Tag Archives: Climate Conferences

Coal renaissance, as scientists meet and the faithful examine their conscience

French President Francois Hollande did not turn up to give the opening address at a major climate science conference in Paris recently, being otherwise occupied with questions concerning Grexit. Had he been there he may have been able to explain why France has restored subsidies to the French companies building coal-fired power stations in other countries.

As the matter stands, we are told, a coal renaissance is underway which will deliver a 4°C world, or warmer. Continue reading Coal renaissance, as scientists meet and the faithful examine their conscience

Climate clippings 116

1. Super high speed rail

train_japan_maglev_500

The Japanese have run an actual train with people in it at 500 km/h. The Chinese have built a train which can theoretically run at 1800 mph by encasing it in a vacuum tube.

It looks as though high speed rail could become a real alternative to air for intercity travel.

Thanks to John D for the headsup.

2. World’s first power-to-liquids production plant opens

The world’s first power-to-liquids (PtL) demonstration production plant was opened in Dresden on 14 November. The new rig uses PtL technology to transform water and CO2 to high-purity synthetic fuels (petrol, diesel, kerosene) with the aid of renewable electricity.

The article does not say how efficient the process is, but presumably less so than using the electricity directly.

3. World Bank focus on clean energy

The World Bank has traditionally been one of the world’s largest funders of fossil fuel projects. Now it:

will invest heavily in clean energy and only fund coal projects in “circumstances of extreme need”…

No doubt this policy stems from the bank’s commissioned report Turning down the heat.

4. Why the Peru climate summit matters

Hope has been injected into the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, scheduled to run from 1 to 12 December by the recent US/China agreement. The optimism stems as much from the fact that the two largest emitters in the world are finally working together as the level of ambition. The EU has also recently pledged to cut emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

Countries will be working on the text of the draft agreement for Paris in 2015.

Countries are expected to put forward their contributions towards the 2015 agreement in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by the end of March [2015]. These will then be used to craft the Paris treaty. The Lima gathering will help provide guidelines and clarity for what these INDCs must entail, especially for developing countries still reliant on fossil fuels to meet fast-growing energy demand needed to achieve developmental goals. These options could range from sector-wide emissions cuts to energy intensity goals to renewable energy targets.

We’ll be represented during the second week by Julie Bishop and Andrew Robb, a climate change denier. Seems Bishop went bananas when she found out, and Robb doesn’t want to be there anyway.

Giles Parkinson reports that we’ve sent a delegation of 14, the smallest in 20 years and probably not enough to be actively obstructive as we were in Warsaw last year.

5. 2014 looks like hottest on record

This is how it’s shaping:

wmo-years-590x390

Record hot years are often El Niño years. This year is a neutral ENSO year so far.

That’s so far; there is at least a 70% chance that El Niño will be declared in the coming months, according to the BOM. Looks like a hot, dry summer.

6. Germany’s largest utility gets out of the fossil fuel business

On Sunday, Germany’s biggest utility E.ON announced plans to split into two companies and focus on renewables in a major shift that could be an indicator of broader changes to come across the utility sector. E.ON will spin off its nuclear, oil, coal, and gas operations in an effort to confront a drastically altered energy market, especially under the pressure of Germany’s Energiewende — the country’s move away from nuclear to renewables. The company told shareholders that it will place “a particular emphasis on expanding its wind business in Europe and in other selected target markets,” and that it will also “strengthen its solar business.”

E.ON will also focus on smart grids and distributed generation in an effort to improve energy efficiency and increase customer engagement and opportunity.

“With its decision, E.ON is the first company to take the necessary steps from the completely changed world of energy supply,” German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, said Monday.

7. The inconvenient truth of EU emissions

The Commission and European Environment Agency’s Progress Report on climate action says:

according to latest estimates, EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 fell by 1.8% compared to 2012 and reached the lowest levels since 1990. So not only is the EU well on track to reach the 2020 target, it is also well on track to overachieve it.

Kevin Anderson is not impressed:

The consumption-based emissions (i.e. where emissions associated with imports and exports are considered) of the EU 28 were 2% higher in 2008 than in 1990[1]. By 2013 emissions had marginally reduced to 4% lower than 1990 – but not as a consequence of judicious climate change strategies, but rather the financial fallout of the bankers’ reckless greed – egged on by complicit governments and pliant regulation.

Then he really gets stuck in:

In the quarter of a century since the first IPCC report we have achieved nothing of any significant merit relative to the scale of the climate challenge. All we have to show for our ongoing oratory is a burgeoning industry of bureaucrats, well meaning NGOs, academics and naysayers who collectively have overseen a 60+% rise in global emissions.

