threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Is a world institution for climate and energy needed?

Nick Butler, writing in the Financial Times, argues that a new global institution, rather like the WHO, is needed to ensure the continuous momentum of moving towards a carbon-free world.

https://www.ft.com/content/947290a6-5319-11ea-90ad-25e377c0ee1f?accessToken=zwAAAXB2-sWYkdOUcpCmUxkR6tOQrSXjd8DuHw.MEUCIHBGXcXOrUGgg8Xwg9MIBhJUa8LqKMDOHFFhLOnjZGLHAiEA_NvbDbQXr21jfQDmCl2yxS6UbCK4k_NAOXWG6ZTuI9Q&sharetype=gift?token=69f308c7-be81-4fc6-af82-8698fa938320

pushing bike in floods

His sub-title is:

“Establishing a structure to direct the green transition is key to success”

and he starts his article as follows:

“The debate on climate change has focused over the past year on the setting of national and corporate targets around the objective of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. It is time to move the debate on and put in place the detailed steps necessary to get to that goal and the institutional structure to bring together the many elements of the challenge and the response.

The ad hoc, hand-to-mouth approach is clearly inadequate, as shown by the recent failures and disappointments of the UN’s annual COP process. An established, trusted international organisation is needed to combine both analysis of the challenge and the development of practical solutions.

So far 20 countries have now signed up to the pledge of delivering net zero by 2050, while more than 100 are discussing the target.”

He then goes on to outline how some major companies, such as Qantas, Nestle and Microsoft, have set themselves targets for becoming carbon negative. He believes that the direction of change is clear and makes the case for an international organisation to oversee the process, giving direction and advice, and co-ordinating research, rather like the World Health Organisation has been doing regarding the coronovirus outbreak.

He believes that the International Energy Agency (IEA) is the place to start.



In Chapter 8 of my book, I also argue for the establishment of a new international body, though I do not go so far as Nick Butler in setting up how this might happen.  In this chapter, I describe what the United Nations has been doing about climate change, through the UNFCCC, but believe that a more focused approach is needed.  Here is a quotation from p.221 of my book:

Global co-operation is the idea I have promoted throughout this book, because I believe it is the only way to produce the kind of rapid changes in human activity that are needed if we are to save the world from destruction. We are all in this together, so the divisiveness that is promoted by some groups and countries is just not appropriate. The world is facing a crisis and we need to join hands and work together to solve it.

So, what are the factors which are likely to limit global co-operation?

  • the massive size of the global population;
  • differences in national priorities, ethos and cultures;
  • differences across the world in how climate change is affecting individual countries;
  • lack of trust between nations;
  • ideological differences;
  • other crises seem more important to address, such as terrorism, migration etc;
  • risks to national economies;
  • fears that other nations will not do likewise;
  • fears of being left behind in trading competitiveness;
  • unwillingness to give up prestigious possessions, power and status.”

Nick Butler is coming at this idea from a different angle. Rather than seeking the co-operation of individual nations, he encourages some of the largest companies in the world, who have the largest emissions, to start acting responsibly.  Maybe, if they lead the way, then nations will follow.  But we are running out of time.



 


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Citizen’s assembly planned for 2020 in Birmingham

From the UK parliament website:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-energy-industrial-strategy/news-parliament-2017/citizens-assembly-climate-change-19-20/

Parliament sends 30,000 invitations for citizens’ assembly on climate change

02 November 2019

From Wednesday 6 November, 30,000 invitation letters will be landing on doormats across the UK – including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – inviting people to join Climate Assembly UK.

Participants in Climate Assembly UK, which was commissioned by six cross-party House of Commons Select Committees, will look at how the UK will reach its net zero emissions climate target, and what can be done by members of the public to help reduce carbon emissions. The citizens’ assembly has been launched before the dissolution of Parliament, to ensure that the assembly’s report is available to the new Parliament as it begins its work.

In June this year, following a recommendation by independent advisors the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK became the first major economy in the world to adopt a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. This means that by 2050 the UK will have to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases it produces to a much lower level than today, and balance its remaining emissions by absorbing the same amount from the atmosphere.

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Chair’s comments

Commenting, Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee said:

“Adopting the net zero target was a major milestone for the UK, reflecting the strong cross-party support for action on climate change.

“We now need to set out a clear roadmap for the actions to achieve net-zero. It’s very clear that we will all need to play a part in meeting this target and that we all share a responsibility to future generations to do so. Finding solutions which are equitable and have public support will be crucial. Parliament needs to work with the people and with Government to address the challenge of climate change.

“The Climate Assembly UK will advise Parliament on how people want us to meet the net zero target, and suggest policies that the Government can implement to secure success.”

