Vienna crowned again by Mercer’s “Quality of Living City Rankings” and we think it is the natural hub for the post-Paris2015 mechanism that will look at the implemetation of the Single-Country Committments.
After having decided that global agreements chased by the UN Headquarters in New York are just pipe dreams. All we can hope for is this network of individual country promises that in their sum-total can answer needs like a decrease in CO2 presence in the atmosphere while not forgetting goals of poverty reduction, energy, climate, security, or equity. We were grateful to President Obama when we realized that this was his thinking as well, and the Paris2015 Outcome – that some insist on calling the Paris Agreement – does in effect constitute the answer to our needs – but only if a “verification of progress” system is put in place.
We looked around and realized that most energy related UN affiliates are headquartered, or at least have a foot, here in Vienna. So I started this series of articles. The more I looked at this – the harder it became writing it – this because of the richness of material – literally daily I am involved in activities, or at least get material that all relate to these topics.
In this last posting I take the advantage of an exceptional boon – the fact that again Vienna was declared the most livable city in the World. This can clearly help. Would you not rather want to live in the best city in the World?
Besides the city of Vienna, among the first 31 out of the 230 cities with ranking by Mercer, we find a total of 8 cities from German speaking Europe; further 8 assorted cities from other Western Europe (Copenhagen, Geneva, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo); New Zealand/Australia account for 9 cities, Canada for 4 cities, Singapore that this year dropped to only 26th place, and highest ranked US city – San Francisco – at 28th place.
Paris is at 37th place, London at 39, New York and Tokyo are at 44-45.
Dubai is at 75th place, Abu Dhabi at 81, Taipei at 84.
First Developing Country city is Durban, South Africa, 86th place.
Buenos Aires, first Spanish speaking South American city is at 93rd place.
Tel Aviv is at 104th place, Brasilia at 106, Muscat, at 107, Tunis at 113.
Beijing, first city in China, is at 118th place. Istanbul at 122.
Mexico City is at 127th place, Riyadh at 164, Moscow at 167, Tehran at 203, Damascus at 224, and at bottom 230 Baghdad.
What are your conclusions from looking at the above?
Is it not so that you would rather like to live in Western Europe – in Vienna and surrounding countries? In Australia, New Zealand and Canada? Would you contemplate on reasons why some of the richest countries’ capital-cities are low on the list?
I will proceed now to review some of the most resent activities that occurred in the city of Vienna that were rooted with the city itself and not with organizations from afar planted here or organizations formed here in response to needs afar.
In our series we posted so far about: The IAEA Headquarters, The SE4All Headquarters The Outer-Space UN affiliates, The Laxenburg Palace based IIASA, and the Kommunalkredit Public Consulting Group that works with the Austrian Foreign Aid office connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Let us look now first at cultural life – and I will go after two amazing shows that just opened:
DER KONGRESS TANZT – “The Congress Dances” – an amazing Operetta that opened at the VOLKSOPER on the Guertel.
The Historical facts are that the Congress of Vienna (German: Wiener Kongress) was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815.
The Congress was intended to organize the post-Napoleon Europe and through that – the World. In many ways this was an attempt to create an overarching EU. All came except Napoleon who was left behind on his exile-island.
It was said that instead of being in session this Congress danced. The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of international meetings that came to be known as the Concert of Europe, which was an attempt to forge a peaceful balance of power in Europe. It served as a model for later organizations such as the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945.
Covering the lighter side of this Congress Erik Charell used some of the songs from a Con ference-time operetta and produced a film that was released in 1931. Recently, Richard Heymann extracted some of the music from the film, added some of his own, and with the help of conductor and arranger Christian Kolonowiits recreated the operetta that was released now in 2016. This because Vienna celebrated in 2015 the 200th anniversary of the Vienna Congress. This operetta, a parody of the Congress, approached gingerly by the Volksoper, is now the newest “must see” in Vienna.
The BURGTHEATER on the Ring, premiered this week Peter Handke’s – DIE UNSCHULDIGEN, ICH UND DIE UNBEKANTE AM RAND DER LANDSTRASSE (Those Without Guilt, I and the unknown on the edge of the country road) – a masterpiece of modern theater in the celebrated hall of classicism.
Handke (born in 1942 – the war years – his mother resettled in the village Griffin in 1948 after leaving the DDR) was a young Austrian writer (novelist, playwright and political activist) who believed that at the beginning there was the word. Handke’s first play was PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNG (Talking Rough to the Public) that automatically made him a sensation in Germany – Austria was too small for him those days. Back those years we saw his work and works by the German Hans Magnus Enzensberger at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – the old Brooklyn Opera House. Handke’s luck was that He was recognized by the German Director Claus Peyman who staged that first play and since then another 10 plays by Handke. Handke gained international attention after an appearance at a meeting of avant-garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
Landstrasse, stage work by Karl-Ernst Hermann, has a vague autobiographical content and ia all played out on the county road that connects his village Griffin with a neighboring village and in itself becomes a stage for the locals and the World at large. It reminds one of Martin Luther who already then saw the importance of taking reality to the streets – this for him a direct connection between humans and God. For Handke, this is not God but human truth. The simple staging – a broad white ellipse winding to a distant corner – is the path where the action walks by and we peep in on it. This is modern poetic theater at its best – a good place to relax when trying to deal with the World’s woes.
The action is not specific but rather full of hints and you get out really what you want to see. The hints include totaliarism – quite clearly a reminder of the villages Nazi past, butb then there are aspects of budding love and perhapse unanswered love and bitterness – but also hope for a better world.
I started with Vienna’s high locally centered life – but then there are musical events, not just Staatsoper and the Philharmonic, but locally produced musical events where Austrians play foreign folks to perfection. We just enjoyed evenings sponsored by the Austro-American Society with Irish and Mexican music. The Irish evening was held in a typical Austrian pub, and the Mexican and American event was at the organization’s Club rooms where the manager, an Austrian, is loved by all – an ideal American host.
But, the purpose of our Vienna series is not just to say that Vienna is the most livable city in the World – but that I contend that work with global scope can be performed right here – so let us look also at local organizations that can be enrolled in support of global activities – and the first to be mentioned is “the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA).” You will find there a department that deals with all global topics you may be interested to work on. Also, the city hosts many NGOs and great Think Tanks to work as local NGOs – sometimes connected to one of the many active Universities.
One such institution is “the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM).” I will mention the Presentation of last night by Professor Dr. Shalini Randeria, the IWM Rector, titled “Precarious livelihoods, disposable lives, and struggles for citizenship rights.” Dr. Randeria, from India, holds chairs at Budapest, Berlin, Zurich, and Vienna Universities. She has published widely on the anthropology of globalization, law, the state and social movements. Her presentation last night was the Keynote address at a IIASA and Forum Alpbach meeting at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on the occasion of the IIASA meeting called to formulate a “World in 2050″ Programme.
The Academy of Sciences public event – “Human Capital, Geopolitical Complexities, and Our Sustainable Future” had two panels (I) The release of a book by Professor Wolfgang Lutz – “Who Survives? Education Decides the Future of Humanity.
Panel II – Chaired by Professor Pavel Kabat, Director General of IIASA – had:
While the first panel dealt with education as an imperative if one wants to take advantage of the SDGs and in effect achieve the wished-for results, he second panel touched upon the topics that are the framework for the program-in-construction for the year 2050 and on tis we will deal separately.
The Paris Agreement, coal and Ms. Meier
As received from Marion Vieweg — marion.vieweg at current-future.org via lists.iisd.ca
Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.
Curious? Read the full story at: current-future.org/index.php/25-b…
And here it is:
Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.
One of the successes of Paris is the joint commitment to a complete change in our energy systems. The common goal to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” provides a strong political signal. It also calls for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” This will only be possible with a swift transition towards a fully decarbonized energy system.
To achieve the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, all sectors will need to contribute. Here are a number of reasons, why this discussion focuses on the electricity sector and specifically on coal-fired power generation:
Electricity is currently the largest emitting part of the energy sector in most countries;
Up to now, the impressive growth in renewable electricity generation has mostly addressed additional demand from growing economies. Renewable technologies instead of fossil fuel power plants formed part of new capacity built. For most countries event this is already a challenge. In 2014, only 45% of new power production capacity added globally came from renewable sources. In 2012 the World Resources Institute estimated that 1,199 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1,401,268 MW were being proposed globally. These numbers highlight the magnitude of the challenge. Even in Germany, home to the famous ‘Energiewende,’ new coal-fired power plants are in planning.
If we are taking the Paris Agreement seriously, then we need to not only satisfy additional demand with zero-carbon technologies, but need to start changing existing generation systems. To some extent, this can happen ‘naturally’ by closing down coal fired power plants at the end of their technical lifetime and replacing the capacity with renewable technologies. But in most countries, including Germany, this will not be enough, given the number of plants that went online in the last years and will go online in the next few years, and which have a technical lifetime well beyond the 2050s.
So why should Ms. Meier care?
Ms. Meier lives close to the Polish border in one of the three main lignite mining areas in Germany. Lignite has been mined in the area since the 1850s. The first power plant went online in 1894. Open pit mining has dramatically transformed the landscape and relocated a multitude of villages and towns. The region delivered the bulk of the energy fuelling the economy during the existence of the GDR. The sector has been the foundation of the economy for over a century and is deeply engrained in the regional identity. Today, only around 8,000 people actually work in the sector in the area, compared to more than 10 times as many in 1989. Still, salaries in the sector are significantly above average and make an important contribution to the local economy. Ms. Meier has a part-time job in a small engineering firm. Her husband works in one of the coal mining operations, as did his father and grandfather. They are afraid to lose their jobs if the mining and coal power generation ends, and wonder if their two children will have a future in the area or if they, like so many others have already done, will need to move away.
Economic studies show the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency technology to society. They are important and demonstrate the benefits to society as a whole. However, they rarely take a more detailed look at the regional and local level. This is where it starts to get difficult: The new jobs they create may or may not be in the same regions and may or may not require similar skills to those jobs that are lost. From an economic perspective at the national level this may not matter – from a societal, political and regional perspective it does. It also changes how we need to communicate, support and steer the transition.
Ms. Meier’s employer is member of a local initiative that promotes the continuation of lignite mining and power generation in the area. He is afraid that the closing of the lignite operations will damage overall economic activity, making his business unprofitable, causing his 15 employees to lose their jobs. The initiative runs a website, lobbies politicians and organizes public events. This is one of the many examples how fear creates resistance to change.
Many, who are directly affected, like Ms. Meier, fear for their jobs and well-being. Others fear for their profits while some just feel generally insecure of what this change will mean for their lives. In total, this often leads to a situation where decisions to close down old power plants or mines or not approving new ones will politically be impossible. We need to recognize that these fears are legitimate and that we need to address them seriously, appropriately and with respect – without compromising on the final goal: a full decarbonisation of the electricity sector.
If we don’t take the legitimate fears of people like Ms. Meier, her husband and the millions like them around the world seriously, Paris will fail to deliver.
Clear political signals for a phase-out of coal-fired power generations are only a first step. Politicians will find it difficult to send those signals, with strong local opposition rooted in fear. To overcome this and create a positive dynamic we need to consider five principles:
Build strong stakeholder coalitions at the regional level, involving everybody affected and all interest groups to define realistic phase-out scenarios: Yes, it is hard, but there is no way around talking WITH rather than AGAINST each other. A lot of time, energy and resources are currently used on all sides to generate biased information to inform public and politicians to promote individual vested interests. All sides need to work together and agree on basic facts that allow to start discussing SOLUTIONS rather than PROBLEMS.
Facilitate stakeholders to create an individual vision for a development that works in the given context: The solutions will, by necessity, be individual and different for each affected region. It is essential that all interest groups and stakeholders in a region define the vision as well as the steps required to get there. This allows tapping their detailed knowledge and experience, this way creating realistic pathways and ensuring ownership and commitment in implementation.
Tailor support instruments to the individual vision: The standard solution for policy-related structural change is to create a fund. This is a bit like creating a working group, when you are not sure what else to do, and then hope they come up with something useful. Money for required changes is certainly an important element to support regions. It will, however, not be effective, if not used in a targeted way and with a clear and realistic vision to guide activities. Additional support may be required, depending on the vision, including changes in the legal and regulatory framework or cooperation with other regions.
Learn from experiences: Structural change is not a new phenomenon. Especially the coal-mining sector has seen multiple changes over the last century due to economic shifts, through mines being mined out or becoming economically unviable. While these processes were often slow and thus easier to adjust to, some were rapid, like the changes in economic structure in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. But also other sectors have seen major changes, resulting in whole regions needing to readjust. The textile industry in large parts of Europe is one example for similar large-scale structural change that affects whole regions. We need to look at experiences made with such processes within the sector, but also learn from other sectors and across borders. The fundamental challenge of re-orienting the economy in a region remains the same. We need to look more closely at what worked, what didn’t and – most importantly – why.
Develop new business models together with utilities and customers: Utilities and companies operating coal mines and coal-fired power plants are naturally opposed to phase-out plans, as it promises to cut profits and requires changes to well-established activities. We need to acknowledge that these companies provide work for a lot of people and electricity to important parts of our societies. Their expertise on the functioning of the electricity system is vital for ensuring stable systems. We need to make them part of the solution, with a clear vision on their future role in a new system. This requires to let go of cherished stereotypes on both sides and the will to overcome differences to create something new and better for the benefit of all.
