Tag Archives: COP21

Paris Agreement on climate

Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels. December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels. December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels, By Alister Doyle and Barbara Lewis

 The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.

Climate: Paris Agreement at a glance, by The Conversation staff. Report

Paris Agreement massive “take-back” scheme, by Myles Allen, University of Oxford. Analysis

I wonder how many of the delegates in Paris realise that they have just created the mother of all “take-back schemes”. The Paris emissions cuts aren’t enough — we’ll have to put carbon back in the ground.

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Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (C), President-designate of COP21 and Christiana Figueres (L), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, react during the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (C), President-designate of COP21 and Christiana Figueres (L), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, react during the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

By Alister Doyle and Barbara Lewis
December 12, 2015

PARIS (Reuters) – The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.

After four years of fraught U.N. talks often pitting the interests of rich nations against poor, imperilled island states against rising economic powerhouses, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared the pact adopted to the standing applause and whistles of delegates from almost 200 nations.

“With a small hammer you can achieve great things,” Fabius said as he gavelled the agreement, capping two weeks of tense negotiations at the summit on the outskirts of Paris.

Hailed as the first truly global climate deal, committing both rich and poor nations to reining in rising emissions blamed for warming the planet, it sets out a sweeping long-term goal of eliminating net man-made greenhouse gas output this century.

“It is a victory for all of the planet and for future generations,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. negotiations in Paris.

“We have set a course here. The world has come together around an agreement that will empower us to chart a new path for our planet, a smart and responsible path, a sustainable path.”

It also creates a system to encourage nations to step up voluntary domestic efforts to curb emissions, and provides billions more dollars to help poor nations cope with the transition to a greener economy powered by renewable energy.

Calling it “ambitious and balanced”, Fabius said the accord would mark a “historic turning point” in efforts to avert the potentially disastrous consequences of an overheated planet.

The final agreement was essentially unchanged from a draft unveiled earlier in the day, including a more ambitious objective of restraining the rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a mark scientists fear could be a tipping point for the climate.

Previously, the goal on temperature rise was set at 2 degrees Celsius in 2010.

In some ways its success was assured before the summit began: 187 nations have submitted detailed national plans for how they will contain the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, commitments that are the core of the Paris deal.

While leaving each country to pursue those measures on its own, the agreement finally sets a common vision and course of action after years of bickering over how to move forward.

Officials hope a unified stance will be a powerful symbol for world citizens and a potent signal to the executives and investors they’re counting on to spend trillions of dollars to replace coal-fired power with solar panels and windmills.

“This agreement establishes a clear path to decarbonize the global economy within the lifetimes of many people alive today,” said Paul Polman, the CEO of consumer goods maker Unilever and a leading advocate for sustainable business practices.

It will “drive real change in the real economy”.

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TOO MUCH, OR NOT ENOUGH?

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, reacts after a press conference during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, reacts after a press conference during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

While some climate change activists and U.S. Republicans will likely find fault with the accord – either for failing to take sufficiently drastic action, or for overreacting to an uncertain threat – many of the estimated 30,000 officials, academics and campaigners who set up camp on the outskirts of Paris say they see it as a long overdue turning point.

Six years after the previous climate summit in Copenhagen ended in failure and acrimony, the Paris pact appears to have rebuilt much of the trust required for a concerted global effort to combat climate change, delegates say.

“Whereas we left Copenhagen scared of what comes next, we’ll leave Paris inspired to keep fighting,” said David Turnbull, Director at Oil Change International, a research and advocacy organisation opposed to fossil fuel production.

Most climate activists reacted positively, encouraged by long-term targets that were more ambitious than they expected, while warning it was only the first step of many.

“Today we celebrate, tomorrow we have to work,” European Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said.

From the outset, some have criticized the deal for setting too low a bar for success. Scientists warn that the envisaged national emissions cuts will not be enough to keep warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the last major climate deal agreed in 1997, the Paris pact will also not be a fully legally binding treaty, something that would almost certainly fail to pass the U.S. Congress.

In the United States, many Republicans will see the pact as a dangerous endeavour that threatens to trade economic prosperity for an uncertain if greener future.

DESTINIES BOUND

After talks that extended into early morning, the draft text showed how officials had resolved the stickiest points.

In a win for vulnerable low-lying nations who had portrayed the summit as the last chance to avoid the existential threat of rising seas, nations would “pursue efforts” to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as they had hoped.

