Cancun: the science is damning, but will politicians act?
Most of the world's states are gathering this week in Cancun, Mexico, to pick up the pieces left from the abortive climate change conference, held in Copenhagen a year ago. See: Digging for truths about global warming
To many observers the chances of success - essentially guaged by a binding agreement to reduce emissions of global greenhouse gases ([GGE) to well below the 2% mooted in December 2009 - are slim.
Yet, failure to conclude such a treaty is even more urgent now than it was then.
According to several studies, released over the past fortnight, GGE within the past twelve months are likely to have hit an all-time high.
Meanwhile, richer nations have broken their undertaking to provide poorer states with $30 billion of "fast-start climate finance" to help them adapt to the impacts of adverse climate change.
There is now an even greater scientific consensus than at Copenhagen, that the burning of fossil fuels, specifically coal, is the largest single contributor to global warming caused primarily by human releases of carbon dioxide.
According to the Global Carbon Project, these emissions are largely being driven by industrialisation in China and India and their reliance on coal.
Although emissions this year fell by 6.9 percent in the United States, by 8.6 percent in the UK, and by 11.8 percent in Japan, those in China rose by 8 percent, India's increased by 6.2 percent - and South Korea's went up by 1.4 percent.
A November 22 report by the World Meteorological Organization was even more alarming:
"The main long-lived greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have reached their highest recorded levels since the beginning of the industrial age, and this despite the recent economic slowdown".
Is all doom and gloom?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called for the eradication of all fossil fuel subsidies, claiming this would "enhance energy security, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution, and bring economic benefits".
And, in a scathing survey of the World Bank's continued funding for coal, oil and gas projects, Oil Change International explodes the "myth" that this provides more energy for the world's poorest.
Says Oil Change International:
"Not only do the poor suffer the climate impacts of increased fossil fuel emissions and impacts from local pollution, but they are also not receiving the energy from the same projects that damage their livelihoods.
"With so many in the world without energy, the World Bank must prioritize investments that ensure increased energy access for the poor instead of prioritizing fossil fuel projects for industrial use."
So - if the scientists stand firm at Cancun - there is yet some hope that reason, and reality, will prevail.
But, we shouldn't hold our breath.
[Comment by Nostromo Research, 28 November 2010].
Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions Climb as Economy Recovers
Environmental News Service (ENS)
22 November 2010
EXETER, UK - Global emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are likely to reach record levels in 2010, according to research led by the University of Exeter, published today in the journal "Nature Geoscience." The 2009 drop in emissions due to the global financial crisis will be more than offset by renewed growth in fossil fuel burning in 2010.
The study, which also involved the University of East Anglia, Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, CSIRO, and other institutions, is part of the annual carbon budget update by the Global Carbon Project.
Global CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels in 2009 were only 1.3 percent below the record 2008 figures, despite the financial crisis that hit the world last year, the scientists calculated. This is less than half the reduction predicted a year ago.
The global financial crisis affected western economies, leading to large reductions in CO2 emissions. Emissions in the United Kingdom were 8.6 percent lower in 2009 than in 2008. Similar figures apply to the United States, Japan, France, Germany, and most other industrialized nations.
But the economic performance of emerging economies was strong despite the financial crisis, and they recorded substantial increases in CO2 emissions - China's emissions rose eight percent, for instance, and India's rose 6.2 percent.
Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, lead author of the study, said, "The 2009 drop in CO2 emissions is less than half that anticipated a year ago. This is because the drop in world Gross Domestic Product was less than anticipated."
"And the carbon intensity of world GDP, which is the amount of CO2 released per unit of GDP, improved by only 0.7 percent in 2009 - well below its long-term average of 1.7 percent per year," he said.
An increased share of fossil fuel CO2 emissions produced by emerging economies with a relatively high carbon intensity, and an increasing reliance on coal caused the lack of improvements in carbon intensity, the scientists said.
The study projects that if the global economy grows as expected, global fossil fuel emissions will increase by more than three percent in 2010, approaching the high emissions growth rates observed through 2000 to 2008.
"There is some good news, however," says Dr. Pep Canadell of CSIRO, executive director of the Global Carbon Project and a co-author to the study.
"We found global emissions from deforestation have decreased through the last decade by more than 25 percent compared to the 1990s and account now for about a tenth of the emissions from all human activity."
American Forests helped plant 50,000 trees in California's the San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area after a 2002 wildfire destroyed forestlands there. (Photo courtesy American Forests)
This decrease is due to reduced CO2 emissions from tropical deforestation, the study found.
"For the first time, forest expansion in temperate latitudes has overcompensated deforestation emissions and caused a small net sink of CO2 outside the tropics," says Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey, and co-author of the study.
"We could be seeing the first signs of net CO2 sequestration in the forest sector outside the tropics," she said.
Another co-author of the paper, CSIRO's Dr. Michael Raupach, said that despite the estimates of carbon emissions having some uncertainties, climate scientists agree that CO2 generated by human activity is the main contributor to human-induced climate change.
"The carbon intensity of world Gross Domestic Product, that is the amount of emissions emitted to produce one dollar of wealth, improved by only 0.7 percent in 2009, and we attribute this to emerging economies that are reliant on coal producing a higher share of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions," he said.
"Both globally and for emerging economies, the fraction of fossil fuel emissions from coal continued to increase last year," said Dr. Raupach. "The world GDP is projected to increase by 4.8 percent in 2010 as the global economy recovers."
Accumulation of atmospheric CO2 is the most accurately measured quantity in the global carbon budget with an uncertainty of about four percent, according to the Global Carbon Project.
The estimated uncertainty in the global annual mean growth rate is 0.07 parts per million over the course of a year. The data is provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.
Rich Nations Fail to Keep Copenhagen Climate Funding Promise
Environmental News Service (ENS)
22 November 2020
LONDON, UK - Rich countries are failing to keep the $30 billion promise they made last year to provide "fast-start climate finance" to help the world's poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, says the International Institute for Environment and Development in a new report published ahead of the United Nations climate change negotiations, opening November 29 in Cancun, Mexico.
"In last December's climate summit in Copenhagen the developed countries committed to provide developing nations with US$30 billion between 2010 and 2012, with the money balanced between funding for mitigation and adaptation projects," says Achala Chandani of IIED. "Our research shows that the developed countries have failed to meet their responsibility to help poorer nations."
A multi-use water system in Nepal provides safe drinking water and drip irrigation for farmers, helping them adapt to climate change. (Photo courtesy USAID and Winrock International)
Climate change impacts the supply, quantity, and quality of drinking water. Adaptation funding can help ensure consistent water supplies. Restoring degraded land promotes carbon dioxide uptake by forests and builds resilience against climate change.
Funding pledges made since the Copenhagen meeting are far from balanced, with very little earmarked for projects that would enable developing nations to enhance their resilience to climate change impacts on agriculture, infrastructure, health and livelihoods, the study finds.
"Only US$3 billion has been formally allocated for adaptation," says Dr. Saleemul Huq of IIED. "There is also a danger that some of this could come in the form of loans which would further indebt already poor nations and force them to pay to fix a problem that the developed nations created."
It is unclear how the money will be disbursed, what type of projects it will support, and how the global community will be able to track adherence to pledges and ensure that the funding is truly new and additional to existing aid budgets, the IIED researchers warn.
"Currently there is no common framework to oversee, account for and enforce the delivery of the money that rich nations promised to support adaptation to climate change in developing nations," says Dr. J. Timmons Roberts, director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University and co-director of the AidData project.
"Industrialized nations seem to think they can get away with an anything goes approach where whatever they describe as adaptation funding counts," said Roberts. "The danger is that existing development projects that are not specific responses to the threat of climate change will simply be relabeled as climate adaptation projects."
Robert Orr addresses a news conference at UN Headquarters. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy UN)
But a senior UN official said today that the Cancun talks could yield real results although he was cautious to keep expectations realistic.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning Robert Orr told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York that he does not expect the conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, to deliver a "final answer" on solving climate change but remained positive about the possibilities.
