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Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

Stephen Peake, Senior Lecturer, The Open University in Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history, gives us a pretty realistic image of the prevailing situation of unsustainability throughout the world.


In shouting “system change not climate change”, young people understand that the 3-4℃ warmer world we’re headed for would be far more painful, costly and disruptive than any short-term costs or inconvenience we face from taking rapid, bold action.

But the who, what, when, where and how of systems change can seem overwhelming. How do we transform a society whose fossil fuel habits have been entrenched for decades?

The next step is to get smarter in telling governments precisely what we want. System change doesn’t need to be daunting, or politically difficult. We just need to focus on the pinch points that will allow us to rapidly replace fossil fuel technologies. Here are six steps to decarbonising the system for good.

1. Stop wasting energy

We could power the planet two times over with the energy we waste burning fossil fuels each and every day. Even our most modern gas-fired power stations still waste around 40% of the gas they burn. The poor design of our transport systems, buildings, and appliances also waste vast amounts of energy.

It is possible to dramatically reduce this wastage, and therefore our global energy consumption, within decades. Roughly 70% of global energy consumption is not subject to mandatory efficiency standards – there’s huge untapped potential in merely regulating energy efficiency more effectively.

Shifting away from thermal power to renewables eliminates the vast quantities of gas that ends up as thermal waste heat. We can also design and retrofit buildings to capture and conserve energy, shift to public transport, and invest in energy efficient circular economies.

Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

Electricity demand will skyrocket as we replace fossil fuels – so we need to be careful not to waste it. Riccardo Annandale/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

These two elements are interlinked. The more we reduce our energy consumption, the faster our renewable energy systems will be able to replace fossil fuels. This will help the one billion people who still don’t have access to mains electricity, and the nearly three billion that still cook on open stoves with wood and cattle dung – as well as the additional two billion people who will be joining the human population by 2050.

2. Tax greenhouse gases

We waste energy because it’s far too cheap. Prices are key to changing behaviour and investment decisions. We need to raise the price of fossil fuels so that polluters pay. Governments could introduce a US$100 per ton CO₂ tax now, rising as necessary to limit global heating below dangerous levels.

Such taxes, combined with the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, could raise trillions of dollars for governments to put to great use. We could spend this money on accelerating climate action – improving energy efficiency, scaling renewable energy, and restoring natural habitats.

3. Make local public transport free

Our private car culture has devastating impacts on society and the planet – even if they’re electric.

We can change the travel patterns of every generation to come. As well as massive investment in safe walking and cycling routes, we should campaign to make local public transport free.

We also need to reduce how much we fly. A business class round trip from London to New York can cause as much global heating as a year’s worth of a flexitarian diet. We should learn to fly only as last resort, and invest the money we save to connect with people and places in other ways.

Of course, many people are already doing this. Roughly 1% of people in England take 20% of overseas flights – so we should pressure governments to introduce a frequent flyer levy that makes sure that those who pollute the most pay the most.

4. Quit trading cheap stuff

Much of the stuff we buy isn’t fit for purpose. Many clothes are made with fabric so thin that they only last a few months, while electronics are often designed to fail after a few years.

Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

How often has this happened to you? icedmocha/Shutterstock

These poor quality products waste energy and carbon, and pollute our environment when we inevitably throw them away. We need strong new regulations based on life cycle analysis that prevent companies from selling substandard stuff in search of profit.

We also don’t need half the things we’re encouraged to buy in the first place. While its governments that are responsible for implementing system change, and corporations that pollute the most, people still have power – even beyond voting or marching. As well as governments strongly regulating advertising, we can choose to stop contributing to a consumer culture.

5. Planetary diet, rewilded grasslands

The livestock industry currently accounts for about 15% of global emissions. It’s also an inefficient use of land – meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use 83% of the world’s farmland, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories.

To redress this balance and cut emissions, we can shift to a diet rich in vegetables and grains, where sustainable meat is an occasional treat. Carbon taxes could also cover meat and dairy production, with funds used to help farmers transition as the global grazing stock falls.

For example, we could subsidise farmers to rewild newly freed up grasslands. This would create new valuable carbon sinks, and help threatened wildlife recover.

6. Keep shouting for a new political economy

We need to give our political leaders the courage to make bold decisions. Above all we must ask for specific things of our political leaders – and direct our energies towards those that will make the biggest difference. We must be clear in our demands for a new low-carbon political economy that makes fossil fuels history and renewable energy the future.


Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.The Conversation

Stephen Peake, Senior Lecturer, The Open University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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A Grand Coalition to Tackle Climate Change

A Grand Coalition to Tackle Climate Change


Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), writes in this article dated November 28, 2019, that The world needs a grand coalition to tackle climate change before suggesting that “Today, this mission is more urgent than ever.” The IEA already warned us that clean energy would be insufficient to meet growing demand, hence the picture above.


