Fashionably Cool

Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada's show at Madrid Fashion Week, June 7, 2018 (Photo by España Global) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada’s show at Madrid Fashion Week, June 7, 2018 (Photo by España Global) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 11, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Keeping the planet cool is now seriously stylish in the exclusive world of fashion. To demonstrate commitment, the global fashion sector Monday launched the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action at the annual UN climate conference now underway in Katowice.

Fashion brands such as Burberry, Esprit, Levi Strauss and Stella McCartney; retailers such as Target and Gap; supplier organizations, and the giant shipping company Maersk, plus dozens of others, have agreed to collectively address the climate impact of the fashion sector by implementing or supporting the 16 principles and targets that underpin the Fashion Climate Charter.

Aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and try to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Charter is open for more companies and organizations to join.

It recognizes the crucial role that fashion plays on both sides of the climate equation – as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and as a sector of the economy with multiple opportunities to reduce emissions while contributing to sustainable development.

“Climate change is undoubtedly one of, if not, the biggest challenge of our lifetime. It is and will affect everyone on this planet and our future,” said fashion designer Stella McCartney, daughter of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, whose latest album “Egypt Station” features a song about the dangers of climate change.

Stella McCartney said, “I want to call on my peers in the business, from other brands to retailers and suppliers, to sign up to this charter now and take the necessary actions to address the reality of the issue of climate change in their business and value chains. Collectively we have a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

The Fashion Climate Charter contains the vision for the industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and defines issues to be addressed by the signatories. Six working groups in which signatories will work to define steps for implementation of the Charter will be convened by the UN Climate Change in early 2019.

The issues range from decarbonization of garment production, selection of climate friendly and sustainable materials, low-carbon transport, improved consumer dialogue and awareness, work with the financing community and policymakers to catalyze scalable solutions, and exploration of circular business models.

The signatories are not waiting for these issues to be fully elaborated and have set an initial target to reduce their aggregate greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

They have agreed to phase out coal-fired boilers and other sources of coal-fired heat and power generation in their own companies and direct suppliers from 2025.

“The fashion industry is always two steps ahead when it comes to defining world culture, so I am pleased to see it now also leading the way in terms of climate action,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa. “The Charter, like the renowned fashion runways of the world, sets an example that I hope others will follow.”

The fashion industry, which encompasses textiles, clothing, leather, and footwear industries, from the production of raw materials and manufacturing of garments, accessories and footwear to their distribution and consumption, has long supply chains and energy intensive production.

In October British MPs on Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee said the fashion industry is a major source of the greenhouse gases that are overheating the planet. This conclusion is one outcome of the Committee’s ongoing Inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry.

Men's fashions from around the world at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. From left, Rasmus Valanko, World Business Council on Sustainable Development; Yeom Tae-young, Mayor of Suwon, Republic of Korea, on behalf of ICLEI’s Ecomobility Alliance; Anirban Ghosh, Mahindra; and Nicola Tagliafierro, Head of Sustainable Product Development, Enel; Dec. 10, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used With Permission

Men’s fashions from around the world at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. From left, Rasmus Valanko, World Business Council on Sustainable Development; Yeom Tae-young, Mayor of Suwon, Republic of Korea, on behalf of ICLEI’s Ecomobility Alliance; Anirban Ghosh, Mahindra; and Nicola Tagliafierro, Head of Sustainable Product Development, Enel; Dec. 10, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used With Permission

As chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, MP Mary Creagh told BBC News that swift action is essential, because if current clothes consumption continues, it “…will account for more than a quarter of our total impact on climate change by 2050.”

Now it appears that the industry is moving quickly.

It was in early 2018 that fashion leaders volunteered to shape a climate movement through discussions in working groups chaired by PUMA SE and H&M Group.

The launch Monday, during the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, known as COP24, reflects genuine sectoral support and is a call to the fashion industry everywhere to take climate action.

The founding signatories to the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action are: Adidas, Aquitex, Arcteryx, Burberry Limited, Esprit, Guess, Gap Inc., H&M Group, Hakro Gmbh., Hugo Boss, Inditex, Kering Group, Lenzing AG, Levi Strauss & Co., Mammut Sports Group AG, Mantis World, Maersk, Otto Group, Pidigi S.P.A, PUMA SE, re:newcell, Schoeller Textiles AG, Peak Performance, PVH Corp., Salomon, Skunkfunk, SLN Textil, Stella McCartney, Sympatex Technologies, Target and Tropic Knits Group.

Supporting organizations include: Business for Social Responsibility, China National Textile and Apparel Council, China Textile Information Center, Global Fashion Agenda, Global Organic Textile Standard, International Finance Corporation, Outdoor Industry Association, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Sustainable Fashion Academy, Textile Exchange, WWF International and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Foundation.

It’s going to take all of the players working together to achieve real and lasting climate protection.

Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said, “While we have committed to becoming carbon neutral in our own operations, achieving a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the entire global fashion industry by 2030 will require innovation and collaboration. By working together with other signatories of the Charter, we believe that we can achieve systemic change and build a more sustainable future.”

Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of the H&M group, said, “This charter is about getting the fashion industry united in important climate work. Our industry has a global reach and only together can we create the change that is urgently needed.”

“We are aware that more than 90 percent of PUMA’s Carbon Footprint is being generated in shared supply chains. If we want to reduce carbon emissions in our supply chains, we need to work together with our industry peers,” said Bjørn Gulden, CEO of PUMA.

“The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action provides a collective industry effort to support the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Gulden. “We appreciate that UN Climate Change has set up a global platform and call upon our industry peers to join the initiative.”

Featured Image: Brazilian super model Lais Ribeiro attends the Elie Saab show during Paris Fashion Week, Sept. 29, 2018. (Photo by Angel Dust) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Maxtraining

Trump Dismisses U.S. Government’s Climate Warnings

Soldiers from the California Army National Guard conduct search and debris clearing operations in Paradise, California, a town leveled by wildfire in November 2018. (Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman / U.S. Air National Guard) Public domain.

Soldiers from the California Army National Guard conduct search and debris clearing operations in Paradise, California, a town leveled by wildfire in November 2018. (Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman / U.S. Air National Guard) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2018 (Maximpact.com ) – “Earth’s climate is changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” warns a bombshell report from the U.S. government, released Friday. Produced by 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies, it finds that global warming is creating new risks and aggravating current vulnerabilities across the United States.

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities,” states the Fourth National Climate Assessment, developed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

The report concludes that the United States will warm at least three more degrees by 2100 unless the burning of fossil fuels is limited immediately.

“Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change,” states the report. “Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs.”

Yet this congressionally mandated report is being shrugged off by the Trump administration and Republicans although it warns of “growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”

Although the congressionally mandated report is intended to be an authoritative assessment of the impacts of climate change on the United States, it was released over the Thanksgiving weekend, as if the Trump administration, led by a president who views climate change as a “hoax,” wants to deflect public attention from it.

This state-of-the-science synthesis of climate knowledge, impacts, and trends across U.S. regions and sectors is intended to inform decision making and resilience-building activities across the country.

But President Donald Trump told reporters that although he has read parts of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, he doesn’t believe it. “No, I don’t believe it,” the president said.

In 2017 Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, which, through voluntary measures taken by governments, seeks to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and aims to limit warming to just 1.5°C above those levels.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters dismissed the assessment, saying it was “…largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that, despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”

Regardless, the Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era environmental regulations put in place to limit the burning of fossil fuels and the release of potent greenhouse gases such as methane, and has promoted the production of coal and other fossil fuels as part of Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

The report connects climate change to increasing water scarcity, worsening storms, deadly wildfires and greater exposure to tropical diseases across the United States.

And it warns that future climate change will aggravate existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality.

Former Vice President (1993-2001) and environmental activist Al Gore said Friday, “Unbelievably deadly and tragic wildfires rage in the west, hurricanes batter our coasts – and the Trump administration chooses the Friday after Thanksgiving to try and bury this critical U.S. assessment of the climate crisis. The President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible.”

“The rest of us are listening to the scientists – and to Mother Nature. The impacts of the Climate Crisis are being felt in all regions across our country – extreme weather, heat waves, deeper and longer droughts, crop failures, strengthening wildfires, sea level rise – and they are disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable among us.

“Mr. President,” said Gore, “the majority of Americans are deeply concerned about the climate crisis and demand action. Even as local leaders are responding in the wake of fires and storms, national leaders must summon the will to respond urgently to the dire warnings of this report with bold solutions.”

One of the sternest warnings in the report relates to water scarcity. The report states, “Groundwater depletion is exacerbating drought risk in many parts of the United States, particularly in the Southwest and Southern Great Plains. Dependable and safe water supplies for U.S. Caribbean, Hawaii, and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island communities are threatened by drought, flooding, and saltwater contamination due to sea level rise.”

U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Climate Change Task Force and is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Friday, “We can see, feel, hear and experience the impacts of climate change when our communities suffer sea level rise, forest fires, and super-charged hurricanes.”

“The Trump administration may want to bury this report so that it doesn’t get attention, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand to the threat of climate change. We need to take action now to reduce carbon pollution and implement the clean energy solutions that will help save our planet,” Senator Markey said.

“Climate change remains the most critical challenge that human civilization faces, and today’s report affirms that conclusion,” said Markey. “In this National Climate Assessment, our best scientists are sending up an emergency flare – we need to take action now to mitigate carbon emissions or ignore the risks posed by climate change at our peril.”

And the risks are many, the report finds.

“Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs,” the report warns.

Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States, the report finds. Increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.”

Business will also feel the effects. “The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains.”

The report acknowledges that, “Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur, without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.”

While Democrats are taking the report’s findings seriously, Republicans are nonchalant.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, Sunday called for “balance” in responding to heightened concerns that the U.S. may face large-scale disasters, an economic downturn and a loss of jobs due to climate change.

“Any time we are putting regulation out, we need to consider impact to American industry and jobs,” Ernst said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We want to make sure that it makes sense going forward. There is a balance that can be struck there.”

Hurricane Michael storm response from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. With winds of 155 mph, Hurricane Michael was one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in U.S. history, 43 people lost their lives, October 17, 2018. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife) Public domain.

Hurricane Michael storm response from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. With winds of 155 mph, Hurricane Michael was one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in U.S. history, 43 people lost their lives, October 17, 2018. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife) Public domain.

The USGCRP report warns that those likely to be worst affected by climate change include older adults, children, low-income communities, some communities of color and many Indigenous peoples, who rely on natural resources for their economic, cultural, and physical well-being.

Throughout the United States, climate-related impacts are causing some Indigenous peoples to consider or actively pursue community relocation as an adaptation strategy.

Many Indigenous peoples are taking steps to adapt to climate change impacts structured around self-determination and traditional knowledge, and some tribes are pursuing mitigation actions through development of renewable energy on tribal lands.

The report urges governments at every level to help cushion the blow, advising, “Adaptation and mitigation policies and programs that help individuals, communities, and states prepare for the risks of a changing climate reduce the number of injuries, illnesses, and deaths from climate-related health outcomes.”

While the efforts of communities, governments, and businesses to reduce risks and costs associated with climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and implementing adaptation strategies have expanded in the four years since the last report, “…they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades,” the 2018 report warns.

“With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” finds the report.

There are a few hopeful signs. For instance, transformations in the energy sector – including the displacement of coal by natural gas and increased deployment of renewable energy – along with policy actions at the national, regional, state, and local levels are reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

But this assessment shows that more immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as well as regional adaptation efforts, will be needed to avoid the most severe consequences of climate change in the long term.

Featured Image: Fire consumes Florida’s Merritt Island in a prescribed burn to control vegetation. Feb. 12, 2013 (Photo: Michael Good / US Fish & Wildlife Service) Public domain


Climate Change Outlook: What Europeans Can Expect

UN Climate's top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

UN Climate’s top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – If global warming rises more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and no adequate adaptation measures are taken, Europe is at risk of being exposed to more frequent, intense extreme weather conditions with serious economic impacts.

This outlook results from a detailed assessment of the impact of climate change on Europe’s economy, society and environment made by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission’s science and knowledge hub and released on Friday.

The assessment, written by Ignacio Pérez Domínguez and Thomas Fellmann, shows that under a high warming (above 2°C) scenario:

  • Rising temperatures and increased hot spells could result in an additional 132,000 yearly heat fatalities, while labor productivity could drop by 10-15 percent in some southern European countries;
  • Shifts in flower/plant blooming, growing season and changes in soil water content will affect agriculture productivity and habitat suitability, with a potential doubling of the arid climate zone;
  • Sea levels will rise along Europe’s coastlines, resulting in a five-fold increase in coastal flood damages;
  • Three times more people will be exposed to river floods, while river flood damages could rise from 5.3 billion Euro/year to 17.5 billion Euro/year.
  • Energy demand for heating will decrease, yet energy requirements for cooling spaces will rise rapidly;
  • Southern parts of Europe may face increasing water shortage and more droughts, whereas water resources will generally increase in northern Europe;

Most of these climate damages would be greatly reduced under a scenario that keeps warming below the 2°C threshold.

The Joint Research Centre PESETA III report is an agro-economic analysis of climate change impacts in Europe.

The PESETA (Projection of Economic impacts of climate change in Sectors of the European Union based on bottom-up Analysis) project responds to the need to provide quantitative modelling support to the European Commission services regarding the impacts of climate change in Europe.

It brings together experts in economics, biology, physics and engineering to calculate the physical impacts and economic costs of climate change in Europe.

Understanding the possible consequences of climate change is important to design adaptation policies that can help to minimize negative consequences and maximize positive effects.

The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete is reaching out to other high-emitting countries to foster understanding of the EU’s climate control policies. He spoke at the Tsinghua University in Beijing on November 9, explaining European climate policy and what actions the EU is taking to avert the most dangerous effects of rising temperatures.

Currently, the European Union is implementing its 2020 climate and energy package, said Arias Cañete. Agreed by EU leaders in 2007, this package has three key targets:

  • a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990
  • a 20 percent share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020
  • increasing energy efficiency in the EU so as to achieve the goal of saving 20 percent of the EU’s energy consumption

Southern Europe to Be Hardest Hit

It appears that the Mediterranean area will be the most impacted by climate change.

The PESETA III assessment shows that in several impact areas there is a clear geographical north-south divide; countries in southern Europe will be more affected by global warming than those in the north.

This is clearly the case for heat-related deaths, water resources, habitat loss, energy demand for cooling and forest fires.

Counting the Cost

The assessment analyzes the impact of climate change for 11 different impact categories: coastal floods, river floods, droughts, agriculture, energy, transport, water resources, habitat loss, forest fires, labor productivity, and heat-related mortality.

For most of these, the report compares a scenario where actions to limit warming to 2°C are successful, compared to one where they are not.

From the economic perspective, the losses associated with heat-related mortality represent “a very significant share of damages” in a high warming scenario.

Other shares, in order of importance, are: coastal flooding, labor productivity, agriculture and river flooding.

As the coverage of potential impacts is incomplete – damages due to possible climate tipping points and ecosystems services losses are not considered – the sum of the economic damage estimates is not equal to the total economic costs of climate change in Europe. The sum of the economic damage estimates is likely to be higher, the authors say.

The PESETA III report also estimates how climate change impacts in the rest of the world could affect Europe, considering four impact areas – residential energy demand, river flooding, labor productivity and agriculture.

The transboundary effect of these four impact categories was estimated to increase the EU welfare loss by 20 percent in a high warming scenario.

The authors stress that the boundary effects could be far greater when all potential impacts of climate change are considered.

In 2015, the world’s governments adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change, the first-ever universal and legally binding agreement to limit global warming, and deal with its dangerous impacts.

The Paris Agreement emerged after the world’s scientists concluded that global warming is happening, and that human activity – greenhouse gas emissions from our economies and industries – is the key cause.

Now, three years later, global negotiations are taking place to make sure that the Paris Agreement is properly implemented. In December, world leaders will gather in Katowice, Poland for the United Nations COP24 conference on climate, where they intend to finalize the Paris Agreement’s rules and guidelines.

Commitments Fall Short of 1.5°Celsius Goal

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014 (Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014
(Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

The 10-day COP24, which opens December 2, has a new global scientific assessment to guide policy-making and add urgency to negotiations. Released in October, the new special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), shows that a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees would avoid some of the worst climate impacts, and reduce the likelihood of extreme weather events.

But the IPCC report warns that current climate commitments are not enough to achieve this goal.

The IPCC report shows that, “… 1.5 degrees is achievable – as long as we act urgently, and use every tool at our disposal,” Commissioner Arias Cañete told his audience in Beijing. “So,” he said, “it is clear that we must work together and raise the collective global ambition.”

At the opening of a ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, designed to prepare for the outcome of COP24, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa outlined her expectations for the conference.

“The Special Report by the IPCC unequivocally states that the world is not on track to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement – and the window to achieve this is closing rapidly. We’re almost out of time,” Espinosa declared.

“It’s not rhetoric – it’s reality,” she said. “It’s not politics – it’s science.”

“And it’s not a suggestion – it’s a warning … a warning that we are in danger of running out of time before runaway climate change is beyond our control.”

“This is frightening – for everyone,” Espinosa said. “And people throughout the world have made it very clear. They expect their representatives – you – to do something about it.”

Espinosa, who hails from Brazil, is urging all nations to get to work immediately to begin resolving the climate crisis.

Success at COP24 means finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Program– period,” she said. “We no longer have the luxury of time, nor do we have the luxury of endless negotiations.”

“Let us never forget,” Espinosa told the ministerial meeting, “that climate change, if left unaddressed, will take almost every single challenge humanity faces and make it worse.”

“It will destabilize the global economy, which will affect all nations,” she warned. “By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy US$2 trillion.”

“It will create conflict over resources and impact migration. It’s estimated that climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. Worse, it will result in incredible suffering and hardship for people and societies throughout the world,” Espinosa

But addressing climate change, and committing to a low-emissions future—one that is more resilient and sustainable—offers incredible opportunity.

It’s not just an opportunity to do the right thing—it’s an opportunity to completely transform the way we produce and consume, and the way we live.

And that means new markets, new businesses, and, for so many people throughout the world, new jobs…quality jobs…a just transition to a future that is just for all people.

Featured image source: Drought shrinks the reservoir at El Grado, a municipality located in the province of Huesca, Aragon, in northern Spain. August 2012 (Photo by Jorge Franganillo) Creative Commons license via Flickr


mail

Winners Change the Course of Climate Change

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into "biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – From a mobile app that fights food waste and hunger to a government that is taking 100 percent responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions, 15 projects from around the world are demonstrating how fresh ideas, large and small, can change the course of climate change.

“These activities shine a light on scalable climate action around the world,” said Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, executive secretary of UN Climate Change . “They are proof that climate action isn’t only possible, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it makes a difference.”

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have triggered a change in the Earth’s climate system that could leave the planet uninhabitable before the end of this century, warns the latest scientific evaluation from hundreds of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And only human activities that protect the climate can reverse that calamitous course.

“Climate action leaders, including those recognized by the Momentum for Change initiative, are stepping up to meet the global climate challenge by delivering on the Paris Agreement,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“These inspirational leaders, from communities, governments, businesses and organizations, come from all corners of the globe and all levels of society,” Guterres said. “Their winning projects range from transformative financial investments to women-led solutions to protect people and the planet.”

“Through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change,” said the UN chief.

The Momentum for Change initiative, advanced by the UN Climate Change secretariat, illuminates some of the most practical examples of what people are doing to combat climate change.

“There is an enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges,” UN Climate Change said in a statement.

The 2018 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Masdar’s Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Forum (WiSER) initiative, and Climate Neutral Now.

The 15 projects were chosen from more than 560 applications from businesses and governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world.

Each of the 15 winning projects, called Lighthouse Activities, falls within one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Planetary Health, Climate Neutral Now, Women for Results and Financing for Climate Friendly Investment.

They will be showcased in a series of special events during this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) taking place December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

The 2018 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities are:

Planetary Health

* Climate-Efficient School Kitchens and Plant-Powered Pupils | Germany: ProVeg International is providing healthy, climate-friendly meals in German schools. ProVeg International wants animal agriculture placed on the agenda for COP24, saying, “Animal agriculture is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. This issue must be prioritized at COP24.”

  • Santiago Biofactory | Chile: Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company together with its main shareholder SUEZ, is transforming Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge, a wastewater treatment by-product, into clean energy.
  • Composting Waste Treatment: An Ecological Solution to Poverty and Climate Change | Haiti: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is building composting toilets in Haiti, reducing the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, creating jobs, and restoring local environments.
  • Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project | Sri Lanka: Seacology, a nonprofit environmental conservation organization, is helping Sri Lanka become the first nation in history to preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.

Climate Neutral Now

  • Creating the Greenest Football Club in the World – Forest Green Rovers | United Kingdom: The Forest Green Rovers is bringing eco-thinking and technology to a new and large audience: football fans. In 2010, the team began its journey to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral football club. In 2017 FGR became the world’s first vegan football club because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays. The club has since been described by FIFA, as “the world’s greenest football club.”
  • Monash’s Net Zero Initiative | Australia: Monash University, Australia’s largest university, has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2030 for all four of its Australian campuses.
  • Klimanjaro – Climate Neutral Supply Chain | Norway: Fjordkraft, the second largest electricity retailer in Norway, is using its purchasing power to inspire all its suppliers to be climate neutral by 2019.
  • Carbon Neutral Government Program | Canada: In 2010, the province of British Columbiabecame the first government at the provincial, territorial, or state level in North America to take 100 percent responsibility for the greenhouse gas pollution from all 128 of its public-sector organizations. B.C. is committed to reaching its 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2007 levels.

Women for Results

  • Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative | Syria: With the Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative women are defying traditional gender roles and combatting overcrowded streets by promoting bicycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation in the war-torn city of Damascus.
  • Women Leading a Food Sharing Revolution! | UK, Sweden, USA: Women are leading a food revolution with OLIO, the world’s only neighbor-to-neighbor food sharing app. OLIO is co-founded and led by women and two-thirds of the app’s users are women.
A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

Between 33-50 percent of all food produced globally is never eaten, and the value of this wasted food is worth over US$1 trillion annually.

OLIO points out that it takes a land mass larger than China to grow the food each year that is never eaten – land deforested, species driven to extinction, indigenous populations moved, soil degraded – all to produce food that we throw away. Food that is never eaten accounts for 25 percent of all fresh water consumption globally. Meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.

  • HelpUsGreen | India: Women are creating compost from ceremonial flowers and simultaneously cleaning up the River Ganges. Through HelpUsGreen women collect 8.4 tons of floral-waste from temples in Uttar Pradesh on a daily basis. These sacred flowers are handcrafted into charcoal-free incense, organic vermicompost and biodegradable packaging material through the organization’s ‘Flowercycling®’ technology.

“Today,” says HelpUsGreen, “orthodox temples and religious authorities want to be a part of our mission -pointing to a change against a century old harmful religious practice of dumping temple-waste in the Indian rivers.”

  • Feminist Electrification: Ensuring Pro-Women Outcomes in Rural Energy Access | Haiti: Energy poverty, a lack of access to modern energy services, is disproportionally affecting women in rural areas. So, EarthSpark International, a women-run enterprise, is approaching all its energy access projects with a gender lens, referring to this as “feminist electrification.”

In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated, pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. EarthSpark aims to build 80 microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2022.

Financing for Climate Friendly Investment

  • Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA | Rwanda: The Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) is investing in public and private projects that drive transformative change. It is one of the first national environment and climate change investment funds in Africa.

The fund invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change and that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

  • The MAIS Program | Brazil: The MAIS Program (Modulo Agroclimático Inteligente e Sustentável) is helping family agricultural operations adapt to climate change in the Jacuípe Basin, Brazil’s semi-arid region. It is one of the first ever climate-smart agricultural programs to mainstream climate disruptive technologies among farmers in Brazil.
  • Catalytic Finance Initiative | Global: Bank of America Merrill Lynch is working with partners to mobilize US$10 billion for innovative and high-impact climate mitigation and sustainability-focused investments.

Projects announced to date by Bank of America under the Catalytic Finance Initiative include new energy efficiency financing in partnership with the New York State Green Bank totaling $800 million, arranging a $204 million green project bond for wind developer Energia Eolica S.A. in Peru, and helping to structure a new $100 million facility with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

“A central way in which we are helping to build sustainable economies is through our financing of clean energy,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America. “The Catalytic Finance Initiative demonstrates how all partners working together will achieve a greater collective impact.”

The UN’s Momentum for Change initiative is part of a broader effort to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Featured Image: Tessa Cook, left, and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founders of OLIO, the food sharing app. 2018 (Photo courtesy OLIO) Posted for media use.


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Climate Change Raises Mosquito-Borne Disease Risk

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play "La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus." Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play “La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus.” Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BATH, Somerset, United Kingdom, November 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Present-day climate change could result in the spread of deadly mosquito-borne diseases to new places or their return to areas where they have already been eradicated, scientists are warning, based on the largest-ever study of the mosquito evolutionary tree, going back 195 million years.

These diseases – such as malaria, Yellow fever, Zika virus, and Dengue fever – cause millions of deaths each year.

While many of these diseases have been eradicated from Europe and are under control in other parts of the world, resurgence is possible.

New research from British and Chinese scientists at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, University of York  and China Agricultural University, shows that the rate at which new species of mosquitos evolve increases when levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher.

Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2017 was 405 parts per million (ppm), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm.

The scientists say this is concerning because the greater the number of mosquito species, the more potential exists for new ways of vectoring diseases, and perhaps for new variants of those diseases.

Professor Matthew Wills, from the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution, said, “It’s only the female mosquitos that take a blood meal, and they use the CO2 that mammals and other vertebrates exhale as a very general cue to locate their hosts.”

“One line of thinking is that as ambient levels of atmospheric CO2 rose, as they have done in recent decades, mosquitos may have found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the CO2 from their hosts and those background levels,” Wills speculated.

“Vision, body heat and other smells might then have become more important in locating their blood meals, but many of these cues tend to be more specific to particular hosts,” said Wills. “As a general rule, we know that strong host specificity can be an important driver of speciation within parasites, and the same may be true in mosquitos.”

The Bath, York and China Agricultural research found that while there is a link between rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and mosquito diversification, the association is more complicated than previously thought. Other factors – such as the diversity of mammalian hosts – contribute to an increase in the species richness of mosquitos.

Dr. Katie Davis, from the University of York’s Department of Biology, said, “We found that the increase in the diversity of mammals led directly to a rise in the number of mosquito species, and also that there is a relationship between CO2 levels and the number of mammal species.”

“But there are still missing pieces of this puzzle, so we can still only speculate at this stage,” she said.

“It is important to look at the evolution of the mosquito against climate change because mosquitos are responsive to CO2 levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently rising due to changes in the environment that are connected to human activity, so what does this mean for the mosquito and human health?

“Despite some uncertainties, we can now show that mosquito species are able to evolve and adapt to climate change in high numbers. With increased speciation, however, comes the added risk of disease increase and the return of certain diseases in countries that had eradicated them or never experienced them before.”

Chufei Tang, formerly at the Milner Centre for Evolution and now at the China Agricultural University, said, “The rising atmospheric CO2 has been proven to influence various kinds of organisms, but this is the first time such impact has been found on insects. This research provides yet another reason for people to participate in low-carbon lifestyles.”

More research is needed to understand what climate change means for the future of the mosquito, and this research is expected to contribute to further discussions about the value of mosquitos to the ecosystem and how to manage the diseases they carry.

The study, Tang et al (2018) “Elevated atmospheric CO2 promoted speciation in mosquitoes (Diptera, Culicidae)” is published in the journal “Communications Biology,” DOI: 10.1038/s42003-018-0191-7.

Featured Image: Mosquitos, Eldorado, Misiones Province, Argentina, 2012 (Photo by Oscar Fava) Public domain


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Philanthropists Pledge US$4 Billion for Climate Change Battle

The Ferguson Fire burns in California's Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park. August 8, 2018. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region 5) Public domain

The Ferguson Fire burns in California’s Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park. August 8, 2018. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region 5) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 24, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Philanthropic foundations from across the United States and around the world have just pledged $4 billion over the next five years to fight climate change – the largest climate-related philanthropic commitment ever made.

In a joint statement, the 29 contributing foundations said, “As climate philanthropists, we are committed to supporting the vast array of solutions required to tackle this global problem. We know that every moment, and every dollar, counts. Which is why we are proud to announce today the joint commitment of more than $4 billion over the next five years to combat climate change.”

“We know that it is only a down payment,” the philanthropists declared. “Everyone has a role to play—and philanthropy must be prepared to invest many billions more.”

The announcement, made at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on September 14, is a broad global commitment to accelerate proven climate and clean-energy strategies, spur innovation and support organizations everywhere working to protect their communities and the air they breathe.

“Philanthropists can and must work together as catalysts to engage governments, the business community and NGOs to accelerate progress on climate change,” said Nat Simons, co-founder of the Sea Change Foundation. “The multi-billion dollar commitment announced today is only a down payment. Together we’ll need to invest billions more. And soon.”

The contributing foundations are working to form new global coalitions of philanthropic investors focused on high leverage issues like sustainable land use. The goal is to demonstrate their viability and enable investors of all sizes and capacities to participate for maximum impact.

“Now, more than ever, philanthropy has to step up and go big. The health of our children, our communities, and our economic future literally depends on it,” write MacArthur Foundation executives Debra Schwartz, managing director, impact investments, and Susan Phinney Silver, mission investing director, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, in an article on the MacArthur Foundation website.

“If we are going to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, we can only afford to emit about another 600 Gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. At current rates, that will take about 14 years (or perhaps a decade longer if we aim for 2 degrees). In either scenario, urgent action is needed,” write Schwartz and Silver.

The $4 billion worth of investments will support an array of strategies, with an emphasis on those addressing the five challenge areas addressed at the Global Climate Action Summit – healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship and transformative climate investments.

“The value of these investment strategies are clear in three critical areas that benefit from philanthropic capital that can be flexible and risk-tolerant: renewable energy, energy efficiency in the built environment, and sustainable forestry and land use,” write Schwartz and Silver.

Over the past 20 years, the nonprofit sector, supported by philanthropists, have broadened access to low-cost, reliable wind and solar energy; designed policies that are revolutionizing the integration of a new generation of electric vehicles; and provided critical support to countries working to meet the requirements of the historic Paris Agreement on climate.

