Category Archives: Negotiations

Earth’s future ‘hinges on UN Glasgow climate talks’

With the UN Glasgow climate talks starting next month, three Christian leaders say they will decide the planet’s future.

LONDON, 10 September, 2021 − In an unprecedented action, the leaders of three of the world’s main Christian faiths have spoken out less than two months before the crucial UN Glasgow climate talks begin, issuing a joint appeal to safeguard the future of the planet.

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, have, for the first time, come together to plead for everyone to “choose life” and head off environmental catastrophe.

“We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” says the statement.

The three leaders exercise influence over hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. In the past religious leaders have often been criticised for not taking a strong enough stand and speaking out on the climate emergency facing the world.

“This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it”

In the US, sections of the powerful Evangelical movement have argued against the science of climate change, saying God, not humankind, governed the climate. But attitudes are changing, even among the more politically right wing, Trump-supporting churches in the US.

In 2015 Pope Francis issued a 180-page encyclical – an official statement on church teaching − berating the powerful for their exploitation and misuse of the earth’s resources and calling for urgent action on climate change, particularly to safeguard the lives of the poor.

Bartholomew, often referred to as the Green Patriarch, has long been an activist on environmental issues, heading a series of symposia focusing on the damage climate change and pollution are causing to the world’s oceans.

Paying the price

Justin Welby has for many years spoken about the danger to humanity posed by the climate crisis. In 2019 he strongly criticised the investment industry for its lack of action on the issue.

This latest declaration uses stark language to emphasise the scale of the problem facing the world: “We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations … today, we are paying the price. The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival.”

The three leaders talk about a profound injustice: “The people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

Of the forthcoming COP26 UN Glasgow climate talks, they say simply that the meeting will decide the future of the planet: “This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it.” − Climate News Network

With the UN Glasgow climate talks starting next month, three Christian leaders say they will decide the planet’s future.

LONDON, 10 September, 2021 − In an unprecedented action, the leaders of three of the world’s main Christian faiths have spoken out less than two months before the crucial UN Glasgow climate talks begin, issuing a joint appeal to safeguard the future of the planet.

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, have, for the first time, come together to plead for everyone to “choose life” and head off environmental catastrophe.

“We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” says the statement.

The three leaders exercise influence over hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. In the past religious leaders have often been criticised for not taking a strong enough stand and speaking out on the climate emergency facing the world.

“This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it”

In the US, sections of the powerful Evangelical movement have argued against the science of climate change, saying God, not humankind, governed the climate. But attitudes are changing, even among the more politically right wing, Trump-supporting churches in the US.

In 2015 Pope Francis issued a 180-page encyclical – an official statement on church teaching − berating the powerful for their exploitation and misuse of the earth’s resources and calling for urgent action on climate change, particularly to safeguard the lives of the poor.

Bartholomew, often referred to as the Green Patriarch, has long been an activist on environmental issues, heading a series of symposia focusing on the damage climate change and pollution are causing to the world’s oceans.

Paying the price

Justin Welby has for many years spoken about the danger to humanity posed by the climate crisis. In 2019 he strongly criticised the investment industry for its lack of action on the issue.

This latest declaration uses stark language to emphasise the scale of the problem facing the world: “We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations … today, we are paying the price. The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival.”

The three leaders talk about a profound injustice: “The people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

Of the forthcoming COP26 UN Glasgow climate talks, they say simply that the meeting will decide the future of the planet: “This is a critical moment. Our future and the future of our common home depend on it.” − Climate News Network

A billion children face extreme climate risk − UN

The climate crisis and pollution from other sources are putting a billion children in jeopardy, the United Nations says.

LONDON, 31 August, 2021 − Nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion children face an “extremely high risk” due to the climate crisis and other forms of pollution, according to a report by the UN Children’s Fund, Unicef, released earlier this month to mark the third anniversary of the start of Greta Thunberg’s school strike movement, Fridays for Future.

The report is the first to paint a “complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change,” said Unicef’s executive director Henrietta Fore, “and that picture is almost unimaginably dire. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected.

“Nearly every child around the world was at risk from at least one of these impacts today, including heat waves, floods, cyclones, disease, drought, and air pollution. But one billion children live in 33 countries facing three or four impacts simultaneously, including India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and much of sub-Saharan Africa.”

Those impacts are “deeply inequitable”, Unicef added, and they’re likely to become more so. “The top 10 countries that are at extremely high risk are only responsible for 0.5% of global emissions.”

“Young people are the world’s most precious natural resource”

At present, The Guardian says, 920 million children are “highly exposed” to water scarcity, 820 million to heat waves, and 600 million to diseases like malaria and dengue that are made worse by climate change.

“Children are uniquely vulnerable to climate hazards,” Fore added. “Compared to adults, children require more food and water per unit of body weight and are less able to survive extreme weather events.”

But at the same time, “there is still time to act,” she stressed. “Improving children’s access to essential services can significantly increase their ability to survive these climate hazards.”

So the agency is urging governments and businesses to “listen to children and prioritise actions that protect them from impacts, while accelerating work to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Make COP26 inclusive

At this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP26, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Unicef is urging governments to include children in all negotiations and decisions. “The decisions will define their future,” Fore said.

“Children and young people need to be recognised as the rightful heirs of this planet that we all share.”

Thunberg added that youth are already at the centre of climate advocacy. “We are not just victims, we are also leading the fight,” she said, but decision-makers are “still not treating the climate crisis like an emergency.

“We are still just talking and greenwashing things instead of taking real action. But, on the other hand, there have been many millions of people mobilised, especially young people, and that is a very important step in the right direction.”

Fear of drowning

“Climate change is very personal to me,” said Zimbabwe climate activist Nkosilathi Nyathi, who explained that heat waves and floods had interrupted his schooling and left farmers in his village struggling with unpredictable weather.

“I’m passionate about the inclusion of young people in decision-making platforms,” as “young people are the world’s most precious natural resource.”

“One of the reasons I’m a climate activist is because I was born into climate change like so many of us have been,” said Philippines climate campaigner Mitzi Jonelle Tan. “I have such vivid memories of doing my homework by candlelight as typhoons raged outside, wiping out the electricity, and growing up being afraid of drowning in my own bedroom because I would wake up to a flooded room.”

COP26 “has to be the one that changes something,” she added, “because we’ve gone for so long having these conferences only coming up with empty promises and vague plans.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

This report first appeared on the site of our Canadian partners The Energy Mix on 23 August and is republished here by courtesy of them.

The climate crisis and pollution from other sources are putting a billion children in jeopardy, the United Nations says.

LONDON, 31 August, 2021 − Nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion children face an “extremely high risk” due to the climate crisis and other forms of pollution, according to a report by the UN Children’s Fund, Unicef, released earlier this month to mark the third anniversary of the start of Greta Thunberg’s school strike movement, Fridays for Future.

The report is the first to paint a “complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change,” said Unicef’s executive director Henrietta Fore, “and that picture is almost unimaginably dire. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected.

“Nearly every child around the world was at risk from at least one of these impacts today, including heat waves, floods, cyclones, disease, drought, and air pollution. But one billion children live in 33 countries facing three or four impacts simultaneously, including India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and much of sub-Saharan Africa.”

Those impacts are “deeply inequitable”, Unicef added, and they’re likely to become more so. “The top 10 countries that are at extremely high risk are only responsible for 0.5% of global emissions.”

“Young people are the world’s most precious natural resource”

At present, The Guardian says, 920 million children are “highly exposed” to water scarcity, 820 million to heat waves, and 600 million to diseases like malaria and dengue that are made worse by climate change.

“Children are uniquely vulnerable to climate hazards,” Fore added. “Compared to adults, children require more food and water per unit of body weight and are less able to survive extreme weather events.”

But at the same time, “there is still time to act,” she stressed. “Improving children’s access to essential services can significantly increase their ability to survive these climate hazards.”

So the agency is urging governments and businesses to “listen to children and prioritise actions that protect them from impacts, while accelerating work to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Make COP26 inclusive

At this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP26, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Unicef is urging governments to include children in all negotiations and decisions. “The decisions will define their future,” Fore said.

“Children and young people need to be recognised as the rightful heirs of this planet that we all share.”

Thunberg added that youth are already at the centre of climate advocacy. “We are not just victims, we are also leading the fight,” she said, but decision-makers are “still not treating the climate crisis like an emergency.

“We are still just talking and greenwashing things instead of taking real action. But, on the other hand, there have been many millions of people mobilised, especially young people, and that is a very important step in the right direction.”

