Climate-Neutral COP23 Aims for Sustainability

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Bonn’s electric buses will transport conference attendees around the city free of greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – This year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, which opened Monday and continues through November 17 under the presidency of Fiji, gives nations an opportunity to showcase their own climate actions at this “climate-neutral” event.

Up to 25,000 people are expected to participate in the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, known as COP23, including government delegates, representatives of observer organizations, businesses and journalists.

One year has passed since the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015. The agreement allows countries to make individual pledges of action to reverse climate change, called Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise of the global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and, if possible, below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

These goals appear increasingly difficult to achieve. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization announced that atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, had surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

A new report from the UN Environment agency finds that even full implementation of current unconditional and conditional Nationally Determined Contributions makes a temperature increase of at least 3 degrees C by 2100 very likely.

The 8th edition of UN Environment’s Emissions Gap report, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, finds that national pledges only bring a third of the reduction in emissions required by 2030 to meet climate targets, with private sector and sub-national action not increasing at a rate that would help close this worrying gap.

This means that governments must deliver much stronger pledges when they are revised in 2020.

The organizers of COP23 have made sustainability the watchword of this year’s annual conference. In this context, unless stated differently, organizers say, the term sustainability refers to the environmental dimension of sustainable development as defined in 1987 by “Our Common Future,” the Brundtland Report, from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development.

The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To that end, COP23 organizers are managing transport, waste management, catering, energy and offsetting, providing clean transportation and clean electricity to the greatest extent possible.

The COP23 Sustainability Taskforce estimates that most emissions caused by COP 23 are the result of transport, with delegates’ international travel responsible for the largest share.

Emissions from local travel will be reduced by renewable energy-powered electric vehicle shuttles that will transfer delegates between the two conference zones, Bula and Bonn.

The conference venue itself will be managed sustainably, including its use of resources such as energy, waste and water.

“The most important aspect is that local public transportation is free of charge for all registered participants from Parties, observer organizations and media,” says Dennis Winkler, who heads the COP 23 Sustainability Taskforce and is responsible for the sustainability of UN climate change conferences.

“Also, 600 bikes will be provided free of charge for participants to get from one conference zone to another, or even to the city,” Winkler said.

The city of Bonn has several electric and hybrid buses in service and special electric COP 23 shuttles, running on 100 percent renewable energy, will connect a brand-new UN Campus train stop with the nearby metro stop and the two conference zones.

“We think it is important for there to be electric transport at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, as it absolutely meets the key goals of COP23,” says Anja Wenmakers of Bonn’s public transport provider, Stadtwerke-Bonn. “We are committed to supporting climate action goals and believe that public transport in general can make an important contribution to quickly achieving these goals.”

In addition, a shuttle service with smaller electric vehicles through the Rheinaue Park will be organized by the German Environment Ministry. Electric buses will be clearly identified with a special label.

In an effort to use energy efficiently, COP23 organizers are seeking to keep all indoor areas at an average temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, and not warmer. Participants are requested to turn off room lights and ventilation as well as ICT equipment when not in use.

In addition to maximizing energy efficiency, the organizers are making sure that the energy that is used in buildings is from renewable sources when possible.

“We have a target of 80 percent renewable energy all over the conference,” said Winkler. He and his team will have to make an assessment of whether this target has been reached at the end of the conference.

The UNFCCC Secretariat runs on 100 percent renewable energy, some of it sourced from solar panels on the roof of its headquarters building.

In a another effort to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport, the UNFCCC has announced a partnership with Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd, which aims to promote the use of biofuels as lower-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

When COP23 is over on November 17, the UNFCCC Sustainability Taskforce will calculate the overall greenhouse gas footprint of all aspects of the conference, including travel, food, local transport and accommodation.

Their calculations will be verified under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. All unavoidable emissions resulting from COP23 will be offset.

The Government of Germany has committed to the purchase of certified emission credits, preferably from Clean Development Mechanism projects registered in small island developing States, in recognition of the Fijian Presidency of COP 23.

“The human suffering caused by intensifying hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods and threats to food security caused by climate change means there is no time to waste,” said Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, who took over as president of the COP23 conference from Morocco during the opening.

