NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 28TH TO JANUARY 3RD2015
FROM PARIS TO PAKISTAN
Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 27th, 2015
RINA SAEED KHAN
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif enjoys the unique honour of being perhaps the only head of state who was present at the Earth Summit of 1992, where the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was born, and also 23 years later in Paris to witness the start of COP21 which resulted in the adoption of the Paris climate agreement, this December.
Pakistan’s federal Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid, recently pointed out this fact at a media workshop organised by the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Islamabad on what Paris means for Pakistan.
As for the criticism of the PM’s short speech and quick departure for the airport in Paris that was widely reported upon in the media, the minister stated in his defence: “There were over 150 leaders of various countries and they all left after making national statements which set the tone for the negotiations.
I think the PM made a positive statement and everyone was directed by the chair to speak for just three minutes. It is a difficult exercise to keep one’s speech so short. There were heads of state who went over the three minutes limit but the PM adequately outlined the measures we are taking and ensured that Pakistan’s position was reflected.”
Bilal Anwar, a climate expert who now works for the Centre for Climate Research and Development at COMSATS University in Islamabad called the Paris outcome, “A landmark agreement that was not perfect. But in all my years at these negotiations I have not seen a perfect agreement come out of the UNFCCC process.
We have the agreement and we have to live with it.” Bilal was in Paris for the two weeks of the negotiations as part of the official Pakistani delegation and noted that there was largely positive coverage of the agreement in the international media. “I think the agreement is good enough, ambitious enough and robust enough.”
A lot of pre-planning went into the Paris climate summit and excellent work was done by the French government in both managing logistics and ensuring that everyone was included. The French Embassy in Islamabad started preparing for the conference a year earlier and held a number of events and meetings. Clearly, the French had learnt from the failure of the Copenhagen summit in 2009.
They organised a number of pre-conference ministerial meetings in Paris, which helped the negotiations. As a result of all this activity, 187 countries of the world (out of a total of 196 countries which are signatory to the UNFCCC) submitted their “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” documents promising actions at home, before the Paris conference. According to Bilal, this was the result of “high level mobilisation through the French diplomatic machinery.
There was also a degree of transparency and inclusiveness. A positive mode and spirit of cooperation was maintained through out the two weeks”.
The two-week long negotiations that took place in Paris were less dramatic than the ones that took place in Copenhagen — there was less acrimony and hence less to report but there was certainly a spirit of camaraderie that was lacking in Copenhagen. Perhaps because the negotiations took place just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks in the city, there was enhanced cooperation and a feeling of solidarity with the French.
Everyone knew in their hearts that there would be a positive outcome to the Paris summit and certainly people felt included and part of the decision making process. The French President himself maintained a high degree of presence at the negotiations that were held in Le Bourget, a town on the outskirts of Paris.
So what were the major principles of the Paris agreement? For one, the world agreed to limit the global average temperature increase to below two degrees with the aim of reaching to 1.5 degrees. In real emissions reductions that would mean 60 to 80 per cent cuts by countries in the second half of this century, which is actually quite ambitious.
However, the divide between developed and developing countries was diluted by the agreement. According to Bilal, “The principle of common but differentiated responsibility is not as strongly anchored as it used to be. Now every country has some responsibilities — the argument of the historical responsibility of developed countries is not sustained anymore. There is also a shift in the approach to build mitigation actions based on domestic actions taken by countries; a bottom up rather than top down approach.”
“Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) are also to play a key role in meeting the ambition and targets that are set out in the agreement. Hence INDCs have effectively become NDCs and they are likely to become binding in nature and conditional in support. Pakistan will be re-submitting its INDCs document according to the Minister for Climate Change once it has completed its green house gas inventory in the next few months and once the final shape of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is agreed upon and we know exactly how many new coal power plants, etc. are going to be built. According to Bilal, “Pakistan has to go back to the drawing board and re-submit its INDCs which will become subject to independent review.”
This approach potentially allows the US president to approve the Paris agreement without congressional approval. He can say that it is the extension of the UNFCCC, which the US has already ratified, so there is no legal need to go through the Congress. John Kerry was there in Paris with his legal team coming up with this approach, which really allowed the US to participate actively.
Remember, it was President Clinton who supported the Kyoto Protocol and returned to the US only to have the Congress decide that they would not approve it. “Hence the title is not Paris protocol but Paris agreement. It might work let’s see,” said Bilal.
The NDCs shall have to report emissions in a periodic and progressive manner and the idea is for countries to achieve peaking (of carbon emissions) as soon as possible but with the recognition for developing countries to take longer.
This is important for Pakistan as it allows the country to build more fossil fuel power plants in the near future. As Bilal pointed out, “Our right to development is still there and secured by the Convention itself.” Global stock taking on the progress made will happen every five years starting from 2023. Now ranking number eight in this year’s global list of countries most affected by climate-related disasters, Pakistan needs all the help it can get in increasing its resilience.
MITIGATING VULNERABILITY: OFFICIAL ADVOCATES COLLECTIVE, PARTICIPATORY APPROACH
The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: A top climate change ministry has stressed the need for increasing forest cover through participatory approach to tackle climate change impacts on vulnerable communities.
“Increasing area under forest cover is one effective way to reduce the country’s vulnerability to climate change-induced catastrophes, particularly floods, soil erosion and landslides from heavy rains, droughts, desertification, storm surges and sea intrusion or sea-level rise,” Federal Climate Change Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan said.
While speaking to The Express Tribune after chairing a meeting of officials of the provincial forest and wildlife departments at the climate change ministry recently, he said there was a need to jointly work with provincial forest and wildlife departments and other relevant stakeholders to increase forest cover.
The meeting took stock of the current state of the forests and wildlife, particularly the endangered species, risks to their sustainability and possible remedial measures for their protection and conservation.
Inspector-General of Forests at the ministry, Syed Mahmood Nasir also briefed the meeting on measures taken for the reclamation and development of forest areas across the country in the light of instructions given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
There is a dire need for substantial forest cover to mitigate its ever-worsening vulnerability to protect people and their livelihoods from unfolding risks in shape of more frequent incidents of floods, heavy rains, droughts, landslides, sea intrusion, storm surges and cyclones, Khan said.
“Inter-provincial cooperation and coordination are inevitable for protecting the existing forests and bringing new area under trees as well as protecting the wildlife and controlling its illegal hunting or poaching,” he said adding that no single department or ministry could be able to expand area under forests in the country and everyone had to work in tandem.
“Partnerships and participatory approaches can operate at a range of levels, from national to local, and include authorities, forest extension agencies, forest-dependent communities, non-governmental organisations, private-sector entities, research and academic bodies, and forest managers.
“Partnerships and participatory approaches are viewed as essential for successful and durable management responses to climate change impacts,” he argued.
“Climate change also poses enormous challenges for forests, people and their livelihoods. But adaptation and mitigation strategies for coping with the challenges are two vital responses to the climate change risks that need to be hammered out on war-footing,” Khan stressed.
The strategies could comprise reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; and increasing the role of forests as carbon sinks, decreasing the vulnerability of forests and forest-dependent communities to climate change impacts through interventions, he elaborated.
“Deploying sustainable forest management techniques can lessen the climate risks and generate opportunities such as employment in forest restoration, conservation, wood production and wood-based manufacturing and payments for forest-related services.”
It often requires provinces to bring changes in their respective forest policies, strategies and practices, he said.
Dawn, December 29th, 2015
ON Dec 12, world leaders reached a climate change accord in Paris. The agreement has been widely hailed as historic and world-changing by most world leaders. Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, called it a diplomatic triumph.
Undoubtedly, the climate agreement is historic in as much as its unprecedented consensual nature is concerned. In an age of growing international discord, the agreement represents the triumph of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process.
The agreement is also significant when seen in the backdrop of the last climate conference in Copenhagen which concluded without any agreement.
Moreover, it is historic because it puts the issue of the gradual phase-out of fossil fuels on the agenda alongside scaling up the ambition of limiting the rise in world temperature to an ideal 1.5 degrees Celsius though keeping the increase to below 2°C as officially achievable.
The agreement incorporates a regular five-yearly review of carbon emission targets pledged by individual countries, and is also legally binding in the broadest sense of the term. In fact, there is a lot in the agreement to be upbeat about in the long term. And there is something for everybody to celebrate.
Yet in the drive to reach the broadest consensus, specific goals and targets have been done away with or watered down. Elizabeth Korbert, an influential writer on climate change, has called the agreement a triumph of comity over coherence.
On the surface, the agreement is broadly legal binding, though the devil of non-enforcement is in the detail. This is the agreement’s Achilles heel which has swelled the army of detractors after the initial euphoria. These doubts centre on a number of areas.
First, limiting warming to less than 2°C seems well beyond the wildest possibility. Even the preamble of the agreement acknowledges that the target will be hard to meet.
The realisation of this target is further muddied when individual country targets submitted by 187 states are examined. The targets do not add up to realisation of the goal of achieving the 2°C target.
Secondly, there is no enforcement mechanism proposed in the agreement to make the gold of the agreement shine as put aptly by one blogger. Even modest targets proposed by individual nations are not enforceable.
The targets set are entirely voluntary and depend on the political will of the countries involved. There is no firm commitment from the big polluters that they will reduce carbon emissions and there is no mechanism to sanction high polluters.
The United States fought hard to keep the deal sanction-free based on the argument that it would be easier to sell it to the climate-sceptic Republican Congress. Looked at this way, the deal is a big climbdown from the Kyoto Protocol which was more target-oriented and laced with some semblance of enforcement.
The issue of carbon pricing is also off the table in the new agreement. There is an indication of a five-yearly review of the carbon emission target which is going to start in 2023. In between, business as usual on climate change is likely to prevail.
Third, the Paris climate deal offers no guaranteed way forward on the festering issue of climate financing despite the developing countries’ overwhelming focus on it. The projected climate finance of $100 billion is entirely voluntary and aspirational.
There is no firm and cast-iron commitment to contribute to the funding. The associated concern is that climate finance may be funded out of the money diverted from the already shrinking aid budget of the developed countries.
Four , there is a growing concern that carbon trading and renewable energy will benefit business and industry, with the poor being left high and dry. In a neo-liberal age, with the declining power of the state over business regulation, it is hard to see how governments can force business into a direction which is not profit-oriented.
The world faces a climate emergency of unprecedented proportions. Yet, despite the hopeful and consensual wording of the document, action on agreement is hard to foresee. This is of a piece with previous attempts by the world’s leading powers to delay the implementation of agreements.
The Paris agreement may have achieved consensus on a range of contentious issues. But the test of the deal would lie in the grinding work of monitoring and holding governments to account for the targets submitted by them and living up to the aspirational words embodied in the agreement. Now, as always, it falls to local and global civil society to prepare itself to hold governments to account and shout out louder for climate justice and equity.
EL NINO, CLIMATE CHANGE BLAMED FOR EXTREME WEATHER
Dawn, December 29th, 2015
PARIS: Deadly extreme weather on at least five continents is driven in large part by a record-breaking El Nino, but climate change is a likely booster too, experts said on Monday.
The 2015-16 El Nino phase, they added, was the strongest ever measured.
The El Nino effect, which emerges every four to seven years on average and runs from October through January, is triggered by a shift in trade winds across the Pacific around the equator. Warmer surface water that normally accumulates in the eastern Pacific moves to the west, leading to heavier rainfall along the west coast of the Americas and drier-than-usual conditions in Australasia and southeast Asia.
“It is probably the most powerful in the last 100 years,” Jerome Lecou, a climate expert at the French weather service Meteo France, said, noting that accurate measurements had only existed since the mid-20th century.
Flooding and mudslides unleashed by torrential rains have hit Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay in recent days.
In central and southwest United States — where temperatures in Texas were forecast to drop from 28 degrees Celsius on Saturday to zero on Monday — clashing weather fronts have given rise to snow-packed blizzards, freezing rain and a spate of tornadoes.
Across the Pacific, meanwhile, wildfires in Australia have been fanned by high temperatures and super-dry conditions.
Across south and southeast Asia, monsoon rains essential for life-sustaining crops have been limited, while drought in east Africa means millions will require food aid, especially in Ethiopia, according to Oxfam.
“The role of El Nino on much of what we are seeing around the planet is obvious,” Herve Le Treut, a climate scientist and director of the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute, which is a federation of French research centres, said.
This year’s El Nino was the most powerful ever measured, surpassing the one in 1997-98, both in terms of ocean surface temperature — up by more than 3C — and the surface area affected, Mr Lecou said.
As was true in 1998, this year’s super El Nino will have contributed to making 2015 the warmest on record, worldwide.
But the reverse may also be true, with climate change boosting the power of cyclical El Nino events.
“If you add the background global warming to natural weather phenomena, there’s a tendency to break records left and right,” Mr Le Treut told AFP.
“This naturally occurring El Nino and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways which we have never before experienced, “Michel Jarraud, head of the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva, noted last month.
But the multiplier effect of climate change on extreme weather events — while predicted by climate models — is very difficult to establish on a case-by-case basis, scientists caution.
The tornadoes, for example, that ripped across populated stretches of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis in Texas cannot be directly linked to global warming, even if generally warmer conditions may favour their occurrence.
Likewise the heavy rains and flooding that have devastated parts of northern England.
“Milder winters favour rainfall, such as what we are seeing in England,” said French researcher Jean Jouzel, former vice chair of the UN’s top panel of climate scientists.
But such extremes could still fall within the boundaries of natural cycles, independent of climate change, he added.
This year’s El Nino is credited with the largest number — nine, in total — of major Pacific hurricanes in a single season, along with the single most powerful hurricane ever recorded.
Patricia, packing 320-kilometre per hour winds, was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it struck Mexico in October.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 21st TO DECEMBER 27th 2015
CLIMATE OF EMERGENCY
Amy Goodman and Dennis Moynihan
The News, December 21, 2015
On December 12, nearly 200 nations approved the Paris Agreement. The 32-page document spells out humanity’s new, official plan to confront the crisis of climate change.
Public demonstrations across France were banned under the ‘state of emergency’ imposed after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Activists defied the ban, saying that same phrase, ‘state of emergency’ that describes the planet’s climate.
Protests, at times violently repressed by police, occurred throughout the two-week United Nations summit, as people from around the world demanded a fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty to avert the worst consequences of global warming.
The conference opened with the largest gathering of heads of state in history. Dr. Hoesung Lee, chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of almost 2,000 scientists that publishes the world’s scientific consensus on climate change, addressed the leaders, saying:
“The climate is already changing, and we know it’s due to human activity. If we carry on like this, we risk increasingly severe and irreversible impacts: rising seas, increasingly severe droughts and floods, food and water shortages, increased immigration from climate refugees, to name just a few.”
Just about everywhere on the planet, climate science is accepted as fact. It is only in the United States, the largest polluter in world history and home to some of the wealthiest and most politically influential fossil-fuel corporations, that climate-science deniers are given credence.
Climate scientists at the IPCC have provided different global-warming scenarios, describing what the world might look like if the planet warms to varying temperatures. We have already warmed one degree Celsius over preindustrial levels, with devastating impacts.
The Paris Agreement’s central tenet is the pledge to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Centigrade above preindustrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Centigrade above preindustrial levels.”
These seemingly small differences matter. With a rapid decarbonisation of the global economy, with a rapid shift to non-polluting renewable energy, we could limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In this scenario, small island nations can survive the expected sea-level rise. At 2 degrees Celsius, polar ice melts, water warms and thus expands, and global sea levels rise more than 3 feet.
The 1.5 degree goal was included in the Paris Agreement, but, as George Monbiot noted, “it’s almost as if it’s now safe to adopt 1.5 degrees Centigrade as their aspirational target now that it is pretty well impossible to reach.”
Asad Rehman, of Friends of the Earth, explained that equity red line as “support for the most vulnerable, the poorest people, who are really losing their lives and livelihoods and who are going to deal with ever-increasing climate impacts, mostly because of the responsibility of rich, developed countries who have grown fat and rich from carbon pollution.”
In the Paris Agreement, this support is called “loss and damage”, meaning financial payments from the rich countries to poor countries suffering severe impacts of climate change. “Rich countries, who are responsible for this crisis … now want to shift the burden of responsibility from the rich to the poor,” Rehman added. “Unfortunately, the legacy President Barack Obama will leave here is a poison chalice to the poor…”
A broad coalition of climate action organisations has promised an aggressive year of direct action to hasten the end of the fossil-fuel era. As Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace told me, “Most of us in civil society never said ‘the road to Paris,’ we always said ‘the road through Paris.’”
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Climate change and the road through Paris’.
PARIS AGREEMENT COMPROMISE BETWEEN CONFLICTING POSITIONS: MINISTER
Dawn, December 23rd, 2015
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid, who calls himself a “longstanding environmentalist”, addressed a group of journalists at a media workshop on Tuesday in Islamabad organised by the Heinrich Boll Foundation on the outcomes of COP21 which recently took place in Paris.
He pointed out that “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the only head of government who was there at the Earth Summit (in 1992) when the original convention was finalised and he was fortunate enough to be there for the actual implementation of the new agreement that was being finalised in Paris”.
According to the minister, “Pakistan sent a good delegation to Paris with officials from the ministry of climate change, ministry of foreign affairs, representatives from the KPK government and representatives of NGOs. We had our experts following all the streams in the negotiations. As a member of the Group of 77 (group of developing countries) and China, we were basically following them and we were indicating our view points as well”.
He called the Paris Agreement a “compromise between conflicting positions; between developed and developing countries. There were a number of plus points: the global community came together on an agreement and it has high ambition… they agreed to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees”.
However, when it comes to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities which separate rich countries that caused climate change from poorer countries which still need to develop, the words in the “light of different national circumstances” have been added and the words “historical responsibility” omitted.
For now, the peaking (of carbon emissions) will take longer for developing countries – allowing the continuation of emissions. There are no obligations on developed countries, which however are expected to take the lead.
The minister pointed out: “Future emission reductions are now in the hands of the largest polluters”. There is also no road map for rich countries to provide more financial support than the $100 billion promised by 2020. The words “liability or compensation” have been taken out of the agreement and no sources of additional funding identified.
According to the minister, “We are in the process of ratifying the agreement. We will take it to the cabinet for approval. We have held internal meetings in the ministry and we are preparing a plan of action to implement the agreement and dovetail it with the Vision 2025 document and the National Climate Change Policy”.
