Consumerism, Climate Change and COP24

COP24 is about to conclude in Katowice, Poland and the link between consumerism and climate change has received little attention. A few events have been organized during the last two weeks at the COP24 on the matter, including one side event held by the Global Climate Action on December 8, 2018 entitled Impacts for a more sustainable and responsible consumption. But there has been little discussion, overall, about the impact consumerism—our own individual choices and way of living—has on our planet.

A legitimate reflection one might have about COP24 is on its ecological footprint. Are we walking the talk? The UN reports that greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions due to the event will be tracked through a calculation by the organizers and it is anticipated that COP24 will have generated approximately 55,000 tons of CO2. It further specifies that in order to offset this, the Polish Government has committed to planting more than 6 million trees, capable of absorbing the equivalent of the conference’s emissions in the next 20 years. But is offsetting the sustainable, long-term solution as it concretely does not remove the trash that has been produced from this event, and the energy and resources it took to build it, among other things? 13252700_f520

Consumerism plays a significant role in climate change. As underscored by one author, studies have shown that what we consume—from food to clothes to toiletries—is responsible for up to 60% of global GHG emissions and between 50 and 80% of total land, material, and water use.

At COP24, there has been emphasis on how political will is a fundamental element to addressing climate change. Indeed, political actions represent a big part of the solution. Additional efforts should be invested into integrating businesses and the private sector more effectively into the development and implementation of solutions to address the climate crisis.

However, we sometime like to place responsibility on others—something bigger, out of our control—but when 60-80% of the impacts on the planet come from our own individual consumption, more attention should be placed on our own habits as consumers.

As stressed by one author, if we changed our consumption habits, we could have a dramatic effect on our environmental footprint, on what businesses are producing, and on what the financial sector is funding. It is true that it is fundamental that various stakeholders are engaged in addressing the climate issue—including, particularly governments at local, national and international levels and industries. But we also need to do our fair share according to our means. Certain initiatives have been developed to sensitize citizens at a larger scale. For example, recently, in Quebec, Canada, the Pact for a transition from words to actions (the “Pacte”) was created in November 2018 to unite citizens across the province, beyond their political differences to take specific necessary actions in their day-to-day to transition towards a low-carbon future.  

More similar initiatives worldwide could help to put consumerism at the forefront of the climate solutions. As indicated by the Pacte, with strength in numbers, and with deep, smart lifestyle changes, things could likely progress faster. download (1)


New Alarming Report on the State of the Arctic

This Tuesday, on December 11, 2018, at the same time that the 11iceCOP24 is about to conclude in Katowice, Poland, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) released its annual international Arctic report card (the “Report”) reflecting on a range of land, ice, and ocean observations made throughout the Arctic during the 2018 calendar year. The Report includes a series of 14 essays prepared by more than 80 scientists from 12 countries and it underlines the changes that are continuing to occur in the Arctic environmental system in relation with climate change.

As the Report shows and as reported by the media, “the Arctic is experiencing the most unprecedented transition in human history”.

It is underlined that, in 2018, surface air temperatures in the Arctic continued to warm at roughly twice the rate compared to the rest of the world. It is also noted that the year 2018 was the second warmest year on record in the Arctic since 1900 (after 2016) and that Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.

The Report further indicates that such continued warming of the Arctic in 2018 is an indicator of both regional and global climate change and a driver of broad Arctic environmental change. Scientists explains that atmospheric warming continued to drive broad, long-term trends in declining terrestrial snow cover, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice, increasing summertime Arctic river discharge, and the expansion and greening of Arctic tundra vegetation. Despite the growth of vegetation available for grazing land animals, herd populations of caribou and wild reindeer across the Arctic tundra have declined by nearly 50% over the last two decades.

895ARC18_Landfast_mahoney_Fig3According to the Report, the Arctic is no longer returning to the extensively frozen region of recent past decades—in 2018 Arctic sea ice remained thinner and covered less area than in the past. Also, Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are coinciding with an expansion of harmful algae species responsible for toxic algal blooms (which have been found in the tissues of Arctic clams, seals, walrus, and whales and other marine organisms).952ARC18_HABs_anderson_Fig2

NOAA concludes that “new and rapidly emerging threats are taking form and highlighting the level of uncertainty in the breadth of environmental change that is to come”.


“We don’t have the luxury of feeling discouraged”-Former Vice-President Al Gore Warns of the Dangers of Climate Change at COP24

“The cheapest and most effective carbon sequestration technology is called a ‘Tree.’ When this technology is taken to scale, it is called a ‘Forest.’” The Former Vice President of the United States and Presidential hopeful paused to let the laughter subside. Holding up a hand, he became deadly serious once more. He had come to COP24 to continue fighting for the cause he had become synonymous with: Climate Change.

As the United States joined countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia in denying the dire IPCC 1.5 report and negotiations on the Paris Agreement Work Program slogged on, Al Gore reminded the world that this is a group effort. While the effects of climate change do not affect us all equally, they still affect us all.

Shahid Balouch, a gravedigger, poses for a photograph in a mass grave in the cemetary, as preparations are made in case of another heatwave in Karachi, Pakistan May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Shahid Balouch, a gravedigger, poses for a photograph in a mass grave in the cemetery, as preparations are made in case of another heatwave in Karachi, Pakistan May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

High temperatures continue to set records around the world. They melt roads and damage infrastructure; high nighttime temperatures impact agricultural viability; and in Pakistan, the government has dug preemptive mass graves, anticipating the costs to human life. Most concerning, however, are the effects of rising temperatures on global air currents.

When the jet stream is strong, it forms a boundary between lower latitudes and arctic winds known as the Polar Vortex. When high temperatures near the equator push an excess of warm air northward, the jet stream weakens and this boundary dissolves. This occurred at the end of 2017.

The weakened jet stream allowed the Polar Vortex to split in two, sending excessively cold systems into North America, Northern Asia, and Europe. Temperatures plummeted to below -10C, infrastructure collapsed under the weight of snow, and, in Brussels, homeless people who refused shelter were detained for their own safety. All major climate zones, except Antarctica were warmer than their 30 year averages; including the Arctic.

The area between the, now two, polar vortexes, was occupied by vagrant jet stream currents. The warm air washed over the North Pole during what is typically its coldest season; the season when annual sea ice forms and multiyear sea ice is strengthened. Instead the Arctic lost 95% of its multiyear sea ice.
His voice lowered and his tone conspiratorial, Gore looked over the crowd: “This is part of a larger annual weather pattern. However, we do not have the luxury of being discouraged.” We, as world leaders on climate change, have a moral responsibility to reverse these trends, and save our planet and its people.

His words were a call to action, aimed at breaking the political deadlocks that plagued various aspects of the negotiated text. As we move into the last two days of negotiations, we’ll see if his words have galvanized the Parties, or if the same issues plague consensus.