“Our head is above water,” said Olai Uludong, ambassador on climate change for the Pacific island state of Palau.

While scientists say pledges thus far could see global temperatures rise by as much as 3.7 degrees, the agreement also lays out a roadmap for checking up on progress. The first “stocktake” would occur in 2023, with further reviews every five years to steadily increase or “ratchet up” those measures.

It softened that requirement for countries with longer-term plans extending to 2030, such as China, which had resisted revisiting its goal before then.

And for the first time, the world has agreed on a longer-term aspiration for reaching a peak in greenhouse emissions “as soon as possible” and achieving a balance between output of manmade greenhouse gases and absorption – by forests or the oceans – by the second half of this century.

It also requires rich nations to maintain a $100 billion (£65.72 billion) a year funding pledge beyond 2020, and use that figure as a “floor” for further support agreed by 2025, providing greater financial security to developing nations as they wean themselves away from coal-fired power.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Reporting By Emmanuel Jarry, Bate Felix, Lesley Wroughton, Nina Chestney, Richard Valdmanis, Valerie Volcovici, Bruce Wallace and David Stanway; Editing by Jonathan Leff and Clelia Oziel)

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FACTBOX, THE PARIS AGREEMENT

French President Francois Hollande (R) embraces French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21 during the Climate Change, at the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015.   REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Francois Hollande (R) embraces French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21 during the Climate Change, at the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) – After four years of global negotiations, two weeks of intense talks and more than a few sleepless nights, climate officials from almost 200 nations meeting in Paris are on the cusp of a landmark accord to arrest climate change.

On Saturday, hosts France released the final text of a “Paris Outcome”, this one devoid of the bracketed text that represented the sticking points yet to be resolved.

Written in the opaque legal language that has evolved from more than two decades of U.N. climate talks, the pact sets the world a roadmap for breaking away from the fossil fuels that have powered the global economy since the Industrial Revolution.

The new text is 31 pages, against 27 on Thursday and more than 50 at the start of the talks.

National delegations have broken up to review the text, with hopes high that they will return to a formal session to adopt it later on Saturday.

Following are details of the new draft:

FINANCE

Developed nations promised in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 from both public and private sources to help developing nations limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to more floods, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Enshrining that figure in legal language was one of the biggest sticking points of the talks as delegates said the U.S. Congress could never ratify a commitment for developing nations to keep on increasing that figure from 2020.

In non-binding decisions that accompany the binding text, the agreement says governments shall set by 2025 “a new collective quantified goal from a floor of $100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries”.

LONG-TERM GOAL (DEGREES)

In 2010, the U.N. climate summit in Mexico adopted a goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, a level that scientists say could be a tipping point for the climate. Global average surface temperatures have already risen by about 1.0 Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit).

But many vulnerable, low-lying nations like the Marshall Islands say that a full 2 degrees Celsius rise would endanger their very existence as sea levels rise, and pushed hard for setting a goal to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

They found support from more than 100 nations, including the European Union and the United States, which formed a “high ambition coalition”.

Saudi Arabia and other nations resisted, saying there was insufficient research to support a tougher target and that setting too ambitious a figure could endanger food security.

The final draft text sets an aim to hold the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.

It also seeks to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

LONG-TERM GOAL (EMISSIONS)

Negotiators have struggled with how to phrase an aspirational longer-term goal for halting emissions, a symbolic but still potent message about how they see the world’s energy system transforming over the rest of this century.

Some of the most vulnerable nations and non-governmental organisations had campaigned for a clear, quantified goal for eliminating or reducing fossil fuel use by the middle of the century.

China and India, heavily dependent on coal, are among those reluctant to set clear dates for giving up fossil fuels they see as vital to lifting millions from poverty. Saudi Arabia, whose economy also depends on oil, is also a clear opponent.

The European Union, although keen to lead on climate had a problem with the word decarbonisation because of Poland, whose economy depends on coal.

As negotiations wore on, the options grew vaguer. By Thursday evening, the goal was greenhouse gas neutrality, a phrasing that confounded some climate experts, but avoided the word decarbonisation.

The final text said nations must “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognising that peaking will take longer for developing country parties”.

It said that to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out by the deal, parties will aim to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Analysts at the talks interpreted the text as implying net zero emissions.