The minister said they are looking into establishing a climate change authority or commission and there are plans to strengthen the ministry of climate change, which is now an extremely important ministry for the future. “We have also commissioned a detailed study on our green house gas emissions and after the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is finalised we intend to study the projections of green house gas emissions and that will enable us to indicate our Intended Nationally Determined Contributions accurately in the coming months”.
“We now have to move much faster to implement provisions of this agreement. We need to prepare projects that will allow us to easily access finance that will become available – post 2020 we expect it to go up substantially”.
In reply to a question on the coal power plants that will be set up under the CPEC, “coal power plants are essential from our point of view. Coal stocks are going down but there is no complete ban and we are looking for best possible technology, which keeps emissions to a minimum.
We have huge coal reserves lying in the ground… Once we determine our peak levels under CPEC we will see what we can bring down and abide by our commitment. We have set up the largest solar power part in world and we will also be promoting renewable energy; our energy mix is designed in such a manner so we can meet requirements of energy and adhere to our commitments”.
As for the question if the old coal technology belonging to China might be used in Pakistan once the Chinese began decommissioning their coal plants, he replied: “China is a recognised power and it is not looking for a way to dispose its old technology – we are looking for the best technology and I am quite sure they will ensure that the technology they give to us will be of the highest possible standard”.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM 14th DECEMBER TO 20th DECEMBER,2015
PARIS — A HISTORIC AGREEMENT
The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2015.
Pakistan, along with 194 other countries great and small, is a signatory to the legally binding
deal on climate change signed in Paris on December 12. Negotiations had been going on for a fortnight and were complex in the extreme. Much credit has to go to the French who both hosted and facilitated the conference and it is a waypoint along a road the world started to travel 20 years ago. The last conference on climate change in Copenhagen was a failure and we may never know how close the Paris conference was to failure but no matter, it is a significant success.
Success it is but, as many have observed in the hours since the conference ended, this is but a beginning, and for some a small beginning at that. The aim is to hold global temperatures to a rise of 1.5 degrees centigrade, below the two degree centigrade red line defined by some very cautious climatologists. There is a promise to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 in order to help poorer and less developed countries, one of which is Pakistan, to adapt their economies to the needs of the deal. Given the rolling energy crisis we face and the slow development of alternative power sources other than coal, honouring our commitment to the deal is going to be easier said than done. The deal envisages the ultimate phase-out of the use of fossil fuels, a massive growth in renewables and new ‘carbon markets’ that will enable countries to trade emissions and thus protect the vital forestation that is part of the ‘lung’ of planet Earth.
None of the delegates or the leaders present at the final session saw the agreement as perfect. Climate change is not some myth put about by conspiracy theorists, it is very real and Pakistan is among the top 10 countries likely to suffer from its worst effects. Extreme weather events are already more frequent and not a year passes now without loss of lives and economic ruin coming to the people of Pakistan. We warmly welcome this agreement and trust that the incumbent and successive governments work for its implementation.
VULNERABILITY TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, December 14th, 2015
DR ATTEEQ-UR-REHMAN MAQBOOL
MORE than 150 world leaders gathered in Paris earlier this month to attend the United Nation’s climate change talks. This raises hopes but it may be stressed that every country should be able to seek its own solutions to combat global warming.
Likewise, developed countries should provide stronger financial support to developing countries by mobilising $100bn each year from 2020 onward in addition to transferring climate-friendly technologies.
Pakistan, due to its geographic location in South Asia and heat surplus zone of earth, will be severely impacted by the climate change. In Pakistan, the annual mean surface temperature has a consistent rising trend since the beginning of 20th century.
Increase of 0.6-1°C in mean temperature in arid coastal areas, arid mountains and hyper arid plains, 10-15pc decrease in both winter and summer rainfall in coastal belt and hyper arid plains, and 18-32pc increase in rainfall in monsoon zone have been observed.
According to International Food Policy Research Institute, South Asia will be the most severely impacted by climate change. By 2050 it could lose 50pc of its wheat productivity. Recent ranking by Maplecroft of the UK places Pakistan at 28th globally and among the top 10 outside Africa that will be most severely affected.
The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that burning fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal is adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and therefore responsible for most of climate change currently being observed. The current carbon dioxide level is the highest in the past 650,000 years.
Pakistan contributes very little to the overall greenhouse gas emissions but remains seriously concerned as climate change will affect its numerous regions, ecosystems and sectors of economy due to several reasons such as significantly increasing air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, rising sea level, vacillating wind patterns, persistent heat waves and frequent storms.
The dynamics of climate change shall retard agricultural production, communal health, human well-being, environment and energy conservation, natural resources management and societal productivity.
Pakistan is already amongst the most tree resource-poor countries with a skimpy 5.2pc forest cover. At the current rate, the global average temperature is predicted to rise from 3°- 7°F by 2100 and changes will become more pronounced over time.
Rising sea levels enhance the risk of catastrophic flooding. The low-lying coastal regions of Pakistan including the city of Karachi are at significant risk from projected sea-level rise of 40cm by the end of this century.
Owing to shifting weather patterns, rice, cotton and sugarcane might experience substantial decline. For instance, for each degree of warming, wheat production could drop by 15-20pc.
Being a predominantly agriculture economy, decrease in crop yields in Pakistan will affect livelihoods and food production and pose a high risk to food security. As a result of impacts on agriculture, the livestock production is predicted to decline by 20-30pc creating a crisis in milk, meat and poultry supplies and pushing prices beyond reach of an average Pakistani.
Increasing temperature will accelerate melting of glaciers on the country’s mountains. Geologists forecast by mid-century, most mountain glaciers may be gone. Depletion of glaciers poses a threat to irrigation and drinking water supplies as rivers depend solely on glacier melting. Landsat images of Batura glacier for the year October 1992 and October 2000 has revealed a decrease of 17km2 in its size.
Pakistan needs to focus on water conservation, by its irrigation losses, local rain harvesting, while preventing catchments and reservoirs’ degradation and contamination. It needs to manage risk to crop failure due to extreme weather and effective communication of climate-related information to farmers. Dynamic weather patterns have potentially high risk of both more floods and more droughts. Back-to-back occurrences of history’s worst flooding during the last decade in the country are unique phenomenon. Moreover, from 1999 to 2002, droughts in Sindh and Balochistan killed 2m animals.
Climate change is an urgent challenge. It is imperative for countries such as Pakistan to discuss, document and understand the key scientific facts that explain the causes and effects of climate change today as well as projections for the future.
Adapting to climate change requires reducing vulnerability and building natural resilience against its impacts; developing sound policy, technology and investment choices for emission reduction and energy conservation; avoiding deforestation by introducing sustainable forest management practices; securing country’s water resources; maintaining early warning systems based on meteorological services to predict floods, drought, cyclones, tsunamis, wind shear, fog and hailstorms, and enhancing levels of information and communication among decision-makers and other target audiences by promoting climate change science.
In a nutshell, the impacts of climate on agriculture based economies needs to be tackled establishing a state-of-the-art National Climatology Research Centre to carry out interdisciplinary studies in geosciences, meteorology, hydrology, agriculture, and disaster management. It could be achieved by reconstructing the earth’s past climatic conditions for developing climate change models and predicting the future.
CLIMATE DEAL IS SIGNAL TO INDUSTRY: THE ERA OF CARBON REDUCTION IS HERE
CLIFFORD KRAUSS and KEITH BRADSHER
With the ink barely dry on a landmark climate accord, nations now face an even more daunting challenge: how to get their industries to go along.
If nothing else, analysts and experts say, the accord is a signal to businesses and investors that the era of carbon reduction has arrived.
It will spur banks and investment funds to shift their loan and stock portfolios from coal and oil to the growing industries of renewable energy like wind and solar. Utilities themselves will have to reduce their reliance on coal and more aggressively adopt renewable sources of energy. Energy and technology companies will be pushed to make breakthroughs to make better and cheaper batteries that can store energy for use when it is needed. And automakers will have to developelectric cars that win broader acceptance in the marketplace.
“It’s very hard to go backward from something like this,” said Nancy Pfund, managing partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm that focuses on social, environmental and economic development. “People are boarding this train, and it’s time to hop on if you want to have a thriving, 21st-century economy.”
Wall Street is clearly paying attention.
Top executives from Bank of America, Citibank and Goldman Sachs dropped by the Paris talks or related side events, as did philanthropist business leaders like Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Chief executives of blue-chip companies like Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, HP and Unilever all expressed support for an ambitious deal.
On Twitter on Saturday night, BP, the British oil giant, called the Paris agreement a “landmark climate change deal” and pledged to be “a part of the solution.” In June, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total called for a tax on carbon emissions, saying it would reduce uncertainty and help oil and gas companies figure out the future.
“The policy developed from these commitments will bring better market certainty to investors and open up significant opportunities,” Jack Ehnes, chief executive of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, said last week.
But not all business representatives embraced the accord and resistance to new policies appears inevitable. “The Paris climate conference delivered more of the same — lots of promises and lots of issues still left unresolved,” Stephen D. Eule of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement, noting that the agreement is not legally binding. By any measure, the world economy has a long way to go to break away from the use of coal and oil that fueled progress since the Industrial Revolution.
Globally, renewable energy sources are growing fast but they still account for about only 10 percent of total energy supply, with most of that coming from hydroelectric power, according to a new report from the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. Solar and wind account for 1.6 percent of total energy.
Some energy experts said that without a multinational carbon tax or other pricing of carbon, which was not specified in the agreement, the hopes of environmentalists for a true sea change that will curb climate change remain challenged.
Still, there are examples of industries changing their practices.
Automakers, under intense pressure to meet strict American fuel economy standards, have hastened the trend toward smaller engines, and have increased investments in hybrid and electric vehicles.
Last week, Ford Motor said it would invest $4.5 billion on 13 new electric vehicle models by 2020 — even though sales of alternative-fuel models are still a fraction of the market.
“We’re doing it for two reasons,” Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said on Friday. “One is that people love electric vehicles when they try them, and secondly the regulatory requirements are hard to meet.”
Globally, the focus on auto emissions has never been sharper. Thecheating scandal at Volkswagen has galvanized regulators around the world to test more cars and increase scrutiny of harmful emissions — both in conventional cars and diesel-burning heavy trucks.
Beyond the auto industry, the money is flowing. According to a recent Goldman Sachs study, the combined market size of low-carbon technologies like wind and solar power and electric and hybrid vehicles exceeded $600 billion last year, nearly equivalent to the United States defense budget.
On the flip side, coal investors have been heading for the exits. Major producers like Alpha Natural Resources, squeezed by low natural gas prices as well as stiffening regulations, have filed for bank as the industry endures a painful retrenchment.
Capital markets react to logic,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, which seeks to focus investor attention on the financial risks of climate change.
But the record of government and corporate actions so far remains mixed. Europe has tried to lower its carbon emissions with a cap and trade system that gives companies incentives to cut emissions. But special allowances, or credits, are worth far less than was hoped a decade ago, and Europe continues to depend on coal for power. Coal also remains a dominant fuel in India and across much of Southeast Asia, with little sign of change.
Looming over the carbon pollution issue, though, is China. Just as it became the world’s biggest carbon emitter as its economy surged, it is moving aggressively to implement climate control measures, including plans for a national carbon trading market in 2017.
“The policy makers have given a very clear sign to the companies,” that have already begun expanding investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, said Yu Qingchan, the climate change program coordinator at the Global Environmental Institute, a nonprofit in Beijing.
Two provinces, Hubei and Guangdong, and five metropolitan areas — Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Tianjin and Shenzhen — already have their own pilot programs for carbon trading by large enterprises. Big companies in these areas have tended to be more positive about national limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
One corporate leader in curbing emissions has been the Hubei Yihua Group, a large fertilizer producer in Hubei province, where a provincial carbon trading program has developed rapidly. Cai Zhong, the company’s assistant general manager, welcomed the Paris accord.
“The fact that the Paris agreement on climate change was eventually agreed upon,” Mr. Cai said, “we believe is good news for the world and for China.”
Not surprisingly, among the most enthusiastic supporters have been executives of the renewable companies.
Tom Werner, chief executive of SunPower, the large solar manufacturer and developer based in California, said the agreement would help open the investment taps for Africa and countries like India, where access to capital for large projects has been limited.
“There are so many countries participating that it opens up new markets to solar that weren’t that aggressive,” he said.
Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners, a Houston-based company that develops long-haul transmission lines for renewable energy, saw the accord as a pivot point for a changing industry.
He pointed to the investments that the United States made during the last century in its power grid and hydro electric power. “Both have provided low-cost electricity in the ensuing decades,” he said. “In 2050, we will look back at the investments prompted by the Paris accords and see exactly the same phenomena.”
LIVELIHOOD SUPPORT URGED FOR COASTAL COMMUNITIES HIT BY CLIMATE CHANGE
Dawn, December 18th, 2015
KARACHI: Speakers at a programme held on Thursday called upon the government to introduce livelihood support models, especially in the highly vulnerable coastal areas, to help communities adapt to changing climate.
It was also strongly recommended that the government allocate funds for districts yearly to tackle climate change that, the speakers pointed out, was a potential threat to development and poverty reduction efforts.
The experts were sharing their views and experiences at the closing ceremony of a five-year project titled ‘Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Areas of Pakistan (CCAP)’ held in a local hotel.
Funded by the European Commission, the project was jointly implemented by the World Wide Fund of Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) and Lead-Pakistan in Sindh (Thatta and Badin districts) and Balochistan (Gwadar district).
Highlighting the threats posed by climate change, Arif Ahmed Khan, representing the ministry of climate change, said that though the public in the country might not have an understanding of this global challenge, climate change was a real threat and had brought nations together.
In this context, he referred to the recently held United Nations conference on climate change in Paris and said that representatives of 195 countries discussed the same issue that had attracted experts’ attention today.
“The next 25 to 30 years are very crucial in terms of adverse impacts of climate change and there is an immediate need to pursue adaptation practices at the community level proactively,” he said.
Citing data from his study, senior manager of the CCAP project Ali Dehlavi said the predicted a 0.5 degree centigrade increase in temperature in the next 25 years might lead to an eight to 10 per cent yearly per acre yield loss across all crops of Sindh and Punjab, resulting in Rs30,000 per acre yearly loss to each farm household.
He underlined the need for using the study’s findings in adaptation strategies to prioritise actions.
General manger Lead-Pakistan, partner NGO in CCAP, Tahir Rasheed said that climate change was a potential threat to development and poverty reduction efforts in Pakistan.
“Climate change impacts are complex and require coordination among all the government departments. The provincial governments need to allocate sufficient funds at the district level to tackle climate change,” he said.
He advocated a strong communication strategy to sensitise and create awareness among various stakeholders and local communities about climate change.
Deputy director of the Sindh fisheries department Mohammad Aslam Ansari said that coastal communities were being directly affected by the changing environmental conditions.
“These communities are highly exposed to tidal flooding, cyclones, droughts and, subsequently, loss of livelihood resources,” he said, adding that the reduction in freshwater downstream Kotri had greatly affected environmental conditions in the Indus delta.
The situation was damaging not only for agriculture but also for the fisheries sector and there was an immediate need to release at least 10 MAF water downstream Kotri to rehabilitate the ecosystem.
Chief meteorologist Mohammad Akram Anjum said Pakistan had had floods for five consecutive years, which should be seen as a warning sign, besides a sea level rise of 6mm per year was under way due to an increase in temperature.
Community representative from Jiwani Ghani Asif told the audience about the havoc sea erosion wrecked on his town and said the erosion was not only ruining their land but also damaging their livelihood resources, particularly fisheries.
Dr Ejaz Ahmed, Rab Nawaz, Mohammad Moazzam Khan, all representing the WWF-P, and Nasir Panhwar of the Indus Forum also spoke.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DECEMBER 7TH TO D ECEMBER DECEMBER13TH, 2015
ADDING TO CARBON EMISSION
The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2015.
In Paris, there is an epic struggle to persuade the nations of the world to work together to battle climate change, and in particular to keep global warming at or below the two degrees that is the tipping point as far as potential global catastrophe is concerned.
In New Delhi, as of December 7, private cars will be regulated by a system based on number plates — ‘odd’ and ‘even’ days — in an attempt to reduce pollution. Beijing has an appalling problem with smog and poor air quality — and anywhere one may care to look in the developing world where coal-fired power stations are proliferating, there is a significant pollution and carbon emission problem. Pakistan has just decided to add to that, for good or ill.
Aside from what coal-fired power may do in terms of expanding the carbon footprint, the long-term health implications, in a country with notoriously poor public health services, almost beggars belief.
As the rest of the world moves towards cleaner and renewable energy generation, Pakistan (as well as India) is looking towards an energy generation future powered by coal.
Thus far, the developments of sources powered by renewables have been small in Pakistan, in part because of the capital expenditure to get renewable sources up and running economically and efficiently.
Pakistan sits on coal, much of it of poor quality, and it remains the cheapest source of power generation everywhere. The country derives two-thirds of its energy needs from oil and gas, much of it imported and subject to price fluctuations. Local coal provides price consistency, and the argument that in real terms, the increase in our contribution to global carbon emissions is almost negligible is a powerful driver.
Pakistan has a 25-member team at the Paris Climate Summit, but as with other developing nations, local imperatives may outweigh global goals. The aim is to add 8,100 megawatts of coal power to the system, roughly 40 per cent of generation capacity. Delhi and Beijing are literally choking on the cost of coal-powered development, and Pakistan may find itself coughing in their wake.
PARIS CLIMATE SUMMIT: BLACK-TIE AFFAIR OR GREAT GREEN DEBATE
The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: Finally, it has now been established that ‘climate change’ is as real as it gets.
With experts painting a bleak picture of the planet’s future in 2050, it is imperative to get buy-in of global policymakers as grassroots actions by individuals and initiatives by community groups alone would not suffice.
Kyoto Protocol failed to yield any meaningful results because the US never ratified it and the world’s two biggest polluters, China and India, were exempt from the treaty.
Now, world leaders meeting in Paris, however, have very different agendas in mind.
Representatives of developing nations strongly believe that the west has no right to impede their economic growth in the name of ‘climate politics.’
Categorically speaking, during Paris talks, Indian PM Modi has demanded an exception in CO2 quotas despite a carbon footprint growth trajectory which is all set to exceed that of China and EU, and a population growth rate that adds one Australia to the world population every year.
