Paris Climate Talks – What Does “Emissions Neutrality” Mean?

cop21 logo smlWhat Does “Emissions Neutrality” Really Mean?

Explainer:
Negotiators have deleted specific emission reduction targets for the long-term goal i.e. +2050. Thursday night in Paris a new proposal surfaced for “greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions neutrality in the second half of the century, on the basis of equity and guided by science in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”.

This should mean zero GHG emissions from all sectors by first reducing emissions to near zero and then using negative emissions (taking CO2 etc out of the atmosphere) to achieve net zero.

Defining it as GHG neutrality vs carbon neutrality is very important from climate science perspective. In 2012, 23% of emissions were non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

Bottom line:

There is no way to get to 1.5C or 2.0C without GHG neutrality before 2100. What’s missing in the agreement is a specific time table – “second half of the century” is pretty vague. Expect this to change at some future COP (yes there will be many more) when the science catches up with figuring out what is needed to achieve it.

Paris Climate Talks – Reactions to New Dec 10 Text

Things are moving faster than expected, debate continues overnight with hopes of a final agreement ready to be voted on late Friday. We’ll see. Remember this is a consensus process, one country can hold up the rest. 

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It is slightly longer with about 50 brackets – down from 150 to 200. 

Some reactions in the order they were made:

“The standard of any effective climate policy is clear: does it keep fossil fuels in the ground and accelerate a just transition to 100% renewable energy?

The commitments we are seeing in the text are a start, but they won’t get the job done, so activists are already mobilizing to close the gap between rhetoric and reality.”
— Payal Parekh, 350.org Global Managing Director

At first glance happy with new COP21 draft – target ‘well below 2C’ and ’emissions neutrality’ in 2050-2100 both ambitious but achievable
— Corinne Le Quéré (@clequere)

$100bn confirmed as rich nations’ floor in new draft Paris #COP21 text. Left – today Right – yesterday
— Simon Evans (@DrSimEvans)

#Oceans #biodiversity & “Mother Earth” out of #brackets in Preamble #update #UNFCCC #COP21
— Paris Agreement News (@ParisAgreement)

Binding part of new #climate agreement draft no longer includes #humanrights – that is going to upset a lot of people
— Megan Rowling ‏@meganrowlin

I see “people in vulnerable situations and under occupation” remains… here’s why that’s a little tricky: http://www.climatechangenews.com/2015/12/07/israel-palestine-conflict-seeps-into-paris-climate-talks-in-human-rights-row/
— Edward King

As I’ve been saying, addition of 1.5C wording is about recognizing harm to small islands and other countries #COP21 pic.twitter.com/Cw4Di5dtGz
Simon Donner (@simondonner)

3rd draft is out. No liability/compensation. Adriano Campolina of @ActionAid called it “draft deal that denies the world justice”
— Stella Paul (@stellasglobe)

By including a clause for no future claim of compensation and liability, the US has ensured people suffering from the disastrous impacts of climate change will never be able to seek the justice owed to them.

This unfair and unjust draft deal won’t face up to the realities of climate change and will only serve to widen the chasm between rich and poor.Rich countries have a responsibility to ensure a fair global deal for everyone, not just themselves, and as we move into these final hours of negotiations poorer countries must not settle for anything less.
— Adriano Campolina, ActionAid Chief Executive

New #COP21 text is remarkably streamlined. But big issues on target, differentiation (funding) & transparency still open. Important progress
— Simon Lewis (@SimonLLewis)

First published on the Climate News Mosaic Paris Climate Talks Live Blog available here:
Inter Press Service News Agency (International)
DeSmog Blog (Seattle)
Philippine EnviroNews (Philippines)
Earth Journalism (International)
Watson (Switzerland)
Skeptical Science (International)

Paris Climate Talks – Science Behind Need for 1.5C

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No climate scientist thinks two degrees C will be “safe”. Many countries, especially least-developed countries and small island states, have been calling for global target to be less than 1.5C of heating in 2009 at COP 15 in Copenhagen. Before that some countries launched  ‘1.5 to stay alive’ campaign at the UN in September 2009.

Humans have enjoyed 10,000 years of climate stability, in which the global average temperature varied less than one degree C – even during the Little Ice Age.

This heating will be wildly uneven with the Arctic warming 2-3 times faster. In 1.5C world much of the far north will be 4.0C. Canada is already 1.6 to 1.8 C warmer today.

Large parts of Africa including the African Sahel, including the Horn of Africa, are very vulnerable to any increase in temperatures. Even with 1.5C large portions of the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt raising sea levels, albeit at a slower rate threatening the very existence of some small islands states.

