Tag Archives: Lima climate change conference 2014

Climate clippings 120

1. Pope Francis becomes active on climate change

Pope Francis is going to give climate change action a red hot go in 2015:

In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.

The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope’s wish to directly influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions.

He also wants to change the financial system from one based on raw consumerist exploitation to one based on ethics which respect ecological principles. He should have a chat with Naomi Klein!

Giles Parkinson has more at RenewEconomy, including the note that Pope Benedict kicked things off by buying carbon credits in the form of a Hungarian forest to make the Vatican carbon neutral, and the possibility that the Catholic church may divest funds invested in the fossil fuel industry.

2. 2014: the year climate change undeniably arrived

John H. Cushman Jr. at InsideClimate News in reviewing the year thinks 2014 was the year climate change undeniably arrived. It was the hottest year ever, the science became conclusive, and a mushrooming climate movement pressed world leaders to act, which to some extent they did.

On the science, he was referring mainly to the IPCC report where already in 2013 the Physical Science Working Group moved the probability of human causation up a notch from “very likely” (>90%) to “extremely likely” (>95%) which is about as good as it gets. In the Synthesis Report of 2014 the language was ramped up saying that harm from greater warming if we stay on the current course could be “severe, pervasive and irreversible.”

Action looked promising with mitigation pledges by the EU, China and the US, also the UN climate talks at Lima.

On the “mushrooming climate movement he is talking about a:

phenomenon that emerged in a spectacular way in September, on the eve of Ban Ki-moon’s UN summit—the coming of age of a new popular movement demanding climate action now.

Hundreds of thousands of marchers filled the streets of Manhattan, curb to curb for 50 blocks or more. Their presence attested to a new dynamic in which inside-the-beltway lobbyists and well-heeled think tanks joined forces with grassroots anti-fracking and anti-pipeline protestors, in which labor unions and school kids found common cause.

A fine effort, but then, you see, sensible voters stayed at home and allowed the Republicans to take over Congress.

3. Precarious Climate

Climate and political blogger James Wight at Precarious Climate reviews the year, kind of, mostly by listing his best posts.

The last, Australia continues climate obstructionism in Lima, was an excellent wrap of the Lima talks. I was not aware (I’d wondered) that Julie Bishop is a climate denier, along with Andrew Robb, just the pair we needed to represent us at international climate talks.

4. Utility scale solar surges

But not in Australia:


The big surge is in Asia and North America, but other continents have come to life through installations in Chile and South Africa.

5. Production of shale oil increases

The production of shale oil in North Dakota has increased month by month in 2014, in spite of falling prices.


Meanwhile falling oil prices have hidden a new global warming fee on the purchase of gasoline in California.

6. Compressed air technology

Not everyone reads the discussion threads, so I’m repeating here some links made by Jumpy to compressed-air technology.

Danielle Fong with her company LightSail Energy is bringing compressed-air energy storage technology to the market.

Both Peugot and Citroën are developing compressed-air hybrid cars that use 2 litres per 100 kilometres of fuel. Apart from the hybrid compressed-air powertrain both cars are using light-weight materials and aerodynamics to improve economy. The also have narrow tyres pumped up high.

Of course these cars use twice as much fuel as the electric hybrid Volkswagen XL1 which plans to put 250 cars on the road, at a price. That article is from July 2013 – not sure how they are going.

Climate clippings 118

1. Growth in CO2 slows

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production grew 2% in 2013 to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes of CO2. This was about half the average for the last 10 years and less than global GDP growth of 3.1%.

2. Aradhna Tripati gets a gong

The Center for Biological Diversity presented its third annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Aradhna Tripati for her groundbreaking research on carbon dioxide’s role in climate change.

Tripati’s work revealed that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million to 20 million years ago, when the distribution of plants and animals was dramatically different, global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer, and the sea level was 75 to 120 feet higher than today. Her research suggests that the CO2 threshold for maintaining year-round Arctic ice may be well below modern levels.

Converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius and feet to metres that would make 2.7 to 5.5°C and 23 to 36 metres.

I would caution that the shape of the ocean basins may have been different, but these are alarming findings.

3. 1000-year drought history of Queensland and New South Wales

By analysing ice cores Australian scientist have found that there were eight droughts in the last millennium that lasted more than five years, with one of the so-called mega droughts lasting for almost 40 years. That was back in the 12th century.

This tends to indicate that the Millennium Drought and the Big Dry from 1997 to 2009 were not unusual.

From the official news release:

Explaining the findings, Dr Vance said the ice core analysis had significantly enhanced our understanding of a relatively poorly understood phenomenon known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO).

The IPO describes a roughly 25-year cycle in the sea surface temperature, wind and other factors in the Pacific Ocean.

The IPO’s positive phase is closely linked with longer and more severe droughts in the United States and Australia. The risk of droughts occurring in Australia is higher during the IPO’s positive phase.