Fear of drowning

“Climate change is very personal to me,” said Zimbabwe climate activist Nkosilathi Nyathi, who explained that heat waves and floods had interrupted his schooling and left farmers in his village struggling with unpredictable weather.

“I’m passionate about the inclusion of young people in decision-making platforms,” as “young people are the world’s most precious natural resource.”

“One of the reasons I’m a climate activist is because I was born into climate change like so many of us have been,” said Philippines climate campaigner Mitzi Jonelle Tan. “I have such vivid memories of doing my homework by candlelight as typhoons raged outside, wiping out the electricity, and growing up being afraid of drowning in my own bedroom because I would wake up to a flooded room.”

COP26 “has to be the one that changes something,” she added, “because we’ve gone for so long having these conferences only coming up with empty promises and vague plans.” − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

This report first appeared on the site of our Canadian partners The Energy Mix on 23 August and is republished here by courtesy of them.

China’s cash for UK nuclear plants is in doubt

Cooler Sino-British relations mean China’s cash for UK nuclear plants is at risk − and success at the COP26 climate talks.

LONDON, 16 August, 2021 − A serious stumbling block now threatens the prospect of China’s cash for UK nuclear plants materialising − and also the likelihood of a successful outcome to COP26, the global climate conference which the British government is due to host later this year.

In order to finance the construction of nuclear stations that are supposed to generate up to 20% of the UK’s electricity, the British government needs Chinese money. Without it, the already prohibitively expensive projects may become completely unaffordable.

Neither the deeply indebted French government-owned company EDF, which is building two stations, each with twin reactors, nor the UK  government is prepared to underwrite the entire cost of the projects. This is because of the huge sums required − around £45 billion (US$62bn).

However, the UK government faces severe political pressure to end Chinese involvement, because of the perceived threat of ceding control over vital services such as the electricity supply.

Problematic deal

The problem for Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, is particularly acute as Britain is hosting COP26, this year’s UN climate conference, in Glasgow in November. Relations between the UK and China are already poor, in part because of disputes over democratic freedoms for the people of Hong Kong.

But with China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be to avert catastrophic climate change.

The problem over funding the nuclear programme arises because of a deal struck in 2015 between the then British prime minister, David Cameron, and China’s president Xi Jinping.

That agreed that China would stump up one third of the £23bn ($32bn) cost of the Hinkley C nuclear power station in the West of England, and also pay 20% of the cost of another planned station, Sizewell C, on the east coast. In return the Chinese could then build a nuclear plant of their own design at Bradwell B in Essex, closer to London, and use it as a platform to export their Hualong HPR1000 reactor technology to the rest of the world.

“With China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be”

To President Xi the cost of helping to fund the French company to build nuclear stations in Britain was outweighed by the advantage of getting Chinese technology validated in the UK as a bridge to future exports.

Six years later, however, with the Hinkley Point project well under way and Sizewell C supposedly close to launch, the British government is now nervous about allowing the Chinese such a strong involvement in the UK’s nuclear secrets and the nation’s power supply.

Its dilemma, though, is that if the UK reneges on its 2015 agreement, then China could abandon both projects, leaving a financial black hole of many billions of pounds. Trades unions are horrified at the potential loss of jobs the possible cancellation of the projects would cause.

One alternative to Chinese funding is a UK nuclear tax which would be paid in advance by electricity users to fund the construction of the power stations. With power bills already due to rise by more than 10% in Britain before the end of 2021, this is unlikely to be an electorally popular solution.

Renewable competition

What will happen is anyone’s guess. Given Johnson’s well-known habit of postponing difficult decisions, and the looming COP26, it is likely that nothing will be announced until the crucial Glasgow talks are over. The French, in anticipation, have already announced that they are postponing the “final investment decision” on Sizewell C until next year.

Meanwhile the renewable energy industry, particularly offshore wind, is powering ahead with a massive construction programme. Its projects will all produce electricity far more cheaply than any of the UK’s proposed new nuclear stations.

Last ditch attempts by the nuclear industry to put a green gloss on its proposals by persuading ministers that its spare electricity capacity can be used to make green hydrogen seem unlikely to succeed.

Perhaps in time it will become obvious to Johnson that if banning Chinese involvement in British nuclear plants means they end up not being built that will be a bonus, because cheaper renewable energy will soon be available to fill any perceived gap in supply. − Climate News Network

Cooler Sino-British relations mean China’s cash for UK nuclear plants is at risk − and success at the COP26 climate talks.

LONDON, 16 August, 2021 − A serious stumbling block now threatens the prospect of China’s cash for UK nuclear plants materialising − and also the likelihood of a successful outcome to COP26, the global climate conference which the British government is due to host later this year.

In order to finance the construction of nuclear stations that are supposed to generate up to 20% of the UK’s electricity, the British government needs Chinese money. Without it, the already prohibitively expensive projects may become completely unaffordable.

Neither the deeply indebted French government-owned company EDF, which is building two stations, each with twin reactors, nor the UK  government is prepared to underwrite the entire cost of the projects. This is because of the huge sums required − around £45 billion (US$62bn).

However, the UK government faces severe political pressure to end Chinese involvement, because of the perceived threat of ceding control over vital services such as the electricity supply.

Problematic deal

The problem for Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, is particularly acute as Britain is hosting COP26, this year’s UN climate conference, in Glasgow in November. Relations between the UK and China are already poor, in part because of disputes over democratic freedoms for the people of Hong Kong.

But with China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be to avert catastrophic climate change.

The problem over funding the nuclear programme arises because of a deal struck in 2015 between the then British prime minister, David Cameron, and China’s president Xi Jinping.

That agreed that China would stump up one third of the £23bn ($32bn) cost of the Hinkley C nuclear power station in the West of England, and also pay 20% of the cost of another planned station, Sizewell C, on the east coast. In return the Chinese could then build a nuclear plant of their own design at Bradwell B in Essex, closer to London, and use it as a platform to export their Hualong HPR1000 reactor technology to the rest of the world.

“With China the world’s largest carbon emitter, Johnson needs it onside if he is to have a chance of making COP26 the success it must be”

To President Xi the cost of helping to fund the French company to build nuclear stations in Britain was outweighed by the advantage of getting Chinese technology validated in the UK as a bridge to future exports.

Six years later, however, with the Hinkley Point project well under way and Sizewell C supposedly close to launch, the British government is now nervous about allowing the Chinese such a strong involvement in the UK’s nuclear secrets and the nation’s power supply.

Its dilemma, though, is that if the UK reneges on its 2015 agreement, then China could abandon both projects, leaving a financial black hole of many billions of pounds. Trades unions are horrified at the potential loss of jobs the possible cancellation of the projects would cause.

One alternative to Chinese funding is a UK nuclear tax which would be paid in advance by electricity users to fund the construction of the power stations. With power bills already due to rise by more than 10% in Britain before the end of 2021, this is unlikely to be an electorally popular solution.

Renewable competition

What will happen is anyone’s guess. Given Johnson’s well-known habit of postponing difficult decisions, and the looming COP26, it is likely that nothing will be announced until the crucial Glasgow talks are over. The French, in anticipation, have already announced that they are postponing the “final investment decision” on Sizewell C until next year.

Meanwhile the renewable energy industry, particularly offshore wind, is powering ahead with a massive construction programme. Its projects will all produce electricity far more cheaply than any of the UK’s proposed new nuclear stations.

Last ditch attempts by the nuclear industry to put a green gloss on its proposals by persuading ministers that its spare electricity capacity can be used to make green hydrogen seem unlikely to succeed.

Perhaps in time it will become obvious to Johnson that if banning Chinese involvement in British nuclear plants means they end up not being built that will be a bonus, because cheaper renewable energy will soon be available to fill any perceived gap in supply. − Climate News Network

UK says a failure to act on the climate ‘is justified’

Three months before hosting the UN conference, COP-26, the UK says a failure to act on the climate treaty can be justified.

LONDON, 6 August, 2021 − In a remarkable challenge to the global consensus that the climate crisis is an urgent threat to the planet, the  United Kingdom has argued that a failure to act on the climate treaty agreed in 2015 can be justified.

Its stance is all the more bizarre as in less than three months the UK government is to host the crucial United Nations climate conference, COP-26, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, starting on 1 November.

The government’s case set out in its response to a legal action brought in May by three young Britons, Adetola Stephanie Onamade, Marina Tricks and Jerry Amokwandoh, who said their human rights were being breached by the government’s failure to act decisively on the climate crisis.