Delay in making the shift to non-fossil fuel energy sources will be very costly. Waiting until 2020 to curb global emissions will cost twice as much compared with peaking emissions by 2015 various analysis have shown.

At least 65% of Existing Coal Plants Must be Shuttered by 2030
Serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions means 65 percent of current coal power plants will have to be shut down in the next decade or two, a 2012 study concludes.

There are enormous benefits if global emissions decline before 2020. Failure to do so will mean we will need to use more nuclear, massive amounts of bioenergy, large-scale carbon capture and storage

  • Joeri Rogelj, a climate scientist at Switzerland’s Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science

Paris Climate Talks – Fossil Fuel Subsidies Called “Absurd”

 

 

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“A price on carbon and fossil fuel subsidies are two opposing forces.”  — Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency  Credit: IISD

At the “Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Climate Change” side event last evening a range of energy experts said continuing to pour  hundreds of billions of dollars of public money into subsidizing fossil fuels was “absurd”, “incoherent”, “unacceptable” and more.

Only 3% of Fossil Fuel Subsidies reaches the poorest 20% of households, said Felipe Calderón, Chair, Global Commission on Economy and Climate.  As often claimed these subsidies do not help poor families nor improve energy access he said.

A few more comments and some startling facts:

The carbon price in Europe is approximately US$10, yet incentives for fossil fuel use, equate to a global average of US$110 per tonne of carbon…an “absurd situation” …

— Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Association (IEA)

Each hour, US$8 million is spent on Fossil Fuel Subsidies

–Scott Vaughan, President, IISD

 Fossil Fuel Subsidies amount to five times the global annual climate finance commitment of US$100 billion.

— Børge Brende, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway

…partial phase out of Fossil Fuel Subsidies would generate 12 percent of the global abatement needed by 2020 to achieve a 2ºC pathway.

— Doris Leuthard, Head, Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, Switzerland

First published on the Climate News Mosaic Paris Climate Talks Live Blog available here:

Paris Climate Talks – Peak CO2 Already?

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Have We Reached the Crucial Peak in Global CO2 Emissions?
New report released today says CO2 emissions will likely decline this year for the first time after growing 2-3% per year for last 15 years.

“Whether a slower growth in global emissions will be sustained depends on the use of coal in China and elsewhere, and where new energy will come from. In 2014, more than half of new energy needs in China were met from renewable sources such as hydro, nuclear, wind, and solar power.” — Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre

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Paris Climate Talks: Three Major Issues

The main issue in Copenhagen in 2009 was determining each country’s fair share of CO2 emission reductions cuts and by when. If a flag could be attached to every CO2 molecule humanity has put into the atmosphere over the last 150 years, about 70 percent would be the flags of wealthy countries: the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany and so on.

Those rich nations agreed to make some CO2 cuts by 2020 but they were mostly small and voluntary. In exchange poor countries were promised $100 billion a year by 2020.

How much has changed at COP 21?cop21 logo sml

#1 Most countries have filed their plans for emissions reductions but they aren’t big enough to keep temperatures below 2C, never mind 1.5C. There is agreement more cuts are needed but the big issue is when. Europe and small countries want to see another round of cuts every 5 years starting as soon as 2020. Other countries like India want longer time frames.

 #2 Money has always been issue. In Copenhagen rich countries promised $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries cope with climate impacts and  to green their economies. The money was supposed to ramp up from about $10 billion a year in 2010. Instead it’s been a fight to get any funds. Now developing countries want  guaranteed amounts from 2015 to 2020.

#3 Legally binding agreement. For the first time the US is saying it will agree to this for parts of an eventual Paris Climate Agreement. The US will not sign a legal-binding emission reduction target, Todd Stern, the chief negotiator said today.

First posted on Climate News Mosaic Live Blog available at Inter Press Service  news

Paris Climate Talks: Global Warming Explained in 60 Seconds or Less

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One night in a bar a Russian journalist who I’d just met says:  “This global warming is too complicated for people to know if it’s real or not”.

“You don’t think climate change is happening?” I asked with surprise since we were both covering a big United Nations climate conference.

“No one has been able to give me a good explanation to prove it’s real,” said Yuri (not his real name).

“I can explain it to you in less than one minute,” I replied.

Yuri was sceptical but I went ahead and said:

“The moon has no atmosphere so it is scorching hot (+100C) during the day and bitterly cold (-150C) at night. The Earth has an atmosphere made up of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases. Over 150 years ago scientists proved that CO2 traps heat from the sun. We also know without any doubt that burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal emits CO2.

