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PRESS RELEASE – The Government of Saint Lucia has a target of generating 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This pristine island currently depends on dirty diesel generators for power, but has ambitious goals to revolutionize its economy with solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Solar represents the easiest attainable resource, and Saint Lucia is already famous for its sunshine, which draws visitors from around the world.
To mark the start of its own renewable revolution, the Government of Saint Lucia has partnered with the non-profit Solar Head of State to install solar panels on the public residence of the Governor-General, Government House. Solar Head of State’s mission is to help world leaders to role-models in environmental stewardship by encouraging the adoption of solar PV on prominent government buildings. Saint Lucia’s officials first announced their intention to install the panels on the Government House at the Paris COP21 Climate Conference in December 2015.
Saint Lucia’s recently appointed Minister, with responsibility for Renewable Energy, Hon. Dr. Gale Rigobert, said, “The commitment of Saint Lucia to transit from dependence on fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy is demonstrated here by this project to install solar panels at the Governor General’s official residence.”
The plan will also help to reduce energy costs for citizens of Saint Lucia which, like most island nations, suffers from astronomically high electricity costs that hinder economic development. The government, in collaboration with the local electricity utility LUCELEC, is currently completing the bidding process on its first utility scale installation, a 3MW solar PV facility that will power 5-8% of the national energy demand.
Solar Head of State assembled an international consortium of project donors from across the clean energy sector to carry out the project. Major contributions were received from California-based solar installation company Sungevity and from the California Clean Energy Fund. Panels were donated by manufacturer Trina Solar and inverters from Enphase Energy. Support was also received from Elms Consulting, a London-based strategic consulting firm working to accelerate sustainable development on islands. Australian firms Wattwatchers and Solar Analytics provided system-monitoring expertise and equipment.
The engineering and construction was donated by British Virgin Islands based Free Island Energy; and Saint Lucian company Noah Energy. Strategic partners include the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Carbon War Room, and the Clinton Climate Initiative.
“This is a terrific opportunity to help grow the local economy and create local jobs. Free Island Energy and Noah Energy trained local trades to build this project, and now there are trained solar technicians in Saint Lucia – keeping money and skilled jobs on the island,” said Marc Lopata, President of Free Island Energy.
Solar Head of State also has won support from globally prominent sustainability and renewable energy champions including high-profile entrepreneur and adventurer, Sir Richard Branson; environmentalist and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben; and former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who became the first 21st century solar head of state when he put an 11.5kW solar system on his Presidential Palace in 2010.
Sir Richard Branson, a long-time supporter of Caribbean efforts to use renewable energy commented “It’s wonderful to see this type of leadership for a cleaner and brighter future in this region that I love so much – and from a small island too! Congratulations, Saint Lucia and Solar Head of State on this fantastic initiative that sends a positive and strong message to the world.”
Danny Kennedy, author of ‘Rooftop Revolution’ and Sungevity co-founder, played a key role in both the installation of solar on Nasheed’s Presidential Palace in the Maldives in 2010, and in pressing President Obama to bring solar back to The White House in 2011. Now he hopes this campaign will go global and world leaders everywhere will take the initiative to install solar on their residences.
“There will be a time when not using solar will be unthinkable for any elected leader, and it is closer than many people think,” said Kennedy. “Once they get the opportunity to have rooftop solar, people love it. But at the start of the solar uptake process, support from governments and leadership by example from political leaders is vital to building early momentum.”
“That’s why the example being set by the Government of Saint Lucia to accelerate the adoption of clean energy in the Caribbean, is so important. It’s one roof today, but will be many over the years ahead. The rooftop revolution has come to Saint Lucia.”
Starting with Saint Lucia, Solar Head of State’s smart solar roll-out is focused on five small states in the Caribbean this year and early next year. Then the campaign will be looking further afield to Asia and the Pacific islands towards the end of 2017 and beyond.
See photos of Solar Head of State here.
Solar Head of State
James Ellsmoor – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone : +1 919 338 4564 / +1 758 722 8404
+44 7817 638 324
Government of Saint Lucia
Permanent Secretary Sylvester Clauzel
+1 758 468 5840 / +1 758 720 3119
The European Commission announces its 3rd Global Event ‘Innovative and effective approaches to climate change adaptation and other post COP21 agreement priorities’, to be held, on 12-13-14 September 2016 in Brussels, Belgium.
The Agenda 2030 with the SDGs and the COP21 Paris Agreement on climate change provide a new strategic framework for international cooperation. Consequently, the GCCA+ plans to contribute strategically, financially and technically, over the period 2016-2020, to the efforts of LDCs and SIDS parties to address these challenges.
A year after the launch of the GCCA+, and as experiences from the GCCA, other programmes and the recent COP21 Paris Agreement accumulate across the globe, it is important that the GCCA+ ensures that lesson learning is an integral part of the development process and that knowledge generated from its implementation is shared across countries and regions and with key stakeholders and development partners. The GCCA+ Global Learning Event will explore how experience on the ground influences policy development and vice-versa on local, national and international scales.
The aim of the GCCA+ GLE2016 will be to share past GCCA and current GCCA+ best practices and challenges to scaling-up and increasing impacts amongst beneficiaries and potential donors;to present recent and updated climate strategies and examples across various development sectors and actors such as on INDCs, NAPs, engagement with new stakeholders, new tools and approaches and to extract conclusions for the GCCA+.
The GCCA+ GLE2016 will discuss more specifically the following four topics:
- How could the INDCs be effectively linked to the other climate change policy processes (e.g., NAPA, NAPs, National Communications)?
- How to increase the social benefits of climate change policies and interventions (e.g. Number of beneficiaries, dissemination of best practices, etc.)?
- Linking gender, poverty and climate change mainstreaming – challenges and opportunities.
- Risk management solutions and tools (climate models, risk assessments, insurance schemes, adapted technologies, etc.) as a response to the adverse effects of climate change.
European Delegation representatives, implementing partners, governmental bodies, non-state actors from academia, NGOs and the private sector working in the GCCA+ targeted countries with direct applied knowledge are all invited to submit proposals strictly focusing on these four topics and reporting practical experiences or studies showing the path towards a successful implementation of the Paris Agreement on these matters in Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The submissions can be presented in multiples forms and media such as papers, posters, presentations, videos, etc. All submissions should include the following information as a common basis for selection: Clear title; Geographical scope (regional, national, sub-national); Sector(s); Stakeholder(s) involved; Result(s); Lesson(s) learnt.
Submissions will be judged on the following criteria: (1.) relevance to one or more of the four topics; (2.) contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement; (3.) potential for duplication, scaling up and impact, and (4.) innovative power of idea, relevance of area, and potential for impact.
Accepted submissions will be presented at one of the thematic sessions on day 1 and day 2 or during the open space session of day 3 (1/2 day). These submissions as well as others of value to the GCCA+ and that would not have been presented will also feature in the GLE2016 publication.
The key dates are as follows:
- Deadline for submission of concept (one pager): 15th June 2016
- Notification to selected submissions: 30th June 2016
- Deadline for submission of full paper/poster/presentation/video/etc.: 31st July 2016
- Deadline for the submission of revised paper/poster/presentation/video/etcS.: 31st August 2016.
Interested parties are asked to submit a proposal addressing one or more of the four topics selected for the GLE2016 and to submit proposals by the 15th of June 2016, by emailing: email@example.com
H.E. Ms. Ségolène Royal, Minister of Environment, Energy and the Sea of France and President of COP 21/CMP 11 opened the climate change talks in Bonn on Monday May 16th, 2016. That morning was the first occasion for the climate change negotiators to meet following the successful climate change talks in Paris last year which resulted in the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Last month 175 countries signed the Agreement at the UN Headquarters in New York, eclipsing the previous record for the signing an agreement on the opening day. In addition 5 CARICOM Member States were among the 15 States which also presented their instruments of ratification. The Paris Agreement will come into force when 55 Parties representing 55% of the global greenhouse gas emissions ratify the Agreement.
Two of the subsidiary bodies of the Climate Change Convention, the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) also launched their work . The SBSTA is being chaired by Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). These bodies will elaborate the mechanisms established in the Agreement. The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) is expected to launch its work tomorrow. It is charged to prepare for the entry into force of th Agreement and prepare for the first meeting its governing body.
Mr Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer, is representing the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) at the meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Bonn, Germany from 16 to 26 May 2016.
