recent years.

Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, an energy storage expert at Birmingham University, said that Tesla’s Powerwall represents a further improvement:

It’s a good development to see the costs coming down for this sort of battery and I think the idea of having distributed energy storage could be quite important in some markets and really contribute to deploying small-scale renewables.

But with a hefty price tag of US$3000 (nearly £2000), Radcliffe calculates that the technology is still economically unsupportable, since the upfront costs for consumers who have to balance their energy bills are too high.

Radcliffe said:

I guess the first people they are looking at to buy it are the early adopters who aren’t too worried about the actual costs but want to have this latest bit of technology.

Tesla also advertises Powerwall as a device “bring[ing] peace of mind to those who live in areas prone to storms or unreliable utility grids” by supplying back-up power during power outages.

Powerwall will initially be manufactured at Tesla’s factory in California, but production will move to its ‘gigafactory’ in Nevada when it opens in 2017.

The Nevada facility will be the largest producer of lithium-ion batteries in the world, meaning that this mass-scale production will help decrease costs for Powerwall further.

It is to be hoped that this price drop will be great enough to make home energy storage financially viable to the average consumer in the near future, and help initiate a rapid transformation to a low-carbon energy infrastructure, as envisioned by Tesla’s CEO.

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Germana Canzi: Can Pope Francis shift the climate change debate? Tue, 05 May 2015 10:43:16 +0000 Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Pope Francis. Creative Commons: Aleteia Image Department, 2014

Authored by Germana Canzi, re-posted from Road to Paris
Germana Canzi is a freelance writer, researcher and consultant with extensive expertise in sustainable development

Pope Francis is due to issue an “Encyclical” on climate change in June or July this year, ahead of the UN climate talks in December. Will he make history? Some believe that it could influence other faiths, potentially shifting the central focus of the debate from science, technology and economics towards ethical and moral values.

Encyclicals convey authoritative teaching by the Church, which 1.2 billion Catholics around the world are meant to consider for their own lives (PDF). Popes have in the past used Encyclicals a few times to intervene in global political debates. The 1891 Rerum Novarum sought to show a middle way between rapid industrialization, uncontrolled capitalism and Marxism. Pacem in Terris of 1963 was addressed to all humankind rather than just Catholics – and was issued at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

So is this Encyclical also aimed at making history? The Pope has explicitly stated his desire to “make a contribution” ahead of the UN climate talks. A key test may be the Pope’s tour of US cities in September, which will include an address to a joint session of the US Congress on the 24th – the first ever Pope to do so. A third of the members of Congress are Catholics, including many climate sceptics. The next day, Pope Francis will address world governments gathered in New York for the UN General Assembly, which will adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. It is therefore hardly surprising that climate sceptics are openly trying to influence the Encyclical. Large numbers of climate sceptic articles have also appeared in Catholic publications.

Ripple effect?

Yet this is far from being the first time the Catholic Church has spoken about climate change and environmental issues. Pope Francis publicly stated to have chosen this name in honour of St Francis of Assisi who is patron saint for the environment and animals. Before him, other Popes have spoken about these issues. This may account for a higher level of awareness of climate change amongst US Catholics compared to other Christians.

The Catholic Church’s engagement has now been “exponentially accelerated” by the drafting of an Encyclical, according to Mariagrazia Midulla, head of climate and energy at WWF Italy in Rome. “There are also signs that the Pope’s messages on this are already spreading far and wide within the Church,” she told Road to Paris. The Pope has encouraged his flock to make April 2015 “Care for creation month” focusing on “human-made climate change which is undoing God’s gift”.

The Encyclical is expected to be around 50 pages long with a summary, and it will be published on the Vatican website in Latin with translations in several languages. Social media will fan this Encyclical out to a much wider audience compared to previous ones.

Catholics are likely to hear about these teachings for years through religious education in schools and sermons in Churches. This may also have some impact on other parts of Christianity, according to John Grim, co-chair of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, who spoke at a recent event on the Encyclical. A meeting organised this month by The Vatican, hosting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and leading economist Jeffrey Sachs for a workshop on Tuesday 28 April (PDF), specifically raised hopes the Pope’s efforts could trigger broader engagement by other world religions.

Midulla says greater than ever cooperation among faiths on climate change is becoming more visible. For the first time this year, Rome’s main synagogue and mosque symbolically joined St Paul’s Cathedral’s longer-standing tradition of switching the lights off for WWF’s yearly Earth Hour action, she said. A variety of other inter-faith climate organisations have also sprung up, such as the OurVoices campaign group.

“Religions really are converging on this issue,” said Dekila Chungyalpa, Visiting Fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The Catholic Church’s initiative is also seen by many observers as critical for shifting the debate on climate change away from an exclusive focus on science, technology and economics and include broader moral and ethical considerations.

 Organisations such as, interfaith groups and the Catholic climate movement itself are meanwhile asking the Church to divest from fossil fuels. But some think that the Pope’s parallel initiative to radically reform the Vatican Bank may end up taking priority in the short term.

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