World leaders now need to act on historic climate deal

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France's President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France’s President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

THE 12-day COP21 in Paris concluded with an agreement among 195 or so countries to limit global average temperature to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels in a bid to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. Limiting carbon emissions is expected to increase the ability of nations to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and to foster climate resilience. The agreement also encourages low greenhouse gas emissions development to prevent threats on food production.

The agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

FULL TEXT HERE.

There have been positive reactions to the agreement:

Academic and climate experts from Australia and beyond have welcomed the agreement. “The signature achievement of the Paris Agreement is a much bolder temperature target than expected: a ceiling of 2℃ warming, plus the pursuit of the safer target of 1.5,” according to Robyn Eckersley, professor of Political Science, University of Melbourne.

“Twenty-three years after signing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the nations of the world have at last decided to act on it. The Paris Agreement will mark a turning point in so many ways and represents a victory that would have seemed impossible even one or two years ago.” said Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Stuart University.

“2015 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded. Appropriately, the Paris Agreement contains the strongest temperature goal of any international climate deal so far. Its aims – to strengthen global action to hold warming well below 2℃ and encourage efforts to limit warming to 1.5℃ – frame and drive the Agreement’s ambition.” said Peter Christoff, associate professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne.

However, the agreement did not come without shortcomings:

Prof Hamilton notes, “The decisive question now is how powerfully the Paris Agreement will signal to those outside national governments, including business, that the world has entered a new era. Because it is what they do over the next few years that will determine how deep the next round of emission cuts can be. All the indications are that Paris will send a very strong signal indeed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, associate professor and director of Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University said, “The Paris Agreement is not naïve: the majority of its 31 pages lays out the need for ongoing reporting, special IPCC reports, financing for the Green Climate Fund, even naming individual climate Champions, tasked with keeping the process moving. To succeed, it will need all the help it can get; but if it does, all of our work – in climate science, policy, impacts, law, communication, and many other fields – will have not been in vain. That’s worth fighting for.”

More details from The Conversation here.

Stephen Kretzmann, Oil Change International (OCI)executive director said the Paris climate talks highlighted the need to stop funding fossil fuels and to adhere to scientific warnings to keep coal in the ground. He said, “The clear hypocrisy of funding the industry that is destroying the climate cannot withstand scrutiny for much longer.”

Hannah McKinnon, OCI senior campaigner, admits the agreement does not offer a “silver bullet to change the world or save the climate” but rather – “it is the growing climate movement that is already making that happen. Everywhere you look, citizens, front line communities, Indigenous Peoples, business leaders, and politicians are standing up to Big Polluters and taking a clean, safe, and renewable energy future into their own hands.”

“It’s the people on the streets who provide the real hope for addressing the climate crisis. People fighting for climate justice around the world are the ones who will solve this problem and they’re already making headway day by day,” said David Turnbull, OCI campaigns director.

The 350.org Executive Director May Boeve and Co-founder Bill McKibben issued a press release following the latest text of the climate agreement in Paris.

McKibben said every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry.

Boeve notes the agreement marks the end of fossil fuels era, and there is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.

“Our job now is to hold countries to their word and accelerate the transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Over ten thousand of us took to the streets of Paris today to demonstrate our commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice, while many more demonstrated around the world. Our message is simple: a livable climate is a red line we’re prepared to defend, ” Boeve said.

The organisation recognises the final text still has some serious gaps. Specifically, it excludes the rights of indigenous peoples. Finance for loss and damage is also lacking, and while the text recognizes the importance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C, the current commitments from countries still add up to well over 3 degrees of warming.

Despite the ban on climate marches following the Nov 13 terror attacks, people cannot be silence to press for climate action. (Photo: Indigenous People’s Network/Flickr)
Despite the ban on climate marches following the Nov 13 terror attacks, people cannot be silence to press for climate action. (Photo: Indigenous People’s Network/Flickr)

Members of the Indigenous Environmental Network are not convinced of the outcome of the 12-day talks. At the last day of the conference, they held the morning prayer circle and was moved down the street to the infamous Pont des Arts, also known across the world as the ‘Love Lock Bridge’ where they staged a direct action. Their collective message was clear – “People discuss ‘red lines’, we are the red line. We are the keepers of the land, protectors of animals, the seas, the air. We are the solution.”