Germany, as all other countries, is only at the starting point of this new road. Globally, we need to start changing existing systems, not only adding on some renewables. A recent proposal to bring all stakeholders together in a coal ‘round table’ for Germany is a good starting point. If this process can also manage to address the regional challenges posed through the required structural change in a bottom-up process that involves all stakeholders, it has the potential to become a role model for other countries and regions that are facing similar problems globally.
If we take all concerns seriously and invite stakeholders to help shape their future rather than only react and block, we might – just – make it in time to prevent the worst effects of climate change and make the Paris Agreement a lasting success.
The so called Paris Agreement is an AGREEMENT only because it is not Legally Binding but it is important because CIVIL SOCIETY can act by demanding from their own governments to fulfill what they promissed – and do more!
By Sara Nelson, Jacobin
19 February 16
he Paris Agreement, achieved December 12 at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21), has been heralded as a “turning point for humanity” and “a new type of international cooperation.” In his remarks to the General Assembly following the close of COP21, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it “a triumph for people, the planet, and multilateralism.”
More critical voices have pointed to the “wrinkles” that mar the agreement, while influential climate scientist James Hanson has dismissed it as “just worthless words.” Most commentary falls in a middle ground, viewing the agreement as an important, if faltering, step in the right direction: even if we’re not entirely happy with what has been achieved, that something was achieved at all signals a “political will” for change.
But the drama and significance of the COP as an event isn’t primarily about the emergence of an agreement. The history of international climate negotiations — with the exception of the spectacular failure at Copenhagen — boasts a long line of Outcomes, Accords, and even Protocols. Throughout, emissions have continued not only unabated, but at an accelerated pace.
The COP as an event, then, does not simply represent the failure to contend with the ongoing catastrophe of climate change. Its very process perpetrates what Rob Nixon calls the “slow violence” of climate change.
Nixon uses this term to describe how contemporary imperialism transfers its toxic byproducts to peoples and ecosystems at the peripheries of the global economy, challenging us to recognize imperial violence in the cumulative, attritional, and mundane forms of death and disease that do not resolve into moments of spectacular destruction.
But if climate change is “slow violence” in terms of its cumulative effects, it is equally slow in its execution — and nothing illustrates this quite so effectively as the trudging pace of international negotiations.
Geopolitical power operates here in decidedly non-spectacular ways, through the procedural minutiae of negotiations over subtleties of wording. The drama of urgency around the production of an outcome distracts from the reality of negotiations as a long process of strategic refusal, whereby wealthy countries deny their historical responsibility for global emissions and thereby lock in catastrophic climate trajectories.
Rather than heralding the success of an agreement or rejecting it outright as a failure, we should attend to the COP as an instance of slow violence in action.
Unlike previous efforts, the substance of the Paris agreement is based on individual countries’ voluntary emissions targets, which each nation was encouraged to submit in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs.
The voluntary nature of these targets is the result of, among other things, the fact that a binding treaty including quantified emissions targets would need to be ratified by the US Congress.
Given political realities in the US, seeking legally binding emissions targets would have effectively excluded at least one of the world’s largest emitters. (During COP21, presidential hopeful Ted Cruz convened a congressional hearing on climate change entitled “Data or Dogma?”, in which he claimed that “for the past eighteen years . . . there has been no significant warming whatsoever” and that CO2 is “good for plant life.”)
The fact that quantified emissions targets were off the negotiating table in Paris sat in tension with growing pressure to establish a global limit for temperature rise. Whereas the 2-degree Celsius threshold identified at Copenhagen has long been the marker separating “acceptable” levels of warming from catastrophic ones, a new limit was asserted by a coalition of vulnerable countries and civil society groups in a mantra that reverberated through the COP halls: “1.5 to stay alive.”
If 2C was a political compromise more suited to northern latitudes, the 1.5 threshold aimed to move vulnerable nations from the peripheral vision of the international system to its focal point. As Tuvalu’s environmental minister proclaimed in his national statement, “If we save Tuvalu, we save the world.”
But things don’t look good for Tuvalu. According to a recent United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report, the current national commitments, if realized, would add up to a 2.7 degree increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels — well beyond the “acceptable” range for any part of the globe. Moreover, the large majority of developing countries’ national commitments are at least partially conditional upon international climate finance.
The substantive political problems of the COP therefore concerned whether and how developing countries will be provided with the financial support to respond to climate change; whether the most vulnerable countries will be entitled to compensation for loss and damage suffered as a result of climate impacts; and how the international community will contend with climate-induced displacement.
All these issues hinge on the crucial notion of “differentiation.” This principle, put forth in Article 3 of the UNFCCC, establishes the differential responsibilities of developed and developing nations regarding climate change, based on industrialized countries’ historical responsibility for causing global warming as well as their far-greater capacity to respond to it.
Based on this historical responsibility, developed countries have a legal obligation under Article 4.3 of the UNFCCC to provide developing countries with the resources necessary to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.
But while it is the cornerstone of the Convention, the notion of differentiation is something that developing nations cannot take for granted. The US and other wealthy countries have pushed for a reinterpretation of differentiation based on current emissions rather than historical ones, a move that would shift a large part of the burden to BRIC countries.
At the COP, all these problems of responsibility and obligation play out through the nuances of the text. Through all manner of minor turns of phrase and strategic omissions, rich countries continually seek to delink decisions from the provision.
Meanwhile developing countries are continually reinserting textual references to the Articles of the convention where this principle is enshrined. Up until the penultimate draft, the problem of whether the agreement would “be implemented on the basis of . . . common but differentiated responsibility” or would merely “reflect” this principle remained unresolved, although the US had been forced to back off its proposal to delete the relevant article altogether.
Should and Shall
The COP is a massive logistical and infrastructural endeavor that requires transportation, catering, security, and information services for 22,000 registered participants, where everything from lighting to menu design is a diplomatic affair.
Because the very process of negotiation is itself subject to negotiation, trying to keep up with the COP can be a disorienting experience. There is an established schedule of side events, press conferences, and “High-Level Segments,” but the time, location, and details of access to the negotiations themselves are in constant flux.
The confusion of the schedule is not just annoying for observers — it also bears geopolitical weight. During the second week of the COP, many developing nations with fewer delegates complained that they struggled to locate the “informal” discussions and “bilaterals” that COP President Laurent Fabius has convened in order to sort out particularly sticky political problems in the text, undermining their participation in the agreement.
Although Fabius has been praised for avoiding the backroom process that undermined the Copenhagen agreement, the problem of transparency is consistently raised by developing countries through debate over when, where, and how meetings should be conducted.
Inside the meeting rooms, the pace of events is markedly slower. The working documents are the product of years of negotiations, inaugurated by the Durban Platform in 2011, all of which have led up to the promise of a global agreement for the post-2020 period and an agenda for pre-2020 action in Paris. Lack of consensus is depicted by a succession of nested brackets, resulting in grammatically tortured constructions like this:
[[Developed country Parties [and other developed country Parties included in Annex II to the Convention][and Parties in a position to do so] [should take the lead and]][All Parties in a position to do so] [shall][should][other] provide [support][[new and additional] financial resources] to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation [as well as addressing loss and damage] [and others in a position to do so should complement such efforts].]
