Tag Archives: Political action

Drought and conflict can spur climate refugees

How do you identify climate refugees? And is climate change at the heart of the flow of asylum-seekers? Statistics can offer a cautious answer.

LONDON, 25 January, 2019 − Austrian researchers have made it simpler to identify climate refugees, claiming to have established a direct causal link between climate change, conflict and the numbers of migrants.

They are not the first to confirm that there is a statistical association between the likelihood of drought, or heat extremes, and violence. Evidence of cause for any civil or international conflict is always complex and often disputed.

But researchers now say that mathematical techniques provide an indirect connection between formally-established drought conditions and recorded levels of applications for asylum.

“In a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources”

The link is conflict, of the kind observed in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

“Climate change will not cause conflict and subsequent asylum-seeking flows everywhere,” said Jesus Crespona Cuaresma of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

“But in a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources.”

Specific conditions

He and colleagues report in the journal Global Environmental Change that they looked at data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees of asylum applications from 157 countries between 2006 and 2015.

They then matched the patterns of asylum bids against conditions in their parent countries, using a measure that scientists call the Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index, which provides a guide to the gap between rainfall and heat and drought.

They next assembled a tally measure of battle-related deaths collected by the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme in Sweden. Then they modelled other factors, such as the distance between the countries of origin and destination, the sizes of populations, the migrant networks, the political status of the drought-stressed countries and the known divisions into ethnic and religious groups.

And they found that – in specific circumstances – climatic conditions do lead to increased migration as a consequence of conflict exacerbated by the more severe droughts.

Hard to establish

All conclusions about human behaviour at the political level are difficult to establish. Archaeologists and climate scientists have repeatedly linked the collapse of ancient civilisations to climate change but in most such cases the evidence is circumstantial, and incomplete.

But there is often little or no direct testimony from the faraway past, and no surviving voice to offer a challenge. The connection between climate conditions and human response is less certain in a disputed world.

Researchers have systematically found associations between climate and violence and between climate and the conditions for civil inequality.

Urgent prospect

Some have found an association between drought and the conflict in Syria, but others have disputed the conclusion. Researchers have warned that future climate change could create large numbers of migrants and climate refugees and that both issues are urgent.

But it remains more difficult to establish that climate is the only or even the most pressing factor in any individual case.

So the IIASA finding is a cautious one, backed, the scientists say, by statistical rigour. This identifies climate change, and migration flow, and finds conflict as the causal mediator which links the two, most obviously in the events in the Middle East and North Africa since 2006.

“Our results suggest that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, play a statistically significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum-seeking exclusively for countries that were affected by the Arab Spring,” they write. − Climate News Network

How do you identify climate refugees? And is climate change at the heart of the flow of asylum-seekers? Statistics can offer a cautious answer.

LONDON, 25 January, 2019 − Austrian researchers have made it simpler to identify climate refugees, claiming to have established a direct causal link between climate change, conflict and the numbers of migrants.

They are not the first to confirm that there is a statistical association between the likelihood of drought, or heat extremes, and violence. Evidence of cause for any civil or international conflict is always complex and often disputed.

But researchers now say that mathematical techniques provide an indirect connection between formally-established drought conditions and recorded levels of applications for asylum.

“In a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources”

The link is conflict, of the kind observed in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

“Climate change will not cause conflict and subsequent asylum-seeking flows everywhere,” said Jesus Crespona Cuaresma of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

“But in a context of poor governance and a medium level of democracy, severe climate conditions can create conflict over scarce resources.”

Specific conditions

He and colleagues report in the journal Global Environmental Change that they looked at data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees of asylum applications from 157 countries between 2006 and 2015.

They then matched the patterns of asylum bids against conditions in their parent countries, using a measure that scientists call the Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index, which provides a guide to the gap between rainfall and heat and drought.

They next assembled a tally measure of battle-related deaths collected by the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme in Sweden. Then they modelled other factors, such as the distance between the countries of origin and destination, the sizes of populations, the migrant networks, the political status of the drought-stressed countries and the known divisions into ethnic and religious groups.

And they found that – in specific circumstances – climatic conditions do lead to increased migration as a consequence of conflict exacerbated by the more severe droughts.

Hard to establish

All conclusions about human behaviour at the political level are difficult to establish. Archaeologists and climate scientists have repeatedly linked the collapse of ancient civilisations to climate change but in most such cases the evidence is circumstantial, and incomplete.

But there is often little or no direct testimony from the faraway past, and no surviving voice to offer a challenge. The connection between climate conditions and human response is less certain in a disputed world.

Researchers have systematically found associations between climate and violence and between climate and the conditions for civil inequality.

Urgent prospect

Some have found an association between drought and the conflict in Syria, but others have disputed the conclusion. Researchers have warned that future climate change could create large numbers of migrants and climate refugees and that both issues are urgent.

But it remains more difficult to establish that climate is the only or even the most pressing factor in any individual case.

So the IIASA finding is a cautious one, backed, the scientists say, by statistical rigour. This identifies climate change, and migration flow, and finds conflict as the causal mediator which links the two, most obviously in the events in the Middle East and North Africa since 2006.

“Our results suggest that climatic conditions, by affecting drought severity and the likelihood of armed conflict, play a statistically significant role as an explanatory factor for asylum-seeking exclusively for countries that were affected by the Arab Spring,” they write. − Climate News Network

Katowice climate talks run short of time

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science”

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

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

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

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

Approaching crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The UN Summit failed to align ambitions with science”

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

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

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

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

Approaching crisis

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

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

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

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

2018 will show record carbon emissions

Record carbon emissions are set to mark 2018. And although investment in renewable energy is rising, the world is still warming dangerously fast.

LONDON, 6 December, 2018 – For the second year running, the world will have a doubtful achievement to claim by 31 December: record carbon emissions.

Even before the close of 2018, scientists behind the biggest accounting effort on the planet, the Global Carbon Budget, warn that emissions from coal, oil and gas will have dumped a record 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (a way of  comparing the emissions from various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential) into the atmosphere by the end of this month.

This is 2.7% more than last year, which also showed an increase. Human destruction of the world’s forests will add another four billion tonnes in the same 12 months.

The news comes as 190 nations negotiate in Katowice in Poland to work out how to meet the targets they set in 2015 in Paris,  to contain global warming to no more than 2°C by 2100, and if possible no more than 1.5°C.

Little time left

But in a commentary in Nature a second set of scientists warns that time is running out. At the present rate of fossil fuel use, the world is set to breach the 1.5°C target by 2030, rather than the 2040 everybody had assumed.