LOSS AND DAMAGE

Developing nations want a long-term mechanism to help them cope with loss and damage from disasters such as typhoons or the impacts of a creeping rise of sea level rise. All governments set up a loss and damage mechanism in 2013, but it has so far done little.

Earlier drafts recognised the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage, but offered divergent options, including one that left out the mechanism.

An existing international mechanism to deal with the unavoidable losses and damages caused by climate change, such as creeping deserts and rising seas, is anchored in the draft final deal.

A promise that it will not be used as a basis for “liability and compensation” — a demand from the United States that proved divisive — has been moved to a set of accompanying decisions in a compromise.

RAISING AMBITION

Well before the Paris talks began, it was clear that the promises made by 186 nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, the backbone of the Paris accord, were too weak to limit rising temperatures to the agreed 2 degrees Celsius level.

Negotiators knew going in there would have to be a system for “ratcheting up” national measures, but how and when to do that has been a sticking point throughout.

Frequent reviews have been a major demand from negotiating blocs such as the European Union, but China in particular said it cannot commit to more aggressive action quickly because Beijing has already set domestic goals out to 2030.

In line with a date mooted in the previous draft on Thursday, the new draft text schedules a “first global stocktake in 2023” and every five years thereafter unless otherwise decided.

CARBON MARKETS

The draft legal text contains no explicit mention of carbon markets, nor of the possibility of carbon penalties for aviation and shipping. It does, however, include a reference to the “use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes,” which could allow nations on a voluntary basis to offset their own emissions by buying credits from other nations.

DIFFERENTIATION

Developing nations say that rich nations, as defined in a 1992 Convention, should continue to take the lead in cutting emissions and providing finance. Developed nations argue that many of these countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, have since become wealthy and should do more.

The new text says developed countries shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries and “other parties are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily”.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis, Megan Rowling, editing by Jonathan Leff and David Evans)

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Paris Agreement massive “take-back” scheme

The parties to the agreement are, in effect, saying “we’re going to sell this stuff, and we’re going to dispose of it later,” writes Myles Allen. Above, a Superport near Vancouver, Canada, is one of America’s major coal export terminals. © Deborah Jones 2015

A Superport near Vancouver, Canada, is one of America’s major coal export terminals. © Deborah Jones 2015

By Myles Allen, University of Oxford 
December 12, 2015

I wonder how many of the delegates in Paris realise that they have just created the mother of all “take-back schemes”.

As a consumer, you may have already come across this sort of deal: if you don’t want to dispose of the packaging of your new sofa, you can take it back to IKEA and it’s their problem. In many places, you can even take back the sofa itself when your kids have wrecked it. For the Paris climate deal to succeed something similar will have to happen, where companies that rely on fossil fuels will be obliged to “take back” their emissions.

The agreement reaffirms a commitment to stabilising temperature rises well below 2℃, and even retains the option of limiting warming to 1.5℃ if possible. But it also confirms national targets that do little more than stabilise global emissions between now and 2030.

Given those emissions, sticking to within 2℃ will require us to take lots of carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground. The parties to the agreement are, in effect, saying “we’re going to sell this stuff, and we’re going to dispose of it later”.

How do I know? Well, peak warming is overwhelmingly determined by cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. To stabilise temperatures at any level, be it 1.5℃, 2℃ or even 3℃, net carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to zero. Most governments, environmental groups and business leaders now understand this. And it is acknowledged, albeit implicitly, in Article 4 of the Paris agreement, which calls for greenhouse emissions to be “balanced” by carbon sinks some time after mid-century.

But we’re unlikely to hit “net zero” emissions before temperatures reach 2℃, and even less likely before they reach 1.5℃. Warming is currently at about 1℃ and rising by 0.1℃ every five to ten years. We could slow the warming by reducing emissions, of course. But if we fail to reduce at the required rate – and the inadequate emissions targets indicate this is the intention – then we will be left with no option but to scrub the excess CO2 back out of the atmosphere in future.

Owners of fossil fuel assets

That is why the deal is like a gigantic take-back scheme. The proof lies in what is not said in the Paris agreement. There is no explicit mention of a global carbon budget for instance, which adds up total emissions since the industrial revolution. That is despite the fact that all governments have acknowledged, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the reality that stabilising temperatures requires a limit on cumulative CO2 emissions. Certain countries simply cannot accept the suggestion that they may be obliged to leave some of their prized fossil carbon reserves underground.

