Global warming news

Some climate change impacts unavoidable: World Bank

OSLO (Reuters) - Some future impacts of climate change, such as more extremes of heat and sea level rise, are unavoidable even if governments act fast to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank said on Sunday.







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Prospects rise for a 2015 U.N. climate deal, but likely to be weak

OSLO, (Reuters) - A global deal to combat climate change in 2015 looks more likely after promises for action by China, the United States and the European Union, but any agreement will probably be too weak to halt rising temperatures.







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Volcanoes Can Mitigate Climate Change?

Nature World: Small volcanic eruptions over the years may actually helped slow climate change. That's at least according to a new study which details how minor eruptions between 200 and 2013 may have directly cooled the average global temperature. The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, describes how volcanoes blast helpful particles, called aerosols, into the air during an eruption. When these sulfer dioxide aerosols reach the stratosphere (the second layer of our atmosphere), they...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Climate change is not just about science – it's about the future we want to create

Guardian: Next December, 196 nations will meet in Paris to agree a course of action to respond to climate change. They will do so under the auspices of the UN framework convention on climate change. This is an international treaty negotiated at the Earth summit in Rio in 1992 with the objective to “stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system”. The discussions in Paris in 2015 will be informed by the latest climate...
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Expanding agriculture production among major factors contributing to climate change

Delhi Daily News: An increase in agriculture production has a negative impact on the atmosphere across the globe by contributing to climate change, according to a recent report. The recent study has revealed that the considerable increase in the carbon dioxide concentrations is due to a rise in farm productivity. Hence, the rise in pollution levels is attributed not only to electronic products, vehicles and mills but also to crops. Farms throughout the world have become more productive, particularly in the West...
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Climate Change, Evolution: Here's Why We Disagree

ABC News: A growing body of evidence suggests that the passionate debate over public issues ranging from climate change to evolution has little to do with the facts. It has more to do with who we are, which tribe we belong to, and what we hope the future holds. New research from Duke University, for example, concludes that the science of climate change isn't the real issue in that debate. The proposed solutions to that problem -- including bigger government and more regulations -- lead many to conclude...
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Climate change investment falls for second year in 2013

Reuters: Global investment in tackling climate change fell for a second year in 2013 to $331 billion, largely due to a drop in the cost of solar power technology, according to an annual report on climate finance. Overall, the world is falling further and further behind its low-carbon investment goals, warned the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), a research and advisory group. "Our analysis shows that global investment in a cleaner, more resilient economy is decreasing, and the gap between finance needed...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Climate fund receives $9.3bn pledge

BBC: Thirty nations meeting in Berlin have pledged $9.3bn (£6bn) for a fund to help developing countries cut emissions and prepare for climate change. The Green Climate Fund was to have held at least $10bn by the end of 2014, so the pledge is just shy of the target. The South Korea-based fund aims to help nations invest in clean energy and green technology. It is also designed to help them build up defences against rising seas and worsening storms, floods and droughts. Rich nations previously...
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The future of the planet and the irresponsibility of governments

Inter Press Service: Less than a week after everybody celebrated the historical agreement on Nov. 17 between the United States and China on reduction of CO2 emissions, a very cold shower has come from India. Indian Power Minister Piyush Goyal has declared: "India's development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate change many years in the future. The West will have to recognise we have the needs of the poor". This is also a blow to the Asia policy of U.S. President Barack Obama, who...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

5 Reasons to Be Optimistic About Sustainable Urban Mobility

This blog post is featured on TheCityFix and originally appeared on Cityminded.org.

According to the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects, cities will add over 2.5 billion people in the next 40 years, with 90 percent of this growth coming from cities in emerging economies. China and India alone are expected to add 276 million and 218 million urban residents by 2030. While there is no question that future generations will live primarily in cities, whether they will do so in a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable way remains to be seen.

With rapid urban growth come a number of challenges for city leaders, many of them related to increasing motorization and urban sprawl. Too often, cities are trending in the wrong direction. Urban air pollution, for example, contributes to over one million premature deaths each year and costs 5 percent of GDP in developing countries. Roughly 3,400 people die in traffic crashes every day, the majority of these pedestrians and cyclists in less developed countries. In the United States, commuters spend 4.8 billion hours in traffic each year, translating to USD 101 billion in lost economic productivity. At a global level, cities continue to be major contributors to climate change, and account for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

While these numbers paint a bleak picture of the urban future, they don’t tell the whole story. Around the world, cities are taking ambitious action to improve quality of life through connected, sustainable urban mobility. While the challenge is great, shifts in behavior, technology, and politics show that there is hope that future generations will inherit more sustainable cities.

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the future of our cities.

Private vehicle travel peaks in the developed world

Despite years of growth in car ownership and vehicle travel, it appears as though some have begun to choose another path. A study of eight industrialized countries found that vehicle travel rose steadily from the 1970s to 2003, but has since leveled out. Another study found that vehicle miles traveled among younger generations in the United States decreased by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.

On top of rising fuel prices, increasing traffic congestion, and an increase in the relative affordability and convenience of public transport, a major cultural shift stands behind this trend. Across Europe and the United States in particular, younger generations have opted into the sharing economy and moved to more walkable urban communities. It even appears that most of the millennial generation would sooner say goodbye to their car than their smartphone, and many in the United States no longer pursue drivers’ licenses. In fact, just 69.5 percent of American 19 year-olds has drivers’ licenses in 2010, down from 87 percent in 1983. This shift has also contributed to increased use of sustainable transport, most notably cycling and walking, which could catalyze reinvestment in public transport and a reduction in automobile subsidies.

The economic case for sustainable cities is strong

It has become increasingly clear that pursuing connected, compact urban development makes both financial and environmental sense. The Better Growth, Better Climate report found that cities could save USD 3 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next 15 years by pursuing low-carbon growth. This path yields both local and global benefits.

For example, research from EMBARQ – the producer of TheCityFix – on the socioeconomic impacts of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems found that air quality improvements resulting from Mexico City’s Metrobús Line 3 are poised to reduce respiratory illnesses and save the city an estimated USD 4.5 million in health costs. At the global level, 11 BRT projects in Mexico, Colombia, China, India, and South Africa are forecast to reduce emissions by 31.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent over 20 years. That amount equals the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 6.5 million cars.

Cities take the lead

While global ambition to tackle climate change is picking up, local actions have had the most impact in recent years. At September’s U.N. Climate Summit, city leaders were at the forefront of efforts to catalyze action on climate change, unlock finance for low-carbon development, and scale up sustainable transport solutions. Furthermore, the new Compact of Mayors initiative builds on cities’ existing climate commitments, providing a platform for transparent measurement and reporting on emissions reductions. Analysis shows that 228 cities, home to 436 million people, have already voluntarily committed to saving 13 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Sustainable mobility solutions are scaling up

The magnitude of the challenges today’s cities face demands solutions at scale. In 2002, just 45 cities had BRT systems. Compare that to 186 cities (and counting) today. BRT is just one example of the recent growth in sustainable transport solutions worldwide. Car-sharingbike-sharingpedestrianization, and congestion pricing are all on the rise as cities look to combat traffic congestion and improve quality of life.

