Global warming news

Climate Change Concerns Push Chile to Forefront of Carbon Tax Movement

New York Times: These are rough times for carbon taxes, aimed at mitigating climate change. Australia recently repealed its carbon tax. South Korea delayed a carbon-based tax on vehicle emissions. South Africa put off a planned carbon tax until 2016. And yet, for environmentalists, a sliver of hope exists in the shape of Chile, one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies, which last month approved the first carbon tax in South America. The measure, due to take effect in 2018, was part of a broad overhaul of...

New Studies Underscore Need for Better Methane Regulations for Natural Gas

In recent weeks, satellite measurements added even more evidence that methane emissions from natural gas production are likely a much larger problem than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the oil and gas industry acknowledges.

The first study found that the San Juan Basin has been a major source of U.S. methane emissions as far back as 2003, with coalbed methane and conventional natural gas operations largely to blame. The second study’s findings are even more alarming: Oil and gas operations in North Dakota and eastern Texas leaked roughly 10 percent of the natural gas they produced between 2006 and 2011, spewing methane—a potent greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere. That’s between 2 and 15 times higher than the EPA’s estimate for natural gas leakage during drilling and production in those years.

Methane Leakage from Natural Gas

Natural gas is often touted as a cleaner fuel because it emits approximately half the carbon dioxide as coal when used for power generation. However, methane—the main component of natural gas—escapes throughout various stages of the production chain. Methane is at least 34 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so methane leakage erodes the climate advantage natural gas has over coal. Natural gas can’t be part of any solution to climate change until and unless methane emissions are significantly curtailed.

Reducing Methane Leakage Is Possible and Cost-Effective

The results of the new measurement studies are distressing, but they are also frustrating – not just because natural gas comprises a growing share of U.S. energy, but because we know how to rein in methane emissions. EPA has already addressed a major source of production sector emissions, well completions (see below for more details), but we know that methane emissions are still too high.

Technological solutions, the majority of which are highly cost-effective, are available to address all major sources of methane emissions from natural gas production, processing, and distribution. It’s also in companies’ best interests to adopt these solutions, as they prevent lost product. Research shows that the natural gas industry could save $1.5 billion annually if all producers adopted these best practices.

And there is much that federal agencies can do to combat this problem, too. For example:

  • The Department of Energy can use its role as the research and development arm of the federal government to improve the effectiveness and reduce the costs of emissions measurement and control technologies, such as methane isotope analyzers, infrared cameras, and portable compressors.

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the network of interstate natural gas pipelines, can work with companies to incentivize investments that will reduce methane leakage.

  • Most importantly, EPA can set standards for methane emissions under the Clean Air Act. In 2012, EPA finalized standards to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from well completions and several smaller sources, which have the co-benefit of reducing methane emissions. And the agency is currently considering whether to propose new standards for methane emissions from four other major sources. But even with ambitious new rules addressing emissions from all of those sources, there’s still significant work to do to reduce methane emissions from the natural gas sector.

Following the Leaders

In the meantime, states are leading the way. Colorado and Wyoming, for example, had policies in place for many years that later served as the model for EPA’s 2012 air quality standards. And just this year, Colorado cemented its reputation as a leader in addressing emissions from natural gas systems when it became the first state to target methane directly, issuing rules that will reduce methane emissions by 95 percent from several major sources.

Other states can do their part by following Colorado’s lead and mitigating methane leakage. New work underway at WRI will help states accomplish this by examining available technologies and best practices to reduce methane emissions, as well as proposing key requirements that should be part of any new laws or standards. Keep your eyes on this space for more information in the coming weeks.

LEARN MORE: Download our paper, Clearing the Air: Reducing Upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Natural Gas Systems.

Why U.S. green groups are talking about abortion this election

DENVER (Reuters) - Green billionaire Tom Steyer vowed to make the November congressional elections about climate change. Now he's talking about abortion and the economy to get his candidates across the finish line.

Read more [Reuters]

Climate Change: IPCC Warns of Species Extinction and Food Insecurity

Business Times: A draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis report warns of "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people, species and 27 ecosystems," unless action is taken, and taken soon. To keep the temperature from rising above the two degrees threshold, net global emissions of carbon must drop 40-70% by 2050, hitting zero by the end of the century. This will mean limiting carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2100, according to...

Solving salt water contamination in Bangladesh

SciDevNet: Salt water has contaminated the drinking water in the Dacope district, a coastal region of Bangladesh. The increase in salinity, linked to rising sea levels associated with climate change, threatens the health of many people, particularly women and babies. To deal with the problem, Bangladeshi and UK scientists are moving on two fronts. First, they are collecting more evidence on the links between climate change and water quality, and the resulting health impact. This kind of data might help promote...

Owners of the wind

Thirty-odd years ago in the Kingdom of Denmark lived some brave people who disliked nuclear power and loved renewable energy. Determined to keep their country clean and safe, they began building their own wind turbines. Today, thanks to these passionate people, Danes are on their way to getting their heat and electricity from 100% renewable energy.

In the early 1970's, in many parts of the world, people started discussing the risks of nuclear power. Although Denmark did not have any nuclear power plants of its own, its neighbour, Sweden already had several, and during the first oil crisis the Danish electricity companies grew eager to build some in Denmark too. A considerable part of the Danish population, however, could not see any good reason why they should have potentially dangerous nuclear energy when they could simply have safe, clean renewable energy instead.

Nuclear, No Thanks

Some dedicated Danes got together and started a popular, politically independent movement: 'The organisation for the dissemination of knowledge about nuclear energy' – a.k.a. the OOA. T-shirts and banners were adorned with the movement's symbol; a smiling red sun on a yellow background, and the words: "Nuclear Power, No Thank You." And, as the movement grew, it also gained political momentum.

The OOA was joined by another movement known as OVE ('The organisation for the development of renewable energy'). Between them they developed two alternative energy plans, one in 1976 and one in 1983, which demonstrated how Denmark could meet its energy demands without the use of nuclear power.

In addition to broad public support, OOA and OVE were powerful because amongst their active participants were dedicated and resourceful scientists and engineers.

'We had no idea what we were starting'

OOA and OVE's mission was to develop clean, renewable energy that would forever end the need for nuclear power. At the heart of the movement were groups of dedicated individuals who refused to sit back and wait for the government to act. Instead they began building their own wind turbines.

"We were almost all complete amateurs," recalls Sanne Wittrup, now a full-time journalist with the Danish News Magazine, 'The Engineer.'

"After the oil crisis, everyone started talking about nuclear energy. We were so eager to demonstrate that it wasn't necessary to go down that road; that there were really good alternatives."

Sanne Wittrup recalls working through the night cutting out the giant steel plates that went into the building of the iconic 2 MegaWatt Tvind Wind Turbine.

"We had absolutely no idea what we were starting. If, back then, someone had told us that, 35 years later, wind power would cover more than 30% of Denmark's electricity demands and generate annual revenue of more than 80 billion Danish Kroner, we would never have believed it."

A nation of self-taught experts

The late 1970's and early 1980's was a special time in Denmark. All over the country, inspired by the oil crisis, individuals began building their own wind turbines. And, rather than the impressively powerful Tvind Wind Turbine, it was the considerably smaller models that kicked off the Danish 'wind adventure.'

"It was, in many ways, a productive and fantastic time. Everyone and no one was a wind energy expert. All over the country people were busy building and learning through trial and error," recalls Sanne Wittrup.

Humble beginnings

Among the self-taught turbine builders was the current head of technology at Siemens Wind Power, Henrik Stiesdal whose experiments began in his parents' backyard. In 1979 he and his partner, a blacksmith, began their first serial production of 15 kW turbines. They later sold the production rights to Danish Vestas, currently the world's largest producer of wind power.

By the early 1980's, the classic Danish three-blade turbine had come to dominate the market and the Danish wind industry was growing steadily.

Victory before disaster

In March 1985, one year before the infamous Chernobyl disaster, a majority in the Danish parliament finally decided to abandon all plans for future incorporation of nuclear power in the Danish energy development plans.