The action is also being brought by Plan B, the legal charity behind a failed attempt to block the expansion of Heathrow airport, and its director, Tim Crosland.

The government claims that it is doing enough to comply legally with the Paris Agreement, concluded six years ago in the French capital. Even if it is not, it argues, there are no grounds for the courts to intervene: it is for it alone to weigh the economic and environmental arguments.

In its reply to the claimants’ case, it says of its climate policies: “Any inadvertent and indirect discriminatory impacts would fall well within the UK’s margin of appreciation, and be objectively and reasonably justified, if they could be established by the claimants.

“I don’t consent to my children being treated as collateral damage”

Tim Crosland said: “The Government’s real position is that the devastating, disproportionate and discriminatory impacts for the younger generation and for whole regions of the world − those who have contributed least to the crisis − can be ‘objectively and reasonably justified’.

“Presumably, that means it considers our young people ‘collateral damage’ in its pursuit of vast short-term profits for the few. But I don’t consent to my children being treated as collateral damage.”

The government claims to be responding to the advice it has received from the Climate Change Committee, an independent body advising it on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The joint foreword to the Committee’s latest report, however, tells a different story. It says: “It is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen [from the government] in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities  . . . We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices.

“Our planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments.”

Bid for recognition

The Glasgow conference will be an acutely anxious occasion for the British prime minister Boris Johnson, who is committed to making good on the UK’s attempts to be recognised as a world leader on the climate crisis.

The meeting’s main aim is to put flesh on the bones of the Paris Agreement, reached with the backing of 195 of the world’s governments. That planned a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions progressively: Glasgow’s task is to make the real progress which Paris did little more than foreshadow.

If Johnson can leave Glasgow with substantial progress assured, he will be able to lay claim to success of a sort which has eluded his predecessors for 20 years or more. If he fails, he will struggle to be taken seriously again either at home or in most foreign capitals

The United Kingdom has a record that deserves at least qualified praise, notably for its commitment, announced in April, to cut carbon emissions by 78% before 2035. That date is 15 years earlier than the target date already in place, and if the government ensures that it is achieved it really will count for something. But that is a massive “if”.

Leadership material?

There are questions too over its commitment to ending the exploitation and use of fossil fuels fast enough and to improving adaptation to rising temperatures.

It is easy to criticise Johnson for the deficiencies in his climate policies, and for his patchy record in implementing many of them. He is not alone in his failure so far to act with the vision and energy the crisis demands.

But that’s what we reasonably expect from genuine leaders: an ability to be different, to step beyond business-as-usual to something so radically different that few of us can even imagine it.

If Johnson can show that sort of world-leading ability in Glasgow he will confound his critics, and make the world a little safer too. The “ifs” grow more demanding with every repetition. − Climate News Network

Three months before hosting the UN conference, COP-26, the UK says a failure to act on the climate treaty can be justified.

LONDON, 6 August, 2021 − In a remarkable challenge to the global consensus that the climate crisis is an urgent threat to the planet, the  United Kingdom has argued that a failure to act on the climate treaty agreed in 2015 can be justified.

Its stance is all the more bizarre as in less than three months the UK government is to host the crucial United Nations climate conference, COP-26, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, starting on 1 November.

The government’s case set out in its response to a legal action brought in May by three young Britons, Adetola Stephanie Onamade, Marina Tricks and Jerry Amokwandoh, who said their human rights were being breached by the government’s failure to act decisively on the climate crisis.

The action is also being brought by Plan B, the legal charity behind a failed attempt to block the expansion of Heathrow airport, and its director, Tim Crosland.

The government claims that it is doing enough to comply legally with the Paris Agreement, concluded six years ago in the French capital. Even if it is not, it argues, there are no grounds for the courts to intervene: it is for it alone to weigh the economic and environmental arguments.

In its reply to the claimants’ case, it says of its climate policies: “Any inadvertent and indirect discriminatory impacts would fall well within the UK’s margin of appreciation, and be objectively and reasonably justified, if they could be established by the claimants.

“I don’t consent to my children being treated as collateral damage”

Tim Crosland said: “The Government’s real position is that the devastating, disproportionate and discriminatory impacts for the younger generation and for whole regions of the world − those who have contributed least to the crisis − can be ‘objectively and reasonably justified’.

“Presumably, that means it considers our young people ‘collateral damage’ in its pursuit of vast short-term profits for the few. But I don’t consent to my children being treated as collateral damage.”

The government claims to be responding to the advice it has received from the Climate Change Committee, an independent body advising it on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The joint foreword to the Committee’s latest report, however, tells a different story. It says: “It is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen [from the government] in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities  . . . We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices.

“Our planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments.”

Bid for recognition

The Glasgow conference will be an acutely anxious occasion for the British prime minister Boris Johnson, who is committed to making good on the UK’s attempts to be recognised as a world leader on the climate crisis.

The meeting’s main aim is to put flesh on the bones of the Paris Agreement, reached with the backing of 195 of the world’s governments. That planned a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions progressively: Glasgow’s task is to make the real progress which Paris did little more than foreshadow.

If Johnson can leave Glasgow with substantial progress assured, he will be able to lay claim to success of a sort which has eluded his predecessors for 20 years or more. If he fails, he will struggle to be taken seriously again either at home or in most foreign capitals

The United Kingdom has a record that deserves at least qualified praise, notably for its commitment, announced in April, to cut carbon emissions by 78% before 2035. That date is 15 years earlier than the target date already in place, and if the government ensures that it is achieved it really will count for something. But that is a massive “if”.

Leadership material?

There are questions too over its commitment to ending the exploitation and use of fossil fuels fast enough and to improving adaptation to rising temperatures.

It is easy to criticise Johnson for the deficiencies in his climate policies, and for his patchy record in implementing many of them. He is not alone in his failure so far to act with the vision and energy the crisis demands.

But that’s what we reasonably expect from genuine leaders: an ability to be different, to step beyond business-as-usual to something so radically different that few of us can even imagine it.

If Johnson can show that sort of world-leading ability in Glasgow he will confound his critics, and make the world a little safer too. The “ifs” grow more demanding with every repetition. − Climate News Network

‘People need facts on climate’ from Boris Johnson

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is urged by advisers to step up and tell people the facts on climate.

LONDON, 24 June, 2021 − In an uncompromising message directed at the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, an independent advisory group has told him he must rapidly “level with people” over the facts on climate.

The advisers say Johnson needs to do this within a matter of months, before the UK hosts the UN climate conference, COP-26, in Glasgow in November, because the road it faces will be “tricky”.

The advice comes from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Last week the CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said the level of risk posed by climate change had risen in the last five years, and the extent of planning to adapt to it was “really shocking”.

Onus on Johnson

He told the Climate News Network in an interview that the UK had set sound, science-based targets for reaching its goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century, but it needed to do far more on delivering them.

“We need the government to level with people, because some of the decisions ahead will be tricky,” Dr Stark said. “We need Boris Johnson to step up before November.

“Delivering what the UK has promised could be the basis of a better relationship between us and the US, Europe, and possibly even China. Johnson needs to recognise that, to see the political opportunities delivery  offers. The responsibility for what happens in Glasgow rests with him.”

The CCC is resolute in seeing opportunities as well as potential problems ahead if the UK delivers on the climate promises it’s made. It’s warned Britons, for instance, that a drastic change of diet is necessary to help to reduce carbon emissions a cut in meat consumption of 20%.

“Time is running out for realistic climate commitments”

But that will prove “neither difficult nor scary” for Dr Stark. “Diets are changing already”, he says. “We’re moving to healthier eating habits. Younger people are eating less meat than their elders, and there’s an argument for the health benefits that offers.

“Farmers who can’t raise so many animals for meat will have new sources of money, using their land for soil restoration and for absorbing carbon, treating it as a crop.”

That’s a hopeful prospect, but it may prove little more than a glimmer against the background of the progress the world has to make to tackle the climate crisis, and how little time it has to do it. Transparency about the facts on climate will be essential.

Six years ago, at the 2015 UN climate conference, 195 nations affirmed the Paris Agreement, accepting a commitment to prevent global temperatures rising more than 2°C beyond their historic level, and to try to keep the rise to a more modest 1.5°C.

UK leadership in question

Progress to make the Agreement work is slow – so slow that the CCC is among those predicting that by the end of this century the temperature rise may have reached 3.5-4°C, or more. Referring specifically to the UK, it has a stark verdict: “Time is running out for realistic climate commitments.”

