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Reporting from UNFCCC Meetings:


Posted on on November 22nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

The French have extended the State of Emergency till Monday November 30 – the day the Climate Conference COP 21 is opening, but
an added statement has been issued on the official French Presidency’s COP 21 website – that says:

The COP21 conference should enable a global mobilization for climate and civil society is expected to play its full role.

Civil Society will therefore be present on-site at the venue Le Bourget, where the “Espaces Générations Climat” will host, for the whole duration of the Conference, from November 30 to December 12, more than 300 events, debates and conferences. A major mobilization, with many events, is planned throughout France. All these events will continue, except for school trips to the venue in Le Bourget.

However, the situation created by the heinous attacks on 13 November and the investigations carried out since then require that security measures be improved. In this context, all events taking place in closed spaces that can easily be made secure will be maintained. On the other hand, in order to avoid any additional risk, the Government has decided to not allow the climate marches planned in the streets of Paris and other cities throughout France on 29 November and 12 December.

The Statement continues with – “This is a difficult decision to make that will probably disappoint some of those who had planned to take part, but in the current context, safety requirements prevail.”

The leadership of the UNFCCC has seized on this to warn those it does not like – activists and media not sanctioned by them – to stay away. They also continue to argue that the Conference will conclude with a global agreement – something that is factually not in the cards.

The French decision does not, in any way, put into question the need for COP21 to widely welcome civil society and its organizations, who will play a major role at the conference.

The Conference will conclude with individual countries voluntary commitments – by now over 150 such Statements – and it is the role of Civil Society alone – to catalyze the governments forthcoming with substantial commitments. The UNFCCC – working by UN rules of consensus – hardly has a part in this. A decrease in the size of country delegations or in the number of UN officials will not harm the outcome, and Civil Society hopefully will realize the importance of orderly meetings.



Jan Lundberg
 jan at

Submitted on 2015/11/25 at 8:03 am

Hi Pincas, thank you for that clear rundown on what’s up.
See you in Paris, old Kyoto roomie?
We have a flyer and a poster for promoting sail power as legitimate renewable energy, for which poor countries can gain aid from the UN and the EU. And we have an alternative, more flexible, more carbon-reducing wording for the shipping emissions Option in the Draft Agreement.
Please contact me through or via email.
Thanks, and be well,



Posted on on October 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

AG Globale Verantwortung, Dreikönigsaktion, IUFE, KOO, Paulo Freire Zentrum.

Die Transformation unserer Welt? Die Umsetzung der UN-Ziele für Nachhaltige Entwicklung in Österreich und Europa

29.10.2015, 19 Uhr, VHS Urania, Dachgeschoß, Uraniastraße 1, 1010 Wien

Anmeldung unter:



Posted on on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Convening from 19-23 October 2015, the Bonn Climate Change Conference was the last in a series of meetings under the UNFCCC in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21), scheduled to take place in November-December 2015, in Paris, France.

In their scenario note  ADP.2015.7.InformalNote), ADP Co-Chairs Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (US) identified the objective of the session as intensifying the pace of text-based negotiations among Parties, with a view to preparing the draft Paris climate package for presentation at the opening of COP 21.

At the end of the week-long meeting, Parties issued two non-papers, one containing draft agreement text and draft decision text related to the agreement (workstream 1 of ADP’s mandate) and the other containing draft decision text related to pre-2020 ambition (workstream 2).

The full and best reporting of what went on in Bonn can be found at:…
Summary of the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 19-23 October 2015, Bonn, Germany.

Going over the Summary it becomes clear – if it was not before – that there will be no UN document ready for the Paris meeting and that UN bickering will continue – be assured that some Arab State will find space to bash Israel. All what the UN can do is to bring the problem to the public’s attention, and it is left to the public to push their governments to make a commitment, that is in those countries where a public opinion counts.

Paris COP 21 of the UNFCCC will not be a wash. This thanks to the fact that over 150 countries have already presented their commitments to act on Climate Change. Take for instance the US where by now commitments from companies that are joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, bringing the total number of US companies that have signed onto the pledge to 81. Together, these companies have operations in all 50 US states, employ over nine million people, represent more than US$3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over US$5 trillion.

And yes, in the EU, Japan, Brazil there are similarly industry commitments – pushed by the public. In China and India as well, the public pushes for government action on pollution of any kind and this includes a better understanding of Climate Change disasters.

In a more general way see the The International Energy Agency’s evaluation of the situation:

The IEA’s “Energy and Climate Change: World Energy Outlook” tells us that full implementation of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by mid-October would decouple power sector emissions from electricity demand but would still lead to an average global temperature increase of around 2.7°C, which falls short of the declared “major course correction necessary” to stay below an average global temperature rise of 2°C.

The Outlook Special Briefing for COP21′ analyzes INDCs submitted by more than 150 countries, accounting for close to 90% of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and assesses in particular their energy sector-related impacts.

According to the briefing, given that energy production and use account for two-thirds of global GHG emissions, “actions in the energy sector can make or break efforts to achieve the world’s agreed climate goal” of staying below a 2°C temperature rise.

The briefing examines what the energy sector will look like globally in 2030 if all INDCs are fully implemented, and whether this will place the energy sector on a path consistent with the 2°C goal.

If implemented, the INDCs will lead to an improvement of global energy intensity at a rate almost three times faster than the rate since 2000. Emissions will either plateau or decline by 2030 in countries accounting for more than half of global economic activity at present. Of new electricity generation through 2030, 70% will be low-carbon.

The IEA estimates that the full implementation of the INDCs will require US$13.5 trillion in investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies through 2030.

And excerpted from a bright blogger for Huffington Post (UK):

Over the past three decades annual climate talks under the United Nations banner have become part of the Zeitgeist of a large movement. They draw government officials, think tanks, civil society, journalists and the occasional hipsters into negotiations over which ride trillions of dollars and our future well-being on Earth.

Expect a lot of drama at the next instalment, taking place in Paris in late November – early December.

Heads of state will make grandiose pronouncements.

Negotiators from 190 countries will huddle, whisper, argue over words for days and bargain in stuffy rooms in a style that would make bazaar traders proud.

Civil society will push for strong outcomes, prod for more climate finance, demonstrate occasionally (a welcome activity in Paris), express anger followed by frustration before going home let down again.

The press and the public will turn an inattentive, occasional eye to the 45,000 people gathered in Paris, then turn their attention away.

The private sector, two-thirds of global GDP and employment, will be largely absent (it is not formally represented in the negotiations) and mostly ignore the whole thing.

At the end, governments will cobble together a weak agreement to set emission reduction targets. Some will declare a major win, others will accurately note that we need to do much, much more. Then everyone will go home in time for the Christmas holidays and most of COP21, as the Paris UN gathering is known, will be forgotten.

Deeply buried in this cacophony are two emerging themes with the potential to significantly impact the private sector.

National Low Carbon Business Plans

A Paris climate agreement, no matter how wobbly, will involve more than 150 countries publishing mini business plans for their economy describing what each will do to help limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. In typical UN jargon, these low-carbon business plans are known as INDCs, short for “intended nationally determined contribution.”

The INDCs are the driving force of COP21 and will become the development pathway for all countries. Weak and general at first, they will become stronger and more detailed over time.

Two major consequences will follow.

First, multi-trillion dollar investment opportunities for the private sector will be clearly delineated, while others, far from where the country is heading, should be avoided.

For example, India’s business plan shows it wants to increase its clean energy generation capacity from 36 GW today to a whopping 320 GW by 2030. Similarly, China wants an extra 775 GW of renewables by 2030, on top of its existing 425 GW, the US wants to add an extra 179 GW and the EU another 380 GW.

Taken together, that’s double the world’s current renewable energy installed capacity (excluding hydropower) in investment potential, all of which comes with strong institutional support now that it is anchored in an INDC.

Second, the breadth of these INDCs means that within a few years, all finance will be climate finance; and all bonds will be green bonds.

We already know the commitments in Paris are nowhere near enough: The US, Europe, and China alone use up the world’s entire carbon budget by 2030. Therefore it’s reasonable to expect that they will get tougher, tighter and more precise with time because countries will be under increasing pressure to deliver, as climate change hits all of us harder and harder.

Post-2020 (the INDCs will most probably be reviewed in five year cycles), there is therefore likely to be a “wall of shame” hitting anyone who invests in non-INDC compatible, non-climate friendly technologies. In fact perhaps we will see “black bonds” emerge, highlighting investments that are increasingly unacceptable and at risk of being stranded because of their high emissions.

INDCs will make green investments even more mainstream than they are today and ensure that dirty investments are avoided on a long-term scale.

Loss and Damage

“Loss and damage,” another major theme in Paris, could have enormous financial consequences.

“Loss and damage” refers to the need to account for the impact of climate change, for example on a small island nation losing territory because of sea level rise. An element of climate negotiations for several years, its significance could be enormous for insurance companies, reinsurers, financial analysts and the markets.

Governments will continue to argue whether loss and damage is a euphemism for liability and compensation. Richer nations will end up ensuring that the answer is vague, and that therefore they can’t be held liable and won’t have to pay compensation.

However, the door is likely to be kept open for clever lawyers to use the “loss and damage” aspects of a climate change agreement to launch claims against companies: Victims of climate change will aggressively try to go after corporate polluters for compensation, particularly the likes of Exxon, Shell and BP who have known about climate change for decades but either buried the evidence or ignored it to accumulate profits at the expense of our collective health and well-being.

The results of these claims could be shocking for many. The Dutch proved earlier this year that climate liability lawsuits can stand up in courts.

The business and the financial world will be markedly absent from Paris, but should closely monitor the evolution of INDCs and of “loss and damage” in Paris. These could upend how they currently do business.

From the above, we conclude that COP 21 of the UNFCCC in Paris will have picked up from where COP 15 of Copenhagen left the Climate Change issue. Copenhagen was where the Kyoto stillborn Protocol was buried by Obama bringing for the first time the Chinese on board, now it will be the Obama-Xi alliance that will bring most true Nations on board. And let us not forget Pope Francis and the ethics of “we are the creation’s wardens.” This resonates very well with much of the public and helps the businesses that will move green.

We will not go to the opening of the Paris meeting, but will be there for the end – this so me can evaluate the outcome which promises to have practical value.


Posted on on September 14th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Republicans are going all out to sabotage a global climate deal
By Joe Romm on 12 Sep 2015 12 comments
Cross-posted from Climate Progress

Over the past year, GOP leaders, driven by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have made a radical shift in the party’s public position on climate change. They are now actively seeking to destroy a global climate deal.

In any other universe this would be a major news story. But I guess the mainstream media has become so jaded to what the Koch brothers and Tea Party have done to the Republican party at a national level, that this radical shift seems just like another dog-bites-man-story, albeit one where the wound is fatal.

