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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.

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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167 Nations Adopt New Urban Agenda

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Ecuador’s capital, Quito, population 2.1 million, is distinguished by the Cathedral of Quito, first opened in 1567. (Photo by Al Tuttle) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

QUITO, Ecuador, November 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, has wrapped up in Quito, Ecuador, as delegations adopted the New Urban Agenda, a new framework that details how cities should be planned and managed to best achieve sustainability.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, attends the opening of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, HABITAT III, with Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) posted for media use.

Up to 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, experts project.

 Hosted by the city of Quito from October 17-20, and attended by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Habitat III conference drew around 36,000 people from 167 countries.

 Habitat III brought together mayors, local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, the private sector and urban planners.

The New Urban Agenda is contained in the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All. It states, “By 2050 the world urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. As the population, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, as well as environmental and humanitarian impacts, are increasingly concentrated in cities, this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources…

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Joan Clos, secretary-general of the Habitat III conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, Oct. 31, 2016 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) posted for media use.

We have analyzed and discussed the challenges that our cities are facing and have [agreed] on a common roadmap for the 20 years to come,” said Joan Clos, secretary-general of the conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, usually called UN-Habitat.

 Clos, who was mayor of Barcelona, Spain from September 1997 to September 2006, said the New Urban Agenda should be seen as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by 193 UN Member States in September 2015.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the power of cities and towns to be the engine for sustainable growth in the future, a concept further emphasized in the New Urban Agenda.

The ambitious New Urban Agenda is guided by these interlinked principles:

  • (a) Leave no one behind, by ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including the eradication of extreme poverty, by ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socio-economic and cultural diversity, integration in the urban space, enhancing livability, education, food security and nutrition, health and well-being; including by ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, promoting safety and eliminating discrimination and all forms of violence … and providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services as well as adequate and affordable housing.
  • (b) Sustainable and inclusive urban economies, by leveraging the … benefits of well-planned urbanization, high productivity, competitiveness, and innovation; promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all, ensuring decent job creation and equal access for all to economic and productive resources and opportunities; preventing land speculation; and promoting secure land tenure and managing urban shrinking where appropriate.
  •  (c) Environmental sustainability, by promoting clean energy, sustainable use of land and resources in urban development as well as protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, including adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature; promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns; building urban resilience; reducing disaster risks; and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On the sidelines of the Habitat III formal discussions, dozens of side events and parallel events brought partners together to debate the more intricate areas of urbanization, such as the right of women and youth to the city, the importance of public space and how to finance the New Urban Agenda.

Among its 175 sections, the New Urban Agenda states, in Section 66, “We commit to adopt a smart city approach, which makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies, thus providing options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices and boost sustainable economic growth and enabling cities to improve their service delivery.

 Section 75 states, “We commit to strengthening the sustainable management of resources – including land, water (oceans, seas, and freshwater), energy, materials, forests, and food, with particular attention to the environmentally sound management and minimization of all waste, hazardous chemicals, including air and short-lived climate pollutants, greenhouse gases, and noise – in a way that considers urban-rural linkages and functional supply and value chains vis-à-vis environmental impact and sustainability, and strives to transition to a circular economy, while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration, restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges.

Above all, Clos said, the New Urban Agenda is, “A commitment that we will all together take the responsibility … [for the] direction of the development of our common urbanizing world.

To further reach out to cities, foster the exchange of best practices and the development of urban strategies, the European Commission has launched a new web portal for cities.

Answering a need expressed by numerous cities, the new portal provides up-to-date information on EU policies such as climate change adaptation, mobility or circular economy that directly impact cities and urban areas.

Urban stakeholders can also get clear information on financing opportunities under the different EU funding instruments and on events related to urban development.

The new portal is intended to help cities to address challenges such as affordable housing, energy efficiency or accessibility, by making the most out of EU funding opportunities.

In addition, the new Urban Data Platform, hosted on the Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies operated by the Joint Research Centre, provides a single access point to common indicators on the status and trends in over 800 European urban areas – on demography, economic development or access to services.

This database will enable urban authorities and stakeholders to compare data, benchmark and monitor, which is one of the aims of the New Urban Agenda.

European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic said, “Over 70 percent of the EU’s population lives in urban areas; it is here where the transition to a green economy is being decided.”

Cities play a crucial role in the activation of citizens and consumers and in promoting change by investing in energy-efficient renovation of buildings, making transport more sustainable, raising citizens’ awareness, implementing new technologies, supporting vulnerable consumers and much more. Therefore we are launching instruments which will enable cities to experiment with new ideas and see if they are feasible and useful,” Šefcovic said.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu presented the EU’s Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito.

In partnership with UN Habitat, the Commission has released the State of European Cities Report. It supports the New Urban Agenda by assessing the performance of European cities with regards to its priority themes: jobs and skills, fight against poverty, shift towards a low-carbon economy.

At the heart of the EU’s Urban Agenda, 12 partnerships allow cities, Member States, EU Institutions, NGOs and business partners to work together on an equal basis to find common solutions to improve quality of life in European urban areas.

Four pilot partnerships have already started: on the inclusion of migrants, coordinated by the city of Amsterdam; on air quality, coordinated by the Netherlands; on housing, coordinated by Slovakia; and on urban poverty, coordinated by Belgium and France.

By January 2017, four new partnerships will be launched: on circular economy coordinated by Oslo, Norway; on digital transition coordinated by Estonia; Oulu, Finland; and Sofia, Bulgaria; on urban mobility coordinated by the Czech Republic and Karlsruhe, Germany, as well as on jobs and skills coordinated by Romania, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Jelgava, Latvia. The Commission will report back to the Council on the partnerships by the end of 2017.

To transform our world, we must transform its cities,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement commemorating World Cities Day, which is observed each October 31 since 2014.

Local action is essential to realizing the potential of these global agreements,” Ban said. “On World Cities Day, let us renew our resolve to confront urban problems and forge lasting solutions. Together, we can show how success in cities inspires change across the world.


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Green Bond Market Shoots Up

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By Sunny Lewis

 WASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2016 – (Maximpact.com News) – The green bond market reported a worldwide milestone in August when aggregate green bond issuance topped US$150 billion for the first time since the World Bank issued the inaugural green bond in 2008. It was a US$400 million four-year bond issued in Sweden during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

 Green bonds finance projects that achieve energy efficiency, pollution prevention, sustainable agriculture, fishery and forestry, the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, clean transportation, sustainable water management, and the cultivation of environmentally friendly technologies.

 Green bonds are similar to traditional bonds in terms of deal structure, but they have different requirements for reporting, auditing and proceed allocations.

A green bond is distinguished by its “use of proceeds” pledge, which earmarks the proceeds from sale of the bonds for specific projects with environmental benefits. Marketing and branding values not available to traditional bonds arise from this difference.

With the heightened awareness of global environmental and climate challenges, green bonds are increasingly seen as a tool that could allow the private sector to take an active part in raising the funds needed to put our society on a more environmentally sustainable footing,” wrote Charles Smith in an article ‘How the green bond market works‘ for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) earlier this month.

 The EBRD first started issuing green bonds in 2010, and its portfolios of green projects now include 261 investments worth a total of €2.7 billion.

Smith, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of green bond issuance for the EBRD, views green bonds as “a new tool for helping the private sector green the world.”

Mobilising green projects is the goal but, ultimately, I think it is a much larger transition process,” Smith told a roundtable organized by the publication “Environmental Finance” last November. “It is about changing the way companies and entire societies think about and engage with the environment. And that is not done in a day.

At the same roundtable, some of the challenges were outlined by Yo Takatsuki, associate director, Governance and Sustainable Investment, BMO Global Asset Management. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of the Bank of Montreal.

I think one of the challenges is that the underlying assets that are being financed through green bonds are mostly renewable energy or energy efficiency. If we want a broader range of corporates to come to the market we need to encourage opening up the focus of projects beyond just climate change,” said Takatsuki.

I think people are struggling with impact reporting,” Takatsuki said. “For renewable energy, it is relatively straightforward, but for other types of projects the impact reporting is either not agreed or is not sufficiently established.

Smith comments on this issue in his article on the EBRD site, writing, “The reporting is made more complicated by the broadening range of issuer types – from banks to corporates in various industries – with different green assets and operating in dissimilar regions.

This makes comparing the bonds challenging to say the least, and the reputational risk for the issuer in making a mistake in the reporting could be considerable,” Smith writes.

Despite the challenges, the green bond market is growing quickly.

In 2015, green bond issuance hit what was then a record high, amounting to US$41.8 billion worth of investment worldwide. Compare that to 2012, when green bond issuance worldwide amounted to just $2.6 billion.

Of all the green bonds issued in 2015, $18 billion worth was issued in the European Union and $10.5 billion was issued in the United States, making these regions the leaders in the green bond initiative.

India and China are expected to get more involved in this type of investment in the near future.

The World Bank is a important issuer of green bonds. The bank has been very active through the first half of 2016, especially in the United States, where its issuances total over US$496 million and in India, where its issuances total over US$2.7 billion Indian rupees.

World Bank green bonds finance projects such as India’s Rampur Hydropower Project, which aims to provide low-carbon hydroelectric power to northern India’s electricity grid.

The World Bank Green Bond raises funds from fixed income investors to support World Bank lending for eligible projects that seek to mitigate climate change or help affected people adapt to it.

The product was designed in partnership with Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) to respond to specific investor demand for a triple-A rated fixed income product that supports projects that address the climate challenge.

 Since 2008, the World Bank has issued over US$9 billion equivalent in green bonds through more than 125 transactions in 18 currencies.

World Bank Vice President and Treasurer Arunma Oteh said, “We have a responsibility to our clients to help them both recognize and respond to the risks that climate change poses.” 

To date, green bond issuer groups include supranationals, government agencies, cities, states, and also corporate entities.

Investors have expressed a desire for more choice of products for their growing portfolios – green bonds from more issuers and more diverse types of green bond products that offer different risk profiles, according to the World Bank.

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Green-bond supported wind farm in Penonome, Panama. (Photo by Alessandra Bazan Testino / International Finance Corporation) Posted for media use

There are several types of tax incentives policy makers can put in place to support the issuance of green bonds. The incentives can be provided either to the investor or to the issuer.

With tax credit bonds, bond investors receive tax credits instead of interest payments, so issuers do not have to pay interest on their green bond issuances.

An example of tax credit bonds in the area of clean energy is the U.S. federal government Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) and Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) program. The program allows for the issuance of taxable bonds by municipalities for clean energy and energy conservation, where 70 percent of the coupon from the municipality is provided by a tax credit or subsidy to the bondholder from the federal government.

With direct subsidy bonds, bond issuers receive cash rebates from the government to subsidize their net interest payments.

This structure also is used under the U.S. federal government CREBs and QECBs program.

With tax-exempt bonds, bond investors do not have to pay income tax on interest from the green bonds they hold, so the issuer can get a lower interest rate. An example is tax-exempt bond issuance for financing of wind projects in Brazil.

Green bond issuers report both use of proceeds and the impact achieved. Still, specific reporting requirements are under development and currently non-standard.

A coalition of organizations including leading issuers and buyers are working together to establish reporting procedures. Anticipated reporting standards include third party review by an auditor of the sustainability of qualifying projects, and annual reporting on a universal template.

Meanwhile, the Green Bond Principles (GBP) are voluntary process guidelines that recommend transparency and disclosure and promote integrity in the development of the Green Bond market by clarifying the approach for issuance of a Green Bond.

The Green Bond Principles are intended for broad use by the market, according to the World Bank. They provide issuers guidance on the key components for launching a credible Green Bond; they aid investors by ensuring availability of information for evaluating the environmental impact of their Green Bond investments; and they assist underwriters by moving the market towards standard disclosures that will facilitate transactions.


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Image: Green shoots growing in the kitchen gardens, Tatton Park, Cheshire, England, May 2010 (Photo by Will Clayton) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Investors Assess Their Climate Risks

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Greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired cogeneration Hanasaari B power plant at sunset in Helsinki, Finland, March 9, 2013 (Photo by Fintrvlr) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

OAKLAND, California, October 20, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Investors are being put on notice that some mutual funds and exchange traded funds labeled “sustainable,” “ecology,” “green” or “integrity” may actually have very high carbon footprints.

Now, a free software tool that empowers investors to track the carbon pollution that companies embedded in their funds are emitting has expanded its analysis to cover funds worth US$11 trillion.

FossilFreeFunds.org, a website created by the environmental advocacy nonprofit As You Sow, has added carbon footprinting of over $11 trillion in global mutual funds and ETFs to the site – the largest-ever analysis of this kind.

Fossil fuel investments carry real financial risks,” says FossilFreeFunds.org on its site. Their analysis covers more than 8,500 global mutual funds, including 3,000 of the most commonly-held funds in U.S. retirement plans, so that all investors can be aware of the climate risk in their retirement accounts, with financial data provided by Morningstar.

In August, Morningstar introduced a Sustainability Rating for Funds that offers an objective way to evaluate how investments are meeting environmental, social, and governance challenges, helping investors put their money where their values are.

Transparency leads to transformation,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “Measuring a company’s carbon emissions is a critical way to understand the specific climate risk of your investments.

We have aggregated this data for all of the companies embedded in each of the 8,500 most-held global mutual funds and ETFs,” said Behar. “This tool enables every investor to answer the question, ‘Am I investing in my own destruction or the clean energy future?

The analysis uses data from global sustainability solutions provider South Pole Group, and yourSRI.com, a carbon data analyst and reporting solution provider for responsible investments.

Intially, the analysis will cover funds in Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. The developers plan to expand to include every fund in every exchange around the world.

Institutional investors such as California’s CalPERS and Sweden’s AP4 have embraced carbon footprinting as a way to protect their assets from climate risk.

Major index providers are increasingly offering low-carbon options that incorporate a footprinting analysis.

Traditional fossil-free investment approaches avoid companies with reserves of coal, oil, and gas that represent potential future emissions.

Carbon footprinting turns the focus to current greenhouse gas emissions, helping reveal businesses that operate with higher and lower footprints than their industry peers.

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ConocoPhillips oil refinery, Rodeo, California, December 11, 2012 (Photo by ah zut) Creative Commons license via Flickr

As You Sow explains that, “Carbon footprinting a mutual fund means accounting for the quantification and management of greenhouse gases. It is the first step towards understanding an investor’s impact on climate change.

A carbon footprint is calculated by measuring and/or estimating the quantities and assessing the sources of various greenhouse gas emissions that can be directly or indirectly attributed to the activities of the underlying holdings.

 “Decarbonizing” a portfolio involves investing in companies that have lower carbon footprints than their peers.

The FossilFreeFunds.org platform allows investors to see real scores that are updated every month with Morningstar’s latest holdings data.

A few examples from the analysis:

  • Given that BlackRock recently published a major report on portfolio climate risk, it may be a surprise that the BlackRock Basic Value Fund’s (MABAX) has a carbon footprint 170 percent higher than its benchmark, the Russell 1000 Value Index.
  • Dimensional Social Core Equity (DSCLX) has 85 percent more carbon than the MSCI All World Index, with 13 percent of the portfolio made up of fossil fuel companies including Shell, BP, and tar sands giant Suncor.
  • The State Street SPDR S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (SPYX) holds 40 fossil fuel companies, including companies with reserves like Phillips66, Valero, and Marathon; coal fired utilities Duke Energy and Southern Company, and oil field services leader Halliburton.

Having funds with smaller footprints is one way to avoid climate risk,” said Andrew Montes, director of digital strategies at As You Sow. “It also actively rewards companies that have made positive decisions to lower the climate impact of their operations.

Investor demand will drive fund managers to drop companies with high carbon footprints and include those companies that are shifting to the clean energy economy,” explained Montes.

By providing a way to examine carbon demand and consider the value chain when measuring climate impact, the data can help investors large and small reconcile their investing with their values.


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China & USA: Green Health Care Partners

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Yang Hongwei of the China National Health Development Research Center speaks at a forum on the Construction and Development Strategy of a Green Health Care System, March 23, 2016, Beijing, China (Photo courtesy China National Health Development Research Center) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

 SAN FRANCISCO, California, October 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A delegation from the Chinese health sector came to the Bay Area in September to identify strategies that can address the health effects of climate change and foster green, environmentally sustainable, climate-resilient health care in both China and the United States.

 The Chinese group was hosted by Health Care Without Harm, a U.S.-based international coalition of more than 250 organizations. Their collaborative campaign for environmentally responsible health care aims to transform health care worldwide so that it reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a community anchor for sustainability and a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice.

Health Care Without Harm programs include: medical waste, toxic materials, safer chemicals, green building and energy, healthy food, pharmaceuticals, green purchasing, climate and health, transportation, and clean water.

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Hosted by Health Care Without Harm, a group of Chinese health experts hammers out strategies with their U.S. counterparts, San Francisco, California, September 2016 (Photo courtesy Health Care Without Harm) Posted for media use.

The visit was supported in part by the U.S. State Department’s People to People Exchange program.

 Around the table were the members of Chinese delegation headed by Yang Hongwei of the China National Health Development Research Center, and representatives from members of the U.S. Health Care Climate Council, including Dignity Health, Gundersen Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Partners Healthcare, and Virginia Mason.

In addition to meeting with the health system leaders, the Chinese delegation toured Bay Area hospitals to learn how U.S. health care systems are implementing sustainability strategies while working for better health outcomes.

This marks the beginning of a collaboration between health sectors in our two countries to make health care greener and more environmentally friendly, while protecting public health from climate change,” said Josh Karliner, international director of program and strategy for Health Care Without Harm.

 “The fact that the presidents of both countries have prioritized addressing climate change creates space for the health sectors in China and the United States to step up together to address one of the greatest health challenges of our time,” said Karliner.

He is referring to an event in November 2014, when President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping stood together in Beijing to make a historic U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, emphasizing their personal commitment to a successful climate agreement in Paris and marking a new era of multilateral climate diplomacy as well as a new pillar in their bilateral relationship.