Steam rises from the chimneys of the coal power plant of RWE Power, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Neurath, north-west of Cologne, Germany in this picture taken March 3, 2016
There are no simple solutions for curbing global emissions Image: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

More than 40 years after the International Energy Agency (IEA) published the first edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO), the report’s overarching aim remains the same – to deepen our understanding of the future of energy. It does so by examining the opportunities and risks that lie ahead, and the consequences of different courses of action or inaction. The WEO analyses the choices that will shape our energy use, our environment and our wellbeing. It is not, and has never been, a forecast of where the energy world will end up.

This year brings many changes. I would like to highlight two in particular. First, we have renamed the ‘new policies scenario’ as the ‘stated policies scenario’, making more explicit our intention to hold up a mirror to the plans and ambitions announced by policy-makers without trying to anticipate how those plans might change in future.

Second, the sustainable development scenario – which provides a strategic pathway to meet global climate, air quality and energy access goals in full – has been extended to 2050 and set out in greater detail. This delivers sharper insights into what is required for the world to move in this direction.

Have you read?

What comes through with crystal clarity in this year’s Outlook is that there are no simple solutions to transform the world of energy. Multiple technologies and fuels have a part to play across all sectors of the economy. For this to happen, we need strong leadership from policy-makers, as governments hold the clearest responsibility to act and have the greatest scope to shape the future.

It is also clear to me that the world urgently needs to put a laser-like focus on bringing down global emissions. This calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is committed to tackling climate change. The sustainable development scenario is tailor-made to help guide the members of such a coalition in their efforts to address the massive climate challenge that faces us all.

A Grand Coalition to Tackle Climate Change
A lot less brown, a little more green. Image: IEA

The IEA is already acting on the insights contained in the Outlook. For instance, our analysis shows that the pace of energy-efficiency improvements is slowing, but the potential for efficiency improvements to help the world meet its sustainable energy goals is massive. This has led us to set up a high-level Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency to recommend how progress can be rapidly accelerated through new and stronger policy action. (We are seeking your input on this subject in our online survey.)

This year’s Outlook underscores the crucial importance of Africa to the future of energy, and of energy to the future of Africa. In June 2019, the IEA and the African Union Commission co-hosted a first joint ministerial summit in Addis Ababa, bringing together high-level government representatives and other stakeholders to advance a positive, collaborative agenda for IEA engagement.

We are also acutely aware that while the ongoing transformation of the electricity sector is full of promise, it also has implications for the stability and reliability of power grids around the world. In response, we have introduced new initiatives, including co-organising with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy the first Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables in Berlin in October 2019 and undertaking a major new report on electricity security.

Another important issue is that global emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are rising alongside CO2. This is why we recently launched a new online methane tracker to monitor the problem and identify ways to tackle it.

These are just four examples of how the World Energy Outlook provides strategic guidance to the energy community and results in real-world initiatives and solutions. The goal of this year’s Outlook, once again, is to provide energy decision-makers with the data and objective analysis that they need to pursue a more secure and sustainable future.

Today, this mission is more urgent than ever.

Future of Energy Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis

You can read more about the World Energy Outlook 2019 here.

Situation of the Automotive Industry in the MENA

Situation of the Automotive Industry in the MENA


Automotive LOGISTICS MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA in an article titled MENA: Leading the way in innovation by Victoria Johns on 27 November 2019 gives us a clear picture of the prevailing situation of the automotive industry in the MENA region.


While it has some infrastructure and regulatory obstacles to overcome, the automotive industry in the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region is developing fast, driven by investment and innovation, as delegates heard at the ALMENA conference in Dubai last week.

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Despite a sustained period of decline over the last few years affected by a fall in oil prices and geopolitical strife, the Middle East and Africa is fast becoming a region of automotive and supply chain opportunity. Carmakers such as VW, Toyota, GM, Groupe PSA and Mercedes-Benz are investing in local assembly, ranging from North African countries including Morocco, Algeria and Egypt, to sub-Saharan markets such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana. There are also some notable logistics developments there and in the Middle East.

According to figures from IHS Markit, light vehicle sales in the Middle East and Africa are to increase by 6% in 2020 to around 3.5m, supported by ongoing recovery in Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries. That is still below 4.65m units sold in 2015 but at that point Middle East sales were helped by increases in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the latter of which was seeing an (albeit brief) resurgence after sanctions were temporarily lifted. That said, by 2025 annual new light vehicle sales across the region are set to hit more than 5.3m, according to IHS projections.

Saudi Arabia already accounts for about 40% of total vehicles sold in the Middle East and IHS Markit forecasts annual sales could reach over 800,000 beyond units by 2030. Contributing factors including the recovery in price per barrel of oil and to a lesser extent the lifting of the ban on female drivers suggest sustained growth is expected to start in the next two years.

Countries within the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) have established a national employment challenge to employ more local workers, the so-called ‘Gulfization’ policy, which is increasing labour opportunities in the area, something also fuelled by the exodus of foreign workers and the need for investment in local skills and talent.

