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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

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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

Fracking Boom in US and Canada Largely to Blame

Fracking Boom in US and Canada Largely to Blame

Other countries such as Algeria, people have objected quite strongly at times, to anything to do with fracking out fossil fuel from the ground using water from its invaluable phreatic water. More recently, it is found as elaborated in Fracking Boom in US and Canada Largely to Blame for ‘Massive’ Rise of Global Methane Levels: Study, that it is no more a question of water use only, but as put mildly in Common Dreams, in this article below as a matter far more lethal for life on earth.

While the rise of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere over the past decade has been “globally significant,” quick action to end fracking would have a rapid, positive impact on the environment by Julia Conley, Staff writer.

A new study out of Cornell University suggests that fracking in the U.S. and Canada over the past decade is largely to blame for the rise of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere. (Photo: Jeff Wallace/flickr/cc)

New research by a scientist at Cornell University warns that the fracking boom in the U.S. and Canada over the past decade is largely to blame for a large rise in methane in the Earth’s atmosphere—and that reducing emissions of the extremely potent greenhouse gas is crucial to help stem the international climate crisis.

Professor Robert Howarth examined hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, over the past several decades, noting the fracking boom that has taken place since the first years of the 21st century. Between 2005 and 2015, fracking went from producing 31 billion cubic meters of shale gas per year to producing 435 billion cubic meters.

Nearly 90 per cent of that fracking took place in the U.S., while about 10 per cent was done in Canada.

The fracking method was first used by oil and gas companies in 1949, but Howarth concluded that fracking done in the past decade has particularly contributed to the amount of methane in the atmosphere. As Kashmira Gander wrote at Newsweek:

While methane released in the late 20th century was enriched with the carbon isotope 13C, Howarth highlights methane released in recent years features lower levels. That’s because the methane in shale gas has depleted levels of the isotope when compared with conventional natural gas or fossil fuels such as coal, he explained.

“The methane in shale gas is somewhat depleted in 13C relative to conventional natural gas,” Howarth wrote in the study, published Wednesday in the journal Biogeosciences. “Correcting earlier analyses for this difference, we conclude that shale-gas production in North America over the past decade may have contributed more than half of all of the increased emissions from fossil fuels globally and approximately one-third of the total increased emissions from all sources globally over the past decade.”

“The commercialization of shale gas and oil in the 21st century has dramatically increased global methane emissions,” he added.

Other scientists praised Howarth’s study on social media.

In addition to being the second-biggest contributor to the climate crisis after carbon dioxide, methane has been known to cause and exacerbate health issues for people who live in areas where large amounts of the gas is present in the environment.

Chest pains, bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma can all be caused or worsened by high levels of methane. The process of fracking has also been linked to pollution in drinking water.

The Trump administration has no plans to reduce the amount of fracking that is taking place in the U.S.—rather, President Donald Trump has moved to open up public lands to gas and oil companies looking to purchase leases for fracking.

Howarth urged fossil fuel companies—and the government agencies charged with regulating them—to reverse course, shift to a renewable energy economy, and “move as quickly as possible away from natural gas, reducing both carbon dioxide and methane emissions.”

Cutting emissions of methane promptly would have a positive impact on the atmosphere and could help to slow the climate crisis because the atmosphere reacts quickly to the addition and subtraction of the gas.    

“This recent increase in methane is massive. It’s globally significant. It’s contributed to some of the increase in global warming we’ve seen and shale gas is a major player,” Howarth said in a statement.

“If we can stop pouring methane into the atmosphere, it will dissipate,” he added. “It goes away pretty quickly, compared to carbon dioxide. It’s the low-hanging fruit to slow global warming.”

Eat green to save the environment, says IPCC

Eat green to save the environment, says IPCC

Eat green to save the environment, says IPCC – how to tell if that really means you by Morten Fibieger Byskov, University of Warwick is yet again another article on the same theme. That of how our food impacts the lives of the generations in the future.