The weight of global futures that bears on each nuanced shift in language is more, apparently, than the text can withstand. Developing countries strongly favor that climate finance be “provided” by developed countries through public funds, whereas developed countries push for such resources to be “mobilized,” opening the door for private capital to fulfill the bulk of climate finance obligations.
In the final moments leading up to the agreement, the US threatened to back out altogether when a “should” was replaced with a more-legally-binding “shall,” a change that was quickly chalked up to a technical error.
Similarly, the seemingly innocuous afterthought urging “others in a position to do so” to “complement such efforts” carries particular import, as it would include rapidly industrializing nations such as China and India among those responsible for financing the mitigation and adaptation efforts of the rest of the developing world — a proposition that for these countries disavows the West’s historical responsibility for squandering the global “emissions budget.”
Much of the substance of differentiation comes down to the question of “climate finance,” or who will pay for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For many countries, the answer to this has been emissions markets. Through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), developed countries with binding emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol can “offset” their emissions by purchasing credits from offsetting projects in developing countries, where the cost of mitigation is cheaper.
Criticisms of the CDM for its failure to actually deliver on mitigation are nothing new, whether due to outright fraud or to the inherent flaws in emissions accounting. Equally ubiquitous are documented cases of the land- and resource-grabbing that often accompanies offsetting projects, especially those involving forest offsets. The CDM, as many have argued, is essentially a big loophole designed to enable developed countries to meet their emissions targets on paper without actually investing in infrastructural changes back home.
But since the market essentially collapsed from lack of demand in 2012, arguments in favor of the program have become even less tenable. Offset prices of one to three dollars per metric ton of CO2 undermine the whole economic logic of carbon markets, which is to “internalize” the cost of emissions and thereby provide a disincentive to emit (managing director of the IMF Christine Lagarde recently suggested that an economically efficient price for carbon would be far higher, around $30 per ton).
It was clear in Paris that the emissions trading industry had high hopes that the carbon markets might be revived in a new agreement. At a business-focused side event, Jeff Swartz, Director of Policy for the industry group International Emissions Trading Association, described the group’s lobbying efforts leading up to COP21, which included proposing specific wording for the agreement to delegates in 90 countries.
Whereas the current geography of carbon trading is a fragmented patchwork of regional and national markets, each with their own accounting and verification procedures, the Paris agreement could open the door for new international standards that would enable carbon to circulate seamlessly in globally-integrated markets. “Business wants rules,” Swartz said; it is up to governments, he argued, to create the necessary conditions that will expand foreign investment in climate finance and enable carbon to become a truly “fungible” commodity.
With Brazil and India among those pushing hardest for an expansion of emissions trading, the issue hardly marks a binary division between “developing” and “developed” countries; Patrick Bond recently wrote that “with regard to both world financial markets and climate policy, the BRICs are not anti-imperialist but instead subimperialist.” Nonetheless, the expansion of market-based climate finance such as carbon trading serves developed countries by shifting the burden of climate finance off of their public coffers and onto private markets.
At a COP side event on climate finance, a speaker from the Kenyan government demonstrated the extent to which some developing countries are overhauling their policy infrastructure in order to attract much-needed climate finance in all forms. Outlining Kenya’s “Elaborate Climate Finance Readiness Strategy (ECFRS),” he argued that developing countries need to establish legal, institutional, financial, and reporting frameworks that will make them as “attractive” as possible to the private capital flowing into climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The state’s role, the Kenyan speaker argued, is to provide the accounting frameworks, institutional support, and regulatory environment necessary to “liberate” the private capital flowing through a tangled network of financial channels.
This mandate that the developing state contort itself to the demands of private climate finance was countered by the speaker’s colleagues on the panel. The climate justice activist Mithika Mwenda pointed out that the whole point of climate finance is to support those necessary activities that don’t produce a return on investment.
Likewise, Mariama Williams of the South Centre, a consulting group that assists developing nations in international negotiations, was clear that “Climate finance arises out of one fact: historical responsibility.” This alone distinguishes it from voluntary development assistance.
In practice, however, this distinction is not so simple. According to the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative, with some monies going through public budgets, some through national climate funds, some through designated international funds, and some through private markets, tracing the flows of climate finance — and where they ultimately end up — is near impossible.
As Williams pointed out, the very confusion of climate finance flows is a strategy on the part of developed countries to overrepresent their contributions to developing countries. Moreover, as Mwenda described, developed countries tend to direct funds to institutions that they dominate, such as the World Bank, rather than the more democratic funds that serve the Convention.
In this light, the $248 million pledges heralded at COP21 for the Least Developed Countries Fund are not so much a boon as a belated acknowledgement that while billions are reportedly flowing into climate finance, the funds dedicated to making these resources available to the most vulnerable countries remain empty.
This is why developing countries pushed so hard for the qualifier “new and additional” to be added to the text on climate finance — it’s an attempt to ensure that climate finance means more than just a redirection of existing development assistance.
As the environmental minister of Tonga — one of the planet’s most climate-vulnerable nations — explained in his address to the COP, the country is already spending 30 percent of its overseas development assistance on climate change adaptation. Unless the climate finance promised for developing countries comes on top of existing development assistance, it effectively means that these countries will be sacrificing long-term development goals to the demands of basic survival.
Across town at Paris’s Grand Palais, the corporate perspective on climate finance was represented at the COP21 Solutions exhibit. Dubbed “The Climate Experience,” the exhibition by major energy, transportation, and beverage corporations sparked a protest in which activists were forcibly removed for calling out the environmental and human rights violations of companies participating in the event.
Inside the Grand Palais’s art nouveau pavilion, a display by the transnational energy, water, and waste management corporation Veolia invited the visitor to “Voyage to the land of +2C” through a set of white curtains. Inside, rather than submerged coastal cities and devastating droughts, the land of +2C was a “circular economy” powered by methane, in which the currency was the “price of carbon.”
Across the pavilion, on a stairway constructed in a form of a glacier, visitors donned goggles to embark on a virtual reality tour of Evian’s sustainability solutions while chickens pecked in the grass of a tiny barnyard maintained by the French oilseed industry group Avril.
Of course “The Climate Experience” for much of the world’s population bears little resemblance to corporate techno-futures of biofuels and cradle-to-cradle plastics. For most, that future is better articulated through the Paris agreement’s language of “loss and damage.” Loss and damage recognizes the limits of adaptation, beyond which affected countries and populations should be subject to some kind of redress for the loss.
But how and by whom this redress should take place is not easy to answer. Climate change is a “threat multiplier” that compounds existing stressors, making the “climate-induced” elements of loss and damage difficult to extricate from the social and political ones.