They are not alone. Many scientists and public health experts recognize that climate change will impact the health of billions of people around the world.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan told a WHO Western Pacific regional meeting in Manila on Monday, “…health has some of the most compelling evidence-based arguments for interpreting climate change as a potential catastrophe. Simply stated, the Earth is losing its capacity to sustain human life in good health.

 “The challenge, of course, is to convince officials in energy, agriculture, transport, housing, and urban design to pay attention to the health consequences of their policies that affect the environment,” said Dr. Chan.

Health Care Without Harm warns that a crisis could arise over heat-related deaths, respiratory diseases, the spread of malaria, Zika virus and Dengue fever, water-borne diseases, or the prospect of millions more refugees.

Climate change is no longer an environmental problem in the distant future, says the health organization. It is now an immediate global health threat affecting everyone.

Historically, the United States has been the top emitter of greenhouse gases and has led the world in per capita emissions. Today, the U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China.

U.S. health care is responsible for nearly 10 percent of current emissions – or 655 million metric tons – the equivalent of the entire United Kingdom’s contribution to climate change. China faces similar problems.

Representing close to six percent of China’s economy and 18 percent of the U.S. economy, the health care sector can play a leading role in moving both societies toward a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future.

In China we have launched several research projects to identify a route map to greener health care buildings, operations and service delivery in our national system,” said Yang Hongwei, who serves as deputy director general of the National Health Development Research Center, a national research institution established in 1991.

After decades of development, the National Health Development Research Center has become an institution of scale with over 100 researchers and research fellows. It works as a national think-tank providing technical consultancy to health policy-makers.

Health Care Without Harm has been working with the National Health Development Research Center since late 2015. Since then the National Health Development Research Center has joined Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network.

The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals community has 702 members in 39 countries who represent the interests of over 20,800 hospitals and health centers.

We are pleased to visit San Francisco, share our experiences, and learn from health systems here,” said Yang. “We look forward to more cooperation in the future.

In addition to identifying opportunities for health systems in both countries to grow toward greener health development, meeting participants explored future joint actions.

They agreed to organize a follow-up meeting in Beijing on green health care, and build a health care component into the 2017 U.S. – China Climate Leaders Summit in Boston.


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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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Climate Change Takes Its Toll

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A wildfire devours the forest next to Highway 63, 24 kilometers south of Fort McMurray on Saturday, May 7. The “Beast”, as it was called by Wood Buffalo fire chief Darby Allen, caused the mass evacuation of nearly 90,000 people from the northern Alberta city. (Photo by Chris Schwarz / Government of Alberta) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

MUNICH, Germany, September 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Monetary losses caused by natural disasters in the first half of 2016 were “significantly higher” than the corresponding figures for the previous year, although fewer people died in these events, according to a report by the German insurance and re-insurance firm Munich Re.

In total, losses to the end of June came to US$70bn (previous year US$59bn), of which US$27bn (US$19bn) were insured.

The main loss drivers were powerful earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador, storms in Europe and the United States, and forest fires in Canada.

A raging wildfire consumed the parched forest south of the oil sands city of Fort McMurray, Alberta on May 7. The 1,500 square kilometer inferno caused the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people.

The European storms are likely linked to climate change, explains Peter Höppe, who heads Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit.

 “Scientific studies have shown that heavy rainfall has become more frequent in certain regions of Europe over the last few decades. For example, in the period 1951–2010 severe spring rainfall events that used to have a mathematical occurrence probability of once every 20 years have already increased by a factor of 1.7. Climate change is likely to have been partly responsible for this,” said Höppe.

Natural catastrophe figures for the first half of 2016:

Overall losses were above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years (US$63bn), but below the average for the last 10 years (US$92bn).

Insured losses were in line with the inflation-adjusted average for the last 10 years and above the average for the last 30 years (US$15bn).

Just 3,800 people lost their lives to natural disasters in the first six months of 2016, fewer than during the same time period in 2015, (21,000) and the averages for the last 10 and 30 years (47,000 and 28,000).

The greatest number of fatalities was caused by an Mw 7.8 earthquake which hit the Pacific coast of Ecuador at almost the same time as the quakes hit Japan. Many buildings were destroyed and shopping mall roofs collapsed. Nearly 700 people were killed. As is so often the case in emerging countries, a relatively small share of the overall loss of US$2.5bn was insured: US$400m.

The highest losses were caused by two earthquakes on the Japanese island of Kyushu in April (US$25bn, just US$6bn was insured).

 Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek said, “These events clearly show the importance of loss prevention, such as protection against flash floods or the construction of earthquake-resistant buildings in high-risk areas. The good news is that improved building codes and a more intelligent approach by emergency services and authorities offer people much better protection than used to be the case.

Catastrophe activity in the United States led to $3.8 billion in insured losses in 29 states during the 2016 first quarter, with much of the damage hitting Texas. Those events were the worst in a decade in terms of frequency and severity, according to a new industry report.

The first quarter is usually mild … since the major perils are hail and winter storm,” the Property Claims Services unit of Verisk Insurance Solutions explained in its first-quarter 2016 catastrophe review, which encompassed 13 catastrophe events.

But this year, said PCS, some of the first-quarter U.S. storms “packed a serious wallop.” One storm alone caused $1.1 billion in insured losses when it hit Texas in March.

The Global Federation of Insurance Associations (GFIA) , a Brussels-based industry group, warned as far back as 2013 that “loss trends and climate scientists indicate that, in the future, more and more insurance will be needed to help economies recover from a growing frequency of weather related losses: tornados, hailstorms, hurricanes/typhoons.

Natural disasters triggered by climate change are tragic and costly, but these are not the only losses people are experiencing due to the warming climate.

The rising price – in money and in health – of extreme weather events amid rapid urbanization, and the value of applying science and technology to reduce these risks, is explored in six research papers released at a United Nations forum in Malaysia on July 19.

Assembled by UN University’s Malaysia-based International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), the research is published in a special issue of the “Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health.”

The papers include a stern warning about productivity loss due to heat stress. The latest estimates show productivity in many jobs will fall by up to 40 percent by 2030 due to heat stress. The global economic cost of this reduced productivity may be more than US$2 trillion by 2030. 

 The jobs most susceptible include the lowest paid – heavy labor and low-skill agricultural and manufacturing.

In Southeast Asia alone as much as 15 to 20 percent of annual work hours may already be lost in low-paid, heat-exposed occupations, a figure that may double by 2030. 

Author Tord Kjellstrom of the Health and Environment International Trust, New Zealand, said, “Current climate conditions in tropical and subtropical parts of the world are already so hot during the hot seasons that occupational health effects occur and work capacity for many people is affected.

Dr. Kjellstrom’s paper cites estimated GDP losses due to heat stress for 43 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Saint Lucia, Samoa, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

The situation in Malaysia is typical of the Southeast Asian countries. As work slows or stops to avoid dangerous heat stress, the country’s Gross Domestic Product is projected to decline by an estimated 5.9 percent (value: US $95 billion) by 2030, more than double the estimated 2.8 percent GDP lost to heat stress in 2010.

 In 2030, in both India and China, the GDP losses could total $450 billion, although mitigation may be made possible by a major shift in working hours, among other measures employers will need to take to reduce losses.

This situation already is straining electricity infrastructure, Dr. Kiellstrom observes. The additional energy needed for a single city the size of Bangkok for each 1°C increase of average ambient temperature can be as much as 2000 MW, roughly the output of a major power plant.

It is very important to develop and apply adaptation measures now to protect people from the disasters that current climate and slowing changing climate brings,” said Kjellstrom. “However, adaptation is only half an answer; we must also take decisive action now to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases.

Failure will cause the frequency and intensity of disasters to worsen dramatically beyond 2050, and the situation at the end of this century will be especially alarming for the world’s poorest people,” he warned.

Climate change will bring increasingly difficult situations, according to the papers:

  • Disastrously heavy rains can expand insect breeding sites, drive rodents from their burrows, and contaminate freshwater resources, leading to the spread of disease and compromising safe drinking water supplies.
  • Warmer temperatures often promote the spread of mosquito-borne parasitic and viral diseases by shifting the vectors’ geographic range and shortening the pathogen incubation period.
  • Climate change can worsen air quality by triggering fires and dust storms and promoting certain chemical reactions causing respiratory illness and other health problems.
  • In extreme disasters, harm is often amplified by the destruction of medical facilities and disruption of health services
  • Central and south China can anticipate the greatest number of casualties and highest economic losses from extreme weather events in the Asia Pacific region – the world’s most disaster-prone region – and a more integrated, multidisciplinary approach is needed to upgrade the nation’s emergency response system for natural disasters.
  • From 1980 to 2012, roughly 2.1 million people worldwide died as a direct result of nearly 21,000 natural catastrophes such as floods, mudslides, extreme heat, drought, high winds or fires. The cost of those disasters exceeded $4 trillion (US) – a loss comparable to the current annual GDP of Germany.
  • In Asia Pacific 1.2 billion people have been affected by 1,215 disasters since the millennium. Some 92 percent of human exposure to floods occurs in Asia Pacific, along with 91 percent of exposure to cyclones and two-thirds of all exposure to landslides. Between 1970 and 2011, two million people in the region – 75 percent of the world total – were killed by disasters.
  • From 1993 to 2012, the Philippines experienced the highest number of extreme weather events (311), Thailand experienced the greatest financial loss (US$5.4 billion) and Myanmar experienced the highest death rate (13.5 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • In just 40 years, from 1970 to 2010, the regional population exposed to flooding risk more than doubled from about 30 million to 64 million while those in cyclone-prone areas rose from roughly 72 to 121 million.
  • Cities cover two percent of world land cover, generate 60 to 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and half of all waste, and are expanding at a rate of one million people per week. In a single generation – from 2000 to 2030 – urban land extents are expected to have tripled.

The authors underline that fast-rising numbers of people are being exposed to the impacts of climate change, with much of the increase occurring in cities in flood-prone coastal areas or on hills susceptible to mudslides or landslides. Especially vulnerable are people living in poverty, including about one billion in slums.

Cities, concentrated sources of energy consumption, heat and pollution, covered in surfaces that absorb warmth, create local heat islands and impair air quality, both threats to health.

And rising demand for cooling contributes to warming the world. Air conditioners not only pump heat out directly, the electricity required is typically produced by burning fossil fuels, adding to atmospheric greenhouse gases. As well, people acclimatized to air conditioning become less heat tolerant, further increasing demand for cooling.

On the other hand, better urban planning presents “tremendous opportunity” to mitigate the health impacts of more extreme weather events, authors emphasize.

Urban planners, the authors say, can help by designing cities “in ways that enhance health, sustainability, and resilience all at once,” incorporating better building design, facilitating a shift to renewable energy, and fostering the protection and expansion of tree cover, wetlands and other carbon sinks, for example.

To mitigate the health impacts of longer, more severe extreme weather events, the authors stress the need to replace piecemeal reactive responses with integrated, multi-disciplinary planning approaches.

Beyond better preparation and warning systems to improve disaster response, recommended steps include enhancing drainage to reduce flood risks and strengthening health care, especially in poor areas.

The six papers, published by the “Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health,” are:

  • Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events, and Human Health Implications in the Asia Pacific Region, by Jamal Hisham Hashim and Zailina Hashim (http://bit.ly/29AXLlM)
  •  Urbanization, Extreme Events, and Health: The Case for Systems Approaches in Mitigation, Management, and Response, by José G. Siri, Barry Newell, Katrina Proust, and Anthony Capon (http://bit.ly/29N9IBA)
  • Impact of Climate Conditions on Occupational Health and Related Economic Losses: A New Feature of Global and Urban Health in the Context of Climate Change, by Tord Kjellstrom (http://bit.ly/29BL0Dn)
  • Impact of Climate Change on Air Quality and Public Health in Urban Areas, by Noor Artika Hassan, Zailina Hashim, and Jamal Hisham Hashim (http://bit.ly/29EX6y4)
  • Review of Climate Change and Water-Related Diseases in Cambodia and Findings From Stakeholder Knowledge Assessments, by Lachlan McIver, Vibol Chan, Kathyrn Bowen, Steven Iddings, Kol Hero and Piseth Raingsey (http://bit.ly/29EWWXw)
  • Emergency Response to and Preparedness for Extreme Weather Events and Environmental Changes in China, by Li Wang, Yongfeng Liao, Linsheng Yang, Hairong Li, Bixiong Ye, and Wuyi Wang (http://bit.ly/29UhBI7)

Featured Image: Rescue vehicles address Cypress Creek flooding near Houston, Texas, April 19, 2016 (Photo by muypronto) Creative Commons license via Flickr

IUCN Conservation Congress: Planet at the Crossroads

HumpbacksBy Sunny Lewis

HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “The IUCN Congress will set the course for using nature-based solutions to help move millions out of poverty, creating a more sustainable economy and restoring a healthier relationship with our planet,” said World Bank Group president Jim Kim, as the conference opened in Honolulu September 1.

 Based in Switzerland, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) holds a World Conservation Congress every four years. This year, over 8,300 delegates from 184 countries, including Heads of State of many Pacific Island nations, are in attendance at the Hawaii Convention Center.

 Key issues under discussion include: wildlife trafficking, ocean conservation, nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and private investment in conservation.

To address an estimated US$200-300 billion annual funding gap in conservation, civil society organizations, private and public sector financial institutions and academia joined forces Friday to launch the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation during the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The Coalition’s goal is to help preserve the world’s most important ecosystems by creating new opportunities for return-seeking private investment in conservation.

The Coalition includes Credit Suisse, The Nature Conservancy, Cornell University and the IUCN as the founding members. Participants plan to develop new investment models and funding pipelines that will help close the conservation funding gap and contribute to the global goals for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

We already bring a wealth of experience into this Coalition,” says Lynn Scarlett, managing director of public policy for The Nature Conservancy. “At the Conservancy, we have already facilitated six impact investment deals totaling $200 million dollars in marine conservation and agriculture, and this new coalition should help us bridge our largest challenge, which is a lack of investment projects in the pipeline. We’ll know we’ve reached success when the big banks have enough projects as options that they can pick and choose where conservation investment will have the most significant impact.

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Members of the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation, launched at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 2, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

 This week, IUCN Congress delegates, meeting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, will vote on a motion to increase marine protected area coverage for effective marine biodiversity conservation.

 Not far from where they are meeting, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument covering the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was expanded last week by President Barack Obama to create the world’s largest marine reserve.

On Midway Atoll, scene of a WWII battle that was a turning point in the war, Obama designated the newly protected area, calling it, spectacular as an ecosystem.

 “And our ability to not just designate, but build on, this incredible natural beauty, which is home to 7,000 marine species that sees millions of birds, many of them endangered, sea turtles, the Hawaiian monk seal, black coral – all sorts of species that in many other places we no longer see – for us to be able to extend that 550,000 miles in the way that we’ve done ensures not only that the Midway Atoll is protected, but that the entire ecosystem will continue to generate this kind of biodiversity.”

Obama said it is “critically important for us to examine the effects that climate change are taking here in the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water.

He pointed out that some Pacific island countries are now at risk and may have to move as a consequence of climate change. “There are enormous effects of the human presence in the ocean that creatures are having to adapt to and, in some cases, cannot adapt to.

Anote Tong, former president of the Republic of Kiribati, the world’s lowest-lying island nation, confirmed that his people may become climate refugees, saying, “You worry about the polar bears; so do we. But nobody is worried about us, because we will lose our homes too with the melting ice and the rising sea level.

 From microorganisms to whales, ocean warming is affecting many species and its effects are cascading through ecosystems, as outlined in a new IUCN report released in Honolulu.

The report, “Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences,” reviews the effects of ocean warming on species, ecosystems and on the benefits oceans provide to humans. Compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries, it highlights detectable scientific evidence of impacts on marine life, from microorganisms to mammals, which are likely to increase even if greenhouse gas emissions are kept low.

From the poles to the tropics, plankton, jellyfish, turtle, fish and seabird species are on the move, shifting by up to 10 degrees of latitude to find cooler habitats, while some breeding grounds for turtles and seabirds disappear,” says the IUCN.

In response, the IUCN Congress passed a motion that recognizes the important role of marine and coastal ecosystems in climate change, as natural carbon sinks; recognizes the role that marine protected areas play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation, and preserves marine ecosystems from climate change “by promoting the establishment of a coherent, resilient and efficiently managed networks of protected marine areas…

 Another motion to be voted on this week at IUCN Congress deals with advancing conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity on the high seas, which account for two-thirds of the world’s oceans.

A motion to achieve representative systems of protected areas in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean also will come up for a vote.

The Congress is also expected to decide on motions dealing with regional approaches to tackling the global problem of marine litter, and on the protection of marine and coastal habitats from mining waste.

But as important as ocean conservation has become, Congress delegates are spending most of their time grappling with the toughest land-based conservation issues.

 A total of 85 motions  have been put to the electronic vote by the IUCN Membership, who adopted all 85 motions, some with amendments.

Delegates Sunday considered guidelines on climate change best practices, the place of the law in the future of conservation, how to manage transboundary ecosystems through experiences in “hydro-diplomacy” and governance of shared waters, and ways of transforming Africa’s development through Chinese investments.

Our planet is most certainly at a crossroads,” declared IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng at the opening ceremony on Thursday.

The path we take as a global community, and how we choose to walk down that path in the next few years, will define humanity’s opportunities for generations to come. These decisions will also affect the boundaries of those opportunities,” said Zhang. “As we all know, there are limits to what our Earth can provide, and it is up to us to make the decisions today that will ensure those resources are still here tomorrow.

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released at the conference, indicates that many of the world’s gorillas may not be here tomorrow.

The Eastern lowland gorilla, called Grauer’s gorilla, Gorilla beringei graueri, is newly listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting for bushmeat, which is taking place around villages and mining camps established by armed groups deep in the forests in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gorillas are divided into two species, Eastern and Western, each with two subspecies. Both species and all four subspecies of gorilla are now listed as Critically Endangered.