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Indigenous representatives from Indigenous nations of Circumpolar, Amazon, South Pacific and North America joined for an early morning sunrise ceremony prayer at the foot of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, to close the climate negotiations.

Quoting Alberto Saldamando, human rights expert and attorney, they flashed in their website:

“The Paris accord is a trade agreement, nothing more. It promises to privatize, commodify and sell forested lands as carbon offsets in fraudulent schemes such as REDD+ projects. These offset schemes provide a financial laundering mechanism for developed countries to launder their carbon pollution on the backs of the global south. Case-in-point, the United States’ climate change plan includes 250 million megatons to be absorbed by oceans and forest offset markets. Essentially, those responsible for the climate crisis not only get to buy their way out of compliance but they also get to profit from it as well.”

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‘Road to Paris’ calls for strong carbon emission cuts

Paris hosts the COP21 on December 2015.

Paris plays host to the 21st Conference Of Parties for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 2015. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The Climate Reality Project (CRP) is launching the Road to Paris, a global campaign that will bring together citizens, business leaders, non-profit organizations, and NGOs to galvanize climate action and encourage participating countries to commit strong carbon emission cuts. The campaign will urged countries to forged commitments at the 21st Conference Of Parties for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change in December this year.

Road to Paris would include emissions reductions commitments based on national circumstances, a system of periodic review for these commitments, and a long-term goal of net zero carbon emissions.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, from left, primatologist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon participate in the People's Climate March in New York, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan on Sunday, accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs as they urged policy makers to take global action on climate change. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, from left, primatologist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon participate in the People’s Climate March in New York, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan, accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs as they urged policy makers to take global action on climate change. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

It will focus on mobilizing public support from the global community and citizens in eight countries that hold strategic significance for the upcoming negotiations, as a building block for a strong international agreement. Target countries include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Philippines, South Africa, and the United States. The CRP will also have a programmatic presence in Mexico and Europe.

Former United States Vice President Al Gore, chairman of The CRP, said the UN climate negotiations in December mark a crucial opportunity for the international community to come to a bold, universal agreement to make significant emissions reductions commitments, including a long term goal for zero net carbon emissions.

The Philippine flag stands amid devasted region brought about by typhoon Haiyan,  the deadliest Philippine typhoon recorded in modern history,  killing at least 6,300 people. (Photo: AP)

The Philippine flag stands amid devastation brought about by typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon recorded in modern history, killing at least 6,300 people. (Photo: AP)

He stressed out that the Road to Paris will not end at COP21. He urged people to take urgent actions saying solutions to the climate crisis is within reach.

“We cannot afford to gamble with the future of our planet. Solutions to the climate crisis are within reach, but in order to capture them, we must take urgent action today across every level of society. Now is the time for people all over the world to lend their voices to the cause and urge their leaders to take this historic first step.”

The CRP’s Road to Paris campaign will build on work the group has already undertaken in each key country, including training new members of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and organizing support on the ground through local branches.

Taxis are stranded in New York. At least 48 are dead across the US east coast as Superstorm Sandy, a former hurricane, causes widespread flooding and power cuts.

Taxis are stranded in Queens St, New York. At least 48 are dead across the US east coast when Superstorm Sandy, a former hurricane, causes widespread flooding and power cuts. (Photo: Xinhua/Telegraph)

In partnership with Live Earth: Road to Paris, CRP Leaders will run programs to address the unique challenges and opportunities of each target country.

CRP President and CEO Ken Berlin boasts the group as a leading international climate organization with about 5,700 trained leaders in the eight countries alone. He said, ” it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help spur action around the globe, providing support and guidance to the most critical players on the road to Paris.”

Climate March in Melbourne in time of the UN Climate Summit in New York, Sept 2013. (Photo: Asian Correspondent)

Climate Mobilization March in Melbourne in time of the UN Climate Summit in New York on Sept 2014. (Photo: Asian Correspondent)

Individual country programs will be rolled out over the coming weeks. Specific actions in each country will depend on the local political, economic, and social landscape, and will take into account the country’s climate change risk profile and opportunities for implementing solutions.

In the US, the CRP will continue its People vs. Carbon campaign in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. There are also two Climate Reality Leadership Corps trainings being held in the United States in 2015 – in Iowa and Florida.

