Global warming news

Opportunities in New Climate Economy

This blog post was originally published for China Daily USA.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama have made a landmark joint announcement on climate that will provide a major jolt of momentum for international climate action. By putting clear emission targets on the table, these two leaders have made it clear they understand the risks of climate change—and the urgency of action.

A century from now, historians could look back and see this as a turning point: the moment when China and the United States took a leading role in the global shift away from high-carbon fossil fuels, toward strong economies that rely primarily on renewable energy and low-carbon technology.

The building blocks of this new, lower-carbon future are already in place. By using them intelligently, China and the U.S. can show the world that a sustainable environment and a growing economy go hand in hand.

China, especially, is at a pivot point: after 30 years of rapid economic growth, its GDP fell to around 7.7 percent last year, the lowest since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Poised at the final stages of industrialization and mid-way through a process of urbanization, China has made great strides in energy efficiency and renewable energy, installing 12 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic projects in 2013, 50 percent more than any other country has done in a single year. However, China is also the world's largest fossil fuel importer, making it more vulnerable than developed economies to volatile global energy prices.

A just-released report, China and the New Climate Economy, a project on behalf of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, with research led by experts at Tsinghua University, shows that China faces a series of important choices that will shape its future and affect the rest of the world. The opportunities for China in terms of clean air, increased energy security and dynamic growth are great, and so are the challenges.

Between now and 2030, China has the opportunity to become a high-income economy, but it needs sustainable economic growth to avoid getting stuck in a middle-income trap. A new climate economy that takes better care of the environment also presents many business and growth opportunities.

China can become a global leader in developing new and renewable energy solutions, but to do so it will need to reform its own energy system and go to the next level in fostering safe, efficient, clean and low-carbon energy supply and consumption. China could play an important role in the future global low-carbon development, as long as it further limits greenhouse gas emissions and manages the risks of climate change.

How can China best seize these opportunities? China's newly announced plan to have emissions peak and to increase the share of non-fossil fuel energy to around 20 percent by 2030 is a step in the right direction. New policies on economy restructuring, energy conservation, energy efficiency improvement, renewable energy development and air pollution regulation would also be important. The government can do a lot by sending the right market signals to provide private companies the certainty to invest in low-carbon projects.

A tall order? Yes. But there are clear signs that meeting its new target to peak emissions by 2030 is very possible for China. Researchers at Tsinghua University and MIT found that by continuing current efforts to reduce carbon intensity, emissions will level off between 2030 and 2040.

Accelerating efforts could bring the level-off to 2025, with emissions dropping after that. Jiang Kejun, a leading researcher with China's economic planning agency, also found that an aggressive strategy, coupled with additional policies such as promotion of carbon capture and storage, could see a peak by 2025. China has also begun considering strong new steps on the low carbon path such as capping coal and putting a price on carbon. From the experiences in other countries, we know policies such as these can help drive innovation and cut the costs of transition, making it easier to meet—or exceed—the current targets.

This is an area where China and the U.S. can work together to benefit both countries. While all major emitters are taking some climate action—the US and China included—none are yet doing enough. With China at an economic and environmental crossroad, ongoing cooperation on climate and clean energy with the US can yield significant social and economic rewards for both countries. The benefits of this course can and must go together to tackle climate change and create vibrant economies for the 21st century.


Momentum Builds for No Deforestation Palm Oil

By now you know the problem: a rapidly expanding palm oil industry, eating up forests, draining carbon-rich peatlands, and sparking conflict with local people and workers.

But if you had to guess at what is turning out to be a key solution, what would you say? Government regulation? We’ve been pushing for that, and we’ll keep at it, but in places like Indonesia there’s little political appetite to revoke vast concessions covering the country’s remaining forests and peatlands.

Well then, you might say, perhaps it’s the industry’s own initiative, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Sounds promising, but sadly, after spending the past week in Kuala Lumpur at the RSPO’s 12th annual meeting, along with the world’s biggest palm oil companies and their customers, it is clear that the RSPO is hostage to its own consensus approach. Industry laggards have been able to delay and stymie progress, and while the RSPO has agreed to kick out companies that violate its rules, it’s not clear how the group will deliver the changes needed to address deforestation and climate change.

Yet this year the palm oil industry has been changing, and changing fast. This has come in the form of individual company policy commitments. They’ve been hard won, through the work of groups such as Greenpeace, whose supporters have pressured consumer companies around the world, and whose technical experts have sat down with producers and their implementing partners such as TFT to thrash out details of forest conservation and social policies.

We believe these individual policies are the right approach, as they embody lots of innovation, look into issues in detail and apply to companies’ entire operations, including third party suppliers. They set a benchmark that we expect the RSPO to adopt if it wants to be relevant in transforming the industry. 

