It should not be any surprise to witness first-hand that the good destiny of the planet appears to be postponed from COP to COP because of the obvious preponderance of petrodollars over any agreement, even at the now well-proven cost of jeopardising the planet’s Climate. The UAE must learn from UK’s COP26 when it takes climate leadership by Jonathan Gornall who rightfully forehears “voices will be raised protesting that handing control of COP28 to the UAE is akin to asking a fox to beef up the security of a chicken coop”.
One of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels will be in charge of negotiations to wean the world from its addiction to fossil fuels
With hindsight, it seems incredible that, until now, ever since COP1 in 1995 the words “coal” and “fossil fuel” have failed to make the cut in the final reports of any of the Conferences of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
That would be like a report by the World Health Organization on the global response to Covid-19 failing to mention the SARS-CoV-2 virus – unthinkable.
As every schoolchild in the world surely knows, the climate-change catastrophe looming over the planet has been generated by the unfettered burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – since the dawn of the coal-powered Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.
The annual failure of COP delegates to acknowledge the fossilized elephant in the room has, of course, been the product not of ignorance, but of the myriad social and economic pressures, experienced by multiple countries at different stages of development.
Forget elephants, the animal present at every COP for the past quarter of a century has been a giant ostrich, with its head buried deep in the ground. At Glasgow, the ostrich was finally allowed to raise its head, albeit only for a brief peak at reality. Even then, attempts to overthrow King Coal were watered down by last-minute interventions from its loyal subjects, China and India.
What the world needs now, more than anything else, is compelling leadership.
One announcement to come out of Glasgow was that COP28 in 2023 would be staged in the United Arab Emirates, home to the UN-created International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This isn’t the first time the COP roadshow has traveled to the Middle East – in 2012 COP18 was held in Doha – but a decade on the climate-change landscape has changed utterly.
Doha was not insignificant. It was one of a series of dull but necessary COPs that paved the way toward the Paris Agreement in 2015, and it was the first time that developing countries signed up to a legal obligation to reduce their emissions.
The Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To achieve that, the world needs to cut global greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 26 billion metric tons every year between now and 2030. To say that the total emission-reduction pledges scraped together in Glasgow of just over 6 billion tons fell short is to understate the huge gap between ambition and commitment.
It highlights the monumental scale of the challenge for the country presiding over these conferences. That the UK’s COP26 president Alok Sharma was almost in tears as he announced the watered-down deal goes some way to illustrate the personal and institutional commitments required by the host.
The kind of leadership needed to rally the world’s nations and their disparate interests to commit to an agreement often appears beyond possibility. Then there is the task of making sure the outcomes and expectations of any COP event are stuck to.
The UK had to draw deep on its resources and global leadership experience just to make Glasgow happen. With more than 25,000 delegates descending on the city, the policing bill alone was estimated at the equivalent of more than US$300 million.
The pandemic brought big challenges to hosting the event, but it also gave Sharma’s team an extra year to prepare after COP26 was pushed back from 2020. The UK won the bid to host the event in September 2019, but Sharma was only appointed president in January 2020 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson fired his predecessor Claire Perry O’Neill.
The jostling showed the escalating importance placed on the herculean task of cajoling global powers into alignment on saving the planet.
While many have called the COP26 outcomes a failure, Sharma won praise for his balanced leadership that involved building relations with small island states most at risk from rising sea levels while handling tricky meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.
It is some of these skillsets that the UAE will have to draw upon as it prepares to take the reins in 2023. The Emirates has been entrusted to host the event based on its existing commitments toward the environment and renewable energy, including investing heavily in the new sciences of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), and nuclear energy.
Yet the UAE has more to lose than many countries from the inevitable transition to sustainable fuels, but much more to gain than most in shaping the elements of tomorrow’s energy market – and, thanks to its oil and gas revenues, it has the necessary funds to invest in the future today.
But forging its own path is very different to consensus-building between nations with conflicting interests. What lessons can be learned from previous COP hosts and how the UAE can build on their efforts yet bring its own style of leadership is yet to be seen.
Doubtless many voices will be raised protesting that handing control of COP28 to the UAE is akin to asking a fox to beef up the security of a chicken coop. Fingers will also be pointed at comments this week from the group chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) that “the oil and gas industry will have to invest over $600 billion every year … until 2030 … just to keep up with expected demand.”
But to express alarm at this is to misunderstand the nature of a global energy system undergoing dramatic change.
None of the world’s countries can “simply unplug” abruptly from fossil fuels. The world is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and demand for oil and gas is rocketing – in the process creating the essential wealth in the Persian Gulf region necessary to fund and drive the transition to renewables.
For the UAE and countries such as Saudi Arabia, much of the profit being drawn out of the earth now is being plowed directly into the type of research and development that ultimately will save the planet.
The UAE is working hard to curb its own domestic consumption of fossil fuels. Last month, it announced it was aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – an ambitious target on a par with those of the UK, the US and the European Union.
How? Well, it turns out that oil was not the only economic blessing bestowed on the fossil-fuel-producing countries of the Middle East.
Sunlight is the resource that gives on giving and, in the Gulf, is available for the greatest part of the year. The UAE is already leading the way with domestic solar power plants and investing in solar technology.
COP28 in 2023 will put one of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels in charge of negotiations to wean the world from its addiction to fossil fuels. It will put the UAE under a global spotlight that will require an exemplary level of leadership and diplomacy if the climate negotiations will continue to move forward.
And as the outcome of the UK meeting demonstrated, progress is incremental.
Jonathan Gornall is a British journalist, formerly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and is now based in the UK.
Politicians Subsidise Fossil Fuel with Six Trillion Dollars in Just One Year By Baher Kamal is an eye-opener to the sad reality of the world prior to the COP26. Would this recent and very hyped up event have any bearing on this state of affairs?
The image above is of an offshore oil rig drilling platform. Globally, fossil fuel subsidies amounted to 5.9 trillion US dollars in 2020, according to an IMF report. Credit: Bigstock
MADRID, Nov 16 2021 (IPS) – It sounds incredible: while politicians have been cackling about the climate emergency and profiling in empty promises to halt it, they have spent six trillion US dollars from taxpayers’ money to subsidise fossil fuels in just one year: 2020. And they are set to increase the figure to nearly seven trillion by 2025.
According to the study, 8 percent of the 2020 subsidy reflects undercharging for supply costs (explicit subsidies) and 92 percent for undercharging for environmental costs and foregone consumption taxes (implicit subsidies).
Efficient fuel pricing in 2025 would reduce global carbon dioxide emissions 36 percent below baseline levels, which is in line with keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees, while raising revenues worth 3.8 percent of global GDP and preventing 0.9 million local air pollution deaths. Accompanying spreadsheets provide detailed results for 191 countries, IMF adds.
Commenting on this fact, António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, said that “… promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies, as measured by the IMF. Or when countries are still building coal plants…”
Every country, city, company and financial institution must “radically, credibly and verifiably” reduce their emissions and decarbonise their portfolios, starting now, said Guterres.
Time running out for oil and gas?
Hard to believe when just 11 countries presented the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance at November’s UN Climate Conference in Glasgow.
Ireland, France, Denmark, and Costa Rica. among others, as well as some subnational governments, launched a first of its kind alliance to set an end date for national oil and gas exploration and extraction.
One of the Alliance members’ representative, Andrea Meza, Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica commented: “Every dollar that we invest in fossil fuel projects is one less dollar for renewables and for the conservation of nature…” she added.
By 2050, 1.6 billion people living in cities will be regularly exposed to extremely high temperatures and over 800 million people living in cities across the world will be vulnerable to sea level rises and coastal flooding.
According to UN Habitat, which deals with human settlements and sustainable urban development, cities consume 78 percent of the world’s energy and produce over 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions – while accounting for less than two per cent of the Earth’s surface.
Inger Andersen, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that “We build the equivalent of new buildings the size of Paris every week, and if that is the way we are expected to expand we need to think about how we do it because of climate, biodiversity, livability, quality of life. We need to build better.”,
According to Andersen, building and construction are responsible for 37 percent of CO2 emissions with construction materials like cement, accounting for 10 percent of global emissions.
She also pointed out that over half of the buildings that will be standing in 2060 haven’t been constructed yet. According to UNEP, only 19 countries have added codes regarding energy efficiency for buildings, and put them in place, and most of future construction will occur in countries without these measures.
“For every dollar invested in energy efficient buildings, we see 37 going into conventional buildings that are energy inefficient. We need to move from these incremental changes because they are way too slow, we need a real sector transformation. We need to build better,” Andersen said, calling for more ambition for governments if they are to fill the promise of net-zero.
Cars, buses, trucks, ships…
The transport sector is responsible for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC).