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Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN, left, and Hawaii Governor David Ige, at the World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, September 1, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

To see the Eastern gorilla, one of our closest cousins, slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general.

We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating,” said Andersen. “Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet.

The IUCN’s Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra, Equus quagga, due to illegal hunting.

The once widespread and abundant Plains Zebra has moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened. The population has reduced by 24 percent in the past 14 years from around 660,000 to a current estimate of just over 500,000 animals.

Three species of duiker, a small African antelope, also have been moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened.

Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction,” says Carlo Rondinini, coordinator of the mammal assessment at Sapienza University of Rome “We have now reassessed nearly half of all mammals. While there are some successes to celebrate, this new data must act as a beacon to guide the conservation of those species which continue to be under threat.

The IUCN Red List update holds some good news for the Giant Panda and the Tibetan Antelope, demonstrating that conservation action can deliver positive results.

Previously listed as Endangered, the Giant Panda is now listed as Vulnerable, as its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation.

The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective. Still, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and as a result, the panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades.

Due to successful conservation actions, the Tibetan Antelope has been moved from a listing as Endangered to Near Threatened.

The Tibetan Antelope population crashed from around one million to an estimated 65,000-72,500 in the 1980s and early ’90s as a result of commercial poaching for their underfur, called shahtoosh, used to make shawls. Rigorous protection has been enforced since then, and the population is now likely to be between 100,000 and 150,000.

The IUCN warns of the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species.

Invasive species such as pigs, goats, rats, slugs, and non-native plants are destroying the native plants of Hawaii. The latest results show that of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed so far for the IUCN Red List – out of about 1,093 plant species endemic to Hawaii – 87 percent are threatened with extinction.

Perhaps the biggest jolt to the Congress occurred late last week when the Great Elephant Census was released showing that numbers of African savanna elephants have dropped 30 percent – 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014.

The census is the result of a two-year-long study, the centerpiece of which was an aerial survey, the first in 40 years, that covered nearly 345,000 square miles over 18 countries. Pilots and census crews followed strict protocols to ensure they gathered consistent data.

The census was a collaboration between billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, his organization, Vulcan, and Elephants Without Borders, African Parks, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy, the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group and Save the Elephants, as well as a long list of conservation officials in the countries surveyed.

Even with this new hoard of data and examples of effective conservation practices across Africa, saving the elephants remains a challenge of continental dimensions,” said Allen. “Poverty and corruption still remain very serious problems in countries that are home to the worst killing grounds, and these factors continue to drive a thriving international ivory market – along with similarly voracious demand for horns from endangered rhinos.

As you’ve been reading this, poachers likely killed another African elephant for its tusks – an atrocity that takes place, on average, every 15 minutes,” said Allen.

A few hopeful signs emerged from the Great Elephant Census. Relative success stories include Botswana, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and the complex of parks spanning the border of Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin.

Allen says that in countries where poaching is still rampant, such as Tanzania and Mozambique, “...the survey’s alarming results have spurred officials to strengthen protections for their surviving elephants, and to crack down on the criminal networks that are driving the slaughter. Only time will tell, though, if they can arrest both the poachers and ivory smugglers and reverse the sharp decline of their elephant populations.”


 Header image : Humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean, July 21, 2014 (Photo by Sylke Rohrlach) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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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.

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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.


Today Is Earth Overshoot Day 2016

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Fishing for herring off the southern coast of British Columbia, Canada, March 2011 (Photo by Terra Canadensis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 GENEVA, Switzerland, August 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Earth Overshoot Day this year falls on August 8.  Today, humanity’s demands on nature this year exceed what the Earth can regenerate before year’s end calculates the international sustainability think tank Global Footprint Network , the international conservation group WWF and more than 30 other partners.

In 1961, the first year for which consistent data sets are available, the planet was able to supply 37 percent more resources and services than humanity demanded. Since then, the global ecological deficit has widened each year.

The 2016 edition of the National Footprint Accounts, compiled by the Global Footprint Network, shows that the world population demands 64 percent more ecological resources and services than nature can renew this year, through overfishing, deforestation and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester and oceans can absorb.

When the first Earth Overshoot Day was calculated in 1987, it fell on December 19. In the year 2000, it was October 21 and every year the date comes earlier. In 2014 it was August 19, in 2015 it fell on August 13.

We are ever deepening our understanding of how crucial nature’s services are to our own well-being, prosperity and happiness, and to our very survival,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini on Earth Overshoot Day 2015.

We must continue to shift from being irresponsible exploiters to being careful stewards of nature’s values and good managers of her essential, finite resources,” he said.

The consequences of overshoot include shrinking biodiversity, collapsed fisheries, eroded topsoil and climate change.

Overshoot also contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine and disease. It tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else.

Carbon emissions, produced by deforestation and the burning of coal, oil and gas, are the fastest growing contributor to ecological overshoot, with the carbon footprint now making up 60 percent of humanity’s demand on nature.

If we adhere to the goals set by the Paris climate Agreement adopted by 195 countries in December 2015, the carbon footprint must gradually fall to zero by 2050.

British economist and author Andrew Simms originated the concept of Earth Overshoot Day while working at the UK think tank New Economics Foundation. NEF’s policy director for over a decade, today, Simms is the chief analyst on the environment at the nonprofit environmental investigative organization Global Witness.

 Simms has defined Earth Overshoot Day as, “...an estimate of the moment in the year when humanity has consumed more natural resources and created more waste than our biosphere can replace and safely absorb over a 12-month period,” he wrote in an opinion piece published by “The Guardian” in August 2013.

We have chosen to ignore the idea of living within our means in the one arena, the ecological, where it is critical for our survival,” wrote Simms. “Conversely, politicians obsess about the idea of living within our means in the economic arena, where it is debilitating to society in practical terms, and theoretically flawed. Obliviousness to ecological debt is characteristic of an economic system in which the interests of finance come first and which fails to recognize the environmental foundations of prosperity.

As a result,” Simms wrote, “money flows into things that maximize short-term financial returns, rather than optimizing overall value for the economy and society.”

The Global Footprint Network is working to change how the world manages its natural resources and responds to climate change by providing information about each country’s demand for resources and the supply of these resources.

Its annual National Footprint Accounts add together a country’s annual demand for the natural resources and ecological services the planet provides – fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, timber and carbon dioxide absorption. This demand, the Ecological Footprint, then can be compared to the supply of these goods and services provided by that country’s ecosystems, called biocapacity.

Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and CEO of the Global Footprint Network, gave a speech at the TEDx conference in San Francisco in December 2015, in which he said, “The problem now is that the higher the development of a country, the higher its ecological footprint is. At any rate, we also observe that at any level of development there is an overuse of Earth’s resources.

The National Footprint Accounts and biocapacity calculations are based on United Nations data sets, and use about 15,000 data points per country and year.

But the Global Footprint Network acknowledges, “...it is not possible to verify the precision and reliability of all of the underlying data, which may vary from country to country.” GFN estimates that absolute precision may be within 10 to 20 percent. The relative position of a country for one year compared to previous years within one edition is typically more robust.

Still, the data indicates that humanity’s demand on nature is at an unsustainable level. One year is no longer enough to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on the planet, even using conservative data sets that underestimate the gap between how much humans use compared to what nature can renew.

Canada, for instance, has the fourth highest ecological footprint per person, after only Luxembourg, Australia and the United States, and the 12th highest total ecological footprint.

If everyone on Earth lived as Canadians do, it would take 4.7 Earths to sustain global consumption. The carbon footprint makes up 61 percent of Canada’s overall ecological footprint. But Canada is so rich in resources that it takes only half the country’s resources to sustain the national population of 36.2 million.

David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada, said, “Canada is fortunate to still have an abundance of renewable natural riches, when much of the world no longer does. It’s vital that we take care of these resources now so they can continue to take care of us in the future.”

In Europe, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain have been registering a steady decline of their Ecological Footprint per capita since the mid-2000s.

By contrast, strong European economies like Germany and France have seen an increase of their Ecological Footprint per capita since the 2008 financial crisis.

Asian countries with rapid economic expansion, such as India, China, South Korea and Vietnam, are displaying a strong increase of their Ecological Footprint per capita in line with their rising standards of living.

Vietnam and Cambodia stand out among Asian countries for their successful efforts building up their biocapacity per person to support their growing Ecological Footprint, says the Global Footprint Network in its 2016 edition of the National Footprint Accounts.

The 2016 edition of the National Footprint Accounts includes 21 improvements over the 2015 edition, including some better data points.

The most influential improvement is the new calculation of the world’s Average Forest Carbon Sequestration, which is the long-term capacity for one hectare of world-average forest ecosystem to sequester the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Including new data sources and accounting for multiple forest categories, global wildfires, and forest ecosystem emissions from soil and harvested wood products, forests were found to provide less net sequestration of carbon than previously calculated.

The updated calculation has revealed that the global carbon footprint is 16 percent higher than previously calculated, with a consequent eight percent increase in the Global Ecological Footprint.


Featured image : Clearcut forest in Dave Busenbark County Park, Douglas County, Oregon. All old growth stumps between 300 and 500 years old. Oct. 24, 2015 (Photo by Francis Eatherington) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Achieving Urban Water Security

35720954 - manhattan downtown skyline with urban skyscrapers over river with reflections.

By 2050 it is projected that 60% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. Coupled with rapid population growth the world will have 41 mega-cities by 2030, each with more than 10 million inhabitants. At the same time global demand for water is projected to outstrip supply by 40% in 2030 and 55% in 2050.

As such numerous cities around the world are at risk of water insecurity – the inability of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate supplies of good quality water – as a result of climate change and the various impacts of urbanization.

The costs of increasing water supply

Traditionally, cities facing increased demand for water, along with variable supply, have relied on large-scale, supply-side infrastructural projects such as dams and reservoirs to meet increased demand for water. This is termed ‘supply-side’ management. However, supply-side management is costly in economic, environmental and political terms. Economically, water has to be transported over long distances increasing the costs of transportation. Additionally, the water is often of inferior quality and so requires additional treatment for potable consumption, increasing energy as well as chemical costs in water treatment plants. Environmentally, large-scale diversion of water disrupts the health of waterways that support aquatic ecosystems. Politically, because the vast majority of water is transboundary, ‘importing’ water creates political tensions with other water users, irrespective of whether they are located in the same country or not.

Balancing rising demand with limited supply

To reduce demand for scarce water, cities are turning to the use of demand management strategies to make better use of existing supplies before plans are made to further increase supply, where demand management is the promoting of water conservation during times of both normal conditions and uncertainty, through changes in the practices, cultures and people’s attitudes towards water resources. In addition to the numerous environmental benefits of preserving the health of ecosystems and their habitats, demand management is cost effective as it allows cities to better allocate scarce financial resources, which would otherwise be required to build expensive dams and water transfer infrastructure.

Achieving urban water security through demand management

Urban water security – the ability of an urban population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate supplies of good quality water – can be increased through demand management that aims to: reduce loss and misuse; optimize water use by ensuring reasonable allocation between various users while taking into account downstream users, both human and natural; facilitate major financial and infrastructural savings for cities; and reduce stress on water resources by reducing unsustainable consumption levels.

Types of demand management instruments

There are two types of demand management instruments available to cities to achieve urban water security: economic and regulatory instruments and communication and information instruments. Economic and regulatory instruments include: the pricing of water to lower consumption levels; subsidies and rebates for the uptake of water-efficient technologies; retrofitting of new or existing developments with water meters and water efficient devices; and product labeling of household appliances’ water efficiency. Communication and information instruments include public education on the need to conserve water including public events and social media campaigns that raise awareness on the need to use water wisely as well as school curriculum that raises awareness of the hydrological cycle at a young age.

Conclusion

With rapid urbanization and climate change impacting urban water security around the world, cities can use a variety of demand management instruments to change people’s attitudes and behavior towards scarce water resources. By balancing rising demand with limited supplies, cities not only reduce their water footprint but also make significant financial savings that can be put towards more productive uses.


Robert_Brears_Profile_Pic_optRobert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley). He is the founder of Mitidaption, Mark and Focus, is Director on the International Board of the Indo Global Chamber of Commerce (IGCCIA), Industries and Agriculture, and a Visiting Fellow (non-resident) at the Center for Conflict Studies at MIIS, Monterey, USA.

India, World Bank Empower Sunshine Nations

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India One, a 1 megawatt solar thermal power plant in Rajasthan, India is due for completion in 2016. It uses 770 newly developed 60m2 parabolic dishes and features thermal storage for continuous operation. The plant will generate enough heat and power for a campus of 25,000 people and is a milestone for clean power generation in India. (Photo by Brahma Kumaris) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW DELHI, India, July 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Solar power prospects are brightening with a new global focus on renewable energy to avert climate change. A burst of financial power was added at the end of June as the World Bank Group signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) – 121 countries led by sunny India – with the goal of mobilizing US$1 trillion in investments by 2030.

 The ISA was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on November 30, 2015 by Prime Minister Modi and French President Francois Hollande. Most of the sunshine countries lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and China. The United States and European Union also are involved.

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, meets with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi before attending the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

On a two-day trip to New Delhi at the end of June, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim established the Bank as a financial partner for the ISA and pledged to collaborate on expanding the use of solar energy in India.

After meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, World Bank Group chief Kim said with a smile, “One of the reasons that I always appreciate my meetings with the Prime Minister is that he always pushes us to move faster and faster – to keep pace with him. We promised that we would do so, and in particular talked about supporting his government’s pace on expanding renewable energy sources.

The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of adequate climate change financing for countries like India which are “consciously choosing to follow an environmentally sustainable path.

India’s plans to virtually triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 will both transform the country’s energy supply and have far-reaching global implications in the fight against climate change,” the banker said.

The International Energy Agency calculates that India is set to contribute more than any other country to the projected rise in global energy demand. Steep rises in power production and consumption are expected to accompany India’s economic growth.

 “Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments,” said Kim. “The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy.”

Kim said he envisions the ISA as using its global development network, global knowledge and financing capacity to promote the use of solar energy throughout the world.

 India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy identified the initial joint projects to actualize the new agreement as:

  • Developing a roadmap to mobilize financing.
  • Developing financing instruments including credit enhancement, reduce hedging. costs/currency risk, bond raising in locally denominated currencies etc. which support solar energy development and deployment.
  • Supporting ISA’s plans for solar energy through technical assistance and knowledge transfer.
  • Working on mobilization of concessional financing through existing or, if needed, new trust funds.
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Solar panels on the rooftop of the Reserve Bank of India in Jaipur. (Photo by Kirti Solar Limited) Posted for media use by India PRwire

In addition, India will receive a loan of more than US$1 billion dollars to support expanding solar power through investments in solar generation.

 Projects now under development include solar rooftop technology, infrastructure for solar parks, bringing innovative solar and hybrid technologies to market, and transmission lines for sun-rich Indian states.

As part of our $1 billion dollar solar commitment to India, today we signed an agreement with the Government of India for a $625 million dollar grid connected rooftop solar program,” said Kim.

The project will finance installation of at least 400 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations.

These investments for India will together become the Bank’s largest financing of solar projects for any country in the world. The banker said. “India has become a global leader in implementing the promises made in Paris for COP21 and the global efforts to tackle climate change.”

 India’s pledge to the Paris summit offered to bring 40 percent of its electricity generation capacity, not actual production, from non-fossil sources – renewable, large hydro, and nuclear – by the year 2030.

India has capacity of 4GW and the Modi Government has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022.

In January, Modi and Hollande jointly laid the foundation stone of the International Solar Alliance headquarters and inaugurated the interim Secretariat of the ISA in National Institute of Solar Energy in Gwal Pahari in the Gurgaon District of Haryana state in northern India.

At that ceremony, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) each announced a contribution of US$1 million to the ISA.

Prime Minister Modi has described the ISA as “the sunrise of new hope, not just for clean energy but for villages and homes still in darkness, for mornings and evening filled with a clear view of the glory of the Sun.


 Featured image: Solar Panels | by Jeremy Levine Design flickr.com

In Search of a Water-Wise World

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The drought in Somalia has lasted for years. This image of two men carrying a water can on a dusty road was shot on December 14, 2013. (Photo by the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ENSCHEDE, Netherlands, July 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Rukiyo Ahmed, 26, discovered she was pregnant just as drought began to parch her village in the East African country of Somalia. Her household lost all its livestock. When the drought intensified, Ahmed and her family had to seek relief with extended family members living in the town of Dangoroyo, 35 kilometres away.

“I was so worried that I would have a miscarriage due to the effects of the drought,” said Rukiyo. “We had so little to eat. I became very weak and could barely walk.”

This story has a happy ending. With the help of the UN Population Fund , Ahmed eventually gave birth to a healthy boy.

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China fights the advancing desert by planting trees in Inner Mongolia, May 2010. (Photo by Cory M. Grenier) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Still, water scarcity is a real and present danger for the two-thirds of the global population – four billion people – who live without enough water for at least one month of each year. Half a billion face severe water scarcity all year round, many in China, India and Africa.

Professor of water management Arjen Hoekstra and his team at University of Twente in The Netherlands have come to this conclusion after years of extensive research in a study published in the journal “Science Advances“.

“Groundwater levels are falling, lakes are drying up, less water is flowing in rivers, and water supplies for industry and farmers are threatened,” Hoekstra warns.

Until now, scientists had thought that about two to three billion people were suffering severe water scarcity. Four billion thirsty people is “alarming,” he said.

Professor Hoekstra’s team is the world’s first research group to establish the maximum sustainable “water footprint” for every location on Earth, and then investigate actual water consumption by location.

“Up to now, this type of research concentrated solely on the scarcity of water on an annual basis, and had only been carried out in the largest river basins,” says Hoekstra.

Severe water scarcity exists if consumption is much greater than the water supply can sustain. That is the case particularly in Mexico, the western United States, northern and southern Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, India, China, and Australia.

There, households, industries and farmers regularly experience water shortages. In other areas, water supplies are still fine but at risk in the long-term, the Dutch team reports.

In the United States, 130 million of the country’s 323 million people are affected by water scarcity for at least one month of each year, most in the states of California, Florida and Texas.

Hoekstra observes that the subject of water scarcity is climbing higher and higher on the global agenda. “The fact that the scarcity of water is being regarded as a global problem is confirmed by our research,” he said. “For some time now, the World Economic Forum has placed the world water crisis in the top three of global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.”

“All over the world,” Hoekstra said, “it is clear that the risks associated with high water consumption are being increasingly recognized. The growing world population, changes in consumer behavior, and climate change are having a significant impact on the scarcity and quality of water.”

Hoekstra’s work is confirmed by many other authoritative research teams.

About one-third of Earth’s largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, according to two new studies from the University of California, Irvine, the first to identify global groundwater loses using data from space. The data is drawn from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites flown by the U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA).

This means that millions of people are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out, conclude the researchers, whose findings were published June 16 in “Water Resources Research.”

In the first paper, researchers found that 13 of the planet’s 37 largest aquifers studied between 2003 and 2013 were being depleted while receiving little to no recharge. In a companion paper, they conclude that the total remaining volume of the world’s usable groundwater is poorly known, with estimates that often vary widely.

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California fruit growers, farmers and ranchers are suffering through an epic drought, Coalinga, California, April 23, 2015 (Photo by ATOMIC Hot Links) Creative Commons license via Flickr

“Available physical and chemical measurements are simply insufficient,” said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Given how quickly we are consuming the world’s groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left.”

“The water table is dropping all over the world,” said Famiglietti. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”

A NASA study released in March finds that the drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region of: Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, is likely the worst drought of the past 900 years.

In a joint statement, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said late last year, “El Niño will have a devastating effect on southern Africa’s harvests and food security in 2016. The current rainfall season has so far been the driest in the last 35 years.”

El Niño conditions, which arise from a natural warming of Pacific Ocean waters, lead to droughts, floods and more frequent cyclones across the world every few years.

Meteorologists say this year’s El Niño is the worst in 35 years and is now peaking. Although it is expected to decline in strength over the next six months, El Niño’s effects on farming, health and livelihoods in developing countries could last through 2018.

In Central America, El Niño conditions have led to a second consecutive year of drought – one of the region’s most severe in history,

In Africa, Abdoulaye Balde, the World Food Programme’s country director in Mozambique issued a dire warning. “Mozambique and southern African countries face a disaster if the rains do not come within a few weeks,” he said.

“South Africa is six million tonnes short of food this year, but it is the usual provider of food reserves in the region,” said Balde. “If they have to import six million tonnes for themselves, there will be little left for other countries. The price of food will rise dramatically.”

Zimbabwe declared a national food emergency this month, according to the WFP rep in the capital, Harare. Food production is just half of what it was last year, and the staple grain, maize, is 53 percent more expensive.

Water scarcity remedies range from simple conservation and efficiency, to tree planting and wastewater re-use, to highly technical and expensive facilities such as nuclear desalination plants as advocated by the International Atomic Energy Agency  that would turn seawater into freshwater.

Finding sustainable solutions to water scarcity will be the focus of the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, held this year from August 28 to September 2. Hosted and organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), this year’s theme is Water for Sustainable Growth.

Water experts, technicians, decision makers, business innovators and young professionals from more than 100 countries are expected in Stockholm to network, exchange ideas and foster innovations that could help satisfy the urgent needs of four billion people for water.

One such innovation is the world’s first certified green bond. It was just issued by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) under the Water Climate Bonds Standard, whose criteria was co-developed by SIWI and the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation.

The Water Climate Bonds Standard is a screening tool for investors that specifies the criteria that must be met for bonds to be labeled as “green” or earmarked for funding water-related, resilient, and low-carbon initiatives.

Proceeds from the SFPUC’s $240m Wastewater Revenue Bond  will fund projects in sustainable stormwater and wastewater management.


Featured image: California fruit growers, farmers and ranchers are suffering through an epic drought, Coalinga, California, April 23, 2015 (Photo by ATOMIC Hot Links) Creative Commons license via Flickr

World Environment Day Goes Wild for Life

WorldEnvironmentDayPosterBy Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, June 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The environmental concerns of the 1970s – industrial pollution of air and water, oil spills, toxic dumps, pesticides, loss of wilderness and biodiversity – inspired people to set aside two distinct days each year for activities aimed at saving the planet.

In 1970, environmental activists in the United States celebrated Planet Earth on April 22 and dubbed it Earth Day. Now, Earth Day motivates millions to take action in countries throughout the world, not just on April 22 but for weeks both before and after that date.

 Then, in 1972, the United Nations General Assembly adopted June 5 as World Environment Day with the goal of encouraging everyone to prevent the growing strain on the planet’s natural systems from reaching the breaking point.

On June 5, 1974 the UN held the first World Environment Day in the city of Spokane, in the U.S. state of Washington at Expo ’74, the first environmentally themed world’s fair.

Forty-two years later, the two separate days of environmental action reached harmony this year on April 22, Earth Day, at UN Headquarters in New York as the leaders of 175 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement negotiated in December.

The event broke the record for number of countries to sign a UN pact in a single day. The Paris agreement moves the world toward what EU Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič told fellow signatories is “a fundamental and ground-breaking transition to a low-carbon economy and society.”

World Environment Day 2016 also has been dramatic. Hosted by the West African country of Angola, this year’s theme “Go Wild for Life,” is dedicated to conserving wildlife and stamping out the illicit wildlife trade.

The 2016 theme highlights the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife, which erodes precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers, as well as many other species.

Angola is seeking to restore its elephant herds, conserve Africa’s biodiverse wildlife, and safeguard the environment as it rebuilds after more than a quarter-century of a civil war that ended just 14 years ago.

“Angola is delighted to host World Environment Day, which will focus on an issue close to our hearts,” said Angolan Environment Minister Maria de Fatima Jardim.

“The illegal wildlife trade, particularly the trade in ivory and rhino horn, is a major problem across our continent,” she said. “By hosting this day of celebration and awareness-raising, we aim to send a clear message that such practices will soon be eradicated.”

The government of Angola recently launched several initiatives to enhance conservation and strengthen environmental law enforcement

To demonstrate its commitment to curb elephant poaching, Angola last year submitted a National Ivory Action Plan as part of its membership of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This international agreement is designed to prevent trade in wild animals and plants from threatening their survival.

Angola’s plan includes stiff penalties for poaching and ivory trafficking and stronger policing, including more training for wildlife rangers and the posting of a wildlife crime unit to the international airport in the capital, Luanda.

In March, Angolan officials presented a draft law banning the sale of ivory, a move that would end the open sale of ivory artefacts at Luanda’s bustling Benfica market.

It is unclear how many elephants remain in Angola, but those that do are facing pressure from poachers seeking to profit from ivory sales and poor communities who rely on bushmeat to survive.

The nation is also a transit country for ivory, with carved goods coming over the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo for re-sale, largely to Asian nations.

The troubles facing Angola are part of a wider global problem. A new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-INTERPOL report, released on June 4, found that transnational criminal networks are making up to $258 billion per year from environmental crimes, including the illegal trade in wildlife – a 26 percent increase over previous estimates.

In response to its problem, Angola is introducing tougher penalties for poaching, shutting down its domestic illegal markets, and looking to provide alternative livelihoods for those at the bottom of the illegal wildlife trade chain. They are also training former combatants to become wildlife rangers.

“We have a big push to manage protected areas and create others for the benefit of our people,” said Abias Huongo, director of Angola’s National Institute of Biodiversity. “For us to survive, other species need to survive. Together with the tourism ministry, we are exploring the potential of ecotourism to address the economic deficit with biodiversity.”

In Cuando-Cubango, a key region for biodiversity, new lodges are opening. A collection of comfortable huts ranged along the leafy banks of a lazy river near Menongue, the Rio Cuebe lodge has been open for three years.

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UN Environment Programme head Achim Steiner argues the case for wildlife conservation on World Environment Day 2016. (Screengrab from video by UNEP) Posted for media use www.unep.org

Regional ministers and biodiversity experts packed the Rio Cuebe for a conference as part of World Environment Day celebrations, but most of the time it sits half empty. When guests come, they are usually expats working in the country.

But UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner believes this situation is about to begin changing.

 “Angola has, over many years, relied on its fossil-fuel economy, whereas the last year has shown that kind of dependence can be a risk,” he said. “So, as Angola is managing the fall-out from the drop in oil prices it is looking at diversifying. This is where the notion of the green economy becomes relevant.

Cuando-Cubango is a region that could provide an enormous opportunity for investment in terms of tourism,” said Steiner, “a unique area where in 20 years’ time the world will be paying thousands of dollars for an overnight stay.”

Angolans are also discussing the establishment of several vast trans-frontier conservation areas. One would cover the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in Botswana, and another incorporates Namibia’s wild Skeleton Coast.

Whatever can be done to conserve biodiversity everywhere in the world, it must be done quickly, says Bradnee Chambers, the executive secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

“Vulture populations in Africa are collapsing. One reason is that farmers lace carcasses with poison bait with the intention of killing predators such as lions or hyenas that take their livestock; vultures are the unintended victims. But more recently poachers have been trying to kill vultures by contaminating dead elephants slaughtered for their ivory, because by circling over the scene of the crime the birds reveal where the poachers are,” explains Chambers.

“There is a real risk that Africa will lose not only its iconic elephants but also some of its most important birds of prey, which play a critical role in human health as nature’s garbage disposers,” he said.

Wildlife crime also occurs at sea. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is tackling pirate fisheries through the new Port State Measures Agreement, which entered into force on June 5 on World Environment Day.

The new agreement among 29 countries and the European Union prevents vessels from selling their illicit catch and facilitates inspections by port authorities.

 Illegal fisheries not only take millions of tonnes of fish each year but are also responsible for by-catch, a driver in the decline of species such as the vaquita, a Critically Endangered marine mammal in the Gulf of California, and the harbor porpoise in the Baltic Sea.

Each UN agency has a different way of marking World Environment Day. UNESCO and Wiki Loves Earth have partnered to create Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves, a competition to create photographs free for everyone to use and to enrich Wikipedia. 10 winning images will be shared on the UNESCO website and social media and will be entered into the Wiki Loves Earth international competition. Wiki Loves Earth competitions around the world have created over 180,000 images of protected natural sites.

“On this World Environment Day,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “I urge people and governments everywhere to overcome indifference, combat greed and act to preserve our natural heritage for the benefit of this and future generations.”


Main Image: Kingsley Mamabolo, an official with the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, plants a tree during World Environment Day ceremonies held at the Mission’s headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur, June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mohamad Almahady, UNAMID) Posted for media use

Featured Image: Elaborately dressed, with faces painted white, Angolan girls dance to celebrate World Environment Day, June 5, 2016 (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use www.unep.org

Extinction Stalks Meat-Eating Carnivores

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Polar bears on thin ice near the North Pole, June 30, 2015 (Photo by Christopher Michel) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

HELSINKI, Finland, June 7, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The African lion faces extinction by the year 2050, wildlife experts project, at risk due to indiscriminate killing in defense of human life and livestock, habitat loss, and prey base depletion from poaching and illicit trade.

While the number of tigers living in the wild this year increased by a few hundred to 3,890 animals, the first uptick in the global wild tiger population in 100 years, there are still more tigers in captivity in the USA alone than tigers surviving in the wild. Tigers face the same threats as lions, with the added threat of poaching for the Asian medicinal trade.

The most carnivorous species of bear, polar bears are newly threatened by pollutants and by the increase in resource exploration and development, ice-breaking and shipping in the Arctic, along with loss of sea ice brought on by the warming climate.

Other carnivores – jaguars, leopards, lynx, cheetahs, foxes, wolves, wolverines, civets, hyenas, mongooses, weasels – are also vanishing.

“It is well documented that we are facing the world’s sixth great extinction. And there is no doubt that this extinction event is caused by human activity across the globe,” says Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace, and IUCN Patron of Nature. “For many endangered species, the impacts of climate change, such as increases in extreme weather patterns and irregular seasonal changes, conversion of habitat, pollution, disease and trafficking, are just a few of the threats that impact their survival.”

While the decline of all animal species is of concern to Dr. Goodall, a new study confirms that the global conservation of carnivores is at greatest risk.

Published in the journal “Scientific Reports – Global priorities for national carnivore conservation under land use change,” the study models future global land conversion and estimates this will lead to range loss and conflict with local people in regions critical for the survival of these threatened apex predators.

The study, organized by researchers from the University of Helsinki in collaboration with an international team of conservation and land use change scientists, concludes that immediate action is needed.

Lead author Dr. Enrico Di Minin of University of Helsinki explains, “We assessed how expected land use change will affect priority areas for carnivore conservation in the future. The analysis revealed that carnivores will suffer considerable range losses in the future. Worryingly, it seems that the most important areas for carnivore conservation are located in areas where human-carnivore conflicts are likely to be most severe.”

Di Minin said, “Presently, South American, African, and South East Asian countries, as well as India, were found to contribute mostly to carnivore conservation. While some of the most charismatic species, such as the tiger and giant panda were found to be at high risk under future land use change, smaller, less charismatic species, with small ranges were found to be equally threatened by habitat loss.”

Lions once ranged from Northern Africa through Southwest Asia, where it disappeared from most countries within the last 150 years, west into Europe, where it became extinct almost 2,000 years ago, and east into India.

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Wild tiger and photographers in India’s Ranthambore National Park (Photo courtesy Girish Arora)

Tigers once lived across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the past 100 years tigers have disappeared from southwest and central Asia, from two Indonesian islands, Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia. Tigers inhabit less than six percent of their historic range, with a 42 percent decline since 2006.

Dr. Luke Hunter, president and chief conservation officer of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and a co-author of the paper, said, “Carnivores like big cats have been squeezed out of their ranges at alarming rates for decades now, and we can now see that habitat loss and its shock waves on wildlife are only on the rise.”

Hunter says part of the answer to the carnivore extinction crisis is money. “In order to protect our planet’s landscape guardians, a far greater financial investment from the international community is needed for range-wide conservation approaches, both within and outside of protected areas where carnivores roam,” he said.

Co-author Professor Rob Slotow from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa says another crucial part of the equation is reducing conflict with humans outside of protected areas.

“Most priorities for carnivore conservation are in areas in the global south where human populations are increasing in size, agriculture is intensifying, and human development needs are the highest,” Slotow said. “There is need to implement conservation strategies that promote tolerance for carnivores outside protected areas and focus on the benefits that people derive from these species.”

Carnivores include some of the most iconic species that help generate funding for biodiversity conservation and deliver important benefits to humans. Conservationists argue that protecting carnivores will conserve many other bird, amphibian, reptile and mammal species that live in priority areas for carnivore conservation.

To prevent the sixth mass extinction, humans need to understand the threats to biodiversity, where they occur and how quickly change is happening. We need reliable and accessible data, but a separate study published in the journal “Science” shows we are lacking key information on important threats to biodiversity, such as invasive species, logging, bush meat harvesting, and illegal wildlife trade.

Over the past two years a consortium of 18 organizations, including: the University of Helsinki, UNEP-WCMC, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Luc Hoffmann Institute, a research hub at WWF International, and BirdLife International, compiled global data on biodiversity threats.

They reviewed nearly 300 data sets and marked them on five attributes required for conservation assessments. Datasets should be freely available, up to date, repeated, at appropriate spatial resolution, and validated for accuracy. Only five percent of the datasets satisfied all five attributes.

“We were surprised that so few datasets met all of the five attributes we believe are required for a gold standard of data,” says Lucas Joppa, who leads environmental research at Microsoft and was lead author on the data study. “We live in the age of Big Data, but are effectively flying blind when it comes to understanding what is threatening biodiversity around the world.”

One thing is for certain, the value of environmental crime today is 26 percent larger than previous estimates, having grown to US$91-258 billion today compared to US$70-213 billion in 2014, according to a rapid response report published June 4 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the international police force INTERPOL.

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Lionskin rug covers a floor at Werribee Mansion near Melbourne, Australia, 2010 (Photo by Rexness) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The Rise of Environmental Crime,” released ahead of World Environment Day, June 5, finds that weak laws and poorly funded security forces have been unable to prevent international criminal networks and armed rebels from profiting from a trade that fuels conflicts, devastates ecosystems and is threatening carnivores and other species with extinction.

“Environmental crime is growing at an alarming pace,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “The complexity of this type of criminality requires a multi-sector response underpinned by collaboration across borders. Through its global policing capabilities, INTERPOL is resolutely committed to working with its [190] member countries to combat the organized crime networks active in environmental crime.”

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner is grateful for the police support, saying, “The rise of environmental crime across the world is deeply troubling. The vast sums of money generated from these despicable crimes are fueling insecurity and keeping highly sophisticated international criminal gangs in business. It is essential the world acts now to combat this growing menace before it is too late.”


 

 

 

2050 Climate Adaptation Costs: $500B a Year

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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

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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 

Germany Joins Asian Bank for Climate Action

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By Sunny Lewis                                                                         Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

FRANKFURT, Germany, May 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The Government of Germany and the Asian Development Bank Monday announced their intention to launch an Asia Climate Finance Facility (ACliFF) in 2017. The announcement came on the first day of the ADB’s 49th Annual Meeting, the first ever held in Germany, the bank’s biggest European shareholder.

The facility will leverage public and private sector investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation in support of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, reached last December and now signed by more than 175 countries.

The facility will help developing countries in Asia and the Pacific region through new and innovative co-financing measures, including guarantees and climate risk insurance, which support country-led implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as for investment in resilience.

In their “Frankfurt Declaration,” the bank and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development agreed to join forces for progress on climate action and technical and vocational education and training for the economic empowerment of women.

Officials said this effort is in the spirit of the women’s economic empowerment initiative launched by Germany during the German G7 presidency last year. Based in Manila, ADB is one of the largest multilateral donors for vocational training in developing Asia. Among the activities planned for the coming year is a joint regional vocational training conference.

As part of the annual meeting, the bank and CNBC presented best transaction awards for 2015 to two companies – Credo LLC, a microfinance organization based in the Republic of Georgia received the award for Best Financial Sector Transaction, and Mountain Hazelnuts, an agribusiness based in Bhutan, was recognized for the Best Corporate Finance Transaction.

The two were honored with the inaugural ADB Private Sector-CNBC Awards for their “impactful private sector solutions to key development challenges.”

“These awards demonstrate the critical role of the private sector in spurring economic transformation, job creation, and innovation across Asia,” said PSOD Deputy Director General Mike Barrow.

“The private sector is a core provider of solutions to the most urgent development challenges facing Asia and the Pacific,” said Barrow. “Today’s award winners are exemplars of how the private sector can be at the forefront of inclusive growth.”

Chair of the Board of Governors Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann, and Goethe University's Prof. Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz plant a tree on the campus of the Goethe University of Frankfurt, April 30, 2016. (Photo courtesy ADB)

Chair of the Board of Governors Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann, and Goethe University’s Prof. Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz plant a tree on the campus of the Goethe University of Frankfurt, April 30, 2016. (Photo courtesy ADB)

Majority owned by Access Microfinance Holding, Credo works to expand banking services for small businesses and farming households and improve delivery of financial services to underserved regions. ADB signed an agreement with Credo for a four-year $23 million loan in 2015 and a technical assistance grant of $300,000 to support its efforts in developing full retail services and expanding its operational systems as it transitions to becoming a bank.

Mountain Hazelnuts is developing an inclusive and environmentally sustainable hazelnut value chain in Bhutan. With assistance from ADB, Mountain Hazelnuts is training thousands of farmers, including women, to use farm practices that will help minimize crop losses from climate change. ADB approved $3 million in equity in 2015 and is also providing $1.5 million in technical assistance for the company.

The winners were chosen by an independent panel of five judges selected from ADB’s Independent Evaluation Department and Office of the General Counsel, as well as Credit Suisse and Commerzbank. Only transactions signed in 2015 were eligible. The judges assessed the transactions on: innovation, impact, scalability, and value addition from ADB and the financial institution or company.

The Asian Development Bank is leaving a gift for Germany – the first “Green Reading Room” at a German university.

The 67 delegates of the ADB member states jointly planted the trees for the Green Reading Room on the premises of the Goethe University of Frankfurt on April 30. The trees will eventually form a green construction that can be used as a reading room by roughly 50 students.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao said, “Sustainability is critical for all economies in Asia and in the rest of the world. The Green Reading Room will serve as a reminder of the importance of environmental sustainability for this and future generations.”

“The Green Reading Room sends out a clear message to young people, as it encourages them to help limit global warming through their own behavior,” said Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development and German Governor of the ADB.

“The Paris climate summit made very clear what many of us knew already: much more needs to be done to bind CO2,” said Fuchtel. “With the Green Reading Room, we are planting ideas for the future, quite literally.”

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development plans to use the Green Reading Room as a regular venue for presentations to young scientists about latest developments in the areas of climate change and energy use.

Said Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt, Peter Feldmann, “For this symbolic act there is no better place than Frankfurt. Because in this green city, dynamics and sustainability as well as the belief in progress and prosperity go in line with taking care of our environment.”


 

Featured image: From left: Chair of the Board of Governors Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, ADB President Takehiko Nakao, Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann, and Goethe University’s Prof. Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz plant a tree on the campus of the Goethe University of Frankfurt, April 30, 2016. (Photo courtesy ADB)

Carbon Pricing Gathers Momentum

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@Maximpactdotcom

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “There is a growing sense of inevitability about putting a price on carbon pollution,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on the eve of the April 22 signing ceremony at UN Headquarters of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Kim joined government and corporate leaders in issuing a set of fast-moving goals – to expand carbon pricing to cover 25 percent of global emissions by 2020, and achieve 50 percent coverage within the next decade.

“In order to deliver on the promises of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, a price on carbon pollution will be essential to help cut emissions and drive investments into innovation and cleaner technologies,” said Kim.

“Prices for producing renewable energy are falling fast, and putting a price on carbon has the potential to make them even cheaper than fuels that pollute our planet,” he said.

Currently, some 40 governments and 23 cities, states and regions put a price on carbon emissions, accounting for 12 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a three-fold increase over the past decade.

The latest call for action comes from members of the Carbon Pricing Panel, including: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, together with World Bank Group President Kim, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, California Governor Jerry Brown, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the Spring Meeting, Washington, DC, April 16, 2016. (Photo courtesy World Bank Group) Creative Commons via Flickr

The Vision Statement accompanying their announcement defines three steps to widen, deepen and promote global cooperation on carbon pricing.

First, the number of countries and businesses that participate in a carbon pricing system needs to increase.

Second, prices need to be significant enough to account for pollution as an operating cost, and incentives for investments in low carbon solutions need to be established.

And third, better links between the various regional and national pricing systems already in place need to be set up.

There are two main types of carbon pricing – emissions trading systems and carbon taxes.

An emissions trading system, such as the EU’s pioneering system established in 2005, is sometimes called a cap-and-trade system. It caps the total level of greenhouse gas emissions and allows those industries with low emissions to sell their extra allowances to larger emitters, establishing a market price for greenhouse gas emissions.

The cap helps ensure that the required emission reductions will take place to keep all emitters within their pre-allocated carbon budget.

A carbon tax directly sets a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or on the carbon content of fossil fuels. It is different from an ETS – the emission reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not pre-defined but the carbon price is.

Other forms of pricing carbon emissions can occur through fuel taxes, the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and regulations that incorporate a “social cost of carbon.”

Greenhouse gas emissions also can be priced through payments for emission reductions. Private entities or sovereigns can purchase emission reductions to compensate for their own emissions (so-called offsets) or to support mitigation activities through results-based finance.

In any case, say the carbon pricing leaders, carbon emissions must be priced so that pollution becomes an operating cost.

Speaking at this month’s high level meeting of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, the IMF’s Lagarde emphasized the value of cutting emissions.

“If the top 20 emitters in the world were to impose carbon charges that reflect only their domestic and environmental benefits, this would already reduce global emissions by over 10 percent,” she explained.

The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition is a global initiative that includes more than 20 national and state governments, more than 90 businesses, and civil society organizations and international agencies, aims at garnering public-private support for carbon pricing around the world.

As 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement at United Nations Headquarters on April 22, Earth Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the next critical step is to ensure that the landmark accord for global action on climate change enters into force as soon as possible.

“Today is an historic day,” Ban told reporters after the signing event. “This is by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.”

Ban said the participation by so many countries and the attendance by so many world leaders leaves “no doubt” that the international community is determined to take climate action. He also welcomed the strong presence of the private sector and civil society, saying they are “crucial to realizing the great promise of the Paris Agreement.”

Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at a conference known as COP21 last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.

“If all the countries that have signed today take the next step at the national level and join the Agreement, the world will have met the requirement needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force,” Ban said, congratulating the 15 governments that have already deposited their instruments for ratification.

Ban has said, “We must put a price on pollution and provide incentives to accelerate low carbon pathways. Market prices, market indices, and investment portfolios can no longer continue to ignore the growing cost of unsustainable production and consumption behaviors on the health of our planet.”

At the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group earlier this month in Washington, DC, Kim said more action is needed on carbon pricing to help halt global warming and spur more investments into clean technologies.

“The current situation won’t put us on a pathway to limiting global warning. We need greater ambition, and greater leadership,” he said.

Globally, momentum for putting a price on carbon emissions is growing. At least 90 countries included mention of carbon pricing in their national plans, called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), prepared for the Paris climate conference.

In addition, more than 450 companies around the world report using a voluntary, internal price on carbon in their business plans and more plan to follow suit in the next two years.

The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing plans has nearly doubled since 2012, amounting to a total value of US$50 billion.


 

Main image:  A steel works emits carbon dioxide at Teesside, England. (Photo by Ian Britton) Creative Commons license at Freefoto.com

 

One Billion Take Part in Earth Day 2016

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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

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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’

EarthHour2015Karachi

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.

DasSid

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.

LeonardLou

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.

 

Food Supplies At Risk as Pollinators Vanish

ButterfliesThistlesBy Sunny Lewis

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Apples, mangoes and almonds are delicious, pollinator-dependent foods, but these dietary staples are at risk because bees and other pollinators worldwide are disappearing, driven toward extinction by the pressures of living with humans.

The holes they are leaving in the fabric of life threaten millions of human livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of human food supplies, finds the first global assessment of pollinators, published Friday.

Conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the two-year study highlights ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

Based in Germany, IPBES was founded four years ago with 124 member nations to develop the intersection between international scientific understanding and public policymaking.

The organization’s first biodiversity assessment, “Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production” was compiled by a team of 77 experts from all over the world. It underwent two rounds of peer review involving experts and governments.

The final assessment was presented at IPBES’ 4th Plenary meeting, which took place February 22-28 in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the government of Malaysia.

With citations from some 3,000 scientific papers, it is the first such assessment based not only on scientific knowledge but also on indigenous and local knowledge. Information about indigenous and local practices comes from more than 60 locations around the world.

“Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security. Their health is directly linked to our own well-being,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz Fonseca, PhD, co-chair of the IPBES assessment and a senior professor at University of São Paulo in Brazil.

The study finds that more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops are pollinated by insects and other animals. Nearly 90 percent of all wild flowering plants depend on animal pollination, the study notes.

Each year, at least US$235 billion and up to US$577 billion worth of global food production relies on the actions of these pollinators.

BeeAppleTree

Honey bee in the apple tree, Ontario, Canada, 2007 (Photo by Mike Bowler) creative commons license via Flickr

There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees, plus other species: butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals, that pollinate the foods we love best.

Crop yields depend on both wild and managed species, the researchers found.

Pollinated crops are fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils – important sources of vitamins and minerals for human health and well being.

Chocolate, for example, comes from the seeds of the cacao tree. Two distinct kinds of midges are essential for the pollination of cacao trees, the study notes. No midges, no money. The annual value of the world’s cocoa bean crop is roughly US$5.7 billion.

“Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives,” said Simon Potts, PhD, the other assessment co-chair and professor of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK.

Historically, bees have inspired art, music, religion and technology. Sacred passages about bees occur in all major world religions.

Food crops are not the only kind that need pollinators – there are the biofuels, such as canola and palm oils; fibers like cotton; medicines, livestock forage and construction materials. Some bee species make prime quality beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts.

But pollinators are disappearing. The study team estimated that 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction, a number that increases to 30 percent for island species, with a trend toward more extinctions.

Global assessments are still lacking, but regional and national assessments show high levels of threat, especially for bees and butterflies. Often more than 40 percent of invertebrate species are threatened locally.

“Wild pollinators in certain regions, especially bees and butterflies, are being threatened by a variety of factors,” said IPBES Vice Chair Sir Robert Watson.

“Their decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change,” said Watson, a British atmospheric chemist who has served as a chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPBES study confirms declines in regional wild pollinators for North Western Europe and North America.

Local cases of decline have been documented in other parts of the world, but data are too sparse to draw broad conclusions.

José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said, “Enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

The assessment found that pesticides, including the notorious neonicotinoid insecticides outlawed in some countries, threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown.

Pests and diseases pose a special threat to managed bees, but the risk can be reduced through better disease detection and management, and regulations on the trade and movement of bees.

The effects of genetically modified crops on pollinators are poorly understood and not usually accounted for in risk assessments.

The decline of practices based on indigenous and local knowledge is a factor too. The traditional farming systems; maintenance of diverse landscapes and gardens; kinship relationships that protect specific pollinators; and cultures and languages that are connected to pollinators are all important in safeguarding the tiny creatures.

“The good news is that a number of steps can be taken to reduce the risks to pollinators, including practices based on indigenous and local knowledge,” said Zakri Abdul Hamid, elected founding chair of IPBES at its first plenary meeting in 2012.

So, one solution is supporting traditional practices that manage habitat patchiness, crop rotation, and coproduction between science and indigenous local knowledge, the study finds.

Safeguards include the promotion of sustainable agriculture, which helps diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production.

Achim Steiner, executive director, UN Environmental Programme, thinks humans have to take this situation seriously, saying, “The growing threat to pollinators, which play an important role in food security, provides another compelling example of how connected people are to our environment, and how deeply entwined our fate is with that of the natural 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.

Main Image: In Lorton, Virginia, the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area’s pollinator garden attracts butterfly species like these Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio Glaucus. (Photo by Jennifer Stratton, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, BLM Eastern States) public domain
Featured Image: Red-belted Bumble Bee, Bombus rufocinctus, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 2014 (Photo by Dan Mullen) creative commons license via Flickr

Fossil Fuels: To Invest or Divest – That Is the Question

GlobalMapHottest2015

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2016 (ENS) – The year 2015 was Earth’s hottest by widest margin on record, and in December 2015 the temperature was the highest for any month in the 136-year record, according to scientists with the U.S. space agency, NASA, and the U.S. oceanic and atmospheric agency NOAA.

Those who blame the burning of coal, oil and gas for this unprecedented warming are urging investors to pull their money out of fossil fuel companies and urging fossil fuel companies to reconsider their business activities.

This week, a group of investors led by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the Church of England demanded that ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, disclose the climate resilience of its business model.

The group of investors, including co-filers the Vermont State Employees’ Retirement System, the University of California Retirement Plan and The Brainerd Foundation, represents nearly $300 billion in assets under management and more than $1 billion in Exxon shares.

Their demand follows the Paris Agreement on climate change reached by 195 nations in December.

“The unprecedented Paris agreement to rein in global warming may significantly affect Exxon’s operations,” said DiNapoli, who is Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third largest public pension fund in the United States, with $184.5 billion in assets under management as of March 31, 2015.

The Fund holds and invests the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System on behalf of more than one million state and local government employees and retirees and their beneficiaries. The Fund has a diversified portfolio of public and private equities, fixed income, real estate and alternative instruments.

“As shareholders, we want to know that Exxon is doing what is needed to prepare for a future with lower carbon emissions,” said DiNapoli. “The future success of the company, and its investors, requires Exxon to assess how it will perform as the world changes.”

The Church of England’s investment fund, the Church Commissioners, manages a fund of some £6.7 billion, held in a diversified portfolio including equities, real estate and alternative investment strategies.

“Climate change presents major challenges to corporate governance, sustainability and ultimately profitability at ExxonMobil,” said Edward Mason, the Head of Responsible Investment for the Church of England’s investment fund.

“As responsible investors we are committed to supporting the transition to a low carbon economy,” said Mason. “We need more transparency and reporting from ExxonMobil to be able to assess how they are responding to the risks and opportunities presented by the low carbon transition.”

ExxonMobil says “Society faces a dual energy challenge: We need to expand energy supplies to support economic growth and improve living standards, and we must do so in a way that is environmentally responsible.”

The oil and gas giant says it is relying on developing new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We believe that carbon emissions will plateau and start to decrease starting around 2030 as energy efficiency spreads and as various carbon-reduction policies are enacted around the world,” ExxonMobil says in a position statement on its website.

“ExxonMobil leads in one of the most important next-generation technologies: carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). CCS is the process by which carbon dioxide gas that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere is separated, compressed and injected into underground geologic formations for permanent storage.

In addition, ExxonMobil says it continues to fund and conduct research on advanced biofuels. “This work is part of our many investments in new technologies with the transformative potential to increase energy supplies, reduce emissions, and improve operational efficiencies.”

Across Europe, the year 2015 was the second hottest on record, with mean annual temperatures just above the 2007 average and below the record set in 2014, according to an analysis by one of the World Meteorological Organization’s regional climate centers. Much of eastern Europe was exceptionally warm, with temperatures higher than in 2014.

The negative climate trend is expected to continue for at least the coming five decades, says WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, who took office at the start of the year. He predicted a growing number of weather-related disasters and a continuing increase in sea level rise.

In the first global effort to avert the worst impacts of climate change, under the Paris Climate Agreement world leaders committed to holding the rise in global temperatures well below two degrees Celsius and to seek to restrict warming to 1.5 degrees.

The shareholder proposal filed by Comptroller DiNapoli and the Church of England’s investment fund asks ExxonMobil to publish an assessment of how its portfolio would be affected by a two degree target through, and beyond, 2040.

Specifically, the assessment should include an analysis of the impacts of a two-degree scenario on the company’s oil and gas reserves and resources, assuming a reduction in demand resulting from carbon restrictions.

Exxon’s peers, Shell and BP, have already agreed to disclose how they will be impacted by efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions in response to similar shareholder proposals co-filed in 2015 by the Church of England and other investors and endorsed by the boards of both companies.

More recently, 10 global oil and gas companies, including Shell and BP, announced their support for lowering greenhouse gas emissions to help meet the 2 degree goal.

In addition, the global movement seeking to encourage investor divestment of fossil fuel stocks is gathering strength, says Brett Fleishman of the global climate action group Fossil Free, a project of the nonprofit 350.org.

“If it is wrong to wreck the climate, it is wrong to profit from that wreckage,” declares Fossil Free.

Fleishman cites a recent report (CISL_Report) by the University of Cambridge that details the material risk of climate change to investment portfolios. The report found that, “Short-term shifts in market sentiment induced by awareness of future climate risks could lead to economic shocks and losses of up to 45 percent in an equity investment portfolio value.”

The University of Cambridge report was not alone. The growing risk to the economy and investment funds because of climate change has been reported by the financial giants of the world – HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Standard and Poor’s, CitiBank and The Bank of England, among others.

The dire forecasts are already affecting investors. California’s pensions systems lost more than $5 billion on their fossil fuel holdings last year. The Massachusetts state pension fund lost $521 million in value from their fossil fuel stocks over the past year, a 28 percent decline.