And why should they? We do not need, and nor have we any right, to ban India from using its coal. We simply need to ensure that, by the time global temperatures reach 2℃ (or 1.5℃ if that is what is eventually deemed safe), any company that sells fossil fuels, or any carbon-intensive product like conventional cement, is obliged to take back an equivalent amount of CO2 and dispose of it safely to ensure it doesn’t end up in the atmosphere.

Right now, that means re-injection underground: forests can’t be relied on over geological timescales (they might burn down, or even die out and re-release their carbon due to climate change itself). But there are plenty of other creative ideas for carbon dioxide disposal: someone just needs the incentive to do it.

And who better than the owners of the fossil fuel assets at the heart of the problem? Logically, the cost of CO2 disposal should be borne by the seller of fossil carbon. If it is paid for out of general taxation, no one will have any incentive to minimise the carbon content in the products they sell or buy, nor will companies have an incentive to minimise the cost of disposal. And relying on taxpayers to pay for disposal makes it vulnerable every time the purse strings are tightened.

The idea of a “CO2 take-back” scheme was suggested by Nick Robins, a UN sustainability adviser, at a recent event in Paris. It may have been meant as a whimsical aside, but it really is the only feasible way of stabilising the climate. The alternative – a global ban on fossil fuel extraction and use – is neither ethical nor enforceable.

Enthusiasts for renewable energy would like us to believe they can make it cheaper than coal, so a global ban would be unnecessary. But there will still be cement, jet fuel, fertiliser – the list is endless. The idea that we will develop a cheaper substitute for every single application of fossil carbon, everywhere in the world, before temperatures reach 2℃, is pure fantasy. As Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the world’s leading climate economists, put it: “As a Catholic, I believe in miracles, but I do not rely on them.”

Of course, if we include the costs of take-back, then high-carbon products will become more expensive, which is all good for renewables. But unlike new taxes, take-back schemes are generally popular despite industry’s dire warnings about increased costs.

People understand that the main beneficiary of fancy packaging is the company selling the product. And even at today’s prices, the main beneficiaries of our continued use of fossil fuels is not the long-suffering consumer, nor even the firm with its logo on the pump, but those who hoover up the royalties, taxes and rents as fossil fuels come out of the ground.

Earlier this year, I suggested that something like a CO2 take-back scheme (although not with nearly such a catchy name) should be considered in the UK energy bill, and was promptly taken out for a coffee by a well-spoken industry lobbyist to tell me what a bad idea it was. To my mind, that rather suggested that I was onto something.

Mandatory sequestration” hasn’t really caught on in the environmental movement, partly I’m sure because it is a bit of a mouthful for any campaigner. But stack up the net zero emissions point against the inadequate national targets, and you soon realise that all those shouting “1.5 to stay alive” in Paris (and there were plenty) were actually advocating a crash programme of CO2 disposal. #takebackCO2 – start tweeting it now.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, Leader of ECI Climate Research Programme, University of Oxford. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Climate: Paris Agreement at a glance

By Emil Jeyaratnam, James Whitmore, Michael Hopkin, and Wes Mountain, The Conversation 
December 12, 2015

On December 12, 2015 in Paris, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change finally came to a landmark agreement.

Signed by 196 nations, the Paris Agreement is the first comprehensive global treaty to combat climate change, and will follow on from the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020. It will enter into force once it is ratified by at least 55 countries, covering at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are the key points.

Creative Commons

Bios: Emil Jeyaratnam, Multimedia Editor; James Whitmore, Editor, Environment & Energy; Michael Hopkin, Environment + Energy Editor; Wes Mountain, Deputy Multimedia Editor, all at The Conversation This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Climate watch: the world cannot afford a war

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
December, 2015

Depiction of mass bomber raid on Cologne, by The National Archives, UK. via Wikimedia Commons

Depiction of mass bomber raid on Cologne, by The National Archives, UK. via Wikimedia Commons

War, the most costly and damaging human activity, is outside the scope of Paris climate talks.

Like most Canadians, I think, I was pleased when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled that his government recognizes climate change as an urgent issue, and appointed Catherine McKenna as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Another climate decision was less obvious:  his government’s decision to step back from the Syrian bombing runs.  War is the most destructive of all human activities, environmentally as well as materially.