The road to Perdition

Six years ago I penned a post Last exit on the road to Perdition. It began like this:

    “Damn! I think we just passed the last exit for the Holocene!”

    “I’m sorry, honey, I wasn’t looking.”

    “We have to get off this highway. What’s the next exit?”

    “It’s a long way ahead. Goes to somewhere called Perdition.”

Those words were from a column by Gwynne Dyer, who had just spent a couple of months talking to leading climate scientists and security officials for his book Climate Wars (2009). He saw no happy outcomes.

Unfortunately the post falls in a gap in the Larvatus Prodeo record in 2008, but I was reminded of the analogy when I saw this graph from the Global Carbon Budget 2014 report (thanks to John D for the heads-up at Saturday Salon; there are articles by Canadell and Raupach at The Conversation and by Mat Hope at Carbon Brief):

84jyvk7k-1411262594_600

Armageddon is RCP8.5 and a 4°C climate. That’s where civilisation as we know it is in play. Also there is nothing to suggest that the climate would stabilise at that level. Vast beds of methane could be released, the tropical forests would likely burn off, fertile river deltas would be flooded, corals could disappear for a few million years and climate could head for 6°C or more.

Canadell and Raupach say that

    economic models can still come up with scenarios in which global warming is kept within 2C by 2100, while both population and per capita wealth continue to grow.

    2°C is still attainable, which is at best borderline dangerous, but would require beyond zero emissions, that is:

    the deployment of “negative emissions” technologies during the second half of this century, which will be needed to mop up the overshoot of emissions between now and mid-century. This will involve removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in safe places such as saline aquifers.

    These technologies are largely unavailable at present.

If we keep on growing emissions at 2.5% per annum for a few more years, the best on offer will be peaking by 2040, in other words RCP4.5. That’s the road to Perdition. On current form I suspect that’s where we are heading. The following graph shows that the EU was the only major emitter to reduce emissions in 2013:

gcp-country-emissions-line_550x373.jpg

In per capita terms China has now surpassed the EU:

gcp-per-capita-emissions-lines_550x412.jpg

Please note the y-axis is calibrated in tonnes of carbon. For CO2 multiply be 3.67.

As John D pointed out:

    There have been other striking changes in emissions profiles since climate negotiations began. In 1990, about two-thirds of CO2 emissions came from developed countries including the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union (EU) nations. Today, only one-third of world emissions are from these countries; the rest come from the emerging economies and less-developed countries that account for 80% of the global population, suggesting a large potential further emissions growth.

    Continuation of current trends over the next five years alone will lead to a new world order on greenhouse gas emissions, with China emitting as much as the United States, Europe and India together.

For a couple of years now, the world had decided that we will make up our minds about what post-2020 targets we will aim for by Paris in December 2015, but the implementation phase does not begin until 2020. Kyoto was a top-down mitigation strategy. This time it will be bottom-up. Every country will set it’s own pace within a framework of “common and differentiated responsibility”. The worry is that the national interest trumps the common good. The UN meeting in New York gave some idea of the early form.

Carbon Brief tried to pick the eyes out of the announcements. Here’s a selection:

  • The US has directed federal agencies to consider climate resilience when designing programmes and allocating funds, and will share data from NASA and NOAA and help train developing countries’ scientists. Oxfam says it’s not revolutionary.
  • China will peak emissions “as early as possible”. That’s new for official language, perhaps they’ll put a date on it next year.
  • The EU will aim to cut emissions by 40% by 2030, subject to confirmation by the European Commission.
  • The Netherlands and Belgium both pledged to cut emissions in line with the EU’s regional goal of cutting emissions by 80 to 95 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Denmark reminded the conference it aims to be fossil fuel free by 2050.
  • India did the usual – called on developed countries to show more leadership, said it would act on climate change, but on its own terms. It aims to double the amount of energy from wind and solar by 2020, they’ve said that before.
  • Indonesia said it will cut emissions by 26% by 2020, rising to 40% if it gets international help to do so.
  • Malaysia said it has a target to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020, and was on track to do so. Ethiopia said it was still committed to making its economy zero carbon by 2025.
  • Some money is flowing into the UN’s Green Climate Fund to help developing countries. France pledged $1 billion, Denmark $70 million, South Korea $100 million, Norway $33 million, Switzerland $100 million, Czech Republic $5.5 million and Mexico $10 million and Luxembourg $6.4 million. Before the summit, Germany had pledged $960m. The EU also announced it would channel $2.5 billion to developing countries during 2014-2015, with a focus on adaptation and mitigation.
  • One of the big announcements at the summit was the New York declaration on forests, signed by 27 nations, eight regional governments, 34 multinational corporations, 16 indigenous peoples’ groups and 45 NGOs. It builds on a range of existing agreements including the Warsaw framework for reduced deforestation agreed last year.