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Australia caves in to global pressure, supports climate fund

Australia must realise time has changed and it has to abandon its recalcitrant stance on climate change especially when the world is moving away from dirty fossil fuels. Re-blogging:

Once again, Australia could not elude international pressure at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, Peru.  It finally pledged to contribute to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The government’s representative to the summit, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop,announced on Wednesday the country has committed it will give $200 million to the fund designed to help poorer nations to tackle climate change.

With Australia’s commitment, the GCF has already reached a threshold pledge of approximately $10.14 billion equivalent contributed by 24 countries. The UN’s CGF is raising $10 billion.

A dramatic turn around, Abbott has been notorious in his anti-climate change stance. A self-confessed climate skeptic, Australia became the first country in the world to have scrapped the carbon tax under his leadership. He did not show up in the UN climate summit in September and he we was also adamant not to include climate change in the G20 agenda which Brisbane hosted last month.

The meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping ahead of the Brisbane summit sealed a historic deal on carbon emissions cuts within the next decade by the two countries. Political observers said the deal is a game changer ushering in a new leadership to step up action on climate change. Abbott battled to ignore the subject throughout the G20 summit, but a communique to culminate the event pressed Abbott to back down. Majority prevailed.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

In Lima, participants from around 190 countries did it again. Developing countries and conservation groups said it is time for the Abbott camp to admit the urgency of the issue..

Canada,  Australia’s partner in climate denial, also recently pledged about $US250 million.

The money which Australia pledged, will be paid over four years. It will be sourced out from Australia’s aid program budget.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the backflip was evidence of the intense international pressure Australia had been under to commit to the fund. She added there is no way Australia could have continued with its stand against global finance and be viewed as negotiating in good faith,

Blog Link here

Australia’s climate policy in limbo, carbon tax is dead

Australia’s carbon tax has been repealed leaving the nation’s climate policy in a vacuum with no concrete alternative.

Australia’s Coalition Government has begun celebrating the repeal of carbon tax which was voted down in a Senate marathon on Thursday.  It is a landmark victory for Prime Minister Tony Abbott since he assumed office last year. From day one, he wanted to abolish clean energy legislations which the previous Labor Government had enacted.

The Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [No. 2] was voted down last week, July 10, after  crossbench senators under the Palmer United Party (PUP) joined the opposition block. But Abbott was relentless over the weekend. He worked with PUP leader Clive Palmer to sort out a last minute amendment. 

PM Tony Abbott claps and celebrate Coalition’s victory to scrap carbon tax. (Photo: Supplied)

The repeal bill was defeated in both houses of the Parliament since Abbott introduced the proposed legislation.  Last week, the bill reached a double dissolution trigger, but Abbott was determined to quash the tax once and for all.

On Monday, the Senate resumed deliberations and in the final vote on Thursday, the senators from the PUP backflipped as expected.  They voted for the repeal, along with Motoring Enthusiast Senator Ricky Muir, Family First Senator Bob Day, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Democratic Labour Party Senator John Madigan. Labor and the Greens voted against.

The jubilant prime minister reiterated the tax is a big obstacle to businesses and a hand brake to the national economy. “We are honouring our commitments to you and building a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia,” he enthused. He said it would save the average family $550 a year and the first benefits would be seen in coming power bills although oppositions and observers said the savings is unclear and without consensus.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne defends carbon tax. (Photo: AAP)

While Abbott is celebrating, Greens Leader Christine Milne condemned the government and crossbench senators for “the legacy of their political career”. Milne declared the vote  a “failure” that would see Australia a “global pariah” and” backwater” going against the flow while other countries marched towards pricing carbon and stronger action on climate change. Labor senator Lisa Singh said with one vote, Australia had moved backwards and it “will today be a laughing stock to the rest of the world”.

Conservationists, grassroots to fight back

Grassroots declare Thrusday as the black day for the planet. They said Australia is the first country in the world to repeal a carbon tax, with no clear carbon emissions plan being put in place.

Greens and grassroots stormed Twitter to vent their anger over the carbon tax dumping.

GetUp is now galvanising a campaign that would be ”the largest open letter in Australia’s history”  condemning Australian government’s inaction on climate change.  The group has already gathered more than 73,600 signatures as of noon time on Thursday.