Mr. Fuller was elected as the Chairman of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) held in Paris, France this past December. He will hold the post for one year. The other two subsidiary bodies which will be meeting in Bonn are the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). On Wednesday, May 11th, 2016 Mr. Fuller met with the delegations representing the Least Developed Countries (LDC) to brief them on how he proposed to conduct the work of the SBSTA at the session. He will provide similar briefings to the other negotiating groups on Friday, Saturday and Sunday prior to the opening of the negotiating sessions on Monday.
This achievement should be celebrated, especially by Small Island Development States (SIDS), a 41-nation group—nearly half of them in the Caribbean—that has been advocating for increased ambition on climate change for nearly a quarter century.
SIDS are even more vulnerable to climate change impacts — and risk losing more. Global warming has very high associated damages and costs to families, communities and entire countries, including their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
What does this mean for the Caribbean? Climate change is recognized as one of the most serious challenges to the Caribbean. With the likelihood that climate change will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricane season, comprehensive measures are needed to protect at-risk communities.
Moreover, scenarios based on moderate curbing of greenhouse gas emissions reveal that surface temperature would increase between 1.2 and 2.3 °C across the Caribbean in this century. In turn, rainfall is expected to decrease about 5 to 6 per cent. As a result, it will be the only insular region in the world to experience a decrease in water availability in the future.
The combined impact of higher temperatures and less water would likely result in longer dry periods and increased frequency of droughts, which threaten agriculture, livelihoods, sanitation and ecosystems.
Perhaps the most dangerous hazard is sea level rise. The sea level may rise up to 0.6 meters in the Caribbean by the end of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This could actually flood low-lying areas, posing huge threats, particularly to the smallest islands, and impacting human settlements and infrastructure in coastal zones. It also poses serious threats to tourism, a crucial sector for Caribbean economies: up to 60 per cent of current resorts lie around the coast and these would be greatly damaged by sea level increase.
Sea level rise also risks saline water penetrating into freshwater aquifers, threatening crucial water resources for agriculture, tourism and human consumption, unless expensive treatments operations are put into place.
In light of these prospects, adapting to climate change becomes an urgent necessity for SIDS—including in the Caribbean. It is therefore not surprising that all Caribbean countries have submitted a section on adaptation within their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are the voluntary commitments that pave the way for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
In their INDCs, Caribbean countries overwhelmingly highlight the conservation of water resources and the protection of coastal areas as their main worries. Most of them also consider adaptation initiatives in the economic and productive sectors, mainly agriculture, fisheries, tourism and forestry.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting Caribbean countries in their adaptation efforts for many years now, through environmental, energy-related and risk reduction projects, among others.
This week we launched a new partnership with the Government of Japan, the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP), in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The initiative will be implemented in eight Caribbean countries: Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, benefitting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.
It will set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries’ long-term strategies, helping put in practice Caribbean countries’ actions and policies to reduce greenhouse as emissions and adapt to climate change. It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.
When considering adaptation measures to the different impacts of climate change there are multiple options. Some rely on infrastructure, such as dikes to control sea level rise, but this can be particularly expensive for SIDS, where the ratio of coastal area to land mass is very high.
In this context, ecosystem-based adaptation activities are much more cost-effective, and, in countries with diverse developmental priorities and where financial resources are limited, they become an attractive alternative. This means healthy, well-functioning ecosystems to boost natural resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change, reducing people’s vulnerabilities as well.
UNDP, in partnership with national and local governments in the Caribbean, has been championing ecosystem-based adaptation and risk reduction with very rewarding results.
For example, the Government of Cuba partnered with UNDP, scientific institutes and forestry enterprises to restore mangrove forests along 84 km of the country’s southern shore to slow down saline intrusion from the sea level rise and reduce disaster risks, as the mangrove acts as a protective barrier against hurricanes.
In Grenada, in coordination with the Government and the German International Cooperation Agency, we supported the establishment of a Community Climate Change Adaptation Fund, a small grants mechanism, to provide opportunities to communities to cope with the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions. We have engaged with local stakeholders to develop climate smart agricultural projects, and climate resilient fisheries, among other activities in the tourism and water resources sectors.
UNDP’s support is directed to balance social and economic development with environmental protection, directly benefitting communities. Our approach is necessarily aligned with the recently approved 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its associated Sustainable Development Goals, delivering on protecting ecosystems and natural resources, promoting food security and sanitation, while also helping reduce poverty and promoting sustainable economic growth.
While there is significant potential for climate change adaptation in SIDS, it will require additional external resources, technologies and strengthening of local capacities. In UNDP we are ideally placed to continue working hand-in-hand with Caribbean countries as they implement their INDCs and find their own solutions to climate-change adaptation, while also sharing knowledge and experiences within the region and beyond.
Jessica Faieta is United Nations Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Credit: Caribbean 360
The island, with a population of 12,000 currently imports 4.2 million gallons of diesel fuel annually, at a cost of 12 million dollars, a bill it hopes to cut down significantly. Nevis consumes a maximum of 10 mw of energy annually.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism of Nevis, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis Mark Brantley said geothermal energy is something that sets Nevis apart.
“About 10 years ago we discovered that we have geothermal energy here. It has taken a while but we are not at a stage where all the exploration work has been done and we have been assured that geothermal goes live in December of 2017,” Brantley told IPS.
“What that means is that when that plant switches on in December of 2017, fully 100 per cent of Nevis’ electricity will be supplied by renewables. Nowhere else in the world can boast that and so it will make us the greenest place on planet earth. That’s the new tagline – the greenest place on planet earth.”
Nevis is the smaller island of the pair, known as the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is home to active hot springs and a large geothermal reservoir. Seven volcanic centres have been identified on Nevis and drilling at three sites has indicated that the geothermal reservoir is capable of producing up to 500 mw of constant base load power year round.
Brantley said the shift to geothermal could not have come at a better time.
“We’ve just come out of Paris with COP21; the world is talking about climate change and what we can do. I think it really gives Nevis another string to its bow in terms of things that we can talk about and exciting developments here that would drive traffic to the island as people come and would want to be a part of something that is so natural,” Brantley said.
“First of all, we’ll certainly go completely green. Our emissions, our carbon footprint is reduced to almost zero. Secondly, we have a situation where you have the cost savings are likely to be anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent.
Traditionally we pay anywhere from 40 to 45 US cents per kilowatt hour. Geothermal is being offered at about 17 or 18 cents per kilowatt hour. So just imagine, your operating costs are cut dramatically and how that can attract businesses. We are already having interest from people wanting to do electric scooters so just think Jetsons,” Brantley added.
Brantley referred to the 1960’s American animated sitcom ‘The Jetsons’ where the family resides in Orbit City. All homes and businesses are raised high above the ground on adjustable columns. George Jetson lives with his family in the Skypad Apartments: his wife Jane is a homemaker, their teenage daughter Judy attends Orbit High School, and their early-childhood son Elroy attends Little Dipper School. Housekeeping is seen to by a robot maid, Rosie, which handles chores not otherwise rendered trivial by the home’s numerous push-button Space Age-envisioned conveniences.
“The idea here, if you can imagine a place where visitors come, there are electric cars, electric scooters and everything because we have a cheap source of energy. Not only that, the experts are telling us that we have maybe somewhere north of 150 megawatts of available energy. Nevis only uses 10, so you have enough to export to St. Kitts because they are just two miles away,” Brantley said.
“In fact we’ve already done the interconnectivity studies; but also islands that are within that radius so Antigua is a possibility because they have no prospects for geothermal energy there.
“Anguilla has no prospects there but we also have neighbouring islands like St. Barts, Saba, St. Eustatius who have potential so Nevis can potentially, I think in a year become a net exporter of energy. And as a net exporter of energy we can change the whole economic paradigm in terms of what we rely on here so that we can wean ourselves even off tourism as a main stay and have energy and energy production instead. So I think there are some exciting times ahead for Nevis,” he added.
Dominica recently launched its own geothermal project with plans to construct a small power plant for domestic consumption and a bigger plant of up to 100 mw of electricity for export to the neighbouring French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
A Geothermal Energy Bill is to go before the House of Assembly in the first quarter of this year. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the Geothermal Bill shows the commitment by his Government to pursue geothermal energy development.
“We’re hoping in the first quarter of this year to go to parliament to pass the legislation. It had to go through a rigourous review by our partners. That has been concluded. You know we had the challenge with the French consortium. We are engaging new partners but we’re also looking at the possibility of going with a small plant on our own. We’re engaging friendly governments, we’re engaging institutions,” he said.