Instead of nuclear energy, the Danish government began investing in energy efficiency, decentralised cogeneration plants, district heating and, importantly, renewable energy. With the local level of expertise and with access to thousands of kilometres of coastline, wind energy was the obvious choice.

To begin with, the Danish government provided 40% of the capital investment required to build a new turbine. This government support allowed production to expand and, by 1985, Denmark controlled half of the, albeit still limited, global market for wind energy. By then the turbines had grown to 55 kW.

Co-owning the wind

To encourage further investments in wind power, the Danish government also gave tax exemptions to households wishing to engage in renewable electricity production. Whilst some households purchased entire wind turbines, more opted for shares in cooperatives, which in turn invested in communal wind turbines.

The scheme was a great success and by 1996 there were approximately 2,100 wind turbine cooperatives in Denmark.

The cooperatives were also not limited to single turbines. When the 20 turbine-strong Middelgrunden Wind Farm was built in 2000 it became the world's largest offshore wind farm. 50% of the wind farm was financed and is currently owned by the 10,000 members of Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative; the remaining 50% is owned by the municipal utility company.

In 2001, 86% of all new wind turbines were built by wind turbine cooperatives and, by 2004, in a country of 5.5 million people, more than 150,000 households were either cooperative members or turbine owners and the number of turbines in Denmark had grown to 5,500.

All in favour

Although, in recent years, with increasing private sector involvement, the proportion of cooperatively owned wind turbines has fallen somewhat, the cooperative model remains an undeniable success. Recently, the model has also spread to Germany and the Netherlands.

One major advantage of the participatory model has been its ability to build almost undivided public support for wind energy. Today, 96% of the Danish population are in favour of government policies to further expand the domestic wind industry and 85% are tolerant of such expansions even within their own local area of residence. The take-home message is that, with wind power, some degree of public ownership is desirable because it reduces resistance and builds support.

Turbine adventure

What started as a movement by the people against the threat of nuclear energy has developed into worldwide renewable energy expertise with the Danes now providing cutting edge solutions to a perhaps even bigger threat: Global climate change. Current day masters of the wind and specialists in energy savings and efficiency, Denmark now works closely with China to help transform the carbon intensive Chinese energy supply into a more climate-friendly energy system.

Today, the annual revenue from the Danish wind industry exceeds 80 billion Danish Kroner (more than 14 billion USD), and the sector employs more than 30,000 people. In some regions of the country, up to 25% of private sector jobs are in the wind industry.

People have the power

The tale of the turbines is as instructive as many of the famous fairy tales originating from that same little country. The story demonstrates the achievements that are possible when people come together and make collective demands. And it demonstrates the at times unimaginable ripple effects of fundamentally good ideas. From a childlike drawing of a smiling red sun and a shared desire to create a safe and clean environment for all, to the world's most ambitious climate change policy; this is the power of collective demands. It is replicable and, in the face of climate change, urgently needed.

Wind energy's many benefits

  • By 2020, 50% of Denmark's electricity demands will be met by wind power.
  • Denmark's focus on renewable energy has boosted the economy, reduced reliance on volatile fossil fuel prices and created thousands of jobs.
  • Denmark is currently one of the few countries in the world to have committed to a 100% renewable energy future – the only truly sustainable way to go to protect our climate.
  • By 2035 global wind energy use is expected to have cumulatively avoided 50,000 million tons of CO2 emissions. To put this in context, this is 1200 times the Denmark CO2 annual emissions in 2013, and more than last year's global CO2 emissions.

Right now the Intergovernmental on Climate Change is meeting in Denmark to finalize a report about climate change which will go to our world leaders.

Join us in telling our leaders to act for the climate.

Kat Skeie is a Communications Officer and Tarjei Haaland is a Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Understanding climate science in 10 easy steps

The latest United Nations report on climate change is about to be finalised, written by thousands of scientists. The report is VERY important, but also a bit dull.

What we really want to know is: How bad is climate change? And what can we do about it? Using the latest IPCC findings and a few other recent discoveries, here's our take on what you need to know about climate change and what to do about it.

1. Politicians talk – too little happens

Politicians spend a lot of time talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the planet to heat up. But despite all the chatter, emissions are still growing.

From 2000 to 2010, greenhouse gas emissions grew faster than before. The reason? We keep burning more fossil fuels. The climate scientists' advice, however, is clear: we need to get rid of man-made carbon emissions entirely.

2. Without action, things will get bad

We are running out of time and the consequences of not tackling climate change now will be bad. Without cutting emissions life on Earth is going to get very hot, chaotic and unpredictable. Global warming will act like an old, broken microwave – some parts of the planet will experience mild rises in temperature whilst others will simply burn.

If we don't cut emissions soon, apocalyptic forest fires, deadly heat waves and food production losses could become the new normal. With higher air and sea temperatures, extreme weather events will happen more and more, destroying homes and livelihoods. As sea levels rise, tropical island states can be under water and major cities, such as London and New York will be in serious trouble. Extinction rates will accelerate big time and entire ecosystems could collapse.

Scientists have identified certain 'tipping points' – warming levels beyond which we start a rapid and downhill slide towards extremely dangerous, uncontrollable and irreversible changes. Scientists agree on the reality of these tipping points, but it's still hard to say exactly how much warming it will take to reach them. Because the potential consequences of reaching one or more of these tipping points are so severe, the only sensible solution is to try to avoid them by limiting further warming as much as possible.

3. We can still prevent climate chaos

So far, the planet's average surface temperature has increased by about 0.85°C compared to pre-industrial times. It's been enough to cause major glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, species to move, and so on.

World leaders have agreed to reduce emissions enough to limit warming to a maximum of 2°C in the hope of avoiding impacts turning very dangerous. But even 2°C would cause serious trouble for many parts of the world. This is why more than 100 countries are demanding that warming is kept below 1.5°C.

The good news is that, according to the IPCC, it is still possible to limit warming to about 1.5°C or maybe even less. To achieve this, we will probably need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by somewhere between 70% and 95% by 2050. We have 35 years to do it.

4. We need a transformation

So, where do greenhouse gas emissions come from and how do we get rid of them? Well, the vast majority of emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas.

If we want to avoid run-away climate change, we will have to transform our entire energy system and stop digging and burning these fuels.

A range of alternative energy sources could be used to replace fossil fuels, but most importantly, we must increase energy efficiency.

We also need to stop deforestation, make food production more sustainable, and replace harmful industrial gases and processes with clean alternatives.

5. Coal is public enemy number one

Coal, is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. It accounts for 73 % of the emissions from electricity production, according to the New Climate Economy Report. Nevertheless, between 2000 and 2010, coal consumption grew rapidly, especially in Asia.

Getting rid of coal is key to tackling climate change. For this reason, it is a great relief to note that, recently, coal seems to be on it's way out.

Global communities and decision makers are starting to realize how outdated and dangerous coal is. Coal use causes air pollution, water shortages and other damage to people and the environment. Getting rid of coal would improve many peoples' health and save many lives. According to the WHO, 1 million people die prematurely every year because of air pollution from coal.

Right now, some of the most dramatic and influential changes are taking place in China and the US. China's coal boom finally appears to be coming to an end, and, in the US, it's use has gone down by nearly 21% since 2007. As investors begin to realise that the days of coal are numbered, coal's reputation is changing from "great business" to "appallingly poor long-term investment."

6. Renewable energy is here, cheap and ready to roll out

Here's what's new since the last big UN climate report in 2007: renewable energy has made a breakthrough.

Renewable energy is growing fast and is becoming much, much cheaper. Wind is now the cheapest source of new electricity in a growing number of places, while solar prices have fallen by 80% since 2008 and they're expected to keep dropping.

From 2005 to 2012, wind power grew five-fold and solar power grew 25-fold. Renewables now cover a fifth of the world's entire energy consumption and a bit more of electricity production. The way things are going, by 2030 wind alone could provide a fifth of world's electricity and by 2050 the sun could be the world's main power source.

Although the shift is already happening, it needs to happen faster. Governments need to make it even more profitable to invest in renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

7. We can do without nuclear power and CCS

In principle, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies could help to reduce emissions. In practise, it doesn't look like this is going to happen, not on a big scale anyway.

