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.

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.