Author: Mitchell Beer

About Mitchell Beer

Mitchell Beer is a climate and energy communicator and curator of The Energy Mix, a Canadian e-newsletter on climate, energy, and the shift to a post-carbon future.

Ireland presses UN to agree a global fracking ban

Campaign groups urging the United Nations to adopt a global fracking ban say they have won the backing of Ireland.

This report slightly updates one published on 17 May by The Energy Mix, and republished here by courtesy of them.

OTTAWA, 30 June, 2021 − A grassroots group from Ireland which has been seeking to persuade the Irish government to call for a global fracking ban at the UN General Assembly in mid-September, just six weeks before this year’s UN climate conference, COP-26, convenes in Glasgow, is making progress.

“Ireland has not yet agreed to such an initiative, so it is vitally important that the Irish government can witness that this move would have broad societal support,” wrote Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG, in an appeal early last month obtained by The Energy Mix.

But on 18 May the Irish government published the world’s first policy statement against fracked gas imports, a move which Safety Before LNG says requires the government to agree to propose a resolution at the UN calling for a global fracking ban. Organisations can sign the Global Ban on Fracking petition in English, French or Spanish.

The national government had earlier expressed “Ireland’s willingness to tackle powerful fracked gas vested interests head on, and express solidarity and empathy with communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Northern Ireland, Namibia, Botswana, Argentina, and worldwide affected by, or threatened with, the scientifically-proven harmful process of fracking,” McElligott had said.

“But we want Ireland to go even further by calling for a Global Ban on Fracking at the UN,” so that grassroot groups will no longer have to “reinvent the wheel each time the fracking companies come into new territories.”

Rapid action possible

It may be a very long shot, trying to push a notoriously process-driven, global institution to exert pressure on a global climate conference known for moving at a glacial pace − when it moves at all.

But the first step is to get a UN member state to propose a resolution, and “Ireland is uniquely well-positioned to lead the effort against fracked gas,” wrote Friends of the Earth Ireland, with a “strong legislative ban on fracking” already in place, the import ban coming up, and legislation recently introduced to pull the state investment fund out of fossil fuels.

Building on that history, “Ireland can move very quickly on this because it is possible to bring forward a UN General Assembly resolution at any time,” McElligott told The Mix. Groups lodged the request with Green-affiliated Climate Action Minister Éamon Ryan on Earth Day, 22 April, and “as Ireland has already banned fracking, then it would only be calling for the same in a UN resolution,” he added.

“If a large number of groups from all over the world sign this petition of support for a UN resolution on banning fracking, it will be a clear message to the Irish government to answer the call that it cannot ignore.”

Once a resolution reached the General Assembly, “a resolution coming from a global-south and a  global-north member state would send a clear message, and we believe that a strong global campaign will deliver at least the 50%-plus majority that we need,” he added.

“The fracking companies will try to come back if they get half a chance. We are not safe until everybody is safe”

“If groups campaigning for human rights, climate mitigation, environmental protection, and public health engage with this campaign, we have a very realistic hope of success.”

A successful General Assembly resolution ahead of COP-26 “would bring the elephant in the room − which is methane leakage from fracking − front and centre,” McElligott added.

The push for the Irish government to back the resolution “follows on from an open letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2019, signed by over 450 grassroots groups, organisations, celebrities, and scientists from around the world, which demanded that the UN champion efforts to stop fracking,” Friends of the Earth says.

“Since then, a core group of these international campaigners has been doing a lot of the background work in finding a Member State that would propose this resolution at the UN,” McElligott explained, while a group of specialists in human rights law prepared a draft resolution that could be presented at the UN in support of a global fracking ban.

Despite the focus on international institutions, Safety Before LNG’s motivations are decidedly local as well as global. “The communities that live in the Lough Allen gas basin in Ireland believe they are not safe until there is a global ban,” McElligott wrote.

Pressure on COP-26

“The company that initially tried to frack in Ireland has now applied for a fracking licence in Northern Ireland, where legislation to ban fracking has still not gotten across the line.”

Despite the national ban in 2017, “our experience fighting the fracking companies over the years has taught us that they will try to come back if they get half a chance, so we all feel under threat. We are not safe until everybody is safe.”

In Canada, Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron said a UN resolution “could be a major game changer, and affect gas pipeline and LNG projects, among others, all across North America.” But not by prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a strong stand against fracking at the General Assembly.

“I expect him to say how they can make fracking better and climate-friendly, which will always remain false” when fossil gas “can only contribute to the increase of GHG levels in the atmosphere,” he said.

But “a UN resolution against fracking will put pressure on all heads of state who wish to appear to be making climate their priority. If the UN rules against fracking, Trudeau and President Joe Biden will have to tie their climate commitments to policies of rapid fossil fuel exploitation decline at COP-26.” − Climate News Network (by courtesy of  The Energy Mix)

Campaign groups urging the United Nations to adopt a global fracking ban say they have won the backing of Ireland.

This report slightly updates one published on 17 May by The Energy Mix, and republished here by courtesy of them.

OTTAWA, 30 June, 2021 − A grassroots group from Ireland which has been seeking to persuade the Irish government to call for a global fracking ban at the UN General Assembly in mid-September, just six weeks before this year’s UN climate conference, COP-26, convenes in Glasgow, is making progress.

“Ireland has not yet agreed to such an initiative, so it is vitally important that the Irish government can witness that this move would have broad societal support,” wrote Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG, in an appeal early last month obtained by The Energy Mix.

But on 18 May the Irish government published the world’s first policy statement against fracked gas imports, a move which Safety Before LNG says requires the government to agree to propose a resolution at the UN calling for a global fracking ban. Organisations can sign the Global Ban on Fracking petition in English, French or Spanish.

The national government had earlier expressed “Ireland’s willingness to tackle powerful fracked gas vested interests head on, and express solidarity and empathy with communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Northern Ireland, Namibia, Botswana, Argentina, and worldwide affected by, or threatened with, the scientifically-proven harmful process of fracking,” McElligott had said.

“But we want Ireland to go even further by calling for a Global Ban on Fracking at the UN,” so that grassroot groups will no longer have to “reinvent the wheel each time the fracking companies come into new territories.”

Rapid action possible

It may be a very long shot, trying to push a notoriously process-driven, global institution to exert pressure on a global climate conference known for moving at a glacial pace − when it moves at all.

But the first step is to get a UN member state to propose a resolution, and “Ireland is uniquely well-positioned to lead the effort against fracked gas,” wrote Friends of the Earth Ireland, with a “strong legislative ban on fracking” already in place, the import ban coming up, and legislation recently introduced to pull the state investment fund out of fossil fuels.

Building on that history, “Ireland can move very quickly on this because it is possible to bring forward a UN General Assembly resolution at any time,” McElligott told The Mix. Groups lodged the request with Green-affiliated Climate Action Minister Éamon Ryan on Earth Day, 22 April, and “as Ireland has already banned fracking, then it would only be calling for the same in a UN resolution,” he added.

“If a large number of groups from all over the world sign this petition of support for a UN resolution on banning fracking, it will be a clear message to the Irish government to answer the call that it cannot ignore.”

Once a resolution reached the General Assembly, “a resolution coming from a global-south and a  global-north member state would send a clear message, and we believe that a strong global campaign will deliver at least the 50%-plus majority that we need,” he added.

“The fracking companies will try to come back if they get half a chance. We are not safe until everybody is safe”

“If groups campaigning for human rights, climate mitigation, environmental protection, and public health engage with this campaign, we have a very realistic hope of success.”

A successful General Assembly resolution ahead of COP-26 “would bring the elephant in the room − which is methane leakage from fracking − front and centre,” McElligott added.

The push for the Irish government to back the resolution “follows on from an open letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2019, signed by over 450 grassroots groups, organisations, celebrities, and scientists from around the world, which demanded that the UN champion efforts to stop fracking,” Friends of the Earth says.

“Since then, a core group of these international campaigners has been doing a lot of the background work in finding a Member State that would propose this resolution at the UN,” McElligott explained, while a group of specialists in human rights law prepared a draft resolution that could be presented at the UN in support of a global fracking ban.

Despite the focus on international institutions, Safety Before LNG’s motivations are decidedly local as well as global. “The communities that live in the Lough Allen gas basin in Ireland believe they are not safe until there is a global ban,” McElligott wrote.

Pressure on COP-26

“The company that initially tried to frack in Ireland has now applied for a fracking licence in Northern Ireland, where legislation to ban fracking has still not gotten across the line.”

Despite the national ban in 2017, “our experience fighting the fracking companies over the years has taught us that they will try to come back if they get half a chance, so we all feel under threat. We are not safe until everybody is safe.”

In Canada, Environnement Vert Plus spokesperson Pascal Bergeron said a UN resolution “could be a major game changer, and affect gas pipeline and LNG projects, among others, all across North America.” But not by prompting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a strong stand against fracking at the General Assembly.

“I expect him to say how they can make fracking better and climate-friendly, which will always remain false” when fossil gas “can only contribute to the increase of GHG levels in the atmosphere,” he said.

But “a UN resolution against fracking will put pressure on all heads of state who wish to appear to be making climate their priority. If the UN rules against fracking, Trudeau and President Joe Biden will have to tie their climate commitments to policies of rapid fossil fuel exploitation decline at COP-26.” − Climate News Network (by courtesy of  The Energy Mix)

Net Zero by 2050: What it will take to get there

Many countries say they will reach Net Zero by 2050, a huge cut in greenhouse gases by mid-century. Here’s how they can do it.

A longer version of this post originally appeared on The Energy Mix. Find the full story here.

LONDON, 21 May, 2021 − No new investment in oil, gas, or coal development, a massive increase in renewable energy adoption, speedy global phaseouts for new natural gas boilers and internal combustion vehicles, and a sharp focus on short-term action: the key elements of a blockbuster Net Zero by 2050 report released on 18 May by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The more than 400 sectoral and technological targets in the report would be big news from any source. They’re particularly significant from the IEA, an agency that has received scathing criticism in the past for overstating the future importance of fossil fuels, consistently underestimating the uptake of renewable energy, and failing to align its “gold standard” energy projections with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

For years, the agency’s projections have been used to justify hundreds of billions of dollars in high-carbon investments, allowing multinational fossil companies to sustain the fantasy that demand for their product will increase through 2040 or beyond. But not any more.

“Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required,” the IEA writes. “The unwavering policy focus on climate change in the net-zero pathway results in a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand, meaning that the focus for oil and gas producers switches entirely to output − and emissions reductions − from the operation of existing assets.”

“It’s not a model result,” analyst Dave Jones of the clean energy think tank Ember told Bloomberg Green. “It’s a call to action.”

Massive change

“Big Oil and Gas has just lost a very powerful shield!” wrote Oil Change International senior campaigner David Tong.

By 2040, the IEA sees all coal- and oil-fired power plants phased out unless their emissions are abated by some form of carbon capture. Between 2020 and 2050, oil demand falls 75%, to 24 million barrels per day, gas demand falls 55%, and remaining oil production becomes “increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers.”

OPEC nations provide 52% of a “much-reduced global oil supply” in 2050 and see their per capita income from fossil production decline 75% by the 2030s.

“This is a huge shift from the IEA and highly consequential, given its scenarios are seen as a guide to the future, steering trillions of dollars in energy investment,” Kelly Trout, interim director of Oil Change International’s energy transitions and futures programme, wrote in an email.

“Oil and gas companies, investors, and IEA member states that have been using IEA scenarios to justify their choices and also say they’re committed to 1.5°C are in a tight spot. Will they follow the IEA’s guidance and stop licensing or financing new fossil fuel extraction, or be exposed as hypocrites?”

“ . . . the IEA still creates too much room for dirty fossil fuels and biofuels to linger . . .”

“It’s incredibly important that the IEA has gathered together the case for the benefits of making this transition,” Rocky Mountain Institute managing director James Newcomb told The Energy Mix. “The key elements they point to − 4% higher GDP by 2030, millions of net jobs created, two million fewer premature deaths per year by 2030, and universal energy access − those are all amazing parts of the story. We’re starting to see the multi-dimensional benefits in achieving an energy transition, and it’s exciting that the IEA is bringing us evidence to measure it.”

The report calls for a “historic surge” in renewable energy investment, with public and private finance tripling to US$4 trillion per year by 2030. “This will create millions of new jobs, significantly lift global economic growth, and achieve universal access to electricity and clean cooking worldwide by the end of the decade,” the agency writes.

But to get those short-term emission reductions, the IEA’s net-zero pathway “requires all governments to significantly strengthen and then successfully implement their energy and climate policies,” the IEA states.

“Commitments made to date fall far short of what is required,” with more countries pledging net-zero emissions but most of those promises “not yet underpinned by near-term policies and measures. Moreover, even if successfully fulfilled, the pledges to date would still leave around 22 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions worldwide in 2050,” enough to drive a devastating  2.1°C of average global warming by 2100.

“The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal…make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

Technological roadblock

“The way we see this scenario is that it’s a very, very narrow pathway,” added IEA chief energy modeller Laura Cozzi, “but it’s still feasible.”

In what some analysts see as a serious gap in the IEA’s thinking, the scenario relies increasingly on emerging technologies as the middle of the century approaches. “Most of the reductions in CO2 emissions through 2030 come from technologies already on the market today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase,” the agency writes, in an unfortunate echo of US climate envoy John Kerry’s remarks to the BBC.

“Major innovation efforts must take place this decade in order to bring these new technologies to market in time,” the IEA writes.

“I strongly disagree with that,” replied Sven Teske, research director at Australia’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, in a statement to The Mix. “The main technologies to decarbonise the global energy system are market-ready, and are either already cost-competitive or will be within the next five to 10 years.”

The report shows global demand for critical metals like copper, cobalt, manganese and rare earth minerals growing almost seven-fold this decade, exceeding revenue from coal mining well before 2030. “This creates substantial new opportunities for mining companies,” the agency writes. “It also creates new energy security concerns, including price volatility and additional costs for transitions, if supply cannot keep up with burgeoning demand.”

Which points to serious issues for communities and organisations dealing with the often horrid environmental impacts and human rights records of extractive industries

Step by step

The report lays out the IEA’s pathway to zero in five-year chunks:

• In 2020, emissions stood at 33.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent, with building retrofit rates below 1%, solar and wind delivering nearly 10% of the world’s power generation, electric vehicles accounting for 5% of global car sales, and fossil fuels providing nearly 80% of total energy supply.
• As of 2021, no new oil and gas projects, coal mines, or unabated coal power plants are approved for development, and global sales of fossil fuel boilers end by 2025.
• By 2025, emissions fall to 30.2 billion tonnes, all new buildings in advanced economies are zero-carbon-ready, solar and wind hit 20% of global power production, and the last unabated coal plants under construction are completed.
• By 2030, emissions fall to 21.1 gigatonnes, 60% of global car sales are electric, global coal demand has fallen 50% since 2020, solar and wind are adding 1,020 gigawatts of new capacity per year, and everyone in the world has access to energy.
• By 2035, emissions are down to 12.8 Gt, global fossil fuel use is down 50% since 2020, electricity generation in advanced economies has hit net-zero emissions, internal combustion cars are no longer available, and the model calls for four billion tonnes of carbon capture.
• By 2040, emissions stand at 6.3 Gt, oil demand is down 50% since 2020, all unabated coal- and oil-fired power plants have been phased out, half of all existing buildings have been retrofitted to zero-carbon-ready levels, about 90% of today’s heavy industrial equipment has been replaced as it reached the end of its investment cycle, half of aviation fuels are low-emission, and global electrolyzer capacity has reached 2,400 GW.
• In 2045, emissions fall to 2.5 billion tonnes, new energy technologies are widespread, and low-emission industries are flourishing. Half of global heating demand is met by heat pumps, and natural gas demand has fallen 50% since 2050.
• In 2050, the IEA sees emissions falling to zero, with more than 85% of buildings zero-carbon ready, nearly 70% of global power generation coming from solar and wind, more than 90% of heavy industry deemed low-emission, and 7.6 billion tonnes of carbon capture per year.

Follow the money

Perhaps the most profound impact of the IEA’s new analysis will be its message to investors with trillions of dollars at their disposal, many of whom look to the Paris-based agency for guidance on the future shape of global energy markets. The unmistakable signal is that “we’ll have ongoing investment in production, and especially in emissions control and reducing methane leakage, but no additional investment in new supply is required,” Rocky Mountain’s Newcomb said.

That shift was already understood by some investors, he added. But “it’s incredibly important that it’s out there in black and white in this report, and it will certainly have a wide impact as it works its way through the financial community.”

“You could say the IEA is catching up to and building on our message,” wrote Oil Change International’s Kelly Trout. And yet “the IEA still creates too much room for dirty fossil fuels and biofuels to linger.”

The report “notes that a faster shift to truly clean energy sources is possible if we prioritise more investment in them. So it’s not a question of what’s possible, but of the political will to make it happen.” − Climate News Network

Many countries say they will reach Net Zero by 2050, a huge cut in greenhouse gases by mid-century. Here’s how they can do it.

A longer version of this post originally appeared on The Energy Mix. Find the full story here.

LONDON, 21 May, 2021 − No new investment in oil, gas, or coal development, a massive increase in renewable energy adoption, speedy global phaseouts for new natural gas boilers and internal combustion vehicles, and a sharp focus on short-term action: the key elements of a blockbuster Net Zero by 2050 report released on 18 May by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The more than 400 sectoral and technological targets in the report would be big news from any source. They’re particularly significant from the IEA, an agency that has received scathing criticism in the past for overstating the future importance of fossil fuels, consistently underestimating the uptake of renewable energy, and failing to align its “gold standard” energy projections with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

For years, the agency’s projections have been used to justify hundreds of billions of dollars in high-carbon investments, allowing multinational fossil companies to sustain the fantasy that demand for their product will increase through 2040 or beyond. But not any more.

“Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required,” the IEA writes. “The unwavering policy focus on climate change in the net-zero pathway results in a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand, meaning that the focus for oil and gas producers switches entirely to output − and emissions reductions − from the operation of existing assets.”

“It’s not a model result,” analyst Dave Jones of the clean energy think tank Ember told Bloomberg Green. “It’s a call to action.”

Massive change

“Big Oil and Gas has just lost a very powerful shield!” wrote Oil Change International senior campaigner David Tong.

By 2040, the IEA sees all coal- and oil-fired power plants phased out unless their emissions are abated by some form of carbon capture. Between 2020 and 2050, oil demand falls 75%, to 24 million barrels per day, gas demand falls 55%, and remaining oil production becomes “increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers.”

OPEC nations provide 52% of a “much-reduced global oil supply” in 2050 and see their per capita income from fossil production decline 75% by the 2030s.

“This is a huge shift from the IEA and highly consequential, given its scenarios are seen as a guide to the future, steering trillions of dollars in energy investment,” Kelly Trout, interim director of Oil Change International’s energy transitions and futures programme, wrote in an email.

“Oil and gas companies, investors, and IEA member states that have been using IEA scenarios to justify their choices and also say they’re committed to 1.5°C are in a tight spot. Will they follow the IEA’s guidance and stop licensing or financing new fossil fuel extraction, or be exposed as hypocrites?”

“ . . . the IEA still creates too much room for dirty fossil fuels and biofuels to linger . . .”

“It’s incredibly important that the IEA has gathered together the case for the benefits of making this transition,” Rocky Mountain Institute managing director James Newcomb told The Energy Mix. “The key elements they point to − 4% higher GDP by 2030, millions of net jobs created, two million fewer premature deaths per year by 2030, and universal energy access − those are all amazing parts of the story. We’re starting to see the multi-dimensional benefits in achieving an energy transition, and it’s exciting that the IEA is bringing us evidence to measure it.”

