Two big things happened this week in global climate policy. First, as has been widely reported, US President, Barack Obama, announced the Clean Power Plan where emissions targets for the power sector in his country must drop by more than a third within this generation. That in itself is hugely significant. Let’s deal with that first.
“The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal,” according to a White House fact sheet. The Clean Power Plan has been relatively well received. The Washington Post said the policy will work: “The report underscores a fundamental truth about the U.S. stance on global warming: The nation’s plan has merit, but it is a second-best policy that the country is stuck with because Congress is too cowardly or unwise to endorse a better one”. The Post wants an emissions trading scheme. The Union of Concerned Scientists called it a “game changer” adding “These historic standards represent the most significant opportunity in years to help curb the growing consequences of climate change.” It was welcomed by the main business lobby group on the environment with a spokesperson for CERES quoted in the Guardian saying: “The clean power plan is the right measure at the right time. It’s a flexible, practical and economically sound blueprint to transition America toward a low-carbon future.” Think Progress said “Obama’s actual Clean Power Plan is the bare minimum the United States can do and remain a moral nation”. The Conversation has a summary of Australian academic reaction. It is generally positive.
What’s even more significant is a single comment by the US President about China. Indeed China was mentioned only once. Here’s what the US President said: “And if we don't do it, nobody will. The only reason that China is now looking at getting serious about its emissions is because they saw that we were going to do it, too. When the world faces its toughest challenges, America leads the way forward. That’s what this plan is about. But today, with America leading the way, countries representing 70 percent of the carbon pollution from the world’s energy sector have announced plans to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. In December, with America leading the way, we have a chance to put in place one of the most ambitious international climate agreements in human history.” China leading the way on clean energy was a ‘Sputnik moment’ for the USA. “Sputnik Moment” is “used to describe the United States' need to catch up to the rapid development of other countries, especially when it comes to clean energy and technology” (Source: space.com). The announcement this week by Mr Obama was the official start in a new, albeit incredibly positive, ‘arms race’ involving the USA and China. That’s good news. The Guardian however says the push by China and Asia is more about addressing air pollution than anything else.
In Australia this week, there was another step toward significant win for climate change with the Federal Court finding error in the Government’s approval of the Adani mine in central Queensland. The Commonwealth Bank also withdrew its advisory services from the project with 350.org.au saying this came as a result of public pressure. The whole project is now under pressure. According to the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office, which ran the case, “The case also alleged that the Minister failed to consider global greenhouse emissions from the burning of the coal, and Adani’s environmental history, however these matters are left unresolved before the Court.” Greenhouse gas emissions from this one mine would be more than that of 52 nations or four times that of New Zealand, according to Take Part. That said, the ‘game’ is not over yet. The government has indicated it will consider its position over the next six weeks. The Australian Conservation Foundation, according to the Guardian, has called on the Government to refuse approval therefore killing this destructive project.
While the US was talking about sending carbon emissions from electricity down, Carbon Pulse reported Australia was heading in the other direction: “Carbon emissions from Australia’s electricity generation sector over the past two months rose at the quickest pace since 2004, as coal replaced renewables and natural gas in the mix.” There are reports this week that the Australian Government next week will announce its emissions targets. The Climate Institute says what’s being mooted “be big fail on both climate action and competitiveness grounds”. Also in Australia there was the release of a farcical and unanimously supported Senate Report on wind energy. The Clean Energy Council told the Sydney Morning Herald the report was "a biased political stitch-up by a small group of senators opposed to the cheapest forms of renewable energy”. The report has been widely condemned. Renew Economy reported: “The Federal Government has been urged to sideline the nation’s peak medical research body and set up a stand-alone scientific committee to investigate the health effects of wind farm noise.”
The Guardian this week reported on a stark report from the highly regarded Economist Intelligence Unit: “Private investors stand to lose $4.2tn (£2.7tn) on the value of their holdings from the impact of climate change by 2100 even if global warming is held at plus 2C. If firm action is not taken at the forthcoming climate change talks in Paris and the Earth’s temperature warms by a further 5C then investors are facing losses of almost $7tn at today’s prices, new research shows. This is more than the total current market capitalisation of the London Stock Exchange with impacts on company holdings that will come not just through extreme weather damage but also through lower economic growth.”
Over in the UK, the level of hostility between green groups and David Cameron’s government appears to be escalating. According to the Guardian, green groups have expressed 'major concern’ over the cutting or watering-down of key environmental policies saying they are woeful and shocking. The Guardian has a further look at the green policies killed off by the Government, including, onshore wind, solar and green homes in what some are calling the worst period for UK environmental policy in 30 years. Ironically, the Guardian reported on new research indicating the majority of British people are worried about global warming with flooding and sea level rise topping the list of fears for what rising temperatures will bring. “A survey of more than 2,000 people found more than half (57%) were worried about global warming, with one in seven of those quizzed, or 14%, very worried about the issue. Almost two thirds (64%) thought global warming was already a problem, and seven out of 10 (70%) agreed it was going to be a problem in 20 years’ time, the poll by ICM Unlimited for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (Imeche) found.”
In science this week, The Conversation summarised two pieces of research indicating reducing emissions alone won’t stop climate change. “Based on current greenhouse gas emissions, the world is on track for 4C warming by 2100 - well beyond the internationally agreed guardrail of 2C. To keep warming below 2C, we need to either reduce our emissions, or take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Two papers published today investigate our ability to limit global warming and reverse the impacts of climate change. The first, published in Nature Communications, shows that to limit warming below 2C we will have to remove some carbon from the atmosphere, no matter how strongly we reduce emissions. The second, in Nature Climate Change, shows that even if we can remove enough CO2 to keep warming below 2C, it would not restore the oceans to the state they were in before we began altering the atmosphere.”
It has been another significant week with the three month countdown to Paris underway.
Read The Week That Was with links to source articles on FlipBoard.
A selection of good reads on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward.
The Atlantic: Is Anywhere on Earth Safe From Climate Change?
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin #040
The Conversation: The scariest part of climate change isn’t what we know, but what we don’t
EcoWatch: 9 Ways Climate Change Is Making Us Sick
Bill Gates: We Need Clean-Energy Innovation, and Lots of It
New Yorker: The new economics of climate change
Rappler: Can the climate challenge unify ASEAN?
RTCC: 11 events that will shape the 2015 climate deal
Sustainable Brands: Renewables 2015 Global Status Report
Sydney Morning Herald: Climate change: Coalition rejects call by own advisers for extra scrutiny on polluters
Think Progress: Numbers Numb, Stories Sell: The Secrets Of Climate Communications
Think Progress: This Is How The World’s Climate Changed Last Year
US Defense Department: DoD Releases Report on Security Implications of Climate Change
Vox: Clean energy is a growing political juggernaut. Should it leave climate change behind?
Washington Post: New York wants to lead the renewable energy revolution. Here’s how.
Washington Post: How the Pentagon is preparing for climate change in each part of the world
Read Weekend Reads with links to source articles on FlipBoard.
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The Week That Was and Weekend Reads Flipboard Editions are at Climate Communication.
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm