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Commonwealth brainstorms climate change responses

The Commonwealth is bringing together global experts to thrash out new ideas for not just reducing climate change but actually reversing its effects by mimicking success stories in nature.

At a two-day gathering on Friday and Saturday at the 52-country organisation’s headquarters in London, a diverse band of experts in fields such as biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration traded ideas for practical schemes that could pull carbon out of the air and put it back into the Earth.

Rather than a series of presentations, the conference instead saw experts from around the world huddle in groups to brainstorm.

A Commonwealth gathering in London will bring together experts in biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration, to discuss ideas for practical s...

A Commonwealth gathering in London will bring together experts in biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration, to discuss ideas for practical schemes that could pull carbon out of the air and put it back into the Earth ©Greg Baker (AFP/File)

“Some of our island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean will be hit first and potentially disappear, therefore climate change has been an issue of real importance to the Commonwealth,” Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland told AFP.

– Termite mound buildings –

Examples were shared of concrete absorbing carbon, ecologically destroyed landscapes flourishing again through getting carbon back into the soil, and getting more productive agriculture through mimicking the ecosystems of wild, untended land.

There were discussions on buildings designed like termite mounds that ventilate themselves with cool air, or making ships’ hulls like shark skin.

Also mooted were vertical axis wind turbines arranged in school-of-fish formation so the ones behind gain momentum from the vortices, creating far more wind power than regular wind farms.

“It’s stunning, but this is not inventing anything new. Life’s been at it for 3.8 billion years,” biomimicry expert Janine Benyus told AFP.

“We’re talking about bringing carbon home — rebalancing the problem of too much carbon in the air and not enough in the soil,” she added, stepping out of a workshop.

With its diverse membership covering a quarter of the world’s countries, action within the Commonwealth often paves the way for wider global agreements.

The climate change accords reached at its biennial summit in Malta last December were instrumental in the Paris COP21 UN climate conference deal struck later that month, which agreed to cap global warming at less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

– ‘Practical, practical, practical’ –

Scotland will take forward ideas and outcomes from the London workshop to the COP22 summit in Marrakesh in November.

“We’re setting off the starter pistol for this race,” the secretary-general said.

“The Commonwealth is seeking to be the platform through which ideas can be transferred.

However, in the arena of climate change, many intriguing proposals get ditched on the grounds of cost, practicality or fears that they could end up inflicting environmental damage.

“We’re looking at how we can share real solutions and help each other to get there faster,” said Scotland.

“We’re saying ‘practical, practical, practical’. If it works, it’s affordable, implementable and makes the difference, then we need people to understand they can believe in it.”

Some sessions focused on so-called big picture ideas, looking at Earth as a complete system.

Delegates discussed how carbon can be used as a resource, in which returning it to the ground can bring about lasting soil fertility and jobs and thereby political stability.

“Life creates conditions conducive to life. It’s about creating new virtuous circles rather than vicious ones,” said Daniel Wahl, who designs regenerative cultures.

“If we do a good job, we can find the funding because the will is there,” he told AFP.

“The time of ‘them and us’ thinking is past. The people who were against each other now have to come together.

“People are dying today from the effects of climate change. To them, it’s not an intellectual debate any more.”

New high for global greenhouse gas emissions

New high for global greenhouse gas emissions ©Simon MALFATTO, Paz PIZARRO (AFP)

Credit: Daily Mail Online

Caricom and climate change

On December 12 in Paris, France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, brought to a close the UN climate change conference, COP 21.“I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document,” he said, and then seconds later: “Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”

It was, according to some reports, an act of brinkmanship, as unresolved last minute concerns had been expressed by Nicaragua and there was, in a part of the final draft text, a difficulty surrounding US concerns about the use of the word ‘shall’ rather than the more discretionary word ‘should’; but with mysteriously, a typographical error being declared, the deal was done.

Apart from it demonstrating Mr Fabius’ outstanding ability to bring to a conclusion a multi-dimensional meeting in which unanimity was required if the world was ever to be able to address climate change; US concerns, driven by domestic politics, demonstrated how hard it may be for nations most at risk to obtain a viable outcome.

Caricom was ready for Paris. A task force had been set up two years ago and the region had a well-prepared position, a short-list of critical issues, and simple but memorable branding. In addition to a delegation led St Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Dr James Fisher, and the Caricom Secretary General, Irwin LaRoque, seven Caribbean Heads of Government travelled to Paris to express, at the opening, the region’s concerns, and to mobilise third-party support among the huge numbers of NGO’s, business interests, environmentalists and other present in Paris.