“As you know we have an offer of a loan from the World Bank and that is still on the table. So the government now has to look at the financing options and decide which way it’s going to go with the geothermal plant. But we believe, notwithstanding the storm, it is important for us to pursue those renewable energy imperatives because based on advice, this would certainly be a major plus for the economy of Dominica.”
In August Tropical Storm Erika tore across Dominica, devastating villages, wrecking bridges and leaving a reconstruction bill worth half the country’s annual GDP.
About 10 inches of rain fell in a few hours, turning rivers on the mountainous island into torrents and hillsides into deadly mudslides. The capital Roseau was engulfed by water, and the island’s main airport was out of action for close to a month and will cost some 15 million dollars to repair. At least 31 people died in the storm.
Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency
In what supporters are calling a historic achievement, 196 nations attending the COP21 climate meetings outside Paris voted to adopt an agreement Saturday that covers both developed and developing countries. Their respective governments will now need to adopt the deal.
Presenting the plan aimed at curbing global warming ahead of Saturday’s vote, France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the delegations, “You go into this room to decide a historic agreement. The world holds its breath and it counts on you.”
The agreement, which was publicly released Saturday morning (ET), sets the goal of limiting the world’s rise in average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Reporting on details of the deal, NPR’s Christopher Joyce says, “To help developing countries switch from fossil fuels to greener sources of energy and adapt to the effects of climate change, the developed world will provide $100 billion a year.”
He adds that the 1.5-degree cap was sought by island nations.
Under the agreement, the Obama administration says that for the first time, all countries will be required to report on “national inventories of emissions by source” and also to report on their mitigation efforts.
President Obama will reportedly discuss the agreement at 5:30 p.m. ET.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “With these elements in place, markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, resilient growth,” adding that “what was once unthinkable has now become unstoppable.”
You can watch the stream of the Paris event online.
LE BOURGET, France — The Paris climate-change conference was supposed to be about the needs of big countries and what they are willing to do to slow the warming of Earth’s atmosphere. But in the end, the two weeks of sometimes round-the-clock negotiations have focused at least as much on some of the smallest, most defenseless nations whose very existence could hinge on the outcome of the talks.
The result could be a tougher set of policy goals than anyone originally thought could emerge from the conference. While the ultimate agreement is expected to embrace a goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, it also is likely to recognize a far more challenging and aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
That tougher language might not be legally binding for countries such as the United States, but the fact that it is in the running is testament to the tireless work of delegations from remote countries facing an urgent threat from the rising seas of a warmer Earth.
The growing momentum behind 1.5 degrees is a story of fast-breaking science, savvy politics and a change in tone in the climate debate — one that, pushed by Pope Francis, has focused increasing attention on the needs of the most vulnerable countries. (The Vatican on Thursday came out in favor of the 1.5-degree target.)
“The small guys have managed to push the big guys, and that is a big story,” Monica Araya, founder and executive director of the Costa Rican nongovernmental organization Nivela and special adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, said at the conference Friday.
Early Saturday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced that a proposed draft of the new climate agreement was ready for debate and possible approval by delegates of the 196 countries attending the talks. Fabius described the proposed agreement as “historic,” “ambitious and balanced,” providing a pathway that would allow countries to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas pollution and avoid a dangerous warming of the planet.
“Today we are close to the final outcome,” Fabius told the assembled delegates at a conference center in Paris’ northern outskirts. He called on diplomats to approve the compromise reached by negotiators overnight, one that he said “affirms our objective … to have a temperature [increase] well below 2 degrees [Celsius] and to endeavor to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees, which should make it possible to reduce the risks and impacts linked to climate change.” As he spoke the words, the conference hall erupted in applause. “The world is holding its breath,” Fabius said.
Diplomats labored nonstop for the last 48 hours of the conference to resolve differences over a handful of thorny issues, including financial aid to developing countries hit hard by climate change, as well as rules and procedures for judging whether countries are honoring their commitments to cut pollution.Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in Paris to help push for a deal, said Friday there had been “a lot of progress” but also a few snags during late-night bargaining.
“I’m hopeful,” he told reporters. “I think there is a way to go forward, that there’s a reasonableness.”
For many years, small island nations such as the Maldives — joined more recently by a broader group of climate-vulnerable countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America — have pushed to make the world recognize tougher climate goals. It has been a long-shot fight because of the massive effort required to meet even the less stringent goal of restricting warming to less than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, and also because of their relative lack of political and economic power.
