web analytics
Dec 192009

Green Right Now Reports

The two week summit on climate change in Copenhagen wound to a close Saturday with the United Nations issuing a news release that many nations had agreed upon the issues that need to be addressed.

The agreement, seen either as a foothold or a failure in the fight against climate change, fell far short of the hoped-for signed treaty that would have included firm commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the countries around the world.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “an essential beginning.”

“The importance will only be recognized when it’s codified into international law … We must transform this into a legally binding treaty next year,” he told the BBC.

The accord provides for industrialized nations to commit to specific emissions reductions targets by stating them within the agreement by the end of January, 2010. The top GHG-polluting nations include China, the United States, Russia, India and Japan, followed by Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Iran.

Here is the news release from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the arm of the UN that oversaw talks:

Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference ends

with political agreement to cap temperature rise, reduce emissions and raise finance

(Copenhagen, 19 December 2009) The United Nations Climate Change Conference
in Copenhagen ended today with an agreement by countries to cap the global
temperature rise by commiting to significant emission reductions, and to
raise finance to kickstart action in the developing world to deal with
climate change.

At the meeting, world leaders agreed the ‘Copenhagen Accord’, which was
supported by a majority of countries, including amongst them the biggest
and the richest, and the smallest and most vulnerable.

“We have sealed the deal,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
“This accord cannot be everything that everyone hoped for, but it is an
essential beginning,” he said.

The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the scientific view that an increase in
global temperature below 2 degrees is required to stave off the worst
effects of climate change.

In order to achieve this goal, the accord specifies that industrialised
countries will commit to implement, individually or jointly, quantified
economy-wide emissions targets from 2020, to be listed in the accord before
31 January 2010.

A number of developing countries, including major emerging economies,
agreed to communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions every
two years, also listing their voluntary pledges before the 31 January 2010.

Nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support are
to be recorded in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and
capacity building support from industrialised nations.

“We must be honest about what we have got,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary
Yvo de Boer. “The world walks away from Copenhagen with a deal. But clearly
ambitions to reduce emissions must be raised significantly if we are to
hold the world to 2 degrees,” he added.

Because the pledges listed by developed and developing countries may,
according to science, be found insufficient to keep the global temperature
rise below 2 degrees or less, leaders called for a review of the accord, to
be completed by 2015.

The review would include a consideration of the long-term goal to limit the
global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Heads of state and government also intend to unleash prompt action on
mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, reducing emissions from
deforestation in developing countries and capacity-building.

To this effect, they intend to establish the “Copenhagen Green Climate
Fund” to support immediate action on climate change. The collective
commitment towards the fund by developed countries over the next three
years will approach 30 billion US dollars.

For long-term finance, developed countries agreed to support a goal of
jointly mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs
of developing countries.

In order to step up action on the development and transfer of technology,
governments intend to establish a new technology mechanism to accelerate
development and transfer in support of action on adaptation and mitigation.

119 world leaders attended the meeting, the largest gathering of heads of
state and government in the history of the UN. “Climate change is the
permanent leadership challenge of our time,” said UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon. “I therefore urge world leaders to remain engaged,” he said.

“We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action,” said
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer. “However, we need to be clear that
it is a letter of intent and is not precise about what needs to be done in
legal terms. So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed
politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable,”
he added.

The next annual UN Climate Change Conference will take place towards the
end of 2010 in Mexico City, preceded by a major two week negotiating
session in Bonn, Germany, scheduled 31 May to 11 June.

(The UNFCCC has membership of 194 nations and the group that ratified the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 190 of the UNFCCC
Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized
countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market
economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction
commitments. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will
prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.)

Dec 172009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Personally, I’ve taken a low carbon emissions position on Copenhagen, watching the action from my desk here in the U.S.

You may be too. If so, I wanted to offer cool Internet tool you can use to assess how policy and science intersect. (Earlier I mentioned a Copenhagen Target Converter by SandbagClimateGame.org — where you can adjust emissions targets against various years so they can be better compared.)

This one, and apologies I’m a little late with this, is a scoreboard at Climate Interactive.

This calculator projects ahead to estimate how much hotter the planet would be, and how thick atmospheric carbon would be, under these scenarios: business-as-usual; if proposals on the table at Copenhagen are passed, and what the tool calls “goals” or the  “low emissions path.” The latter would involve rolling back emissions big time and spending enough on green technology and in developing nations to hold the planet to an increase of just 1.5 degrees Celsius, which theoretically should keep the carbon at 450 ppm (which isn’t really even enough according to a growing chorus of groups).

At that last level, scientists say we might avert climate disaster. Even better if emissions were held to 350 ppm. Some say we MUST hold to 350 ppm. Others point out that new technologies could help us pull down emissions further as the world focuses its brainpower on climate change.

(Notice the really high carbon levels at the “business as usual” projection; frightening what this would mean for ice, oceans, agriculture, aquifers, asthmatics etc. In fact, by anyone’s estimation this is meltdown territory.)