Rallies are already being scheduled on important dates when governments around the world meet to tackle climate change, including a United Nations meeting in New York this coming September, G20 summit in Brisbane in November, and Conference of Parties in Paris next year.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) joins conservationists across the nation to express dismay over the dumping of carbon tax. In an email to supporters, the ACF said,

Today our government failed us. The senate just voted to repeal our working price on carbon pollution. You, with Australia’s leading scientists, economists, health experts, firefighters and ambulance workers fought loud and clear to keep our climate safe. But the senate didn’t listen to us. Instead they chose to listen to big polluters and abolish our carbon price.

Now is the time to show Australia that while the government voted against climate action, we won’t give up. In Bono’s words “The power of the people is greater than the people in power”.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific also expressed disappointment on the government for making Australia the first country in the world to abolish a price on carbon. It told supporters that as the rest of the world moves to tackle climate change, “the Australian government is doing everything it can to remain wedded to fossil fuels.” It urged Australians, “to come together and take action to secure a cleaner, healthier safer future.”

 

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

 

Gore praises Obama ahead of climate leaders training in Australia

Former US Vice President Al Gore is scheduled to visit Australia this month to lead a climate leadership training drive, shortly after US President Barack Obama’s historic announcement early this week directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate massive cuts on dirty carbon emissions.

Climate Reality Project Chairman and former US Vice President Al Gore (Photo: CRP)

The 25th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training program will kick off on June 25-27 in Melbourne in partnership with Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to teach participants about the science of climate change and how to communicate its effects.

US President Barack Obama announces historic cuts in carbon emissions (Photo: AP)

Gore’s leadership training  will mark another important event following initiatives of various NGOs towards decarbonising Australia. Last month, US economist Jeffrey Sachs led the launch of a low carbon economy initiative.

Gore, the Climate Reality Project chairman, praised  Obama’s announcement to cut the nation’s dirty carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030. This is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year. The former VP said the clean energy initiative is the most crucial step towards combating the climate crisis.

We simply cannot continue to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for dirty and dangerous global warming pollution that endangers our health and makes storms, floods, mudslides and droughts much more dangerous and threatening – not only in the future, but here and now.

Gore reiterated that actions are taking place worldwide to address climate change but remained wary about special interest groups that continue to deny and spread misleading information to muddle and obfuscate the issue. He said denial of the linkage between carbon emissions and climate change is like denial of the link between tobacco and lung cancer. He warned that further inaction would be extremely dangerous and destructive for America and the rest of the world. He added that there are now technologies that can offer alternative sources of clean, efficient, and competitive renewable energy.

He backs Obama for facing challenges through a series of critical actions and empowering the EPA to enforce limits on CO2 emissions for new power plants and accelerating the shift to  renewable energy.  He said America has taken another historic step in leading the world towards a green and sustainable economy.

Not all businesses are happy

Smoke billow from coal-fired power plants (Photo: AP)

Not all businesses are happy and merchants of doubt are expected to block climate initiatives. Christopher Helman of Forbes notes the “casualties” of the plan: “Coal miners and owners of coal-fired power plants. Don’t expect their shares to sell off on today’s rule revelation though — EPA has been telegraphing its plans for months, so the bad news is baked in.”

…..it is clear to analysts that coal will bear the brunt of this anti-carbon crusade, while natural gas will be the big winner. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in America. Per megawatt-hour, coal plants emit about 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide. Compare that to natural gas turbines, which emit just .4 metric tons per mWh.

The EPA reportedly estimates that investments needed to meet the emission limits will cost about $8 billion a year, but would save 6,600 lives and more than $50 billion a year in health care costs tied to air pollution.

While the announcement is widely praised, not everybody is positive. Bloomberg reported how the US zero emission would only be defeated by the rising emissions of China, India, and Indonesia, for example.

Burning fossil fuels in the U.S. released 5.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2012. China emitted 9.0 billion tons and by 2020 is forecast by the U.S. Energy Department to reach 11.5 billion metric tons, while the U.S. stays flat. India, Indonesia and other developing nations are expected to grow, as well.

Were U.S. emissions cut to zero, “global emissions would continue to increase,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program, said in an e-mail. “So, the direct impacts of the new power plant rules on atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations will be small.”

