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January 21 2014

22:43

U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs

chinawtoChina’s Ministry of Commerce on January 20 imposed punitive five-year duties as high as 57 percent on imports of polysilicon – the raw material for solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules – from U.S. and South Korean manufacturers.

An association of U.S. solar energy installers, producers and other businesses that employs some 25,000 Americans, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) is protesting China’s trade action, asserting that the Chinese government’s action is in retaliation for the U.S. imposing illegal subsidies and anti-dumping tariffs on imports of PV modules made in China, a complaint that was initially filed by CASM’s founding and lead member, SolarWorld Americas in October 2011.

Trade disputes erupt amid booming solar energy growth

Growing at above-average rates, international trade in solar energy technology and equipment has been booming for well over a decade, supported by a variety of incentives and subsidies offered by governments, including the European Union, the U.S., China and India.

Those subsidies have been the source of a growing number of international trade disputes in recent years, particularly between China, the world’s predominant manufacturer and exporter of solar PV cells and modules, the E.U. and U.S., the two largest importers of Chinese PV cells and modules.

According to CASM, the Chinese government has imposed the tariff on U.S. polysilicon imports “to divide U.S. finished-products manufacturers against polysilicon manufacturing suppliers, punish the U.S. government’s adjudication of SolarWorld’s cases in favor of the domestic industry and increase leverage for all manner of trade issues with the U.S. government.”

In addition, the Chinese government not only continues to illegally subsidize Chinese solar manufacturers, CASM says, it has stepped up its financial support in order to stave off defaults and failures and save jobs in companies that, up until recently, have been among the world’s largest manufacturers of PV cells and modules. According to a CASM press release,

“U.S. solar-panel manufacturers continue to suffer layoffs, bankruptcies and other harms and China keeps propping up its own producers as both industries suffer from China’s steps to designate the industry as a strategic target within its Five-Year Planning Process, support its industry with export-directed subsidies, trigger enormous factory overcapacity, price products below production costs in the U.S. market, harvest U.S.- taxpayer-funded solar incentives and enjoy access to the U.S. market, including military bases, while keeping its borders closed to foreign competitors.”

China’s solar trade action violates international law, according to CASM. “China keeps flooding the U.S. market with state-underwritten solar products that increasingly are cited as the source of sharply higher defect rates,” CASM states. “China’s precipitous industry entry and the ensuing rise in faulty panels came in the wake of America’s decades of pioneering and optimizing the industry.

“China’s retaliation against the U.S. industry violates international trade rules,” Mukesh Dulani, SolarWorld Industries America’s president was quoted as saying. The company, a subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld AG, has been the largest manufacturer of PV cells and modules in the U.S. for over 35 years. “Time and time again, these retaliatory cases have been found to be without merit.”

The post U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 30 2013

23:48

Will Our Cities Save Us? Municipalities at the Nexus of Change

Editor’s note: The following post is adapted from several previous posts published in GWIR over the past year about how cities are often the best examples of furthering sustainable development, resilience and adaptation in a climate-changed world. This post has been entered in the Masdar Engage blogging contest for the upcoming Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

At the national and international level climate action is stalled under the unyielding weight of factionalism and meeting the diverse agenda of a global community. At the personal level the issues of climate change and building a sustainable future for our children seems overwhelming; whatever efforts we can lend to the cause feels too small and inadequate.

In many ways meeting the challenge of climate change and sustainable development is often most effective at the municipal level. Cities strike a balance between meeting the diverse needs of its inhabitants with the ability to adopt and adapt to the realities and challenges of global warming, development, infrastructure and energy.

Cities offer the best opportunities for sustainability and resilience in the 21st century. Climate adaptation for cities

In the wake of the devastating storms of 2012, including Hurricane Sandy in the United States, the need for municipal-level adaptation and resilience became clearer than ever. With Sandy, New York and New Jersey saw communities destroyed and lives devastated due in part to decades of poor planning and decimation of natural infrastructure. Urban communities often take the brunt of not only extreme weather events, but the consequences of poor planning and development. The extreme weather trend has only continued globally in 2013, with drought, unprecedented storms and record temperatures in every part of the world.

Coming to grips with the risks, especially as climate change bears down on urban centers with more intense storms, there are a growing number of initiatives aimed at building resiliency in the urban environment. Earlier this year the Rockefeller Foundation announced support for RE.Invest, a new public-private partnership at helping cities across the US integrate increased resiliency in urban infrastructure and adapt effectively to extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. The Foundation, in partnership with c.dots development and CH2H Hill, has pledged $3 million in the effort.

Initially, RE.Invest will select eight US cities through a national application process to provide seed money and technical support to create “community investment vehicles” that leverage private investment in local municipal water infrastructure.

“Using innovative sustainable infrastructure such as replacing concrete with porous pavement, restoring creeks and wetlands, and increasing tree cover can help cities manage storm water often at a fraction of the cost of upgrading traditional concrete infrastructure.  These projects can also save significant taxpayer money, beautify communities, and make them more attractive to businesses and investor and more resilient to extreme weather,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, in a press release.

“As we focus on ensuring the federal government makes it easier for cities to build and invest in sustainable infrastructure, the RE.invest Initiative is a great example of how private organizations can forge creative partnerships that leverage private investment to support clean and healthy cities, and save taxpayer dollars.”

The city as an agent of change

But cities also represent the best, most effective means of implementing proactive change. Dr. Emma Stewart, head of Sustainability Solutions at Autodesk, sees the urbanization of human populations as a “tipping point” for change:

“We are now an urban species by definition,” says Stewart. It took until 1960 to reach 1 billion people living in cities, another 25 years for the second billion, 18 years for the third, and “if projections are right only 15 years to add a fourth.”

From a sustainability aspect there are “significant positives in terms of this tipping point we’ve reached,” explains Stewart:

“So on the social side, cities have been a boon, really, to humans. On the resources side cities also, theoretically, provide us economies of scale delivering basic services like utilities or water, or even health care, safety, security.

As well as investing for adaptation to climate change, many cities and urban planners are adopting methods and policies for creating the “sustainable city of the future.” Initiatives like the CDPCities Program, the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction or the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities are but a few examples of motivated action on climate action and the future of human development.

Resilient cities

In the face of changing climate, growing resource constraints and increasing population, the conversation lately centers on the idea of resiliency as the new sustainability.  Writing in the New York Times, Andrew Zolli describes resiliency as “how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.” 

It’s a broad-spectrum agenda that, at one end, seeks to imbue our communities, institutions and infrastructure with greater flexibility, intelligence and responsiveness to extreme events and, at the other, centers on bolstering people’s psychological and physiological capacity to deal with high-stress circumstances,” writes Zolli.

Cities are ground-zero for this new resiliency-focused thinking and planning in our chaotic times. And partnerships between cities help shepherd the best ideas across international borders and economic sectors.

On December 3rd, 2013 the Rockefeller Foundation named the first 33 cities for its 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge. Each city was selected based on its vision, need and plan for building resilience in a manner that connects government, citizens and the private sector. The Challenge is an example of how cities working together can develop and share ideas, innovations and best practices for meeting the common challenges we all face in the 21st century as individuals as well as members in local and global communities.

Will our cities save us?

Is it enough? Can we depend on local governments and private organizations to meet the challenges we face without national and international policy action and individual effort?

In the end the global community will need to step up and do its part and individuals will need to embrace how their singular understanding and action feeds the collective effort to create a livable future. But, as Stewart says, we are an urban species, and it is in the cities where ideas can take root and the great challenge of our times will be met.

Will our cities save us? To the extent that cities, and networks of cities, represent the best collective effort toward a better future, they are the best catalyst of change for a sustainable, resilient future.

In cities we can most effectively plan for the worst and hope (and work toward) the best.

Image credit: Nicola since 1972, courtesy flickr

The post Will Our Cities Save Us? Municipalities at the Nexus of Change appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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December 17 2013

23:23

First Map of World E-Waste Highlights Staggering Extent of Growing Problem

People all over the world are snapping up consumer electronic devices like never before, and while smartphones, tablets and more portable PCs offer much in the way of benefits, their proliferation also highlights a glaring, dangerous oversight in our consumer-driven societies and manufacturing value chains, as well an urgently pressing environmental problem: e-waste.

The worldwide volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to surge higher by 1/3 by 2017, to 65.4 million metric tons per annum. That’s the equivalent of nearly 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza, according to a forecast and study by “Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative,” a partnership of U.N. Organizations, industry, government and science organizations.

The staggering amount of e-waster generated globally often ends up in the most poverty-stricken parts of the worldE-Waste: The gift that keeps growing and growing

To highlight and zero-in on the issue, StEP has produced the world’s first global e-waste map: the StEP E-Waste World Map. The map presents comparable data from 184 countries, shows the estimated amount of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE – anything with a battery or a cord) put on the market and how much resulting e-waste is eventually generated (i.e. comes out of use or post-use storage destined for collection by a recycling company or disposal,” StEP explains in a press release.

Though increasing amounts of end-of-life consumer electronic devices are being recycled or reused in some regions, most consumers continue to simply throw them away. Growing mountains of e-waste are accumulating in countries around – and at what’s expected to be a much faster rate in coming years. All that e-waste poses significant threats to human health and well-being, as well as the health and integrity of land and water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity.

Accompanying the map is a report that characterizes “U.S. domestic and transboundary flows of used electronics no longer residing in households. Elaborated Jane Nishida, Acting Assistant Administrator, US-EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs,

“EPA partnered with the United Nations University’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative understanding that the growing e-waste problem can only be addressed effectively when we have better information on the global flows of used electronics. We are pleased that StEP, working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Center for Electronics Recycling, was able to deliver a report that provides a scientific-based approach to generating information on US exports of used electronics.”

Nearly 48.9 million metric tons of e-waste was produced last year alone, “an average of 19.6 kg (43 pounds) for each of the world’s 7 billion people,” StEP highlights.

When it comes to e-waste and electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), China and the U.S. topped the ranks of countries in 2012. China produced 11.1 million tons of EEE and the U.S. 10 million, according to StEP’s data and calculations. The U.S. topped the world’s nations in terms of e-waste, producing 9.4 million tons, and China ranked second, producing 7.3 million.

The StEP e-waste report and world map are intended to help governments and companies better plan e-waste management.

Stated Ruediger Kuehr of United Nations University and Executive Secretary of the StEP Initiative,

“Although there is ample information about the negative environmental and health impacts of primitive e-waste recycling methods, the lack of comprehensive data has made it hard to grasp the full magnitude of the problem. We believe that this constantly updated, map-linked database showing e-waste volume by country together with legal texts will help lead to better awareness and policy making at the public and private levels.”

StEP offers a series of recommendations to address the e-waste issue. Among them:

  • Create trade codes for used electronic products to enable better tracking and distinction of shipments for example only for repair.
  • More open access to shipment level trade data to enable more accurate analyses of export flows
  • Greater reporting of re-export destinations to improve the accuracy of final destinations
  • Track flows over multiple years to discern trends

Featured image credit: transmediale, courtesy flickr

The post First Map of World E-Waste Highlights Staggering Extent of Growing Problem appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 26 2013

19:15

Ocean Acidity Rising 10x Faster Than At Any Time in the Past 55 Million Years

Credit: Christopher Krembs, TAMU

Ocean acidification continues to rise at a rate “unprecedented in Earth’s history,” a direct result of past and current increases in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, posing significant threats to the health and integrity of marine ecosystems and the diverse range of products and services they provide the world over, according to a report produced by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and released for the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World..

The latest scientific research on ocean acidification indicates the pH of the oceans is decreasing 10-times faster than at any time in the past 55 million years and may be decreasing faster “than at any time in the last 300 million years,” according to “Ocean Acidification: A Summary for Policymakers” presented at the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World.

The culprit: rising anthropogenic (human) emissions of CO2. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere has risen 40 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The oceans historically have absorbed about ¼ of all the CO2 released into the atmosphere by humans since that time. Today, they absorb some 10 million metric tons of CO2 on a daily basis, the report authors note in an executive summary. To date, those emissions have led ocean acidity to increase 26 percent.

Ocean acidification: Rising human carbon emissions the culprit

Increasing ocean acidification lowers the capacity of the oceans to absorb seawater and hence also threatens the viability of marine ecosystems. That spells potential trouble for already troubled ocean plant and animal species, many of which are of vital importance to human societies the world over.

As the authors highlight, the gathering of 540 experts from 37 countries in Monterey, California for the Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World attests to the growing amount of interest, scientific research, and sense of urgency, regarding “ocean acidification, its impacts on ecosystems, socio-economic consequences and implications for policy.”

What do we need to do in respone to what amounts as a “clear and present danger” to the health and integrity of marine ecosystems? The report authors state the solution plainly and succinctly:

“Reducing CO2 emissions is the only way to minimise long-term, largescale risks.”

Source:

Source: “Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers”

Considerations for Policy Makers

In the executive summary, they go on to highlight a summary of considerations they recommend policy makers take into account in their decision making:

  • The primary cause of ocean acidification is the release of atmospheric CO2 from human activities. The only known realistic mitigation option on a global scale is to limit future atmospheric CO2 levels.
  • Appropriate management of land use and land-use change can enhance uptake of atmospheric CO2 by vegetation and soils through activities such as restoration of wetlands, planting new forests and reforestation.
  • Geoengineering proposals that do not reduce atmospheric CO2 – for example, methods that focus solely on temperature (such as aerosol backscatter or reduction of greenhouse gases other than CO2) – will not prevent ocean acidification. Adding alkaline minerals to the ocean would be effective and economically feasible only on a very small scale in coastal regions, and the unintended environmental consequences are largely unknown.
  • The impacts of other stressors on ocean ecosystems such as higher temperatures and deoxygenation – also associated with increasing CO2 – will be reduced by limiting increases in CO2 levels.
  • The shellfish aquaculture industry faces significant threats and may benefit from a risk assessment and analysis of mitigation and adaptation strategies. For example, seawater monitoring around shellfish hatcheries can identify when to limit the intake of seawater with a lower pH, hatcheries can be relocated, or managers can select larval stages or strains that are more resilient to ocean acidification for breeding.
  • At local levels, the effects of ocean acidification on ecosystem resilience may be constrained by minimising other local stressors3,4,5 through the following:
  1. Developing sustainable fisheries management practices such as regulating catches to reduce overfishing and creating long-term bycatch reduction plans. If implemented and enforced, this type of management has been shown to sustain ecosystem resilience.
  2. Adopting sustainable management of habitats, increased coastal protection, reduced sediment loading and application of marine spatial planning.
  3. Establishing and maintaining Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that help manage endangered and highly vulnerable ecosystems to enhance their resilience against multiple environmental stressors.
  4. Monitoring and regulating localised sources of acidification from runoff and pollutants such as fertilisers.
  5. Reducing sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and ship exhausts that have significant acidifying effects locally.

Main image credit: Christopher Krembs, TAMU

The post Ocean Acidity Rising 10x Faster Than At Any Time in the Past 55 Million Years appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 22 2013

23:04

Civil Society Walkout as COP19 Comes to Disappointing Conclusion

Lack of progress leads many from NGO's and civil society to walk out of climate talks at COP19 in WarsawEven going in with low expectations, there is a profound sense of disappointment in Warsaw as the COP19 climate talks wind down. On Thursday, representatives from more than 800 environmental groups, NGO’s and civil society walked out of the meeting hall in protest of the lack of progress in Warsaw.

From the start, ambition was flagging among developed countries for curbing global greenhouse gas emissions and reaching the target 2015 deadline of forging an international agreement on climate change. Even if such a deadline is met, the agreement would not come into effect until 2020. In the meantime the rate of  carbon emissions continue to expand, calling into question the international community’s ability and willingness to set a path toward climate stability in time to avoid the most devastating impact of climate change. To be sure, global warming and its effects are already happening. What is now at stake is the degree of climate change we bestow upon future generations.

 

Featured image credit: Adopt a Negotiator, courtesy flickr

The post Civil Society Walkout as COP19 Comes to Disappointing Conclusion appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 19 2013

23:21

Energy, Climate Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants

Energy and climate scientists call for a coal moratorium, saying unabated coal is the road to climate catastrophe

Coal Sunrise over Beijing

An international group of 27 prominent energy and climate scientists are calling for a moratorium on construction of new coal-fired power plants, a policy they say has become a global imperative if “climate catastrophe” is to be avoided this century.

Their call comes amid renewed efforts by coal and power utility lobbies “to portray ‘high efficiency low emissions coal combustion’ as a climate solution.” Global carbon emissions are set to hit another new record high this year, according to a report released earlier this week as UN climate treaty negotiators meet in Warsaw. Ironically, taking place at the same time in the Polish capital is the Coal and Climate Summit.

The assertion that coal combustion to produce electricity should be considered a “climate-friendly” power technology flies in the face of the facts, all good judgment, and, needless to say, any semblance of adhering to the “precautionary principle.” Agreeing to it would set humanity and ecosystems around the world firmly on course for global warming of 6°C (10.8°F) , according to the scientists.

That’s three to four times the 1.5-2°C cap (compared to pre-industrial era levels) and climate warming threshold world leaders agreed to at the UN’s climate treaty negotiations in Cancun in 2010.