Yet the language of loss and damage has been crucial for developing countries and activists hoping to pry open a space for the possibility of compensation from high-emitting countries for the impacts of climate change — what some have referred to as climate reparations. Loss and damage compensation would transform the general acknowledgement of historical responsibility into a principle of liability.
As negotiations stretched on in midnight-to-5 AM meetings, there was a general sense of drama around the possibility of collapse. In the final hours of negotiations, COP President Laurent Fabius warned that Paris must not become “Copenhagen with more police.”
Differentiation is less strict than in some previous agreements (like the Kyoto Protocol), but it cuts through the entire text. Article 2, in a somewhat awkward compromise, asserts that “The Agreement will be implemented to reflect [my emphasis] equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.” This overarching statement — which the US wanted to delete entirely — is an important gain for developing countries.
It also “encourages” other Parties to do so voluntarily, to the apparent satisfaction of India and China who had strongly resisted being subject to the obligations of the major historic emitters in the West.
But the $100 billion promised in the decision text accompanying the agreement is actually a figure that was already negotiated eight years ago in Cancun; its presence in this text is simply testament to the unceasing work of activists and developing country parties to prevent the US and other rich countries from backsliding on this promise. It is also a number that pales in comparison to the $500 billion spent annually on fossil fuel subsidies, which receive scant mention in the agreement.
The agreement gives loss and damage its own section separate from adaptation, makes permanent the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage (established in 2013 and previously set to expire in 2016), and establishes a task force to address climate displacement.
In place of liability or compensation, however, the text prioritizes insurance-based solutions for vulnerable populations. As a final nail to the issue of reparations, the US has succeeded in gaining a general waiver that “Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”
Thus what has really been accomplished at the COP is the slow, careful work by which rich countries refuse to substantively accept their historical responsibility (and that of the corporations whose agendas they support) for the environmental devastation that threatens lives and livelihoods, and the very existence of many nations, around the globe.
But this is work that is far from complete. Developing countries have fought successfully and made significant gains in this process; indeed, since the 1972 Stockholm Convention on the Environment that helped to inaugurate the Third World Forum, international environmental politics has been an important arena in which formerly Third World countries have asserted national sovereignty.
In regard to climate change, however, the uneven geography of vulnerability intersects with that of geopolitical power, such that it is the most vulnerable countries who can least afford the hardline negotiating strategies that might undermine an agreement.
On the other hand, “non-outcomes suit the powerful,” by substituting the “performance of care” for substantive policy. Speaking for the Caribbean community, Barbados admonished delegates that the failure to acknowledge these uneven capacities and vulnerabilities constituted a “benign neglect” that would condemn island nations to “certain extinction.” In this context, climate change is not simply an unintended byproduct of colonial history, but an ongoing act of imperial violence.
Looking at the COP as a process of slow violence raises questions about the meaning of climate justice in the context of the UN system. In her coverage of Israel’s 1962 prosecution of Nazi SS commander Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt reflected on the basic juridical problem at the heart of the trial: to what extent could criminal law provide justice for the kind of “administrative massacre” perpetrated by the German state bureaucracy?
In the final paragraphs of her postscript to the trial report, Arendt distinguished between the notion of individual guilt and the fact of political responsibility, which “every government assumes . . . for the deeds and misdeeds of its predecessor and every nation for the deeds and misdeeds of its past.”
“It is quite conceivable,” she argued, “that certain political responsibilities among nations might some day be adjudicated in an international court; what is inconceivable is that such a court would be a criminal tribunal which pronounces on the guilt or innocence of individuals.”
Based on the process in Paris, such an institution would not be the UNFCCC, either. Through the principle of differentiation based on historical emissions, the UNFCCC establishes this notion of political responsibility as the basis for an international legal framework for contending with climate change. Nevertheless, the reality of international negotiations means that it falls far short of holding Parties accountable to this in practice.
If justice requires the capacity to judge, to allocate responsibility for wrongdoing, how is climate justice to be achieved in an institution that requires the consent of those who bear the lion’s share of that responsibility? What does the promise of a “just transition,” relegated now to the non-operative preamble of the text, mean without the ability to enforce that justice?
The lesson from COP21, as a political process and spectacle, is not only that our international institutions remain woefully inadequate for facing the structural violence that underpins modern life. Arendt highlights how the performance of justice, by failing to confront its own limitations, risks perpetuating the atrocities it seeks to address. The COP21 was nothing if not such a performance, in which the language of “climate justice” was invoked by heads of state and delegates from rich countries and poor alike.
The ongoing violence of climate change demands that, rather than seeking justice in an institution fundamentally incapable of delivering it, we confront the question inspired by Nixon. How do we create institutions that hold actors responsible for “a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all”?
The Paris Agreement is not an outcome to be celebrated or rejected, but a series of foot- and handholds along a path that remains a steep climb.
The presence of loss and damage, the up-front acknowledgement of differentiation, the mandated reporting and updating of national contributions every five years, and the mention of a 1.5 Celsius temperature limit all provide imperfect tools with which to demand state policy that would make the targets meaningful.
All of these tools, as Kate Aronoff has noted, are the results of years of struggle, and all of them will continue to be grasped by activists at the forefront of that struggle. As Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental law, put it:
It’s simply easier [if the mention of human rights is] in the operative text; but I can tell you, lawyers like me, and lawyers around the world, will be taking those existing rights, they’ll be taking this preamble, and they’ll be taking every word of this text against any party who tries to block human rights.
Because it’s international in scope, the agreement can provide a common point of gravity among a diversity of local movements on the front lines of the struggle to keep fossil fuels in the ground, to address climate-related displacement, and to prevent land grabbing under the guise of sustainable development.
Much of this will have to happen at the national or sub-national level, as it is in domestic law where the goals articulated in the INDCs will or will not take legal form. With the recognition that “the legalities standing in the way of justice” demand that environmental activists, labor unions, indigenous movements, and coalitions of climate-vulnerable peoples continue to take climate justice into their own hands, the Paris agreement may provide a framework for strengthening existing solidarities and forming new ones.
[ THE CONCLUSION OF THIS ARTICLE IS IN OUR OPINION: }
There is a danger, however, that the COP process itself, in its attritional slowness, will drain vital energy and resources from efforts to build more effective climate justice institutions. Without rejecting the international process as simply dysfunctional, we should be wary of how its particular functions can absorb and redirect activist energy that might be better spent elsewhere.
As Sarah Bracking and M. K. Dorsey caution, “having an inflated and not very well proved faith in the ability for supranational structures to change our future . . . detracts from efforts to build it ourselves in the everyday now.” In these efforts, the Paris Agreement might be one more tool in the shed, but only if it is taken up with the understanding that the institutions capable of delivering on climate justice are yet to be built.