While India has shown little interest to leapfrog lest the west promises billions of cash inflows for green investments, Obama, on the other hand, sees Paris as a chance to create his legacy.
But it was also Obama and his administration who forced India in 2013 to end domestic subsidies on solar panels under WTO regulations – despite the fact that one-fourth of India had no electricity. Ironically, US government grants annual subsidies amounting to $40 billion for renewable sources including solar energy.
Twelve days, 147 world leaders and 30,000 diplomats – the UN conference to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has a carbon footprint of over 300,000 tonnes. Keeping in view these facts, Paris talks appears to be a slick marketing campaign.
‘Climate change’ is the new buzz word that will neither save the planet nor promote investments in research and development.
Moreover, the carbon accounting is not very clear – should we associate the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process with the end consumer or the producer? Carbon emissions due to production of iPhones in China and then sold in North America must be attributed to US and not China. Otherwise, this practice encourages the trend of decreasing footprint by outsourcing polluting industries to developing countries besides benefiting from cheap labour economics.
Six years ago, China had a stance similar to that of India now, and was unwilling to commit to any hard targets. Now China believes that the conference might mark the start of a new energy revolution and does not wants to miss the wave. It desires to dominate the renewable industry through super economies of scale – making a viable global economic case for green energy sources.
Any deal, however, would be very important for the world.
There is still hope that a new pact could be negotiated for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The key to success is not only to convince China and India that there is a low-carbon trajectory for sustained economic growth, but US rather needs to lead by example. A sizeable majority of US Congress and the Government of Pakistan (GoP) leaders still deny climate change which could be a big hurdle in getting any international treaty ratified as it was the case with Kyoto Protocol.
Are Paris talks an exercise in negotiation? And is any deal, if reached, a zero-sum game?
Cutting emissions may not necessarily mean a decline in growth but we have to yet see a working model of a low-carbon economy.
Although President Obama is politically correct to observe that the US “recognises its role in creating this problem,” but he has to be blue in the face to reach consensus.
ON TETHER TO FOSSIL FUELS, NATIONS SPEAK WITH MONEY
International New York Times, DEC.7, 2015
As representatives of nearly 200 countries gathered in Paris to discuss ways of reducing emissions from fossil fuels, many pointed to what they consider a simple and obvious way to change behavior: Stop widespread subsidies that encourage the use of fossil fuels.
Industrialized nations agreed to start phasing the subsidies out after an agreement at the Group of 20 summit meeting of the world’s largest economies in 2009, and some progress has been made.The International Energy Agency said its $490 billion estimate for worldwide fossil fuel subsidies in 2014 would have been $610 billion if not for changes since that agreement.
But calls for greater cuts continue. The energy agency issued a statement last month identifying the elimination of subsidies as one of the most effective strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The subsidies are “public enemy No. 1 in terms of sustainable development,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the agency.
On Monday, the first day of the climate conference, representatives of 35 governments and hundreds of businesses and organizations issued a call for countries to take aggressive action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said, “The huge sums involved globally could be better spent on schools, health care, renewable energies and building resilient societies.”
In their simplest form, fossil fuel subsidies amount to government spending to keep the price of fuel low for citizens. They are why gasoline in Venezuela costs about 2 cents per liter. The International Energy Agency estimates that global subsidies total about $490 billion a year. Those direct subsidies are found chiefly in the developing world and in oil-producing nations.
Industrialized countries like the United States are less likely to reduce the cost of fuel at the pump with government money, but experts who track subsidies say that America, too, finds ways to support fossil fuel use through tax breaks and in backing for exploration and production. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has counted 800 ways that rich industrial nations use taxpayer money to support fossil fuel producers.
A new report from Oil Change International, an energy research and advocacy group, estimates that aid to the coal, oil and natural gas industries came to $452 billion last year. The group said the situation amounted to governments “allowing fossil fuel producers to undermine national climate commitments, while paying them for the privilege.”
“We have to stop using government funds to support the industry that is causing the problem,” said Stephen Kretzmann, executive director and founder of Oil Change International. “That would seem to be the low-hanging fruit of solving climate change: When you’re in a hole, stop digging. And yet we really haven’t made much progress.”
Critics of subsidies say their greatest benefits go to the middle class and the rich, who can better afford cars.
By keeping conventional fuels at low prices, subsidies also make alternative energy sources less affordable in comparison. The International Energy Agency’s 2014 World Energy Outlook report warned, “Fossil fuel subsidies rig the game against renewables and act as a drag on the transition to a more sustainable energy system.”
That report noted that some countries spent a greater share of their gross domestic product on fossil fuel subsidies than on health or education.
Going into the Paris climate talks, China, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore and Vietnam had committed to addressing subsidies, Mr. Kretzmann said. “Governments have a lot of incentive and opportunity to eliminate those now, with oil prices so low,” he added.
And as prices have dropped, subsidies have been reduced in many countries, including India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates, said Dr. Hare of Climate Analytics.
While attempts to cut subsidies have led to social unrest, more recent efforts, including a gradual phaseout to soften the blow, have enjoyed quiet success.
But previous efforts have often been abandoned when global fuel prices rise and consumers are pinched. “If you look at the history of fuel subsidy reform, it doesn’t always stick,” said Michael L. Ross, a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies energy subsidies.
A study from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and other groups suggested that eliminating production subsidies for the Powder River Basin coal region in Wyoming and Montana alone would raise the price of that coal enough to reduce demand for it by 30 percent in the long term, which the study estimates would equal the emissions from as many as 32 coal-burning plants.
Michael A. Levi, an energy expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, said that fuel subsidies were an inefficient way to help the poor, anyway. However, he noted that better ways were not necessarily available. Giving money directly to the poor to make up for the lost fuel savings would require a banking and credit infrastructure that often cannot be found in the developing world.
“You shouldn’t want to solve these countries’ fiscal problems on the backs of their weakest citizens,” Mr. Levi said.
In the United States, a longstanding coalition of environmentalists and libertarians has sought to eliminate tax breaks and policies that support the fossil fuel industry. Eli Lehrer, the co-founder of the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, said the oil industry did not need many of the tax breaks it received.
“I doubt that eliminating the intangible drilling cost write-off would reduce oil production at all,” he said.
Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said the tax breaks for his industry “are similar to other manufacturing sectors.” He added, “As an industry, we pay higher taxes than any other.”
Such arguments do not convince Mr. Lehrer, whose group is part of the Green Scissors coalition that includes environmentally conscious budget cutters across the political spectrum. “These subsidies on fossil fuels are a very good, transideological issue,” he said. “To the left, it’s a terrible act of environmental destruction. To the right, it’s crony capitalism. And both sides are true.”
CLIMATE CHANGE DENTS COTTON OUTPUT IN PUNJAB
The News, December 08, 2015
LAHORE: Climate change has officially been blamed for the first time for triggering abnormal temperature rise and untimely rains in main cotton growing belt this year that leads to about 30 per cent estimated dent in its production against the target, especially in the Punjab province, officials said on Monday.
Abnormalities in weather like heavy rains and harsh temperatures are being blamed mainly for loss in cotton production while associated pests attack and diseases and poor seed quality have also been attributed for the decline in output.
Climate change related event like damage due to rains have topped the list as number of rainy days increased this year significantly in the cotton sowing areas of Punjab province, while Sindh province has largely remain unaffected from this menace, as per assessment of Cotton Wing, federal Ministry of Textile Industry.
Moreover, during Jan-Oct 2015 around 373mm rain was recorded in Multan, which happened to be main hub of cotton sowing in the country.
In fact, since 2010, a rising tendency of greater rainfall in the area becomes a new normal.
According to statistics compiled by Suparco, Multan received far greater amount of rain during June to August this year if compared with corresponding period of 2014.
As many as five-time increase has been witnessed in intensity of rain in June this year if compared with data of previous year, while two-time and three-time jump was witnessed in months of July and August in Multan, which is alarming.
Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and DG Khan have even seen worst abnormality of rains during these months. Bahawalpur received 106mm, 133mm and 86mm of rainfall during June, July and August respectively against just 0.1mm, 18mm, and 4.1mm rain recorded in the corresponding period of 2014. Similarly, increase in minimum and maximum temperature has also been witnessed.
Besides damaging growth of plants and inflicting physical damage, excessive rains and moisture level and hot weather are detrimental to the growth of cotton plant as it always invites pest attack.
Owing to fluctuating weather, damage by pink bollworm, white fly and aphid were observed more than normal levels.
It is first declaration made officially about climate change related such a huge negative impact on crop.
Earlier, weather related events were blamed in isolation and official circles refrained themselves from linking it with climate change. Pakistan has been rated among the top 10 most vulnerable countries as far as adverse effects of climate change is concerned.
Among major climate change related concerns posing danger to Pakistan has been increased variability of monsoon, increased risks of extreme events like floods, droughts, cyclones, extreme high/low temperatures etc, and severe water- and heat-stressed conditions in arid and semi-arid regions leading to reduced agricultural productivity.
Impact of climate change on cotton production has been described as events leading to excessive water availability in case of rains/floods and shortage in case of drought that affects yields in both ways.
Higher temperature affects yields and encourages weeds and pest infestation and low soil temperature and/or rains especially at the time of sowing affects germination.
According to Cotton Wing of the ministry, intelligent weather forecast and close coordination with meteorological department should be adopted to minimize threats of climate change.
Moreover, cotton varieties with wide range of adoptability to climatic changes should be given focus by the agricultural scientists.
Crop agronomy should be evolved in accordance with climate change besides ensuring good drainage and handy drainage equipment to offset adverse effects of untimely rains/floods.
It may be noted that the Cotton Crop Assessment Committee (CCAC) downward revised the estimated cotton target third time to 11.388 million bales against the initial estimate of 15.49 million bales, showing a decline by up to 25.4 per cent.
PAKISTAN’S DISAPPOINTING SHOW AT THE PARIS SUMMIT
The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2015.
Malik Amin Aslam Khan
Pakistan landed at theUN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris with intentionally weakened INDCs — a meaningless one-pager, which was the shortest plan on climate change presented by any country. It was more significant for what it did not say rather than for what it did. Within the ongoing climate negotiations process, the INDC is the defining country statement and, in all probability, will be the document around which the future regime is going to be constructed.
The abbreviation stands for Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and it is worthwhile to carefully walk through these words that seem to have bewildered policymakers in Pakistan.
The first word, ‘intended’, portrays the completely voluntary nature of this document and captures the state of the gridlocked climate negotiations — it encompasses the developing countries’ principled stand that they are not historically responsible for climate emissions and need space for growth without any restrictions imposed on their future development.
Simultaneously, it also portrays the apathetic inaction from developed countries, the so-called climate dirty dozen, which continue to procrastinate over the reduction of climate emissions in their own countries while also failing to deliver the promised $100 billion per year of climate finance that can assist developing countries in both adapting to climate effects, as well as pushing their growth on to cleaner pathways.
The words that follow are ‘nationally determined’, which reinforce the homegrown nature of this document as it is not some top-down or donor-driven prescription, but an enlistment of national priority actions that the country defines for itself to counter the climate challenge. It extends complete independence of action, or conversely inaction, to the party, while instilling in it a sense of responsibility of making these planned actions transparently known to the world. The final word is where most of the confusion lies and which our governing gurus apparently failed to comprehend.
The word ‘contribution’ — or the ‘C’ in INDC — has multiple dimensions spread over time, as well as the type and nature of contribution that a country can make. It is supposed to showcase to the world what, as a globally responsible stakeholder, the respective country’s willing contribution is towards facing up to and addressing this collective global challenge.
The time dimensions mean that it is not just about what the country is intending to do in the future, but probably more importantly, what it is already doing to both adapt to the effects of climate change as well as mitigate any future contribution to climate change.
This is where Pakistan missed the opportunity to put forward its very strong climate case to the world. Pakistan is an extremely low contributor to the climate change issue, emitting even less than one per cent of global greenhouse emissions, but remains one of the worst victims of climate impacts.
It is certainly a country on the wrong end of climate injustice and the latest climate vulnerability index, brought out by German Watch during COP21, categorises it amongst the top-10 most climate-vulnerable countries of the world. It has continuously remained so for the previous five years.
This is no surprise for a country facing up to mega floods, glacial outbursts, erratic monsoonal shifts, urban heatwaves and freak climate-triggered disasters, such as cyclones and tornadoes — all racking up forced economic losses to the tune of billions of dollars every year.
The luxury of time is no longer available to Pakistan as it is compelled to relentlessly endure the uninvited consequences of global climate impacts every year.
However, per force of circumstance, it is already bracing up to face this global issue with plans for climate-compatible infrastructure development, adapting its agriculture to shifting rainfall patterns and dealing with millions of climate refugees every year.
All of this, and much more, is already happening in Pakistan and is the forced ‘contribution’ to climate change that we failed to register, with a captive world audience attentively listening to hear from us through our INDC.
Although beset by climate impacts, Pakistan has been responsibly endeavouring to shift its economic growth onto cleaner and climate-friendly pathways.
While the country’s future emissions are poised to significantly rise as it develops and utilises its indigenous coal resources to fuel its growth, it has the opportunity and the ‘intended’ plans in place already to decouple its future economic growth from an equivalent growth of its emissions.
Deploying the latest and most efficient clean coal technologies, focusing simultaneously on renewables, hydro, nuclear and gas-fuelled energy options and sequestering carbon emissions through the forestry sector — these are all policy initiatives that are already underway in Pakistan and should have been the ‘C’ of the INDC, which Pakistan failed to produce.
Pakistan is a climate victim and definitely not a part of the problem, but it has the will, the plans and the policies in place to be a responsible part of the climate solution. This is the very strong message, which the INDC missed out on portraying.
Within this larger missed context, there are two flagship initiatives that needed to be part of the national discourse at COP21 and were, in fact, part of the well-researched original INDC that got scrapped at the last minute and fell through the cracks of an inter-ministerial confusion on the document.
These are the Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Billion Tree Tsunami projects — both of which are assisting Pakistan in fighting climate change by avoiding and reducing carbon emissions and are the responsible ‘contributions’ to the global effort that the world wanted to hear from Pakistan.
The Quaid-i-Azam solar project, even though delivering at a high capital cost, will undoubtedly shrink Pakistan’s present and future carbon footprint through utilisation of an indigenous renewable source of energy.
Once completed, it aims to be the largest solar park in the world and a part of Pakistan’s policy commitment of producing, at least, 10 per cent of its energy mix through renewables. Similarly, K-P’s flagship Billion Tree Tsunami is an ongoing project, which is preserving and enhancing the forest resource in the province, and is also sequestering carbon and building local resilience to the impacts of climate change.
In doing so, the initiative is extending a win-win opportunity for K-P, Pakistan and the world. For K-P, it is increasing forest cover while generating green jobs for the youth. For Pakistan, this project is enhancing water availability, reducing soil erosion and increasing resilience against climate-induced floods.
For the world, it is sequestering carbon and contributing towards global climate mitigation. The project managed to capture global attention and was recognised as part of the voluntary Bonn Challenge.
It was showcased at COP21 as a unique initiative — the first of it kind from a sub-national entity. Pakistan’s INDC, however, willfully failed to highlight both these initiatives.
Our government apparently cowered away from presenting an effective INDC for fear of committing to future emission targets or risking a mortgaging away of its future development space. This ill-informed position defies the very concept of the INDC and fails to comprehend the voluntary and intended nature of this submission.
Also, while avoiding stating any future contributions, Pakistan, as described earlier, also failed to portray its very strong and real existing contributions to the global efforts against climate change. In doing so, it chose to throw out the baby with the bath water.
As the climate negotiations stand to date, the INDCs will be used effectively as a reflection of a country’s existing and future development and economic growth plans, and will form the pathway for directing future climate and development finance flows.
Pakistan has missed the opportunity to use the COP21 forum to put its case forward, but it still has a chance to internally comprehend the INDC’s utility and revisit and revise its submission. This will be in our national interest, as well as in the interest of a world wanting to hear from us.
TRUST AND MONEY AT CORE OF CRUCIAL PARIS TALKS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
International New York Times, DEC. 6, 2015
LE BOURGET, France — The international climate change negotiations entering their second and final week encompass a vast and complicated array of political, economic and legal questions. But at bottom, the talks boil down to two issues: trust and money.
In this global forum, no one questions the established science that greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are warming the planet — or that both developed and developing economies must all eventually lower their greenhouse emissions to stave off a future that could wreak havoc on the world’s safety and economic stability.
In a major breakthrough, 184 governments have already submitted plans detailing how they will cut their domestic emissions after 2020.
Those pledges are expected to make up the core of a new accord, which could be signed next weekend. The agreement is also expected to require countries to return to the table at least once every 10 years with even more stringent emissions reduction pledges.
That is the crucial question that will determine whether a Paris climate change accord has teeth, or whether it is little more than an expression of good will.
The United States is pushing for aggressive, legally binding provisions that would require governments to monitor, verify and report their emissions reductions to an international body. But many developing nations have balked at such provisions, calling them intrusive and a potential violation of sovereignty.
The issue has emerged as a point of tension between the United States and China, after the two countries last year celebrated a breakthrough on climate policy, announcing a joint plan to reduce their future emissions.
But last month it was discovered that China was burning 17 percent more coal than it had previously reported. That episode highlighted the need for an outside body to verify countries’ emissions reductions, many observers said.
“Transparency is an enormously important part of this,” said Todd Stern, the American climate change negotiator. “One hundred and eighty-four countries have put forth targets. The transparency regime is the thing that will allow everyone to have confidence and trust that other countries are acting. It is at the core of this deal.”
Asked about the issue at a news briefing, the Chinese negotiator Su Wei said simply, “Transparency would be very important to build mutual confidence and trust,” adding, “This is one of the key issues to be resolved.”
“We have been defending transparency mechanisms provided they are nonintrusive, that the work is done on a cooperative way, and that the required support for the countries to undertake the work is there,” said Antonio Marcondes, the Brazilian climate change envoy. “But intrusiveness is not welcome.” One difficulty for many countries is that they do not have the basic government accounting resources to track and monitor their industrial carbon pollution.
“We agree in principle,” with the idea of a strong verification regime, said the chief climate negotiator for Indonesia, Rachmat Witoelar. “But there are some prerequisites to that. Some of the countries need technical assistance and capacity assistance to do what is asked.”