Sustainable mobility solutions continue to grow as cities move away from auto-dependency.

New technology unlocks new possibilities

While many of these solutions have been around for decades, advances in technology have accelerated their integration and implementation. Many transport-specific technologies have helped to improve quality of service while reducing costs. Technology transfer between the developed and developing worlds has also played an important role. For example, GPS and mobile applications have improved passenger experiences on India’s auto-rickshaws. Technology has also revolutionized the way citizens engage city leaders, leading to a new era of political participation and inclusion.

These technology advances can help cities in emerging economies leapfrog past car-dependent development and opt for a more sustainable path early on.

Enabling a sustainable mobility future

While these five trends are already taking hold of many of our cities, there is work to be done to mainstream sustainable urban mobility solutions. City leaders can tap into the three key enablers of political will, finance, and data and technology to build momentum towards cities that are built for people, not cars.

Scaling up sustainable urban mobility solutions worldwide, coupled with the necessary steps to make them locally suitable, can deliver more inclusive and prosperous cities. Developing attractive, localized solutions is perhaps the most challenging piece of the puzzle, but also the greatest opportunity for collaboration among local policy-makers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and action-oriented organizations to create lasting change. With the future of the world’s population in cities, now is the time to make that change happen.


Read more [wri.org]

A big reason climate change isn't a priority: The apocalypse

Washington Post: If you want to understand how little urgency there is among the American public about climate change, consider this: A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute asked people about the severity of recent natural disasters. About six in 10 (62 percent) said climate change is at least partly to blame. About half -- 49 percent -- cited the biblical end times (as in, the apocalypse) for the recent natural disasters. That latter number is up five points from 2011. (People were allowed...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Half Yemen's children malnourished as hunger worsens strife

Reuters: Nearly half the children in Yemen are suffering from malnutrition, the agriculture minister has said, as insurgencies, water scarcity and climate change exacerbate sectarian strife in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest state. "More than half the population of Yemen suffers from food insecurity... 48 percent of the children suffer from malnutrition," Agriculture Minister Farid Mujawar told a U.N. conference in Rome on Wednesday. "We know this challenge of hunger has a major impact on health and...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Climate change investment falls for second year in 2013

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Global investment in tackling climate change fell for a second year in 2013 to $331 billion, largely due to a drop in the cost of solar power technology, according to an annual report on climate finance.







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United Kingdom: Political consensus on climate change has frayed, says Ed Miliband

Guardian: “The political consensus on climate change has frayed,” said Labour party leader Ed Miliband on Thursday evening, who as energy and climate change secretary guided the Climate Change Act through parliament virtually unopposed. “When times got tough, some people headed for the hills.” It’s not a great leap to infer that Miliband was referring to David Cameron, who has gone from hugging huskies in opposition to ditching “green crap” in office. As Miliband is the only alternative PM voters could...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

We need a new law to protect our wildlife from critical decline

Guardian: One of the fears of those who seek to defend the natural world is that people won’t act until it is too late. Only when disasters strike will we understand how much damage we have done, and what the consequences might be. I have some bad news: it’s worse than that. For his fascinating and transformative book, Don’t Even Think About It: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change, George Marshall visited Bastrop in Texas, which had suffered from a record drought followed by a record wildfire,...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Canada pledges $265m to Green Climate Fund

Guardian: The Canadian government has revealed it will give $265m to a UN fund aimed at helping the world’s poorest countries invest in clean energy technologies and cope with the effects of climate change. The announcement came late on Thursday after a Berlin conference where nearly $9.3 billion was pledged to the Green Climate Fund by 21 countries. Rated the world’s 11th largest economy by the World Bank in 2013, the offer is significantly lower than other major developed countries, but will be seen as...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Why Cold Weather Doesn't Mean Global Warming Isn't Real

Business Insider: The past couple weeks have given climate change skeptics plenty of events that seem like reasons to dispute global warming. An inundation of wintry weather across the country carried snowstorms and freezing temperatures everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast. Most recently, snowstorms in Buffalo, NY have made travel impossible, caused roofs to buckle, and left at least a dozen people dead. If it's so cold and there's a dangerous amount of snow, then how could the Earth possibly...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Australia: It took only two days for Abbott's 'conversion' to climate change to be exposed

Bribane Times: Prime Minister Tony Abbott's apparent, if modest, conversion to the idea that climate change was an "important subject" following talks with French president Francois Hollande on Wednesday was greeted with no small measure of cynicism. This was, after all, a politician who had built a political career on climate scepticism, with his famous remark in 2010 that it was "absolute crap" to assert the science was settled. It took only two days, but the doubters can claim vindication after revelations...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Julie Bishop says Barack Obama wrong about climate change threat to Great Barrier Reef

Age: Julie Bishop has rejected Barack Obama's assertion that the Great Barrier Reef is under threat from climate change in a further sign of the Australian government's displeasure with the US President's speech that overshadowed the G20 in Brisbane. But world leading scientists have rejected Ms Bishop's claims, pointing out that rising temperatures threaten the reef with mass bleaching, while fragile ecosystems will suffer due to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the oceans. The Foreign...
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Cold snap caused by climate change-weakened jet stream, scientists suggest

Al Jazeera: Arctic conditions in eastern United States this week may have been the result of climate change-induced stressors on the jet stream that regulates weather over the northern hemisphere, according to meteorologists. Residents in a large swath of the country's east have been met with sub-freezing temperatures over the past week. And overnight Wednesday, more than 5 feet of snow descended on parts of western New York state. Media have referred to the strange weather pattern as the Polar Vortex and...
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U.N. Green Fund gets $9.3 billion in pledges at Berlin conference

BERLIN (Reuters) - Donor nations pledged up to $9.3 billion on Thursday to a U.N. fund to help developing countries tackle climate change, but environmental campaigners said the funds fell short of what they want.







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The China-U.S. Climate Agreement: By the Numbers

With the historic climate announcement by President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping, the United States and China joined the European Union in committing to new limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These three economic powerhouses emit about as much each year as the rest of the world combined, so their commitments have important implications for the world’s ability to stay within its carbon budget.

While China and the United States are at different stages of development – reflected in their historic and per capita emissions – the numbers suggest both countries’ proposed reductions are a meaningful deviation from business as usual. Further efforts will be needed, however, to ensure these targets are met and that ambition is enhanced.

Below, we summarize what the targets mean for emissions trends in each country.

U.S.

What are the U.S. targets?