That is because rising emissions, declining air pollution and natural climate cycles working together will make climate change more fast and furious than expected.

There are hopeful signs: renewable energy investment has begun to accelerate, and some nations have started to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

But the confirmation of yet another record year for fossil fuel combustion – after three consecutive years, 2014-16, in which fossil fuel use seemed to have peaked and might start to fall – suggests that even those nations most concerned about climate change are not doing enough.

“This cannot continue. It must not. To give us a chance of meeting the Paris climate goals, emissions need to fall, and fast”

The biggest emitters are China, the US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada, but taken as a collective, the European Union elbows India out of third place.

If the UK, a self-proclaimed climate progressive country, could celebrate the exploitation of a new North Sea oil field while at the same time exploring for shale gas and expanding its biggest airport, it should be no surprise that global emissions were rising, said Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester, UK.

“If the climate-aware EU is planning new pan-Europe pipelines to lock in high carbon gas for decades to come, is it any surprise global emissions are rising? If ever-green Sweden, currently without any major gas infrastructure, is enthusiastically building a new gas terminal in Gothenburg – is it any surprise emissions are rising?”

Aimed at negotiators

Publication of the Global Carbon Project review for 2018 is timed to focus minds in Katowice, and as a reminder of how much has yet to be done to contain climate change.

“To limit global warming to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C, CO2 emissions would need to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach zero around 2050,” said Corinne Le Quéré, who directs theTyndall Centre for climate change at the University of East Anglia, UK.

“We are a long way from this, and much more needs to be done because if countries stick to commitments they have already made, we are on track to see 3°C of global warming.

“This year we have seen how climate change can already amplify the impact of heatwaves worldwide. The California wildfires are just a snapshot of the growing impacts we face if we don’t drive emissions down rapidly.”

Renewable energy grows

Paradoxically, the data in the report published in one version in Environmental Research Letters and in more detail in the journal Earth System Science Data also point to an acceleration towards renewable sources of energy: the political shorthand for this process is “decarbonisation.”

Coal consumption in Canada and the US had dropped 40% since 2005. Christiana Figueres, who in 2015 as a UN climate chief presided over the wheeling and dealing that resulted in the Paris Agreement, argues in another commentary in Nature that there are signs of promise.

Thousands of businesses in 120 countries had signed up to the Paris goals, which could bring $26 trillion in economic benefits, including 65 million new jobs in what she called the “booming” low carbon economy. “We have already achieved things that seemed unimaginable just a decade ago,” she said.

Robust accounting

“Exponential progress in key solutions is happening and on track to displace fossil fuels. Renewable energy costs have dropped by 80% in a decade, and today, over half of all new energy generation capacity is renewable.

“Before 2015 many people thought the Paris Agreement was impossible, yet thousands of people and institutions made the shift from impossible to unstoppable.”

But, warned David Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, UK, the accounting within the balance sheet for the carbon budget 2018 was robust.

“Its message is more brutal than ever: we are in the red and still heading deeper. This cannot continue. It must not. To give us a chance of meeting the Paris climate goals, emissions need to fall, and fast. We knew this in 2015, we know it now. And yet they still rise.” – Climate News Network

Record carbon emissions are set to mark 2018. And although investment in renewable energy is rising, the world is still warming dangerously fast.

LONDON, 6 December, 2018 – For the second year running, the world will have a doubtful achievement to claim by 31 December: record carbon emissions.

Even before the close of 2018, scientists behind the biggest accounting effort on the planet, the Global Carbon Budget, warn that emissions from coal, oil and gas will have dumped a record 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (a way of  comparing the emissions from various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential) into the atmosphere by the end of this month.

This is 2.7% more than last year, which also showed an increase. Human destruction of the world’s forests will add another four billion tonnes in the same 12 months.

The news comes as 190 nations negotiate in Katowice in Poland to work out how to meet the targets they set in 2015 in Paris,  to contain global warming to no more than 2°C by 2100, and if possible no more than 1.5°C.

Little time left

But in a commentary in Nature a second set of scientists warns that time is running out. At the present rate of fossil fuel use, the world is set to breach the 1.5°C target by 2030, rather than the 2040 everybody had assumed.

That is because rising emissions, declining air pollution and natural climate cycles working together will make climate change more fast and furious than expected.

There are hopeful signs: renewable energy investment has begun to accelerate, and some nations have started to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

But the confirmation of yet another record year for fossil fuel combustion – after three consecutive years, 2014-16, in which fossil fuel use seemed to have peaked and might start to fall – suggests that even those nations most concerned about climate change are not doing enough.

“This cannot continue. It must not. To give us a chance of meeting the Paris climate goals, emissions need to fall, and fast”

The biggest emitters are China, the US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada, but taken as a collective, the European Union elbows India out of third place.

If the UK, a self-proclaimed climate progressive country, could celebrate the exploitation of a new North Sea oil field while at the same time exploring for shale gas and expanding its biggest airport, it should be no surprise that global emissions were rising, said Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester, UK.

“If the climate-aware EU is planning new pan-Europe pipelines to lock in high carbon gas for decades to come, is it any surprise global emissions are rising? If ever-green Sweden, currently without any major gas infrastructure, is enthusiastically building a new gas terminal in Gothenburg – is it any surprise emissions are rising?”

Aimed at negotiators

Publication of the Global Carbon Project review for 2018 is timed to focus minds in Katowice, and as a reminder of how much has yet to be done to contain climate change.

“To limit global warming to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C, CO2 emissions would need to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach zero around 2050,” said Corinne Le Quéré, who directs theTyndall Centre for climate change at the University of East Anglia, UK.

“We are a long way from this, and much more needs to be done because if countries stick to commitments they have already made, we are on track to see 3°C of global warming.

“This year we have seen how climate change can already amplify the impact of heatwaves worldwide. The California wildfires are just a snapshot of the growing impacts we face if we don’t drive emissions down rapidly.”

Renewable energy grows

Paradoxically, the data in the report published in one version in Environmental Research Letters and in more detail in the journal Earth System Science Data also point to an acceleration towards renewable sources of energy: the political shorthand for this process is “decarbonisation.”

Coal consumption in Canada and the US had dropped 40% since 2005. Christiana Figueres, who in 2015 as a UN climate chief presided over the wheeling and dealing that resulted in the Paris Agreement, argues in another commentary in Nature that there are signs of promise.

Thousands of businesses in 120 countries had signed up to the Paris goals, which could bring $26 trillion in economic benefits, including 65 million new jobs in what she called the “booming” low carbon economy. “We have already achieved things that seemed unimaginable just a decade ago,” she said.