Measurements, not computer models or theories, measurements show that there is now 42% more CO2 in the atmosphere than 150 years ago before massive use of fossil fuels. That extra CO2 is like putting another blanket on at night even though you are already nice and warm. The Earth is now 1.0 C hotter on average according to the latest measurements. Heat is a form of energy and with so much more energy in our atmosphere our weather system is becoming supercharged resulting in stronger storms, worse heat waves, major changes in when and where rain falls and more.

That’s it.

After a long silence Yuri says “I guess that makes sense…”.

I’m not sure he was convinced but the truth is that climate change is not that complicated.

One additional thing to know is that CO2 is forever. Every little CO2 molecule we add to the atmosphere will continue to trap the sun’s heat for hundreds and thousands of years.

First published Aug 2015

Climate News Mosaic Live Blog of Paris Climate Talks

 

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A historic climate change conference is taking place in Paris, France from November 30 to December 11th. World leaders from more than 195 nations will meet to work on a new international climate deal, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

The award-winning Climate News Mosaic (CNM) will provide a free daily live blog to track all progress, major announcements and events, latest scientific reports, as well as happenings in and outside of the conference halls with stories, photos, videos, soundbites from experienced journalists from different countries.

The live blog will also feature climate news updates, reactions and short reports from a variety of countries for a unique mix of global and local coverage.

The Climate News Mosaic (CNM) is the award-winning collaboration of independent environmental journalists from Canada, the Philippines, Germany, Italy, Costa Rica, Brazil and many more. In 2014 CNM won the international HostWriter Prize for its collaborative coverage of the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw (COP 19). The live blog was hosted on nine news sites including the Inter Press News Service, Climate Home, Earth Journalism Network.

Stay up-to-date. Follow @climatemosaic on Twitter for the latest news and information in follow-up to the summit and elsewhere (hashtag: #climate2015)

Host the CNM Live Blog

Would you be interested in hosting the Climate News Mosaic COP 21 live blog  your website? A small snippet of open source code from Germany’s Sourcefabric is all that’s needed. Please contact CNM co-founder Stephen Leahy 

“It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet” — Economist

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UXBRIDGE, Canada, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

Hopefully, on Earth Day today, high-level ministers from all countries are thinking about what they can bring to the table at a key set of meetings on climate change in early May.

This will be the first opportunity for governments to discuss their proposed climate action plans in light of the final Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released last week.

“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.” — Professor Ottmar Edenhofer

That report warned that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels are still rising far too fast, even with more than 650 billion dollars invested in renewable energy in the last three years. However, over the same time period even more money was invested in getting more fossil fuels out of the ground.

The latter investment is keeping humanity and the planet locked onto a devastating path of a global temperature increase of four to five degrees C, the IPCC’s Working Group III report warned.

Scientists and economists say that unlocking ourselves from disaster will require a massive reduction in emissions – between 40 percent and 70 percent – by midcentury. This is can be readily accomplished without inventing any new technology and at a reasonably low cost, reducing global economic growth by a comparatively tiny 0.06 percent.

“It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet,” economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the IPCC team, said at a press conference.

It does mean an end to investments in expanding fossil fuel infrastructure as the annual growth in CO2 emissions from burning oil, coal and gas must peak and decline in the next few years. The atmosphere already has 42 percent more CO2 than it did prior to 1800.

This extra CO2 is trapping more heat from the sun, which is heating up the oceans and land, creating the conditions that spawn super storms and extreme weather. And it will do so for the next 1,000 years since CO2 is a very durable molecule.

Current emissions are adding two percent more heat-trapping CO2 each year. That will push humanity’s ‘CO2 contribution’ to 50 percent four years from now.

“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” Edenhofer said.

The IPCC’s first report released last September as part of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) clearly stated once again that the climate is changing rapidly as a result of human activity and urgent action is needed.

This was followed last month with a strong confirmation that climate impacts are already occurring on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans. This second report warned that one of the major impacts will be declines in food production unless emissions begin to decline.

The fossil fuel sector, the richest in human history, appears to be ignoring the IPCC warnings.tar sands flag copenhagen sml0000

Earlier this month, oil giant ExxonMobil issued a report to its shareholders saying it does not believe the world will curb CO2 emissions and plans to extract and sell all of its 25.2 billion barrels worth of oil and gas in its current reserves. And it will continue investments hunting down more barrels.

“All of ExxonMobil’s current hydrocarbon reserves will be needed, along with substantial future industry investments, to address global energy needs,” said William Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president in a statement.