Mr. Stern has also supported proposals in which developed nations with strong monitoring and data-crunching agencies would supply expertise to help poor countries create new institutions to measure and track their emissions. It is unclear whether that support would include a fresh allocation of United States taxpayer dollars.
That would be an intensely contentious proposal, coming in the context of the already explosive fight over money.
At the heart of the financial fight is a pledge made in 2009 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that developed countries would mobilize $100 billion annually to help poor countries transform their energy systems from fossil fuel dependency to reliance on clean energy sources, and to adapt to the ravages of climate change.
But rich countries such as the United States have insisted that most of that money come from private investments, rather than taxpayer dollars.
President Obama’s initial pledge of $3 billion in climate finance over three years is already meeting with fierce objections from Congress.
But India has demanded that a final text include legally binding language that would commit the developed world to allocating the money from public funds.
“We will push for an increase in public spending,” said Ajay Mathur, an Indian climate change negotiator. “We want developed countries to provide resources that can help mobilize capital. The amounts that have been pledged are not enough.” He added: “Finance is the easiest thing. All you have to do is write a check.”
Despite the standoffs, many negotiators and observers here say they are confident that a deal is in sight.
That is in part, they say, because of an optimistic and collegial mood created by the fact that, with the submission of the individual climate pledges, negotiations are further along than they have ever been in the unsuccessful two-decade process to form a climate pact.
There is also a sense of good will toward the French hosts of the summit meeting, in the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris last month. Top French officials have demonstrated an intense emotional commitment toward forging a deal.
In a speech Saturday night to the plenary session, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, clearly emotional, spoke of the urgent need to reach a deal.
“We’re talking about life itself,” he said.
He added, “I intend to muster the experience of my entire life to the service of success for next Friday.”
Given the emotional sensitivity of the moment, and the sympathy toward France, it is unlikely, say experts, that any one country would take action to block a deal entirely.
“I think if a country were to go up against France right now, it would be looked at so badly in the broader global context,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert in climate change negotiations at the World Resources Institute, a research organization.
However, she added, in their efforts to forge a deal no matter what, it is possible that negotiators may water down demands or simply remove crucial elements from the text — weakening the policy outcome in order to end up with a positive political moment.
“Instead of spoilers,” she said, “they could push to make the deal as weak as possible.”
CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS SET FOR HISTORIC FALL THIS YEAR, CLAIMS STUDY
Dawn,December 8th, 2015
LE BOURGET: Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main driver of man-made climate change, are set to decline this year for the first time in a period of global economic growth, said a study on Monday.
The “surprising” findings were published as 195 nations entered the final phase of UN negotiations in Paris for an accord to defeat the threat posed by heat-trapping carbon emissions. Ministers from around the planet launched a five-day scramble in Paris to answer “the call of history” and strike a deal to spare mankind from climate disaster.
The 195-nation UN talks in Paris have been billed as the last chance to avert the worst consequences of global warming: deadly drought, floods and storms, and rising seas that will obliterate islands and densely populated coastlines.
Environment and foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State John Kerry who landed in Paris on Monday, were urged to rise to the moment and rip out hundreds of bracketed words or sentences in the draft accord that denote disagreement.
“The opportunity to rise to the call of history is not given to everyone or every day,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told the conference. “History has chosen you here, now”. Taking effect from 2020, the Paris accord would seek to limit emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, driven especially by coal, oil and gas — the backbone of the world’s energy supply today.
The goal of the negotiations is to limit global warming to less than 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
But scientists say the planet is already halfway to the 2 C figure, which means that the rise in fossil-fuel emissions must peak soon, and go quickly into reverse, to meet the precious objective.
The talks opened Nov 30 with a record-breaking gathering of 150 world leaders who issued a chorus of warnings about mankind’s fate if planet warming went unchecked.
After a week of talks, negotiators met a Saturday deadline to produce a draft 48-page blueprint that agreed on the need for urgent action but left unresolved many of the deep and complex divisions that condemned previous UN efforts to failure.
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPEDES ABILITY TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: MINISTER
Dawn, December 9th, 2015
RINA SAEED KHAN
As the Friday deadline for a climate agreement in Paris nears, the French hosts of the UN Climate Change conference are pushing countries hard to reach a deal by the end of this week, incorporating targets on global emissions and financial help for developing countries.
Ministers from over 190 countries have now arrived at the Paris climate talks and are getting down to business in high-level negotiation sessions. The draft text still contains a host of options through which ministers need to sift.
Special working groups have been appointed with the aim of producing a revised draft text of a possible agreement as early as Wednesday. Ministers are expected to resolve the political decisions that still need to be taken and they spent the last two days giving speeches at the high-level segment of the conference.
The Pakistani delegation to Paris is headed by the Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid. On Tuesday morning he gave a speech noting that: “Pakistan’s per capita emission of green house gases is one of the lowest in the world. Yet it is placed in the extremely vulnerable category by a host of climate change indices”.
He pointed out that in recent years Pakistan has witnessed the “vagaries of climate change with growing regularity and destructive ferocity. Droughts, desertification, glacial melt, sea-level rise and recurrent floods are all manifestations of climate-induced phenomena”. All these impacts have impeded Pakistan’s ability to promote sustainable growth and development.
The minister reiterated the government’s commitment “to cope with the negative fall-outs of climate change”, referring to the Planning Ministry’s ‘Vision 2025’ document, which he called “our blueprint for a future-oriented and growth-centric roadmap for Pakistan” that “clearly recognises global warming and climate change as priority areas for effective action by the government”.
He added that the National Climate Change Policy and its Framework for Implementation for the period 2014-2030 “serve to integrate climate-friendly policies in our national economic and development planning”. However, the National Climate Change Policy, say critics at home, is yet to be implemented.
Pakistan’s homework for Paris, the submission of the one page long “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” document has also been criticised for not giving any mitigation targets. In his speech, the minister pointed out that: “Our mitigation measures cover all sectors of the economy… we are working to change the energy mix, develop renewable energy sources and increase the share of nuclear and hydroelectric power to reduce carbon emissions.
More than 2000MW of wind electricity will come on line next year. We have also established a 10,000-acre Solar Park, which will generate 1000MW, and will be one of the biggest solar power projects in the world. To offset carbon emissions in the transport sector, we have operationalised mass transit systems in two metropolitan cities of Pakistan”.
The agreement in Paris will hinge on the availability of adequate finance for developing countries and the minister described climate finance “as the core of the battle to confront the adverse impacts of climate change.
In Pakistan alone, we require up to US$ 14billion annually to adapt to climate change impacts”. He added that a clear roadmap for delivering on the financial commitments of US$ 100billion by 2020 is therefore extremely important for an effective Paris Agreement.
He added that he was “pleased with the progress made by the parties thus far in reaching an agreement” and hoped for a win-win outcome in Paris that would “be holistic, covering both adaptation and mitigation aspects in a balanced manner. It should also provide for transfer of affordable technology to developing countries, along with capacity building, and incorporate an effective ‘loss and damage’ mechanism”.
According to Greenpeace which is monitoring the talks, “Paris needs to send a signal that the era of fossil fuels is coming to an end, so that businesses can plan for a carbon-free future. So the language in the agreement needs to be clear.
Once the direction is set, the agreement then needs to provide the means for getting there. That’s the mechanism to scale up ambition every five years”.
In the last final days before an agreement is launched, ministers have to make political decisions such as the level of ambition to be set in terms of emissions limits and mechanisms for reviewing emissions targets every few years. The Paris agreement will deal with goals from 2020 onwards, when current commitments expire.
WILL PARIS BE DIFFERENT?
The News, December 09, 2015
I remember flying into Copenhagen in 2009, wondering if that would be the historic moment when the world would come to its senses. Ten days ago – in 2015 – when I flew into Paris for the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), I was not holding my breath.
I am not a cynic. Just old.
Old enough to remember not just Copenhagen (COP15, 2009), but also the promise of Bali (COP13, 2007) that preceded it, the dashed hopes of Kyoto (COP3, 1997), the purposeful energy of Berlin (COP1, 1995), the naïve optimism of Rio de Janeiro in 1992 where the Climate Convention was first adopted, and even the calls for urgency when the negotiation process was first launched by the United Nations in 1990.
Most of all, I am old enough to realise that December 11, 2015, when the Paris COP21 officially ends, will mark – to the day – the 25th anniversary of the start of these negotiations.
Yes, it’s been a quarter century. No, it does not make sense to hold your breath that long.
Cautiously, now, I look at what is happening in Paris at COP21. The ministers are back in for the final stretch of negotiations. The aspiration is much lowered. A much-bracketed draft is in hand. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is busy constructing the right coalitions. The process of parsing and paring down the brackets, has begun in earnest.
At one level, Paris is doomed to succeed. The ignominy that was Copenhagen cannot be its destiny. That means getting to an agreement. Any agreement. It is now clear that there will be an agreement. That means Paris will be declared a success.
But how good will a Paris agreement be? How meaningful for the global climate? How just? How implementable? Here are ten questions I will be using as yardstick.
Q1. Is there an agreement? Any agreement?
Q2. Are there binding emission targets for industrialised countries? The responsibility of industrialised countries is already enshrined in Annex I of the Kyoto Protocol. Here, and elsewhere, ‘binding’ would imply clear legal language that makes implementation a responsibility states would, and can, be held accountable to.
Q3. Are there binding emission targets for major emerging economies with large emissions?
This category could be defined, for example, by G20 membership. However, it would, at a minimum, include the two mega-emitters, China and India.
Q4. Does the agreement include quantifiable financial commitments to assist developing countries in mitigation and adaptation, and are these: a) binding, b) sufficient, and c) additional? The obligation to assist developing countries in mitigation and adaptation to climate change has long been accepted. However, actual commitments tend to be vague and often remain unfunded.
A yes on this question would mean all of the following: a) any commitment made is considered binding and implemented transparently, b) the already agreed goal of $100 billion by is met or exceeded, and c) any climate financing is ‘additional’ and does not simply relocate existing development assistance allocations.
Q5. Does the agreement include a clear roadmap for achieving the goal of restricting eventual global warming to 2C, or less? The 2C goal is already contained in international agreements. This question, therefore, pertains to whether the Paris Agreement will include a clear pathway to reaching this goal through INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions) or other mechanisms.
Q6. Does it revise the long-term goal to restricting eventual global warming to 1.5C, or less? The most vulnerable countries, and many scientists, have argued for a downward revision in the long-term goal of climate stabilisation on the grounds that several hundreds of millions of people will slip through the crack between a 2C and a 1.5C goal.
Q7. Does the agreement commit to 2020 as the date for the next major round of commitments and review of progress? 2020 was originally assumed as the date for the next round of review and commitments. Any slippage in this timetable could have adverse long-term impacts.
Q8. IS there a clear and independent mechanism to measure, report and verify emission reduction claims? Especially in the possible absence of binding commitments, a robust and independent system for reporting emissions reductions (mitigation) is necessary. Any self-reporting mechanism would, by default, result in a ‘No’ to this question.
Q9. Does the agreement include clear language on conditions for adaptation financing for vulnerable developing countries? The goal of developing ‘adaptive capacity’ in vulnerable developing countries must not be an unfunded mandate. Clear language on the responsibility of industrialised and large emerging economies to fund such activity, and the principles for its use and disbursement, must not be left vague. It needs to be included in any agreement.
Q10. Does the agreement include a clear mechanism for dealing with ‘loss and damage’? There are a number of climate change impacts, particularly in the most vulnerable and poorest countries, that will be difficult or impossible to adapt to. A clear mechanism – including principles for funding and disbursement of support – is needed to respond to them.
Given the science, the experience of a quarter century of climate talks, and all the promises made in the last three years, an ideal agreement should garner ten ‘yes’ responses. I, however, will be happy with anything that gets at least five or more ‘yeses’.
Anything less, I think, will not be worth the carbon cost of all that has gone into the process.
(This article expands and is based on two opeds written by the writer for The Guardian – November 30 and December 7, 2015).
PARIS: UN climate change chief Christina Figueres may have called Paris “a beacon of hope for the world” as leaders gathered last week to begin hammering out a deal to slow global warming.
But how good is the city´s — and France´s — environmental record?
France leads the G20 group of industrialised countries in low-carbon energy, but experts point out that is only because of its massive reliance on nuclear power.
With Paris, which is hosting the climate talks, often so choked with traffic that schools have been forced to keep children indoors during peaks of pollution, many insist that France is in no position “to give lessons to anyone”.
Yannick Jadot, an MEP for France´s small and divided Green party, is even more scathing. “The only area that we are leading the world in is in our environmental rhetoric… I really struggle to think of an area in which we set a good example.”
Paris has pioneered a much-copied bicycle hire scheme, Velib, and its electric car equivalent, which has been extended to utility vehicles for small business.
Yet it has been reluctant to follow some 200 other European cities that now charge or restrict car drivers, despite chronic problems with diesel pollution.
French carmakers have also been slow to get on the hybrid bandwagon, according to Anne Bringault of the NGO, Reseau Action Climat.
“We have only just started to explore making vehicles which run on biogas while in Italy they are have 72,000 on the roads.”
Jadot insists the big picture shows that “France is very behind. Many think we may not even make the legally-binding target to produce 23 percent of our energy from renewables by 2020.”Greenpeace´s energy expert Cyrille Cormier is equally downbeat. “France has not made any real progress in terms of CO2 in 10 years. While our neighbours, many of whom were relying on coal, gas or oil, have made huge changes we have not. They are catching up and leaving us behind.”
It is also playing catch-up on renewable energy, he said, while Spain, Italy and most of all Germany power ahead.
“Our great economic argument for nuclear power was that it produced cheap electricity for industry,” but Germany is now capable of beating it on price with renewables, he claimed.
But the doom and gloom is not universally shared. Benoit Hartmann, of the group France Nature Environment, hopes France´s secret weapon could be a law passed in July that aims to divide the country´s energy consumption in half by 2050.
Greenhouse gases are to be cut by three quarters over the same period. “The only problem with the law,” said Hartmann, “is that it only provides the means for 30 percent of the objectives it has set.”
In recycling too, France is lagging behind according to the government´s own energy and environment watchdog Ademe.
While single-use shopping bags will be banned from January, the agency admitted that France is “one of the worst countries in the EU” at recycling plastic. It wasn´t always thus — France was one of the leaders in the development of solar power in the 1970s.
So where did it all go wrong?
Jadot, Cormier and Hartmann place the blame squarely on the powerful nuclear lobby and France´s giant energy and utility companies.
“Almost all research funding (in the past) was concentrated on nuclear in the name of energy independence when in fact 100 percent of the uranium we used had to be imported,” Cormier said.
While nuclear may be a low-carbon fuel, it has other obvious risks, particularly as France´s reactors begin to age.
“Some of our reactors are 30 to 40 years old with the added risk of accidents that brings,” Cormier said, “never mind the risks associated with transporting and storing nuclear waste.”
France is paying the price of allowing “big monopolies to dictate public policy”, Cormier argued.”The state tends to turn automatically to big business or agriculture to formulate policy,” Jadot said. “So energy policy is decided with EDF and Total, water and recycling policy with Veolia and Suez and cars with Renault and Peugeot.”
But there are signs of hope. There is evidence that after decades of flatlining, France is now making progress on emissions.
PAKISTAN’S INEPTITUDE AT THE CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT
The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2015.
Rina Saeed Khan
Pakistan was already off to a disappointing start at the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave an empty speech that was even shorter than the three minutes allocated to the heads of states, who showed up on the opening day. I had hoped that at least the 25-member strong Pakistani delegation would contribute meaningfully to the negotiations. However, the Pakistani delegation’s first side event, which was held alongside the Sri Lankans’, entitled “Resilience to Climate Change” was far from impressive.
The Pakistani delegation was represented by the Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid and the Punjab Minister for Environment, Zakia Shah Nawaz Khan. They sat on the podium along with the Sri Lankan negotiators and Abid Suleri, the head of Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Zahid Hamid pointed out that Pakistan’s contribution to global warming was minimal — just 0.8 per cent of the global emissions and yet it was one of the most climate-affected countries in the world. “Germanwatch yesterday released their latest report and we are now the eighth-most affected country in the world from climate-related disasters,” stated the minister. “We are facing extreme weather events on a recurring basis such as floods”.
He listed the “note-worthy steps” Pakistan has taken to build resilience: the establishment of a dedicated ministry and the implementation of the National Climate Change Policy (from 2014-2030) so that climate change is mainstreamed. There is also a National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in the country and the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood project in the north — one of the first projects to be funded by the UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund. He also mentioned efforts for promoting forestry under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) mechanism. He hoped the climate talks would result in a “comprehensive agreement” and said that Pakistan would seek the financing and transfer of technology. He added that “the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be a game changer for the region”.
However, I know for a fact that the National Climate Change Policy has still not been implemented; the NDMA barely has any funds at its disposal and the Glacier Lake Outbursts Flood project has recently closed down since its donor funding came to an end and the government could no longer sustain it. As for the REDD+ mechanism, there are actually some countries at these climate talks that are pushing for the end of the mechanism so it might not come into force any time soon. As for the CPEC, why was the minister silent on all the polluting coal power plants that we will be building soon as part of the project? One thing that will definitely come out of the Paris conference is the strong push for renewable energy; now that it has become increasingly affordable, everyone, from bankers to billionaires, like Bill Gates are talking about it.
Yet, in Pakistan all the news is about the upcoming coal power plants. Pakistan has also submitted an extremely weak one-page-long Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) document, which someone described on twitter as: “Pakistan’s INDC reads like a fat kid’s diet — eat as much as possible then stop”. According to Ali Sheikh, the head of LEAD-Pakistan, “The World Bank and Asian Development Bank are now looking to develop a mechanism to support the INDCs — the INDCs are taking centre stage at these talks.” Since Pakistan offered nothing in its INDC document, it has put itself in a position where it will receive nothing.
BILL GATES TAKES ON CLIMATE CHANGE WITH NUDGES AND A POWERFUL ROLODEX
New York Times,DEC. 8, 2015
CORAL DAVENPORT and NICK WINGFIELD
LE BOURGET, France — When Bill Gatesarrived at the Élysée Palace to meet the French president François Hollande and other officials in June, he brought a message.
Mr. Gates told Mr. Hollande that energy innovation needed to be a top agenda item at the climate change conference now taking place in this airport suburb outside Paris. For years, Mr. Gates had prodded governments to increase spending on research and development of clean technologies. He had sunk $1 billion of his own fortune into start-ups working on new kinds of batteries and nuclear reactors.
“Honestly, I’ve been a bit surprised that the climate talks historically haven’t had R.&D. on the agenda in any way, shape or form,” Mr. Gates, 60, said in an interview last week on the sidelines of the summit meeting, which ends on Friday.
The June tête-à-tête helped accelerate a sequence of events that led to one of the biggest public-private partnerships to tackle climate change, unveiled at the conference. Mr. Gates, who made billions from Microsoft before remaking himself as a philanthropist, was a linchpin of the effort, acting as an envoy between the worlds of business and policy
His role in sealing the deal offers a peek into how the inner circles of governments and industry intersect. It also underscores how a handful of the world’s wealthiest people can stand with heads of state to spotlight a social, economic and policy issue on the global stage. For Mr. Gates, the world’s richest person and co-chairman of the biggest private foundation, it is another sign of how his vast foreign aid operation and status as a technology icon have turned him into a uniquely influential global diplomat.
Mr. Gates was drawn into the effort after the June meeting with Mr. Hollande and separate discussions with White House staff members in the summer. Mr. Hollande and President Obama saw the tech mogul as a potential catalyst for achieving broad political and diplomatic goals at the climate conference. In particular, Mr. Gates’s renown in India as a tech founder and philanthropist gave the French and American governments a key emissary to get the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, on board with their climate goals.
Mr. Hollande and Mr. Obama agreed to work with Mr. Gates to assemble a coalition of governments to double their spending on energy research and development. For added heft, Mr. Gates volunteered to organize a group of billionaires to fund clean-technology start-ups. He reached out to his extensive network, including Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Jack Ma of Alibaba and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, all of whom agreed to participate.
Last week, on the opening day of the Paris meeting, Mr. Gates joined Mr. Obama and Mr. Hollande to introduce the coalition. It will commit 20 governments to doubling their renewable energy research budgets to a total of $20 billion over the next five years.
In addition, Mr. Gates and a group of other wealthy businesspeople agreed to invest at least $2 billion in clean-energy start-ups — with half the money coming from Mr. Gates himself. The group plans to finance companies that turn promising clean-energy concepts, some of which will originate in government labs, into viable products. Some of the companies will fail, Mr. Gates warned.
“Bill Gates is the intellectual architect of this,” said Brian Deese, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama on energy and climate change policy, referring to the group of private investors.
The partnership has already drawn criticism. With the new clean-energy fund, detractors say Mr. Gates and other members of the coalition are overly focused on energy moonshots that will take decades to pay off — if they ever do.
“I’m perfectly willing to stipulate that countries underinvest in R.&D., but it doesn’t change the fact of the time frames involved,” said Joe Romm, a former United States Energy Department official and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
The new coalition also will not come close to supplying what is needed to make the global energy transition necessary to stop climate change. The World Bank has estimated the cost of such an effort at up to $100 billion annually.
Mr. Gates said the coalition was focused on early-stage investments but any breakthrough start-ups could raise more capital to finance deployment of their technologies. “The more than $2 billion we have committed right now is just a start,” he said. “As deals come in and the government pipeline increases, that number will grow.”
This account of how the public-private partnership came together is based on more than a dozen interviews with people involved in the effort, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because many of the conversations were private.
The seeds for a partnership were planted in January when President Obama visited Mr. Modi in New Delhi. Mr. Obama’s goal was to forge a close relationship with Mr. Modi, in hopes of finding common ground on climate change. During those conversations, Mr. Modi pointed out his challenge: He needed new electricity to help raise India out of poverty, but coal was the cheapest power source. He said India would use clean energy if there were tech breakthroughs that provided that energy inexpensively.
Mr. Modi’s message prompted Mr. Obama to consider how to achieve more clean-energy innovation. One idea was a multigovernment coalition to increase spending on clean technology.
Mr. Gates, meanwhile, had also been thinking about how to promote more energy innovation. His years building Microsoft had given him a Rolodex full of billionaire friends and a net worth of about $80 billion. He and his wife, Melinda, have since set up the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has brought him into contact with many governments.
The foundation, whose endowment is now more than $41 billion, says it has spent $34.5 billion in the 15 years since it was formed, concentrating on initiatives to alleviate world poverty, enhance global health and improve education in the United States.
Climate change has also been a concern for Mr. Gates, who has said that energy innovation needs government and industry cooperation. While governments are suited to do the basic research that produced the technical foundations for the Internet and other industries, he has said, companies need to bring those basic research breakthroughs into the marketplace.
In June, Mr. Gates met with Mr. Hollande to lay out his ideas. Over the summer, Mr. Gates also discussed the issue with Mr. Obama’s top aides.
Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Hollande saw Mr. Gates as potentially helpful in wooing Mr. Modi to sign a climate deal in Paris. Mr. Gates and Mr. Modi met in India last year, engaging in a dialogue about toilets. Mr. Modi had vowed to end open defecation in India, which contributes to disease; Mr. Gates’s foundation has sponsored efforts to improve toilets., .
In September, Mr. Hollande invited Mr. Gates and Mr. Modi to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Mr. Gates wanted Mr. Modi’s support for increased clean-tech spending, said a person familiar with Mr. Gates’s thinking.
At that meeting, the men discussed India, “saying, ‘Come on, world, we need to do R.&D.’” for more clean energy, Mr. Gates said. The two agreed about a public-private partnership to fund clean-energy innovation, with Mr. Modi even coming up with a name: Mission Innovation.
At the same time, the Obama administration solidified its idea of creating a coalition of governments to increase public spending on clean energy.
Mr. Gates also proposed creating a group of private billionaire supporters. To link it with the government coalition, he stipulated the billionaires would not invest in clean technology in a country unless that country’s government was part of the joint government fund.
He said he knew he needed
He said he knew he needed patient investors, because energy technologies typically take decades to refine and deploy. So he reached out to contacts worldwide, including the Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal and the Indian industrialist Ratan Tata. In mid-September, he emailed Mr. Bezos, the Amazon chief, who agreed immediately to join.
Mr. Gates also emailed Neil Shen, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist in China. “He knows many parts of the global economy,” Mr. Shen said of Mr. Gates. “I think that kind of leadership fits very well to rally these kinds of investors in a coalition.”
Mr. Gates discussed the effort with Reid Hoffman, a co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn. At a meeting in Seattle this fall, Mr. Gates made it clear that he needed people to contribute meaningful amounts of capital, not just lend their names to the push, Mr. Hoffman said.
“Bill has committed to investing $1 billion of his own money,” Mr. Hoffman wrote in an email, “so in joining the coalition you have to put in real dollars.”
For Mr. Gates, the partnership is only a small step forward. “Given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths,” he wrote last week. “I hope even more governments and investors will join us.”
CLIMATE AGREEMENT DEADLINE EXTENDED AMID PROTESTS
Dawn, December 12th, 2015
RINA SAEED KHAN
Protests were planned across Paris on Friday by civil society who dangled banners from the Arc de Triomphe calling upon the French President, François Hollande, to “renew the energy”, as the deadline for the UN climate agreement was extended to Saturday.
Ministers from over 190 countries negotiated all night behind closed doors only to announce that the new deadline would probably be Sunday now. The French hosts would like to wrap up the summit as early as possible because on Sunday there are to be important regional elections in France.
A “high ambition coalition” is emerging at the talks comprising both developed and developing countries who wish to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade instead of the legally agreed upon 2 degrees. Scientists say if we go above 2 degrees, then we are headed towards “catastrophic climate change”.
Today Brazil has joined the coalition led by countries like the US and the European Union. “This is a game changer,” said Bilal Anwar, who is part of the Pakistani delegation and has been following the COPs for several years. “Now both sides of the North-South divide are coming together on a common goal which is ambitious”.
“I don’t think this alliance is a good idea – it is actually ‘high ambition’ without any ambition. The countries who have signed up give lip service to 1.5 degrees like the US and EU without altering their targets and commitments,” says Meera Ghani Ceder, a young Pakistani climate activist who for the longest time was the only female associated with the Pakistani delegation at the global UN climate negotiations.
Pakistan has not joined the coalition, which is growing in membership by the hour in Paris.
Meera began her career during the Bali climate talks in 2007 and is now working for a Catholic Development Network called “CIDSE”. Her boss would be the Pope who has called on rich countries to pay their “ecological debt” to poor countries. In his encyclical letter, which was released in May this year, he linked poverty to inequality and climate change.
“In Paris our main focus was to ensure that the rights and needs of the poor and vulnerable are protected and reflected in the agreement that is still to be decided,” she says. Her organisation’s focus is on securing human rights and food security in the core part of the agreement. “Unfortunately these references were removed yesterday in the latest draft of the text agreement – and that too on Human Rights Day,” she points out.
Her organisation even participated in the protests that broke out when the first draft of the agreement was released at the Le Bourget conference centre. “We did a sit-in in the main hall calling for governments to do their fair share and for the countries most responsible to come to an agreement which doesn’t leave anyone behind”.
According to Awaaz, a civil society group monitoring the talks, “it’s a game of brinkmanship going on right now… countries like the US and EU are playing tough with finance while India, China and Saudi Arabia are degrading the quality of the text. Both sides need to work harder”. Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace says: “there will be lots of compromises at the end, but what the world should not see is any compromises on science and equity.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade is crucial for vulnerable countries and to do this we need to phase out fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas by the middle of the century at the latest”. If the world does agree upon the 1.5 degrees limit, it will help “spur and accelerate everything we do towards a low carbon economy”.
For Pakistan, it is important that the agreement clearly differentiates between developed and developing countries and its vulnerability is recognised. According to retired ambassador Shahid Kamal who is part of the Pakistani delegation, “Given our vulnerability, the amount of financial support we receive will be critical. This support to developing countries needs to be clearly spelled out in the agreement in terms of its nature, scale and sources”.
He also believes that there will have to be many compromises before the final agreement comes out. “We can’t afford a failure here – we can’t all go back to our countries without a consensus agreement”.
195 NATIONS SEAL CLIMATE DEAl
The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2015.
LE BOURGET: To rousing cheers and tears of relief, envoys from 195 nations approved Saturday an accord to stop global warming, offering hope that humanity can avert catastrophic climate change and usher in an energy revolution.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius ended nearly a fortnight of gruelling UN negotiations in Paris with the bang of a gavel, marking consensus among the ministers, who stood for several minutes to clap and shout their joy.
“I see the room, I see the reaction is positive, I hear no objection. The Paris climate accord is adopted,” Fabius declared.
Turning to a little green hammer with which he formally gave life to the arduously-crafted pact, he quipped: “It may be a small gavel but it can do big things.”
The deal, to take effect from 2020, ends decades-long rows between rich and poor nations over how to carry out what will be a multi-trillion-dollar effort to cap global warming and deal with consequences already occurring.
With 2015 forecast to be the hottest year on record, world leaders and scientists had said the accord was vital for capping rising temperatures and averting the most calamitous impacts from climate change.
Without urgent action, they warned of increasingly severe droughts, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that would engulf islands and coastal areas populated by hundreds of millions of people.
The crux of the fight to limit global warming requires cutting back or eliminating the use of coal, oil and gas for energy, which has largely powered prosperity since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1700s.
The burning of those fossil fuels releases invisible greenhouse gases, which cause the planet to warm and change Earth’s delicate climate system.
Ending the vicious circles requires a switch to cleaner sources, such as solar and wind, and improving energy efficiency. Some nations are also aggressively pursuing nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gases.
The Paris accord sets a target of limiting warming of the planet to “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius compared with the Industrial Revolution, while aiming for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5C.
To do so, the emissions of greenhouse gases will need to peak “as soon as possible”, followed by rapid reductions, the agreement states.
The world has already warmed almost 1C, which has caused major problems for many people around the world particularly in developing countries, such as more severe storms, droughts and rising seas, according to scientists.
Environment groups said the Paris agreement was a turning point in history and spelt the demise of the fossil fuel industry, pointing particularly to the significance of the 1.5C goal.
EXPERTS DIVIDED OVER IMPACT OF CLIMATE DEAL
Dawn, December 13th, 2015
SIX years after failure of the Copenhagen summit, a climate deal was finally sealed here on Saturday by the nearly 200 countries of the world that are signatory to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. While some hailed the final draft as a landmark and historic agreement that marked a global shift towards a low carbon economy, others said that with its diluted language it was far from ambitious and that it would not save the most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change.
It took just over two weeks for the agreement to be finalised in Paris. And many climate activists were describing it as a positive development.
According to Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of the Greenpeace International, “the wheel of climate change turns slowly but in Paris it has turned… the text has been diluted and polluted but contains new imperative to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This will cause consternation in the boardrooms of coal companies and oil exporting countries. Now the task is how do we get there? We have a 1.5 degrees ladder to climb and a new goal of net zero emissions. We need to phase out fossil fuels by mid-century”.
The agreement, however, has no guarantee of assistance for the poor and vulnerable. Governments have only recognised the climate crisis and many activists say “action on the ground (is needed) in all countries — it is up to everyone to deliver”.
Critics from the most vulnerable countries like the Philippines, which have been repeatedly battered by hurricanes, say there is no mention of liabilities or compensation in the final text, although “loss and damage” has been included as a standalone.
The most vulnerable countries, especially the small island states in the Pacific, want compensation for the losses they face. They also point out that the $100 billion by 2020 promised by rich countries as climate finance was actually offered back in Copenhagen, so there has been no progress since then.
Pakistan, which is repeatedly listed among the ten most affected countries, had also been pushing for the “loss and damage” mechanism in the agreement. According to Kashmala Kakakhel, a Pakistani member of the Climate Action Network, “on loss and damage the battle seems to have been lost in some way… the US got their way by clearly saying there will be no increase in liability or compensation from the Paris agreement. This does not help Pakistan’s case to push for support on dealing with the impacts of climate disasters”.
Pakistan was also pushing for more climate finance at the talks. Ms Kakakhel said: “The agreement retains reference to $100bn which is good. At the same time they have agreed to work out an accounting methodology to make sure other development assistance is not counted as climate finance. This had been a bone of contention. However, there is no pathway to ratchet up funding beyond 2020.”
At the end of the day, the US got what it wanted — a deal with no clear targets for deep emission cuts by rich countries and no significant climate financing for poor countries.
The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said: “This draft removes all differentiation in mitigation actions between countries, and in this way removes the firewall that existed in the framework convention between countries that needed to take action because of their contribution to creating the problem. Now all countries, including India, have commitments to undertake emission reductions.
“The only allowance it makes is that it agrees that developing countries will enhance their mitigation based on enhanced support from developed countries.”
EARTHLY MATTERS: CLIMATE CHANGE IN PARIS
Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015
RINA SAEED KHAN
The temperature in Paris during the day is exactly the same as Islamabad at night – maybe it’s the El Nino effect or even climate change, but this is a mild December in Paris. There has been a flurry of activity since I arrived — it started with the exciting Leaders Event on the first day of the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 or COP21, when one saw world leaders like President Obama, Angela Merkel and Justine Trudeau walking through the halls of the Le Bourget conference centre on the outskirts of Paris. Security is very tight here, given the terrorist attacks in Paris that took place barely two weeks ago. The ambience in the city of lights is definitely more subdued and somber than usual, although with Christmas approaching, people are now starting to go out shopping and eating at the bistros and restaurants.
Still there are police contingents everywhere, armed with machine guns — a bit like Pakistan! Even at the iconic Eiffel Tower there were paramilitary police carefully scanning the tourist filled area. I was headed to the nearby River Seine, where the indigenous and forest peoples from all over the world were gathering on the weekend for an event that represents the culmination of their campaign aimed at “drawing attention to their plight and the promise of the solutions that they offer for healing the planet they all call Mother Earth”.
The boat was one of the typical vessels cruising on the picturesque River Seine that runs through the heart of Paris, but draped with colourful flags and banners. I watched the indigenous leaders from the Amazon, the Congo Basin, Indonesia and Mesoamerica beat on drums and chant songs as the boat took a ride from the Eiffel tower area to Notre Dame Cathedral and back. Recent studies have shown that indigenous peoples outperform every other owner, public or private in forest conservation.
Duane Kinnart from the Ojibwa tribe in Michigan in the US said: “We are here to create a better world; I think there will be a positive outcome in Paris. Things are changing; people are changing and bringing faith back to humanity. We are realising that we are all one”.
Back at the conference centre, there was a similar feeling of optimism running through the halls. Yvo de Boer, who was the previous executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) told the Climate News Network team, whose training I attended earlier in the week, that the meeting is likely to succeed in producing a climate treaty. “Agreed, Paris won’t keep global warming below the 2 degrees Celsius safety level … but it marks the point when the world finally moves from negotiation to implementation – albeit on a very modest scale.”
Currently negotiators are working on a 48 page long text, haggling over every bracket and comma, which has to be finalised before the end of the conference. The world leaders from around 150 countries, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left soon after the opening ceremony and now it is the ministers from over 190 countries who are now leading the negotiations.
The Pakistani delegation is led by the recently appointed Minister for Climate Change, Zahid Hamid. The Pakistani delegation had their official side event alongside the Sri Lankans, entitled “Resilience to Climate Change”, in one of the halls at the Le Bourget conference center last week. The side event was organised jointly by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), a think tank in Islamabad and the regional NGO, Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA).
Zahid Hamid, who was joined by the Punjab Minister for Environment, Zakia Shah Nawaz Khan, sat on the podium along with the Sri Lankan negotiators. Abid Suleri, the head of SDPI, explained that Pakistan was facing the twin challenges of terrorism and climate change and the country was only now coming into the “post militancy era given the civil-military resolve in controlling extremism”. Zakia Shah Nawaz spoke about the Punjab government’s comprehensive efforts to control the dengue mosquito, whose spread has been attributed to climate change.
The Federal Minister Zahid Hamid, who is currently heading the Pakistani delegation in Paris, pointed out that Pakistan’s contribution to global warming was minimal, just 0.8 per cent of the global emissions and yet Pakistan was one of the most climate affected countries in the world.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index, recently launched by the NGO Germanwatch in Paris, “Some countries are being repeatedly battered by extreme climatic events. Pakistan has now been in the ‘Bottom 10’ for five consecutive years”. These climate-related disasters are threatening Pakistan’s economic growth and development. Zahid Hamid said: “Adaptation and climate resilient development is our highest priority”.