Robust accounting

“Exponential progress in key solutions is happening and on track to displace fossil fuels. Renewable energy costs have dropped by 80% in a decade, and today, over half of all new energy generation capacity is renewable.

“Before 2015 many people thought the Paris Agreement was impossible, yet thousands of people and institutions made the shift from impossible to unstoppable.”

But, warned David Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, UK, the accounting within the balance sheet for the carbon budget 2018 was robust.

“Its message is more brutal than ever: we are in the red and still heading deeper. This cannot continue. It must not. To give us a chance of meeting the Paris climate goals, emissions need to fall, and fast. We knew this in 2015, we know it now. And yet they still rise.” – Climate News Network

Climate treaty plan urged to cut warming

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clear verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results from diplomacy

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

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

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

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

Extraordinary ability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clear verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results from diplomacy

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

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

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

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

Extraordinary ability

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro puts Amazon at risk

If their new leader, Jair Bolsonaro, acts as many Brazilians expect him to, the Amazon forest is likely to suffer serious damage.

SÃO PAULO, 16 November, 2018 − The Amazon rainforest, the greatest remaining in the world, faces a new threat − from the policies espoused by Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-army captain who is now Brazil’s president-elect. The forest is globally vital for its ability to store atmospheric carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Bolsonaro has caused alarm both in the country and abroad with his views on the environment. In anticipation of his victory, deforestation in the Amazon region increased by 50% in the three months before the poll.

The Real Time System for Detection of Deforestation in the Amazon region, Deter, which is administered by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and provides data for environmental inspectors, found that between August and October, the Amazon rainforest lost 1,674 square kilometres, an area bigger than Brazil’s largest metropolis, São Paulo. This was an increase of 48.8% compared to the same months in 2017.

Imazon, an NGO which also monitors deforestation, using a different system called SAD (Deforestation Alert System) registered an even bigger increase of 84% (in Portuguese) compared to 2017.

“Up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection”

In the area that showed the greatest increase in illegal deforestation, the border region between the states of Acre and Amazonas, the main cause was cattle ranching. It is the cattle ranchers, together with the soy farmers, who are among Bolsonaro’s most enthusiastic supporters.

But even they were alarmed when he announced, as one of his first measures, the merging of the Ministry of the Environment, one of whose main functions is to enforce environmental laws, with the powerful Ministry of Agriculture, more or less like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Brazil is one of the world’s top exporters of soy and beef, and farmers know they must adhere to the strict environmental and health conditions demanded by importers.

The president-elect’s radical plans also came under fire from eight former environment ministers. In an open letter to Bolsonaro, published in the newspaper Opinião do jornal Folha de São Paulo (in Portuguese), they urged him not to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which, as an enthusiastic fan of Donald Trump, he has said he wants to do.

They point out that Brazil, host to the first Earth Summit in 1992 and to the follow-up 20 years later, Rio+20, is a world leader in sustainable development and the use of renewable energy resources, and, because of the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the world’s climate, a leading player in global environmental policy.

Double disaster possible

To abolish the Environment Ministry and leave the Paris Agreement, they say, would also be disastrous politically and commercially: “We cannot run the risk of international political isolation or the closing of consumer markets to our exports. In the 21st century Brazil can’t get off the world”.

Especially as, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the next decade Brazil is expected to become the world’s biggest agricultural producer and food exporter, unless the reckless destruction of its natural resources prevents this.

Leaving the Paris Agreement, however, seems to be part of the anti-global mindset which predominates among Bolsonaro and his followers, very much influenced by the Steve Bannon playbook.

The president-elect has just announced the choice of an ultra-conservative diplomat to become Brazil’s new foreign minister. The new minister, Ernesto Araujo, sees globalisation as a Marxist plot, and wants Brazil, notable for its leadership of developing countries during previous governments and its active role in international organisations, to ally itself uncritically with the US, because “Donald Trump will save the Western world for Christianity.”

Partial retreat

However, under pressure from exporters, Bolsonaro has been forced to back down and maintain the Ministry of the Environment, although he is determined to weaken its monitoring and enforcement functions, and to water down environmental licensing laws.

He has also said that too much land in the Amazon is occupied by indigenous peoples and conservation units, and wants to open up these areas to economic exploitation. SAD figures show that while private properties account for the most deforested areas (58%), and even conservation units make up 24%, indigenous territories account for only 4% of the total. In other words, they are a barrier against deforestation.

Besides the ex-ministers, scientists and environmentalists have warned that if the president-elect carries out his promises, deforestation in the Amazon could explode. A group of researchers at INPE have used mathematical modelling to simulate possible changes in land use and calculated an increase of 268% in deforestation, rising from 6.9m km² in 2017 to 25.6m km² from 2020.

New risk

There is an added danger from another source, if individual Amazon states decide to invoke a clause in the Forest Code, which allows them to authorise a reduction in the 80% of land compulsorily set aside for conservation on private properties. A new study concludes that because of this potential reduction, “up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection.”

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and the University of São Paulo (in Portuguese) say this is equivalent to more than 4 times the entire forest area of the UK. As most of the newly elected state governors and members of state legislatures have declared support for Bolsonaro, the probability that they will enact the clause, leading to more deforestation, is high.

Unfortunately, many of them choose to ignore the warnings of scientists like Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) who said that “one of the ways to value this great forest is to recognise it as a great irrigation system . . . we can say that the food that is produced in Brazil, not only now but in the future, depends on this gigantic irrigation system which is the standing forest.” − Climate News Network

If their new leader, Jair Bolsonaro, acts as many Brazilians expect him to, the Amazon forest is likely to suffer serious damage.

SÃO PAULO, 16 November, 2018 − The Amazon rainforest, the greatest remaining in the world, faces a new threat − from the policies espoused by Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-army captain who is now Brazil’s president-elect. The forest is globally vital for its ability to store atmospheric carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Bolsonaro has caused alarm both in the country and abroad with his views on the environment. In anticipation of his victory, deforestation in the Amazon region increased by 50% in the three months before the poll.

The Real Time System for Detection of Deforestation in the Amazon region, Deter, which is administered by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and provides data for environmental inspectors, found that between August and October, the Amazon rainforest lost 1,674 square kilometres, an area bigger than Brazil’s largest metropolis, São Paulo. This was an increase of 48.8% compared to the same months in 2017.

Imazon, an NGO which also monitors deforestation, using a different system called SAD (Deforestation Alert System) registered an even bigger increase of 84% (in Portuguese) compared to 2017.