Read more on Automotive LOGISTICS

Alternative Transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan

Alternative Transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan

Taking a bite out of the opportunity in the alternative transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan. So, Egypt’s Halan is keen to dominate the Ride-Hailing Space for Two And Three-Wheelers. Let us read more on that if you please. But before we do so here is Codatu’s intro to their essay on the matter two years ago.

Greater Cairo (GC) is the largest urban area in the Middle East and one of the most populated cities in the world. The urban growth patterns of the metropolitan area reveal a fragmented city of heterogeneous parts that developed unplanned over the years. GC public transport network offers a large variety of means of transportation throughout three governorates but its lack of efficiency is forcing more and more people to use private cars. The extreme density of the urban fabric and the widespread congestion on the road network end up making the city’s livability very difficult.

Pamella de Leon, Startup Section Editor, on October 29, 2019, wrote in Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media the following.

Egypt's Halan Is Keen To Dominate The Ride-Hailing Space For Two And Three-Wheelers

Aside from private cars, taxis, and other four-wheeled vehicles, a ubiquitous sight on the streets of Cairo (and in other parts of the MENA, as well as the world at large) are the three-wheeled tuktuks and two-wheeled motorcycles to navigate daily traffic- and taking a bite out of the opportunity in the alternative transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan. The ride-sharing app for tuktuks, motorcycles, and tricycles -a first in the region- was launched in November 2017 in underserved communities in Cairo where roads tend to be too narrow for cars, and provided a cheaper alternative to cars and buses.

It grew across Giza, Alexandria, Minya, Luxor and Qalyubia governorates, and expanded to Sudan in 2018. It also offers on-demand logistics solutions to support large organizations and small businesses alike in their distribution and supply chain. Founded by Mounir Nakhla and Ahmed Mohsen, the former had the lightbulb moment when the idea was proposed to him by one of Gojek’s seed investors.

After meeting Nadiem Makarim, the CEO of Gojek, a startup that has been dubbed Indonesia’s first unicorn venture and has grown as an on-demand tech company for the transport, payment, and food sector, Nakhla was inspired from its success, and saw potential for a similar impact in Egypt. With Egypt’s population of more than 100 million, internet penetration, fast-growing sales of smartphone devices and a growing use of mobile apps, all the elements were positive, he notes.

“Transportation is one of the fastest ways of acquiring customers by solving a real need, and we wanted to be the app of choice for the underserved,” he says. “Egypt has north of 700,000 tuktuks already operating as taxis, and just over 1.5 million two-wheeler vehicles, used for both personal transportation and for delivery services, and this is where Halan comes in.”

Halan team

As part of the startup’s efforts to organize the market and ensure safety, Nakhla says they also have a meticulous screening process when recruiting drivers. Besides offering convenience to customers, Nakhla says they also provide incremental business for their drivers, and thus increase their incomes.

The founder and CEO is no stranger to working with Egypt’s mobility scene and underserved communities- he co-founded Mashroey, an Egypt-based light transport financing business, and Tasaheel, an Egypt-based micro-financing venture, which Nakhla says, has served more than 1 million customers combined. And the rest of the founding team are veterans in the transport field too: co-founder and CTO Ahmed Mohsen has published several papers in IEEE on AI, was part of the founding team and a shareholder in SecureMisr, a security consultancy company in Egypt, and founded MusicQ and CircleTie.

Plus Mohamed Aboulnaga, Careem’s former Regional Director and Fawry’s Business Development Manager, joined as co-founder and COO. They also have key members who have worked previously with Uber and Ghabbour Auto, which has resulted in a team that is comprised of “technically very competent, passionate, creative, results-driven individuals with a high work ethic. Each one with a unique strength, that when brought together make for an unrivalled team.”

After launching in 2017, Nakhla says that the company was doing around 50,000 rides by March 2018, and they closed their Series A round in the same year in a round co-led by Battery Road Ventures Holdings (BRVH) and Algebra Ventures. As for their funding, Nakhla put in 20% of the seed capital and raised the rest from Raouf Ghabbour, founder of GB Auto, as well as BRVH.

According to Nakhla, Halan has so far raised single-digit millions in total, and are currently in the process of their Series B funding round. The company’s business model involves taking a percentage of the ride fare as commission. Currently serving more than 100,000 customers, Halan has exceeded 10 million rides and operates in around 20-25 cities in Egypt and Sudan. As for its on-demand logistics offering, Halan is currently partnering with prominent names in the fast-food industry, including McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardees, and many more. The startup has also been recently awarded Fastest-Growing Mobility Solution in the Market during the second edition of the E-Commerce Summit in September this year.

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Related: UAE App CAFU Brings The Fuel To Wherever You (And Your Vehicle) May Be

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Electric cars are here – but we’ll still need fuel for a long time

Electric cars are here – but we’ll still need fuel for a long time

David Reiner, Cambridge Judge Business School and Ilkka Hannula, University of Cambridge, say that Electric cars are here – but we’ll still need fuel for a long time.