Optimism in the Pacific

Solar panels station on Port Augusta, Victoria (Photo: Supplied)

Scientists in the Pacific welcome Obama’s clean energy plan. Radio Australia interviewed Dr. Padma Lal,  an independent researcher on Climate Risk in the Pacific, who applauds the announcement and said it is urgent to take action to make the plan a reality.

She noted other countries – the major polluters – have already started taking action to reduce their carbon emissions, such as China, India, Brazil.

…..we would like to see other countries such as Australia and European nations to follow suit. Perhaps it’s a bit too early to say that this is actually going to happen, it’ll be interesting to see in tangible terms what actions are taken by the American state. From the Pacific point of view it really is urgent that they do take such measures…

Gore leads climate training in Australia

The former US VP will lead the leadership training in Australia, alongside world-class climate scientists, political strategists, communication experts, community organisers and activists. He said:

We have taken these trainings around the world, and in every community committed leaders are standing up to take action on the climate crisis. Our goal is to provide them with the best possible tools to become even more effective leaders in their schools, businesses, houses of worship, and local and national governments.

The intensive program is expected to formally train a new group of Climate Reality Leaders, who can become change agents in their own communities. They will emerge from the program as “energised and skilled communicators” with the knowledge, tools and drive to educate diverse communities on the costs of carbon pollution and what can be done to solve the climate crisis.

Australia leads the world’s highest per capita carbon emissions (Image: Supplied/ Carbonworks)

ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said that is the absence of government support to educate and train leaders on the urgency of climate change, her organization welcomes Gore’s project to Australia.

Australia is on the front line when it comes to climate change impacts, yet our national government is unravelling hard-won progress to price pollution and boost renewable energy. In the absence of government leadership on climate change, the people need to lead the way.

 

 

Blog Link: The Green Journal/ Asian Correspondent

US economist launches low carbon mission in Australia

While the global community is stepping up plans and actions to respond to climate change, Australia is responding otherwise. Under the current political leadership, Australia’s attitude towards global cooperation has been recalcitrant.

The Tony Abbott’s budget cuts on environment , along with the anti-climate change initiatives, remain a controversial issue triggering non-stop protests and rallies nationwide. But in the midst of chaos, the budget welcomes the re-known economist and professor, Jeffrey Sachs, who arrived in Australia  to launch a clean energy initiative.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs leads the launching of low carbon project in Melbourne (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

“This is not a great budget, but a great debate,” Professor Sachs quipped.

Noting the crucial role of Australia in preventing a tipping point of the planet, Sachs led the launching of ‘How Australia can Thrive in a Carbon World, Pathways to Prosperity in 2050’ in Melbourne on May 21. The launch was sponsored by Monash Sustainability Institute and The Myer Foundation.

Obviously disappointed and not amused with the budget, Sachs said Australia has a critical role in leading the world towards a low carbon and yet still a prosperous global economy. For one thing, Australia’s per capita emissions are amongst the highest in the world driven by agriculture, industry and coal-based electricity.

He said decarbonisation has been underway,  including Australia’s trading partners with a goal of economic prosperity – yet with improved air quality, energy security and improved standards of living. The project underlies a tough challenge for Australia’s competitiveness driven by emissions from the country’s key exports, including coal, gas, oil and beef. The Monash University team, however, underscores that Australian economy is resilient and diverse, besides the largest industry which occupies 52 percent of the  GDP is the service sector. The carbon emissions sector such as mining, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry share lesser portion to the GDP.

The mission of the project is to map up viable pathways to reduce dangerous carbon emissions. Pathways may include increasing energy efficiency, shift to low carbon resources, and non-energy abatement and sequestration. Sachs said there has been a lot of talks going on and what the global community needs to see is a showcase of a pathway that is viable and achievable. The working paper outlines:

This means that each country will gain insights such as what China is predicting in terms of renewable energy growth, what Europe and the US are assuming with regards to take up of energy efficiency, and what India’s demand for coal may be.

Decarbonization is coordinated globally but driven locally with the participation of 13 countries which collectively represent more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The project is being coordinated by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – which is an international network of universities and research institutions. Countries participating include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. 

SDSN appointed ClimateWorks Australia and the Australian National University to jointly lead Australia’s involvement, with modelling by CSIRO and the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University. After the launch, the project expects each of the participating countries to prepare summaries of example pathways modelled and demonstration of the technological solutions for deep decarbonisation. The summaries will be included in a SDSN ‘Phase 1’ report to be released in July 2014. It will be presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in preparation for the UN General Assembly meeting and Climate Change Summit in New York City this coming September. Australia’s story will be presented to a global audience.  