But you need to look at this graphic and fiddle with it to really understand. After you do, you’ll know why some climate activists just aren’t satisfied with the level of commitment from world leaders on this very critical issue at this turning point in time.

Climate Scoreboard

Climate Interactive, by the way, is not an advocacy group, but a collaboration of businesses, philanthropies and scientists focused on creating models that we can use to assess how to create a sustainable future.

In computer speak, they specialize in “sims” or simulations, and they’re not dabblers. Groups signed on and actively working to make sense of the science include MIT, Sustainability Institute, Ventana Systems.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Dec 172009

Green Right Now Reports

Greenpeace doesn’t want American citizens to forget who’s stalling progress on climate action, namely, entrenched industrial polluters.

Greenpeace at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Building (Photo: Robert Meyers)

Greenpeace at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Building (Photo: Robert Meyers)

To drive home the point, a group of activists rushed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington D.C. in four squad cars to declare the area a “climate crime scene.” They quickly taped off the area with bright yellow crime scene tape and called on their “climate policy hostage negotiator” to “negotiate the safe release of President Obama’s climate policy from the hands of industry lobbyists”.

The mock disaster acted out may have been a little high concept for some, but it likely made sense to those following the Copenhagen Climate Talks, where activists are concerned that President Obama will fail to deliver a strong carbon emissions commitment tomorrow, mainly because U.S. fossil fuel industries have a stronghold on elected leaders. The street theater was timed to precede Obama’s imminent arrival in Copenhagen for the final two days of talks.

The theatrics spoofed how Washington/business politics have gummed up U.S. climate policy.  But it highlighted the serious,  real-life role that the U.S. Chamber has played in denying climate change and/or claiming that is is not the fault of humans and does not require serious attention.

In recent weeks, several corporate members of the chamber have resigned, citing the organization’s refusal to see climate change as a real and serious threat.

Said Greenpeace in a news release: “The US Chamber of Commerce has committed a series of climate crimes including: misinformation of the public on the issue of climate change, stalling action on global warming legislation, and holding the international climate talks hostage. Activists are calling on President Obama to show leadership and shed the influence of lobbyists.”

Dec 152009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Aiming to help put the Copenhagen climate talks on a track toward success, 1 Sky has called for President Obama to tap fossil fuel subsidies to fund developing nations.

“Outrageously, the U.S. spends more than $10 billion of taxpayer money per year on subsidies to fossil fuel companies. Meanwhile, the climate talks are on the brink of falling apart because developing countries can’t afford to green their economies without financial help. This is a big deal here in Copenhagen — so big that the global climate community has given the U.S. an “award” for undermining progress during the talks,” says Gillian Caldwell, campaign director of 1 Sky, a collaboration of groups wanting climate change action. (See 1 Sky allies.)

“The solution is obvious: we must stop subsidizing big polluters and use that money to help developing countries transition to a clean energy economy.”

This sort of idea has been floated before, but seems not to stay on the surface, perhaps because America doesn’t typically pull the plug on subsidies to anyone. In the land of the entitled, that’s nearly verboten.

But it does have a certain eloquence and symmetry in this situation. Not only would this be taking money from polluters to address pollution; pulling subsidies from say, Exxon, to help fund economic development and life-saving technologies in poor nations, has an appealing Robin Hood quality.

The climate action campaign, announced on Tuesday, asks people to tell President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that they would support shifting subsidies from “big polluters” to help developing nations fight climate change (and ultimately, perhaps, help all the 100+ nations at Copenhagen reach an agreement.)

“This isn’t rocket science,” Caldwell said, in a news release. “In fact, thanks to Obama, the leaders of the G20 countries committed this fall to phasing out their fossil fuel subsides — and insiders say Obama has been weighing whether to use that money for climate finance.”

Why developing nations? First, they are struggling with the effects of climate change already, and need money for mitigation. They also need financial help to develop in a green way, so they don’t add to their own carbon emissions, and so their natural resources can be preserved, instead of being exhausted as the default path to economic success. Finally, without help, they simply won’t sign a binding climate agreement at Copenhagen.

Why fossil fuel subsidies? Because coal-fired electricity plants are the biggest single contributor to greenhouse gases, responsible for some 40 percent of global carbon emissions. Oil products, including gasoline, contribute to carbon pollution released by cars, trucks, ships and industry and account for much of the remainder of the pollution degrading the atmosphere. Deforestation, agricultural activities also contribute to greenhouse gases.

That’s about as simple as it gets. (We’ve skipped the background  paragraph about how climate change will bring floods, melting ice and all that — we’ll consider that you’ve heard that already.).

And so 1 Sky’s call is simple. Take those oil subsidies and put them to work against climate change. Will that raise our electric rates? Let’s look to the U.S. banks for instruction here. Did they manage to eek out giant bonuses for the execs despite their imminent collapse? Or let’s ask ourselves, what U.S. company (starts with an “E”) made $45 billion in profits last year?

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media