The report calls for a “historic surge” in renewable energy investment, with public and private finance tripling to US$4 trillion per year by 2030. “This will create millions of new jobs, significantly lift global economic growth, and achieve universal access to electricity and clean cooking worldwide by the end of the decade,” the agency writes.

But to get those short-term emission reductions, the IEA’s net-zero pathway “requires all governments to significantly strengthen and then successfully implement their energy and climate policies,” the IEA states.

“Commitments made to date fall far short of what is required,” with more countries pledging net-zero emissions but most of those promises “not yet underpinned by near-term policies and measures. Moreover, even if successfully fulfilled, the pledges to date would still leave around 22 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions worldwide in 2050,” enough to drive a devastating  2.1°C of average global warming by 2100.

“The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal…make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

Technological roadblock

“The way we see this scenario is that it’s a very, very narrow pathway,” added IEA chief energy modeller Laura Cozzi, “but it’s still feasible.”

In what some analysts see as a serious gap in the IEA’s thinking, the scenario relies increasingly on emerging technologies as the middle of the century approaches. “Most of the reductions in CO2 emissions through 2030 come from technologies already on the market today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase,” the agency writes, in an unfortunate echo of US climate envoy John Kerry’s remarks to the BBC.

“Major innovation efforts must take place this decade in order to bring these new technologies to market in time,” the IEA writes.

“I strongly disagree with that,” replied Sven Teske, research director at Australia’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, in a statement to The Mix. “The main technologies to decarbonise the global energy system are market-ready, and are either already cost-competitive or will be within the next five to 10 years.”

The report shows global demand for critical metals like copper, cobalt, manganese and rare earth minerals growing almost seven-fold this decade, exceeding revenue from coal mining well before 2030. “This creates substantial new opportunities for mining companies,” the agency writes. “It also creates new energy security concerns, including price volatility and additional costs for transitions, if supply cannot keep up with burgeoning demand.”

Which points to serious issues for communities and organisations dealing with the often horrid environmental impacts and human rights records of extractive industries

Step by step

The report lays out the IEA’s pathway to zero in five-year chunks:

• In 2020, emissions stood at 33.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent, with building retrofit rates below 1%, solar and wind delivering nearly 10% of the world’s power generation, electric vehicles accounting for 5% of global car sales, and fossil fuels providing nearly 80% of total energy supply.
• As of 2021, no new oil and gas projects, coal mines, or unabated coal power plants are approved for development, and global sales of fossil fuel boilers end by 2025.
• By 2025, emissions fall to 30.2 billion tonnes, all new buildings in advanced economies are zero-carbon-ready, solar and wind hit 20% of global power production, and the last unabated coal plants under construction are completed.
• By 2030, emissions fall to 21.1 gigatonnes, 60% of global car sales are electric, global coal demand has fallen 50% since 2020, solar and wind are adding 1,020 gigawatts of new capacity per year, and everyone in the world has access to energy.
• By 2035, emissions are down to 12.8 Gt, global fossil fuel use is down 50% since 2020, electricity generation in advanced economies has hit net-zero emissions, internal combustion cars are no longer available, and the model calls for four billion tonnes of carbon capture.
• By 2040, emissions stand at 6.3 Gt, oil demand is down 50% since 2020, all unabated coal- and oil-fired power plants have been phased out, half of all existing buildings have been retrofitted to zero-carbon-ready levels, about 90% of today’s heavy industrial equipment has been replaced as it reached the end of its investment cycle, half of aviation fuels are low-emission, and global electrolyzer capacity has reached 2,400 GW.
• In 2045, emissions fall to 2.5 billion tonnes, new energy technologies are widespread, and low-emission industries are flourishing. Half of global heating demand is met by heat pumps, and natural gas demand has fallen 50% since 2050.
• In 2050, the IEA sees emissions falling to zero, with more than 85% of buildings zero-carbon ready, nearly 70% of global power generation coming from solar and wind, more than 90% of heavy industry deemed low-emission, and 7.6 billion tonnes of carbon capture per year.

Follow the money

Perhaps the most profound impact of the IEA’s new analysis will be its message to investors with trillions of dollars at their disposal, many of whom look to the Paris-based agency for guidance on the future shape of global energy markets. The unmistakable signal is that “we’ll have ongoing investment in production, and especially in emissions control and reducing methane leakage, but no additional investment in new supply is required,” Rocky Mountain’s Newcomb said.

That shift was already understood by some investors, he added. But “it’s incredibly important that it’s out there in black and white in this report, and it will certainly have a wide impact as it works its way through the financial community.”

“You could say the IEA is catching up to and building on our message,” wrote Oil Change International’s Kelly Trout. And yet “the IEA still creates too much room for dirty fossil fuels and biofuels to linger.”

The report “notes that a faster shift to truly clean energy sources is possible if we prioritise more investment in them. So it’s not a question of what’s possible, but of the political will to make it happen.” − Climate News Network

UNESCO link ‘helps to greenwash gas exporters’

EXCLUSIVE: A leading UN agency, UNESCO, is harming action on the climate crisis by partnering with natural gas exporters, critics say.

OTTAWA, 8 February, 2021− UNESCO, a prominent United Nations agency, is undercutting global action on the climate emergency, analysts and campaigners warn, by forming a partnership with a global forum dedicated to promoting and greenwashing natural gas exports.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has repeatedly warned that humanity’s “utterly inadequate” response to the climate emergency is already producing extreme weather and dramatic consequences around the world.

“We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions,” he said during COP-25, the (ultimately “disgraceful”) 2019 UN climate conference in Madrid.

In 2018 Guterres called the 1.5°C pathways report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change an “ear-splitting wake-up call” for action.

But none of that has stopped another key member of the UN family, the Paris-based UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), from agreeing a partnership with the Doha, Qatar-based Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a 20-member organisation formed in 2008 to promote “coordination and collaboration” among the world’s leading gas-producing countries.

The GECF’s latest mid-century Global Gas Outlook sees gas increasing from 23% to between 27 and 29% of global energy demand by 2050.

That’s the same year countries are intent on hitting net-zero emissions in a bid to hold average global warming to below 1.5°C. Fossil gas is composed 70% to 90% of climate-busting methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the 20-year span in which humanity will be scrambling to get climate change under control.

The GECF outlook report foresaw natural gas as “the highest in the primary energy mix” at 27%, with fossil fuels as a whole accounting for 71% of global energy consumption in 2050. (They’re in good company.)

“When the leaders of UNESCO and gas exporters are comfortably retired, Africans will still be living with the climate legacy of the fossil fuel industry”

It projected gas production by member countries growing nearly 50% by mid-century, and production from “unconventional resources” a term for fracked gas increasing from 25 to 38% of the total, with a rising share of the demand supplied by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the gas sector soaking up US$9.7 trillion (£7tn) in investment.

“Along the way, natural gas is expected to play a vital role in decarbonisation options including natural gas-based hydrogen, also known as blue hydrogen, with carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies,” the GECF-UNESCO release stated. Late last month, Italian utility giant Enel said it would shut all its gas plants by 2050 and became the latest potential buyer to declare carbon capture technology a non-starter.

In separate releases in December 2020, the GECF touted the “environmental advantage of natural gas” and what it sees as the potential of blue hydrogen − with its reliance on CCUS − to usher in a “new era of decarbonisation”. On 9 December, its secretary general, Yury Sentyurin,  told a virtual event that blue hydrogen coupled with CCUS “will play a significant role in the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future”.

The forum’s latest expert commentary, released last week, touts “carbon-neutral or green LNG” as a pathway to energy transition.

In an email to The Energy Mix, Sentyurin said the partnership with UNESCO “is expected to harness the shared values of both entities in the realm of sustainable development, natural resources management, international cooperation in education, sciences and culture, and contributing to progress across the globe.”

He and Anna Paolini, director of UNESCO’s Doha office, both cast the partnership as an opportunity to address climate change, protect biodiversity, safeguard natural heritage, “maintain a conducive environment of scientific inquiry in the field of natural science”, and promote interdisciplinary climate knowledge.

The two organisations also agreed to work together on a “Rigs-to-Reefs approach” aimed at protecting and restoring ocean ecosystems. The term refers to an emerging response to obsolete, abandoned ocean oil platforms that involves stripping them of equipment and hydrocarbon residues, then sinking them as artificial reefs, rather than incurring the cost of full removal.

Some of the world’s leading climate analysts and campaigners are decidedly unimpressed with UNESCO’s choice of strategic partners. “It’s shocking to see the UN body responsible for the preservation of science and culture getting into bed with global fossil fuel interests like this,” Power Shift Africa director Mohamed Adow told The Energy Mix in an email. “UN bodies, especially ones with ‘science’ in their title, should be holding fossil fuel producers to account, not being a useful prop in the global greenwashing of the gas industry.”

Leapfrog fossil fuels

The United Nations “is where climate change is being tackled at the international level, through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement,” he added. “This move from a sister UN body shows ignorance and a lack of strategic thinking from people who should know better.”

Adow, named last week as a recipient of the prestigious Climate Breakthrough Award, said it was “particularly offensive” of UNESCO and the GECF to “cite Africa as the location where they are most interested in working together,” at a time when a massive LNG project led by colossal fossil Total is “destroying the natural heritage of Mozambique”, with hundreds of families evicted and thousands of people losing their fishing grounds.

“Oil and gas pipelines are being fought across the continent by local people defending their cultural heritage,” he said. “They need the support of organisations like UNESCO, not to watch them side with their persecutors.”

Sentyurin, named last year as one of the top 25 influencers in Africa’s energy sector, said the forum’s members include six African countries that hold more than 90% of the continent’s proven gas reserves. He called Africa “a very important continent to the GECF”, the “next booming region in the world”, and a “game-changer for economic development”, and highlighted the “crucial role natural gas will play in reducing energy poverty in Africa”.

Not so much, Adow said, in an email written about two weeks before Sentyurin’s.

