Category Archives: Negotiations

Katowice climate talks run short of time

The annual UN global warming conference is over. Despite some progress, the Katowice climate talks show political action still lags far behind the science.

LONDON, 17 December, 2018 − By tradition, United Nations conferences on tackling global warming always over-run. No surprise then that the Katowice climate talks ended a day late. They made some useful progress. But the underlying message from Poland is that diplomatic efforts to prevent global temperatures increasing to dangerous levels are nowhere near what climate scientists say is needed.

Katowice (COP-24, in UN jargon, otherwise the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) was meant to be an opportunity to put flesh on the bare bones of the Paris Agreement, the achievement of the 2015 COP, held three years ago in the French capital.

That agreed that global temperatures should not be allowed to rise by more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, and that every country should do its utmost to keep the rise if possible to a maximum of 1.5°C.

The Agreement’s commitments do not actually commit governments to anything, because they are entirely voluntary. So Katowice sought to agree a rule book: countries would sign up to more demanding pledges of greenhouse gas emission cuts and would be more transparent about how far they were living up to them.

The meeting did agree on measures to improve transparency: how governments will measure, report on and verify their attempts to cut emissions. But there was little movement on the central question of how countries will step up their targets on making bolder cuts, and without that it is hard to see the Paris Agreement being able to have much practical effect.

“The UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science”

For all that, there was praise for Katowice. The incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Johan Rockström, said: “The Katowice agreement is a relief. The Paris Agreement is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism. With the rule book now finally adopted, the Paris agreement can be implemented. Overall the Katowice decisions provide enough momentum to move forward…

“My biggest concern is that the UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science, in particular missing the necessity of making clear that global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030 to stay in line with the IPCC 1.5 C report.

“This is a real concern. We continue to follow a path that will take us to a very dangerous 3-4°C warmer world within this century. Extreme weather events are hitting people all across the planet already, with only 1°C of global warming.”

Professor Rockström identifies exactly why many people, despite Katowice’s acknowledged progress, are disappointed at its outcome: it does not seem to have absorbed the scientists’ message that the planet needs far faster action on reducing emissions than anything now on offer.

Approaching crisis

Once again, the careful pace of diplomacy as the annual COPs roll around is the best that the UNFCCC can manage, and it is not remotely fast enough to confront the scientific reality. The negotiators make gradual progress, while in the real world the climate gallops towards crisis point, now only 12 years away according to the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Add to this the fact that the entire COP process is voluntary, consigning the fate of the single biosphere which sustains life on Earth to the choices − and sometimes the whims − of around 200 widely differing governments, and it is little surprise that the UN is being left behind by events.

Yet it remains the only game in town, the only way so far developed for potentially slowing global temperature rise. It’s not enough, but it still offers hope of reducing the threat from climate change to some degree.

The Katowice negotiators ran out of time. It is ironic that at this rate the planet could do so too. − Climate News Network

The annual UN global warming conference is over. Despite some progress, the Katowice climate talks show political action still lags far behind the science.

LONDON, 17 December, 2018 − By tradition, United Nations conferences on tackling global warming always over-run. No surprise then that the Katowice climate talks ended a day late. They made some useful progress. But the underlying message from Poland is that diplomatic efforts to prevent global temperatures increasing to dangerous levels are nowhere near what climate scientists say is needed.

Katowice (COP-24, in UN jargon, otherwise the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) was meant to be an opportunity to put flesh on the bare bones of the Paris Agreement, the achievement of the 2015 COP, held three years ago in the French capital.

That agreed that global temperatures should not be allowed to rise by more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, and that every country should do its utmost to keep the rise if possible to a maximum of 1.5°C.

The Agreement’s commitments do not actually commit governments to anything, because they are entirely voluntary. So Katowice sought to agree a rule book: countries would sign up to more demanding pledges of greenhouse gas emission cuts and would be more transparent about how far they were living up to them.

The meeting did agree on measures to improve transparency: how governments will measure, report on and verify their attempts to cut emissions. But there was little movement on the central question of how countries will step up their targets on making bolder cuts, and without that it is hard to see the Paris Agreement being able to have much practical effect.

“The UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science”

For all that, there was praise for Katowice. The incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Johan Rockström, said: “The Katowice agreement is a relief. The Paris Agreement is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism. With the rule book now finally adopted, the Paris agreement can be implemented. Overall the Katowice decisions provide enough momentum to move forward…

“My biggest concern is that the UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science, in particular missing the necessity of making clear that global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030 to stay in line with the IPCC 1.5 C report.

“This is a real concern. We continue to follow a path that will take us to a very dangerous 3-4°C warmer world within this century. Extreme weather events are hitting people all across the planet already, with only 1°C of global warming.”

Professor Rockström identifies exactly why many people, despite Katowice’s acknowledged progress, are disappointed at its outcome: it does not seem to have absorbed the scientists’ message that the planet needs far faster action on reducing emissions than anything now on offer.

Approaching crisis

Once again, the careful pace of diplomacy as the annual COPs roll around is the best that the UNFCCC can manage, and it is not remotely fast enough to confront the scientific reality. The negotiators make gradual progress, while in the real world the climate gallops towards crisis point, now only 12 years away according to the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Add to this the fact that the entire COP process is voluntary, consigning the fate of the single biosphere which sustains life on Earth to the choices − and sometimes the whims − of around 200 widely differing governments, and it is little surprise that the UN is being left behind by events.

Yet it remains the only game in town, the only way so far developed for potentially slowing global temperature rise. It’s not enough, but it still offers hope of reducing the threat from climate change to some degree.

The Katowice negotiators ran out of time. It is ironic that at this rate the planet could do so too. − Climate News Network

Amazon in peril as Brazil cools on climate

The man who will become Brazil’s president next month is cold-shouldering moves to tame the pace of climate change, leaving the Amazon in peril.

SÃO PAULO, 12 December, 2018 − The election of an extreme rightwing climate sceptic as president will leave the Amazon in peril, because it radically alters Brazil’s position on climate change.

That process has already begun, with the cancellation of the outgoing president’s invitation to the United Nations to hold its 2019 climate talks, COP-25, in Brasilia.

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro is also threatening to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, claiming that a plot exists to reduce Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon.

While he does not officially take office until 1 January, Bolsonaro has already significantly altered Brazil’s position by cancelling the present government’s offer to host COP-25 only days after it was officially made by the departing president, Michel Temer.

Due for confirmation

It was due to be confirmed at this year’s UN talks (COP-24) in the Polish city of Katowice. The COPs (meetings of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) are rotated between the world’s five regions, and 2019 was to be the turn of Latin America and the Caribbean.

For André Nahur, a biologist and the coordinator of WWF Brazil’s programme for climate change and energy, it is a sign that under Bolsonaro Brazil will abdicate its role as a leader in environmental questions.

He said: “Brazil has been a protagonist in international climate talks, exercising an important role in diplomatic efforts to reduce greenhouse gases … in order to achieve world targets. Brazil’s participation is vital, because at the moment it is the seventh largest producer of greenhouse gases.”

He added that the withdrawal of Brazil’s offer for COP-25 will affect the country’s economic development: “All scenarios show that in countries concerned with climate change, GDP has grown and generated jobs.”

“I am not in favour of signing a trade deal with powers that do not respect the Paris agreement”

The Climate Observatory, a Brazilian NGO (Observatório do Clima) says Bolsonaro’s decision means that Brazil is abdicating its role in one of the few areas where the country is not just relevant but necessary.

“Ignoring the climate agenda, the government is also failing to protect the population affected by a growing number of extreme weather events. Unfortunately they do not stop happening just because some people doubt their causes,” it said.

To try to justify his stated intention to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement Bolsonaro has invoked the existence of a forgotten project once proposed by Gaia Colombia, known as the Triple A.

He said: “What is the ‘Triple A? It’s a big strip between the Andes, the Amazon and the Atlantic … The idea is to turn it into an ecological corridor.” This, says Bolsonaro, could result in Brazil losing its sovereignty over the area.

Doubtful explanation

The ambitious plan for the corridor, covering over 500,000 square miles of rainforest, surfaced several years ago, and is credited to Martín von Hildebrand, founder of the Gaia Amazonas NGO, but it has never been taken seriously, and it is certainly no part of the Paris Agreement.

While the president-elect evoked this non-existent problem to justify his dislike of the Paris deal, French president Emmanuel Macron hinted at the real consequences of leaving the treaty, declaring: “I say clearly that I am not in favour of signing a trade deal with powers that do not respect the Paris agreement.”

Brazil’s new position also leaves it out of step with the BRICS, the group of five big emerging countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

They produced a statement at the recent G20 meeting in Buenos Aires affirming their commitment to the “full implementation of the Paris Agreement, and the importance and urgency of guaranteeing funds for the Green Climate Fund”, to increase the developing countries’ capacity for mitigation and adaptation.

Faith in Trump

Bolsonaro has chosen as his foreign minister a diplomat, Ernesto Araujo, who scoffs at what he calls “climatism” and believes that US president Donald Trump is the saviour of the Christian values of the Western world, while globalisation is a communist plot.

If Brazil were just a small banana republic this would not matter. But the South American giant, the fifth largest country in the world, in both size and population, and ninth largest economy, is too big to ignore, especially as it contains 60% of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest.

But even before Bolsonaro officially takes office deforestation has soared, hitting its highest level for a decade as loggers and landgrabbers anticipate a loosening of monitoring and enforcement.

Environmentalists fear that Brazil’s change of government could have disastrous consequences for the world’s climate. − Climate News Network

The man who will become Brazil’s president next month is cold-shouldering moves to tame the pace of climate change, leaving the Amazon in peril.

SÃO PAULO, 12 December, 2018 − The election of an extreme rightwing climate sceptic as president will leave the Amazon in peril, because it radically alters Brazil’s position on climate change.

That process has already begun, with the cancellation of the outgoing president’s invitation to the United Nations to hold its 2019 climate talks, COP-25, in Brasilia.

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro is also threatening to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, claiming that a plot exists to reduce Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon.

While he does not officially take office until 1 January, Bolsonaro has already significantly altered Brazil’s position by cancelling the present government’s offer to host COP-25 only days after it was officially made by the departing president, Michel Temer.

Due for confirmation

It was due to be confirmed at this year’s UN talks (COP-24) in the Polish city of Katowice. The COPs (meetings of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) are rotated between the world’s five regions, and 2019 was to be the turn of Latin America and the Caribbean.

For André Nahur, a biologist and the coordinator of WWF Brazil’s programme for climate change and energy, it is a sign that under Bolsonaro Brazil will abdicate its role as a leader in environmental questions.

He said: “Brazil has been a protagonist in international climate talks, exercising an important role in diplomatic efforts to reduce greenhouse gases … in order to achieve world targets. Brazil’s participation is vital, because at the moment it is the seventh largest producer of greenhouse gases.”

He added that the withdrawal of Brazil’s offer for COP-25 will affect the country’s economic development: “All scenarios show that in countries concerned with climate change, GDP has grown and generated jobs.”

“I am not in favour of signing a trade deal with powers that do not respect the Paris agreement”

The Climate Observatory, a Brazilian NGO (Observatório do Clima) says Bolsonaro’s decision means that Brazil is abdicating its role in one of the few areas where the country is not just relevant but necessary.

“Ignoring the climate agenda, the government is also failing to protect the population affected by a growing number of extreme weather events. Unfortunately they do not stop happening just because some people doubt their causes,” it said.

To try to justify his stated intention to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement Bolsonaro has invoked the existence of a forgotten project once proposed by Gaia Colombia, known as the Triple A.

He said: “What is the ‘Triple A? It’s a big strip between the Andes, the Amazon and the Atlantic … The idea is to turn it into an ecological corridor.” This, says Bolsonaro, could result in Brazil losing its sovereignty over the area.

Doubtful explanation

The ambitious plan for the corridor, covering over 500,000 square miles of rainforest, surfaced several years ago, and is credited to Martín von Hildebrand, founder of the Gaia Amazonas NGO, but it has never been taken seriously, and it is certainly no part of the Paris Agreement.

While the president-elect evoked this non-existent problem to justify his dislike of the Paris deal, French president Emmanuel Macron hinted at the real consequences of leaving the treaty, declaring: “I say clearly that I am not in favour of signing a trade deal with powers that do not respect the Paris agreement.”

Brazil’s new position also leaves it out of step with the BRICS, the group of five big emerging countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

They produced a statement at the recent G20 meeting in Buenos Aires affirming their commitment to the “full implementation of the Paris Agreement, and the importance and urgency of guaranteeing funds for the Green Climate Fund”, to increase the developing countries’ capacity for mitigation and adaptation.

Faith in Trump

Bolsonaro has chosen as his foreign minister a diplomat, Ernesto Araujo, who scoffs at what he calls “climatism” and believes that US president Donald Trump is the saviour of the Christian values of the Western world, while globalisation is a communist plot.

If Brazil were just a small banana republic this would not matter. But the South American giant, the fifth largest country in the world, in both size and population, and ninth largest economy, is too big to ignore, especially as it contains 60% of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest.

But even before Bolsonaro officially takes office deforestation has soared, hitting its highest level for a decade as loggers and landgrabbers anticipate a loosening of monitoring and enforcement.

Environmentalists fear that Brazil’s change of government could have disastrous consequences for the world’s climate. − Climate News Network

Climate treaty plan urged to cut warming

To inject some urgency into efforts to slow planetary warming, scientists, politicians and citizens are mulling how far a climate treaty plan could help.

LONDON, 3 December, 2018 − Could a new climate treaty be the way to tame global warming? With world leaders receiving constant demands to act far more urgently to limit climate change, events at either end of Europe are today increasing the pressure on them. At both, hopes are focusing on international diplomacy.

In eastern Europe the Polish city of Katowice is hosting the latest round of annual negotiations held by the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (the UNFCCC), formally known as the 24th Conference of the Parties, or COP24 (due to end on 14 December).

Hopes for significant progress are muted. The 2015 talks produced the Paris Agreement, praised for making progress on how to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases which human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are adding to warming.

But little has happened since then actually to slow climate change, and in important respects the situation is now worse than it was three years ago.

The combination since 2015 of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action by the Agreement’s signatories to slow them means that the gap between where emissions are now and where they ought to be is bigger than ever.

Clear verdict

Speaking before COP24 began, Johan Rockström, incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said in a statement: “The scientific verdict is clear; global emissions must be cut by half by 2030 to stand a chance of staying well below 2°C [the more modest target agreed in Paris]”.

He said Katowice needed to find the ambition to ensure that the emissions cuts governments promise match the latest scientific assessments, and should also insist that every country’s emissions were counted accurately.

As well, he called for proper financing of the attempt to breathe new life into the Paris process: “The Green Climate Fund needs reliable and substantial contributions from industrialised countries.”

Professor Rockström concluded: “Science clearly shows that we have just one decade to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we must start doing it now.” It sounds like a pretty intense two weeks ahead in Poland, then.

Over 800 miles to the west, London is the scene for the launch of a new international group, the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA). Its founders are setting it up to push for accelerated action at the scale and speed needed to meet the 1.5°C climate target, the more ambitious Paris aim.

“Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of”

By gathering and sharing what it calls evidence-based hope,  the Alliance seeks to remove excuses for inaction, show what is possible, and find ways for everyone to take an active part in change.

Its members range from household-name environmental groups to professional bodies and international research centres, working internationally and locally, specialists and generalists, involved in practical work, research and campaigning.

The Alliance says examples of rapid action it has already analysed include responses to economic shocks, public health emergencies, financial and energy crises, and conflicts.
The examples range from transport to food, energy and the built environment.