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Professor Sachs is known for his work on poverty eradication, including his bestselling books – Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet and The End of Poverty. He is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Australia disappoints at global climate talks, grassroots take action

As the UNFCCC Conference of Parties 19 (COP 19) wraps up in Warsaw, Poland, close to a thousand activists have walked out , grossly disappointed with the results.

The rift between rich and poor nations intensified with no major compromise on key issues. Many developed countries turned their backs from their commitments,  including emission caps and funding mechanisms.

Oxfam International, joined by more than a dozen of civic international groups, released a statement saying the Warsaw Conference saw participants with conflicting interests. More notably, the interests of dirty energy industries were more visible than that of global citizens – with a “Coal & Climate Summit” being held in conjunction. It said corporate sponsorship from big-time polluters could be seen everywhere and that the Poland Presidency that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry.

Members of civil society movements walk out out of the U.N. talks on global warming held at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday. Pic: AP.

From day one, Australia showed no interest to take part in the climate event; it did not send a minister representative. The Tony Abbott coalition government instead prioritised the repeal the carbon tax at its first parliamentary session. As the Warsaw Conference ends, the carbon tax repeal has already passed the Lower House, although it is still to go before the Senate.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) gave Australia a high ranking for creating the framework for strong action when it introduced the carbon tax in 2011. The CAT saw the new climate legislation as a historic breakthrough for the nation – putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions ranks alongside any of the “big” reforms of the past 30 years.

The CAT said the study is the first of a series of independent, science-based country assessments looking at each country’s international climate change action, comparing it to its pledge and to what’s needed to keep global warming to below 2°C (and 1.5°C, as called for by the most vulnerable countries).

In Doha last year, Australia made a non-binding pledge to reduce emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020, irrespective of international action, and said it will reduce emission levels by 15-25% from 2000 levels by 2020 if other countries make significant commitments.

Greg Combet, then Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, told delegates at CarbonExpo in Melbourne on November 9, 2012 that Australia would sign on to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol with specific conditions.

Most Australian economists agree that the country cannot achieve its voluntary target of reducing emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 without industry paying a price on carbon.

Under the new Abbott Government, however, the CAT ranked Australia’s climate change efforts as inadequate.

The CAT said repealing the carbon tax would dismantle most of the present policy framework, including present fixed carbon prices and the cap-and-trade system put in place in 2011.

The CAT speculates

Australian Coalition Government at present does not have the majority in the Senate for repeal and will not do so until at least July 2014, after which time it will need to be negotiated with minor Parties to achieve this. However, the Government has insisted that it will call a fresh general election should the Senate not support repeal.  Given this situation, it is clear that the present assessment may not stand, given the significant chance that present policies could be dropped or not implemented. The new Government has committed only AU$3.2 billion (capped) to meet the 5% reduction target and has indicated that no further funding will be made available should this fall short of meeting this goal. Several analyses indicate that this so-called ‘Direct Action’ policy will fall far short of the 5% goal.

Australia was already mocked for garnering the most Fossil of the Day awards during the summit. It has so far won half of the “illustrious accolades”, handed out on each day of negotiations by the Climate Action Network to the country who has done most to block progress at the UN climate negotiations.

During one of the sessions, Australia’s team was accused of lacking respect after delegates turned up to critical discussions wearing shorts and teeshirts. They also “gorged on snacks” during negotiations on whether developed states should make reparations to vulnerable countries as the impacts of climate change become more severe, according to a spokesperson for CAN International. Their behaviour caused over 130 developing nations to abandon discussions on the controversial issue of climate compensation at 4am last night.

Abbott is pushing to scrap the carbon tax following an election campaign promise. Repealing the carbon is an effort to keep Australia’s businesses competitive in the world market. The Australian noted Abbott saying:

… without the carbon and mining taxes, “and without the sovereign risk issues that this government has created”, Australia would once again be among “the most attractive places in the world to invest”.”The Olympic Dam mine expansion, Port Hedland Harbour expansion, and the Browse gas-field development can’t be guaranteed to go ahead — but they can almost certainly be guaranteed not to proceed while the carbon tax, mining tax and job-destroying industrial regulation remain in place.”Mr Abbott, who has threatened a double dissolution election if the Coalition’s repeal of the carbon tax is frustrated in the Senate, was “confident” Labor would learn the lessons of an election defeat.