“Gas is not the answer to the climate crisis gripping Africa,” he told The Mix. “Africa has an abundance of clean energy, including wind and solar energy. Leapfrogging fossil fuels like gas to renewables is Africa’s route to sustainable, long-term prosperity, not getting shackled to gas infrastructure which will soon be obsolete.

“When the leaders of UNESCO and gas exporters are comfortably retired, Africans will still be living with the climate legacy of the fossil fuel industry and the environmental and cultural destruction it has caused.”

UK-based climate policy consultant Alison Doig cast the partnership as a bid by the GECF to boost its own legitimacy “while promoting a strategy that is incompatible with keeping global temperature rise within safe limits.”

Survival target

By accepting the GECF’s premise that gas consumption will continue to rise, she said UNESCO “completely undermines its responsibility as guardian of our global heritage,” compromising its own central role in science education by being “tied to messages which are not aligned with a climate-safe energy transition.”

Doig said UNESCO “should rightly be creating alliances to enhance action on climate change,” at a time when “many World Heritage sites are already exposed to the impacts of climate change, with floods, storms, and drought threatening the very fabric of the buildings, monuments, and locations” at the core of the agency’s mandate.

With the UNFCCC presenting pathways to keep average global warming below 1.5°, she added, “other UN agencies including UNESCO should be part of this scientific discussion, and focus climate science education on that goal.”

Climate Action Network-International senior advisor Stephan Singer said it was “very upsetting” to see UNESCO enter a partnership deal with the majority of the world’s fossil gas producers and exporters that contains no reference to the 1.5°C target under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

That goal is a “survival target for many vulnerable developing countries,” he added, and “the full phase-out of fossil fuels and phase-in of renewables is imperative to meet the climate challenge.”

UNESCO’s Paolini said the agency “works to build the widest coalition possible to tackle climate change and achieve the global goals”. The agency “engaged with the GECF in order to bring its member states’ attention to our reports and articles on today’s environmental challenges, the issue of climate change, and its impact on all aspects of our lives, including our fixed, natural, and living heritage,” she explained.

“By sharing information, leveraging opportunities from within, we believe we can promote our agenda to an audience that we would not readily reach and initiate a debate and dialogue with industry professionals, researchers, governmental officials, and diplomats. It would be a strategic mistake not to seize this opportunity.”

Asked how UNESCO sees the future development of gas exports, given the industry’s prime role as a producer of methane, she replied: “We can shout from the sidelines or we can engage, point to the science, and attempt to change attitudes and the industry.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

EXCLUSIVE: A leading UN agency, UNESCO, is harming action on the climate crisis by partnering with natural gas exporters, critics say.

OTTAWA, 8 February, 2021− UNESCO, a prominent United Nations agency, is undercutting global action on the climate emergency, analysts and campaigners warn, by forming a partnership with a global forum dedicated to promoting and greenwashing natural gas exports.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has repeatedly warned that humanity’s “utterly inadequate” response to the climate emergency is already producing extreme weather and dramatic consequences around the world.

“We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions,” he said during COP-25, the (ultimately “disgraceful”) 2019 UN climate conference in Madrid.

In 2018 Guterres called the 1.5°C pathways report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change an “ear-splitting wake-up call” for action.

But none of that has stopped another key member of the UN family, the Paris-based UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), from agreeing a partnership with the Doha, Qatar-based Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a 20-member organisation formed in 2008 to promote “coordination and collaboration” among the world’s leading gas-producing countries.

The GECF’s latest mid-century Global Gas Outlook sees gas increasing from 23% to between 27 and 29% of global energy demand by 2050.

That’s the same year countries are intent on hitting net-zero emissions in a bid to hold average global warming to below 1.5°C. Fossil gas is composed 70% to 90% of climate-busting methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the 20-year span in which humanity will be scrambling to get climate change under control.

The GECF outlook report foresaw natural gas as “the highest in the primary energy mix” at 27%, with fossil fuels as a whole accounting for 71% of global energy consumption in 2050. (They’re in good company.)

“When the leaders of UNESCO and gas exporters are comfortably retired, Africans will still be living with the climate legacy of the fossil fuel industry”

It projected gas production by member countries growing nearly 50% by mid-century, and production from “unconventional resources” a term for fracked gas increasing from 25 to 38% of the total, with a rising share of the demand supplied by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the gas sector soaking up US$9.7 trillion (£7tn) in investment.

“Along the way, natural gas is expected to play a vital role in decarbonisation options including natural gas-based hydrogen, also known as blue hydrogen, with carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies,” the GECF-UNESCO release stated. Late last month, Italian utility giant Enel said it would shut all its gas plants by 2050 and became the latest potential buyer to declare carbon capture technology a non-starter.

In separate releases in December 2020, the GECF touted the “environmental advantage of natural gas” and what it sees as the potential of blue hydrogen − with its reliance on CCUS − to usher in a “new era of decarbonisation”. On 9 December, its secretary general, Yury Sentyurin,  told a virtual event that blue hydrogen coupled with CCUS “will play a significant role in the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future”.

The forum’s latest expert commentary, released last week, touts “carbon-neutral or green LNG” as a pathway to energy transition.

In an email to The Energy Mix, Sentyurin said the partnership with UNESCO “is expected to harness the shared values of both entities in the realm of sustainable development, natural resources management, international cooperation in education, sciences and culture, and contributing to progress across the globe.”

He and Anna Paolini, director of UNESCO’s Doha office, both cast the partnership as an opportunity to address climate change, protect biodiversity, safeguard natural heritage, “maintain a conducive environment of scientific inquiry in the field of natural science”, and promote interdisciplinary climate knowledge.

The two organisations also agreed to work together on a “Rigs-to-Reefs approach” aimed at protecting and restoring ocean ecosystems. The term refers to an emerging response to obsolete, abandoned ocean oil platforms that involves stripping them of equipment and hydrocarbon residues, then sinking them as artificial reefs, rather than incurring the cost of full removal.

Some of the world’s leading climate analysts and campaigners are decidedly unimpressed with UNESCO’s choice of strategic partners. “It’s shocking to see the UN body responsible for the preservation of science and culture getting into bed with global fossil fuel interests like this,” Power Shift Africa director Mohamed Adow told The Energy Mix in an email. “UN bodies, especially ones with ‘science’ in their title, should be holding fossil fuel producers to account, not being a useful prop in the global greenwashing of the gas industry.”

Leapfrog fossil fuels

The United Nations “is where climate change is being tackled at the international level, through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement,” he added. “This move from a sister UN body shows ignorance and a lack of strategic thinking from people who should know better.”

Adow, named last week as a recipient of the prestigious Climate Breakthrough Award, said it was “particularly offensive” of UNESCO and the GECF to “cite Africa as the location where they are most interested in working together,” at a time when a massive LNG project led by colossal fossil Total is “destroying the natural heritage of Mozambique”, with hundreds of families evicted and thousands of people losing their fishing grounds.

“Oil and gas pipelines are being fought across the continent by local people defending their cultural heritage,” he said. “They need the support of organisations like UNESCO, not to watch them side with their persecutors.”

Sentyurin, named last year as one of the top 25 influencers in Africa’s energy sector, said the forum’s members include six African countries that hold more than 90% of the continent’s proven gas reserves. He called Africa “a very important continent to the GECF”, the “next booming region in the world”, and a “game-changer for economic development”, and highlighted the “crucial role natural gas will play in reducing energy poverty in Africa”.

Not so much, Adow said, in an email written about two weeks before Sentyurin’s.

“Gas is not the answer to the climate crisis gripping Africa,” he told The Mix. “Africa has an abundance of clean energy, including wind and solar energy. Leapfrogging fossil fuels like gas to renewables is Africa’s route to sustainable, long-term prosperity, not getting shackled to gas infrastructure which will soon be obsolete.

“When the leaders of UNESCO and gas exporters are comfortably retired, Africans will still be living with the climate legacy of the fossil fuel industry and the environmental and cultural destruction it has caused.”

UK-based climate policy consultant Alison Doig cast the partnership as a bid by the GECF to boost its own legitimacy “while promoting a strategy that is incompatible with keeping global temperature rise within safe limits.”

Survival target

By accepting the GECF’s premise that gas consumption will continue to rise, she said UNESCO “completely undermines its responsibility as guardian of our global heritage,” compromising its own central role in science education by being “tied to messages which are not aligned with a climate-safe energy transition.”

Doig said UNESCO “should rightly be creating alliances to enhance action on climate change,” at a time when “many World Heritage sites are already exposed to the impacts of climate change, with floods, storms, and drought threatening the very fabric of the buildings, monuments, and locations” at the core of the agency’s mandate.

With the UNFCCC presenting pathways to keep average global warming below 1.5°, she added, “other UN agencies including UNESCO should be part of this scientific discussion, and focus climate science education on that goal.”

Climate Action Network-International senior advisor Stephan Singer said it was “very upsetting” to see UNESCO enter a partnership deal with the majority of the world’s fossil gas producers and exporters that contains no reference to the 1.5°C target under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

That goal is a “survival target for many vulnerable developing countries,” he added, and “the full phase-out of fossil fuels and phase-in of renewables is imperative to meet the climate challenge.”

UNESCO’s Paolini said the agency “works to build the widest coalition possible to tackle climate change and achieve the global goals”. The agency “engaged with the GECF in order to bring its member states’ attention to our reports and articles on today’s environmental challenges, the issue of climate change, and its impact on all aspects of our lives, including our fixed, natural, and living heritage,” she explained.

“By sharing information, leveraging opportunities from within, we believe we can promote our agenda to an audience that we would not readily reach and initiate a debate and dialogue with industry professionals, researchers, governmental officials, and diplomats. It would be a strategic mistake not to seize this opportunity.”

Asked how UNESCO sees the future development of gas exports, given the industry’s prime role as a producer of methane, she replied: “We can shout from the sidelines or we can engage, point to the science, and attempt to change attitudes and the industry.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

Shell’s green plan underwhelms critics

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Shareholder intervention has helped to produce Shell’s green plan, a way to cut the energy giant’s climate impact. But questions remain.

LONDON, 7 December, 2017 – A leading producer of fossil fuels, which last month  announced its intention to reduce its contribution to the global warming stoked by society’s prodigal consumption of its products, may now be feeling a little crestfallen. Shell’s green plan leaves some critics saying the group’s figures don’t add up very impressively.

Royal Dutch Shell pledged last month to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2035 and 50% by 2050, while investing US$1-2 billion per year in renewables, and electric vehicles between 2018 and 2020. 

The group said its announcement was a response to shareholder pressure and the targets in the Paris Agreement on cutting emissions. 

“Tackling climate change is a cross-generational, global, and multi-faceted effort,” said CEO Ben van Beurden. “This is a challenge for the whole planet, for all of society, for customers, for governments, and indeed for businesses.

“It will mean meeting increasing energy demand with an ever-lower carbon footprint. And it is critical that our ambition covers the full energy life cycle, from production to consumption. We are committed to play our part.’’

“Thousands of internal company documents and witness statements…pointed to the Anglo-Dutch organisation’s alleged involvement in the brutal campaign to silence protesters”

The announcement earned measured praise from environmental groups, and van Beurden said the commitment was just a first step. But the cash infusion to Shell’s new energies division was still well below 10% of the company’s total annual investment, and the phrasing of the GHG promise suggested an intensity-based target – which would mean the 20 and 50% reductions will be calculated on fossil production levels that Shell will expect to increase year after year.

“Shell will continue to target opportunities in new fuels and power, two businesses adjacent to its downstream and gas businesses that play to Shell’s existing strengths in brand and value chain integration,” industry publication JWN Energy noted.  

“Integrated gas, conventional oil and gas, and oil products are currently cash engines; deep water and chemicals are growth priorities; shales and new energies are emerging opportunities.

“Illustrating the dynamic nature of the company’s portfolio, the intention is for deep water to have become a cash engine by 2020, and shales to have become a growth priority by 2020.

What commitment?

This might explain van Beurden’s carefully-worded commitment to “bring down the net footprint of our energy products (expressed in grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule consumed) by around half by 2050”, in a letter to Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change Convention.

“As an interim goal, we aim to reduce it by around 20% by 2035 – an ambition that we believe is compatible with a 2°C roadmap.”

That language either implied something bad or something worse about the actual, tangible carbon reductions Shell is setting out to achieve. “CO2 equivalent per megajoule” means emissions still grow in step with the company’s production volume, so that the percent commitment is applied to a higher initial output.

“This ambition includes emissions direct from Shell operations, emissions caused by third parties who supply energy for that production, and emissions caused by the use of our products by consumers, as well as activities that reduce or offset C02 emissions,” van Beurden continued.

Product impact

But if “CO2 equivalent per megajoule consumed” means Shell’s ambition is limited to its production emissions – the energy it consumes to produce fossil fuels – it means it’s still ducking responsibility for the climate-busting impact of the product itself.

That would be like a tobacco company using only the best air filters to keep its workplace safe, the better to manufacture products that lead to a horrible, lingering death when used as directed.

While “it would be unwise to commit to an exact mix of measures to get to our ambition” at such an early stage in the transition, he said key elements of Shell’s plan would include biofuels and hydrogen, growth in electric vehicle charging points, development of natural gas markets for power and transport, renewable power from solar and wind, and carbon capture and storage.

The target received a thumbs-up from Dutch activist shareholder group Follow This. “We applaud Shell’s ambitious decision to take leadership in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2.0°C,” said founder Mark van Baal.

Dan Becker, director of the Washington-based Safe Climate Campaign, said the promise puts Shell “ahead of their competitors in recognising that the days of oil dependence are numbered”, although “we’ll have to make progress a lot more quickly than they are projecting in order to protect the climate.”

Timing riddle

Earlier this year, Shell earned headlines with a proposal to tie 10% of executive bonuses to greenhouse gas reductions. “This is a good move by the company but we would like to see more,” Bruce Duguid, stewardship director at Hermes Investment Management, said at the time. 

Some critics also pointed to a strange coincidence of timing that had Shell releasing its new carbon targets on the day that Amnesty International called for a criminal investigation of the company’s alleged complicity in human rights abuses by the Nigerian military in the 1990s.

Amnesty’s review of “thousands of internal company documents and witness statements…pointed to the Anglo-Dutch organisation’s alleged involvement in the brutal campaign to silence protesters in the oil-producing Ogoniland region,” the Guardian reported

“Amnesty is urging the UK, Nigeria, and the Netherlands to consider a criminal case against Shell in light of evidence it claims amounts to ‘complicity in murder, rape, and torture’ – allegations Shell strongly denies.” – Climate News Network

 

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

Shareholder intervention has helped to produce Shell’s green plan, a way to cut the energy giant’s climate impact. But questions remain.

LONDON, 7 December, 2017 – A leading producer of fossil fuels, which last month  announced its intention to reduce its contribution to the global warming stoked by society’s prodigal consumption of its products, may now be feeling a little crestfallen. Shell’s green plan leaves some critics saying the group’s figures don’t add up very impressively.

Royal Dutch Shell pledged last month to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2035 and 50% by 2050, while investing US$1-2 billion per year in renewables, and electric vehicles between 2018 and 2020. 

The group said its announcement was a response to shareholder pressure and the targets in the Paris Agreement on cutting emissions. 

“Tackling climate change is a cross-generational, global, and multi-faceted effort,” said CEO Ben van Beurden. “This is a challenge for the whole planet, for all of society, for customers, for governments, and indeed for businesses.

“It will mean meeting increasing energy demand with an ever-lower carbon footprint. And it is critical that our ambition covers the full energy life cycle, from production to consumption. We are committed to play our part.’’

“Thousands of internal company documents and witness statements…pointed to the Anglo-Dutch organisation’s alleged involvement in the brutal campaign to silence protesters”

The announcement earned measured praise from environmental groups, and van Beurden said the commitment was just a first step. But the cash infusion to Shell’s new energies division was still well below 10% of the company’s total annual investment, and the phrasing of the GHG promise suggested an intensity-based target – which would mean the 20 and 50% reductions will be calculated on fossil production levels that Shell will expect to increase year after year.

“Shell will continue to target opportunities in new fuels and power, two businesses adjacent to its downstream and gas businesses that play to Shell’s existing strengths in brand and value chain integration,” industry publication JWN Energy noted.  

“Integrated gas, conventional oil and gas, and oil products are currently cash engines; deep water and chemicals are growth priorities; shales and new energies are emerging opportunities.

“Illustrating the dynamic nature of the company’s portfolio, the intention is for deep water to have become a cash engine by 2020, and shales to have become a growth priority by 2020.

What commitment?

This might explain van Beurden’s carefully-worded commitment to “bring down the net footprint of our energy products (expressed in grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule consumed) by around half by 2050”, in a letter to Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change Convention.

“As an interim goal, we aim to reduce it by around 20% by 2035 – an ambition that we believe is compatible with a 2°C roadmap.”

That language either implied something bad or something worse about the actual, tangible carbon reductions Shell is setting out to achieve. “CO2 equivalent per megajoule” means emissions still grow in step with the company’s production volume, so that the percent commitment is applied to a higher initial output.

“This ambition includes emissions direct from Shell operations, emissions caused by third parties who supply energy for that production, and emissions caused by the use of our products by consumers, as well as activities that reduce or offset C02 emissions,” van Beurden continued.

Product impact

But if “CO2 equivalent per megajoule consumed” means Shell’s ambition is limited to its production emissions – the energy it consumes to produce fossil fuels – it means it’s still ducking responsibility for the climate-busting impact of the product itself.

That would be like a tobacco company using only the best air filters to keep its workplace safe, the better to manufacture products that lead to a horrible, lingering death when used as directed.

While “it would be unwise to commit to an exact mix of measures to get to our ambition” at such an early stage in the transition, he said key elements of Shell’s plan would include biofuels and hydrogen, growth in electric vehicle charging points, development of natural gas markets for power and transport, renewable power from solar and wind, and carbon capture and storage.

The target received a thumbs-up from Dutch activist shareholder group Follow This. “We applaud Shell’s ambitious decision to take leadership in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2.0°C,” said founder Mark van Baal.

Dan Becker, director of the Washington-based Safe Climate Campaign, said the promise puts Shell “ahead of their competitors in recognising that the days of oil dependence are numbered”, although “we’ll have to make progress a lot more quickly than they are projecting in order to protect the climate.”

Timing riddle

Earlier this year, Shell earned headlines with a proposal to tie 10% of executive bonuses to greenhouse gas reductions. “This is a good move by the company but we would like to see more,” Bruce Duguid, stewardship director at Hermes Investment Management, said at the time. 

Some critics also pointed to a strange coincidence of timing that had Shell releasing its new carbon targets on the day that Amnesty International called for a criminal investigation of the company’s alleged complicity in human rights abuses by the Nigerian military in the 1990s.

Amnesty’s review of “thousands of internal company documents and witness statements…pointed to the Anglo-Dutch organisation’s alleged involvement in the brutal campaign to silence protesters in the oil-producing Ogoniland region,” the Guardian reported

“Amnesty is urging the UK, Nigeria, and the Netherlands to consider a criminal case against Shell in light of evidence it claims amounts to ‘complicity in murder, rape, and torture’ – allegations Shell strongly denies.” – Climate News Network

 

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

The devil’s in the COP 23 detail

For a probably final look at the UN climate conference in Bonn, a Canadian writer explains what the COP 23 detail means.

OTTAWA, 21 November, 2017 – A key takeaway from this year’s United Nations climate change conference (COP 23) is that, when it comes to putting a practical foundation under the high-minded pronouncements in the Paris Agreement, the COP 23 detail matters more than the headlines.

That means the Paris process has entered a potentially perilous moment when the urgency of the climate crisis is mounting by the day, public expectations are (quite rightly) high, the commitment to action extends far beyond national governments – yet negotiators have to focus on nuts-and-bolts issues that are numbingly technical for the large majority of us, but will still determine the success or failure of a crucially important global deal.

It means negotiators get to celebrate incremental but hard-fought victories that push the Paris “rulebook” closer to completion, while setting the stage for more obviously significant dialogue at next year’s conference in Katowice, Poland.

And it means the discussions that most immediately match up with the world-wide momentum for climate solutions take place at the margins of the main event, in the hundreds of side meetings that coincide with the official proceedings.

Different kind of deal

A key feature of the Paris agreement is its call for commitments to action from all countries, with financing from developed countries to help the poorest and most vulnerable implement their plans, and monitoring to make sure everyone keeps their promises. The agreement is built on country-by-country statements of voluntary action, rather than the kind of top-down target-setting that characterised the Kyoto Protocol

All of this helps explain the importance of a concept as esoteric as transparency to the effort to deal with a problem as brutally physical and immediate as climate change.

Countries can’t afford to deeply trust each other in a process in which everyone is expected to negotiate for their own perceived national interest, rather than the common good.

And the basic narrative of the climate crisis – a small number of countries benefitting from the industrial revolution, the large majority paying for it by suffering, grievously  – is not the kind of history that encourages anyone to take anything at face value.

So we end up in a formal setting where national representatives can, without the slightest whiff of self-parody, spend hours hashing out the bloodless official language of a COP decision, where the difference between a “should” and a “shall” could direct billions of dollars and change many millions of lives.

For most of us, the first (and next) inclination would be to mock the process. Yet the COP is essential for the survival of humanity on Earth, the best the nations of the world have been able to come up with, where even slow, limited victories hold out the prospect of profound, transformative change for people and communities.

Homebound empty-handed

I had a bad 18 hours or so, was too angry to sleep one night, when it became clear that Fiji’s COP, the first ever to be chaired by a Pacific island state, would send the world’s most vulnerable nations home empty-handed on the life-and-death issue of loss and damage.  

Then a colleague on the Canadian civil society delegation pointed out that it doesn’t much serve climate justice, only shifts the locus of climate injustice, if developed countries accept financial responsibility for loss and damage – then see their historic wrongs paid for by a farmer in rural Britain or a first- or second-generation immigrant family in Calgary who pay their taxes, rather than a multinational fossil that doesn’t.

That means we might need a different “modality” (in COP-speak) to address the issue. Some of that conversation has been going on for at least the last two years

On the edges

As always, the most interesting, most obviously transformative discussions took place on the margins of the official process.

Even with decisions on loss and damage deferred, COP 23 was a moment when Pacific islands and other small island states put the brutal, front-line impacts of climate change at the centre of the discussion.

The conference took steps to make indigenous voices and experience more prominent in COP deliberations, and agreed a plan that brings a gender lens to climate decisions.

The push for a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities emerged as a central theme for the COP, and for year-round action. It will almost certainly become more prominent in the lead-up to COP 24, which will convene in the heart of Polish coal country.

Informal sessions looked at strategies for speeding the decline of the global coal industry, and for scaling back oil and gas supply rather than waiting for markets to solve the climate crisis by cutting into demand.

And the conference cemented the absolute isolation of the Trump White House in its efforts to promote the US coal industry and undercut the Paris Agreement.

As COP 23 unfolded, more and more participants began distinguishing between the White House delegation that held the country’s official credentials and the real US delegation.

A coalition of states, cities, businesses, and non-profits ran their own pavilion outside the main conference hall, organised a stream of high-profile side events, networked incessantly, and delivered the message that #wearestillin – that mainstream America is still determined to honour its commitments under the Paris Agreement, even if the man currently occupying the White House is not. – Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

For a probably final look at the UN climate conference in Bonn, a Canadian writer explains what the COP 23 detail means.

OTTAWA, 21 November, 2017 – A key takeaway from this year’s United Nations climate change conference (COP 23) is that, when it comes to putting a practical foundation under the high-minded pronouncements in the Paris Agreement, the COP 23 detail matters more than the headlines.

That means the Paris process has entered a potentially perilous moment when the urgency of the climate crisis is mounting by the day, public expectations are (quite rightly) high, the commitment to action extends far beyond national governments – yet negotiators have to focus on nuts-and-bolts issues that are numbingly technical for the large majority of us, but will still determine the success or failure of a crucially important global deal.

It means negotiators get to celebrate incremental but hard-fought victories that push the Paris “rulebook” closer to completion, while setting the stage for more obviously significant dialogue at next year’s conference in Katowice, Poland.

And it means the discussions that most immediately match up with the world-wide momentum for climate solutions take place at the margins of the main event, in the hundreds of side meetings that coincide with the official proceedings.

Different kind of deal

A key feature of the Paris agreement is its call for commitments to action from all countries, with financing from developed countries to help the poorest and most vulnerable implement their plans, and monitoring to make sure everyone keeps their promises. The agreement is built on country-by-country statements of voluntary action, rather than the kind of top-down target-setting that characterised the Kyoto Protocol

All of this helps explain the importance of a concept as esoteric as transparency to the effort to deal with a problem as brutally physical and immediate as climate change.

Countries can’t afford to deeply trust each other in a process in which everyone is expected to negotiate for their own perceived national interest, rather than the common good.

And the basic narrative of the climate crisis – a small number of countries benefitting from the industrial revolution, the large majority paying for it by suffering, grievously  – is not the kind of history that encourages anyone to take anything at face value.

So we end up in a formal setting where national representatives can, without the slightest whiff of self-parody, spend hours hashing out the bloodless official language of a COP decision, where the difference between a “should” and a “shall” could direct billions of dollars and change many millions of lives.

For most of us, the first (and next) inclination would be to mock the process. Yet the COP is essential for the survival of humanity on Earth, the best the nations of the world have been able to come up with, where even slow, limited victories hold out the prospect of profound, transformative change for people and communities.

Homebound empty-handed

I had a bad 18 hours or so, was too angry to sleep one night, when it became clear that Fiji’s COP, the first ever to be chaired by a Pacific island state, would send the world’s most vulnerable nations home empty-handed on the life-and-death issue of loss and damage.  

Then a colleague on the Canadian civil society delegation pointed out that it doesn’t much serve climate justice, only shifts the locus of climate injustice, if developed countries accept financial responsibility for loss and damage – then see their historic wrongs paid for by a farmer in rural Britain or a first- or second-generation immigrant family in Calgary who pay their taxes, rather than a multinational fossil that doesn’t.

That means we might need a different “modality” (in COP-speak) to address the issue. Some of that conversation has been going on for at least the last two years

On the edges

As always, the most interesting, most obviously transformative discussions took place on the margins of the official process.

Even with decisions on loss and damage deferred, COP 23 was a moment when Pacific islands and other small island states put the brutal, front-line impacts of climate change at the centre of the discussion.

The conference took steps to make indigenous voices and experience more prominent in COP deliberations, and agreed a plan that brings a gender lens to climate decisions.

The push for a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities emerged as a central theme for the COP, and for year-round action. It will almost certainly become more prominent in the lead-up to COP 24, which will convene in the heart of Polish coal country.

Informal sessions looked at strategies for speeding the decline of the global coal industry, and for scaling back oil and gas supply rather than waiting for markets to solve the climate crisis by cutting into demand.

And the conference cemented the absolute isolation of the Trump White House in its efforts to promote the US coal industry and undercut the Paris Agreement.

As COP 23 unfolded, more and more participants began distinguishing between the White House delegation that held the country’s official credentials and the real US delegation.

A coalition of states, cities, businesses, and non-profits ran their own pavilion outside the main conference hall, organised a stream of high-profile side events, networked incessantly, and delivered the message that #wearestillin – that mainstream America is still determined to honour its commitments under the Paris Agreement, even if the man currently occupying the White House is not. – Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

Canada & UK launch coal phaseout plan

At the UN climate summit a group of countries has undertaken to end the use and the financing of coal.

BONN, 17 November, 2017 – Canada and the UK have launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a collection of 20 countries, six provinces or states, and one city committed to phasing out coal, shifting to cost-competitive renewable energy alternatives, and embracing the health and economic benefits that will result.

The Alliance opened with 25 signatories. By the end of the 75-minute launch event on the second-last day of COP23 here in Bonn, El Salvador and Oregon had both signed on.

By joining the alliance, governments commit to “phasing out traditional coal power and placing a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage,” the formal declaration states, while business and non-government partners agree to power their operations without coal.

Climate Action Network-Canada (CAN-Rac) executive director Catherine Abreu said: “Canada and the UK are right to kick-start the Alliance, as science tells us that OECD countries need to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest.” She said it was important for members also to encourage a shift of international financing away from coal.

“Health professionals worldwide are beginning to treat climate change by prescribing an end to coal”

Now, a big push is on to sign up more countries, sub-national governments, cities, and businesses that have committed to low-carbon or 100% renewable targets, said Canadian environment and climate minister Catherine McKenna, who co-chaired the launch along with UK business, energy and industrial strategy minister Claire Perry and Bloomberg New Energy Finance chair Michael Liebreich.

“The path to the transition away from coal looks different for all of us, but we’re all here for the same reasons,” McKenna said. Coal is “the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon pollution” and is “literally choking our cities and our people,” causing nearly a million deaths per year and billions of dollars in economic costs.

“So go, find a friend, get them to join the coolest club in town,” she told participants.

In its analysis of the announcement, CAN-Rac traces the origins of the alliance back to “years of grassroots advocacy by environmental and health groups” in Canada, which encouraged the federal commitment to phase out coal by 2030.

Big savings

Ontario’s environment minister, Chris Ballard, said his province has saved $4.4 billion per year in avoided health, environmental, and social costs since it burned its last lump of coal in 2014, a phaseout that still ranks as one of North America’s biggest carbon reduction efforts.

“In 2005, there were 53 smog advisories issued in Ontario,” he said. “In 2016, two years after our last plant was closed, there were none. Zero. Our children can now play outside without risk of damage to their lungs, their health.”