Nuclear power, which currently provides just 10.8% of the world's electricity supply, is on its way out. The reactors across the planet are getting old and the development of new plants is expensive and includes hidden costs. They're also very slow to get up and running. And, we still haven't figured out how to get rid of nuclear waste.

Anyway, according to the IPCC, leaving out nuclear won't make much difference to the emission reduction costs.

As for CCS, it's also expensive and hasn't shown many results. In fact, CCS is so expensive to install and so energy- and water-intensive that the technology just doesn't make sense economically.

As it stands, the only CCS projects that have been able to go ahead are the one's connected to getting more oil out of the ground! The first and only operational coal plant with CCS (the Boundary Dam project in Canada) is based on this idea: CO2, which has been scrubbed from the coal, is used to extract otherwise inaccessible oil from depleted oil fields. As a result, oil that would otherwise have stayed in the ground is being burned. Hardly the "solution" we need.

(CCS is included in many of the emission reduction models assessed by the IPCC. Yet, it's not necessary: there are also ways to achieve the required emissions reductions without prolonging the use of fossil fuels with CCS. So there's no need to wait for anything, but to act here and now with technologies that work and bring the biggest benefits and smallest risks.)

8. No, you can't touch that

There's still a lot of coal, oil and gas that can be dug, sucked and fracked out of the ground. That's just too bad. To stop the climate from going haywire, we need to leave most of those fossil fuels where they are. If we aim to keep below 2°C, the most we can afford to use is about one-fifth of what we have in the reserves. The rest is hands off. And what that also means is: the hunt for new oil is a reckless and costly waste of time.

9. Acting is not expensive. Not acting is.

Scientists have tried to figure out how much it will cost to do what it takes to keep climate change from getting out of hand. It is not much at all. The economy will still continue to grow. Only, it may grow a little bit slower. A little.

According to the IPCC, the expected decrease in consumption growth is around 0.06%. And this estimate doesn't even include the benefits of action!

For comparison, mortality from air pollution in China is now valued at 10% of GDP.

If we phase out fossil fuels, chances are that the money we save on health care because of cleaner air alone will pay back part of the costs of making that change. And switching to renewable energy is good for employment too. When China invested in solar technology in 2010, half a million new jobs were created.

And, in any case, if we don't do anything, the costs would be immeasurable.

10. We need to work together, and we need to be fair

If we are going to transform the entire energy industry in a short amount of time, we will need to work together. Politicians will need to step up and take action, in a spirit of fair sharing of effort.

Rich countries have already emitted vast amounts of CO2 (that's essentially how they got rich), and they carry most of the responsibility for the climate changes we are seeing now. Ironically, those who have contributed to the problem the least, the world's poor, will be hit the hardest. In the middle there are rapidly developing countries like China, with emissions per person already exceeding Europe's, who could become game-changers in climate action.

If you damage another person's property, you pay for it. That's what we call fair. If we want countries with very different levels of responsibility, capability and vulnerability to cooperate, we need to apply the same principles of fairness in dealing with climate change. The polluters must pay. Applying this principle should start from the big corporate polluters. That's where the big money sits – money made with digging and burning of fossil fuels.

Kat Skeie is a Communications Officer at Greenpeace Nordic.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is finalising it's Fifth Assessment Report in Copenhagen 27 Oct – 2 Nov. For a detailed and referenced analysis of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report findings, see here. For a slide show on climate science and other stories, see:

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Giant tower to monitor climate change in the Amazon

RTCC: In the Amazon, everything is big – the trees, the rivers, the snakes, and the statistics that measure everything in numbers of football fields or areas the size of entire countries. Now one of the biggest towers in the world – taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Chrysler Building in Chicago - is about to rise above the rainforest. The purpose of the 325-metre (1,066 feet) Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) is to gather vital information on how climate change is affecting the Amazon...

IPCC report is “roadmap” to Paris climate deal – Pachauri

RTCC: Scientists and delegates from more than 100 governments are meeting in Copenhagen this week to thrash out the definitive round-up of climate science. By the end of the week, they will have approved the final building block of the UN climate panel’s fifth assessment report – a 100-page document bringing together five reports released over the last six years on the state of the world’s climate. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 2002, told delegates...

"Smart" breeding, where science and farmers' knowledge meet

Plant breeding is the key to providing us with varied and better quality foods. Although conventional plant breeding has existed for hundreds of years, it was often time-consuming and labour-intensive. But, breeding methods have come a long way – it's becoming faster and more effective.

MAS, or marker-assisted selection, is a biotechnology that uses a traditional breeding approach. It's about finding genetic markers that are linked to the qualities you want; like disease resistance or climate adaptation which then enables plant breeders to breed plants with these desired traits. Through this approach, MAS is an excellent tool for accelerating conventional breeding efforts by increasing speed and accuracy. Smart Breeding: The Next Generation (authored by Benno Vogel, an independent scientist) is a new report that reviews the growing list of traits produced by MAS in an increasingly diverse array of crops across continents.

MAS, also referred to as "smart" conventional breeding, was in its infancy ten years ago. However, with advances in genome sequencing and gene (or marker) identification technologies, MAS has become a valuable tool and is becoming widely adopted. The list of plant traits developed using MAS is growing. It includes those that can help overcome challenges associated with climate-change, such as drought and flood tolerance. MAS has also helped develop varieties of crops which are resistant to pests and diseases, give improved grain quality and enhance concentrations of vitamins and micronutrients (including pro-vitamin A). MAS is being used for farmers in China, India and Indonesia to deal with bacterial leaf blight in rice; in Nigeria and Tanzania to provide cassava resistance to African mosaic virus; and North American farmers to gain fungal resistance to wheat.

The full benefits of MAS, however, will only become clear if it is an open source technology without industry patents on the techniques, as is common with genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Genetic engineering is another type of biotechnology. It's often said that we need genetically engineered (GE) crops in agriculture to cope with the effects of climate change, or to increase yield. However, the reality is that genetic engineering is failing to deliver these traits. In fact, there is not a single commercial GE crop with increased yield, salt tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other attractive-sounding traits touted by the industry.

In contrast to the wide range of traits developed using MAS, GE crops currently are almost entirely dominated by only two traits: herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. GE crops raise environmental and health concerns whereas MAS respects species barriers, is more acceptable to consumers and is faster to market. MAS does not alter the breeding process; it is not genetic engineering. In light of the proliferation of MAS in plant breeding, and the successful delivery of useful traits, GE crops are simply not necessary.

It's clear that MAS can be directed to develop qualities that can assist with ecological farming. Ecological farming is diverse, complex, knowledge intensive and low in external inputs (e.g. pesticides and fertilizers) and fossil fuels. It requires crops with different traits to those used in intensive farming. There is no doubt that a global shift to ecological farming practices is now needed. MAS is a modern and innovative plant breeding tool that could be, and should be, orientated towards developing varieties that assist this shift, contributing to a healthy planet that feeds people with healthy food in a changing climate. This is what the world needs today, not GE crops.

Dr. Janet Cotter is a Senior Scientist at the Greenpeace International Science Unit.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Trying to Raise Profile of Climate Change for Washington Voters

New York Times: The effort by a California billionaire named Thomas F. Steyer to bolster global climate change measures in Washington has turned the battle over the State Senate into one of the most expensive legislative elections in state history. Money has poured into the handful of legislative races that Mr. Steyer’s political action committee identified as central to shifting the Senate’s leadership from a Republican-led coalition to a Democratic majority that would support the ambitious climate goals set...

From Transactions to Transformation: More Companies Commit to Renewable Energy

The momentum is building around companies putting sustainable practices into action.

In July, 12 companies signed on to the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles in an effort to increase their access to renewable energy. Now, seven new companies have joined the coalition, bringing the total to 19 large global brands with a combined renewable energy demand of more than 10 million megawatt-hours (MWhs) per year in the United States alone. That’s enough electricity to power nearly 1 million homes annually.

By declaring their commitment to buying renewable energy, these new companies—3M, Adobe, eBay, EMC, Cisco, Novo Nordisk and Volvo—are not only taking control of their energy costs, but are also helping to reshape markets so other large and small companies can meet their public climate and energy goals.