China’s Looks to Improve Transparency on Climate Change

Public particip050409_china_protest_bcol7a.standard1ation plays a critical role in environmental discussions. Any good forward-thinking government should act in the best interest of their people. Public participation involves the input of citizens that lead to legislation decision making. Public participation should be a logical step in building trust and holding government officials accountable. Public participation is integral in article 6 of the UNFCCC that enables “public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses.
Keeping within the spirit of Article 6, developing countries are slowly enabling public participation and education programs that help build awareness of the effects of climate change. China, even though it has a history of significant media censorship, has started campaigning and encouraging the public to learn and speak up on climate change. Today at COP24, the China pavilion hosted a presentation on its efforts to engage the public. Despite the many criticisms China faces in not doing more in combating climate change, one of the positive things about China is that it acknowledges that climate change is real. China has accepted that increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters.
China says that it is campaigning and hosting conferences that raise public awareness and transparency. Chinese media outlets are now implementing initiatives that enable greater access to the public. However, the media has also warned that the public responses should be objective and rational. The Chinese press is also filming a documentary on the effects of climate change in China.
Outside of the media, the Chinese government developed the China Center for Climate Change Communication. The organization is a collaboration between the Research Center for Journalism and Social Development of Renmin University and Oxfam Hong Kong. The organization’s mission is to exchange publications on climate change with other experts and NGOs.
Moreover, China is involved in joint ventures with India in building education programs that teach the value of conservation to young children. The program, called the Smart Cloud Campus Network, seeks to fundamentally change consumption behavior at an early age by developing lessons and activities that encompass the principals linked with the 17 elements of the SDGs published by the UNFCCC. The program’s secondary goal is to move towards making campuses carbon neutral.
China invited Greenpeace Poland to the discussion and served as a case study in which China hopes to follow in the same manner. Fifteen years ago, Polish citizens had no concept of renewable energy, nor the idea of climate change. Ten years of public awareness has started to shifted public perception favoring clean energy solutions. Surveys conducted recently in Poland show that 69% of the public wants to quit coal by 2030. The main message that helped initiate public climate action discussions by shifting from the climate change to human tragedies that affect community can also happen to us.
At negotiation sessions at COP24, China’s comments and suggestions subtly give away its position to build in flexibility allowing a balance between economic growth and climate change. Although China is known for suppressing negative stories and opinions to save face, we must give China an opportunity of good faith to make good on its promises. After all, can you name a country who has not censored speech against its citizens? China’s commitment to climate change appears sincere. I hope they don’t disappoint us.

Logistics Logistics Logistics! Highlighting Technology Needs Assessment for Developing Countries

As the Paris AgTNA-logo_rgbreement parties continue to meet and deliberate legal provisions, supporting organizations put in place tools that help developing countries meet their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). A non-governmental organization is one of the amazing things about the Paris Agreement, COP, or climate change in general. Citizens from all over the world don’t need to wait for government action and can operate independently. NGOs can hit the ground running, enacting change, and are sometimes more effective than governments who need to navigate foreign affairs carefully. What is even more impressive about NGOs is their ability to adapt. Like any successful story, you need to fail. It was through this process that led the UN development program (UNDP) in creating the Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) tool for developing countries.

TNA streamlines the process of determining appropriate technologies to supply developing counties to combat climate change. Choosing the right technology is an important issue because it gradually builds the capacity of the developing country. Sometimes we are too quick to solve a problem and look to the most efficient solution. However, the answer may be too complicated for the developing country to maintain, once the experts have left. The TNA address this problem. The TNA is a three-step process that conducts a feasibility study and selects the appropriate environmental controls.

Step one is a holistic background study that looks to multiple sectors including gender. The first step helps prioritize available technologies that can be applied. Step two conducts a feasibility study or barrier analysis of each technology. Since developing countries circumstances are different, experts must carefully examine the technique. The third step is called the technology action plan and supports “the implementation of the pritorized technology.” The level of ambition, timelines, schedules, and education are carefully implemented and contributes to reaching the developing country’s NDC.

Moreover, the TNA tool is so effective that, successful application of the analysis enhances the opportunity to obtain funding to construct the project. So, to the organizations that help make pragmatic steps that help lay down the right tools, keep up the good work.


Answering Tough Questions on Agriculture

Koronivia

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) met for a second session on Monday and anticipates an informal meeting tomorrow. The second session offered few answers to questions posed in the first session but highlighted country and organization experiences implementing work related to agriculture and climate change with the help of constituted bodies. Countries found the examples helpful but still lacked the clarity to move forward under the KJWA.

Zambia, in collaboration with the constituted body LEG, integrated agriculture into its National Adaptation Plan (NAP-Ag) project. LEG supports partners under a country-driven process to identify and integrate climate adaptation measures for agricultural sectors into national planning and budgeting processes.

Information on the Adaptation Fund can be viewed in my colleague, Amanda’s blog. The questions asked by the EU included how to link the services to the farmers and what the timeline looked like. It was answered with “ the timeline depends on the context in each country. They first identify user needs and tailor to those needs. Then, identify how the system works, what is missing to understand the market, the best way to deliver the information, and how to fund it.” “It takes around 2 years.”