Pakistan does have a dedicated ministry and a comprehensive National Climate Change Policy in place, the policy is yet to be implemented so that climate change is mainstreamed. The minister was also silent about the highly polluting coal fired power plants that will come out of the China Pakistan economic corridor, which he described as “a game changer for the region”.
What will come of out of the Paris conference for sure is a big push for renewable energy, which has now become increasingly affordable, so Pakistan’s insistence on turning towards coal is questionable at this late stage.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s minuscule booth at the conference, which was secured by NGOs and not the government itself, seems to embody its irrelevance to the negotiations. The unambitious one-page long Intended Nationally Determined Commitments document submitted by Pakistan in preparation for the conference, which gave no targets, has put the country on a weak wicket.
“By not submitting any targets, Pakistan is foreclosing its options to access international climate finance” was how Ali Sheikh, the head of LEAD-Pakistan which is present as civil society participants at the climate conference put it.
According to an independent climate expert from Pakistan also at COP21, Kashmala Kakakhel, “It is unfortunate that the government as well as our technical organisations engage with the UNFCCC process only at the end of the year at the COPs … Due to financial, capacity and commitment issues, we lose most of the ground and there is very little to do inside the negotiations as well as outside.”
The only positive news coming out of Pakistan at the conference was the Khyber Pakthunkwa government’s pledge to restore 384,000 hectares of degraded land (by reforestation) under its “Billion tree tsunami” at the side event held by the Bonn Challenge, a global initiative that plans to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land around the world by 2020.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD NOVEMBER 30TH TO DECEMBER 06TH, 2015
150 WORLD LEADERS JOIN HEADS AMID BIG PROTESTS
The News, November 30, 2015
LONDON: Nearly 150 global leaders are gathering in Paris amid tight security for a critical UN climate meeting.
The conference, known as COP21, starts today (Monday) and will try to craft a long-term deal to limit carbon emissions. Observers say that the recent terror attacks on the French capital will increase the chances of a new agreement.
Around 40,000 people are expected to participate in the event, which runs until December 11. The gathering of 147 heads of state and government is set to be far bigger than the 115 or so who came to Copenhagen in 2009, the last time the world came close to agreeing a long term deal on climate change.
One important part of the conference started on Sunday evening. The Adhoc Durban Platform on enhanced action was brought forward to “offer an opportunity to make the best possible use of the very limited time available”, the UN said.
While many leaders including Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping were always set to attend this conference, the recent violent attacks in Paris have encouraged others to come in an expression of solidarity with the French people. Unlike at Copenhagen, the French organisers are bringing the leaders in at the start of the conference rather than waiting for them to come in at the end, a tactic which failed spectacularly in the Danish capital.
More than half a million people around the world took part in climate change marches over the weekend, a co-organiser said on Sunday, as protesters urged politicians to take action.From Sydney to Stockholm and Cairo to Cape Town, an estimated 570,000 took to the streets in 2,300 separate events across 175 countries, a new record for a set of global marches, co-organiser Avaaz said.
“This is the problem of our generation and the next,” said Katia Herault, a climate protester in London who had only a Nemo costume protecting her from pouring rain and howling winds.
The 37-year-old Frenchwoman was one of around 50,000 marchers at London’s Hyde Park on Sunday calling for action on the eve of the United Nations climate summit in Paris.
Many were dressed in animal costumes — from bumblebees to cows, from polar bears to exotic fish — while others brandished placards reading: “There is no planet B”, “Our Children Need a Future” and “We Want 100 percent Clean Energy” in scenes replicated across the world.
At the London event, Oscar-winners and multi-million selling musicians rubbed shoulders with protesters from the Pacific islands to Scandinavia. “This is very personal to me. This is to do with my land. This is to do with our people,” said 37-year-old Mikaele Maiava from the Tokelau Islands, a territory of New Zealand threatened by rising waters.
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was also on the march from Hyde Park to the British parliament as leaders from 150 countries prepare to meet in Paris to hammer out a plan to cut emissions.
Actress Emma Thompson, who has campaigned against oil drilling in the Arctic, said she had seen the effects of climate change during a visit there last year. “It helped me understand in a much more visceral, real way what was happening to the planet,” the actress told AFP.
“So I’m here today to really get behind the climate summit in Paris which is actually a really historical event.Rocker Peter Gabriel, founder of the band Genesis, said climate change was “a serious threat” and said any pact negotiated in Paris should have a “real means of enforcing the talk, which I’m sure will be in abundance.”
“Politicians want to get re-elected. If there’s enough of us, and this is happening all over the world, then they will respond,” he said.The people-powered protests kicked off with marches across Australia, with 45,000 gathering in Sydney.
“There’s nothing more important that I can be doing at the moment than addressing climate change,” said Kate Charlesworth, a doctor and Sydney mother.In Copenhagen, some 5,000 people marched to parliament. Four of the protestors were dressed as polar bears to promote a sculpture they will bring to Paris during the climate summit, depicting a dead polar bear covered in oil.
In Stockholm, around 4,000 people marched under grey skies, while in the Finnish capital Helsinki organisers reported a turnout of between 1,500 and 2,000 people.Further south in Spain, some 20,000 marched in the Spanish capital, the biggest climate march in Madrid’s history, Greenpeace said.
Activists formed human chains in Paris and Brussels, the latter made up of around 4,000 people.“I hope that this chain shakes all the politicians in Europe and the rest of the world to forge a deep and sincere deal,” said protester Stephane Eelens.
In Berlin, around 15,000 marched from the central train station to the Brandenburg Gate, where a stage had been set up decorated with a globe clouded in black smoke.Around 1,000 people joined a march in Athens from the Acropolis to the parliament, carrying banners reading “Solarise Greece” or “Go renewable”.
A group of 20 children led 10,000 people in Madrid, many holding green balloons and green hearts with messages that read “The Earth is Your Home” and “Help Me Be Happy”.“We’ve got marches happening all around the world — from Ouagadougou to London here to Nepal,” said Sam Barratt, campaign director for Avaaz.
CLIMATE CHANGE POSES HUGE THREATS TO SPECIES’
The News, November 30, 2015
LAHORE: WWF-Pakistan is going to urge the world leaders gathering in Paris for attending COP21 summit to ensure a deal that meets the demands of science and reduces greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to keep global warming below 1.5°C.
As per a press release issued on Sunday, WWF-Pakistan said the importance of reaching a world-wide agreement on climate change is underscored with recent news that global temperature has risen to 1°C above pre-industrial levels, reaffirming scientists’ predictions that 2015 will be the hottest year in recorded history.
Climate change poses huge threats to species such as the snow leopard, as a shift in the snowline is shrinking its habitat and increasing human-snow leopard conflict. Moreover, sea turtles are also threatened by changes in climate as the gender of turtle hatchlings is temperature dependent, it added.
It maintained that the global conference COP21 taking place in Paris, France, from November 30 (today) to December 11 has immense importance for Pakistan, as the country is becoming highly vulnerable to changing weather patterns.
Pakistan does not contribute to climate change, accounting for less than one per cent of carbon emissions in the world. It revealed that WWF-Pakistan has also produced a study on the impacts of climate change on the agricultural sector and food security.
The study showed that eight to ten per cent loss in agricultural productivity across Sindh and Punjab (equivalent to PKR 30,000 per acre loss) can be expected by 2040 for a conservative 0.5 degree Celsius predicted rise in average temperatures.
It further revealed that another finding was that 49 to 52 per cent yield gains are likely for cotton and wheat. Interestingly, the study urges spending taxpayer money on adaptation trainings and not on planners’ ordinary high-cost prescription, namely purchasing 0.47 billion metric cubes of water supply to achieve one percent productivity increase across all crops. The study urges replacing spending on big items such as dam/reservoir capacity and canal lining with training of farmers to adapt to changing weather patterns.
Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan, said ‘2015 has proven to be an unusual year for Pakistan due to unpredictable weathering events across the entire country. A mini-cyclone in Peshawar killed 44 people; heat waves in Karachi killed more than 1,500 people, cloudbursts and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in various areas of Gilgit-Baltistan affected 35,717 people and floods across the country affected more than 1.5 million people. At COP21 it is important that Pakistan’s leadership invest more in alternate energy and effectively communicate its high vulnerability case to the international community to seek support for climate change adaptation.’
Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International, said, “Science is telling us that we need to act quickly on climate change and Paris is our moment. We need a strong climate plan that will cut carbon emissions, promote renewable energy, provide promised finance and protect powerful carbon sink ecosystems like forests and the oceans. Only strong action in Paris can help meet the scale and pace needed to avoid runaway climate change and secure a safer future for us all”. The Paris meeting is an important opportunity to protect vulnerable people and natural systems of the world that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. To be effective, a climate deal should include a global goal for adaptation and provide strong solutions to address loss and damage due to climate change.
THE CLIMATE MOMENT
The News, November 30, 2015
The world is stuck between a rock and a hard place as major world leaders convene at the United Nations Climate Change Conference – or COP21 – at Paris set to start today. From today till December 11, delegates from around the world will try to work out an accord on how to deal with climate change. Around 160 countries have already given commitments on how much they will cut their carbon emissions by 2030.
Pakistan, one of the countries most impacted by climate change, is not one of them. The existing commitments are not enough with the world set for a 2.7 Celsius rise in global temperatures, which will likely lead to extreme climate events. The hope is that some form of a pledge to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 will be agreed upon, but the reality is that there is barely any chance that countries will agree to this.
With major industrial countries, including China, Russia, the US and Australia, heavily reliant on coal and other fossil fuels for their power, and countries like Pakistan making new investments in fossil fuel-based power plants, such an agreement will likely only be on paper.
While verbal pledges by China and the US, the biggest carbon dioxide emitters, on cutting greenhouse gases gives some hope on this front, there is no guarantee these verbal promises will be met. All deals agreed to in the climate conference are not legally binding. Six years ago, in Copenhagen, developing countries were promised $100 billion a year to help mitigate climate change.
Only about two-thirds of the money has actually been paid. Oxfam estimates that developing countries will need around $790 billion a year to adapt to climate change if global pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions do not increase. On the flip side, if the costs are not met, the economies of developing countries are likely to shrink by $1.7 trillion a year.
These astounding figures don’t even begin to capture the amount of human suffering that will accompany the shrinking of the global economy.
Each country is having to face its share of climate change sceptics, with US President Barack Obama having to ward off challenges from the Republican Congress over his confidence that the Paris conference will lead to a historic agreement. Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to combat climate change, has responded to the disappointment shown by activists by arguing that the Paris conference is not the world’s only chance to solving the climate crisis.
That might be true, but the Paris conference will certainly set the tone for how the world responds – or does not – to the climate crisis.
The omens are not good as France has used emergency powers to place 24 climate change activists under house arrest. Thousands of people across the world took out rallies and protests over the weekend in key developed and developing countries. On Sunday, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting a $1 billion green facility was agreed to be set up – peanuts when we look at the actual global need. Over the next two weeks, the world has an opportunity to protect its future. If it does not seize this moment, the next generation is bound to suffer disasters of a scale we have not witnessed yet.
NO COMPROMISE ON DEVELOPMENT: PM
The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2015.
PARIS: As Pakistan gears up to present its case at the international climate change summit in Paris, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has warned that it will not compromise on its development projects.
“We will present our point of view before the world and will also listen to the point of view of other countries,” he told reporters shortly after landing at the Orly Airport in Paris Sunday afternoon.
The premier will be speaking at the two-week long UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Le Bourget, which starts on Monday. Heads of state from around 147 countries, including US President Barack Obama, British Premier David Cameron, Russian President Vladmir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, will attend the conference.
Nawaz said Pakistan had negligible emissions and that it was the developed nations who shouldered greater responsibility towards climate change, adding that Pakistan had set its targets with respect to environmental pollution.
“Though Pakistan has minimum level of carbon emissions, we will contribute in the global efforts to tackle the climate change issues,” the premier said.
The prime minister is expected to highlight Pakistan’s efforts in tackling the climate change challenges in his speech on Monday.
Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid, who was a part of the premier’s reception team, explained that Pakistan expects the world to offer it the required resources and technology to tackle the challenges of climate change in the wake of its enhanced focus on development in the areas of energy and water shortages and work on the ongoing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
He added that Pakistan was among those countries which had the least emissions but faces the gravest of threats from climate change.
The premier will also attend a luncheon of world leaders which will be hosted by French President Francois Hollande. He is expected to hold a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the conference in addition to an informal meeting with Hollande.
Paris police detain 208 after climate change demo
French police on Sunday detained 208 people and kept a total of 174 in custody, after activists clashed with police in Paris on Sunday ahead of key climate conference, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.
The minister said the acts of violence in central Paris by the protesters, who hurled bottles and candles at police, must be “firmly” condemned.
The violence took place at the Place de la Republique where flowers and candles have been left in memory of the 130 people who died in the Paris attacks November 13.
Security has been beefed in the French capital in wake of the deadly attack as it hosts heads of states from over 100 countries for COP21 which is being held just outside of Paris at Le Bourget.
CLIMATE CHANGE MATTERS
The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2015.
Were these normal times, the 27 delegates sent at public expense to a conference in Paris may seem extravagant — but these are not normal times and the meeting in Paris not just a collection of nodding heads with an expense account. One does not have to be a meteorologist to understand that the world’s weather is changing. Severe weather events are becoming ever more severe and of increased frequency. Everybody on the planet is affected to a greater or lesser extent by climate change. Some states are being affected more than others, tiny island states in the Pacific are going to disappear, and Pakistan is on yet another list — this time as the country that is the tenth-most at risk.
Arguments still rage about the causes of global warming, some saying that this is a natural cyclic event that has been part of the natural life of planet Earth for many millions of years. Others, and they are now a majority, accept that at least in part if not whole, global warming and particularly the accelerating rate of warming in the last two centuries, is the result of the activity of mankind. Specifically, carbon emissions from industries everywhere have depleted the ozone layer that protects us from the harmful effects of the sun; and attempts to improve the quality of the ozone layer by the control of carbon emissions has only been partially successful — which is why 125 countries are going to be in Paris for two weeks, starting today, trying to hammer out solutions to a problem we all own.
Pakistan is in a precarious and exposed position. The delegation led by Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid is going to be saying that the entire economy is at hazard. The glaciers are in retreat, flash floods, heatwaves that kill in the thousands, livestock lost by the millions and vast tracts of land under water in the long term and so badly damaged that they are not productive even if they can be drained — all can be aggregated to a rolling crisis that only abates, it never stops.
As one of the countries most affected, there is a tragic irony to our situation. Pakistan contributes but a tiny amount as a proportion of global emissions, about 0.8 per cent because it is minimally industrialised. The big polluters are the rich developed states, and it is the poorer struggling states that have to pay the price. That price for Pakistan is around $4 billion a year for the last 20 years, say economists, and the price will be going further up, not down. It is no exaggeration to say that the threat is truly existential, and far greater than terrorism is now or is ever likely to be.
Two weeks of debate in Paris may or may not come up with solutions, but either way Pakistan is left to deal with the consequences of global warming into a far future. Post-conference, the planners are going to have to look forward for 20 years or more and refine — or design — a strategy that is comprehensive, taking in the threat from glacial lakes in the north to flood surges in Sindh to the south. This is a problem that crosses all boundaries and must not get hijacked by petty politicking; there is just no time for that. The weather is not going to wait for us to sort out our differences.
The minister has said that transforming current models of development is a “political and economic obligation” — and he is right. Today, the National Climate Change Policy should be as important for everybody in Pakistan as is the National Action Plan formulated to fight terrorism and extremism. Helpfully, the Pakistan delegation in Paris is made up of not only politicians and civil servants but members of NGOs, the private sector and educational institutions — we wish them well for all our sakes.
CLIMATE TALKS AVOID IDEA OF ‘CARBON BUDGET’
International New York Times,30 Nov, 2015
After two decades of talks that failed to slow the relentless pace of global warming, negotiators from almost 200 countries are widely expected to sign a deal in the next two weeks to take concrete steps to cut emissions.
The prospect of progress, any progress, has elicited cheers in many quarters. The pledges that have already been announced ‘‘represent a clear and determined down payment on a new era of climate ambition from the global community of nations,’’ said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in a statement a month ago.
Yet the negotiators gathering in Paris will not be discussing any plan that comes close to meeting their own stated goal of limiting the increase of global temperatures to a reasonably safe level.
They have pointedly declined to take up a recommendation from scientists, made several years ago, that they set a cap on total greenhouse gases as a way to achieve that goal, and then figure out how to allocate the emissions fairly. The pledges countries are making are voluntary and were established in most nations as a compromise between the desire to be ambitious and the perceived cost and political difficulty of emissions cutbacks.
In effect, the countries are vowing to make changes that collectively still fall far short of the necessary goal, much like a patient who, upon hearing from his doctor that he must lose 50 pounds to avoid life-threatening health risks, takes pride in cutting out fries but not cake and ice cream.
The scientists argue that there is only so much carbon — in the form of exhaust from coal-burning power plants, automobile tailpipes, forest fires and the like — that the atmosphere can absorb before the planet suffers profound damage, with swaths of it potentially becoming uninhabitable.
After years of studying the issue, the experts recommended to climate diplomats in 2013 that they consider the concept of a ‘‘carbon budget’’ to help frame the talks. Yet the idea was quickly dismissed as politically impractical, and more recent pleas from countries like Bolivia to consider it have been ignored.
If any serious push had been made ahead of Paris to divvy up the emissions budget, the negotiators ‘‘would have all run screaming from the room,’’ said Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, in New York. ‘‘So that’s not a real alternative.’’
The carbon budget will probably not get much attention in Paris for simple reasons.
Wrestling with a budget would, for instance, throw into stark relief the global inequities at the heart of the climate crisis. And it would underscore just how big the problem really is, how costly the delay in tackling it has been and how inadequate the plans being discussed in Paris are for limiting the risks.
Consider, for example, that Europe, the United States and China have offered emissions-reduction pledges that are their most ambitious ever. And yet, if their plans are carried out, a recent analysis suggests those regions will use up most of the remaining room for emissions in the atmosphere, leaving relatively little for the other five billion people on the planet or their descendants.