The sector’s emissions have more than doubled since 1970, with around 80 percent of the increase caused by road vehicles. The United Nations environment programme UNEP calculates that the world’s transport sector is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels.
“A world where every car, bus and truck sold is electric and affordable, where shipping vessels use only sustainable fuels, and where planes can run on green hydrogen may sound like a sci-fi movie.”
This is how governments spend trillions of taxpayers’ pockets to subsidise fossil fuels that can only aggravate the ongoing climate emergency.
Carbon dioxide (CO₂) emitted by burning fossil fuels for energy today will only be removed from the atmosphere by natural sinks – like forests and the ocean – in the next 300 to 1,000 years. That means the climate benefits of transitioning to clean energy become apparent on far longer timescales than political term limits and election cycles. A US study, for example, found that deep cuts to emissions from the energy sector will not result in climate cooling until after 2100.
The costs of mitigating climate change outweigh the immediate benefits to the climate. Politicians seeking recognition for their actions at climate change conferences like COP26 in Glasgow have little motive to deliver policies which slash emissions quickly. But there is a large, short-term benefit to eradicating fossil fuels for global health.
The same fossil fuels producing the greenhouse gases warming the Earth’s atmosphere also form large quantities of air pollutants. The pollutants most hazardous to health are small particles which can penetrate deep into the lungs. These particles have diameters of no more than 2.5 micrometers, so are called PM2.5. At least 800 of these particles could fit end-to-end on the head of a pin. These fall out of the air when it rains, so they persist in the atmosphere for a much shorter time (just a few days) than CO₂.
In a study we published earlier in 2021 in collaboration with researchers at Harvard University, we estimated that exposure to air pollution from using fossil fuels globally accounts for one in five premature deaths. Our results suggest that at least 8.7 million early adult deaths could have been avoided in a single year if countries had already abandoned fossil fuels. This is equivalent to the population of Greater London.
The health benefits of decarbonisation
Our estimate of premature deaths far exceeds that of other researchers, as we used a model that simulates the sources and fate of air pollution to calculate its abundance on a much finer scale. This gives a more accurate picture of the concentrations of air pollution breathed in by people in urban areas. We then used this to estimate excess deaths using the most up-to-date health studies, which have found that air pollution is deadlier than previously assumed.
The most common causes of premature death from air pollution exposure are heart disease and lung cancer, but researchers routinely report additional illnesses. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published much stricter health guidelines for air quality than it last recommended in 2005 based on substantial evidence that exposure to air pollution is even worse for public health than scientists had imagined.
Our study is probably an underestimate of the possible public health benefits of abandoning fossil fuels. We only accounted for one type of pollution, PM2.5, which arises from burning fossil fuels. A range of air pollutants form as byproducts in all other steps of the fossil fuel supply chain: from finding, extracting and processing fossil fuels, to storing and transporting them.
One example is formaldehyde gas, which is emitted during petroleum refining and flaring of natural gas. Formaldehyde reacts to form ozone in the lower atmosphere, where it is toxic and can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
We also only focused on adults. The relationship between air pollution and poor health in children isn’t completely understood, but studies so far have shown that exposure to air pollution stunts growth and impedes brain and lung development in children. In a landmark case in 2020, air pollution was directly attributed to the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl in London.
The health benefits of transitioning to clean energy are substantial and can emerge quickly. They offer a tantalising opportunity for politicians to deliver immediate improvements in the lives of their voters.
This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage on COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world. Amid a rising tide of climate news and stories, The Conversation is here to clear the air and make sure you get information you can trust. More.
Oil-rich UAE to burn waste to make power using electricity generated for more than 90 percent from gas-powered plants. A story that does not take us far from good old internal combustion of materials.
Oil-rich UAE to burn waste to make power
By Carolyn Lamboley
With rubbish piling up in the desert, the United Arab Emirates has found a new way to get rid of its trash—incinerators that will turn it into electricity.
The UAE, one of the world’s top oil exporters, is building the Gulf region’s first waste-to-power plants to ease its chronic trash problem and, at the same time, its reliance on gas-fuelled electricity stations.
Green groups are unconvinced. They say advanced recycling, composting and changing habits amid grossly wasteful rates of consumption would be better for the environment, warning of pollution risks from the greenhouse gas-intensive incinerators too.
But engineer Nouf Wazir, from waste management company Bee’ah, argues they are a way to make use of refuse that cannot be recycled.
“Not everyone knows that waste has value,” said Wazir, a senior engineer on the project. The Sharjah facility is expected to launch this year, burning more than 300,000 tonnes of waste per year to power up to 28,000 homes.