Its chairman, Lord Deben, says the UK cannot afford to “continue to be slow and timid.” If November’s climate conference in Glasgow is judged to have failed because the UK, its host, has not delivered on its undertakings, he says, “the whole concept of the UK being a global leader will be undermined.

“If all we do is promise, other people won’t take us seriously. Every decision we take has to be seen through the lens of our net zero target for mid-century.

“Not all parts of the government realise the urgency we need to avoid disruption to people’s lives. This government earns nine out of ten for determination and policy. But on delivery, I don’t think it reaches four out of ten.” − Climate News Network

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is urged by advisers to step up and tell people the facts on climate.

LONDON, 24 June, 2021 − In an uncompromising message directed at the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, an independent advisory group has told him he must rapidly “level with people” over the facts on climate.

The advisers say Johnson needs to do this within a matter of months, before the UK hosts the UN climate conference, COP-26, in Glasgow in November, because the road it faces will be “tricky”.

The advice comes from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent statutory body set up to advise the UK government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on emissions targets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Last week the CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said the level of risk posed by climate change had risen in the last five years, and the extent of planning to adapt to it was “really shocking”.

Onus on Johnson

He told the Climate News Network in an interview that the UK had set sound, science-based targets for reaching its goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century, but it needed to do far more on delivering them.

“We need the government to level with people, because some of the decisions ahead will be tricky,” Dr Stark said. “We need Boris Johnson to step up before November.

“Delivering what the UK has promised could be the basis of a better relationship between us and the US, Europe, and possibly even China. Johnson needs to recognise that, to see the political opportunities delivery  offers. The responsibility for what happens in Glasgow rests with him.”

The CCC is resolute in seeing opportunities as well as potential problems ahead if the UK delivers on the climate promises it’s made. It’s warned Britons, for instance, that a drastic change of diet is necessary to help to reduce carbon emissions a cut in meat consumption of 20%.

“Time is running out for realistic climate commitments”

But that will prove “neither difficult nor scary” for Dr Stark. “Diets are changing already”, he says. “We’re moving to healthier eating habits. Younger people are eating less meat than their elders, and there’s an argument for the health benefits that offers.

“Farmers who can’t raise so many animals for meat will have new sources of money, using their land for soil restoration and for absorbing carbon, treating it as a crop.”

That’s a hopeful prospect, but it may prove little more than a glimmer against the background of the progress the world has to make to tackle the climate crisis, and how little time it has to do it. Transparency about the facts on climate will be essential.

Six years ago, at the 2015 UN climate conference, 195 nations affirmed the Paris Agreement, accepting a commitment to prevent global temperatures rising more than 2°C beyond their historic level, and to try to keep the rise to a more modest 1.5°C.

UK leadership in question

Progress to make the Agreement work is slow – so slow that the CCC is among those predicting that by the end of this century the temperature rise may have reached 3.5-4°C, or more. Referring specifically to the UK, it has a stark verdict: “Time is running out for realistic climate commitments.”

Its chairman, Lord Deben, says the UK cannot afford to “continue to be slow and timid.” If November’s climate conference in Glasgow is judged to have failed because the UK, its host, has not delivered on its undertakings, he says, “the whole concept of the UK being a global leader will be undermined.

“If all we do is promise, other people won’t take us seriously. Every decision we take has to be seen through the lens of our net zero target for mid-century.

“Not all parts of the government realise the urgency we need to avoid disruption to people’s lives. This government earns nine out of ten for determination and policy. But on delivery, I don’t think it reaches four out of ten.” − Climate News Network

Reformed trade rules can help to save the climate

If the British government agrees to reformed trade rules, that could help the crucial climate talks it will chair in November.

LONDON, 20 January, 2021 – This could be the year of opportunity for the United Kingdom – and far beyond it – in securing real action on tackling the climate crisis: reformed trade rules could provide a climate dividend of the rancorous Brexit process of leaving the European Union.

Success could earn the UK government an honoured place among the politicians visionary enough to confront probably the worst threat facing humankind. Failure would damn this generation of British leaders as a lightweight irrelevance.

Barely ten months from now, in November, the British government faces a massive challenge. In the Scottish city of Glasgow it will host and chair the annual United Nations climate conference, which must breathe new energy and hope into the global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, adopted by 197 countries in the French capital in 2015.

Paris promised much but so far has delivered little in achieving the reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases the world urgently needs. Unless the Glasgow conference (COP-26 in UN jargon – the 26th Conference of the Parties) ends with iron-clad agreement that will inexorably ensure global average temperatures stay below 1.5°C, the planet faces dangerous and perhaps irreversible climate heating.

On the first day of 2021 the UK struck out on its own politically, leaving the EU after 47 years of membership to follow an independent route, not least on trade.

“We must shake up the economic model so that it doesn’t pay to destroy the environment”

Opponents of Brexit have dismissed the move as a risky gamble. Supporters say it gives the UK the alluring prospect of trade on British terms alone. Both agree in hoping the country may now enjoy more freedom and flexibility in trade policy.

Whether or not it does, campaigners argue, Brexit could open the way to a different but immensely important goal: it could be a game-changer in Glasgow.

They are pinning their hopes on the possibility that the UK will decide to join a new green trade grouping – ACCTS, the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability, formed by six countries committed to using trade policy to support action on the climate (New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Costa Rica, Fiji and Switzerland).

If the UK does join ACCTS this year (it is an open agreement, which welcomes new members), that would send a clear message to the other members of the World Trade Organisation, its supporters believe, that post-Brexit Britain champions environmentally-sustainable trade and sees it as a potent way to strengthen action on the climate crisis.

Supporters of ACCTS say signatories are showing they back the reform of trade rules so as to give priority to the environment – a huge shift in emphasis for the global trading system. The Agreement has three main aims:

  • Liberalising trade in environmental goods and services: This means cutting tariffs on environmentally-friendly products (including, for example, wind turbines and solar panels) so they can be traded more freely and reach the countries where they are most needed, attracting investment and development. The UK already charges very low tariffs, so compliance will be simple
  • Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies: 89% of global carbon emissions come from fossil fuels and industry. Yet governments continue to subsidise coal, oil and gas, pouring US$500 billion (£367bn) of public money into their production and consumption every year. The UK currently offers an estimated £10bn (US$13.6bn) of public support to fossil fuels each year, in the form of direct subsidies and tax breaks. This runs counter to all the UK’s climate goals, which instead favour funding support for renewable energy
  • Developing eco-labels for goods: This aims to develop a common way of labelling goods with information about their environmental impact, to give consumers information on which to base their decisions.

‘Incoherence’

Speaking in Stockholm in March 2020 at an event to discuss climate change, trade, and sustainable development in the run-up to the Glasgow talks, Andrew Jenks, New Zealand’s ambassador to Sweden, said: “Fossil fuel subsidies are the height of policy incoherence on an issue where we cannot afford to carry on the mistakes of the past.”

From his diplomatic colleague the British ambassador, Judith Gough, there was if anything even more exuberant language for the potential offered by ACCTS: “We must shake up the economic model so that it doesn’t pay to destroy the environment”.

An active supporter of the ACCTS countries is the UK charity Traidcraft Exchange. It concludes a recent report, Getting in on the ACCTS, with these words: “In November 2020, the UK prime minister Boris Johnson announned a ten-point plan to ‘create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero [greenhouse gas emissions] by 2050.’

“Joining ACCTS would strengthen these commitments, and would send a clear message about how Britain plans to use its new independent trade policy.” There will be many listeners waiting intently in Glasgow to hear that message. – Climate News Network

If the British government agrees to reformed trade rules, that could help the crucial climate talks it will chair in November.

LONDON, 20 January, 2021 – This could be the year of opportunity for the United Kingdom – and far beyond it – in securing real action on tackling the climate crisis: reformed trade rules could provide a climate dividend of the rancorous Brexit process of leaving the European Union.

Success could earn the UK government an honoured place among the politicians visionary enough to confront probably the worst threat facing humankind. Failure would damn this generation of British leaders as a lightweight irrelevance.

Barely ten months from now, in November, the British government faces a massive challenge. In the Scottish city of Glasgow it will host and chair the annual United Nations climate conference, which must breathe new energy and hope into the global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, adopted by 197 countries in the French capital in 2015.

Paris promised much but so far has delivered little in achieving the reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases the world urgently needs. Unless the Glasgow conference (COP-26 in UN jargon – the 26th Conference of the Parties) ends with iron-clad agreement that will inexorably ensure global average temperatures stay below 1.5°C, the planet faces dangerous and perhaps irreversible climate heating.

On the first day of 2021 the UK struck out on its own politically, leaving the EU after 47 years of membership to follow an independent route, not least on trade.