Fiji minister for climate change Aiyaz Khaiyum stressed the symbolic importance of his country joining the alliance. Like many Pacific island nations, “we don’t use coal, we’ve never used coal, we don’t intend to use coal,” he said. But the alliance is still an important step to speed up reductions in countries’ carbon footprints.

While several of the government ministers present, including the UK’s Perry, made a point of stressing their commitment to carbon capture and storage technologies [good luck with that!], at least one country was prepared to extend its ban to another unsustainable energy technology.

Inuit gains

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents more than 60,000 indigenous people, said a coal phaseout would have “very positive impacts” for Canadian Inuit who had been “affected by global emissions since the beginning of the industrial period.”

With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the global average, “we are already seeing massive impacts from climate change,” he said. “The world as we know it is just slipping away, melting away, before our eyes.”

With its potential to curtail pollution ranging from black carbon to mercury contamination, he said the Alliance held out “more hope for us as a people to be able to maintain our lifestyle, culture, and identity in a way that we have for millennia.”

Courtney Howard, president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, recalled a 2009 study in The Lancet that cited climate change as the century’s biggest global health threat.

Biggest opportunity

“I had been taught to treat heart attacks and strokes, and I wasn’t sure how an emergency physician was supposed to treat climate change,” she said. But six years later, in 2015, The Lancet also identified the response to climate change as the century’s biggest public health opportunity—and a coal phaseout as one of the main measures to achieve it.

“The coal phaseout is about less trauma, less displacement, fewer deaths from heat exhaustion, fewer burns from wildfires, fewer clouds of smoke and breathing problems, fewer malnourished children, less conflict and migration, fewer kids with asthma puffers, fewer ER visits and costly hospital admissions,” she said.

“So health professionals worldwide are beginning to treat climate change by prescribing an end to coal.”

“As an emergency doc, I know what it’s like to move too slowly and have a patient die,” Howard added. “I also know what it’s like to act quickly enough to pull someone back from the spiral, into a place where they can thrive. I’m acting from the assumption that climates are the same as people.” Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

At the UN climate summit a group of countries has undertaken to end the use and the financing of coal.

BONN, 17 November, 2017 – Canada and the UK have launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a collection of 20 countries, six provinces or states, and one city committed to phasing out coal, shifting to cost-competitive renewable energy alternatives, and embracing the health and economic benefits that will result.

The Alliance opened with 25 signatories. By the end of the 75-minute launch event on the second-last day of COP23 here in Bonn, El Salvador and Oregon had both signed on.

By joining the alliance, governments commit to “phasing out traditional coal power and placing a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage,” the formal declaration states, while business and non-government partners agree to power their operations without coal.

Climate Action Network-Canada (CAN-Rac) executive director Catherine Abreu said: “Canada and the UK are right to kick-start the Alliance, as science tells us that OECD countries need to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest.” She said it was important for members also to encourage a shift of international financing away from coal.

“Health professionals worldwide are beginning to treat climate change by prescribing an end to coal”

Now, a big push is on to sign up more countries, sub-national governments, cities, and businesses that have committed to low-carbon or 100% renewable targets, said Canadian environment and climate minister Catherine McKenna, who co-chaired the launch along with UK business, energy and industrial strategy minister Claire Perry and Bloomberg New Energy Finance chair Michael Liebreich.

“The path to the transition away from coal looks different for all of us, but we’re all here for the same reasons,” McKenna said. Coal is “the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon pollution” and is “literally choking our cities and our people,” causing nearly a million deaths per year and billions of dollars in economic costs.

“So go, find a friend, get them to join the coolest club in town,” she told participants.

In its analysis of the announcement, CAN-Rac traces the origins of the alliance back to “years of grassroots advocacy by environmental and health groups” in Canada, which encouraged the federal commitment to phase out coal by 2030.

Big savings

Ontario’s environment minister, Chris Ballard, said his province has saved $4.4 billion per year in avoided health, environmental, and social costs since it burned its last lump of coal in 2014, a phaseout that still ranks as one of North America’s biggest carbon reduction efforts.

“In 2005, there were 53 smog advisories issued in Ontario,” he said. “In 2016, two years after our last plant was closed, there were none. Zero. Our children can now play outside without risk of damage to their lungs, their health.”

Fiji minister for climate change Aiyaz Khaiyum stressed the symbolic importance of his country joining the alliance. Like many Pacific island nations, “we don’t use coal, we’ve never used coal, we don’t intend to use coal,” he said. But the alliance is still an important step to speed up reductions in countries’ carbon footprints.

While several of the government ministers present, including the UK’s Perry, made a point of stressing their commitment to carbon capture and storage technologies [good luck with that!], at least one country was prepared to extend its ban to another unsustainable energy technology.

Inuit gains

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents more than 60,000 indigenous people, said a coal phaseout would have “very positive impacts” for Canadian Inuit who had been “affected by global emissions since the beginning of the industrial period.”

With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the global average, “we are already seeing massive impacts from climate change,” he said. “The world as we know it is just slipping away, melting away, before our eyes.”

With its potential to curtail pollution ranging from black carbon to mercury contamination, he said the Alliance held out “more hope for us as a people to be able to maintain our lifestyle, culture, and identity in a way that we have for millennia.”

Courtney Howard, president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, recalled a 2009 study in The Lancet that cited climate change as the century’s biggest global health threat.

Biggest opportunity

“I had been taught to treat heart attacks and strokes, and I wasn’t sure how an emergency physician was supposed to treat climate change,” she said. But six years later, in 2015, The Lancet also identified the response to climate change as the century’s biggest public health opportunity—and a coal phaseout as one of the main measures to achieve it.

“The coal phaseout is about less trauma, less displacement, fewer deaths from heat exhaustion, fewer burns from wildfires, fewer clouds of smoke and breathing problems, fewer malnourished children, less conflict and migration, fewer kids with asthma puffers, fewer ER visits and costly hospital admissions,” she said.

“So health professionals worldwide are beginning to treat climate change by prescribing an end to coal.”

“As an emergency doc, I know what it’s like to move too slowly and have a patient die,” Howard added. “I also know what it’s like to act quickly enough to pull someone back from the spiral, into a place where they can thrive. I’m acting from the assumption that climates are the same as people.” Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

People pressure enlivens UN climate talks

The august corridors of the UN climate talks in Bonn are resounding to the insistent voices of non-government activists.

BONN, 10 November, 2017 – A largely untold story from the first week of this year’s global climate talks – the United Nations climate summit (COP 23) –  has been the reality of steady, fairly productive technical work going on behind the scenes, while some observers search in vain for a big, controversial story angle that will catch the attention of audiences around the world.

Thursday saw the opening of a US Climate Action Center where states, cities, a handful of US senators, businesses, colleges and universities, and non-profits are delivering the message that #wearestillin– that the country is still committed to global climate action, even if the current occupant of the White House is not.

“The world is not standing still waiting for [Donald Trump] to come to his senses on responding to the threats posed by climate change,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told a news conference.

“Fortunately, they don’t have to. Local and state leaders, businesses, union members, environmentalists, and others in the US are working together to address climate change in smart ways that will create and sustain good jobs in their communities.”

“The delegation represents a country whose people are deeply committed to climate action”

ECO, the daily newsletter produced onsite by Climate Action Network-International (CAN-I), welcomed the coalition as a new delegation to this year’s COP.

“The delegation represents a country whose people are deeply committed to climate action. A country with universities, businesses, cities, and states that are pushing forward with plans to achieve bold climate targets like 100% renewable energy. A country that believes in science, respect, and the importance of the global community,” the newsletter stated. “Meet the US People’s Delegation.”

At the moment, CAN-I says developed countries are blocking progress on pre-2020 action. “This year’s extreme weather events, which devastated communities across the world, show the urgent need for action now – we can’t only have talk until 2020,” it says. “This means developed countries need to also fulfil their previous commitments, including those on finance, which help poorer countries take action.”

Many of the key negotiating blocs onsite – including many of those representing developing countries – also point out that the first COP ever chaired by a Pacific island country (Fiji is chairing COP 23) can’t conclude without decisive progress on loss and damage.

Widespread impacts

Despite a cascade of front-line climate impacts, from the Caribbean, Fiji itself, and East Africa, to give only three examples, developing and vulnerable countries have been waiting four years for action on the Warsaw International Mechanism

A push is on to make loss and damage a permanent topic for the UN working groups responsible for implementing and overseeing global climate action, and to build the topic into the various planning processes stemming from the Paris Agreement.

But it’s also “time to move beyond the mere building of knowledge and collaboration, and towards mobilising much needed finance and action on the ground to address loss and damage,” ECO says.  

There are calls for a two-year process to generate billions of dollars per year, through “innovative and fair sources” like a fossil fuel levy, to deliver the funding countries need.

Paying for damage

One of those creative options was brought forward by a group of organisations and advocates convened by Stamp Out Poverty. The UK-based group introduced the concept of a Climate Damages Tax, described as “an equitable fossil fuel extraction charge” on fossil producers “to pay for the damage and costs caused by climate change when these products are burnt.”

But if there’s one reliable constant at UN climate negotiations, it’s the presence of fossil lobbyists doing what they can to slow the process down. Last week, in the lead-up to Bonn, The Guardian was out with an analysis of fossil influence over key aspects of the COP process.

“Global negotiations seeking to implement the Paris agreement have been captured by corporate interests and are being undermined by powerful forces that benefit from exacerbating climate change,” the paper stated, citing a report co-authored by Boston-based Corporate Accountability

“The report argues that as a result of this corporate influence, outcomes of negotiations so far have been skewed to favour the interests of the world’s biggest corporate polluters over those of the majority of the world’s population that live in the developing world,” in areas as varied as finance, agriculture, and technology. – Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

The august corridors of the UN climate talks in Bonn are resounding to the insistent voices of non-government activists.

BONN, 10 November, 2017 – A largely untold story from the first week of this year’s global climate talks – the United Nations climate summit (COP 23) –  has been the reality of steady, fairly productive technical work going on behind the scenes, while some observers search in vain for a big, controversial story angle that will catch the attention of audiences around the world.