It was an outstanding example of where, in the pursuit of a common cause that touches everyone in the region, the regional institution can add real value and be an organisation to be proud of. It demonstrated in relation to important cross-cutting roles, a future for the secretariat.

For the Caribbean and other low lying small nations, for which sea level change and global warming are quite literally existential issues, what now is at stake is whether what has been agreed is deliverable; what the text means in practical terms; and how the region and other Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) intend ensuring that the many commitments made are delivered within the agreed time frame.

In outline, the thirty one page text agreed by 193 nations proposes that a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the sinks for ameliorating them is achieved in the second half of this century. It emphasizes the need to hold the increase in the global average temperature well below 2C (36F) above pre-industrial levels, proposes ‘pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C (35F)’, and that a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions be achieved as soon as possible. It accepts an asymmetrical approach enabling all developing countries – including large industrialised carbon emitters like China, India and Brazil – to have more time to adapt.

In a section that addresses loss and damage, it agrees a US$100bn annual minimum up to 2030 to enable support for mitigation and adaptation in developing nations, but does not accept there is any basis for compensation for loss and damage by carbon emitters. It also does not set a time scale for reaching greenhouse gas emission neutrality, or say anything about the shipping or aviation industries.

The problem for the Caribbean and all AOSIS’ 39 member states is whether what was agreed in Paris is prescriptive enough, or is so hedged round by the potential for opt-outs, delays, and unenforceability as to make it meaningless.

What it suggests that Caricom must now follow through, as the agreement as it stands is little more than an aspirational framework. Together with other AOSIS states it needs to determine how at the UN and in other fora it is going to hold the world to account for what has been agreed, then obtain, and successfully apply some of the money that will be available for both adaptation and mitigation.

This will not just be a test of the Caribbean’s staying power and the willingness of its governments to fund and support a continuing focus, but will also require that the region hold to account those countries that it supported during the negotiations. They will need to prove, when it comes to the Caribbean that their expressed concerns reflected more than just a need to obtain a satisfactory agreement. It is a position that will have to be deployed as much with China and Brazil as with the US and Europe.

In this, both Caricom and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) will continue to have a critical role in coordinating the regional effort. But it will also be up to governments to maintain the political momentum, demonstrate a unity of purpose, and to be determined to pay attention to the Caribbean’s implementation deficit.

Climate change is an issue on which the Caribbean has had every reason to have its voice heard and be taken very seriously.  Fifty per cent of its population and the majority of the region’s productive enterprise and infrastructure lie within 1.2 miles of the sea. Its low lying nature, its fragile eco-systems, and extreme weather events demonstrate that it is a prime candidate to benefit from what has been agreed.

While countries in the region are often accused of allowing mendacity to drive their foreign policy, here is an example where the Caribbean deserves a transfer of resources if it, quite literally, is not to disappear beneath the sea.

Climate change also has a strategic importance. It enables the Caribbean to demonstrate an approach that owes more to the future than to the past; it is an issue on which it has a better chance to exert leverage; and one that can deliver national and regional development objectives. It is also an issue on which the region occupies the moral high ground and has popular international support.

Sea levels and water temperatures are rising and it will be some of the world’s smallest nations that will suffer first. Logic would therefore suggest that the Caribbean – a region of vulnerable, low or zero carbon emitting states – should be a significant early beneficiary of any resource transfer for adaptation. It is now up to Caricom to make this a public cause.

Credit: Dominican Today

CARICOM Secretary General visits 5Cs

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque paid a courtesy call to the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) on January 6th, while in Belize.  Ambassador LaRocque was accompanied by the Chef de Cabinet at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Glenda Itiaba. They met the staff and the Executive Director of the Centre, Kenrick Leslie.
LaRocque indicated that CARICOM countries had a unified voice at COP21 and he “wanted to pay tribute to the excellent work done by the Climate Change Centre for preparing the community for what I consider to be a sucessful outcome of the COP21 in Paris.”
Following the success of COP21 in Paris, the 5Cs issued the following statement in December, 2015:
The Executive Director, Dr Kenrick Leslie led a team of delegates from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) to the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Paris, France from 30 November to 11 December 2015. Although the delegates were unable to conclude an agreement by the time the meeting was scheduled to end on Friday, the French Presidency of the COP persisted, sent the talks into overtime and by late Saturday night had crafted an agreement that all Parties were able to adopt unanimously.
 French President Francois Hollande, right, French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21 meetings Laurent Fabius, second right, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, left, and UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon join hands after the final adoption of an agreement at the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change. Francois Mori/AP


French President Francois Hollande, right, French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21 meetings Laurent Fabius, second right, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, left, and UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon join hands after the final adoption of an agreement at the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change.
Francois Mori/AP

The Paris Agreement commits all counties to limit global warming to as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible striving to stave it off at 1.5 degrees. This will require all countries to undertake ambitious efforts to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases which are produced primarily by the use of fossil fuels and deforestation. The Agreement also acknowledges that counties are already experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change, that those impacts will continue to increase and that urgent action is required to undertake measures to enable communities to adapt to extreme and slow onset events precipitated by climate change. In a major victory for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and all Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the Agreement contains an article on Loss and Damage in which countries agree to cooperate to address irreversible and permanent loss and damage, and non-economic losses and work on resilience, risk management and insurance solutions.