With an eye on Katowice, Andrew Simms, the Alliance’s coordinator, said: “International climate talks matter, but they are not the whole story. The shift to a low-carbon economy isn’t just something for diplomats and presidents. You could say that we are crowdsourcing rapid actions to prevent climate breakdown.”

Results from diplomacy

Yet much like those who continue to work to get the best out of the Paris Agreement, the founders of the Alliance think high-level diplomacy and statecraft do matter and can bring about change.

They say: “A new line in the sand is needed to underpin the existing [Paris] climate agreement, to exert influence over the immediate choices of policymakers. At the very least, the science should mandate a moratorium in rich countries on any further expansion of the fossil fuel industry, or any infrastructure dependent on it.

“A moratorium could take the form of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. The threat of nuclear catastrophe provides a precedent for how, quickly, to stop a bad situation getting worse. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),  agreed between 1965 and 1968, was a triumph of rapid diplomacy, at the height of cold war mistrust, and against an immense security threat.”

Andrew Simms does not accept the argument that the NPT, while so far it has not failed, perhaps does not yet deserve to be called a success. He told the Climate News Network that a climate treaty modelled on it could really work: it would also “create jobs, clean air, tackle fuel poverty and generally make the world a better place”.

Extraordinary ability

And ignoring a climate non-proliferation treaty’s potential, he said, “underestimates humanity’s extraordinary ability to cooperate, innovate and act quickly with ambition when the moment demands it. Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of.

“First, and most importantly, we need to let go of the old fossil fuel economy, accept that it brought great benefits for some but that its time is now over and we must find better ways to meet our energy needs.

“Next we can look at the evidence base for hope in a warming world and get to work on a rapid transition.

“We’re calling on people and organisations to get in touch and let us know about such stories of rapid change from which we can learn, and we will work to get them seen and heard by others who can make a difference.” − Climate News Network

The Rapid Transition Alliance is being coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its activities.

To inject some urgency into efforts to slow planetary warming, scientists, politicians and citizens are mulling how far a climate treaty plan could help.

LONDON, 3 December, 2018 − Could a new climate treaty be the way to tame global warming? With world leaders receiving constant demands to act far more urgently to limit climate change, events at either end of Europe are today increasing the pressure on them. At both, hopes are focusing on international diplomacy.

In eastern Europe the Polish city of Katowice is hosting the latest round of annual negotiations held by the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (the UNFCCC), formally known as the 24th Conference of the Parties, or COP24 (due to end on 14 December).

Hopes for significant progress are muted. The 2015 talks produced the Paris Agreement, praised for making progress on how to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases which human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are adding to warming.

But little has happened since then actually to slow climate change, and in important respects the situation is now worse than it was three years ago.

The combination since 2015 of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action by the Agreement’s signatories to slow them means that the gap between where emissions are now and where they ought to be is bigger than ever.

Clear verdict

Speaking before COP24 began, Johan Rockström, incoming director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said in a statement: “The scientific verdict is clear; global emissions must be cut by half by 2030 to stand a chance of staying well below 2°C [the more modest target agreed in Paris]”.

He said Katowice needed to find the ambition to ensure that the emissions cuts governments promise match the latest scientific assessments, and should also insist that every country’s emissions were counted accurately.

As well, he called for proper financing of the attempt to breathe new life into the Paris process: “The Green Climate Fund needs reliable and substantial contributions from industrialised countries.”

Professor Rockström concluded: “Science clearly shows that we have just one decade to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we must start doing it now.” It sounds like a pretty intense two weeks ahead in Poland, then.

Over 800 miles to the west, London is the scene for the launch of a new international group, the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA). Its founders are setting it up to push for accelerated action at the scale and speed needed to meet the 1.5°C climate target, the more ambitious Paris aim.

“Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of”

By gathering and sharing what it calls evidence-based hope,  the Alliance seeks to remove excuses for inaction, show what is possible, and find ways for everyone to take an active part in change.

Its members range from household-name environmental groups to professional bodies and international research centres, working internationally and locally, specialists and generalists, involved in practical work, research and campaigning.

The Alliance says examples of rapid action it has already analysed include responses to economic shocks, public health emergencies, financial and energy crises, and conflicts.
The examples range from transport to food, energy and the built environment.

With an eye on Katowice, Andrew Simms, the Alliance’s coordinator, said: “International climate talks matter, but they are not the whole story. The shift to a low-carbon economy isn’t just something for diplomats and presidents. You could say that we are crowdsourcing rapid actions to prevent climate breakdown.”

Results from diplomacy

Yet much like those who continue to work to get the best out of the Paris Agreement, the founders of the Alliance think high-level diplomacy and statecraft do matter and can bring about change.

They say: “A new line in the sand is needed to underpin the existing [Paris] climate agreement, to exert influence over the immediate choices of policymakers. At the very least, the science should mandate a moratorium in rich countries on any further expansion of the fossil fuel industry, or any infrastructure dependent on it.

“A moratorium could take the form of a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. The threat of nuclear catastrophe provides a precedent for how, quickly, to stop a bad situation getting worse. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),  agreed between 1965 and 1968, was a triumph of rapid diplomacy, at the height of cold war mistrust, and against an immense security threat.”

Andrew Simms does not accept the argument that the NPT, while so far it has not failed, perhaps does not yet deserve to be called a success. He told the Climate News Network that a climate treaty modelled on it could really work: it would also “create jobs, clean air, tackle fuel poverty and generally make the world a better place”.

Extraordinary ability

And ignoring a climate non-proliferation treaty’s potential, he said, “underestimates humanity’s extraordinary ability to cooperate, innovate and act quickly with ambition when the moment demands it. Somehow many people have forgotten what we are capable of.

“First, and most importantly, we need to let go of the old fossil fuel economy, accept that it brought great benefits for some but that its time is now over and we must find better ways to meet our energy needs.

“Next we can look at the evidence base for hope in a warming world and get to work on a rapid transition.

“We’re calling on people and organisations to get in touch and let us know about such stories of rapid change from which we can learn, and we will work to get them seen and heard by others who can make a difference.” − Climate News Network

The Rapid Transition Alliance is being coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its activities.

More states opt to phase out oil production

Cutting fossil fuel supply can help to limit demand, and more governments are deciding to phase out oil production, a new study finds.

LONDON, 29 November, 2018 – A growing number of governments are choosing to phase out oil production, reasoning that cutting the availability of fossil fuels can help to cut the demand for them.

The world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible, yes? And one of the main causes of the emissions is the burning of fuels such as oil, gas and coal? Right again. So the simple and obvious answer, these governments are deciding, is to stop the drilling and mining which extract fossil fuels.

That’s the argument examined in a report by researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). There’s already a growing movement to leave fossil fuels in the ground. But their study concentrates specifically on governments.

They say phasing out oil production could be the next big step in climate policy, thanks to an initial group of first-movers who’ve already taken the plunge.

One is Spain, which announced this month that it plans to completely decarbonise its electricity system by mid-century, a move which includes a total ban on all oil and gas exploration.

“Limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand”

The SEI team outlines its findings in the journal Nature Climate Change. The authors will present their results in greater detail in the Polish city of Katowice on 5 December at this year’s UN global climate summit, COP24.

They focus on California as the possible next addition to this growing list of governments choosing to forego oil extraction. The study finds numerous benefits to restricting production, including not only reducing global emissions but also helping to revoke the “social licence” of fossil fuel producers – the public acceptance of their activities.

“Countries like France, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Belize and – just last week – Spain are sending a clear signal by phasing out oil production,” said Georgia Piggot, an SEI sociologist and co-author of the study. “The fossil fuel era needs to end soon, and governments need to have clear plans in place to ensure an orderly and fair transition.”

With California as a case study, the SEI report points to a resolution by the state’s Air Resources Board to “evaluate and explore” reducing the production of petroleum.

Boosting environmental justice

It finds that phasing out oil in California would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by roughly the same amount as many of the other climate policies currently planned by the state. And, because most oil drilling there happens in the most pollution-vulnerable communities, phasing it out would have important environmental justice benefits as well.