And that is today’s Over Easy. On one hand, compared to five years ago, it’s phenomenal that 195 nations could come together in Paris to work on a treaty to reduce climate change. Turn the discussion over gently, though, and nothing I’ve read indicates that the treaty bans war. Lately there’s a whole lot of sabre rattling going on. France joined the United States and United Kingdom in bombing Syria, in revenge for the Paris attacks.  Turkey shot down a Russian airplane.  An army of dispossessed refugees brought their desperation back to the European nations, which triggered staggering humanitarian crises that prompted calls for US or North Atlantic Treaty Organization military intervention. And US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has vowed to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

In Paris, national leaders have acknowledged that, much as they may agree on the objective, they are dealing with a tinderbox of political and geophysical tensions.  They’re not just asking people to give up their cars or put on another sweater. Two-thirds of carbon emissions come from industries  and the military.  For example, the US Pentagon is the single biggest user of fuel oil in the world – even more so, during a war.

“If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually, more than 60 percent of all countries,” the non-profit group Oil Change calculated in 2008, estimating the impact of the US occupation of Iraq.

I’ve been Googling “war and environment” since forever, and after years of practically no hits, these days a search delivers 522 million hits.  I also got 138 millions hits on “war and climate change” but most of those are reports on the growing category of “climate refugees,” people forced from their homes by floods, wildfires, droughts (like the Syrians) or famines caused by climate change.

You don’t need to smell the gunpowder when big bombs go off. Just watch the billowing smoke clouds to realize that modern warfare is a distinct threat to the climate.  I fretted about buying carbon offsets when I flew home to see my Mother in the U.S. Look at the US-led occupation of Iraq.  In 2003, George W Bush’s Operation Shock and Awe attack involved nearly 30,000 bombing sorties over Baghdad in the first few days, and 800 Tomahawk missiles.  Day and night for 48 hours, on TV the sky looked like someone had tossed a match into a fireworks factory. Millions of kilos of explosives pounded Baghdad, loading the atmosphere with ash and dust, as well as CO2 from burning fuel.

Then there was Fallujah, the city the US-led coalition destroyed in order to save it, with cluster bombs and incendiary white phosphorous. Some sixty percent of Fallujah’s buildings were smashed by missiles or artillery, and 40 to 60 percent of the population killed or dispersed.

The 1991 first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, had environmentally catastrophic consequences, when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein set fire to more than 600 oil wells in the Kuwaiti oil fields he coveted. The fields burned for about ten months, consuming an estimated six million barrels a day, and releasing an estimated half a billion tons of CO2 into the sky.

Where there’s smoke, there’s carbon. Carbon is a very useful element – none of us would be alive without it – but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned since 1988 about CO2 and the greenhouse effect.  Now every year is hotter than the one before, and so is every month. The World Meteorological Institute projected that 2015 will the hottest year on record and also that  2011-2015 has been the warmest five-year period ever recorded, with many extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, influenced by climate change.

Insurance companies blame climate change for extreme weather, such as polar vortexes, floods, droughts, forest fires, Superstorm Sandy, and other catastrophic events that have caused unprecedented huge compensation claims. But worse may be on the horizon. In May 2015, the Environmental Defense Fund listed six “Environmental Tipping Points” that could push the earth beyond recovery, including sections of Antarctica melting, and much longer El Ninos (such as we’re seeing this year.)

Canada’s prime minister won applause in Paris for stepping up to the cause – whole-heartedly, if only in comparison with the government of previous prime minister Stephen Harper. But talking about cars and coal-fired power plants is not enough.  Despite Christiana Figueres’ five years of hard groundwork to bring 195 nations together for an agreement on a climate protection treaty, one vital aspect remains unspoken.

Trudeau addressed the military’s role in climate change when he suspended Canadian overflights, even if that wasn’t his intent. And among US President Barack Obama’s great unsung achievements, IMO, is that he has persistently sliced away at the military grip on the federal budget, US foreign policy, and the national economy –  moving the States back to a civilian economy and away from the war-based economy described in Addicted to War.

World leaders may sign an agreement to cap, contain and reduce carbon emissions in the civilian economy. That alone is a mammoth task. But to prevent one major Shock and Awe style attack from tipping the world’s climate over an edge, they must also find a way to ban war – in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggression. They can sign a million climate treaties and pledge their countries will reach 100% renewable energy by 2030, and I’ll be in the front row cheering. The world climate action campaigners can take a few moments to pat themselves on the back too. But all their efforts will be in vain if a escalating conflicts push the world over a tipping point into climate catastrophe. To have a peaceful climate, we must have a peaceful world.

