threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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UN experts warn that the world is way off track in reaching climate targets

Targets set through the Paris Agreement 2015 are not currently being met on a global basis, at a time when actions to limit global warming are off track, and climate change damage becomes more apparent.

Increasing heat, accelerated sea level rises and extreme weather in 2019 were all indications of failure to rein in carbon emissions, according to a report compiled by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Their report had input from national meteorological services, international experts, scientific institutions and other UN agencies and the trends have continued into 2020.

AustralianBushfire

Every year, WMO issues a Statement on the State of the Global Climate. It is based on data provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and other national and international organisations.  Further details of the report can be found at:

https://public.wmo.int/en/our-mandate/climate/wmo-statement-state-of-global-climate

Last year was the second hottest year on record, with a global average temperature of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Each decade since the 1980s has been hotter than any preceding decade.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are expected to increase their action this year to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

In a foreword to the report, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said, “We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5° or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for. This report outlines the latest science and illustrates the urgency for far-reaching climate action.”

He thought it would only be a matter of time before a new world record hottest temperature was reached, perhaps within the next 5 years.

Alongside temperature increases, rainfall changes are having a major impact on several countries and sea levels are rising at an increasing pace, exposing coastal areas and islands to a greater risk of flooding and submersion.

Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have continued to rise in 2019 and carbon emissions from fossil fuels grew by 0.6% last year.

There were two major heat waves in Europe in June and July, with new national temperature records set in UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

Climate change is facilitating the spread of dengue fever, with around half of the world’s population being at risk of infection.

World hunger also increased, with an estimated 22 million people forced to leave their homes by events, such as storms and floods.

Drought or low rainfall hit many parts of the world, including Australia, which also saw its hottest year, with an exceptionally long and severe season of wildfires.

Greenland ice melt

The Greenland ice sheet lost 329 billion tonnes of ice in 2019.

A map showing all the countries with weather extremes can be found at:

https://wmo.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=56fc71ac6dcf4bcf826dea2adf94c255

Another report from the WMO, entitled “The Global Climate in 2015-2019” can be found at:  https://library.wmo.int/index.php?lvl=notice_display&id=21522#.Xmj5J6j7TIV

as well as previous WMO Reports.

 



 


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Appeal Court rules that Heathrow airport expansion is now illegal

27th February 2020: an historic day!

This morning the Court of Appeal judged the government’s plans for Heathrow expansion to be illegal on climate change grounds. Heathrow is one of the biggest single sources of greenhouse gases in the UK. And airport expansion – at Heathrow or any other airport – simply cannot go ahead if we’re to prevent further climate breakdown.

The appeal court appreciated this and ruled that ignoring the Paris Agreement is illegal. Building a third runway does not comply with or support the UK’s targets to reduce emissions and move towards a sustainable future. The government will accept the court’s decision.

Today, this landmark victory confirms that ordinary people have the power to bring about change. The carbon economy’s days are numbered.

heathrowairport



 


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The European Parliament declares climate emergency

See: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20191121IPR67110/the-european-parliament-declares-climate-emergency

Ahead of the UN COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid 2-13 December, the European Parliament approved a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally. They also want the Commission to ensure that all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5 °C.

In a separate resolution, Parliament urged the EU to submit its strategy to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible, and by 2050 at the latest, to the UN Convention on Climate Change. MEPs also called on the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to include a 55% reduction target of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in the European Green Deal.

Stepping up global emission reductions for aviation and shipping

MEPs said that current aviation and shipping ambitions fall short of the necessary emissions reductions. All countries should include emissions from international shipping and aviation in their national contributions plans (NDCs), and urged the Commission to propose that the maritime sector be included in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS).

More financial support needed to fight climate change

EU countries should at least double their contributions to the international Green Climate Fund, Parliament said. EU member states are the largest providers of public climate finance and the EU’s budget should fully comply with its international commitments. They also noted that pledges by developed countries do not meet the collective goal of 100 billion USD per year as of 2020.

