World Approves Historic ‘Paris Agreement’ to Address Climate Change

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached an agreement Saturday on what they say signifies the most important international pact to address climate change since the issue first emerged as a political priority decades ago.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who headed up the United Nations conference, commonly known as COP 21, said the final deal successfully resolved points of contention that had taken negotiations into overtime and called the agreement “the best possible text.”

“We have come to a defining moment on a long journey that dates back decades,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon before passage of the agreement. “The document with which you have just presented us is historic. It promises to set the world on a new path to a low emissions, climate-resilient future.”

The deal, known as the Paris Agreement, represents remarkable compromise after years of negotiations in which developing countries wrangled with their developed counterparts and failed to come to agreement on several key occasions. Supporters say the agreement will help define the energy landscape for the remainder of the century and signal to markets the beginning of the end of more than one hundred years of dependence on fossil fuels for economic growth

Observers had feared that a negotiated text could result in a lowest common denominator to meet the differing needs of all the parties present in Paris. But climate policy experts appeared largely satisfied with the draft adopted Saturday at the Le Bourget Airport just outside of Paris.

A strong long-term goal to reduce carbon emissions, provisions explaining how developing countries will receive financing for their efforts to adapt to climate change, and a transparency system to ensure that countries meet their promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were among those key goals. The text includes provisions addressing all those key points.

The agreement includes a long-term goal of holding global temperature rise “well below” 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 and recognizes a maximum temperature rise of below 1.5°C (2.7°F) as an ideal goal. The 2°C target is needed to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, according to climate scientists, but it would not be enough to save many of the world’s most vulnerable countries. Those nations, largely small Pacific Island countries, launched a large-scale push for the more aggressive 1.5°C target to be included in the agreement. The draft text also calls for “global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible” and for the continued reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of this century as science allows.

Measures to finance efforts to fight climate change in the developing world had also been a key sticking point in negations. The agreement renews a commitment by developed countries to send $100 billion a year beginning in 2020 to developing countries to support their efforts to fight climate change. The deal describes the sum as a “floor,” which may presumably be increased.

The agreement also requires all participant countries to assess their efforts to reduce carbon emissions every five years and expand upon those efforts as they are capable. Some countries had previously expressed reluctance to promise to increase their goals so far in advance without knowing their economic situation.

The responsibilities of developed countries are distinguished from those of their developing counterparts throughout the text, a key demand of large developing countries like India and China that worried the agreement might require them to take actions that would slow their economic growth.

“It has all the core elements that the environmental community wanted,” said John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s director of federal and international climate campaigns.

Source: World Approves Historic ‘Paris Agreement’ to Address Climate Change

World Approves Historic ‘Paris Agreement’ to Address Climate Change

New Principles to Help Accelerate the Growing Global Momentum for Carbon Pricing

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New report shows the number of implemented or planned carbon pricing schemes around the world has almost doubled since 2012, with existing schemes now worth about $50 billion.
  • About 40 nations and 23 cities, states or regions are using a carbon price. This represents the equivalent of about 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or 12 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • And new report lays out six key principles to put a price on carbon – the FASTER principles – for putting a price on carbon based on economic principles and experience of what is already working around the world

The spotlight is on New York now with the upcoming United Nations meeting on the new Sustainable Development Goals, Climate Week New York, and in about two months, global leaders will meet again in Paris for COP 21.

The decisions made in New York and Paris will set the course for development for years to come. But while these are top level, pivotal meetings, actors around the world are not waiting for a global agreement to act. They are already putting a price on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to drive clean investment. This includes the private sector. And we’ve seen companies from the oil and gas industry – calling for widespread carbon pricing. Today, over 400 businesses worldwide are using an internal price on carbon to guide their investments.


” The world needs to find effective ways to reduce carbon pollution. We must design the best ways to price carbon in order to help cut pollution, improve people’s health, and provide governments with a pool of funds to drive investment in a cleaner future and to protect poor people. “

Jim Yong Kim

World Bank Group President


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Around the world, about 40 national and 23 city, states and regions are using carbon pricing schemes, like emissions trading systems (ETS) or carbon taxes. These represent about 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or 12% of global greenhouse emissions, a threefold increase over the past decade.

To help countries navigate the waters, the World Bank Group, together with the OECDand with input from the IMF, also released a report today on the FASTER Principles, which helps governments and business develop efficient and cost-effective instruments to put a price on the social costs of emissions.

The FASTER principles are: F for fairness; A for alignment of policies and objectives; S for stability and predictability; T for transparency; E for efficiency and cost-effectiveness and R for reliability and environmental integrity.

With COP21 fast approaching, the need for meaningful carbon policies is more important than ever. Carbon pricing is central to the quest for a cost-effective transition towards zero net emissions in the second half of the century. These principles will help governments to incorporate carbon pricing as a key part of their policy toolkit,” said Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD.

The research draws on over a decade of experiences with carbon pricing initiatives around the world, such as emissions trading systems and taxes in places like the European Union, British Columbia, Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It points to what’s been learnt to date: well-designed carbon pricing schemes are a powerful and flexible tool that can cut emissions that cause climate change and if adequately designed and implemented can play a key role in enhancing innovation and smoothing the transition to a prosperous, low-carbon global economy.

“Carbon pricing is effective in reducing emissions that cause climate change, is straightforward to administer, can raise valuable revenues for broader fiscal reforms, and can help address local pollution as well as global climate change. We welcome the opportunity to continue collaborating with the World Bank, OECD, and others on this critical policy tool,” said Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

There is growing momentum: Since 2012, the number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments nearly doubled, from 20 to 38, and they are now worth about $50 billion. This progress is described in a new report, launched by the World Bank and Ecofys called the State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2015 report.

Some examples:  

  • Last year, Chile approved a national carbon tax to start in 2017.
  • In January of this year, the Republic of Korea launched an ambitious carbon market.
  • Today, the EU ETS is the largest carbon instrument in terms of value, followed by the trading systems in Korea and California.
  • Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, announced in April that it is joining California and Quebec’s emissions trading systems. And the EU and South Korea announced plans this week to explore linkage between their emissions trading systems.
  • The US and China – the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters – host the two largest national carbon pricing initiatives in terms of volume covered, driven by initiatives in their states and provinces. In China, the carbon initiatives cover the equivalent of 1 billion tons of CO2, while in the US, they cover the equivalent of 0.5 billion tons of CO2.
  • China, which already has seven pilot carbon markets operating in major cities and provinces, announced plans to launch a national system in 2016.

And it was just announced on Wednesday last week that more than two dozen cities in China and the US are making new pledges to lower emissions. This is welcome news. But the ambition and coverage of pricing needs to accelerate significantly for the world to meet international climate goals. Overall, these experiences with carbon pricing show little negative impact on economic growth but have a significant impact on energy intensity and diversification (or “greening”) of the energy mix.

There have been concerns that carbon pricing will affect international competitiveness of some industries and lead them to move production, or even whole factories, to other countries or jurisdictions where emission costs are lower, a phenomenon called “carbon leakage”. The report notes that ex-post analysis of the EU ETS, the biggest cap-and-trade system in place today, shows that so far, the carbon leakage has not materialized on any significant scale.

In the future, the risk of carbon leakage is real as long as carbon price signals are strong and differ significantly between jurisdictions. Also, this risk tends to only affect a limited number of exposed sectors and can be effectively mitigated through policy design.

The State and Trends report also discusses the enormous savings that can be made through – cooperation between countries. Compared to domestic action alone, cooperation and linking of carbon pricing instruments across borders could significantly lower the cost of achieving a 2°C stabilization goal, because countries have more flexibility in choosing who undertakes emission reductions, and who pays for them.

Analysing several studies made over the years, the State and Trends report shows that this cooperation can mobilize resources and transfers between countries and investors, and result in net annual flows of financial resources of up to $400 billion by 2030 and up to $2.2 trillion by 2050.

The report also says that carbon prices that converge have a positive impact on competitiveness by favouring more efficient and cleaner sectors, leading to a more efficient economy.

Source: New Principles to Help Accelerate the Growing Global Momentum for Carbon Pricing

New Principles to Help Accelerate the Growing Global Momentum for Carbon Pricing

Catastrophic ice shelf collapse would see oceans rise for millennia, say experts

With the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference set to commence next month with the objective of securing a binding, universal agreement to limit global temperature increase, there’s never been a more dramatically opportune moment for world leaders to take a meaningful stand against rising sea levels.

And we don’t have any time to lose. New research published this week suggests that if temperatures rise just 1.5°C to 2°C above present levels it will result in a catastrophic collapse in Antarctic ice sheets, ensuring sea levels will rise for not hundreds of years – but potentially thousands.