“Gradually phasing down oil production is a reasonable approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said SEI senior scientist Peter Erickson, the study’s lead author.

“California is one of the top oil-producing states in the US, but it is also a climate leader. Restricting oil production would complement the state’s flagship policies, such as strengthened standards for clean power or energy efficiency.”

The study’s lessons apply to other states too. It concludes that governments that aim to demonstrate leadership and meet the Paris Agreement goals have “a number of policy options that can limit future production of oil and other fossil fuels, while delivering important global emissions and local environmental benefits.”

Limiting temperature rise

The Paris Agreement settled on a target that global temperatures should increase by no more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, with governments striving to keep the rise to just 1.5°C.

Peter Erickson told the Climate News Network that the scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its recent report Global Warming of 1.5°C provided guideposts to the SEI’s work.

He said: “The median results of those scenarios suggest that global oil production (and consumption) needs to decline more than 40% between 2020 and 2030 to meet a 1.5°C target, global coal production (and consumption) more than 80%, and global gas production (and consumption) by more than 40% (the declines are rather less for meeting a 2°C goal).

“These declines could be accomplished most effectively with both demand and supply-side measures. That is our central point – that limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand.” – Climate News Network

Cutting fossil fuel supply can help to limit demand, and more governments are deciding to phase out oil production, a new study finds.

LONDON, 29 November, 2018 – A growing number of governments are choosing to phase out oil production, reasoning that cutting the availability of fossil fuels can help to cut the demand for them.

The world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible, yes? And one of the main causes of the emissions is the burning of fuels such as oil, gas and coal? Right again. So the simple and obvious answer, these governments are deciding, is to stop the drilling and mining which extract fossil fuels.

That’s the argument examined in a report by researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). There’s already a growing movement to leave fossil fuels in the ground. But their study concentrates specifically on governments.

They say phasing out oil production could be the next big step in climate policy, thanks to an initial group of first-movers who’ve already taken the plunge.

One is Spain, which announced this month that it plans to completely decarbonise its electricity system by mid-century, a move which includes a total ban on all oil and gas exploration.

“Limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand”

The SEI team outlines its findings in the journal Nature Climate Change. The authors will present their results in greater detail in the Polish city of Katowice on 5 December at this year’s UN global climate summit, COP24.

They focus on California as the possible next addition to this growing list of governments choosing to forego oil extraction. The study finds numerous benefits to restricting production, including not only reducing global emissions but also helping to revoke the “social licence” of fossil fuel producers – the public acceptance of their activities.

“Countries like France, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Belize and – just last week – Spain are sending a clear signal by phasing out oil production,” said Georgia Piggot, an SEI sociologist and co-author of the study. “The fossil fuel era needs to end soon, and governments need to have clear plans in place to ensure an orderly and fair transition.”

With California as a case study, the SEI report points to a resolution by the state’s Air Resources Board to “evaluate and explore” reducing the production of petroleum.

Boosting environmental justice

It finds that phasing out oil in California would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by roughly the same amount as many of the other climate policies currently planned by the state. And, because most oil drilling there happens in the most pollution-vulnerable communities, phasing it out would have important environmental justice benefits as well.

“Gradually phasing down oil production is a reasonable approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said SEI senior scientist Peter Erickson, the study’s lead author.

“California is one of the top oil-producing states in the US, but it is also a climate leader. Restricting oil production would complement the state’s flagship policies, such as strengthened standards for clean power or energy efficiency.”

The study’s lessons apply to other states too. It concludes that governments that aim to demonstrate leadership and meet the Paris Agreement goals have “a number of policy options that can limit future production of oil and other fossil fuels, while delivering important global emissions and local environmental benefits.”

Limiting temperature rise

The Paris Agreement settled on a target that global temperatures should increase by no more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels, with governments striving to keep the rise to just 1.5°C.

Peter Erickson told the Climate News Network that the scenarios published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its recent report Global Warming of 1.5°C provided guideposts to the SEI’s work.

He said: “The median results of those scenarios suggest that global oil production (and consumption) needs to decline more than 40% between 2020 and 2030 to meet a 1.5°C target, global coal production (and consumption) more than 80%, and global gas production (and consumption) by more than 40% (the declines are rather less for meeting a 2°C goal).

“These declines could be accomplished most effectively with both demand and supply-side measures. That is our central point – that limiting fossil fuel production is an important complement to limiting demand.” – Climate News Network

Tripled climate cuts needed to fulfil pledge

The gap between the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and countries’ planned reductions is growing, and only tripled climate cuts can reduce global warming enough, researchers say.

LONDON, 28 November, 2018 − The world is not yet living up to its undertaking to tackle global warming, and it will have to make tripled climate cuts − at least − if it is to do so, a report says.

The emissions gap − the difference between the global emissions of greenhouse gases scientists expect in 2030 and the level they need to be at to honour the world’s promises to cut them − is the largest ever.

The 2018 Emissions Gap Report is published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). While it is still possible to keep global warming below 2°C, its authors say, the world’s current pace of action to cut emissions must triple for that to happen.

In 2015 almost 200 governments adopted the target of keeping global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to try for a lower level, 1.5°C. Their decision is set out in the Paris Agreement.

Inadequate targets

But the Gap Report spells out in detail a criticism scientists have been making since soon after the Agreement was reached, saying the current pace of countries’ plans for reducing emissions − which they decide for themselves − is not enough to meet the Paris targets.

As well as allowing signatories the freedom to cut emissions as savagely or as modestly as they wish, the Agreement is also condemned by those who believe its targets are themselves so unrealistic that they fail to measure up to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

The combination of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action to slow them means that the emissions gap is bigger than it has ever been.

Meeting the 2°C target will require climate action efforts to triple, the Gap Report says. But to meet the 1.5°C limit, which many governments and scientists are urging, needs nations not just to triple their efforts, but to increase them five-fold.

“The science is clear … governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach”

Current action to limit emissions suggests that global warming will reach about 3°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and will continue to rise after that. If the gap is not closed by 2030, the report’s authors say, it is highly unlikely that the 2°C target can be reached.

In 2017 global emissions rose again, after a three-year decrease, as countries’ efforts to combat climate change fell short of what was necessary for global emissions to peak. That year global emissions reached reached 53.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), the highest levels yet recorded. Just 57 countries, representing 60% of global emissions, were on track to peak emissions by 2030.

(A gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes. “GtCO2e” is an abbreviation for “gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide” − emissions of various GHGs put on a common footing to express them in terms of the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming effect.)

The Gap Report has been released just before this year’s UN global climate summit, the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Polish city of Katowice.

Critical decade ahead

Two of the contributors are researchers from IIASA, based in Laxenburg, Austria: Joeri Rogelj and Daniel Huppmann.
“This year’s report shows with renewed urgency that emissions reductions in the next decade are critical, and that there are readily available options to achieve this”, said Dr Rogelj.

He is a lead author of the chapter that updated the assessment of the emissions gap, which found that little or no progress had been made in the past year on new policies or more ambitious pledges.

New, more conservative assumptions about the potential contribution of negative emissions technologies (geoengineering) in the future mean that even bigger emissions cuts will be needed.

Dr Huppmann led the year-long effort to compile a large database of emissions scenarios through the IIASA Scenario Explorer. The 2018 Emissions Gap Report draws from this database, first published in Nature Climate Change.

Closing the gap

The report outlines a roadmap which could still meet the Paris Agreement targets and close the emissions gap by 2030. It includes possible contributions by government fiscal policy, the pace of innovation, and a review of climate action by groups other than governments.

If they make commitments to the strongest climate action globally, the authors say, emissions could be cut by 19 GtCO2e, enough to close the 2°C gap.

Governments could subsidise low-emission alternatives and impose higher taxes on fossil fuels. If a carbon price of US$70 a tonne were adopted, emissions could be cut by 40% in some countries.

Removing fossil fuel subsidies would cut global emissions by 10% by 2030, compared with a situation where no climate policies were imposed.