A banner at Treasury Gardens in Melbourne during the National Day of Climate Action. (Photo: R. Yoon/the Green Journal)

Abbott abolished the Australia Climate Commission shortly after he took office in September. The Commission was set up to advise on the science and economics of carbon pricing.

Greens and grassroots movements have taken action in response to the new government’s actions. The National Day of Climate Action (November 17) saw more than 60,000 people gather in major cities and towns nationwide to urge the government to take action on climate change. The event was organised by GetUp, Australia Youth Climate Coalition, and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

GetUp supporters raise banners in Melbourne. (Photo: R. Yoon/The Green Journal)

“60,000 Australians from every corner of our sunburnt (and, in places, rain-soaked) country came together for climate action on Sunday, and as climate activists we’re now being described as ‘Abbott’s Worst Enemy’,” GetUp said.

GetUp is now spearheading a drive to raise $22m to keep up the fight.

 If we are going to keep up the fight, we need the resources to keep going. If all of us who came chipped in just $1 a day we’d have $22 million to fund a campaign for climate action – matching what the mining industry has spent to stop climate action. We have to step up and fight even harder on climate change. We believe that means we need a movement of people who are connected, empowered, inspired and informed. GetUp’s infrastructure allows us to connect and empower.

More photos: National Day of Climate Action (Melbourne)

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Australia snubs global climate summit in Warsaw

It is official: Australia’s new government denies global warming.  The Coalition Government will not send its environment minister to the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which will kick off  in Warsaw, Poland from 11-22 November 2013.

The National Stadium in Warsaw

Environment Minister Greg Hunt will stay at home to expedite the processes involved in repealing the carbon tax, a top election promise made by his big boss, Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

However, a representative on his behalf has been dispatched to take part in the annual event. Hunt will be busy repealing the carbon tax while the conference is underway. The carbon tax was passed by the Australian legislature in 2011 under former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Since Abbott won the federal election in September this year, scrapping the carbon tax has topped his priority agenda.

Australia will be represented by Australia’s Climate Change Ambassador Justin Lee from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will also not attend.

The Coalition Government of Tony Abbott (center) is up to repeal the carbon tax. (Photo: Courier Mail)

Climate observers said this will send a wrong signal of Australia walking away from its commitment on climate action and it may set a precedent for other countries to backslide.

Climate skeptics and right-wingers are already cheering on Australia’s unprecedented example. Recently, former PM John Howard also scoffed at ”alarmists” in a climate skeptics’ gathering held in London and admitted he is “unconvinced” of an impending ”global warming catastrophe.”

The COP19 expects to bring together around 40,000 attendees from government, academia, business and advocacy groups to advance international agreements that aim to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects.

In the past, a government minister represented Australia to the UNFCCC.  Ian Campbell headed the delegation under John Howard’s first government in 1997.  Labor Climate Change Ministers Penny Wong and Greg Combet, respectively, attended the conference from 2007, although in  2012, the Gillard government’s parliamentary secretary on climate change Mark Dreyfus attended the conference on behalf of Combet.

Oppositions and environmental groups are wary of the bad signal Australia will be sending to the summit. Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler said “Other countries are going to read into it at best with confusion and at worst that the Abbott government is walking away from global action on climate change, ” Australia’s leading media The Australian quoted him as saying.

Greens MP Adam Bandt also said it was “understandable” that Minister Hunt was “embarrassed” by his government’s decision to scrap the carbon tax, but it was no excuse to skip the global summit. While no major decisions will be made at Warsaw, the meeting will build momentum in the lead-up to major negotiations for a global agreement on cutting greenhouse gases in Paris in 2015.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt during a media interview (Photo: SBS)

Businesses support repeal of carbon tax

PHP Billiton, among other businesses under the Australian Business Council,  supports the dumping of carbon tax. While backing the Federal Government’s plan, the mining giant, however, urged scrapping the price of carbon should be done as soon as possible. It warned of a possible  complications if it is not done by mid-2014. The mining firm said it still believes in having a price on carbon, but any policy should be trade friendly and revenue neutral.