“The long reaction time of the Antarctic ice-sheet – which can take thousands of years to fully manifest its response to changes in environmental conditions – coupled with the fact that CO₂ lingers in the atmosphere for a very long time, means that the warming we generate now will affect the ice sheet in ways that will be incredibly hard to undo,” said Nicholas Golledge, a senior research fellow from the Antarctic Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Together with researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, Golledge used computer modelling to simulate ice sheet responses to a warming climate based on a number of different emissions scenarios.

In all but one of the projections – which would require significantly reduced emissions to begin as soon as 2020 – the collapse of the major Antarctic ice shelves triggers what the researchers call “a centennial- to millennial-scale response” in the Antarctic ice sheet, with enhanced viscous flow producing an effectively unstoppable contribution to rising seas.

The findings contradict a 2013 projection on rising sea levels issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that suggested rising seas would peak at 5 centimetres this century. But the researchers, one of whom was involved with the previous estimation, acknowledge that we now know significantly more about the science of ice sheet melting – and the new insights afford a drastic view.

“Our new models include processes that take place when ice sheets come into contact with the ocean,” said Golledge. “Around 93 percent of the heat from anthropogenic [pollutant-based] global warming has gone into the ocean, and these warming ocean waters are now coming into contact with the floating margins of the Antarctic ice sheet, known as ice shelves. If we lose these ice shelves, the Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise by 2100 will be nearer 40 centimetres.”

It’s not the first time scientists have warned that previous estimates of the impact of global warming were too modest. A report issued earlier in the year by former NASA physicist James Hansen said revised modelling of glacier melting indicated that coastal cities could be uninhabitable within 50 years.

In light of these new estimations, the researchers emphasise that humanity has the power to control this situation – or at least to temper it on behalf of future societies.

“It becomes an issue of whether we choose to mitigate now for the benefit of future generations or adapt to a world in which shorelines are significantly re-drawn,” said Golledge. “In all likelihood we’re going to have to do both, because we are already committed to 25 centimetres by 2050, and at least 50 centimetres of sea-level rise by 2100.”

source: The findings are published in Nature.

Catastrophic ice shelf collapse would see oceans rise for millennia, say experts

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Energy access is a basic requirement for human development and well-being, but it is vastly different for the poorest 3 billion people on Earth than it is for the richest 1 billion. The top billion consume 50 per cent of available fossil energy while—more than two centuries after the industrial revolution—the poorest 3 billion are still forced to rely on traditional fires (fueled by wood, dung, agricultural waste, charcoal and coal) to cook and heat their homes. One third of them are also forced to use kerosene and candles for lighting. This imbalance in access to modern energy comes at enormous costs to human health and the environment, and creates further disparities in how the effects of those costs are experienced.

In their use of fossil fuels, the top 1 billion contribute more than half the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. If they (and the middle-income 3 billion) continue current rates of fossil fuel consumption, the world will witness warming of 2°C or more in a few short decades. The brunt will be borne by the bottom 3 billion, who live on the edge of subsistence and are most vulnerable to the resulting droughts or other changes in weather and climate.

At the same time—through being limited to using inefficient cooking fires and lamps—the poorest 3 billion are exposed to large quantities of soot (or black carbon) and brown carbon. Once emitted, black carbon particulates both escape into the atmosphere and contribute to household health risks. They are unquestionably deadly. About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

Such household emissions may also contribute as much as 20 per cent to black carbon emissions worldwide. This is vastly significant because black carbon (from stoves and other sources) is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide and leads to crop loss, deforestation and the melting of glaciers, threatening critical food and water sources.

About 4 million people die each year from the toxic smoke emitted by household fires and lights. Exposure to household air pollution kills more people than malaria, TB and HIV combined.

The consequences of energy imbalance are dire.

But the new United Nations initiative Sustainable Energy for All, which aims to provide access to sustainable and renewable energy sources to everyone, is unprecedented and extremely productive.

The health benefits of providing energy to the bottom 3 billion would be far ranging, and the climate benefits would be felt by all.

Project Surya, which we lead, focuses on clean energy solutions for the poorest that achieve benefits in health, climate and sustainability by employing clean cooking and lighting technologies that reduce smoke emissions by 90 per cent or more. One chronic issue with these advanced technologies—which still use locally available solid biomass— is that with the added performance comes additional cost. The costs—typically, about six weeks of income for rural households—along with the lack of robust supply chains, inhibit scaling up the technologies to the hundreds of millions of households where they are needed.