"Significant progress is possible in Cancun," he said. "That is not to say that we expect all issues to be resolved. We need a package of decisions and outcomes. One or two [agreements] won't an outcome create."
The UNFCCC is an international treaty which addresses global warming and attempts to cope with global temperature increases. Some 36 countries and the European Union have approved an addition to the treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, which includes more powerful and legally binding measures.
The IIED researchers say that to rebuild trust on both sides of the North-South divide, industrialized countries should support an independent registry of climate adaptation funding measures under the UNFCCC and then provide it with detailed and timely data.
"We have technology now that would allow recipient governments and civil society groups of all types to add their own information about the progress and effectiveness of every adaptation project planned and underway," said Roberts.
"By tracking funds all the way from taxpayers in developed nations to each expenditure in the developing countries, this system could create a new era in global cooperation, avoiding many of the pitfalls of past foreign aid," he said.
David Ciplet, a researcher at Brown University who worked on the study, said, "The big promises for adaptation funding made at Copenhagen are not being met. Rather, a fragmented non-system for deciding what counts as adaptation funding is forming, and there is no way to truly measure whether the promises are being met."
"Adaptation funding is absolutely crucial for the billions of people who face the rising intensity of climate disasters, but making promises is only the first step," said Ciplet.
"What matters now is that developed countries make good on their promises and provide the funding needed to enable vulnerable countries and communities to increase their resilience to climatic threats such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels and new risks from diseases and crop pests."
At UN headquarters, Orr said the longer countries put off funding climate solutions, the more expensive it will be, but he held out hope for progress in Cancun.
"There are enough issues that are close to resolution that give us hope that an important outcome could be achieved in Cancun," Orr said. "Negotiators need to remind themselves that the longer we delay, the more we will pay; both in terms of lives and in terms of money."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.
Carbon Emissions Dip In 2009, To Jump In 2010
By David Fogarty
22 November 2010
Singapore - Global emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide are on track to hit a record in 2010, a leading annual study said on Monday, driven largely by booming economies in China and India and their reliance on coal.
The Global Carbon Project, a consortium of international research bodies, also said annual emissions dipped 1.3 percent in 2009 from 2008 because of the global financial crisis. But the fall was less than half the decrease estimated a year ago.
"The real surprise was that we were expecting a bigger dip due to the financial crisis in terms of fossil fuel emissions," said Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project and one of the co-authors of the study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.
The findings come a week before the start of U.N. climate talks in Mexico aimed at trying to find a way for nations to agree on a tougher pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
But Canadell also said new data and reduced loss of tropical rainforests showed that emissions from deforestation had declined and now comprised about 10 percent of mankind's greenhouse gas pollution. Previous studies have said 12 to 17 percent.
Scientists say rising levels of CO2, the main greenhouse gas, from burning fossil fuels and deforestation is heating up the planet.
Canadell said 2009's drop would prove to be a blip.
Emissions from fossil fuels were projected to increase by more than 3 per cent in 2010 if economic growth stayed on track, he told Reuters by telephone from Canberra, Australia. This would mark a return to the high growth rates of 2000-2008, he added.
"The implication of this kind of growth rate is that you're quickly moving into well beyond the 2 degrees Celsius warming target," he said, referring to a level beyond which scientists say the world risks "dangerous" climate change.
Voracious demand for coal, oil and gas by China, India and Brazil as well as demand for their goods was helping drive the increase.
"Emerging economies are taking a bigger share of the global production of wealth and they do it with more carbon-intense energy systems," said Canadell, a senior scientist with Australia's top research body, the CSIRO.
In 2009, declines in fossil fuel emissions were largest in developed nations. For example, emissions from the United States, the world's second largest carbon polluter, fell 6.9 percent, Britain fell 8.6 percent and Japan fell 11.8 percent.
But emissions from the world's top carbon polluter China rose 8 percent, while India's increased 6.2 percent and South Korea 1.4 percent.
Despite the slight dip in emissions in 2009, the study showed concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued rising, reaching a record of 387 parts per million (ppm). This is compared with levels of about 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago.