In the neighbouring emirate of Dubai, another plant is being developed at a cost of $1.2 billion, according to Hitachi Zosen Inova, one of the partner companies.
When it is completed in 2024, the Dubai plant will be one of the largest in the world, capable of gobbling up 1.9 million tonnes of waste per year—about 45 percent of the household waste currently produced in the emirate.
‘People consume a lot’
As the UAE has mushroomed from a desert outpost to a thriving business hub, waste has multiplied.
So has power use, which has soared 750 percent since 1990 according to the International Energy Agency.
Now with about 10 million people, five times the population of 30 years ago, the wealthy UAE uses more electricity and creates more waste per head than almost any other country.
Authorities put waste production at 1.8 kilos (four pounds) per person per day.
In the UAE, “people consume a lot, and they throw away a lot”, said Riad Bestani, founder of ECOsquare, a Dubai-based consultancy specialising in eco-friendly waste management.
Landfills are strewn across the country. In Dubai alone, six cover an area of about 1.6 million square meters (395 acres), according to the municipality.
In the absence of other solutions, it estimates that landfills will occupy 5.8 million square meters of the emirate by 2041, an area the size of more than 800 football pitches.
Fees for landfills are “pretty much nonexistent, so it’s quite cheap and easy to dump all materials into the desert”, said Emma Barber, director of Dubai-based DGrade, which designs clothes and accessories from recycled plastic bottles.
The UAE has set about diversifying its electricity generation, more than 90 percent of which comes from gas-powered plants.
Last year, the UAE inaugurated the Arab world’s first nuclear plant and, making use of its location in one of the world’s hottest regions, it has significant solar power resources.
In the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, which started on Sunday, the UAE said it was targeting carbon neutrality by 2050.
‘Separate, sort, recycle’
While supporters of the plants say the incinerators carry minimal pollution risks, activists say other approaches would be better for the environment.
According to Janek Vahk of Zero Waste Europe, incinerating rubbish may be “easier” than having space-consuming landfills, but it is far from green.
“The most beneficial for the climate (and) the environment would be recoverage” and composting, Vahk told AFP.
“But this is not really happening because… it’s easier to simply burn it than to separate, sort and recycle.”
The Brussels-based NGO has called for a moratorium on new waste incinerators and the phasing-out of old ones by 2040, warning the electricity they produce is greenhouse-gas intensive—even compared to fossil fuels.
Vahk argues that incineration is “more efficient” in colder Nordic countries when the heat produced is also harnessed, but not in hot deserts.
“If you only produce electricity, the greenhouse gases’ intensity of this energy is very high,” Vahk said, adding that incinerators are also “very expensive to build—and they need to have continuous input to run.”
Rami Shaar, co-founder of Washmen, a Dubai-based start-up that collects customers’ laundry and recycling at the same time, said waste-to-electricity is not “necessarily green energy“.
“It’s a bit of a solution towards not extracting more oil… but it doesn’t solve the full problem,” he said.
Op-ed: Solving the climate crisis requires more than switching to renewables—everyone needs equal access as suggested in the Environmental Health News of 2 November 2021 is literally nowadays a must if any agreements at the COP26 were to go through and above all last.
Environmental justice policy is the best path to energy equity.
This economic turning point is the next step in our global energy journey from wood to coal to oil to gas to renewables. Transitioning to 80% renewable electricity generation in the United States would alleviate an estimated 81% of the industry’s emissions. As a chemical engineer researching solar cell materials, the long-sought economic viability of solar energy is exciting to me—and long-awaited. But it only solves one of a laundry list of problems with the U.S. energy infrastructure, and it will not actually protect those most vulnerable to climate change.Stay in the know: sign up for the Agents of Change newsletter
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Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and low-income communities bear the brunt of climate change’s negative impacts, as discussed in-depth by the NAACP, Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and many more. However, renewable energy technologies like solar cells primarily benefit wealthy and predominantly white communities rather than the aforementioned environmental justice communities. Mandates, like the 2020 law in California, which requires all new homes built in the state to have solar panels, price low-income communities out of such housing due to high upfront costs of renewable technologies.
The pivot in U.S. energy infrastructure must be more than just adopting a few new technologies—we must completely change the system by centering environmental justice. Why? Because for centuries that system has disenfranchised and discriminated against BIPOC and low-income communities.