“Up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection”

In the area that showed the greatest increase in illegal deforestation, the border region between the states of Acre and Amazonas, the main cause was cattle ranching. It is the cattle ranchers, together with the soy farmers, who are among Bolsonaro’s most enthusiastic supporters.

But even they were alarmed when he announced, as one of his first measures, the merging of the Ministry of the Environment, one of whose main functions is to enforce environmental laws, with the powerful Ministry of Agriculture, more or less like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. Brazil is one of the world’s top exporters of soy and beef, and farmers know they must adhere to the strict environmental and health conditions demanded by importers.

The president-elect’s radical plans also came under fire from eight former environment ministers. In an open letter to Bolsonaro, published in the newspaper Opinião do jornal Folha de São Paulo (in Portuguese), they urged him not to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which, as an enthusiastic fan of Donald Trump, he has said he wants to do.

They point out that Brazil, host to the first Earth Summit in 1992 and to the follow-up 20 years later, Rio+20, is a world leader in sustainable development and the use of renewable energy resources, and, because of the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the world’s climate, a leading player in global environmental policy.

Double disaster possible

To abolish the Environment Ministry and leave the Paris Agreement, they say, would also be disastrous politically and commercially: “We cannot run the risk of international political isolation or the closing of consumer markets to our exports. In the 21st century Brazil can’t get off the world”.

Especially as, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the next decade Brazil is expected to become the world’s biggest agricultural producer and food exporter, unless the reckless destruction of its natural resources prevents this.

Leaving the Paris Agreement, however, seems to be part of the anti-global mindset which predominates among Bolsonaro and his followers, very much influenced by the Steve Bannon playbook.

The president-elect has just announced the choice of an ultra-conservative diplomat to become Brazil’s new foreign minister. The new minister, Ernesto Araujo, sees globalisation as a Marxist plot, and wants Brazil, notable for its leadership of developing countries during previous governments and its active role in international organisations, to ally itself uncritically with the US, because “Donald Trump will save the Western world for Christianity.”

Partial retreat

However, under pressure from exporters, Bolsonaro has been forced to back down and maintain the Ministry of the Environment, although he is determined to weaken its monitoring and enforcement functions, and to water down environmental licensing laws.

He has also said that too much land in the Amazon is occupied by indigenous peoples and conservation units, and wants to open up these areas to economic exploitation. SAD figures show that while private properties account for the most deforested areas (58%), and even conservation units make up 24%, indigenous territories account for only 4% of the total. In other words, they are a barrier against deforestation.

Besides the ex-ministers, scientists and environmentalists have warned that if the president-elect carries out his promises, deforestation in the Amazon could explode. A group of researchers at INPE have used mathematical modelling to simulate possible changes in land use and calculated an increase of 268% in deforestation, rising from 6.9m km² in 2017 to 25.6m km² from 2020.

New risk

There is an added danger from another source, if individual Amazon states decide to invoke a clause in the Forest Code, which allows them to authorise a reduction in the 80% of land compulsorily set aside for conservation on private properties. A new study concludes that because of this potential reduction, “up to 15 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon is at risk of losing its legal protection.”

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and the University of São Paulo (in Portuguese) say this is equivalent to more than 4 times the entire forest area of the UK. As most of the newly elected state governors and members of state legislatures have declared support for Bolsonaro, the probability that they will enact the clause, leading to more deforestation, is high.

Unfortunately, many of them choose to ignore the warnings of scientists like Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) who said that “one of the ways to value this great forest is to recognise it as a great irrigation system . . . we can say that the food that is produced in Brazil, not only now but in the future, depends on this gigantic irrigation system which is the standing forest.” − Climate News Network

UK scientists risk prison to urge action

A group of British scientists and their supporters is willing to risk a prison term to press governments to tackle climate change and environmental crisis.

LONDON, 31 October, 2018 − A growing number of British academics, writers and activists say they are ready to go to prison in support of their demands for action on the environment.

Scientists are not normally renowned for their political activism, and the UK is hardly a hotbed of determined and risky protest against its rulers. But, if this group of nearly 100 British scientists and their backers is right, all that may be on the brink of changing.

Today sees the launch of ExtinctionRebellion, which describes itself as an international movement using mass civil disobedience to force governments to enter World War Two-level mobilisation mode, in response to climate breakdown and ecological crisis.

The group is launching a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK government “for criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse” at the Houses of Parliament in central London.

“We need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in”

From today it promises “repeated acts of disruptive, non-violent civil disobedience” if the government does not respond seriously to its demands, and says “there will be mass arrests.”

“Now is the time because we are out of time. There is nothing left to lose.”

The group’s demands include the declaration by the UK government of a state of emergency, action to create a zero carbon economy by 2025, and the establishment of a national assembly of “ordinary people” to decide what the zero carbon future will look like.

Based on the science, it says, humans have ten years at the most to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero, or the human race and most other species will be at high risk of extinction within decades.

“Children alive today in the UK will face unimaginable horrors as a result of floods, wildfires, extreme weather, crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society when the pressures are so great. We are unprepared for the danger our future holds.”

Ecological crisis

On 30 October the Worldwide Fund for Nature reported that humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, something it says threatens the survival of civilisation. ExtinctionRebellion says the loss of species shows that “the planet is in ecological crisis, and we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced.”

Its members say they are willing to make personal sacrifices, to be arrested and to go to prison. They hope to inspire similar actions around the world and believe this global effort must begin in the UK, today, where the industrial revolution began.

Many of the Declaration’s signatories are well-known in the academic world. They include Danny Dorling, professor of geography at the University of Oxford, and Dr Ian Gibson, who formerly chaired the Parliamentary science and technology select committee. Serving Members of Parliament who support ExtinctionRebellion include the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Other backers are probably better-known for their achievements beyond science, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, now the Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge, and the journalist George Monbiot.

Cry of desperation

Another supporter is Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute. He told the Climate News Network: “This is almost a cry of desperation. People are bewildered. But almost every profound change in British society, from the abolition of slavery to the improvement of shipping safety, has involved people risking arrest.

“The signs I am getting from the UK government now are that it is a reckless administration putting its own people and others at risk by putting climate change virtually nowhere.

“The Declaration alone won’t bring about change: we’ll need people working practically to make change happen on the ground. But we need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in.”

Simms, convinced that an entirely new potential for rapid societal change now exists, says: “We know what’s needed, and the resources to do it are there. ExtinctionRebellion is one example of how new ideas can spread quickly and rapid shift − and radical action − can come closer.” − Climate News Network

A group of British scientists and their supporters is willing to risk a prison term to press governments to tackle climate change and environmental crisis.