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions here.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

 

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Climate: the Paris summit in a nutshell

 

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

(Reuters) – Some 150 world leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu gathered in Paris on Monday to open a summit meant to secure the world’s most ambitious pact on climate change.

The full list of speakers is available here on the COP21 site.

Below are select comments and quotes from the speakers:

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech on the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

“As the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second largest (greenhouse gas) emitter … the United States of America not only recognises our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”

French President Francois Hollande meets his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping before a working dinner at the Elysee palace in Paris, France, November 29, 2015 ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21). REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French President Francois Hollande meets his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping before a working dinner at the Elysee palace in Paris, France, November 29, 2015 ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21). REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING:

Xi said it was crucial the climate talks addressed economic differences between nations and allowed different countries to develop their own solutions to the problem of global warming. “It is important to respect the differences among countries, especially developing countries,” he said.

FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE:

“To resolve the climate crisis, good will, statements of intent are not enough,” he said. “We are at breaking point.”

ECUADOR’S PRESIDENT RAFAEL CORREA:

“An environmental debt needs to be paid.” An international court for environmental justice should be set up. “It is not understandable that we have courts to force countries to pay financial debts but we do not have a court to enforce environmental debts.”

PRINCE CHARLES OF BRITAIN:

“If the planet were a patient, we would have treated her long ago. You, ladies and gentlemen, have the power to put her on life support, and you must surely start the emergency procedures without further procrastination.”

“Humanity faces many threats but none is greater than climate change.” he said. “In damaging our climate we are becoming the architects of our own destruction. We have the knowledge, the tools and the money (to solve the crisis).”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during the opening session of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during the opening session of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL:

The aim of the summit was “a binding U.N. framework” and a binding review mechanism to close the gap between the impact on global warming of promised measures and the work required to limit rising temperatures, she said.

U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON:

“I urge you to instruct your negotiators to choose the path of compromise and consensus. Bold climate action is in the national interest of every single country represented at this conference. The time for brinksmanship is over.”

(Reporting by Alister Doyle, Bruce Wallace, Barbara Lewis, Bate Felix; Nina Chestney, Susanna Twidale in London; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Copyright Reuters 2015

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What does the world think of Climate Change? 

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center

What does the world think about climate change? The U.S. Pew Research Center asked, and found answers.

Its research report found that a majority “in both rich and poor nations broadly favor their government signing an international agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, natural gas and petroleum.”

The level of concern about climate change varied greatly amongst nations. In China, responsible for the most overall emissions, just 18 per cent of people considered if “a very serious problem,” although 71 pe recent supported addressing it.

“Globally, a median of 78% of people surveyed across 40 nations say they support their country signing an international agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions,” reported Pew.

“But a global median of just 54% consider climate change to be a very serious problem (a median of 85% say it is at least somewhat serious).”

— Deborah Jones

 

 

 

 

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Climate: World at “breaking point” as Paris summit begins

U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R) is welcomed by French President Francois Hollande (R) and (L to R) French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as he arrives for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R) is welcomed by French President Francois Hollande (R) and (L to R) French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as he arrives for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

By Bruce Wallace and Alister Doyle
November 30, 2015

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal (L) welcomes Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrives for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal (L) welcomes Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrives for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

PARIS (Reuters) – World leaders launched an ambitious attempt on Monday to hold back the earth’s rising temperatures, with French President Francois Hollande saying the world was at “breaking point” in the fight against global warming.

Some 150 heads of state and government, including U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, urged each other to find common cause in two weeks of bargaining to steer the global economy away from its dependence on fossil fuels.

They arrived at United Nations climate change talks in Paris accompanied by high expectations and armed with promises to act. After decades of struggling negotiations and the failure of a summit in Copenhagen six years ago, some form of landmark agreement appears all but assured by mid-December.

Warnings from climate scientists, demands from activists and exhortations from religious leaders like Pope Francis have coupled with major advances in cleaner energy sources like solar power to raise pressure for cuts in carbon emissions held responsible for warming the planet.

Most scientists say failure to agree on strong measures in Paris would doom the world to ever-hotter average temperatures, bringing with them deadlier storms, more frequent droughts and rising sea levels as polar ice caps melt.

Facing such alarming projections, the leaders of nations responsible for about 90 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have come bearing pledges to reduce their national carbon output, through different measures at different rates.