The speed and scale of such commitments made by all kinds of industry players is unprecedented. In less than a year, Wilmar, Cargill, Bunge, P&G, L’Oreal, Mars, Unilever, Colgate, J&J, AAK, Kellogg, Mondelez, General Mills and others have followed Golden Agri Resources (GAR) and announced policies to address the destruction of forests and peatlands and eliminate the historical social abuses that plague the commodity.

Four of the biggest traders - Asian Agri, Wilmar, Cargill and GAR - joined a pledge during the recent UN Climate Summit in New York to protect forests and carbon-rich peatlands and push the Indonesian government for policy change. Earlier this month IOI Loders Croklaan followed, announcing a new policy for all the palm oil it buys and sells, although unfortunately Croklaan's parent company IOI Group has not extended the commitment to cover oil palm plantations under its control.

High Carbon Stock

The High Carbon Stock Approach has become a key tool for many producers with No Deforestation policies to put their commitments into practice. A multi-stakeholder steering group of NGOs, producers and experts was formed to oversee this innovative approach, and to ensure it is a robust tool to protect forests while respecting the rights of local communities.  Wilmar, Cargill, Agropalma, New Britain Palm Oil and GAR are part of this initiative, as well as pulp and paper company APP.

Palm Oil Innovation Group

How will we know if these companies are doing what they promised? This is where the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) comes in. This group of producers and NGOs, including Greenpeace, have developed the sector’s most progressive requirements and indicators, to be used to independently verify that green commitments don’t turn into greenwash.

Indonesia’s biggest producer of palm oil, GAR, has just applied to become a member of POIG.  Three years ago, after a long campaign by Greenpeace, GAR was the first plantation company to commit to stop clearing forests. But big plantation companies don’t turn into angels overnight, and GAR has struggled to put those commitments in to practice over its hundreds of thousands of hectares in Indonesia and Africa. Now the company wants to take the next step and get its operations verified against the highest standard in the industry.

So, as you can see, we have seen a number of promising commitments from big players in the palm oil industry, even before the year is out. Sure, a lot of work needs to be done to bring them to fruition, but the ambition of the new policies is undeniable.

Suzanne Kroger is Global palm oil coordinator at Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

56 countries seek carbon capture incentives in next climate deal

GENEVA (Reuters) - Fiscal incentives for carbon capture should be part of the global climate change agreement that replaces the Kyoto Protocol, 56 countries belonging to the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) said in a statement on Tuesday.

Read more [Reuters]

Cold hard facts: Underwater robot measures Antarctic sea ice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Measuring the thickness of Antarctic sea ice, an important gauge of environmental conditions in this remote polar region in a time of global climate change, has proven to be a tricky task. But an underwater robot is providing a nice solution.

Read more [Reuters]

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.

Read more [Reuters]

Sun's finally shining on India's climate change fight

Straits Times: In India, fighting climate change means turning to the sun. In Baramati in the western state of Maharashtra, construction is under way on a solar power plant that will generate 50 megawatts (MW), enough to power a small town. The first phase, which is being built by Welspun Energy in partnership with the state power authorities, is likely to be ready next month and will generate 36MW of power to feed into the state grid. Once at full capacity by next year, it will mitigate 83,220 tonnes...

Global warming could undermine poverty

AAP: Climate change could undermine efforts to defeat extreme poverty around the globe, the World Bank says. In a new report on the impact of global warming, the bank said sharp temperature rises would cut deeply into crop yields and water supplies in many areas and possibly set back efforts to bring populations out of poverty. "Climate change poses a substantial and escalating risk to development progress that could undermine global efforts to eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity,"...

World Bank: No Matter What Governments Do — Big Climate Change Coming

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. Past and predicted emissions from power plants, factories and cars have locked the globe on a path towards an average temperature rise of almost 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times by 2050, it said. "This means that climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now...

Lima talks to test political will for global climate deal

GLAND, Switzerland –UN climate talks opening in Lima on 1 December will be pivotal to gauge political will for a new global climate deal.  Governments are expected to agree on the outline of an agreement to be approved in Paris in 2015.
With overwhelming scientific evidence of the increased rate and impact of climate change, it is essential that governments make climate change a top political priority and leave Lima with a strong foundation for success in Paris.
"Make no mistake. COP20 is a litmus test for political will for urgent action on climate, and specifically for an ambitious and equitable global agreement on climate change," said Tasneem Essop, WWF's Head of Delegation to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Adding to the urgency, the unprecedented call for action by citizens across the world in recent months demonstrates that governments have to step up the pace and scale of their commitments to the climate negotiations.
"We know the consequences of inaction and it's no longer good enough to say that it's too politically difficult to act," said Samantha Smith, leader of WWF's Global Climate and Energy Initiative.
"We have one year to the Paris meeting. We are off to a good start with 'opening bids' by China, the US and the European Union all pledging to reduce emissions. The financial commitments made by a number of countries earlier this month also lends much needed political momentum to the talks," Smith said.
WWF's expects that governments coming to Lima will act with urgency to close the emissions gap, including by scaling up renewable energy consumption to 25 per cent and doubling energy efficiency by 2020.