    The declaration is a voluntary commitment to “at least halve” loss of natural forest by 2020 and “strive to” end it by 2030. It is not legally binding and Brazil, one of the world’s largest rainforest nations, is not a signatory.

All that is fine and good, but frankly underwhelming. As I have already quoted David Spratt:

    We have to come to terms with two key facts: practically speaking, there is no longer a “carbon budget” for burning fossil fuels while still achieving a two-degree Celsius (2°C) future; and the 2°C cap is now known to be dangerously too high.

We dawdle towards 2015 and 2020 while options close off or become harder. Perdition looms.

Copping out at COP 19 in Warsaw

Back in 2002 an Earth Summit (World Summit on Sustainable Development) nick-named “Rio + 10” was held in Johannesburg. As I recall there was a big push on to transfer the main carriage for environmental matters from the UN to the WTO. There was dancing in the aisles by environment ministers when the move failed. The mind boggles for those who recall our environment minister at the time, one rather stiff and formal Dr David Kemp.

One wonders, though, whether climate change negotiations would now be in better shape. Probably not. Since Cancún in 2003 the WTO has had its own problems. Not surprising then that there has been a report suggesting a radical rethink of the UNFCCC process. Problem is the UNFCCC would have to agree and that would take at least 20 years.

There is always much talk of ‘pathways’ and ‘stepping stones’ at UNFCCC meetings. Graham Readfearn on the way to this year’s Conference of Parties (COP) in Warsaw asked Will Australia cause a slip on the climate change stepping stones in Warsaw? He suggested that Australia may be there using its elbows to push the process off balance. According to his final report How rich countries dodged the climate change blame game in Warsaw he was on the money: Continue reading Copping out at COP 19 in Warsaw

Climate clippings 70

Stuff happens. We have a household of three with separate access to our online service and last week the youngest member blew our monthly usage budget downloading games, 11 days out from when it renews automatically on 17 March. So the speed became truly painful. Bigpond have given us a once only ‘goodwill’ 2 gigs to go on with. Trouble is, by he time I found out what was going on we’d already used a third of it.

Trouble also is that when the speed slows my email connection just doesn’t happen.

Anyway I’ve prepared a CC for this week from material to hand, then I’m going to disappear to preserve my email.

1. You’ve been told

When a link came through on a feed about a conference on what the planet would be like with 4C warming it looked a bit familiar. Then I noticed the date – October 2009. The link is now broken, but the conference is here. There’s a lot of good material in the presentation downloads, mostly depressing, some of which I looked at before things gummed up.

In the article it said that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who advise Angela Merkel on climate change, had dropped in President Obama’s top people, who told him that the political system couldn’t cope with what he was saying about the science. He wasn’t impressed. Continue reading Climate clippings 70

Climate clippings 44

Giant red crabs invade the Antarctic abyss

From the New Scientist via Huffington Post “Huge crabs more than a metre across have invaded the Antarctic abyss, wiped out the local wildlife and now threaten to ruin ecosystems that have evolved over 14 million years.”

These critters occupy a layer between 1400 and 950 metres deep, where the water is a little warmer. Further up the water is cooled by melting ice.

Global warming seems to be the culprit. Back in 1982 the minimum temperature there was 1.2°C, too cold for king crabs. Last year it had risen to a balmy 1.47°C, enough for the crabs to thrive.

The temperature rise at 0.27°C is not large, but I suspect it takes a lot of energy to produce it. Continue reading Climate clippings 44

Climate crunch: the fierce urgency of now

In November 2009, in the run up to the Copenhagen conference I published a post Climate crunch and Copenhagen: the fierce urgency of now. For my first climate change post in 2011 I’ve reposted most of that post, with slight variations, and leaving out the direct commentary on Copenhagen.

My intention is to remind people that action on climate change is urgent, and that there is a severe penalty in leaving action to a later date.

Substantively the post outlines the carbon budget approach to climate stabilisation which gives prime place to carbon equity. If Australia wants to show leadership in climate change internationally we should seek zero net emissions by 2030. We would still blow our equitable carbon budget which requires zero emissions by 2019, but with that kind of leadership we should get away with it. Also we should use our land and our forests to create carbon sinks in order to then go negative in net emissions.

The reprised post is below the fold. Continue reading Climate crunch: the fierce urgency of now

Multiple agendas at Cancún, not all benign

Saudi Arabia has complained that Cancún was lousy with NGO representatives and hence they had to waste time talking to them. The Saudis, of course, aim to see that Cancún does not result in any diminution of the use of oil.

The place is also lousy with representatives of fossil fuel and forestry industries, who aim to make a buck out of the whole thing.

