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Belize accepts the chairmanship of AOSIS

In the Photo: H.E. Ambassador Lois Young, Permanent Representative of Belize to the UN in New York; H.E. Mr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan Minister of Environment Ministry of Environment; Mr. Amjad Abdulla Director-General / Chief Negotiator for AOSIS Climate Change Department Ministry of Environment and Energy

The following statement by Belize was delivered at a Ministerial Meeting of AOSIS during a short ceremony on the occasion of the 24th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to mark Belize’s acceptance of the chairmanship of AOSIS from the Maldives in January 2019. Belize will hold the chairmanship for two years to be followed by Antigua and Barbuda in 2021.

“Good evening distinguishing delegates, colleagues.   I am delivering this statement on behalf of the Vice Minister of Belize who had to leave early because of another pressing engagement.

On this occasion I wish to extend sincere thanks to the Maldives for steering our group over the course of their Chairmanship, for their leadership and support.  I extend congratulations from my Ministry and from the Government of Belize.

Colleagues of AOSIS, Belize accepts the first half of the incoming Chairmanship of AOSIS with a profound recognition of the challenges ahead.  Acknowledging and building on the work put in by the Maldives over the past four years and that of the Republic of Nauru before that, and supported by all member nations, and relying on the sound expertise and innovative ideas of our collective body of experts. Belize intends to advance the work of AOSIS over the next two years, with a renewed focus on structure and support for member parties.  Advancing the work to achieve the sustainable development goals will be a major focus over the next two years.  Also of paramount importance is the unity of AOSIS which must be preserved.

Ahead of us lies a great challenge, predicated by the distraction of parties backing out of the Paris Agreement and others unwilling to accept the latest science of a world at 1.5 degrees.  The best science of the latest IPCC report is sound and yes it is alarming, but all parties must respect and accept it, and seek common ground to come to terms with the implications of it.

As those among the most vulnerable and those already suffering the impacts, Belize and the Caribbean region stands ready to push ahead the work of AOSIS.  We look forward to your continued support.

Thank you.”

St. Lucia Commits to Solar Power

DSC_8393

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.

 MEDIA CONTACTS

Solar Head of State

James Ellsmoor – Email: jellsmoor@solarheadofstate.org; Phone : +1 919 338 4564 / +1 758 722 8404

Maya Doolub

mdoolub@solarheadofstate.org

+44 7817 638 324

Government of Saint Lucia

Permanent Secretary Sylvester Clauzel

sylvester.clauzel@govt.lc

+1 758 468 5840 / +1 758 720 3119

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

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