“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UN Environment’s deputy executive director, Joyce Msuya. “The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen, governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.” − Climate News Network

The gap between the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and countries’ planned reductions is growing, and only tripled climate cuts can reduce global warming enough, researchers say.

LONDON, 28 November, 2018 − The world is not yet living up to its undertaking to tackle global warming, and it will have to make tripled climate cuts − at least − if it is to do so, a report says.

The emissions gap − the difference between the global emissions of greenhouse gases scientists expect in 2030 and the level they need to be at to honour the world’s promises to cut them − is the largest ever.

The 2018 Emissions Gap Report is published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). While it is still possible to keep global warming below 2°C, its authors say, the world’s current pace of action to cut emissions must triple for that to happen.

In 2015 almost 200 governments adopted the target of keeping global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to try for a lower level, 1.5°C. Their decision is set out in the Paris Agreement.

Inadequate targets

But the Gap Report spells out in detail a criticism scientists have been making since soon after the Agreement was reached, saying the current pace of countries’ plans for reducing emissions − which they decide for themselves − is not enough to meet the Paris targets.

As well as allowing signatories the freedom to cut emissions as savagely or as modestly as they wish, the Agreement is also condemned by those who believe its targets are themselves so unrealistic that they fail to measure up to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

The combination of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly inadequate action to slow them means that the emissions gap is bigger than it has ever been.

Meeting the 2°C target will require climate action efforts to triple, the Gap Report says. But to meet the 1.5°C limit, which many governments and scientists are urging, needs nations not just to triple their efforts, but to increase them five-fold.

“The science is clear … governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach”

Current action to limit emissions suggests that global warming will reach about 3°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and will continue to rise after that. If the gap is not closed by 2030, the report’s authors say, it is highly unlikely that the 2°C target can be reached.

In 2017 global emissions rose again, after a three-year decrease, as countries’ efforts to combat climate change fell short of what was necessary for global emissions to peak. That year global emissions reached reached 53.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), the highest levels yet recorded. Just 57 countries, representing 60% of global emissions, were on track to peak emissions by 2030.

(A gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes. “GtCO2e” is an abbreviation for “gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide” − emissions of various GHGs put on a common footing to express them in terms of the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming effect.)

The Gap Report has been released just before this year’s UN global climate summit, the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Polish city of Katowice.

Critical decade ahead

Two of the contributors are researchers from IIASA, based in Laxenburg, Austria: Joeri Rogelj and Daniel Huppmann.
“This year’s report shows with renewed urgency that emissions reductions in the next decade are critical, and that there are readily available options to achieve this”, said Dr Rogelj.

He is a lead author of the chapter that updated the assessment of the emissions gap, which found that little or no progress had been made in the past year on new policies or more ambitious pledges.

New, more conservative assumptions about the potential contribution of negative emissions technologies (geoengineering) in the future mean that even bigger emissions cuts will be needed.

Dr Huppmann led the year-long effort to compile a large database of emissions scenarios through the IIASA Scenario Explorer. The 2018 Emissions Gap Report draws from this database, first published in Nature Climate Change.

Closing the gap

The report outlines a roadmap which could still meet the Paris Agreement targets and close the emissions gap by 2030. It includes possible contributions by government fiscal policy, the pace of innovation, and a review of climate action by groups other than governments.

If they make commitments to the strongest climate action globally, the authors say, emissions could be cut by 19 GtCO2e, enough to close the 2°C gap.

Governments could subsidise low-emission alternatives and impose higher taxes on fossil fuels. If a carbon price of US$70 a tonne were adopted, emissions could be cut by 40% in some countries.

Removing fossil fuel subsidies would cut global emissions by 10% by 2030, compared with a situation where no climate policies were imposed.

“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UN Environment’s deputy executive director, Joyce Msuya. “The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen, governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.” − Climate News Network

Small global warming cuts offer huge savings

Everybody profits from a world that cuts global warming to only another half a degree. The challenge is to persuade nations to act.

LONDON, 28 May, 2018 – Californian scientists have worked out how to reduce global warming so as to make the world 20 trillion US dollars better off. It’s simple. Just stick to the spirit of an international agreement that the American President Donald Trump has already broken.

The researchers arrived at their forecasts of climate profit and loss to calculate that if the 195 nations who agreed in Paris in 2015 to contain global warming to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century kept their promise – and global temperatures have already crept up 1°C in the last century as a consequence of the profligate use of fossil fuels – then there would be a 60% chance that the benefits would exceed $20 trillion.

That represents the savings made by avoiding the calamitous economic damage that would accompany higher temperatures. The same scientists also argue that 71% of the world’s nations – including China, Japan and the US – with 90% of the world’s population have a 75% chance of experiencing reduced economic damage, if global warming is limited to 1.5°C: that is, to just an extra half of a degree this century.

And although conjectures about wealth that has yet to be generated and disasters that have yet to happen are subject to enormous uncertainties, the scientists stand by their argument: if the world fails to meet the 2°C limit, the economic damage could add up to 15% of the world’s entire economic output.

“Even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries”

Calculations like these are difficult enough, but at least one of the authors has been making the case for concerted global action for years. Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University, has already warned that global extremes of heat and drought are an inevitable consequence of continued warming.

He says warming that has happened so far has already increased California’s vulnerability to devastating drought and may now be influencing the south Asian monsoon, on which a billion people depend.

“It is clear from our analysis that achieving the more ambitious Paris goal is highly likely to benefit most countries – and the global economy overall – by avoiding more severe economic damages,” Professor Diffenbaugh said.

And Marshall Burke, his Stanford colleague who led the study in the journal Nature, said: “Over the past century we have already experienced a 1°C increase in global temperature, so achieving the ambitious targets laid out in the Paris Agreement will not be easy or cheap. We need a clear understanding of how much economic benefit we’re going to get from meeting these different targets.”

Worse outcome possible

The researchers think they may even have underestimated the costs of a dangerously hotter world: they cite, for instance, the rapid rise in sea levels if the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps melt, or heatwaves and floods intensify more dramatically than anything seen so far in human history.

Although the richest nations stand to benefit most from sticking strictly to the Paris ambitions, some of the world’s poorest regions will also feel the benefit, with a noticeable increase in gross domestic product per head.

“The countries likely to benefit the most are already relatively hot today,” Dr Burke said. “The historical record tells us that additional warming will be very harmful to these countries’ economies, and so even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries.” – Climate News Network

Everybody profits from a world that cuts global warming to only another half a degree. The challenge is to persuade nations to act.

LONDON, 28 May, 2018 – Californian scientists have worked out how to reduce global warming so as to make the world 20 trillion US dollars better off. It’s simple. Just stick to the spirit of an international agreement that the American President Donald Trump has already broken.

The researchers arrived at their forecasts of climate profit and loss to calculate that if the 195 nations who agreed in Paris in 2015 to contain global warming to “well below” 2°C by the end of the century kept their promise – and global temperatures have already crept up 1°C in the last century as a consequence of the profligate use of fossil fuels – then there would be a 60% chance that the benefits would exceed $20 trillion.

That represents the savings made by avoiding the calamitous economic damage that would accompany higher temperatures. The same scientists also argue that 71% of the world’s nations – including China, Japan and the US – with 90% of the world’s population have a 75% chance of experiencing reduced economic damage, if global warming is limited to 1.5°C: that is, to just an extra half of a degree this century.

And although conjectures about wealth that has yet to be generated and disasters that have yet to happen are subject to enormous uncertainties, the scientists stand by their argument: if the world fails to meet the 2°C limit, the economic damage could add up to 15% of the world’s entire economic output.

“Even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries”

Calculations like these are difficult enough, but at least one of the authors has been making the case for concerted global action for years. Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University, has already warned that global extremes of heat and drought are an inevitable consequence of continued warming.

He says warming that has happened so far has already increased California’s vulnerability to devastating drought and may now be influencing the south Asian monsoon, on which a billion people depend.