What Are the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles?

The Principles frame the challenges and common needs of large renewable energy buyers. They emerged from discussions that World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and World Resources Institute (WRI) had with companies about what was slowing them down in meeting their renewable energy targets. Complicated transactions and inadequate options from their utilities emerged at the top of the list.

The companies developed these principles to both state their commitment to renewable power and shine a light on the challenges they face in procuring it. They’re intended to foster a dialogue with utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders to create a marketplace that facilitates greater renewable energy use in the corporate sector.

Here’s what some signatories are saying about why they’re adopting the Buyers’ Principles:

Why Now?

“One of our key strategies to reduce Cisco’s emissions and meet our aggressive sustainability goals is to utilize renewable energy, both by producing it at our facilities and by purchasing it from our energy suppliers. Although we have drastically increased our onsite solar capacity over the past few years, it is not enough. We need greater access to cost-competitive renewable energy and joining the Buyers’ Principles provides us an opportunity to work with some of the world’s leading companies to make this a reality.” —Andy Smith, Manager of Global Energy Management and Sustainability, Cisco

“eBay Inc. is committed to reducing our company’s impact on global climate change. Transitioning our operations to cleaner forms of energy is essential in achieving that goal. We believe the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles are a practical roadmap for addressing the challenges companies like ours face when trying to expand our clean energy portfolios, and that their wide adoption can substantially accelerate the process not only for eBay Inc., but for businesses across the United States.” —Lori Duvall, Global Director, Green Social Innovation, eBay Inc.

“We joined a group putting these principles together to help encourage a more productive dialogue with people that are experts at renewables—the utility companies and the developers—so that people like us can focus on our business expertise—making candy and pet food.” —Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Director of Sustainability, Mars, Inc.

“The principles do an incredibly good job of laying out the situation for corporate buyers and how we overcome these problems to increase our overall purchases of renewable energy in the U.S.” —Amy Hargroves, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sprint

What Are the Challenges Companies Face in Using Renewable Energy?

“Companies have different sized energy departments and expertise within those departments to work their way through some fairly complicated contractual arrangements and how to buy and sell power … one of the most important reasons for going forward publicly with these principles is to let everyone in the field know our concerns and some smaller mechanical issues that we think need to be fixed to make transactions a little easier.” —David Ozment, Director of Energy, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

“Right now there are so many barriers for speeding up our procurement because so much of what we are trying to do hasn't been done before. So what we’re trying to do is say let’s get the companies together who have been hard at work trying to buy renewable energy, share lessons and raise our voice to accelerate progress." —Amy Hargroves, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sprint

Where Are We Headed?

“…what we’re trying to do here is change from disconnected background noise and message to a very clear call for trying to move forward.” —Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Director of Sustainability, Mars, Inc.

“We are very interested in greater involvement from the energy regulators and utility companies. They clearly do have the expertise and the scale that is required to drive the greatest change in renewable energy deployment in the U.S. We need to get them actively involved in a partnership to identify what solutions both meet their needs and our needs so we can have the greatest win.” —Amy Hargroves, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sprint

To learn more about the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles and find out how to sign on, please visit the publication page.


Climate sceptics and fringe political groups are an unhealthy cocktail

Guardian: Proof that professional climate sceptics swim in a narrow, shallow pond was provided last month in Chicago at the Heartland Institute's Fourth International Conference on Climate Change. It turned out to be less Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, more Two Degrees of Lord Monckton. But this month is set to provide further proof that it doesn't take a particularly complex Venn diagram to map the interconnections between the various movers and shakers in the sceptic camp. On 11 June, in Orlando, Florida,...

4 Keys to Scaled-up Climate Investment in Brazil

Call it bad timing: Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions intensity is rising while that of most of the G20 countries decreases, just as more infrastructure investment will be needed to support expected economic growth and social inclusion. Representatives of commercial banks in Brazil, the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Brazil’s Ministry of Finance and others joined WRI experts to explore how they can collectively help the country make the transition to a low-carbon economy.

A WRI workshop in São Paulo on September 3rd, 2014, approached the topic of shifting and scaling up financing and investments for climate-related projects from two angles—the role of international climate finance sources and the use of innovative financial instruments. Clifford Polycarp, Deputy Director of WRI’s Sustainable Finance Program, and Artur Lacerda, Deputy Secretary for International Institutions Policy of the Brazilian Ministry of Finance, discussed opportunities presented by the Green Climate Fund and lessons learned from the Climate Investment Funds to support investments in climate-relevant activities in Brazil. Luciano Schweizer, Lead Specialist of the Capital Markets and Financial Institutions Division at the IDB, illustrated how innovative financial instruments can make climate-friendly investments more competitive and less risky, even under unsympathetic market conditions.

In many countries, including Brazil, the market may be skewed towards unsustainable investments, through economic and fiscal policy incentives. Sustainable solutions may not have reached economies of scale yet, so they are more expensive than current systems. And the investment horizon is short, so banks and project promoters can make high short-term profits on less-sustainable projects. When project developers face barriers to financing disruptive climate projects—such as unfavorable risk/return expectations -- financial instruments like loan guarantees and insurance mechanisms can mitigate risks and encourage investments. International climate finance can help overcome such barriers.

Participants agreed on four key steps that could spur scaled-up climate finance in Brazil:

  • Creation of an investment climate. Clear and stable signals and are necessary to attract the private sector and build an attractive pipeline of projects, and long-term projects are attractive when aligned with a long-term strategy to tackle climate change. Beyond isolated measures, the Brazilian government should reform its fiscal policy, as well as other regulatory instruments, in order to give clear policy signals and encourage private sector investors towards sustainable, low carbon and climate-resilient development. Other challenges require international collective action, possibly by the G20 major economies, which account for 80 percent of global GDP. For instance, a new report by the G20 Climate Finance Study Group identifies numerous climate finance policy options such as regional insurance-mechanisms and measures to encourage transfers of technology internationally.

  • Removal of non-financial barriers. Non-financial barriers involve supporting technology advances, promoting business models and incubating projects, as well as organizational, operational and cultural hurdles. For instance, organizational structures and incentives traditionally focus on achieving business-as-usual goals, instead of promoting sustainable operations. Overcoming these barriers increases the competiveness of climate finance products and ultimately helps drive investments towards those that support a low carbon economy.

  • Blending of concessional money, private resources and risk mitigation instruments to overcome financial barriers. Most participants felt that development banks or public institutions should bear the higher risks of climate financing because the perceived risks associated with new solutions could discourage private financial institutions. However, a growing number of instruments such as loan guarantees, insurance mechanisms and (quasi-)equity can address those risks. As an illustration, IADB has financed successful energy and energy efficiency projects in Mexico and Colombia that attracted investors by offering customized financial products and technical support.

  • Smart, selective disbursement of concessional finance can mobilize as much additional private funding as possible. The idea is to choose projects that require the least amount of concessional money and deliver a high impact.

Brazil’s financial challenges to sustainable development are part of a global trend, where financing and investment is geared to short-term rather than long-term gain. Obstacles inside and outside the financial and public policy realms intensify the challenge. But appropriate policy signals combined with the right blend of concessional funding, private resources and risk management instruments can turn Brazil and other countries toward a low-carbon economy.

This event was part of an ongoing series of events by the WRI Finance Center on climate finance. The next event is the Lima Climate Finance Series, December 1-12, 2014, at the COP20 in Lima.

WRI prepared an informal summary of the Brazil discussions, which were held under Chatham House Rules, meaning that no information should be taken to reflect the official positions of any government or institution present.


NPR Guts Environmental Team, Leaving Only One Reporter

EcoWatch: How interested is the public in climate change and other environmental issues? Apparently, National Public Radio (NPR) thinks the answer is "not very." Inside Climate News reports that the media outlet generally perceived to provide thoughtful coverage of pressing issues has cut back its environmental staff from three reporters and an editor, working within NPR`s science desk, to a single reporter covering the environment part-time. Of the four working on the beat at the beginning of this year,...