I’m not questioning the findings but how drought in Queensland and NSW can be derived from drilling ice cores in the Antarctic is not immediately obvious.

Where does this leaves global warming? The authors don’t say, but the clear implication is that severe droughts are part of the natural cycle. Warming is a given. The most recent analysis I recall is that drying along the southern edge of the continent has a climate change component. North of the Victorian border there is uncertainty.

4. Lifters or leaners?

Or backmarkers. UK PM David Cameron thinks Australia does not want to be a “backmarker” on climate change action. Global pressure will make us do more. Has he met our Tones?

Christian Downie thinks the real achievement of the Lima climate talks

wasn’t the goals set, but the fact that international talks like these make it increasingly hard for breakaway countries to ignore the issue.

John Kerry spells it out:

“If you are a big developed nation and you do not lead, you are part of the problem.”

Part of the problem indeed, and perhaps an active climate change vandal. Kieran Cooke reports that in Lima Australia was “lobbying for rules that undermine the integrity of the emissions accounting system”.

5. Antarctic sea ice

One of the conundrums of climate science has been the question of why the Antarctic sea ice has been expanding. Eric Steig at RealClimate takes a detailed look. One of the complexities is that the sea ice is expanding in some places and contracting in others. This, he says, rules out simplistic notions like an increase in westerly winds.

However, if you take into account the changes in all the wind patterns in the Antarctic you get a better match, indeed a good match.

Finally Steig says:

Not incidentally, changing winds also have a lot to do with what’s been happening to the Antarctic ice sheet (meaning the land-based glaciers, distinct from the sea ice). I’ll have another post on that later this month, or in the New Year.

Weak climate deal salvaged in Lima

Seems the most important thing that can be said about the Lima climate change conference (earlier post here) was that it did not fail. The prospect is still there for a deal in Paris next December, but it looks like being a weak deal – a deal that does not limit warming to two degrees, a deal that will not be legally binding, and a deal that may lack some of the major participants.

The most exciting thing about the conference was that the reference to ensuring the world has net-zero emissions by 2050 is still there:

The mitigation section of the draft text states countries must aim for “a long-term zero emissions sustainable development pathway” that is “consistent with carbon neutrality / net zero emissions by 2050, or full decarbonization by 2050 and/or negative emissions by 2100.”

Giles Parkinson says this was explicitly supported by over 100 countries. Julie Bishop was not bloody-minded enough to insist that it be removed.

The phasing out of fossil fuels as a reality is now part of the conversation and capital for fossil fuel exploration and development should begin to dry up.

Once again The Carbon Brief provides a handy summary:

  • Lima Call for Climate Action outlines main aspects of a new global climate deal.
  • Keeps goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees.
  • Contains reference to ensuring the world has net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Doesn’t clarify if a new deal will be legally binding.
  • Doesn’t give countries the power to alter other country commitments.
  • Doesn’t offer new assurances on the flow of climate finance.
  • Leaves all options on the table regarding compensation for countries worst hit by climate change.


The principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ is enshrined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Accordingly in the Kyoto deal only the developed countries were required to limit emissions.

This time everyone is going to have to front with a climate mitigation plan, but

countries must work to ensure a 2015 deal “reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”

Initial plans should be submitted by March. Australia has said that we will submit ours by June. Work has not yet begun, but it is clear that Tony Abbott himself is going to take control of the process.

The UN will do an analysis and report on the overall impact of the country targets by November. There is no chance that it will add up to a plan to limit warming to two degrees.

The EU wants ‘contributions’, once established to stand for 10 years. Some other countries favour five years, for greater flexibility.

Legally binding

The EU, some of the smaller countries and Australia want targets, once set, to be legally binding. There seems no chance that this will happen. Luke Kemp at The Conversation says that for the US to agree two-thirds of the Senate have to vote in favour. They won’t vote for a legally binding agreement and China won’t sign up unless the US does.

Frankly, I can’t see the US Senate agreeing to any kind of a climate deal in the foreseeable future, so the Paris deal, like Kyoto, may have to start without some of the major players.

Kemp says that Australia was softening its stance, so fears that Australia was playing a game to torpedo the talks seem to be misplaced.


Each country’s official plan to cut emissions and tackle climate change will be known as an ‘intended nationally determined contribution’ (INDC). The conference could not agree whether INDCs should be scrutinised.

The EU is willing to agree to the INDC system if governments can scrutinise each country’s INDCs, and suggest how they may need to change to increase ambition. Other countries, such as China and India, are very much against such scrutiny, known in the process as ‘ex-ante review’.

Lima’s draft text doesn’t determine whether the INDCs will be subjected to official review.

I’d say forget it.

What next?

There was more, of course, including financial assistance (never satisfactory). The draft document contains as many as 11 alternative versions of the text. There is masses of work to do.