“It is clear from our analysis that achieving the more ambitious Paris goal is highly likely to benefit most countries – and the global economy overall – by avoiding more severe economic damages,” Professor Diffenbaugh said.

And Marshall Burke, his Stanford colleague who led the study in the journal Nature, said: “Over the past century we have already experienced a 1°C increase in global temperature, so achieving the ambitious targets laid out in the Paris Agreement will not be easy or cheap. We need a clear understanding of how much economic benefit we’re going to get from meeting these different targets.”

Worse outcome possible

The researchers think they may even have underestimated the costs of a dangerously hotter world: they cite, for instance, the rapid rise in sea levels if the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps melt, or heatwaves and floods intensify more dramatically than anything seen so far in human history.

Although the richest nations stand to benefit most from sticking strictly to the Paris ambitions, some of the world’s poorest regions will also feel the benefit, with a noticeable increase in gross domestic product per head.

“The countries likely to benefit the most are already relatively hot today,” Dr Burke said. “The historical record tells us that additional warming will be very harmful to these countries’ economies, and so even small reductions in future warming could have large benefits for most countries.” – Climate News Network

Bonn climate talks make gradual progress

Despite the “missing in action” US, delegates say the Bonn climate talks just ended made progress – but too little and too slowly.

LONDON, 11 May, 2018 – The Bonn climate talks, a crucial round of UN negotiations on pumping up the muscle of the global treaty on tackling climate change, the Paris Agreement, has ended in Germany.

Participants heading for home know they have a daunting workload ahead, with too few solid outcomes achieved in the last 10 days. But despite the absence of the US government, described by some as “missing in action” after Donald Trump’s repudiation of the Paris treaty, many still hope that Bonn has proved a useful prelude to the next climate summit.

This dogged optimism apart, the organisers, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), alarmed at Bonn’s lack of progress, are arranging an unusual extra week of talks in Bangkok in  September to help the world leaders who will meet in Katowice in Poland in December to agree how to prevent the world from dangerously overheating.

One key sticking point so far is the failure of developed countries to produce the previously promised US$100 billion a year by 2020 to allow poor and vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change. In some cases the survival of small island states depends on that help.

The purpose of this year’s round of UN climate talks is to finalise and implement the Paris Agreement, concluded in 2015, which aims to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 2°C over their pre-industrial levels, and if possible keep them below 1.5°C.

”Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make”

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, is cautiously optimistic about progress, but says many voices at Bonn underlined the urgency of advancing more rapidly. She said the extra negotiating session in Bangkok had been arranged to speed things up.

To help to clarify the remaining issues the delegates in Bonn asked for a “reflection note” on progress so far, to help governments to prepare for Bangkok, which should help specifically  to finalise the texts to be signed off in December in Katowice.

Soon after the Bangkok meeting, on 8 October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to publish a special scientific report describing how critically close the world already is to a 1.5°C increase in temperature and outlining the drastic action governments need to take to avoid far exceeding it.

This is likely to further galvanise political action from many countries, including China and India, whose governments have already realised that climate change threatens food supplies and national stability.

Sharing solutions

In parallel with the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue. This follows the tradition in the Pacific region, where the goal of a “talanoa” is to share stories to find solutions for the common good.

In this spirit, the dialogue in Bonn saw some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas on how to tackle climate change and renewing their determination to raise ambition.

Instead of only those governments which are parties to the Climate Change Convention talking to each other, the dialogue includes cities, businesses, investors and regions, all engaged for the first time in interactive story-telling.

This partly sidesteps the problem of the missing US government, allowing many American businesses and cities to ignore their president and continue to take part in the talks.

More ambition

Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and president of the last UN climate summit (COP23), said: “We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make.”

At the end of the Bonn negotiations, the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group (LDC), Gebru Jember Endalew, said the Group had come to Bonn ready to shift gears and make concrete progress. He went on: “The Group is concerned by the lack of urgency we are seeing to move the negotiations forward. It is time to look at the bigger picture, see the severe impacts that climate change is having across the world, and rise to the challenge.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support. Countries have failed to deliver on pre-2020 commitments.”

On climate finance, Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid International,  said: “The issue of finance underpins so many different parts of the climate negotiations, because poor countries simply can’t cover the triple costs of loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation on their own.

“But with developed countries refusing to move on finance, lots of pieces are still unfinished. This is holding up the whole package, which is supposed to be finalised at the end of this year. Issues are piling up, and it’s a dangerous strategy to leave everything to the last minute.”

Sharp differences

Also concerned about finance was Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said: “While some headway was made in Bonn on several more technical topics, sharp political differences remain on a handful of issues, especially on climate finance and the amount of differentiation in the Paris Agreement rules for countries at varying stages of development.

“These issues are above the pay grade of negotiators in Bonn, and will require engaging ministers and national leaders to resolve them.”

A more cheerful note came from Camilla Born, of the environmental think tank E3G. She said: “Negotiations went better than expected. The next challenge is to mobilise the political will to get the COP24 outcomes over the line in Katowice.

“This won’t be easy but the Polish Presidency has the chance to up their game. The pressure is on the likes of the EU, China and Canada to come good on the universality of the Paris Agreement even whilst the US is for now missing in action.” – Climate News Network

Despite the “missing in action” US, delegates say the Bonn climate talks just ended made progress – but too little and too slowly.

LONDON, 11 May, 2018 – The Bonn climate talks, a crucial round of UN negotiations on pumping up the muscle of the global treaty on tackling climate change, the Paris Agreement, has ended in Germany.

Participants heading for home know they have a daunting workload ahead, with too few solid outcomes achieved in the last 10 days. But despite the absence of the US government, described by some as “missing in action” after Donald Trump’s repudiation of the Paris treaty, many still hope that Bonn has proved a useful prelude to the next climate summit.

This dogged optimism apart, the organisers, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), alarmed at Bonn’s lack of progress, are arranging an unusual extra week of talks in Bangkok in  September to help the world leaders who will meet in Katowice in Poland in December to agree how to prevent the world from dangerously overheating.

One key sticking point so far is the failure of developed countries to produce the previously promised US$100 billion a year by 2020 to allow poor and vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change. In some cases the survival of small island states depends on that help.

The purpose of this year’s round of UN climate talks is to finalise and implement the Paris Agreement, concluded in 2015, which aims to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 2°C over their pre-industrial levels, and if possible keep them below 1.5°C.

”Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make”

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, is cautiously optimistic about progress, but says many voices at Bonn underlined the urgency of advancing more rapidly. She said the extra negotiating session in Bangkok had been arranged to speed things up.

To help to clarify the remaining issues the delegates in Bonn asked for a “reflection note” on progress so far, to help governments to prepare for Bangkok, which should help specifically  to finalise the texts to be signed off in December in Katowice.

Soon after the Bangkok meeting, on 8 October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to publish a special scientific report describing how critically close the world already is to a 1.5°C increase in temperature and outlining the drastic action governments need to take to avoid far exceeding it.

This is likely to further galvanise political action from many countries, including China and India, whose governments have already realised that climate change threatens food supplies and national stability.

Sharing solutions

In parallel with the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue. This follows the tradition in the Pacific region, where the goal of a “talanoa” is to share stories to find solutions for the common good.

In this spirit, the dialogue in Bonn saw some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas on how to tackle climate change and renewing their determination to raise ambition.

Instead of only those governments which are parties to the Climate Change Convention talking to each other, the dialogue includes cities, businesses, investors and regions, all engaged for the first time in interactive story-telling.

This partly sidesteps the problem of the missing US government, allowing many American businesses and cities to ignore their president and continue to take part in the talks.

More ambition

Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and president of the last UN climate summit (COP23), said: “We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make.”

At the end of the Bonn negotiations, the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group (LDC), Gebru Jember Endalew, said the Group had come to Bonn ready to shift gears and make concrete progress. He went on: “The Group is concerned by the lack of urgency we are seeing to move the negotiations forward. It is time to look at the bigger picture, see the severe impacts that climate change is having across the world, and rise to the challenge.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support. Countries have failed to deliver on pre-2020 commitments.”