In fact, for most of the past quarter-century, most of the GOP leadership has at least given lip service to the idea that global warming is a global problem that needs a global solution. Not only have they abandoned that public position, but they now apparently believe the role of the “exceptional” and “indispensable” nation is to actively work to undermine the world’s best chance to save billions of people — including generations of Americans — from needless misery.

In its Monday piece, “GOP to attack climate pact at home and abroad,” Politico reports:

Top Republican lawmakers are planning a wide-ranging offensive — including outreach to foreign officials by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office — to undermine President Barack Obama’s hopes of reaching an international climate change agreement that would cement his environmental legacy.

Let’s set aside Politico’s ridiculous framing, whereby the purpose of Obama’s efforts to achieve a global climate treaty is strictly personal and political — to “cement his environmental legacy” — rather than what it in fact is, moral and science-based, to avert centuries of misery for billions of people. For Politico, such framing is a feature, not a bug.

What’s radical is the nakedly immoral and self-destructive greed underlying McConnell’s strategy, which includes one of his aides “informing foreign embassies about GOP plans to oppose Obama’s strategy on global warming.”

Consider that the Pope’s recent climate encyclical expounded at great length on the immorality of global climate inaction. So the immorality of intentionally trying to thwart the first truly serious effort aimed at global action is far beyond immoral.

As recently as 2008, leading Republicans, including the party’s presidential nominee John McCain, campaigned on national climate action.

But the election of President Obama with large Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate made the possibility of national climate action far more real. So fossil fuel companies, the Koch brothers, and the like seriously ramped up efforts to block action, with a special focus on the Senate after the House passed a major climate bill in June 2009.

One of the arguments opponents of U.S. action have always used is that there will never be a global deal where developing countries like China will agree to limit emissions. In this argument, since China et al., are responsible for most of the recent growth in carbon pollution, their refusal to act renders U.S. action pointless — or even worse, it might put put us at an economic disadvantage by making our carbon-intensive products more expensive.

Indeed, this “we can’t do it without China” excuse became a mantra for G.O.P. party leaders.

As recently as June 2014, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal editorialized against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan this way:

Mr. Obama’s logic seems to be that the U.S. should first set a moral example by imposing costs that reduce our prosperity. This will then inspire China (8.7 billion tons), which produces and consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, to do the same to its 300 million people who still live on pennies a day. Good luck persuading Xi Jinping.

Be careful what you wish for, deniers! As Jonathan Chait points out, “The exact sequence Obama tried to bring about has, in fact, happened. China has done the thing conservatives insisted it would never do.”

Last November, the Obama administration leveraged the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which cuts carbon pollution from the electric utility sector, to get Xi Jinping to announce China’s game-changing commitment last year to peak CO2 emissions in 2030, “and to make best efforts to peak early.”

McConnell immediately complained he was “particularly distressed” by this deal because it supposedly “requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years.”

In fact, China had also pledged to double its carbon-free power capacity between 2015 to 2030, essentially building an entire new U.S. electrical grid, but one without CO2 emissions — which immediately gave the lie to the notion that the U.S. would some how suffer economically if we made the far smaller changes to our electrical grid needed to meet the EPA’s CPP targets.

As if to directly rebuke McConnell, two weeks later the the Chinese announced that they would peak in coal consumption by 2020! By the spring it was clear that the Chinese would beat their coal and CO2 targets by several years.

McConnell apparently decided his crusade to persuade GOP governors to simply defy the new EPA standards and thereby block U.S. climate action wasn’t enough. Team McConnell would have to actively try to persuade foreign leaders that the U.S. would not make good on its pledge. And so Politico reports that “a top policy aide to McConnell (R-Ky.) has had conversations with a select group of representatives from foreign embassies to make it clear that Republicans intend to fight Obama’s climate agenda at every turn.”

{My God – McConnell behaves on the Obama-Xi Climate Deal exactly as he did on the Obama and Others Deal with Iran on the Nuclear issue Deal. McConnell and his cohorts are stuck in a Hate-Obama attitude that is purely anti-American – this because they are anti-Obama from day one – the day they expressed doubts that Obama was born in the USA. My comment – PJ of}

Yet, the deal poised to come out of Paris is exceedingly good from the United States’ point of view, as I’ve discussed. “The U.S. climate plans are at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution,” as the independent analytical team at Climate Action Tracker put it — doubly so because we are the richest country in the world and the single biggest cumulative contributor of carbon pollution.

McConnell’s actions end the pretense that the GOP leadership has any interest whatsoever in trying to globally address the gravest preventable threat America faces. As Chait notes, “The speed at which Republicans have changed from insisting other countries would never reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions to warning other countries not to do so — without a peep of protest from within the party or the conservative movement — says everything you need to know about the party’s stance on climate change.”

I’m not sure a major political leader has ever pursued a strategy that is so directly counter to the health and well-being of all Americans, their children, and the next 50 generations. The Pope ends his encyclical calling on God to “[e]nlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out.”

If indifference to the dangers of climate inaction by the rich and powerful is a sin, how immoral is it for the rich and powerful to actively try to block the entire world from acting?

One final note, especially for international readers: No matter what McConnell does, the truth is that the United States will meet the CO2 targets President Obama has made. Indeed, I am certain this nation will surpass them. Why? As morally and scientifically urgent as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is now, that urgency is going to grow exponentially over the next few years, as global temperatures and extreme weather soar, and the dire nature of our situation becomes painfully obvious to more and more people.


Posted on on September 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

In the run-up to Paris2015 Kevin Rudd of the New York based Asia Society argues that “U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris,” Lord Nicholas Stern said that there will be a complete change in what the planet will look like in 100 years from now, and Christiana Figueres said that what countries have prepared for Paris is insufficient, but she hopes that in those 100 coming years they will be more forthcoming.

On August 28, 2015 – on CNN International’s Amanpour – Kevin Rudd, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) President, discussed the effects of climate change – with Lord Nicholas Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and international climate policy, with Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Noting that projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions would cause average temperatures to rise by three-and-a-half to four degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, Lord Stern said “that is very dangerous territory” that the planet hasn’t seen “for around three million years,” since the end of the last Ice Age.

“These kinds of temperature increases are just enormous and would rewrite where we could live, where the rivers are, where the seashores are, what the weather is like,” said Lord Stern.

The poorest areas of the world would be “hit strongest and earliest,” he added. “Probably most of Southern Europe would look like the Sahara Desert.”

Figueres said that countries’ national climate change plans, which governments have been announcing ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December, will fall short of “where we should be, according to science, to be on the two degree [temperature increase] pathway.”

The resulting gap “will not be filled in Paris,” Figueres said. “It will not be filled in January.”

She noted that the Paris climate agreement “is being constructed, actually, as a progressive effort over a certain period of timeframes, during which countries need, and will be able to, because of increased technology and further capital flows … increase their contribution to the solution.”

Video: Kevin Rudd discusses climate change with Lord Nicholas Stern and Christiana Figueres on CNN International’s Amanpour.

Related Links
Kevin Rudd on CNBC: Don’t Confuse the Chinese Stock Market with Overall Economy
Kevin Rudd in the New York Times: U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris



Ms. Christiana Figueres – the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC will end her contract at the end of this year after the conclusion of the Paris 2015 meeting – having guided the organization through all this preparatory years. It is being suggested that her candidacy be submitted for the 2016 selection process for next UN Secretary-General position. She would be the best informed person to lead the UN in the crucial 2017-2026 period when Climate Change and Sustainability become main UN topics under the incoming title from Paris – “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.


UN climate chief: No such thing as ideal pace for pre-Paris talks

4. Sep, 13:47

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres countered criticism that preliminary talks for a Paris climate treaty were moving too slowly. “There is no such thing as an objective [ideal] pace of negotiations that everyone can agree on”, she said at a press conference Friday after a round of talks in Bonn.


Posted on on September 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

At its 70th Birthday – the UN was finally pushed to accept a true presence of Civil Society. The 2015 NGO Conference at the United Nations has established finally the idea that People at the UN ought to be as important as the Governments. Up to now this idea was a fiction at the UN, and the UN had never considered this idea seriously.

In our opinion, the 2015 NGO Conference, that thanks to this year’s UN DPI choice not to have their traditional yearly DPI/NGO Conference, constitutes a revolutionary event – that will make from now on the UN more relevant for the post-2015 Era.

Some history:
The UN came into existence on October 24, 1945 with 51 Founding Members – the winner or survivor Nations of World War II.
The idea was to create a new World that will not allow such a calamity anymore. 50 Nations signed at the Founding Conference in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, and the last to join was a reconstituted Poland that signed on October 15, 1945.

Those 51 Nations are: The Driving Force of Five – Republic of China, France, USSR, UK and USA and the other 46 – Argentina, Brazil, Belarus SSR, Chile, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Haiti, Iran, Lebanon, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, The Philippine Commonwealth, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine SSR, Yugoslavia, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iraq, Liberia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Peru, Union of South Africa, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The Foundation Document is the CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS and in its Preamble it says: “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS determined TO SAVE SUCCEEDING GENERATIONS FROM THE SCOURGE OF WAR, WHICH TWICE IN OUR LIFETIME HAS BROUGHT UNTOLD SORROW TO MANKIND, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental HUMAN RIGHTS, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of NATIONS LARGE AND SMALL, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and ….”

Three years later, under UN Secretary-General Mr.Trygve Lie of Norway, and under the leadership of Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt, above preamble was fleshed out with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at a meeting in Paris.

The International Bill of Human Rights – the larger document – consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and two Optional Protocols.

In 1966, the General Assembly adopted the two detailed Covenants, which complete the International Bill of Human Rights.

In 1976, after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law. This is the first real contribution to make the UN Charter a truly important document to humanity at large.

Next further enlargement in above direction had to wait until 2004 when Mr. Kofi Annan of Ghana was UNSG. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P or RtoP) – a proposed norm that sovereignty is not an absolute right, and that state-governments forfeit aspects of their sovereignty when they fail to protect their populations from mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations (namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the like. In 2004, following the genocidal violence in Rwanda and the Balkans, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Juan Méndez as Special Adviser to fill critical gaps in the international system that allowed those tragedies to go unchecked. In 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Francis M. Deng on a full-time basis at the level of Under-Secretary-General. He also appointed Edward Luck as the Special Adviser who focuses on the responsibility to protect, on a part-time basis at the level of Assistant Secretary-General. Both Special Advisers Francis Deng and Edward Luck ended their assignments with the Office in July 2012.

Above two elaborations to increase the meaning of the UN Charter came about as it was obvious that leaving Sovereignty only to Governments – some of which are in denial of rights of their citizens – cannot be seen as the only guarantor of peace. This brings us to events at the UN that led to the very successful Conference of last week – the subject of this report and our first article of a series we intend to use in order to highlight the change at the UN with this newly found true importance of Civil Society.