Work will continue in various working parties and in a major conference in Bonn in June. No doubt discussions will continue in other forums, such as the G20 in Turkey. The next step is to submit INDCs by March. We’ll cheat by looking at everyone else’s homework. So will the Abbottistas be proudly recalcitrant, or will we track near the back of the peloton but try to pretend we are in the middle?

Elsewhere Graham Readfearn has annotated Julie Bishop’s speech.

Lima climate change conference update

The UNFCCC Conference of Parties (now 194 countries, I think) has reached the midway point. I’ve compiled some news coming out of the conference in the style of Climate clippings.

Here’s the UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres in action:

Figueres speaks_500

1. The first five days of the Lima climate change conference

Mat Hope sums up at The Carbon Brief.

    1) The need to get a deal is being talked up

There is an upbeat feel as the Paris conference next December looms, where a deal is scheduled to be cut.

    2) Expectations are being managed

They hope to complete a draft text at Lima, but it is only a stepping stone.

    3) The US-China climate deal means the spotlight is on India

With the US, China and the EU making positive pledges, eyes now turn to India. So far they have been true to form, grumbling that the developed countries should do more and provide finance for adaptation.

    4) Record temperatures and typhoon threat are framing the conference

In Copenhagen in 2009 it was freezing. At Lima the atmospherics a quite different with looming record world temperatures and typhoon Hagupit making its way towards the Philippines.

    5) Old divisions persist

The EU wants countries’ pledges to cut emissions to be legally binding. The US is adamant that this can’t be the case as it would then have to ask Congress to ratify the deal.

A group comprising Saudi Arabia, China, India and 30 other ‘like minded nations’ continues to call for more transparency in the process. The group has used such pleas as a delaying and blocking tactic at previous negotiations.

2. Australia drags the chain at Lima

Australia has distanced itself from the Cartagena Dialogue, a group of 30 or so “progressive” countries Australia helped found five years ago seeking an “ambitious, comprehensive, and legally binding regime in the UNFCCC, and committed, domestically, to becoming or remaining low carbon economies.” You’re right, that’s not Australia now.

Giles Parkinson thinks that Australia’s main aim is to keep selling coal. That’s why Andrew Robb is there as Minister for Trade.

Effectively and, from Robb’s tweets and other evidence, in fact Australia is channelling the thoughts of their favourite thinker, Bjorn Lomborg:

who as others have pointed out has made quite a nice career casting doubt on the seriousness of climate change, arguing the problem is overstated, and concluding that on a cost-benefit analysis there is no need to do anything. That pretty much sums up current Coalition government policy.

3. China fingers Australia

One point of permanent discontent has been that developing countries would like more effort to be put into the Green Climate Fund designed to help them to adapt and mitigate climate change. China has called the $9.7 billion contributed so far by 22 countries as “far from adequate”.

In doing so China has fingered Australia as a climate bludger. Australia’s policy is to contribute nothing. So far the GFC

has received funding pledges of $3 billion from the United States, $1.5 billion from Japan, $1 billion from the UK and France, $900m from Germany as well as pledges of at least $100m from Sweden, Italy, Norway, Holland, South Korea, Switzerland and Finland. It has even received a small contribution from New Zealand.

Even Canada has stumped up $300 million.

The original pledge at Copenhagen in 2009 had been $100 billion per year by 2020 from public and private sources.

4. Newsweek report

One thing they are discussing is the form of each country’s pledge of climate action to be submitted in draft by march 2015. The only way they will agree on anything is to use the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ adopted in Copenhagen. This leaves countries to make it up as they wish, which means different base and target dates.

This makes comparisons difficult.

They also have yet to decide whether the basic division of Annexe 1 used in the Kyoto agreement will be retained. With Kyoto only the developed Annexe 1 countries made pledges. The US wants to eliminate subcategories. Brazil has proposed three concentric circles:

In the innermost circle, developed and Annex I Parties would commit to absolute, economy-wide mitigation targets. In the next ring, developing countries would commit to economy-wide targets that are relative to national gross domestic product, business-as-usual emissions trends or population size. In the outermost ring, the least-developed countries would commit to objectives on reducing emissions that are not economy-wide.

I’m betting on one undifferentiated blob, because they won’t all agree on anything else.

Similarly on whether pledges should be legally binding, they’ll never agree, because the US will point blank never agree to it, and all countries must agree for a decision to stand. Perhaps the New Zealand option of making reporting legally binding, but not the content of the contributions themselves, will get up.

5. Ban Ki-moon singles out Canada

Meanwhile UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has told Canada to get its finger out and start setting goals. Leadership is expected of G7 countries.

6. The bottom line

Emily Williams writing in the Santa Barbera Independent points to the sad truth – the proposals coming forward, the US-China announcement notwithstanding, “would mean ‘game over’ for the planet and the most vulnerable communities.”

The pressure is for an agreement, any agreement, to avoid “Nopenhagen” in Paris. Her article carries this image of young protestors in Lima:


Perhaps this image would be more appropriate: