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

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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.”

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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)

Sustainable Standard Set for Half the World’s Main Dish

RicePlantingJapan

MANILA, Philippines, November 11, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The world’s first standard for sustainable rice cultivation debuted late last month, presented by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP)a global alliance of agricultural research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organizations.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme convened the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) five years ago in order to promote resource use efficiency and climate change resilience in rice systems so important to global food security.

At its 5th Annual Plenary Meeting and General Assembly in Manila October 27-29 the Sustainable Rice Platform welcomed representatives of its 29 institutional stakeholders.

Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director and Representative UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, opened the meeting by reminding the more than 120 delegates that at least half the world’s people rely on rice.

“With more than half the world’s population, 3.5 billion people, depending on rice for 20 percent or more of their daily calories, and almost one billion of the world’s poorest people dependent on rice as a staple, we are reminded of the critical importance of rice,” she said, “rice as a source of livelihoods and food and nutritional security for billions; rice as a consumer of land, water and other natural assets; and on the other hand, rice as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.”

“According to IRRI, by 2050, we are going to need 50 percent more rice to feed the world’s population,” said Louis, “and most of this increase will have to come from intensification and increased productivity.”

The new Sustainable Rice Standard is made up of 46 requirements, covering issues from productivity, food safety, worker health, and labor rights to biodiversity protection.

One requirement, for instance, is documented proof that the soil is safe from heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead.

Another that inbound water is obtained from clean sources that are free of biological, saline, and heavy metal contamination.

A third requirement is that measures are in place to enhance water-use efficiency.

An attached set of quantitative Performance Indicators enables farmers and market supply chain participants to gauge the sustainability of a rice system, and to monitor and reward progress or the lack of progress.

“The SRP Standard represents the world’s first initiative that will set environmentally sustainable and socially responsible rice production management standards,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

“Our key challenge now,” he said, “is to incentivize and scale up adoption, especially among resource-poor small farmers.”

The SRP says a fifth of the world’s population depends on rice cultivation for their livelihoods.

The SRP Standard uses environmental and socio-economic benchmarks to accomplish three things: maintain yields for rice smallholders, reduce the environmental footprint of rice cultivation, and meet consumer needs for food safety and quality.

Development of the standard draws on global experience in other sustainable commodity initiatives such as sugar, cotton, coffee and palm oil, said the developers: UTZ Certified, Aidenvironment and IRRI and members of the Sustainable Rice Platform.

They took into account the unique challenges rice cultivation presents for environmental protection.

Growing rice uses 30 to 40 percent of the world’s freshwater and contributes between five and 10 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, especially the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4), according to the IRRI.

The crop yield is declining from 2.2 percent during the 20 years from 1970-90 to less than 0.8 percent since then.

And the global rice production area also is declining due to land conversion, salinization and increased water scarcity.

To complicate matters, pesticides used on rice kill nontarget rice field fauna, accumulate in the food chain, runoff from the ricefields, pollute the water table, and take their toll on farmers’ health.

Paddy fields and irrigation systems facilitate breeding of mosquitoes that act as vectors of malaria, lymphatic filariasis, Japanese encephalitis and dengue.

All these effects can be more extreme in tropical and subtropical environments, where climatic and cultural conditions are more favorable to vector-borne diseases and CH4 production.

Kaveh Zahedi, director of the UNEP Regional Office of Asia and the Pacific, has confidence in the effectiveness of the new standard to solve many of these problems.

“For most of Asia Pacific, rice is a staple. It is part of the social fabric and influences many aspects of our lives – economic, social and religious,” Zahedi said.

“The SRP Standard and Indicators will help ensure that the cultivation of this vital commodity becomes more sustainable and benefits people, communities and the planet.”

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Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main image: Caption: Spring rice planting in Chiba Prefecture, Japan (Photo by Phil Hendley under creative commons license via Flickr)
Featured image: Harvesting rice in northern Vietnam (Photo by Tran Thi Hoa / World Bank under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01: Rice terraces in northern Bali, Indonesia (Photo by Patrik M. Loeff under creative commons license via Flickr)