An interesting interval notably for all those industries already devoting billions of Dollars to building these E-cars, thus affecting not only the whole world’s manufacturing and energy generation industries alike but also the planet’s climate. But this obviously not happening overnight, is somehow phased as described in this article.

Many vehicles can’t just be powered by battery. MuchMania/Shutterstock

Electric cars are often seen as one of the great hopes for tackling climate change. With new models arriving in showrooms, major carmakers retooling for an electric future, and a small but growing number of consumers eager to convert from gas guzzlers, EVs appear to offer a way for us to decarbonise with little change to our way of life.

Yet there is a danger that fixating on electric cars leaves a large blind spot. Electrification would be very expensive for the lumbering lorries that haul goods across continents or is currently technically prohibitive for long-distance air travel.

Beyond all the enthusiasm surrounding electrification, currently light-duty passenger vehicles only comprise 50% of total global demand for energy in the transportation sector compared to 28% for heavy road vehicles, 10% for air, 9% for sea and 2% for rail.

Put simply, the current focus on electrifying passenger vehicles – though welcome – represents only part of the answer. For most other segments, fuels will be needed for the foreseeable future. And even for cars, electric vehicles are not a cure-all.

The unfortunate truth is that, on their own, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) cannot solve what we call the “100 EJ problem”. Demand for transport services are expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades. So the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that we need to significantly reduce the amount of energy each vehicle uses just to keep total global energy demand in the transport sector roughly flat at current levels of 100 exajoules (EJ) by 2050. More than half of that 100 EJ is still expected to come from petroleum products and, by then, the share of light-duty vehicles in transport sector energy demand is expected to decline from 50% to 34%.

Electric cars don’t suit every journey. Nick Starichenko/Shutterstock

The vast majority of existing passenger trips can be accommodated by existing battery electric vehicles so, for many consumers, buying one will be an easy decision (as costs come down). But for those who frequently take very long journeys, the focus also needs to be on lower-carbon fuels.

Petroleum substitutes could extend sustainable transport to heavier vehicles and those seeking longer range, while using the existing refuelling infrastructure and vehicle fleet. Whereas battery electric vehicles will impose wider system costs (for example, the charging infrastructure needed to connect millions of new electric vehicles to the grid), all the transition costs of sustainable fuel substitutes are in the fuels themselves.

Our recent study is part of a renewed focus on synthetic fuels or synfuels (fuels converted from feedstocks other than petroleum). Synfuels were first made on an industrial scale in the 1920s by turning coal into liquid hydrocarbons using the so-called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, named after its original German inventors. But using coal as a feedstock produces far dirtier fuel than even conventional petroleum-based fuels.

One possible route to carbon-neutral synthetic fuels would be to use woody residues and wastes as feedstock to create synthetic biofuels with less impact on the environment and food production than crop-based biofuels. Another option would be to produce synfuels from CO₂ and water using low-carbon electricity. But producing such “electrofuels” would need either a power system that is very low cost and ultra-low-carbon (such as those of Iceland or Quebec) or require dedicated sources of zero-carbon electricity that have high availability throughout the year.

Pilot plants

Synthetic biofuels and electrofuels both have the potential to deliver sustainable fuels at scale, but these efforts are still at the demonstration stage. Audi opened a €20M e-gas (electro fuel) plant in 2013 that produces 3.2 MW of synthetic methane from 6 MW of electricity. The €150M Swedish GoBiGas plant was commissioned in 2014 and produced synthetic biomethane at a scale of 20 MW using 30 MW of biomass.

Despite the many virtues of carbon-neutral synthetic fuels though, most commercial-scale projects are currently on hold. This is due to the high investment cost of pioneer process plants combined with a lack of sufficiently strong government policies to make them economically viable and share the risk of scale-up.

Government and industry attempts to encourage people to buy electric vehicles aren’t a problem in themselves. Our concern is that an exclusive focus on electrification may make solving the 100 EJ problem impossible. It is too early to tell which, if any, sustainable fuels will emerge successful and so the most pressing need is to scale up production from the current demonstration stage. If not, when our attention finally turns away from glossy electric car advertisements in a few years, we will find ourselves at a standing start in addressing the rest of the problem.

David Reiner, University Senior Lecturer in Technology Policy, Cambridge Judge Business School and Ilkka Hannula, Associate Researcher, Energy Policy Research Group, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Reducing Carbon emissions and conserving Hydrocarbons

Reducing Carbon emissions and conserving Hydrocarbons

The key factors of all energy policies across the MENA are about reducing carbon emissions and conserving hydrocarbons reserves per this article, dated September 30, 2019, of Power Technology reporting (see below) on the latest World Energy Council’s congress of Abu Dhabi, early this month.