To change that equation, the biggest polluters would have to commit to cutting their emissions at rates that would be difficult to achieve, potentially disruptive to their economies and politically unrealistic.
Moreover, any serious discussion of the carbon budget would amplify a point of serious contention, known as ‘‘climate injustice,’’ in the talks. It refers to the idea that poor countries bear little past responsibility for climate change but are first in line to suffer its consequences, without much capacity to protect themselves.
Many of those same countries want to develop their economies by burning some fossil fuels, but because decades of high emissions by richer countries have created such profound risks, they are under pressure to adopt costlier green energy instead.
A series of scientific papers in 2009 demonstrated that limiting the temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit could be achieved by calculating the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that could be emitted into the atmosphere before emissions needed to stop. The United Nations committee that periodically reviews climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, highlighted the idea in a report it issued in Stockholm in 2013.
The group calculated a budget that can be thought of as something like — to use another food metaphor — a carbon pie, with the central question being: How can it be carved up fairly?
The problem is that about two-thirds of the pie has already been eaten by a handful of rich countries, plus China. At current rates, the remainder of it will be gone in 30 years or less. Many poor countries are crowding around the table, pleading for a sliver, but the big emitting countries insist on laying claim to most of the rest of the pie.
It is already clear, based on analyses published recently by several groups, that the pledges to cut emissions will come nowhere close to meeting the carbon budget. Many negotiators are pushing for a mechanism in which countries would gradually ratchet up their commitments to cutting greenhouse gases over time. But that would entail more delays, and it is not certain the carbon limit can be met that way.
Given the political realities, some of the scientists involved in devising the budget have resigned themselves to seeing it ignored in this round of negotiations, with the hope that countries will accelerate their efforts in coming years.
Myles R. Allen, a climate scientist at Oxford University and a leading proponent of the budget idea, said it was better for countries to keep negotiating than not. ‘‘It was probably the right call to brush it under the carpet for now,’’ he said.
Though it will be ignored in Paris, the idea of a carbon budget is gaining currency in the broader world of climatechange politics. For instance, the notion is at the heart of the student-led movement urging college endowment funds and other investors to shed their holdings in fossil-fuel companies. The students’ argument is not just that the companies are blocking needed change, but that they represent risky investments, given that much of the fossil fuels they hold as reserves cannot be burned if the world intends to stay within the carbon budget.
The same idea was at the heart of a speech recently by Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, who cited the potential economic risks of ‘‘unburnable carbon,’’ as it has become known. It is even an element of a recently disclosed investigation by the New York attorney general, who is studying whether Exxon Mobil and other companies have properly disclosed to investors the possibility that they may not be able to burn all their reserves.
Yet, within a month of the adoption of the carbon budget, as part of the Stockholm report two years ago, the idea of using it in the global negotiations had been dismissed out of hand. ‘‘I don’t think it’s possible,’’ Ms. Figueres, of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the British-based newspaper The Guardian that fall. ‘‘Politically it would be very difficult.’’
POOR STATES HAVE RIGHT TO BURN CARBON, SAYS MODI
Dawn, December 1st, 2015
LE BOURGET: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned at the climate summit on Monday that poor nations had a right to burn carbon to grow their economies, underscoring one of the major obstacles to a universal deal to tame the warming of the planet.
“Justice demands that, with what little carbon we can still safely burn, developing countries are allowed to grow,” he wrote in a column published in the Financial Times.
“The lifestyles of a few must not crowd out opportunities for the many still on the first steps of the development ladder.”
Developing nations insist that industrialised countries should do more to cut emissions, having polluted for much longer.
That principle, known as “differentiated responsibility”, was enshrined in UN negotiations more than 20 years ago.
Since then, China and India have become the world’s number one and four carbon emitters, however, and other erstwhile “developing” countries have scaled the economic ladder.
Rich countries insist that realistically the burden must be shared more evenly if the world is to have a chance of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius from pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Rich ‘powered their way to prosperity’: The contentious issue touches on all aspects of the deal — from setting emission goals and agreeing on a review system, to the flow of climate aid.
“Some say advanced countries powered their way to prosperity on fossil fuel when humanity was unaware of its impact,” Modi said.
“Since science has moved on and alternative energy sources are available, they argue that those just beginning their development journey bear no less responsibility than those who have reached the zenith of their progress,” he added.
“New awareness, however, should lead advanced countries to assume more responsibility. Just because technology exists does not mean it is affordable and accessible.
WORLD LEADERS LAUNCH BID FOR CLIMATE BREAKTHROUGH IN PARIS
Dawn, December 1st, 2015
PARIS: World leaders launched an ambitious attempt on Monday to hold back the earth’s rising temperatures, with French President Francois Hollande saying the world was at “breaking point” in the fight against global warming.
Some 150 heads of state and government, including US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, urged each other to find common cause in two weeks of bargaining to steer the global economy away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
They arrived at United Nations climate change talks in Paris, accompanied by high expectations and armed with promises to act. After decades of struggling negotiations and the failure of a summit in Copenhagen six years ago, some form of landmark agreement appears all but assured by mid-December.
Warnings from climate scientists, demands from activists and exhortations from religious leaders like Pope Francis have coupled with major advances in cleaner energy sources like solar power to raise pressure for cuts in carbon emissions held responsible for warming the planet.
Most scientists say failure to agree on strong measures in Paris would doom the world to ever-hotter average temperatures, bringing with them deadlier storms, more frequent droughts and rising sea levels as polar ice caps melt.
Facing such alarming projections, the leaders of nations responsible for about 90 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have come bearing pledges to reduce their national carbon output, through different measures at different rates.
For some, climate change has become a pressing issue at home. As the summit opened in Paris, the capitals of the world’s two most populous nations, China and India, were blanketed in hazardous, choking smog, with Beijing on “orange” pollution alert, the second-highest level.
Over the next two weeks, negotiators will hammer out the strongest international climate pact yet. The deal will mark a momentous step in the often frustrating quest for global agreement, albeit one that – on its own – will not be enough to prevent the earth’s temperatures from rising past a damaging threshold.
“What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realisation that it is within our power to do something about it,” said Obama, one of the first leaders to speak at the summit.
The gathering is being held in a sombre city. Security has been tightened after militant attacks killed 130 people on Nov 13, and President Hollande said he could not separate “the fight with terrorism from the fight against global warming”.
Leaders must face both challenges, leaving their children “a world freed of terror” as well as one “protected from catastrophes”.
On the eve of the summit, an estimated 785,000 people from Australia to Paraguay joined the biggest day of climate change activism in history, telling world leaders there was “No Planet B” in the fight against global warming.
The leaders gathered in a vast conference centre at Le Bourget airfield, near where Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St Louis aircraft in 1927 after making the first solo trans-Atlantic flight, a feat that helped bring nations closer.
Whether a similar spirit of unity can be incubated in Le Bourget this time is uncertain. In all, 195 countries are part of the unwieldy negotiating process, espousing a variety of leadership styles and ideologies that has made consensus elusive in the past. Key issues, notably how to divide the global bill to pay for a shift to renewable energy, are still contentious.
The last attempt to get a global deal collapsed in chaos and acrimony in Copenhagen in 2009. It ended with President Obama forcing his way into a closed meeting of China and other countries on the gathering’s last day and emerging with a modest concession to limit rising emissions until 2020 that they attempted to impose on the rest of the world.
Anxious to avoid a re-run of the Copenhagen disaster, major powers have tried this time to smooth some of the bumps in the way of an agreement before they arrive.
The presidents, prime ministers and princes made their cameo appearances at the outset of the conference rather than swooping in at the end.
CHINESE REPORT ON CLIMATE CHANGE DEPICTS SOMBER SCENARIOS
International New York Times, NOV. 29, 2015
BEIJING — Rising seas besieging China’s economically vital coastal zones. Mighty feats of infrastructure, like the Three Gorges Dam and railway in Tibet, strained by turbulent rainfall and the melting of frozen earth. And on the Himalayan frontiers, the risk in future decades of international conflict over dwindling water supplies as glaciers retreat.
These and other somber scenarios are laid out in the Chinese government’s latest scientific assessment of global warming, released just before negotiations in Paris for a new international agreement on climate change.
“There’s deepening awareness of the gravity of the problems,” Zhang Haibin, a professor at Peking University who was among some 550 experts who prepared the report, said in an interview. He noted a shift since the first such assessment was issued nine years ago. “From the first to the second to this third report, the negative impacts of climate change on China are increasingly apparent.”
It presents global warming as squeezing China from two fronts: the environmental hazards and the international response.
China is increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially from rising seas and shifting rainfall and snow patterns. And it also faces growing international pressure to cut its greenhouse-gas pollution, which is by far the most of any country, almost twice that of the second-place country, the United States.
To ward off those international demands, one section of the report urges Beijing to be more flexible in negotiations, where China’s dual status as a huge developing economy and the biggest polluter has generated friction with the European Union and the United States and other countries that want firmer commitments for when its greenhouse-gas output will start to fall.
“New arrangements in global climate governance are unavoidable,” the report says. “China should confront the vagueness of its role and change.”
The latest talks start in Paris on Monday, and the Chinese president,Xi Jinping, will be among the leadersat the opening. Mr. Xi will restate China’s longstanding position that it is still a poor, growing country, meaning it should not bear the responsibility for quantitative greenhouse-gas caps that apply to rich economies, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday. Yet one section of the new report suggests that China will have to adjust to new demands.
“There is an unavoidable trend for all countries to participate in emissions cuts, and for the major developing countries to shoulder larger emissions-reduction responsibilities,” the report said. “China must fully prepare for this.”
The 900-page study, “The Third National Climate Change Assessment Report,” is not a summation of established government policy; rather it is a distillation of the latest science and policy options from state-appointed experts. Some of them likened it to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which summarizes advances in scientific researchand their implications, with authors sometimes contradicting one another.
“It is an important contribution to debates and to the process of building consensus,” said Qi Ye, a professor of environmental policyand management at Tsinghua University in Beijing who contributed to the report. “In that regard, it does contribute to the policy-making process, albeit indirectly.”
Buildings in Kaixian County, the last county seat to be flooded by the Three Gorges reservoir, were demolished in 2007. The report acknowledges disagreement among policy advisers over how many years China’s emissions will keep growing before they level off.
He Jiankun, a professor at Tsinghua University who was a senior author of the report, said he hoped that the government would embrace its proposal for firm coal consumption and carbon-dioxide pollution limits from next year, paving the way for a peak in emissions before the 2030 date proposed by the government.
China’s current goals try to reduce the carbon-dioxide pollution released for each unit of economic growth. That means that emissions still grow, but more slowly than the economy, and there is no absolute ceiling on those emissions.
“It’s precisely because of the uncertainties that we need controls,” Professor He said. “Without a goal, your future emissions might be even higher.”
Climate Protesters Rally Worldwide
Yet even if China and other big powers agreed to stringent cuts in greenhouse gases, the effects of climate change are already coursing through the environment. The report urges more spending on preparing to cope with increasingly frequent and extreme droughts, floods and heat waves.
Rising sea levels are among the threats that receive most attention in the report. As polar ice melts and ocean temperatures rise, seas across the world are swelling, but the changes are uneven, and the waters off China’s coast have been rising faster than the global average, the report says.
“Climate change will make the urban conurbations along the coast the regions most affected by climate change nationwide,” it says. “Some cities may even face risks of massive disasters that are hard to forecast.”
While there is much debate about the extent of future rises, the report cites projections that, by the end of this century, the sea off eastern China could rise between 16 and 24 inches, or 40 and 60 centimeters, compared to 20th-century averages, exposing cities like Shanghai and nearby areas to tidal inundations and more severe damage from storms and typhoons. Some projections are even higher.
“Every piece of infrastructure built on the coast is potentially vulnerable,” Isabel Hilton, the editor ofChinadialogue, a website for news and discussion of the country’s environmental challenges, said in a telephone interview. “That’s a huge amount of G.D.P. you have there.”
Inland China will experience major shifts in rain and snowfall, which will reshape agriculture. Although global warming can conjure up images of advancing deserts, rising temperatures also mean air absorbs more moisture, which is then likely to be dumped in increasingly erratic rainfall, especially in northern China. Overall, the report says, China’s water resources, already strained, could shrink by 5 percent by midcentury because of climate change.
That will demand major changes in farming, and could strain the Three Gorges Dam, one of the world’s largest, says the report. Changing rainfall patterns will eventually mean that the dam endures more frequent shortfalls in dry seasons and more intense floods in wet seasons. This will be “extremely detrimental to reservoir management, dam safety and flood prevention,” says the report.
Across Tibet and other high-altitude regions of western China, glaciers have been retreating, as has permafrost: the layer of earth below the surface that remains frozen throughout the year. China’s glaciers shrank by 10 percent between the 1970s and the early 2000s, and the permafrost had retreated by about 26 percent by 2012, says the report.
China’s 710-mile railway line across the Tibetan Plateau is already being unsettled by the softening, unstable ground, which causes warping of tracks. The pace of warming threatens to outpace technological remedies, the report says.
The risks to China from these changes are not only environmental or economic; one section of the report is devoted to the national security implications. Rising temperatures will first accelerate glacier melting, increasing river flows, but from about mid century those flows could tail off, said Professor Zhang of Peking University, who helped write that section.
“The shrinking of river flows caused by the melting away of glaciers in western China may lead to struggles over cross-border water resources and surges of transnational migration, triggering international disputes and conflict,” according to the report. “Overall, climate change could have a broad impact on China’s national security, but for now that is mainly latent.”
EARTH IS WARMER AND WILDER SINCE LAST CLIMATE DEAL
Dawn, November 30th, 2015
PARIS: This time, it’s a hotter, waterier, wilder Earth that world leaders are trying to save. The last time that the nations of the world struck a binding agreement to fight global warming was 1997, in Kyoto, Japan. As leaders gather for a conference in Paris on Monday to try to do more, it’s clear that things have changed dramatically over the past 18 years.
Some differences can be measured: degrees on a thermometer, trillions of tons of melting ice, a rise in sea level of a couple of inches. Epic weather disasters, including killer heat waves and monster storms, have plagued Earth.
As a result, climate change is seen as a more urgent and concrete problem than it was last time.
“At the time of Kyoto, if someone talked about climate change, they were talking about something that was abstract in the future,” said Marcia McNutt, the former US Geological Survey director who was picked to run the National Academies of Sciences.
“Now, we’re talking about changing climate, something that’s happening now. You can point to event after event that is happening in the here and now that is a direct result of changing climate.”
Since 1997 the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have lost 5.5 trillion tons of ice, or 5 trillion metric tons, according to Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds, who used NASA and European satellite data.
The five-year average surface global temperature for January to October has risen by nearly two-thirds of a degree Fahrenheit, or 0.36 degrees Celsius, between 1993-97 and 2011-15, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In 1997, Earth set a record for the hottest year, but it didn’t last. Records were set in 1998, 2005, 2010 and 2014, and it is sure to happen again in 2015 when the results are in from the year, according to NOAA.
With 1.2 billion more people in the world, carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels climbed nearly 50 per cent between 1997 and 2013, according to the US Department of Energy. The world is spewing more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide a day now.
The five deadliest heat waves of the past century — in Europe in 2003, Russia in 2010, India and Pakistan this year, Western Europe in 2006 and southern Asia in 1998 — have come in the past 18 years, according to the International Disaster Database run by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster in Belgium.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said that while the Kyoto agreement dictated to individual nations how much they must cut, what comes out of Paris will be based on what the more than 150 countries say they can do. That tends to work better.
“It has to,” she said. “The urgency is much clearer now than it used to be.”
CLASHES IN PARIS ON EVE OF CLIMATE SUMMIT
Dawn, November 30th, 2015
PARIS: Riot police fired teargas on Sunday in clashes with far-left activists in Paris during a climate change demonstration after several thousand protesters formed a human chain in the city.
The clashes took place at a time when more than a hundred leaders from across the globe were flying in for a summit on climate change.
Riot police moved in after a small group of protesters pelted officers with bottles and candles from one of the tributes to the victims of the November 13 attacks on the French capital. Around 100 people were arrested.
Around 4,500 activists had earlier linked hands in a peaceful protest near the site of the deadliest of the attacks, pleading for leaders to curb global warming.
The colourful human chain passed near the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed in the suicide bombings and shootings.
Stretching for two kilometres along a wind-blown Boulevard Voltaire in eastern Paris, it was the first organised demonstration since the attacks claimed by the militant Islamic State group in which 130 people died and hundreds were injured.
Out of respect for the dead, the protesters left a 100-metre gap in front of the mass of flowers and candles laid outside the Bataclan.
“Hear our voices! We are here!” cried the demonstrators ahead of the 195-nation UN summit being held just outside Paris, which aims to strike the first truly global accord to limit greenhouse emissions and avert a global climate disaster.
“For a climate of peace,” read banners held by the protesters, while another said: “We need to take care, there is no planet B.”
But around two hours after the human chain dispersed, anti-capitalist militants who had gathered in the nearby Place de la Republique square began to clash with police, reporters said.
A group of protesters wearing black hoods and scarves over their faces chanted “State of emergency, police state, you will not take away our right to protest”, referring to the measures restricting demonstrations that were introduced after the terrorist attacks.
As objects were thrown, police in riot gear formed lines to push them back and the air was filled with teargas.
Some 150 leaders, including US President Barack Obama, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, will attend the official start on Monday of the UN conference tasked with reaching the first truly universal climate pact.
About 2,800 police personnel and soldiers will secure the conference site, and 6,300 others will deploy in Paris.
The goal of the climate talks is to limit average global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change.
“I hope this time the conference will lead to something solid,” said protester Denis Diderot, a retired university teacher who joined the demonstration wearing a beret.
Rallies demanding curbs on carbon pollution have been growing around the world since Friday, with marches involving tens of thousands across Australia on Sunday kick-starting a final day of people-powered protest.
In a sign of the urgency, the start of the negotiations, conducted by bureaucrats, were brought forward to Sunday.
In the past week, the UN’s weather body said the average global temperature for the year 2015 is set to rise one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, halfway towards the targeted UN ceiling.
Voluntary carbon-curbing pledges submitted by nations to bolster the Paris pact, even if fully adhered to, put Earth on track for warming of 2.7-3.5 degrees C, according to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.
French President Francois Hollande, host of the November 30-December 11 talks, has warned of obstacles ahead for the 195 negotiating nations.