LONDON, 31 October, 2018 − A growing number of British academics, writers and activists say they are ready to go to prison in support of their demands for action on the environment.

Scientists are not normally renowned for their political activism, and the UK is hardly a hotbed of determined and risky protest against its rulers. But, if this group of nearly 100 British scientists and their backers is right, all that may be on the brink of changing.

Today sees the launch of ExtinctionRebellion, which describes itself as an international movement using mass civil disobedience to force governments to enter World War Two-level mobilisation mode, in response to climate breakdown and ecological crisis.

The group is launching a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK government “for criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse” at the Houses of Parliament in central London.

“We need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in”

From today it promises “repeated acts of disruptive, non-violent civil disobedience” if the government does not respond seriously to its demands, and says “there will be mass arrests.”

“Now is the time because we are out of time. There is nothing left to lose.”

The group’s demands include the declaration by the UK government of a state of emergency, action to create a zero carbon economy by 2025, and the establishment of a national assembly of “ordinary people” to decide what the zero carbon future will look like.

Based on the science, it says, humans have ten years at the most to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero, or the human race and most other species will be at high risk of extinction within decades.

“Children alive today in the UK will face unimaginable horrors as a result of floods, wildfires, extreme weather, crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society when the pressures are so great. We are unprepared for the danger our future holds.”

Ecological crisis

On 30 October the Worldwide Fund for Nature reported that humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, something it says threatens the survival of civilisation. ExtinctionRebellion says the loss of species shows that “the planet is in ecological crisis, and we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced.”

Its members say they are willing to make personal sacrifices, to be arrested and to go to prison. They hope to inspire similar actions around the world and believe this global effort must begin in the UK, today, where the industrial revolution began.

Many of the Declaration’s signatories are well-known in the academic world. They include Danny Dorling, professor of geography at the University of Oxford, and Dr Ian Gibson, who formerly chaired the Parliamentary science and technology select committee. Serving Members of Parliament who support ExtinctionRebellion include the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

Other backers are probably better-known for their achievements beyond science, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, now the Master of Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge, and the journalist George Monbiot.

Cry of desperation

Another supporter is Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute. He told the Climate News Network: “This is almost a cry of desperation. People are bewildered. But almost every profound change in British society, from the abolition of slavery to the improvement of shipping safety, has involved people risking arrest.

“The signs I am getting from the UK government now are that it is a reckless administration putting its own people and others at risk by putting climate change virtually nowhere.

“The Declaration alone won’t bring about change: we’ll need people working practically to make change happen on the ground. But we need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in.”

Simms, convinced that an entirely new potential for rapid societal change now exists, says: “We know what’s needed, and the resources to do it are there. ExtinctionRebellion is one example of how new ideas can spread quickly and rapid shift − and radical action − can come closer.” − Climate News Network

UK nuclear industry has a sinking feeling

Officially the UK nuclear industry is going ahead with building a new generation of power stations. But it can’t find anyone to pay for them.

LONDON, 4 October, 2018 – The future of the UK nuclear industry looks increasingly bleak, despite the Conservative government’s continued insistence that it wants to build up to 10 new nuclear power stations.

One of the flagship schemes, the £15 billion ($19.5bn) Moorside development in Cumbria in north-west England, made 70 of its 100 staff redundant in September because the current owners, Toshiba, are unable to finance it and cannot find a buyer.

Tom Samson, the managing director of NuGen, the company set up to construct the power station, said he was fighting “tooth and nail” to save it but that there was “a real danger” the whole idea would be abandoned.

With renewable electricity becoming much cheaper than new nuclear power in the UK, the proposed stations have the added disadvantage that they are remote from population centres and would need expensive new grid connections.

There seem to be two main reasons for the government’s continued enthusiasm for nuclear power – the need to keep the nation’s nuclear weapons properly maintained, and political considerations about providing new jobs in remote areas where there are already nuclear installations that are being run down or decommissioned.

Need for jobs

Martin Forwood, from Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, said: “I have never thought that Moorside would go ahead. It was always about sustaining jobs at Sellafield where the nuclear reprocessing works are all being closed down. The place is the wrong end of the country from where the electricity is needed.”

Moorside was to be taken over by the Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco), “the preferred bidder”, and the company is still in talks with Toshiba, but has lost support from the South Korean government and is unlikely to proceed.

A similar affliction of lack of financial backers is affecting plans by another Japanese giant, Hitachi, to build an equally ambitious project at Wylfa on the isle of Anglesey in Wales. This is also a remote site with an existing but redundant nuclear station and, coincidentally, a marginal constituency where voters badly need new jobs.

Again, finding a company, or even a country, with deep enough pockets to help build this power station is proving difficult, even though the UK government has offered to underwrite part of the cost.

The only project that is going ahead so far is at Hinkley Point in Somerset in the west of England, where the French nuclear company EDF is set to build two of its new generation reactors.

Double problem

More than 3,000 people are already working on the site, but its future still remains in doubt. This is because of the difficulties both of building what appears to be a troublesome design, and of the French state-owned company’s own debts.

In France EDF has 58 ageing reactors in its fleet, most of which need upgrading to meet safety requirements, with others more than 40 years old due for closure. The costs of the upgrades plus the decommissioning will create an even bigger debt problem, making investment in new reactors virtually impossible.

This financial hurdle may yet halt construction of Hinkley Point’s twin reactors, effectively killing off nuclear new build in Britain. Officially, however, the Chinese are still hoping to build a reactor at Bradwell, east of London, and EDF two more reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk, further east on the coast of England.

Already there are doubts about these, and in any case they are years away from construction starting. Other proposed projects have disappeared from sight entirely.

At the heart of the problem is the immense amount of capital needed to finance the building of reactors, which typically double in cost during lengthy construction periods, with completion delays, in the case of the French design, stretching to ten years or more.

“The industrial capabilities and associated costs of military nuclear programmes are unsupportable without civil nuclear power”

Faced with the fact that even the largest companies with plenty of money are reluctant to invest in nuclear power, many countries have abandoned their nuclear power programmes. The exceptions are countries that have nuclear weapons, or perhaps aspire to have them in the future.

After 40 years of denials Western governments have openly admitted in the last two years that their ability to build and maintain their nuclear submarines and weapons depends on having a healthy civil reactor programme at the same time.

The military need highly skilled personnel to keep their submarines running and to constantly update their nuclear weapons, because the material they are made of is volatile and constantly needs renewing. Without a pool of “civilian” nuclear workers to draw on, the military programme would be in danger of crumbling.

Phil Johnstone, a research fellow at the University of Sussex, UK, who has researched the link between civil and nuclear power, said: “A factor in why the UK persists so intensely with an uneconomic and much-delayed new nuclear programme and rejects cheaper renewable alternatives, seems to be to maintain and cross-subsidise the already costly nuclear submarine industrial base.

“After a decade of the rhetorical separation of civil and military nuclear programmes by industry and governments, recent high-level statements in the USA, the UK, and France highlight that the industrial capabilities and associated costs of military nuclear programmes are unsupportable without civil nuclear power.”

Concern for democracy

Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology at the Science Policy Research Unit at the same university, added: “Given the remarkable lack of almost any discussion that a key driver for civil nuclear is supporting the costs of the defence nuclear programme – either in official UK energy policy or formal scrutiny by official bodies – this raises significant concerns about the state of UK democracy more broadly.”

Despite these setbacks the nuclear industry is still pushing the idea that new stations are needed if the world, and particularly the UK, are to meet their climate targets. The New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI), a British think tank funded by the nuclear industry, has produced a report saying that only with new nuclear stations could the UK hope to meet its greenhouse gas targets.

Tim Yeo, chairman of NNWI, said: “We often hear that new nuclear build is expensive. It turns out that, in fact, if all hidden costs are factored in, abandoning nuclear comes at an even higher price.

“Abandoning nuclear power leads unavoidably to a very big increase in carbon emissions which will prevent Britain from meeting its legally binding climate change commitments.

“If the UK is to successfully meet the challenges faced by its power sector, the world’s only source of low-carbon baseload power generation – nuclear – must feature strongly in its ambitions.” – Climate News Network

Officially the UK nuclear industry is going ahead with building a new generation of power stations. But it can’t find anyone to pay for them.

LONDON, 4 October, 2018 – The future of the UK nuclear industry looks increasingly bleak, despite the Conservative government’s continued insistence that it wants to build up to 10 new nuclear power stations.

One of the flagship schemes, the £15 billion ($19.5bn) Moorside development in Cumbria in north-west England, made 70 of its 100 staff redundant in September because the current owners, Toshiba, are unable to finance it and cannot find a buyer.

Tom Samson, the managing director of NuGen, the company set up to construct the power station, said he was fighting “tooth and nail” to save it but that there was “a real danger” the whole idea would be abandoned.

With renewable electricity becoming much cheaper than new nuclear power in the UK, the proposed stations have the added disadvantage that they are remote from population centres and would need expensive new grid connections.

There seem to be two main reasons for the government’s continued enthusiasm for nuclear power – the need to keep the nation’s nuclear weapons properly maintained, and political considerations about providing new jobs in remote areas where there are already nuclear installations that are being run down or decommissioned.

Need for jobs

Martin Forwood, from Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, said: “I have never thought that Moorside would go ahead. It was always about sustaining jobs at Sellafield where the nuclear reprocessing works are all being closed down. The place is the wrong end of the country from where the electricity is needed.”

Moorside was to be taken over by the Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco), “the preferred bidder”, and the company is still in talks with Toshiba, but has lost support from the South Korean government and is unlikely to proceed.

A similar affliction of lack of financial backers is affecting plans by another Japanese giant, Hitachi, to build an equally ambitious project at Wylfa on the isle of Anglesey in Wales. This is also a remote site with an existing but redundant nuclear station and, coincidentally, a marginal constituency where voters badly need new jobs.

Again, finding a company, or even a country, with deep enough pockets to help build this power station is proving difficult, even though the UK government has offered to underwrite part of the cost.

The only project that is going ahead so far is at Hinkley Point in Somerset in the west of England, where the French nuclear company EDF is set to build two of its new generation reactors.

Double problem

More than 3,000 people are already working on the site, but its future still remains in doubt. This is because of the difficulties both of building what appears to be a troublesome design, and of the French state-owned company’s own debts.

In France EDF has 58 ageing reactors in its fleet, most of which need upgrading to meet safety requirements, with others more than 40 years old due for closure. The costs of the upgrades plus the decommissioning will create an even bigger debt problem, making investment in new reactors virtually impossible.

This financial hurdle may yet halt construction of Hinkley Point’s twin reactors, effectively killing off nuclear new build in Britain. Officially, however, the Chinese are still hoping to build a reactor at Bradwell, east of London, and EDF two more reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk, further east on the coast of England.

Already there are doubts about these, and in any case they are years away from construction starting. Other proposed projects have disappeared from sight entirely.

At the heart of the problem is the immense amount of capital needed to finance the building of reactors, which typically double in cost during lengthy construction periods, with completion delays, in the case of the French design, stretching to ten years or more.

“The industrial capabilities and associated costs of military nuclear programmes are unsupportable without civil nuclear power”

Faced with the fact that even the largest companies with plenty of money are reluctant to invest in nuclear power, many countries have abandoned their nuclear power programmes. The exceptions are countries that have nuclear weapons, or perhaps aspire to have them in the future.

After 40 years of denials Western governments have openly admitted in the last two years that their ability to build and maintain their nuclear submarines and weapons depends on having a healthy civil reactor programme at the same time.

The military need highly skilled personnel to keep their submarines running and to constantly update their nuclear weapons, because the material they are made of is volatile and constantly needs renewing. Without a pool of “civilian” nuclear workers to draw on, the military programme would be in danger of crumbling.

Phil Johnstone, a research fellow at the University of Sussex, UK, who has researched the link between civil and nuclear power, said: “A factor in why the UK persists so intensely with an uneconomic and much-delayed new nuclear programme and rejects cheaper renewable alternatives, seems to be to maintain and cross-subsidise the already costly nuclear submarine industrial base.

“After a decade of the rhetorical separation of civil and military nuclear programmes by industry and governments, recent high-level statements in the USA, the UK, and France highlight that the industrial capabilities and associated costs of military nuclear programmes are unsupportable without civil nuclear power.”

Concern for democracy

Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology at the Science Policy Research Unit at the same university, added: “Given the remarkable lack of almost any discussion that a key driver for civil nuclear is supporting the costs of the defence nuclear programme – either in official UK energy policy or formal scrutiny by official bodies – this raises significant concerns about the state of UK democracy more broadly.”

Despite these setbacks the nuclear industry is still pushing the idea that new stations are needed if the world, and particularly the UK, are to meet their climate targets. The New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI), a British think tank funded by the nuclear industry, has produced a report saying that only with new nuclear stations could the UK hope to meet its greenhouse gas targets.

Tim Yeo, chairman of NNWI, said: “We often hear that new nuclear build is expensive. It turns out that, in fact, if all hidden costs are factored in, abandoning nuclear comes at an even higher price.

“Abandoning nuclear power leads unavoidably to a very big increase in carbon emissions which will prevent Britain from meeting its legally binding climate change commitments.

“If the UK is to successfully meet the challenges faced by its power sector, the world’s only source of low-carbon baseload power generation – nuclear – must feature strongly in its ambitions.” – Climate News Network

Washington’s political lobbying shackles science

Money talks, says a study of Washington’s political lobbying and its influence on climate change law. Most of the most vocal money comes from big energy.

LONDON, 24 July 2018 – Between 2000 and 2016 Washington’s political lobbying used money as lavishly as ever. The electricity utilities, fossil fuel companies and transportation companies spent around $2bn to “lobby” the US Congress and Senate on matters of climate legislation. Those sectors most likely to be affected by any changes in the law spent most on the issue.

In contrast, environmental organisations and the renewable energy sector each spent no more than a thirtieth of such sums.

And during the first 16 years of the new century, lobby spending in the US fluctuated: between 2000 and 2006, lobbyists for big energy spent only about $50m.

But as President Obama began office in the White House in 2009, and the US Congress started to contemplate legislation to contain or limit global warming driven by profligate fossil fuel use worldwide, lobbyist spending had peaked at $362m, according to new research in the journal Climatic Change.

“The process may limit the communication of accurate scientific information in the decision-making process”

Since then, President Trump has announced the US withdrawal from a global agreement to contain climate change signed by President Obama. The implication is that when it comes to influencing climate legislation, money talks more urgently and effectively than evidence.

Lobbying is not new. In democracies, all groups active in business, politics, the law and the economy seek to persuade lawmakers, and persuasion involves expense. But voters and ordinary citizens most affected by climate change and energy policy may be aware of neither the thrust and professionalism of the persuasion, nor the price paid for it.

“Lobbying is conducted away from the public eye,” says the sociologist Robert Brulle of Drexel University in Philadelphia, who worked through almost 2 million official quarterly reports required by law in the US of all professional lobbyists paid to lobby on behalf of a client who make more than one contact with government officials and spend more than 20% of their time on lobbying.

“There is no open debate or refutation of viewpoints offered by professional lobbyists meeting in private with government officials. Control over the nature and flow of information to government decision-makers can be significantly altered by the lobbying process and creates a situation of systematically distorted communication.

Small fraction

“The process may limit the communication of accurate scientific information in the decision-making process.”

In fact, professional lobbyists spent more than $50bn during the 16 relevant years of this century, and climate issues constituted only a fraction of that investment.

Professor Brulle found that the electrical utilities sector spent $554m – a quarter of all climate lobbying – over the 16 years. Fossil fuel investors spent $370m and the transport providers dug into their pockets for $252m during these years.

It is no secret that big fossil fuel companies have resisted the logic of climate science and countered attempts to contain global warming.

Five years ago, Professor Brulle set himself the challenge of identifying political manipulation of US climate change legislation: he looked at Inland Revenue Service data from 91 climate denial organisations and found that they had received $558m in “dark money” – that is, money from 140 foundations and trusts whose own sources of finance were not clear.

Forceful messaging

Three years ago a researcher at Yale University worked through 20 years of contrarian literature, US media coverage and presidential documents to confirm that organisations with powerful corporate benefactors – and these included at least one oil giant – were better at getting their message across.

The conclusion, once again: money talks. And, Professor Brulle warns, his latest study still doesn’t reveal quite how forcefully money talks.

His figures cover “only reported lobbying spending. It does not count activities related to lobbying, including grassroots mobilisation, media relations and public relations. It has been estimated that an equally large amount is spent on these activities.” – Climate News Network

Money talks, says a study of Washington’s political lobbying and its influence on climate change law. Most of the most vocal money comes from big energy.

LONDON, 24 July 2018 – Between 2000 and 2016 Washington’s political lobbying used money as lavishly as ever. The electricity utilities, fossil fuel companies and transportation companies spent around $2bn to “lobby” the US Congress and Senate on matters of climate legislation. Those sectors most likely to be affected by any changes in the law spent most on the issue.

In contrast, environmental organisations and the renewable energy sector each spent no more than a thirtieth of such sums.

And during the first 16 years of the new century, lobby spending in the US fluctuated: between 2000 and 2006, lobbyists for big energy spent only about $50m.

But as President Obama began office in the White House in 2009, and the US Congress started to contemplate legislation to contain or limit global warming driven by profligate fossil fuel use worldwide, lobbyist spending had peaked at $362m, according to new research in the journal Climatic Change.

“The process may limit the communication of accurate scientific information in the decision-making process”

Since then, President Trump has announced the US withdrawal from a global agreement to contain climate change signed by President Obama. The implication is that when it comes to influencing climate legislation, money talks more urgently and effectively than evidence.

Lobbying is not new. In democracies, all groups active in business, politics, the law and the economy seek to persuade lawmakers, and persuasion involves expense. But voters and ordinary citizens most affected by climate change and energy policy may be aware of neither the thrust and professionalism of the persuasion, nor the price paid for it.

“Lobbying is conducted away from the public eye,” says the sociologist Robert Brulle of Drexel University in Philadelphia, who worked through almost 2 million official quarterly reports required by law in the US of all professional lobbyists paid to lobby on behalf of a client who make more than one contact with government officials and spend more than 20% of their time on lobbying.

“There is no open debate or refutation of viewpoints offered by professional lobbyists meeting in private with government officials. Control over the nature and flow of information to government decision-makers can be significantly altered by the lobbying process and creates a situation of systematically distorted communication.

Small fraction

“The process may limit the communication of accurate scientific information in the decision-making process.”

In fact, professional lobbyists spent more than $50bn during the 16 relevant years of this century, and climate issues constituted only a fraction of that investment.

Professor Brulle found that the electrical utilities sector spent $554m – a quarter of all climate lobbying – over the 16 years. Fossil fuel investors spent $370m and the transport providers dug into their pockets for $252m during these years.

It is no secret that big fossil fuel companies have resisted the logic of climate science and countered attempts to contain global warming.

Five years ago, Professor Brulle set himself the challenge of identifying political manipulation of US climate change legislation: he looked at Inland Revenue Service data from 91 climate denial organisations and found that they had received $558m in “dark money” – that is, money from 140 foundations and trusts whose own sources of finance were not clear.

Forceful messaging

Three years ago a researcher at Yale University worked through 20 years of contrarian literature, US media coverage and presidential documents to confirm that organisations with powerful corporate benefactors – and these included at least one oil giant – were better at getting their message across.

The conclusion, once again: money talks. And, Professor Brulle warns, his latest study still doesn’t reveal quite how forcefully money talks.