Climate Technology Centre and Network Advisory Board (CTCN) Technical Assistance in Viet Nam provided assistance in bio-waste minimization and valorization for low carbon production in the rice sector, particularly in south-east Asia. Thailand asked, “how would you link this with the national programs as this is a local one?” Kenya stressed, “who is funding this project?” Which was answered with, “funding by donor countries and the GCF to be distributed by priority.”

Food and Myanmar-Philippines-to-work-together-on-agricultural-developmentAgriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations provided examples of work with the Technology Mechanism: TEC and CTCN, CGE, LEG, and SCF. Questions Kenya included “when you look at the five workshops and with FAO being specialized body, how do you see the FAO helping countries to implement those outcomes and the current workshops in Koronivia? Think beyond 2020. What is the synergy? The answer included “supporting a country through GEF and refocusing climate change through the GCF.” “Also, working with a country with their problems and taking a realistic approach.” The second portion of this session focused on “looking ahead” and asked the questions talked about in Amanda’s blog.

  • Tunisa, on behalf of the African group, stressed that meeting with the constituted bodies to discuss how to integrate implementation of the outcomes of the five workshops would help address these questions.
  • The EU said “first, institutionalize involvement of the constituted bodies with KJWA and invite them to the workshops to keep the communication going.”
  • Brazil added “There is so much synergy and work KJWA can share.” “The Parties can strength the linkages to become available to them so KJWA can move forward.”
  • Uruguay, in line with Brazil spoke about how it is key to establish a two-way road between Koronivia and the constituted bodies. Strong communication is essential.
  • Kenya continued “ these are useful inputs, but curious why GCF did not present. (Amanda’s blog covers this top) The question of what to do with the outcomes of the five workshops and the five workshops under Koronivia was not addressed.

The presentations and discussions barely scratched the surface of questions asked. These lingering concerns most likely will be addressed at the informal session on Wednesday.


Where Do We Grow From Here?

The historical first workshop on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) took place on the second day of COP24. The discussion focused on the modalities for implementing the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on issues related to agriculture and other future topics that may arise from this work. There was more than what met the eye happening. The workshop revealed across-the-board concerns the parties had going forward.

kjwa24The decision, 4/CP.23, requests the SBSTA/SBI to jointly address issues related to agriculture, working with constituted bodies (CBs) under the Convention. Representatives of the CBs presented information on the following questions:

  1. What is the general mandate of the constituted body?
  2. How has the work of the constituted body contributed to Parties’ implementation of work on agriculture?
  3. How can the work of the constituted body help Parties to advance their work on agriculture?

The Adaptation Committee (AC) seeks to advance Parties’ work in agriculture by incorporating an agriculture lens into an upcoming technical paper on linkages between mitigation and adaptation. Additionally, the AC provides guidance to the Nairobi Work Programme on potential agriculture-related activities. Kenya proposed the questions “how do we see using Nairobi Work Programme to help agriculture or what can we do differently? Make it useful? To receive knowledge?” Kenya continuing, “what can we do as parties and the KJWA that can advance agriculture? How do we implement the outcomes of the five workshops? How can we help you?”

The Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) are working on supplemental guidelines based on water, gender, agriculture, etc. Their percentage distribution of NAPA projects = 21% agriculture and food security. The European Union (EU) asked the question “how do you see the contents of 5 workshops useful to your work?” Uganda, looking at the key elements identified by the workshops, sought answers to “how can we increase the access of knowledge for farmers from the five workshops?” “How can we improve connectivity?”

The Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) has improved the coherence and coordination of climate change finance delivery. In SCF forums, agriculture has been addressed as well as forestry. “From the presentation, looking at the investment, how do you see the committee engaged in KJWA?” Kenya asked. Further, Uruguay inquired, “the reduction of emissions should be considered in agriculture, so how can we ensure that emission reduction is not an obstacle for implementation?”