Citizens’ assemblies bring together people from all walks of life to discuss important issues. They have been used all around the world, including in the UK, to help shape the work of governments and parliaments. 30,000 addresses have been chosen at random to receive invitations to participate in Climate Assembly UK which will run over four weekends between late January to the middle of March next year in Birmingham. A representative sample of the population will then be selected from those who respond to the invitation, with 110 people taking part in the assembly.

Treasury Chair’s comments

Commenting, Mel Stride MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee said:

“Public concern around climate change is as high as it has ever been and this is a chance for people from all parts of society to come together, to decide how we as a country can best meet our net zero emissions target.

“Net zero is an opportunity, therefore, for people to not just explore ways in which the UK can end its contribution to climate change, but also create a cleaner, healthier environment as well as benefit from the opportunities around creating a low-carbon economy.”

Key themes to be discussed at Climate Assembly UK will include how people travel, what people buy and household energy use. The outcomes of discussions will be presented to the six select committees, who will use it as a basis for detailed work on implementing its recommendations. It will also be debated in the House of Commons.


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West Midlands Combined Authority set climate change target and seek public engagement on it

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) set new climate change targets in July 2019, to reduce carbon emissions across the region.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, welcomed the targets as the “next important step” to a having credible plan to deal with the climate emergency declared by the WMCA Board in June.

The proposed target of reaching net-zero emissions no later than 2041 has been set independently, based on scientific evidence from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change.

Climate change target set for the region

Shorter term targets of a 36% reduction in carbon emissions by 2022 and a 69% reduction by 2027 have also been set to ensure steady progress.

The targets are intended to drive rapid action from businesses, local government and citizens in the region to reduce their emissions.

The financial cost of a transition to a zero carbon economy is estimated to be 1-2% of GDP, equivalent to £40 billion for the West Midlands over the period to 2041.

Meeting a net-zero target any sooner would require much more investment on top of that.

The WMCA Board is being asked to “commit to an inclusive transition which protects marginalised communities, maximises support for West Midlands businesses, and helps individuals to change their own behaviours.”

At present, carbon emissions in the West Midlands are split between transport (roughly a third), industry (a third) and domestic heating and electricity (a third).

All these areas will be addressed in the WMCA’s carbon reduction plan, which is being developed in consultation with groups such as Birmingham Youth Strike for Climate, and due for approval in autumn 2019.

The Mayor said: “It’s going to be tough, but we have to act fast. Setting these carbon targets is the next important step in our plan to deal with the climate emergency.

“We have a bigger challenge than Liverpool or Manchester because of our industrial heritage, but we also have a bigger opportunity to develop our low carbon businesses and create new jobs.

“Jaguar Land Rover’s investment in the Castle Bromwich factory to build the new all-electric Jaguar XJ is a brilliant example of what can be done to tackle climate change while creating well-paid jobs here in the region.

“Climate change is an issue which will affect future generations, and we must get on with delivering a serious plan to tackle it.”

Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA portfolio holder for the environment, energy and HS2 and leader of Solihull Council said: “Last month we declared a climate emergency in the West Midlands and now we have started to set out what that means in practice and the action we need to take.

“This is an important step towards regional collaboration which is going to be vital if we are to tackle climate change head on.”

Aaron Smith, from Birmingham Youth Strike for Climate, said: “This is the start of a long road and we hope this target will be reduced to nearer 2030, our recommendation.

“All latest reports, both political and scientific, confirm that we must act now instead of delaying our responsibility and commitment to climate action.”



January 2020:

The West Midlands Combined Authority published a consultation paper, in an attempt to engage with the public over its climate targets.  It can be found at:

https://beta.wmca.org.uk/the-mayor/climate-public-engagement/

Here is a passage from the document:

“The paper sets out five principles for the West Midlands that underpin our efforts to limit this impact. They are:

  1. We will make the journey to 2041 without leaving anyone behind
  2. We will boost our resilience to climate change
  3. Our future will respect our heritage
  4. We will build more places and more connectivity between places
  5. We will save energy and resources without reducing prosperity

The paper also contains 74 suggested actions that businesses, public bodies, individuals and the WMCA can take to limit the disastrous impacts of climate change and to make the region resilient to the effects we are already seeing.

The report is open for engagement for over six weeks (closing midnight Thursday 12 March 2020). Everyone is encouraged to read the document and feedback on the proposals to ensure any measures are truly reflective of the region we all live in.

To read the whole report, download the WMCA climate plan.

To read an overview of the report, download the one page briefing document.

To take part in the engagement exercise, visit our online survey, before midnight on Thursday 12 March 2020.”



 


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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.”