For some, climate change has become a pressing issue at home. As the summit opened in Paris, the capitals of the world’s two most populous nations, China and India, were blanketed in hazardous, choking smog, with Beijing on “orange” pollution alert, the second-highest level.

Over the next two weeks, negotiators will hammer out the strongest international climate pact yet. The deal will mark a momentous step in the often frustrating quest for global agreement, albeit one that – on its own – will not be enough to prevent the earth’s temperatures from rising past a damaging threshold.

“What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it,” said Obama, one of the first leaders to speak at the summit.

Delegates and journalists arrive for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Delegates and journalists arrive for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

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SMOOTHING THE BUMPS

The gathering is being held in a sombre city. Security has been tightened after Islamist militant attacks killed 130 people on Nov. 13, and Hollande said he could not separate “the fight with terrorism from the fight against global warming.” Leaders must face both challenges, leaving their children “a world freed of terror” as well as one “protected from catastrophes”.

On the eve of the summit, an estimated 785,000 people from Australia to Paraguay joined the biggest day of climate change activism in history, telling world leaders there was “No Planet B” in the fight against global warming.

The leaders gathered in a vast conference centre at Le Bourget airfield, near where Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis aircraft in 1927 after making the first solo trans-Atlantic flight, a feat that helped bring nations closer.

Whether a similar spirit of unity can be incubated in Le Bourget this time is uncertain. In all, 195 countries are part of the unwieldy negotiating process, espousing a variety of leadership styles and ideologies that has made consensus elusive in the past. Key issues, notably how to divide the global bill to pay for a shift to renewable energy, are still contentious.

Signaling their determination to resolve the most intractable points, senior negotiators sat down on Sunday, a day earlier than planned, to begin thrashing out an agreement. They hope to avoid the last-minute scramble and all-nighters that marked past meetings.

The last attempt to get a global deal collapsed in chaos and acrimony in Copenhagen in 2009. It ended with Obama forcing his way into a closed meeting of China and other countries on the gathering’s last day and emerging with a modest concession to limit rising emissions until 2020 that they attempted to impose on the rest of the world.

Anxious to avoid a re-run of the Copenhagen disaster, major powers have tried this time to smooth some of the bumps in the way of an agreement before they arrive.

The presidents, prime ministers and princes were making their cameo appearances at the outset of the conference rather than swooping in at the end.

Delegates and journalists arrive for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Delegates and journalists arrive for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

NEW APPROACH

There are other significant changes in approach this time around.

The old goal of seeking a legally binding international treaty, certain to be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, has been replaced by a system of national pledges to reduce emissions.

Some are presented as best intentions, others as measures legally enforced by domestic laws and regulations.

The biggest difference may be the partnership between the United States and China. The world’s two biggest carbon emitters, once on opposite sides on climate issues, agreed in 2014 to jointly kick-start a transition away from fossil fuels, each at their own speed and in their own way.

The United States and China “have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action,” Obama said after meeting Xi. “Our leadership on this issue has been absolutely vital.”

That partnership has been a balm for the main source of tension that characterised previous talks, in which the developing world argued that countries that grew rich by industrialising on fossil fuels should pay the cost of shifting all economies to a renewable energy future.

Now even China, once a leading voice of that club, has agreed to contribute to an internationally administered Green Climate Fund that hopes to dispense $100 billion a year after 2020 as a way to finance the developing world’s shift towards renewables.

If a signed deal now appears likely, so too is the prospect that it will not be enough to prevent the world’s average temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. That is widely viewed as a threshold for dangerous and potentially catastrophic changes in the planet’s climate system.

Obama called for an “enduring framework for human progress”, one that would compel countries to steadily ramp up their carbon-cutting goals and openly track progress against them.

How and when nations should review their goals — and then set higher, more ambitious ones — must still be hammered out.

One sign of optimism was that Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi, a key player because of his country’s size and its heavy dependence on coal, will announce an international solar alliance of more than 100 sun-kissed countries, with the aim of raising India’s profile on solar power.

A handful of the world’s richest entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates, have pledged to double the $10 billion they collectively spend on clean energy research and development in the next five years.

“To resolve the climate crisis, good will, statements of intent are not enough,” Hollande said. “We are at breaking point.”