Clean energy steals the limelight at World Energy Congress

With an estimated $100bn-worth of renewables projects under study, design and in execution across the region, the policy momentum behind energy transformation is now being converted into new, potentially lucrative business opportunities across the Middle East and Africa.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and conserving hydrocarbons reserves are key factors shaping energy policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

But it is the more immediate combination of lower oil prices and the fall in the cost of renewable energy technologies that have seen every country in the region announce ambitious clean energy targets.

Clean energy, which includes renewables such as solar and wind power, as well as alternative fuels including waste-to-energy and nuclear, accounts for only a small proportion of electricity generation in the MENA region today.

Change is coming

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), installed solar and wind capacity across the MENA region reached respectively 2,350MW and 434MW in 2017, up from just 91MW and 104MW in 2010.

And with an estimated $100bn-worth of renewables projects under study, design and in-execution across the region, the policy momentum behind energy transformation is now being converted into new, potentially lucrative business opportunities in the region.

Saudi shake-up

The significance of the region’s energy transition was clear to see at the latest edition of the World Energy Congress, which was hosted in Abu Dhabi in September.

Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia’s pavilion was the most-buzzing hive at the congress.

In addition to its broad programme of structural economic reforms and the recent appointment of a new energy minister, the region’s biggest economy has by far the most ambitious clean energy programme planned in the Middle East.

As Riyadh’s Renewable Energy Project Development Office (Repdo) outlined plans to launch tenders for its third round of its ambitious National Renewable Energy Programme (NREP) before the end of 2019, representatives from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign investment wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), were meeting technology providers on the sidelines of the event to discuss the opportunities for building large-scale solar manufacturing facilities in the kingdom.

Emerging technologies

While solar and wind power are the main focus of the region’s energy diversification plans, some of the world’s largest energy companies were keen to showcase the potential for emerging technologies including waste-to-energy.

Another glimpse into the future was provided by discussions about the potential to store energy from peak-power sources such as solar and wind.

With the race to achieve cost-effective battery-storage solutions already underway, other technologies using hydrogen are being piloted in the region to offer another method to mitigate the intermittency issues of solar and wind power.

The challenge facing the region’s utilities is to convert their ambitious clean energy ambitions into actual investment projects.

This article is sourced from Power Technology sister publication www.meed.com, a leading source of high-value business intelligence and economic analysis about the Middle East and North Africa. To access more MEED content register for the 30-day Free Guest User Programme. 

Don’t bet on the UN to fix climate change

Don’t bet on the UN to fix climate change

Marc Hudson, of University of Manchester in this article, says “Don’t bet on the UN to fix climate change – it’s failed for 30 years.” We would like to think that this is some sort of a gentle form of a warning that things ought not to be left to the United Nations alone to sort out, but up to us all, each in its own specific situation to contribute.

For instance, the UN chief calls for ‘concrete plans’ as climate emergency summit convenes in New York today.

Is the UN’s climate process fit for purpose? Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

We’re constantly encouraged to think of the next big climate summit, conference or protest as the most important one, the one that is about to make the all-important breakthrough. The UN’s Climate Action Summit on September 23 in New York is no different. The UN’s Secretary General António Guterres is calling on world leaders to come with concrete and realistic plans to bring their national net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050.

But amid the hype, it’s worth putting this UN summit in context against the history of 30 years of such international meetings. Is it a vain hope for 197 countries to agree on any meaningful climate action at all, especially when it involves so much money and power?

Scientists knew from the late 1950s that carbon dioxide was building up and that this could be a problem. By the late 1970s, they knew it would be – it was just a question of when. By 1985, at a workshop of scientists in Villach, Austria, the answer became “sooner than we thought”.

Scientists and activists mobilised and in 1988 the stars aligned. An American drought, a NASA scientist called James Hansen willing to stick his neck out and an international conference in Toronto meant politicians had to respond.

On the 1988 American presidential campaign trail, George Bush Senior promised to convene a global conference on the environment at the White House to “talk about global warming”. But when it finally happened it wasn’t truly global.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was born the same year, endorsed by the UN general assembly, and produced its first report in 1990. By then, there had been fine declarations of motherhood-and-apple-pie in various European cities, such as the Hague and Bergen. However, negotiations towards an international treaty to do something about climate change itself did not begin until February 1991. The world’s media largely ignored them, as the 1991 Gulf War was underway.

UNFCCC birth pangs

Very little progress was made – a sign of things to come – and with a hard deadline of May 1992 approaching, a month before the world’s nations were to gather in Rio de Janeiro for an “Earth Summit”, powerful countries were at loggerheads.

The birth pangs of this search for an international UN treaty on climate change still shape what is and isn’t possible today.

The sticking point was – and still is – what the US government, and the business lobbies behind it, would find acceptable. The French government was keen that any treaty include actual commitments to reduce CO2 emissions, with targets and timetables for the rich nations. The Bush government warned that if these were included in the text they would not attend the Rio summit, leaving any treaty languishing. The French blinked, the UK acted as a middleman, and a deal was done.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) became law in March 1994, two years after the Rio summit.

The French, and others, had hoped that once the UNFCCC was signed and ratified, they could quickly address the question of rich country commitments to reduce CO2 emissions. But this didn’t happen.

When the Kyoto Protocol, which extended the UNFCCC, was agreed in 1997, despite the fact that carbon trading and other economic instruments within it were designed to keep the Americans happy, no serious commitment to reductions was made. The Americans then pulled out of the implementation process of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, when George W Bush became president.

The process staggered on and there was another helping of motherhood-and-apple-pie at Copenhagen in 2009. Finally, in 2015 a non-binding Paris Agreement was cobbled together, based on a previously discarded “pledge and review” mechanism, which has created an endless round of promises that haven’t been met.

The scientist who had warned that climate change was upon us in 1988 – James Hansen – called the Paris Agreement a fraud, and since 2015, many nations are failing to meet their Paris commitments. Even if they did, global average temperature rise this century would be far in excess of the two degrees above pre-industrial levels that the deal is supposed to ensure.

The US pulled out of the Paris agreement in June 2017. A clear pattern has emerged.


Read more: Will politicians take action and try to save the planet from climate change?


The role of the UN

Some would argue that trying to get 197 countries to agree on anything is a fool’s errand. For 20 years, critics such as the international relations expert David Victor have questioned whether the UN is the appropriate venue for climate negotiations. Victor argues that such a forum is inevitably going to lead to gridlock. He’s not alone in this – as early as 1983 some policy analysts in the US were saying that such a global problem could not be solved because of the complexity of its politics.

The counter argument is that if a deal is agreed outside of the UN process, between the world’s major emitters – the EU, US and China – then it will be perceived as illegitimate, and will likely involve an even greater reliance on speculative technologies than the current Paris Agreement.

Ultimately, it becomes a matter of trust: do those already suffering the impacts of climate change trust those who have caused it to sort it out.

In my experience of talking to people who work in and around the UNFCCC’s bodies, many speak knowledgeably without hesitation, deviation or repetition about the alphabet soup of climate change acronyms, but are completely oblivious of much of this awkward history. Yet what happened – straightforward veto power by the US of anything that would look like real action – remains with us today, and it doesn’t help to pretend otherwise.

Whether the world can a transition to sustainability – the stated aims of both the UNFCCC and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – remains to be seen. But the stakes could not be higher. If political, economic, technological and cultural solutions aren’t now found, the outlook for humanity – and the other species we share this planet with – is exceptionally bleak.


This article is part of The Covering Climate Now series
This is a concerted effort among news organisations to put the climate crisis at the forefront of our coverage. This article is published under a Creative Commons license and can be reproduced for free – just hit the “Republish this article” button on the page to copy the full HTML coding. The Conversation also runs Imagine, a newsletter in which academics explore how the world can rise to the challenge of climate change. Sign up here.

Marc Hudson, Researcher, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Life-threatening impact of Climate Change

Life-threatening impact of Climate Change

Today is World Car Free Day, which is celebrated on September 22, encourages motorists to give up their cars for a day. Organized events are held in some cities and countries. The events, which vary by location, give motorists and commuters an idea of their locality with fewer cars. Wikipedia. But why such initiative if there were not some tacit agreement by the world communities that the Life-threatening impact of Climate Change was mainly due and/or consequent to the following as elaborated in this United Nations post.

Global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking. The last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health, through air pollution, heatwaves and risks to food security.

Life-threatening impact of Climate Change

UN Climate Action Summit 2019

The impacts of climate change are being felt everywhere and are having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow. But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.

The latest analysis shows that if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C and even, as asked by the latest science, to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Thankfully, we have the Paris Agreement – a visionary, viable, forward-looking policy framework that sets out exactly what needs to be done to stop climate disruption and reverse its impact. But the agreement itself is meaningless without ambitious action.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling on all leaders to come to New York on 23 September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.

I want to hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century

To be effective and credible, these plans cannot address mitigation alone: they must show the way toward a full transformation of economies in line with sustainable development goals. They should not create winners and losers or add to economic inequality; they must be fair and create new opportunities and protections for those negatively impacted, in the context of a just transition. And they should also include women as key decision-makers: only gender-diverse decision-making has the capacity to tackle the different needs that will emerge in this coming period of critical transformation.

The Summit will bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and other international organizations to develop ambitious solutions in six areas: a global transition to renewable energy; sustainable and resilient infrastructures and cities; sustainable agriculture and management of forests and oceans; resilience and adaptation to climate impacts; and alignment of public and private finance with a net-zero economy.

Business is on our side. Accelerated climate solutions can strengthen our economies and create jobs, while bringing cleaner air, preserving natural habitats and biodiversity, and protecting our environment.

New technologies and engineering solutions are already delivering energy at a lower cost than the fossil-fuel driven economy. Solar and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new bulk power in virtually all major economies. But we must set radical change in motion.