Thursday saw the opening of a US Climate Action Center where states, cities, a handful of US senators, businesses, colleges and universities, and non-profits are delivering the message that #wearestillin– that the country is still committed to global climate action, even if the current occupant of the White House is not.

“The world is not standing still waiting for [Donald Trump] to come to his senses on responding to the threats posed by climate change,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told a news conference.

“Fortunately, they don’t have to. Local and state leaders, businesses, union members, environmentalists, and others in the US are working together to address climate change in smart ways that will create and sustain good jobs in their communities.”

“The delegation represents a country whose people are deeply committed to climate action”

ECO, the daily newsletter produced onsite by Climate Action Network-International (CAN-I), welcomed the coalition as a new delegation to this year’s COP.

“The delegation represents a country whose people are deeply committed to climate action. A country with universities, businesses, cities, and states that are pushing forward with plans to achieve bold climate targets like 100% renewable energy. A country that believes in science, respect, and the importance of the global community,” the newsletter stated. “Meet the US People’s Delegation.”

At the moment, CAN-I says developed countries are blocking progress on pre-2020 action. “This year’s extreme weather events, which devastated communities across the world, show the urgent need for action now – we can’t only have talk until 2020,” it says. “This means developed countries need to also fulfil their previous commitments, including those on finance, which help poorer countries take action.”

Many of the key negotiating blocs onsite – including many of those representing developing countries – also point out that the first COP ever chaired by a Pacific island country (Fiji is chairing COP 23) can’t conclude without decisive progress on loss and damage.

Widespread impacts

Despite a cascade of front-line climate impacts, from the Caribbean, Fiji itself, and East Africa, to give only three examples, developing and vulnerable countries have been waiting four years for action on the Warsaw International Mechanism

A push is on to make loss and damage a permanent topic for the UN working groups responsible for implementing and overseeing global climate action, and to build the topic into the various planning processes stemming from the Paris Agreement.

But it’s also “time to move beyond the mere building of knowledge and collaboration, and towards mobilising much needed finance and action on the ground to address loss and damage,” ECO says.  

There are calls for a two-year process to generate billions of dollars per year, through “innovative and fair sources” like a fossil fuel levy, to deliver the funding countries need.

Paying for damage

One of those creative options was brought forward by a group of organisations and advocates convened by Stamp Out Poverty. The UK-based group introduced the concept of a Climate Damages Tax, described as “an equitable fossil fuel extraction charge” on fossil producers “to pay for the damage and costs caused by climate change when these products are burnt.”

But if there’s one reliable constant at UN climate negotiations, it’s the presence of fossil lobbyists doing what they can to slow the process down. Last week, in the lead-up to Bonn, The Guardian was out with an analysis of fossil influence over key aspects of the COP process.

“Global negotiations seeking to implement the Paris agreement have been captured by corporate interests and are being undermined by powerful forces that benefit from exacerbating climate change,” the paper stated, citing a report co-authored by Boston-based Corporate Accountability

“The report argues that as a result of this corporate influence, outcomes of negotiations so far have been skewed to favour the interests of the world’s biggest corporate polluters over those of the majority of the world’s population that live in the developing world,” in areas as varied as finance, agriculture, and technology. – Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

Less business-as-usual at UN climate talks

Businesslike, yes – but this year’s climate summit in Bonn is not quite so focussed on business-as-usual as these occasions usually are.

BONN, 9 November, 2017 – Business-as-usual it certainly isnt. What was supposed to be a quiet, technical UN climate change conference here (COP 23) has got under way with a surprising amount of momentum and a few bits of controversy, with negotiators getting down to work on the rules and details that will transform the Paris Agreement from a soaring statement of intent to a solid plan of action.

The tall order for this year’s conference: to move beyond section headings into details of the Paris “rulebook”, in areas as varied as climate finance, capacity-building for developing countries, technology assessment and access, agriculture, and the “ambition mechanism” for quickly ramping up countries’ commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The goal is to complete the rulebook in time for next year’s conference, COP 24 – a much accelerated timeline, after the Paris deal was ratified and gained legal force in just a year, a modern record for international treaty-making.

The momentum so far has been good. Fiji, presiding over this year’s COP, will remain president until a day or so before next year’s conference begins in Poland, a country widely seen as a staunch defender of fossil-fuelled electricity.

Funding boost

Fiji will therefore have significant influence over the next 12 months of negotiations and the issues under discussion at COP 24.

A highlight of the opening sessions on Monday was Germany’s commitment of €50 million (£44m) in new funding to the UN Adaptation Fund, set up to help developing countries build resilience and adapt to climate change. The pledge gets the Fund nearly three-quarters of the way to its US$80m financial goal for this year’s COP.

In its daily conference newsletter, ECO, CAN International welcomed the announcement, but warned that Germany has also slowed down its renewable energy development and failed to adopt a coal phase-out plan.

“Germany is going to miss its domestic 2020 reduction target of 40% compared to 1990 levels by a wide margin if the new government does not act decisively,” ECO noted.

Provoking resistance

“During the election campaign, Chancellor Merkel made a public promise that her next government will meet the target. The only way to achieve that will be to shut down the oldest and dirtiest coal power stations,” a move that “would both be technically possible and economically feasible – but of course meets resistance from the big coal power utilities.”

One of the most notable studies released this week: analysis by the World Resources Institute suggesting that greenhouse gas production has already peaked in 49 countries, representing about 36% of current global emissions. Another eight countries, responsible for another 23% of total emissions, are expected to peak in the next decade or so.

The news “is a sign that the world is moving away from a business-as-usual scenario where global average temperatures reach 4.0°C or more above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century,” Carbon Brief says.

“Global CO2 emissions from energy were largely unchanged in 2016 relative to 2015, raising hopes that a global peak in emissions may be possible in the near future.”

“Don’t wake the bear”

The problem is that, with no additional reductions, emissions would stay more or less flat through 2100 and the Earth would warm by about 3.0°C, which means that “to have a good chance of avoiding 2.0°C warming, global emissions need to peak some time in the next few years and decline very rapidly thereafter.”

“Don’t wake the bear” was the headline on a post on Climate Home News, reporting on COP delegates’ worries about the US position at Bonn in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

“The fragility of the political compromise of Paris has sometimes not been emphasised because we are all nervous,” one senior negotiator said in London last week. “There’s a lot of nervousness that the package can unravel very quickly.”

“The Trump regime really needs to walk away and not hold the rest of the world hostage to the President’s ineptitude,” said Tuvalu negotiator Ian Fry. But Fiji’s chief negotiator, Nazhat Shameem Khan, said the US had sent “positive signals…that this will not be a destructive COP.” – Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

Businesslike, yes – but this year’s climate summit in Bonn is not quite so focussed on business-as-usual as these occasions usually are.

BONN, 9 November, 2017 – Business-as-usual it certainly isnt. What was supposed to be a quiet, technical UN climate change conference here (COP 23) has got under way with a surprising amount of momentum and a few bits of controversy, with negotiators getting down to work on the rules and details that will transform the Paris Agreement from a soaring statement of intent to a solid plan of action.

The tall order for this year’s conference: to move beyond section headings into details of the Paris “rulebook”, in areas as varied as climate finance, capacity-building for developing countries, technology assessment and access, agriculture, and the “ambition mechanism” for quickly ramping up countries’ commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The goal is to complete the rulebook in time for next year’s conference, COP 24 – a much accelerated timeline, after the Paris deal was ratified and gained legal force in just a year, a modern record for international treaty-making.

The momentum so far has been good. Fiji, presiding over this year’s COP, will remain president until a day or so before next year’s conference begins in Poland, a country widely seen as a staunch defender of fossil-fuelled electricity.

Funding boost

Fiji will therefore have significant influence over the next 12 months of negotiations and the issues under discussion at COP 24.

A highlight of the opening sessions on Monday was Germany’s commitment of €50 million (£44m) in new funding to the UN Adaptation Fund, set up to help developing countries build resilience and adapt to climate change. The pledge gets the Fund nearly three-quarters of the way to its US$80m financial goal for this year’s COP.

In its daily conference newsletter, ECO, CAN International welcomed the announcement, but warned that Germany has also slowed down its renewable energy development and failed to adopt a coal phase-out plan.

“Germany is going to miss its domestic 2020 reduction target of 40% compared to 1990 levels by a wide margin if the new government does not act decisively,” ECO noted.

Provoking resistance

“During the election campaign, Chancellor Merkel made a public promise that her next government will meet the target. The only way to achieve that will be to shut down the oldest and dirtiest coal power stations,” a move that “would both be technically possible and economically feasible – but of course meets resistance from the big coal power utilities.”

One of the most notable studies released this week: analysis by the World Resources Institute suggesting that greenhouse gas production has already peaked in 49 countries, representing about 36% of current global emissions. Another eight countries, responsible for another 23% of total emissions, are expected to peak in the next decade or so.

The news “is a sign that the world is moving away from a business-as-usual scenario where global average temperatures reach 4.0°C or more above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century,” Carbon Brief says.

“Global CO2 emissions from energy were largely unchanged in 2016 relative to 2015, raising hopes that a global peak in emissions may be possible in the near future.”

“Don’t wake the bear”

The problem is that, with no additional reductions, emissions would stay more or less flat through 2100 and the Earth would warm by about 3.0°C, which means that “to have a good chance of avoiding 2.0°C warming, global emissions need to peak some time in the next few years and decline very rapidly thereafter.”

“Don’t wake the bear” was the headline on a post on Climate Home News, reporting on COP delegates’ worries about the US position at Bonn in the wake of Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

“The fragility of the political compromise of Paris has sometimes not been emphasised because we are all nervous,” one senior negotiator said in London last week. “There’s a lot of nervousness that the package can unravel very quickly.”

“The Trump regime really needs to walk away and not hold the rest of the world hostage to the President’s ineptitude,” said Tuvalu negotiator Ian Fry. But Fiji’s chief negotiator, Nazhat Shameem Khan, said the US had sent “positive signals…that this will not be a destructive COP.” – Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.