Data shows the world has already warmed on average about 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past century and scientists say the globe is on track to suffer more powerful storms, higher sea levels and severe droughts and floods that could disrupt food supplies.
The findings also show that in 2009 the global economy had slipped in terms of energy efficiency because of an increased share of fossil fuel CO2 emissions from emerging economies.
The study says the carbon intensity of global gross domestic product improved in 2009 less than half of the long-term average. Carbon intensity refers to fossil fuel emissions per unit of GDP.
"Both globally and for emerging economies, the fraction of fossil fuel emissions from coal increased in 2009, as in 2008," the study says.
Canadell said better data and forest conservation policies in Brazil and elsewhere were making a difference in curbing emissions from deforestation.
"We found global emissions from deforestation have decreased through the last decade by more than 25 percent compared to the 1990s," he said.
But emissions were still more than three billion tonnes of CO2 a year or roughly three times the total emissions of the Japanese economy.
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)
Greenhouse Gases At Record Levels: UN Agency
By Jonathan Lynn
25 November 2010
Switzerland - Concentrations of the main greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached their highest level since pre-industrial times, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday.
Concentrations of the gases continued to build up in 2009 -- the latest year of observations -- despite the economic slowdown, the U.N. weather agency said in its latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
Rises in the amount of greenhouse gases increase radiation in the atmosphere, warming the surface of the Earth and causing climate change.
"The main long-lived greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have reached their highest recorded levels since the beginning of the industrial age, and this despite the recent economic slowdown," WMO Deputy Secretary-General Jeremiah Lengoasa told a briefing.
The findings will be studied at a U.N. meeting in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 to December 10 to discuss climate change.
Total radiative forcing of all long-lived greenhouse gases -- the balance between radiation coming into the atmosphere and radiation going out -- increased by 1.0 percent in 2009 and rose by 27.5 percent from 1990 to 2009, the WMO said.
The growth rates for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide were smaller than in 2008, but this had only a marginal impact on the long-lasting concentrations.
It would take about 100 years for carbon dioxide to disappear from the atmosphere if emissions stopped completely.
Carbon dioxide is the single most important greenhouse gas caused by human activity, contributing 63.5 percent of total radiative forcing. Its concentration has increased by 38 percent since 1750, mainly because of emissions from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and changes in land use, the WMO said.
Natural emissions of methane due for example to the melting of the Arctic icecap or increased rainfall on wetlands -- themselves caused by global warming -- are becoming more significant, it said.
This could create a "feedback loop" in which global warming releases large quantities of methane into the atmosphere which then contribute to further global warming.
These natural emissions could be the reason why methane has increased in the atmosphere over the past three years after nearly a decade of no growth, the WMO said.
Human activities such as cattle-rearing, rice planting, fossil-fuel exploitation and landfills account for 60 percent of methane emissions, with natural sources accounting for the rest.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)
World Should Eradicate Fossil Fuel Subsidies: IEA
By Gerard Wynn
10 November 2010
Abolishing fossil fuel subsidies would boost the world's economy, environment and energy security, the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday, referring to a pledge made by G20 countries.
World leaders committed in Pittsburgh in 2009 to phase out, over the medium-term, fossil fuel subsidies which encouraged wasteful consumption. A G20 meeting in Seoul this week may update progress on the goal.
"Eradicating subsidies to fossil fuels would enhance energy security, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution, and bring economic benefits," said the IEA, the energy watchdog to 28 industrialized countries, in its annual set-piece World Energy Outlook.
The report estimated such subsidies at $312 billion in 2009, mostly in developing countries, compared with $57 billion in subsidies for renewable energy.
Fossil fuel subsidies were on course to reach $600 billion by 2015, and renewables subsidies more than $100 billion, said Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist and lead author of the report.
Eliminating fossil fuel consumption subsidies by 2020 would cut global energy demand by 5 percent, compared with no action, and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 6 percent by then, said the IEA report.
Economists say that governments should penalize fossil fuels, to take account of the damage that greenhouse gas emissions will cause the climate, and blamed subsidies for encouraging waste and undermining greener alternatives.
Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, said on Tuesday that a G20 push to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry would be a "good start" to slow climate change.