“Maldives itself has over 3,000 years of history,” said Ahmed Sareer, the Maldives’ permanent representative to the United Nations and its ambassador to the United States. “The location, the culture, the language, the traditions, the history, all this would be wiped off” if sea levels are allowed to rise high enough.
Nonetheless, holding warming to 1.5 degrees hardly seemed realistic. With the world already at about one degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels and current national emissions pledges well off target even for two degrees, how would 1.5 ever happen?
Still, small island nations brought their case to Paris. Their message was epitomized by a poster at the Wider Caribbean Pavilion at the vast Le Bourget conference center. The poster shows a young girl up to her neck in ocean water. Behind her, the now-submerged beach she’s standing on sports a drowned sign: “1.5 to stay alive,” it reads.
The talks in Paris were barely getting underway last week when representatives from Antigua and Barbuda made a series of impassioned pleas to the nations gathered to negotiate a climate treaty. In speeches and in a written appeal, officials from the islands warned that their homeland was literally in danger of being swept away by rising sea levels.
Even if all countries honored their current promises to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, global temperatures would rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius — and “that would be too much,” the delegation said, summarizing its view on its official Twitter account.
“The ministers came to the [talks] so that we might escape a world of plus-3 degrees, and for refusing to sign the death warrant of certain countries,” the message read. “It seems that this promise is forgotten.”
Antiguan officials delivered similar messages in closed meetings, warning that other island nations faced “an existential threat” unless the negotiators increased their ambition and sought even stricter emission controls to keep the temperature rise from exceeding 1.5 degrees, according to a diplomat present during the session. For these countries, the risks include not just the loss of land but the death of vital fisheries as more coral reefs die because of higher temperatures and increased acidity.
Similar appeals have been made for years, but in Paris the islanders acquired new allies: African nations, Europeans, even some Americans expressed sympathy, the diplomat said.
As the Paris meeting unfolded, the 1.5 target received more and more acknowledgment from major economies such as France, Canada and the United States. Then, a near-final draft agreement released Thursday enshrined it as the aspirational climate goal of the entire world. Countries, the draft said, will take steps to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”
The language was retained in a draft that was scheduled for debate and final approval on Saturday. Officials cautioned that changes could still be made in the talk’s final hours. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Fabius said earlier in the week.
Still, observers say that the moral appeal of small-islanders has merged with a growing body of troubling science suggesting that their temperature target turns out to be a meaningful one.
It was not until 2008, at the Poznan climate meetings in Poland, that the coalition of small island nations called the Alliance of Small Island States formally stood up for the position of a 1.5-degree temperature target, said Bill Hare, a physicist and a founder of Climate Analytics. The group has conducted considerable research on the 1.5-degree target to help small island nations and developing countries.
But there was not much science at the time to differentiate 1.5 degrees from two degrees. Climate Analytics science director Michiel Schaeffer and scientific consultant Joeri Rogelj note that many climate studies have tended to compare impacts at two degrees with impacts at much higher temperature increases, rather than to suss out the differences between 1.5 and two, which turn out to be fairly substantial.
“There’s a significant difference between one and a half degrees and two degrees if you look at survival of coral reefs, and shifts in heat and precipitation extremes,” Schaeffer said, “and for example, a doubling of risk for food security at two degrees compared with one and a half degrees.”
And then, most of all, there is sea-level rise. Recent research suggests not only that every one degree of temperature increase (Celsius) will lead to about 2.3 meters of long-term sea-level rise (over seven feet), but that the long-term stability threshold of the Greenland ice sheet may also lie at around 1.5 degrees, or just above it. (The stability threshold of the West Antarctic ice sheet may already have been reached).
So even as small island states pushed more and more for 1.5 degrees — and as their coalition grew to include more developing countries — scientific research on ice-sheet vulnerability and sea-level rise started to paint a two-degree warmer world as quite a scary one.
“That combination of science and morality I think brought it here in a way that was just undeniable,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate-change program at the World Resources Institute. “That’s how I think it got as far as it’s gotten.”