To the Attention of India and China: The Important States of California, New York and Washington, and several other States, Will Continue Voluntarily to Follow the Obama EPA Regulations on Reduction of Climate Change, even under the Republican Ruled US Supreme Court of Justice.
THE NEW YORK TIMES Politics section:
By CORAL DAVENPORT February 10, 2016
Photo — A coal-fired power plant behind homes in Poca, W.V., in 2014. Credit Robert Galbraith/Reuters
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s surprise decision Tuesday to halt the carrying out of President Obama’s climate change regulation could weaken or even imperil the international global warming accord reached with great ceremony in Paris less than two months ago, climate diplomats say.
The Paris Agreement, the first accord to commit every country to combat climate change, had as a cornerstone Mr. Obama’s assurance that the United States would enact strong, legally sound policies to significantly cut carbon emissions.
But in the capitals of India and China, the other two largest polluters, climate change policy experts said the court’s decision threw the United States’ commitment into question, and possibly New Delhi’s and Beijing’s.
Supreme Court Deals Blow to Obama’s Efforts to Regulate Coal EmissionsFEB. 9, 2016
“If the U.S. Supreme Court actually declares the coal power plant rules stillborn, the chances of nurturing trust between countries would all but vanish,” said Navroz K. Dubash, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “This could be the proverbial string which causes Paris to unravel.”
Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change
The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. We get it. This is your cheat sheet.
The court did not block the rule permanently, but halted it from being carried out in the states until legal challenges against it have been decided, a process that could take a year or more. Legal experts said the justices’ decision to stop work on the rule before any court had decided against it was unprecedented and signaled that the regulation might ultimately be overturned. That could set back the United States’ climate efforts for years, although there would still be a chance for Washington to meet its commitments by 2025.
“If the American clean energy plan is overturned, we’ll need to reassess whether the United States can meet its commitments,” said Zou Ji, the deputy director general of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, a government think tank in Beijing.
Mr. Zou, who was an adviser to the Chinese delegation at the Paris negotiations, said by telephone: “It had seemed that with the American commitments, it was possible to get on the right emissions path globally. But without those commitments, that could be a blow to confidence in low-carbon development. In China domestically, there is also resistance to low-carbon policies, and they would be able to say: ‘Look, the United States doesn’t keep its word. Why make so many demands on us?’ ”
Paris Climate Change Conference 2015
Paris Climate Accord Is a Big, Big Deal
Silence on the Climate Pact From the Republican Candidates
The Paris Climate Pact Will Need Strong Follow-Up
Republicans on Campaign Trail Largely Ignore the Climate Deal
A Climate Deal, 6 Fateful Years in the Making
Mr. Obama sought to change that with aggressive but politically controversial Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. With those rules, Mr. Obama won agreements from China and India to enact pollution reduction plans and helped push other countries to sign on to the Paris measure.
What the Supreme Court’s Decision to Halt Climate Regulation Means:
Answers to questions about the court’s decision to temporarily block the Obama administration’s effort to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Under Mr. Obama’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, the United States will cut its emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, largely through the E.P.A. regulations on power plants and a mix of rules reining in pollution from cars, buildings and other sources. All of those policies were set to be carried out briskly so they would be well underway by the time Mr. Obama left office.
White House officials insisted on Wednesday that the rule would eventually be upheld, and that given the timetable for litigation and for meeting the target, the United States could still achieve its Paris commitment.
A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, pointed to other greenhouse gas reduction policies Mr. Obama had established to help meet the 2025 target, including a federal budget agreement late last year that included long-term extensions of tax credits for wind and solar power.
Still, the Supreme Court’s decision ensures that climate policy will not be set on Mr. Obama’s watch. A Federal District Court will hear oral arguments on the climate rule June 2 and is expected to issue its decision later this year, but an appeal to the Supreme Court is all but certain. If the justices agree to hear the case, a ruling is unlikely before June 2017.
If the rule is eventually overturned, the E.P.A. is still required by law to put forth a regulation controlling carbon dioxide emissions. That rule would be shaped by the next president and face its own legal gantlet, pushing action years into the future.
More Reporting on Climate Change
A Climate Deal, 6 Fateful Years in the Making Dec. 14, 2015
But most states are expected to halt their compliance efforts. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, had already been urging governors to refuse to comply with the plan. “These regulations are, in my view, likely illegal,” Mr. McConnell said Wednesday. “Yesterday’s Supreme Court order is just the latest sign of that. If nothing else, it shows we were right to let governors know their options.”
American policy experts said that the Supreme Court decision might be the first of many fractures in the deal.
“This pushback is not something that’s unique to the United States,” said John Sterman, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who attended the negotiations in Paris. “It’s happening all over the developed world.”
Poland and some other coal-reliant countries have resisted the European Union’s commitment under the agreement to more stringently reduce emissions across member states.
Already, some people close to the climate talks worry that the events in the United States could lead to a repeat of what happened after the signing of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first major climate change treaty. Vice President Al Gore, a staunch environmentalist, negotiated the treaty with other world leaders, but the Senate voted against it. Then President George W. Bush pulled the United States out entirely.
The Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have pledged to continue and strengthen Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, so a rule developed by their administrations would probably let the country meet its Paris goals.
But Republican contenders, including Donald J. Trump, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have questioned or denied the science of human-caused climate change and sharply criticized the climate change regulations and the Paris Agreement.
“The Supreme Court just clarified the stakes for the American people in the election when it comes to climate change,” said Nigel Purvis, the president of the Climate Advisers consulting group and a climate diplomat under Bill Clinton and Mr. Bush.
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Climate change means more fear, less fun for global middle class – UBS
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Mon, 11 Jan 2016
In a study of middle-class consumption in 215 cities around the world, UBS analysts found spending priorities were noticeably different in cities most at risk from climate change such as Los Angeles, Tokyo and Shanghai.
In those top-risk cities, the middle class spent between 0.6 and 0.8 percent more on housing compared to the national average, and less on luxuries, entertainment and durable goods.
The report said middle-class households are already changing their lifestyles in the cities most exposed to hotter temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather such as storms and floods.
“More fear, less fun is how we might sum it up,” said the study.
In places with high risks of climate-related shocks, people spend more on the upkeep of their properties. And homes may decrease in value if certain places become less appealing to live, eating into wealth, the report said.
Efforts to adapt to changing climate conditions – which remain modest and sporadic among the middle class – can also bring new costs.
In cities that suffer extreme heat, the middle-class is increasingly laying out for air conditioning, the report noted.
But some types of adaptation can create “a negative feedback loop”, it warned. For instance, higher demand for air conditioning requires more electricity, which can lead to grid failure and increased planet-warming emissions.
In addition, inadequate infrastructure and health care systems increase the need to rely on emergency government support when disasters strike. “In our assessment this is likely, even in the richest of countries,” the report said.
The largest cities are home to nearly a quarter of the global population and generate around half of global GDP, the report said.