On climate finance, Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid International,  said: “The issue of finance underpins so many different parts of the climate negotiations, because poor countries simply can’t cover the triple costs of loss and damage, adaptation and mitigation on their own.

“But with developed countries refusing to move on finance, lots of pieces are still unfinished. This is holding up the whole package, which is supposed to be finalised at the end of this year. Issues are piling up, and it’s a dangerous strategy to leave everything to the last minute.”

Sharp differences

Also concerned about finance was Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said: “While some headway was made in Bonn on several more technical topics, sharp political differences remain on a handful of issues, especially on climate finance and the amount of differentiation in the Paris Agreement rules for countries at varying stages of development.

“These issues are above the pay grade of negotiators in Bonn, and will require engaging ministers and national leaders to resolve them.”

A more cheerful note came from Camilla Born, of the environmental think tank E3G. She said: “Negotiations went better than expected. The next challenge is to mobilise the political will to get the COP24 outcomes over the line in Katowice.

“This won’t be easy but the Polish Presidency has the chance to up their game. The pressure is on the likes of the EU, China and Canada to come good on the universality of the Paris Agreement even whilst the US is for now missing in action.” – Climate News Network

Boost planned for global climate treaty

The future of the global climate treaty could hang on the outcome of talks under way in Germany aimed at turning its promises into action.

LONDON, 1 May, 2018 – The global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, already ratified by a huge majority of the world’s governments, is for the next 10 days in intensive care.

That doesn’t mean it’s in danger of expiring, but that it needs a hefty boost so that the countries which signed up to it in 2015 will make commitments that will give it teeth.

So talks aimed at ramping up international action to cut carbon emissions and speed up progress on the treaty have begun in the German city of Bonn, attended by representatives of 193 governments.

The talks last until 10 May, and the basic agreements which the organisers, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hope they will have reached by then will go to a summit meeting in December for approval.

Today the world is on course to heat up by 3°C under the impact of the increasing consumption of fossil fuels, double the amount that scientists say is likely to be sustainable by human civilisation and the natural world. The talks are aimed at getting governments to be far more ambitious than their current national plans for greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

“Climate change is a critical issue and an urgent, global response is required. Lives and livelihoods across the world are on the line…”

With 2017 already the costliest on record for climate-related disasters as well as the third hottest ever recorded for the US, the effects of climate change are already causing severe economic and political problems. The World Bank says 143 million people may soon become climate migrants.

With this background the grouping of Small Island States, currently led by Fiji, is starting a new conversation between governments and society, called the Talanoa Dialogue. The plan is to share ideas and methods of speeding up progress on combatting climate change.
These ideas will then be submitted to the government ministers at the December conference of the signatories to the Agreement, known in UN jargon as COP 24, in Katowice, Poland.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change secretariat, said: “The Talanoa Dialogue is a key opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and share stories on how we can significantly step up climate action to prevent even greater human suffering in the future.”

This first phase of the Fiji-led Dialogue will introduce a new element to the talks on 6 May, when countries and other stakeholders, including cities, businesses, investors and regions, engage for the first time in what is billed as interactive story-telling around their ambitions.

Silver lining

This will include many US stakeholders who disagree with Donald Trump. He has repudiated the Paris Agreement and seems unable to accept the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the world – a setback which seems to have redoubled some countries’ efforts to act to reduce their own emissions.

There are hopes that, by COP 24, 30 more countries will have joined the 111 that have already ratified another agreement, the Doha Amendment, which is aimed at implementing extra emissions reductions for developed countries.

The Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, an international group of US-based grass roots organisations, says there are only four years left to take the radical action needed if the Paris Agreement’s ambitious target of keeping global average temperature rise at no more than 1°5C above pre-industrial levels is to be achieved (Paris’s other, more modest target is 2°C). It says countries must step up their action in both the short and the long term.

As ever, one sticking point in Bonn is finance, particularly how the rich countries that have largely caused the problem of climate change should help poorer countries adapt to rising temperatures and sea levels. Developed countries pledged in 2009 to provide US$100bn a year by 2020 to help this adaptation, but they are far from reaching their goal – and President Trump has withdrawn a US pledge of $2bn.

Hopeful signs

But there is some optimism at the talks. The giant strides that China and now India are taking towards adopting renewables and phasing out coal for generating electricity could not have been predicted five years ago. The world-wide programmes by cities to clean up air pollution and introduce electric vehicles are also expected to have a dramatic effect on reducing emissions, and there are hopes than some countries will reach their Paris targets more easily than they expected.

The chair of the Least Developed Countries group (LDC), Gebru Jember Endalew, said: “Climate change is a critical issue and an urgent, global response is required. Lives and livelihoods across the world are on the line, particularly in the LDCs.

“We have a very small window of time left to develop a set of clear, comprehensive and robust rules to enable full and ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement before the December 2018 deadline.

“Keeping global temperature increase below 1°5C is a matter of survival … science tells us that even full implementation of current commitments under the Paris Agreement will not be enough to reach 1°5C.” – Climate News Network

The future of the global climate treaty could hang on the outcome of talks under way in Germany aimed at turning its promises into action.

LONDON, 1 May, 2018 – The global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, already ratified by a huge majority of the world’s governments, is for the next 10 days in intensive care.

That doesn’t mean it’s in danger of expiring, but that it needs a hefty boost so that the countries which signed up to it in 2015 will make commitments that will give it teeth.

So talks aimed at ramping up international action to cut carbon emissions and speed up progress on the treaty have begun in the German city of Bonn, attended by representatives of 193 governments.

The talks last until 10 May, and the basic agreements which the organisers, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hope they will have reached by then will go to a summit meeting in December for approval.

Today the world is on course to heat up by 3°C under the impact of the increasing consumption of fossil fuels, double the amount that scientists say is likely to be sustainable by human civilisation and the natural world. The talks are aimed at getting governments to be far more ambitious than their current national plans for greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

“Climate change is a critical issue and an urgent, global response is required. Lives and livelihoods across the world are on the line…”

With 2017 already the costliest on record for climate-related disasters as well as the third hottest ever recorded for the US, the effects of climate change are already causing severe economic and political problems. The World Bank says 143 million people may soon become climate migrants.

With this background the grouping of Small Island States, currently led by Fiji, is starting a new conversation between governments and society, called the Talanoa Dialogue. The plan is to share ideas and methods of speeding up progress on combatting climate change.
These ideas will then be submitted to the government ministers at the December conference of the signatories to the Agreement, known in UN jargon as COP 24, in Katowice, Poland.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change secretariat, said: “The Talanoa Dialogue is a key opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and share stories on how we can significantly step up climate action to prevent even greater human suffering in the future.”

This first phase of the Fiji-led Dialogue will introduce a new element to the talks on 6 May, when countries and other stakeholders, including cities, businesses, investors and regions, engage for the first time in what is billed as interactive story-telling around their ambitions.

Silver lining

This will include many US stakeholders who disagree with Donald Trump. He has repudiated the Paris Agreement and seems unable to accept the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the world – a setback which seems to have redoubled some countries’ efforts to act to reduce their own emissions.

There are hopes that, by COP 24, 30 more countries will have joined the 111 that have already ratified another agreement, the Doha Amendment, which is aimed at implementing extra emissions reductions for developed countries.

The Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, an international group of US-based grass roots organisations, says there are only four years left to take the radical action needed if the Paris Agreement’s ambitious target of keeping global average temperature rise at no more than 1°5C above pre-industrial levels is to be achieved (Paris’s other, more modest target is 2°C). It says countries must step up their action in both the short and the long term.

As ever, one sticking point in Bonn is finance, particularly how the rich countries that have largely caused the problem of climate change should help poorer countries adapt to rising temperatures and sea levels. Developed countries pledged in 2009 to provide US$100bn a year by 2020 to help this adaptation, but they are far from reaching their goal – and President Trump has withdrawn a US pledge of $2bn.