Arthimedes / shutterstock

In its new special report on climate change and land, the IPCC calls for more effective and sustainable land management, and more sustainable food consumption. But who is the onus on to go vegetarian, or look after land better? You, me, the “global elite”? The world’s poorest people, or perhaps the many millions of newly-wealthy Chinese or Indians? Or maybe our governments?

The answer depends on how you interpret the report, which can be read in two ways. On one hand, it is a moral call for individual consumers and food suppliers to become more sustainable. On the other, it is a call for governments to promote sustainable food consumption and production choices.

This is not an either/or situation – the report should be read in both ways but with recommendations for different population groups. To wit, whether someone is individually responsible for taking on board the IPCC’s recommendations depends on the extent to which they are subject to one or more of three forms of inequality.

1. Not everyone can afford to eat veggie or local

First and foremost, massive global wealth inequality affects the extent to which individuals and communities are able (or, rather, should be expected) to implement the recommendations of the IPCC report. It’s a lot easier to go vegetarian when you have the money to eat what you like. In the Global South, many have not benefited from industrialisation, while remaining in even more need of implementing measures to counter climate risks. Even in the more affluent countries of the Global North, many people live in abject poverty and have to make tough choices as how to spend their limited resources.

This highlights the need to make sustainable food accessible and not just available. The authors of the IPCC report acknowledge as much, emphasising how rising costs may lead to undernourishment as people turn to cheaper replacements, such as fast food. This is why sustainable food must be promoted alongside poverty alleviation. In the Global South, green growth must be priority as long as it includes local stakeholders, who are often experts on sustainable land management.

2. Some people emit more than others

Carbon footprint is highly correlated with inequality. As a 2015-report by Oxfam showed, the top 10% of income-earners, mainly living in affluent countries, are responsible for almost half of global greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom half are only responsible for 10%. Even within affluent countries, there is a big divide between rich and poor. In other words global warming is not driven equally by everyone, but rather is highly correlated with income.

The global rich are responsible for most of the world’s emissions. aapsky / shutterstock

Of course, this does not mean that we should encourage unsustainable living in less developed countries. Rather, we should recognise that the consumption and production patterns of the world’s worst-off are not necessarily unsustainable. Although the world’s high and upper-middle income countries are home to about half the population, they are responsible for 86% of emissions. In comparison, Africa is home to 16% of the world’s population, yet only emits 4% of the global total. Meanwhile the very poorest countries – 9% of the global population, or 700 million people – emit just 0.5%. (Tellingly, the average per capita emissions of North Americans is more than 17 times that of the average African.)

Consequently, it would be possible to add several billion people in low-income countries, where population growth is already the highest, without massively changing global emissions, while adding just one billion individuals in high-income countries would increase global emissions by one-third. As the income of less-affluent populations grows, however, it does become necessary to encourage more sustainable practices.

3. People are not equally vulnerable

But less-affluent people in the Global North aren’t entirely off the hook. While inequality of income and carbon footprint does mean they are absolved of some responsibility to act more sustainably, this group still benefits from better infrastructure and more equitable institutions which should shelter them from the worst impacts of climate change. Conversely, inhabitants of low and middle-income countries, especially those in fragile environments like rainforests, mountains or coastal regions, are particularly vulnerable.

So while taking action to mitigate climate change is necessary, we cannot lose sight of the fact that many communities require financial and institutional support to adapt to existing changes to their local environment as well as to build resilience to near-certain climate risks in the future. While most people in the Western world are still only beginning to see and feel the effects of climate change, they must continue to commit resources to those most vulnerable and worse-off communities, who are often invisible to them.

In sum, whether someone can be held individually responsible for taking on board the IPCC’s recommendations crucially depends on whether they are able to do so without risking their life, livelihood, or well-being. Because inequalities in income, emissions, and vulnerability to climate change are still widespread, the report must first and foremost be read as a call for governments to make sustainable consumption and production options accessible. Addressing climate change and food security must go hand in hand with addressing global and local socioeconomic inequalities.