Most of the global middle class lives in Southeast Asia, the region that has experienced the fastest urban population growth in recent years, it noted.
But 91 percent of weather-related losses in Asia are uninsured, it added, compared with 32 percent in the United States, which had the highest level of insurance penetration in the study sample.
DRIVER OF CONFLICT
The report also said climate-driven population shifts into urban areas have the potential to create and exacerbate conflict, as in Syria.
In the course of five years of drought starting in 2006, Syria lost 85 percent of its livestock and saw crop production plummet, child malnutrition worsen and the subsequent migration of 1.5 million residents from rural to urban areas.
“These conditions led to protests, which ultimately escalated into civil war,” Zurich-based UBS said in a statement.
However, the political and social clout of middle-class populations means their vulnerability to climate change risks should translate into pressure on governments to tackle global warming, the report noted.
“The middle class has two important qualities that make them critically important to the conversation about climate change: substantial assets and political influence,” said Paul Donovan, global economist and managing director at UBS Investment Bank.
“If the effects of climate change significantly hurt the middle class, the inevitable reaction should in turn elicit a strong response from policy makers.”
(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
DIA-CORE project has the pleasure to announce the DIA-CORE Regional Workshop“Best Practice Policies To Finance Renewable Energy”, to be implemented on the 29th of January 2016, in Vilnius, Lithuania, hosted by Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI).
Main aim of the DIA-CORE Regional Workshop is to present and analyze the current policy performance and financial conditions for RES investments, as well as renewable energy support schemes in the region.
To download Workshop’s Agenda and info: diacore.eu/news-events/events/ite…
For more information about the workshop stay tuned at the event’s webpage!
IRENA’s two added workshops during World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, that will be held January 16-21, 2016.
from: Virginia Yu <VYu@irena.org>
Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 2:22 PM
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announces two side events at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE – 1) Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy, 18 January, and 2) Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, 19 January.
1) The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy will take place on 18th January, 2016 at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) – future home of World Fair 2020), Abu Dhabi. The purpose of this workshop is to gather information and ideas from stakeholders that can feed into IRENA’s development of the medium-term strategy (1-2 years) for the Global Atlas. Workshop participants will engage in a practical discussion around how the Global Atlas can help overcome barriers to renewable energy development, generate ideas for more effective communication on the Global Atlas, and investigate the needs and ideas of data providers.
To register, please send an email to potentials at irena.org by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please read the final event concept note and announcement. Please connect to: www.irena.org
2) The Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, in collaboration with DLR will take place on 19th January, 2016 at IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.
With this training, IRENA gives an introduction of the capabilities of such tools and how they may be used to improve the design of policies for solar energy. To register, please send an email to carsten.hoyer-klick at dlr.de. We would be grateful to receive your confirmation by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please see the attached PDF.
IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City | P.O. Box 236 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Tel: +97124179988 | Mob: +971566161584 | www.irena.org
Solar-Med-Atlas Workshop for Policy Makers.pdf 164K
Training Schedule 10:00h – 10:45h
- Introduction and expectations of the participants
- Analysis of the data in Geographical information systems (demonstration) – Interpretation of results
- Conclusions and further questions. Short assessment of the Global Atlas
Please bring along your laptops, to be able to participate in the hands on exercises.
Transportation: Shuttle bus will be provided from ADNEC at 9:15am going to IRENA HQ, then leaving again at 4:00 pm from IRENA HQ going to ADNEC
We thank IRENA for hosting the workshop in their headquarters.
It was not Exxon alone, in the 1980′s The American Petroleum Institute had a “CO2 and Climate Task Force” and Texaco was most progressive – asking API develop ground rules for energy release of fuels and the cleanup of fuels as they relate to CO2 creation.”
By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams
26 December 2015
It wasn’t just Exxon that knew fossil fuels were cooking the planet.
New investigative reporting by Neela Banerjee with Inside Climate News revealed on Tuesday that scientists and engineers from nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company may have for decades known about the impacts of carbon emissions on the climate.
Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry’s most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to “monitor and share climate research,” according to internal documents obtained by Inside Climate News.
According to the reporting:
Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon’s and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force.
“It was a fact-finding task force,” Nelson said in an interview. “We wanted to look at emerging science, the implications of it and where improvements could be made, if possible, to reduce emissions.”
The “CO2 and Climate Task Force,” which changed in 1980 its name to the “Climate and Energy Task Force,” included researchers from Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco and Sohio, among others.
One memo by an Exxon task force representative pointed to 1979 “background paper on CO2,” which “predicted when the first clear effects of climate change might be felt,” noting that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily.
“In his conclusions section, Laurmann estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would double in 2038, which he said would likely lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures with ‘major economic consequences,’” Banerjee reports. He then told the task force that models showed a 5 degrees Celsius rise by 2067, with ‘globally catastrophic effects,’” Banerjee reports.
Bruce S. Bailey of Texaco offered “for consideration” the idea that “an overall goal of the Task Force should be to help develop ground rules for energy release of fuels and the cleanup of fuels as they relate to CO2 creation,” according to the minutes of a meeting on Feb. 29, 1980.
The minutes also show that the task force discussed a “potential area” for research and development that called for it to “‘Investigate the Market Penetration Requirements of Introducing a New Energy Source into World Wide Use.’ This would include the technical implications of energy source changeover, research timing and requirements.”
“Yet,” Banerjee notes, “by the 1990s, it was clear that API had opted for a markedly different approach to the threat of climate change.”
The lobby group teamed up with Exxon and others to form the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), which successfully lobbied the U.S. to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.
The damning revelations are the latest in an ongoing investigation into what the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change and then suppressed for decades—all while continuing to profit from the planet’s destruction.
Reports that Exxon, specifically, lied about climate change were published early October in the Los Angeles Times, mirroring a separate but similar investigation by Inside Climate News in September. Those findings set off a storm of outrage, including a probe by the New York Attorney General.
Nelson, a former head of the API task force, told Banerjee that with the growing powers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the early 1980’s, API decided to shift gears.
“They took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists,” he said. “They weren’t focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry’s impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry. That’s not meant as a criticism. It’s just a fact of life.”
We are familiar with fossil-fuels industries science arguments – but the new thing that surprised me was that “Truthout” internet site gives them a venue for publicity as in:
“Climate Change 2015: The Latest Science”
Oh well, but those questionable scientists quoted did push a little too far. They actually claim that Kyoto had it better then Paris – and that Kyoto was going to fulfill Rio. Does that mean that the Truthout Analyst gives away here that the Kyoto fake solution was also sponsored by the oil&coal folks that were active in Kyoto under the mantle of the International Chamber of Commerce?
We wrote our own assessment of the so called Paris Agreement – this after we first submitted it to the OUTREACH MAGAZINE for their final issue of the conference – the evaluation and summary issue.
