Tag Archives: UNFCCC

Madrid climate talks kick the can on to Glasgow

The 25th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in December last year in Madrid was generally judged a failure. After fractious negotiations exctended through two nights after the conference was due to end, delegates decided to defer some of the thorniest issues to the next UN climate summit in Glasgow in 2020. The situation is serious:

    “The global emissions’ curve needs to bend in 2020, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030, and net zero emissions need to be a reality by 2050,” said Johan Rockstrom, head of the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

    “Achieving this is possible – with existing technologies and within our current economy,” said the revered climate scientist. “The window of opportunity is open, but barely.”

Continue reading Madrid climate talks kick the can on to Glasgow

Climate action: a doddle or deep adaptation?

Again, this post started as an edition of Climate clippings.

Where I ended up after a series of happenings as described below, is concluding that we need a paradigm shift in our climate change aspirations. Instead of trying to limit warming to a point where we can avoid dangerous climate change, we need to recognize that we’ve already gone too far, that the climate is already dangerous, so we should aim to ratchet down GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to attain a safe climate.

1. Germans look to 7.4 trillion tons of fake snow to save the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Continue reading Climate action: a doddle or deep adaptation?

Saudis throw a spanner

Climate science was buried at a meeting in Bonn. Meanwhile diplomats planted trees to symbolise their intention to combat desertification (Photo: UNFCCC)

At a mid-year meeting of UNFCCC in Bonn this year in June a small group of countries led by Saudi Arabia have put the kybosh on any formal consideration of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C in the UNFCCC forum. Continue reading Saudis throw a spanner

Countries behave badly in Poland, investors behave well

It was a strange decision to hold the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, deep in Poland’s coal mining territory. The main purpose of the conference is to finalize the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement.

The conference also received the special report on achieving a 1.5°C global average temperature rise prepared on request by the IPCC. While I had some reservations about the whole exercise, the report a strong wake up call on the need for more urgent cuts. Fossil fuels had to be wound back rapidly. This from Dr. Joeri Rogelj, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria:

Climate clippings 208

1. Coal India closes 37 coal mines

Coal India, the largest coal mining company in the world, has announced it will close 37 mines because they are no longer economically viable. That’s around 9 per cent of the state-run firm’s mines.


    The government has announced it will not build any more coal plants after 2022 and predicts renewables will generate 57 per cent of its power by 2027 – a pledge far outstripping its commitment in the Paris climate change agreement.

Continue reading Climate clippings 208

Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself?

Sometimes personalities matter. What if the ‘hanging chads’ in the Florida vote had been counted differently and Al Gore had become President in 2000 instead of George Bush. It was a sliding doors moment for climate change.

Elizabeth Kolbert takes a look at the state of play in international climate negotiations, and the woman who directs the UN effort to strike a climate agreement in Paris. Continue reading Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself?

Is 1.5°C attainable?

With increasing appreciation that limiting global temperature rises to 2°C amounts to folly, is 1.5°C attainable? Is 2°C the best remaining scenario on offer?

For the Bonn UNFCCC climate talks in June a report was presented from 70 scientists gathered together in a process called the “structured expert dialogue”. It warned that even current levels of global warming of around 0.85°C are already intolerable in some parts of the world: Continue reading Is 1.5°C attainable?

Climate clippings 128

1. Hot and cold

My sister in Toronto tells us how cold it has been. She can’t remember the last time it reached -5°C.

Yet NASA finds that Feb 2014 to Jan 2015 was the hottest 12 months on record. The picture tells the story:


2. Record megadroughts predicted

The American Southwest and the great Plains could experience the worst megadroughts in ancient and modern times.

According to the findings, future droughts in both regions will be more severe than even the hottest, driest megadroughts of the 12th and 13th centuries, which are believed to have contributed to the fall of ancient Native American civilizations that inhabited the Southwest, such as the Pueblo Indians.

Climate Central gives the odds.

The chances of a megadrought (lasting 35 years or longer) are up to 50%.

The odds of a decade-long drought are around 90%.

There’s also a 5-10 percent chance that parts of the region could see a state of “permanent” megadrought lasting 50 years or longer under the highest-warming scenario, a greenhouse gas emissions path we’re currently on.

3. New era of climate action and hope

Christiana Figueres reckons 2015 is going to be a transformational year in climate change action. She of course is the boss-person of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is sponsoring the Paris talks in December.

Amongst other things she mentions the June Live Earth concerts initiated by Al Gore and Kevin Wall (reviving their 2007 effort) to be held in New York, South Africa, Australia, China, Brazil and Paris.

She also plugs the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change initiative, including Lighthouse Activities.

4. UK parties in pact on climate change

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have agreed to work together to tackle climate change, as they warned it posed a threat to national security and economic prosperity.

In what might be seen as a surprising move in the run-up to the general election, the three party leaders have pledged to work “across party lines” to agree cuts to the UK’s carbon emissions.

They have also signed up to seeking a “fair, strong, legally binding” international climate deal, set to be negotiated in Paris at the end of the year, to limit global temperature rises to below 2C – the level beyond which “dangerous” climate change is expected.

And they pledged to move to a low-carbon economy, ending the use of coal without technology to capture and store its emissions for power generation. (Emphasis added)

5. Tesla’s fancy home battery

Tesla will start production in about six months, all going well.

“We are going to unveil the Tesla home battery, the consumer battery that would be for use in people’s houses or businesses fairly soon.”

“Some will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the wall, wall mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directional inverter, and plug and play.”