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

Morten Fibieger Byskov, Postdoctoral Researcher in International Politics, University of Warwick

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

The Conversation

The Built Environment causes Climate Change

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) confirming that the Built environment causes climate change, declared Climate Emergency.

The RIBA declared it is architecture’s “biggest challenge” before committing to a plan of action of 5 years for climate change as being absolutely necessary.

The role that architects have in causing climate change and alleviating it was acknowledged as plausible by the British Architectural Institution. The RIBA president Ben Derbyshire declared that:

“We architects need to transform the way we practice and along with our fellow professionals around the world, make changes that will impact at a global level.”

The five-year plan could help make sustainable practices standard not only within the British construction industry but improve by inspiring those of the world. Here is how it was announced.

RIBA declares environment and climate emergency and commits to action plan

27 June 2019

RIBA trustees today formally agreed to join the global declaration of an environment and climate emergency at the triannual meeting of RIBA Council members.

At the meeting, which brings together elected trustees to debate and discuss the biggest issues facing the profession, the Institute also committed to developing the RIBA Ethics and Sustainable Development Commission’s action plan and a pledge to support the government’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

RIBA President, Ben Derbyshire, said:

“The climate emergency is the biggest challenge facing our planet and our profession. But to have a significant impact we need to do more than make symbolic statements – we need to turn warm words into impactful actions.

The implementation of a five-year action plan we have committed to today will ensure we are able to benchmark change and evaluate the actions that make most impact.”

The Ethics and Sustainable Development Action Plan will include measurable actions to support a net zero carbon built environment. It will drive change at a national and international level in industry standards and practice; in government and inter-governmental policy and regulation; and in the RIBA’s own carbon footprint.

The RIBA should work to support chartered member practices (in the UK and internationally) enabling them to commit to voluntary reporting of core building performance metrics and to work towards the whole-life net zero carbon standard and standard Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) reporting metrics when the guidance is available.

RIBA Chief Executive, Alan Vallance said:

“With a background in the meteorological sector I have a deep insight into the impact of climate change and the vast and urgent task ahead of us. RIBA Council’s commitment to the climate emergency declaration is an important moment for the institute and the profession – a catalyst for the further action and change that is needed to ensure that architects and the built environment sector are at the forefront of a zero-carbon future.”

Next steps will include the implementation of a five-year detailed action plan to embed sustainable industry standards and practice and use the RIBA’s influence to improve government and inter-government policy and regulation.

Chair of the RIBA’s Sustainable Futures Group, Gary Clark said:

“The RIBA Sustainable Futures Group welcomes the RIBA Council decision to declare a climate emergency. This is an important first step that formally recognises the scale and urgency of climate change and that as architects we have an obligation to demonstrate leadership for a sustainable future. Now the hard work starts – we only have 11 years to agree and implement a net zero carbon trajectory for new and retrofitted buildings, and infrastructure. The RIBA will be guiding the profession but we must all take action to voluntarily reduce operational emissions and embodied carbon significantly beyond regulation.”

The era of Carbon offsets drawing to a close

The era of Carbon offsets drawing to a close

Buying carbon credits in exchange for a clean conscience while you carry on flying, buying diesel cars and powering your home with fossil fuels is no longer acceptable or widely accepted. The era of carbon offsets drawing to a close is a 10 Jun 2019 Story of Climate change, especially if we consider that Renewable Energy Now Accounts for 33% of Global Power and that it is on its way to a full 100% within the near future.

Picture above is by Wikimedia

Carbon offsets are not our get-out-of-jail free card

Carbon credits are increasingly coming under fire for essentially allowing some to continue on their polluting ways while the rest of us are left scrambling to contain the climate crisis. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the first to call everyone to action. “We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” he says.

Meanwhile, scientists, activists and concerned citizens have started to voice their concerns over how carbon offsets have been used by polluters as a free pass for inaction.