Racial wealth disparities require more than new tech to bridge gaps
Our capitalistic society exploits energy resources rather than equitably utilizing them. Environmental justice is intrinsically anti-capitalist in the sense that for everyone to have equal and just access to clean air, water, food, and energy, there must be some level of government regulation and oversight of these commodities due to unreliable resource access throughout different parts of the U.S.
Racial and ethnic inequality in energy access largely originates from housing inequality, which remains a paramount issue today. In 1934, the U.S. government established the Federal Housing Administration to administer loans to families looking to buy homes. Approximately 98% of the loans granted between 1934 and 1968 were given to white people, and this practice was known as (legally allowed) redlining, a form of segregation that still plagues cities around the country. White families purchased homes and accrued generational wealth while Black families mainly rented homes. This contributed to the racial wealth gap that today also affects all other BIPOC communities and results in stratification of energy and utility access.
Coupled with this were the discrimination and violence against Black people in the work force. Specifically, Jim Crow era segregation in the early- and mid-1900s made workplace discrimination in the government not only legal but encouraged, making it more difficult for Black people to hold well-paying civil service jobs. The effects of Jim Crow still resound today. The segregation and gap in generational wealth between white and BIPOC families determined what commodities and luxuries families could afford.
Because of this immense inequality, BIPOC households are more likely to suffer from energy poverty, whereby they pay a larger proportion of their income than average on utilities. This disparity stems from a lack of energy efficiency in homes accessible to BIPOC and low-income families. Additionally, BIPOC families have less reliable access to utilities, facing more frequent blackouts and utility shutoffs than white families.
None of these problems are intrinsically connected to the source of energy producing that electricity or heat. They are instead products of a racist, capitalist society that allows white wealth to prosper at the expense of racial equity and justice.
Corporate greed won’t change with a different energy product for sale
Oil companies have a history of concentrating their industry and environmental impact in BIPOC and low-income communities. ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies spent decades convincing the public and the government of doubt surrounding anthropogenic climate change to ensure their pockets would stay full. While renewable energy sources like solar and wind could alleviate the harmful emissions and pollution that plague fence-line communities, many other environmental justice issues would remain unless other changes are made.
As a glimpse into this future, one renewable energy giant called NextEra Energy emerged in the last few years rather quietly, gaining significant ground economically and beginning to rival the market capitalization of oil behemoths like ExxonMobil. NextEra began as a utility company in Florida and has since expanded nationwide providing solar and wind to cities and states all over the country. While the growing popularity of a renewable energy company is exciting, their path to success feels eerily familiar.
They grew profits by slowly and quietly using federal tax credits to fund new solar and wind projects and growing in market valuation until they could significantly undercut other renewable energy companies’ prices, becoming the largest renewable energy company in the country. Their board is composed of mostly white and male leadership, and while they support environmental stewardship, none of their company objectives available on their website mention environmental justice.
So, while the country is finally excited about transitioning to renewable energy, rebranding our capitalistic energy industry with shiny solar cells instead of oily black gold will still leave BIPOC and low-income communities with most of the same problems they face today.
We need environmental justice now
The problems of inefficient energy infrastructure in homes, energy poverty, frequent blackouts, and loss of power in natural disasters will continue to disproportionately affect BIPOC and low-income communities regardless of the type of energy fueling their homes. True alleviation of climate change requires many policy initiatives including: household and utility plant weatherization funded at the federal and local levels; government regulation of energy companies to prevent price gouging and provide strong consumer protections; and involvement of stakeholders at all levels of local communities in the implementation of renewable energy.
I recently proposed a series of policies addressing these needs which fit into the Biden administration’s current budget and promise to provide significant financial support to environmental justice communities. We cannot wait any longer to support our most marginalized communities. We need policy action centering environmental, climate, and energy justice, now.
Carolyn E. Ramírez is a Chemical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate at Northwestern University researching new materials for organic solar cells. Follow them on Twitter @CRami77.
Originally posted on Good Food on Bad Plates: We don’t typically make a lot of stews because Toddler Mash doesn’t typically eat them. A couple of weekends ago, though,we ended up making a lamb cobbler on the Saturday and kusksu (Libyan couscous with spicy beef and vegetables) on the Sunday. He surprised us on the…
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Originally posted on Mackneen, The Algerian Goldfinch: It’s Spring, like the season then, twelve years ago. Time flies, like a bird. On this day, twelve years ago, I created this blog and I gave it a name: Mackneen,The Algerian Goldfinch. On that day I went to Algiers for a visit to my mother, and to my…
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