Giles Parkinson’s latest report tells of wholesale rorting at Cancún in how emissions and carbon credits are counted.

The UN Environment Program issued a detailed report last week that said accounting rorts from “hot air” from eastern Europe and land use rules could add up to more than two billion tonnes by 2020. The EU has complained they could undermine the entirety of their emission reductions since 1990.

A study by Simon Terry, the executive director of the New Zealand Sustainability Council, goes further. Terry says that by adding in aviation and shipping – which are not accounted for under the Copenhagen Accord – the pledges may turn out to produce an increase in global emissions of 3 per cent from 1990 levels, rather than an advertised fall of up to 18 per cent.

The UN has been concerned that the Copenhagen Accord commitments will yield an “emissions gap” against what is needed to remain within a 2C temperature rise. This gaps means we could be headed for 3-4C instead of 2C. Factor in the latest games being played and we are heading for 6-7C. That is ‘end of civilisation as we know it’ territory. Continue reading Multiple agendas at Cancún, not all benign

Cancún half way

Cancún

That image is courtesy Climate Progress where Joe Romm points out that the beaches are washing away. One can also easily imagine why there may have been traffic problems. (See also here.)

While there is plenty of material around on the web, I have found Giles Parkinson at Climate Spectator particularly helpful. A pity, therefore, that he was sufficiently distracted on Friday not to do a post after the conference session. Nevertheless Thursday’s post provides a good summary of what is at play. He summarises progress on the so-called six-pack of issues thus:

Four of the so-called six-pack of agreements appear within reach – financing, adaptation, forests, and technology – although there are still hurdles to overcome, such as whether a green fund should be managed by the UN or an outside body. The two most difficult – mitigation (effectively locking in the pledges made since Copenhagen) and transparency – remain a challenge. The head of one of the key working groups told NGOs today that there remained “a big gap” on mitigation.

Continue reading Cancún half way

Cancún gets under way

The annual meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) is now under way in Cancún from 29 November to 10 December.

When we last looked at Cancún alexinbologna explained that in 2007 in Bali countries agreed to two paths, firstly, negotiating a further commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and secondly, to negotiate ‘longterm cooperative action’ (LCA). The chances of the first of these getting up in Cancún approach zero. The best that could be achieved is to position talks to achieve an agreement in Durban at the next COP in December 2011.

Since Copenhagen some 140 countries have associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord and 85 of these have made commitments to reduce or limit the growth of their emissions up to 2020. There may be a tendency to regard this as replacing a binding commitment, but we should remember that the Copenhagen Accord was only formally noted by the meeting in Copenhagen not agreed to. Some countries, for example the ALBA group and AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States), will see this as the developed countries avoiding their responsibilities. Rather than allowing developed countries to do whatever suits them these countries want legally binding progress towards deep cuts. Continue reading Cancún gets under way

Cochabamba to Cancún: The Rights of Mother Earth


Back in April 17-19 this year Bolivia organised a World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in a university town on the outskirts of Cochabamba. I bring it up now because it was a radical reaction to Copenhagen in an effort to set a new agenda for Cancún, which will commence on November 29. Bolivia was acting on behalf of the ALBA countries (The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America). ALBA has a membership of six countries with a population a bit larger than three times ours and a combined GDP about half ours.

Some island states react to climate change out of a threat of sea level change and inundation. Naomi Klein points out that Bolivia has it’s own existential crisis because “its glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, threatening the water supply in two major cities.”

The Council of Canadians tells us in their report that some 10,000 of the 34,000 participants came from outside South America. Government representatives from 147 countries were present, and at least 45 were active participants.

It seems clear that the conference outcomes were designed into the structure of the 17 working groups. The main formal outcome was a Peoples agreement. Here are a few extracts to give you the flavour: Continue reading Cochabamba to Cancún: The Rights of Mother Earth

Cancun looms, ready or not

Climate talks in Tianjin, China have ended. That’s it now until Cancun, Mexico on 29 November-10 December, where the optimists hope than a binding post-Kyoto treaty on climate change might be concluded.

That can’t happen without China and the US patching up their differences. The chances of that approach zero, according to Bloomberg.

The BBC report goes further:

On Saturday, one of the Chinese climate negotiators reportedly accused the US of behaving like a preening pig, complaining about Beijing when Washington had done so little itself.

Reuters explains this reference to Chinese classical literature:

Su likened the U.S. criticism to Zhubajie, a pig in a classic Chinese novel, which in a traditional saying preens itself in a mirror.

“It has no measures or actions to show for itself, and instead it criticizes China, which is actively taking measures and actions,” Su said of the United States.

Continue reading Cancun looms, ready or not