FOCUS: COP28 – Analysis of Dubai talks

Do not feed the silence

The climate change Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai broke a certain silence. For the first time, States overcame strong fossil fuel extraction wealthy resistance, and confirmed the need for ‘transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems’.  Courage was led by Colombia, a fossil fuel dependent country traumatized by debt and war, whose Minister announced a ban on new fossil fuel extraction.  She then called for a ceasefire in Gaza to stop the killing and suffering of people. She was not alone.

Some media headlines captured the historic fossil fuel language, then went silent or focused on loopholes.  So too in many media outlets the coverage of ongoing dehumanization and loss of life in Gaza.  Denial and silence do not make us well. 

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FOCUS: COP25 – Outcome of Madrid talks

The COP25 of sharpened knives and damage control

For those already preparing for the Conference of Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow, there is good news. It is hard to imagine a harsher and weirder COP than the COP25.There are now potential milestones for Glasgow that were not possible in Madrid. This record long and near orphaned COP, first abandoned by Brazil, then Santiago, and then miraculously (really) held within short notice in Madrid, is finally over. A record number of hours and days. While viewed as a failure in the face of rising global emissions and temperatures, some things happened on process and politics that deserve understanding.

First, the sharpened knives. From day one (including pre-meetings, which totaled 19 days for myself and my programme assistant Detmer), the negotiation rooms were as ungenerous as I have seen them since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Fractured world politics were reflected in Party interventions that often came with avoidable sharpness, such that the image of knife sharpening or stabbing often came to my mind. Yet global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to rise—4% since 2015—while clear scientific findings on how urgent action could avoid profound suffering and loss of life to humans, other animals and nature, are widely available and accessible.

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Women, Climate Change, and Mental Health

July 2019: Mental toll of climate change hits women 60% more. As climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather, the associated disasters and social disruption are likely to increase mental health difficulties, according to the findings published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) journal. But as with many of the adverse effects of climate change, it doesn’t affect everyone equally – OZY.

FOCUS: COP24 – Outcome of Katowice talks

The Bare Minimum

This aim of the December climate change conference in Poland, known as the Conference of Parties 24 (or COP24), was to define an implementation ‘Rulebook’ for the Paris Agreement.  After two weeks of exhausting, if not ‘fierce’ negotiations, how did it all go? It depends on whom you talk to.

If you talk to people seeking the inclusion of rights language in the decision text – known as ‘The Great 8’ and including human rights, indigenous peoples and local communities, gender equity, intergenerational equity, ensuring eco-system integrity and biodiversity, food security, just transition, public participation and – then the conference was a failure.

If you talk to the Indigenous People’s community, there was success to get the Indigenous People’s Platform ‘operationalized’ after difficult but unique negotiations that included a ‘Talanoa story telling’ approach and, supported by EU and Canadian leadership, the ability to overcome political tensions previously blocking progress.

If you talk to people caring about a sufficient response to the recent and historic Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C, you will still be gob-smacked that Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, Kuwait and Russia refused to ‘welcome’ a report that details how to avoid the existential threat of catastrophic climate change.

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FOCUS: COP-24 – Preview to Katowice talks

International agreements are failing – will Katowice be any different?

Outcome of the Paris Agreement. COP-24 is expected to finalize the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change under the Paris Agreement work programme. However, the commitments made by governments on climate change will lead to dangerous levels of global warming because they are incommensurate with the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report. The United Nations Environment Programme said pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the 2C of the Paris climate agreement. At least a quarter must be cut from emissions by the end of the next decade, compared with current trends: the report found that emissions by 2030 were likely to reach about 54 to 56 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, a long way astray of the 42 gigatonnes a year likely to be the level at which warming exceeds 2C.  Following the Paris Agreement in 2015, talks continued up through Bonn earlier this year. Having failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion, more talks were added for September to be held in Bangkok. These talks again failed to satisfy the required rulebook to allow Katowice to be successful. The question now becomes, will Katowice follow Copenhagen and Paris into a pattern of COP failures?

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Focus – Who Suffers from Climate Change

Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines in November 2013, with winds near 195 mph, making it the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded world history, causing between 6,000 and 15,000 deaths. I was privileged to join Philippines Climate Commissioner, Yeb Saño, on a pilgrimage the following year which lasted 40 days and covered 1,000 kilometers from Manila to Tacloban, arriving on the anniversary that Yolanda made landfall. It was called a People’s Walk for Climate Justice. There I witnessed a country visited by an average of eight or nine tropical cyclones each year; people living in desperate poverty, expecting these storms would persist and increase in strength. Like all other low-lying Pacific islanders, they are on the forefront of climate change and sea level rise. As others around the world, they are suffering the onslaught of extreme weather conditions which they have no responsibility for causing. Their appeal is to the rich world, those who have brought about these conditions because of lifestyles made possible by fossil fuel energy over two centuries, to take action.