Under its new targets, the United States will reduce GHG emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 (the United States had already committed to reductions in the range of 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050). If the new target is achieved, U.S. emissions in 2025 will be lower than they have been in more than 40 years. This would require approximately doubling annual GHG reductions from 1.2 percent from 2005-2020 to 2.3-2.8 percent from 2020-2025.

How does the new target compare to the current U.S. emissions trajectory?

The new 2025 target will require the U.S. to reduce emissions below its current trajectory. U.S. government figures (“with measures” scenario in the figure) demonstrate that as of 2012, the U.S. was not on track to achieve even its 2020 target. Since then, the United States has announced – but not yet implemented – important new policies, including standards for existing power plants and other elements of the President’s Climate Action Plan. According to the Rhodium Group, the U.S. would achieve its 2020 target only if it pursues these measures aggressively. To hit the 2025 target – which further accelerates reductions beyond 2020 – the U.S. will need to double down on these and additional measures.

CHINA

What targets has China adopted?

China has announced its intent to peak carbon dioxide emissions around 2030, and to strive to peak earlier. The announcement did not specify at what level China’s emissions would peak, though multiple scenarios that peak around 2030 show peak emissions around 10 billion metric tons per year. China also plans to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030. China had previously pledged to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, as well as increase the share of non-fossil fuels for energy to around 15 percent.

How does the new target compare to China’s current trajectory?

Scenarios indicate that to peak in 2030, China will have to act quickly to implement new policies. While China has not specified the rate at which it will change its emissions trajectory or the level at which it will ultimately peak, GHG emission scenarios provide an indication. Researchers from MIT and China’s Tsinghua University, as well as the International Energy Agency (IEA), find that by continuing current efforts to reduce carbon intensity, emissions will level off between 2030 and 2040 at approximately 12-14 billion metric tons per year. A move to peak emissions by around 2030, then – which corresponds with a peak around 10 billion metric tons in the MIT-Tsinghua and IEA scenarios – improves on the current trajectory. Scenarios that show China peaking in 2030 assume near-term action by China. For instance, the MIT scenario assumes a carbon tax will take effect in 2015.

Will these new targets keep warming below 2 degrees C?

Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have agreed to a goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. However, Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t care where these reductions occur, so whether reductions are adequate ultimately depends on the long-term GHG trajectories of the U.S., China and all other nations. Several GHG projection scenarios (such as those from LIMITS and IEA) offer a range of pathways for the U.S. and China that are consistent with supporting a global effort to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees C at the lowest possible cost. These scenarios assume aggressive policies — most importantly, an increasing price on carbon — are implemented by both countries, causing emissions to rapidly decline through 2050. So it’s going to take more effort for the U.S. and China to achieve a long-term 2-degree-C trajectory.

However, the potential to cut carbon emissions at the lowest possible cost is only one way to determine what each country has to do. Other considerations, such as historic responsibility and per capita emissions, give different results on rates and shares of reduction. For example, a study by EcoEquity and the Stockholm Environment Institute presents illustrative emissions trajectories guided by a range of equity considerations. This analysis indicates China’s emissions should peak immediately and decline rapidly after 2015, but other countries would fund a significant share of these reductions. U.S. emissions would drop steeply to below 4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2025, and the United States would also finance significant mitigation in developing countries.

Looking Ahead

To limit warming to 2 degrees C will require enormous collective effort, especially by the world’s largest economies. China, the United States, and the EU have gotten the ball rolling by announcing their targets, and as the world’s top three emitters, the pressure will stay on them to deliver the most ambitious reductions possible.

The challenges are not trivial: China will have to cap coal use, scale up renewables and efficiency, and reconfigure fossil resource and carbon pricing. The U.S. will have to strongly regulate existing power plants, and take action across all other sectors at the federal and state level. In addition, it will be important to track and report progress on these targets and actions using a common approach to ensure an accurate and consistent assessment of the progress and inform the next phase of mitigation goals. But success on these points, combined with declining technology costs and changing demographic trends, could allow these countries to deliver more than what they have pledged.

It is significant that all three of these major economies have left the door open to further reductions: China by noting its intention to try to peak before 2030, the EU by indicating it will achieve “at least” a 40 percent reduction, and the U.S. by aiming at the more ambitious end of its proposed range, with the potential to exceed it. Optimally such strengthening should occur before the end of next year’s UNFCCC meeting in Paris.

Now it is up to these countries to give more details on what lies behind the numbers by the first quarter of 2015, as agreed in the UNFCCC, and for the rest of the world to join in.


Read more [wri.org]

Acid Maps Reveal Worst of Climate Change

Scientific American: Much of the change in climate change is happening to the ocean. It`s not just the extra heat hiding within the waves. The seven seas also absorb a big share of the carbon dioxide released by burning the fossilized sunshine known as coal, natural gas and oil. All those billions and billions of CO2 molecules interact with the brine to make it ever so slightly more acidic over time and, as more and more CO2 gets absorbed, the oceans become more acidic. Now scientists have delivered the most comprehensive...
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UN climate fund falls short of $10 billion target

Associated Press: A U.N. fund that will help poor countries tackle climate change has fallen short, for now, of its target of collecting $10 billion, officials said Thursday. About 30 countries meeting in Berlin pledged a total of $9.3 billion toward the Green Climate Fund, according to Germany's development ministry, which co-hosted the conference. Last week, the U.S. pledged $3 billion, the biggest amount so far. Britain announced Thursday it would give 720 million pounds ($1.13 billion). Japan, Germany and...
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STATEMENT: WRI Reacts to Green Climate Fund Pledges

STATEMENT: WRI Reacts to Green Climate Fund PledgesNovember 20, 2014

WASHINGTON— On November 20, 2014, countries held a pledging conference of the Green Climate Fund in Berlin – where countries announced their financial commitments to the Fund. These funds will be used to support vulnerable countries to respond to the mounting risks of climate change, and to reduce emissions that cause climate change.

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Two California cities weigh putting climate-change warning on gas pumps

(Reuters) - Officials in San Francisco and Berkeley are considering what they say would be a first-in-the-nation move to require warnings about climate change to be placed at gas pumps at filling stations in the two California cities.

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Green Climate Fund pledges increase political momentum for global climate agreement

(GLAND, Switzerland) – Political momentum for a new global climate deal was boosted today when more than US$1 billion was pledged to the Green Climate Fund at a conference in Berlin.
 
The funds will be used for projects in developing countries – like scaling up renewable energy – to reduce emissions and help strengthen their defences against climate impacts.
 
Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF's Global Climate and Energy Initiative says while today's announcement is good news, it can only be considered as "seed funding".
 
"These contributions are at the low end of the range of expectations, but they are a significant beginning and will enable the fund to begin financing activities at scale next year," says Smith.
 