The present introductory article may seem to some a bit long – but our intention is to help with this article smooth the way to the true understanding of the nature of the problem with an institution run by Member States of uneven quality – that push for unanimity in decision making so that it by necessity in the best cases aims to a lowest common denominator, and to paralysis in the worst cases – all this without really being serious about the lip service to the non-Governmental Sector – the so called NGOs.

To the question – “What is the UN?” – the conventional answer these days is a collection of 193 Nations and two Observer delegations. But in effect even that is not true because the UN has become its own body and the vested bureaucracy does in effect manage without taking the temperature of a consensus and in cases we observed – even without backing decisions taken by the Secretary-General. It is the country that put the employee on its quota of the staff that makes his decisions while on the job.
In our future articles we will point out such cases. For now, also as an introduction, we are returning to the PREAMBLE to the UN CHARTER – to that line that says: “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS” – a very much misrepresented line that speaks of “PEOPLES” – not PEOPLE and neither PEOPLES’ – but PEOPLES.

In our opinion – PEOPLES refers to Nations – some of whom became Member Nations of the UN in 1945 but many were left outside the UN – either as occupied Nations belonging to those Member Nations, and some completely unrelated to the newly budding UN. We believe that it was the Roosevelt couple that saw the need to address issues like decolonization and other oppressed Nations – and foresaw that eventually all those Nations will have to get their sovereignty and join the UN – this beyond the needed freedom to the individuals whose problems are described by the word PEOPLE with sort of a plural as PEOPLES’.

Now to what has happened in 70 years – the growth from 51 Member States to 193 Member States plus two Observer States (the Vatican and Palestine) for what the UN likes to call the total of 195 Sovereign States – but that is also only part of those that claim Statehood.

Further – there are 6 States with partial recognition ranging from Northern Cyprus recognized by only one State to Kosovo recognized by over 100 States. This list includes also Taiwan, Western Sahara, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Then the Cook Islands and Niue behave as if independent, without claiming independence and breakaway States Nagorno-Karabach, Transnistria, and Somaliland are de-facto independent States bringing the total of independent States to 206.

Three more breakaway States are more controversial as they are in active war zones – The Islamic State, The Lugansk and the Donetsk People’s Republics – the total of States in the news is thus 209 – and this only for starters. What about the Catalans, Basques, Scots, the Flemish people, the Maori, Aboriginals, Hopi, Inuits, Samis, the Massai, etc. etc. All people with distinct cultures and occupying a definite piece of land. It is only a question of time until they claim their independence. Will the UN employees stand in their way not to allow them to claim what they deserve? What is the bottom line for UN Membership?

Some professional organizations have interim numbers. The World Olympic games recognize 209 States that include also Puerto Rico, Bermuda and Aruba; while the soccer or football Federation has 209 members that break up the UK into its 4 constituent countries.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has 249 country codes that include 49 Inhabited Dependent Territories, 6 Uninhabited Territories and even Antarctica (1).

Having reached now the mountain of UN staff. Naturally they did get the jobs to serve the interests of their home quota State in an understanding that they work for and within the organization. So, the UN Department of Public Information – the UN DPI – as an organization is intended to be a laudatory to the UN rather then a dispenser of true information. On this obviously is then superimposed the layer of service to their home-State – their own Sovereign leader. If the interest of the latter conflicts with the interest of the UNSG – so it is the UNSG who is over-ridden as this happened for years on topics like Climate Change.

DPI made sure that only those media that had not climate change on their mind were allowed to function at the UN as media – the decree was that the topic was a topic for NGOs and not for the UN and the Press – this without attention to changes in policy at the UN Secretariat. That is the background of the UN DPI being ready in 2015 to ditch its responsibility to run the DPI/NGO yearly Conference for 2015 and transfer it out of sight to Korea for 2016. That was seemingly the decision of Mr. Maher Nasser – an interim Head of DPI. But this was a very fortunate mistake of the UN as it allowed an initiative by Civil Society to wrestle the subject away from the UN bureaucracy and develop the conference independently without interference from the UN. NOW THIS IS WHAT WE WILL BE DEALING WITH FROM NOW ON – or at least until the UN wrestles the subject back into their own hands.

Friendship Ambassadors, an NGO active at the UN, undertook the organization of the UN DPI rejected 2015 Conference and easily enlisted the backing of six UN Member State delegations: Canada, Denmark, Korea, Sao Tome and Principe, Suriname, and Ukraine.
Thailand volunteered as well but did not get anymore into the publicity. A new active head of the CONGO DPI section of the NGOs took over from the more lethargic previous head and many NGOs joined in the effort – so did the NGO organizers of the post-2015 NGO effort at the UN. In short – CIVIL SOCIETY WOKE UP AND PROVED ITSELF. Foundations made sure that the exercise will not falter because of lack of funds. The success was preordained and we will be describing the meetings in our future postings in this series. Thank you for your attention. The new UN DPI head – Dr. Christina Gallach from Spain asked to join the effort that went underway without her office help. We hope the NGOs will work with her but continue to keep the effort running with headquarters outside the UN.

FURTHER: I must note that with all this activity – THE NGO 2015 CONFERENCE going on downstairs in Conference Room #1, upstairs at the UN Media Section – the daily PRESS CONFERENCE – had no information about this activity – so UN accredited media got no official press releases making thus sure the news about CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVITY AT THE UN was not passed on to the global public at large.

On the day the Conference ended – Thursday August 27, 2015 – the Spokesman for the UNSG – a function of the UN DPI – did not hold a Press Conference whatsoever. Seemingly he did not think that there was anything worthwhile to report from the UN.
WE hope the new USG in charge of the UN DPI will make it her business to supervise this lack of attention that her personnel attaches to Civil Society.


Posted on on August 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

From a [UNFCCC medialist - UNFCCC global list for media mailouts] PRESS RELEASE

UNFCCC Establishes Regional Collaboration Centre for Asia-Pacific Region in
Partnership with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) to
Help Speed up Spread of Clean Technologies.

(Bonn, 27 August 2015) – Clean technology in developing countries has
received a further boost with the establishment of a centre to promote the
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Welcoming the establishment of the centre in Bangkok, Thailand, just months
before the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Christiana Figueres,
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) said: “A CDM hub in Asia-Pacific comes as nations are set
to ink a new universal climate agreement in Paris in December. The
agreement needs to trigger an ever deeper transition to a low carbon
economy and by the second half of the century a climate neutral
world—scaled up finance, innovative technologies and creative market
mechanisms that benefit people and the planet will be central to these

The Centre will be operated in partnership with the Institute for Global
Environmental Strategies (IGES) and will support all countries in the
region in identifying and designing CDM projects and offering opportunities
to reduce transaction costs. It will work in collaboration with the other
Regional Collaboration Centres (RCCs) in Africa, Latin America and the

Professor Hironori Hamanaka, Chair of the Board of Directors of IGES,
praised the inter-agency cooperation as an important step towards attaining
the goals set by the international community to combat climate change. He
said: “We are honored to work in partnership with the UNFCCC in Asia and
the Pacific, and this Regional Collaboration Centre in Bangkok will further
tap the potential for CDM projects in the region.”

The CDM allows emission reduction projects in developing countries to earn
certified emission reductions (CERs), each equivalent to one tonne of CO2.
CERs can be traded and sold, and used by industrialized countries to meet a
part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

This is the fifth CDM RCC established by the UNFCCC in partnership with a
regional organization. The first centre was established in January 2013 in
Lomé, Togo to increase participation in CDM projects in West and
Francophone Africa. A second centre was established in Kampala, Uganda to
serve the rest of Africa. A third was established in Saint George’s,
Grenada to assist in the development of CDM projects in the Caribbean, and
a fourth was set up in Bogotá, Colombia to support underrepresented
countries in Latin America.

The Asia-Pacific RCC will be hosted in the IGES offices in Bangkok and will
become operational on 1 September 2015.


For further information please contact:
David Abbass, Public Information Officer, UNFCCC at:
 CDM-Press at, +49 (0) 228-815-1511

Augustine Kwan, Programme Manager, IGES at:
 iges_pr at, +66-2-651-8797

About the CDM
The clean development mechanism (CDM) allows emission reduction projects in
developing countries to earn certified emission reductions (CERs), each
equivalent to one tonne of CO2. CERs can be traded and sold, and used by
industrialized countries to meet a part of their emission reduction targets
under the Kyoto Protocol. With more than 7.600 registered projects in more
than 100 countries, the CDM has proven to be a powerful mechanism to
deliver finance for emission-reduction projects and contribute to
sustainable development.

About the UNFCCC
With 196 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997
Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC
Parties. For the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 37 States,
consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the
process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission
limitation and reduction commitments. The ultimate objective of both
treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at
a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate

About IGES
IGES is a non-profit, research institute headquartered in Hayama, Japan
with offices in Kansai, Kitakyushu and Tokyo, as well as in Bangkok,
Thailand and Beijing, China. Information on IGES research, networks and
events are available on the IGES website:

See also:
Twitter: @UNFCCC | Español: @CMNUCC| Français: @CCNUCC
Facebook: UNcarbonmechs
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres on Twitter: @CFigueres


Posted on on August 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Last night – August 18, 2015 – in New York City – we went to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center to listen to a performance of perfection – Joshua Bell playing Bach – the Chaconne dating from 1720 and the Violin concerto in E major dating to “before 1730.”

I thought this became a subject for our website because of an article by Lars Gustafsson that was part of the printed program brochure that was handed out to us. The title “THE STILLNESS OF THE WORLD BEFORE BACH” – the fact that we might think that it might seem there was no great music before Bach – BUT THERE MUST HAVE BEN SOMETHING THERE BEFORE 1720.

Then I thought = wait the steam engine was developed over a period of about a hundred years by three British inventors. The first crude steam powered machine was built by Thomas Savery, of England, in 1698. Savery built his machine to help pump water out of coal mines – only in 1781 James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion.

So we can say that the development of the steam engine, that brought about the industrial revolution, went on in parallel with the development of music that started with Bach and if we may say continued with Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart.

Could we say that some form of life did exist before we started to use coal en-masse and invented concepts of economic growth and development? What was the life we replaced? What was the cultural expressions we lost when accepting the progress in music?
The Gustafsson article stimulates our thoughts.

Gustafsson – since the late 1950s has produced poetry, novels, short stories, critical essays, and editorials. He gained international recognition as a Swedish writer with literary awards such as the Prix International Charles Veillon des Essais in 1983, the Heinrich Steffens Preis in 1986, Una Vita per la Litteratura in 1989, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry in 1994, and several others. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His major works have been translated into fifteen languages, and Harold Bloom includes Gustafsson in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994). John Updike offered high praise for Gustafsson’s The Death of a Beekeeper in his collection of criticism, Hugging The Shore.