On the road to climate catastrophe

The world’s known coal reserves contain more than 2,000 gigatons (Gt) of CO2. Burning or combusting these reserves “would dramatically overshoot the remaining global carbon budget of about 1,000 gigatons CO2. This comes on top of oil and gas reserves accounting for more than 1600 gigatons,” the scientists highlight in a press release.

“The current global trend of coal use is consistent with an emissions pathway above the IEA’s 6°C scenario. That risks an outcome that can only be described as catastrophic, beyond anything that mankind has experienced during its entire existence on earth,” the scientists state.

Source:

Source: “New Unabated coal is not compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“The IEA’s medium-term coal market report (IEA, 2012) projects a further expansion of coal use that is even higher than IEA’s own 6DS scenario for 6°C warming in the long-term,” they elaborate.

“The 6DS scenario assumes around 4°C warming by 2100 (Schaeffer and Van Vuuren, 2012). As the Secretary General of the OECD warns: ‘Without CCS, continued reliance on coal-fired power is a road to disaster. (OECD, 2013)”

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“We are not saying there is no future for coal”, added Professor P.R. Shukla of the Indian Institute of Management, “but that unabated coal combustion is not compatible with staying below the 2°C limit, if we like it or not.”

Following is a short list of the main points of the climate and energy scientists’ statement:

  • Unabated coal is not a low carbon technology
  • Avoiding dangerous climate change requires about 3/4 of known fossil fuel reserves to stay underground
  • Current trends in coal use are harbouring catastrophic climate change
  • To keep global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial, use of unabated coal has to go down in absolute terms from now on
  • Alternatives are available and affordable
  • Public financing institutions and regulatory agencies are reining in unabated coal, but more is needed to prevent new unabated coal to be built

False claims, Sustainable energy scenarios

The group of scientists also noted that “false claims about ‘high-efficiency coal’ as a low-emissions technology” were made by the World Coal Association (WCA) in their recently released Warsaw Communiqué. In it the WCA “calls for ‘the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Contrary to such assertions, Dr Bert Metz, former Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation, stated,

“New or retrofitted coal plants without CO2 capture and storage will have a life time of 40-50 years. We need to dramatically reduce emissions over the next 40 years. That is not possible with unabated coal.”

“Alternatives to fossil fuels are already available and affordable. It is therefore up to the coal industry to show that coal-fired plants with CCS can compete with other zero carbon options.”

The scientists welcomed the growing number of prominent multilateral and international financing institutions and regulatory agencies, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, to curtail or “rein in unabated coal.” Much more action is needed, and now, however, they added.

As Professor William Moomaw of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA pointed out:

“The trend of future coal use is changing rapidly. The World Bank, US development assistance and the US Import-Export Bank will no longer finance or support new unabated coal power plants internationally, except in rare cases.

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbon dioxide emission standards that rule out unabated coal power plants altogether. The European Investment Bank and Scandinavian countries have taken similar steps.”

Genuinely low-emissions alternative, renewable energy technology are readily available, competitive with fossil fuels, and continue to decline in cost, the scientists highlight. This stands out in stark contrast to trends in fossil fuels, which are increasingly costly in narrowly defined dollars-and-cents terms, and much more expensive over the long-term when their environmental, health and other socioeconomic costs, such as military interventions, are factored into the equation.

In their statement, the scientists lay out a range of alternative energy and emissions scenarios:

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

For more on this topic, check out the scientists’ full statement on coal

 

Main and featured image credit: Shel Israel, courtesy flickr 

The post Energy, Climate Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

00:07

Coal and Climate – a Tale of Two Summits: UNFCCC Chief Figueres Addresses Coal Conference in Poland

Coal and climate don't mix. UNFCCC chief addresses International Coal Summit in Warsaw, Poland, one of the most polluting countries in EuropeCoal and climate in Warsaw

Perhaps one of the biggest ironies at the ongoing COP19 climate conference is the open acceptance of corporate sponsorship by Poland, this year’s host country for the talks – sponsors that are, as Giles Parkinson points out in RenewEconomymostly fossil fuel companies as Lotos, a Polish oil company and brown coal producer PGE.

In fact, Poland has a rather spotty record on climate, epitomized by the start today of the World Coal Association’s International Coal and Climate Summit - the ”other” climate summit hosted by the Polish government that has called into question Poland’s own role in climate policy and raised the ire of more than a few environmental advocates.

Given that Poland depends almost exclusively on coal for its power production may make it no surprise that Poland would host an international industry “summit” essentially promoting clean coal, but the timing is another issue. In an open letter to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Fiqueres Greenpeace called the timing “outrageous”:

“It is outrageous that the World Coal Summit… will take place at the beginning of the second week of the climate negotiations…  We would not like events promoting the most polluting of industries to become associated with solving climate change. While we recognize that the focus of the Coal and Climate Summit is so-called “clean coal”, in our view this ranks among the most desperate of myths spun by the coal industry in a frantic bid to survive.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) also called out the unfortunate juxtaposition in Warsaw between COPO19 and the World Coal Association event:

“The summit’s focus on continued reliance on coal is directly counter to the goal of these climate negotiations,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for UCS, “which is to dramatically reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Every year countries come together at these negotiations to find a global solution to climate change, and yet our host is embracing a chief cause of the problem.”

Coal industry must radically reform

Questionably timed on purpose or not,  UNFCCC chief Figures took the opportunity to address the coal industry directly, saying the industry “can and must” radically reform and diversify to avoid the top-end, worst consequences of climate change.

 ”Let me be clear from the outset that my joining you today is neither a tacit approval of coal use, nor is it a call for the immediate disappearance of coal. But I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake,” Figueres told the assembled coal company CEOs.

Speaking of the latest  Cimate Assessment Report recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fiqeures said:

“The IPCC’s findings have been endorsed by 195 governments, including all of those in which you operate. We are at unprecedented greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere; our carbon budget is half spent. If we continue to meet energy needs as we have in the past, we will overshoot the internationally agreed goal to limit warming to less than two degree Celsius.”

In her speech, Figueres made clear the existential nature of climate change, even for coal companies:

“All of this tells me that the coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you cannot afford to ignore. Like any other industry, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your workforce and shareholders. And by now it is abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can only go ahead if they are compatible with the 2 degree Celsius limit.”

Diversify, keep it in the ground

On the point of leaving coal behind as the best future for humanity, Figueres said:

“Some major oil, gas and energy technology companies are already investing in renewables, and I urge those of you who have not yet started to do this to join them. By diversifying your portfolio beyond coal, you too can produce clean energy that reduces pollution, enhances public health, increases energy security, and creates new jobs.”

“Look past next quarter’s bottom line and see the next generation’s bottom line.” 

Get the full  Figueres’ full speech to the International Coal and Climate

 

Image credit: CEE Bankwatch Network, courtesy flickr

The post Coal and Climate – a Tale of Two Summits: UNFCCC Chief Figueres Addresses Coal Conference in Poland appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 14 2013

19:36

Climate Finance and Why We Cant Give Up on the UN COP Process

Progress, however halting, in climate finance and other important issues is reason to not give up on the COP processDespite the expectation that we will see progress on climate finance, there are a number of people who are cynical about the outcome of COP 19. Every year around this time, as we settle in for UN climate talks, an army of pundits come out and tell us why we will not see anything of great consequence from the negotiations. They usually end up being right, even if their attitudes are dead wrong.

With current atmospheric carbon readings around 400 parts per million, it is not hard to see why they are so pessimistic. Concentrations of CO2 have increased by 40 percent since pre-industrial times and global average temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. WMO secretary general Michel Jarraud recently indicated that growing levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) mean “our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme, ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.” Given our current trajectory, temperatures are set to increase well beyond the upper threshold of 2C (3.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

The nineteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC convened in Warsaw on November 11 and runs until November 20. According to the 2012 Doha Climate Gateway, the timetable for a universal climate agreement is 2015, but it will only come into effect in 2020.

In the twenty years since climate change became a global policy priority, we have yet to find a way to secure a binding deal on mitigation. It is understandable why so many environmentally concerned citizens feel betrayed by the successive failures to address the climate crisis. However, given the magnitude of the threat we face from the climate crisis, we do not have the luxury of behaving like jilted lovers. The UN climate negotiations are the best hope we have of reigning in climate change and without popular support, we are even less likely to succeed.

No matter how long it takes, we need to tirelessly press our political leaderships to act. The reasons why we must be so doggedly determined should be obvious, we simply cannot afford to fail.

As the most powerful storm ever to make landfall, Typhoon Haiyan graphically illustrates why we urgently need immediate action to reduce climate change causing greenhouse gases.  We need concerted international action that can only come through global negotiations. This is indeed a Herculean undertaking, but as demonstrated by the carnage in the Philippines, we cannot accept the cataclysmic implications of failure.

If we are to succeed, we must stand together as a community of nations, which is a difficult task at the best of times. We are being driven together by a powerful impetus, namely the right of future generations to inhabit an earth that is livable. No one said it would be easy, but it is work that must be done.

A key part of this collaborative effort entails some form of climate finance and here we have reason to be hopeful that we will see progress at COP 19.  Developed nations are mainly responsible for climate change and they are expected to move forward with provisions that will allocate funds for developing countries to help them with mitigation and adaptation efforts.

New institutional support for developing nations in finance, adaptation and technology will include progress on the Green Climate Fund (GCF), loss and damage mechanisms, compensation and adaptation funds. All of which were agreed in 2010 at the Cancun climate talks (COP 16).

Added support for climate finance comes from two reports shared with delegates at COP 19. Typhoon Haiyan also adds urgency and highlights the importance of these finance issues. If all goes well, we will be on the road to seeing these issues finalized at the Paris climate conference in 2015 and developing nations will make good on their $100 billion a year promise by 2020.

Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, reiterated this point, saying that she believes COP 19 can make progress on GCF.

“We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development,” she said. “We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of climate change.”

During the opening session of the Summit, Mr. Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator of the Philippines, demanded real commitments on climate finance.

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness,” Sano said. “We call on this COP to pursue work until the most meaningful outcome is in sight – until concrete pledges have been made to ensure mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund; until we see real ambition on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. We must put the money where our mouths are.”

Developed nations should also lead the effort to phase out fossil fuels, adopt energy efficient technology, shift towards renewable energy and prevent greenhouse gas emissions. This is the type of leadership that will help less developed nations move in the right direction.

The U.S. must lead because it is both the richest country on the planet and the biggest cumulative contributor of climate change causing greenhouse gases. President Obama and the Democrats are trying to mitigate and adapt to climate change. For their part, Republicans continue with their denial and they are likely to ignore pleas for action. This effectively precludes any hope for legislative progress before at least 2014.

The urgency of action is supported by reams of science, not the least of which is the latest IPCC AR5 document. However, the sad truth is that those who most need to understand the science are the least interested in the facts.

Nonetheless, we must not allow the heartless self interest of the GOP to undermine our efforts. Quite the contrary, their intransigent partisanship should bolster our efforts to expose them for what they are, an impediment to climate progress.

It is true that we are very unlikely to secure a binding global agreement before 2015, if at all. Global leaders have failed to grasp the urgency of the threat and take immediate bold action. After several years with little progress, many are left feeling understandably hopeless.

Sano challenged this lethargy and urged his fellow negotiators to take a bold stance.  “[L]et Warsaw, be remembered as the place where we truly cared to stop this madness.” Sano said. “Can humanity rise to this occasion? I still believe we can.” To highlight his dedication, Sano is fasting as he awaits a successful outcome.

We may have to settle for another small, but meaningful step forward, but this should not erode our support for the COP process. We are less likely to succeed if there is a widespread expectation of failure. Popular support buoys negotiations while public indifference or outright cynicism  detracts from their ability to get things done.

We must strive to build a better future with an unshakable tenacity. The message that needs to be heard in Warsaw must affirm the belief that we can get this done. However, we must make it emphatically clear that we will accept no more delays and we demand bold movement toward a binding deal.

Because we so desperately need to see results in Warsaw, it is incumbent upon all who have the audacity to hope that we press our elected officials and those at the negotiating table to work tirelessly to secure a deal.

Some of the cynical pundits will be quick to say that there is no chance that we will ever see a comprehensive global treaty. They may be right, but we must not let realism temper our advocacy. We are engaged in the most important struggle our civilization has ever known. The fact that we may not succeed should not be an excuse for inaction. Even if it amounts to tilting at windmills, tilt we must, till the very last.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Karoli, courtesy flickr

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November 12 2013

20:19

Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw?

A sunny day in Beijing

A sunny day in Beijing

For all their potential promise, apparent earnestness and gravity – not to mention their possible effects and potential ramifications – it’s hard at times not to be cynical about high-level political negotiations. Such might be felt of the United Nations (UN) climate treaty negotiations which got under way this week in Warsaw, Poland.

People have good reason to be skeptical of the climate treaty process, not because global warming and climate change are based on faulty science or because viable options aren’t in hand, but because governments and societies around the world are so invested in fossil fuels that the thought that political leaders would collectively take aggressive action to phase out carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is nigh unthinkable.

Take, for example, that even as representatives from the 195 UN member nations party to the UN Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet to establish the framework of an agreement to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that G20 governments doled out $523 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel producers in 2011, the latest year such figures are available. What’s more, fossil fuel subsidies are rising, even as the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) just last week reported that global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high in 2012.

To say such subsidies are counterproductive would be gross understatement. Perverse would be a better modifier. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would remove a perverse incentive that stands in the way of leveling the energy markets “playing field,” putting a true cost on carbon in an attempt to address global warming and climate change.

Releasing a report entitled Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) documents “the scale of fossil fuel subsidies and sets out a practical agenda for their elimination in the context of the global goal of tackling climate change.”

Climate treaty negotiators convene in Warsaw

Against the backdrop of devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan – reportedly one of, if not the largest and strongest, typhoon ever recorded – the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the UNFCCC is convening November 11-22 in (ironically enough) Warsaw, Poland, a nation with a government that has steadfastly resisted efforts to shift off coal and fossil fuels toward a more diversified energy mix centered on cleaner, renewable alternatives.

Convening at COP 19 in Warsaw over the next 11 days, representatives from the 195 UN member nations that are parties to the international climate treaty (the U.S. included) and the 192 that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol (the U.S. excluded) will attempt to hammer out the framework of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Full details of a new accord to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are to be ready for signing by 2015 to go into effect in 2020.

Trying to make the negotiations as inclusive as possible, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) has become a major public event. At COP 19 in Warsaw, representatives of 195 UN member nations will be joined by a host of NGOs, civic groups, other public and private sector organizations, the press, and, more than likely, large numbers of demonstrators.

Enhancing the efficacy and credibility of global climate change action

The UNFCCC’s public credibility – not to mention its efficacy – would be greatly enhanced if the national governments party to the international treaty were to take one expedient, cost-effective step: eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, ODI asserts, and they are by no means the first to advocate taking such a step.

Source:

Source: “Time to change the game,” ODI, 11/2013

Straight from the executive summary of “Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate,” here are ODI’s key points:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies are expensive. They were at over $500 billion globally in 2011, and up to $90 billion in the OECD alone.
  • These subsidies are increasing and are a major obstacle to green investment, and seriously undermine attempts to put a price on carbon.
  • In developing countries the majority of benefits from fossil fuel subsidies go to the richest 20 percent of households.
  • Domestic and international support for fossil fuels dwarfs spending on health and education in a number of countries, and outstrips climate finance and aid.
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in G20 countries by 2020 (and globally by 2025), with proper safeguards for the poor, would enable the triple win of inclusive green growth.

Perverse incentives indeed, and the above is only a short list. According to ODI’s study, “international financial institutions (IFIs) also support carbon-intensive energy systems.

“Over 75 percent of energy-project support from IFIs to 12 of the top developing-country emitters went to fossil fuel projects. There has been no significant shift in this trend: in the last financial year alone (2012-13), the World Bank Group increased its lending for fossil fuel projects to $2.7 billion, including continued lending for oil and gas exploration (Oil Change International, 2013).”

As ODI goes on to state:

“If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet. They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development and subsidy incentives that encourage investment in carbon-intensive energy.

“Coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel of all, is taxed less than any other source of energy and is, in some countries, actively subsidized (OECD, 2013a). For every $1 spent to support renewable energy, another $6 are spent on fossil fuel subsidies (IEA, 2013).”

Following, in summary form, are the key actions ODI is urging G20 UNFCCC climate treaty delegates take in Warsaw:

  •  G20 countries use the Warsaw CoP meeting to agree a broad timeline for action
  • G20 governments call on technical agencies to agree a common definition of fossil fuel subsidies
  • G20 governments commit to phasing out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, with early action by rich-country members on subsidies to coal and to oil and gas exploration by 2015
  • that governments and donors work together to ensure that measures are put in place to protect vulnerable groups from the impact of subsidy removal.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would be one of the most straightforward, cost-effective and effective steps world governments could take to address the profound threats and rising costs of addressing global warming and climate change. Will they muster the will and toughness to do so? Not likely, but one can at least hope for the best.

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November 11 2013

20:42

COP 19 Opens in Warsaw With Modest Expectatations

Modest expectations set the tone for negotiations at the COP19 climate conference in WarsawToday marks the beginning of the COP19 climate talks, this year hosted in Warsaw, Poland. Expectations for ambitious progress in the coming two weeks are dampened by economic concerns, despite expression of increasing urgency from the scientific community for effective action. The the next big target for international negotiations is 2015, when the deadline for a legally-binding international climate treaty comes due for the COP21 talks in Paris, a goal set at last year’s COP18 meeting in Doha, Qatar. The terms negotiated in Paris would not begin implementation until 2020, by which time many see the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius as likely out of reach.

Given the disappointing results thus far in the United Nations climate negotiating process, especially at COP15 in Copenhagen, a more flexible approach has been advocated by climate leaders for reaching an agreement. Nonetheless, many of the same obstacles remain between industrialized and developing nations that have hobbled negotiations thus far. Given the current economic environment and the reality of the negotiating process to date, hopes are fading in some quarters that a strong deal will emerge 2015, flexible or not.

We’ll keep an eye on the progress of negotiations at COP19 over the coming two weeks. Stay tuned.

Untied Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) press release:
COP19 Opens in Warsaw

The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw began today with calls for governments to harness the strong groundswell of action on climate change across all levels of government, business and society and make real progress here towards a successful, global climate change agreement in 2015.

The newly elected President of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19/CMP9), H. E. Mr. Marcin Korolec, Poland’s Environment Minister, said in his opening address that climate change is a global problem that must be turned
further into a global opportunity. ”It’s a problem if we can’t coordinate our actions. It becomes opportunity where we can act together. One country or even a group cannot make a difference. But acting together, united as we are here, we can do it,” he said.

In her opening speech at the Warsaw National Stadium, the venue of COP 19, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, called on delegates to “win the Warsaw opportunity” in order to safeguard present and future generations.

“We must stay focused, exert maximum effort for the full time and produce a positive result, because what happens in this stadium is not a game. There are not two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”

Ms. Figueres pointed to the sobering realities of climate change and the rise in extreme events that climate science has long predicted, including the devastating Typhoon Haiyan that just hit the Philippines, one of the most powerful typhoons ever to make landfall.

Ms. Figueres highlighted the key areas in which COP 19 can make progress:

“We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development. We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of climate change. We must deliver an effective path to pre-2020 ambition, and develop further clarity for elements of the new agreement that will shape the post-2020 global climate, economic and development agendas”.

In addition, the meeting in Warsaw will focus on decisions that will make fully operational the new institutional support under the UNFCCC for developing nations in finance, adaptation and technology. These are the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee, all agreed in Cancun in 2010.

Ms. Figueres stressed the fact that the meeting in Warsaw is taking place against the background of growing awareness that climate change is real and accelerating, and the growing willingness of people, businesses and governments to take climate action, at all levels of society and policy.

“There is a groundswell of climate action. Not only for environmental reasons, but also for security, energy, economic and governance reasons. Political will and public support favour action now. A new universal climate agreement is within our reach. Agencies, development banks, investors and subnational governments are on board. The science from the IPCC is clear. Parties can lead the momentum for change and move together towards success in 2015.”

In order to showcase the growing climate leadership and contributions to the climate challenge from all sides, a Business Forum organized by the UN and the Polish host government will take place next week alongside the meeting. Cities and regions will gather for the first ever “Cities Day” that highlights their actions. And a Gender Day will showcase women’s role in meeting the climate challenge.

Also next week, the UNFCCC secretariat will showcase Momentum for Change lighthouse activities, climate action that demonstrates positive results for innovative finance, women and the urban poor.  In addition, the initiative will launch a new area that focuses on contributions by the information and technology sector to curb emissions and increase adaptive capacity to respond.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw (11 to 22 November) is currently being attended by government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media.
More than 100 Heads of State and Government and Ministers are scheduled to attend the high-level segment of the meeting, which begins on 19 November and ends with a decision-making plenary on 22 November.

 

 

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November 05 2013

16:44

14 Steps to Reduce Black Carbon and Stabilize the Cryosphere

on_thin_iceClimate change is causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s regions of snow and ice, portents of profound, dramatic change for ecosystems and societies around the world, according to a joint report released by The World Bank and The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) November 4.

The Earth’s cryosphere is warming more rapidly than anticipated – “at a pace unprecedentd in the historic record.” Rather than abating, in most cases warming and melting is accelerating, posing ecosystems and societies around the world with a variety of fundamental threats, including an increasing frequency of droughts and floods, and dramatic shifts in water, food and energy resource availability, according to “On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives.”

The Earth’s cryosphere: “On Thin Ice”

Stabilizing and preserving the cryosphere merits inclusion as a global imperative, the report authors stress. Leadership – in the form of explicit and sustained guidance, direction, support and incentives – is needed across markets, industries, the government, private and public sectors if there is any chance of this objective being realized, however.

In “On Thin Ice,” the World Bank and ICCI report authors lay out 14 practical measures that if enacted by 2030 could drastically reduce short-lived carbon pollutants (SLCPs) – primarily black carbon and methane – and stabilize conditions in the world’s threatened snow and ice-bound regions. Doing so, they assert, would bring “multiple health, crop, and ecosystems benefits and decrease risks to development from water resource changes, including flooding and other major impacts or climate feedbacks we may not foresee today.”

The effects of climate change are being seen and felt disproportionately in the Earth’s cryosphere, whether it’s Arctic sea ice, Antarctic ice shelves, the Greenland ice sheet, the Alaskan coast or the freshwater glaciers of the Andes, Rockies and Himalayas. Moreover, “rapid changes in the cryosphere observed during the first decade of this century are continuing or accelerating,” according to the report.

“Warming in the cryosphere poses serious threats to disaster preparedness, to water resources in some heavily populated regions, and to adaptation and ecosystems preservation. Intensified monitoring in cryosphere regions is needed to provide better and earlier warning of changes.”

Ongoing warming “has the potential to trigger disastrous feedback mechanisms from the cryosphere into the global climate systems,” the report authors continue, including “loss of albedo from sea ice and snow cover and loss of permafrost leading to greater carbon fluxes into the atmosphere (particularly where emissions occur as methane.”

Credit:

Credit: “On Thin Ice,” World Bank, ICCI

Methane emissions from thawing permafrost alone could increase atmospheric carbon “as much as 5-30% by the end of this century if current cryosphere warming is not slowed,” they warn.

Reducing Black Carbon and methane emissions

Implementing the 14 measures recommended in the report by 2030 “could slow warming in the Arctic by more than a full degree by 2050, resulting in up to 40 percent reduced loss of summer sea ice and 25 percent reduced loss of springtime snow cover compared to the baseline,” however.

As stated in the report’s executive summary,

“Accelerating actions to decrease short-lived pollutants from key sectors can make a real difference by slowing these dangerous changes and risks to development while improving public health and food security.”

Rapidly scaling up just four cleaner cooking solutions alone could save as many as 1 million human lives a year. Reducing diesel emissions in transportation can prevent 340,000 deaths Achieving a 50% reduction in open field and forest burning could avoid 190,000 deaths from air pollution, according to the report.

Source:

Source: “On Thin Ice,” World Bank, ICCI

There’s no time to waste, they emphasize. “With projections of large cryosphere impacts such as Arctic sea ice loss occurring by mid-century, speed is of the essence in addressing and operationalizing these cryosphere and development challenges.”

Of potentially profound significance for coastal regions and populations, “rates of sea-level rise might be significantly slowed by 2050, with a potential near-leveling-off in rates before the end of the century if SLCP measures are combined with CO2 emissions held to 450ppm.

“This decrease in sea-level rise could range from 10 cm to half a meter or more. Perhaps more important, temperature reductions in polar regions from these measures would help minimize the risk of essentially irreversible ice sheet loss or disintegration in West Antarctica and Greenland, which could ultimately raise ocean levels by several decimeters by 2100—and by many meters over a period of centuries or millennia.”

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October 29 2013

20:22

Phase-Out of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 Technically, Economically Feasible

rosietheriveterCompletely phasing out net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 is not only technically feasible, but could be done at very manageable cost, according to a comprehensive study by Ecofys for the Global Call for Climate Action.

“It is technically and economically feasible to reduce emissions to zero for roughly 90% of current sources of GHG emissions with technological options that are available today and in the near future.” The remaining 10% of GHG emissions could be offset by enhancing carbon sinks, the Ecofys’ report authors conclude. The cost of doing so: around 5% of GDP per year.

Realizing this goal would effectively assure that mean global temperature would not exceed the 2ºC climate change tipping point theorized by the world’s leading climate scientists and agreed to by world leaders in the Copenhagen Accord of 2009. It would also improve the odds of keeping global mean temperature increase to 1.5ºC by the end of the century to 50%.

Phasing out GHG emissions by mid-century

Affecting the changes required to phase out net GHG emissions by 2050 would require globally coordinated action of unprecedented speed, scope and scale, the report authors rightly point out:

“Reducing net emissions close to zero by mid-century means fundamentally restructuring all of our economic sectors in the coming decades.”

“The energy system presents the greatest potential for emission reductions through efficiency savings and fuel shift,” the Ecofys report authors found. Use of fossil fuels for energy, transport, buildings and industry accounts for some 2/3 of global GHG emissions. The other 1/3 results from land use, raising livestock and industrial processes, they explain.

imageedit_3_5663497138

In their study, “Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century,” Ecofys modelled “several low emissions scenarios that result in (nearly) zero net GHG emissions by 2050…Thse are categorized as one of two types, reflecting two slightly different modelling approaches and resulting strategies:

  • Scenarios with (near) 100% renewable energy by 2050: These scenarios aim, at the outset, at a certain emissions target as well as a certain contribution of renewables. They find that 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible. Saving energy is a key strategy in these scenarios because high efficiency facilitates an energy supply based almost entirely on renewable sources.
  • Scenarios with less than 100% renewable energy but carbon capture and storage (CCS): So-called integrated assessment models are commonly used to choose from different technological options to achieve a cost optimal global energy system within certain economic boundary conditions, e.g. very low emissions. Energy efficiency is modelled on a more generic level. Consequently, these scenarios result in a higher use of energy and a lower share of renewables. To still meet certain emissions targets, the models assume that carbon capture and storage (CCS), and possibly also nuclear power, are deployed on a large scale. The use of biomass with CCS enables these scenarios to sometimes reach net negative emissions in the second half of the century.”

The possible and the probable

While technically and economically feasible, the likelihood of such fundamental, globally coordinated change occurring is remote given current political, economic and social conditions and trends. While GHG emissions are on the wane in the world’s largest industrialized countries, including the EU and US, responsible for the bulk of anthropogenic GHG emissions in the atmosphere, they’re increasing by greater amounts in rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India.

Barring a series of climate-linked disasters, it seems clear that enacting anything remotely akin to a national strategic plan to phase out GHG emissions in the US would continue to be stymied in a Congressional quagmire of opposition and debate. For their parts, China, India and other large, emerging market economies are clearly unwilling to accept the uncertainty and take the risks of seeking to develop their economies and societies in ways that don’t require locking in their own dependence on fossil fuels.

In their report, Ecofys’ authors echo calls by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the conclusions reached in groundbreaking, comprehensive studies such as the “2010 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.” As the Ecofys report authors state,

“Initial steps taken to decarbonise need to be amplified drastically. The longer we wait to act, the more expensive change becomes. Whether a phase-out is politically feasible will be determined in the coming years.”

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October 04 2013

20:03

October 03 2013

22:15

Debunking Efforts to Undermine the IPCC’s Latest Climate Report

IPCC report withstand a barrage of climate denialClimate deniers began working to undermine the fifth Climate Assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) even before the first part of the report was released on September 27. A plethora of media outlets, politicians and business interests are employing a barrage of misinformation tactics to undermine the report.

A misguided article published in The Telegraph made that outlandish claim that, “There is no other evidence out there that global warming is any kind of problem. That it exists only in the imagination of the people who programme those computer models and the scientists who contribute to the theory that anthropogenic CO2 is a problem.”

Another piece of fiction was published in a The Daily Mail article which stated, “UN scientists said today they are ’95 per cent’ certain that climate change is man made, but still could not explain why the world has barely got any hotter in the last 15 years.”

Climate denying Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, proclaimed that “there has been no recorded warming since 1998″ and Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School said the report “shows that the IPCC’s predictions do not support alarmist predictions of global temperature rise.”

Contrary to statements made by The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Cruz and Lomborg, the IPCC report clearly indicates that global temperatures have increased. Since the 1950s, each successive decade has been hotter than the last, and the 2000s were the hottest decade since modern record-keeping began in 1880. Further, the report predicts that temperatures will increase 2.7 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 4.5 Celsius) if CO2 levels are allowed to reach 560 parts per million (ppm) from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm (we are currently above 400 ppm).

What the IPCC report said was that there was slightly less heating than predicted by the previous assessment. The reason that land temperatures have not increased as much as some models had predicted is because the oceans are absorbing the heat.

The fossil fuel industry is also working feverishly to deminish the report’s credibility including promoting the fiction of a recovery of Arctic sea ice. To illustrate the point, the UK-based Daily Mail, ran the following headline:

“And now it’s global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year.” The article went on to say, “Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century – a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.”

What the IPCC report actually says is that the rate of ice loss is huge and growing. The Arctic Ocean is now melting at an even faster rate than predicted in the previous IPCC report. Arctic sea ice surface extent has decreased by 3.5-4.1 percent per decade (9.4-13.6 percent during summer) and it further predicts that the Arctic will be ice-free during the summer by mid-century if we continue with business as usual.

The world has lost 303 billion tons of ice from glaciers each year since 1993. It also says the speed with which Greenland’s ice sheet is melting has increased substantially with 237 billion tons of ice being lost yearly from 2002 to 2011, up from 37 billion tons per year from 1992 to 2001. Antarctica lost 162 tons of ice per year from 2002 to 2011, up from 33 billion tons annually from 1992 to 2001.

Another compilation of psuedo-scientific lies was published in a report from the Heartland Institute which is funded by the infamous oil barons the Koch brothers.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist and one of the contributors to the IPCC report explained that nearly every time there is a scientific paper linking human activities to climate change, the “denial-sphere” tries to undermine the research.

Media outlets have falsely claimed that global warming forecasts were “wrong.”  However, these misleading reports have been dismissed by climate scientists as “error filled,” “unsubstantiated,” “completely ridiculous” and “an embarrassment to the serious reporting of climate change elsewhere.”

The IPCC report shows evidence of clear warming trends on land and in the sea, glaciers are melting, sea ice is retreating and ocean levels are rising.

The second IPCC assessment in 1995, said that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” The fifth assessment has made the same point but with the highest levels of confidence to date.

The IPCC report indicates that scientists are 95 percent certain that it is “extremely likely” that humans are mostly to blame for temperatures that have climbed since 1951 (up from 90 percent in the preceding report in 2007). In science, 95 percent certainty is a gold standard. Further, there is a 97 percent consensus amongst climate experts that humans are causing global warming.

An article in The Washington Examiner said, “Why does the U.N. love consensus anyway? Because it sounds authoritative,” the truth is that the U.N. IPCC report is as authoritative as it gets.

The IPCC assessments are the definitive report on climate and no amount of subterfuge should be allowed to alter that fact. The science in the IPCC report is sound and with key findings from 9,000 scientific articles, it is the largest summary of peer reviewed climate data ever published.

As explained by the former IPCC chair Robert Watson, “The observational evidence for human-caused warming is overwhelming, compelling and irrefutable.”

 

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September 26 2013

23:16

Sustainable Development Goals to Follow Millennium Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals follow in the footsteps of the Millennium Development GoalsUnder the auspices of the UN, a new global sustainability initiative is taking shape. With the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) having wrapped up its work on September 20th and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire in 2015, political leaders and policy makers are crafting a new development framework based on sustainability.

Millennium Development Goals

In 2000, world leaders set out the MDGs to help eliminate poverty worldwide. MDGs were inaugurated as the “world’s greatest promise” in the pursuit of concrete, measurable improvements on global poverty, hunger, health, education and other key social issues. In June, 2013 the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, called the goals “the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.”

In total, there are eight MDGs, 21 specific targets and more than 60 indicators. We have seen progress on seven of eight MDGs including poverty, hunger, education, child mortality, HIV, water and sanitation. But we have not seen the progress we would like to see on gender equality, particularly as it relates to schooling. One of the outstanding accomplishments of the MDGs involve cutting the number of people who live in extreme poverty by half.

The MDGs have augured unprecedented efforts and significant progress in an effort to address the needs of the world’s poorest people. Overall they have been remarkably successful, however, despite considerable progress, some of the goals are unlikely to be realized by 2015. In addition to assessing the MDGs, leaders and policy makers are now thinking about what comes next.

Sustainable Development Goals

A September 2013 special report from a consortium of organizations led by CIGI and the Korea Development Institute (KDI) reviews a number of options for the post 2015 successors to the MDGs. The report concludes the global community must build on the current MDGs and move beyond meeting basic human needs. In addition to emphasizing the role of adolescent girls, the report supports the creation of inclusive sustainable development goals.

Rio+20 Conference

In June 2012, countries at the Conference on Sustainable Development known as the Rio+20 agreed that levels of environmental protection are insufficient. They put forth the basic outline of SDGs and member states agreed to establish an “inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals”.

They agreed to build upon the MDGs and converge with the post 2015 development agenda that included a process to develop a set of SDGs. A number of work streams were commenced to elaborate on the proposed SDGs.

In the Rio+20 outcome document, member states agreed that sustainable development goals (SDGs) must:

  • Be based on Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation
  • Fully respect all the Rio Principles
  • Be consistent with international law
  • Build upon commitments already made
  • Contribute to the full implementation of the outcomes of all major summits in the economic, social and environmental fields
  • Focus on priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development, being guided by the outcome document
  • Address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development and their interlinkages
  • Be coherent with and integrated into the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015
  • Not divert focus or effort from the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals
  • Include active involvement of all relevant stakeholders, as appropriate, in the process

It was agreed that SDGs must be:

  • Action-oriented
  • Concise
  • Easy to communicate
  • Limited in number
  • Aspirational
  • Global in nature
  • Universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

The outcome document further specified that the development of SDGs should:

  • Be useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development
  • Contribute to the achievement of sustainable development
  • Serve as a driver for implementation and mainstreaming of sustainable development in the UN system as a whole
  • Address and be focused on priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development

The outcome document also mandated the creation of an inter-governmental Open Working Group, that will submit a report to the 68th session of the General Assembly containing a proposal for sustainable development goals for consideration and appropriate action.

SDG Open Working Group had its first session in March 2013, and will run through a total of eight sessions concluding in February 2014.

To ensure the prioritization of sustainable development at the highest levels of government, members at Rio+20 also agreed to change from the CSD, which was formed after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development.

High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The first HLPF meeting on SDGs has already taken place at the 68th session of the General Assembly. On September 24, 2013, the HLPF on Sustainable Development reiterated the agreements articulated at Rio+20 and included the following items:

  • Provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations for sustainable development
  • Follow-up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments
  • Enhance the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development
  • Focused, dynamic and action-oriented agenda
  • Ensuring the appropriate consideration of new and emerging sustainable development challenges.

At the inaugural ceremony for the HLPF, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Your forum is a key platform for examining today’s challenges in a holistic and integrated manner. This forum can be the catalyst for a strengthened global partnership for sustainable development, providing political leadership grounded in solid science.”

To advance the work of the HLPF, the UN General Secretary said he will create a Scientific Advisory Board.

General Assembly President John William Ashe said, “We have created this HLPF for the express purpose of delivering more effectively on our aspirations and agendas at a time when we realize that the practice of sustainability provides the only real bridge from our past to our present and our future, and from our planet to our peoples and our prosperity.”

The HLPF will bring together government leaders every four years as part of the General Assembly to address the challenges of sustainable development. It will also meet annually at the ministerial level, as part of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In 2016, the HLPF will review implementation of sustainable development by all countries and the UN system, in order to bring about accountability and a focus on action.

“People have a right to expect real results from the new Forum, ” said Wu Hongbo, UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs. “There are real challenges that must be faced. People need jobs, health care and education,” he said. “And they also need food security, clean air and clean water. They need development that is sustainable, and the Forum has to deliver progress in all of these areas.”

On the morning of September, 25, 2013, the UN General Assembly officially approved the inclusion of SDGs, including environmental sustainability, to replace MDGs. This measure passed thanks in part to a new coalition between poorer countries and the U.S., Europe, Japan and other nations.

“We are resolved that the post-2015 development agenda should reinforce the international community’s commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development. We underscore the central imperative of poverty eradication and are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency. Recognising the intrinsic interlinkage between poverty eradication and promotion of sustainable development, we underline the need for a coherent approach which integrates in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development. This coherent approach involves working towards a single framework and set of Goals –universal in nature and applicable to all countries, while taking account of differing national circumstances and respecting national policies and priorities. It should also promote peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.”

Over the next year there will be “substantive discussions” from various working groups, then a debate will occur at next Semptember’s session of the General Assembly and the final goals will be released a year later.

SDGs offer a constructive follow up for a post 2015 development agenda. By replacing MDGs with SDG’s we can continue to reduce poverty while building a sustainable economy. This approach not only addresses the needs of those most in need, it confronts the overarching issue of climate change and environmental degradation which undermines development and threatens civilization itself.
——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image courtesy of IGBP.net

 

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02:29

IPCC Roundup: Stories Turn to IPCC’s Purpose, Scope

IPCC Roundup: Stories Turn to IPCC’s Purpose, Scope (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma We’re another day closer to the release of the first official round of documents from the gigantic new climate report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientists and government representatives…



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September 19 2013

00:37

Netafim Winds Stockholm Industry Water Award

Netafim wins Stockholm Industry Water Award  Israeli-based irrigation company Netafim was presented with the Stockholm Industry Water Award at World Water Week earlier this month. Netafim specializes in “smart drip” and micro-irrigation solutions targeted specifically for small and family-owned farms.

In the mid-1960′s water engineer and Netafim founder Simcha Blass discovered the effectiveness of slow and steady drip irrigation for enhanced plant growth. Building on this realization Blass invented a drip-based tube for highly efficient delivery of water to plants.

Since that time Blass’ drip irrigation tube and the company it spawned has revolutionized sustainable agriculture. Netafim now operates in over 110 countries throughout the world.

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of freshwater use, in some regions of the developing world that still rely on flood irrigation water use intensity is as high as 90 percent.

The Stockholm International Water Institute selected Netafim for the 2013 award for its groundbreaking innovation in smart drip and micro-irrigation products specifically for farms lacking access to large, expensive irrigation systems, especially those in the developing world. Without these drip irrigation systems, many small farmers are forced to rely on highly inefficient flood irrigation to water their crops, creating inefficiencies in both water use and plant growth.

“Grow more with less”

In a world of increasingly constrained water resources, finding a means irrigating crops more efficiently is essential for meeting the needs a growing  world population.

…with rapidly expanding demand for agricultural products there is a dire need to improve water productivity. Netafim’s remarkable achievements, helping farmers across the world to ‘grow more with less’, are directly contributing to a more water and food secure world,” said the Stockholm Industry Water Award Committee in its  award citation.

“We are turly honored to receive the award,” said Netfim CEO Igal Aisenberg:

“With water and land scarcity topping the list of today’s major global challenges, we’re leveraging our expertise and experience in drip technology to help combat food price inflation, ensure food security and achieve water sustainability,” Aisenberg said in a statement. “This prestigious aware is testimony to our efforts, inspiring us to continue to help reduce water usage and make the world a better, more sustainable place.”

Main image credit: Gardening in a Minute, courtesy flickr

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September 10 2013

20:45

Warming Ocean Portends Troubling Changes at the Base of the Marine Food Web

NOAA MESA Project

Conducting research of potentially vital importance to marine and coastal zone resource policy makers and managers, fisheries managers, fishing communities and stakeholders worldwide, researchers from the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) School of Environmental Sciences and School of Computing Sciences and the University of Exeter have found that warming ocean temperatures pose potentially grave risks to the marine food web.

The research team for the first time determined that ocean temperature – as well as light and nutrient levels – has a direct impact on the chemical cycles, diversity and productivity of phytoplankton populations, microscopic marine organisms that form the base of the marine food web and play an outsized role in absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

As lead researcher Dr. Thomas Mock explained in a UEA news report,

“Phytoplankton, including micro-algae, are responsible for half of the carbon dioxide that is naturally removed from the atmosphere. As well as being vital to climate control, it also creates enough oxygen for every other breath we take, and forms the base of the food chain for fisheries so it is incredibly important for food security.

Changes at the base of the marine food web

“Previous studies have shown that phytoplankton communities respond to global warming by changes in diversity and productivity. But with our study we show that warmer temperatures directly impact the chemical cycles in plankton, which has not been shown before.”

More specifically, the research team found that marine micro algae apparently don’t produce as many ribosomes as when temperatures are lower. Rich in phosphorous, ribosomes assemble the proteins essential to phytoplankton life functioning.

A reduction in ribosomes leads to the production of more nitrogen as opposed to phosphorous, which increases the demand for nitrogen in the oceans. This, in turn, would eventually lead to more blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which fix atmospheric nitrogen as part of their basic life functioning.

Source: World Resources Institute

Source: World Resources Institute

Cyanobacteria also soak up oceanic oxygen, creating low oxygen, hypoxic, conditions that have led to the creation of large and growing marine and coastal area “dead zones” devoid of the seafood species we rely on as sources of food and nutrition. Dead zones have formed in areas such as the Mississippi River delta in the Gulf of Mexico, where large quantities of nitrogen from terrestrial sources, such as fertilizer runoff from farms, flows out via river deltas into the ocean.

“The impact of temperature on marine phytoplankton resource allocation and metabolism,” appears in the September 8, 2013 online edition of Nature Climate Change.

Main image credit: Source: NOAA MESA Project

Featured image credit: Pulpolux!!!, courtesy flickr

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September 08 2013

02:09

World Water Week- Access to Safe Water: Takeaways from Stockholm

Access to water and sanitationIn 2010 the United Nations passed resolution 64/292 mandating the basic human right to water and sanitation.

Efforts abound to secure access to safe water for the nearly one billion and  one-billion-plus without sanitation. But still that effort falls short. Too many people struggle every day to find enough  safe – or any –  water for themselves and their families. Too many people, many of them children, die every year because the don’t have the resources for proper sanitation and hygiene.

This is due, in part, to a growing awareness that the standard philanthropic model of charity doesn’t work. Wells are dug, latrines are built, pictures are taken and published in media for the funders back home. Intentions are good but lasting results don’t happen. wells sit abandoned or dried-up, latrines broken and unused. Access to clean water is controlled by a “water mafia” after the well-meaning but ultimately ineffective NGO or charity is long gone.

A common thread in my conversations with Water.org co-founder Gary White and Safe Water Network Sr. VP for strategic initiatives, Amanda Gimble, was the evolution in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector (WASH) toward using local market-based principals that can ensure lasting impact, long after the initial “intervention.”

Market-based solutions to the water crisis

This isn’t necessarily charity-bashing. There will always be a need for standard philanthropic efforts. Charity may be the only way to reach those that have nothing, living at the absolute bottom of the pyramid (BOP) . Many more live near the BOP, but nonetheless have the means to provide at least the most basic needs for their families. In these situation, mechanisms that allow people access  to market-based solutions provides a more sustainable approach to lasting impact.

Two examples of market-based solutions:

  • Micro-lending programs like WaterBank give access to credit for installing water systems.
  • The Safe Water Network uses basic business and marketing principals to build self-sustaining, locally-owned water “stations” that provide a daily source of safe, clean water at affordable prices (about 7 cents buys a 20 liter container of water).

Not enough charity in the world

“There isn’t enough charity in the world to provide a total solution”  White told me. Where charity is the best solution, of course it needs to be employed. But efforts to innovate market-based solutions is the key to making a real, lasting impact.

As Ned Breslin, CEO of Water for People, says in this Thomson Reuters Fund interview, the WASH sector has failed to meet the goal of safe water and sanitation for all people.  I briefly met Ned while at World Water Week. His frank expression of the reality of this failure, and the need to find new ways to forge real change serves as a good synopsis of my takeaways from Stockholm.

Disclosure: my trip to Stockholm for World Water Week was paid for by PepsiCo. Water.org and The Safe Water Network are core partners in PepsiCo’s water stewardship initiatives. 

Image credit: World Bank, courtesy flickr

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September 03 2013

18:09

A Roadmap of a Roadmap for a Sustainable, Fossil-Fuel Free Central America

Credit: Costa Rica News

Credit: Costa Rica News

A rapid transition to sustainable, fossil fuel-free Central American economies and societies powered and fueled entirely by renewable energy resources is not only technically possible and cost effective, but would be socioeconomically beneficial, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute, with support from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and Costa Rica’s INCAE Business School.

Central American governments and societies continue to try to cope with, manage and address deep seated socioceconomic and environmental problems and improve overall living standards and quality of life for fast growing populations. While contributing little in the way of global greenhouse gas emissions (they’re in fact ‘frontrunners’ when it comes to renewable energy use), Central American countries – as is true for all nations around the world — are nonetheless increasingly challenged to address the effects and potential threats climate change and ecosystems degradation pose to their economies and societies.

Though unique in significant aspects, Central America can serve as a microcosm for the state of regional and global affairs when it comes to energy policies, markets, industry and investment, and their ramifications across societies and the ecosystems upon which they ultimately depend. While blessed with an abundance of untapped renewable energy resource potential, Central American governments continue to subsidize fossil fuels heavily. Energy policies, incentives and practices that lock in and assure ongoing fossil fuel dependence and more in the way of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions remain in place, increasing the threats and costs.

It doesn’t have to, and indeed should not, be that way, according to authors of “The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America.” Whether or not unaccounted for costs to the health and integrity of society and ecosystems are factored into policy and investment decisions, the high, and growing, costs of fossil fuel reliance are becoming increasingly clear and real. So are the benefits, and cost effectiveness, of making a rapid transition to complete reliance on a diversified mix of renewable energy resources.

A “Roadmap of a Roadmap” for sustainable energy, economies & societies

“The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America,” Wordlwatch Institute, CDKN, INCAE

The first phase of a holistic and comprehensive initiative to develop “a roadmap of a roadmap” for sustainable energy, economic and social development, “The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America,” assesses the status of renewable energy technologies in Central America, “scopes the improvements that need to happen with regard to the key components of a sustainable energy system and establishes the necessary methodology and groundwork for comprehensive national energy strategies,” Worldwatch explains in a press release.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Central America, long a frontrunner in hydropower and geothermal energy, is exploring its potential for expanding these technologies in a more sustainable manner while also developing other renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, biofuels, and agricultural waste. Costa Rica is leading the world in its ambition to be “carbon neutral” by 2021.
  • Still, as the economies of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama expand, use of fossil fuels is on the rise, while the use of fuelwood, primarily for cooking, continues to be unsustainably high.
  • Across the region, an estimated 7 million people still have limited or no access to electricity services. Renewables are the only convincing and affordable solution to provide underserved communities that are far from existing grids with access to modern energy services.
  • Central America’s non-hydro renewable electricity share is 13 percent, impressive when compared to the global average of only 5 percent. The urgent challenge for the region is to build on past successes and avoid locking in economically, socially, and environmentally costly fossil fuels for decades to come.
  • The potentials for renewables are enormous: Geothermal alone could satisfy nearly twice the region’s predicted electricity demand through 2020. Existing regional wind powerinstallations currently use less than 1% of the available resource potential. Solar and biomass have enormous potentials throughout the region.
  • Despite their sustainable energy ambitions and policy statements, the seven countries of Central America have been unable to comprehensively design, synchronize, and implement the program of work necessary to promote sustainable energy solutions to their full potential.
  • The full costs and benefits to society of specific energy development options remain unclear. What is evident, however, is that the region pays an enormous socioeconomic price for its reliance on fuelwood and imported fossil fuels.
  • Most Central American countries have been able to greatly improve their investment climate for sustainable energy. Still, powerful financial barriers remain, ranging from the unavailability of capital and the lack of human expertise, to investment insecurity and costly administrative processes.
  • Most countries in the region have concrete policy mechanisms in place for advancing renewables.These policies and measures, however, are not always sufficient to level the playing field with fossil fuels, which are subsidized (directly and/or indirectly) in all Central American countries.

Going beyond Levelized Cost of Energy

Source:

Source: “The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America,” Worldwatch Institute, CDKN, INCAE

The Worldwatch report authors devote a significant amount of time and effort in analyzing the comparative costs and benefits of renewable versus fossil fuel energy. They found that an increasing range of renewable energy resources are cost effective and yield greater and wider benefits whether they are evaluated on conventional levelized cost of energy (LCOE) terms, or broader, more holistic and comprehensive terms, using LCOE+, a methodology that factors in the effects of fossil fuel that are typically ignored, or shunted aside, for the public sphere to bear. As they note,

“A recent LCOE study of Central America by the World Bank compared geothermal, hydropower, and fossil fuel technologies and concluded that renewables are more cost competitive than fossil fuel energy sources.

“The report estimates the cost of geothermal power at 5–8.9 U.S. cents per kWh (kilowatt-hour) and the cost of hydropower at 7–8 cents per kWh. In contrast, for plants powered by heavy fuel oil, generation can beas high as 12–15 cents per kWh; costs of coal-powered generation are 10–11 cents per kWh.

They go on to highlight that,

“standard LCOE estimates still fail to include the true cost of energy due to externalities associated with power generation, as well as the market distortions caused by the heavy use of subsidies. In Central America, both fossil fuels and renewables currently receive subsidies,but the balance leans disproportionally in favor of fossil fuels despite their detrimental external costs.”

A methodology exists to account for these unaccounted for costs exists, however. “Extending the standard LCOE analysis to account for these externalities—through an approach known as LCOE+—can help address these missing factors. Te LCOE+ is an important tool for analyzing the real societal costs of fossil fuel energy and to demonstrate the actual cost gap between renewable and non-renewable electricity production.”

Making climate change mitigation and adaptation a core, strategic element of decision making across the government, public and private sector spheres is increasingly seen as an imperative. Similarly, extending current decision making frameworks and methodologies to account for the unaccounted for public, social and ecological costs of industrial and commercial decisions — as does LCOE+ — is imperative if climate change mitigation and adaptation is to be “mainstreamed.”

The post A Roadmap of a Roadmap for a Sustainable, Fossil-Fuel Free Central America appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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