The Climate Technology Centre and Network Advisory Board (CTCN) discussed how the CTCN can support a country’s agricultural systems by enhancing agricultural and rural development. CTCN can identify appropriate technology-neutral approaches that make agriculture more resilient. In response, Kenya explains “you are aware of the five topics and the last two require technology development and transfer under Koronivia. Has the CTCN considered the outcomes and topics under KJWA? What can parties do? How do we send a message to you to incorporate the topics discussed here?”

Climate-AgricultureConcerns going forward are apparent and have only minorly been addressed. The only known going forward is the procedure.  The Koronivia workshop will be meeting again on Wednesday.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE.

 


Africa Day at COP24

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Africa Day is a traditional day where the African countries bring awareness to the impacts of climate change on their peoples. This day is a way for African countries to make concrete commitments for addressing climate change. At COP24, Africa Day is used to table all the climate change issues African countries face, and learn how to effectively present them to all the other COP parties. Today, African nations hosted multiple presentations addressing their efforts and challenges in implementing their NDCs. Of the many discussed, I want to highlight two important issues: international support and the power of the next generation.

1. (Lack of) International Support

One presenter joked about how Africans should have intellectual property rights over the term “poverty” because everyone thinks everywhere in Africa is basically poor. In all seriousness, the presenters did make some valid arguments in response to the lack of international (mostly financial) support for implementation of African NDCs. Collectively, the continent of Africa only emits about 2-3% of global GHG emissions. Here, African officials expressed their frustration with other Parties’ expectations from African countries, yet do not want to assist the African countries financially to achieve those expectations. Moreover, African countries stressed the importance of including adaptation measures in their NDCs, whereas most developing countries would like to focus more on mitigation. It’ll be very interesting to hear the negotiations on whether to mandate adaption in NDCs, and I will be sure to keep you all updated on that process.

2. African Youth

Several African students and young professionals used these sessions as opportunities to confront their nations’ leaders on improving conditions to keep more young people in Africa. Last year alone, about 17 million young Africans migrated to Europe in search of food, work, and education. Both the young advocates and officials had constructive dialogue on how to keep more youth in Africa while tackling tough climate change issues. Some suggested to restructure budget allocations so the majority of funding no longer goes to agriculture. Food security is very important, but, according to the youth at this event, not at the expense of stimulating the economy or educating the next generation to lead the African nations.


Working Towards an “Ocean COP”

Ocean health is a big deal. It provides food security and resources to sustain our economies. It regulates our weather patterns. It absorbs heat and our carbon dioxide emissions. We often forget how dependent we are on the oceans. But lucky for us, UNFCCC Parties recognize that the “well below 2˚C” goal is not achievable without the ocean.

In June 2017, Fiji and Sweden co-chaired the first UN Ocean Conference in New York City—a conference on ocean health and sustainability. Fiji used that momentum as the COP23 President to bring awareness of ocean health to climate change discussions. Partnering again with Sweden, this dynamic duo co-chaired the Ocean Pathway. In total, 10 parties and 14 Advisory groups committed to the Ocean Pathway at COP23. Participation is likely to increase at COP24 following a year of devastating weather events.

COP23-Fiji-Logo-Horizontal

The Ocean Pathway is a new innovation to incorporate ocean conservation into the international climate change regime. This two-track strategy will (1) “increase the role of ocean consideration in the UNFCCC process” while (2) “significantly increasing action in priority areas impacting or impacted by [the] ocean and climate change.” 

The first track aims to develop a strategy to implement the ocean into UNFCCC negotiations with the “Friends of the Ocean” process—an open forum for Parties to discuss, debate, and implement measures to combat ocean concerns for the next two COPs. The goal is to make COP25 the “Ocean COP” by developing an effective work programme and potential agenda item by 2020.

The second track will strengthen previous ocean and climate change actions by developing new partnerships and platforms to increase momentum in the ocean conservation movement. Such actions include reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reducing fossil fuel consumption, and increasing protection of blue carbon areas. Most important to COP24, the Because of the Ocean Coalition encourages Parties’ to include ocean-related measures in their NDCs! Not only will Parties combat climate change, but they can also tackle important concerns like ocean acidification, sea level rise, and pollution. A major win in the marine conservation realm!