University of New South Wales criticised by campaigners for refusing to divest from fossil fuels

Blue and Green: The vice chancellor of the University of New South Wales has said the school will not drop its $50 million investment in coal, oil and gas companies but would rather ‘work closely with the industry’, despite calls from students and academics to show leadership in tackling climate change. After receiving pressure on the issue of fossil fuel divestment, the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) outgoing vice chancellor Fred Hilmer replied in a statement, “The University Council recently considered...

UN report to warn ‘irreversible’ climate change damage

Blue and Green: A draft copy of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that climate change could have “serious, pervasive and irreversible” effects on society and the environment. The report is currently being approved by governments and scientists and is set to be published next week. The report, which is designed to help governments fight climate change, will warn that urgent action is needed or the world could face irreversible damage, according to Reuters, which has...

Washington businesses push climate change action

Associated Press: Dozens of Washington state businesses such as REI, Microsoft Corp. and Virginia Mason on Monday signed a declaration supporting action to tackle climate change. At a news conference in Seattle, several executives said that businesses in Washington state can lead the way in finding innovative solutions to protect the region's natural resources and the economy. The businesses say they support cleaner fuels, energy efficiency, advancing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. ...

Global warming ‘will make our winters colder’

Independent: Britain can expect twice as many severe winters as usual over the coming decades, according to a study supporting the counterintuitive idea that global warming could lead to colder weather in some parts of the world. Climate scientists believe they have found evidence to suggest that the loss of floating Arctic sea ice in the Barents and Kara seas north of Scandinavia can affect the global circulation of air currents and lead to bitterly cold winds blowing for extended periods in winter over Central...

Our climate change is related to deep ocean currents & glaciations

Earth Times: The mapping of currents deep in the oceans has been a protracted study. A combination of deep ocean sediment core samples and NASA imaging now reveal that climate change is affected at least as much by the sea as by the air temperature. Rutgers University academics Stella Woodard, Yair Rosenthal, Kenneth Miller, James Wright, with Kira Lawrence (Lafayette College) and Beverly Chiu, all contributed to the paper in the journal Science that puts a new perspective on climate change. We recently looked...

Freshwater Summit to address Great Lakes issues

Grand Traverse Insider: This year's Freshwater Summit, an annual conference of environmental professionals and concerned citizens focusing on current issues facing the Great Lakes region, will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31 at the Hagerty Center, Northwestern Michigan College Great Lakes Campus, 715 E. Front St., in Traverse City. The cost is $35 per adult and $15 for students. Lunch is included. This year's guest speakers will discuss climate change, invasive species, water levels and the economic...

Karachi has a lot on its plate, but still food insecure

Tribune: In the face of rising population and climate change, one of the biggest challenges that nations all over the world are facing is food insecurity. The World Food Summit defines food security as: “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. At present, in total, around three billion people are malnourished out of a total global population of 7.2 billion people, which implies that around 40 per cent of the world is malnourished.’...

The era of climate fatalism is over

Independent: The race to stabilise the Earth’s climate was always going to be long, slow one. So slow and so difficult that there will always be a temptation to think that it is all too complicated, that immediate problems are more pressing or that China, the United States and multinational corporations will never agree to the radical changes needed. Perhaps we should just give up and resign ourselves to trying to adapt as best we can to climate change once it starts to get serious. That is the sort of fatalism...

Candidates discuss coal’s role in global warming, economy

Laramee Boomerang: Candidates running for the Wyoming Legislature recently weighed in on Wyoming's coal industry and ongoing disputes between the state and the Environmental Protection Agency regarding clean air. Three candidates answered questions during a League of Women Voter's Forum on Thursday night at the Albany County Public Library. The forum -- scheduled ahead of the Nov. 4 elections -- was split between Albany County Commissioner and state legislator candidates. Republican Charles "C.J.' Young is vying...

No concrete result reached in UN climate talks

Xinhua: The third round of United Nations' 2014 climate talks wrapped up in Bonn, Germany, on Saturday, reaching no concrete result and leaving heavy workload to climate conference in Lima, Peru, in December. In the past six days, nearly 1,200 negotiators from 176 countries and organizations gathered in the city which hosts the secretariat of United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to negotiate on a new agreement addressing climate change, which was planned to be passed at the end...

Palmer's softer line increases govt hopes on direct action climate change policy

Sydney Morning Herald: Senior Abbott government members are increasingly confident a deal to pass its direct action climate change policy will be reached before Christmas after Clive Palmer appeared to soften his party's hardline position on the scheme. Australia has been without a climate change policy since July, when it became the first country to abolish a carbon price and key crossbench senators stressed their opposition to direct action on the grounds it was expensive and would fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions....

Renewable energies – a double-edged sword

Inter Press Service: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has set a target of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2. One way countries can meet their obligations is to switch energy production from the burning of fossil fuels to "renewables", generally understood to include wind, wave, tidal, hydro, solar and geothermal power and biomass. They have a dual advantage: first, they do not create by-products responsible for global warming and climate change; and secondly, they are non-consumptive,...

U.N. climate change draft sees risks of irreversible damage

OSLO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Climate change may have "serious, pervasive and irreversible" impacts on human society and nature, according to a draft U.N. report due for approval this week that says governments still have time to avert the worst.

Read more [Reuters]

U.N. climate change draft sees risks of irreversible damage

Reuters: Climate change may have "serious, pervasive and irreversible" impacts on human society and nature, according to a draft U.N. report due for approval this week that says governments still have time to avert the worst. Delegates from more than 100 governments and top scientists meet in Copenhagen on Oct 27-31 to edit the report, meant as the main guide for nations working on a U.N. deal to fight climate change at a summit in Paris in late 2015. They will publish the study on Nov. 2. European...

Global Warming Will Lead to Warmer Winters, Study Says

Liberty Voice: For a long time, it was believed that global warming will lead to colder winters, however, a recent study proves quite the opposite, According to a study, published earlier this year in Nature Climate Change, global warming may in fact lead to significantly warmer winters. According to James Screen, the author of the study, the previous theory about Arctic amplification was wrong. This theory suggested that winters in the future will be colder, since ice caps are melting and therefore exposing warmer...

6 Action Items After the Bonn Climate Negotiations

For the past week in Bonn, Germany, climate negotiators have tackled many of the core issues that are key to reaching a new international climate agreement in 2015. While the pace was slow at times, the discussions were thorough and constructive, building on the positive energy from the recent UN climate summit in New York.

Many questions came into sharper focus, as did the central tasks for the next major moment in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks—COP 20 in Lima, Peru in December. As this Bonn session concludes, here are some takeaways on what needs to happen in Lima to set the stage for an ambitious, effective global climate agreement:

  1. Transparency in the “INDCs”: Countries will submit their post-2020 domestic climate action plans—their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs)—in the early part of 2015, with major emitters expected to do so by the end of March. In Lima, countries will need to agree on what “up-front information” they’ll include in these contributions. Information about post-2020 targets and actions is essential--for example, in what sectors a country will reduce its emissions. A major question is the end-date for these post-2020 action plans. To ensure INDCs can be compared effectively, countries will need to agree to a common end date, such as 2025.

  2. Assessing the INDCs: At the moment, countries have not yet decided on a way to review each other’s contributions. Assessing the INDCs will be vital to evaluating whether they collectively meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C, thus preventing some of the most disastrous impacts of climate change. This assessment should provide a context for countries to reconsider their offers if they’re not ambitious enough. Countries should also make sure that the assessment process leads to real engagement about the contributions before Paris, including through a UNFCCC secretariat synthesis report on how mitigation contributions add up in relation to the 2 degree goal and an electronic bulletin board with countries’ INDCs that allows comments by civil society and responses from governments.

  3. Framing an Agreement for the Future: To get fully on the pathway to Paris, where the new agreement will be concluded in 2015, countries will need to agree at Lima on a clear framework and set of elements for the agreement. In Lima, countries should not only establish the core components of the 2015 agreement, but also the longer-term process for climate action under the UNFCCC. Countries need to decide on incorporating “cycles” of action, which would be agreed to at regular intervals after 2015. These cycles could address mitigation commitments, adaptation and finance in a way that enables them to build on each other. Doing this will make the agreement long-lasting and help ensure that countries have a plan in place to ramp-up their action over time. In addition, many countries have suggested that a long-term emissions goal such as phasing-out greenhouse gases should be included in the 2015 agreement in order to set the direction for future action.

