They’re rounding the home straight - it’s 1.5 degrees with its nose in front, no it is 2 degrees; it is five year reviews - no wait here comes ten year reviews up the outside; emerging nations are making a late push for big funds - can developed nations hold out? It’s going to be a big race to the finish.
The high level messages coming from Paris are:
- The mood remains positive with strong momentum to come up with a deal that the majority will be pleased with.
- Everyone is locked in to the two degrees number (no one of note is pushing higher). Indeed there’s a lot of support for aiming at 1.5 degrees.
- A sticking point is the frequency of reviews of targets - is it five years or ten years?
- A stumbling block is who is in the developed and developing categories (see Renew Economy).
- Renewables - wind and solar - are the ‘rock stars’ of Paris.
- China, the USA and Europe are all playing well together. That’s a good thing. The Indians are playing hard (mainly on financing) while the self interested Saudi’s are the leading recalcitrant.
- As with most things, there’s a lot of talk and who pays for what. This is the key issue in getting developing and emerging nations on board. They want the developed world to pay.
- Business and small states and cities are taking the initiative and moving to a low carbon future.
- Australia has continued its Jeckyl and Hyde approach - strongly supporting coal but making some other significant concessions.
In other summaries, former New Zealand Prime Minister and current head of the United Nations Development Program, Ms Helen Clark, gave an insightful interview on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast program this week. It is worth listening to. As for other updates, the Climate Institute’s Erwin Jackson is blogging daily; Climate Council CEO Amanda MacKenzie posted this update yesterday; Giles Parkinson is filing for Renew Economy frequently and, Fairfax has reporters on the ground and is collating other sources. Now, to some of the bigger ‘themes’ emerging from Paris.
First, Mashable reports the United States is in favour of incorporating an ambitious 1.5-degree Celsius warming limit into the climate agreement provided that the aspirational language wouldn’t replace the previously agreed-upon 2-degree target. Secretary of State John Kerry told Mashable on Monday he is sympathetic to the the position of small island states, as well as other nations that are more vulnerable to climate impacts. “I mean anything we can do to go below 2 [degrees] is to the benefit, so we shouldn’t say, ‘No, don’t even think about it,’” Kerry said. “But I don’t think we can make it the embraced targetable goal because we lose people when we head that way, and we want to keep this moving in the right direction.”
Giles Parkinson in Renew Economy reported one of the big themes of the Paris climate talks has been the focus on renewable energy – wind and solar in particular – as a means to reach emission reduction pledges, and cut pollution in the cities. “Australia’s Coalition government, however, is sticking to a familiar theme: it has invested heavily in fossil fuels with long-life assets it is keen to retain and, anyway, coal is still good for humanity,” he reported. Foreign minister Julie Bishop used a forum hosted by Indonesia called “Pathways to a Sustainable Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Economy” to push the case for Australian fossil fuels.
The Guardian reported Australia has come third last in an annual assessment of 58 nations’ climate policies, with only Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan ranking worse. The assessment by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe was released at the Paris climate summit and measures actual emission levels per capita, the trend in emissions projections, the deployment of renewable energy, and the energy intensity of the economy, and assesses climate policies for each of the 58 countries. Australia’s score is slightly better than last year, but not enough to shift it very far up the rankings. Speaking in Paris, the Australian Conservation Foundation’s head Kelly O’Shanassy said the report provides more evidence Australia isn’t doing enough in the global effort on climate change: “There is no reason for Australia to be performing so poorly – we’ve got a strong economy and some of the best solar and wind resources in the world – we should be right up at the top of the list, not lagging near the bottom.”
In some positive news about Australia from Paris, Renew Economy reports South Australia is expected to pass its 50 per cent renewable energy target next year – nearly a decade ahead of schedule – and the Labor government will now aim to get the state as close to 100 per cent renewable energy as possible. Premier Jay Weatherill said in Paris on Monday that the state was leading the world in the incorporation of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and hoped the knowledge gained would create a massive economic opportunity for a state struggling with the decline of long-term industries such as car manufacturing, Giles Parkinson reported.
One of the biggest but nonetheless timely ‘non-Paris’ stories this week concerned emissions from coal. Renew Economy reports worldwide carbon emissions from fossil fuels grew very little in 2014, and might even fall this year, despite robust global economic growth over the past two years.
“A report released today by the Global Carbon Project has found that fossil fuel emissions of carbon dioxide grew by only 0.6% in 2014, breaking with the fast emissions growth of 2-3% per year since early 2000s. Even more unexpectedly, emissions are projected to decline slightly in 2015 with continuation of global economic growth above 3% in Gross Domestic Product.
This is the first two-year period in a multi-decade record where the global economy shows clear signs of decoupling from fossil fuel emissions. In the past, every single break or decline in the growth of carbon emissions was directly correlated with a downturn in the global or regional economy. This time is different,” Renew Economy reported.
Still away from Paris, Renew Economy reports Australia’s official economic forecaster has finally admitted that the cost of nuclear energy is more than double other clean energy alternatives, suggesting it would likely play no role in a decarbonised grid based around lowest costs. The Australian Power Generation Technology Report – a 362-page collaborative effort from more than 40 organisations, including the CSIRO, ARENA, the federal government’s Department of Industry and Science and the Office of the Chief Economist – clearly shows that solar and wind will be the cheapest low carbon technologies in Australia. It comes at a critical time, with the nuclear lobby, supported by existing coal generators, pushing nuclear generation heavily, on the basis of previous technology cost assessments that had unrealistically optimistic views of its costs. But the APGT report has essentially ruled out nuclear power for the whole of Australia, revealing that the technology is becoming more and more prohibitively expensive, at around double the capital cost estimated three years ago – and double the cost of competing technologies new Economy reported.
That’s it for this week - a week, hopefully, that history records as one when the world agreed to action on climate change and a clean energy future. We can. We will. We must.
A selection of great reading on climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm and www.climatecommunication.net
Grist: Read Arnold Schwarzenegger's delightful response to climate deniers
Time: What Obama’s Rejection of Keystone Means for the Climate Fight
Guardian: 10 tests to find out if Paris’s climate change deal is a success
Graham Readfearn (Good): Who to Ignore at COP21
Graham Readfearn (Guardian): Will the Paris climate deal spell out the end of the fossil fuel era?
Renew Economy: Why Differentiation threatens to derail climate talks and weaken targets
Natural Resources Defense Council via Medium: An Insider’s Journal from the Paris Climate Talks
New York Times: With Coal Industry Under Pressure, Some See Long-Term Decline
Politics and policy
Yahoo News: Sydney shows way on climate change: mayor
Sydney Morning Herald: Sydney could be greener if government backed off
Guardian: Britain can’t preach on climate change while it dismantles its green economy
Renew Economy: The Innovation Statement: what it means for clean energy
EcoWatch: Ways the Outcome of Paris Climate Talks Will Impact Your Day-to-Day Life
Marketing and communication
Sustainable Brands: Best of 2015
Triple Pundit: The Top 5 CSR, Sustainability and Employee Engagement Reports of 2015 – And Why They’re Important
Climate Communication: Responsibility Plus Bulletin for brands and reputation
Guardian: Greenpeace exposes sceptics hired to cast doubt on climate science
Harvard Business Blogs: Corporations Will Never Solve Climate Change
Future Business Council via Sydney Morning Herald: Sustainability – it's the world boom that Australia could lead
Sydney Morning Herald: The real reason Tony Abbott was toppled, according to climate sceptic Christopher Moncton
New York Times: Tales of a warmer planet
CLIMATE COMMUNICATION PUBLICATIONS