The initial resource mobilisation period is four years. Additional pledges from more countries are expected, particularly at the upcoming UN climate summit in Lima, Peru. Another pledging conference is scheduled to be held by 2018.
 
"While developed countries have the primary responsibility to contribute to the fund, it is very encouraging that developing countries like Mongolia, Mexico, Panama and the fund's host country South Korea, have also made contributions," says Smith.
 
By 2020, the fund should comprise a substantial part of the overall $100 billion committed by developed countries at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009.
 
"Confidence that financing will be available to a predictable channel like the Green Climate Fund is essential to enable developing countries to commit to ambitious actions to reduce their emissions, as well as adapt to the climatic impacts that are now inevitable," says Smith.
 
The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 at the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico. The fund is the main financial mechanism under the UN Framework Convention on Climate change to help developing countries address climate change challenges. 

Read more [WWF]

U.S. voters view climate change at 'hyperlocal' level: Dem donor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Climate change resonates with voters more on a local than a national level, billionaire hedge fund trader turned Democratic fundraiser Tom Steyer said Wednesday, reflecting on the 2014 mid-term elections.







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The Emissions Gap Roadmap

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Momentum on climate action is building: the major joint announcement from the United States and China last week, nearly $7.5 billion in pledges to the Green Climate Fund and commitments made at the UN Climate Summit in September in New York City, where more than 70 countries and 1,000 companies supported putting a price on carbon to encourage investment in a low-carbon future.

But this recent momentum—and much more—will be required to keep global mean temperature within 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) of what it was in pre-industrial times. That message is reinforced by a major new report from the UN Environment Programme, which shows a growing gap between what countries have committed to do and what the world needs to do to cut greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most extreme effects of climate change.

The problem is, we have already taken a costly detour from the most direct route to closing this gap. While the United States, China and the European Union have made substantial new pledges to cut emissions, they fall short of what is required.

The 2014 Gap Report, the fifth in a yearly series that tracks countries' emission-cutting pledges, found that enacting current pledges would still leave the world short by 8 to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent to be on course in 2020 -- that's roughly twice the amount of emissions from all the cars, buses and trucks on the road. Without further action to make sure countries follow through on their commitments, the gap will be at the high end of that range. (Carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e, includes carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and is the standard measurement of global total emissions.)

If current trends continue through 2030, the gap will grow to 14 to 17 gigatons, a troubling figure for a planet that has already "spent" about half its carbon budget. That's the amount of carbon that can be emitted to retain a likely chance of limiting warming to a level that would ward off the extreme heat waves, droughts, severe weather patterns and rising seas that are projected by the world's climate scientists.

How then can we turn the tide?

All countries need to do more, including moving forward with a strong climate agreement by 2015.

The next step on the road to a climate agreement is an international climate conference in Lima, Peru in December. The Lima gathering (also known as COP20) must deliver a strong foundation for a global climate agreement. To do that, negotiators should arrive with a real sense of purpose and build on the renewed trust and energy shown by China and the United States, along with the European Union. With the U.S. and China finally working together, and more countries putting their pledges and financial commitments on the table, the climate talks can transition from a diplomatic poker game to effective international cooperation.

The November 12 announcement in Beijing that both the United States and China plan to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions significantly should spur comparable commitments from other countries. In addition, the United States and Japan have pledged a total of up to $4.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help developing countries in responding to a changing climate, bringing the total to about $7.5 billion. That is a respectable amount, but still not enough.

Finally, a growing body of rigorous and objective evidence shows that climate action is affordable, and can actually be part of an economic growth strategy. New technology and innovation are opening opportunities as exemplified by the falling prices of solar power in recent years. The New Climate Economy report, released in September, shows that the world can make a transition to a highly-efficient, low-carbon future without incurring major costs. The focus at the latest G20 meeting on sluggish economies points up the need for just this kind of economic development.

We are entering a critical window of opportunity. Further delays would mean locking into carbon-intensive infrastructure rather than low-carbon alternatives. As negotiators head to Lima, they should be armed with the best facts and evidence available. Countries should move forward with an agreement that is not only politically viable but will truly alter the trajectory for the planet.

We have the roadmap. We're gaining momentum. What's needed now is to follow the course that will close the gap and lead us to a prosperous, low-carbon future.


Read more [wri.org]

Australia stands firm against G20 pack on climate change

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday warned that next year's landmark climate change summit in Paris will fail if world leaders decide to put cutting carbon emissions ahead of economic growth.







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UNEP Emissions Gap Report Calculates Necessary Emission Reductions Out to 2030

As governments prepare to resume climate negotiations in Lima in December, a key issue is the commitments countries are making to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions after 2020. A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) quantifies the magnitude for those commitments that will be needed in order to have a likely chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) relative to the pre-Industrial era and thereby avoiding the most extreme effects of climate change.

First, the big picture: according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to have a chance to limit warming to 2 degrees C at the least possible cost, global emissions of all greenhouse gases (GHG) must reach net zero between 2080 and 2100. (Global carbon dioxide emissions must reach net zero earlier—between 2055 and 2070.) Working backwards from these figures, the estimated limit for GHG emissions is 42 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e, used to compare different greenhouse gases in a common currency) in 2030 and 47 GtCO2e in 2025. (These levels are based on the assumption that from 2020 onwards, the global economy follows the least-cost pathway to an eventual phase-out of greenhouse gas emissions.) For context, global emissions were approximately 50 GtCO2e in 2010.

The UNEP report calculates where global GHG emissions will end up in 2025 and 2030 if countries make good on their current 2020 pledges but make no new commitments after 2020. It finds a gap of about 7 to 10 GtCO2e in 2025 and 14 to 17 GtCO2e in 2030. These are the key figures that governments need to keep in mind as they design their commitments to move off of the current, high-emission trajectory.

Closing the 2025 and 2030 emission gap will be easier and less costly if countries meet or exceed their 2020 pledges. This year’s UNEP report also examines progress on pre-2020 action, evaluating the gap between 2020 GHG reduction pledges and the 2010 least-cost pathway—that is, what would have been the cheapest path to reducing emissions if the world had started making ambitious reductions in 2010—and the extent to which the world’s largest economies are on track to achieve their pledges. The report finds that if all parties were to achieve their 2020 pledges, a gap of about 8 to 10 GtCO2e would remain.

The report also finds that five parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—Brazil, China, the EU28, India and the Russian Federation—are on track to meet their 2020 pledges. Four parties—Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States—are likely to require further action, possibly including buying carbon offsets to meet their pledges, according to government and independent estimates of projected national emissions in 2020. The United States has outlined its intent in the Climate Action Plan. It’s important to note, however, that not all pledges are equally difficult to achieve: a country that’s on track to meet its pledge isn’t necessarily “doing more” than a country that is not yet on track.