Yet the use of advanced energy technologies enables us to leverage the link between household pollution and climate change. Surya now provides users of advanced improved stoves with the credit they deserve for mitigating climate change. Households that employ them generate quantifiable reductions in black carbon and carbon dioxide, with direct positive impacts on the climate—and so should be able to sell the resulting credits in a market. Much as a company can sell carbon credits for cleaning up its operations, we believe individual women should also receive financial benefits for their actions to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and black carbon.

Generating carbon credits for switching to improved stoves is nothing new. After all, burning firewood leads to 1-2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. The contributions from each household do not reflect the total potential climate mitigation achieved, although improved stoves also help to reduce deforestation. But quantifying the black carbon reductions—which work separately from carbon dioxide—reveals that their true carbon savings are two to three times greater. Moreover, including black carbon may bring new investors and buyers to carbon markets because reducing it has more immediate climate mitigation impacts than cutting carbon dioxide and has clear health and sustainability benefits. So this new approach could catalyze new funds to support energy access at scale.

While this seems straightforward in principle, there are some formidable challenges. One example of these is verifying the use of clean stoves on a house-by-house basis. Another is accurately translating stove usage to “climate credits”, saleable via a carbon market (or results-based financing mechanism), which encompass reductions in both carbon dioxide and black carbon particulates from adopting the cleaner energy technology.
And a third is distributing the financial credits to the women using the stoves, or the stove distributor.

Project Surya’s Climate Credit Pilot Project (C2P2) combines cutting-edge air pollution and climate change science with pioneering wireless sensor technologies to work towards universal access to advanced cook stoves and solar lighting systems. Through an international partnership that includes NGOs, private donors, academics, government banks, The Gold Standard Foundation’s Voluntary Carbon market, rural entrepreneurs, village chiefs and small women’s groups, Surya uses wireless sensors integrated into kitchens to document climate credits generated by using improved stoves. Close to a quarter of households now use the improved stoves for 50-100 per cent of their daily cooking needs. Each household that uses the stove for all cooking could earn approximately $35 per year (assuming an estimate of $6 per tonne of CO2 equivalent). Carbon markets ensure a level of transparency and standardization of methods for verification and validation that will be important if this initiative is to scale up beyond Surya or any single institution. Surya is now working to expand this carbon market approach to encourage the adoption of clean lighting, as well as cooking, technologies.

Through this work, Project Surya is celebrating and rewarding the role of the poorest women in the world as climate warriors.

We acknowledge the contributions of Tara Ramanathan in leading the Nexleaf Analytics cookstove programme in the field and significant contributions from Omkar Patange in India. We thank Charlie Kennel and Ellen Lehman, Mac McQuown, Qualcomm Wireless Reach, UK AID, and the United Nations Environment Programme for their explicit support of C2P2.

Source: Credit Where it’s Due

Clean energy solutions that achieve benefits in health

Arctic sea ice rebound shows resilience

North pole unlikely to be ice-free this summer, say UK scientists, but long-term decline continues

Icebergs in eastern Greenland (Flickr/ Mariusz Kluzniak)

By Megan Darby

Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk 40% since the 1970s, prompting speculation as to when it might disappear altogether.

At a scientific gathering last September, Cambridge University’s Peter Wadhams said it could be as soon as summer 2015.

That’s unlikely, according to UK scientists, after the latest data showed sea ice volume had rebounded from low points in 2010 and 2012.

A study published in Nature Geoscience on Monday found an unusually cool summer in 2013 drove a 41% increase in sea ice volume that year.

Models show Arctic sea ice melting over the long term, UCL scientist and lead author Rachel Tilling said. The latest data shows “it can recover by a significant amount if the melting season is cut short”.

It means the Arctic might be more resilient than previously thought, added Andy Shepherd, professor at UCL and at the University of Leeds.

“Understanding what controls the amount of Arctic sea ice takes us one step closer to making reliable predictions of how long it will last, which is important because it is a key component of Earth’s climate system.

“Although the jump in volume means that the region is unlikely to be ice free this summer, we still expect temperatures to rise in the future, and so the events of 2013 will have simply wound the clock back a few years on the long-term pattern of decline.”

The melting icecap has seen the region opened up to shipping and oil exploration in the summer.

Shell’s controversial drilling plans in the region were put on holdlast week after an icebreaker ship got a gash in the hull.

Source: Arctic sea ice rebound shows resilience  – study

Arctic sea ice rebound shows resilience