The problem with most assessments that find shortcomings with that agreement comes from the fact that they are authored by peple that were involved in the UN and its conferences that produced absolute nothing and wasted us 20 years. THey were chasing some elusive and impossible dream to get all the cats and dogs to find a meaningful way by consensus on how to handle the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
We pick here the assessment we got from Mr. Gleckman now fron Maine and Chappaqua, New York.
He was involved – as he says – via the UNFCCC as Former, Senior Advisor to UNFCCC at the Copenhagen COP15; and was
The approach he represents is the one that asks for that elusive legal binding agreement that we know we cannot get. So President Obama settled to stay with the voluntary promises by governments – even he knew they will not add up to what is needed. But he also banks correctly on Civil Society to come out from the UN basement and in full daylight demand governments’ honesty and the increase of the voluntary promises to the true needed levels. The first swallow of this kind was the Patrick Sciarratta led rebellion of Civil Society, backed by six UN Member States, against the negatively oriented UN DPI. Patrick succeeded and others will as well. I pot here the Gleckman letter and hope our readers will fill in the voids.
Seven questions about the ‘successful’ Paris COP
A good number of commentators on the Paris COP have shared views that could be summarized as “COP was a success-but.” Others have appraised the COP as a complete ‘success’ or a fraud .
The ‘success but’ message depends heavily what criteria one has for judging a successful outcome of an international negotiation.
Clearly some countries, UN-system, and some media commentators, have domestic and international rationales for declaring a ‘success’ in Paris – even it is just the act of concluding an agreement irrespective of the contents of the agreement, or whether it actually changes in the world for the better.
The following questions look at the definition of success but in different ways. They are intended to challenge a number of the presumptions behind the assessment of ‘success but’ advocates.
1. Goals and reality: a profound gap – The COP formally adopted a below 2 degree goal and de facto approved a 3.7 degree package of intended nationally determined contributions.
Why is so much post-COP attention on the goal and not on the planet instability of what Governments accepted? Or put in another way should the outcome of the meeting be called the Paris 1.5 degree COP or the Paris 3.7 degree COP ?
2. Free riders galore : – The intended nationally determined contributions are only promises about the future.
Based on the COP outcome, what arguments could be made to a Government that its best short-term economic and political interest is not to cut its emissions and quietly expand its existing industrial system and let everyone else make the GHG cuts ?
3. Five year fictions : Each year that mitigation cuts are postponed means that a higher and sharper level of cuts are needed to bring the carbon budget down to a less than 2.0 degree goal.
If governments in 2015 could formally adopt a below 2 degrees goal with the knowledge that the aggregate impact of the declared nationally determined contributions come to 3.7 degrees, what evidence is there that they would they have even greater political willingness for sharply increased mitigation cuts at five year stocktakings ?
4. A fantastic non-enforcement system : Under most bilateral investment treaties, MNCs can file complaints before a binding arbitration panel that an action taken by a specific Government reduced their expected level of profitability and that the foreign investor should be compensated by that Governments for damages.
As the Paris Agreement invites voluntary national contributions, what arguments can a Government use to defend itself before a binding arbitration panel from a MNC which seeks compensation for loss expected income ?
Climate change does not exist in a vacuum – In the Paris negotiations a good number of important policy areas were deleted by the chairs and host government from the final text of the Paris Agreement.
Why did the Paris COP disconnect climate change from the management of oceans, human rights, gender, workers, mountains, health effects, oil and gas subsidies, international transport emission, climate migrants, carbon black, carbon budget, historical responsibility, the trade regime, agricultural destabilization, etc ?
6. Financial support – now you see it and now you don’t – One outcome of the Copenhagen process five years ago was a commitment to have $100 billion available for developing countries by 2020. Since Copenhagen Governments have recognized that annual costs from 2020 are likely to be 3-5 times larger than the $100 billion ‘commitment’
Is there a greater commitment to have money available for developing countries to reduce GHG emission or prepared for the impacts of climate change in the Paris Agreement than in the ‘failed’ Copenhagen Accord ?
7. Voluntarism, voluntarism – where is the rule of law -
Under the Paris Agreement (and under the Copenhagen Accord) Governments were authorized to submit their voluntary national goal posts and GHG reducing plans to the UNFCCC. Under the Paris Agreement Governments agreed to have a 5 year stocktaking of these plans without any process to adapt these plans to meet the less than 2 degree goal.
Does the practice of voluntary national implementation included in the Paris Agreement enhance or undermine the future development of international rule of law in other environmental, social, human rights and economic regimes?
Al Gore’s heart was in the right place but his political know-how questionable and his leadership caused harm to his cause. Later on, in his run for the Presidency, Al Gore found himself squeezed between his own decision not to let Clinton help him – and the Green ‘Naderites’ that found him lacking in part because of the failure to find support for the Kyoto Protocol. President Obama was well familiar with the two great mistakes of Al Gore: 1) The fact that he did not understand that the Senators will never allow for a U.S. unilateral decrease in emissions if the growth of China and other countries will not bear a proportion of the responsibility. 2) That you must not speak of a legally binding international agreement because you really do not want to risk a vote in the Senate.
Looking back at the history of sustainable development and climate change, one has to start at the Rio Summit of 1992 with its high point in Agenda 21 and then go to COP1 of the UNFCCC in Berlin (1995) and jump to Kyoto (1997), followed by the empty years of the G.W. Bush/Cheney administration – until we reach the Copenhagen COP15 of 2009. That is when newly elected President Obama made his first move by going to Beijing on his way to the Conference in an attempt to make inroads with China. The Chinese agreed for the first time that they have grown to the point that they ought to worry about the effect of their emissions on the global environment and climate – but they were not ready to take the plunge without sharing this with the other BASIC countries – Brazil, India and South Africa. It took six more years for that first effort by President Obama to bear the fruits of the Paris COP21. Now the subject has opened up with nearly all countries having made voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agreed to report their achievements on a cyclical basis. It is obvious the present commitments are only a first step in the right direction; it is anticipated that negotiations will now be possible between participating countries to further increase their efforts to decrease emissions. But one must start somewhere and Obama led to this starting position. The Senate cannot undo this.
The fact that in the meantime we saw the evolution of a sizable middle class in China that demands clean air has induced President Xi to be cooperative, but he still must keep an image of a developing country in his relationships with the old industrialized world and the lesser developed states. He is therefore slow in accepting outside monitoring of his forthcoming efforts – something that relates extremely well with another lesson President Obama has learned from Al Gore’s mistakes. President Obama does not want a strict legally binding agreement in his fight to move the world onto a path of slowing the effects of climate change. Why should he be interested in being undone by a Republican Senate obstructionist rejection?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pincas Jawetz, Editor of SustainabiliTank.info Media and former Consultant on Energy Policy.
for the complete issue of OUTREACH MAGAZINE please look at google for “OUTREACH MAGAZINE ISSUE OF December 18, 2015″