His figures cover “only reported lobbying spending. It does not count activities related to lobbying, including grassroots mobilisation, media relations and public relations. It has been estimated that an equally large amount is spent on these activities.” – Climate News Network

World’s great cities hold key to fossil fuel cuts

The great cities, hotspots of global wealth creation, are great emitters of greenhouse gases. Civic leaders could be among those best placed to save the planet.

LONDON, 6 June, 2018 – Governments anxious to reduce the national use of fossil fuels and limit climate change now know where to start: in the great cities. New research has confirmed what with benefit of hindsight should have been obvious – that the 54% of humanity that lives in the cities now accounts for more than 70% of global energy use.

And a new study of the so-called “carbon footprint” of 13,000 of the world’s urban areas has identified the most effective places to start. “The top 100 highest footprint cities worldwide drive roughly 20% of the global carbon footprint,” said Daniel Moran, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“This means concerted action by a small number of local mayors and governments can significantly reduce national carbon footprints.”

Matching information

Dr Moran and colleagues from Japan, the US and Sweden report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that they defined cities as densely populated, contiguously built-up urban areas, often straddling administrative boundaries. From space, Manchester and Salford in the UK would look like one city; Manhattan and Brooklyn, in the US, or Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan, would fade into each other.

The researchers then matched all the information they could find about existing carbon footprints – estimates of energy consumption – with national statistics on spending patterns, regional purchasing power data and a population map.

Cities – historic concentrations of people, business, industry, government, legislation, learning and inventiveness – are also concentrations of economic growth: 600 urban centres are thought to account for about 60% of global gross domestic product.

Cities may drive climate change, but they are also concentrations of people who will be most at risk, not just because cities are hotter than the surrounding countryside, but because, as the world warms, more people in more cities become increasingly vulnerable to extremes of heat and flood.

“Concerted action by a small number of local mayors and governments can significantly reduce national carbon footprints”

The message of the study is simple: when it comes to reducing fossil fuel use, carbon footprint and emissions of greenhouse gas, mayors, governors, councils and city bosses have as much opportunity as national governments – and more direct influence.

The scientists assembled their list of 13,000 cities from data from 187 of the world’s nations. Altogether 195 nations in 2015 in Paris agreed to work together to contain global warming, driven by fossil fuel use and consequential increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, to, if possible, no more than 1.5°C above historic levels by 2100.

In fact, the world has already warmed by around 1°C on average in the last century: the challenge is to act in time to stop global warming rising to catastrophic levels.

Several surprises

And the new study delivers some useful places to begin. The top 100 cities are home to only 11% of the world’s population but drive 18% of the global carbon footprint.

The top three – Seoul in Korea, Guangzhou in China and New York in the US – are no surprise, but other metropolitan areas with unexpectedly large carbon footprints include Cologne in Germany, Manchester in the UK and Montreal in Canada.

Of the top 200, 41 cities – and these include Cairo in Egypt, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Lima in Peru – are in countries where both total emissions and emissions per head are low. But many of the world’s most carbon-intensive cities are in the world’s richest nations: that is, their civic authorities have the resources with which to act.

“The fact that carbon footprints are highly concentrated in affluent cities means that targeted measures in a few places and by selected coalitions can have a large effect covering important consumption hotspots,” said Dr Moran. – Climate News Network

The great cities, hotspots of global wealth creation, are great emitters of greenhouse gases. Civic leaders could be among those best placed to save the planet.

LONDON, 6 June, 2018 – Governments anxious to reduce the national use of fossil fuels and limit climate change now know where to start: in the great cities. New research has confirmed what with benefit of hindsight should have been obvious – that the 54% of humanity that lives in the cities now accounts for more than 70% of global energy use.

And a new study of the so-called “carbon footprint” of 13,000 of the world’s urban areas has identified the most effective places to start. “The top 100 highest footprint cities worldwide drive roughly 20% of the global carbon footprint,” said Daniel Moran, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“This means concerted action by a small number of local mayors and governments can significantly reduce national carbon footprints.”

Matching information

Dr Moran and colleagues from Japan, the US and Sweden report in the journal Environmental Research Letters that they defined cities as densely populated, contiguously built-up urban areas, often straddling administrative boundaries. From space, Manchester and Salford in the UK would look like one city; Manhattan and Brooklyn, in the US, or Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan, would fade into each other.

The researchers then matched all the information they could find about existing carbon footprints – estimates of energy consumption – with national statistics on spending patterns, regional purchasing power data and a population map.

Cities – historic concentrations of people, business, industry, government, legislation, learning and inventiveness – are also concentrations of economic growth: 600 urban centres are thought to account for about 60% of global gross domestic product.

Cities may drive climate change, but they are also concentrations of people who will be most at risk, not just because cities are hotter than the surrounding countryside, but because, as the world warms, more people in more cities become increasingly vulnerable to extremes of heat and flood.

“Concerted action by a small number of local mayors and governments can significantly reduce national carbon footprints”

The message of the study is simple: when it comes to reducing fossil fuel use, carbon footprint and emissions of greenhouse gas, mayors, governors, councils and city bosses have as much opportunity as national governments – and more direct influence.

The scientists assembled their list of 13,000 cities from data from 187 of the world’s nations. Altogether 195 nations in 2015 in Paris agreed to work together to contain global warming, driven by fossil fuel use and consequential increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, to, if possible, no more than 1.5°C above historic levels by 2100.

In fact, the world has already warmed by around 1°C on average in the last century: the challenge is to act in time to stop global warming rising to catastrophic levels.

Several surprises

And the new study delivers some useful places to begin. The top 100 cities are home to only 11% of the world’s population but drive 18% of the global carbon footprint.

The top three – Seoul in Korea, Guangzhou in China and New York in the US – are no surprise, but other metropolitan areas with unexpectedly large carbon footprints include Cologne in Germany, Manchester in the UK and Montreal in Canada.

Of the top 200, 41 cities – and these include Cairo in Egypt, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Lima in Peru – are in countries where both total emissions and emissions per head are low. But many of the world’s most carbon-intensive cities are in the world’s richest nations: that is, their civic authorities have the resources with which to act.

“The fact that carbon footprints are highly concentrated in affluent cities means that targeted measures in a few places and by selected coalitions can have a large effect covering important consumption hotspots,” said Dr Moran. – Climate News Network

Bonn climate talks make gradual progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing solutions

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

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

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

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

More ambition

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

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

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

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

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

Sharp differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing solutions

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

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

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

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

More ambition

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

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

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

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

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

Sharp differences

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

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

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

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