Hopeful signs

But there is some optimism at the talks. The giant strides that China and now India are taking towards adopting renewables and phasing out coal for generating electricity could not have been predicted five years ago. The world-wide programmes by cities to clean up air pollution and introduce electric vehicles are also expected to have a dramatic effect on reducing emissions, and there are hopes than some countries will reach their Paris targets more easily than they expected.

The chair of the Least Developed Countries group (LDC), Gebru Jember Endalew, said: “Climate change is a critical issue and an urgent, global response is required. Lives and livelihoods across the world are on the line, particularly in the LDCs.

“We have a very small window of time left to develop a set of clear, comprehensive and robust rules to enable full and ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement before the December 2018 deadline.

“Keeping global temperature increase below 1°5C is a matter of survival … science tells us that even full implementation of current commitments under the Paris Agreement will not be enough to reach 1°5C.” – Climate News Network

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.

Bonn climate talks tread a fine line

The Bonn climate talks end after two weeks of preparation for the crucial round next year to agree more stringent action.

LONDON, 18 November, 2017 – The Bonn climate talks, this year’s UN climate summit, are over, and delegates are now heading home, most of them probably with a strong sense of relief.   

For the media who had sat through the two weeks of negotiation, Bonn proved the sort of job journalists dislike more than most: a story without a headline, process without event, plenty of detail but very few hard-nosed facts. And if you listen to the pundits, the verdict on COP 23, as the talks were known by the UN, probably lies somewhere between “could have been worse” and, looking to 2018, “needs to do better.”

That is the outcome many observers had predicted anyway. The real job for COP 23 was to prepare for next year’s COP 24, when the hope is that countries will raise their ambitions significantly.

The targets the world accepted in the Paris Agreement, concluded in the closing minutes of the 2015 UN talks, are aimed at preventing global average temperatures rising more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels – or, if possible, 1.5°C. Better forget both figures: the commitments made then look likely, on present trends, to mean the world is well above 3°C warmer by the end of this century

So next year’s talks, in the Polish city of Katowice, are above all designed to raise countries’ targets for cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. To give that the best chance of happening, COP 24 will need a clearly agreed way of working, a rulebook. That was another of Bonn’s priorities.

“While the White House sleepwalks on climate change, states, cities and communities across the US are wide awake

A third was a further bout of the interminable wrangling over money (whether richer countries should pay to compensate poorer ones for the loss and damage climate change is already causing them, and how they should be helped to pay to protect themselves through adapting to the inevitable).

The conference ended with at least some progress under its belt on most of these conundrums. Andrew Deutz, of the US Nature Conservancy, said: “The conference gets a grade of ‘meets expectations’. The negotiators got down to the orderly business of working out the rules to implement, assess, and advance the Paris Agreement. 

“The processes did not get overly distracted by the US government’s announced withdrawal from the accord. Nevertheless, the absence of national US leadership was evident within the negotiating process this week and for driving more ambitious climate action in the future.”

Other observers say the US delegation played a largely constructive role during the talks, despite President Trump’s statement that he intends to pull out of the Paris accord. Elliot Diringer, of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said one group of experienced US negotiators had been a positive factor in Bonn: “From all accounts they have been playing a constructive role in the room, advancing largely the same positions as before.”

This leaves Donald Trump rather in the position of the dog that didn’t bark. Some COP participants believe in fact he’s missed a significant trick. “Having already abandoned its leadership role on climate, the Trump administration appears to be living in an alternate universe with its focus on fossil fuels”, said Paula Caballero of the World Resources Institute.

Completely isolated

“Now that the US is the only nation that is not on board with the Paris Agreement, the Trump administration should carefully consider whether being completely isolated on the climate issue really benefits the American people.”

Professor Dave Reay, chair in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, UK, said: “High profile representations from California Governor Jerry Brown and others showed that, while the White House sleepwalks on climate change, states, cities and communities across the US are wide awake.

“Likewise, the expanding coalition of nations, led by the UK and Canada and aimed at phasing out coal power, shows just how blinkered the Trump administration’s pro-coal stance really is.”

So COP 23 was necessary and did make some progress. In the world outside the walls of the conference venue, though, there were headlines, not all of them likely to encourage the participants: science says climate change is about to worsen significantly; carbon emissions are likely to rise this year; 2017 is itself one of the three warmest years on record

As one experienced British climate expert said on the eve of the Bonn talks: “The science shows a real growth in our knowledge, and we’re on the right track – just not yet fast enough or far enough.” – Climate News Network

The Bonn climate talks end after two weeks of preparation for the crucial round next year to agree more stringent action.

LONDON, 18 November, 2017 – The Bonn climate talks, this year’s UN climate summit, are over, and delegates are now heading home, most of them probably with a strong sense of relief.   

For the media who had sat through the two weeks of negotiation, Bonn proved the sort of job journalists dislike more than most: a story without a headline, process without event, plenty of detail but very few hard-nosed facts. And if you listen to the pundits, the verdict on COP 23, as the talks were known by the UN, probably lies somewhere between “could have been worse” and, looking to 2018, “needs to do better.”

That is the outcome many observers had predicted anyway. The real job for COP 23 was to prepare for next year’s COP 24, when the hope is that countries will raise their ambitions significantly.

The targets the world accepted in the Paris Agreement, concluded in the closing minutes of the 2015 UN talks, are aimed at preventing global average temperatures rising more than 2°C above their pre-industrial levels – or, if possible, 1.5°C. Better forget both figures: the commitments made then look likely, on present trends, to mean the world is well above 3°C warmer by the end of this century

So next year’s talks, in the Polish city of Katowice, are above all designed to raise countries’ targets for cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. To give that the best chance of happening, COP 24 will need a clearly agreed way of working, a rulebook. That was another of Bonn’s priorities.

“While the White House sleepwalks on climate change, states, cities and communities across the US are wide awake

A third was a further bout of the interminable wrangling over money (whether richer countries should pay to compensate poorer ones for the loss and damage climate change is already causing them, and how they should be helped to pay to protect themselves through adapting to the inevitable).

The conference ended with at least some progress under its belt on most of these conundrums. Andrew Deutz, of the US Nature Conservancy, said: “The conference gets a grade of ‘meets expectations’. The negotiators got down to the orderly business of working out the rules to implement, assess, and advance the Paris Agreement. 

“The processes did not get overly distracted by the US government’s announced withdrawal from the accord. Nevertheless, the absence of national US leadership was evident within the negotiating process this week and for driving more ambitious climate action in the future.”

Other observers say the US delegation played a largely constructive role during the talks, despite President Trump’s statement that he intends to pull out of the Paris accord. Elliot Diringer, of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said one group of experienced US negotiators had been a positive factor in Bonn: “From all accounts they have been playing a constructive role in the room, advancing largely the same positions as before.”

This leaves Donald Trump rather in the position of the dog that didn’t bark. Some COP participants believe in fact he’s missed a significant trick. “Having already abandoned its leadership role on climate, the Trump administration appears to be living in an alternate universe with its focus on fossil fuels”, said Paula Caballero of the World Resources Institute.

Completely isolated

“Now that the US is the only nation that is not on board with the Paris Agreement, the Trump administration should carefully consider whether being completely isolated on the climate issue really benefits the American people.”

Professor Dave Reay, chair in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, UK, said: “High profile representations from California Governor Jerry Brown and others showed that, while the White House sleepwalks on climate change, states, cities and communities across the US are wide awake.

“Likewise, the expanding coalition of nations, led by the UK and Canada and aimed at phasing out coal power, shows just how blinkered the Trump administration’s pro-coal stance really is.”

So COP 23 was necessary and did make some progress. In the world outside the walls of the conference venue, though, there were headlines, not all of them likely to encourage the participants: science says climate change is about to worsen significantly; carbon emissions are likely to rise this year; 2017 is itself one of the three warmest years on record

As one experienced British climate expert said on the eve of the Bonn talks: “The science shows a real growth in our knowledge, and we’re on the right track – just not yet fast enough or far enough.” – Climate News Network