The IPCC agrees oil, gas and coal will still be used in future but there is a CO2 maximum to have a reasonable chance of staying below two degrees C. That fossil energy cap won’t be enough to meet global energy needs so Working Group III recommends shifting to large-scale bioenergy and biofuels, waste incineration, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

These energy sources are controversial and risky. Large-scale bioenergy and biofuels needs huge areas of land and vast quantities of water and will compete with food production.

Studies show ethanol results in more emissions than burning gasoline. Even making ethanol from the leftovers of harvested corn plants released seven percent more CO2 than gasoline while depleting the soil, a new study revealed in Nature Climate Change this week.

The IPCC acknowledges bioenergy and biofuels can increase emissions, destroy livelihoods and damage the environment, says Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch, an environmental NGO.

“It is a shame they put so much stock in something that would make things worse rather than better,” Smolker told IPS.

Given all this, what climate action plans are governments going to propose when they meet in Abu Dhabi on May 4 and 5th? This is an informal ‘put your cards on the table’ regarding a new set of commitments on emission reduction targets and action plans to be made public at the U.N. Climate Summit in September.

Current reduction targets will not avoid four degrees C, most experts agree.

In hopes of getting countries to increase their reduction targets, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked governments to bring new proposals to New York City in September. With the current U.N. Climate Change Convention meetings deadlocked on key issues, the New York Summit is intended to kick-start political momentum for an ambitious, global, legal climate treaty in 2015.

The May get-together titled the “Abu Dhabi Ascent” is the only meeting before the Summit where governments, and invited members of the private sector and civil society will come together to explore how to get ambitious action to reduce emissions.

The Abu Dhabi meeting will be a window into the future of humanity: ascent or descent?

first published as Charting a Course for Survival, or Oblivion?

Film Exposes Slick US Industry Behind Climate Denial

Robert Kenner’s forthcoming documentary lifts the lid on the ‘professional deceivers’ manipulating US debate on climate change

OPENS MARCH 6 in US

Shot from Merchants of Doubt film.
 Merchants of Doubt looks at professionals working for the fossil fuel industry to sow doubt in the US climate change debate.    Photograph: Sony Pictures Classics

By  for the Guardian

Who remembers that climate change was a top priority early in George W Bush’s first term as US president? 

Six months later everything changed. The film shows Republican party leader John Boehner calling the idea of global warming “laughable”, said Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner.

Framing Climate Science as Attack on Personal Freedoms

With the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occupying attention, Americans For Prosperity, a powerful, fossil-fuel lobby group founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, launched a decade-long, multi-pronged campaign to sow doubt about the reality of climate change.Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 5.34.47 PM

By equating the findings of climate scientists as an attack on personal freedoms, they cleverly shifted the focus away from science to political opinion. “Creating a focus point away from what is actually going on is how magicians pull off their tricks,” said Kenner who directed the Oscar-nominated documentary Food Inc.

The deception has worked well. Few Americans know 97% of scientists agree climate change is caused by human activity and is happening now.

Inspired by the 2010 book of the same name, Kenner’s film is about deception and profiles many of the charming and always smiling professional deceivers who work for the tobacco, chemical, pharmaceutical, and fossil fuel industries. The tobacco industry knowingly and successfully deceived the public for 50 years about the connection between smoking and cancer, the 1988 tobacco lawsuit settlement revealed.

In a pattern of manipulation clearly evident today in the manufactured ‘debate’ over climate change, the tobacco industry used media-friendly pseudo-experts, doctored ‘science’ studies and attacked the credibility of scientists or experts who said otherwise, Kenner said.

If you can sell tobacco you can sell anything

Peter Sparber, one the tobacco industry’s most successful deceivers, told Kenner that he could get the public to believe a garbage man knew more about science than prominent climate scientist James Hansen.

“If you can sell tobacco you can sell anything,” Sparber tells Kenner.

Selling confusion and doubt around a complex issue like climate change was far easier than selling tobacco. Nearly all of those well-paid climate misinformers have no science background and often clear ties to industry lobby groups and yet are treated as expert commentators on climate science by media. It’s not just Fox News. Serious news outlets like CNN and the New York Times are complicit by featuring misinformers in news articles and on discussion panels, he said.

The film also focuses on the many self-described “grassroots” organisations that are actually promoting specific corporate and political interests. These organisations are often aided by, and passionately supported by, ordinary citizens who believe they are fighting for personal freedoms and libertarian or conservative values.

Kenner is hoping audiences “will realise they’ve been lied to” and develop better “bullshit detectors”.

First published at the Guardian