Developed countries have pledged to continue their efforts to leverage US$100 billion per year to assist developing countries in their mitigation and adaptation efforts through 2025 and to raise that baseline after 2025. Similar pledges have been made for the transfer of technology and capacity building. A significant provision of the Agreement requires all countries to participate in a transparency framework in which all countries will report biennially on the actions they have undertaken to meet the mitigation and adaptation pledges they made in their nationally determined contributions which will be submitted every five years. In addition developed countries are required to report on the level of support they have provided and an indication of what they will provide, while developing counties will report on the support they require and what they have received.

The CARICOM Climate Change Centre is especially pleased that the Paris Agreement will be informed by science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been mandated to produce a Special Report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial level and emission pathways to attain that target. The Centre played a major role in advocating for that target and for ensuring that the region was well represented and prepared to engage effectively in the negotiations in Paris. With the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (UK-DFID) it prepared technical papers and convened annual regional meetings to develop informed regional positions. With additional support provided by the Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN) and the High level Support Mechanism (HLSM), these efforts were scaled up in 2015 as the Centre convened several technical and ministerial meetings and sessions of the CARICOM Task Force and the Regional Coordinating Committee which resulted in a Declaration on Climate Change which was adopted by the CARICOM Heads of Government and was the blueprint for the region’s position for COP 21. Its efforts culminated in Paris with a Caribbean-wide pavilion which was used by the Caribbean delegations to showcase their vulnerability to climate change and the efforts they are undertaking to address climate change, to convene strategy meetings and to engage in bilateral meetings. Support for the pavilion was provided by the Government of Martinique and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) among others.

The Centre’s efforts in 2016 will now turn towards ensuring that its member States formally adopt the Agreement as soon as possible, that they are prepared to undertake the obligations of the Agreement and that they can take full advantage of the opportunities provided in the Agreement.

COP21 climate change summit reaches deal in Paris

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A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of negotiations.  The pact is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.

The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary.  Earlier, key blocs, including the G77 group of developing countries, and nations such as China and India said they supported the proposals.

President of the UN climate conference of parties (COP) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document. “Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”

COP21: In summary

As he struck the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal, delegates rose to their feet cheering and applauding. The announcement was greeted by cheers and excitement in the hall

Nearly 200 countries have been attempting to strike the first climate deal to commit all countries to cut emissions, which would come into being in 2020.

The chairman of the group representing some of the world’s poorest countries called the deal historic, adding: “We are living in unprecedented times, which call for unprecedented measures.

“It is the best outcome we could have hoped for, not just for the Least Developed Countries, but for all citizens of the world.”

As he struck the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal, delegates rose to their feet cheering and applauding.  The announcement was greeted by cheers and excitement in the hall.  Nearly 200 countries have been attempting to strike the first climate deal to commit all countries to cut emissions, which would come into being.

Key points

The measures in the agreement included:

• To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century

• To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C

• To review progress every five years

• $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

 Image copyright Reuters Image caption UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Hollande join in the celebrations

copyright Reuters: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Hollande join in the celebrations


Analysis: The BBC’s Matt McGrath in Paris

The speeches and the cliches at the adoption of the Paris Agreement flowed like good champagne – success after all has many fathers! The main emotion is relief. The influence of the COP president, Laurent Fabius, cannot be overstated. His long diplomatic career gave him a credibility seldom matched in this arena. He used his power well.

The deal that has been agreed, under Mr Fabius, is without parallel in terms of climate change or of the environment. It sets out a clear long term temperature limit for the planet and a clear way of getting there. There is money for poor countries to adapt, there is a strong review mechanism to increase ambition over time. This is key if the deal is to achieve the aim of keeping warming well below 2C.

More than anything though the deal signifies a new way for the world to achieve progress – without it costing the Earth. A long term perspective on the way we do sustainability is at the heart of this deal. If it delivers that, it truly will be world changing.

Read more from Matt McGrath


Ahead of the deal being struck, delegates were in a buoyant mood as they gathered in the hall waiting for the plenary session to resume.