“We must preserve the global consensus for decisive action enshrined in the Paris Agreement and aim for the most ambitious part of that target – to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above that of the pre-industrial age,” he said. “Wherever we live, we are all vulnerable and need to act.”

COP23 is structured according to the principle of one conference, two zones. The UN intergovernmental negotiations take place in Zone Bula, a Fijian word expressing warm welcome.

Negotiating countries plan to design and launch the Talanoa dialogue, named after the spirit of open exchange and constructive debate of Pacific island nations, to run during 2018.

The dialogue will conclude at COP24 in Poland next year with the aim of setting the stage for a more ambitious response that better reflects the scientific state of climate change during 2019-2020.

Governments will work on the Paris Agreement’s operating system – the detailed ways and means to assist all governments to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement now and in the future.

“Fiji is helping build a Grand Coalition for decisive, coordinated action by governments at every level, by civil society, the private sector and all citizens on Earth,” said Bainimarama. “That’s why we installed an ocean-going Fijian ‘drua’ canoe in the entrance here to remind everyone of the need to fill its sail with collective determination to make COP23 a success and confront the biggest challenge humanity has faced.”

Featured Image: COP23 dignitaries ride bicycles through the streets of Bonn, Germany ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). From right: Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji and COP23 president; Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC. Nov. 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Two Experiments With a Car-free Future

Kaohsiung light rail service at Kaisyuan Rueitian Station, Nov. 9, 2014 (Photo by billy1125)

Kaohsiung light rail service at Kaisyuan Rueitian Station, Nov. 9, 2014 (Photo by billy1125)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, October 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Imagine you live in a society that has opted to live without cars, not for environmental reasons or due to a fuel shortage but simply out of choice.

PostCarWorld, a study into the role of cars in Swiss society, found that Swiss people could be ready to move past cars, although they would be leaving behind a means of transport that has long been synonymous with modern life.

And, this shift to a car-free culture may even be economically viable, finds the research done at ETH Zurich, a university for science and technology.

The research results were presented at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) on October 3.

“We’re shifting from an object-centered world, in which cars are an extension of our private property, a myth, a dream, to a service-oriented world, which is based on a whole new approach to mobility,” explains Professor Jacques Lévy, a geographer and head of EPFL’s Chôros Laboratory, who directed the four-year study.

Jacques Lévy is a professor of geography and urban planning at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). (Photo courtesy Hesam University) posted for media use.

Jacques Lévy is a professor of geography and urban planning at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). (Photo courtesy Hesam University) posted for media use.

At the presentation, Lévy gave an honorary lecture followed by the opening of an exhibition showcasing his laboratory’s research and the results of the PostCarWorld research.

The idea for this study had been brewing for several years within the research institutes of EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering before it finally got the green light for funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Sinergia program, which supports pioneering, cross-disciplinary research.

Geographers, architects, urban planners, economists, transport and mobility engineers, political experts and sociologists from EPFL, ETH Zurich and the Università della Svizzera italiana all collaborated on the study.

Can you imagine getting around in a world without cars? That was the initial question put to 1,000 Swiss people, including experts in urban planning and mobility, as well as members of the general public.

“In asking Swiss people to imagine a car-free future, we were really aiming to find out more about what’s happening right now and about people’s complex relationship with cars,” said Lévy.

This relationship has been complicated by the rapidly shifting and highly contradictory status of cars in Switzerland.

While most Swiss people are prepared to consider alternatives to buying a car, change is slow, and people still enjoy driving.

But as leasing, car sharing, carpooling, public transport and telecommuting gain ground, people no longer need to own their own car to have that sense of freedom.

The researchers observed a renewed focus on public spaces within cities.

“There was a consensus among the urban planners we interviewed. They all want to rethink our streets and place more importance on shared spaces,” Lévy said. “Cars will have to adapt to this multimodal world in which pedestrians are reclaiming their rights and public spaces are no longer taken over by cars.”

Their final observation was that cars are responsible for the urban sprawl around us that, once it reaches a certain size, hinders a city’s growth.

As part of the study, EPFL’s TRACE Laboratory came up with the idea of building fast moving walkways that allow people to get around town quickly without a car. This invention has already caught the eye of the European Commission.

“We have not come up with a turnkey solution,” says Michel Bierlaire, the director of EPFL’s Transport and Mobility Laboratory. “But this study proves that the concept is credible and that a car-less, pedestrian-centric city is conceivable. This is a useful starting point for urban planners to evaluate the feasibility of accelerating moving walkways.”

Also at EPFL, a study was conducted into the mobility of those living in the Lake Geneva region. It showed that building strategic public transport links could attract people to them over the long term.

The disruptive influence of driverless cars was also analyzed. The researchers concluded that these cars will play a unique role in how we get around since they are not designed to replace human-driven cars.

Lévy says, “The balance is shifting. People living in downtown areas are aware that the cars polluting the air around them and creating noise come from outside the town, and that the fine particles they produce are deadly.”

“Certain public policies have changed, but the Swiss Constitution sends a mixed signal: it sets sustainable development as an objective but also stipulates that people must be free to choose their means of transport,” Lévy said. “But does this right to mobility conflict with other rights, such as the right to health?”

These contradictions are a sign that we are transitioning to a post-car society, say the researchers, who believe that a car-free world is much more likely now than it was 20 years ago.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan Puts Theory Into Practice

On the other side of the world in Kaohsiung, visitors are flocking to the Third EcoMobility World Festival and Congress to experience what a sustainable future for urban transport might be like.

They are arriving in a port city of 2.8 million residents in southern Taiwan, punctuated by skyscrapers, on the Love River, with walking paths and cafes along its banks, and cruise boats navigating its waters.

For the month of October, Kaohsiung is transforming the streets of its historic Hamasen neighborhood into a space dedicated to ecomobile vehicles such as bikes, public transport and light electric vehicles. The city has long been preparing for this event, together with neighborhood residents.

The EcoMobility World Festival, initiated by ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, is a month-long enactment of the future of urban mobility in a real city, with real people, in real time.

Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu says one of the most challenging – and most important – parts of making urban transport more sustainable is the change that needs to happen in our minds. Switching to ecomobility involves behavioral change that lays the groundwork for a new transportation culture.

Chu wrote a letter describing her plans for the event to fellow member cities of ICLEI, an international association of local governments that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

With this letter, she invited “all cities and mobility actors to this revolutionary experiment in our city, to share their expertise and work together on making sustainable urban mobility the norm in our cities.”

Mayor Chu also serves as chair of the EcoMobility Alliance, a network of 22 cities from around the world created in October 2011 in Chang¬won, South Korea.

Mayor Chu explained that despite a bike rental system with 159 stations and 750 kilometres of cycle paths, multiple public transport systems, including Mass Rapid Transit, high speed rail, the Taiwan Railway, city buses, ferries, solar boats, and light rail, her city suffers from air pollution due to petrol-based transportation.

“Today, over 90 percent of Kaohsiung residents use private cars or motorized scooters to go about their daily lives, contributing to air and noise pollution, traffic jams and accidents in the city,” wrote the mayor to her ICLEI colleagues.

“To demonstrate the transformative potential of an integrated sustainable transport system in Kaohsiung, we will make the Hamasen neighborhood, a frequently visited tourist area, exclusively open to ecomobile transport for the entire month of October,” wrote Mayor Chu.

“We want to improve air quality and create safer and more livable streets by increasing people- and environment-friendly transport options,” she wrote. “Through the Festival, we aim to demonstrate that ecomobility also supports the development of local economy by increasing access to local businesses.”

In parallel with the Festival, Kaohsiung hosted the EcoMobility World Congress on October 1-5, focusing on the three themes that will also be woven into the Festival experience: livable, shared and intelligent.

“By implementing shared mobility, cities can increase the mobility options available to their residents,” said Mayor Chu. “When coupled with intelligent transport solutions, they can ensure easy access to transport-related information by the residents.”

“The Congress will showcase examples from cities all around the world so that we all take home ideas on how to transform our urban transport systems,” she said.

To win the hearts and minds of residents, Mayor Chu and her government are working with over 150 local ambassadors to help residents understand and embrace the Festival, listening to their concerns and spending the time to answer their questions.

To ease the transition into the Festival, Kaohsiung made all ecomobile modes of transport available two weeks ahead of the event. Since September 12, the residents of Hamasen and people coming to the neighborhood to work or study were provided with parking space outside of the neighborhood area, and invited to use the wide range of ecomobile transport options available.

Two weeks before the Festival, 70 percent of the residents had received a public transport e-ticket, allowing them to use the bus, metro, ferry and light rail for free throughout the month of October.

Initial feedback is positive and encouraging say organizers. Students are finding it easier to commute to school, and residents are asking whether the variety of transport options will remain in place after the Festival.

Kaohsiung is treating the EcoMobility World Festival as an investment for the future of the city and its residents. The city is committing to ecomobility and planning for long term changes, but for now, city officials are concentrating on making this challenging experiment a success.


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Private Transport Sector Embraces Climate Action

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Young people at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco will live with the consequences of the decisions made there. (Photo by UNFCCC) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 15, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Sustainable transport leaders from the private sector met at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22) on Saturday for the Global Climate Action event on Transport to move the world towards a cooler future.

They discussed how progress made on 15 initiatives covering all transport modes and more than 100 countries demonstrates that tackling emissions from transport is both possible and cost effective.

The transport sector has made a great start, leading by example and spearheading the development of the broader Global Climate Action Agenda,” said Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations.

The 15 non-state actor transport initiatives whose progress are being reported in Marrakech have such a scope and scale that they are well on the way to triggering a broad transformation of the transport sector, as required to deliver on the Paris Agreement,” said Royal.

Prepared for the Marrakech conference, a report on the 15 Global Climate Action Agenda Transport Initiatives was released earlier this month.

The 15 initiatives are:

1. Airport Carbon Accreditation: Airport Carbon Accreditation, developed and launched by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe in 2009, is the only global carbon management standard for airports. The initiative aims to increase airport accreditations in all regions with a commitment for 50 carbon neutral airports in Europe by 2030.

 2. Aviation’s Climate Action Takes Off: Collaborative climate action across the air transport sector aims to control growth of international aviation CO2 emissions through measures that include a goal of carbon-neutral growth through a global market-based mechanism.

 A landmark agreement, adopted at the last International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in October 2016, makes the aviation industry the first sector to adopt a global market-based measure to address climate change.

3. The C40 Clean Bus Declaration, led by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, aims to decarbonize urban mass transport.

Participating cities will incorporate over 160,000 buses in their fleets by 2020 and have committed to switching 42,000 buses to low emission. Greenhouse gas savings will be almost 900,000 tons a year, with a potential overall savings of 2.8 million tons each year if the cities switch their entire bus fleets.

To date, 26 cities around the world have signed the Clean Bus Declaration, demonstrating strong global demand.

4. Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GEFI) aims to double the average fuel economy of new light duty vehicles globally by 2030, and all vehicles by 2050.

For COP21 last year in Paris, GFEI launched “100 for 50 by 50,” a campaign to encourage new countries to commit to GFEI’s fuel economy improvement goals by developing and adopting national fuel economy policies, and to dedicate time and resources to supporting GFEI’s work. At COP21 GFEI announced funding for 40 new countries joining their work, with more expressing interest.

5. Global Green Freight Action Plan: Reducing the climate and health impacts of goods transport. The three main objectives are: 1) To align and enhance existing green freight programs; 2) To develop and support new green freight programs globally; and 3) To incorporate black carbon reductions into green freight programs.

Steering group partners include Canada, United States, International Council on Clean Transportation, Clean Air Asia, Smart Freight Centre, and the World Bank. The initiative has received support from 24 countries, 28 nongovernmental organizations, and four private sector companies.

6. ITS for Climate: Using Intelligent Transportation Systems to work towards a low carbon, resilient world and to limit global warming below the 2-degree target and contribute to adaptation to climate change in large cities and isolated territories.

7. Low Carbon Road and Road Transport Initiative: Led by the World Road Association (PIARC), with its 121 government members, the initiative is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of road construction, maintenance and operation through technological innovation, green tendering and contracting. Will develop road networks in line with electric propulsion, autonomous cars, road-vehicle and vehicle-vehicle interactions, and enhancing intermodal cooperation.

8. MobiliseYourCity: 100 cities engaged in sustainable urban mobility planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in urban transport in developing countries. This initiative was unveiled during the World Climate and Territories Summit that took place in July in Lyon, France.