Carbon offsets schemes were set up to allow the largest polluters who exceed permitted emissions’ levels to fund projects, such as reforestation, that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, essentially balancing out their emissions equation.

The types of carbon offset projects that are implemented are diverse. They range from forestry sequestration projects (which remove CO2 from the atmosphere when trees grow) to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects (which reduce future CO2 emissions in the atmosphere).

UN Environment’s operations have been carbon neutral since 2008 thanks, in part, to the purchase of carbon credits. Since then, the organization has also reduced its emissions by 35 per cent. Many organizations and individuals are buying carbon credits to offset the greenhouse gas emissions involved in travel, principally flying.

Carbon offsets are useful while infrastructure and industry make the transition to electric mobility, alternative energy and the new technology necessary for low- and zero-carbon lifestyles. Where there are no viable alternatives in the short term, an offset scheme promises to cancel out the emissions in one place with emission-reducing actions in another. 

However, the reality is far from this neat.

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Offsets are only part of the answer

The climate crisis is now considered our gravest existential threat. Fifty per cent of climate changing pollutants have been pumped into our atmosphere—from power stations, cars, agriculture—since just 1990, and this amount is growing every second.

If we are serious about averting catastrophic planetary changes, we need to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. Trees planted today can’t grow fast enough to achieve this goal and reduce by half our current emissions. And carbon offset projects will never be able to curb the emissions growth if coal power stations continue to be built and petrol cars continue to be bought, and our growing global population continues to consume as it does today.

This is not to say that carbon offset projects should stop, quite the opposite. We must continue to plant trees and protect forests and peatlands. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are critical and offset schemes play an important role in funding and upscaling them.

What we must look at, though, is how these actions sum up to reflect the true cost of emissions and the urgency of their reduction. The one-for-one model has been proved wrong. If one tonne of sequestered CO2 is the price of one carbon credit, that offset must include not simply the emissions today, but also factor in the missing 45 per cent emissions’ reduction, as well as the future projected increase. 

Shoa Ehsani, a UN Environment official who closely tracks UN Environment’s carbon footprint, says carbon offsetting uptake has been slow. “One of the reasons offsets haven’t been selling is because the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement are non-enforceable. The main procurers of offsets are supposed to be nations trying to meet the targets they promised to meet. But they have reneged on their promises and targets. If the nations of the G20, responsible for 81 per cent of total emissions, are to meet targets, offsets remain an important mechanism for them unless they manage a 45 per cent emissions reduction on their own (which would be fantastic).”

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Dry forest in Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, southwest Madagascar. Photo by GRID-Arendal

A tool for speeding up climate action

Offsets also risk giving the dangerous illusion of a “fix” that will allow our billowing emissions to just continue to grow.

“UN Environment supports carbon offsets as a temporary measure leading up to 2030, and a tool for speeding up climate action,” says UN Environment climate specialist Niklas Hagelberg. “However, it is not a silver bullet, and the danger is that it can lead to complacency. The October 2018 report by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that if we are to have any hope of curbing global warming we need to transition away from carbon for good: by travelling electric, embracing renewable energy, eating less meat and wasting less food.

“To secure popular support for decarbonization, the public needs to be informed about the positive effects of emission reductions, their benefits for cleaner air, health and new energy jobs,” he adds. “We should tax carbon, not people. We know fossil fuel subsidies are unfair when non-polluting alternatives are here right now. Making such a huge transition will require all the tools at our disposal, though, and offsets, if examined and applied with clear eyes, can aid the transition where sudden and drastic change might instead set us further back.”

The UN Climate Action Summit will take place in New York City on 23 September 2019 to increase ambition and accelerate action on the global climate emergency and support the rapid implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement

The 2019 UN Climate Action Summit is hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

For further information please contact Niklas Hagelberg

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya published by YaLa Press is meant to obviously shed some light on the disastrous situation of the Libyan environment all within the geopolitical context. Here is that article with our thanks to the author and courtesy to Yala Press.