Mr Fabius was applauded as he entered the hall ahead of the announcement.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande called the proposals unprecedented, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on negotiators to “finish the job”.

Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.

However, the targets set by nations will not be binding under the deal struck in Paris.

Observers say the attempt to impose emissions targets on countries was one of the main reasons why the Copenhagen talks in 2009 failed.

At the time, nations including China, India and South Africa were unwilling to sign up to a condition that they felt could hamper economic growth and development.

The latest negotiations managed to avoid such an impasse by developing a system of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

In these, which form the basis of the Paris agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise “well below” 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels, nations outline their plans on cutting their post-2020 emissions.

An assessment published during the two-week talks suggested that the emission reductions currently outlined in the INDCs submitted by countries would only limit global temperature rise by 2.7C.

Nick Mabey, chief executive of climate diplomacy organisation E3G, said the agreement was an ambitious one that would require serious political commitment to deliver.

“Paris means governments will go further and faster to tackle climate change than ever before,” he said. “The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age.”

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UN climate conference 30 Nov – 11 Dec 2015

four_climate_change_976x183COP 21 – the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties – will see more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of dangerous warming due to human activities.
Credit: BBC

Nearly 200 Nations Adopt Climate Agreement At COP21 Talks In Paris

 

 French President Francois Hollande, right, French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21 meetings Laurent Fabius, second right, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, left, and UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon join hands after the final adoption of an agreement at the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change. Francois Mori/AP


French President Francois Hollande, right, French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21 meetings Laurent Fabius, second right, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, left, and UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon join hands after the final adoption of an agreement at the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change.
Francois Mori/AP

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.”

 

 

 

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You can watch the stream of the Paris event online.

 

credit: npr.org

Small Islands Drive Huge Ambition as Deal Reportedly Close at Paris Climate Talks

1.5 to stay alive

1.5 to stay alive

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.

Eiffel Tower lit up for COP21 [Pic: arc2020.eu]

Eiffel Tower lit up for COP21 [Pic: arc2020.eu]

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

CARIBBEAN: Caribbean youths outline their expectations from COP21

NICKSON-BARRY-700x394PRESS RELEASE – The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN), a youth advocacy group representing more than 800 young people in the Caribbean and Latin America, has placed on the table its expectations from the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), now in its second week in Paris.

Nickson Barry, the President of the Grenada chapter and the Deputy Chair for the region, outlined the CYEN’s position during an OECS-organised side event held at the Caribbean Pavilion, the region’s base at the Paris climate summit.

“We are calling on our Governments to create an enabling structure of governance that will allow young people and youth organisations to be involved and engaged in climate dialogues and action at the national level through government agencies; the regional level through our regional mechanisms, such as, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs); and the international level through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other related processes,” Barry said.

“From the COP we want a legally binging agreement. We are tired with the going around and the discussions. Yes it is important but we want to see some real action coming out from these meetings. And to do that, we are going to hold our leaders definitely accountable because we are the ones that will be directly affected by climate change. 1.5, the Caribbean youth are definitely behind this 100 percent I must say; 1.5 or below.”

CYEN defines young people as anyone within the 15-29 age group and views youth as an important and critical development resource.

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Credit: St. Lucia News Online

Resource mobilization for adapting to impacts of climate change

Planning for actions and resources by communities. Credit: SGP St. Lucia

Planning for actions and resources by communities. Credit: SGP St. Lucia

 

After years of working with grassroots organizations in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, I can confidently say that communities around the developing world are acutely aware of the toll climate change is taking. But it is also the case that these communities possess the knowledge and will to adapt to those impacts.

These communities have deep stores of intergenerational wisdom and knowledge about proven adaptation practices—practices that have been tested through decades through trial and error, and are an invaluable means for these communities to cope with climate hazards and uncertainties.

But if the knowledge and will are there, the resources are not—indeed, “we don’t have the resources” is far and away the single biggest obstacle these communities say is preventing them from implementing projects. This is troubling for practitioners like myself, since it means that we often have to hunt for financial resources before we can even begin the process of engaging with communities to see what actions can be taken.

Thus, the availability of financial and labor resources is crucial for adaptation projects to thrive. And while the common practice is to try to secure financial resources from external resources, it’s necessary that local resources be sought first so that communities are incentivized to take ownership over adaptation measures, as well as to ensure that these measures are fully in sync with communities’ priorities and development objectives.

But intangible resources also need to be built up—maybe the most important of these is a common approach to adaptation, one that builds off of communities’ sense of cohesion and shared purpose. Standalone initiatives that are not interlinked with wider initiatives will not be sustainable. Hence, it is crucial during the planning phase to think about how a project can draw upon and further strengthen existing community bonds and impacts of other actions.