Thanks to Geoff Henderson who linked to this one recently at Saturday Salon. Yes, it could indeed be a game changer.

6. Laser ignition to replace spark plugs

A team at Princeton Optronics working on replacing conventional spark plugs with laser igniters has produced a running engine and they claim that replacing spark ignition with lasers could improve the efficiency of gasoline powered engines by 27%. Considering that the basic design of the spark plug hasn’t really changed in over a century, this would be a revolutionary step, frickin’ lasers or not.

Because the spark plug is located on the edge of the combustion chamber, not all of the fuel is combusted. Laser ignition can be directed to the centre of the chamber, or in fact to multiple parts of the chamber in extremely rapid succession. Ignition can also be more accurately timed in relation to the movement of the piston. The result is a more complete burn and greater fuel efficiency.

7. Climate oscillations and the global warming faux pause

Michael Mann posts on research he was conducted, with others, on multidecadal climate oscillations in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. They found that the Pacific dominates and was the predominant cause of a slight slowing in predicted warming over the past decade-and-a-half or so.

It is possible that the downturn in the PMO [Pacific Multidecadal Oscillation] itself reflects a “dynamical response” of the climate to global warming. Indeed, I have suggested this possibility before. But the state-of-the-art climate model simulations analyzed in our current study suggest that this phenomenon is a manifestation of purely random, internal oscillations in the climate system.

This has implications for the future.

Given the pattern of past historical variation, this trend will likely reverse with internal variability, instead adding to anthropogenic warming in the coming decades.

The “false pause” may simply have been a cause for false complacency, when it comes to averting dangerous climate change.

Reminder Climate clippings is an open thread and can be used for exchanging news and views on climate.

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:


Abbott’s climate play: dropping off the back of the peloton


In road cycling terms, Australia’s climate effort is dropping off the back of the peloton. More than that we are now spreading tacks on the road up front.

Abbott, with his soul-mate from “Canadia” Stephen Harper, is proposing to build an alliance of conservative world leaders to block what he calls job-killing carbon pricing.

Dr Robyn Eckersley of Melbourne University who has been conducting research on climate change leadership finds that this would be “a very retrograde step at a very crucial time in international climate negotiations”. She also finds that he may struggle to find partners. The UK under David Cameron are unlikely to join. New Zealand has a conservative leader, and a carbon pricing scheme. Perhaps he’ll enlist the support of Saudi Arabia, who Eckersley sees as the biggest spoiler of all.

Eckersley points out that British Columbia, Quebec and California, one of the biggest economies in the world, have carbon pricing. China is launching seven provincial pilot emissions trading systems.

Abbott claims that the world is moving away from carbon pricing to ‘direct action’ type policies. Sophie Vorrath at RenewEconomy cites the World Bank as saying that carbon pricing is here to stay with more than 60 carbon pricing systems currently in operation or development globally.

At a press conference Abbott said that climate change is “not the only or even the most important problem that the world faces.”

Abbott doesn’t realise that the economy exists within the environment.

In this post last November on the outcomes of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Warsaw I referred to a graphic by Climate Tracker:


There is Australia at the back of the peloton. If everyone did what we are doing the world would be toast, and with no economy to speak of. Climate Tracker currently sees Australia’s effort as “inadequate” and getting worse. With our performance the world would be heading towards 600 ppm and 4°C.

Abbott’s Canadian performance was no doubt intended to be one in the eye for Barack Obama, who Abbott sees next. The signal is that Obama would be wasting his time persuading Abbott to put climate change on the G20 agenda.

Laura Tingle, talking to Phillip Adams, opined that addressing climate change in the G20 would be a precedent since the G20 so far has restricted itself to economics. She also said that there was nothing doing in terms of international co-operation, and they were all off doing there own thing.

That would be news to the people currently attending climate talks from 4 to 15 June in Bonn under the auspices of the UNFCCC. In the Warsaw post I laid out the sequence as follows:

The timetable is that leaders will meet with the UN Director General in New York on 23 September 2014 with a show and tell of their thinking on contributions, and no doubt receive some jaw-boning from him in return.

There will be more talking at the 20th COP in Lima from 1-12 December 2014, where a draft new climate agreement will be tabled. Then in April 2015 countries will seriously start putting their “contributions” (rather than “commitments”) on the table “without prejudice to the legal nature of the contributions”. These “contributions” might be targets but could be other efforts to keep emissions down.

All this is aimed to get a legally binding agreement which reflects the “common but differentiated responsibility” of each state to be concluded at the Paris COP at the end of 2015 – for implementation in 2020 when the Kyoto Protocol officially expires.

So the leaders meet in September, but then not again before the deal is sealed in Paris in December 2015. In Lima I believe only the ministers will attend, noting that we did not bother to send a minister to Warsaw.

A new climate agreement is mainstream in policy and planning for the economy.

In spreading tacks on the road and trivialising the issue of climate change, Abbott and his government have form. In opposition in 2012 they would not grant Greg Combet a pair to attend the Rio+20 conference. In Warsaw, without a minister (who would have been Julie Bishop, since Greg Hunt is not allowed to conduct international negotiations) the Australian delegation was notorious, earning four “Fossil of the Day” awards and the overall “Colossal Fossil” for the meeting. Civil society groups like Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth, took the unprecedented step of simply walking out with a day still to go, muttering “Australia” as they went.

Being serious about climate change, the last thing Barack Obama would need is that kind of leadership at the G20.