9. Navigating a Changing Climate: Think Climate, a multi-stakeholder coalition of 10 associations with interests in waterborne transport infrastructure, is committed to promoting a shift to low carbon inland and maritime navigation infrastructure.

10. The UIC Low Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge: This challenge sets out ambitious but achievable targets for improvement of rail sector energy efficiency, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a more sustainable balance between transport modes.

Implementation of the Challenge will result in 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from train operations by 2030, and a 75 percent reduction by 2050, as well as a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption from train operations by 2030, and a 60 percent reduction by 2050.

11. UITP Declaration on Climate Change Leadership: UITP, the International Association of Public Transport, brings 350 future commitments and actions from 110 public transport undertakings in 80 cities. UITP’s goal is to double the market share of public transport by 2025, which would prevent half a billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2025.

12. Urban Electric Mobility Initiative: The UEMI aims to boost the share of electric vehicles in urban transport and integrate electric mobility into a wider concept of sustainable urban transport that achieves a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas by 2030.

The UEMI is an active partnership that aims to track international action on electric mobility and to initiate local action. Current partners include: UN-Habitat, Wuppertal Institute, the International Energy Agency, Michelin, Clean Air Asia and the European Commission.

13. World Cycling Alliance and European Cyclists’ Federation have committed to increase the modal share of cycling worldwide and to double cycling in Europe by 2020. The commitment is supported by ECF and WCA, representing about 100 civil society organizations worldwide.

14. Worldwide Taxis4SmartCities: This initiative aims to accelerate the introduction of low emission vehicles in taxis fleets by 2020 and 2030 and promote sustainability. Nineteen companies representing more than 120,000 vehicles have committed to date.

15. ZEV Alliance: The International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) is a collaboration of governments acting together to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles – electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Germany, Maryland, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, New York, Norway, Oregon, Québec, Rhode Island, United Kingdom, Vermont have signed up to the ZEV Alliance.

Scaled-up actions taken by the Global Climate Action Agenda Transport initiatives since COP21 in December 2015 include:

  • The Global Fuel Economy Initiative is supporting an additional 40 countries to realize the financial and CO2 benefits of improved vehicle fuel economy.
  • The Airport Carbon Accreditation Scheme now has 173 certified airports worldwide, including 26 carbon neutral airports; and 36 percent of air passengers now travel through an Airport Carbon Accredited airport.
  • The MobiliseYourCity initiative secured 35 million euro in funding over the last 12 months and is making use of COP22 to announce the start of developing Sustainable Urban Mobility plans in Morocco and Cameroon.

As the COP22 host country, Morocco is taking a leading role in reducing transport emissions. Morocco’s Transport Minister Mohamed Boussaid said Morocco is launching the new African Association for Sustainable Road Transport at COP22.

For a growing region like Africa which is heavily impacted by climate change we need affordable and locally appropriate transport solutions that support economic and social development, provide access to mobility, and create local value,” said Boussaid.

Through the “we want to share experience and catalyse the development of resilient and intelligent highway infrastructure and the deployment of e-mobility in Morocco and beyond,” said Boussaid.

Transport is already responsible for one fourth of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. under a business as usual scenario, transport emissions can be expected to grow from 7.7 Gt to around 15Gt by 2050.

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Nissan Leaf electric taxi charging at a Petrobras station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2013 (Photo by mariordo59) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

This is a global problem. For 45 percent of countries, transport is the largest source of energy related emissions, for the rest it is the second largest source.

But discussions at COP22 indicate that tackling emissions from transport is possible and cost effective, sustainable solutions are available.

“Transport initiatives by non-state actors are key for a successful implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by over 160 countries on the occasion of COP21 in Paris,” said Dr. Hakima El Haite, Minister of Environment and Climate Champion, Morocco.

“The transport initiatives, by creating a new reality on the ground, increase popular understanding and support for climate action which, in turn, drives up governments’ ambition to tackle climate change.”

To find out more about the 15 initiatives, please read: Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) Transport Initiatives: Stock-take on action on the Implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and contribution towards the 2030 Global Goals on Sustainable Development Report


 

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