This means ending subsidies for fossil fuels and high-emitting agriculture and shifting towards renewable energy, electric vehicles and climate-smart practices. It means carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of emissions, from climate risk to the health hazards of air pollution. And it means accelerating the closure of coal plants and halting the construction of new ones and replacing jobs with healthier alternatives so that the transformation is just, inclusive and profitable.

Life-threatening impact of Climate Change

Action portfolios

In order to ensure that the transformative actions in the real economy are as impactful as possible, the Secretary-General has prioritized the following action portfolios, which are recognized as having high potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions and increased global action on adaptation and resilience.

Energy transition, Climate finance and carbon pricing, Industry transition, Nature-based solutions, Cities and local action, Resilience
  • Finance: mobilizing public and private sources of finance to drive decarbonization of all priority sectors and advance resilience;
  • Energy Transition: accelerating the shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, as well as making significant gains in energy efficiency;
  • Industry Transition: transforming industries such as Oil and Gas, Steel, Cement, Chemicals and Information Technology;
  • Nature-Based Solutions: Reducing emissions, increasing sink capacity and enhancing resilience within and across forestry, agriculture, oceans and food systems, including through biodiversity conservation, leveraging supply chains and technology;
  • Cities and Local Action: Advancing mitigation and resilience at urban and local levels, with a focus on new commitments on low-emission buildings, mass transport and urban infrastructure; and resilience for the urban poor;
  • Resilience and Adaptation: advancing global efforts to address and manage the impacts and risks of climate change, particularly in those communities and nations most vulnerable.

In addition, there are three additional key areas:

  • Mitigation Strategy: to generate momentum for ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term strategies to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Youth Engagement and Public Mobilization: To mobilize people worldwide to take action on climate change and ensure that young people are integrated and represented across all aspects of the Summit, including the six transformational areas.
  • Social and Political Drivers: to advance commitments in areas that affect people’s well-being, such as reducing air pollution, generating decent jobs, and strengthening climate adaptation strategies and protect workers and vulnerable groups.
One of the Four Corners of the Arabian Peninsula

One of the Four Corners of the Arabian Peninsula

Despite or in spite of the far from peaceful happenings in one of the four corners of the Arabian peninsula, life carries on unperturbed elsewhere and the following is about what is happening in the opposite corner, i.e.:

One of the Four Corners of the Arabian Peninsula
Energy transition the buzzword, but a fossil future from the Gulf by ET Energy World

Energy ‘transition’ the buzzword, but a fossil future for the Gulf.

ABU DHABI, September 15, 2019  — In the vast air-conditioned halls of an Abu Dhabi conference centre, the world’s much-vaunted transition to clean energy is the buzzword in sessions of a top industry gathering.

But many executives and officials from oil-dependent Gulf states insist that while the change to renewables is essential, fossil fuels remain the future at least for the next few decades, despite the urgent need to fight climate change.

The debate has taken centre stage at this week’s World Energy Congress, with many officials calling for accelerating the process of moving to clean power sources and minimising carbon emissions.

Speakers addressed issues like the role of nuclear, hydrogen gas and other non-conventional sources of energy as a replacement for fossil fuels which currently account for over three-quarters of the world’s energy consumption.

However, delegates from oil-producing countries and particularly those in the Gulf argued that although the transition to clean energy sources must be supported, they will not be able to meet rising demand any time soon.

“For decades to come the world will still rely on oil and gas as the majority source of energy,” said the head of Abu Dhabi Oil Co. Jaber Sultan.

“About $11 trillion of investment in oil and gas is needed to keep up with current projected demand,” over the next two decades, he told the congress which was attended by representatives of 150 nations and over 400 CEOs.

Energy from increasingly competitive renewable sources has quadrupled globally in just a decade, but insatiable demand for energy particularly from developing economies saw power sector emissions rise 10 per cent, a UN report said last week. 

“All energy transitions — including this one — take decades, with many challenges along the road,” the CEO of Saudi energy giant Aramco, Amin Nasser, said at the conference.

Nasser said his country supports the growing contribution of alternatives, but criticised policies adopted by many governments that do not consider “the long-term nature of our business and the need for orderly transition”.

Addicted to oil 

Oil is still the lifeline for the Gulf states, contributing at least 70 per cent of national revenues across the region which has been cushioned by decades of immense profits from the flow of “black gold”.

Gulf nations have invested tens of billions of dollars in clean energy projects, mainly in solar and nuclear.

Dubai has launched the world’s largest solar energy project, with a price tag of $13.6 billion and the capacity to satisfy a quarter of the energy-hungry emirate’s current needs when it comes online in 2030.

But critics say the addiction to oil is a tough one to kick, particularly when supplies remain abundant and the massive investment in infrastructure necessary to switch to renewables is daunting.

“A global shift from dirty fossil fuel to renewable energy is economically, technically and technologically feasible… All that is missing is political will!” said Julien Jreissati from Greenpeace in the Middle East.