“We must shake up the economic model so that it doesn’t pay to destroy the environment”

Opponents of Brexit have dismissed the move as a risky gamble. Supporters say it gives the UK the alluring prospect of trade on British terms alone. Both agree in hoping the country may now enjoy more freedom and flexibility in trade policy.

Whether or not it does, campaigners argue, Brexit could open the way to a different but immensely important goal: it could be a game-changer in Glasgow.

They are pinning their hopes on the possibility that the UK will decide to join a new green trade grouping – ACCTS, the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability, formed by six countries committed to using trade policy to support action on the climate (New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Costa Rica, Fiji and Switzerland).

If the UK does join ACCTS this year (it is an open agreement, which welcomes new members), that would send a clear message to the other members of the World Trade Organisation, its supporters believe, that post-Brexit Britain champions environmentally-sustainable trade and sees it as a potent way to strengthen action on the climate crisis.

Supporters of ACCTS say signatories are showing they back the reform of trade rules so as to give priority to the environment – a huge shift in emphasis for the global trading system. The Agreement has three main aims:

  • Liberalising trade in environmental goods and services: This means cutting tariffs on environmentally-friendly products (including, for example, wind turbines and solar panels) so they can be traded more freely and reach the countries where they are most needed, attracting investment and development. The UK already charges very low tariffs, so compliance will be simple
  • Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies: 89% of global carbon emissions come from fossil fuels and industry. Yet governments continue to subsidise coal, oil and gas, pouring US$500 billion (£367bn) of public money into their production and consumption every year. The UK currently offers an estimated £10bn (US$13.6bn) of public support to fossil fuels each year, in the form of direct subsidies and tax breaks. This runs counter to all the UK’s climate goals, which instead favour funding support for renewable energy
  • Developing eco-labels for goods: This aims to develop a common way of labelling goods with information about their environmental impact, to give consumers information on which to base their decisions.

‘Incoherence’

Speaking in Stockholm in March 2020 at an event to discuss climate change, trade, and sustainable development in the run-up to the Glasgow talks, Andrew Jenks, New Zealand’s ambassador to Sweden, said: “Fossil fuel subsidies are the height of policy incoherence on an issue where we cannot afford to carry on the mistakes of the past.”

From his diplomatic colleague the British ambassador, Judith Gough, there was if anything even more exuberant language for the potential offered by ACCTS: “We must shake up the economic model so that it doesn’t pay to destroy the environment”.

An active supporter of the ACCTS countries is the UK charity Traidcraft Exchange. It concludes a recent report, Getting in on the ACCTS, with these words: “In November 2020, the UK prime minister Boris Johnson announned a ten-point plan to ‘create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero [greenhouse gas emissions] by 2050.’

“Joining ACCTS would strengthen these commitments, and would send a clear message about how Britain plans to use its new independent trade policy.” There will be many listeners waiting intently in Glasgow to hear that message. – Climate News Network

UK: Paris climate treaty has no domestic effect

The 2015 Paris climate treaty is the only global step to tame the crisis. Now London says it does not apply within the UK.

LONDON, 14 August, 2020 − The United Kingdom was one of the 195 countries which signed up to the 2015 Paris climate treaty, the global attempt to limit the climate crisis. More than that, it was one of the most energetic and enthusiastic backers of the Paris Agreement, the treaty’s formal title.

So you may be surprised to learn that the British government has just told a climate campaign group, Plan B, that the Paris Agreement does not apply to the domestic law of the UK, and is therefore irrelevant to government policy on how to rebuild the country’s economy after the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement comes in an email (dated 7 August, but released only five days later) from the Treasury Solicitor, the head of the government’s legal department.

It is a reply to a letter sent by Plan B on 7 July to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, about official plans to meet the climate emergency, and specifically how the UK should restore the economy after the ravages of Covid.

Claim ‘too late’

In it Plan B undertook to start legal action against the government unless it provided a clear explanation of how its Covid recovery programme would support the UK’s target of a net zero carbon economy, and also agreed that all government programmes would be compatible with its policy commitments to the Paris Agreement temperature rise limit of 1.5 ̊C.

The group’s director, Tim Crosland, wrote: “Treating the climate emergency as a ‘competing priority’ to Covid recovery is a catastrophic error, which must be quickly corrected to avoid tragic consequences.”

The government has now replied to Plan B’s threatened legal action by defending its decision to ignore the Paris Agreement in its decision to  continue to support the present carbon-based economy, claiming there is no legal obligation on it to take the Agreement into account.

Its email says that Plan B’s claim for judicial review has been made too late, and “any claim filed now would be significantly out-of-time and should be refused permission to apply for judicial review on that basis alone.”

“If the Paris Agreement does not apply now, then when?”

On the UK’s 2015 undertaking to work to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Treasury Solicitor writes: “The Paris Agreement is an unincorporated international treaty which, in the context of the English dualist legal system [one which treats international and domestic systems of law as separate and independent], has no direct effect in domestic law.”

Plan B undertook an earlier legal battle over expansion proposals for London’s Heathrow airport, where the government argued that the Paris Agreement was irrelevant. In February the Court of Appeal disagreed with that assessment, and the government’s plans were ruled unlawful.

On 4 March, Boris Johnson told Parliament that the government would ensure that it did abide by that judgment and take account of the Paris convention. Tim Crosland says: “It seems that does not apply to billions of pounds of public money being provided to companies such as RyanAir, Easyjet, Rolls-Royce and Nissan.

“Instead of addressing the evidence that its bailouts for polluters will lock us into a disastrous trajectory towards 4˚C warming, risking billions of human lives, the government is hiding behind legal arguments to claim that it isn’t legally required to take that into account.

Inbuilt discrimination

‘That is not just reckless. It is a fundamental breach of the social contract. It is the basic responsibility of the government to safeguard its people.

“Nor does the government show any concern for the discriminatory impact of its catastrophic trajectory, which will hit hardest the younger generation, racially marginalised communities, and the Global South. Its primary concern is appeasing its corporate sponsors

“This has to be stopped. We will now begin work on filing our claim with the court.”

Jerry Amokwandoh worked with the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford. He said: “Unconditional bailouts that contribute to the biggest pandemic of them all prove that our lives do not matter, the lives of my family in Ghana do not matter and an inhabitable world doesn’t matter. If the Paris Agreement does not apply now, then when?” − Climate News Network

The 2015 Paris climate treaty is the only global step to tame the crisis. Now London says it does not apply within the UK.

LONDON, 14 August, 2020 − The United Kingdom was one of the 195 countries which signed up to the 2015 Paris climate treaty, the global attempt to limit the climate crisis. More than that, it was one of the most energetic and enthusiastic backers of the Paris Agreement, the treaty’s formal title.

So you may be surprised to learn that the British government has just told a climate campaign group, Plan B, that the Paris Agreement does not apply to the domestic law of the UK, and is therefore irrelevant to government policy on how to rebuild the country’s economy after the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement comes in an email (dated 7 August, but released only five days later) from the Treasury Solicitor, the head of the government’s legal department.

It is a reply to a letter sent by Plan B on 7 July to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, about official plans to meet the climate emergency, and specifically how the UK should restore the economy after the ravages of Covid.

Claim ‘too late’

In it Plan B undertook to start legal action against the government unless it provided a clear explanation of how its Covid recovery programme would support the UK’s target of a net zero carbon economy, and also agreed that all government programmes would be compatible with its policy commitments to the Paris Agreement temperature rise limit of 1.5 ̊C.

The group’s director, Tim Crosland, wrote: “Treating the climate emergency as a ‘competing priority’ to Covid recovery is a catastrophic error, which must be quickly corrected to avoid tragic consequences.”

The government has now replied to Plan B’s threatened legal action by defending its decision to ignore the Paris Agreement in its decision to  continue to support the present carbon-based economy, claiming there is no legal obligation on it to take the Agreement into account.

Its email says that Plan B’s claim for judicial review has been made too late, and “any claim filed now would be significantly out-of-time and should be refused permission to apply for judicial review on that basis alone.”

“If the Paris Agreement does not apply now, then when?”

On the UK’s 2015 undertaking to work to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Treasury Solicitor writes: “The Paris Agreement is an unincorporated international treaty which, in the context of the English dualist legal system [one which treats international and domestic systems of law as separate and independent], has no direct effect in domestic law.”

Plan B undertook an earlier legal battle over expansion proposals for London’s Heathrow airport, where the government argued that the Paris Agreement was irrelevant. In February the Court of Appeal disagreed with that assessment, and the government’s plans were ruled unlawful.

On 4 March, Boris Johnson told Parliament that the government would ensure that it did abide by that judgment and take account of the Paris convention. Tim Crosland says: “It seems that does not apply to billions of pounds of public money being provided to companies such as RyanAir, Easyjet, Rolls-Royce and Nissan.

“Instead of addressing the evidence that its bailouts for polluters will lock us into a disastrous trajectory towards 4˚C warming, risking billions of human lives, the government is hiding behind legal arguments to claim that it isn’t legally required to take that into account.

Inbuilt discrimination

‘That is not just reckless. It is a fundamental breach of the social contract. It is the basic responsibility of the government to safeguard its people.

“Nor does the government show any concern for the discriminatory impact of its catastrophic trajectory, which will hit hardest the younger generation, racially marginalised communities, and the Global South. Its primary concern is appeasing its corporate sponsors

“This has to be stopped. We will now begin work on filing our claim with the court.”

Jerry Amokwandoh worked with the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford. He said: “Unconditional bailouts that contribute to the biggest pandemic of them all prove that our lives do not matter, the lives of my family in Ghana do not matter and an inhabitable world doesn’t matter. If the Paris Agreement does not apply now, then when?” − Climate News Network

Global climate treaty is not working

Three out of four nations have yet to start to honour the global climate treaty. The world waits, the seas go on rising – and greenhouse gases too.

LONDON, 13 November, 2019 – Three nations in every four that vowed in the global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, to contain global heating to “well below” 2°C by the century’s end have failed to deliver pledges that will reduce emissions by even 40% by 2030.

In Paris in 2015, a total of 195 nations agreed that action was vital. Since then only 36 countries have taken steps to meet the targets they agreed, according to a new study by the Universal Ecological Fund. And one nation has announced that it will withdraw altogether from the agreement.

“The comprehensive examination found that with few exceptions, the pledges of the rich, middle income and poor countries are insufficient to address climate change,” said Sir Robert Watson, once chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was present at the Paris meeting, and co-author of the study. “Simply, the pledges are far too little, too late.

“Even if all climate pledges, which are voluntary, are fully implemented, they will cover less than half of what is needed to limit the acceleration of climate change in the next decade.”

“The more carbon we release now the more sea level rise we are locking in for the future”

What happens now will affect the planetary climate and its ocean systems for much longer than that for at least the next two centuries. Researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they looked at the impact to come even if all nations were to honour all the pledges made in Paris.

They agree that the global emissions of greenhouse gases since Paris and by 2030 would alone be enough to raise global sea levels by 20 cms: half of that from China, the US, the EU, India and Russia, the top five emitters. But they add a much more ominous long-term warning

“Our results show that what we do today will have a huge effect in 2300. 20 cms is very significant; it is basically as much sea-level rise as we’ve observed over the entire 20th century. To cause that with only 15 years of emissions is quite staggering”, said Alexander Nauels, of Climate Analytics, who led the study.

“The true consequences of our emissions on sea level rise unfold over centuries, due to the slow pace at which the ocean, polar ice sheets and glaciers respond to global warming. The more carbon we release now the more sea level rise we are locking in for the future.”

And as if to add force to the need for drastic action, a new US and German study has warned that even if nations honour their pledges by 2030, sea levels around the world will go on rising, and stay at higher levels for thousands of years.

Leaking permafrost

As the polar ice retreats, and rising tides batter the shores of the Arctic Ocean, vast volumes of carbon dioxide so far imprisoned  in the permafrost of the polar coasts – 34% of all the world’s coastlines  – could escape to accelerate further warming and of course yet greater sea level rise.

Climate scientists have been wrestling for decades with what they call the carbon budget – the accounting of all the ways in which carbon dioxide gets into the atmosphere and out of it again – and missed another potentially dangerous source of the greenhouse gas.

As glaciers retreat and the frozen coasts and soils thaw, this could begin to seep into the atmosphere. Laboratory experiments suggest it will seep even faster as sea levels rise and waves grow more powerful. For every gram, dry weight, of eroded permafrost, more than 4 grams of carbon dioxide would escape into the atmosphere.

“Carbon budgets and climate simulations have so far missed coastal erosion in their equations even though it might be a substantial source of carbon dioxide,” says George Tanski of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the lead author.

“Our research found that the erosion of permafrost coastlines can lead to the rapid release of significant quantities of CO2, which can be expected to increase as coastal erosion accelerates, temperatures increase, sea ice diminishes and stronger storms batter Arctic coasts.”

Early warning

That the Paris Agreement was backed up by pledges that might fail to contain global warning to an ideal target of 1.5°C was clear from the start, and scientists who looked at the promises made at the time warned that unless they were increased, they committed the world to a warming of at least 3°C above the long term average for most of human history.

The latest study from the Universal Ecological Fund now finds that not only are the pledges not enough; some are not being honoured. China and India pledged to reduce the intensity of their emissions relative to gross domestic product, but since their economies continue to grow, so will their emissions.

China already contributes more than 26% of all global emissions, India 7%. The US, which contributes 13% of all greenhouse emissions, is to quit the Paris Agreement in 2020, and has in any case reversed much of its climate legislation. Russia, which contributes 4.6% of all atmospheric carbon dioxide, has submitted no pledges.

Europe’s 28 nations, and seven others, have promised to reduce emissions by 40% by 2040. Of the remaining 152 nations, responsible for more than 36% of all emissions, 127 have submitted conditional plans, but rely upon technical assistance and funding from the wealthy nations to execute these. But the US and Australia have stopped making contributions to such funding.

Almost 70% of emissions are from fossil fuels: successful action would require the closure of 2,400 coal-fired power stations. In fact, 250 new coal-fired power stations are now under construction. The message is that governments are doing too little, too slowly, leaving horrendous future consequences. – Climate News Network

Three out of four nations have yet to start to honour the global climate treaty. The world waits, the seas go on rising – and greenhouse gases too.

LONDON, 13 November, 2019 – Three nations in every four that vowed in the global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, to contain global heating to “well below” 2°C by the century’s end have failed to deliver pledges that will reduce emissions by even 40% by 2030.

In Paris in 2015, a total of 195 nations agreed that action was vital. Since then only 36 countries have taken steps to meet the targets they agreed, according to a new study by the Universal Ecological Fund. And one nation has announced that it will withdraw altogether from the agreement.

“The comprehensive examination found that with few exceptions, the pledges of the rich, middle income and poor countries are insufficient to address climate change,” said Sir Robert Watson, once chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was present at the Paris meeting, and co-author of the study. “Simply, the pledges are far too little, too late.

“Even if all climate pledges, which are voluntary, are fully implemented, they will cover less than half of what is needed to limit the acceleration of climate change in the next decade.”

“The more carbon we release now the more sea level rise we are locking in for the future”

What happens now will affect the planetary climate and its ocean systems for much longer than that for at least the next two centuries. Researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they looked at the impact to come even if all nations were to honour all the pledges made in Paris.

They agree that the global emissions of greenhouse gases since Paris and by 2030 would alone be enough to raise global sea levels by 20 cms: half of that from China, the US, the EU, India and Russia, the top five emitters. But they add a much more ominous long-term warning

“Our results show that what we do today will have a huge effect in 2300. 20 cms is very significant; it is basically as much sea-level rise as we’ve observed over the entire 20th century. To cause that with only 15 years of emissions is quite staggering”, said Alexander Nauels, of Climate Analytics, who led the study.

“The true consequences of our emissions on sea level rise unfold over centuries, due to the slow pace at which the ocean, polar ice sheets and glaciers respond to global warming. The more carbon we release now the more sea level rise we are locking in for the future.”

And as if to add force to the need for drastic action, a new US and German study has warned that even if nations honour their pledges by 2030, sea levels around the world will go on rising, and stay at higher levels for thousands of years.

Leaking permafrost

As the polar ice retreats, and rising tides batter the shores of the Arctic Ocean, vast volumes of carbon dioxide so far imprisoned  in the permafrost of the polar coasts – 34% of all the world’s coastlines  – could escape to accelerate further warming and of course yet greater sea level rise.

Climate scientists have been wrestling for decades with what they call the carbon budget – the accounting of all the ways in which carbon dioxide gets into the atmosphere and out of it again – and missed another potentially dangerous source of the greenhouse gas.

As glaciers retreat and the frozen coasts and soils thaw, this could begin to seep into the atmosphere. Laboratory experiments suggest it will seep even faster as sea levels rise and waves grow more powerful. For every gram, dry weight, of eroded permafrost, more than 4 grams of carbon dioxide would escape into the atmosphere.

“Carbon budgets and climate simulations have so far missed coastal erosion in their equations even though it might be a substantial source of carbon dioxide,” says George Tanski of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the lead author.

“Our research found that the erosion of permafrost coastlines can lead to the rapid release of significant quantities of CO2, which can be expected to increase as coastal erosion accelerates, temperatures increase, sea ice diminishes and stronger storms batter Arctic coasts.”

Early warning

That the Paris Agreement was backed up by pledges that might fail to contain global warning to an ideal target of 1.5°C was clear from the start, and scientists who looked at the promises made at the time warned that unless they were increased, they committed the world to a warming of at least 3°C above the long term average for most of human history.

The latest study from the Universal Ecological Fund now finds that not only are the pledges not enough; some are not being honoured. China and India pledged to reduce the intensity of their emissions relative to gross domestic product, but since their economies continue to grow, so will their emissions.

China already contributes more than 26% of all global emissions, India 7%. The US, which contributes 13% of all greenhouse emissions, is to quit the Paris Agreement in 2020, and has in any case reversed much of its climate legislation. Russia, which contributes 4.6% of all atmospheric carbon dioxide, has submitted no pledges.

Europe’s 28 nations, and seven others, have promised to reduce emissions by 40% by 2040. Of the remaining 152 nations, responsible for more than 36% of all emissions, 127 have submitted conditional plans, but rely upon technical assistance and funding from the wealthy nations to execute these. But the US and Australia have stopped making contributions to such funding.

Almost 70% of emissions are from fossil fuels: successful action would require the closure of 2,400 coal-fired power stations. In fact, 250 new coal-fired power stations are now under construction. The message is that governments are doing too little, too slowly, leaving horrendous future consequences. – Climate News Network

Desert treaty steps up fight for degraded land

Degraded land − drought − the spread of the world’s deserts: that’s the challenge for a UN conference starting in Delhi.

DELHI, 2 September, 2019 − The battle to halt the march of deserts across the world and the spread of degraded land, which lead to mass migration, is the focus of 169 countries meeting in India from today.

The annual United Nations climate change convention, held every year,  receives massive media coverage. In contrast the UN Convention to Combat Desertification meets once every two years to combat the spread of deserts, land degradation and drought. Its success is vital for more than half the world’s population. But it gets little attention.

Four out of five hectares of land on the planet have been altered from their natural state by humans. Much of this alteration has been damaging, making the land less fertile and productive.

This degrading of land and the spread of deserts are already affecting 3.2 billion people, mostly in the poorer parts of the world. The UN says this degradation, together with climate change and biodiversity loss, may force up to 700 million people to migrate by 2050.

Four years ago the parties to the convention agreed to reverse the continuing loss of fertile land and to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) by 2030. So far 120 of the 169 countries affected have come up with plans for how to reduce the risk of degradation and where to recover degrading land (known as LDN targets in the conference jargon).

“This is a poor convention for poor people from poor countries”

Although Africa usually springs to mind as one of the continents worst affected, much of South Asia with its recurring floods, droughts and other extreme weather events is facing a range of problems related to land. Coastal areas right up to the Himalayas suffer land degradation, and the problem involves all the governments in the region.

India, host to this year’s conference, has a major problem, with 30% of its land affected. It has 2.5% of the Earth’s land area, yet supports 18% of its total human population and roughly 20% of its livestock. But 96.4 million hectares (almost 240m acres)of India’s land is classed as degraded, nearly 30% of its total geographical area.

A study published in 2018 by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) for the government of India put the cost of the country’s desertification and land degradation at 2.5% of India’s GDP (2014-15).

This year a robust response is planned. “To fight this menace, India will convert degraded land of nearly 50 lakh (5m) hectares to fertile land in the next 10 years; it will implement the provisions of the New Delhi Declaration which is to be adopted at the end of the conference,” Prakash Javadekar, India’s minister for environment, forests and climate change told the Climate News Network.

The land due for conversion is just 5.2% of India’s total degraded land, but the minister hinted that the target could go up before the conference’s final declaration is agreed on 13 September.

Demanding target

Another south-east Asian country, Sri Lanka, has arid parts which are drying out further, and wetter regions which are becoming wetter as erratic rains and high temperatures have made the soil vulnerable.

“Sri Lanka has about one-fifth of land which is either degraded or showing signs of degradation,” said Ajith Silva of the environment ministry. “We are carrying out various government schemes that have a focus on soil conservation in plains and watershed management in hill areas,” Silva told the Climate News Network.

Sri Lanka has set a target to restore and improve degraded forest: 80% in the dry zone and 20% in the wet zone. Just as in Sri Lanka and India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh also have targets and programmes aimed at land restoration.

While governments have targets, local people, realising the dangers to their way of life, are acting independently and taking their own actions to save their land. Dhrupad Choudhury, of ICIMOD, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, said: “Many good things are taking place across these countries. But apart from government efforts, those that happen at the community or village levels are not recognised.”

Across South Asia most government programmes are planned top-down, with almost no community partnership. Without ownership by the community, an important stakeholder, these remain poorly implemented. Many NGOs, on the other hand, do it right.

Rich world uninvolved

There is some resentment among the countries affected by desertification that their plight gets scant attention and very little finance from the richer states untroubled by deserts. An official of one of the South Asian nations commented: “This is a poor convention for poor people from poor countries.”

Javadekar, the Indian minister, said he believed there should be public finance from the developed world for land restoration. But to help to plug the gap he announced plans for a Centre of Excellence for Capacity Building of Developing Countries, to be created in India to help developing countries to achieve land degradation neutrality, with India offering training to other countries on financing solutions.

To try to move things along, the convention has already adopted a gender action plan and is working on innovative financing opportunities and ways to improve communications.

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, is likely to make an appearance at the 14th Conference of the Parties, as the Delhi meeting is formally known.

With the New Delhi Declaration due to be announced, India has already said it will, as the host of the conference and during its two years as the convention’s president, lead from the front to ensure its goals are achieved. − Climate News Network

Degraded land − drought − the spread of the world’s deserts: that’s the challenge for a UN conference starting in Delhi.

DELHI, 2 September, 2019 − The battle to halt the march of deserts across the world and the spread of degraded land, which lead to mass migration, is the focus of 169 countries meeting in India from today.

The annual United Nations climate change convention, held every year,  receives massive media coverage. In contrast the UN Convention to Combat Desertification meets once every two years to combat the spread of deserts, land degradation and drought. Its success is vital for more than half the world’s population. But it gets little attention.

Four out of five hectares of land on the planet have been altered from their natural state by humans. Much of this alteration has been damaging, making the land less fertile and productive.

This degrading of land and the spread of deserts are already affecting 3.2 billion people, mostly in the poorer parts of the world. The UN says this degradation, together with climate change and biodiversity loss, may force up to 700 million people to migrate by 2050.

Four years ago the parties to the convention agreed to reverse the continuing loss of fertile land and to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) by 2030. So far 120 of the 169 countries affected have come up with plans for how to reduce the risk of degradation and where to recover degrading land (known as LDN targets in the conference jargon).

“This is a poor convention for poor people from poor countries”

Although Africa usually springs to mind as one of the continents worst affected, much of South Asia with its recurring floods, droughts and other extreme weather events is facing a range of problems related to land. Coastal areas right up to the Himalayas suffer land degradation, and the problem involves all the governments in the region.

India, host to this year’s conference, has a major problem, with 30% of its land affected. It has 2.5% of the Earth’s land area, yet supports 18% of its total human population and roughly 20% of its livestock. But 96.4 million hectares (almost 240m acres)of India’s land is classed as degraded, nearly 30% of its total geographical area.

A study published in 2018 by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) for the government of India put the cost of the country’s desertification and land degradation at 2.5% of India’s GDP (2014-15).

This year a robust response is planned. “To fight this menace, India will convert degraded land of nearly 50 lakh (5m) hectares to fertile land in the next 10 years; it will implement the provisions of the New Delhi Declaration which is to be adopted at the end of the conference,” Prakash Javadekar, India’s minister for environment, forests and climate change told the Climate News Network.

The land due for conversion is just 5.2% of India’s total degraded land, but the minister hinted that the target could go up before the conference’s final declaration is agreed on 13 September.

Demanding target

Another south-east Asian country, Sri Lanka, has arid parts which are drying out further, and wetter regions which are becoming wetter as erratic rains and high temperatures have made the soil vulnerable.

“Sri Lanka has about one-fifth of land which is either degraded or showing signs of degradation,” said Ajith Silva of the environment ministry. “We are carrying out various government schemes that have a focus on soil conservation in plains and watershed management in hill areas,” Silva told the Climate News Network.

Sri Lanka has set a target to restore and improve degraded forest: 80% in the dry zone and 20% in the wet zone. Just as in Sri Lanka and India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh also have targets and programmes aimed at land restoration.

While governments have targets, local people, realising the dangers to their way of life, are acting independently and taking their own actions to save their land. Dhrupad Choudhury, of ICIMOD, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, said: “Many good things are taking place across these countries. But apart from government efforts, those that happen at the community or village levels are not recognised.”

Across South Asia most government programmes are planned top-down, with almost no community partnership. Without ownership by the community, an important stakeholder, these remain poorly implemented. Many NGOs, on the other hand, do it right.

Rich world uninvolved

There is some resentment among the countries affected by desertification that their plight gets scant attention and very little finance from the richer states untroubled by deserts. An official of one of the South Asian nations commented: “This is a poor convention for poor people from poor countries.”

Javadekar, the Indian minister, said he believed there should be public finance from the developed world for land restoration. But to help to plug the gap he announced plans for a Centre of Excellence for Capacity Building of Developing Countries, to be created in India to help developing countries to achieve land degradation neutrality, with India offering training to other countries on financing solutions.

To try to move things along, the convention has already adopted a gender action plan and is working on innovative financing opportunities and ways to improve communications.

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, is likely to make an appearance at the 14th Conference of the Parties, as the Delhi meeting is formally known.

With the New Delhi Declaration due to be announced, India has already said it will, as the host of the conference and during its two years as the convention’s president, lead from the front to ensure its goals are achieved. − Climate News Network

Paris climate accord awaits Russian backing

Reports from Moscow suggest that Russia will announce its support for the Paris climate accord before the end of 2019.

LONDON, 30 August, 2019 − Officials in Moscow say the Russian government plans, after several years’ hesitation, to ratify the global agreement, the Paris climate accord, within the next few months.

Enough countries had completed the ratification process for the Agreement to enter into force in 2016, so Russia’s long-awaited move will make little practical difference to efforts to strengthen progress through the Paris Agreement towards a net zero economy.

But Russia is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases to have failed so far to ratify the Agreement, signed by 195 countries in December 2015, so its move may have some effect in spurring on other laggards. Ratification defines the international act by which a country agrees to be bound by an accord like the Paris Agreement.

Angelina Davydova, a Russian journalist who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, told the Clean Energy Wire (CLEW) journalism network that a Russian announcement is expected before the end of 2019.

Urgency missed

It will probably come either during the United Nations Secretary-General’s climate summit in New York on 23 September or during the next annual UN climate conference (COP-25) in Chile in December, she said.

Probably more remarkable than the ratification itself is what it will say about the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement, which already faces widespread criticism for its slow progress towards achieving greenhouse gas emissions cuts that reflect the growing urgency of the climate crisis.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis produced by three research organisations which have been tracking climate action since 2009. It checks progress towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming to well below 2°C, and trying to limit it to 1.5°C.

It says Russia’s present course on cutting emissions is “critically insufficient”, CAT’s lowest rating. If all governments’ targets for cuts matched Russia’s, it says, the world would be committed to warming by more than 4°C − over twice the upper limit agreed in Paris, and likely to prove catastrophic for much of the world.

“The vast majority of countries have targets that are woefully inadequate and, collectively, have no chance of meeting the 1.5°C temperature goal … most governments are nowhere near taking the radical steps required”

In its Mid-Year Update, published last June, CAT provides a wider perspective, setting Russia’s lacklustre performance in a global context. It says: “2018 saw energy-related emissions reach yet another historic high after significant net greenhouse gas increases, 85% of which came from the US, India and China.

“Coal reversed its recent decline and was responsible for over a third of CO2 emissions. At the same time there was a huge 4.6% surge in natural gas CO2 emissions and an associated rise in atmospheric methane.

“This, plus a stagnation in the number of renewable energy installations, make it clear that governments must do a lot more to address the climate crisis…

“…the vast majority of countries have targets that are woefully inadequate and, collectively, have no chance of meeting the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement … most governments are nowhere near taking the radical steps required, especially given that global emissions need to halve by 2030 in order to keep the goal of 1.5°C alive.”

Lack of ambition

Davydova sees progress in Russia, but recognises that it is slow. She said the country’s coal and steel lobby was more or less persuaded that it was “not that threatened” by the ratification. “Russia still has very unambitious climate goals (the target is actually below what we have now)”, she said.

“But overall, climate change is becoming more of an important topic on the political and public agenda. There is increasing concern about climate change, mainly in the form of estimations of risks and need for adaptation.”

President Vladimir Putin acknowledged recently that climate change is dangerous for Russia. “But he also said renewables (solar and wind in particular) might not be that beneficial for Russia, since the country has so much oil and gas and needs to make use of [them]”.

Davydova added. “Russia is far less of a climate sceptic than it used to be … we even have a youth climate movement now, and there are Fridays for Future demonstrations running in Moscow and a number of other cities.” − Climate News Network

Reports from Moscow suggest that Russia will announce its support for the Paris climate accord before the end of 2019.

LONDON, 30 August, 2019 − Officials in Moscow say the Russian government plans, after several years’ hesitation, to ratify the global agreement, the Paris climate accord, within the next few months.

Enough countries had completed the ratification process for the Agreement to enter into force in 2016, so Russia’s long-awaited move will make little practical difference to efforts to strengthen progress through the Paris Agreement towards a net zero economy.

But Russia is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases to have failed so far to ratify the Agreement, signed by 195 countries in December 2015, so its move may have some effect in spurring on other laggards. Ratification defines the international act by which a country agrees to be bound by an accord like the Paris Agreement.

Angelina Davydova, a Russian journalist who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, told the Clean Energy Wire (CLEW) journalism network that a Russian announcement is expected before the end of 2019.

Urgency missed

It will probably come either during the United Nations Secretary-General’s climate summit in New York on 23 September or during the next annual UN climate conference (COP-25) in Chile in December, she said.

Probably more remarkable than the ratification itself is what it will say about the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement, which already faces widespread criticism for its slow progress towards achieving greenhouse gas emissions cuts that reflect the growing urgency of the climate crisis.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis produced by three research organisations which have been tracking climate action since 2009. It checks progress towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming to well below 2°C, and trying to limit it to 1.5°C.

It says Russia’s present course on cutting emissions is “critically insufficient”, CAT’s lowest rating. If all governments’ targets for cuts matched Russia’s, it says, the world would be committed to warming by more than 4°C − over twice the upper limit agreed in Paris, and likely to prove catastrophic for much of the world.

“The vast majority of countries have targets that are woefully inadequate and, collectively, have no chance of meeting the 1.5°C temperature goal … most governments are nowhere near taking the radical steps required”

In its Mid-Year Update, published last June, CAT provides a wider perspective, setting Russia’s lacklustre performance in a global context. It says: “2018 saw energy-related emissions reach yet another historic high after significant net greenhouse gas increases, 85% of which came from the US, India and China.

“Coal reversed its recent decline and was responsible for over a third of CO2 emissions. At the same time there was a huge 4.6% surge in natural gas CO2 emissions and an associated rise in atmospheric methane.

“This, plus a stagnation in the number of renewable energy installations, make it clear that governments must do a lot more to address the climate crisis…

“…the vast majority of countries have targets that are woefully inadequate and, collectively, have no chance of meeting the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement … most governments are nowhere near taking the radical steps required, especially given that global emissions need to halve by 2030 in order to keep the goal of 1.5°C alive.”

Lack of ambition

Davydova sees progress in Russia, but recognises that it is slow. She said the country’s coal and steel lobby was more or less persuaded that it was “not that threatened” by the ratification. “Russia still has very unambitious climate goals (the target is actually below what we have now)”, she said.

“But overall, climate change is becoming more of an important topic on the political and public agenda. There is increasing concern about climate change, mainly in the form of estimations of risks and need for adaptation.”

President Vladimir Putin acknowledged recently that climate change is dangerous for Russia. “But he also said renewables (solar and wind in particular) might not be that beneficial for Russia, since the country has so much oil and gas and needs to make use of [them]”.

Davydova added. “Russia is far less of a climate sceptic than it used to be … we even have a youth climate movement now, and there are Fridays for Future demonstrations running in Moscow and a number of other cities.” − Climate News Network