Local climate data at your finger tips

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The scientists at Climate Analytics – the ones that gave us the invaluable Climate Action Tracker (CAT) – have done it again.

They have taken the global research and stats featured in the IPCC’s reports and scaled them down to more locally understandable and useful info. Thus far they have developed four online tools that allow you to learn how:

  1. the warming climate will affect staple crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa,
  2. the projections of local sea level rise for different warming levels,
  3. climate projections will affect extreme weather conditions at the African national and provincial levels, and
  4. to attribute global warming increases.

Bookmark this site, for Climate Analytics is due to publish more tools in the next few months.


IPCC special report leaves the world in dire straits

In response to an invitation from the Parties of the Paris Agreement (PA), and pursuant to the Article 2 efforts to limit temperature increases well below 2°C, the IPCC prepared a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), released Monday, 8 October, 2018.

Climate scientists sounded the alarm yet again, painting a dire picture of the future without immediate and drastic mitigation and adaptation measures worldwide.  High confidence statements made by the panel include:

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  • Human activities have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels
  • Current global warming trends reach at least 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Staying below the 1.5°C threshold will require a 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050
  • Pathways to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot will require removal of an additional 100-1000 GtCO2

Pathways of current nationally stated mitigation ambitions submitted under the PA will not limit global warming to 1.5°C.  Current pathways put us on target for 3°C by 2100, with continued warming afterwards.

The ENB Report summarizing SR15 was able to shine a light on the good that can come from responses to this special report (not to mention upholding the ambition intended with the PA).  SR15 shows that most of the 1.5°C pathways to avoid overshoot also help to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in critical areas like human health or energy access. Ambitious emission reductions can also prevent meeting critical ecosystem thresholds, such as the projected loss of 70-90% of warmer water coral reefs associated with 2°C.

Groups like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are intensifying their adaptive scientific support through a “fully-integrated, ‘seamless’ Earth-system approach to weather, climate, and water domains,” says Professor Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the WMO.  This “seamless” approach allows leading climate scientists to use their advanced data assimilation and observation capabilities to deliver knowledge in support of human adaptations to regional environmental changes.  By addressing extreme climate and weather events through a holistic Earth-system approach, predictive tools will help enhance early warning systems and promote well being by giving the global community a greater chance to adapt to the inevitable hazardous events related to climate change.

WRI Graph

Success ultimately depends on international cooperation, which will hopefully be encouraged by the IPCC’s grim report and the looming PA Global Stocktake (GST) in 2023.  In the wake of devastating hurricanes, typhoons, and the SR15, it’s hard to ignore both the climate and leading climate scientists urging us to take deliberate, collective action to help create a more equitable and livable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

In Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20 decides to convene a “facilitative dialogue” among the Parties in 2018, to take stock in relation to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4 of the PA.  Later renamed the Talanoa Dialogue, these talks have set preparations into motion and are helping Parties gear up for the formal GST, with the aim of answering three key questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

Discussion about the implications of SR15 will be held at COP24, where round table discussions in the political phase of the dialogue will address the question, “how do we get there?”

It won’t be by continuing business as usual.

 


RE100 Businesses Pave the Way for Transitioning to Renewable Energy

images Ambition, pace, scale—these are the themes in shifting to an economy recognizing climate change. Companies pioneering this economic shift incorporated climate change as an significant factor in conducting business.

One of the leading organizations spearheading this movement is RE100. RE100 is a collaborative movement uniting over 150 well recognized companies across the world to commit to using 100% renewable energy. What is even more impressive is that these companies have acted on their own in addressing climate change, ahead of government direction. Remarkably, these corporations were able to shift to 100% renewable electricity, which garnered a competitive advantage enabling them to financially outpace their competitors.

A study by RE100 and Capgemini compared RE100 companies to non-RE100 companies by sector. It concluded that RE100 companies earn an average profit of 7.7% more than their competitors. Admittedly, the report’s analysis in no way suggests that switching to 100% renewable electricity is the sole cause of the profit difference. However, it is compelling that all RE100 companies have consistently outperformed the competition in their respective industries. Thus, it would suggest a strong correlation between switching to renewable electricity and above-average financial performance.