Gustafsson said once “I listen. I listen and I look. Creativity knows no rules. You can get an idea for a novel from a little something someone says, or just a face you see. A rabbi once told me that when God spoke to Moses in that bush, it wasn’t in a thundering voice; it was in a very weak voice. You have to listen carefully for that voice. You have to be very sharp.”

In May 2009, Lars Gustafsson declared that he would vote for the Pirate Party in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament

Lars Gustafsson: The Stillness of the World Before Bach

There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor partita,
but what kind of a world?

A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-Tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.

Isolated churches
where the soprano line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters’ axes
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child’s ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater’s stillness before Bach.

published in New Directions Paperback NDP656, “The Stillness of the World Before Bach: New Selected Poems” by Lars Gustafsson.

Yes – there was a harmonious world even without the sound of Bach – that is what I took from the above poem.
Surely, I did not transform this into a feeling that this was a better world – simply I picked up that it was still a livable world that could exist with simpler pleasures.

Nevertheless we are thankful to Bach for having shown us the way to perhaps a higher level of civilized pleasures. How does this translate to the Steam-engine thought that we understand today as a step backwards – because of the dependence on fossil fuels?

But this would be a wrong conclusion – it would be more correct to see that we can get all those benefits from higher technologies like we get from Bach’s music, if we only opt to use Renewable Energy and even higher tech methods that allow us similar results without that pesky dependence on oil and coal. Gustafsson was right in in opting for the Pirates in his search for true enlightenment in a corrupt world.


Posted on on August 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

BBC – Science & Environment

Islamic call on rich countries to end fossil fuel use.

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.

“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!

“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”

The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.

Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.

“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.


The Islamic Climate Declaration says that the world’s 1.6bn Muslims have a religious duty to fight climate change.

It urges politicians to agree a new treaty to limit global warming to 2C, “or preferably 1.5 degrees.”

The Declaration asks Muslims, in the words of the Koran, “not to strut arrogantly on the Earth”.

The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth
Fazlun Khalid, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science

Drafted at an international symposium in Istanbul, the Declaration calls for “all people, leaders and businesses …to commit to 100% renewable energy”.

It also argues for increased financial support for communities vulnerable to climate change.

The main focus though is on “well-off nations and oil-producing states,” who are urged to lead the way in phasing out greenhouse gases, no later than the middle of this century.

The Declaration calls on the rich countries, to recognise their “moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth’s non-renewable resources”.

“People need to be told and politicians need to stop misleading their people, in telling them they can go on increasing their standards of living for ever and ever and ever,” Fazlun Khalid, a long time Islamic environmentalist involved in drawing up the Declaration, told BBC News.

“Someone should be articulating this because it’s an impossibility, they can’t do it – And this applies not just to Muslim countries.”

The call has been supported by religious leaders including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, the president of Indonesia’s major body of religious scholars as well as environmental groups and government officials from Morocco and Turkey.

But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.

“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!

“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”

The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.

Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.

“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.

The authors of the Declaration say that it will be available in mosques and madrassas around the world.

They hope that it will influence political leaders in Muslim countries to become more fully involved in global attempts to deliver a new treaty on climate change, expected to be signed in Paris in December.

While around 50 countries have so far posted their plans for curbing climate change ahead of the meeting in Paris, very few Muslim countries have been among them.

I asked Fazlun Khalid if religious divisions between Muslims were a bigger issue at present than climate change.

“In spite of their differences we want Muslims to wake up and think and realise that this is a problem that affects every inch of this planet, in spite of their differences, under their feet something is happening, a deep plate shift in the Earth’s crust,” he said.

“In spite of our differences we have to take this on, as the major issue affecting the whole of the human world.”


Posted on on August 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Breaking Latest forecast suggests ‘Godzilla El Niño’ may be coming to California
By Rong-Gong Lin II

The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”

At the moment, this year’s El Niño is stronger than it was at this time of year in 1997. Areas in red and white represent the warmest sea-surface temperatures above the average. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge – their climatologist Bill Patzert)

To see the graphs – please go to Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stones – our source at:…

Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.

“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

After the strongest El Niño on record muscled up through the summer of 1997, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.

A strong El Niño can shift a subtropical jet stream that normally pours rain over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America toward California and the southern United States.

But so much rain all at once has proved devastating to California in the past. In early 1998, storms brought widespread flooding and mudslides, causing 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage in California. Downtown L.A. got nearly a year’s worth of rain in February 1998.

The effects of this muscular El Niño – nicknamed “Bruce Lee” by one blogger for the National Weather Service – are already being felt worldwide. While a strong El Niño can bring heavy winter rains to California and the southern United States, it can also bring dry weather elsewhere in the world.

Already, El Niño is being blamed for drought conditions in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as occurred in 1997-98.

Drought is also persistent in Central America. Water levels are now so low in the waterways that make up the Panama Canal that officials recently announced limits on traffic through the passageway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

El Niño also influenced the heavy rainstorms that effectively ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

There are a couple reasons why scientists say El Niño is gaining strength.

First, ocean temperatures west of Peru are continuing to climb. The temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean were 3.4 degrees above the average as of Aug. 5. That’s slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees above normal.

The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.

Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water further west toward Indonesia — are weakening.

That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.

For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.

“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”

There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.

“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.

Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.

In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. A forecast is never a sure thing, they say.

And they also want to remind the public that California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multi-year drought.

“We certainly wouldn’t want people to think that, ‘Gee, because it’s an El Niño this year, it’s going to be wet and therefore we can stop conserving water,” Jeanine Jones, the California Department of Water Resources’ deputy drought manager, said in July.

Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.

Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”

Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.

“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”

Updated Aug. 13, 8:10 a.m.: In another sign that El Niño is gaining strength, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have risen to their highest level so far this year.

That temperature increase — 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average — was recorded Aug. 5 by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at a benchmark location in the Pacific. That is slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.


Updated Aug. 13, 9:29 a.m.: “This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.


California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation

Another El Niño sign: Ocean temps hit highest level of the year


Posted on on August 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

By Eric Holthaus, Rolling Stone

09 August 15

The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected

istorians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen’s study, said their new research doesn’t necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon “safe” level of climate change — “would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise.”

Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still “unclear” whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.

And yet, these aren’t even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth’s biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year. For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.

Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life.

Eighty-year-old Roger Thomas runs whale-watching trips out of San Francisco. On an excursion earlier this year, Thomas spotted 25 humpbacks and three blue whales. During a survey on July 4th, federal officials spotted 115 whales in a single hour near the Farallon Islands — enough to issue a boating warning. Humpbacks are occasionally seen offshore in California, but rarely so close to the coast or in such numbers. Why are they coming so close to shore? Exceptionally warm water has concentrated the krill and anchovies they feed on into a narrow band of relatively cool coastal water. The whales are having a heyday. “It’s unbelievable,” Thomas told a local paper. “Whales are all over
the place.”

Last fall, in northern Alaska, in the same part of the Arctic where Shell is planning to drill for oil, federal scientists discovered 35,000 walruses congregating on a single beach. It was the largest-ever documented “haul out” of walruses, and a sign that sea ice, their favored habitat, is becoming harder and harder to find.

Marine life is moving north, adapting in real time to the warming ocean. Great white sharks have been sighted breeding near Monterey Bay, California, the farthest north that’s ever been known to occur. A blue marlin was caught last summer near Catalina Island — 1,000 miles north of its typical range. Across California, there have been sightings of non-native animals moving north, such as Mexican red crabs.

No species may be as uniquely endangered as the one most associated with the Pacific Northwest, the salmon. Every two weeks, Bill Peterson, an oceanographer and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Oregon, takes to the sea to collect data he uses to forecast the return of salmon. What he’s been seeing this year is deeply troubling.

Salmon are crucial to their coastal ecosystem like perhaps few other species on the planet. A significant portion of the nitrogen in West Coast forests has been traced back to salmon, which can travel hundreds of miles upstream to lay their eggs. The largest trees on Earth simply wouldn’t exist without salmon.

But their situation is precarious. This year, officials in California are bringing salmon downstream in convoys of trucks, because river levels are too low and the temperatures too warm for them to have a reasonable chance of surviving. One species, the winter-run Chinook salmon, is at a particularly increased risk of decline in the next few years, should the warm water persist offshore.

“You talk to fishermen, and they all say: ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before,’?” says Peterson. “So when you have no experience with something like this, it gets like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’?”

Atmospheric scientists increasingly believe that the exceptionally warm waters over the past months are the early indications of a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a cyclical warming of the North Pacific that happens a few times each century. Positive phases of the PDO have been known to last for 15 to 20 years, during which global warming can increase at double the rate as during negative phases of the PDO. It also makes big El Niños, like this year’s, more likely. The nature of PDO phase shifts is unpredictable — climate scientists simply haven’t yet figured out precisely what’s behind them and why they happen when they do. It’s not a permanent change — the ocean’s temperature will likely drop from these record highs, at least temporarily, some time over the next few years — but the impact on marine species will be lasting, and scientists have pointed to the PDO as a global-warming preview.

“The climate [change] models predict this gentle, slow increase in temperature,” says Peterson, “but the main problem we’ve had for the last few years is the variability is so high. As scientists, we can’t keep up with it, and neither can the animals.” Peterson likens it to a boxer getting pummeled round after round: “At some point, you knock them down, and the fight is over.”

Attendant with this weird wildlife behavior is a stunning drop in the number of plankton — the basis of the ocean’s food chain. In July, another major study concluded that acidifying oceans are likely to have a “quite traumatic” impact on plankton diversity, with some species dying out while others flourish. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s converted into carbonic acid — and the pH of seawater declines. According to lead author Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT, that trend means “the whole food chain is going to be different.”

The Hansen study may have gotten more attention, but the Dutkiewicz study, and others like it, could have even more dire implications for our future. The rapid changes Dutkiewicz and her colleagues are observing have shocked some of their fellow scientists into thinking that yes, actually, we’re heading toward the worst-case scenario. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent a problem that seems to have kick-started a mass extinction on the same time scale.

Jacquelyn Gill is a paleoecologist at the University of Maine. She knows a lot about extinction, and her work is more relevant than ever. Essentially, she’s trying to save the species that are alive right now by learning more about what killed off the ones that aren’t. The ancient data she studies shows “really compelling evidence that there can be events of abrupt climate change that can happen well within human life spans. We’re talking less than a decade.”

For the past year or two, a persistent change in winds over the North Pacific has given rise to what meteorologists and oceanographers are calling “the blob” — a highly anomalous patch of warm water between Hawaii, Alaska and Baja California that’s thrown the marine ecosystem into a tailspin. Amid warmer temperatures, plankton numbers have plummeted, and the myriad species that depend on them have migrated or seen their own numbers dwindle.

Significant northward surges of warm water have happened before, even frequently. El Niño, for example, does this on a predictable basis. But what’s happening this year appears to be something new. Some climate scientists think that the wind shift is linked to the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice over the past few years, which separate research has shown makes weather patterns more likely to get stuck.

A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” — weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.

What’s increasingly uncontroversial among scientists is that in many ecosystems, the impacts of the current off-the-charts temperatures in the North Pacific will linger for years, or longer. The largest ocean on Earth, the Pacific is exhibiting cyclical variability to greater extremes than other ocean basins. While the North Pacific is currently the most dramatic area of change in the world’s oceans, it’s not alone: Globally, 2014 was a record-setting year for ocean temperatures, and 2015 is on pace to beat it soundly, boosted by the El Niño in the Pacific. Six percent of the world’s reefs could disappear before the end of the decade, perhaps permanently, thanks to warming waters.

Since warmer oceans expand in volume, it’s also leading to a surge in sea-level rise. One recent study showed a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents, perhaps linked to glacial melt from Greenland, that caused a four-inch rise in sea levels along the Northeast coast in just two years, from 2009 to 2010. To be sure, it seems like this sudden and unpredicted surge was only temporary, but scientists who studied the surge estimated it to be a 1-in-850-year event, and it’s been blamed on accelerated beach erosion “almost as significant as some hurricane events.”

Possibly worse than rising ocean temperatures is the acidification of the waters. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem. One of the study’s authors, Nina Bednaršek, told Science magazine that the snails’ shells, pitted by the acidifying ocean, resembled “cauliflower” or “sandpaper.” A similarly striking study by more than a dozen of the world’s top ocean scientists this July said that the current pace of increasing carbon emissions would force an “effectively irreversible” change on ocean ecosystems during this century. In as little as a decade, the study suggested, chemical changes will rise significantly above background levels in nearly half of the world’s oceans.

“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” James Barry of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California told the Seattle Times in 2013. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous.”

Thanks to the pressure we’re putting on the planet’s ecosystem — warming, acidification and good old-fashioned pollution — the oceans are set up for several decades of rapid change. Here’s what could happen next.

The combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.

So far, dead zones have remained mostly close to the coasts, but in the 21st century, deep-ocean dead zones could become common. These low-oxygen regions could gradually expand in size — potentially thousands of miles across — which would force fish, whales, pretty much everything upward. If this were to occur, large sections of the temperate deep oceans would suffer should the oxygen-free layer grow so pronounced that it stratifies, pushing surface ocean warming into overdrive and hindering upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich deeper water.

Enhanced evaporation from the warmer oceans will create heavier downpours, perhaps destabilizing the root systems of forests, and accelerated runoff will pour more excess nutrients into coastal areas, further enhancing dead zones. In the past year, downpours have broken records in Long Island, Phoenix, Detroit, Baltimore, Houston and Pensacola, Florida.

Evidence for the above scenario comes in large part from our best understanding of what happened 250 million years ago, during the “Great Dying,” when more than 90 percent of all oceanic species perished after a pulse of carbon dioxide and methane from land-based sources began a period of profound climate change. The conditions that triggered “Great Dying” took hundreds of thousands of years to develop. But humans have been emitting carbon dioxide at a much quicker rate, so the current mass extinction only took 100 years or so to kick-start.

With all these stressors working against it, a hypoxic feedback loop could wind up destroying some of the oceans’ most species-rich ecosystems within our lifetime. A recent study by Sarah Moffitt of the University of California-Davis said it could take the ocean thousands of years to recover. “Looking forward for my kid, people in the future are not going to have the same ocean that I have today,” Moffitt said.

As you might expect, having tickets to the front row of a global environmental catastrophe is taking an increasingly emotional toll on scientists, and in some cases pushing them toward advocacy. Of the two dozen or so scientists I interviewed for this piece, virtually all drifted into apocalyptic language at some point.

For Simone Alin, an oceanographer focusing on ocean acidification at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the changes she’s seeing hit close to home. The Puget Sound is a natural laboratory for the coming decades of rapid change because its waters are naturally more acidified than most of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The local oyster industry here is already seeing serious impacts from acidifying waters and is going to great lengths to avoid a total collapse. Alin calls oysters, which are non-native, the canary in the coal mine for the Puget Sound: “A canary is also not native to a coal mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good indicator of change.”

Though she works on fundamental oceanic changes every day, the Dutkiewicz study on the impending large-scale changes to plankton caught her off-guard: “This was alarming to me because if the basis of the food web changes, then?.?.?.?everything could change, right?”

Alin’s frank discussion of the looming oceanic apocalypse is perhaps a product of studying unfathomable change every day. But four years ago, the birth of her twins “heightened the whole issue,” she says. “I was worried enough about these problems before having kids that I maybe wondered whether it was a good idea. Now, it just makes me feel crushed.”

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian, moved from Canada to Texas with her husband, a pastor, precisely because of its vulnerability to climate change. There, she engages with the evangelical community on science — almost as a missionary would. But she’s already planning her exit strategy: “If we continue on our current pathway, Canada will be home for us long term. But the majority of people don’t have an exit strategy.?.?.?.?So that’s who I’m here trying to help.”

James Hansen, the dean of climate scientists, retired from NASA in 2013 to become a climate activist. But for all the gloom of the report he just put his name to, Hansen is actually somewhat hopeful. That’s because he knows that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that’s also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up. This idea has already been pitched to Congress several times, with tepid bipartisan support. Even though a carbon tax is probably a long shot, for Hansen, even the slim possibility that bold action like this might happen is enough for him to devote the rest of his life to working to achieve it. On a conference call with reporters in July, Hansen said a potential joint U.S.-China carbon tax is more important than whatever happens at the United Nations climate talks in Paris.

One group Hansen is helping is Our Children’s Trust, a legal advocacy organization that’s filed a number of novel challenges on behalf of minors under the idea that climate change is a violation of intergenerational equity — children, the group argues, are lawfully entitled to inherit a healthy planet.

A separate challenge to U.S. law is being brought by a former EPA scientist arguing that carbon dioxide isn’t just a pollutant (which, under the Clean Air Act, can dissipate on its own), it’s also a toxic substance. In general, these substances have exceptionally long life spans in the environment, cause an unreasonable risk, and therefore require remediation. In this case, remediation may involve planting vast numbers of trees or restoring wetlands to bury excess carbon underground.

Even if these novel challenges succeed, it will take years before a bend in the curve is noticeable. But maybe that’s enough. When all feels lost, saving a few species will feel like a triumph.


Posted on on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill barring fines for dead lawns during drought.

By Melanie Mason

July 13, 2015, The Los Angeles Times.

Cities and counties will no longer be able to impose fines on residents for unsightly brown lawns while the state is in a drought, under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday afternoon.

The measure, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto) prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violations of “lawn maintenance” ordinances when the governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions.

Cheryl Brown has said she’s aware of a number of cities, including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, that have levied fines or issued warnings to residents who allowed their lawns to go brown.

The measure is the most recent effort by the Legislature to encourage homeowners to let their lawns “fade to gold.” Last year, Brown signed a measure that barred homeowners’ associations from punishing their residents for unwatered lawns.

With California now in its fourth year of drought, the governor has called for strict conservation efforts, including requiring urban areas to cut their water use by 25%.

This month, state officials announced that residential water used dropped by 29% in May.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.


Posted on on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?

Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015

With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.

“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.

Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year

One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.

As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low

Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.

Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.


Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.

Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.

IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:

“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.

Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.

Sea ice in decline

Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.

He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“

The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.

“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.

He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet

Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:

“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”

At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:

“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”

Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:

“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal

Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.

Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.

“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “

The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:

“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”

Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.

Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:

“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?

The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.

“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.

This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:

“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.

Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.

Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:

“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost

This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:

“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.

Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now

“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.

The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.

In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.

“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.

Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.


Posted on on June 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Sunday, June 14, 2015 program started with Fareed retelling us the content of his last Friday’s Washington Post column -… /9ce1f4f8-1074-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

While some hysteria-builders in Washington are worried about a Saudi nuclear race to follow Iran, Fareed Zakaria tells us clearly that besides drilling holes to get out oil from the ground, the Saudis have actually not proven capability of doing anything else. They just do not have the people nor the education system that leads to knowledge. You can actually conclude that they are hardly a State in the normal sense of the word – though with them having a full treasury they will not fail easily – but clearly not amount to much power either. In effect they are a natural target for ISIS – so let them not bluff us.

The Saudi GDP is based 44% on oil and 90% of their revenues are from oil. Their puritanical reactionary conservative education system puts them at 73rd place in global ranking compared to the much poorer Iran that is placed 44th. Two out of three people with a job are foreigners – hardly a recommendation for capability of doing anything.

Then Fareed brought on Professor Michael Porter of Harvard who makes now a career of talking and writing about America’s unconventional energy opportunity that turned the till-2005 dependence on gas import and till 2008 dependence on oil import – to an economy now that produces $430 billion/year of oil-shale fracking gas and oil products – that he says have reduced the energy bill of an average American family by $800/year and is now being enhanced by secondary industries like the petrochemical industry.

Gas prices are now lower by one third then those in US trading-countries and he contends that even though there are environmental problems with “fracking” these problems get smaller with time as there are new technological developments leading to decrease in pollution. Oh well – this at least reduces the US dependence on Saudi good-will.

To point out some more the effect of oil on developing countries that export the stuff, Fareed brought on a New Yorker journalist who works now in Luanda, Angola, and previously worked many years in Russia. Michael Specter was fascinating in his description of the “Bizarro” World of Luanda where for four out of the last five years Luanda was the most expensive City for the “Expatriates.” The Fifth year they were second to Japan.

With a watermelon selling for $105, a Coke for $10 and a cab-ride of 20 miles costing $450 – this while the working locals make $4/day while after Nigeria Angola is now the second largest oil producer in Africa.

For a saner discussion Fareed brought on Richard Haass – a former official of the Bush administration, Advisor to Colin Powell and president of the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, and David Rothkopf – who worked for the Clinton Administration, Managed the Kissinger Associates, and now is CEO and Editor of the Foreign Policy Group that publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. Interesting, it was Haass who wore a blue tie and Rothkopf who wore a red tie – and to my surprise, and clearly to their own surprise – there was no difference between their positions on the issues.

The main topic was Iraq and they agreed that sending in some more advisers to keep the ongoing losing policy in place makes no sense and never did. Iraq has passed, or was handed, to Iran while the only functioning part of it are the Kurdish evolving State.

The problem is the Sunni part that will eventually be a State as well – but it depends on a change in US position if this will be the ISIS State or a conventional Sunni State. Trying to hold the three parts of Iraq together does not make sense – period.

Oh well – how we got there – ask the Bush family – now we guess – ask Jeb (John Ellis) Bush. and Fareed also pointed a finger at Senator Rick Santorum who wants to be President and says the Pope should not mix the church and science – leave science to the scientists which for him are the Climate-deniers paid by the oil industry.

Fareed pointed out to Santorum that Pope Franciscus happens to be a scientist. He was trained as chemist and worked as a chemist before reentering the seminarium for clerical studies.

This coming week the world might finally get a boost from the Catholic Church as very well described in the New York Times article by Jim Yardley of June 13, 2015: “Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor.”

On Thursday June 18, 2015, Pope Franciscus will release his most important Encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. This follows a meeting May 2014 of the Pope with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accompanied by his Development lieutenants. This could be finally a joined effort for the good of humanity – of faith and true science.

Above is not completely new. Already the last two popes started to investigate the moral choices of development. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI already wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Francis went further – and on his January 2015 trip to the Philippines expressed his being convinced that global warming was “most;y” a human-made phenomenon. Now he is expected in the September trip to Cuba and New York, to bring the encyclical to the UN General Assembly and encourage the Heads of States to bring the issue to a positive conclusion at the December Climate Convention meting in Paris. The driving force of this Pope is his experience in Latin America with an agenda of poverty and Unsustainable Consumption that reveals ethical issues. He can be expected to reject the American conservative interests underwritten by oil industry interests that send to his doorsteps folks like Marc Morano and the Heartland Foundation with Republican Skeptics found in the US Senate of James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Fareed also mentioned on his program the fact that coincidentally it was June 15, 1215 that King John released the First Magna Carta that was shortly thereafter declared “Null and Void for all validity for-ever” by Pope Innocent II. A new Magna Carta was instituted later and it is the 2025 version that is the basis for the Constitutions of many States – including the USA. Pope Francis’s Encyclical might be viewed by future generations as the Magna Carta for the Earth – we hope the term SUSTAINABILITY will be brought into full focus – so ought to be “sustainable development.”

One last issue of this State of the World program was about the dwindling population in all European States and in many Asian States as well. It is only the USA that is growing – this thanks to immigration and some might say energy autarky?. The subject needs more linking to the rest of the program ingredients and we expect this will be done eventually.


Posted on on May 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

IISDRS – Summary & Analysis from the 5th Intergovernmental Negotiation on Post2015 Development Agenda

as per Langston James Goree VI

5th Session of the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations (Follow-Up and Review)
18-22 May 2015 | UN Headquarters, New York

The fifth session of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda took place from 18-22 May 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York.

The session, which focused on follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda, was led by the Co-Facilitators for the post-2015 process, David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland, and Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya.

This session marked the last of the “scripted” sessions outlined in UN General Assembly decision A/69/L.46, on modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. During the course of the week, delegates discussed: follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda; goals, targets and indicators; themes for the interactive dialogues during the Post-2015 Summit in September; and the way forward. An interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders took place on Wednesday, 20 May. Delegates adopted the six themes for the interactive dialogues, which will be transmitted to the President of the General Assembly.

During the week, participants discussed what exactly “follow-up and review” entails at the national, regional and global levels. There was much discussion on the role of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in this regard. There was disagreement on whether there should be technical revisions to the targets, which were approved by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals in July 2014.

At the end of the week, the Co-Facilitators announced that the zero draft of the outcome document would be circulated on or about 1 June 2015, noting this would provide enough time to delegations to organize preliminary informal consultations before the sixth session of the intergovernmental negotiations begins on 22 June.

The Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format

at… and in HTML format at

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The fifth session of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations marked the last stocktaking session of the process before the focus turns to the textual negotiations on the post-2015 outcome. Since January 2015, participants have discussed elements of the structure of the post-2015 development agenda, including the declaration, the goals and targets, means of implementation and, at the fifth session, follow-up and review. As delegates await the zero draft of the outcome document, which they were informed would be issued by the Co-Facilitators on or about 1 June, it is clear that some “existential questions” remain regarding the post-2015 development agenda. These questions could be the focus of difficult debates before negotiations conclude in July. This brief analysis reflects on some of these questions, within the context of the fifth session’s discussions on follow-up and review, and examines the way forward, in the context of a complex set of interrelated sustainable development negotiations.


While most delegations shared the view that a well-functioning review framework is essential for the implementation of the SDGs, it was clear that there is not yet agreement on the nomenclature. While most developing countries wanted to maintain the terminology “follow-up and review” in the outcome document, some developed countries preferred to use “monitoring, accountability and review” instead. The phrases have different meanings and implications and many developing countries are concerned that “accountability” could imply conditionality.

The EU, for example, said monitoring, accountability and review are all essential for the implementation of the agenda, and clarified that monitoring is about data and information to provide an assessment of progress, while accountability is about taking ownership, responsibility and ensuring follow-up of commitments. By contrast, the G-77/China stressed the importance of follow-up and review, noting that these terms were used in decision A/69/L.46 on the modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, and stating that accountability and monitoring had “no place in the debate.” India argued that it is better to look at this part of the post-2015 agenda as “review and follow-up,” since review should precede follow-up.

It was clear from this that achieving a common understanding on the terminology is necessary before agreeing on any review framework.


By the end of the week, there was some degree of consensus that, at the global level, the HLPF should be the main platform for follow-up and review. However, the issue of whether the review of the post-2015 agenda should take place under a highly centralized structure under the authority of the HLPF or under a network with the HLPF at its core remained, among other questions. As these discussions took place, Co-Facilitator Kamau cautioned delegates to “be careful what you wish for,” noting that there was a level of complexity built into their proposals and that, once their complexity was unpacked, it would be difficult to develop a proposal that would work, especially given the short negotiating time left before the Post-2015 Summit. The G-77/China said the HLPF should be the key forum, to which other mechanisms created to follow up on outcomes of UN conferences and conventions should report in order to eschew unnecessary duplication.

Japan, however, stressed that it is impossible to build a highly centralized structure whereby one single authority would take charge of following up the wide and interlinked agenda. Therefore, Japan and others suggested that the global review structure should have the HLPF at the center, with the widest possible network of existing review mechanisms supporting it. Existing mechanisms, from the World Trade Organization for trade elements, to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee for reviews related to official development assistance, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation for multi-stakeholder efforts, and existing legally binding agreements for relevant targets were identified as candidates for supporting mechanisms during the discussions, but the nuts and bolts of the reporting relationship with the HLPF and timing for reviews require further examination and discussion.

Another issue that remains to be unpacked is whether the follow-up for the FfD3 and post-2015 processes should take place under an integrated framework or in two separate review mechanisms. The EU and Switzerland, among others, supported developing an overarching monitoring, accountability and review framework for the entire post-2015 agenda, including both the financial and non-financial MOI, and said the FfD3 review process should ultimately feed into the HLPF. The G-77/China, by contrast, argued that the two processes are independent and said, even though they have points in common, they need two different review frameworks. Many agreed that the unpacking of this issue will depend on what is agreed by FfD3 in July.

A key question for the follow-up and review mechanism relates to how the HLPF itself will function. As the Co-Facilitators noted, delegates assigned a multitude of possible tasks to the HLPF during this session, including: keeping track of progress; identifying shortcomings and gaps on the SDGs; making recommendations about what countries should do to stay on track; discussing national and regional reviews; providing a science-policy interface; and addressing emerging issues and challenges. The Co-Facilitators reminded delegations that the HLPF only meets eight days a year, under the auspices of ECOSOC, with three of those days taken up with a ministerial segment. Co-Facilitator Kamau’s suggestion that the HLPF might need to meet twice a year was almost universally rejected, but his idea that some elements could be “offloaded” to other UN bodies that could report back to the Forum generated some interest. Additional proposals related to the HLPF’s functions included calls for the annual HLPF meetings to focus on thematic topics, and for the adoption of a four-year review cycle, where governments could be invited to communicate how they are implementing the SDGs at the national level and what still needs to be done.

In addition to the HLPF, there was also discussion on how other institutions and stakeholders would be involved. On the question of whether regional or global institutions should undertake national reviews, some proposed that country reviews should be done at the regional or sub-regional levels, with the HLPF taking the lead on the global assessment with inputs from the UN Regional Commissions, other relevant stakeholders and international organizations. Others, such as Switzerland and Germany, said the HLPF should review both how countries are doing individually and how the international community is doing globally. Many countries also stressed the importance of stakeholder participation at all levels. The EU, for example, suggested that the UN Global Compact could contribute to the work of the HLPF by preparing assessments of the private sector’s involvement in implementation. Several delegates noted that NGOs, civil society and the private sector also need to be held accountable for implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, especially with regard to MOI. The G-77/China and Egypt said that the follow-up and review process should be determined by national governments and include the participation of all relevant stakeholders in accordance with existing laws and regulations, pointing to another aspect in which further unpacking will be necessary before the follow-up and review framework is adopted.


In opening the session, Co-Facilitator Kamau highlighted that, because the SDGs are interrelated, “we will not be able to pick and choose which goals to implement and which goals not to.” This indivisibility of the agenda, due to the integrated nature of the SDGs, implies that one cannot look at a goal without taking into account its relationship with other goals and targets. For example, as a participant noted during the interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders, universal health coverage will not be achieved without sanitation, and sanitation will not progress without improvements in education, such as school toilets, which calls for integration and policy coherence. Some participants noted that the same interdependence applies to thematic reviews and proposals to organize the work of the HLPF along thematic lines. If those thematic reviews are to be considered, inter-sectoral linkages as well as horizontal linkages with other multilateral agreements, international organizations, the private sector, governments and other stakeholders will have to be considered to ensure coherence of action.

What will be reviewed does not, however, simply relate to the coherence and inter-linkages between the goals, but also to the targets and indicators under each goal. While the targets were included in the report of the OWG, some said that having undefined numbers?identified by the use of “Xs”?was unacceptable and expressed concern that Heads of State should not adopt a document with “Xs.” However, when the Co-Facilitators distributed a document containing revised targets, there were mixed reactions to the proposal to revise only some of the targets. Some welcomed the revisions so as to ensure that the goals are measurable and aligned with international agreements. Others actually supported leaving the “Xs” in the text since it would allow countries to choose the targets that are best for them. Finally, there were those who expressed concern that this exercise could reopen the SDGs and thus derail the entire post-2015 agreement. The development of indicators by the UNSC will also try to achieve coherence across this indivisible agenda.


Based on the discussions during the first five sessions of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, the Co-Facilitators will attempt to put “flesh on the bones” of the document to be adopted in September. However, as several countries noted, the outcome document has to look towards the future, not rely on “stale,” previously agreed UN language. To achieve this objective, delegates will need to unpack previous arrangements and business-as-usual frameworks to understand how 193 countries can individually and jointly pivot to pursue a sustainable development path for the next 15 years. Optimists at the fifth session pointed to the sticking points that emerged from the discussion as evidence that delegates are grappling with the need to change course, although they too wondered how the complexities of interrelated issues and actors could be fully recognized when the process finally puts pen to paper over the next two months.

The zero draft of the outcome document will be the focus of three weeks of negotiations in June and July. The Co-Facilitators have asked delegations to consult within and among their negotiating groups before the sixth session begins on 22 June, and start to build bridges across the chasms on the agenda. Many questions remain about the details of this agenda and the fifth session of the intergovernmental negotiations indicated that there could be a rocky road ahead in reaching agreement on terminology, the follow-up and review process, the role of the HLPF, and any changes to the targets. What is clear, however, is that many want a document that will “connect, inspire and motivate” a global audience, avoid recycling UN language, and look towards the future.

This analysis, taken from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin ©  enb at, is written and edited by Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <>, Ana Maria Lebada, Nathalie Risse, and Christine Søby. The Editor is Lynn Wagner, Ph.D. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Union, the Government of Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. General Support for the Bulletin during 2015 is provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies – IGES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Wallonia, Québec, and the International Organization of La Francophonie/Institute for Sustainable Development of La Francophonie (IOF/IFDD). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022 USA.


Posted on on May 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

IPCC Expert Meeting: Climate research community looks into future scenarios.
IPCC Press Release

GENEVA, May 18 – Climate experts will meet in Laxenburg near Vienna, Austria, on 18-20 May 2015 at an Expert Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to discuss and further develop new socioeconomic scenarios as shared tools for climate research.

Experts from the climate change research community will meet with representatives of the IPCC at the meeting hosted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria.

“We use scenarios much like testing probes to explore future societal developments and their consequences for climate and the environment,” said Keywan Riahi, who leads IIASA’s energy program and is convening the Expert Meeting. He is also a lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the mitigation of climate change. “The scenarios that were assessed by the IPCC have proven vital for the AR5. This expert meeting will have a detailed look at a new generation of scenarios and framework that the climate change research community has adopted to facilitate the integrated analysis of future climate impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptation, and mitigation,” said Riahi.

Scenarios, as used in research with integrated assessment models, are stories about potential ways that the future might develop. They feature specific quantitative elements and details about how sectors such as the economy, climate, and the energy sector interact. By looking at scenarios, researchers look for insights into the paths and circumstances that might lead to specific objectives.

“The scenarios from the research community form the backbone of our analysis of potential climate change impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation solutions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, which deals with the mitigation of climate change. The IPCC facilitated the development of the new scenarios in AR5 and assessed their results in the report, but the process is coordinated by the research community.

The Expert Meeting is being convened to continue the dialogue with the research community, to take stock of the achievements of the process during the AR5 cycle, to share available information across scientific disciplines, and to discuss the role of scenarios in future IPCC products.

With the meeting the IPCC intends to bring together scientific groups with diverse expertise and backgrounds to share experiences and expectations related to the scenario community’s activities and to facilitate further development of common scenarios in climate change research. This will allow a more integrated assessment of mitigation, adaptation, and climate change impacts across the entirety of IPCC work in the future.

The development of the new socioeconomic scenarios, called ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’ (SSPs) complements the Representative Concentration Pathways already used in AR5; these are previously developed trajectories for future levels of greenhouse gases that are being explored in experiments by the climate modeling community.

The SSPs enable researchers to conduct related studies across a broad range of topics. Just before the IPCC meeting a new generation of SSP scenarios has been made publicly available for review by the community (see below). The research communities will continue to investigate the implications of various socioeconomic developments on the local, regional, or global scale for the impacts of climate change and the costs, risks, and benefits of a range of possible policies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

It released the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in four stages over 2013 and 2014, finishing with the AR5 Synthesis Report in November 2014.

The IPCC organizes Expert Meetings and Workshops to facilitate discussions of topics relevant to the assessment process and to receive early input from the scientific community. In order to enhance coordination across the Working Groups in the preparation of the IPCC Assessment and Special Reports, topics of a cross-cutting nature are of particular interest. Proposals for Expert Meetings and Workshops are approved by the IPCC Plenary. The nomination process for the two kinds of events differs, as governments nominate experts for Workshops, while for Expert Meetings, attendees are nominated by the Working Group Co-Chairs.

Database for the SSPs:…

Scenario database of the IPCC AR5:…


About IIASA The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe.


Posted on on May 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

On the Occasion of the Second Annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum,

The Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) invites you to:

Expert Session: “The Arab World’s Transition to Sustainable Energy Pathway: A Look from Inside”

19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York (Room C)

In the last few years, Arab countries have taken a number of initiatives to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency investments. The session aims to present these key developments and highlight ‘hot’ energy markets in the region. In particular, the session will focus on private sector investment opportunities, highlight developments in energy subsidy reforms and present newly launched renewable energy and energy efficiency supporting policies. The presentation will be based on the recently released 2015 edition of the Arab Future Energy Index (AFEX) developed by the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) with support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Arab Climate Resilience Initiative. AFEX 2015 assesses the sustainable energy investment climate in 17 countries of the Arab region and is a key analytical benchmarking tool for gauging progress on national energy goals. As the region embarks on the implementation of the expected post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), AFEX provides a practical analytical tool that is expected to play a critical role tracking progress of the expected future SDG on energy.

On the Occasion of the Second Annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum,

The Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) invites you to:

Expert Session: “The Arab World’s Transition to Sustainable Energy Pathway: A Look from Inside”

19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm
Sheraton Times Square Hotel, New York (Room C)

Agenda: 19 May 2015, 2:40 – 3:55 pm

2:40 pm: Opening remarks by Dr. Tareq Emtairah, RCREEE Executive Director and Mr. Adel Abdellatif, Senior Strategic Advisor, Regional Bureau for Arab States, UNDP, on addressing the sustainable energy challenges in the Arab region.

2:50 pm: Presentation of AFEX 2015 key progress highlights on sustainable energy development in the Arab region by Ms. Nurzat Myrsalieva RCREEE Lead

3:10 pm: Expert views and panel discussions, moderated by Dr. Tareq Emtairah:


• Palestine: H.E. Dr. Omar Kittaneh, Minister of the Palestine Energy Authority

• UAE: Mr. Dane McQueen, UAE Advisor on Sustainable Energy Opportunities in the Arab Region

• The World Bank: Mr. Alejandro Moreno, Energy specialist, Energy and Extractives Global Practice

3:30 pm: Audience Q&A session

3:55 pm: Concluding remarks

For more information, please visit: and, or contact


UAE: Mr. Dane McQueen, UAE Advisor on Sustainable Energy Opportunities in the Arab Region

• The World Bank: Mr. Alejandro Moreno, Energy specialist, Energy and Extractives Global Practice

3:30 pm:

Audience Q&A session

3:55 pm:

Concluding remarks

For more information, please visit: and, or contact  ana.rovzar at


Posted on on April 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Mitigation and Adaptation in the UNFCCC Debates

An analysis of the UNFCCC’s discussions provided by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin

for graphs please see the original -…


Climate Change Adaptation appears to occupy the center of the climate negotiations. There are claims in the literature on climate diplomacy about an ‘adaptation turn’ in the last years of the negotiation. We challenge those and find adaptation to have been present and highly visible from the very beginning, particularly the specific question of adaptation finance.

In the larger debate on climate change, the notion of ‘adaptation’ is often opposed (or at least contrasted) to that of ‘mitigation’. Such a contrast is not without reason. The two notions refer to vastly different ways to deal with global warming.

‘Mitigation’ refers to the efforts to lessen the impacts of climate change by acting on its causes and therefore reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).

‘Adaptation’, on the contrary, refers to the efforts to prepare our societies to cope with the effects of climate change.

Though the two approaches are not mutually exclusive (there is no contradiction between striving to avoid the dangers and prepare to deal with those that cannot be avoided), they have often been opposed by the actors in the climate change debate. In this narrative we explore the status of mitigation and adaptation in the UNFCCC debate.

This article is part of the Climaps project by EMAPS. If you want to learn more about the project, please read more in this article.

The rise of adaptation related issues

Looking at figure 1 of the text, the difference between mitigation and adaptation is evident. Terms related to the efforts to mitigate climate change organize 7 of the 12 clusters of the networks, grouped in three main semantic arenas, widely scattered across the graph (‘emission reduction’; ‘carbon sinks’; ‘energies, technology transfer and clean development projects’).

Compared to the mitigation clusters, adaptation clusters are fewer and more compact. The 3 clusters dedicated to adaptation (‘environmental and social impacts’, ‘vulnerability and adaptation’ activity and adaptive ‘funding and equity’) are tightly grouped at the centre of the map. This shows the difference in status of adaptation in the UNFCCC negotiations.

Where mitigation is the primary objective of the conference, and thus formulated in numerous ways, adaptation, impacts and vulnerability seem more limited in their articulation, but also more commonly connected to other issues (which accounts for their centrality in the map). The figure also reflects the different types of contextualisation of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Figure 1: from ‘place’ of adaptation. Network of terms co-occurring in the same paragraphs of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Volume 12. Node position is determined by a force vector algorithm (Jacomy et al., forthcoming) bringing together terms directly or indirectly linked, and keeping away terms with fewer co-occurrences. Node size is proportional to their frequency in the corpus. Node color follows the clusters identified by the clustering algorithm. Click to see main Issue map.

Looking at Figure 2, one will immediately notice that there is (with the exception of COP6 in the Hague) a general increase of the overall number of appearances of issues until COP16 in Cancún. This reflects the increase of the total number of participants during the COPs.

Adaptation and mitigation issues are both visible in the UNFCCC negotiations. However mitigation has been from the very beginning a top priority on the negotiations’ agenda. In the first phase of the negotiations little attention was dedicated to the actions of developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change. Except that the most vulnerable members succeeded in putting the issue of financing adaptation activities on the agenda from the first COP (see also figure 4).

Adaptation, however, assumed greater importance in the second phase of the negotiations. With all parties facing difficulties in achieving their mitigation objectives, debates on what shall be done regarding vulnerability, climate change impacts and adaptation, as well as how to finance these actions became more relevant.

Figure 2: from Stream graph of the absolute and relative visibility of issues during UNFCCC negotiations, 1995-2013. The size of each flow is proportional to the number of paragraphs in which two terms defining the issue are present. Flows are sorted according to the number of occurrences: for each COP, the highest flow corresponds to the most visible issue while the lowest corresponds to the least visible. Click to see Issue map.