A 2015 British Oxfam report says the richest 10% of people produce 50% of Earth’s climate-harming fossil-fuel emissions, and its analysis helps dispel the myth that citizens in rapidly developing countries are somehow most to blame for climate change. Super typhoon Mangkhut, the world’s strongest storm this year, caused at least 88 deaths in the Philippines last month and was the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines. More than four million people were directly in its path with winds of 200 km/h and gusts up to 330km/h in one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

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FOCUS – U.S. mid-term elections

Women and millennial turn out in November could transform U.S. politics. 

Throughout 2018 the mid-term elections in the USA have been a focus as to whether the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle environmental protections could be challenged with a congressional shift away from the Republican stranglehold in Washington so destructive to the lives of the poorest as well as the environment. The threat to withdraw from the Paris Agreement (which could not go into effect until after the 2020 presidential elections anyway) hasn’t halted the attempted overturning of the previous Obama administration’s climate protections and support for renewable energies. The courts, fortunately, have halted many obstructive measures, but what environmentalists seek is a mid-term change in the power distribution in Congress: the main goal was to take control of the House and control of the agenda, bringing to an end the veto-proof Republican majority. As I write this ahead of the November 6 elections, there is also a threat to the Republican’s hold on the Senate. Now it depends on a big turnout of women and millennials this November to radically alter business-as-usual in Washington, and elevate climate change as the most serious issue we face.

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Focus – Climate Walks for Environmental Justice

Climate walks provide a way for individuals committed to the climate change issue to actively draw attention to the injustices brought about by society’s delay in tackling the serious subject of global warming. By walking through villages, town and countries, we can discuss and learn of the determination of others, offer support and enthusiasm. Knowing that the threats are not only a future danger for everyone on this planet, but seeing the extreme events globally now taking place annually, it is a means of communicating those fears and hopes to a wider audience so that they may begin to effect change at the higher political level where it is most needed. Since 1995 when COP-1 convened in Berlin, the pace of action has been at such a slow pace that each year now the world’s temperature increases to the point where soon it may be too late to avoid a 2C rise as emissions aren’t being addressed quickly enough. 

Could a global ‘People’s Pilgrimage’ help curb climate change? (From Christian Science Monitor – June 2015) On Monday, former Philippines’ climate change commissioner Naderev ‘Yeb’ Saño kicked off a six-month journey around the world to places hit hard by climate change, beginning in the Pacific island state of Vanuatu, still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam in March. The ex-negotiator, who grabbed the limelight at 2013 U.N. climate talks in Warsaw with emotional pleas and fasting after Typhoon Haiyan, said he and thousands of other “climate pilgrims” from Europe and beyond planned to converge in Paris before the Nov. 30 start of the U.N. conference where a new climate accord is due to be sealed. Climate change has begun to motivate religious leaders and believers over the past two years because “it has become an issue with a human face” as the effects of extreme weather – such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines- and sea-level rise have become clearer, he said. Saño plans not only to visit places of human suffering but also those where climate action is being taken, including efforts to boost renewable energy in India and Qatar, and to protect natural treasures like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

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GDP growth killing the planet

Can we consume less without wrecking the economy?

Our species’ addiction to consumption is held responsible for climate change and a host of other environment ills, and the planet suffers. Soils are being leached of their nutrients, forests felled, and minerals ripped from the earth to leave gaping holes where little can survive. The resources we use return to the earth as chemical waste, become land-fill mountains, and create carbon emissions that are pushing the climate toward disaster. Politicians and economists hail consumption as the economic driver key to keeping our economies thriving. Without consumption, the thinking goes, there is no economic growth. All this points to why some economists are starting to question whether we should be pursuing growth at all. The question then is, can we reconcile the two?

Perhaps the question is less whether the economy can survive the death of consumerism, but whether the economic system we have now is one we’re willing to sacrifice the planet for.

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Governments continue to support fossil fuel energies.

Taxpayers worldwide are subsidizing fossil fuel companies. Research discovers that G20 country governments’ support to fossil fuel production marries bad economics with potentially disastrous consequences for climate change. In effect, governments are propping up the production of oil, gas and coal, much of which cannot be used if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change. The report Empty promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production documents, for the first time, the scale and structure of fossil fuel production subsidies in the G20 countries. The evidence points to a publicly financed bailout for some of the world’s largest, most carbon-intensive and polluting companies. It finds that, by providing subsidies for fossil fuel production, the G20 countries are creating a ‘lose-lose’ scenario. They are directing large volumes of finance into high-carbon assets that cannot be exploited without catastrophic climate effects. This diverts investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power. In addition, the scale of G20 fossil fuel production subsidies calls into question the commitment of governments to an ambitious deal on climate change. (Source)

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