The switch to renewable electricity is done using multiple mechanisms simultaneously. Companies utilize a combination of energy power purchase agreements (PPA) and self-generated renewable electricity technology. Moreover, RE100 companies have developed new management structures, such as silo model, centralized model, and global model, to coordinate renewable electricity sourcing and efficient use infrastructure. The benefits of transitioning are significant.

For example, General Motors harnessed renewable energy sources from landfill gas, solar arrays, and wind farms. This combination has lowered operation costs by $80 million. The cost savings result largely from improved, cost-effective renewable technologies and government incentives. Landfill gas allows companies to lock into long-term prices that are cheaper and more stable than fluctuating natural gas prices. GM strategically built their own solar arrays and benefited from government feed-in-tariff programs. Finally, GM built wind projects in Mexico and Texas that generate over 34 MW, enough to power five manufacturing facilities.

Anheuser-Busch, another RE100 company, has procured PPAs for onshore wind projects to offset its dependence on traditional energy sources. Anheuser-Busch is in line to become the largest purchaser of renewable electricity and one of the forerunners in advertising renewable energy. The beer manufacturer uses its brand influence in its renewable electricity symbol campaign, where every pack of Budweiser will carry the symbol to celebrate its commitment to brew with 100% renewable energy.

The trend toward renewable energy is now gaining traction, and signals a tipping point to mass renewable. Since RE100’s inception, companies partnered through renewable energy purchase agreements have created 100% renewable energy demand of more than 184.6 TWh—enough energy to power Poland. Moreover, RE100 company surveys yielded that renewable energy costs have reduced significantly where it has been cost competitive against fossil fuels. Therefore the RE100 momentum would suggest that this trend is welcomed with open arms and significantly contributing to how other companies shape their tactics to address climate change.


How Does a 2⁰C Increase in Global Temperature Impact Food Security?

Climate change, food security821 million people.

Nearly 821 million people across the world are food insecure, according to the 2018 State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This means that they do not have adequate access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy life. Evidence indicates that this number will likely increase if the global atmospheric temperature continues to rise.

The Guardian recently reported on a study by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A on the impacts of allowable temperature rise of 1.5⁰C and 2⁰C. It found that vulnerability to food insecurity increases more at 2°C global warming than at 1.5°C, due to climate-induced drought and precipitation changes. Of all natural hazards, the SOFI report highlights that “floods, droughts and tropical storms affect food production the most. Drought causes more than 80 percent of the total damage and losses in agriculture.”

Maximum temperature, the percentage of days with extreme daily temperatures, the number of consecutive dry days, and the maximum rainfall in a 5-day period were measured to reach temperature impact conclusions. At a 2°C warmer world, the land areas mostly warm by more than 2°C. In some regions, like North America, China, and Europe, the daily high temperature increases could be double that of the globe on average. Southern Africa, the Mediterranean, Australia and northeast South America are projected to have increased dry spell lengths. Rainfall is projected to increase over many regions including parts of southeast Asia, northern Australia and the east coast of the USA.food-security

The impacts on food security at an increase of 1.5°C global temperature are smaller than at 2°C. Drought and flooding are more extreme at an increase in global temperature of 2°C. The SOFI report noted the number of extreme climate-related disasters has doubled since the early 1990s. These disasters harm agricultural productivity contributing to shortfalls in food availability, hiked up food prices, and the loss of income reducing people’s access to food.

Why are these temperatures important? The Paris Agreement’s goal is to keep the global temperature rise this century “well below 2⁰C” above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5⁰C. This goal is outlined in Art 2 of the PA and aligns with the UNFCCC’s Art 2 objective to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Current IPCC reports model proposed mitigation pathways on limiting warming to 2°C. In early October, the IPCC will publish a report that remodels needed mitigation outcomes based on a 1.5°C limit. FAO has sounded the alarm for why less warming is critical to our food security and underscored why this new IPCC report is needed.  At COP24, Parties will be faced with this new evidence as they negotiate the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement.