The diagram (Figure 3) shows a remarkable stability. Most countries maintain their relative rank throughout the 19 COPs. The 10 most active countries are represented by a rather stable, small group, which includes the United States, China, Europe, Australia, and Japan. The three leaders of the negotiations – China, the United States, and Europe – are ubiquitous. There are several exceptions. First, the Philippines and Bolivia, two countries from the southern hemisphere, have taken on very active roles, perhaps disproportionate with their size.

Figure 3: from Stream graph of the absolute and relative visibility of the countries of the UNFCCC negotiations, 1995-2013. The size of each country flow is proportional to the number of paragraphs in which the name of the country appears. Flows are sorted according to the number of occurrences: for each COP, the highest flow corresponds to the most visible issue while the lowest corresponds to the least visible. Click to see main Issue map.
Key messages

- Reading the two maps (Figures 1 and 2) together, it is possible to remark that (as expected) mitigation plays a preeminent role in climate diplomacy. Mitigation constitutes the bulk of UNFCCC’s discussions.

- Adaptation appears to occupy the center of the climate negotiations and has been present and highly visible from the very beginning (especially with the topic of adaptation funding). These findings challenge some of the claims in the literature about climate diplomacy about an ‘adaptation turn’ in the past few years of the negotiation.

- What has always been present and visible in the negotiations is not the entire discussion about adaptation, but the specific question of adaptation finance.

- No clear pattern exists to support the hypothesis that certain states or groups of states may be particularly active on adaptation related issues.

The maps were produced by analyzing the reports on the UNFCCC’s discussions provided by Volume 12 of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB).

More about this project:

Climate Adaptation in Bangladesh – A case study on tracking adaptation funding.
A closer look at the practices of vulnerability assessment and the priorities of adaptation funding.

28th April 2015


Posted on on April 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Climate change and security: here’s the analysis, when’s the action?

Dan Smith 22 April 2015

We have moved beyond the tired old controversy about whether climate change causes armed conflict. The new discussion must look to compound risks: where climate change, arbitrary governance and lawlessness interact.

Last week’s communiqué from the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Lübeck included a statement on climate change and security. In welcoming a report, A New Climate for Peace, to which my organization International Alert contributed, the communiqué moves the issue forward and declares it to be worthy of high level political attention. Unfortunately, what is to be done is not so clear.
Climate change and insecurity

A New Climate for Peace, of which I am one of the co-authors, is a joint project of the Berlin-based think tank Adelphi, International Alert, the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, and the European Union Institute for Security Studies. The full report comes out in May.

The core message is that climate change is having a multi-faceted impact on many states, societies and communities. It exerts a pressure they cannot tolerate for long. Compound risks emerge as the impact of climate change interacts with other political, social and economic problems. Climate change makes it hard to build resilience in the state or even in local communities, while the fragility of the state makes it hard to adapt to the impact of climate change. To address this problem, a new approach is needed integrating sectors that are currently separate, energised by clear political leadership to develop international cooperation, based on dialogue about a shared challenge and shared goals.

This is not a rehash of positions in the tired old controversy about whether climate change causes armed conflict. With this report, presented to the German Foreign Minister, and with the G7 Foreign Ministers’ welcome for it the next day, it is possible to say that the debate has decisively moved on.

The issue, if we want some jargon, is human security
and insecurity. A background of armed conflict or weak governance or political instability – or all in combination – in short, a situation of fragility is not conducive for building resilience against the negative impact of climate change. Likewise, the pressure of climate change makes the tasks of reconciliation, managing conflicts non-violently and building a peaceful state even harder than they are in the absence of that pressure.

The report – 150 pages long in final draft – pulls together the best recent research and adds the results of its own inquiries in vulnerable countries. It collates the evidence and focuses on seven compound risks:

Local resource competition can lead, as pressure on natural resources increases, to instability and even violent conflict in the absence of effective dispute resolution.

Livelihood insecurity is a likely result of climate change in some regions, which could push people to migrate or turn to illegal sources of income.

Extreme weather events and disasters will exacerbate all the challenges of fragility and can increase people’s vulnerability and grievances, especially in conflict-affected situations.

Volatility in the prices and availability of food, arising because climate variability disrupts food production, have well documented effects on the likelihood of protests, instability, and civil conflict.

Transboundary water sharing is a source of either cooperation or tension, but as competition sharpens due to increasing demand and declining availability and quality of water, the balance of probability tilts towards increased tension and conflict.

Sea-level rise and coastal degradation will threaten the viability of low-lying areas, with the potential for social disruption and displacement, while disagreements over maritime boundaries and ocean resources may increase.

The unintended effects of climate policies are a further source of risk that will increase if climate adaptation and mitigation policies are more br oadly implemented without due care and attention to consequences and negative spin-offs.

Responding to risk

The best and, long term, the sustainable way to diminish the threat posed by these climate-fragility risks is to slow down climate change by reducing carbon emissions. That’s the task for December’s climate summit in Paris – formally, the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. But changes to the climate are already underway, so there has to be a separate and additional response to climate-fragility risks, starting now and carried through for – in the best case – some decades at least.

Three key sectors require action – climate change adaptation, development and humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding. But single sector action won’t work against compound risk. Virtually by definition, integrated approaches are necessary. Further, the problem faced does not respect national boundaries and is in any case too big and too complex for a single government to handle, so the response needs also to be internationally cooperative and coordinated.

A response to the vicious cycle contained in each of the seven climate-fragility risks will not work if it relies on responding to each crisis as it arrives. What people in the hardest hit countries need is assistance in mounting and implementing a long-term and sustained preventive response. That’s how we move from managing crises to avoiding them.

The current menu of action

A New Climate for Peace looks at the current international policy architecture for addressing the compound risks. There is plenty of activity but:

Climate change adaptation plans rarely address fragility and conflict comprehensively.

Development and humanitarian aid does not routinely take account of the need for climate-proofing and still has problems absorbing conflict sensitivity.

Peacebuilding similarly tends to leave climate change aside as somebody else’s problem.

What needs to be done

Many things can and should be done. It is not hard to identify them. The report insists that it will only happen if there is strong and clear political leadership. With the G7 governments in mind, it identifies entry points for developing a coordinated, integrated approach:

Within G7 member governments, remember that integration begins at home and make climate-fragility risks a central foreign policy priority.
Improve coordination among G7 members by coming together for a new dialogue.
Set the global resilience agenda by bringing the new integrated approach to global and multilateral discussions and institutions.

Extend the dialogue by listening to and working with a wide range of actors, including in countries affected by fragility.

And to embody this new approach, as areas in which it could be implemented, the report identifies five action areas:
Strengthening global risk assessment by covering all aspects and making the results available and accessible;
Improving food security to minimise food price crises, thus minimising their conflict consequences;
Improving disaster risk reduction by absorbing conflict sensitivity into planning and training;
Checking and strengthening the institutions and agreements that can help settle transboundary water disputes;
Recalibrating development strategies and international development assistance so as to give greater priority to building local resilience.

But where to start?

There is, then, no real difficulty in identifying what action to take and how to do it. The likely objection to the list of action areas is only that it is incomplete. The challenge is, how to start?

Here is what the G7 communiqué says:

“We therefore welcome the external study, commissioned by the G7 Foreign Ministries in 2014 and now submitted to us under the title “An New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks” …

“We agree on the need to better understand, identify, monitor and address the compound risks associated with climate change and fragility…

“We have decided to set up and task a working group with evaluating the study’s recommendations up to the end of 2015 in order for it to report back to us regarding possible implementation in time for our meeting in 2016.”
Start here – we’ve been invited to

It is not exactly a clarion call for path breaking action. It lacks the necessary political juice. But it is an open invitation to keep pressing.

The first part of the case – that there is a major global problem – has now been made and is grounded in solid evidence. With this, virtually as a corollary, goes the second part of the case: business as usual is not an option, change is needed.

The third part of the case – there are many things that can usefully be done to alleviate and manage the compound climate-fragility risks – has also been made.

It is the fourth part of the case – now is the time – that has to be made and has to persuade. Let’s get to it.

This piece was originally posted on Dan’s blog on 22 April 2015.


Posted on on April 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Invitation to the 2nd annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum

SE4ALL Forum

Kindly find attached an invitation from Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Chief Executive Officer of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, for the 2nd annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum that will take place on 17-21 May in New York.

Important information on registration, as well as preliminary documents such as agenda and concept note will be made available on the Forum website at

Very best,
Sustainable Energy for All Forum Team


Vienna Energy Forum 2015

The Vienna Energy Forum 2015 (VEF 2015) will emphasize the multiple benefits of the post-2015 development and climate agendas and showcase the best practices and actions on the ground that can contribute to both agendas. Energy practitioners, policymakers and thought leaders will discuss the interconnections of sustainable energy and inclusive development in the areas of partnerships, finance, policy, technology, capacity building and knowledge management. The event will also explore the consequences of trends such as population growth and urbanization, as well as addressing the resulting increase in energy demand. Other topics will include South-South cooperation, and energy, water, food and health linkages. The event is organized by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Austrian Foreign Ministry.

The Vienna Energy Forum 2015 (VEF 2015) will take place only a few months before the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York (September 2015) and the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris (November 2015). By emphasizing the multiple benefits of the Post-2015 Development and the Climate Agenda and by showcasing best practices and actions on the ground, the VEF 2015 aims at contributing to both.

Building on the findings from the VEFs held in 2009, 2011 and 2013, as well as the overarching goals of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), the VEF 2015 will provide a high-level platform for thought leaders, policy makers and energy practitioners to engage in a multi-stakeholder dialogue on pivotal sustainable energy issues connected to inclusive development, including partnerships, finance, policy, technology, capacity building and knowledge management.

18-20 June 2015
Hofburg Palace, Michaelerkuppel, 1010
Wien, Austria
+43 (1) 26026-0
+43 (1) 2692669
 vef2015 at


Registration is open now here!…

read more:…


Key questions to be addressed at the VEF 2015:

• What are the main benefits of sustainable energy to inclusive development and productive capacities?

• What are the main drivers of the increasing energy demand across sectors and how can these be addressed in an integrated way?

• How can we strengthen the potential of sustainable energy so that it results in concrete actions supporting the Post-2015 Development and the Climate Agenda?

• What are the areas of greatest potential in energy efficiency, and what can be done to accelerate action and investment in energy efficiency, the ‘hidden fuel’ that has some of the most promising prospects to advance the goals of climate security and sustainable growth?

• Which innovative financing mechanisms can we use to promote renewable energy systems? How do we scale up investments in renewable energy technologies to meet the SE4ALL goals?

• How do we energize multi-stakeholder partnerships, private sector involvement and regional cooperation to promote sustainable energy for all?

• How can the nexus perspective be operationalized to support integrated approaches to energy, water, food, ecosystems and human health?