BHP Billiton noted that repealing the carbon tax will get rid of the current problem of Australian firms paying a higher cost on pollution than their international competitors.  The company shares concerns already expressed by others businesses about the uncertainty that will be created should the legislation not pass by mid-next year.

Climate action nationwide rally

Amid plans to scrap the carbon tax, a climate action is brewing nationwide. Various environmental groups are set to mobilise rallies in every major city nationwide on November 17. It is a collaboration of GetUp, the Australian Conservation Foundation,  the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Environment Victoria, Fire Brigade Employees Union, Greenpeace, 350.org, Oxfam Australia and many other groups. ACF said they intend to make this event as big as they can.

The ACF wants to keep Australia’s carbon tax. It said that while the tide of history is flowing towards pricing pollution, Australia is turning back the clock. Along with the climate action rally, the Foundation also supports an online petition to the prime minister, environment minister, and environment decision makers from all parties.

GetUp who is spearheading the climate action  rally said 2011 was a turning point for Australia.  Climate scientists warned it was the beginning of the critical decade for climate change and thus required stronger action to avoid the catastrophic effects of rising emissions. Australians responded to this warming by enacting the carbon tax.

However, Australia faces another turning point this year– which is poised to “go backwards on climate action at a time when the government’s own independent climate policy advisory body has warned the nation’s current emissions reductions targets are “inadequate” and what it needs is stronger and more ambitious targets.”

Blog Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent

IPCC report will make no difference in culture of denial

Re-posting this article:

 By  Clive Hamilton

This week’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will be compendious, cautious, thorough and as authoritative as a scientific report can be. But it will not make much difference.

In the world we used to live in, the one in which the ideal of scientific knowledge held true, the report would give a further boost to an already valiant world effort to shift rapidly away from fossil fuels. It would give hope that we could head off the catastrophes of a hot planet.

But we no longer live in that world (otherwise known as the Enlightenment), the one in which we thought of ourselves as rational creatures who gather evidence, evaluate it, then act to protect our interests.

While the IPCC must continue to tell those who are listening what the science is saying, it ought to be obvious to any careful observer that the debate over climate change is not about the science. Continue reading The Conversation

Heatwave threatens Australia’s wildlife

Australia’s famous New Year’s eve fireworks at the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge made another landmark spectacle to impress the world. But after the pyrotechnics have died down, the country-continent faces the reality of dealing with the temperatures soaring to over 40 degrees Celsius.

The Black Saturday flares up in Victoria (News Ltd)

The heatwave spreads throughout Victoria and South Australia. Melbourne and Adelaide started the year with day time high of 40 degrees Celsius and will remain at 30 level until tomorrow, AAP reported. Sydney and Brisbane are reported to have a more tolerable levels at around 26- 28 degrees Celsius, while Perth will experience around 31-degree.

Holiday-makers who are heading to the bush in the southern states are warned not to put up campfires. Fire and safety authorities have already issued bushfire alert warnings to caution residents and tourists to be bush-fire-ready.

A total fire ban has been issued in many regions in Victoria including tourist destinations such as the Southern Grampians, Apollo Bay, Warnambool, and other southwestern areas. The fire ban strictly disallows campers to build a campfire during the night while frolickers are also not allowed to light up a barbecue grill.

Two years ago, the bush fire famously called the Black Saturday razed 450,000 ha (1,100,000 acres) in Victoria sending residential, agricultural, and touristic areas into ashes. Affected areas included Kinglake and Whittlesea, Marysville, Central Gippsland, Beechworth, and to as far as the old gold town of Bendigo bringing to a total of 170 districts affected.

In 2006, the Grampians National Park was engulfed by another massive bushfire which burnt 130,000 hectares — or 47 per cent of the park.

Sam the koala became famous around the world after this photo was taken during the Victorian bushfires. (Reuters)

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated that over a million of animals have perished in these bushfires. Other wildlife species have suffered from severe burns. Koalas and kangaroos which inhabit most of the bush habitat are most affected while the Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s faunal emblem, is under further threat to extinction.

This koala became homeless after the fire (News Ltd)

South Australia is reported to have issued total fire ban on 13 districts out of 15.

Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley urged people—especially campers— to take extra care amid extreme heat conditions. He said most of the earlier fires started with campfires.

News Link: Asian Correspondent