 

 

 


A stumbling block at COP 23 – Finance

huddle-Fiji-in-BonnThe cost of mitigating climate change is estimated at 200-350 billion Euros (236-413 Billion USD) per year by 2030. It is a manageable sum in terms of a global burden, only 1% of global GDP. In terms of who pays and how much to pay, however, it becomes a disputed figure. For example, developed countries agreed in 2010 to “mobilize” 100 billion USD annually by the year 2020 in paragraph 98 of the COP16 decision 1/CP.16. Unresolved issues regarding this commitment remain, even in 2017.

Philosophically, this divide has on one side the developed countries as having the ability and the responsibility to pay. Developed countries use more energy than under developed countries. On the other side, the underdeveloped countries need financing and the know-how to ensure that future development in their countries is environmentally friendly and sustainable.

At COP23, this issue came to the forefront where it stopped the APA closing plenary dead in its tracks on Wednesday afternoon, the day the APA was scheduled to close. Negotiations lasted through the night. The underdeveloped countries, led by the G77, wanted developed countries to make concrete commitments through the biennial communication requirements as required by Article 9.5 of the Paris Agreement. The G77 also referred to Paris Agreement Articles 13 (transparency) and 15 (compliance) to make this requirement enforceable.greendollars

In response the developed countries argued that Article 9.5 is a procedural matter and that the G77 countries want to discuss the dollar commitments. They argued that this is beyond the scope of the Paris Agreement.

The result was to urge both sides to act on their commitments and to refer this matter to a High Ministerial Dialogue for further discussion.  In other words, onwards to 2018.

 


Lets get on the same page

Capacity Building Initiative on TransparencyThe Paris Agreement, ratified by 170 Parties, at last count, has a clear goal for the world: Hold the rise in average global temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. While the goal is clear, the solutions are complex and challenging. This is especially true for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). LDCs lack the capacity and technical expertise to tackle these problems.  The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognized the disparity between developed and LDCs in article 4.9 and implemented mechanisms to assist LDCs build capacity.

One of the recent mechanisms to be implemented as a part of the Paris Agreement is the Capacity Building Initiative on Transparency (CBIT). The goal of this initiative is to “strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of developing countries to meet the enhanced transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement.” In this context, transparency is more than access to information; it also refers to accuracy and standardization. Transparency allows all Parties to measure and compare the collective progress made by each country’s pledged climate change actions.

CBIT calls for transparency on two fronts: the first is transparency of actions and the second is transparency of support:

  • Transparency of actions is completed through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as called for by the convention in Article 4.1(f). Simply, NDCs are a set of measures taken by a country to limit GHG emissions. But this task is a more complex process than it seems. In order to meet the requirements of the PA Article 13.5, NDCs need to be backed by scientific data that can be Measured, Reviewed, and Verified (MRV). LDCs need to develop expertise in the methodologies used for collecting data. As an example, the first NDC submitted by Papua New Guinea (PNG) presented data with “considerable uncertainty”. To address that gap, PNG received financial assistance through CBIT to hire the expertise needed to collect the data needed to MRV its pledged actions. As the NDCs are evaluated collectively, they are compared to the ultimate goal of the PA. In turn, as delegates meet annually, they can evaluate climate change actions against the goal more effectively.
  • The PA in Article 13.6 requires “transparency of support.” The PA tasked the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with administering fund distribution. In order to facilitate that, the GEF publishes a report that details the support given under the CBIT fund. In its recent report of early November, 2017, $17,389,995 in CBIT funds was distributed to fourteen countries for transparency capacity building. This report also lists funding from other sources, including almost $19 million in co-financing for these projects.

In terms of spending on climate change actions, the CBIT fund doesn’t readily draw attention. However, it is an important part of combating climate change. By providing these practical measures, in addition to the climate change policies, the COP and its entities provide more holistic solutions. CBIT can be seen as one brick in giant wall of solution options. I would like to think of it as a corner stone that supports this wall far beyond its size would indicate.