For several key players, however, progress toward pledges has proven difficult to track. Governments have not published regular GHG inventories or updated emission projections. Moreover, the form of some of the goals themselves—framed as a deviation from business as usual—has complicated tracking, because business-as-usual trajectories are difficult to calculate, rely on varying assumptions, and may change over time. And countries that have pledged to implement individual policies—instead of economy-wide reduction goals—have not been considered in UNEP’s calculations, in part because their impact has generally not been calculated. New standards launched this week by the GHG Protocol aim to help countries address these challenges by offering standardized, robust and transparent accounting and reporting approaches for estimating emissions impacts from mitigation goals and policies and actions.

  • Delaying further emissions reduction until after 2020 would raise several important risks, including:

  • Possibly failing to keep warming within 2 degrees C, leading to higher adaptation costs

  • Locking in more carbon-intensive infrastructure

  • Greater dependence on mitigation technologies that have not been tested at scale

  • The need for unprecedented rates of decarbonization

Governments will need to consider many factors as they prepare their post-2020 GHG reduction targets. The need to close the projected emissions gap in 2025 and 2030, as well as the need to set transparent and quantifiable goals, should be foremost among them.


Read more [wri.org]

Study counters case for climate change-violence link

SciDevNet: Climate change is far from being solely to blame for violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, say researchers -- other factors matter much more. Their paper, published on 10 November in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contradicts earlier studies that found that higher temperatures are a major risk factor in conflict. For instance, last year a different group concluded that a shift towards hotter conditions by a single statistical unit known as a 'standard deviation' -- equivalent...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Celebrating parks, the planet and people

Sydney – 19 November 2014 – A once-per-decade meeting on the state of the world's protected natural areas ended today with a collective promise to invigorate efforts, inspire new stakeholders, and invest in marine and terrestrial parks

WWF's conservation experts joined other International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) member governments and organizations, as well as private sector representatives, at the World Parks Congress to discuss protection and management of fragile habitats and ecosystems, many of which are critical to human survival.

"Across the world, millions of people rely on the services provided by the healthy ecosystems in protected areas for their food security, water supply, fresh air, climate stability and employment opportunities. Protected areas are a powerful tool to secure a healthy, diverse and productive environment, which is the foundation to any credible long-term sustainable development agenda," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. 

"We are placing biodiversity and natural resources at the heart of our new national development plan," Madagascar President Hery Rajaonarimampianina said during a WWF even in Sydney last night. "It is possible to effectively tackle poverty while preserving and sustainably using one's natural capital. Our natural capital is one of our greatest assets: biodiversity, and the protected areas, are engines of our development." 

Since 2003, species-rich Madagascar has tripled the number of protected areas in the country by creating 95 new sites, and established a US$50 million conservation fund for their management. The president pledged to expand even further the country's marine protected area coverage, and to establish community management of coastal resources.  

In total, commitments to 140 million hectares of protected areas were made at WWF's event, and over US$500 million in conservation funding for management of these parks was announced. 

Earlier in the conference, Malaysia, part of the Coral Triangle Initiative, committed to gazette close to a million hectares of ocean in the state of Sabah by 2015. Over 80,000 coastal and island residents of Sabah rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Included in the state's plans is gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park, an important marine area that needs protection from overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution. 

Fiji announced plans to increase its number of locally managed marine areas so that communities can make decisions about how best to maximize the benefits provided by their natural resources. Fiji also intends to protect nearly a third of its coastal waters, and Gabon nearly a quarter. Marine protected areas can guard stocks from collapse by giving fish a place to grow, as well as by preventing unsustainable take levels and habitat degradation. 

In a landmark terrestrial announcement, the government of Peru joined WWF and other partners to form a new alliance aimed at securing long-term funding for the country's 76 Amazon protected areas, and at ensuring the inclusion of indigenous communities in natural area management. 

Additionally on land, Bhutan said that it has doubled its protected area cover to over 50 per cent, the highest in the world. Bhutan also announced the launch of a US$50 million conservation fund, which is modelled on the Brazilian Amazon ARPA for Life fund. Neighbouring China said has accelerated the roll out of new nature reserves, including the habitats of endangered pandas and tigers.

Globally, protected areas play an essential role in reducing the carbon in the atmosphere, yet they are at risk increasingly from climate change. At the World Parks Congress, WWF presented a new Climate Adaptation Methodology for Protected Areas, known by its acronym CAMPA, which can help bolster parks' resiliency. WWF also joined eight other organizations in calling for natural World Heritage Sites to be no-go zones for oil, gas and mining exploration and extraction, which is a looming menace with the potential to impact many properties.

"WWF today is renewing its dedication to working with communities, governments and other partners to ensure that protected areas are well-managed, sufficiently-resourced and protected from threats," Lambertini said. "Much stronger focus and efforts are required particularly to secure protected and sustainably-managed marine habitats, which are lagging behind despite their huge importance for biodiversity and people. Our planet's extraordinary parks are a success story worthy of celebration, but much more needs to be done in order to secure them for future generations."

Read more [WWF]

Celebrating parks, the planet and people

Sydney, Australia: A once-per-decade meeting on the state of the world's protected natural areas ended today with a collective promise to invigorate efforts, inspire new stakeholders, and invest in marine and terrestrial parks
WWF's conservation experts joined other International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) member governments and organizations, as well as private sector representatives, at the World Parks Congress to discuss protection and management of fragile habitats and ecosystems, many of which are critical to human survival.

"Across the world, millions of people rely on the services provided by the healthy ecosystems in protected areas for their food security, water supply, fresh air, climate stability and employment opportunities. Protected areas are a powerful tool to secure a healthy, diverse and productive environment, which is the foundation to any credible long-term sustainable development agenda," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. 

"We are placing biodiversity and natural resources at the heart of our new national development plan," Madagascar President Hery Rajaonarimampianina said during a WWF even in Sydney last night. "It is possible to effectively tackle poverty while preserving and sustainably using one's natural capital. Our natural capital is one of our greatest assets: biodiversity, and the protected areas, are engines of our development." 

Since 2003, species-rich Madagascar has tripled the number of protected areas in the country by creating 95 new sites, and established a US$50 million conservation fund for their management. The president pledged to expand even further the country's marine protected area coverage, and to establish community management of coastal resources.  

In total, commitments to 140 million hectares of protected areas were made at WWF's event, and over US$500 million in conservation funding for management of these parks was announced. 

Earlier in the conference, Malaysia, part of the Coral Triangle Initiative, committed to gazette close to a million hectares of ocean in the state of Sabah by 2015. Over 80,000 coastal and island residents of Sabah rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Included in the state's plans is gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park, an important marine area that needs protection from overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution. 

Fiji, another Coral Triangle Initiative country, announced plans to increase its number of locally managed marine areas so that communities can make decisions about how best to maximize the benefits provided by their natural resources. Fiji also intends to protect nearly a third of its coastal waters, and Gabon nearly a quarter. Marine protected areas can guard stocks from collapse by giving fish a place to grow, as well as by preventing unsustainable take levels and habitat degradation. 

In a landmark terrestrial announcement, the government of Peru joined WWF and other partners to form a new alliance aimed at securing long-term funding for the country's 76 Amazon protected areas, and at ensuring the inclusion of indigenous communities in natural area management. 

Additionally on land, Bhutan said that it has doubled its protected area cover to over 50 per cent, the highest in the world. Bhutan also announced the launch of a US$50 million conservation fund, which is modelled on the Brazilian Amazon ARPA for Life fund. Neighbouring China said has accelerated the roll out of new nature reserves, including the habitats of endangered pandas and tigers.

Globally, protected areas play an essential role in reducing the carbon in the atmosphere, yet they are at risk increasingly from climate change. At the World Parks Congress, WWF presented a new Climate Adaptation Methodology for Protected Areas, known by its acronym CAMPA, which can help bolster parks' resiliency. WWF also joined eight other organizations in calling for natural World Heritage Sites to be no-go zones for oil, gas and mining exploration and extraction, which is a looming menace with the potential to impact many properties.

"WWF today is renewing its dedication to working with communities, governments and other partners to ensure that protected areas are well-managed, sufficiently-resourced and protected from threats," Lambertini said. "Much stronger focus and efforts are required particularly to secure protected and sustainably-managed marine habitats, which are lagging behind despite their huge importance for biodiversity and people. Our planet's extraordinary parks are a success story worthy of celebration, but much more needs to be done in order to secure them for future generations."

Read more [WWF]

Fracking Approved in Largest National Forest in Eastern U.S

EcoWatch: Despite strong opposition from both elected officials in the affected areas and environmental groups, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has approved fracking in George Washington Forest. Objections to the plan came from members of Congress from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Washington D.C. city council, which passed a resolution opposing it in March. McAuliffe reiterated his opposition before a meeting of the state’s Climate Change and Resilience Commission...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

How to Calculate Policies’ Effects on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Tunisia launched its renewable energy program, PROSOL ELEC, in 2010 to scale up solar photovoltaic systems in buildings throughout the country. The National Agency for Energy Conversation (ANME) anticipated that the greater use of solar power would help curb climate change, but experts didn’t quantify just how much the program would reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

So they used a new tool—the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol’s Policy and Action Standard—to find out. Experts from ANME began by identifying the emissions impacts of the PROSOL program, including reduced emissions from conventional power plants, reduced emissions from natural gas systems, and increased emissions from production of PV systems imported from other countries. Then, using the standard, they figured out just how much of an impact PROSOL would make in reducing Tunisia’s emissions. Overall, the program is expected to reduce emissions by 4 million tonnes between 2014 and 2030.

Today, WRI is releasing the Policy and Action Standard to the wider world. The first-of-its-kind standard is designed to help countries and local governments better design, track, and evaluate policies and actions. Because no other international guidelines exist, the standard will create more international consistency and transparency in the way emissions assessments of policies and actions are carried out. In short, it can help countries, cities, and others implement more effective emissions-reduction initiatives throughout the world.

Using the Standard to Estimate Greenhouse Gas Effects

The standard can be used in many situations. It provides general guidance relevant to all types of policies and actions in any sector, including regulations and standards, taxes and subsides, emissions trading programs, voluntary agreements, financing and investment, and more. And it can be used by national or subnational governments, donor agencies and financial institutions, NGOs, and researchers to inform policy design and decide where to invest resources, improve policy effectiveness in reducing emissions, and attract financial support for climate action.

Steps to using the standard

The basic steps to using the Policy and Action Standard are:

  • define the policy or action,

  • identify effects of the policy or action,

  • estimate emissions under the baseline scenario,

  • estimate emissions under the policy scenario, and

  • subtract to estimate the GHG effect of the policy or action.

The standard is being launched along with the Mitigation Goal Standard, an accounting and reporting standard for assessing progress toward national and subnational emissions-reduction goals.

In all, 270 participants from 40 countries were involved in developing both standards. As part of the process, pilot tests were conducted on 27 policies and actions in 20 countries and cities to make sure the standard works in practice. In addition to Tunisia’s solar program, other pilots included:

  • Belgium’s offshore wind promotion program
  • Chile’s new vehicle energy consumption and CO2 emissions targets
  • Beijing’s emissions trading system
  • Mexico’s National light bulb replacement program, part of the Special Program on Climate Change
  • The U.S. decision of whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline
  • Germany’s Renewable Energy Act

Putting the Standard into Action

To help implement the standard, the GHG Protocol website also provides a list of relevant calculation tools that may be used, as well as sector-specific guidance with further detail for the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU), energy supply, residential and commercial buildings, transportation, and waste sectors.

Download the standard and related tools and guidance, here.
Read more [wri.org]

Staying on Track: A New Tool for Designing and Meeting Emissions-Reduction Goals

China just announced a mitigation goal to peak its emissions by 2030 or earlier, while the United States committed to reduce its national emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. South Africa has pledged to reduce its emissions 34 percent below business-as-usual emissions by 2020. Costa Rica has a carbon neutrality goal to be achieved by 2021. New York City aims to reduce its emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And countless other cities and countries have set similar emissions-reduction targets.

The problem is that for some goals, the details of the design remain unclear (for example, at what level will China’s emissions peak? How will the United States track progress towards a range of possible emissions reductions?). And there is no methodology available for these jurisdictions to accurately and consistently measure whether they’re on track to reach this diversity of goals—until now, that is.

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol’s Mitigation Goal Standard, launched today, provides the first-ever standardized approach for designing, assessing, and reporting progress on a variety of national and subnational mitigation goals. The standard can help governments set emissions-reduction targets, meet domestic and international emissions reporting obligations to groups like the UNFCCC, and ensure that efforts to reduce emissions are actually achieving their intended results.

Objectives of the Standard

The standard is intended to help national and subnational governments accomplish the following objectives:

  • Design a greenhouse gas mitigation goal, which involves weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various types of mitigation goals and informs the choice of mitigation strategies used for achieving the goal
  • Define accounting methods for tracking progress
  • Calculate allowable emissions in the target year(s) in order to understand future emissions levels associated with meeting the goal
  • Assess and report progress toward meeting a goal, which enables an evaluation of what additional actions are needed to achieve the goal, allows for public reporting of goal progress and assessment methods, and meets stakeholder demands for transparency
  • Assess and report whether a goal has been achieved

Case Study: South Africa’s Mining Emissions

The standard is being launched along with the Policy and Action Standard, an accounting and reporting standard for estimating the greenhouse gas effects of policies and actions. Institutions in Chile, India, Israel, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States have already pilot-tested the standard.

Take South Africa: The national government set a target to reduce its mining sector emissions 15 percent below 2006 levels by 2015. Promethium Carbon, a carbon finance consulting group, used the Mitigation Goal Standard to see whether the country was on track to achieve this target.

The group started with South Africa’s base-year emissions from the mining sector, which it calculated to be 10.68 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. By following the calculations set out in the Mitigation Goal Standard, the organization found that the sector will need to reduce its emissions by an additional 1.31 megatonnes of greenhouse gases—or about 12.6 percent below 2013 levels—to meet its 2015 goal. This evaluation gives the mining sector the information it needs to identify additional actions it can take to reduce its emissions and meet its goal.

Toward a Standardized, Robust Way of Designing and Assessing Mitigation Goals

A forthcoming report underscores the urgency of a consistent framework for designing and measuring progress on mitigation goals. The UNEP Emissions Gap Report, an updated version of which will be released tomorrow, has repeatedly found a significant “emissions gap” between where global emissions are currently headed and where they need to be to have a likely chance of limiting warming to 2°C, thus preventing some of the more disastrous impacts of climate change. Part of the reason for this “gap” is that unclear assumptions and lenient accounting rules underlie some countries’ mitigation goals. It is our hope that this standard advances a more consistent, accurate and transparent method of designing and tracking progress, which can reduce uncertainty about future emissions levels.

Following the launch, WRI will hold a series of training workshops on the standards—in Mexico, Colombia, South Africa, Ethiopia, India, and Thailand—between late 2014 and February 2015. For more information and to download the standard, visit the GHG Protocol website.


Read more [wri.org]

The Green Climate Fund is not a charity but an investment in our shared future

Guardian: A world that does not manage to curb global warming is an insecure world. A series of recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it abundantly clear. If we do not succeed in staying below the target of keeping temperature rises below 2C over preindustrial levels, the consequences are likely to be far-reaching and disastrous. We will see a dramatic rise in sea levels, by up to a metre in this century alone, a greater frequency of violent storms, increased desertification,...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

US-China climate deal's ambition fails to impress India

Guardian: The United States and China sprang a surprise last week with their secretly-negotiated deal to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Although cheered as “historic milestone in the global fight against climate change,” “the real deal,” a “landmark,” “ambitious,” and “game-changer” by western media, the agreement received a less than enthusiastic response in India. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a research and advocacy NGO based in Delhi, called it a “self-serving and business-as-usual”...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

President Obama's climate leadership faces the Keystone XL challenge

Guardian: What a change a few years makes. For those of us concerned about climate change, seven years ago marked a low-point. It was a time where no meaningful actions had been taken to reduce carbon pollution and prepare our nation and the world for the threat of global warming. Now, we celebrate a series of major plans and actions that have the potential for helping us avoid the worst climate risks. These past years have cemented Obama’s legacy as a climate-aware president. They have also cemented the...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

French president Francois Hollande launches funding for Pacific nations hit by climate change

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: French president Francois Hollande has announced funding for Pacific island nations to help restore ecosystems affected by climate change. After joining world leaders at the G20 meeting in Brisbane last weekend, Mr Hollande flew to New Caledonia for his first official visit. The Pacific island nation, one of Australia's closest neighbours, is one of three French dependencies in the region. Mr Hollande told representatives that their communities had experienced the most harmful effects of...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

At This Rate, World Will Have to Cease All Carbon Emissions in 2040 to Stay Under 2°C

Think Progress: By 2040, the world will emit all the carbon it can afford while remaining within safe ranges of climate change, according to a report released last week. Scientists and policymakers have generally settled on 2°C as the amount of global temperature increase, over pre-industrial levels, the climate can take without creating truly dangerous upheavals. Because the effect of carbon in the atmosphere is cumulative, staying below that threshold requires a hard limit on the amount of carbon the world emits...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Obama Pledges US$3 Billion New Green Climate Fund

Environment News Service: The United States will contribute up to US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries respond to climate change, and Japan will give up to US$1.5 billion, the leaders of both nations announced at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia on the weekend. "Along with the other nations that have pledged support, this gives us the opportunity to help vulnerable communities with an early warning system, with stronger defences against storm surge, climate resilient infrastructure,...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

White House offers climate change help to U.S. cities

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After announcing two major global initiatives on climate change last week, the Obama administration pivoted on Monday to American towns and cities to help them adapt to the impacts of global warming.

Read more [Reuters]

White House offers climate change help to U.S. cities

Reuters: After announcing two major global initiatives on climate change last week, the Obama administration pivoted on Monday to American towns and cities to help them adapt to the impacts of global warming. The move came after a task force of U.S. governors, mayors and tribal leaders sent Vice President Joe Biden and senior White House officials recommendations on how they can help local communities deal with extreme weather. White House officials also unveiled measures, including a Web-based climate...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Ending deforestation won't stop carbon emissions from land use change

Mongabay: Even if the world stopped cutting down forests, carbon dioxide emissions from land use change would still pose a major challenge, according to a new paper in Nature Climate Change. The research finds that eliminating deforestation would mean agriculture would be pushed into non-forest ecosystems and still release significant quantities of carbon dioxide. "While protecting forests to abate climate change is definitely worthwhile, our results illustrate for the first time that forest protection...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Meet Republicans in Congress who don't believe climate change real

Guardian: It’s much easier to list Republicans in Congress who think climate change is real than it is to list Republicans who don’t, because there are so few members of the former group. Earlier this year, Politifact went looking for congressional Republicans who had not expressed scepticism about climate change and came up with a list of eight (out of 278). But with the GOP taking over the Senate next year – and with the Senate set to vote on approving the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday – the question...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Obama Is Driving a Wedge Between the World's Two Most Powerful Climate Change Deniers

New Republic: In the last week, President Barack Obama made two major announcements on climate change that provided much-needed momentum for global negotiations in 2015. By announcing a U.S.-China agreement on limiting greenhouse gas pollution and a domestic pledge of $3 billion to a climate fund for developing countries, Obama is hoping to press other polluting nations to make similar commitments. Or, at the very least, he’s trying to make it more politically uncomfortable for allies to continue with business...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Local Leaders to Federal Government: Help Us Prepare for Climate Change

Cities throughout the United States are at the forefront of climate change. And many of them have also been at the forefront of climate action, working to adapt to increased flooding from sea-level rise, damages from extreme weather, and other impacts. Today, a group of local officials outlined what they need from the federal government to succeed in building climate-resilient communities.

The report comes from the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, a group of 26 mayors, governors, tribal leaders, and other local officials from around the nation. In a first-of-its-kind document, local leaders themselves aggregated hundreds of recommendations outlining the challenges their cities face in a warmer world, and the specific actions they need from the federal government in order to build resiliency.

Here’s a look at what officials said they’re up against, as well as what kind of support they need in the short- and long-term:.

Local Communities Are at the Frontlines of Climate Impacts

From regional impacts like longer and more severe large wildfires to increasingly heavy rainfall to public health dangers, climate change is already a significant threat to communities and their economies. “Cities are at the very front of climate change impacts, and must deal with its consequences through effective actions,” George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids, MI, said in the report. “Grand Rapids faced the impact of flood, heat wave, and snow blizzards in the last three years. State and federal-level governments need to provide support to local governments and ensure coordinated efforts to address climate change effects.”

Grand Rapids is far from alone in the challenges it faces. According to the report:

  • Alaska’s public infrastructure costs may rise $3.6-$6.1 billion over the next 20 years due to the thawing and sinking of once-frozen ground. In more rural parts of the state, this thaw is likely to disrupt water supplies and sewage systems.
  • The Midwest will likely require more than $6 billion in infrastructure investments by mid-century to combat rising temperatures.
  • Cumulative costs of sea-level rise and associated flooding across the North Atlantic may exceed $88 billion by 2100.

Local officials are already leading the way toward addressing the impacts of climate change, but they cannot build resiliency alone. They need federal support—specifically when it comes to accounting for climate change in investments and planning and reducing emissions over the long-term.

Accounting for Climate Change in Federal Investments and Planning

Climate change’s implications on critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, and water treatment plants reach across all sectors and economies. Federal policies, like the National Flood Insurance Program, are not designed to account for increasing climate risks like sea-level rise.

The federal government, then, needs a way to account for the future risks of climate change in its current planning, building and investment programs— like some states and cities have already done. Delaware and Maryland now require that state-funded construction projects accommodate future sea-level rise, and cities like Houston, Texas have are creating solar-powered community-support stations for post-disaster assistance that operate off the electric grid. Incorporating climate change into planning decisions can build more resilient communities, which, according to the Task Force, can result in a more resilient economy nationally.

“Community investments in resilience pay off in protecting human life, minimizing loss and lowering recovery costs,” said Karen Weitkunat, mayor of Fort Collins, CO. “Federal agencies should incentivize local policy implementation and investments in hazard-prone areas to protect life and property.”

Capitalize on Opportunities that Build Community Resilience and Reduce Emissions

Adaptation, of course, is not enough—the Task Force recognized the need to reduce emissions over the long-term to avoid the worst of climate impacts in the future.

This can be addressed by improving the way emissions are incorporated into public and private investments, policies and practices. The Task Force outlined strategies that have the dual benefit of increasing community resilience while reducing overall emissions—such as increasing energy efficiency in transportation systems, reducing dependency on fossil fuels through more clean and efficient energy systems, and increasing the use of natural infrastructure. The federal government should prioritize these kinds of “win-win” investments to foster both mitigation and adaptation.

Federal Support for Local Resilience: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Momentum has been building toward more comprehensively addressing the three pillars of the U.S. Climate Action Plan—reducing domestic emissions, becoming an international leader on climate change, and helping communities deal with climate impacts. Following the June release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant emissions standards and last week’s historic climate action agreement between the United States and China, today’s report helps address that last pillar of dealing with the local impacts of climate change. Now it’s time for the federal government to listen to its local leaders and start building a more resilient nation.


Read more [wri.org]

US, Japan Pledge $4.5 Billion to Green Climate Fund, but Are the Conditions Fair?

In the last week, the world took two giant steps toward reaching a global agreement to fight climate change in 2015:

  • First, the United States and China – the two biggest emitters of climate-warming carbon dioxide – announced a landmark accord pledging to curb those emissions.

  • Second, the United States and Japan collectively pledged up to $4.5 billion for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which will help poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and further reduce carbon pollution.

But there are some conditions attached, and the details in a White House fact sheet released on November 15 point to three potential speed bumps that could be perceived as contentious issues by some developing countries.

  1. The White House notes that the $3 billion U.S. pledge is not to exceed 30 percent of total confirmed pledges. That means that if collective pledges to the Fund fall short of $10 billion—the goal called for by UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres—the U.S. could ultimately deliver less than $3 billion. Japan has a similar condition attached to its pledge. On the positive side, this helps push other countries—like the United Kingdom—to make ambitious pledges. It also pressures countries like Australia and Canada, which have the capability to pledge, but which have so far been reluctant to do so. On the negative side, it raises uncertainty about the total the Fund will receive, which could be a lot less if other countries don’t help the Fund get to the $10 billion goal.

  2. The fact sheet indicates that the United States intends to target a significant portion of its pledge to the GCF’s Private Sector Facility, a part of the Fund geared toward unlocking private sector resources to fight climate change. While the GCF Board has already agreed that in aggregate, a “significant” amount of the Fund’s resources will be channeled through the Private Sector Facility, attaching specific provisions to an individual pledge about where in the Fund money should flow may prove contentious at the level of the Fund’s Board. At the latest meeting of the GCF Board in Barbados, developing countries indicated that contributors should not pick and choose where their money flows, but should respect decisions made at the Board-level about how funds can flow to different activities in a balanced way.

  3. Although the White House says that the U.S. recognizes GCF should become a “preeminent, effective, and efficient channel” for global climate finance, it also spells out that the U.S. could put some of its $3 billion pledge into other multilateral climate funds, which include the Climate Investment Funds or the Global Environment Facility, depending on progress by the GCF Board in making final decisions over the next few Board meetings through 2015. This may not sit well with some developing countries, given that many see the GCF as the main vehicle for international climate finance going forward, an important step up from other climate funds in terms of balanced governance, with the number of seats on the Fund’s decision-making Board balanced evenly between developed and developing countries.

Japan and the United States joined a host of countries that have already helped expand the fund, bringing the total pledged to the GCF to about $7.5 billion ahead of a November 20 pledging meeting. Germany was the first to pledge, with a nearly $1 billion contribution, triggering France and Sweden to follow suit with respective pledges of $1 billion and $550million. Some developing countries, including Mexico and South Korea have shown tremendous leadership by pledging resources.

The financial commitments to the GCF and the U.S.-China accord send a strong signal that countries—both developed and developing—are willing to curb emissions and help communities prepare for the consequences of climate change. The Japanese and U.S. pledges also show that global climate action is a good investment, as both countries’ world-leading clean technology sectors are well-positioned to deliver climate solutions around the globe.

Ultimately, these are important caveats around the U.S. pledge, and could prove contentious at the GCF pledging meeting on November 20 or the first meeting of the Fund’s Board early next year. Observers should keep their eye on these conditions and their implications for the GCF in the coming months. While we welcome the ambitious U.S. pledge as a demonstration of leadership and commitment to an international climate agreement in 2015, the conditions attached to the pledge have to be communicated constructively to developing country partners to maintain trust and goodwill in the lead-up to the Berlin pledging session on November 20, as well as the fast-approaching UN climate negotiations in Lima this December.


Read more [wri.org]

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