Coaland and the Colossal Fossil

A true consensus government, the COP leaves the most progressive at the mercy of the most obstinate. In this system, science deniers and climate activists battle it out, yielding ground, gaining concessions, and, often, feeling like they’ve gotten nowhere. As the world burns and our chances to halt the irreversible slip through our fingers, every small victory reminds us that winning slowly is still losing. So what do you do when a coal-loving country holds the gavel? Can observers only wring their hands as an understaffed Polish Presidency sets regressive agendas and embraces corporate polluters?

The answer, of course, is to mock them.

A hero of satire has emerged to hold the worst members of the COP accountable: Climate Action Network and their “Fossil of the Day” awards.

Each day of negotiations, CAN has chosen a deserving winner. Those who, through obstinacy, ignorance, or plain greed, continue to obstruct global climate action, all earn a place on the podium.

The list of daily finalists includes:

A Polish victory has been brewing all COP. President Andrzej Duda opened his remarks by stating: “There is no plan to fully give up on coal. Experts point out that our supplies run for another 200 years, and it would be hard not to use them.” They’ve followed this up by cozying up to large polluters, filling the venue with single-use plastics, and holding events advertising “clean coal.”

However, most disturbing has been Poland’s battle against climate activism at the COP. At least twelve members of civil society groups and one COP Party delegate were turned away at the Polish border, including CAN Europe’s Zanna Vanrenterghem.

These activities appear to be the product of a new law banning unplanned protesters from Katowice, the COP venue. This barrier to a free and involved public directly belies Poland’s professed commitment “to providing access to information, access to participation, and remedy on environmental matters.” This has had a chilling effect on participants. Coupled with an unambitious conference agenda, the activities of the Polish government have cast a pall over the proceedings that match the one in the air.

The Fossils of the Day

photo 1Today Australia and the European Union (EU) took home the Fossil of the Day Award presented by Climate Action Network (CAN). Australia received the gold medal after stating in an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) session that loss and damage should be an element of adaptation, not a stand alone part of the Paris Agreement.  This stands in direct contrast to the positions of the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts. Developing countries, including those from Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the Africa Group, and Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), want to see the agreement feature loss and damage as a separate issue, not bundled into adaptation. Developing countries argue that it is not possible to adapt to losing your land due to rising sea levels, nor is it possible to adapt to farmland lost to desertification.

The EU won the silver Fossil of the Day Award, calling for a ten-year commitment period. Critics claim this is a sure fire way to lock in low ambition in the future climate deal. The length of the current five-year commitment period for climate action is key to an effective 2015 climate agreement in Paris. Proponents of a five-year commitment period say a shorter commitment period avoids locking in low ambition, incentivizes early action, avoids delay tactics, and maintains political accountability. Those calling for progressive climate action urge Parties to decide on a common five-year period here and now in Lima.

Making the link between extreme weather and climate change

aussie extreme heatNEWSFLASH: Record breaking heat on October 25, 2014.  Read more below.

This just in from down under:  current Australian heat waves are “almost certainly” a direct consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.  According to the NYT, five groups of researchers used distinct methods to analyze the high temps that baked Australia in 2013 and 2014, and all five concluded that “last year’s heat waves could not have been as severe without the long-term climatic warming caused by human emissions.”  David Karoly, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne who led some of the research, said that “when we look at the heat across the whole of Australia and the whole 12 months of 2013, we can say that this was virtually impossible without climate change.” These papers were among two dozen analyzing weather extremes from 2013 that were published yesterday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, part of an annual issue that tries to answer the question of whether climate change has anything to do with extreme weather events.  According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Martin P. Hoerling, who has skeptically viewed claims about links between weather events and global warming, “the evidence in those papers is very strong.”

These study results come at a propitious time.  Australia’s newly elected prime minister, Tony Abbott,bams_eee_2013_cover repealed the carbon tax and trading laws introduced by the Rudd government after it joined the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 (and Julia Gillard recommitted the country to a second round of the KP from 2012-2020).  Abbott’s government has also appointed a climate skeptic to lead review of the country’s renewable energy targets.  Consequently, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop was one of the speakers at last week’s UN Climate Summit who only reiterated past pledges: reducing emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.  In this new landscape of nationally determined commitments, she suggested that Australia’s emission reduction target compares well with those of other countries.  “This is a bipartisan target. It is an ambitious target because it means that Australia will reduce its emissions by 22% against business-as-usual levels. This compares well to the targets of other major economies.”

UPDATE:  As the ADP2-6 concluded, Australia experienced the hottest October day since 1910.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Australia’s first major heatwave of the warming season has broken temperature  records across the nation, more than a month before the official start to  summer.  On Saturday, the country set its warmest October day in records going back to  1910, with average maximums across the nation reaching 36.39 degrees, according  to the Bureau of Meteorology.”