“Tackling global climate change requires partnership and collaboration, and philanthropy has an important role to play,” said Patricia Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

“We’re proud to support efforts that are making incredible local progress around the world, but there’s so much more that needs to be done,” said Harris. “This landmark pledge is a key step to making even greater impact, together.”

The philanthopists say that by working together, sharing knowledge, welcoming new partners, and harnessing the actions of governments, the private sector and everyday citizens, the philanthropic community can be a catalyst in the fight against our world’s greatest threat.

Much of their $4 billion investment will support local organizations working on the front lines of climate change who are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting carbon sinks such as the Amazon rainforest. They want the funding to “propel the expansion of successful local efforts to solve the climate crisis and allow those most affected by the climate crisis to shape the solutions to it.”

“Each day brings new evidence of climate change affecting lives – from extreme weather events, to increased food insecurity, to tragic impacts on human health,” said Kate Hampton, CEO of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

“We see the suffering that a steadily warming planet is causing to people around the world, but we also see hope,” Hampton said. “As philanthropists, we are committed to doing our part and to engaging on climate change like never before.”

“This initiative is a breakthrough, and very welcomed by civil society. Political leaders need to feel the pressure from their constituencies to prioritize action on climate change,” said Wael Hmaidan, executive director

the nonprofit Climate Action Network International. “By supporting a strong base of mobilizers, influencers and change agents in local communities around the world, this commitment can help accomplish that.”

Funders contributing to this effort include: Barr Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bullitt Foundation, Sir Christopher Hohn and The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The Educational Foundation of America, Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, Grantham Foundation, Grove Foundation, Growald Family Fund, George Gund Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, IKEA Foundation, Ivey Foundation, Joyce Foundation, JPB Foundation, KR Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Dee & Richard Lawrence and OIF, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, McKinney Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Oak Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sea Change Foundation, Turner Foundation and Yellow Chair Foundation.

The $4 billion from philanthropic foundations can accomplish a great deal, but it is not the only investment being made by the private sector to mitigate global warming.

Investors Fight Funding Shortfall

The Investor Agenda, also launched at the Global Climate Action Summit, will support investors in accelerating and scaling-up the actions that are critical to tackling climate change and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement across four key focus areas: investment, corporate engagement, investor disclosure, and policy advocacy.

Showcasing investor leadership on climate change will be used to inspire even more generous commitments and building on existing momentum.

Momentum is already evident, with 392 investors with US$32 trillion in assets collectively under management using The Investor Agenda to highlight climate action they are already taking and making new commitments.

To date, 120 investors are pursuing new and existing investments in low carbon and climate resilient portfolios, funds, strategies or assets such as renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; phasing out investments in coal; and integrating climate change into portfolio analysis and decision-making.

“The emergence of The Investor Agenda reflects the mounting urgency among the global investor community to address the greatest challenge of our time through measurable and transparent actions,” said Peter Damgaard Jensen, CEO of Danish pension fund PKA with over $42 billion in assets under management, and chair of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change.

At least 345 institutional investors with US$30 trillion in assets are urging governments to implement the Paris Agreement and enhance their climate policy ambitions by 2020. They are calling for: phase out of thermal coal power worldwide, greater investment in the low-carbon transition and improving climate-related financial disclosures.

Investor disclosure highlights the more than 60 investors committed to reporting in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure recommendations.

Corporate engagement highlights 650 investors with US$87 trillion in assets backing the Carbon Disclosure Project’s environmental disclosure request; and 296 investors from 29 countries with US$31 trillion in assets that are signatories to Climate Action 100+. This investor-led initiative engages the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters and asks them to limit emissions to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), supports these investor actions.

“Investors are showing great leadership to promote climate action in multiple fronts. Their efforts to meet the shortfall in the financial resources required to deliver the Paris Agreement goals, and further building on engagement with high-emitting sectors are a valuable contribution,” said Espinosa. “Yet we believe many more opportunities exist.”


Featured Image:  Human encroachment of Kenya’s Mau Forest by local communities has degraded the forest. Members of the Peace Ambassadors Kenya pambio.org/green-print-project are planting trees to restore the Mau Forest, Kenya’s largest water tower and the region’s rainfall catchment area. September 20, 2018 (Photo by Antony Odhiambo / Global Landscapes Forum) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Global Climate Action Summit Strives to Stoke Ambition

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Global leaders from across the private sector, local government and civil society are in San Francisco this week to showcase progress, unveil new climate commitments and to launch new platforms to work in partnership across sectors to accelerate implementation of the Paris Climate Accord.

California Governor Jerry Brown welcomes China to the Global Climate Action Summit, September 12, 2018, San Francisco, California (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public Domain

California Governor Jerry Brown welcomes China to the Global Climate Action Summit, September 12, 2018, San Francisco, California (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public Domain

The Global Climate Action Summit runs from September 12 to 14 in many venues across San Francisco, under the theme Taking Ambition to the Next Level.

To keep warming well below 2°, and ideally 1.5 degrees C – temperatures that could lead to catastrophic consequences – worldwide emissions must start trending down by 2020.

The Summit will showcase climate action around the world, along with bold new commitments, to give world leaders the confidence they need to go even further by 2020 to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals.

The Summit’s five headline challenge areas are Healthy Energy Systems; Inclusive Economic Growth; Sustainable Communities; Land and Ocean Stewardship and Transformative Climate Investments.

Many partners are supporting the Summit and the mobilization in advance including Climate Group; the Global Covenant of Mayors; Ceres; the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group; BSR; We Mean Business; CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project; WWF; and Mission 2020.

The Global Climate Action Summit – the first ever designed exclusively for businesses, sub-national governments, and local leaders – sets the stage for the greater action needed by 2020 from all actors – from national governments within their national climate action plans, and from even more cities, states, businesses, and local communities around the world.

China Gets a Warm Welcome

Helping kick off the Global Climate Action Summit, California Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown led his state’s delegation at the Under2 Coalition General Assembly and welcomed new signatories to the California-led coalition, which now represents 17 percent of the global population and 43 percent of the global economy.

Governor Brown also welcomed China’s 120-plus attendees – the largest country delegation at the event. “China has taken this global summit very, very seriously and we hope to build on that in the months and years ahead as California, the U.S. and China, and Jiangsu Province in particular, work ever more closely to combat climate change,” said Brown at the opening of the China Pavilion at the Summit.

“Let’s leave this Summit more committed than ever to get to – not low-carbon, zero–carbon, and then minus carbon – a prosperous world for all,” said Brown in welcoming China’s top environmental officials and representatives from Chinese provinces, cities, business and civil society at the opening ceremony of the China Pavilion, which showcases China’s progress on its climate goals.”

Governor Brown held a bilateral meeting with Vice Governor Miao Ruilin of Jiangsu Province – California’s sister-state and one of the first provinces in China to join the Under2 Coalition – to discuss agreements signed by the Governor in Nanjing last year and in 2013 to expand cooperation on areas including climate, clean energy and technology.

Governor Brown also renewed climate agreements signed with China in 2013 and 2015 – with then-National Development and Reform Commission Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua, currently leading the Chinese delegation at the Global Climate Action Summit as China’s Special Representative for Climate Change.

The agreement signed Wednesday seeks to enhance cooperation between California and China on programs that mitigate carbon emissions and short-lived climate forcers, implement carbon emissions trading systems, share clean energy technologies, strengthen low-carbon development and other initiatives.

Indigenous People Make Their Voices Heard

On Monday, hundreds gathered outside the site of the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force meeting leading up to the Global Climate Action Summit.

From the Indigenous and Frontline communities organizing this protest, “People of the world are being led astray by polluting industries and elected officials promoting climate capitalist systems like carbon trading and carbon tax shell games. These systems do nothing to stop the fossil fuel industry from continuing to cause climate disruption. They allow the fossil fuel industry to continue to harm Indigenous people and communities around the world from extraction to transport to refining.”

“Today hundreds helped us demand that our Indigenous representatives from tribes and organizations that are resisting cap and trade schemes, and instead promoting real solutions be allowed to address the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force at the Parc 55 Hotel. Their voices were heard and they were given a chance to speak the truth [of] the tribal groups being courted by those promoting carbon trading in the place of real solutions to climate change.”

This action was organized by Idle No More SF Bay, Indigenous Environmental Network, It Takes Roots, Diablo Rising Tide, Indigenous Bloc at RISE Days of Action, and Indigenous Rising Media.

Food and Land Use Crucial to Climate Conservation

As a member of the Summit’s Advisory Committee, the global nonprofit WWF is coordinating the 30X30 Forest, Food and Land Challenge. The initiative calls on businesses, states, city and local governments, and global citizens to take action for better forest and habitat conservation, food production and consumption, and land use, working together across all sectors of the economy to deliver up to 30 percent of the climate solutions needed by 2030.

WWF is working with partners to unveil new efforts and commitments at the high-level thematic dialogues on land stewardship on September 13, such as:

  • Science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase sequestration in land-intensive supply chains;
  • Collaborations between multinational companies and local governments and communities to eliminate deforestation in vital ecosystems;
  • Institutional and chef-led programs to halve food loss and waste by 2030;
  • Major financing to help regional and local governments to promote more sustainable land use and restoration.

WWF and its partners in We Are Still In will unveil new commitments from American businesses, mayors, universities and other U.S. actors on September 12 at the We Are Still In Forum.

Since its launch in June 2017, We Are Still In has nearly tripled in size to include over 3,500 signatories, collectively representing more than 155 million Americans and $9.5 trillion in U.S. GDP.

“For too long, land has been the overlooked piece of the climate solution. When we improve the way we manage our land and improve our food systems, we can help reverse the impact of human-caused climate change and get closer to keeping warming below 1.5°C,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy program, and Summit advisory committee member.

“National governments need to follow the pace set by private sector and local leaders this week, looking for opportunities to enhance the ambition of their national climate plans through improved land stewardship,” he said.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change projects that current commitments made by the private sector and local government have the potential to halve the emissions gap between current trajectories and what is needed to stay below 2°C of planetary warming.

In the United States, for example, bottom-up progress can deliver half of what’s needed to achieve the country’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below the 2005 level in 2025.

“New targets from business and local leaders are a critical first step but alone they are not enough to transform our transportation, food and energy systems,” said Lou Leonard, senior vice president of climate change and energy, WWF-US.

“To change our trajectory, this Summit must generate new partnerships and new ways of working. In the U.S., this model of radical collaboration is working through efforts like the We Are Still In coalition. Together, unusual partners across American society are coming together to implement their goals,” enthused Leonard. “We can go further and reach higher by partnering across sectors of the economy to drive change.”

Featured Image: People demonstrate their support for action to control climate change, September 10, 2018 San Francisco, California (Photo by Peg Hunter) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ISPRA, Italy, August 14, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Famous Hawaiian swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku always warned, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” He wanted people to watch out for the physical dangers of being hit by a wave from behind, and he wanted humankind to show respect for the ocean – a warning that today is more urgent than ever.

The findings of two Joint Research Centre (JRC) studies released on Monday show that without increased investment in coastal adaptation, the annual damage caused by coastal floods in Europe could increase from €1.25 billion today to between €93 billion and €961 billion by the end of the century.

One in three citizens of the European Union lives within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the coast. Due to an increase in extreme sea levels driven by global warming, coastal floods could impact up to 3.65 million people every year in Europe by 2100, compared to around 102,000 people affected today.

In the JRC studies scientists project both how global extreme sea levels will change during the present century, and also how rising seas combined with socioeconomic change will affect future losses from coastal flooding.

Sea levels are rising, and the trajectory is expected to continue beyond the year 2100, even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized right now. Most scientists expect the sea to rise by at least one meter (39 inches) during this century, and many believe sea levels may even rise three meters by 2100, in view of new evidence on ice-cliff instability of the Antarctic.

Antarctica alone has the potential to contribute more than a meter of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 meters by 2500, if emissions continue unabated, finds a 2016 study by Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Geosciences, and David Pollard of Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.

DeConto and Pollard warn that atmospheric warming will become the dominant driver of ice loss, and prolonged ocean warming will delay ocean recovery for “thousands of years.”

With continued ocean and atmospheric warming, sea levels are likely to rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Global warming is expected to drive increasing extreme sea levels and flood risk along all the world’s coastlines. This year sea levels continue their upward movement, rising about three inches higher than levels measured in 1993.

Higher sea levels mean that deadly and destructive storm surges push farther inland than they once did, causing more frequent flooding.

In cities, rising seas threaten infrastructure underpinning local jobs and regional industries. Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills – virtually all human infrastructure – is at risk from sea level rise, NOAA warns.

European scientists are issuing equally urgent warnings of “unprecedented flood risk unless timely adaptation measures are taken.”

The JRC researchers considered two scenarios – one where moderate policy efforts are made to mitigate climate change and a business as usual situation.

They concluded that in order for Europe to keep future coastal flood losses constant relative to the size of the economy, defense structures need to be installed or reinforced to withstand increases in extreme sea levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 meters (1.64 to 8.2 feet).

The researchers identified climate change as the main driver of the projected rise in costs from coastal flooding. This is a change from the current situation globally, where increasing risk has been driven by socioeconomic development.

In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

Globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans . These are the cities most at risk of sea level rise. They are: Tokyo, Japan; Mumbai, India; New York City, USA; Shanghai, China; Lagos, Nigeria; Los Angeles, USA; Calcutta, India; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a 2017 study in “Scientific Reports” from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Hawaii.

The study, led by Sean Vitousek, a engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, projects increases in flooding for Pacific islands, parts of Southeast Asia and coastlines along India, Africa and South America in the years and decades ahead, before spreading to engulf nearly the entire tropical region.

Alarming projections by Climate Central, a U.S.-based climate change science and advocacy group, show that approximately one million South Africans live in areas that will be inundated by rising seas as the climate warms, unless carbon emissions are cut steeply by the year 2100.

A World Bank study  published in March identified coastal areas with low elevation, and assessed the consequences of continued sea-level rise for 84 developing countries, using satellite maps of the world overlaid with data on population growth.

Including 12 Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, D.P.R Korea, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the World Bank study found that the impact of sea-level rise will be particularly severe for this region.

A one-meter rise may displace some 37 million people, the World Bank concluded. The number of vulnerable people would increase to 60 million with a two-meter rise. A three-meter rise can impact 90 million people, nearly equivalent to the population of Vietnam, the fourth most populated country in East Asia.

China and Indonesia are the two countries most vulnerable to permanent inundation.

In March, China’s oceanic authority called for measures to cope with rising sea levels.

A report released by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said that the average sea level along China’s coast in 2017 was 58 mm (2.28 inches) higher than the average level between 1993 and 2011.

Over the past six years, the sea level along China’s coast has remained high compared with the previous 24 years.

The situation is the result of climate change and global warming, which have increased the temperature of China’s coastal regions and the ocean, according to the SOA report.

Rising sea levels will increase the area inundated by sea water, aggravate marine disasters, and harm the ecosystem, Chen Zhi, an SOA official, told the state-run Xinhua news agency in March.

The report said China’s ability to prevent and respond to disasters should be improved. The layout of coastal cities and infrastructure planning should take the rising sea levels into account, and emergency shelters and warehouses for disaster relief supplies should be located a safe distance from high-risk areas.

The SOA report advises that China’s coastal cities should verify the flood protection ability and upgrade design standards for important infrastructure projects in the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the northern coastal area of Bohai, near Beijing.

The report calls for protecting ecological resources, including coastal mangroves and wetlands.

The management of coastal water resources must be strengthened, the SOA advised, saying that the overexploitation of groundwater and land subsidence in coastal regions should be controlled in order to reduce harm from salt tides, sea water encroachment, and soil salinization.

China’s State Oceanic Administration report proposes pushing forward international cooperation in global marine governance, such as observation and prediction, risk assessment, and the response to rising sea levels.

One response that promotes safety, as Duke Kahanamoku said, “Never turn your back on the ocean.”

Featured Image: Wave breaks on the coast of Ireland, September 29, 2013 (Photo by John Twohig) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Climate Change Could Shock Global Food Markets

A pile of corn purchased at Kurtkoy Market, Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2009 (Photo by CCarlstead) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A pile of corn purchased at Kurtkoy Market, Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2009 (Photo by CCarlstead) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SEATTLE, Washington, June 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The warming climate is likely to result in increased volatility of grain prices, maize production shocks and reduced food security, finds new research published Monday in the U.S. journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Volatility in the global grain market creates uncertainty for farmers and agribusinesses and can lead to price spikes that reduce access to food, warn researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the University of Minnesota.

Corn, or maize, is grown more widely than any other crop. Used in food, cooking oil, livestock feed and vehicle fuel, corn is essential to the lives of billions of people. Price spikes could throw poorer people into hunger.

In their study titled, “Future warming increases probability of globally synchronized maize production shocks,” lead author Michelle Tigchelaar and colleagues estimated the probability of such shocks in maize production under future climate warming.

The study used global climate projections with maize growth models to confirm previous research showing that warmer temperatures will negatively affect corn crops.

“Previous studies have often focused on just climate and plants, but here we look at climate, food and international markets,” said Tigchelaar, a UW postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric sciences.

“We find that as the planet warms, it becomes more likely for different countries to simultaneously experience major crop losses, which has big implications for food prices and food security,” she cautioned.

Under 2°C of global warming, estimated mean yields declined, and yield variability increased worldwide, particularly in the United States, Eastern Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa.

The top four corn-exporting countries – the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine – collectively account for 87 percent of global corn exports. Currently, the probability of all four of these countries experiencing simultaneous yield losses greater than 10 percent of the present-day mean yield is negligible.

But the authors estimate that the probability of such simultaneous losses might increase to seven percent under

2°C warming and to 86 percent under 4°C warming, triggering a higher frequency of international price spikes.

“When people think about climate change and food, they often initially think about drought,” Tigchelaar said, “but it’s really extreme heat that’s very detrimental for crops. Part of that is because plants grown at a higher temperature demand more water, but it’s also that extreme heat itself negatively affects crucial stages in plant development, starting with the flowering stage and ending with the grain-filling stage.”

The authors write that their results “underscore the urgency of investments in breeding for heat tolerance.”

“Even with optimistic scenarios for reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, results show that the volatility in year-to-year maize production in the U.S. will double by the middle of this century, due to increasing average growing season temperature,” said co-author David Battisti, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences.

“The same will be true in the other major maize-exporting countries,” he said. “Climate change will cause unprecedented volatility in the price of maize, domestically and internationally.”

The authors say their results emphasize the importance of aggressive carbon dioxide emissions mitigation and also breeding crops for improved heat tolerance. Efforts to pursue new agricultural technology to ensure food security for a growing global population would be worthwhile, they say.

 Vegetable display at the farmers' market, Hollywood, Florida, April 29, 2017 (Photo by Yellow Green Farmers Market) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Vegetable display at the farmers’ market, Hollywood, Florida, April 29, 2017 (Photo by Yellow Green Farmers Market) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Vegetables Shrivel as Climate Heats Up

A separate study, also published Monday in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” finds that the global production of vegetables and legumes could be “significantly reduced through predicted future changes to the environment.”

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), this research is the first to systematically examine how increases in temperature and reduced water availability could affect the production and nutritional quality of common crops such as tomatoes, leafy vegetables and pulses.

If no action is taken to reduce the negative impacts on agricultural yields, the LSHTM researchers estimate that the environmental changes predicted for the second half of this century in water availability and ozone concentrations would reduce average yields of vegetables by 35 percent and and legumes by nine percent.

In hot settings such as Southern Europe and large parts of Africa and South Asia, increased air temperatures would reduce average vegetable yields by an estimated 31 percent.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of all the available evidence from experimental studies published since 1975 on the impacts of changes in environmental exposures on the yield and nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. Experiments were conducted in 40 countries.

Previous research has shown that raised levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide could increase crop yields, but this study identified for the first time that these potential yield benefits are likely to be canceled out in the presence of simultaneous changes in other environmental exposures.

Dr. Pauline Scheelbeek, lead author at LSHTM, said, “Our study shows that environmental changes such as increased temperature and water scarcity may pose a real threat to global agricultural production, with likely further impacts on food security and population health.

“Vegetables and legumes are vital components of a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet and nutritional guidelines consistently advise people to incorporate more vegetables and legumes into their diet,” said Dr. Scheelbeek. “Our new analysis suggests, however, that this advice conflicts with the potential impacts of environmental changes that will decrease the availability of these important crops unless action is taken.”

To lessen the risks that future environmental changes pose to these crops, researchers say that innovations to improve agricultural production must be a priority, including the development of new crop varieties as well as enhanced agricultural management and mechanization.

The LSHTM study was funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of its Our Planet, Our Health program.

Dr. Howie Frumkin, who heads Our Planet, Our Health at Wellcome, said, Improvements in agricultural technology have dramatically boosted the world’s food production over the last 80 or so years. But we mustn’t be complacent. Environmental changes, including more chaotic weather patterns and a warming climate, threaten our ability to feed the world’s people.”

“Some of the most important foods, and some of the world’s most vulnerable people, are at highest risk. This research is a wake-up call, underlining the urgency of tackling climate change and of improving agricultural practices,” said Frumkin.

The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, including the shortage of evidence on the impact of environmental changes on the nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. The research team identified this as an area requiring more research.

Professor Alan Dangour, senior author at LSHTM, said, “We have brought together all the available evidence on the impact of environmental change on yields and quality of vegetables and legumes for the first time.”

“Our analysis suggests that if we take a business as usual approach, environmental changes will substantially reduce the global availability of these important foods. Urgent action needs to be taken,” Dangour demanded, “including working to support the agriculture sector to increase its resilience to environmental changes, and this must be a priority for governments across the world.”

Featured images: A cornfield flourishes in Pennsylvania, July 18, 2010 (Photo by fishhawk) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Nations Step Up Climate Action Ambitions

Participants in the Talanoa Dialogue share their stories and insights regarding climate change in one of seven dialogue rooms in Bonn, Germany. May 6, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Participants in the Talanoa Dialogue share their stories and insights regarding climate change in one of seven dialogue rooms in Bonn, Germany. May 6, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, May 8, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “We need to dramatically increase our ambitions. We are witnessing the severe impacts of climate change throughout the world,” said Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, at a news conference in Bonn.

“Every credible scientific source is telling us that these impacts will only get worse if we do not address climate change, and it also tells us that our window of time for addressing it is closing very soon,” she warned.

Espinosa was speaking at the latest round of United Nations climate change negotiations taking place in Bonn. Talks, which opened April 30 and run through May 10, are focused on developing the operating manual for implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

The accord aims to keep temperature rises this century well below 2 degrees Celsius as compared with pre-industrial levels.

The UNFCCC chief outlined three priorities:

First, all stakeholders, including governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, investors and citizens, must accelerate climate action by 2020.

Second, she said, the international community must complete the Paris Agreement guidelines, or operating manual, to unleash the potential of the accord.

Third, conditions must be improved to enable countries to be more ambitious in determining their own national policies to slow down global warming.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) held last November under the leadership of Fiji, nations agreed to accelerate and complete their work to put in place the guidelines, officially known as the Paris Agreement Work Programme, at COP24 in Katowice, Poland this coming December.

At this Bonn meeting, governments are drafting texts to be finalized at COP24.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and COP 23 President, Fiji, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa speak in a hallway at the Bonn Climate Conference, May 7, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and COP 23 President, Fiji, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa speak in a hallway at the Bonn Climate Conference, May 7, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Espinosa said, “To reach success at COP24, it is essential that nations begin working towards draft negotiating texts at the May meeting. This will provide a solid foundation for work in the second half of 2018 and help them to deliver a strong result.”

Finishing the operating manual is necessary to assess whether the world is on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while pursuing efforts to keep the temperature rise to less than 1.5°C.

Throughout this year, countries will focus on how they can scale up their climate ambition and implementation in the pre-2020 period. All countries share the view that climate action is essential prior to 2020 when implementation of the Paris Accord begins.

Talks focused on the financial support needed to make the Paris Agreement work. By one estimate, the annual un-avoided damages of climate change will cost $50 billion by 2020, growing to $300 billion in 2030.

Bloomberg Covers USA’s Paris Agreement Obligations

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire philanthropist, former Mayor of New York City, and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action, pledged last June to make up the funding shortfall of the Climate Change Secretariat, the UNFCCC. The shortfall was caused by U.S. President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In late March, the United States Congress announced that it was cutting funding to the UNFCCC for this year by $4.5 million; from $7.5 million, down to $3 million.

Bloomberg’s $4.5 million contribution will go towards general operations, including assisting countries to meet targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Accord, agreed by 193 States in the French capital.

Bloomberg announced his contribution on the CBS television program “Face the Nation,” saying that, “America made a commitment and as an American, if the government’s not going to do it, we all have a responsibility.”

Bloomberg said he will make additional funds available to the UN Climate Change Secretariat should the U.S. government continue to fail to pay its share of the UN climate budget in 2019.

Bloomberg also provided the majority of funding for the U.S. Climate Action pavilion in Bonn, Germany at COP23 when the federal government failed to provide the traditional exhibition space for American climate leadership.

At COP 23, Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown launched the phase 1 America’s Pledge report – a footprint analysis of greehouse gas emissions in the United States – and formally submitted it to the UN in place of the federal Nationally Determined Contribution. They plan to release the phase 2 later this year and formally submit it, as well.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Twitter that he was “very grateful to Michael Bloomberg, not only for his generous support to the United Nations, but also for his global leadership on climate action.”

The Talanoa Dialogue for Climate Ambition

An important objective of the May session in Bonn is holding the Talanoa Dialogue. The Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue is facilitated by the UNFCCC Secretariat and will enjoy the presence of high-level officials from Fiji, including Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is the President of COP23.

The Pacific island concept of Talanoa was introduced by Fiji, which held the Presidency of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference. It aims at an inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue.

Traditional in the Pacific region, the purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. The Talanoa method purposely avoids blame and criticism to create a safe space for the exchange of ideas and collective decision-making.

The consultative dialogue will check progress, reaffirm the goals of the Paris Agreement and aim to help countries increase their ambition now and in the next round of their voluntary national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Talanoa Dialogue made history when countries and non-party stakeholders, including cities, businesses, youth, indigenous peoples, workers, investors and regions, engaged in interactive story-telling around current and future ambitions for the first time.

Hilda Heine, president of the low-lying Marshall Islands, tweeted, “The #Talanoa4ambition is not some bureacratic box-ticking exercise for my country. It’s the first step for giving us the pathway to survival the #ParisAgreement promised us.”

Alberto Saldamando, speaking for the Indigenous Environmental Network, US/Canada, said, “It is well understood that Indigenous Peoples are most directly and severely affected by climate change. Catastrophic weather events affect us worldwide – the Amazon forest, the Himalayan Mountains, the Arctic, North America, the Pacific and

Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

“Rising oceans cause a loss of our habitat, territory and food sovereignty and security. Our indigenous peoples in all regions experience severe storms, droughts and flooding. These events detrimentally affect not only our food sovereignty and security but our very existence, our cultures and identity as indigenous peoples,” said Saldamando.

“Defenders of our food security, our ecosystems, territories and cultures, and Sacred Water are criminalized, facing intimidation, imprisonment and assassination. Negotiations have yet to fairly address human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.

“The Talanoa Dialogue must result in substantially increased pre-2020 ambitions in the mitigation of greenhouse gases. The Dialogue must also provide political momentum for substantially increased ambition for NDCs to be communicated by parties in 2020,” he said.

The content of these story-telling conversations will feed into the Talanoa Dialogue’s political phase at COP24. The political phase will bring together government ministers and high-level officials for conversations with a view to generating political momentum to check the warming climate.

Climate Change as a Public Health Emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that records for extreme weather events are being broken at an unprecedented rate, and that there is a real risk that the planet could lose its capacity to sustain human life if the climate is further altered by adding ever more heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

WHO officials expressed the warning while presenting new data at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn that shows that nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants and that around seven million people every year die from exposure to fine particles in polluted air.

The figure could be surpassed by deaths caused by rising global temperatures and extreme weather if emissions, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, are allowed to rise at their present rate.

Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, WHO Team Lead on Climate Change and Health, said, “We see the Paris Agreement as a fundamental public health agreement, potentially the most important public health agreement of the century.”

“If we don’t meet the climate challenge, if we don’t bring down greenhouse gas emissions, then we are undermining the environmental determinates of health on which we depend,” said Dr. Campbell-Lendrum. “We undermine water supplies, we undermine our air, we undermine food security.”

Featured image: Tomasz Chruszczow, COP 24 Presidency, Poland (left), and Incoming COP 24 President Michal Kurtyka, Poland at the climate talks in Bonn, May 5, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth 


Permafrost Not So Permanent Any More

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Global warming will thaw about 20 percent more permafrost than previously thought, scientists are warning, potentially releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Scientists estimate that there is more carbon contained in the frozen permafrost than now exists in the atmosphere.

The extent of permafrost regions makes them a global issue. A quarter of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere consists of permafrost soils, which have been frozen solid for thousands of years. A third of the world’s coastlines are permafrost and span Canada, Greenland, Norway and Siberia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Permafrost, which covers 15 million square kilometers of the land surface, is extremely sensitive to climate warming. Researchers warn that loss of permafrost would radically change high-latitude hydrology and biogeochemical cycling.

Permafrost soils contain ancient, frozen organic matter. If permafrost begins to thaw, bacteria breaks down the organic matter, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. This leads to greater warming of the Earth’s climate.

How much warming is unclear, because many of the processes associated with permafrost thaw are not yet understood. But in the past year or two, more and more scientists are pursuing this knowledge.

An international research study, written by climate change experts from Norway’s University of Oslo, Sweden’s Stockholm University, and the UK’s National Meteorological Service, the University of Leeds and University of Exeter, reveals that permafrost is more sensitive to the effects of global warming than previously thought.

The study, published last April in the journal “Nature Climate Change,” indicates that nearly four million square kilometers of frozen soil – an area larger than India – could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced.

Permafrost is frozen soil that has been at a temperature of below 0ºC for at least two years. Large quantities of carbon are stored in organic matter trapped in the icy permafrost soils. When permafrost thaws, the organic matter starts to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which increase global temperatures.

Thawing permafrost has potentially damaging consequences, not just for greenhouse gas emissions, but also the stability of buildings located in high-latitude cities.

Roughly 35 million people live in the permafrost zone, with three cities built on continuous permafrost along with many smaller communities. A widespread thaw could cause the ground to become unstable, putting roads and buildings at risk of collapse.

Recent studies have shown that the Arctic is warming at around twice the rate as the rest of the world, with permafrost already starting to thaw across large areas.

The researchers, from Sweden and Norway as well as the UK, suggest that the huge permafrost losses could be averted if ambitious global climate targets are met.

Lead-author Dr. Sarah Chadburn of the University of Leeds said, “A lower stabilization target of 1.5ºC would save approximately two million square kilometres of permafrost.

Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate targets could limit permafrost loss. For the first time we have calculated how much could be saved.”

In the study, researchers used a novel combination of global climate models and observed data to deliver a robust estimate of the global loss of permafrost under climate change.

The team looked at the way that permafrost changes across the landscape, and how this is related to the air temperature.

They then considered possible increases in air temperature in the future, and converted these to a permafrost distribution map using their observation-based relationship. This allowed them to calculate the amount of permafrost that would be lost under proposed climate stabilisation targets.

As co-author Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter explained, “We found that the current pattern of permafrost reveals the sensitivity of permafrost to global warming.”

The study suggests that permafrost is more susceptible to global warming that previously thought, as stabilizing the climate at 2ºC above pre-industrial levels would lead to thawing of more than 40 percent of today’s permafrost areas.

Co-author Dr. Eleanor Burke, from the Met Office Hadley Centre, said, “The advantage of our approach is that permafrost loss can be estimated for any policy-relevant global warming scenario. The ability to more accurately assess permafrost loss can hopefully feed into a greater understanding of the impact of global warming and potentially inform global warming policy.”

In October, American researchers sounded their own permafrost alarm.

In a research study published in the journal “Nature Communications” and supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, scientists found that both sunlight and the right community of microbes are keys to the conversion of permafrost carbon to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Oregon State University say the stakes are high because there is more carbon stored in the frozen permafrost than in the atmosphere. This carbon has accumulated over millions of years by plants growing and dying, with a very slow decaying process because of the freezing weather.

“We’ve long known that microbes convert the carbon into CO2, but previous attempts to replicate the Arctic system in laboratory settings have failed,” said Byron Crump, an Oregon State University (OSU) biogeochemist and co-author on the study. “As it turns out, that is because the laboratory experiments did not include a very important element – sunlight.”

“When the permafrost melts and stored carbon is released into streams and lakes in the Arctic, it gets exposed to sunlight, which enhances decay by some microbial communities, and destroys the activity for other communities,” Crump explained.

“Different microbes react differently, but there are hundreds, even thousands of different microbes out there, and it turns out that the microbes in soils are well-equipped to eat sunlight-exposed permafrost carbon,” he said.

As the climate continues to warm, there will be consequenses for the Arctic, says Crump, who is a faculty member in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“The long-term forecast for the Arctic tundra ecosystem is for the warming to lead to shrubs and bigger plants replacing the tundra, which will provide shade from the sunlight,” Crump said. “That is considered a negative feedback. But there also is a positive feedback, in that seasons are projected to expand.”

“Spring will arrive earlier, and fall will be later, and more water and carbon will enter lakes and streams with more rapid degradation of carbon,” said Crump.

“Which feedback will be stronger? No one can say for sure.”

Indigenous Coastal Peoples Losing Homes Built on Permafrost

In November, a team of European scientists, coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, concluded that retreating permafrost coasts threaten the fragile Arctic environment.

Now they are exploring the consequences for the global climate and for the people living in the Arctic.

Working together with residents of the Arctic region, the researchers will co-design strategies for the future that will help them cope with ongoing climate change.

Researchers have known for years that the permafrost is thawing ever more rapidly due to climate change. Yet they still don’t know exactly what consequences this will have for the global climate, or for the people living there.

Experts from 27 research institutions will spend the next five years answering this research question and determining the role of permafrost coastlines in the Earth’s climate system.

The EU project is named Nunataryuk, which translates as “land to sea” in Inuvialuit, a traditional language spoken on the west coast of Canada, will investigate coasts – the interface between land and sea.

Nunataryuk is unique because the scientists collaborate closely with local communities to determine how they can best adapt to thawing permafrost.

“What makes the project stand out is the fact that we’ll study both the global and the local impacts of this thawing, with co-designed projects in local communities,” says Alfred Wegener Institute geoscientist Hugues Lantuit, the project’s coordinator.

“The models view the permafrost as a uniform field, thawing from the top down, but that’s too simple,” Lantuit explains. “For example, on coastlines, permafrost is increasingly crumbling due to the effects of waves. The Arctic coastline is now receding by more than half a meter every year. The models don’t take this into account.”

The thawed soil, together with all of its carbon and nutrients, is now increasingly being transported to the Arctic Ocean by rivers and streams. This factor isn’t reflected in the computer models either, says Lantuit.

The Arctic also has large amounts of permafrost beneath the ocean floor. And scientists have no idea how rapidly these areas will thaw as the climate changes.

In the Nunataryuk project, scientists will for the first time feed a comprehensive map of coastal areas into climate models.

To gauge how much greenhouse gas is being released by coastal areas and the seafloor, airplane and helicopter flights will carry instruments used to measure the carbon dioxide and methane levels in the air.

Lantuit said, “Only then will the climate models be able to better estimate the thawing’s effects on the Earth’s climate.”

One of the Nunataryuk project teams will be tasked with determining the future environmental costs that we can expect to see in the future – in other words, the costs of permafrost thaw to the global economy.”

People living on the coasts of permafrost regions are already at risk: if the ground becomes too soft and fails, they lose their homes. Water pipes can break. Some oil and gas lines have already started to leak, contaminating soils.

The increased load of organic material coming from eroding permafrost soils at the coast is changing the marine habitat.

In the best case, this could increase the amount of nutrients available to marine organisms, especially fish.

On the other hand, it might harm the ecosystem. Contaminants and pathogens that have remained frozen in the soil for millennia could migrate into coastal waters.

“All of these aspects are of course very important to local populations, which is why we’ll work together with them over the next five years to devise new strategies and solutions,” Lantuit explains.

To make that happen, the soils will be precisely surveyed and mapped to identify areas that are thawing only slowly, or are solid and firm, providing locations where new houses can be safely built.

Says Lantuit, “We’re especially happy that the indigenous populations, which have lived in these regions for thousands of years, are also actively involved.”

Birds, Animals Suffer From Melting Permafrost

Two young ecologists from Germany’s University of Münster are studying the serious consequences fires on permafrost can have for vegetation, soils and endangered bird species. Even decades after the last fire, impacts on plant communities are clearly visible.

They presented their results at the Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent, Belgium in December.

PhD student Ramona Heim from Professor Norbert Hölzel’s working group at the Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, compared two study sites in northeastern Russia, where the last fires occurred 11 and more than 30 years ago.

At the younger site, soil temperature and permafrost depth were higher and lichen cover was much reduced. Moss, grass and herb species were more abundant compared to control sites nearby.

The change in vegetation structure has important long-term consequences for plant communities, microclimates and animals depending on certain plants or structures. For instance, reindeer need specific lichens in their diet, These are less abundant even decades after a fire.

The surveys were conducted in cooperation with Andrey Yurtaev of the University of Tyumen and nine students from Russia and Germany.

Wieland Heim, another member of Hölzel’s working group, investigated the effects of the ever-increasing fires on breeding birds and plant communities in wetlands at Russia’s Muravioka Park.

While many plant species benefitted from the fires and the resulting niches and nutrients available, the diversity of bird species declined. Birds, such as ground and reed breeders that rely on special microhabitats were among the losers.

“Since fires usually break out in spring during the breeding season and many birds do not produce a second brood, the expanding and more frequent fires can have serious consequences for their reproduction,” reports Wieland Heim.


Featured image: Darker shades of purple indicate higher percentages of permanently frozen ground. (Map courtesy Philippe Rekacewicz UNEP/GRID Arendal) Posted for media use 

Grant_Writing

Brutal Weather Hits Extremes

SmokeBCfires

Smoke from fires burning in British Columbia, Canada. Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has published data maps collected by the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite that show the smoke reaching as far as the U.S. Midwest and northern Quebec. July 18, 2017 (Image courtesy NASA) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – France today activated the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism as forest fires ravage southern regions of the country, threatening the resort of St. Tropez and the island of Corsica. French authorities have requested firefighting aircraft, and EU support is already on its way.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The EU stands in full solidarity with France. In an immediate response, the European Commission has helped mobilize a Canadair aircraft from Italy through our Civil Protection Mechanism.”

“Earlier this month, France helped Italy fighting forest fires and now Italy is showing its support to France. This is EU solidarity at its best,” said Stylianides. “Our thoughts are with all those affected and the brave first responders working in difficult conditions.”

Conditions are difficult around the world, with fires, floods and drought coming in waves of trouble.

June 2017 extended the spell of “exceptional global warmth” that has lasted since mid-2015. Average surface air temperatures were the second hottest on record, after June 2016, finds the latest analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

In addition to high temperatures, extreme weather affected many parts of the world in June and July.

Rescue services and troops in New Zealand’s South Island worked around the clock over the weekend to help those affected by a severe storm that released floods and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

A state of emergency was declared in the South Island cities of Christchurch, Otago, Timaru and Dunedin after some areas were hit with more than 200 millimetres of rain in 24 hours.

The New Zealand Meteorological Service says all of July has been marked by severe weather events, caused by low pressure systems from the Tasman Sea.

Australia had the second driest June on record, with rainfall 62 percent below average for Australia as a whole, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. June was the driest on record for large areas of southern Australia because of persistent high pressure and a lack of cold fronts.

Chinese weather authorities report that the annual monsoon season was accompanied by torrential rainfall in many parts of China for extended periods in June and early July, causing considerable economic losses and transport disruption.

For instance, more than 600 flights were cancelled at Beijing airport alone on July 6 as a result of rainfall.

The rainfall was one of the contributing factors to a deadly landslide with many casualties on June 24 in  Maoxian County, Sichuan. In north and northeast China, the National Meteorological Center said that from June 21 to June 24, the maximum hourly rainfall was between 20-40 mm.

Authorities issued warnings about water levels along key tributaries of the Yangtzee River basin. There was a red alert on July 2 along the whole course of the Xiangjiang River that was near or above record levels. The water level in the section of the river in Changsha, capital of Hunan, reached a record 39.21 meters on July 2.

Since June 22, floodwaters have inundated parts of several cities in Hunan, forcing more than 311,000 people to evacuate, damaging crops and destroying more than 6,300 houses, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

In Japan, tropical storm Nanmadol brought torrential rainfall to the southern part of the country. The city of Hamada in Shimane, which faces the Sea of Japan, saw hourly precipitation of over 80 mm on July 6, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Local governments issued evacuation orders to nearly 60,000 residents in affected areas.

Tropical cyclone Mora caused Bangladesh authorities to evacuate nearly one million people from low-lying areas, At least 10 people died. Heavy monsoon rainfall in June caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides. Nearly 900,000 people were affected by floods as of July 5, authorities said.

In Myanmar, heavy monsoon rains have prevailed across the southeast Asian country since early July. Today, riverbank erosion washed away a Buddhist pagoda. Rising floodwaters across large parts of the country have claimed two lives, washed away entire villages and displaced tens of thousands of residents.

In Indonesia, drought is drying the crops as they stand in the fields.

Much of South America and Africa were warmer than average during this two month period, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports the Middle East is broiling. The Iranian city of Ahwaz recorded a temperature of 53.7°Celsius (128.66° Fahrenheit) on June 29 as part of a heatwave with temperatures in excess of 50°C across the region, including Iraq and Kuwait.

An even higher temperature of about 54°C (129.2°F) scorched the city of Turbat, southwestern Pakistan, in late May.

But this week in Turkey, it’s too much water, not too much heat. Istanbul traffic came to a standstill as severe storms inundated the city, flooding the streets.

Temperatures were much above average, and high in absolute terms, over Morocco and northern Algeria in June and July. Forest fires are burning across northern Algeria. An estimated 1,000 hectares have been consumed.

Southern and central Europe was very much warmer than the 1981-2010 average in June, especially over the Iberian Peninsula, where Portugal experienced devastating wildfires.

The heatwave shifted from the Iberian Peninsula to southeastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean towards the end of June, with temperatures well over 40°C ((104°F) in many countries. The high temperatures were sometimes accompanied by damaging summer storms, hailstorms, torrential rainfall and flash floods.

Fires this month in Croatia and Montenegro sparked requests for help in fighting the flames. Still, on July 18, the Adriatic coast was engulfed in wildfires.

The Deutscher Wetterdienst said July 7, “A period with significantly above-normal temperatures and heat waves, at least for the next week, is expected for most parts of the eastern Mediterranean – from Italy, Balkans to Caucasus and Middle East.”

Conversely, says the WMO, temperatures have been well below average over the northeast of Europe. The contrast between southwest and northeast continues a pattern that was present in April and May.

In Russia, June 2017 was widely called Junabre, meaning June plus November, because of the cold weather in the European parts of the country. June was the coldest month in the past 14 years for Moscow.

FloodingLondon

Caption: Flooded streets in London, UK, June 2, 2017 (Photo by Dmitry Dzhus) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The UK should be bracing for record rainfall, says Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The UK’s two wettest winters on record occurred in 2013-14 and 2015-16, leading to flooding in many parts of the country. As a result, the National Flood Resilience Review was begun, but it needs expansion to include surface water flooding, says Ward.

Commenting on the publication Monday of the paper, High risk of unprecedented UK rainfall in the current climate in the journal “Nature Communications,” Ward said, “I hope that the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, will carefully read this important Met Office analysis because it highlights the risk of extreme rainfall that could cause flooding.”

“We know that the risk of record rainfall is increasing due to climate change. From 2000 onwards, the UK has experienced 6 of the 7 wettest years since records began in 1910, and its 8 warmest years. The period between January and June 2017 was the third warmest such period on record. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, increasing the risk of heavy rainfall.”

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that starting around June 18 and continuing for over a week, scorching temperatures hit the western United States of America from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest.

June 20 was a particularly hot day for the southwestern United States. Las Vegas, Nevada (47.2°C or 117°F), and Needles, California (51.7°C or 125°F), both tied their all-time records.

Forest fires have been devouring forests across the U.S. West.

For instance, the Detwiler Fire in California began on July 15. It covers 79,400 acres and is 65 percent contained.

The Snowstorm Fire in Nevada began on July 13. It has burned 60,000 acres and is just 13 percent contained.

In Arizona, from June 17-27, Phoenix International Airport has had 11 straight days with temperatures of at least 110°F (43°C), with one day hitting 48.3°C (119°F). The heat caused multiple canceled flights. The hotter the air, the less dense it is, which means less lift for airplanes as they take off. In order to take off, the planes would have needed a longer runway, which is not available in Phoenix.

As the heat wave continued, the hot air spread west and north. On June 25, Portland Oregon, reach 38°C (101°F) and Seattle, Washington, hit 35.6°C (96°F), tying its hottest June day on record.

In July, the forests of south-central British Columbia were primed to burn. Abnormally hot, dry weather had dried out vegetation and soil, and many forests were full of dead trees left by mountain pine beetles. When lightning storms passed over the region on July 7, more than 100 fires were sparked. Some of these fires are still raging.

As of July 19, 2017, the British Columbia Wildfire Service reported 50 wildfires burning in the Cariboo region and another 21 in the Kamloops region. The fires have charred roughly 300,000 hectares (1,000 square miles) and have forced nearly 50,000 people to flee their homes.

To far south, June temperatures were way above average offshore of parts of Antarctica, where sea-ice cover was unusually low, the WMO reports. But the agency also says temperatures were well below average over East Antarctica.

So, investors can no longer count on business as usual. The climate is changing – tending toward extremes of heat, cold, drought and rainfall, and the physical impacts of climate change will affect assets and investments.

Climate change and extreme weather events will affect agriculture and food supply, infrastructure, precipitation and the water supply in ways that are only partly understood.

Yet, decisions made by private sector investors and financial institutions will have a major influence on how society responds to climate change.

There will be significant demand for capital, with governments looking to the private sector to provide much of it.


Featured Images: Wildfires send thousands fleeing the Provence resport of St. Tropez, France. July 25, 2017 (Photo by CCI Riviera & Monaco) Posted on Twitter

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Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends of 2017

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Sea level rise caused by climate warming has inundated Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles, displacing the Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe, the first official U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The Climate Trust, a nonprofit that specializes in mobilizing conservation finance for climate benefit, announced its fourth annual prediction list of 10 carbon market trends to watch in the coming year.

Trends range from U.S. citizens becoming climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record, to more native tribes joining carbon markets, to China taking the global climate leadership role, to environmental justice concerns playing an increased role in climate policy decisions.

These trends were identified by The Climate Trust based on interactions with their group of working partners: governments, investors, project developers, large businesses, and the philanthropic community.

Our team has identified areas of potential advancement, despite the anticipated inaction around climate at the federal level,” said Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust.

This year, more than ever, we felt there was a need for positivity, and have primarily chosen to share industry insights that are positive in nature, yet still strongly based in reality,” said Penrith. “We expect that the New Year will bring together unlikely, yet strong, domestic partnerships with corresponding resolve to address climate change, and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish by banding together.

The Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends

1. As our nation heads into uncertain times with respect to climate change policy and action, states, cities, and regional collaborative groups are going to lead the fight against climate change.

In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that if the Trump Administration withdraws from the Paris Accord, mayors from 128 cities will pick up the cause.

In the Midwest, wind turbines continue to rise out of the cornfields.

In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken recently issued an opinion and order  denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss a climate change lawsuit filed by 21 young people.

In Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality is wrapping up the draft considerations for a cap-and-trade program for the state. In the vacuum created by a Scott Pruitt-led EPA, and a Rex Tillerson-led State Department, rulings like the one issued by Judge Aiken, and statements like the one from California Governor Jerry Brown challenging Trump on climate change, indicate where the action on climate change is going to be for the next four years.

2. Progressive states and foundations will pick up support for domestic climate finance in the absence of federal action. We expect that climate denial from federal leaders will alarm foundations and progressive states. Many foundations previously had an international climate focus, and The Climate Trust anticipates that these institutions will refocus on their U.S. agenda.

The political will for carbon pricing will grow in progressive states, demanding more immediate state action.

Increasingly, public entities are aware that their dollars are most effectively used when they leverage private capital. In 2017, states and foundations will look for opportunities to mitigate risks to private climate finance providers investing in the United States through new financial mechanisms like first loss capital contributions, loan guarantees, credit enhancements, and other new structures.

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The 21 young plaintiffs in Our Childrens’ Trust’s landmark lawsuit against the federal government celebrate the judge’s order backing their right to sue. November 2016 (Photo courtesy Our Childrens’ Trust) Post for media use.

3. Global climate litigation campaigns will gain momentum during 2017, legitimizing our children’s right to a healthy planet.

This is no ordinary lawsuit,” U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken wrote in her ruling on November 10, 2016 on a landmark case filed in Oregon by 21 young people and Our Children’s Trust. The plaintiffs allege that over the last 50 years, the government, including President Barack Obama, violated their constitutional rights and imperiled their future by failing to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Also acting as a plaintiff is world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, serving as guardian for future generations and his granddaughter, who is a youth plaintiff in the case.

Whether the case is heard in federal court or settled, it provides a solid legal foundation for future climate litigation, and gives hope to the growing ranks of youth climate activists and their supporters.

We believe that more judges will acknowledge that the climate change crisis is within their purview, and that the constitutional rights of youth plaintiffs will be upheld against other governmental branches.

The world is watching this historic precedent set in Oregon. We predict the optimism gained from this victory will encourage judges and activists to look to the courts to validate the science behind climate change and allow judicial systems to require governments to take tangible action.

4. Private industry picks up U.S. government slack, making progress towards Paris commitments. During his campaign, President-elect Trump referred to climate change as a Chinese hoax and asserted that he will cancel the Paris Agreement. While he has walked back these statements, most recently saying that “nobody really knows” if climate change is real, his choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that Trump is going to try and make his campaign promises.

In the days after the November 2016 election, business leaders called on Trump to honor America’s agreement to the Paris Accord. Savvy business leaders and people like Bill Gates who recently drew attention to his $1 billion clean-technology fund, not only understand that climate change is real, but understand that taking no action will have a negative impact on their bottom line.

Progress will be made toward our U.S. Paris commitments due to the efforts of private industry. The Climate Trust anticipates that the Trump Administration will be left on the sidelines while the rest of the world rallies to meet the commitments made in Paris to keep greenhouse gas emissions at levels that will prevent global climate change increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

5. Environmental justice community concerns are increasingly built into climate policy discussions throughout the United States. The environmental justice community in California has brought into sharp focus the need to balance the impact on disadvantaged communities with climate policy and programs.

Meeting the ambitious greenhouse gas goals now required by law in California in the cheapest manner possible is a central equity issue.

There will be continued attention given to these environmental justice concerns both in California and across the country as state climate policy evolves.

6. U.S. citizens become climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record. The top 10 hottest years in human history have all occurred since 1998, and 2016 is among them. It is anticipated that this continued trend will give rise to an increasing number of climate refugees within U.S. borders.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe in Louisiana is considered the first official community of climate refugees in this country. Whether it’s a 1,000-year flooding event in Louisiana, or wildfires on the west coast, global warming is altering the country in ways that will displace thousands of Americans.

This changing geography will necessitate the development of new solutions that not only sequester carbon, but also focus on adaptation. Some of these solutions are already under development, such as the Blue Carbon Initiative, which seeks to restore coastal wetlands to sequester carbon in plants and soils and protect against dangerous storm surges.

7. More native tribes will join carbon markets. The California Compliance Offset Protocol, U.S. Forest Projects, now has more than 34 million offset credits issued, including over 7.7 million tons from properties owned by Native American Tribes; nine projects located in six different states. The second largest individual issuance to date in the California carbon market is from the White Mountain Apache tribe project in Arizona.

Tribes that have taken part in carbon transactions have indicated that credit sales provide a new way to make money while improving wildlife habitat, expanding the tribe’s natural resource program, and acquiring and protecting land in its ancestral territory.

Last year, the protocol rules for the California market were expanded beyond the lower 48 U.S. states to include Alaska, opening the door for even more tribes to engage.

8. China takes the lead in carbon markets, encouraging linkages. The year of the rooster in the Chinese calendar is also the year China will take a leading role in using markets to fight global climate change.

After several years of piloting regional emissions trading programs, China will launch a national system that will cover over four billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, making it twice as large as the next biggest market in Europe.

As a developing nation and large emitter, China’s bold commitment to carbon markets will send a signal that will be felt in America and beyond,” says Erika Anderson, a climate change attorney doing business in China.  

9. U.S.-based institutional investors will increase commitments to investments that hedge out carbon risk. Following the example of Norway’s sovereign fund, and other large European institutional investors, U.S.-based pensions and family offices will continue to de-risk their portfolios from the negative impacts of climate change, and take advantage of opportunities in the sustainable real assets space.

Lindsey Brace Martinez, founder of StarPoint Advisors, LLC and advisor to institutional investors and asset managers, says, “Given the prevailing sentiment for a low return environment, U.S. institutional investors are looking for investment managers who have a competitive edge and can deliver value over the long-term. Investment managers who systematically review and update their risk management approaches and apply their expertise through focused strategies will have a competitive edge.”

10. California Air Resources Board prevails in CalChamber lawsuit and commits to cap and trade. A long-standing lawsuit filed by the California Chamber of Commerce, Morning Star Packing Co.,and the National Association of Manufacturers has hung over the cap and trade market. The lawsuit argues that the auctioning of the cap and trade allowances constitutes an illegal tax since it does not have the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature.

Oral arguments are scheduled in Sacramento for January 24, 2017.

There are three possible outcomes for the lawsuit. It may be deemed a tax, and cause California to have a cap and trade system without the auction element unless the Legislature approves with a two-thirds vote.

It could be deemed a regulatory fee, and thus uphold the validity of the allowance auctions. Or, the third possibility is that the court finds that the auction is neither a tax nor a fee but something else not subject to the strictures of tax voting requirements under the state constitution.

The Climate Trust believes that this third option will be the outcome of the suit and be a complete victory for the cap and trade program.

In 2016, a number of our predictions came to fruition, including an increased number of institutions committing to divest from fossil fuel companies as part of the transition to a clean energy future,” said Kristen Kleiman, director of investments for The Climate Trust.

The divest movement has provided a valuable market signal to support the needed flows of conservation finance,” Kleiman said. “Riding this wave of interest from large institutions, late last year, The Trust executed a milestone contract with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, securing a $5.5M Program-Related Investment to seed our first-of-its-kind carbon investment fund.


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 Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of environmental experts that can help your organization.  Find capacity services at Maximpact Advisory and help your NGO and increase the capacity of your organization to influence society. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

COP22: Paris Climate Pact ‘Irreversible’

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Hundreds of delegates gather for the largest-ever UNFCCC family photo, Nov. 18, 2016, Marrakech, Morocco (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) [Note: ENB would like a link in return for the image, please link: www.iisd.ca]

By Sunny Lewis

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – In the early hours of Saturday morning in Marrakech, more than 190 governments agreed to the Marrakech Action Proclamation , which sends a strong message of global unity towards taking effective action to limit climate change.

The document proclaims that was issued “to signal a shift towards a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.

Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” the Proclamation warns.

 The 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 22, hosted by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, saw nearly 500 heads of state or government and ministers in attendance.

By the end of the two-week climate summit, more than 100 countries, representing over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate.

On November 15, Marrakech hosted CMA 1, the first official Meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement, its top governing body, following the accord’s early entry into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted.

 Watch a video of the CMA1 here

Agreed at COP21 last December in Paris, the Agreement sets the goal of keeping the global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). A further aim is to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The November 8 election of climate denier Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shock waves through the gathering, but it did not deter delegates from moving forward to tackle climate change with determination.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said, “The landmark Paris Agreement set the course and the destination for global climate action. Here in Marrakesh, governments underlined that this shift is now urgent, irreversible and unstoppable.

The governments proclaimed their support for the Paris Agreement, which is the first global climate accord that includes

all the large greenhouse gas emitters, whether they are developed or developing countries.

 “We welcome the Paris Agreement, adopted under the Convention, its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals, its inclusive nature and its reflection of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances, and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation,” the governments proclaimed.

Indeed, this year, we have seen extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide,” they proclaimed. “This momentum is irreversible, it is being driven not only by governments, but by science, business and global action of all types at all levels.

Our task now is to rapidly build on that momentum, together, moving forward purposefully to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to foster adaptation efforts,” they stated. “We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority.

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Participants in the ministerial dialogue, titled “A multi-stakeholder approach to mobilization and delivery of adaptation finance.” Nov. 15, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) please link as before.

During the high-level segment of the conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry underlined the commitment of the American people to climate action.

The United States, Canada, Germany and Mexico announced ambitious climate strategies out to 2050, reflecting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement to achieve climate neutrality and a low-emission world in the second half of this century.

 The Kingdom of Morocco announced its Blue Belt Initiative aimed at building the resilience of coastal communities and promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

The financing to forestall the planet’s rising temperature is beginning to flow – from many different sources.

Multi-billion and multi-million dollar packages of support for clean technologies; building capacity to report on climate action plans; and initiatives for boosting water and food security in developing countries were among the many new initiatives launched in Marrakech.

The Global Environment Facility, GEF, a multilateral funding facility, announced the US$50 million Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency backed by 11 developed country donors.

Countries pledged more than $81 million to the Adaptation Fund, surpassing its target for the year.

Countries pledged over $23 million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network, CTCN, which supports developing countries with climate technology development and transfer.

The Green Climate Fund announced the approval of the first two proposals for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans – Liberia for $2.2 million and Nepal for $2.9 million.

Another 20 countries are expected to have their proposals approved soon with up to $3 million each. Overall, the Green Climate Fund is on track to approve $2.5 billion worth of projects.

During COP 22, governments learned that in 2016 more than 30 projects for cutting emissions with technology transfer objectives were approved by the Global Environment Facility, with $188.7 million in GEF funding and $5.9 billion in co-financing.

 Businesses, investors, cities and local governments issued new climate change commitments, adding to the thousands announced in the run-up to the Paris climate conference.

A club of subnational governments, the Under2 Coalition, who have committed to reduce their emissions by at least 80 percent by 2020, announced their membership has grown to 165 jurisdictions.

 The combined GDP of these 165 member governments is close to $26 trillion – a third of the global economy – and cover a population of around one billion people living in North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank and the African Development Bank announced the African Package for Climate-Resilient Ocean Economies, an ambitious package of technical and financial assistance to support ocean economies in Africa and build greater resilience to climate change in coastal areas.

All these funds and much more will be needed to avert climate change, said Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco’s environment minister, who presided over COP22.

 “It will be necessary to respect the commitment of $100 billion dollars from now until 2020,” he said, referring to developed countries’ pledge to contribute US$100 billion annually to help developing countries cope with the existing impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and disease.

Faced with the magnitude of what is required for dealing with the impacts of climate change, turning billions into trillions is indispensable,” Mezouar said. “2017 must be the year of large-scale projects, of mobilizing finance, and accessing financial facilities that will be necessary for adaptation.

At the close, Fiji was announced as the incoming President of the 2017 UN climate conference, COP23, which will be hosted by the UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has attended all of the COP meetings held during his 10 year tenure. He told the COP22 delegates, “I leave you with the strong hope that we will have the courage, tenacity and wisdom to live up to our responsibility to future generations by protecting our only home: this beautiful planet Earth.


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Featured Image : UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Morocco’s Environment Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, COP 22 president, sychronize their watches for climate action, Nov. 15, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) please link as before.

Climate Denier Trump Wins

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Informal consultations on gender and climate change at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, November 9, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 10, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The surprising election of Donald Trump, a Republican and climate denier, to the White House on Tuesday changes the global balance of power on climate change.

 The defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, comes just as delegates to COP22, this year’s annual Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Morocco, work to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate, which entered into force November 4.

 While Clinton supported the Obama administration in making the climate a priority, Trump has called global warming a Chinese hoax.

Trump has said he wants to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. Under the agreement, the United States cannot withdraw for four years, but it is possible that the Trump administration could ignore that rule.

Trump has said he wants to repeal all federal spending on clean energy, including research and development for electric vehicles as well as for nuclear, solar and wind power.

With the Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, this is doable.

President Trump could propose a bill preventing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide, CO2. A Republican Congress would almost surely pass such a bill.

These policies would mean the U.S. will burn more coal, oil and gas, resulting in more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the world is moving in the opposite direction. At the Morocco climate conference on Tuesday Japan ratified the Paris Agreement, pledging to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.

 Many country leaders, ministers and top level CEOs are expected to make announcements at the conference’s High Level Event on November 17, including King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

On Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sent a joint letter of congratulation to Trump that reminded him of the importance of limiting climate change.

Today, it is more important than ever to strengthen transatlantic relations,” the presidents wrote. “Only by cooperating closely can the EU and the US continue to make a difference when dealing with unprecedented challenges such as Da’esh, the threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, climate change and migration. Fortunately, the EU – US strategic partnership is broad and deep…

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UNFCCC Global Climate Action Champion and Morocco’s Environment Minister Hakima El Haité at COP22 in Marrakech, November 9, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

Also on Tuesday in Marrakech, UNFCCC Global Climate Action Champion Dr. Hakima El Haite, Morocco’s minister delegate in charge of environment, and French economist and diplomat Laurence Tubiana together launched Global Climate Action, a roadmap to help countries meet and exceed their national climate actions commitments.

At the launch the new NAZCA portal to track progress on climate action was unveiled. NAZCA captures the commitments to climate action by companies, cities, subnational entities, regions, investors, and civil society organizations.

Corporations are getting on board the climate action train. More than a third of the 2,000 largest companies with aggregate revenues total $32.5 trillion are taking action, according to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

More than a third of the 2,000 largest companies with aggregate revenues total $32.5 trillion are taking action.

Fifteen of the world’s 20 largest banks totaling close to $2 trillion in market value are taking climate action.

 The Royal Bank of Canada, for instance, has pledged to reduce operational CO2e emissions intensity of properties located in Canada, the United States, and the British Isles by 20 percent per square meter from 2012 to 2018 through increased energy efficiency and renewable energy purchases.

 In addition, 20 investors, representing $3.2 trillion, have committed to decarbonization of $600 billion in assets, while over 800 companies and regions have committed to put a price on carbon emissions.

Apple, Bank of America, General Motors and Wells Fargo have all joined the global RE100 initiative of influential businesses committed to obtaining 100 percent of the electricity they need for their operations from renewable sources like wind and solar.

 Still, civil society groups are very worried about what will happen to the climate when Trump moves into the White House.

Many nongovernmental organizations believe that a climate denier in the White House is a “death sentence” for grassroots movements and the Global South.

 World Resources Institute’s President and CEO Andrew Steer said, “As the new Trump administration comes into office, America must press forward with critical issues that are at the heart of people’s well-being and future prosperity. This includes holding off climate change, investing in clean energy, and revitalizing America with sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

Wilfred D’Costa from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) said, “For communities in the global south, the U.S. citizens’ choice to elect Donald Trump seems like a death sentence. Already we are suffering the effects of climate change after years of inaction by rich countries like the U.S., and with an unhinged climate change denier now in the White House, the relatively small progress made is under threat.”

The international community must not allow itself to be dragged into a race to the bottom. Other developed countries like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan must increase their pledges for pollution cuts and increase their financial support for our communities,” D’Costa urged.

Friends of the Earth International believes, “The election of Trump is a disaster for climate and especially for the African continent. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change.

Africa is already burning,” said Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa . “The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new president’s rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action.

Jean Su with California-based Center for Biological Diversity said, “The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a president, but by the United States itself. One man alone, especially in the 21st century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make.

 Said Su, “As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments.

 Ceres President Mindy Lubber held out some hope for climate action even under a President Trump.

The stunning U.S. election results are in, but we should refrain from thinking they will completely thwart climate action and the clean energy economy in the U.S. and around the world,” said Lubber.

Today’s reality is that the transition to the low-carbon economy is irreversible, inevitable and fully underway. There’s no turning back. More investors and businesses than at any time in history are working to seize the opportunities embedded in this emerging economy,” she said.

 Ceres is a non-profit organization that seeks to inspire a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.

The facts are on our side. Tackling climate change is one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century,” said Lubber. “The business case for climate action and sustainability is stronger than ever, and the climate science is incontrovertible.

Short-term political and economic changes will not slow our momentum,” Lubber declared. “We are committed to work with the new administration and our bipartisan allies in Washington. We want to make sure they fully understand what is at stake and to protect the gains that we have achieved in the face of climate change and other sustainability threats. Investors and businesses are now, more than ever, the best messengers to deliver our message.


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Featured image : U.S. President-elect Donald Trump makes a point at a campaign rally October 31, 2016 (Photo courtesy Donald J. Trump for President) Posted for media use.

Pristine Ross Sea Wilderness Protected

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Map of the newly protected marine area in the Ross Sea (Map by Pew Charitable Trusts courtesy New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

HOBART, Tasmania, Australia, November 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Union and 24 national governments have agreed to safeguard an expansive area in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, to take effect December 1, 2017.

At a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart late last month, all members agreed to a joint proposal by the United States and New Zealand to establish a 1.55 million square kilometer (598,000 square mile) area of the Ross Sea that will be protected from human activities.

The new marine protected area is now the world’s largest. By comparison, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which was previously the largest marine protected area, covers 1.508 million square kilometers (583,000 square miles).

 To the west of the new marine protected area (MPA) lies Ross Island and to the east Roosevelt Island, while the southernmost part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf. It is located about 320 km (200 miles) from the South Pole.

This new MPA will limit, or prohibit, fishing and krill harvesting to meet conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring and fisheries management objectives.

Seventy-two percent of the MPA will be a no-take zone, which bans all fishing, while other sections will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research.

 The United States and New Zealand worked together on the MPA proposal, a logical development as they are next-door neighbors in Antarctica. McMurdo Station, a U.S. Antarctic research center on the south tip of Ross Island, is in the New Zealand-claimed Ross Dependency on the shore of McMurdo Sound. Just three kilometers (two miles) away by road is the Scott Base, New Zealand’s research facility also in the Ross Dependency.

CCAMLR Executive Secretary Andrew Wright says the decision was years in the making. “This has been an incredibly complex negotiation which has required a number of member countries bringing their hopes and concerns to the table at six annual CCAMLR meetings as well as at intersessional workshops.”

A number of details regarding the MPA are yet to be finalized, but the establishment of the protected zone is in no doubt and we are incredibly proud to have reached this point,” said Wright.

Australia welcomes the establishment of the newly protected area. Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner, Gillian Slocum, said the Ross Sea MPA is an important step towards achieving strong conservation outcomes.

We are heartened by the adoption of the Ross Sea MPA and we congratulate all members for taking decisive action towards meeting a 2009 commitment to establish a representative system of MPAs within the CCAMLR area,” Slocum said.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully hailed the breakthrough agreement that will safeguard what he called “one of the world’s few remaining pristine natural environments.

 “New Zealand has played a leading role in reaching this agreement which makes a significant contribution to global marine protection,” he said.

The proposal required some changes in order to gain the unanimous support of all 25 CCAMLR members and the final agreement balances marine protection, sustainable fishing and science interests,” McCully explained. “The boundaries of the MPA, however, remain unchanged.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said creation of the Ross Sea MPA is “…proof that the world is finally beginning to understand the urgency of the threats facing our planet.

The United States is grateful for the cooperation with our New Zealand co-sponsors of the proposal, and of all CCAMLR members, including Russia, to make this achievement possible,” Kerry said.

His nod to Russia for its agreement comes after previous CCAMLR meetings with a different outcome. In 2013, for instance, Russian delegates tried everything from delay and confusion tactics to challenging of the legality of CCAMLR’s right to establish MPAs to avoid an accord.

But Kerry says the lengthy and sometimes frustrating negotiations were worth it for this year’s outcome.

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U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine ecologist Lisa Ballance in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica, at a site where NOAA satellite-tagged one of the local forms of killer whales, 2007. (Photo by NOAA) public domain.

The Ross Sea Region MPA will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet,” he said, “home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish.”

The Ross Sea is one of the last stretches of seas on Earth that remains relatively unaffected by human activities and almost totally free from pollution and the introduction of invasive species.

Marine biologists regard the Ross Sea as highly biodiverse, after a long history of human exploration and scientific research, with some datasets going back over 150 years.

The sea is inhabited by at least 10 mammal species, including the Antarctic minke whale, killer whale, Weddell seal, crabeater seal, and leopard seal.

There are 95 species of fish and and over 1,000 invertebrate species in the Ross Sea, including the Antarctic toothfish, Antarctic silverfish, Antarctic krill, and crystal krill.

In summer, the nutrient-rich water supports abundant plankton, tiny crustaceans that provide food for fish, seals, whales, seabirds and shore birds.

Numerous environmental groups have campaigned to make the area a world marine reserve, citing the rare opportunity to protect the Ross Sea from human degradation.

The nonprofit Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) based in Washington, DC, a coalition of over 30 nongovernmental organizations, has been advocating protection of the Ross Sea for years.

ASOC says conserving the MPA is critically important because of the rich array of species living there. “Although the Ross Sea encompasses less than 13 percent of the circumference of Antarctica, and just 3.3 percent of the area of the Southern Ocean, it provides habitat for significant populations of many animals, including 38 percent of the world’s Adélie penguins, 26 percent of Emperor penguins, more than 30 percent of Antarctic petrels, six percent of Antarctic minke whales, and perhaps more than 30 percent of Ross Sea killer whales,” the coalition says.

 The new MPA “…has the richest diversity of fishes in the high latitude Southern Ocean, including seven species found nowhere else, with an evolutionary radiation equivalent to the Galapagos, the African rift lakes, and Lake Baikal, all designated as World Heritage Sites for their exemplary fauna,” says ASOC.

Any alteration of the food web or degradation of habitat will have the same damaging effects that have been documented elsewhere on Earth, such as toxic algal blooms, oxygen-deprived dead zones and jellyfish invasions,” the NGO warns.

 Exploratory fisheries first appeared in the Southern Ocean in the early 1960s with full-scale commercial fisheries underway by the 1970s, targeting fish and krill. In a familiar pattern, fish populations were discovered, exploited, depleted and then the fisheries closed.

Willie Mackenzie, with Greenpeace UK’s biodiversity team, blogged in response to agreement on the new MPA, “Known as ‘the Last Ocean,’ the Ross Sea has been identified by scientists as the most pristine shallow ocean left on Earth. It’s stunning, but we were starting to wonder if it would ever be protected.

To finally reach agreement on the Ross Sea MPA, a time clause of 35 years was included in the accord, so in 35 years CCAMLR members will again have to decide on the future of the Ross Sea.

Mackenzie wrote, “Marine protection, to be truly effective, needs to be long lasting so we have all those years ahead of us to make sure when the Ross Sea sanctuary is up for renewal, there is no resistance to making it permanent. We’re pretty confident that by 2051 it will be a simple decision!


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Featured image:  Emperor penguins on sea ice near Ross Island, Antarctica, October 28, 2012 (Photo by Johannes Zielcke) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

US$100 Billion to Finance Climate Triage

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Clever Kanga works for the Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development in the central African country of Malawi, working to install solar powered irrigation projects, April 2016. (Photo by Trocaire) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Finance is always a hot button issue at the UN’s annual climate negotiations, and this year’s 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP22, will focus even more intently on financing – this time to support the first global greenhouse gas limitation pact, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

At COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, taking place November 7-18, nations are expected to continue strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, with the central focus placed on enhancing ambition, promoting implementation and providing support, especially financial support.

The process is energized by the unexpectedly rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement on November 4, just before the opening of COP22.

The Paris Agreement was adopted at the UN climate conference in December 2015. To enter into force, at least 55 Parties accounting for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions were required to join the pact, which enters into force 30 days later.

On October 5, those thresholds were reached. Countries joining the Agreement include the biggest and smallest greenhouse gas emitters, as well as the richest and the most vulnerable nations.

The Paris Agreement is clear that all finance flows – both public and private – must become consistent with a low-emission and climate-resilient development path.

Several new studies make clear that meeting the agreement’s central goal of holding temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), and aiming for 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), requires quickly shifting investments from fossil fuels and other high-emissions activities towards clean energy, green infrastructure and climate resilience.

In the United States, 2016 is the first year that investment in renewable energy sources has outpaced investment in fossil fuels, said John Morton, director for energy and climate change for the National Security Council, speaking to reporters today on a conference call.

At COP 22 in Marrakech, work to develop the rules that deliver on this goal continues.

Here are five key climate finance issues to watch as outlined by the World Resources Institute, a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States, where it is headquartered in Washington, DC.

1. Pathway to US$100 Billion

In Paris last December, developed countries were asked for a concrete roadmap for mobilizing US$100 billion in climate finance for developing countries by 2020. This roadmap – which can help build trust that developing countries will be supported in taking urgent climate action – is now being finalized, with the aim of presenting it at a “pre-COP” gathering of ministers next week.

In Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancún in 2010, developed countries committed to jointly raising $100 billion annually from 2020 to 2025 to help developing countries cope with climate change by building low carbon and climate resilient economies. This pledge was re-affirmed in the Paris at COP21.

This sum may come from bilateral or multilateral, public or private sources, including innovative financing, for example, the French contribution to the financial transaction tax.

Public financing may take several forms: multilateral funds such as the Green Climate Fund; multilateral or regional institutions such as the World Bank; government contributions; and bilateral institutions such as the Agence Française de Développement, the French Development Agency.

The $100 billion in funding should not be confused with the Green Climate Fund; only part of this sum will pass through the Fund.

On October 17, developed countries released a Roadmap for how they will mobilize climate finance between now and 2020.

The Roadmap “aims to provide increased predictability and transparency about how the goal will be reached, and sets out the range of actions developed countries will take to meet it.

An analysis of the Roadmap by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds that by 2020, developed countries are expected to have mobilized between $90 billion and 92 billion of climate finance, depending on how effective public finance is in mobilizing private finance.

By comparison, the overall total for mobilized public and private finance in 2014 was $62 billion.

The OECD analysis predicts that the $100 billion goal will be reachable for 2020, due to increased leverage ratios for private finance.

2. What Counts?

Determining progress towards the $100 billion goal is tricky, say WRI analysts, since countries have never agreed on what counts as climate finance.

After considering this issue at climate negotiations earlier this year, countries agreed to hold a workshop in Marrakech to advance progress on the Paris commitment to develop modes for accounting of climate finance.

Consistency in finance reporting will help all countries to accurately track progress on commitments and ensure improved quantity and quality of climate finance flows.

3. Rules for Reporting Finance

Countries will be developing formats for how finance will be reported, based on these reporting mandates:

  • Developed countries must report projected levels of finance they will provide to developing countries and finance they already have provided to developing countries. Other countries providing finance are encouraged to report voluntarily.
  • Developing countries should report on finance needed and received.

These requirements build on earlier rules, but have the potential to be more comprehensive and systematic. Countries need to ensure the reports provide useful information for the global stocktaking process under the Paris Agreement that will assess progress every five years.

4. Scaling Up Adaptation Finance

The Paris Agreement called for a balance between support for adaptation and mitigation, but there remains some way to go.

Adaptation refers to making changes in the way humans respond to changes in climate.

Mitigation refers to controlling emissions of greenhouse gases so that the total accumulation is limited.

Developed countries’ most recent reporting to the UN shows that 14 percent of bilateral funding went to adaptation in 2014. An additional 17 percent went to both adaptation and mitigation.

In Paris, countries called for increasing adaptation finance. A clear commitment for how adaptation funding will be increased up to 2020 would bolster confidence that the most vulnerable countries’ most urgent needs will be supported.

Proposed options include a 50:50 allocation between mitigation and adaptation, a doubling of the current share of adaptation finance and a doubling of the amount of adaptation finance from current levels.

5. Adaptation Fund, Renewed?

One mechanism for channeling adaptation finance to developing countries is the Adaptation Fund, which was created at the 2001 COP in Marrakech, to serve the Kyoto Protocol. With the Kyoto Protocol’s commitment period ending in 2020, the Fund’s future is uncertain.

Countries are considering whether and how the Adaptation Fund can support the Paris Agreement.

The Adaptation Fund has a good niche in supporting relatively small-scale adaptation projects and prioritizing direct access to funding. It can provide money directly to national institutions in developing countries, without going through international intermediaries.

Creating a mandate for the Adaptation Fund to serve the Paris Agreement in Marrakech would give it a new lease on life to continue supporting vital adaptation efforts around the world.

What is Being Done Today?

Financial institutions have already been busy finding and allocating funding to climate projects.

The two operating entities of the UNFCCC Financial Mechanism, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) approved more than two dozen projects in recent meetings.

Water provision in Ali Addeh camp in Djibouti. A combination of high food prices, water scarcity, climate change and reduced pasture has increased food insecurity. This year’s El Niño has led to even dryer weather. Humanitarian funding from the European Commission provides refugees with access to clean water and sanitation as well as shelter, protection, nutrition and health care. May 2016 (Photo by European Commission DG ECHO) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

The GCF Board approved funding proposals for 10 projects, totaling US$745 million, and the GEF Council approved its Work Program, comprising 16 project concepts and three programmatic frameworks, with total resources amounting to US$302 million.

In addition, the Adaptation Fund Board approved two new projects totaling US$7 million,

World Bank Head Calls for Slowing Down Coal Finance

Speaking at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings 2016 Climate Ministerial meeting in October, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called on ministers to accelerate the transition to low carbon power sources, noting that the Paris Agreement goals cannot be met if current plans for coal-fired stations are implemented.

Kim called for concessional finance that is well targeted and “follows the carbon,” is leveraged and blended to crowd in the private sector, and is available quickly, at scale and easily deployed.


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Paris Climate Pact ‘Unstoppable’

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Celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, from left, then UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), President François Hollande of France, December 12, 2015. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, October 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The Paris Agreement on climate change is set to enter into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted by world leaders. With the ratifications deposited Wednesday, enough countries have approved the landmark accord to bring it to the emissions threshold that will trigger its implementation.

 “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he accepted the latest instruments of ratification that pushed the agreement over the threshold.

Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge,” Ban said.

 Ban, who will step down as secretary-general on December 31, has made adoption of the world’s first global climate agreement a priority of his 10 years as UN leader.

 Over the past decade, Ban has labored to accelerate the global response to climate change. He has visited communities on the climate frontlines, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and has witnessed how climate impacts are already devastating lives, livelihoods and prospects for a better future.

On Wednesday, he reminded world leaders that the work of implementing the agreement still lies ahead, saying, “Now we must move from words to deeds and put Paris into action. We need all hands on deck – every part of society must be mobilized to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to inevitable climate impacts.

Adopted in Paris by the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 this past December, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, as well as to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It seeks to limit global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to well below two degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The pact was signed in New York on April 22, Earth Day, by 175 countries at the largest, single-day signing ceremony in history.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the secretary-general.

The requirements for entry into force were satisfied today when Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, Portugal and Slovakia, as well as the European Union, deposited their instruments of ratification with the Secretary-General.

Earlier this week, New Zealand and India signed onto the Agreement, following the 31 countries which joined at a special event at the United Nations on September 21 during the UN General Assembly’s general debate.

Early in September, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the United States, joined the Paris Agreement.

Wednesday in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Barack Obama said, “Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.”

Now, the Paris Agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis. Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go,” said Obama. “But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their dangerous carbon emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations.

By sending a signal that this is going to be our future – a clean energy future – it opens up the floodgates for businesses, and scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation at a scale that we’ve never seen before,” Obama said. “So this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.

Mindy Lubber, president of the non-profit Ceres, said, “The world must ratchet up global investment in clean energy by an additional $1 trillion a year to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Global investment in clean energy is currently tracking at about $300 to $350 billion a year, which is far short of the Clean Trillion target we need to hit every year to avoid catastrophic climate warming.”

 Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Ceres mobilizes investor and business leadership to build a sustainable global economy.

We have much more to do to navigate the transition to a sustainable economy, but today represents a major step forward,” Lubber said.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force in time for the Climate Conference (COP 22) in Morocco in November, where countries will convene the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement. Countries that have not yet joined may participate as observers.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said, “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It also brings a renewed urgency to the many issues governments are advancing to ensure full implementation of the Agreement,” Espinosa said. “This includes development of a rule book to operationalize the agreement and how international cooperation and much bigger flows of finance can speed up and scale up national climate action plans.”

 In Strasbourg, France, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said, “Our collective task is to turn our commitments into action on the ground. And here Europe is ahead of the curve. We have the policies and tools to meet our targets, steer the global clean energy transition and modernise our economy. The world is moving and Europe is in a driver’s seat, confident and proud of leading the work to tackle climate change.

Congratulating all of the signatories of the Agreement, the Secretary-General encouraged all countries to accelerate their domestic processes to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible.

 Specifically, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Agreement calls for appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity-building framework to support action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their own national objectives.


Featured Image: Open water in the usually frozen Canadian Arctic, Labrador, February 18, 2015 (Photo by Sterling College) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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CO2 Level Hits 15 Million-Year High

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In 2016, 1.2 million people in the African country of Sudan have been affected by El Niño-induced drought as well as floods. August 24, 2016 (Photo by Anouk Delafortrie / EU/ECHO) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Record high global levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, were measured in September at over 400 parts per million for the first time in 15 million years, jolting leaders into awareness that Earth’s climate is changing quickly.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) urged world leaders to take note of the profound implications of record-high carbon dioxide readings this month and appealed for their increased commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It is deeply disturbing to learn that global levels of 400 parts per million have now been reached in September for the first time,” said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The last time CO2 levels were this high was 15 to 20 million years ago,” Glasser exclaimed.

A 2009 study published in the journal “Science” found that the last time in Earth’s history when CO2 levels in the atmosphere were this high for a sustained period was between 15 and 20 million years ago.

Then, according to the study, temperatures were between three and six degrees Celsius warmer than today. Ice sheets, the study said, had melted to the point where sea levels rose between 25 and 40 metres.

The lowest levels of CO2 are traditionally recorded September. So, says Glasser, it is not likely that we will see CO2 levels below 400 parts per million anytime soon.

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A balloon over seven metres high outside UN Headquarters in New York represents one metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2). The balloon is part of a project co-sponsored by the Government of Chile and the United Nations to draw attention to the quantities of CO2 produced per person per year. January 27, 2012 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) Posted for media use .

We know that the safe level is well below this,” he said. “It also means that we are systematically raising levels of disaster risk for future generations and we can expect more severe weather events in the years ahead.

UNISDR serves as the focal point for disaster reduction coordination between the UN and regional organizations. Its work is applied to climate change adaptation; building disaster-resilient cities, schools and hospitals; and strengthening the international system for disaster risk reduction.

Climate disasters already account for 90 percent of all devastations caused by natural hazards – potentially catastrophic, especially for low and middle-income countries that contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions but have huge populations exposed to drought, floods and storms.

Much more vigorous action is necessary for a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C while the Paris Agreement recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C rather than 2 degrees C would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change,” Glasser concluded.

The year 2016 is on track to be the hottest year ever. August 2016 was the 16th straight warmest month on record, and there are no signs the warming is slowing down.

Global temperature peaked at 1.38°C above pre-industrial levels in February. In the Arctic, temperatures were 4°C above normal during the first quarter of the year.

Iraq and Kuwait experienced summer temperatures of 54°C (129.2°F) - the highest reliably measured temperature in the eastern hemisphere.

Certain parts of the Pacific Ocean are two degrees Celsius warmer than normal, which has helped spur massive cyclones, including super typhoons Winston and Nepartak.

Recently, Super Typhoon Merantiwould have been the equivalent of a Category 6 hurricane, if the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale extended beyond five.

Warm temperatures have led to record breaking mass coral bleaching around the world. An estimated 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching.

Drought and rising temperatures have left over 36 million people in eastern and southern Africa facing hunger. This is the worst drought in Ethiopia’s recent history.

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Disaster Response Team conducts search and rescue operations by boat in Ascension Parish, Gonzales, Louisiana, August 19, 2016 (Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA) Public domain.

Catastrophic floods have hit many places, especially China, Pakistan and the U.S. state of Louisiana.

Rainfall in June led to one of the costliest disasters in China’s recent history. Louisiana faced several cases of extreme flooding - during the most recent case “some spots picked up more than a foot of rain in 24 hours and two feet in 72 hours.

Scientists confirmed that five islands have disappeared in the Solomon Islands due to sea level rise. Six others have been partially submerged. Officials from the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu have said that the country has already lost four of its islands to rising seas.

The Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe were the first community in the United States to receive federal funding to relocate because of climate change. The indigenous village of Shishmaref in Alaska has voted to relocate due to rising sea levels.

On Monday a new report from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) highlights increasing evidence that climate change is taking the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people. These impacts are caused by inequalities that increase the risks from climate hazards.

 “Sadly, the people at greater risk from climate hazards are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized who, in many cases, have been excluded from socioeconomic progress,” observed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the report, “World Economic and Social Survey 2016: Climate Change Resilience – an Opportunity for Reducing Inequalities.

 “We have no time to waste – and a great deal to gain – when it comes to addressing the socioeconomic inequalities that deepen poverty and leave people behind,” Ban urged.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Lenni Montiel told reporters Monday at UN headquarters in New York, “Persistent inequalities in access to assets, opportunities, political voice and participation, and in some cases, outright discriminations leave large groups of people and communities disproportionally exposed and vulnerable to climate hazards.

While there is a large body of anecdotal evidence that the poor and the vulnerable suffer the greatest harm from climate-related disasters, the report determined that much of the harm is not by accident. It is due to the failure of governments to close the development gaps that leave large population groups at risk.

In the past 20 years, 4.2 billion people have been affected by weather-related disasters, and many have lost their lives.

Looking ahead, the report recommends improved access to climate projections, modern information and communications technologies, and geographical information systems to strengthen national capacity to assess the impacts of climate hazards and policy options to minimize them.


 

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Children Sue for Climate Justice

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The 21 young plaintiffs backed by Our Children’s Trust and climate expert Dr. James Hansen, back row with hat. (Photo courtesy Our Children’s Trust) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

EUGENE, Oregon, August 18, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – A pioneering constitutional climate change lawsuit  is being brought by children, ages 8-19, against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in Eugene.

The children argue that in causing climate change, the U.S. government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources. 

Acting as one of the plaintiffs is world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA), and currently adjunct professor, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, both in New York City. Dr. Hansen is serving as guardian for future generations and his granddaughter, Sophie, a teenaged plaintiff in this lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are suing the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels.

The case is one of multiple related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children’s Trust , seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.

Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization, elevating the voice of youth, those with most to lose, to secure the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate on behalf of present and future generations.

 The nonprofit leads a coordinated global human rights and environmental justice campaign to implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans that will return atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to below 350 parts per millions by the year 2100.

Julia Olson, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, told a magistrate judge in March, “Defendants in essence ask this court to ignore the undisputed scientific evidence, presented in our complaint and in opposing this motion, that the federal government has, and continues to, damage plaintiffs’ personal security and other fundamental rights. But these young plaintiffs have the right to prove the government’s role in harming them has been knowing and deliberate.

In April, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the U.S. District Court in Eugene ruled in favor of the 21 young plaintiffs.

This ruling is now under review by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken, with oral arguments scheduled for September 13, after which the case will either proceed to trial or to appeal.

I am excited that Judge Aiken is interested in hearing our oral argument this September,” said plaintiff Kiran Oommen, a 19-year-old from Eugene, Oregon. “The U.S. government’s continued support of the fossil fuel industry, despite the obvious high risks, is hurting people all the time and it’s getting worse. … The longer this case lasts, the greater the evidence will be condemning their actions.

Olson said, “The more these brave young climate advocates appear in court, with the tremendous public support we anticipate for this September 13 hearing, the better. This is another chance to tell the egregious story of this case: that for more than 50 years our government has exploited fossil fuels, hand in hand with industry, knowing it would destroy our climate system and the healthy futures for these young people. We are eager to show the court how these youth’s fundamental constitutional rights are being infringed.

 Now, three groups representing the fossil fuel industry have joined the federal case as intervenors: the American Petroleum Institute, which includes BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell; the National Association of Manufacturers; and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which includes DuPont and Koch Industries.

The intervors argue that the lawsuit is “extraordinary” and “a direct threat to [their] businesses” and that, if the kids win, “massive societal changes” and an “unprecedented restructuring of the economy” could result.

They will try to persuade the judge that the young plaintiffs in this case do not have standing, because climate change is mostly a prediction of harm, and that, even if they are being harmed, climate change is a question for Congress, not the courts, to decide.

Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington, also ruled in favor of youth plaintiffs in related actions.

Pakistan is feeling the influence of Oregon in its own children’s climate case. It takes the form of legal coaching and counseling from the nongovernmental organization Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), based in Eugene.

ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson said “ELAW is pleased to collaborate with Our Children’s Trust on this case to raise the voices of youth around the world calling for climate justice. It’s one of many U.S. and international cases in Our Children’s Trust’s global youth-led climate campaign. “We owe it to children and future generations to leave them a healthy climate.”

 Last month, the Pakistan Supreme Court heard arguments from ELAW partner Qazi Ali Athar and ruled in favor of seven-year-old youth petitioner Rabab Ali – Ali’s daughter, overturning an initial ruling from the Court’s Registrar that her lawsuit was inadmissible.

In an interview with Third Pole Net, Rabab said, “I want the government to give me and my friends a safe environment to grow up in. I want it to help me conserve it for future generations.

Rabab’s suit asserts that coal and other polluting fossil fuels violate the Public Trust Doctrine and the youngest generation’s fundamental rights to life, liberty, property, human dignity, information, and equal protection under the law.

 The Court allowed Rabab’s climate case to proceed on behalf of present and future generations.

Our Children’s Trust attorneys worked with Ali to prepare the petition as part of the coordinated youth-led legal climate campaign, with the support of ELAW staff. In particular, ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik submitted an affidavit to the court in support of Rabab’s case.

Ali has said, “I am invoking the ancient Public Trust Doctrine passed from the Romans into English common law. It’s very simple and states that things like water, air and the seas, which belong to every citizen, have to be protected. The government, as the custodian of our natural resources, cannot exploit it.


Featured image: Steam rising from the Chesterfield electricity-generating facility of Dominion Virginia Power in Dutch Gap, Chesterfield Virginia, July 12, 2015 (Photo by Bill Dickinson)  Creative Commons license via Flickr

Turning CO2 Into an Asset

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 11, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As the climate heats up, scientists and engineers are finding new ways to lessen the impact of fossil fuel combustion on the climate – both by sequestering the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted and also by producing electricity with this most prevalent greenhouse gas.

The most familiar carbon capture and storage technologies enable the capture of CO2 from fuel combustion or industrial processes, transport the gas via ships or pipelines, and store it underground or undersea in depleted oil and gas fields and deep saline formations.

The world’s first large-scale carbon capture and storage project, launched in November 2015, will reduce emissions from oil sands processing in Alberta, Canada.

The world’s first CCS project started in Norway in 1996 and continues to operate today, storing nearly a million tonnes of CO2 ever year beneath the North Sea.

CCS projects are entering operation, are under construction or are in advanced stages of planning in Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

But energy losses and large capital costs are associated with this type of CO2 capture, transport, and sequestration, so scientists are seeking newer and better ways to keep CO2 from acting as a greenhouse gas, raising the planetary temperature.

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Carl Pendragon, Co-Founder of Carbon Wealth – image courtesy of COP21 www.cop21paris.org

Carl Pendragon, co-founder of the Swedish cleantech firm Carbon Wealth , has developed a new patented process for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide, CO2, into a cheap, clean-burning copy of coal and charcoal – a process he calls “SkyMining.”

SkyMining was designed to be a profitable source of carbon negative energy, that can operate and grow organically in the global markets without any kind of subsidy or legislation.

In a May 2016 interview with the global media platform Climate Action, Pendragon explained how the process works.

 “Businesses are invited to invest in a SkyMining contract to offset their carbon emissions. For each tonne of CO2 that is offset, a company gets a return taken from our fuel sale profits.

We use their investment to plant specialized grass on marginal land; atmospheric carbon is extracted through hyper-efficient CO2-pumps found in the grass,” Pendragon explained.

A large proportion of the CO2 pulled down by our grass is sequestered in the soil on which it is grown. The grass can grow four meters (13 feet) in 100 days, exclusively on marginal land that can’t be used for any other kind of agriculture,” he said.

Our own patented process of thermal carbonization turns harvested grass, saturated with carbon, into a clean copy of coal,” said Pendragon. “Thermal carbonization effectively replicates a 30 million-year natural process in under 30 minutes.”

Pendragon calls his process “the world’s first scalable and profitable carbon-negative energy solution.”  SkyMining safely sequesters large amounts of CO2 as fuel that can be burned instead of fossil fuels in industry, heating and electricity generation. The next step is a commercial SkyMining installation in Senegal.

 Pendragon said, “Our fuel costs less than fossil fuels and charcoal in all chosen target markets. The energy density per tonne of SkyMining fuel is similar to fossil fuels. And, SkyMining fuel does not emit any CO2 in the context of climate change.

 Pendragon says SkyMining brings new advantages to the renewable energy sector.

 “SkyMining produces a burnable fuel that can replace coal,” he said. “This fuel not only directly offsets fossil fuels when it takes their place in an oven, but it also allows us to capitalize on the world-spanning fossil fuel infrastructure built up since the industrial revolution, vastly reducing our costs.

SkyMining is carbon negative,” said Pendragon, “meaning that our fuel’s production and combustion results in a net-reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Finally,” he said, “SkyMining avoids the problem of intermittency, since it does not rely on an irregular source of energy such as wind or sunlight. This makes SkyMining a viable source of backup power for modern renewables like wind and solar. Our carbon-negative energy can ensure that wind and solar power is always beneficial for the environment, unlike when their backup power comes from dirty coal.”

SkyMining involves clean fuel production, electricity generation, carbon sequestration, and sustainable agriculture — all key factors for reaching zero-carbon future, Pendragon said.

CornellElectroChemicalCell

This graphic explains Dr. Lynden Archer’s novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and converting it to a useful product, while producing electrical energy. (Image courtesy Cornell University)

In a completely different approach, Cornell University scientists have developed a power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester CO2 and produce electricity.

Cornell engineering professor Dr. Lynden Archer and doctoral student Wajdi Al Sadat have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell.

The group’s proposed cell would use aluminum as the anode and mixed streams of carbon dioxide and oxygen as the active ingredients of the cathode.

The electrochemical reactions between the anode and the cathode would sequester the CO2 into carbon-rich compounds while also producing electricity and a valuable oxalate as a byproduct.

Their paper, “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation,” was published July 20 in the journal “Science Advances.”

The fact that we’ve designed a carbon capture technology that also generates electricity is, in and of itself, important,” Archer said.

The Cornell group reports that the energy produced by their cell is comparable to that produced by the highest energy-density battery systems.

Archer explained that their process generates superoxide intermediates, which are formed when the dioxide is reduced at the cathode. “The superoxide reacts with the normally inert carbon dioxide, forming a carbon-carbon oxalate that is widely used in many industries, including pharmaceutical, fiber and metal smelting,” he said.

A process able to convert carbon dioxide into a more reactive molecule such as an oxalate that contains two carbons opens up a cascade of reaction processes that can be used to synthesize a variety of products,” Archer said.

Al Sadat, who worked on onboard carbon capture vehicles at Saudi Aramco, said this technology in not limited to power-plant applications.

It fits really well with onboard capture in vehicles,” he said, “especially if you think of an internal combustion engine and an auxiliary system that relies on electrical power.

He said aluminum is the perfect anode for this cell, as it is plentiful, safer than other high-energy density metals and lower in cost than other potential materials, such as lithium or sodium, while having energy density comparable to lithium.

A current drawback of this technology is that the electrolyte – the liquid connecting the anode to the cathode – is extremely sensitive to water. The group is working to find electrolytes that are less water-sensitive.

This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research, which is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Funding came also from a grant from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Global Research Partnership program.


2050 Climate Adaptation Costs: $500B a Year

NigerAdaptation

Funding makes possible this cash-for-work and disaster risk reduction project in the West African country of Niger. These half-moon structures in the drought-stricken village of Gobro collect water when it rains, refilling the water table and encouraging the regrowth of vegetation. Oxfam International runs the project in partnership with the local NGO Mooriben and the UN’s World Food Programme. (Photo by Fatoumata Diabate / Oxfam) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – By 2050, the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could balloon to $500 billion annually, five times greater than previous estimates, warns a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report calculates the difference between the costs of climate change adaptation in developing countries and the amount of money available to meet these costs – a difference known as the “adaptation finance gap.”

The 2016 Adaptation Finance Gap Report is written by authors from 15 institutions and reviewed by 31 experts. They conclude that failure to cut the greenhouse gas emissions humans are pumping out will send the annual costs of adaptation to climate change skyrocketing into the stratosphere. By 2050 these costs could be up to five times higher than earlier World Bank estimates.

The second in UNEP’s series of Climate Adaptation Gap reports, this assessment finds that total bilateral and multilateral funding for climate change adaptation in developing countries has risen in the five years leading up to 2014, reaching $22.5 billion.

But the report warns that, despite this increase, there will be a major funding gap by 2050 unless new and additional finance for adaptation appears.

“It is vital that governments understand the costs involved in adapting to climate change,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP deputy executive director.

“This report serves as a powerful reminder that climate change will continue to have serious economic costs. The adaptation finance gap is large, and likely to grow substantially over the coming decades, unless significant progress is made to secure new, additional and innovative financing for adaptation,” said Thiaw.

Previous estimates place the cost of adapting to climate change at between $70 to $100 billion annually for the period 2010-2050, a figure based on a World Bank study from 2010.

After reviewing national and sector studies, the new report finds that the World Bank’s earlier figures are likely to be “a significant underestimate.”

The true cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could range between $140 and $300 billion per year in 2030, and between $280 and $500 billion per year in 2050.

Adaptation costs are likely to increase sharply over time even if the world succeeds in limiting a global rise in temperatures to below two degrees Celsius by 2100, the report warns.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has called on developed countries to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate climate change, and adapt to its impacts, such as drought, rising sea levels and floods.

But the UNEP report warns, “There is no agreement as to the type of funding that shall be mobilised to meet this goal. This hampers efforts to monitor progress toward meeting the goal.”

“The adaptation finance gap is large, and likely to grow substantially over the coming decades, unless significant progress is made to secure new and additional finance for adaptation,” the report concludes.

The Green Climate Fund, an operating entity of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’ Financial Mechanism, is mandated to promote a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways in developing countries.

Based in South Korea, the Green Climate Fund has mobilized about US$10 billion and has already made its first investments. It is the largest entity under the financial mechanism of the Paris Climate Agreement, which 195 countries negotiated in December and 170 of them signed April 22 at UN Headquarters in New York.

Green Climate Fund Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou said at the signing ceremony, “We need to ensure that the investments GCF makes today and in the years ahead are indeed groundbreaking. We need developing countries and our partner institutions to bring forward project proposals that meet the ambition of Paris, that unlock innovation, and that will truly drive low-emission, climate-resilient development. It is time to convert the words – and signatures – into action!”

To meet finance needs and avoid an adaptation gap, the total finance for adaptation in 2030 would have to be approximately six to 13 times greater than international public finance today, calculates the UNEP report.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, addresses the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 10, 2016 (Photo by Maartje_Strijbis) Posted for media use.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, addresses the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 10, 2016 (Photo by Maartje_Strijbis) Posted for media use.

Adaptation costs are already two to three times higher than current international public funding for adaptation, states the report, which was issued May 10 in Rotterdam at Adaptation Futures 2016, the biennial conference of the Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation.

Adaptation Futures 2016 attracted over 1,600 participants from more than 100 countries, people from the business community, from governments and nongovernmental organizations, scientists and climate specialists.


Featured Image: The Adaptation Gap Report 2016 

 

Just Half of Top Investors Tackle Climate Risk

BritishPounds1

By Sunny Lewis                                                                      Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

LONDON, UK, May 5, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Half the world’s 500 largest investors are acting to lessen the risks posed to their portfolios by climate change, but the other half are ignoring climate risk entirely, finds the latest Global Climate 500 Index.

The fourth annual benchmark report on the industry from the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) documents a growth in low carbon investments and a big rise in support for climate resolutions over the past year, but little progress on stranded asset risk.

The independent non-profit AODP rates the world’s 500 biggest investors: pension funds, insurers, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and endowments with $38 trillion of assets under management – on their success at managing climate risk within their portfolios, based on direct disclosures and publicly available information. They are graded from AAA to D while those taking no action are rated X.

This year AODP has raised the bar, requiring evidence of tangible action and no longer scores purely for transparency or commitments.

The result is the Global Climate 500 Index – the world standard for assessing the success of asset owners at managing climate risk.

A fifth (97) of the world’s 500 biggest investors with $US9.4 trillion in funds are taking tangible action to mitigate climate change risk, and another 157 worth $14 trillion are taking the first steps, according to the new Global Climate 500 Index.

But few investors are acting on warnings from Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and chairman of the international Financial Stability Board, that climate action could leave fossil fuel and other high-carbon investments as worthless stranded assets.

Carney has warned that climate change action could turn huge reserves of coal, oil and gas into unburnable stranded assets, threatening investors with huge losses and destabilizing markets.

The Financial Stability Board has set up a task force to recommend how asset owners, the companies they invest in, and other financial intermediaries should report the potential impact of climate change on their bottom lines.

But nearly half the top 500 investors are ignoring climate risk completely, the AODP report finds. That group includes 246 investors with $14.3 trillion in funds under management.

AODP chief executive Julian Poulter said, “Climate change risk is now a mainstream issue for institutional investors and last year has seen many significantly step up their action to manage this. However, only a handful are protecting their portfolios from the very real danger of stranded assets, and it is shocking that nearly half the world’s biggest investors are doing nothing at all to mitigate climate risk.”

“Pension funds and insurers that ignore climate change are gambling with the savings and financial security of hundreds of millions of people around the world and risking another financial crisis,” Poulter warned.

The UK’s $4 billion Environment Agency Pension Fund tops the 2016 Global Climate 500 Index, closely followed by Australia’s $7.1 billion Local Government Super, each coming top or second in all three categories, proving that size is no barrier to managing climate risk.

The Environment Agency Pension Fund has 26 percent of its portfolio in low carbon assets, the highest in the index.

Other leaders include giant institutions that have been active in campaigning for climate action – the $391 billion Dutch pension fund ABP and the $301 billion California Public Employees Retirement System, both rated AAA, and UK insurer Aviva with $445 billion of assets, rated A.

France’s Caisse des Dépôts has jumped from a CC rating to a AA, while the Swedish pension fund AMF and the UK’s Greater Manchester Pension Fund are both up from D to A.

Scandinavian asset owners are taking the most action to manage climate risk. Sweden tops the Country Index, followed by Norway, and Denmark comes fifth.

France, where the Paris Climate Summit in December brought climate risk into sharp focus, takes fourth place with three funds in the top 20 for the first time. In a world-first, France announced that it would require all institutional investors to disclose information on how they are managing the risks of climate change.

Overall, investors that recognize climate risk are taking much more action than last year. The leaders, rated A to AAA, have grown 29 percent from 24 to 31 investors with $2.7 trillion in assets under management.

On average, these 12 AAA-rated institutions have outperformed the benchmark return over five years, demonstrating that climate risk can be managed without sacrificing returns, the AODP reports.

The biggest increase has been in asset owners still developing their climate risk strategy, with a 52 percent rise in those rated C to CCC, from 27 to 41 with $3.4 trillion under management.

There are now 97 investors rated C or above with $9.4 trillion under management, up from 77, while the D group taking least action has shrunk from 191 to 157 with $14 trillion under management.

However, the number of X-rated investors has grown from 232 last year to 246 today.

An encouraging 10 percent of asset owners and 74 percent of the leaders group (rated A to AAA) are measuring carbon in their portfolios, up from seven percent and 67 percent last year.

Yet, only two percent of asset owners have declared a target for reducing portfolio carbon next year.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has piloted global climate negotiations for years and achieved success in Paris last December.

“The Paris Agreement has set out the path, direction and ultimate destination for the global economy,” said Figueres, commenting on the new Global Climate 500 Index. “Increasing numbers of asset owners understand this and more are coming to that realization.”

“I would encourage all of them to pick up the pace and ramp up their ambition in respect to a low carbon transition,” said the top UN climate official. “It is the key to reducing risk and securing the health of their portfolios now and over the long term.”


 

Main image: British currency (Photo by TaxRebate.org

Featured image: 123rf stock imagery 

One Billion Take Part in Earth Day 2016

HarvestingCashewEastDarfur

Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-NetworkWASHINGTON, DC, April 20, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As Earth Day approaches its 50th anniversary in 2020, the Earth Day Network has set five major goals. Planting trees is the first; this year volunteers throughout the world plan to plant 7.8 billion trees.

The Earth Day Network’s 2016 Trees for the Earth campaign will focus on regions of the world most affected by deforestation. To achieve its goal of 7.8 billion trees planted, the Earth Day Network will work with partners from all levels of society, integrate trees into all of its existing campaigns, and create coalitions with national and subnational governments, mayors, faith leaders, businesses, and civil society across the globe.

Trees reverse the impacts of land degradation and provide food, energy, and income. They work as a natural, resilient, and long-lasting safety buffer to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and blizzards, helping to avert the worst effects of climate change.

The Earth Day Network has already planted millions of trees on six different continents, and the longer the trees and forests grow undisturbed, the more powerful these protections become. Using sapling and seed distribution, urban forestry, agroforestry, and tree care training, the Earth Day Network has empowered both rural and urban people to conserve, repair, and restore trees to cover their lands.

“Earth Day is the largest, most recognizable face of the environmental movement,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network.

“Millions of people in dozens of different countries will become lifelong environmentalists this and every Earth Day. Hundreds of thousands will be children – our planet’s future,” said Rogers. “They will join the more than one billion people who already use Earth Day to focus on the urgent need to stabilize and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, fight climate change, act locally, become climate voters, and protect their children’s futures.”

Valuable as it is, tree planting is by no means the only global push planned for Earth Day.

This year, Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at UN Headquarters in New York. The Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris on December 12, 2015.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes the statement of China, this year’s President of the Group of 20, affirming the G20’s full support for the April 22 signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and calling for the accord’s entry into force as early as possible.

“The Secretary-General thanks China for its continued strong leadership in promoting global cooperation, grounded in ambitious national action, on climate change,” said Ban’s office in a statement.

More than 130 countries have confirmed their intention to sign the accord on April 22, and Ban is urging all other countries to join them in the signing ceremony.

Earth Day Network’s Rogers said, “We have no higher priority this year than to make sure the United States, China, India, the EU, and all the largest CO2 emitters sign the Paris Agreement.”

An Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders from 270 religious leaders supporting the Paris Agreement while also urging “much more ambitious action” was handed to the President of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft, at a high-level event on April 18.

Eminent signatories include: Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences of the Holy See; Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu; and Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches.

The Interfaith Statement is supported by 86 groups of all faiths from around the world who have shown their support online by using the hashtag #Faiths4ParisAgreement.

Earth Day Network has launched a petition calling on world leaders, especially U.S. President Barack Obama, to show leadership by signing the Paris Agreement.

“We need to prove that what happened in Paris last December was not all talk. We need to take action. Signing the Paris Agreement this Earth Day at the United Nations is just the beginning,” Rogers said.

“That, coupled with our global activities, will make this the largest, most significant Earth Day in years,” she said. “And it’s the perfect start in our countdown to Earth Day 2020, our 50th!”

This Earth Day, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is inviting people around the world to share on social media what they are doing to celebrate and improve planet Earth, while the space agency shares aspects of a “day in the life” of NASA’s Earth science research.

In the brick and mortar world, NASA will feature Earth Day exhibits, hands-on activities, demonstrations and talks from NASA scientists, April 21 and 22 at Union Station in Washington, DC.

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA activities will showcase sustainability, energy saving solutions and renewable energy. More than a dozen electric cars will be on display with test drives available. Master gardeners and pollinator specialists will answer questions and offer tips. And wildlife and natural conservation specialists will discuss methods to safeguard wildlife, preserve natural resources, and protect Florida waters

GenerationEarth

Earth Day at the Young SouthEast Asian Leaders Initiative Generation: EARTH workshop, Siem Reap, Cambodia, April 22, 2015 (U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh photo by Un Yarat) Public domain.

In South Korea, the Daegu Civilian Eco Festival features a race that pits teams against the clock navigating through a strip of downtown Daegu lined with Earth Day booths to complete 100 eco-missions in 90 minutes. Teams will go to assigned locations, complete an assigned task, take a cellphone picture of that task and send it to the organizers. The grand prize is the equivalent of US$525.

More than 120,000 people are expected gather in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park for Earth Day Tokyo, Japan’s largest global festival organized by citizens. Festivities began last Sunday and continue for the entire week. On April 23, at the Earth Day Concert, a wide variety of musicians and speakers will commit to peace and a positive future for the Earth this year.

Some Japanese are pledging to plant trees; others will work to make life better for the survivors of a series of earthquakes in the southern Japanese city of Kumamoto on April 14 and 16 that claimed at least a dozen lives.

In India, Earth Day Network sees the mandate of grassroots women leaders, or Panchayati Raj, as an opportunity to solve the most pressing environmental issues through a series of hands on educational workshops. Sample workshops include: the importance of growing more trees; spearheading movements against deforestation; advocating for clean alternative energies over fossil fuels; and conserving and building up natural resources.

Environmental groups large and small are making special efforts to celebrate Earth Day 2016.

Conservation International is releasing a new short film “Sky,” voiced by Chinese-American actress, director, screenwriter, and producer Joan Chen, the newest addition to its award-winning series “Nature Is Speaking.”

“We are pushing the Earth’s climate to its limits,” Chen said. “Climate change is drastically altering our planet, threatening not only the nature people rely on, but also people themselves.”

Earth Day may get people thinking about recycling, cutting back on driving or getting out into nature, but the Center for Biological Diversity is also asking them to think about saving the planet through safe sex.

The Center is distributing 25,000 free Endangered Species Condoms nationwide for Earth Day to highlight the connection between reproductive rights and the wildlife extinction crisis. The condoms will be given away by 300 volunteers at Earth Day events, rallies, and on college campuses in 46 states.

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.

More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.


Featured image: Freshly planting pine seedling in a U.S. forest. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service) Public domain.

Main image: United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) sector leader Landing Badjie harvests the first cashew tree planted in war-torn Darfur in 2014. Since then, the UNAMID has distributed more than 15,000 seedlings to be planted in all schools in the state. (Photo by Abdulrasheed Yakubu, UNAMID) Creative Commons License via Flickr

Jury Still Out on Carbon Capture & Storage

SaskPower's Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 5, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Since the Paris Climate Agreement was reached in December, preventing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere has become a top priority for many governments, utilities and private individuals who believe climate change to be the major problem of this generation.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) enables a power station or factory that burns coal, oil or gas to remove the CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere and store it permanently in an old oilfield or a deep saline aquifer formation.

Some attempts at capturing and storing CO2 have been more successful than others.

First, capture technologies allow the separation of CO2 from other gases produced by power generation and factories by one of three methods: pre-combustion capture, post-combustion capture and oxyfuel combustion.

The captured CO2 is then transported by pipeline or ship to the storage location. Millions of tonnes of CO2 are now transported for commercial purposes each year by road tankers, ships and pipelines.

Once at its destination, the captured CO2 is stored in geological rock formations typically located several kilometers below the surface.

At every point in the CCS chain, from production to storage, industry can use a number of process technologies that are well understood and have excellent health and safety records, says the London-based Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA).

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell's Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth's surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell’s Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth’s surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

The Canadian province of Quebec is excited enough about this possibility that it just bet Cdn$15 million on a new enzyme-based technology.

Quebec has established a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 37.5 percent below this same level by 2030.

In its 2016-2017 Budget, released March 17, the Quebec provincial government announced that it has allocated $15 million over the next three years to create a consortium that will promote adoption of CO2 Solutions’ patented enzyme-enabled carbon capture technology.

The process is now ready for commercialization.

In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project is SaskPower’s flagship CCS initiative.

This project transformed the aging Unit #3 at Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan into a long-term producer of up to 115 megawatts of base-load electricity, capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, the equivalent of taking more than 250,000 cars off Saskatchewan roads annually.

The captured CO2 is sold and transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields in southern Saskatchewan to be used for enhanced oil recovery. CO2 not used for enhanced oil recovery will be stored in the Aquistore Project.

Aquistore is a research and monitoring project to demonstrate that storing liquid CO2 deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation is a safe, workable solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

Through the development of the world’s first and largest commercial-scale CCS project of its kind, SaskPower hopes to make a viable technical, environmental and economic case for the continued use of coal.

In Norway last December, Aker Solutions signed a contract with the city of Oslo for a five-month test CCS project to capture CO2 emissions from the city-operated waste-to-energy Klemetsrud plant.

The project is funded by Gassnova, the state enterprise that supports the development and demonstration of technologies to capture CO2.

“This is pioneering work with significant potential as the world focuses on finding ways to limit carbon emissions,” commented Valborg Lundegaard, head of Aker Solutions’ engineering business. “This pilot project is of international importance.”

The test will be key to qualifying Aker Solutions’ amine-based CO2 capture technology for commercial application at the world’s waste-to-energy plants. There are about 450 such plants operating in Europe and about 700 globally.

Japan is preparing to test its biggest project yet for capturing and storing CO2 under the ocean floor despite concerns about cost and the safety of pursuing the technology in a region prone to earthquakes.

Starting this month, engineers plan to inject CO2 into deep saline aquifers off the coast of Hokkaido at the northern tip of Japan. The gas will be captured from a refinery operated by Idemitsu Kosan Co. under the government-backed project.

Some Japanese companies are already lending their expertise to and investing in CCS projects overseas.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. designed and built a project in the U.S. state of Alabama with the utility Southern Company.

Three of the six companies building the world’s largest CCS project on Barrow Island off the northwest coast of Western Australia are Japanese. Although a Class A Nature Reserve, Barrow Island is said to be a location where industry and the environment co-exist.

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron's Gorgon CCS project on Australia's Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron’s Gorgon CCS project on Australia’s Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

The Gorgon Project is a liquefied natural gas (LNG) and domestic gas joint venture supplied by the Greater Gorgon Area gas fields.

The Chevron-operated Gorgon Project is a joint venture of the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3 percent), ExxonMobil (25 percent), Shell (25 percent), Osaka Gas (1.25 percent), Tokyo Gas (1 percent) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417 percent).

On March 20, Chevron announced that its first shipment of LNG from the Gorgon Project had left Barrow Island. The cargo goes to Chubu Electric Power, for delivery into Japan.

“Departure of the first cargo from the Gorgon Project is a key milestone in our commitment to be a reliable LNG provider for customers across the Asia-Pacific region,” said Mike Wirth, executive vice president, Chevron Midstream and Development. “This is also important for our investors as we begin to generate revenue from a project we expect will operate for decades to come.”

But bad news appears to dog the CCS industry.

On Friday, the Gorgon project had to temporarily halt production due to technical difficulties with a propane refrigerant circuit at the Gorgon plant site.

Chevron and its Gorgon partners are facing a repair bill that could amount to “hundreds of millions of dollars” after “a major mechanical problem flared as soon as the maiden LNG cargo was sent,” reported the “West Australian” newspaper on Friday.

There are many skeptics, given that it can cost billions of dollars for a CCS facility and none have a long record of successful operation at an industrial scale. Some investors initially put their money into carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies only to see their CCS plans fail or get tossed out by governments.

“It is our view that CCS is unlikely to play a significant role in mitigating emissions from coal-fired power stations,” authors including Ben Caldecott, director of the sustainable finance program at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, wrote in a report published in January.

“Deployment of CCS has already been too slow to match” scenarios presented by the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they warned.

Another concern is whether stored CO2 will leak from storage sites, releasing the gas back into the atmosphere.

“There is no guarantee that carbon dioxide can be stored in a stable way in Japan where there are many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” Kimiko Hirata, a researcher for Kiko Network, a Kyoto-based environmental group, told Bloomberg News.

In 2015, the FutureGen Alliance, a U.S. industrial group with a high-profile carbon capture project in Illinois, lost its Department of Energy financing.

FutureGen, a partnership between the U.S. government and an alliance of coal-related corporations, was retrofitting a coal-fired power plant with oxy-combustion generators. The excess CO2 would be piped 30 miles (48 km) to be stored in underground saline formations. Costs were estimated at US$1.65 billion, with $1 billion provided by the U.S. government.

But the U.S. Department of Energy ordered suspension of FutureGen 2.0 in February 2015, citing the alliance’s inability to raise much private funding. At the time of suspension the power plant part of the project had spent $116.5 million and the CCS part had spent $86 million.

In the UK, the British National Audit Office (NAO) has announced plans to investigate then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s 2015 decision to scrap a £1bn prototype carbon capture scheme that has already cost the taxpayers at least £60 million.

The spending watchdog said that this summer it will examine the expenses incurred in running, and then prematurely halting, a CCS competition for financing.

In the competition, the Department of Energy and Climate shortlisted two projects. Shell was developing a trial scheme at Peterhead in Scotland alongside one of the big six energy suppliers and power station owner SSE. A separate White Rose project was being developed by Drax at its coal-fired plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.

They were awarded multi-million pound contracts to finalize these proposals before a final investment decision could be taken.

But in November 2015 the agency withdrew funding for the program, suspending the competition.

The NAO will review the government decision, what impacts it will have on the department’s objectives of decarbonization and security of supply, and the costs incurred by government in running the competition.

Dr. Luke Warren, chief executive of the CCSA, called the funding cut “devastating.”

“Only six months ago the government’s manifesto committed £1 billion of funding for CCS,” said Warren. “Moving the goalposts just at the time when a four year competition is about to conclude is an appalling way to do business.”

In February, the UK Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee reported on the future of CCS in the country in view of the funding cut.

The government’s decision to pull funding for carbon capture and storage at the last minute will delay the development of the technology in the UK and could make it challenging for the UK to meet its climate change commitments agreed at the Paris COP21 summit, the Energy and Climate Change Committee report warned.

Said Angus MacNeil MP, Energy and Climate Change Committee Chair, “If we don’t invest in the infrastructure needed for carbon capture and storage technology now, it could be much more expensive to meet our climate change targets in the future. Gas-fired power stations pump out less carbon dioxide than ones burning coal, but they are still too polluting.”

“If the government is committed to the climate change pledges made in Paris, it cannot afford to sit back and simply wait and see if CCS will be deployed when it is needed,” said MacNeil. “Getting the infrastructure in place takes time and the government needs to ensure that we can start fitting gas fired power stations with carbon capture and storage technology in the 2020s.”


Featured image Coal Pile courtesy of 123R

Earth Hour: Going Dark to ‘Change Climate Change’

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Engro Green Office Program personnel celebrate Earth Hour 2015 with a candlelight vigil in Karachi, Pakistan. March 27, 2015. (Photo by Green Office Engro) creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SINGAPORE, March 17, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – On Saturday evening, March 19 at exactly 20:30 local time, millions of people around the world will switch off their non-essential lights for one hour to show their commitment to cooling the over-heated planet. This is Earth Hour, a WWF initiative to inspire climate change action.

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Earth Hour Global Executive Director Sid Das joined Earth Hour from Google in 2009, when he lived in Sydney, Australia. He moved to Singapore with the Earth Hour organizing team in 2012. (Photo courtesy Earth Hour)

“The world is at a climate crossroads,” said Siddarth Das, executive director, Earth Hour Global, based in Singapore. “While we are experiencing the impacts of climate change more than ever, we are also witnessing a new momentum in climate action transcending borders and generations.”

“From living rooms to classrooms and conference rooms, people are demanding climate action,” said Das. “This 10th edition of Earth Hour is our time to ensure people are empowered to be a part of climate solutions.”

In 2007, WWF-Australia inspired Sydney residents to show their support for climate change action in the first Earth Hour event. More than 2,000 businesses and 2.2 million individuals turned their lights out for an hour to take a stand against runaway climate change.

Over Earth Hour’s 10-year history, an increasing number of businesses, individuals, institutions and landmarks have participated.

Last year, 7,000 cities in more than 170 countries and territories got involved.

This year, WWF Earth Hour organizers believe their campaign has helped persuade people to cool their demand for electricity generated by fossil fuels after 195 nations agreed in December to limit their greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement.

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As Vice President of the WWF Climate Change Program, Lou Leonard is the organization’s strategic leader on fighting climate change. (Photo courtesy WWF-US)

Based in Washington, DC, Lou Leonard is vice president, climate and energy, World Wildlife Fund, which is WWF in the United States. “Earth Hour arrives at a pivotal moment. The threat has never been clearer but the momentum has never been so clearly on our side,” he said. “Last year was the warmest year on record and the first year the entire world agreed to act together to turn back the climate threat.”

“But we can’t stop here,” warned Leonard. “As the lights go out from New Zealand to New York, it’s time to do the work needed to make the Paris Agreement come alive. From the Clean Power Plan in America to a national cap-and-trade law in China, to a global system to tackle international aviation pollution, 2016 is the year where we can prove that a zero-carbon future is within our grasp. It’s up to all of us to do our part.”

In the United States alone, many landmarks and businesses have pledged to go dark for Earth Hour. They include: the Empire State Building and many Broadway theatres in New York City, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle in Seattle, and dozens of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and in other cities across the country. See a complete list here.

Around the world, more than 350 of the world’s most iconic landmarks will be turning out the lights on Saturday evening, including the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge is mobilizing action and support from cities throughout the world in the global transition towards a climate-friendly future by offering recognition as a reward.

Cities are invited to report inspiring and credible commitments and actions that build climate resilient communities based on renewable energy and low carbon development.

One city will be crowned as the 2016 global Earth Hour Capital, selected by an international jury of experts from among 124 participating cities across 21 countries.

The Earth Hour City Challenge began in 2012, when WWF invited cities from six countries – Canada, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United States – to participate. A total of 66 cities accepted WWF’s challenge – the winner, announced in 2013, was Vancouver, Canada.

Last year, Seoul, South Korea was the global winner of WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge out of 166 participating cities in 17 countries. An ambitious initiative by the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million tons and to achieve 20 percent electricity self-reliance by 2020 was acclaimed by the international jury of experts.

As part of the 2015 Earth Hour City Challenge, the city of Balikpapan, Indonesia was recognized as the Most Loveable City. Balikpapan was one of 47 green city finalists selected through the social media platform We Love Cities . The We Love Cities site enables visitors to vote for the city they love the most this year. The most loveable city will be announced April 9.

WWF explains, “The Earth Hour City Challenge is not about rewarding cities for the most impressive, hi-tech plans, but about commitment and innovative thinking that promotes attractive, one-planet lifestyles, and provides solutions to the challenges of food, water and energy security.”

To date, Earth Hour has powered more than 530,000 individual actions taken “to help change climate change.”

WWF and Earth Hour teams across six continents are working right now to mobilize public action on climate change in the lead-up to the hour and throughout the year.

They are rallying individuals to participate in reforestation efforts in Georgia and Indonesia, promoting a switch to renewables in Uganda and India, spreading awareness on sustainable food in Italy and Australia and encouraging sustainable lifestyles in Chile and China.

For the first time this year, supporters have been invited to share their commitment to the planet by donating their own personal landmarks – their Facebook feeds and social media profile pictures – to Earth Hour to inspire their friends and communities to join the movement. Click here to donate.

Follow Earth Hour and/or comment on Twitter at #ChangeClimateChange.

Das said, “Whether it is the flick of a switch or the click of a mouse, Earth Hour’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to connect people and show them that we all stand united in our ambition to change climate change.”EarthHourWebBanner


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

 

Gates Funds Climate-Smart Rice Development

RicePlanterIndonesia

By Sunny Lewis

LOS BANOS, Philippines, January 6, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – Climate change-ready rice seeds of several varieties have reached millions of farmers in Asia and Africa under a forward-looking program known as Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia, or STRASA.

Developed by the Los Baños-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the program distributes new rice varieties tolerant of stresses such as the droughts and floods, salinity, and toxicity, to millions of farmers coping with these stresses.

STRASA began at the end of 2007 with IRRI in collaboration with AfricaRice. Conceived as a 10-year project with a vision to deliver the improved varieties to at least 18 million farmers on the two continents, the first two phases of the project have been funded with about US$20 million each.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the third phase of the IRRI-led project with US$32.77 million through 2017.

Rice is the most important human food crop in the world, directly feeding more people than any other crop. In 2012, nearly half of world’s population, more than three billion people, relied on rice every day.

Rice is produced in a wide range of locations and under a variety of climatic conditions, from the wettest areas in the world to the driest deserts. Thousands of rice varieties are cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.

But as the climate changes, more varieties are being developed to help farmers produce their crops regardless of droughts that shrivel the rice plants and floods that rot them.

About three years into the STRASA program, in May 2011, Bill Gates described how he sees the revolution in rice production.

“What’s going on right now in Africa and South Asia is not a collection of anecdotes about improvements to a few people’s lives,” Gates said. “This is the early stage of sweeping change for farming families in the poorest parts of the world. It’s an historic chance to help people and countries move from dependency to self-sufficiency – and fulfill the highest promise of foreign aid.”

STRASA in Africa

Gary Atlin, senior program officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the 3rd Africa Rice Congress held in October 2013 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, “The best adaptation to climate change is a breeding and seed system that rapidly develops, deploys, and then replaces varieties so that farmers will always have access to varieties adapted to their current conditions.”

This strategy is at the heart of STRASA, which helps smallholder farmers who are vulnerable to flooding, drought, extreme temperatures, and soil problems, such as high salt and iron toxicity, that reduce yields.

Some of these stresses are forecast to become more frequent and intense with climate change.

Climate change is already having a negative impact on Africa through extreme temperatures, frequent flooding and droughts, and increased salinity according to Baboucarr Manneh, irrigated-rice breeder at Africa Rice Center and coordinator of the African component of the STRASA project.

More than 30 stress-tolerant rice varieties have already been released in nine African countries with support from the STRASA project, said Dr. Manneh.

“One of the key impact points for STRASA will be the quantity of seed produced and disseminated to farmers,” said Dr. Manneh. “As seed production continues to be a major bottleneck in Africa, the main thrust of our recent STRASA meeting was to help countries develop seed road maps.”

Sometimes, various stresses, such as salinity, cold, submergence, and iron toxicity, can occur at the same time.

“That’s why the third phase of the STRASA project will focus on breeding for multiple stress tolerance,” Dr. Manneh explained.

STRASA in India

“Use flood- and drought-tolerant rice to get maximum profit from your small landholdings in the stress-prone areas of Bihar,” said Radha Mohan Singh, Union minister for agriculture and farmers welfare, to a gathering of more than 1,000 farmers at the foundation ceremony of the National Integrated Agriculture Research Centre in Motihari, Bihar, India last August.

Minister Singh told the farmers of how scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research took him to a pond planted with a new flood-tolerant rice variety that was fully submerged in water for 15 days. “I immediately asked them, ‘Why this much water? Wouldn’t the rice rot?’”

But the crop variety that survived 15 days of submergence had “very good yield,” the scientists said.

These flood-tolerant seeds now are available for farmers in Motihari. Trials of a drought-tolerant rice variety are also being conducted in several Motihari villages.

“Following the Minister’s speech, the IRRI booth received a rush of inquiries from farmers,” said Dr. Sudhanshu Singh, International Rice Research Institute scientist and rainfed-lowland agronomist for South Asia, who represented the Institute during the foundation ceremony and exhibit.

About 10 million of the poorest and most disadvantaged rice farmers have been given access to climate-smart rice varieties.

“Swarna-Sub1 changed my life,” said Trilochan Parida, a farmer at the Dekheta Village of Puri in Odisha, India.

Floods ravage Parida’s rice field every year. Flooding of four days or more usually means a loss of the crop as well as of any expected income. But in 2008, Parida saw his rice rise back to life after having been submerged for two weeks.

Swarna-Sub1 is a flood-tolerant rice variety developed by the Philippines-based IRRI. It was bred from a popular Indian variety, Swarna, which has been upgraded with SUB1, the gene for flood tolerance.

“Under the past phases of the project, 16 climate-smart rice varieties tolerant of flood, drought, and salinity were released in various countries in South Asia. About 14 such varieties were released in sub-Saharan Africa. Several more are in the process of being released,” said Abdelbagi Ismail, IRRI scientist and STRASA project leader.

In addition to improving varieties and distributing seeds, the STRASA project also trains farmers and scientists in producing good-quality seeds. Through the project’s capacity-building component, 74,000 farmers, including 19,400 women farmers, underwent training in seed production.

3,000 Rice Genomes Sequenced

Now a scientific advance has made even more progress possible.

A remarkable 3,000 rice genome sequences were made publicly available on World Hunger Day May 29, 2014.

This work is the completion of stage one of the 3000 Rice Genomes Project, a collaborative, international research program that has sequenced 3,024 rice varieties from 89 countries.

The collaboration is made up of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

IRRI Director General Dr. Robert Zeigler said, “Access to 3,000 genomes of rice sequence data will tremendously accelerate the ability of breeding programs to overcome key hurdles mankind faces in the near future.”

“This collaborative project,” said Zeigler, “will add an immense amount of knowledge to rice genetics, and enable detailed analysis by the global research community to ultimately benefit the poorest farmers who grow rice under the most difficult conditions.”

The 3000 Rice Genomes Project is part of an ongoing effort to provide resources for poverty-stricken farmers in Africa and Asia, aiming to reach at least 20 million rice farmers in 16 target countries – eight in Asia and eight in Africa.

Dr. Jun Wang, director of the Beijing Genomics Institute, said, “The population boom and worsening climate crisis have presented big challenges on global food shortage and safety. BGI is dedicated to applying genomics technologies to make a fast, controllable and highly efficient molecular breeding model possible.”

“This opens a new way to carry out agricultural breeding. With the joined forces with CAAS, IRRI and Gates Foundation, we have made a step forward in big-data-based crop research and digitalized breeding,” said Dr. Wang. “We believe every step will get us closer to the ultimate goal of improving the wellbeing of human race.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

 

Editors note: Dr. Jun Wang is no longer the director of the Beijing Genomics Institute, although he was at the comment quoted. Dr. Jun Wang is now a scientist and research group leader with BGI.

Head image: A farmer planting rice in Pangkep, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, 2014 (Photo by Tri Saputro / Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) under creative commons license.
Featured image: Sample seeds from among the 127,000 rice varieties and accessions stored in the International Rice Genebank at the International Rice Research Institute.​​ (Photo courtesy IRRI)

Cement CEO’s Rise to the Climate Challenge

CemexBridgeGermany

PARIS, France, December 24, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Cement production accounts for about five percent of all human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide, and now, inspired by the Paris Climate Agreement, the cement industry has set a goal of reducing its emissions of this greenhouse gas 25 percent by 2030 compared to business as usual.

Cement is the “glue” in concrete, reacting with water to bind crushed stone, gravel and sand. This essential building material is second only to water in the volume consumed every year.

About 60 percent of the cement industry’s CO2 emissions come from the raw materials used in the manufacturing process of cement, the basic chemical de-carbonation of limestone into lime, which releases CO2.  About 40 percent of these emissions come from the energy required for this chemical reaction and to heat the materials to a temperature of about 1450°Celsius.

Demand for cement is forecast to grow, driven by population growth and world-wide economic recovery as well as increasing infrastructure needs in developing countries. RnR Market Research projects that world demand for cement is projected to grow 4.6 percent per year to 5.2 billion metric tons in 2019.

CementFactoryEmissions

At the United Nations COP21 climate conference in Paris earlier this month, the cement industry reaffirmed its commitment to help tackle climate change. The CEOs of 16 cement companies from across the world signed an aspirational statement, inviting the whole sector to join with them in a seven-part action plan:

1. Enhance the coverage of the sector’s CO2 emissions and energy consumption database, with a specific focus on China, which accounts for about 60 percent of worldwide cement production.

2. Enhance overall energy efficiency of the cement manufacturing process.

3. Scale-up the collection, availability and usage of good quality alternative fuels and raw materials, including relevant waste from other sectors in a circular economy approach.

4. Further reduce the clinker content in cement to minimize the share of the energy-intensive part of the process.

5. Develop new cements with reduced net CO2 emissions over the full life cycle.

6. Engage the full building and infrastructure value chain in local markets to identify and maximize the avoided emissions by usage of cement and concrete products.

7. Evaluate cross-sectoral initiatives, particularly the opportunities to capture, use and store carbon.

“COP21 is a unique moment in history and an unprecedented opportunity deliver results that will scale up decisive action on climate. We need to ensure that business solutions to climate change are implemented to deliver the low carbon vision we work for,” explained OP Puranmalka, managing director of one of the 16 companies, India-based UltraTech Cement.

UltraTech Cement is one of the earliest proponents of waste heat recovery, alternative fuels and other environmentally sustainable practices among cement manufacturers.

CementApartmentsChina

The 16 cement CEOs are taking part in the World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (WBCSD), an unprecedented business collaboration to scale up the development and deployment of low carbon technologies.

Peter Bakker, president and chief executive of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), said, “This collective effort by the cement industry to mitigate its emissions is highly encouraging and showcases the importance of leadership and collaboration in making the transition to a low carbon economy.”

In fact, the cement industry has been moving in the direction of sustainability since 1999 when the Cement Sustainability Initiative was created under the WBCSD umbrella.

Today, the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) is a global effort by 26 major cement producers with operations in more than 100 countries who believe there is a strong business case for the pursuit of sustainable development. Collectively these companies account for around 30 percent of the world’s cement production and range in size from large multinationals to smaller local producers.

Philippe Fonta, managing director of the CSI, said, “Building on 15 years of collaboration, the CSI and its members are working towards scaling up their efforts and leveraging the implementation of identified business solutions to a broad majority of cement companies worldwide. Engaging the whole cement sector would be delivering an additional reduction of close to 1 Gt of CO2 by 2030, which is about the same amount of total CO2 emissions of Germany in 2013.”

Many sustainable cement technologies are already available, but there are either political barriers that need to be removed or financial incentives to be put in place in order to scale up investment in breakthrough technologies.

“There is a lot of potential for emission reductions, but in order to unlock it we need the whole private sector to be involved, and we need to work with governments and other stakeholders in order to remove regulatory and other barriers,” said Fernando González, CEO of Mexico-based cement giant CEMEX.

Actions that could reduce emissions of the cement industry include expanding the use of alternative fuels and cement components, developing new low carbon cements, looking into avoided emissions in the use phase of concrete as a sustainable building material and exploring novelties in the production process.

“It is simply not possible to achieve robust and sustainable growth without taking consistent action to promote sustainable development. COP 21 represents the beginning of a new phase in which it will be necessary to combine the efforts of the sector and other key stakeholders to ensure that low-carbon technology initiatives are implemented” said Walter Dissinger, CEO of Votorantim Cimentos, Brazil’s largest cement
company.

The 16 companies supporting the Action Plan are: Cementos Argos, CEMEX, CRH, Dalmia Cement, GCC, HeidelbergCement, InterCement, Italcementi Group, LafargeHolcim, SCG Cement, Secil, Shree Cement, Titan, UltraTech
Cement, Votorantim Cimentos and West China Cement.

The 16 cement company CEOs are interested in furthering collaboration opportunities and developing partnerships with other sectors whose waste could constitute feedstock for alternative fuels for the cement sector, and identifying regulatory or financial enablers for the effective implementation of low‐carbon technologies.

“Since 2001 the cement sector has demonstrated its ability to make progress on mitigating its impact on climate change. The LCTPi provides additional opportunities to accelerate these efforts and widen engagement through actions by all members of the industry, together with other stakeholders, to overcome barriers and achieve performance matching the best in the sector,” said Eric Olsen, CEO of LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement company, formed earlier this year by the merger of Lafarge and Holcim.

LafargeHolcim and CDC Group plc, the UK’s development finance institution, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up a company that will produce and promote an affordable low-carbon construction solution for developing countries. The new company aims at scaling-up production of earth-cement bricks, a simple, reliable, affordable and environmentally-friendly building material.

LafargeHolcim, represented by co-chairman of the Board Bruno Lafont, made a firm commitment to combat climatechange by including its carbon emission objectives in the French Business Climate Pledge. This document was signed by 39 major French companies as part of their actions to contribute to making COP21 a success and to limiting the warming of the Earth to 2°Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

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Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: A CEMEX cement truck extends a new bridge in Germany (Photo byArturo de Albornoz) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 01: Emissions from a cement factory in the United States, 1972(Photo by Stuart Rankin courtesy U.S. National Archives) Public domain via Flickr
Image 02: Apartment buildings under construction in Puyang, China, January 2015 (Photo by V.T. Polywoda) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 03: This cement kiln produces more greenhouse gas than any other single source in Santa Clara County, California, over a million tons a year as of 2008. It is also the second largest airborne mercury polluter in the state. The first, in Bakersfield, is another cement kiln.(Photo by KQED used under creative commons license via Flickr)

Global Climate Consensus Forged in Paris

COP21VictoryHandsUp

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, December 15, 2015 (Maximpact News) – “The Paris Agreement on climate change is a monumental triumph for people and planet,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as delegates from 195 countries approved the world’s first universal pact to take common climate action.

“We have solid results on all key points,” said Ban. “The agreement demonstrates solidarity. It is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”

The Paris Climate Agreement is not a formal treaty. It doesn’t contain legally-binding carbon targets. Instead, each country has put forth its own voluntary proposals for ambitious carbon reductions.

The Paris agreement is built on these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by 187 countries in advance of COP21. The remaining countries are encouraged to issue their INDCs.

The proposals made to date will, at best, take the world about halfway to the target of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial temperatures.

World leaders agreed on the 2 degree goal at the UN climate conference in 2009, confirmed it in 2010, and enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement on December 12.

But although commitments made under the Paris Agreement don’t meet the target goal, most stakeholders view the document as an effective instrument that will at least begin to limit the greenhouse gases responsible for planetary warming.

For one thing, the Parties put in language that requires them to work toward holding the increase to 1.5 degrees C, or 2.7 degrees F.

Scientists agree that we must hold total warming below 2 degrees to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet even at that level, island and coastal communities would be at risk of inundation by rising seas.

To date, average global temperatures have risen by about one degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees F higher than 150 years ago. Most of the warming has happened in the past 50 years.

Keeping total warming 1.5 degrees is crucially important, countries agreed in Paris.

To approach the lower 1.5 degree target, the agreement calls on nations to assess their progress every two years. They agreed to come back together five years from now to build on those gains by setting even lower goals going forward.

Gaveling the agreement in with a green hammer Saturday evening, Laurent Fabius, COP21 president and the French foreign minister, announced the historic news – a moment greeted with loud applause and cheers, as the delegates rose in a standing ovation.

The jubilation followed two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) and years of preliminary talks that finally bore fruit.

“I have been attending many difficult multilateral negotiations, but by any standard, by far, this negotiation … is the most important for humanity,” Ban said in the tense hours before agreement was reached.

The toughest outstanding issues – the target temperature limit, climate financing, and the differing roles for developed and developing countries – were resolved at last, if only with agreement to do more in the future.

For the first time, countries must take inventory of their major sources of greenhouse gas pollution and share that information with the rest of the world.

Countries must monitor carbon emissions, using standard measuring practices subject to expert international review, and report regularly on their progress in reducing those emissions.

Ban said that enforcement of the agreement will depend on the will power of the Parties to adhere to it.

“Governments have agreed to binding, robust, transparent rules of the road to ensure that all countries do what they have agreed across a range of issues,” he explained.

Highlighting the role of the private sector, the UN chief said business leaders came to Paris in unprecedented numbers and that “powerful” clean energy solutions are already available, while many more are to come.

“With these elements in place, markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, resilient growth,” said Ban.

The agreement supports the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

The fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – that are driving global climate change account for roughly 80 percent of world energy use.

But that is changing quickly.

Financial experts estimate that $50 trillion will be invested in the global energy system over the next 20 years, much of it in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar and to systems to distribute and store the electricity generated.

In the United States, General Motors, Apple computers, Google, Walmart and 150 other major American companies have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, invest in clean energy and otherwise work toward sustainable practices in a private effort to fight climate change.

The Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have said they would invest a minimum of $325 billion in clean energy technologies over the next 10 years.

The United States, France and 17 other countries that together account for 80 percent of global research and development in clean energy technologies have promised to double that investment over the next five years.

And Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com and 25 other billionaire investors are creating a private-public initiative to help bring clean energy ideas to market.

Still, World Coal Association Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton is confident that coal will be burned for many decades to come and that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will help keep climate change under control.

“The foundation of this Paris Agreement are the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by countries in the lead-up to COP21,” said Sporton. “Countries must be supported in the implementation of their INDCs, which for many include a role for low emission coal technologies, such as high efficiency low emissions coal and carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Taking all the INDCs into account, the International Energy Agency projects that electricity generation from coal would grow by 24 percent by 2040.

Sporton sees carbon capture and storage as the way of the future. “The increased ambition of this agreement underscores the need to speed up efforts to deploy carbon capture and storage. We call on governments to move quickly to support increased investment in CCS and through providing policy parity for CCS alongside other low emission technologies.”

The Paris Climate Agreement will take effect in 2020. The document will be deposited at the UN in New York and be opened for one year for signature on April 22, 2016 Earth Day.

The agreement will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, a standard UN percentage.

Historically, the international political response to climate change began with the adoption of the UNFCCC on May 9, 1992.

The UNFCCC sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate system. The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994, and now has 196 parties.

Now the Paris Climate Agreement will take its place in history.

“When historians look back on this day, they will say that global cooperation to secure a future safe from climate change took a dramatic new turn here in Paris,” Ban said Saturday. “Today, we can look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren, and we can finally say, tell them that we have joined hands to bequeath a more habitable world to them and to future generations.”

“For today, congratulations again on a job well done,” Ban smiled. “Let us work together, with renewed commitment, to make this a better world.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured Image: Laurence Tubiana, COP21 Presidency; UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; COP21 President Laurent Fabius, foreign minister, France; and President François Hollande, France, celebrate the adoption of the Paris Agreement
Slide Show: 01. Applause rings through the Paris-Le Bourget conference center as delegates celebrate their approval of the Paris Climate Agreement, Dec. 12, 2015 (Photo courtesy United Nations) 02. US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures to emphasize a point, while UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner, green tie, listens. Paris, Dec. 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) 03. Members of the Like-Minded Developing Countries negotiating group huddle during the final negotiations at COP21 Paris, Dec. 12, 2015

 

UN Foundation: Now We Must Move with Urgency to Deliver on Promise of Climate Agreement

PRESS RELEASE – UN Foundation:

After much deliberation, an agreement has finally been reached from the UN Climate Conference in Paris. This legally binding agreement will call ambitious climate action on behalf of all member states, to ensure a sustainable future for us all.  Below a statement from the United Nations Foundation regarding this agreement.  – Raki Wane

 United Nations Foundation Highlights Importance of New Global Agreement to Fight Climate Change and Calls for Urgent, Continued Action

Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2015) – At the COP21 United Nations conference in Paris today, officials from nearly 200 countries reached a new agreement to address the threat of global climate change. On behalf of the United Nations Foundation, Chair Ted Turner, Vice Chairs Senator Timothy E. Wirth and Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, and President and CEO Kathy Calvin commented on the agreement, saying:

“This conference will be remembered as a turning point in the fight against climate change and in our efforts to create a more peaceful, prosperous planet for all people. The new agreement creates a strong framework to launch an era of unprecedented climate action. Now we must move with great urgency to deliver on that promise. We know this agreement alone will not meet the threat of climate change; that will require continued ambitious action from governments, the private sector, and all of us to limit the global rise in temperature and move more rapidly toward a clean energy future with net zero emissions.

“After decades of debate, the battle over the reality of climate change is over. Countries from every region of the world and every stage of development have committed to act because they recognize that it is in their self-interest and in humanity’s common interest. The commitment to act by countries including Brazil, China, India, and the United States is a clear sign that countries are no longer focused on whether they should act, but how.

“Importantly, the conference in Paris went beyond national governments to welcome the engagement of civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and states. More and more business leaders and investors recognize not just the obligation to act, but also the economic opportunities in the growing clean energy economy.

“The Paris conference made a number of significant advances, most importantly by agreeing to convene again on a regular basis every five years to bring forward increasingly ambitious steps to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and by strengthening the world’s long-term goals for keeping down the rise in global average temperatures.

“Combined with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, this has been a historic year for people and the planet. Our collective task is immense, but so is the opportunity to usher in a new era of sustainable development. The United Nations Foundation will continue to work with the United Nations and partners around the world to help achieve this future.”


 

About The United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org

 

COP21: One Day to Deadline, All Eyes on the Bottom Line

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PARIS, France, December 10, 2015 (ENS) – Finance remains the most contentious issue as climate negotiators from around the world approach agreement on an historic pact to control climate change that will apply to all nations.

Underlying the tension is “differentiation” between developed and developing countries. Who will be responsible for paying? Will the pool of contributors expand? Who will be the recipients of finance?

All these matters remain unresolved in the current text, issued today by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is presiding over the talks, known formally as the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

Fabius explained that the latest version of the outcome document, a 29-page text, contains three-fourths fewer brackets than the previous draft. It aims to provide an overview of progress made and identify clear options on three cross-cutting issues still to be settled at the political level.

As in all previous climate negotiations, the difference between rich countries and poor ones is the divide that makes agreement difficult.

The deal being hammered out in Paris would take effect in 2020. It will be legally-binding on all nations, but the form of the agreement is one issue still undecided.

If it takes the form of a treaty, the United States would not be able to implement it due to the opposition of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. Since the United States is the world’s second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, this could be an important sticking point.

Small island states and coastal developing countries have demanded that the agreement must restrict global warming to just 1.5°Celsius above the planet’s pre-industrial temperature.

The previous temperature target, agreed at the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, was a 2°Celsius limit.

The global mean temperature today is 0.74°C (1.33 °Fahrenheit) higher than it was 150 years ago.

In Paris, the United States and the European Union have joined with over 100 other countries, both rich and poor, in a “high ambition coalition” to work for an “ambitious, durable and legally binding” agreement that would be reviewed every five years.

They envision an agreement that would recognize the below 1.5-degree temperature goal, map out a clear pathway for a low-carbon future, and include a strong package of support for developing countries, including delivery of US$100 billion annually as previously agreed.

The lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern, agrees that the 1.5-degree target should be recognized in the final pact.

“We need beyond the below 2-degree target; we need to have a recognition of 1.5 degrees in the agreement, and we need a very strong and balanced transparency article so everybody knows what we are all doing,” Stern said.

“This is our moment and we need to make it count,” said Stern.

 

On progress made to date, Fabius said compromise or significant progress has been made on capacity building, adaptation, transparency, and technology development and transfer.

He said that “initial progress” has been made on forests, cooperative approaches and mechanisms, and the preamble, and that progress on adaptation would enable parties to focus on loss and damage.

As for the remaining political issues, Fabius identified differentiation between developed and developing countries, financing and the level of ambition of the agreement.

He identified loss and damage, response measures, cooperative approaches and mechanisms, and the preamble as areas still requiring work.

On the crucial issue of financial support to help developing countries cope with both mitigation and adaptation, the G-77/China delegates, who represent the largest group of developing countries, lamented a lack of adequate reassurances on the means of implementation.

Angola, speaking for the Least Developed Countries group, stressed the need to ensure access to finance.

The EU emphasized that after 2020, countries “in a position to do so” should join in increasing financial flows to countries in need.

Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Arab Group, expressed concern about the phrase, “those in a position to do so.”

The developed countries appear to want to dilute their financial obligations by pushing for inclusion of the phrase “countries in a position to do so.”

This phrase invites even those developing countries that are currently financially stable to contribute to countries with fewer financial resources to help them meet their climate commitments under the new agreement.

The Arab Group warned that any goal that threatens their sustainable development, or their ability to eradicate poverty and ensure food security will not be acceptable.

China welcomed the latest version of the text as open and balanced, and indicated willingness to work towards an outcome that reflects fairness and ambition.

But the poorer countries are still not reassured. Delegates with the African Group noted their concern on the reflection of individual commitments without references to financial support.

Bangladesh asked for special consideration of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to be reintroduced in Article 6, the section on finance.

Many of the climate commitments, known in UN-speak as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, submitted by developing countries are conditioned on financial support from the developed countries.

The poorer countries are not willing to discuss other issues until there is a clear pathway to and assurance of the financial provisions post-2020.

The developing countries have expected that whatever financing is available to them would be in the form of no-strings attached grants from public finance. But developed countries want to include a basket of grants, credit, investments from both public and private sources.

The multi-lateral development banks have announced a US$100 billion annual pool of money for developing countries to work with in dealing with the impact of climate change.

In addition, the developed countries have pledged US$100 billion a year for the same purpose. They will channel much of that funding through the new Green Climate Fund.

That grant-making has already begun. In Paris, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the South American country of Guyana each signed a readiness grant agreement with the Green Climate Fund. These grants provide US$300,000 for capacity building to help the recipients prepare to access investment funding from the Green Climate Fund for mitigation and adaptation projects.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured/ Header image: The revised draft Paris outcome is distributed to delegates at COP21, December 10, 2015 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Slide Show: 01. Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Saudi Arabia, addresses the delegates at COP21, December 7, 2015.  02. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, is President of COP21, known formally as the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC. 03. Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, European Commission, addresses the delegates at COP21, December 7, 2015. 04. Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, South Africa, speaks on behalf of the G-77/China, December 9, 2015 (All photos courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

Cities Show Strong Climate Leadership in Paris

ParisGreening copy

UPDATE December 4, 2015 : For 2015 winners list visit: City Climate Leadership Awards 2015

PARIS, France, December 3, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Cities consume roughly 80 percent of the world’s energy production, and they are responsible for up to 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to German government figures. So, while cities are big contributors to climate change, at the same time they offer great potential for emission reductions.

At the UN climate talks in Paris, known as COP21, short for 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, cities and their mayors are playing a leading role.

Demonstrating their commitment to an ambitious global climate solution, the Compact of Mayors is the world’s largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. They are pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, tracking their progress and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

The Compact of Mayors was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City.

The Compact of Mayors operates under the leadership of the world’s global city networks – C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group , ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the UCLG – United Cities and Local Governments, with support from UN-Habitat, the UN’s lead agency on urban issues.

Thousands of mayors and local leaders will come together in Paris, from December 3-8, to strengthen the voices of local and regional governments, mobilized by the UCLG network of Regional Sections, Committees and partners.

“In cities, the Road to Paris began more than a decade ago. In 2015, as we come together as a global community around the COP21 negotiating table, cities are factoring into the climate equation in a big way,” said Eduardo Paes, C40 Chair and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

In August, Rio became the world’s first city to be fully compliant with the Compact of Mayors, the world’s largest common platform for cities to report their emissions, set targets and develop plans to cut emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.

“This past year has seen the global significance of cities brought to the fore, with much applause for the decisive work of mayors, and the crucial impact the world’s megacities have on our global future,” said Paes.

Now that Rio has led the way, other cities are following the low-carbon path.

Late last month, ICLEI announced the full compliance of 20 local governments, who join the previous 11 cities that have achieved this status – Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Melbourne, New York, Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney and Washington, DC.

These 20 new cities and towns, supported by ICLEI in reporting full compliance, represent 30.77 million inhabitants from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and Oceania.

Among them, Seoul is the city of Mayor Park Won-soon, the president of ICLEI who has been advocating for cities and towns around the globe to join the Compact of Mayors since taking on his presidency in April.

Another highlight is New Taipei City on the island of Taiwan, the first city in Asia to achieve full compliance.

This year’s annual C40 Cities Awards will be handed out during the COP21 meeting in Paris. Their goal is to share replicable best practices across cities, while drawing attention to outstanding performances that have achieved a high level of environmental success in a challenging context.

The C40 Cites Award winner will be announced at the gala event tonight in Paris. Whichever city, wins, each of the 33 finalists, including Paris, is extraordinary in its own way.

The Paris Greening Program is a key part of Paris’s Climate and Energy action plan, its first city-wide adaptation plan.

Creating more green spaces in one of the densest cities in the world is both a challenge and an opportunity to tackle the urban heat island effect, grow food, develop biodiversity corridors and create new social spaces.

The Paris Greening Program requires green roofs on all new buildings. One hundred additional hectares of roofs and facades will be green, and a third of them will be used for the production of fruit and vegetables. There will be 30 hectares of new green spaces, and 20,000 more trees will be planted in Paris.

Cities have been early adopters of low-carbon standards. By June 2015 cities and regions had reported over 1,000 energy and climate commitments, 5,201 climate actions and 1,099 inventories of greenhouse gas emissions.

The aggregated greenhouse gas emissions from local and subnational government operations are greater than those of any of the corporations in the top 10 of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.

Fifteen local governments have committed to carbon neutrality or 100 percent renewable energy between 2020 and 2050, including Copenhagen, Denmark and Vancouver, Canada.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, just elected for his third term as mayor of Vancouver, says that Vancouver can meet all of its energy needs with 100 percent renewable sources of power, as part of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Even though Vancouver is already recognized as one of the most livable cities in the world, its environmental footprint is currently three times larger than the planet can sustain. Robertson and his team began their work at the beginning of 2009, when he assembled the Greenest City Action Team.

Today, the Greenest City Action Plan is one of the most rigorous roadmaps of any city in the world, ensuring transparency and accountability as it follows 10 long-term goals, with 15 measurable and ambitious targets for 2020.

Robertson wants to ensure that citizens are guaranteed clean air, a healthy economy, strong communities and energy security.

Robertson’s plan is also a beacon for cities around the world by demonstrating how going green is good for the economy, the community and the environment. Mayor Robertson’s work has received international recognition, as demonstrated by his recent invitation to join Pope Francis and other world mayors at the Vatican to address climate change and social justice.

Vijay Nehra, Municipal Commissioner of Rajkot, India, underlined the urgency of action by citing the recent casulties in his city due to heat waves.

Rajkot is currently addressing the problem by analyzing its greenhouse gas inventory which pointed out that 68 percent of the city’s energy is used in the provision of water, noting that much needs to be done to make the system more efficient. Rajkot is one of the model cities of Urban LEDS Project and District Energy Cities initiative of the UN Environment Programme and has already expressed intent to comply with the Compact of Mayors.

Mercè Rius, president for the environment of Barcelona, Spain said, “Barcelona and Catalonia are committed to further strengthen partnerships and cooperation across cities and regions and various cross-cutting initiatives, including the Compact of Mayors and actively contribute in the global advocacy of local and subnational governments.”

Local and subnational governments are leading the way at COP21 in Paris through the Transformative Actions Program – a new initiative to accelerate ambitious, cross-cutting and inclusive local climate actions by supporting climate investment in urban areas over the next 10 years.

The TAP is acting to create trust among sub-national governments, financing institutions and investors to lower the current perception of risk.

The TAP has selected 100 projects from cities around the world to be presented at the COP21, attracting and increasing funding for transformative actions.

At COP21, the TAP’s first pavilion provides a physical space for exchange, with selected presentations of the first 100 proposed projects to national delegations, private and international donors and financing agencies.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Vancouver City And Park. Photo courtesy of Commons Wikimedia
Main image: The Paris Greening Programme is a key part of Paris’s Climate and Energy action plan, its first city-wide climate adaptation plan. Photo courtesy C40 Cities

UN General Assembly Embraces 17 Sustainable Development Goals

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Resounding applause filled the UN General Assembly hall Friday as the 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously approved a new global agenda to end poverty by 2030 and achieve a sustainable future.

Adopted on the UN’s 70th anniversary, the agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms,” Ban said. “It is an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership that conveys the urgency of climate action and is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all. Above all, it pledges to leave no one behind.”

The official adoption came shortly after Pope Francis addressed the General Assembly. “The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope,” said the pontiff.

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The 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, also called the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, aim to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education and build strong institutions.

“Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavor across such a broad and universal policy agenda,” states the Declaration adopted by the General Assembly.

“We are setting out together on the path towards sustainable development, devoting ourselves collectively to the pursuit of global development and of ‘win-win’ cooperation which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world,” the Declaration states.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, said, “Ours is the last generation which can head off the worst effects of climate change, and the first generation with the wealth and knowledge to eradicate poverty. For this, fearless leadership from us all is needed.”

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said Friday, “Every so often the world takes a historic step forward as a global community. Today, nations of the world moved forward together on a pathway to a sustainable future.”

“For the first time, we have a development agenda that is focused on sustainability in both the developing and the developed world,” said Steiner. “The 17 Global Goals crucially incorporate environmental sustainability and social equity with economic progress. That integration will be critical to a sustainable pathway forward for the planet and its peoples.”

The Sustainable Development Goals build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015. Since the MDGs were adopted in 2000, progress has been made, but much more remains to be done.

The Global Goals include issues that were not in the MDGs such as climate change, sustainable consumption, innovation and the importance of peace and justice for all.

In all the enthusiasm for clean sources of energy to limit climate change, the World Coal Association (WCA) does not want to be left behind, even though burning coal emits planet-warming greenhouse gases.

From WCA headquarters in London, Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton welcomed the Global Goals and stressed the link between lack of energy and global poverty.

“Energy poverty is a dire reality,” said Sporton. “Today there are 1.3 billion people across the globe without access to electricity. This is equivalent to the entire population of China.”

“It is also imperative that we adopt the use of the best available technology to ensure coal is used as cleanly as possible,” Sporton said. “This includes high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal technologies and carbon capture and storage. HELE coal technologies provide significant immediate CO2 reductions.”

For UN leaders, raising public awareness of the Global Goals is the first order of business.

The UNDP held Social Good Summits in more than 100 countries, running in parallel with the three-day Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

In the first collaboration of its kind the Global Goals were featured on 19 major digital platforms and internet portals including the Google homepage, Yahoo, The Huffington Post and Twitter with a potential reach of up to two billion people.

The world’s largest partnership of 26 mobile network operators sent out almost one billion text messages and connected over 4.8 billion customers in over 100 countries with a message about the Global Goals.

Hans Vestberg, resident and CEO of Ericsson, the Swedish multinational provider of communication technology and services, said, “Uniting leaders in the industry to bring the important message of the Global Goals to billions of people demonstrates how technology is such a powerful force for good.”

Google unveiled the crowd-sourced film “We the People” written by Richard Curtis and Mat Whitecross when the Goals were adopted on the September 25.

No Point Going Half Way“, a short film by Richard Curtis featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt explains why we should finish what we started with the Millennium Development Goals, as we can end poverty by 2030 and tackle inequality and climate change.

BeyonceEddieVedder

Curtis, founder of Project Everyone, said, “The digital world is the definitive example of how we are all connected. Its collaborations like this that will help us to be the first generation to end extreme poverty, the most determined generation in history to end injustice and inequality, and the last generation to be threatened by climate change.”

Pearl Jam, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay headlined the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, a free ticketed event on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park on September 26. See the video here at Global Citizen You Tube Channel.

Curtis, who serves as the creative director for the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, said, “We want to give the Global Goals for Sustainable Development the noisiest launch in history in the belief that the more famous they are, the more effective they will be.”

“My particular job is to turn the Festival into an hour-long TV program,” said Curtis, “all part of a huge campaign to get the word of the Goals out through TV, cinema, schools, on-line and through Radio Everyone, a unique global network of broadcasters and talent.”

The YouTube homepage is featuring Global Goals videos for a week from September 25. YouTube live streamed the Global Citizen Festival on September 26, also featured on the Google search homepage.

MSN, which reaches 400 million people a month, is creating a Global Goals “hub” on its platform.

The Wikimedia Foundation is encouraging Wikipedia’s volunteers to translate articles covering the goals into as many languages as possible for its hundreds of millions of users.

Baidu with its 500m+ monthly users will create a special Baidupedia page dedicated to the Global Goals Campaign, containing all the key information in Chinese, including the 17 Goals and the ‘We The People’ Video.

The Bing homepage will feature the Global Goals on September 28. Yahoo with one billion users, will feature dedicated editorial content on each goal on both Yahoo and Tumblr.

Skype will be supporting the World’s Largest Lesson through Skype in the Classroom reaching two million educators.

Over the last four years, through the Global Poverty Project people have taken nearly three million actions against extreme poverty. These actions have resulted in 87 commitments and policy announcements, including cash commitments valued at US$18.3 billion.

UNBuildingGoalsProjection

Back at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Ban said Friday, “The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation. We need action from everyone, everywhere. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our guide. They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.”

 The 17 Global Goals are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full, productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

As of August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance.

In addition: Here is a great data visualization infographic on impact of construction


 Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image : Delegates celebrate in the General Assembly Hall following the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Cia Pak courtesy United Nations)

Image 02: Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at UN Headquarters in New York, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Devra Berkowitz courtesy United Nations)

Image 03: Beyoncé and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam sing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song at the Global Citizens Festival in New York’s Central Park, September 26, 2015 (Photo by Niran Shrestha via Instagram)

Image 04: Ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit from September 25-27, and to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, a 10-minute film introducing the Sustainable Development Goals is projected onto the UN Headquarters Secretariat building and General Assembly building. (Photo by Cia Pak courtesy United Nations)

Aligning Institutional Investment With Sustainable Development

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 22, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The largest public pension fund in the United States, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), with upwards of US$300 billion in assets, takes sustainability seriously.

Just days ahead of a United Nations summit in New York that will adopt new Sustainable Development Goals to guide international efforts through 2030, CalPERS has joined the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in issuing a report that calls on regulators to build a new culture of sustainable investing.

Entitled “Financial Reform, Institutional Investors and Sustainable Development: A review of current policy initiatives and proposals for further progress,” the report calls for proactive policies putting sustainability at the core of new institutional investment frameworks.

Henry Jones, who chairs the CalPERS Investment Committee, said, “At CalPERS we have no doubt that our focus on sustainability is entirely consistent with our fiduciary duty – indeed it is an essential part of it.”

JonesHenryHenry Jones heads CalPERS Investment Committee (Photo courtesy CalPERS)

“Where doubts on this score remain, they must be dispelled,” Jones said. “And we need institutions that have the knowledge, the skills and the ways of working that are required to embed sustainability in their investments – to manage the risks it brings, and to capitalize upon the opportunities it offers.”

In his forward to the report, Jones writes, “Of all the sustainability challenges we face, climate change is one of the most pressing.”

“This report is being published just a few weeks before the Paris Climate Change Conference. At CalPERS, we earnestly hope the world’s governments will reach an ambitious global agreement to address climate change. Bold action is needed in particular to introduce stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing, and to strengthen regulatory support for clean energy. This will enable us, as investors, to manage the risks and take the opportunities that climate change brings. We hope every country will reflect on how it can best address these challenges,” Jones wrote.

The report’s author, Rob Lake, is a UK-based independent responsible investment advisor and expert, working with asset owners.

With an estimated annual financing gap of up to US$7 trillion a year in infrastructure investments alone, the global financial system, worth more than US$300 trillion, has a potential to transform the international economic landscape to better serve the needs of humanity, Lake’s report concludes.

The report had its genesis in the Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System initiated by UNEP in January 2014 to advance policy options that could improve the financial system’s effectiveness in mobilizing capital towards a green and inclusive economy.

Nick Robins, who serves as co-director of UNEP Inquiry, said, “A package of measures is needed to deliver the full sustainability potential of institutional investors. Disclosure is important, but without effective governance frameworks and incentives, this will not drive sufficient change.”

The report shows that policy intervention has evolved from focusing on disclosure obligations and statements about investors’ core legal duties to a “second generation” approach that addresses the synergy between sustainability and other policy objectives.

CalPERSbuildingSolar panels on the roof of CalPERS’ Sacramento, California headquarters generate some of the electricity that powers the building. (Photo courtesy CalPERS) – Building for the Future, Protecting the Environment.

Seven critical policy objectives that hold the strongest potential for positive change are explored in the report together with 14 policy tools to achieve them.

The seven policy objectives are:

  1.  Aligning Institutional Investment System Design with Sustainability
  2.  Removing Policy Barriers
  3.  Stimulating Demand for Investment that Integrates Sustainability
  4.  Strengthening Asset Owner Governance and Capabilities
  5.  Lengthening Investment Horizons
  6.  Aligning Incentives along the Investment Chain
  7.  Ensuring Investor Accountability

The 14 policy tools are:

  1.  The Design of Pension Systems Investment
  2.  Performance Measurement
  3.  The Legal Duties of Investment Institutions
  4.  The Legal Duties of the Directors of Risk-Taking Financial Institutions
  5.  Solvency and Risk Regulations
  6.  Prudential Regulation
  7.  Investor Disclosure Rules
  8.  Corporate Disclosure Rules
  9.  Fiscal Incentives
  10.  Rules on Equity and Credit Research
  11.  Investor Rights, Codes and Stewardship
  12.  Risk Mitigation and Market Development for Green Assets
  13.  Soft Law Sustainability Frameworks
  14.  Professional Qualifications and Knowledge Transfer

The report concludes, “Enormous potential exists to pursue new policy initiatives designed to achieve sustainability goals through the institutional investment chain while simultaneously strengthening other public policy objectives: better governed asset owner institutions that serve their beneficiaries more effectively, enhanced prudential regulation, increased economic welfare meeting energy, water and food needs, and restored public trust in the financial system.”


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Why Social Investors Must Get Behind the Circular Economy

recycling symbol superimposed over image of trash

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

What goes around and around and comes out better for the planet? By now, most of you will guess that the answer is the circular economy.

But what is the circular economy? It’s an approach to manufacturing based on the principles of reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycle. The point is to preserve finite resources, such as fossil fuels, which are running out. At the same time, the principles provide a way to manage supply chains and design waste out of the manufacturing equation.

See examples of circular products

Going around is gaining ground

With roots deep in a number of different design, ecology and industrial movements including regenerative design, biomimicry, and the recent Cradle to Cradle phenomenon, the Circular Economy is less a new idea than a coming-together of several strands of thought.

Today, the concept is gaining ground in a big way with high-profile leadership from circumnavigator Dame Ellen Macarthur and her foundation as well as support from the WEF. Big companies as diverse as Coca-cola and Caterpillar, a heavy machinery manufacturer, are embracing its principles.

This rise in popularity is generating a whole ecosystem for the circular economy. New service providers, funds and accelerators are already popping up to fuel the trend. Research, such as this Nesta report on data use, is beginning to shine a light on what makes circular approaches successful. Events and conferences and even DIY toolkits are proliferating.

Why the circular economy still needs social investment

So what does this craze for the circular mean for social investors?

Despite its popularity, there are indications that this new approach to manufacturing needs the support of social investors. Significant barriers remain to building and scaling the circular economy and one of these is financial.

There’s evidence that companies making the transition to circular economy principles are having trouble raising the finance they need to adopt circular business models designed for sustainability. This is because companies in transition have special financial requirements that mainstream investors and venture capitalists are reluctant to meet. First, they must finance the ownership of products for a longer time than in a linear model. Second, existing businesses need significant investment to change established systems, such as setting up a different revenue model.

Doubts about the practicality of adopting the circular economy are being felt at high levels. In 2014, the European Commission rejected a proposal that would have established circular principles at the center of policy across the Eurozone. Though EU president Frans Timmermans promised a “more ambitious proposal” by the end of 2015, the Greens and other environmental campaigners are concerned about the EU’s commitment to sustainability and the influence of big business over government policy.

Opportunities for “circular portfolios”

All this underlines the circular economy’s continued need for social investment capital. On the positive side, the rise of the circular economy should offer tempting investment opportunities for investors, especially if, as is planned, standards can be developed.

Investors could engage in this connected market in a number of ways. First, they could put their money into funds whose portfolios focus on companies that use circular economy approaches. Themed funds in sectors such as agriculture, food retail, clothing manufacture and waste management all have potential to benefit from backing the circular way of working.</>

Alternatively, social investors can invest directly in companies that take a circular approach, or in a clutch of companies along a circular supply chain. Imagine a “circular portfolio” that includes a company that produces the raw materials, the manufacturer that turns those materials into a consumer product and the recycler that turns any product waste back into a usable commodity.

Social investors can also benefit from adopting the circular mindset and applying it to their own use of capital. By treating capital as a resource to be preserved, conserved and recycled in sustainable systems, social investors have the opportunity to deepen their commitment to this new way of doing business. The analogy even extends to the idea of waste and byproducts. Just as businesses need to design them out of their processes, social investors should avoid producing financial negatives such as toxic debts, crushed economies and unhealthy markets.

Overall, the rise of the circular economy is a positive sign that the world is ready to change consumer culture and seek more sustainable solutions, and that’s good news for us. Beyond this, the circular economy is in step with a sector-wide push for collaborative, systemic ways to tackle global problems with both resource scarcity and waste. It’s joined-up sustainability logic for manufacturing, and that’s something we social investors certainly can, and definitely should, support.

Bare It All: ESG disclosure is the new obsession of investors and businesses alike

businessman opening shirt to reveal superhero costume with green energy theme

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

Here’s a riddle: Investors are demanding them. The global business community is boosting them. Companies large and small are trying to figure out how to produce them. What are they?

You guessed it: Extra-financial performance results—the environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics that demonstrate that a company is acting responsibly as it conducts its business. In a major shift in global attitudes toward sustainability and the role of business in society, this fast-growing area is now a major focus for businesses and investors alike.

Not new, but moving fast

The movement behind making ESG criteria for investing has been gaining ground for four decades, with pioneers like Hazel Henderson and Joan Bavaria of Trillium leading the charge. But the pace of change has recently been accelerating across non-profit, public and business sectors alike leading more investors to look to ESG when making decisions.

Several factors are driving the shift. Increased concerns about the effects of climate change are leading citizens and governments to demand tougher environmental regulations for businesses (E). Social factors (S), such as human rights abuses, are now recognized as material risks. Poor governance is widely seen as a factor in the financial crash of 2008, sparking investor demands for more information about the G in ESG. Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that shows companies that pay attention to extra-financials actually perform better in the long term.

Extra-financial and ultra-influential

All these factors contributed to making 2014 a watershed year for investment decisions based on extra-financial factors. Fossil fuel divestment was one area where investors were seen to make decisions for reasons other than financial performance.

Investors controlling billions of dollars, such as the Rockefeller Brothers, The Wallace Fund and Ben and Jerry’s, all divested their holdings in fossil fuels in an effort to combat climate change. More of this is coming. Major institutions such as museums, universities, city governments and pension funds are all feeling the pressure to divest.

Private investors are an important part of the trend with some 70% now expressing an interest in investing with a conscience. As a result, asset managers in many parts of the industry are climbing on board and looking to expand their expertise in what is a strong growth area of the market.

Changing attitudes to ESG in business

These trends are putting new ESG-related obligations on companies and investors alike.

For companies, there is increased pressure to track and report ESG performance, an activity that costs organizational resources and must be carefully managed for good results. Luckily, attitudes toward ESG are changing across the business world. Top executives no longer see it as mainly a reputational or branding exercise. Rather, ESG-competence is emerging as good business practice that can foster innovation, lead companies to identify efficiencies and help manage risks. Embracing ESG reporting provides greater access to capital, too. It’s a necessity in a climate where investors will turn down deals with companies that don’t disclose well enough or don’t disclose at all.

Across the world, companies are racing to incorporate ESG into their monitoring and reporting frameworks. To help them, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides a range of resources, including this one for absolute beginners. GRI starter kit. Other groups, like the EVCA, a European group of private equity investors, have developed their own framework to help businesses disclose ESG performance.

Investors incorporate ESG in decision-making

The EVCA framework—for businesses but developed by investors—is one example of how seriously investors are now taking ESG. And there is further evidence that the investing sector is taking positive steps to get better at incorporating extra-financials into decision-making processes.

The UN-sponsored Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI) initiative has been around since 2005 and today has 1,371 signatories around the world. The PRI provides a framework for incorporating ESG concerns into investment practice as well as reporting. It now includes a climate change pledge for asset owners.

Global investors are banding together around ESG, joining groups like the Global Sustainable Investor’s (GSI) Alliance. The Alliance supports progress in sustainable investing by identifying trends and acting as a network for national groups. It has attracted important national members including Europe’s Eurosif, British UKSIF, American US SIF, Canadian RIA and the Asian region ASrIA.

Standards are also being developed to help investors compare ESG performance across companies. The CDP amasses disclosure data on climate change issues and works with investors and companies to improve performance and reporting. Today its membership includes more than 822 institutional investors representing in excess of US$95 trillion in assets. In 2014 the CDP scored over 4700 companies on climate-related performance.

Meanwhile, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is establishing the materiality of sustainability issues, applying an accountancy approach to determining their value. Operating as a non-profit, SASB makes its standards in areas like healthcare, infrastructure and renewable resources available online to investors and businesses alike. Like the CDP and the EVCA, SASB offers paid consultancy services to help clients embed ESG into their reporting and decision-making processes. (Note that this kind of service provision around ESG disclosure looks set to be a growth area for the sector.)

Burdens and opportunities

Extra-financial disclosure presents both a burden and an opportunity for companies and investors. On the burden side, it takes time, resources and in some cases a profound change of attitude for companies and those who capitalize them to embrace ESG and make it part of normal business practice. On the opportunity side, the link between non-financial performance and long-term organizational health and profitability is becoming clearer. That of course leaves aside the core argument for ESG reporting: that it is a powerful tool for reigning in the damage business can do and turning its efforts to benefit in the larger sense. This is something both companies and investors should get behind.

Much more than just a conference – Lilongwe Malawi, 14-17 April 2015

World Vision AUS

We need your help to raise $122,000

in order to restore land and change lives

Maximpact is reaching out to its network to assist World Vision  in raising  the remaining $122,000 for the 2015 Beating Famine Conference in Africa.

This is your opportunity to be part of a global movement

In 2012 the first Beating Famine conference was held in Kenya, with incredible results. The conference introduced cost effective land regeneration techniques and instigated the roll out of ground-breaking projects across the East Africa region. These projects are now actively restoring land, regenerating trees, increasing crop yields and ultimately improving livelihoods and food security for people across East Africa.

  • Contributed to NEPAD/Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance’s decision to cast FMNR as a foundation of Climate Smart Agriculture.
  • Helped convince the Australian Government overseas Aid program to invest $1.5 million matching funds to the FMNR for East Africa project.
  • Contributed to the Dutch Government decision to fund the Euro 40m DGIS project in five Sahelien countries.
  • Resulted in strengthening World Agroforestry Centre – World Vision collaboration, helping to scale up activities East Africa and opened up new opportunities around the world.

In 2015 we want to offer you the chance to be involved in the second Beating Famine conference, to be held in Malawi. Our 2012 event was the catalyst for huge changes in the region. In 2015 we want to provide Southern Africa with the same opportunity. We cannot do this without your help.

World Vision Malawi, World Vision Australia, and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) will deliver the ‘Beating Famine’ conference from 14-17 April 2015. It will showcase leading global land restoration techniques and will feature world class speakers from the private sector, NGOs, research institutes, governments and more,. This conference is more than just a way to reach out to local farmers and communities, it is also a vibrant platform for knowledge sharing and developing new partnerships in the sector.

About the 2015 Beating Famine Conference

The conference will showcase leading global land restoration techniques and will feature world class speakers from the private sector, NGOs, research institutes, governments and more.

This conference is more than just a way to reach out to local farmers and communities, it is also a vibrant platform for knowledge sharing and developing new partnerships in the sector.

How you can help

There are many ways that you can actively support this conference and Southern African communities. Your attendance will not only involve you in a global movement, it will provide you with networking and knowledge sharing opportunities.

Alternatively your donation can go towards co-sponsoring this conference, which will secure your promotional material and presence throughout.

To be involved 

If you would like to support, attend or donate the Beating Famine Conference please contact us on +61-3-9287-2604 or email us at info@beatingfamine.com

For more information please visit www.beatingfamine.com

world Vision

Asset Managers Need New Skills to Meet Millennials’ Demands for Social, Sustainable and Impact Investing Opportunities

GettyImages_519089641

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

It’s clear: the global investment landscape is changing. Oil, that mainstay of portfolios, is on the slide. Markets long dominated by pension funds and insurance companies are now seeing greater international ownership of companies and the rise of other players such as hedge funds and private equity firms. Investment horizons are shortening. Regulation is increasing.

These factors are creating a challenging climate for financial asset managers who need to adapt to the new realities of a changing investment marketplace.

To make matters more complex, investor profiles are changing, too. As older investors pass on their wealth, a new generation of socially conscious millennial investors are demanding more opportunities to put their money into investments that produce social good and avoid doing environmental damage. The effect of this trend is already measureable, with studies, like this one from Eurosif, showing all sustainable and responsible investment strategies continuing to grow at a faster rate than the broad European asset management market.

This means that, while asset managers are getting to grips with a new financial picture, they’re also looking for ways to serve new kinds of clients. Many of them already see the writing on the wall: in a recent survey by First Affirmative, a financial network, 49% believed that “the needs and interests of younger investors will have to be catered to if the industry is to thrive.” Female asset managers are ahead of the curve, the same study shows, with a higher rate of awareness when it comes to impact, social and sustainable markets and a greater likelihood to already be offering such options to clients.

The age of the “multilingual” asset manager

Change may already be happening, yet the mainstreaming of socially beneficial investing—and particularly impact investing, which has grown faster than any other part of the market—means that asset managers across the industry will need to upgrade their skill sets and become “multilingual” when it comes to creating investment strategies.

Recent thinking about the future of the impact investing sector flagged the importance of the “multilingual leader”—an individual or team with an array of cross-sectoral skills that create the right mix of social commitment an financial know-how to lead beneficial businesses.

The rise of popularity in social and impact investing will demand that asset managers become “multilingual” in a similar way. In this context, multilingualism will mean bringing all the traditional skills of asset management to the table, and adding to these new tools and expertise to meet the demands and opportunities of today’s more diverse marketplace.

But what, specifically, are these new skills and capabilities?

New skills for a new investing landscape

Practices are evolving even as the market for impact, sustainable and social investing expands, but some core competencies have been identified so far.

Familiarity with diverse investment markets: Lack of familiarity with new kinds of investing is often cited as a main reason why many asset managers don’t offer these options to clients. Asset managers with an eye on the future need to familiarize themselves with the ever-growing array of opportunities across the sector. These include private equity impact investing, social investment bonds, ESG screened portfolios, themed funds, and now even electronically traded funds in areas like cleantech, water and edutech.

In a market where innovation is extending the range of options on a daily basis, keeping up can be a challenge. Tuning into the conversation by following the work of leading institutions such as GIIN and the IIPC, websites like GreenBiz , and good twitter feeds such as @pioneerspost  and @IAimpactassets can help newcomers find their way. 30 Must-Follow Twitter Feeds for Impact Investing. For a mainstream take, large media sites like Forbes  and Huffpost and financial publications like The Economist and the FT increasingly cover the social investing trend in terms asset managers can relate to.

Confidence with more information: As digital natives, millennial investors have higher expectations when it comes to communication and transparency, especially where social and environmental impact is concerned. In this, they are in step with a global trend toward more stringent regulation leading to higher demands for disclosure and transparency on the part of companies. Today’s young investor is likely to be more actively engaged than her older predecessor, demanding timely, accurate information on investments to be delivered in a convenient and easy-to-grasp form.

This has a host of implications for asset managers offering socially beneficial investment options to their clients. First, they will need to be able to evaluate the reported data of potential investments accurately and align investor concerns with outcomes in a given strategy. An ability to see beyond claims and accurately judge the quality and reliability of the various reporting practices used by companies will be key. Asset managers will need to choose investments that can deliver a high level of accountability and transparency in both financial and extra-financial performance, for example ones that adopt extended reporting practices and use new standards for sustainability like SASB.

Faster, detailed, two-way communication: Importantly, they will also need to find effective ways to communicate this information to clients more quickly and at every point in the investment cycle.

The practice of annual and quarterly reporting is already being viewed as insufficient by many investors, and real-time, on-demand reporting is now a reality inside some companies. What this will mean for the wider investment marketplace is still not certain, but it’s clear that asset managers will need to be prepared to handle unprecedented levels of information and use it effectively to build strategies and also to communicate with clients.

And they can expect communication to be an increasingly two-way street. With better informed, socially conscious clients wanting more of a say in how their money is invested, the ability to receive and manage investor feedback will be a key skill for asset managers. Satisfying clients will mean keeping pace with their evolving social and environmental objectives and responding quickly to their concerns.

Changing the industry from within

Mainstream finance has made strides when it comes to embracing sustainability, social benefit and impact investing. Driven by government regulation and supported by high profile initiatives like the G8 taskforce, the movement is becoming part of the broader market ecosystem. Industry giant BlackRock’s appointment of Deborah Winshel, a multilingual leader if there ever was one, is one example of a changing mood in finance. Another is the high profile of climate change and sustainability at Davos this year.

Asset managers obviously have an important role to play in giving more investors access to the expanding marketplace for beneficial investing. Their influence, however, goes beyond the purely commercial and is likely to be felt on a deeper level.

Increasingly, asset managers themselves form part of the groundswell toward creating a new kind of financial marketplace. Many are shifting out of traditional investing to take up roles in impact and sustainability. The next generation is demanding more training in innovative financial approaches from their MBA programs, while organizations like GIIN are offering training for professionals already working in the field.

At the same time, inside many large institutions, committed individuals like Harald Walkate of Aegon are quietly at work teaching other asset managers how to build more impact into existing portfolios and how to create investment strategies that maximize social and environmental benefit while delivering profit.

While not a “skill” as such, this new outlook on the part of asset managers may be the most valuable thing they bring to the field of beneficial investing. It will contribute to reshaping the financial landscape and, in highly practical ways, help establish socially beneficial finance as a viable choice for investors of all kinds. For asset managers, this mindset looks set to be one of the factors that will shape their working lives in coming years, demanding from them new skills and new sensitivities and profoundly changing their relationship with markets—and with the millennial clients they serve.

After Davos: Lessons for Impact and Social Investors from the WEF 2015

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

Aerial photograph of Davos, Switzerland

Davos: Returning to normal after WEF15 but what will the forum mean for us?

The World Economic Forum has been and gone, leaving the Davos snow more than a little trampled. Now that 2500+ of the world’s most powerful people have flown home in somewhat fewer (it seems) than 1700 private jets, what do we know about what’s coming in 2015? And, more specifically, what lessons did the Forum hold for impact and social investors?

Impact and social investing are part of the global economic reality, so the larger trends identified at Davos will be felt in our sector, too. Quantitative easing in the Eurozone, the unpredictable fallout from the Grexit, the slowdown in growth in China and India, its surge in the US, will all shape the world economic outlook for 2015 and will inevitably have their effects on the social sphere. And yet it was interesting to notice certain issues — some our own favorite topics — were more prominent on the agenda than they have been in previous years.

Climate Change

The financial crisis pushed climate change off the agenda; the presence of Gore as the opening act at Davos seems to indicate that it’s now back on. The ex-US Vice President (and his musical friend Pharrell Williams) were on hand to drive home, once again, the message that we need to act fast to avert disaster. This can’t have been news to the delegates at Davos, all of whom have heard Gore’s arguments before and yet have presided over the increase in the use of fossil fuels we’ve seen in recent years.

Among those in the know, real indicator that things are changing was the advocacy of Lord Stern, Tony Blair’s climate change adviser.  At Davos, he argued cogently that fossil fuel is not, as it long appeared, cheap anymore, and that alternatives are now getting cheaper. Governments don’t have to make a tradeoff between growth and preventing climate change, he said, and his argument seems to be gaining traction in the world of business. It’s one that impact and sustainable investors have long understood, of course, but the mainstreaming of sustainability should bring new opportunities for impact investors and climate-friendly social enterprises alike, especially when it comes to collaborating with business and government.

Alternative energy

Related to the issue of climate change is that of energy, another hot topic at Davos. The energy landscape is changing, partly because of the wider acceptance of the reality of climate change, but also because alternative energy sources are coming into their own. A plunge in oil prices, due in large part to the availability of cheap gas from fracking, is driving oil-producing nations to re-examine their strategies, diversify their activities and rethink their future. It’s also fanning the flames of the divestiture movement, which is gaining ground as the value of fossil fuel stocks, for so long the central pillars of many portfolios, continues to fall.

For impact and social investors, this shift in focus will help in two ways. First, the exit of capital from fossil fuels could spur a renewed wave of investment in existing forms of alternative energy such as wind, solar and hydrogen, and in energy efficient technologies, all areas where impact investing has a track record. Second, turning away from fossil fuels will require more investment into developing new alternative sources of energy. Investment in energy R&D and in companies rolling out alternative energy solutions to new markets will be attractive opportunities for social investors.

Inequality

The specter of Thomas Piketty was found haunting many of the sessions at Davos. The French economist’s landmark tome, Capital in the 21st Century, has sparked wide-ranging debate about the nature and role of capital in our times. One of its impacts is to highlight the growing problem of wealth inequality, an important theme threading through many discussions at WEF15.

The Economist explains Piketty in four paragraphs

Different delegates working in different contexts and sectors interpreted inequality in a number of ways. Piketty is mainly concerned with the current dynamic that sees wealth in societies moving inexorably in one direction—upwards—and accumulating in the hands of fewer and fewer people at the top (such as those attending the Davos conference, for instance). Other kinds of inequality, however, were on the agenda, including the disparity between rich and poor nations, and among different groups, for example women and marginalized groups, within societies.

For impact and social investors, investments aimed at reducing inequality of all kinds are already part of the landscape and can take a number of forms. Affordable loans for college students, edutech that brings learning to those who need it, and provision of healthcare for girls and women, are all examples of investments that can help reduce inequality. Technology also has a role to play. Sheryl Sandberg, when asked by Arianna Huffington, opined that more technology, specifically access to the internet, and, less specifically, “more data” would bring more equality to the world. Social investments that extend tech to the tech-poor are already on the cards, but more work, targeted specifically on easing inequality, is needed from our sector.

Corruption and crime

In a recent blog, we showed why the impact and social investing sector should be putting its weight behind the growing global movement to fight corruption.  At Davos, corruption and crime were prominent on the agenda, an indication that the movement is now hitting the mainstream thanks to the efforts of campaigners like Global Witness. The connection between corruption, poverty and the health of markets is becoming clearer, as is the role of the business community in tackling this scourge. These topics and others were addressed in number of sessions and an issue briefing at the WEF. Impact and social investors should keep abreast of how this discussion develops and, in keeping with their commitment to ethics, adopt anti-corruption strategies wherever possible.

Changes to the way the world invests

The delegates at Davos showed a new level of interest in the way capital markets are changing, and this has implications for the impact and social investing movements. This change-consciousness was evident in this year’s sessions, many of which acknowledged, in different ways, a new mood and attitude toward investing in  mainstream markets. Yet it can be seen most clearly in the future projects funded by the WEF for next year. Projects on accelerating capital markets in emerging economies and direct investment by institutional investors, for example, point to trends in the markets that could be important for impact investors. Meanwhile. Phase III of the Mainstreaming Impact project has been cleared to move forward, led by Abigail Noble. If the excellent work coming out of this project so far is any indication, this will give us even more data to work with and deepen our understanding of the developments in our own corner of the financial world.

An insight into the things to come?

The World Economic Forum provides a fascinating snapshot of the forces that shape our global economy and thus determine the fate of billions—billions of people, that is, not only dollars. It gives us a fleeting glimpse of the individuals making the decisions and the merest hint of how things will go in the year to come. For our emerging sector, it’s vital to tune in to the lessons of Davos and learn what we can, especially if our aim is to one day become the mainstream that Davos represents.

And yet, in another sense, Davos may be less relevant to us than it first appears. As a guage of the status quo—what is now—nothing compares to it. But as a guage of what will be, it falls short. Piketty reminds us all that economics is, after all, not a hard science like mathematics, but a social science with historical underpinnings. Looking at the past is very helpful for understanding the present, as he ably proves. However it doesn’t necessarily help us predict the future with perfect certainty. For many, Davos is already the past. The future, if committed impact and social investors have their way, could be very, very different.

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The Evolving Meaning of Sustainability

By Marta Maretich  @maximpactdotcombaby hands plant

Sustainability is a key concept for our times. For impact investors who want to put their capital behind better ways of doing business, it’s an important indicator of investability. But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainability” or “sustainable”?

The dictionary sheds a little light.

Sustainability:
1. Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
2. Able to be upheld or defended.

Originally taken from the biological sciences, the term sustainability first referred to conservation of natural resources. Though it retains this meaning, sustainability today can mean different things in different contexts. Sustainability in its classic sense and new uses of the term are proliferating as sustainability goes mainstream in business and popular culture.

The mainsteaming of classic sustainability

The definition is changing as the movement goes mainstream. More businesses are taking steps to incorporate sustainability into their operations as well as their performance metrics; national governments are regulating and incentivizing it in a number of new ways. Meanwhile investors are increasingly making non-financial performance, including sustainability, a priority when choosing where to place capital.

All this means that “sustainability” is an evolving idea with increasingly diverse interpretations. Most sustainability efforts still focus on the environment, however, with an emphasis on maintaining ecosystems and conserving natural resources for future use.

Sustainable forestry: Saving forest habitats has been an active area for impact investors. Despite the collapse of carbon markets, organizations like Rainforest Alliance are expanding their activities. Certification schemes like the FSC are helping sustainably sourced wood to become standard in building and consumer goods.

IrrigationSustainable agriculture: Impact intermediaries like Root Capital and development organizations like OPIC have developed successful models for promoting sustainability in agriculture. Encouraged by government regulation and subsidies, big agribusiness companies like Monsanto and multinationals like Coca Cola, are now pursuing sustainability strategies.

Sustainable water use: With changing climate in places like California driving the adoption of more sustainable water policies, businesses and services are springing up to meet a newly-defined demands. Driven by regulation, large multinationals including Unilever are beginning to look at water sustainability from a number of angles: their own use, water use by suppliers, and the water needed to use their products.

Sustainable mining: Mineral extraction is a sector with a raft of social and environmental issues and has been avoided by many social investors. That may change as groups like the IIED work to build the commitment to sustainability across the industry.

Sustainable energy: The focus is on wind, water, solar and other forms of generation and storage, such as hydrogen cell batteries. A popular area for impact investors, even designer Vivienne Westwood has committed GBP£1 million to sustainable energy. Big fossil fuel companies are also putting money into it. Though their motives are often questioned, it is a sign of how far the notion of sustainability is becoming part of the fabric of corporate life in the developed world.

Sustainable consumer goods

Sustainability has taken on a new meaning in consumer markets as it has become a persuasive selling point for everyday goods and services. Public enthusiasm remains high for brands with sustainability credentials and sustainable practices, far from being unusual, are now what consumers expect of businesses.

Sustainable fashion: The fashion industry has been thriving in a throwaway culture, but the photograph of a lady in a dress of flowerssustainable fashion movement hopes to change attitudes and move toward sustainability. To keep up with this vibrant movement, follow top tweeters in fashion sustainability and check out the five top sustainable fashion stories of 2014.

Sustainable building: Changing the way we build and design cities could make a huge difference to our future and, increasingly, governments are regulating for sustainability in construction processes, materials and design. This is reshaping the construction industry, especially in the developed world. Construction companies are adapting the way they source and use products and materials and new education centers, like this one at Harvard, and this one in Edinburgh, are training the sustainable builders of the future.

Sustainable tourism: More people are taking vacations than ever before, but increasingly tourists want to avoid damaging the environment, squandering natural resources or hurting local communities. The global travel industry is waking up to this fact and offering sustainable tourism to the masses. Portals such as Sustainable Tourism Online provide go-to resources for the public and professionals who want tourism to be good for the planet and the communities in host countries.

Evolving meanings: Financial sustainability

Beyond its original, environmental meaning, sustainability has recently developed a financial meaning that applies in some sectors. Governments strive to make public services “sustainable”. Non-profit organisations try to create “sustainable” programs to deliver mission. In this context, sustainable can mean both environmentally sound or financially viable for the future or both.

Sustainable healthcare: Concerns about being able to afford healthcare for citizens in the future is driving innovation in healthcare delivery and finance models.In a bold move, the UK health service, the NHS, is embracing both environmental and financial sustainability.

Sustainable transportation: Concerns about climate change, contracting budgets and public pressure are encouraging many governments, including China’s,  to organize public transportation policies around sustainable principles, in both the financial and evironmental senses.

Sustainable finance: In a final evolution, “sustainable finance” seeks to apply the principles of sustainability to banking and investment. Impact investing and its sister disciplines across the spectrum of social finance including responsible investing, ethical investing, social investing and microfinance form part of this growing movement, which seeks to revolutionize the use of market methods to create better social and environmental outcomes.  Sustainable finance methods are now being put to use in a wide, and growing, range of contexts, with new techniques and approaches developing across the sector. For more on sustainable finance,  browse the top five stories in sustainable finance for 2014.

Conclusion

Sustainability has moved from the margins to the mainstream and is now a widely-accepted approach being incorporated into many areas of business, finance and the consumer marketplace. As it continues to expand its influence, sustainability will continue to evolve new meanings and serve as a paradigm for conservation and wise stewardship of the environment, human and natural resources and, now, capital. This movement is positive, but for impact investors seeking sustainable investments, it will mean taking a closer look at all claims for sustainability and determining exactly what is meant.

Want to comment? Tell us how you are innovating in sustainability? Tweet us @maximpactdot com

The New Energy Landscape: A Roadmap for Impact and Sustainable Investors

By Marta Maretich, Maximpact Chief Editor @maximpactdotcom

Energy is set to be a key global concern for the foreseeable future; and to continue to be an important focus for the impact and sustainable investing sector.

The reasons for this are familiar by now: fossil fuels are becoming scarcer, energy costs are rising, levels of industrialization are increasing, as is global prosperity, bringing increased demand for energy as well as unwanted side effects from its use, like pollution.

Climate change is another factor driving interest in energy. A series of reports from the IPCC are shining a light on the urgent need to change the way we use energy as well as the types of energy we use. According its recent report, energy is responsible for 47% of the increase in anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 emissions; fossil fuel byproducts linked to climate change. High carbon-intensity energy, related to economic growth in developing countries, is an important contributor. These statistics mean that energy use is set to become an important front in the battle against runaway climate change.

Whether or not you accept the idea of man-made climate change, there’s little doubt that the IPCC’s reports will affect the outlook for investing in the energy sector. Right now, the UN is using them to inform its process of forging a new international convention on climate change. When this framework emerges in 2015, this in turn will have implications as governments react by establishing new policies, setting regulation and, probably, funneling more public money into mitigation measures.

All these factors; plus the fact that new technologies and approaches are proliferating; are making energy a focus for investors of all kinds, despite the fact that some alternative energy markets have proven volatile in the past. Today there are more ways to invest in energy than ever before and everyone seems to be looking for the technologies that will replace fossil fuels in our investment portfolios as well as our economies.

A multitude of solutions

Developments recent years seem to indicate that seeking a single solution to the energy question is the wrong approach. It’s more probable that there will be a wide array of approaches that form a patchwork of solutions for different applications. Many of these will be local, rooted in culture and geography, and investors who know how to spot an opportunity at the local level will reap the benefits, as will those who know how to support energy businesses as they scale up and roll out products and services on a wider basis.

But there is much more still to do if we are to meet growing energy demands while at the same time cutting emissions. Fortunately, there’s also increased scope for investing as the clean and green energy market grows and diversifies. Here are some of the areas to watch:

Known values

Solar power, wind power and hydroelectric generation businesses have long been staples in impact and sustainable investment portfolios. Global growth in the uptake of these technologies has been significant overall, at least partly due to government subsidies and policy support, and the worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations increased about 40% per year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.

Against this background, some investors, like Triodos with its renewable energy fund, have already garnered considerable experience in investing in diverse energy solutions including hydroelectric, wind and solar. Others, like the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have been instrumental in financing specific energy technologies to fit local needs in countries as diverse as China, Mexico and Egypt.

Impact capital has played a role in bringing these technologies forward and rolling them out into new markets, sometimes riding the roller coaster of a new investment sector, as in the case of solar power. As a result, renewables now represent an evolved market and continue to have strong returns. With future outlooks positive, especially in light of advances such as new approaches to managing existing grids and new technologies coming online to improve energy storage thus making wind power more viable, these sectors remain good bets as we move into 2014.

IPCC top energy picks

The IPCC weighs into the energy debate with a new report flagging its top picks for alternative energy sources to lead climate change mitigation measures. In it, zero-carbon technologies join low-carbon ones, with both seen as essential to success. The list of top technologies they cite is controversial (even deeply flawed, according to some critics), yet the IPCC’s recommendations may turn out to be influential as the global conversation about new energy sources evolves. Certainly, it pays impact and sustainable investors to consider how they could usefully engage with these sectors.

Nuclear power

In a post-Fukushima world, nuclear power is more controversial than ever. Germany, a global leader in greening its energy sector, is set to phase out nuclear power entirely by 2030.

Nonetheless nuclear power is central to the IPCC’s plans for climate change mitigation. Though certainly not a “renewable”, as the report claims it is, nuclear is nonetheless a zero-carbon source of power and may be an option in some situations. Despite its drawbacks of danger and waste, it appeals to countries worried about energy security as well as those trying to wean themselves away from using polluting coal as a main source of energy. For these reasons, worldwide nuclear capacity is increasing annually, with countries such as Spain and the USA stepping up production. New reactors are going up in many counties including Taiwan, China, South Korea and Russia.

All this activity may hold opportunities for impact and sustainable investors who believe that nuclear may offer the best hope for a carbon-neutral future; as well as those who are willing to back an unpopular industry as it develops better, safer technologies. The good news is that advances in technology may change the outlook for nuclear soon. Molten salt reactors; which so far exist only on paper; could produce 20 times more power per plant, cast half the price of existing reactors and consume, rather than produce, nuclear waste. It’s worth noting that China has pledged to build one before 2050 and western countries too fastidious to take the risk may miss an important opportunity here.

Energy efficiency

The drive toward greater efficiency in energy use is already underway as rising fuel costs push consumers in every sector to find ways to get more out of their energy spending. The search for energy efficiency will create business opportunities in a number of industries including construction, where energy-saving design is becoming the norm, and transportation, where more efficient vehicles are cutting fuel bills for individual consumers, companies and municipalities.

Manufacturing will be an important growth area when in comes to energy efficiency. According to a recent survey, energy use is becoming an issue for top managers who now see it as key to bottom-line success. The drive for efficiency will create opportunities for growing businesses in consultancy and service delivery, too, as companies seek expert advice on how to optimize their specific processes: just six percent would know where to turn for more tailored advice, a recent survey reveals, and this is seen by managers as a significant barrier to investing in energy saving measures.

Biofuels

Biofuels have come in for a lot of criticism in recent years and now the United Nations has released a report officially warning that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices. Still, biofuels are central to the mitigation pathways proposed by the IPCC, a fact that some critics, like environmental groups Biofuel Watch and the Global Forest Coalition, have attacked as “false” and “confused”.

This may not be sufficient reason to exclude biofuels from a green energy future, however. Promising new technologies, particularly those that convert waste into biofuel, may yet put this sector back on the map for impact and sustainable investors. A recent study found that biofuels derived from paper, wood and food waste could provide 16% of fuel needed for road transportation in Europe by 2030. On the other hand, the report warns that the successful commercialisation of these advanced biofuel technologies now depends on political leadership and adequate policies, a scenario that industry insiders fear is a long way off.

BECCS

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS or Bio-CCS) is another controversial technology central to the IPCC’s mitigation measures report. The process involves power plants burning biomass to generate electricity with the carbon created being extracted and stored underground for “geological timescales”. BECCS could potentially provide large amounts of carbon-zero electricity, yet there are doubts about how viable, or safe, it would prove in practice and so far no working plants are up and running. It may be years before BECCS can prove its worth; but watch this space as the idea of carbon capture as a necessary measure for achieving carbon neutrality gains ground.

And don’t forget…

In many ways, the IPCC recommendations for the future are notable for the many technologies they leave out of their vision of a low- and zero-carbon energy future. A quick scan of the alternative energy sector reveals a wealth of new approaches and processes the report ignores: micro-generation, hydrogen fuel cells and smart grids, to name only a few. There’s evidence, too, that large public utility companies are starting to change the way they provide energy, making them justifiable investments for impact and sustainable investors. Lifestyle changes leading to reduced energy consumption will also create attractive business opportunities, for example in the areas of smart metering, transportation and green building.

The list is long; and, happily, getting longer. Impact and sustainable investors would do well to have a good look around before deciding where to put their capital.

How to pick a winner

With all of these opportunities open to impact and sustainable investors, the challenge may be finding an effective focus when investing in energy. Where should we invest for maximum impact and delivering the most benefit?

To answer this question, investors should review their core values, determine their appetite for risk, and keep in mind the definitions provided by bodies like the World Economic Forum and GIIN. Employing evaluative tools like ESG and SROI can help narrow the search for the right place to put your capital, especially when it comes to mainstream investments.

In a rapidly changing energy landscape, however, there is no substitute for keeping informed. New technologies are coming online almost weekly. Known technologies are evolving, as is the political and regulatory climate. Investors with their ear glued to the ground and their feelers out will have the best chance of making the impact they want to make.

But the point isn’t just to pick a winner. Regardless of how effective the social investing sector is in bringing needed capital to a new energy landscape, there’s a bigger problem on the horizon, one that should concern all of us.

Despite massive IPCC reports and high-profile efforts by international bodies like the UN, there’s concern that the political will to deal with the problems caused by our energy use just isn’t there. C02 emissions have risen since 2010 and, with the upturn in the world economy, it doesn’t look like they’ll be falling any time soon. Global surveys indicate most world citizens are more concerned about economic development than they are about climate change. And look what happened to the flawed carbon trading system and the now defunct Kyoto agreement, our last attempts to tackle this issue.

Clearly, business as usual will only result in the deepening of our shared crisis. If impact and sustainable investors really want to make a difference to our future, they will have to do their part to fundamentally change the way business and finance works; and to convince others; governments, businesspeople, the public; that our way can deliver sustainable development and a viable future for the planet. To succeed at this, we will have to demonstrate that impact and sustainable approaches to finance really work. Let’s just hope we can do it in time.

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Thinking Systemically About Water: An interview with J. Carl Ganter

By Marta Maretich, Chief Editor, Maximpact, @mmmaretich

Water sector investments continue to be high on the wish-list of many impact investors. But what are the wider issues surrounding investment in water? Maximpact talks to J. Carl Ganter, award-winning CEO and Founder of Circle of Blue and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Water Security.

What’s your view of water sector investing?

A few years ago, some venture capital firms invited me to make the rounds in California. I visited three different firms. Two of them had practically the same list of 68 companies to invest in, which they slid across the table with great gravitas. They asked me to comment, to tell them which ones I thought were winners.

What struck me at the time was that all these investments were what I think of as traditional. They were investments in a new type of pump or a new type of filter, for example, or a desalination plant. The venture capital firms, at least at this point, still had a very old world, 20th century, incremental way of thinking about investing in water. They were looking for ways to turn the water crisis into an opportunity by doing what they had always done.

I flipped their perspective and asked, “What if you had known in advance that Australia was under severe drought and its entire rice industry was going to collapse and this was going to ripple across world markets, affecting not only commodities traders, but impacting on the way the UNHCR manages its budgets for human disasters, its ability to buy food for refugees. How would that have changed your water investment choices?”

I don’t think they had ever thought about the wider ramifications of investing in water. Clearly, they weren’t thinking systemically about water. Hopefully, impact investors will take a more sophisticated approach.

What do you mean by “thinking systemically about water”?

I am seeing this as one of the biggest trends in the water sector today. I have an unusual perspective right now, with one foot in the “water buffalo” crowd; the community of water experts and people on the inside of the conversation; and the other in the world of journalism, which requires more of an everyman’s perspective.

In the water buffalo crowd, we’re hearing a lot more talk of a nexus of water, food and energy in a changing climate. In other words, it’s better not to think of water in isolation, but to consider it as part of a system in which those four pieces; water, food, energy and the effects of climate change; are interlinked.

And why is that important for impact investors?

From my experience, it seems that many in the investment community are still trying to figure out where the big play is in the water sector. But by thinking this way, they’re missing a massive opportunity.

If we understand there is a system in operation here, a competition, it’s possible to take a very different approach to everything we do. It’s become our mantra at the WEF, where I’m a member of the Global Agenda Council on Water Security. We joke about tattooing it on our foreheads; water, food and energy in a changing climate. We can’t think exclusively about water anymore; even the dedicated water buffalo’s can’t; we all have to think about the four-part system.

When it comes to impact investing, we need to embed that meta-message so that people looking for capital and impact investors are all thinking systemically. For example, if you’re in micro-finance and your focus is on women’s issues, then you really need to have water and sanitation embedded in your thinking. If you don’t, your work won’t be as effective as it could be. Or it may fail all together.

Why is that? When you bring water to communities in an appropriate way, you bring health, gender equality and education to girls and women. Girls will come to school because there are bathrooms that are safe for them to use. They have time for education because they aren’t carrying water all day. By thinking about these issues systemically, you can really have an outsized impact with the same level of investment.

Apart from thinking systemically, what can we do to be more effective when it comes to investing in water?

At the WEF, we’ve identified two major areas where change needs to happen. Both of these have implications for impact investing.

The first is governance. How do we break down the siloes within governments so that the water ministry talks to the infrastructure ministry and the education ministry? How do we remove the obstacles that prevent institutions from different sectors collaborating? Governance; the systems and processes that encourage cooperation and safeguard accountability; is key to breaking down siloes and creating conditions where collaboration can happen.

The other issue is values: What is the value of water? How much should people pay for water services? To what degree is water a human right? The answers to these questions tell us how much we value water for human use, industrial use, agricultural use and ecological use. Considering the value of water helps us include water in all of our conversations so that it isn’t an afterthought. It shouldn’t come down to a crisis situation if that can be avoided with foresight.

What would you like to say to an impact fund manager trying to put a portfolio together that includes water?

I’d advise someone on the sharp end of investing to think about water impact risk. By this I don’t mean only for water investments, I mean for all investments.

From the micro finance to large-scale bonds, it’s possible to go down the line with each investment, not only in the water world, and rate each one by risk of water impact.

For example, you might have an investment in an energy company. If you’re drawing a percentage of energy from hydro-electric energy, you need to consider how a prolonged drought like the one in California would affect electricity output. If you have investments in manufacturing businesses overseas you need to think about how drought in those parts of the world might ripple through your investments.

Organizations like Ceres have been successful in getting companies to disclose their water and climate risks in their annual reports. They’ve developed a method for assessment that impact investors could learn from.

Any other advice?

Our biggest obstacle lies in what we don’t know about what’s happening around the planet in this competition between water, food and energy. Our first step should be to invest heavily in understanding what is really going on. To this end, the White House recently announced its landmark Climate Data Initiative. Circle of Blue is participating and supporting this initiative with a new data dashboard that displays in real-time California’s water supplies.

This kind of information scaled will provide the key to finding solutions for the water issues we’re facing today. Not only that, but data projects like these will offer deeper insight for investment and return. Impact investors should consider how they can capitalize companies and projects that are collecting data and putting it in context.

One last thing: Do water experts really call themselves Water Buffalos?

(Laughs) Circle of Blue recently did two huge conference calls on water issues that each included about 400 people from around the world, with such experts as Peter Gleick, Jay Famiglietti and Lynn Ingram. I polled the participants beforehand, and many preferred, only half joking, to be identified as water buffalo’s. Perhaps it symbolizes persistence and strength while wading through vast pools of water and mud.

Circle of Blue announces new initiative exploring the water-food-energy nexus in India.

Ceres President Mindy Lubber will participate in the opening plenary of the 2014 Skoll World Forum in Oxford, U.K., from April. Hear what she has to say.

J. Carl Ganter

About J. Carl Ganter: J. Carl Ganter is co-founder and director of Circle of Blue, an internationally recognized center for original front-line reporting, research, and analysis on resource issues, with a focus on the intersection between water, food, and energy. He is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water Security and, for more than five years, served on the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Navigating Peace Water Working Group. In 2012 he received the Rockefeller Foundation Centennial Innovation Award

IPCC report ignores the role of social finance in climate change solutions

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

socialfinancesolutionsThe IPCC report on “impacts, adaptation and vulnerability” caused a stir when it came out in March. The picture it paints of the current realities and possible future effects of climate change is not pretty. In its careful language, there’s “high confidence” that the earth is already suffering the effects of climate change and that, if we don’t take steps to avoid it, worse is to come.

For many who now work in the fields of impact and sustainable investing, this is not news. The sector is full of people financing businesses designed to make a difference to our future; or, in the words of the report, supporting “adaptive human responses to observed and projected climate-change impacts, which can also address broader risk-reduction and development objectives”. (Well, you know what they mean.)

But what does the report have to say about the role of innovative finance in tackling climate change and its consequences? In a word, nothing. It states, with only “medium confidence”, that:

“Existing and emerging economic instruments can foster adaptation by providing incentives for anticipating and reducing impacts. Instruments include public-private finance partnerships, loans, payments for environmental services, improved resource pricing, charges and subsidies, norms and regulations, and risk sharing and transfer mechanisms.”

And it goes on to warn: “Risk financing mechanisms in the public and private sector, such as insurance and risk pools, can contribute to increasing resilience, but without attention to major design challenges, they can also provide disincentives, cause market failure, and decrease equity. Governments often play key roles as regulators, providers, or insurers of last resort.”

The note is cautionary, the message is vague. The report speaks of the roles of “government” and the “private sector” but makes no specific mention of impact or sustainable investing, or any reference at all to the global movement toward green, ethical and socially responsible business. The trend for using market finance mechanisms to solve social and environmental problems (like the ones thrown up by climate change) may be gaining momentum around the world, but it doesn’t seem to have come on to the IPCC’s radar as yet.

That’s a shame; and somewhat surprising, given the growing prominence of the sector in recent years. Yet we shouldn’t feel too bad about it. Presumably, the IPCC has a lot of other things to worry about right now, such as how world leaders will react to its many data bombshells.

More to the point, being left out of the IPCC report should be a wake up call to impact and sustainable sector. Despite rapid growth and continuing enthusiasm for our approach, we’re still the new kids on the block. Our track record is short and, despite improvement, still scanty when it comes to quantifiable impact. We’re not yet seen as a significant source of solutions to these enormous challenges.

For this to happen, we need to demonstrate that impact and sustainable investing can play a central role in helping the world find “climate-resilient pathways are sustainable-development trajectories”. How do we do that? A good place to start is by mining the information in the IPCC report and aligning investment and development strategies with its findings. Building our ability to work hand in hand with governments and international development agencies will also be key to being effective in this field, if the report is correct. So will doing our part to collaborate, communicate and break down the silos that prevent us from having the optimal impact.

But most of all, we must remain committed to finding new and creative ways to use finance to bring about the outcomes that could ultimately save lives, habitats and ecosystems. Only by staying in the game will we be able to make a difference; and, with luck, one day take our place at the top table when it comes to bringing climate change solutions.

Read more about how the IPCC report is set to shape our investing landscape.

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