  4. Adaptation: Like the last negotiations in Bonn in June, many countries raised adaptation as a central issue for the 2015 agreement. Countries will need to decide at Lima on whether to include adaptation in national contributions. Meanwhile, support seems to be building for the inclusion of a global adaptation goal in the main 2015 agreement.

  5. Finance: The Lima COP will need to increased clarity on the role of finance in the 2015 agreement. A key factor in these discussions will be the result of the “pledging” conference for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), to be held in late November. The GCF is expected to become the most important vehicle for securing and distributing climate finance, with developed nations expected to contribute $10 billion by the end of this year. Already more than $2.5 billion has been pledged, including Sweden’s pledge of $550 million this week, but substantial additional resources are needed. The GCF funding sets a foundation for finance in the 2015 agreement, which will also need to create a roadmap for mobilizing $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, as well as for post-2020 finance.

  6. Pre-2020 Action: While the 2015 agreement will focus on post-2020 climate action, countries also have an opportunity in Lima to move forward on pre-2020 action. At recent negotiations in Bonn, a series of Technical Expert Meetings on key mitigation opportunities showcased how possible it is for countries to shift to low-carbon economies. Countries can take the next step by deciding how to actually implement those opportunities and create more ambitious short-term climate action plans.

Moving Forward After Bonn

One key event outside the negotiating halls pointed strongly in the right direction. This past week, the European Union heads of state adopted a new climate policy to reduce emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, setting the floor for its mitigation action and leaving the door open to go even further.

That decision in Europe should be the starting bell on the way to Lima and the 2015 agreement. Now it’s up to all countries to move the negotiations into high gear.


Environmentalists don't like Europe's new climate plan. Can Obama do better?

Mother Jones: Environmental groups are warning that a new European agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 sets the bar far too low. The pact--which was reached early Friday in Brussels--makes the European Union the first major bloc of countries to commit to emissions targets ahead of next year's crucial climate change talks in Paris. At the Paris meeting, world leaders will attempt to hammer out a global agreement that will keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)....

How will the EU reach its new climate targets?

Al Jazeera: Early Friday, the 28 nations of the European Union announced they agreed to slash their greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030. "It was not easy, not at all, but we managed to reach a fair decision. It sets Europe on an ambitious, yet cost-effective climate and energy path. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of mankind. Ultimately, this is about survival,” said EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy. The plan will be legally binding for every member state,...

Politics of 'climate': How opposite ideologies are pushing clean energy

WFSU: Environmentalists are attacking Gov. Rick Scott’s inaction on climate change at the same time a liberal-leaning superPAC is running climate-based ads against the Republican incumbent. But progressive groups don’t have a monopoly on environmental issues. A conservative organization taking root in Florida aims to promote green issues while keeping the executive branch red. More than 92,000 thousand people recently signed petitions asking Republican Scott to lead the fight against climate change....

Environment, climate unlikely to tip scales on Election Day

Greenwire: Climate change and the environment aren't likely to be the dominant factors swaying midterm races across the country next month. That's according to recent polls gauging voters' priorities when they head to the polls on Election Day. It hasn't stopped some candidates and donors from seizing on the issues with the hope that they could tip the scales in some pivotal races where the environment is a hot-button issue, but at the national level, climate change and environmental issues are taking a...

Climate change caused by ocean, not just atmosphere

ScienceDaily: Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. But in a new study published in Science, a group of Rutgers researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth's climate. In their study, the researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation...

Climate change: 'This is our last chance'

Irish Times: ‘It’s impossible to respond to climate change without confronting historical injustice or talking about redistribution of wealth,” says Naomi Klein. “There are lots of greens who’d like me to be quiet about that because they think it’s a secret.” She laughs. “It’s not! People know. The cat’s out of the bag.” Klein sometimes laughs when talking about dark subjects. She laughs in the middle of pronouncements about our warming planet. She laughs when discussing the terrifying hubris of geo-engineers....

The Green Climate Fund Is Now Ready for Ambitious Pledges

Last week marked a key moment for climate finance: The last foundations were laid for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and it’s now ready to receive funding.

Board members met and signed off on remaining steps to operationalize the fund, which is expected to become the main vehicle for securing and distributing climate finance. Expectations are high that developed nations will commit at least $10 billion by the end of November to help developing nations mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts.

The GCF is the most ambitious climate finance fund thus far, with a goal of completely transforming sectors and economies toward low-emission, climate-resilient development. Its decision-making is balanced equally between developed and developing countries. And it’s designed to empower developing countries and national institutions—as opposed to only international institutions—to be at the center of climate solutions.

However, the same things that make the Green Climate Fund different can also make for a bumpy ride. This tension between tried and tested approaches versus the new and innovative was reflected in the GCF Board’s key decisions at its latest meeting.

Here’s a look at three key issues the Board tackled:

1. Striking the balance between strict standards and a diverse set of partners

The Board struck a balance between opening the door to a wide range of partners while still managing social, environmental, and financial risks. A diverse set of institutions (including development banks, ministries, development agencies, businesses, and others) will be eligible to channel the Fund’s resources, while the social, environmental, and fiduciary standards required of partners will be linked to the size and types of activities they intend to undertake. This is an appropriate decision. Taking the example from our previous blog, a development bank investing in a major infrastructure project like a wind farm will need to have much stronger social, environmental, and financial risk standards than a national ministry conducting training.

2. Getting countries and institutions ready for the Green Climate Fund

The Board approved a work program that will help countries and national institutions engage in “readiness” activities. This involves putting standards and processes in place to access and deploy the Fund’s resources—such as making sure a national agency has the right financial controls, and rules to ensure that its projects don’t cause unintended social or environmental harm. The decision also puts national entities—rather than international institutions—firmly in the lead in prioritizing their needs and in deciding which entities implement readiness activities in their countries.

Crucially, the Board’s decision ensures that the poorest countries will receive at least half of these readiness resources, while all developing countries remain eligible for the remainder.

3. Engaging the private sector strategically

The Board provided clear signals on how the private sector will engage with the fund. It will have the flexibility to use a wide range of instruments—including grants, concessional loans, equity investments, and risk guarantees—through its intermediaries. This provides flexibility so that the Fund can maximize its investments by matching the right financial instrument with the right opportunity. The Board also decided to move forward with a special program for small and medium enterprises to ensure they won’t be pushed out by larger private sector interests in accessing Fund resources. However, the Board delayed dealing with some key issues—such as how GCF will mobilize larger sources of private finance—to the next meeting.

Homework for Countries and the Green Climate Fund Board

While the Board made significant progress, crucial questions remain. At its next meeting, the Board will need to be clearer about what kinds of projects it will invest in. It also needs to ensure transparency in its operational policies and decision-making processes, and incorporate participation by key stakeholders—including civil society and communities that may be impacted by GCF investments—in its processes.

Countries themselves have some homework to do, too. Functionally, the Fund is nearly ready to go, but it can’t get far without ambitious financial pledges from developed nations. A pledging meeting is currently scheduled for this November in Berlin. Pledging at least $10 billion to the fund this year is a key milestone for both securing an ambitious international climate treaty in 2015 and scaling up climate finance over the long-term.

The Green Climate Fund is ready—now let’s start filling it up with resources to overcome the climate change challenge.


EU climate change goal pits green business against industry

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A European Union goal to cut greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030, agreed early on Friday, sets the pace for a global deal to tackle climate change, pitting heavy industry against green business.

Read more [Reuters]

Lockheed Martin’s compact nuclear reactor? Yet more fusion fantasy!

Clean, abundant, sustainable and commercially viable energy from nuclear fusion is the stuff of science fiction. Lockheed Martin's announcement this week that it plans to produce a fusion reactor that will fit on the back of a truck in just ten years is yet more fantasy.

The joke about commercial nuclear fusion is that it's 50 years away. Always 50 years away. The joke is very old because scientists have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get nuclear fusion to work for a very long time. It's a cliché because it's true.

So weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin's recent announcement sounds like little more than a wild boast that will embarrass them later down the line. It says it can build a compact fusion reactor (CFR) 90 percent smaller - small enough to fit on a truck - than other prototypes and in just ten years.

How will Lockheed Martin succeed where everybody else has failed? There's a suspicious lack of detail in its press release.

"The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year."

The CFR concept isn't even off the drawing board yet. They say it's going to take five years to build the prototype and if Lockheed Martin succeeds where all others have failed, the CFR will be "deployed in as little as ten years."

"As little as ten years". One thing we've learned about the nuclear industry is that you never believe any deadlines or timetables. Everything nuclear is nearly always late. Nuclear fusion is permanently late.

Research into nuclear fusion has been ongoing for more than 60 years and history is littered with its failures. Take a look at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France. Construction began in 2008 and is expected to be finished in 2019.

The reactor won't begin operation until 2027 at the earliest and only if some huge scientific barriers can be broken. By 2027 ITER will be 11 years late. At $50 billion, its cost is already ten times the initial budget.

As for Lockheed Martin, its own timetable is already slipping. It made the exact same announcement in February 2013 that its CFR is just ten years away. It's now 18 months later and the CFR is still ten years away.

It's nuclear fusion history repeating. In his book, Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking, Charles Seife calls fusion research "a tragic and comic pursuit that has left scores of scientists battered and disgraced."

Not only that, but Lockheed Martin is bringing new problems to the party. The idea of a reactor on the back of a truck may look good in a press release but the reality would be a nuclear safety and security nightmare. Which means the CFR is not exactly the basis for a credible global energy solution.

Doesn't Lockheed Martin know we're in a race against time with climate change? It's planning to waste years of research, resources and money that must instead be devoted to clean, affordable and sustainable energy sources like wind and solar whose large scale deployment already underway today needs to move to an even greater scale if rapid carbon reductions are to be achieved. 

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

7 solar wonders of the world

Solar energy is clean, reliable, abundant and an affordable alternative to fossil fuels - but not only that, solar is also cool. Check out our selection of the most amazing solar plants from all around the globe.

1. The sunflower solar panel

This new piece of solar technology from IBM, set to launch in 2017, would not only provide electricity – it can also desalinate water for sanitation and drinking. A group of several solar generators could provide enough fresh water for an entire town. The sunflower operates by tracking the sun, so that it always points in the best direction for collecting the rays - just like a real sunflower!

© IBM Research / flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

2. The loveliest solar plant, ever

This heart-shaped solar power plant is to be built on the Pacific Island of New Caledonia at the beginning of next year, and will generate enough electricity to supply 750 homes. The unique design was inspired by the "Heart of Voh"; an area of nearby wild mangrove vegetation that has naturally taken the shape of a heart. It gained worldwide recognition thanks to the Yann Arthus-Bertrand best-selling book "The Earth from Above". Pacific Islands are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and would derive the most benefit from a global switch to renewable energy sources.

© Conergy

3. The most scenic solar farm

The Kagoshima mega solar island is the largest solar power plant in Japan. Not only does it generate enough power to supply roughly 22,000 average Japanese households, it also doubles as a tourist destination. Boasting grand views of the Sakurajima volcano, the plant's own learning centre highlights environmental issues and the science behind photovoltaic energy generation. Japan's' recent solar growth is truly massive. In 2013, Japan came in second worldwide for installing solar PV (only China installed more). A rapid expansion indeed!

© Kyocera Corporation

4. The plant that can generate power at night

This Gemasolar tower plant located in Sevilla, Spain, can deliver power around the clock - even at night. All thanks to the pioneering molten salt technology, which allows it to receive and store energy for up to 15 hours. In 2013, renewable energy provided 42% of Spain's power demand. The future is here!

5. The largest solar plant

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is the world's largest solar thermal plant. Located in a sunny Californian desert, and owned by Google, among others, the plant began producing electricity earlier this year. The plant comprises 173,000 heliostats (solar-speak for mirrors), and produces enough electricity to supply 140,000 Californian households with clean and reliable solar energy.

© Don Barrett / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

6. Britain's first floating solar plant

Britain's first ever floating solar panel project was built in Berkshire last month. The 800-panel plant, situated on a farm water reservoir, avoids covering valuable farm land with a solar array, providing additional cost benefit over solar farms on fields. Because of climate change, in the future we can expect to see more extreme weather events such as last year's flooding in Britain. Innovative renewable energy solutions could be Britain's answer to climate change.

© Ciel et Terre International

7. The solar plant covering a network of canals

This solar pilot project in India provides both energy and water security. A network of 15-metre-wide irrigation canals covered with a total of 3,600 solar panels produces power for hard to reach villages. Shading from panels also prevents around 9m litres of water from evaporating each year, and water, in turn, provides cooling effect for the panels, improving electricity output. It's a win-win!

© Hitesh vip / wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Paula Tejón Carbajal is a Corporate Adviser and Climate & Energy Campaigner and Helena Meresman is Digital Mobilisation Advisor for the Climate and Energy campaign at Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

EU strikes compromise to set new climate target

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders struck a deal on a new target to cut carbon emissions out to 2030, calling it a new global standard but leaving critics warning that compromises had undermined the fight against climate change.

Read more [Reuters]

EU leaders out of touch with climate reality

(GLAND, Switzerland, 24 October 2014) -  Europe's new climate and energy targets for the period 2020–2030 show a leadership out of touch with climate reality, said WWF's Global Climate and Energy initiative leader Samantha Smith.
"The reality is that climate change already threatens people and nature. Yet the scale of ambition we need to tackle climate change is missing from the emission reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency targets announced today by the EU Council. We are still waiting for targets that will fight climate pollution and drive rapid, just divestment out of fossil fuels and into the renewable, efficient economy of the future," she says.
"The world just experienced the warmest six months ever recorded. Severe heatwaves and flash floods are now hallmarks of European seasons; already developing countries are experiencing severe impacts of climate change. For both, the worst is yet to come.
"This climate reality and the latest climate science call for drastic action by governments – and the EU has failed its citizens and the citizens of the world by caving in to vested and political interests. We can only hope that European leaders will rise to the challenge in 2015, when they submit the EU's targets for cutting climate pollution to the global negotiations for a climate agreement," says Smith.
"But what makes the weak package even worse is that ambitious climate and energy targets would have massive benefits for EU citizens - less pollution, better health and fewer premature deaths, as well as new, more secure job opportunities and energy independence. The EU has missed a big opportunity to reclaim its global leadership position and set the pace to a new global climate deal in Paris in December 2015," she says.
"European leaders are sacrificing our futures on the altar of politics, and the coming months will be crucial to avoid the worst implications of this decision," says WWF's head of EU climate and energy policy Jason Anderson. "The EU will need to review its target, as it is asking other countries in the UN to do. Those Member States who see the benefits of climate action will try to fill the void with domestic policy, but action will be fractured, and an EU policy response will be necessary."

Read more [WWF]

EU strikes compromise to set new climate target

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders struck a deal on a new target to cut carbon emissions out to 2030, calling it a new global standard but leaving critics warning that compromises had undermined the fight against climate change.

Read more [Reuters]

EU leaders to strike climate deal cut greenhouse gases 40% by 2030

Guardian: European leaders were expected to strike a broad climate change pact obliging the EU as a whole to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030. But key aspects of the deal that will form a bargaining position for global climate talks in Paris next year were left vague or voluntary, raising questions as to how the aims would be realised. Draft proposals were given to national delegations on watermarked paper in sealed envelopes as the EU summit in Brussels started on Thursday, in an attempt...

New Methane-Releasing Microbe Key Player in Climate Change

Nature World: A new methane-releasing microbe, just recently discovered in Sweden, is a key player in climate change, according to new research. Identified as Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis, it is just one of many species of soil microbes, known to be among the world's biggest potential amplifiers of human-caused climate change. Earlier this year, an international team of researchers discovered this previously unknown microbe living in permafrost soils in northern Sweden that have begun to thaw in our warming...