Those major losses are advancing the divestment dialogue this year.

“While each [Fossil Free divestment] campaign is independently run and may bring different emphases and asks depending on their local context,” says Fleishman, the majority of campaigns are asking institutions to “immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, and divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years.”

AfricanCatholics

African Catholic groups associated with 350.org have called on Pope Francis to support the divestment movement.

In a December letter to the Pope they wrote, “Because of the grave threat of climate change and the fossil fuel sector’s unyielding refusal to change, it is no longer right for religious groups to profit from investments in such companies. We appeal for your support for the global divestment movement from the fossil fuel industry and to call for a just transition towards a world powered by 100 percent renewable energy.”

They felt that Pope Francis acknowledged their concerns in his speech to the United Nations Environmental Programme in Nairobi, where he stated that the Paris climate conference, “represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content.”

Now, 350 Africa intends to broaden its sphere of influence to include divestment activists of all faiths, saying in December, “We need to change the idea that the climate change crisis is to only be tackled by environmental organizations. The recent resolution of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa to explore withdrawing their investments from companies that exploit fossil fuels, is an example of how faith groups can do their part in the climate movement through divestment.”


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.

Header image: 2015 was the warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, finds a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The record-breaking year continues a long-term warming trend – 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have now occurred since 2001. (Image: Scientific Visualization Studio courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) public domain
Featured image: New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, April 2015 (Photo courtesy New York State Comptroller) Public Domain via Flickr
Image 01: African Catholics advocate for divestment from fossil fuel companies, December 2015, Nairobi, Kenya (Photo courtesy Go Fossil Free.org)

Hydricity: Zero Emission 24/7 Solar-Water Power

SolarConcentrators

By Sunny Lewis

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, January 12, 2016 (ENS) – American and Swiss researchers are proposing a new integrated “hydricity” concept – the synergistic coproduction of solar thermal power and hydrogen. The cycle generates electricity from the sun and also produces and stores hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power generation whether the sun is shining or not.

The scientists view this proposal as one route to a sustainable economy with abundant electricity generated 24/7 without emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The hydricity proposal is currently at the stage of a simulated computer model, with the researchers moving in the direction of lab experiments.

Once real-world tests begin, hydricity would use specially-designed solar concentrators to focus sunlight.

This can “superheat” water, heating it far beyond its boiling point to produce high-temperature steam. The steam can run turbines to generate electricity and also can be used to operate solar reactors that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen thus produced can then be stored to superheat water to run the steam turbines overnight when the solar cells aren’t active, generating more electricity.

Or it could be used for other applications, such as fuel for fuel cell cars.

However used, clean-burning hydrogen produces no planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, just water vapor.

When the proposed integrated process is operated in a standalone power production mode, the resulting solar water power cycle can generate electricity with unprecedented efficiencies of 40 to 46 percent.

When sunlight is unavailable, the researchers envision that the stored hydrogen would be used in a turbine-based hydrogen water power (H2WP) cycle with the calculated hydrogen-to-electricity efficiency of 65-70 percent, a figure comparable to fuel cell efficiencies.

Agarwal_Rakesh

“The proposed hydricity concept represents a potential breakthrough solution for continuous and efficient power generation,” explained Professor Rakesh Agrawal at Purdue University’s School of Chemical Engineering.

Agrawal is a co-author of the new research paper, “Hydricity: A Sunshine Route to Sustainability,” which was published in December in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” (PNAS)

“Traditionally electricity production and hydrogen production have been studied in isolation,” said Agrawal, “and what we have done is synergistically integrate these processes while also improving them.”

“The concept provides an exciting opportunity to envision and create a sustainable economy to meet all the human needs, including food, chemicals, transportation, heating and electricity,” he said.]

Hydricity, a fusion of hydrogen and electricity, is a word coined by the late, great Canadian geophysicist and businessman Geoffrey Ballard, founder of the fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems.

Recognized world-wide as the father of the fuel cell industry, Ballard was named a “Hero for the Planet” by “Time” magazine in 1999.

“It will take a combined effort of academia, government, and industry to bring about the change from a gasoline economy to a hydrogen economy,” Ballard told the World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC) one year. “The forces are building and progress is being made. It is of major importance that a change of this magnitude not be forced on unwilling participants, but that all of us work together for an economically viable path to change.”

To Ballard and to the study’s co-author Professor Mohit Tawarmalani at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, the two processes complement one another to overcome the weakness of sunlight’s intermittancy.

“In the round-the-clock process we produce hydrogen and electricity during daylight, store hydrogen and oxygen, and then when solar energy is not available we use hydrogen to produce electricity using a turbine-based hydrogen-power cycle,” explained Tawarmalani.

“Because we could operate around the clock, the steam turbines run continuously and shutdowns and restarts are not required,” he said. “Our combined process is more efficient than the standalone process that produces electricity and the one that produces and stores hydrogen.”

The hydricity research paper was authored by Purdue chemical engineering doctoral student Emre Gençer; former chemical engineering graduate student Dharik Mallapragada; and Francois Marechal, a professor and chemical process engineer from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland; as well as professors Tawarmalani and Agrawal.

Gençer compared the efficiency of the hydricity process in generating and storing power to that of solar cells.

“The overall sun-to-electricity efficiency of the hydricity process, averaged over a 24-hour cycle, is shown to approach 35 percent, which is nearly the efficiency attained by using the best photovoltaic cells along with batteries,” said Gençer.

“Our proposed process stores energy thermo-chemically more efficiently than conventional energy-storage systems,” he said.

“The coproduced hydrogen has alternate uses in the transportation-chemical-petrochemical industries,” said Gençer, “and unlike batteries, the stored energy does not discharge over time and the storage medium does not degrade with repeated uses.”

Agrawal says that the hydrogen, once separated out of the water, can be combined with carbon from agricultural biomass to produce fuel, fertilizer and other products.

“If you can borrow carbon from sustainably available biomass you can produce anything: electricity, chemicals, heating, food and fuel,” Agrawal said.

Their research was published the week of December 14, 2015 in the online early edition of the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Read more in Emre Gençer et al., “Round-the-clock power supply and a sustainable economy via synergistic integration of solar thermal power and hydrogen processes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (14 December 2015) (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1513488112)

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the DOE‘s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels at Purdue’s Discovery Park and through a Solar Economy project led by Agrawal under the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Education and Research Traineeship Program.


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: Professor Rakesh Agrawal, right, at work with former Purdue chemical engineering graduate student Dharik Mallapragada (Photo courtesy Purdue University) www.purdue.edu
Head image: Solar concentrators at the Solar Energy Generating Systems facility in northern San Bernardino County, California.

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.

CementKilnCalifornia


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)

Climate Polluters Collaborate on Nuclear Fusion

ITERComplete

by Sunny Lewis,

PARIS, France, December 17, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The breakthrough Paris Climate Agreement approved December 12 commits all countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

Now, the world is focused on finding clean sources of energy to replace the coal, oil and gas that, when burned to generate electricity, emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

All the countries that top the greenhouse gas emissions list are among those cooperating on a long-term energy project that some say is also a long shot – nuclear fusion.

The opposite of the nuclear fission that splits atoms to power all current nuclear generating stations, fusion is the process that powers the Sun and the stars.

When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, abundant and environmentally responsible energy source.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, which in Latin means the way, is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today. Like the Paris Climate Agreement, ITER is also a first-of-a-kind global collaboration.

In Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in the south of France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest Tokamak. This magnetic fusion device is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.

ITERconstruction

Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985.

The seven ITER Members – China, the European Union (plus Switzerland, as a member of EURATOM), India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States – are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.

ITER is financed by the seven Members. Ninety percent of contributions will be delivered “in-kind.” That means that in the place of cash, the Members will deliver components and buildings directly to the ITER Organization.

The ITER Organization estimates the cost of ITER construction for the seven Members at roughly €13 billion, if all the manufacturing were done in Europe.

But each Member State is producing its contributions in its own country. “As production costs vary from Member to Member, it is impossible to furnish a more precise estimation,” says the ITER Organization.

Europe is contributing almost half of the costs of ITER construction, while the other six Members are contributing equally to fund the rest.

Organizers say the ITER project is “progressing well despite delays.”

On Monday, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics said they have reached a milestone in the quest to derive energy from nuclear fusion.

They started up one of the world’s largest nuclear fusion machines for the first time and briefly generated a super-heated helium plasma inside a vessel, a key point in the experimental process.

The 16-meter-wide machine is the Wendelstein 7-X, a type of nuclear fusion device called a stellarator. Scientists have been talking about the enormous potential of stellarators for decades, but this is the first time a team has shown that it can produce and control plasma.

The first plasma in the machine lasted one-tenth of a second and reached a temperature of around one million kelvins. “We’re very satisfied,” said Hans-Stephan Bosch, whose division is responsible for the operation of the Wendelstein 7-X. “Everything went according to plan.”

At its 17th Meeting, held on November 18-19, the ITER Council reviewed the progress made by the ITER Organization Central Team and the Members’ Domestic Agencies from the ITER design and early construction phase to the current phase of full construction.

The Council recognized the “tangible progress” made during the past eight months on construction and component manufacturing.

Onsite, in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, the European Domestic Agency has completed the framing of the Assembly Hall and the platform for the first level of the Tokamak. There has also been progress on magnets, the neutral beam injector, remote handling, and other ITER components.

India has completed the fabrication, pre-assembly, and shipment of the initial components of the ITER cryostat, for assembly in the already completed cryostat building onsite, as well as the first cooling water piping for ITER’s chilled water and heat rejection systems.

Four 400kV transformers procured from the United States have been shipped and installed onsite, and the U.S.-procured drain tanks for the cooling water and neutral beam systems have arrived onsite.

China has completed the manufacturing and testing of the first batch of pulsed power electrical network equipment. China also has reached qualification milestones in the manufacturing of magnet feeders, correction coils, and the blanket first wall.

Japan has started the series production of the toroidal field coils. Full-tungsten prototypes of plasma-facing components for the ITER divertor have been manufactured and shipped, and required performance for ITER has been demonstrated.

Russia has fully met its obligations for delivery of superconductor cable for ITER magnets. At Russia’s Divertor Test facility, high heat flux testing is also underway for divertor plasma-facing components from Japan, Europe, and Russia. Beryllium fabrication has begun, and the gyrotron complex prototype facility has passed its acceptance tests.

In Korea, manufacturing is ongoing for the ITER vacuum vessel and thermal shield, and design milestones have been achieved for many of the purpose-built tools ITER will need for assembly.

The Council noted the completion of superconductor production, which has been a coordinated effort involving laboratories and companies of ITER Members in 12 countries.

This complex process involves the multinational harmonization of design attributes, production standards, quality assurance measures, and testing protocols.

The Council recognized “the substantial benefit this will create for all ITER Members, positively impacting the capacity for cross-border trade and innovation, not only in energy industries but also in fields such as medical imaging and transportation applications.”

If ITER is successfully completed, it will be able to claim many firsts. ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time.

And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

MaxPlancktechniciann


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: Visualization of the completed ITER Tokamak courtesy of Jamison Daniel, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Lab, United States
Image 01: Construction is underway at the 42-hectare ITER site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in southern France, where building began in 2010.
Image 02: A technician at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics works inside the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator.

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

 

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)

Businesses Vow Action at Paris Climate Talks

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PARIS, France, December 10, 2015 (ENS) – Corporate actions on key climate issues such as carbon pricing, finance, responsible policy engagement and science-based emissions targets were announced on the 8th December at the Caring for Climate Business Forum, the official avenue for business at COP21 in Paris.

COP21 is shorthand for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At the Paris-Le Bourget conference hall, government negotiators toiled over the language of a legally-binding agreement that would require all nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This target was agreed at the 2009 COP in Copenhagen and made official at the 2010 COP in Cancun.

Meanwhile, during this parallel event, more than 450 CEOs from 65 countries across 30 sectors pledged to set emissions targets, report on progress and work with policymakers through the Caring for Climate initiative.

Participants from business, finance, government, civil society and the United Nations gathered for two days to advance the role of the private sector in combating climate change.

The UN Global Compact, UN Environment Programme and the UNFCCC Secretariat gathered the group under the banner of Caring for Climate, the world’s largest business coalition for climate change.

The event was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, France’s Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Ban credited the business sector for its work in the global effort to limit damaging climate change. “The collective momentum among the private sector for climate action is growing daily. More companies and investors are leading on climate action than at any time in history,” Ban said.

“But to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees we must go much further and faster,” said the UN leader. “We need 100 percent participation from the business community.”

On the issue of carbon pricing, he indicated that companies have been “instrumental” in ensuring that a price on carbon is recognized as a necessary and effective tool.

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, more than 1,000 companies now say that they have set an internal price or plan to do so in the future. This compares to 100 companies a year ago – a 10-fold increase.

“The private sector can help to fill the gap between what has been committed by governments through the INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions] and what is needed to reach a carbon neutral economy by mid-century,” said Lise Kingo, executive director of the UN Global Compact. “The momentum is unstoppable.”

“The new targets announced at COP21, if achieved, will generate an estimated annual emissions savings of 93.6 million metric tons CO2e or more than the annual carbon emissions of Peru,” Kingo said.

Launched in 2000, at the turn of the millenium, the UN Global Compact is a leadership platform for responsible corporate policies and practices. It is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world, with over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business signatories based in 170 countries.

“Our job coming out of Paris is to mobilize the great majority of companies that are not yet part of this movement,” Kingo said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the support of 154 U.S. companies for action on climate change through their commitment to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

“As you leave Paris, carry a clear message that how we do business today will determine if we do business in the future,” said Kerry. “In the end, it’s business – the choices you make and the products you make – that will make the difference.”

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CEOs offered commitments to climate solutions:

65 CEOs with a total market capitalization of US$1.9 trillion across 20 sectors have integrated carbon pricing into corporate long-term strategies and investment decisions. They pledged to set an internal carbon price, report publicly, and call for carbon markets through the Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing.

114 companies have committed to set up processes to internally audit all activities that influence climate policy; work to ensure that all of this activity is consistent; and communicate policy positions, actions and outcomes.

114 companies committed to align their emissions reductions targets with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C through the Science-Based Targets initiative.

79 chief executives, representing US$2.13 trillion in revenue, announced that their companies would reduce environmental and carbon footprints, set targets to reduce their emissions, and collaborate with supply chains and across sectors.

140 companies with a total market capitalization of over US$100 billion, and nearly 30 institutional investment firms with assets estimated at US$2.5 trillion, committed to producing climate change-related information in their mainstream reports.

39 French companies pledged to combat climate change, committing at least €45 billion over the next five years for investments and financing in renewable energies, energy efficiency and other technologies accelerating the transition to a clean energy, low carbon future.

Global capital market leaders met separately to discuss how stock exchanges, investors and regulators can support the global climate agenda. The gathering of CEOs began with a special opening bell ceremony December 7 at Euronext Paris dedicated to the success of COP21.

Euronext is one of 11 stock exchanges that showed their commitment to sustainable capital markets, and their support for the evolving climate agenda, by becoming a United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Partner Exchange.

The SSE initiative now has participation from 47 stock exchanges across five continents, including four out of the top five largest exchanges in the world.

Addressing the stock exchange CEOs at a luncheon, economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, encouraged them to act boldly on climate, and congratulated them for work already accomplished.

“Capital markets will be the main driver of the transformation,” said Professor Sachs, “and we will be on the right track when stock markets say ‘shame on you,’ punishing those who continue to add stranded assets to their portfolios.”

Many other corporations are promising action and pressing governments to forge a strong global climate pact.

Citing droughts, temperature shifts and other impacts that will make apparel production “more difficult and costly,” the CEOs of seven top global apparel companies December 3 called on government leaders to reach a strong climate change agreement in Paris that will stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions causing damaging global warming.

Top executives at Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., VF Corporation, H&M, Eileen Fisher, Adidas Group and Burton Snowboards wrote, “We come together … to acknowledge that climate change is harming the world in which we operate. … Therefore, we call on you to reach a global agreement that provides the certainty businesses need and ambition climate science demands.”

Food company CEOs such as the heads of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the Hain Celestial Group Inc., General Mills, Unilever, Kellogg and Hershey’s announced in October that they signed a joint letter to U.S. and world leaders urging a robust international climate agreement in Paris.

The letter cites the growing impacts of drought, flooding and hotter growing conditions on the world’s food supply.

“Combating climate change is not simply about the environment. Promoting clean energy and conserving natural resources today will help create the thriving companies and societies of tomorrow,” said Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo chairman and CEO.

Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, said, “As we face a resource-stressed world with growing global demands on food and water, we must seek solutions that drive mutual benefit for business, communities and nature. Companies who successfully balance social, environmental and economic values will be sustainably successful in the 21st century.”

Both the apparel and the food company statements were coordinated by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit mobilizing business leadership on global sustainability challenges.

Ceres President Mindy Lubber said, “Increasingly more companies, even long-standing competitors, are uniting at this pivotal moment to urge our political leaders to act swiftly and decisively on global warming.”

Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of more than 110 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $13 trillion.

Throughout the world, investors groups are paying close attention to the COP21 negotiations.

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, based in London, says an agreement on temperature target of 1.5 degrees is “within reach.”

Big emitters, including China, the United States, Canada, and the European Union, have expressed support for the principle of a 1.5 degree Celsius global temperature target.

While this tightening of the 2 degree Celsius target is a key demand from vulnerable developing countries, small island nations and environmental groups, it is opposed by many big developing countries, which argue it would limit their ability to develop modern economies.

UN Secretary-General Ban, who has criss-crossed the globe tirelessly for years to bring about an effective climate agreement, said today, “Across the world, businesses and investors are standing up for a strong agreement in Paris that sends the right market signals. They are asking for a clear message that the transition to cleaner, low emissions energy sources is necessary, inevitable, irreversible and beneficial.”


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: Human Energy à la Tour Eiffel à Paris by Yann Caradec (Photo courtesy Flickr)
Header image: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry open the Caring for Climate Business Forum, Paris, France, December 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy United Nations)
Image 01: Global capital market leaders gather in Paris to support UN climate talks. The stock market CEOs began their meeting with a special opening bell ceremony December 7 at Euronext Paris dedicated to the success of COP21. (Photo courtesy UN Environment Programme)

Cities Show Strong Climate Leadership in Paris

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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

Climate Crisis! Energy Efficiency to the Rescue

PARIS, France, November 30, 2015 (Maximpact News) – “Mobilising energy efficiency is an urgent priority,” says Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“To transition to the sustainable energy system of the future, we need to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is the most important “arrow in the quiver” to achieve this,” writes the Turkish economist and energy expert in the IEA’s new Market Report.

Encouragingly, the IEA report estimates that 40 percent of the emissions reductions required by 2050 to limit the global temperature increase to the world’s agreed target of less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could potentially come from energy efficiency.

“energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

The IEA’s 2015 Energy Efficiency Market Report shows how businesses, households and policy-makers generate the investments that drive the energy efficiency market and how this market impacts the world’s energy system.

As negotiations to achieve a universal climate protection agreement open today in Paris, Birol says “energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

Energy efficiency is a way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption. Something is more energy efficient if it delivers more services for the same energy input, or the same services for less energy input.

For example, when a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb uses one-third to one-fifth less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light, the CFL is considered to be more energy efficient.

The International Energy Agency is pursuing many strategies to improve energy efficiency both among its 29 member governments and with partner countries.

Per capita energy consumption in the IEA countries has dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s, yet income per capita has never been higher, according to the Market Report.

“The ongoing, steady improvement in energy efficiency over the past four decades has been one of the most pronounced and significant changes to the global energy system, yet its impacts go largely unnoticed,” writes Birol in his Foreword to the report.

“Per capita energy consumption in IEA countries has dropped to levels not seen since the 1980’s yet income per capita is at its highest level and access to energy services is continually expanding. This is why energy efficiency is so important. It is improving prosperity with a domestic, clean ‘source’ of energy,” he writes.

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The IEA Market Report states that energy efficiency investments over the last 25 years are the primary reason for this uncoupling of energy consumption from economic growth.

These investments have enabled consumers in IEA countries to spend US$5.7 trillion less on energy, while at the same time receiving higher levels of energy service.

The returns from energy efficiency investments have not been limited to financial gains. The report examines the strategic returns to consumers, industries, utilities and governments from improvements in energy productivity and energy security as well as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2014, the estimate of avoided total final consumption (TFC) from energy efficiency investments increased to over 520 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe).

The IEA reports that “the energy efficiency market is anticipated to grow in the medium term – even in the current context of lower oil prices,” if this market is supported by policies that deliver “strategic returns.”

Energy Efficiency Market Report 2015 highlights

  • The energy intensity of countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) improved by 2.3 percent in 2014. OECD energy consumption is now as low as it was in 2000, while GDP has expanded by US$8.5 trillion, an increase of 26 percent.

“This suggests that these countries have successfully decoupled economic growth from energy consumption growth, with energy efficiency being the main contributing factor,” the report states.

  • Energy security in IEA countries is improving with increased energy efficiency. In 2014 alone, at least 190 Mtoe of primary energy imports were avoided in IEA countries, saving US$80 billion in import bills.
  • Energy efficiency improvements in IEA countries since 1990 have avoided a cumulative 10.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, helping to make the 2 degree warming goal more achievable.
  • Investments worldwide in energy efficiency in buildings, which account for more than 30 percent of global energy demand, are estimated to be US$90 billion (+/- 10 percent) and are set to expand.
  • Electricity consumption in IEA countries has flattened partly as a result of energy efficiency improvements. In the face of flat electricity demand, many electricity utilities are diversifying into energy efficiency services businesses to increase profits.

National governments are increasing their energy efficiency.

For instance, in March, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order setting new targets for the U.S. Government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent from 2008 levels by 2025.

U.S. federal agencies have developed strategies to cut their emissions by reducing energy use in their buildings, making their vehicles more efficient, using clean energy sources like wind and solar, and employing energy savings performance contracts.

In the European Union, the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive establishes a set of binding measures to help the EU reach its 20 percent energy efficiency target by 2020. Under the Directive, all EU countries are required to use energy more efficiently at all stages of the energy chain from its production to its final consumption.

EU countries were required to transpose the Directive’s provisions into their national laws by June 5, 2014.

New national measures have to ensure major energy savings for consumers and industry alike. Energy distributors or retail energy sales companies have to achieve 1.5 percent energy savings per year through the implementation of energy efficiency measures. Large companies must audit their energy consumption to help them identify ways to reduce it.

The IEA reports that subnational governments such as cities and states are emerging as key actors in the efficiency market. The agency gives four examples:

In Paris, France actions taken by the city since 2008 under the Paris Climate and Energy Action Plan have resulted in the saving of about 130 gigawatt hours of power. The Plan stimulated investment of €640 million, creating 1,300 local jobs and 420 jobs elsewhere, according to the IEA report.

The U.S. state of Massachusetts invested US$680 million in energy efficiency programmes in 2013. The state estimates that its main efficiency programme, Mass Save, generated US$2.8 billion in benefits in 2013 through almost 3.3 million programme participants. This supported a state-level energy efficiency labor market of over 65,000 jobs.

Seoul, Korea’s “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” plan reduced municipal energy consumption by 2 Mtoe between 2012 and 2014. The plan promoted energy efficiency as a means to avoid the same volume of energy as could be supplied by a new nuclear plant. Energy efficiency efforts have leveraged over US$1 billion in private energy efficiency investment since 2008.

Tokyo, Japan has implemented transport policies that added 4.9 billion passenger-kilometres while reducing transport energy consumption by 35 percent. Investments in energy efficient public transport in tandem with dense residential and commercial developments have allowed the city to achieve some of the lowest energy intensities of buildings and transport in the OECD.

Developing countries too are making energy efficiency efforts. As fast-developing countries such as China and India grow, “their energy efficiency markets may have the most promise and greatest importance” for limiting climate change, finds the report.

“As this report describes, the breadth, scale and effect of the energy efficiency market is sizable but it is still only a start,” writes Birol. “We need more more investment, but also more political will and leadership at all levels to grow this market.”

“The potential is there, the benefits are ready to be realised, and the imperative to act is clear,” he writes. “Energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

International Energy Agency Member countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States


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: Compact fluorescent bulbs come in many colors (Photo by AZ Adam under creative commons license via flickr)

Slide images: A. ThermoLift, recipient of a grant from the U.S. Energy Department’s Buildings Technology Office, uses thermal energy from natural gas to heat and cool efficiently, reducing energy costs by up to 50 percent. (Photo by Matty Greene / U.S. Department of Energy) B. At the 2015 IEA Ministerial meeting Chair U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz picks out the next speaker, with IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and Deputy Executive Director Paul Simons to his left and US Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for the Office of International Affairs Jonathan Elkind to his right.

Image 01: IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan during their meeting in Tokyo, September 15, 2015. (Photo courtesy IEA via Flickr)

UK, China Collaborate on Low Carbon Cities

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, November 25, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Researchers from universities in China and the United Kingdom are putting their heads together to reduce carbon emissions from cities in both countries.

Four newly funded research projects aim to develop an overall understanding of current buildings, mobility and energy services to help urban planners lower climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while keeping residents comfortable and moving efficiently.

One new project is directed towards integrating low carbon vehicles, such as electric cars, into urban planning.

The other three will tackle existing buildings to provide energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Meeting the pressing carbon emission reduction targets expected to emerge from the upcoming Paris climate talks will require a major shift in the performance of buildings, say scientists in both countries.

The projects were announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK October 20-23.

The UK will spend over £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and China will contribute equivalent financial resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 [carbon dioxide] production and ensure energy security and affordability.

“The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies,” said Nelson.

Professor Che Chengwei, deputy director general of NSFC’s Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, said, “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy.”

“This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas,” said Che. “It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

BYDelectricTaxiLondonCaption: In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015

The four funded projects are:

  1. Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites to be researched at Newcastle University (NCL), Imperial College London, and Southeast University (SEU)

Low carbon vehicle fleets for personal mobility and freight could contribute to reducing the climate impact of urban transport and improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

But uncertainties remain on the demand for fleet services and effective fleet operations, especially for electric vehicles, where interaction with the power grid becomes a critical issue.

A range of new business models for the operation of urban freight and fleet services are emerging, enabled by new information and communications technologies.

This will provide an integrated planning and deployment strategy for multi-purpose low carbon fleets. It will devise operational business models for maximum economic viability and environmental effectiveness.

  1. City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing, to be researched at University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology

This project is focused on two cities – Xi’an, China and Portsmouth, UK, both known for their cultural heritage and their population density.

On the southern coast of England, Portsmouth, population 205,000, is the densest city in the UK. Landlocked Xi’an in central China has a population of 5.56 million.

Both cities have published ambitious plans for reducing city-wide carbon emissions but both have lots of aging buildings and infrastructure. The project focuses on the likely impact of building refurbishments on human wellbeing and on carbon emissions.

The researchers will gather real energy use information through sensor deployments and surveys of building residents to identify low disruption and scaled-up retrofit methods.

They will model neighborhood and district retrofits and systems integration, including building refurbishment, district energy and micro-generation to improve buildings for their users.

They are expected to identify smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and meet mobility needs while pursuing carbon reduction targets.

  1. The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK, to be researched by University College London (UCL)  and Tsinghua University

The potential unintended consequences of the inter-linked issues of energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) present a complex challenge that is gaining increasing importance in the UK and in China, these researchers say.

They will address the total performance of buildings to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions while safeguarding productivity and health.

This project will address the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ, the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilized.

An initial monitoring campaign in both countries will compare the same types of buildings in the two contexts and how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country.

Researchers will assemble a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps. They can then develop semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ under performance.

A second stream of work will address the unintended consequences of decarbonizing the built environment, research already taking place at the University College London.

  1. Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities, to be researched by the University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University

This project focuses on delivering economic and energy-efficient heating and cooling to city areas of different population densities and climates.

It confronts ways of offering greater winter and summer comfort within China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone while mitigating vast amounts of carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

It concentrates on recovering value from the existing building stock of some 3.4 billion square meters, where more than half a billion people live and work.

The cross-disciplinary team of engineers, building scientists, atmospheric scientists, architects and behavioral researchers in China and UK will measure real performance in new and existing buildings in Chinese cities.

They will investigate the use of passive and active systems within integrated design and re-engineering to improve living conditions and comfort levels in the buildings.

The researchers will compare their findings with existing UK research examining the current and future environmental conditions within the whole National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Estate in England to find practical economic opportunities for improvement while saving carbon at the rate required by ambitious NHS targets.

They will propose detailed practical and economic low and very low carbon options for re-engineering the dominant building types and test them in the current climate with its extreme events.

To ease China’s adaptation, recently published research “Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources” shows that China’s carbon emissions have been substantially over-estimated by international agencies for more than 10 years

From 2000-2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its cumulative emissions.

The findings suggest that overestimates of China’s emissions during this period may be larger than China’s estimated total forest sink – a natural carbon store – in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China’s land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

Published in August in the journal “Nature,” the revised estimates of China’s carbon emissions were produced by an international team of researchers, led by Harvard University, the University of East Anglia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, in collaboration with 15 other international research institutions.

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014.

Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, the first team established outside Europe by the UK Research Councils, this programme builds on five years of collaborative energy research funded jointly by China and the UK.

To date, RCUK China has provided over £160 million in co-funded programmes, supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries.


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: Buildings of all shapes and sizes enliven Shanghai, which is in China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone. (Photo by Mike Lutz under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide images: A. Climate-changing emissions cloud the air in the Chinese city of Xi’an, December 2013 (Photo by Edward Stojakovic under creative commons license via Flickr) B. The densely populated coastal English city of Portsmouth is under study by Chinese and British scientists as a potentially low carbon city. (Photo by Lawrie Cate under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01. In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015. (Photo by Mic V. under creative commons license via Flickr)

Building a Green Path Toward Sustainable Cities

HongKongThinBldgs

By Sunny Lewis

HONG KONG, China, November 6, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Green building is one of the best ways to combat climate change, since globally, “Buildings account for about a third of CO2 emissions, and these will continue to rise under a business-as-usual scenario,” Bruce Kerswill told delegates to the World Green Building Congress 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Kowloon East late last month.

In his role as chair of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), Kerswill said the Council is “galvanising the green building movement through a commitment to reduce 84 gigatonnes of C02 from the buildings sector by 2050.”

He explained that this effort is needed to limit global temperature rise to within 2°C above pre-industrial levels. World leaders agreed on this target as a matter of urgency at the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

At this year’s UN climate talks in Paris in December, where a universal, legally-binding deal to set emissions limits will be signed, the WorldGBC will hold the first-ever Buildings Day.

There, the WorldGBC will unveil the detailed commitments of Green Building Councils around the world to build green as a means of controlling global warming while creating social and economic benefits.

The Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC), and other green building councils around the world are determining their own targets ahead of the Paris talks, formally known as the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21.

At this year’s climate negotiations, there is a special focus on cities, writes Mark Ginsberg for the U.S. Green Building Council. “Many of us have long realized that cities are a logical place to address global issues. More people are living in cities than ever before in history, and urbanization is relentlessly growing. Cities consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and create more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. Cities have also been leaders in innovation and problem solving.”

In Hong Kong, to an audience of green building leaders from 30 countries attending the Congress, the HKGBC proudly announced a milestone. Over the past five years, more than 200 million square feet (19 million square metres) of Gross Floor Area has been registered under the environmental accreditation system BEAM Plus New Buildings and Existing Buildings.

BEAM, the Building Environmental Assessment Method, is the Hong Kong rating tool for green buildings. This voluntary private sector initiative conceived in 1996, has developed into an internationally recognized suite of rating tools for green buildings including new buildings, existing buildings and interiors for shops, offices, retail.

BEAM Plus includes the six aspects of a project: site aspects, energy use, indoor environmental quality, materials aspects, water use, and innovations and additions.

Cheung Hau-wai, vice chairman of the HKGBC and a member of the Construction Industry Council, commented, “This is a significant achievement accomplished by the collaboration between private and public sectors in Hong Kong.”

“With the growing awareness of the public about energy efficiency and the benefits that the BEAM Plus system can bring to the users, we expect to see continued support from the private sector and other stakeholders to build more green buildings that meet the BEAM Plus standards said Cheung. “It will enable us to make further contribution in energy saving and CO2 emission reduction.”

Looking ahead, HKGBC has set its Green Building Targets for the next five years to:

  • Certify at least 150 million square feet (14 million square meters) of gross floor area under BEAM Plus
  • Accredit at least 350 new BEAM practitioners a year, and work with BEAM Society Limited to provide at least 12,000 man hours of training per year to existing BEAM practitioners
  • Support the creation of a building energy consumption database through BEAM Plus and other systems

“Asia has enormous potential to contribute to green buildings development as countries like China and India are undergoing rapid urbanization,” said Terri Wills, chief executive of WorldGBC.

China is adding nearly two billion square meters of floor space each year while in India, two-thirds of the buildings which will exist in 2030 haven’t yet been built,” she said. “In both countries, and in the region, we have the opportunity to build better and greener buildings.”

The head of the Green Building Council Indonesia (GBCI) told the Hong Kong Congress delegates that 140 registered buildings are about to receive a green building certification.

GBCI Chair Naning Adiwoso said that until July 2015, only 14 Indonesian buildings had been certified as green. The demanding certification process usually takes six to 12 months, depending on the building’s design.

Naning advised building management and property developers to pay attention to environmental issues as buildings account for 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

IndonesiaPublicWorksBldg copy

There are currently eight new green buildings in Indonesia and five developing buildings that have already received a green certification from GBCI. And, 15 more buildings have claimed to be eco-friendly.

One building that has earned the green label is the main building of Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing. This building can save 43 percent of its former electricity usage, and also can save 61 percent of water in the dry season and 81 percent of water in the rainy season.

Kerswill said green building practices are here to stay. “WorldGBC, national Green Building Councils and member companies are deeply committed to mobilizing a global market transformation to advance the fundamental goals of achieving net zero carbon new building and deep refurbishment of existing stock by 2050.”


 

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: New buildings are often greener buildings in Hong Kong. (Photo by Philip McMaster courtesy McMaster Institute for Sustainable Development in Commerce under creative commons license via Flickr)
Main image: The Natural Resources Defense Council office building at 111 Sutter St. San Francisco, California. LEED Gold Certified, Energy Star Certified, this building is green because it has 14 green activities that achieved outcomes of energy efficient design, water use reduction, sustainable site selection and development and five more. (Photo by U.S. Green Building Council)
Image 01: The new Indonesian Ministry of Public Works office building in Jakarta incorporates a gubernatorial regulation on green building. It received a 2014 LaFarge Holcim Award for Sustainable Buildings at the International Awards for Sustainable Construction. (Photo courtesy LaFarge Holcim Foundation)

China Plans World’s Largest Carbon Market to Curb Climate Change

ChinaUSPressConf

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, October 7, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Within two years China will open a national market-based cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions from some of its largest industrial sectors, President Xi Jinping announced late last month during his visit to the United States.

Carbon emission levels will be capped and companies will have to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate-warming greenhouse gas.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the top oil importer after the United States and is struggling with a public health crisis caused by severe air pollution in its largest cities.

China’s new carbon emissions trading system will cover key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making and nonferrous metals.

The carbon market – similar to the European Union’s and also similar to two regional markets in the United States – is part of an effort to help China meet its climate targets and move toward energy supplies based on nuclear power plants and renewables.

President Xi said China will implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid.

ChinaSolar

In a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change issued on September 25, the two nations describe a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris this December. It is scheduled to take effect from 2020.

President Xi said, “We have decided to continue to work together to tackle global challenges and provide more public good for the international community. We, again, issued a joint announcement on climate change. We have agreed to expand bilateral practical cooperation, strengthen coordination in multilateral negotiation, and work together to push the Paris climate change conference to produce important progress.”

President Obama said, “When the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come together like this, then there’s no reason for other countries – whether developed or developing – to not do so as well. And so this is another major step towards the global agreement the world needs to reach in two months’ time.”

The Joint Statement builds on last November’s historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi of ambitious post-2020 climate targets.

In their Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed a concrete set of shared understandings for the Paris agreement. On mitigating the impact of climate change, they agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome.

First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. They agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition.

Second, the two presidents underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the goal that world leaders agreed at the UN’s 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels.

ChinaNuclear

Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

These announcements complement the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.

Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. Besides destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, HCFCs are greenhouse gases many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

China’s government has been planning to implement a carbon trading market for years.

The cap-and-trade system will expand on seven regional pilot carbon trade programs that China began in 2011.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and special envoy for climate change, has been working closely with China in providing technical support to the pilots.

“As China began to pilot through different ways of creating emissions trading systems or emissions reductions systems, we have, through what is called a partnership for market readiness, provided a mutual platform for techno-crafts from different economies in the world to share their experiences of introducing emissions trading systems so that we can all learn from each other,” she said in an interview with China’s state news agency Xinhua on September 30.

“An emissions trading system has existed in Europe for some time. Now we have an auction in California. We have pilots in China. We have a trading system in Korea. Some countries are putting carbon taxes in place,” Kyte said. “We provide a mutual technical platform to let these experiences be exchanged.”

“China is ready to learn from those pilots and move to a national system,” Kyte said, “This will immediately create the largest carbon market in the world. Other carbon markets in the world will want to link with China. This does put China in a leadership position in helping the global economy move to low-carbon growth.”

To ensure a successful carbon trading system, Kyte emphasized the importance of setting the right prices.

“The prices must be set in such a way that the prices reflect the ambition, that the emissions are reduced, that the poor people are treated fairly, that they are transparent and that they can be understood by the consumer,” she said.

China says it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions when its next five-year plan comes into force in 2016.


 

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: China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 01:Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama meet with the press after their talks in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 02: This parabolic solar-thermal power plant is adjacent to a large-scale wind farms in China’s north central Shanxi Province. It came online in 2011. (Photo courtesy Shanxi International Electricity Group Co Ltd.)
Image 03: The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is under construction in China’s Guangxi Province. Operated by China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd., it is expected to come online in 2016. (Photo courtesy China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd.)

Biggest Banks Back Strong Global Climate Deal

BankofAmericaTowerLight

Image: Bank of America Tower in the fog, New York City, May 2014 (Photo by David Phan creative commons license via Flickr)

 

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, October 2, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Six of the largest U.S. banks have called for a strong, legally-binding universal climate agreement to emerge from the United Nations Paris climate conference in December.

The big six – Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo – said in a joint statement released Monday, “While we may compete in the marketplace, we are aligned on the importance of policies to address the climate challenge.”

“Over the next 15 years, an estimated $90 trillion will need to be invested in urban infrastructure and energy,” the banks stated. “The right policy frameworks can help unlock the incremental public and private capital needed to ensure this infrastructure is sustainable and resilient.”

Matt Arnold, managing director and head of social and sustainable finance at JPMorgan Chase, said, “Significant investments in urban infrastructure and energy will need to be made over the next two decades.”

“Governments need to take the lead in sending clear and timely policy signals to ensure these investments support and enhance sustainable economic growth and development, which includes addressing climate change,” said Arnold.

From November 30 to December 11, France will be hosting and presiding over the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21).

COP21 will be a crucial conference. There, world leaders are expected to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping the increase in global warming below 2°Celsius as compared to pre-industrial times.

“We call for leadership and cooperation among governments for commitments leading to a strong global climate agreement,” the American banks stated jointly. “Policy frameworks that recognize the costs of carbon are among many important instruments needed to provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs.”

“Morgan Stanley believes that the capital markets can and must play a positive role scaling solutions to global challenges,” said Audrey Choi, managing director and CEO of the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing.

“The demand for financial tools that address climate change is strong and growing,” said Choi, “and we are committed to continued leadership across a range of climate-focused capital markets activity, including financing for clean-tech and renewable energy businesses, underwriting green bonds, and ensuring our wealth management clients have options to align their portfolios with their environmental goals.”

As the bank executives offered their views of a universal climate agreement to be signed in Paris and take effect in 2020, the word “opportunities” arose repeatedly.

“Climate change presents enormous challenges for global business, but addressing it also offers tremendous opportunities,” said Alex Liftman, global environmental executive at Bank of America.

Valerie Smith, director of Corporate Sustainability at Citi, said, “We are increasingly working with our clients across various sectors to not only manage and mitigate risks but also recognize opportunities associated with addressing climate change.”

“Businesses across the spectrum are evaluating the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate – and taking action,” said Mary Wenzel, head of Environmental Affairs at Wells Fargo.

The banks said they are committing “significant resources” toward financing climate solutions but that these resources are not sufficient to meet global climate challenges.

CrowleyPark

Image: Susan Crowley of Multilateral Consulting LLC, left, and Kyung-Ah Park of Goldman Sachs (Photo courtesy United Nations Association creative commons license via Flickr)

Kyung-Ah Park, head of the Environmental Markets division at Goldman Sachs, said, “One of the critical roles financial institutions play in helping to address climate change is to harness market mechanisms to mobilize much needed capital to facilitate the transition to a low carbon future and build greater physical resiliency. Governments can help markets by establishing a clear, stable policy framework that creates value for these investments and facilitates innovation.”

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is scaling up its contribution to the global fight against climate change with an increase in green financing over the next five years.

Endorsed by the EBRD’s Board of Directors September 30, the bank’s new Green Economy Transition approach aims for green financing to total some €18 billion over the next five years. So, the EBRD would deliver as much green financing in the next five years as it has in the last ten.

The EBRD aims to increase its green financing to around 40 percent of total annual investments by 2020 compared with a target share of 25 percent over the previous five years.

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said, “The international community has a unique chance this year to deliver a decisive set of measures to combat climate change. With its long experience as a leader in climate finance, the EBRD is making an important contribution to this collective stand through its Green Economy Transition approach.”

Chakrabarti
Image: Sir Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London, September 2013 (Photo courtesy Foreign and Commonwealth Office creative commons license via Flickr)

Across the Pacific Ocean, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao announced September 25 that his bank will double its annual climate financing to US$6 billion by 2020, up from the current $3 billion. Nakao said ADB’s spending on tackling climate change will rise to around 30 percent of its overall financing by the end of this decade.

Featured Image: City lights of the United States, December 2012. Keeping the lights on while limiting greenhouse gases emitted by burning fossil fuels to produce electricity is the climate challenge. (Photo courtesy NASA Goddard Flight Center creative commons license via Flickr)

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.

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.

World Running Out of Time to Sustainably Manage Oceans

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 18, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The greatest threat to the world’s oceans comes from human failure to deal quickly with the many problems that human activities have created in the marine environment, finds the first World Ocean Assessment written by a UN-convened group of experts.

“Human impacts on the sea are no longer minor in relation to the overall scale of the ocean. A coherent overall approach is needed,” according to the report, presented to the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, at a meeting from September 8 to 11.

“Many parts of the ocean have been seriously degraded,” the report states. “If the problems are not addressed, there is a major risk that they will combine to produce a destructive cycle of degradation in which the ocean can no longer provide many of the benefits that humans currently enjoy from it.”

The World Ocean Assessment does not include any analysis of policies. It is intended to support informed decision-making and contribute to managing human activities that affect the oceans and seas in a sustainable manner, under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 World Ocean Assessment’s Ten Themes:

 

  1. Climate change: Climate change means rises in sea level, higher levels of acidity in the ocean, the reduced mixing of ocean water and increasing deoxygenation.

“The ocean is acidifying rapidly and at an unprecedented rate in the Earth’s history. The impact of ocean acidification on marine species and food webs will affect major economic interests and could increasingly put food security at risk, particularly in regions especially dependent on seafood protein,” according to the assessment.

“The consensus is that increases in global temperature, in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in the radiation from the sun that reaches the ocean have already had an impact on some aspects of the ocean and will produce further significant incremental changes over time,” the report states.

  1. Overexploitation of marine life: Harvesting of living marine resources has exceeded sustainable levels in many regions. And overexploitation has caused ecosystem changes such as the smothering of corals by algae caused by the overfishing of herbivorous fish in parts of the Caribbean.

Overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat and climate change are all putting pressure on fish reproduction with important implications for food security and biodiversity.

AfricanWomenFishing
Women fish in shallow water in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania (Image credit: Matt Kieffer creative commons license via Flickr)

 

  1. Food security and food safety: Fish products are the major source of animal protein for a large fraction of the world’s population, but globally, the current mix of the global capture fisheries is near the ocean’s productive capacity, with catches on the order of 80 million tons a year.

Ending overfishing, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and rebuilding depleted resources could result in a potential increase of as much as 20 per cent in yield, according to the assessment, but rebuilding depleted stocks would be costly. In some areas, pollution and dead zones are also depressing the production of food from the sea.

  1. Biodiversity: The pressures on marine biodiversity are increasing, particularly near large population centers, in biodiversity hotspots, and in the open ocean, which has so far suffered limited impacts.
  1. Crowded Ocean Spaces: Conflicting demands for dedicated marine space arise from the expansion of longstanding ocean uses, such as fishing and shipping, and from newly developing uses, such as hydrocarbon extraction, mining and offshore generation of renewable energy. As yet there is no clear overarching management system or evaluation of their cumulative impacts on the ocean environment.
  1. Pollution: The burgeoning human population as well as industrial and agricultural production are increasing the emissions of harmful materials and excess nutrients into the ocean.

Sewage discharge levels often are beyond local carrying capacities and can harm human health; still, discharges of industrial effluents and emissions are growing.

Plastic marine debris from the poor management of waste streams on land and at sea means that fish get caught in “ghost” nets, seabirds and seals die from eating plastic bags. Plastic debris destroys the natural beauty of many ocean areas, affecting the livelihoods of local residents who work in the tourist industry. Less obviously, zooplankton and filter-feeding species suffer from the nanoparticles into which those plastics break down, with “serious effects all the way up the food web.”

HumpbackMorroBayHumpback whale breaches in Morro Bay in front of smokestacks at San Luis Obispo, California (Image credit Devra creative commons license via Flickr)

 

  1. Cumulative Impacts: The cumulative adverse impacts of activities that in the past seemed sustainable are resulting in major changes to some ecosystems and in a reduction in the services they provide. For instance, where biodiversity has been altered, the resilience of ecosystems to climate change is often reduced.
  1. Uneven Benefits: Differences in capacities to manage sewage, pollution and habitats create inequities between developed and developing countries. Gaps in capacity-building hinder less developed countries from taking advantage of what the ocean can offer them, and reduce their capability to address the ways they degrade the ocean.
  1. Coherent Marine Management: This requires taking into account the effects on ecosystems of each of the many pressures, what is being done in other sectors and the way that they interact. The ocean is a complex set of systems that are all interconnected, and a coherent management approach requires a wider range of knowledge about the ocean.
  1. Solutions Delayed are Solutions Denied: There are known practical measures to address many of the pressures on marine ecosystems that are degrading the ocean, causing social and economic problems. Delays in implementing known solutions, even if they are only partial and will leave more to be done, mean that “we are unnecessarily incurring those environmental, social and economic costs,” the assessment warns.

The World Ocean Assessment was born 2002, when the World Summit on Sustainable Development recommended that there be a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, and the UN General Assembly accepted that recommendation.

In December 2010, the General Assembly established a formal Group of Experts to produce the first World Ocean Assessment by 2014. A much larger pool of experts assists the Group of Experts in conducting the assessments and provides peer-review to ensure the high quality of the outputs.

The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, acts as the secretariat for the World Ocean Assessment.

A Bureau of 15 UN Member States, representing the regional groups of the United Nations, oversees the entire process.

Find the basics behind the first World Ocean Assessment here.

Read a summary of the World Ocean Assessment here:


About the Author: 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. Find ENS online at: www.ens-newswire.com

Featured image: Endangered Hawaiian monk seal entangled in marine debris (Image credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Green Climate Fund Poised to Start Giving

GCFUND

By Sunny Lewis

SONGDO, South Korea, September 8, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The multi-billion dollar international Green Climate Fund, committed to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change, is now ready to fund its first projects.

The GCF Board will take financing decisions on the first project proposals at its next meeting in Livingstone, Zambia in November, immediately before COP 21, the United Nations’ annual conference of the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

There, world leaders are expected to agree on a universal, legally-binding deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the planet’s rising temperature.

Green Climate Fund Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou says the GCF’s mandate is to promote “a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development,” taking into account the needs of developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and African states.

In 2014 the GCF got its start with about US$10 billion equivalent in pledges from 35 countries – 60 percent of which now have been converted into signed contributions.

Speaking in Stockholm at World Water Week on August 24, Cheikhrouhou said, “We are now poised to support action on the ground in developing countries through targeted grants, concessional loans to governments, and private sector instruments.”

Cheikhrouhou, a Tunisian national educated in Tunisia and Canada, is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. She was previously director of the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department at the African Development Bank, where she helped scale up the bank’s green growth and climate resilient investments through a blend of public and private finance.

At the GCF headquarters in Songdo, funds are already starting to flow.

“Resources have been requested by over 70 governments, and we are already committing funds to the first 10 countries,” she said.

The Fund has a small grants program of “readiness support” that prepares countries to mobilize GCF funding.

Pilot programs with a total budget of $900 million are intended to increase country ownership, support small and medium-sized enterprises and mobilize funding from the private sector.

Cheikhrouhou told Water Week delegates that investments in clean water and water infrastructure will be an integral part of GCF funding because more than one billion people live without access to safe drinking water or sanitation.

“Global demand for water, irrigation, domestic needs, manufacturing, and electricity is projected to increase by over 50 percent by 2050. And at the same time, the risks to our water ecosystem are increasing substantially as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise,” she warned.

“Water infrastructure projects must support both the goals of sustainable development, and build resilience in the face of inevitable climate change,” Cheikhrouhou declared. “Together, we need to ensure that quick access will be given to finance water projects that are both sustainable and replicable.”

The only international financing institution set up with the sole goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, the Green Climate Fund was established in December 2011 by the Parties to the UNFCCC.

The Green Climate Fund is governed and supervised by a 24-member Board and was designated as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC.

The Fund works with a wide range of established institutions. Its 20 accredited entities are drawn from the international, regional, national, public, private, and nongovernmental sectors, and Cheikhrouhou anticipates many more partners will join in the near future.

PHOTO: Green Climate Fund Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou (Photo courtesy Green Climate Fund)

Hundreds of Hospitals Lead the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge

kaiser-portfolio

By Sunny Lewis

RESTON, Virginia, August 29, 2015 (Maximpact News) – More than 1,200 hospitals and health centers in 13 countries are pledging to take meaningful action on climate change in a worldwide campaign to mobilize the health care sector ahead of the United Nations conference on climate change this December in Paris.

There, governments around the world are expected to adopt a universal, legally-binding agreement to take effect in the year 2020 limiting greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

The 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge, an international initiative from Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network, invites health care systems and hospitals everywhere to reduce their carbon footprints and protect public health from the warming climate.

The 2020 Challenge is the first international effort to track emissions and take measurable actions to reduce the health care sector’s carbon footprint.

“At a time when climate change is posing one of the greatest threats to public health, hospitals and health systems are stepping up to help the world kick its addiction to fossil fuels,” said Josh Karliner, global projects director for Health Care Without Harm.

“This is a leadership moment for health care,” Karliner said.

“In every region of the world, health care can lead by example,” said Veronica Odriozola, executive director of Health Care Without Harm Latin America.

“Whether it is an off-the-grid clinic deploying solar power to run its operations and help electrify a community, or a large hospital reducing its own emissions to address respiratory disease from air pollution, we can all move toward low carbon health care,” she said.

The 2020 Health Care Climate Pledge relies on climate change and public health information from The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change convened by the prestigious British medical journal

“We know that climate change is already exacerbating a wide range of health problems the world over,” the Pledge states. “As the earth warms, infectious diseases like malaria and dengue are spreading to new locations, threatening to reverse hard won health gains in many parts of the planet.”

“Heat waves are growing in intensity and number, killing tens of thousands outright and aggravating asthma, heart disease and heat stroke. Increasingly severe storms, droughts and floods, harm human health and put oft-overstretched and ill-prepared health systems at risk,” states the Pledge.

“Kaiser Permanente is making this pledge because climate change isn’t a distant threat,” said Kathy Gerwig, vice president and environmental stewardship officer with Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest American not-for-profit health plans.

“The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma, spread of infectious diseases, heat stress, and injuries from severe weather events,” said Gerwig. “By addressing climate change for the future, we are improving the health of communities today.”

The Pledge warns, “If greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked, climate change will, within a matter of decades have severe pervasive and irreversible effects, undermining the food and water supply in many parts of the world, setting off mass migrations, and thereby triggering potentially unmanageable public health crises.”

Sonia Roschnik, who heads the Sustainable Development Unit of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, views the challenge as an opportunity. “We recognize that not only does climate change present a huge challenge for the health and care sector in England but also a great opportunity to change the way we work – to improve the health of people and communities, save money and help the environment.”


 

IMAGE: One megawatt elevated solar array above parking garages at Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara Medical Center, California reduces the facility’s carbon footprint. (Photo courtesy Recurrent Energy)  Featured image: from Health Care Without Harm challenge

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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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.

Find “climate-resilient” opportunities and “adaptive pathways” on Maximpact. Login now.

Image credit: kwest19 / 123RF Stock Photo