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, John Irish; Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

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American climate change deniers’ last gasp

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A participant is pictured in front of the entrance at the venue for the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
November-December, 2015

First, let me say that I’m not going to waste our time debating if climate change is or isn’t real. It is. The science is OVERWHELMING. Case closed.

Let’s move on to what to do about it.

Climate change deniers in the United States, otherwise known as conservative Republicans, have long claimed that crackpot theories and phony scientific data prove their fallacy. Oh, there are climate change deniers in other parts of the world, but they have been melting away even faster than the polar ice shelves. Only in America is the denial of climate change a major political issue.

Even in the Middle East, in countries like Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and even Saudi Arabia, climate change is a real concern. Some of the most oil-rich in the world, these countries have started to prepare for the inevitable negative consequences, with the full support of their governments.

But in the United States, conservative politicians beholden to special interest groups like oil companies, natural gas distributors, and in particular, coal companies, continue to pump out enough false propaganda and sometimes outright lies to keep scientists busy refuting them. They are aided in their subterfuge by a compliant media that insists on covering climate change like a “he said, she said” issue, as if there were just as many scientists doubting the reality of climate change as there are saying it’s a real problem.

The ridiculousness of this position was highlighted by comedian John Oliver when he did his “proportionally representative” climate change debate on his Comedy Channel show. To illustrate the number of scientists who say climate change is real, compared to those who dismiss it, Oliver had 97 people come up on the stage to argue with three deniers. It was a stark view of just how one-sided this debate really is, despite the propaganda pumped out by fossil fuel industries.

I ran across an interesting view of this “climate change denial cottage industry” in an interview with French ambassador Gérard Araud, who has been busy promoting this week’s climate change conference in Paris. Araud offered a most interesting view of the conservatives in Congress who continue to argue this idiocy.

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the start of the climate summit in Paris November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the start of the climate summit in Paris November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“When you see climate deniers, to be frank and with all due respect, it’s a phenomenon which is limited in a sense to the U.S. and in a sense to the U.S. Congress,” Araud told The Huffington Post earlier this month. “I should say, even though it’s not very diplomatic, it’s one more example of where the people, the civil society, are ahead of the politicians.”

When China, one of the other worst polluters in the world, signals that it is ready to take steps to reduce carbon emissions, you know the conservatives in the Congress are fighting a lonely battle. But although these modern day know-nothings may be relatively few, they control the purse strings in the American political system, and are threatening to defund any initiative taken by President Barack. Obama.

The problem we are dealing with here goes deeper than a denial of climate change. Conservatives in the Congress, and their acolytes in the conservative news media, are waging an all-out attack on science in all its forms. Whether it be climate change, vaccination, or evolution, their mostly theological-based arguments hold less water than a thimble.

The left is not completely clear of this anti-science bias. The arguments on the left are about issues like nuclear energy, GMO foods or, somewhat surprisingly, wind farms that “ruin the view” despite producing non-fossil fuel energy. (It has always interested me how progressives will tout scientific data on issues like climate change, but deny it on issues like GMOs.) As writer and well-known skeptic Michael Shermer described it in an article in Scientific American, “The underlying current is ‘everything natural is good’ and ‘everything unnatural is bad.’”

The anti-science gene has run deep through American politics for many, many years. And that’s a problem for the rest of the world.

Many expert observers draw parallels between the tactics of climate skeptics and those of tobacco companies to undermine the science on dangers of smoking. The anti-science war can be traced, most recently, to the neo-liberal agenda that denies a positive role for governance, and has flourished since the reign of Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. and Ronald Reagan in the U.S.

I think the only solution is for the rest of the world to go ahead without the United States. The world should write us off for now, ignore the gobbledygook coming from the American Congress, and the ridiculous party favour tricks (like bringing in a snowball on the floor of the Senate to prove climate change is not real) performed by clown Republican Congressman and Senators.

The trick, however, is to make sure that all American companies operating overseas are forced to observe any advances made on eliminating climate change. Because the reality is, as much as U.S. conservative Republicans try to ignore it, we live in a time of global action. They can try to isolate America, but are just whistling past the graveyard.

And while they might control some purse strings, the majority of Americans are increasingly concerned about the issue, as the Pew Research Center recently reported.

It’s a matter of time, but time is the problem: we don’t have much of it. The reality in the U.S. may be that the conservatives in Congress aren’t willing to do anything substantive about climate change until Florida is under water. Let’s hope they come to their limited senses before that.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

References:

 

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

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