Intelligent Imagining: Scenarios to Manage Water as the Climate Changes

Imagine a world just six years from now, when water governance is weak and there are no laws to manage water in a drying climate. Government provides scant support for cooperation to manage surface and groundwater, as population and demand for water grow. By 2030, deforestation reduces the amount of water the soil can retain, cutting crop yields. By 2040, water demand exceeds supply, spurred by irrigation needs and a fast-growing population. Higher temperatures and longer droughts mean the loss of basic grains. The global weather patterns El Niño and La Niña may affect food security, and poverty increases.

This grim picture is the most pessimistic of three scenarios developed at a WRI workshop in Trifinio, Guatemala, on September 25-26, 2014. Intelligently imagining the future in this way can motivate decision makers to make more water available for agriculture and human consumption, possibly by promoting alternative, less-thirsty businesses like tourism and handicraft-making. They may also improve agroforestry systems and soil conservation to conserve water on farms. Small farmers might decide to harvest rainwater and switch technology to use water more efficiently and productively. In this scenario, however, the challenge of increasing access to water remains.

The Importance of Scenarios and Decision Making

Scenarios are descriptions of plausible futures that reflect different perspectives on past, present and future developments. They are not predictions, projections or forecasts but provide contexts in which decision makers can make plans. Scenarios enable decision makers to work with a variety of plausible futures.

One key challenge is addressing uncertainty, especially when we don’t know the exact impact of climatic change in a particular location due to unpredictable weather patterns. Developing scenarios that take climate and other socio-economic uncertainties into account can help to directly tackle issues we are less sure of. It allows decision makers to take various uncertainties into consideration in the planning process.

Developing Scenarios on Climate Change and Water

To help decision makers develop scenarios and plans to manage water and adapt to climate change, Moushumi Chaudhury of WRI’s Vulnerability and Adaptation team, and Tien Shiao and Paul Reig of WRI’s Aqueduct team, conducted the workshop in Trifinio, part of the Central American Dryland Corridor, an area where biodiversity is protected by reducing fragmentation between ecosystems, enabling animals to migrate freely. The Corridor also has areas for agriculture and forest management.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, and the University for International Cooperation worked with WRI to organize the workshop. The workshop was held in Trifinio because decision makers want to better manage the area’s watersheds. As the area has become drier, decision makers have become concerned about the impact of droughts on livelihoods, especially in one of the poorest parts of Guatemala. Water is a contentious issue among sugar producers, smallholder farmers, and governments that want to install dams to generate hydroelectricity. All of these stakeholders demand water. Representatives from ministries of environment and agriculture, coffee companies, groups of municipalities, research institutes, and development organizations participated in the workshop.

The two-day workshop taught techniques to develop scenarios and plans. Three groups developed three scenarios—optimistic, moderate, and pessimistic—by integrating Aqueduct maps, crop data, and enabling factors and barriers to water management. Then participants used a technique called “back-casting,” where plans in each scenario are plotted on a timeline starting from 2040 and ending in 2020. This allowed participants to make long and short-term plans. This is important for climate change adaptation, and reducing bias to only plan for the near future. The groups then reviewed the plans to test their strength under different scenarios. Those plans that worked under all scenarios are stronger and are referred to as “robust”. Robust plans withstand various uncertainties in the scenarios, and therefore, can be applicable in various decision making contexts

In addition to the pessimistic scenario, participants created optimistic and middle-of-the-road scenarios. The middle-of-the-road scenario imagined increased social conflicts by 2040 due to water scarcity, driven by population growth, poor resource management and climate change. In turn, water scarcity led to low crop yields, high food insecurity, and a migration to cities. To counteract this, decision makers promoted conservation and sustainable agriculture. This view envisioned improved participatory decision-making and partnerships to address water scarcity.

The optimistic scenario saw an exemplary economy with well-established coffee cultivation contributing to sustainable social and economic development, adopting unique, integrated approaches to support the local economy through eco-tourism and sustainable agriculture. In this scenario, farmers grow basic grains under adequate land management and natural resources governance practices. However, social concerns and some poverty persist due to the loss of per capita agricultural land, particularly amongst bean and corn growers, requiring plans to reduce social problems and poverty.

The Road Forward

The scenarios and plans decision makers choose for adaptation and water management will ultimately depend on various factors, such as political feasibility, costs of implementation, and social acceptance of the plan. Whatever the outcome, scenarios provide decision makers a clearer idea of the impact their plans could have, years or even decades in the future.


Environment is grabbing big role in ads for campaigns

New York Times: In Michigan, an ad attacking Terri Lynn Land, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate, opens with a shot of rising brown floodwaters as a woman says: “We see it every day in Michigan. Climate change. So why is Terri Lynn Land ignoring the science?” In Colorado, an ad for Cory Gardner, another Republican candidate for Senate, shows him in a checked shirt and hiking boots, standing in front of a field of wind turbines as he discusses his support for green energy. And in Kentucky, a...

Forcing climate change onto the national agenda

Washington Post: The 2014 elections have been a dispiriting affair, replete with Democratic skittishness about the major legislative achievement known as Obamacare and wretched GOP demagoguery about Ebola and the border. But despite all this, and even if Dems lose the Senate, there may be one bright spot: Liberals may have made a bit of headway in forcing climate change on to the national agenda. In the Senate race that may have focused more than any other on climate change -- in Michigan -- the Democrat appears...

On World Energy Day let's remind the EU that people want ambitious EU 2030 targets

Our ship, the Arctic Sunrise is back with a mission. After a year in Russian custody for a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic, she is now released, repaired and back in the water. Once again she will challenge reckless dirty fossil fuels plans – this time off the Spanish coasts, which is under the threat of off-shore drillings.

Activists onboard the Arctic Sunrise – and all over Europe – are calling for clean energy the very week that EU leaders are about to make crucial decisions about Europe's energy system for decades to come. They will be talking about how to reduce climate change including through using more renewable energy and improved energy efficiency. I hope the politicians attending will show the same courage and strength.

Image Gallery.. 

These activists are – literally – shouting from the rooftops, reminding the world what poll, after poll in Europe tells us: people want less fossil fuel exploration, more use of renewable energies and more effective energy efficiency.

These two strategies are the most clear and direct way to address climate change. Is this the week that politicians will listen?

Our message to EU leaders is very clear: Don't stand by as we stumble towards catastrophic climate change simply because you don't have the political backbone to modernize our aging, polluting energy system.

These leaders are posturing and wringing their hands, but they know what they have to do. They have to agree that the only way to stop climate change is to fully embrace the need for more renewable energy and implement better energy efficiency.

The choice is simple and their job at the EU summit this week is to do the ground work so this can happen.

If anyone is not sure what people want, take a train anywhere in Europe and see. Farms using wind turbines. Small roofs half covered in solar panels. In fact 60% of the renewables in Germany are used by households, farms and cooperatives. The future is arriving but we need to accelerate the process.

We want to know that when an office block renovates for a new business, planning permission requires that any changes result in the highest possible standards of insulation.

We want to know that any new city buses and private cars use as little fossil fuels as possible, making them cheaper to run.

We want government buildings to put solar panels on their roofs, not only to cut their energy bills, but to reflect the will of their electorate.

We want to reduce the billions of euros a day Europeans pay to import fossil fuel and steer fraction of it towards establishing a credible, smart renewable sector which will excite investors and create jobs.

All of these things would help curb climate change which, if unimpeded, will cost us much, much more in the future.

Greenpeace's volunteers and Europeans want to remind political leaders that they may not see these things but we are watching them and we won't tolerate their tired old arguments.  

Don't pretend drilling for oil is for jobs. Destroying the Canary Island tourism business doesn't help Spain's economy.

Don't pretend it's too expensive to have renewables. The UK's proposed new nuclear reactor will be one of the most expensive power generators in the world.

Don't pretend it's about logic or that a better energy system is unrealistic. Embracing a clean, modern, sustainable future that protects where we live – the planet – is the most logical, most realistic, in fact the only, choice.

Let's hope that this week, those politicians have the guts for the glory of us all and show they are worthy of our votes.


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Virag Kaufer is a European Energy Project Coordinator for Greenpeace Hungary.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

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