Finally, they urgently called on all EU countries to phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 2020.

Quote

“The European Parliament has just adopted an ambitious position in view of the upcoming COP 25 in Madrid. Given the climate and environmental emergency, it is essential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 55% in 2030. It also sends a clear and timely message to the Commission a few weeks before the publication of the Communication on the Green Deal “”, said Pascal Canfin (RE, FR), Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, during the debate on Monday.

Background

The resolution on declaring a climate and environmental emergency was adopted with 429 votes for, 225 votes against and 19 abstentions. The European Parliament adopted the resolution on COP25 with 430 votes for, 190 votes against and 34 abstentions.

A number of countries, local administrations and scientists have declared that our planet is facing a climate emergency.

The European Commission has already proposed the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but the European Council has still not endorsed it as Poland, Hungary and Czechia are opposed.

Parliament at the COP25

COP25 takes place in Madrid 2-13 December 2019. The President of the European Parliament David Maria Sassoli, (S&D, IT) will attend the official opening. A delegation from the European Parliament, led by Bas Eickhout (Greens, NL), will be there 9-14 December.



 


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Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand by Stephen Pittam

Social justice and climate justice must go hand in hand

An article by Stephen Pittam on the “Rethinking Poverty” website:

In April I attended Ariadne’s annual meeting in Belfast. Ariadne is a European peer-to-peer network of over 600 funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights. Participants enjoyed the special hospitality that Belfast always offers its visiting guests, including a tour of the peacelines and murals. And what could serve better to frame the final plenary for this event, which focused on Human Rights in a Changing Climate, than the climate change mural on the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast. It sums up perfectly the reason why the climate justice movement and the social justice movement are so intricately intertwined. The world’s poorest are the most vulnerable to extreme weather and other climate events and have the least resources to cope with the impact. The image of who will suffer most as a result of climate change could equally apply to the domestic agenda in the UK.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been in the forefront of work on climate change and social justice in the UK. Its 2014 overview of the field reviewed more than 70 studies and was a really useful document. It would be great if five years later it could be updated, but sadly the programme has ended.

Climate change affects the poorest in the UK most

Take transport for instance. The review highlighted the inequitable distribution of carbon emissions. The wealthiest 10 per cent of households in the UK were responsible for 10 times more carbon emissions from international aviation than the lowest, and 7-8 times more from personal transport. And yet little consideration has been given to how responsibility for emissions might inform responsibility for mitigation responses. The government’s overall domestic sustainable energy policies were forecast to produce a situation by 2020 where the richest 10 per cent of households might see an average reduction of 12 per cent in their energy bills while the poorest 10 per cent are expected to see a reduction of only 7 per cent.

The review describes multiple ways in which lower income and vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by climate change and associated policies to address the crisis. But it also goes on to indicate that it is possible to achieve carbon reduction targets in a socially just way and that concrete examples of adaptation and mitigation practice are beginning to emerge at the local level, which also address social justice questions. This mirrors the experience of the Global Greengrants Fund, one of the sponsors of the final plenary at the Ariadne event, whose work has shown that local communities whose lives are most affected often come up with the best solutions to environmental harm and social injustice. The two themes are closely interconnected.

How can the UK meet its emissions targets?

Spurred on by the amazing activists of Extinction Rebellion, the school students’ strikes, and the initiatives of dozens of towns and cities across the UK, the UK government has now declared a climate emergency. In an attempt to create a positive legacy, Theresa May has recently pledged to introduce a legally binding target forcing the UK to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many will argue that this is too little too late, but the gulf between the rhetoric and reality feels huge at the moment given that the government is not even on track to meet its current significantly more modest targets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It will take a radical change in policy and practice to get there, but it is possible to envision a different world. The last meeting of the UK-based Environmental Funders Network focused on the changes needed. Ed Miliband, Caroline Lucas and Laura Sandys introduced the new IPPR Environmental Justice Commission (of which they are the co-chairs) which aims to infuse the debate on climate change with hope and to confront the climate crisis with policies that promote social and economic justice.