He said while the United Arab Emirates has put plans into action, “Saudi Arabia which has always made big announcements regarding their renewable energy ambitions is lagging behind as their projects and targets remain ink on paper.’

“There is no doubt that the world will leave oil behind. The only question remaining is when will this happen?”

Despite important technological advances made in the past decade, renewable energy sources still make up just around 18 per cent and nuclear adds another 6 per cent of the world’s energy mix. 

In the past decade, the adoption of wind and solar energy picked up rapidly as the production cost plummeted to levels close to that of oil and gas.

But the Abu Dhabi conference saw calls for accelerated innovation and “disruptive” technology to speed the transition as the world prepares for global energy demand to peak between 2020 and 2025, according to the World Energy Council.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said that sustainable and environmentally friendly energy practices must be aligned with national and global economic policies in order to have the required impact.

“It makes more economic sense to apply all green technologies globally, and if this happens we might go to being CO2-free energy users 5 or 10 or 20 years quicker,” she told the conference.

“I prefer that market forces, pushed by smart policymaking and legal space-setting, act quickly and save us all from the alternative.”

Related: Barkindo: Concept of what ‘peak oil’ means has shifted

World Energy Congress, to be held in Abu Dhabi

World Energy Congress, to be held in Abu Dhabi

The 24th World Energy Congress, to be held in Abu Dhabi next month, will see the presence of more than 15,000 attendees, including 4,000 delegates and 66 ministers. 

World Energy Congress, to be held in Abu Dhabi

15,000 professionals to attend World Energy Congress

Taking place from September 9 to 12 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec), the prestigious event will cover an area of 35,000 sq m and will feature over 200 exhibitors, representing more than 150 countries altogether, said the UAE Organizing Committee. This year’s World Energy Congress, which will take place for the first time in the Middle East, will see more than 300 speakers among the thousands of global attendees during the four-day event. More than 80 sessions will be held during the Congress, focusing on the entire energy spectrum including oil and gas, electricity, coal, nuclear power and renewable energy, as well as transport, energy efficiency, finance, investment, consultancy and other sectors that are affected by the energy sector. It will provide an opportunity for business leaders, decision-makers and other industry professionals to discuss the trending topics of the industry as well as taking action to deliver a sustainable future through panel discussions and sessions.  At a press conference to announce the details of the congress, Faisal Al Dhahri (PR and communications director – Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi), Khalifa Al Qubaisi (acting chief commercial officer of (Adnec) and the chairperson of the International Congress and Convention Association), Dr Matar Hamed Al Neyadi (chairman of the 24th World Energy Congress) and Engineer Fatima Alfoora Alshamsi (CEO of the 24th World Energy Congress) participated. Dr Al Neyadi, Undersecretary at the UAE Ministry of Energy and Industry and chairman of the UAE Organizing Committee, said: “The World Energy Congress has gone from strength to strength with every edition. The large attendance, the diversity of exhibitors and the comprehensive conference programme for the 24th edition in Abu Dhabi signifies the importance of the Congress. “Boasting a rich history, the World Energy Congress has attracted a wide array of experts, business leaders and government officials from around the world and Abu Dhabi will be no different. “The UAE has outlined ambitious plans in transforming the energy sector including two of the largest solar generation projects in the world and we are proud that Abu Dhabi is the first city in the Middle East to stage this prestigious event, which is another feather to our cap.” The tri-annual event is now considered the ‘Davos of energy issues’, with every Congress enabling hundreds of global experts to convene, share and discuss the latest trends from around the world; it has also attracted distinguished speakers over the years. Prominent physicist and former Nobel Prize recipient, the late Albert Einstein, is among those to have shared his extensive knowledge as part of a lecture session during the Berlin Congress in 1930. Confirmed to take the stage in Abu Dhabi are Engineer Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Industry, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company Group (Adnoc) and Awaidha Al Marar, chairman, Abu Dhabi Department of Energy. Also speaking are Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and chief executive officer, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority;  Engineer Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec); and Musabbeh Al Kaabi, CEO, Petroleum & Petrochemicals, Mubadala Investment Company.  The World Energy Congress will also see a number of leading companies exhibit their services and products. Among those who will be offering their expertise are Emirates Water and Electricity Company, Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM), Expo 2020, Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa), Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), Total, Siemens, Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA), UAE Federal Insurance Authority and Industry and DP World. During the four days, the congress will also feature more than 30 side events including workshops and roundtables that will be hosted by various organisations. One of the notable side events to take place is the Start Up Energy Transition – 100 (SET100), which will feature the top 100 international start-ups showcasing the most innovative products and services that will address climate change and improve energy efficiency. Among other side events taking place is the World Economic Forum – Global Energy Transition and a workshop hosted by the UAE Ministry of Energy and Industry and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy on how other nations can learn from German practices.  The World Energy Leaders’ Summit will see the attendance of global energy leaders while young professionals will be able to voice their opinions as part of the Future Energy Leaders’ Summit.

TradeArabia News Service