In order to help build a safe future for us all, especially the vulnerable, the elements of a new climate deal should include a global goal to help countries manage the impacts of climate change. Forests should be included in the 2015 agreement as should a commitment to support actions to curb deforestation.

Any new agreement must also place science and equity at its center. Governments should agree on a carbon budget and a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels and ensuring 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050.
Countries that have not made financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund should use the opportunity of the COP 20 meeting in Lima to do so. Commitments of finance and support need to be at the scale required for ambitious action.

"We are meeting on a continent of developing countries that have already experienced devastating impacts of climate change through floods, glacier melts and extreme weather events. It is also a continent where we have witnessed strong actions to address climate change. This should spur all countries to be prepared to set aside their own national interests and act in the interests of the planet," said Essop.

Read more [WWF]

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.

Read more [Reuters]

World bank to focus future investment on clean energy

Guardian: The World Bank will invest heavily in clean energy and only fund coal projects in “circumstances of extreme need” because climate change will undermine efforts to eliminate extreme poverty, says its president Jim Yong Kim. Talking ahead of a UN climate summit in Peru next month, Kim said he was alarmed by World Bank-commissioned research from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, which said that as a result of past greenhouse gas emissions the world is condemned to unprecedented...

Impact of climate agreement questionable

Asbury Park Press: The United States-China agreement on climate change is a huge political triumph, possibly "historic," as its supporters say. Whether it much alters the world's climate is a more open question. Recall the agreement's outlines. By 2030, China pledges to reach peak emissions of global greenhouse gases and also to increase its reliance on non-fossil fuels to 20 percent of its total energy. For its part, the United States committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 percent to 28...

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

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. Delegates from almost 200 nations will meet in Lima, Peru, from Dec. 1-12 to work on the accord due in Paris in a year's time, also spurred by new scientific warnings about risks of floods, heatwaves, ocean acidification and rising seas. After failure to agree a sweeping U.N. treaty...

Malaysia: Climate change will affect water supply

New Straits Times: CLIMATE change will affect all water-related sectors, including water supply and agriculture, resulting in drought, flood and degradation of coastal ecosystem. National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia's (Nahrim) Extension Study of the Impact of Climate Change on the Hydrologic Regime and Water Resources of Peninsular Malaysia shows there will be an increase in rainfall magnitude and intensity in the future. "Global warming will affect peak flow, causing more extreme floods at river...

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.

Read more [Reuters]

Crops contribute to Climate Change in a substantial way

Maine News: Since long climate change has been on the cutting edge of both public plan and research. A recent research carried out in this context has found that the expanding agriculture production has a remarkable role to play in mounting carbon dioxide swings and hence contributing to climate change in the long-run. This study so done is a joint effort by researchers from Boston University, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Climate Preparedness Index Reveals Rich-Poor Gap

Scientific American: High in the Peruvian Andes 8,000 alpacas died during a particularly harsh period of cold in the summer of 2004. For the herders who raise and shear these long-haired beasts for a living, it was a huge loss amounting to one fifth of all the alpacas living in that region of the highlands. Since then international aid organizations have worked with local herders to prevent future losses in the face of extreme cold snaps that seem to be occurring more frequently there with climate change. Together, they...

5 Reasons to Be Optimistic About Sustainable Urban Mobility

This blog post is featured on TheCityFix and originally appeared on

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.


Hottest October on Record Puts Planet on Track for Hottest Year Ever

EcoWatch: Need more evidence of the impact of climate change on the Earth? The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the global temperature in October was the hottest on record. “The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for October 2014 was the highest on record for the month since record keeping began in 1880,” the agency said. “It also marked the 38th consecutive October with a global temperature above the...

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...

Vietnam: Water supplies in need of protection

VietNamNet Bridge: Water utilities in Viet Nam, particularly in the Mekong Delta, must take pro-active action to safeguard the sustainability of future public water-supply services, as climate change is affecting water production, experts said at an international seminar held recently in Can Tho. Extracting groundwater for domestic, agricultural and industrial use might exacerbate natural land subsidence, especially in river deltas, they said. -- Photo At a three-day seminar that began on Wednesday,...

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...

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.

Read more [Reuters]

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...

The public is wrong on climate, as it was on slavery, women’s rights

Grist: The latest public opinion study out of Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communication has all the usual hints of optimism we`ve seen in the Project`s many other climate reports. According to “Climate Change in the American Mind,” released this week, a majority of Americans support regulating carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, funding research for renewable energy, yada, yada. But there’s also some chilly stuff in there: Only one in 10 Americans knows that over 90 percent of climate...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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.

Read more [Reuters]

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.


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.


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.


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...

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...

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.

Read more [Reuters]

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.

Read more [Reuters]

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.


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.

Read more [Reuters]

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.


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...

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