But the talk of 1.5 degrees brings with it deeply sobering implications that, until now, many in the climate debate largely managed to avoid or ignore. Increasing talk about this target also opens up, more than ever, a troubling discussion about “negative emissions” technologies that do not exist on any mass scale at present but theoretically would be able to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. Perhaps the most popular of them is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS, which would involve burning plants for power and then storing the carbon released in the ground.
These technologies will be needed, scientists say, for 1.5 to be possible. It may be that the only way to land the planet at 1.5 degrees is to temporarily overshoot that target and then cool things back down again through massive carbon removal from the air, according to scientists.
Criticisms of “negative emissions” technologies are mounting. Recently, a large group of scientists said it would be “extremely risky” to rely on such technologies rather than simply cutting carbon emissions sharply, because they all have major trade-offs (BECCS, for instance, would require a huge amount of land). But nonetheless, they’ve become a part of the debate out of necessity.
Thus, the powerful moral case made by small island nations and other climate-vulnerable countries now runs head on into the extraordinarily complex math of the global carbon budget, with a little science fiction thrown in to boot. But even if humans cannot manage to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, there could be a benefit to the effort.
“Having aimed for 1.5 in the first place,” Rogelj said, “if we are not lucky, if some technologies don’t turn out, then maybe we will be safe enough to stay below two degrees.”
Credit: Washington Post
The negotiations at COP21 in Paris are halfway over, and the world will have a new universal climate agreement by the end of the week. But just how vigorous those commitments will be remains to be seen.
After whittling down a four-years-in-the-making draft agreement to 48 pages last week, negotiators will spend the remaining days of the conference compromising on a final agreement to be signed by more than 190 parties.
“A week ago, 150 world leaders stood here and pledged their full support for a robust global climate agreement that is equal to the test we face,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday. “Never before have so many Heads of State and Government gathered in one place at one time with one common purpose.”
Negotiations are expected to conclude Wednesday and the agreement be adopted on Thursday and Friday, though the formal signing ceremony won’t happen until early 2016. The current draft contains more than 900 square brackets, which are used to identify disagreements, the BBC noted.
“We have a new universally accepted basis for negotiations. Now we need to write the next,” French negotiator Laurence Taubiana said Sunday. “The work is not complete, and major political issues need to be decided on. We will need all our energy, intelligence, capacity for compromise, and ability to think long-term if we are to achieve our result.”
One of the biggest points of contention in the draft is whether negotiators should update the oft-cited 2 degrees Celsius threshold — the maximum amount of warming by 2100 that the planet can take before climate conditions are permanently altered — to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Last week, both France and Germany joined 43 other nations in stating that 2 degrees doesn’t go far enough and that the tougher goal of 1.5 degrees is necessary to protect the most vulnerable countries.
Achieving that goal, Reuters reported, will require bringing carbon emissions down to zero and relying 100 percent on renewable energy by 2050.
Negotiations over that will be challenging due to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which has emerged as one of the staunchest opponents to the more difficult goal.
“Saudi Arabia has been playing a very negative role in Paris, objecting to any processes to consider a 1.5C goal, or encouragement of divestment from fossil fuels,” E3G, a sustainable development nonprofit, said in its preview for the week ahead at COP21. The group added that Saudi is using its influence with the Arab bloc to bring it “along with it in an increasing bitter confrontation with the Vulnerable Countries.”
Negotiators will also spend the week hashing out which countries should foot the bill for developing nations’ climate projects. When the UN climate convention was signed in 1992, the BBC explained, negotiators identified participating nations as either developing or developed and agreed that the latter should should provide funding support to the former to help them meet their climate goals and cope with the effects of climate change.
Now that some of those developing countries, such as China, India and Saudi Arabia, have emerged as stronger nations over the last two decades, the richer developed countries want them to step up their financial contributions. But in a stern letter released last Wednesday, the G77, which represents the world’s developing nations, condemned such an action.
“Any attempt to replace the core obligation of developed countries to provide financial support to developing countries with a number of arbitrarily identified economic conditions is a violation of the rules-based multilateral process and threatens an outcome here in Paris,” the letter read.
Sorting out those financial disagreements should be the priority, Oxfam International director of advocacy and campaigns Celine Charveriat said at a press conference Monday, France 24 reported.
“We have 24 hours left to get a convincing finance package on the table,” Charveriat said. “We know what happens when something this central to the negotiations is left for the last day.”
Credit: Huffington Post