Enter the Green New Deal

This initiative talks about the green transition, and has in many ways been inspired by the thinking which emerged in 2008 through the Green New Deal Group of which Caroline Lucas is a member. The Group’s 2008 report was, in my opinion, the best piece of analysis that came out of the financial crisis of that time. It proposed a labour-intensive green infrastructure programme which would tackle the crisis of climate change and help mitigate the effects of the huge economic downturn which the Group correctly predicted. It talked about rebuilding a sense of hope and creating economic security for all, while fully protecting the environment.

Sadly, once the immediate threat of economic collapse had receded, the country moved to the right and new Keynesian ideas were replaced with monetarist policies. We moved into the era of austerity – a policy of choice rather than necessity, which has led to further damage to the environment and fuelled the further rise of inequality and poverty.

Now, support for the Green New Deal is growing once more as the scale of the climate crisis has broken through into public consciousness. The idea, developed in the UK, has been exported to the USA where the name resonates so closely with Roosevelt’s original New Deal. There, it is championed by the charismatic, youngest-ever member of the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The increased profile has resulted in the idea being imported back to the UK, where it was formally launched at the House of Commons on 1 April, into an environment that is far more worrying than in 2008 but potentially more favourable to receiving it.

Colin Hines, the primary author of the 2008 Green New Deal pamphlet, has described what a Social and Green New Deal would involve. It would mean rejecting austerity and instead massively increasing employment in face-to-face caring and a countrywide green infrastructure programme. The latter would involve making the UK’s 30 million buildings super-energy-efficient, and tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, properly insulated new homes. Local public transport would be rebuilt, the road and rail systems properly maintained, and a major shift to electric vehicles instigated. A more sustainable localised food and agricultural system would be developed. This approach is labour-intensive, takes place in every locality, and consists of work that is difficult to automate.

How would it be paid for? By an increase in government spending, fairer taxes and encouraging saving in what Hines has described as ‘climate war bonds’. And in the event of a further looming economic crisis? A massive Green Quantitative Easing (GQE) programme. After the last crash US$10 trillion was injected into the global economy, but not into job-generating investments. The result was inflated stock and property values for the already well off. The Governor of the Bank of England has hinted that some kind of GQE programme might be possible as a way of addressing climate change.

Integrating social justice in climate change policy

The JRF report concluded that it is not just a moral imperative to integrate social justice in climate change policy. Without this, achieving resilience and mitigation targets will be much harder because the transformation of our society that is needed cannot be achieved without the political and social acceptance that results from fairer policies. Furthermore, developing socially just responses to climate change, in terms of both adaptation and mitigation, is an opportunity to put in place governance, systems and infrastructure that will create a more resilient and fairer society. As Caroline Lucas concludes in a Guardian opinion piece published on 27 March, we need:

‘an unprecedented mobilisation of resources invested to prevent climate breakdown, reverse inequality, and heal our communities. It demands major structural changes in our approach to the ecosystem, coupled with a radical transformation of the finance sector and the economy, to deliver both social justice and a liveable planet.’

Rethinking poverty cannot be separated from the biggest issue of our time – addressing climate change. Successfully addressing climate change, though, will inevitably lead to a fairer, more equal society.

Stephen Pittam is a board member of Global Greengrants Fund and chair of Global Greengrants UK.


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The G20 summit, the European heatwave and the lack of international progress on climate change

A heatwave spread across Europe this last week; thermometers soared past 40C as temperatures broke new records. Schools close to Paris were forced to close; Germany introduced speed restrictions on its autobahns; and a Spanish meteorologist tweeted a map of the country’s weather forecast with the caption: “Hell is coming.”

_european heatwave2019

Temperatures are also running high in the climate change debate ahead of the G20 meeting in Osaka. Japan is set to omit references to “global warming” and “decarbonisation” from a G20 communiqué in a bid to please the US. This comes just days after four central European states — Estonia, Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria — stopped the EU from committing to a 2050 net zero carbon emissions target last week.

G20summit2019

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is trying to prevent the publication of  the IPCC Report. Last week Republican senators in Oregon fled the state to block the passage of a landmark bill that would commit the state, like neighbouring California, to ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. School strikes by teenagers and direct action, such as that by Extinction Rebellion, who demand governments “tell the truth”, have become a regular occurrence in recent months.  Yet, international progress on fighting climate change is in danger of stalling.  Bold and decisive leadership is needed if temperatures are to be prevented from rising to catastrophic levels. Countries that depend on fossil fuels will ultimately face a choice between foot-dragging or being left behind by technological progress. Renewables are often beating traditional sources on cost as well as on carbon emissions. Blocking international agreements will not keep coal viable.

highlights-of-the-ipcc-fifth-assessment-report-1-638

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, is rightly making a stand. He has pledged to refuse to sign any G20 communiqué that leaves out a reference to the 2015 Paris agreement on combating climate change.

Bottom-up pressure seems to be working where top-down international conferences stumble. Green parties were big gainers in last months’ European Parliament elections. France and Britain are pushing ahead on their own with net zero targets; Bavaria, a German state not usually known for its radicalism, is going further than the national government to end the use of coal. In the US, city mayors and state governments are stepping in to compensate for the lack of federal government action. Britain, France and California are all relatively large economies but ultimately tackling climate change will depend on action by the largest emitters — China, the US, India and the EU.

This makes global co-operation essential, despite some countries blocking progress since the Paris accord. Governments will need to step up just to meet the Paris targets in coming years. It means being honest with companies, workers and taxpayers about the costs. Spain’s programme to phase out coal, which involved early retirement for miners and payments to coal-dependent regions, provides one model for a so-called “just transition” which spreads costs fairly. Frustrating international agreements can do nothing but delay the inevitable.

The reality of climate change will catch up with politicians. That may be in the form of angry voters on the streets, or of extreme weather that makes cities uninhabitable and crops fail. As fugitive Oregon senators and G20 leaders in Osaka will eventually find, running away is not an option.

See also:  https://on.ft.com/2KJQuB4



 


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UK business giants put fresh pressure on government over net-zero

A coalition of 128 UK-based businesses, industry networks and investors to have written to Ministers demanding that a net-zero target for 2050 is legislated “immediately”. The coalition includes BT, Coca-Cola European Partners and Sainsbury’s.

A letter was sent to Prime Minister Theresa May on 31st May.  The group was convened by The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), the Aldersgate Group, and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC).

Collectively, the letter’s 128 signatories represent more than seven million workers, as well as £20trn in assets under management across 190,000 businesses.

It calls on the Government to adopt the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC’s) recommendations on legislating for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 in full, with immediate effect.

“By being the first major economy to legislate an ambitious, domestically achieved net-zero target supported by a comprehensive policy package, the UK can show leadership on a global level while strengthening the UK economy,” the letter states.

“This action would position the country as a strong host, as the UK bids for hosting COP26 – a critical moment in global action to tackle climate change and an opportunity to leave a legacy of clean growth across the UK. However, the credibility of a net-zero target relies on it being rapidly underpinned by a robust set of policies.”

The letter points out that many of its signatories have aligned themselves with the Paris Agreement, either by setting science-based emissions targets or pledging to achieve net-zero by mid-century, and urges the Government to follow suit. This move, the letter states, would help businesses deliver the “innovation and investment required” for a zero-carbon economy while ensuring that the low-carbon transition is “delivered fairly”.

Increasing pressure

Today’s letter is one of many to have been sent by businesses to policymakers to demand net-zero legislation since last October, when the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its landmark report on climate change. Last November, the bosses of Anglian Water, Coca-Cola European Partners, Danone, IAG, Interface, Scottish Power, Signify UK & Ireland, SSE, Thames Water Utilities and Unilever sent such a document to May’s office, while similar requests have also been penned to EU leaders.

The push for net-zero legislation has also been coming from MPs, with a group of more than 100 from across all major parties requesting pre-2050 climate-neutral policies before the IPCC even published its findings. Calls from the general public are additionally mounting, with the main demand of protestors during London’s recent Extinction Rebellion activism being net-zero by 2025 for the UK.

This week has seen a strengthening of these demands on May, who steps down from her post on 7 June after announcing her resignation last week. In tandem with the letter from the business community, a group of leading scientists has written to the Prime Minister arguing that her “legacy” could – and should – be the passing of net-zero legislation, rather than her failure to pass a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Responding to the letters, a Government spokesperson said that a decision on the CCC’s recommendation will be made “in a timeframe which reflects the urgency of the issue”.

See:   https://www.edie.net/news/9/UK-business-giants-put-fresh-pressure-on-government-over-net-zero/



 


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Tracking progress of the climate turning point: Mission2020

Mission2020, a global coalition of several climate analysis organisations, headed by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who negotiated the Paris accord. Mission 2020 has calculated that if these milestones are achieved by 2020, it will make the longer-term Paris goals possible – because progress now on reducing emissions will make it easier and cheaper to reduce them in the longer term – and wants to spur sufficient progress on climate change to bring that about.  It was set up by the World Resources Institute.

Mission2020 has set milestones, to track whether climate targets are being reached, and tracked progress on each of them.  The milestones are:

  1.  Energy – renewables out-compete fossil fuels as new electricity sources worldwide.
  2. Infrastructure – cities and states are implementing policies and regulations, with the aim to fully decarbonize buildings and infrastructure by 2050;
  3. Transport – zero emission transport is the preferred form of all new mobility in the world’s major cities and transport routes;
  4. Land use – large scale deforestation is replaced with large-scale land restoration and agriculture shifts to earth-friendly practices;
  5. Industry – heavy industry, including iron and steel, cement, chemicals and oil & gas commits to being Paris compliant;
  6. Finance – investment in climate action is beyond USD $1 trillion per year and all financial institutions have a disclosed transition strategy.

Now, it is reporting that insufficient progress has been made in the milestones to comply with the Paris 2015 target of keeping global warming within 1.5°C.

Removing coal from the global energy mix is taking too long, too many forests are still being destroyed, and fossil fuel subsidies are ongoing despite their distorting effect on the market, the study has found. Coal-fired generation is still increasing, with coal-fired power plants continuing to be built in some areas, while existing plants are not being removed from service fast enough. Electric vehicles, meanwhile, comprise 1.4% of overall sales, making a 2020 milestone of 15% of new car sales hard to reach.

There has also been insufficient progress in agriculture to stop harmful practices that increase carbon dioxide production, and heavy industry is not doing enough to use energy more efficiently.

But the analysis has found important steps forward, on renewable energy, curtailing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and public sector investment in reducing emissions. These suggest progress in other aspects of tackling climate change is also possible, with greater effort from the public and private sectors.

The Mission2020 website has produced a simple diagram to demonstrate what the targets are (or have been), in order to keep within 1.5°C and to monitor progress with them:

road-to-success

The most important one is 2020, as carbon emissions need to peak (i.e. not get any higher) by then if we are to keep within 1.5°C. If emissions continue to rise after 2020, then it will be too late to keep within 1.5 degrees, as carbon dioxide will have built up in the atmosphere and will take thousands of years to remove.

Further details about the Mission2020 analysis are reported in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/22/analysis-warns-lack-progress-2020-global-emissions-target



An earlier blog I wrote on this website is also relevant to view in this context.  It is entitled “Three generations left – or is it only three years?  New report published in Nature.”