For example, while planning projects with the Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto communities in northern Namibia in 2012, the biggest asset these communities brought on the table was a well-organized approach that was glued together by a strong sense of purpose—they were all deeply committed to tackling the floods and food insecurity that were resulting from increasingly unpredictable seasonal changes.

Political goodwill must be engendered in local and central government authorities, which will help to build an enabling environment for coordinated and timely adaptation efforts. Yet communities often perceive state and local institutions as counterproductive to their adaptation efforts. This distrust has to be overcome by being accountable and transparent about resources allocated for community level adaptation projects within national budgets and programmes. It is integral for community adaptation projects to have a clear connection with national laws, regulations, unwritten bylaws and accepted norms, all of which can be invaluable in rallying communities to effectively adapt.

The COP21 conference and climate change agreement is an incredible opportunity to globally tackle the threat of climate change, to reduce carbon emissions and to prevent this challenge from severely damaging the lives and livelihoods of billions. However, the Paris agreement must also be an opportunity to support those who are already feeling the impact of climate change, and to facilitate access to resources that enable adaptation. This is especially important given the fact that funding and investments from the private sector tend to favor mitigation projects and middle income countries. We must make sure that Paris goes the last mile and supports all people, especially the most vulnerable.

Credit: UNDP

Highlights of Lima-Paris Action Agenda Presented at COP21

During COP21, the LPAA partners are responding to the “Lima Call for Climate Action” launched at COP20 by convening a series of events that showcase actions and commitments by LPAA stakeholders. A series of LPAA Focus high level events highlights commitments in each of the 12 LPAA Action Areas.

Source: Climate Conference

Climate health highlighted at COP21- A Trinidadian’s Perspective

 

“Climate change, and all of its dire consequences for health, should be at centre-stage, right now, whenever talk turns to the future of human civilizations. After all, that’s what’s at stake.”Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization

Many Trinbagonians are proud to say that Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Is this something to be pleased about?

The title is a reflection of our status as the main exporter of oil and gas in the Caribbean region and the main producer of liquefied natural gas in the Latin America and the Caribbean. We depend heavily on the extraction of hydrocarbons as the main source of income.  After all, Trinidad and Tobago is ranked second in the world for its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita, producing an estimated 53 million tonnes of CO2 annually, with 80 per cent coming from the petrochemical and power generation industry. The government needs to find more sources of renewable energy. We emit the most amount of toxic gases into the atmosphere in the Caribbean.

Climate change takes 400,000 lives per year and millions suffer from flooding, diseases, malnourishment, and respiratory problems due to climate change. This is both a threat and an opportunity as it can push countries toward renewable energy. For these reasons, COP21 has seen concern raised by medical professionals regarding the effect climate change has on health. Over 1,700 health organisations are supporting declarations calling on world leaders in Paris to take a serious approach to the escalating climate threats to human health.  The demonstration follows a major recent report in The Lancet that warned 50 years of global health improvements could be thrown into reverse by climate change.

From Europe to the Americas and across Asia-Pacific, over 8,200 hospitals and health centers are already walking the talk: divesting their fossil fuel assets, reducing their emissions, and calling for action on climate change. Trinidad and Tobago needs to step up its game. Stop allowing foreign oil and gas companies to infiltrate our economy and reap benefits while the environment suffers. Instead, we must affirm genuine commitment to renewable energy. It simply makes sense, renewable energy is clean energy.

The government’s aim of 10% renewable energy by 2021 is a start but much more needs to be done. We need healthier, more sustainable cities and the most effective way of quickening up the process is for governments at COP21 to make strong commitments on a deadline for a full phase out of fossil fuels, and agreeing to regularly review and increase national ambition to reach that goal.

In Trinidad and Tobago, emphasis needs to be placed on research and development into the feasibility of various sources of renewable energy and implementation needs to occur quickly. Sensitisation of the local citizens is key, as difficulty in transition also comes from the fact that as an oil and gas-producing country, energy costs in Trinidad and Tobago are extremely low. So it should not be surprising that solar, wind, and hydropower energy are catching on in other islands of the Caribbean where electricity is up to six times more expensive than in Trinidad and Tobago.

The world is shifting toward renewable energy, fossil fuels remain in the past. As we look toward development, Trinidad and Tobago should eventually follow the trend set by the rest of the region.

Written by – Dizzanne Billy

Dizzanne Billy, 24, operates in the role of President of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in Trinidad and Tobago, where she works in the areas of education and public awareness with regard to environment and development issues. She is a climate tracker with Adopt-A-Negotiator and a young advocate for climate change action.

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