Cash-strapped western countries are struggling to raise cash for renewable energy, which is often more expensive than conventional alternatives. The option of eliminating fossil fuel subsidies may appear more attractive.
Renewable energy needed support, said the IEA, especially given an expected, 10-year glut in gas which would suppress power prices and make renewables even less competitive.
"The gas glut will be with us 10 more years," the IEA's Birol told Reuters. "Cheaper gas prices will put additional pressure on renewable energies especially in the U.S. and Europe. If natural gas is as plenty and cheap as we think, then life for renewables will be even more difficult."
China would lead global uptake of all renewable energy technologies, helping to "bring the cost down compared to today by 20 percent between now and 2035," Birol said.
If recently announced policies to curb carbon emissions were enacted, under a "new policies scenario," renewable energy would reach one third of global power generation by 2035, catching up with coal, compared with 19 percent now, requiring $5.7 trillion of cumulative investment, the report found.
The use of biofuels would increase four-fold, meeting 8 percent of transport fuel up from 3 percent now. Greenpeace said that the IEA was underestimating the uptake of renewables.
The IEA said that pledges made by countries at last year's Copenhagen summit to curb carbon emissions would not meet the goal of limiting average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and that the cost of meeting that goal had risen by $1 trillion because of the extra carbon-cutting effort which would be needed after 2020.
World Bank fossil fuel projects do not contribute to energy access
Oil Change International Press Release
6 October 2010
Oil Change International releases a study that "dispels the myth that World Bank support for coal and oil projects increases access to energy for the world's poorest."
Washington, DC - A new report by Oil Change International, released on the eve of the World Bank's Annual Meetings, dispels the myth that World Bank support for coal and oil projects increases access to energy for the world's poorest. This finding stands in contrast to government, Bank, and industry claims that ongoing taxpayer support for these large coal and oil projects is necessary to alleviate energy poverty.
The World Bank has used arguments around increasing energy access - providing energy to the 1.4 billion people who lack access to electricity or the 2.7 billion still using wood or biomass for cooking and heating - to justify the approval of massive new coal-fired power plants like the Eskom plant in South Africa, as well as the continued funding of oil projects. But both Oil Change International's original research and the Bank's own analysis show that none of the Bank's coal or oil lending for the last two years have prioritized increasing energy access.
"World Bank officials justify massively polluting coal and oil projects by saying that they increase energy access for the poor - but that's just not true", said Elizabeth Bast of Oil Change International. "Our analysis and the World Bank's are remarkably similar. Energy from the World Bank's coal and oil plants go to support big industry, not the world's poorest."
"Once again, the research bears out that the world's poor do not benefit from fossil fuel projects," said Bast. "Not only do the poor suffer the climate impacts of increased fossil fuel emissions and impacts from local pollution, but they are also not receiving the energy from the same projects that damage their livelihoods. With so many in the world without energy, the World Bank must prioritize investments that ensure increased energy access for the poor instead of prioritizing fossil fuel projects for industrial use."
Some key findings from the report, World Bank Group Energy Financing: Energy for the Poor?:
- None of the 26 fossil fuel projects reviewed clearly identify access for the poor as a direct target of the project.
- The World Bank Group and the report authors agree that no coal or oil projects can be classified as improving energy access for the poor.
- In FY2009 and FY2010, funding for upstream fossil fuel projects and fossil fuel power plants dwarfed World Bank spending on access projects by 225 percent or $7.2 billion compared to $3.2 billion for access (according to the Bank's own assessment, which includes two questionable gas projects).
Some key recommendations from the report:
- The World Bank Group should end support for all fossil fuel projects that do not have as their sole purpose energy access for the poor.
- Lending should be increased for small-scale and large-scale renewable energy projects, which can improve access and shift countries to a low carbon economy.
The full report is available for download at:
Oil Change International campaigns to expose the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy. We are dedicated to identifying and overcoming barriers to that transition.
Celia Alario, +1-310-721-6517, email@example.com
Steve Kretzmann, +1-202-497-1033, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Bast, +1-202-641-7203, email@example.com