World Environment Day

5th June is a platform for action environment day every year. This day reminds us of the urge to protect our environment. In order to encourage worldwide awareness to save our beautiful and green planet, on this day, hundreds of organizations and millions of civilians will urge governments, industries, communities, and individuals to come together and raise awareness to keep our planet safe place.

Planet Earth is a beautiful place. It’s also the only planet we have, and we want to make sure that we do what needs to be done to keep it safe, healthy, cared for, and respected.

Humans are the only creatures on Earth that will cut down a tree, turn it into paper, then write “save the trees “on it. Imagine if the trees would give off WiFi signals, we would be planting so many trees and we’d probably save the planet too. It’s not your personal toy, nor mine. It is ours! So, protect the mother who nourishes you. Plants can survive without humans, but humans can not survive without plants. Environment day means to protect all the natural sources, plants, water, forests etc…

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry, the water in your toilet is cleaner than what nearly a billion people have to drink elsewhere on the same Earth.

Try to keep this blessing safe from pollution. Think green, stay healthy, and save this wealth. To live in a beautiful and clean environment.

Happy Environment day!

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

    One of the most annoying and serious environmental issues in Libya is the crisis trash. The clean environment brings fresh air and saves nature.  Our nature needs to be protected for a healthy life, and for us and for the animals. The ignorance of such an issue will always increase the danger that we give to our country and with no doubts will enhance the cause of diseases. No one ever wants to walk down the streets and passes trashes. No one wants to kick cans and plastics bottles while walking on shores.   For years now, neither the government nor the people, or even the waste companies could find an ending solution for this trouble. The streets in the capital are almost full of trashes. The roads, pavements, in front of schools and near the blocks of flats all have piles of trash. The scenery cannot be bearable anymore and it does not show the area in an urban view.

     Despite the individual attempts to fix this issue in the capital; Tripoli, this trouble has no end. People do not have any ideas about where to put their garbage, as a result, the waste solids are thrown everywhere. I have noticed while I was walking in the streets that those who live in houses they put their garbage near their houses with hope the waste companies come and collect it. Others who live in flats they throw it down the building or near the streets. Some they are just satisfied with throwing the trash wherever they could put it- on the pavements, near the beaches or wherever they can put trashes.

     Consequently, the government does not try to recycle or export plastic or paper waste, so they are starting to pile up randomly. And for sure, this is not a pretension to put the trash anywhere but there is no another way.  This scene we see every day at our streets, in front of our schools, universities, near our gardens, in the highways, on beaches and almost at every single step we take. We see cans, papers and plastic rubbish are thrown with no care about nature, the heath, or even showing any ethical value for doing such a horrible thing. The serious solution should be taken before making this trouble more dangerous. This is a dangerous threat of many living species on our land. Not all of us know how this trash we throw ends up. Plastic needs a long time to be mouldered. Plastic can float on the surface of the sea for centuries! Plastic can be eaten by any animals accidentally and animals cannot digest plastic which it stays in their stomach and intestines for years until it causes for their death.

    Although we need to use these materials; paper, plastic, iron cans … etc. for our daily life, using such materials improperly will lead to damage the environmental balance. We create these materials, we need them and we are responsible for any harm we cause. Our nature and animals do not need the paper or plastic, so we must not throw them randomly everywhere and ask nature to just simply use them or let the animals eat them. In other words, humans need nature very much, without it we cannot succeed to keep our life on the planet. Ignorance or contributing of throwing the trash at inappropriate places is a crime against our nature, our lands and our health.

    To sum up, we are destroying our nature with no worries. In Libya, trash is estimated to kills our environment and we help to damage it. It is not an excuse that we cannot find a solution. We can have special places to collect the whole trash at. Or we can start to export it to other countries where we can recycle it and use it for other things. Recycling is one of the perfect solutions and the most protective one. On the other hand, we need to take a series of action towards this and help our environment.

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