Potential stumbling blocks range from finance for climate vulnerable and poor countries to scrutiny of commitments to curb greenhouse gases and even the legal status of the accord.
The last attempt to forge a global deal — the ill-tempered 2009 Copenhagen summit — foundered upon divisions between rich and poor countries.
MUGABE SPURNS WEST AT UN CLIMATE TALKS
The News, December 01, 2015
LE BOURGET, France: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe lashed out at “miserly” developed nations at the UN climate summit Monday, accusing them of trying to shift the burden for curbing carbon emissions onto poor countries.
The elderly firebrand, who has a notoriously sour relationship with the West, said the developed nations were historically responsible for the “precarious climate environment we currently live in.” “It is unconscionable that not only are developed countries miserly in providing the means” for developing countries, “but also want inordinately to burden us with cleaning up the mess they themselves have created,” he told the gathering.
Mugabe was among 150-plus heads of state and government attending the opening one-day summit of a two-week conference tasked with crafting the first-ever truly universal climate pact. A key disagreement between rich and developing nations at the talks revolves around who should be doing what to curb climate-altering emissions from burning fossil fuels, and who should pay.
Mugabe said African countries were not to blame for climate change and had more at risk, as they did not have the money for shoring up defences against impacts such as droughts and rising seas.
“We cannot and we will not assume more obligations,” he said. “Doing so will dent our development aspirations, and in particular our efforts to eradicate poverty.”
Meanwhile, a new Chinese government report raises the alarm over rising sea levels caused by climate change which could potentially threaten the country’s developed eastern coast, according to state media and the New York Times.
The release of the official report, now in its third edition, came shortly before the UN Conference of Parties (COP21) summit, which began on Monday with the aim of striking a global deal limiting dangerous climate change. China is the world’s second biggest economy but also its largest polluter, estimated to have released between nine and 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013.
Beijing pledged last year to peak carbon dioxide output by “around 2030” — suggesting at least another decade of growing emissions.
The government report said the sea levels off China’s coast have risen 2.9 millimetres annually from 1980 to 2012, according to an article posted on a government-backed website, while glaciers shrank just over 10 percent since the 1970s.
STRATEGY TO REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS
Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, November 30th, 2015
PRIME Minister Nawaz Sharif approved on November 12 a national carbon emission reduction strategy and the ministry of climate change submitted the strategy document to the UN Convention Framework on Climate Change on the same day.
The strategy document is called the ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC). The UN Convention Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) session held last December in Lima required all the parties (member countries) to submit their INDCs stating the commitments, contributions, and actions that they are considering to undertake during 2020-2030 to achieve the objectives of the convention.
Pakistan’s document, it is believed, has set a goal of reducing emissions by 30pc from 2008 levels by 2025 under a new global climate deal due to be agreed in Paris in December.
The parties to the convention are required to achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Under articles of the convention, the developed countries are required to take actions for mitigation, finance and technology transfer to developing countries while the latter are required to take actions that include adaptation, mitigation, capacity-building and sustainable development (including food security).
Carbon dioxide emissions are those which stem from the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement. But they also include carbon dioxide produced during the consumption of solid, liquid, and gas fuels and gas flaring.
In 1989, Pakistan’ emissions were calculated to be 63.40m metric tonnes which increased to 166.41m tonnes in 2013. A year before it was 165.38m tonnes According to World Bank data, in 2011 Pakistan’s emissions stood at 163.4m tonnes while those of the US were 5,305.5 metric tonnes, Russian federation’s at 1,808m tonnes and of Japan at 1,187. 6m tonnes — the highest emitters in the world.
Though Pakistan is amongst the lowest emitters and accounts for less than 1pc of the total global carbon emissions, it remains committed to the global efforts to reduce climate-altering carbon emission to tackle global warming and its impacts by adopting low-carbon development path particularly in energy, agriculture, transport.
The agriculture sector in Pakistan plays a key role in its economy as the livelihood of nearly half of the population is dependent on this sector. This sector is now under threat from climate change. According to a recent study, it is expected that temperatures will increase by 3°C by 2040 and even up to 6°C by the end of this century in the Asian region. Hence, owing to this factor, Asia can lose 50pc of its wheat production.
Besides, Pakistan’s agriculture is more vulnerable to climate change because of its geographical location. Due to anthropogenic activities, temperature of the earth is rising and it may have negative effect on the production of wheat. The study examines the impact of climate change on production of four major crops in Punjab. In the short run, it says, the increase in temperature is expected to affect the wheat productivity but in the long term it will have a positive effect on it. Once the temperature touches 14.76oC, any further increase will positively affect the crop. Variations in temperature will have little effect.
On the other hand, the precipitation has significant relationship with wheat crop in the first two stages of production. The optimal precipitations for the first two stages are 111mm and 84.50mm respectively. That is, beyond these optimal limits, further precipitation will adversely affect the growth of the plant.
In the third stage, precipitation does not affect wheat crop. However, a rise in temperature is beneficial for rice production initially. But beyond a certain optimal temperature, any increase becomes harmful for it. Interestingly, the increase in precipitation does not harm the rice productivity. The change in climate variables (temperature, precipitation) has a significant negative impact on production of cotton. However, the increase in temperature also harms the sugarcane productivity in the long run.
In recent decades, high temperatures have been observed in Asia and the Pacific regions where agriculture sector is seen more vulnerable as 37pc of the total world emissions from agriculture production are coming from there. Countries most vulnerable to climate change include Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, Pakistan.
On the other hand, the study says, there is also a possibility that agriculture sector may harm the climate. This problem was identified by a researcher in 2009. It is observed that 14pc of nitric oxide and methane is coming from the agriculture sector and 18pc is due to deforestation for agriculture use.
Secretary of the ministry of climate change Arif Ahmed Khan says Pakistan’s INDC is rooted in its Vision 2025, which is a roadmap of economic growth. Since the country’s development needs are expected to grow, the industry must be able to take a lead role in meeting the transformation. He hopes the developed countries would mobilise adequate funding and technology transfer to enable the developing countries to achieve INDCs.
Some possible emission-reducing measures identified by Pakistan include promoting renewable energy, reducing electric power losses during transmission, efficient water use in agriculture, limiting diesel-powered pumping, minimising farm tillage to keep carbon in the soil and using manure to generate biogas. How the country manages to achieve these goals remains to be seen.
THE DUBIOUS CARBON BUDGET
International New York Times, Dec. 1, 2015
Berlin — OVER the last few years, the concept of a global carbon budget has established itself as a key element of the international climate policy debate. The budget defines the total amount of carbon dioxide we can emit into the atmosphere and still keep warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, the goal set by the United Nations
The concept of the budget is quite simple: If the total amount of remaining emissions is explicitly defined, then we will have a road map for political and economic action. To meet the budget, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that we would have to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by some 40 percent to 70 percent from 2010 levels by 2050. After that, emissions would have to fall to “net zero” by the end of the century.
But as delegates meet in Paris this week for what is expected to be the most decisive United Nations climate summit yet, we are already in danger of busting the budget. If the plans submitted by more than 180 governments are implemented, humanity will outspend its carbon budget by 2040 at the latest. Staying within the original budget outlined by the I.P.C.C. no longer seems realistic.
So what do we do? This is where magical thinking, questionable accounting and dubious expectations about future technology come into play. It is called negative emissions.
Negative emissions are the flip side of emissions. The idea is to develop technology that would remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. This would allow for significantly higher fossil fuel emissions over the next few decades. To compensate, we would start removing more and more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to eventually reach the I.P.C.C.’s net zero emissions line by 2070 and go even lower afterward.
Climate problem solved — at least according to the climate models.
But there’s a problem with this scenario. The United Nations’ own Environment Program pointed it out in a report last year:
“Theoretically, carbon uptake or net negative emissions could be achieved by extensive reforestation and forest growth, or by schemes that combine bioenergy use with carbon capture and storage. But the feasibility of such large-scale schemes is still uncertain. Even though they seem feasible on a small scale, the question remains as to how much they can be scaled up without having unacceptable social, economic or environmental consequences.”
Climate scientists and economists are betting primarily on a new technology called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or Beccs. This involves cultivating fast-growing vegetation, or biomass, to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees or energy crops would then be burned in power plants, and the emissions would be captured and pumped underground. Beccs could also be attached to industrial processes involving biomass, like pulp factories or ethanol plants.
But the Beccs technology does not exist at scale at present. And even if it did, the immensity of this endeavor would be unlike anything that exists today. To achieve the negative emissions that are an essential component of the I.P.C.C. models, we would have to plant around 500 million hectares of biomass crops — an area one and a half times the size of India. This would also require enormous capacities for transporting and storing the carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere.
This vast enterprise is being figured into the calculations of climate researchers, environmental groups and policy makers when they maintain that a 3.6 degree target can still be reached.
Including negative emissions in these models has one decisive advantage, of course: It allows climate economists to significantly increase the carbon budgets calculated by climate scientists. Both base their calculations on the same net amount of emissions. But since the economists’ budgets also include negative emissions, they allow for significantly higher fossil fuel emissions over the next few decades, thus putting the world into carbon debt. Those carbon debts accumulated by overshooting the original budget will be paid back again in the second half of the century. At least that is the hope.
The public has taken little, if any, notice of these considerations, and even policy makers are often unaware of the amount of negative emissions climate economists assume for the future. I.P.C.C. models foresee negative emissions of about 600 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2100, which equals more than 10 years of current annual emissions. This is the amount of carbon dioxide that we will somehow have to remove from the atmosphere.
We need to be honest. This approach relies on some very dubious calculations and assumes the existence of technologies whose risks have not been adequately studied, let alone discussed publicly. Admittedly, not all of the technologies that could be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would require enormous land areas or carbon storage capacities. But that does not mean that alternative methods, such as direct air capture or liming the oceans, would face considerably less public opposition.
We need to seriously discuss the effects of technologies designed to remove carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere — technologies whose large-scale use is now being assumed as a means for achieving ambitious climate goals — and to have this discussion not only among scientists, but on a political level as well.
Because right now, we’re on the verge of repeating the same mistake that led to the financial crisis: relying on economic models that are completely detached from what’s going on in the real world.
CLIMATE VULNERABLE NATIONS CALL FOR DRASTIC ACTION
The News, December 02, 2015
LE BOURGET, France: From low-lying islands in the Pacific to parched areas of Africa, nations facing the most immediate peril of climate change called Monday for the world to take more drastic action to avoid catastrophe.
Gathered at the opening day of a 195-nation United Nations (UN) climate summit in Paris, negotiators for the most vulnerable nations pushed for the world to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.
Among the questions facing the November 30-December 11 conference is whether to curb global warming to 1.5 C or, as some of the world´s most powerful nations prefer, 2.0 C.
In 2010, nations negotiating under the United Nations flag embraced the goal of 2.0 C but agreed to consider striving for 1.5 C as a more ambitious alternative.
Both goals remain in a draft agreement that negotiators are poring over in Paris, even though the chance of reaching 1.5 C is become more and more remote.
Last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned that “the symbolic and significant milestone” of 1 C warming would likely be passed this year.
“We refuse to be the sacrifice of the international community in Paris,” Anwar Hossain Manju, environment minister from Bangladesh, said at meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Group of threatened nations, chaired by Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
“Anything that takes our survival off the table here is a red line.”
Low-lying small island states, and countries with highly-populated river deltas such as Vietnam and Bangladesh, are especially vulnerable to rising seas, and many sub-Saharan African nations are already experiencing severe drought.
In a declaration approved Monday, the group called on the United Nations climate summit to adopt a target of a global economy fuelled entirely by renewable energy by 2050 — the most ambitious goal put forward by any bloc of nations.
How to define the long-term shift away from fossil fuels towards a low-carbon economy is one of the central issues on the table at the talks.
Other developing nations, notable India, have said they cannot afford to give up cheap, carbon-intensive fuels such as coal as they try to lift growing populations out of poverty.
More than 100 nations at the UN talks have expressed support for at least keeping the 1.5 C target as a future option.
They got a boost Monday from German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, who expressed sympathy for their plight.
“We know — regarding the small island states — that it is not sufficient,” she told the 150 heads of state attending the summit of the 2.0 C target.
Founded in 2009 with 20 members, the forum has recently represented another 23. Nine of them formally joined the group on Monday, and others are likely to follow.
WORLD’S RICHEST TENTH PRODUCE HALF CARBON EMISSIONS: OXFAM
Dawn, December 3rd, 2015
LONDON: The richest tenth of the world’s people produce half of all carbon emissions, while the poorest half — most threatened by droughts and super storms linked to climate change — produce only one tenth, Oxfam said on Wednesday.
The richest 10 per cent have, on average, carbon footprints 11 times that of the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet, the campaign group said in a report to coincide with talks in Paris this month on a global deal to slow climate change.
One of the biggest obstacles facing negotiators from 195 countries is how to find the billions of dollars needed by developing nations to enable them to stop using fossil fuels and adapt to severe weather shocks caused by climate change.
“Climate change and economic inequality are inextricably linked and together pose one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century,” Tim Gore, Oxfam’s head of food and climate policy, said in a statement.
“Paris must be the start of building a more human economy for all — not just for the ‘haves’, the richest and highest emitters, but also the ‘have-nots’, the poorest people who are the least responsible for and most vulnerable to climate change.” Emissions are rising fastest in developing countries, Oxfam said.
Yet emissions relating to goods and services consumed by the richest citizens in China, India, Brazil and South Africa remain some way behind those of their counterparts in the wealthiest countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it said.
Oxfam found that India’s richest 10pc use on average just one quarter of the carbon used by the poorest half of the population of the United States.
It also said the total emissions of China’s poorest 600 million people — half the country’s population — are only one third of the total emissions of the United States’ richest 10pc, some 30m people.
HONDURAS, MYANMAR, HAITI TOP RISK LIST, SAYS CLIMATE GROUP
Dawn, December 4th, 2015
Le Bourget (France) (AFP) – Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti top a new list of nations hardest hit by two decades of storms, floods and landslides that killed more than half a million people, climate analysts reported Thursday, warning of more frequent disasters if Earth’s overheating cannot be tamed.
Scientists point to the mounting threat from storms, floods, droughts and rising seas if mankind cannot brake emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, especially from fossil fuels.
A red flag to negotiators from 195 countries trying to broker a global climate-saving pact in Paris, the Bonn-based advocacy group Germanwatch released the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index showing those nations most affected by the direct consequences of extreme weather events.
Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti were the most afflicted by such disasters between 1995 and 2014, said the latest edition of the annual index.
Next were the Philippines, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand and Guatemala.
Altogether, more than 525,000 people died as a direct result of about 15,000 extreme weather events, the report said.
Losses amounted to more than $2.97 trillion (2.8 trillion euros), it said.
Honduras tops the list partly because it is in the Central American hurricane belt.
Although Honduras endured fewer extreme events than the Philippines, Bangladesh and some other disaster-prone nations, its financial losses as a percentage of its national economy were the highest.
The analysis only looked at the direct results of extreme weather, it stressed, whereas the indirect consequences of extreme weather such as drought and famine resulting from heatwaves can be much more deadly.
‘CLIMATE CHANGE WILL FORCE ANOTHER 100 MILLION PEOPLE INTO POVERTY’
The News, December 06, 2015
FAISALABAD: The Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan said that the climate change could force an additional 100 million people worldwide to live in extreme poverty by 2030.
He was speaking at the concluding session of a five-day workshop titled “Climate Changes Resilient Agriculture Systems”, arranged by the Centre for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security, the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (CAS-UAF).
He said that climatic change was destroying crops and productive assets in the agricultural communities.
HUDDLE NEXT WEEK: PAKISTAN, IMF TO DECIDE ON NEW SALES TAX REGIME
The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: Experts from Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will meet in Dubai from Monday in an effort to seal the fate of a proposal for a single-stage single-digit sales tax by scrapping the existing value addition-based 17% general sales tax, officials say.
The discussion will be based on a study of the single-stage sales tax, authored by the country’s renowned tax expert, Ashfaq Tola, a senior partner at the Naveed Zafar Ashfaq Jaffery chartered accountant firm.
The proposed tax, which will be imposed on the total value of a good instead of value addition, will be the full and final liability and refunds will not be allowed.
If the proposal is accepted, the sales tax rate could be in the range of 7% to 8% due to the absence of input adjustment. Those who are advocating the new tax argue the reduced rate will in fact lead to an increase in revenue collection compared to what the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is receiving under the current regime.
Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Revenue Haroon Akhtar Khan will lead the delegation from Pakistan and will be assisted by officials of the FBR and Tax Reforms Commission.
According to observers, the present sales tax mechanism is full of flaws like fraudulent refunds, different rates for different goods and low collection. It is also plagued with other problems like over-invoicing of inputs and a virtually dysfunctional zero-rating regime for exporters due to delayed payment of tax refunds.
The experts from both sides will review the pros and cons of replacing the present system amid concerns and opposition from the biggest stakeholder – the FBR – to the proposed revision.
“The FBR has not taken any position on the proposed regime and its officials will meet with an open mind with the experts in Dubai,” said Dr Muhammad Iqbal, the FBR’s spokesman and Member Strategic Planning, Reforms and Statistics.
The FBR’s biggest concerns are that the new system may deprive it of guaranteed revenues and the refund problem faced by the exporters may persist.
The FBR had collected roughly Rs1.1 trillion or 42% of total taxes on account of sales tax in fiscal year 2014-15. More than half of the tax is received at the import stage, indicating there are more leakages in domestic tax collection.
Against the standard 17%, the effective sales tax rate was less than 4% in the last fiscal year, thanks to revenue exemptions and leakages.
The general sales tax, which centres round the value added tax (VAT) mode, is based on input tax adjustment, which the FBR is not fully allowing to artificially inflate its revenues. The refunds used to be over 10% of total sales tax collection, which dropped to about 8% in the last fiscal year.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said last week that the outstanding refunds stood at Rs200 billion including income tax refunds.
After the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, businesses are facing the problem of double taxation by both federal and provincial governments and delay in clearance of their refund claims.
Introduced in the 1990s under the influence of international financial institutions, the general sales tax system could not achieve the desired results after successive governments caused many distortions by giving tax exemptions and concessions to influential lobbies.
The main thrust is to capture the entire supply chain of goods and services, which has been broken due to sector-specific exemptions.
It is effectively a single-stage tax, as in most cases the supply chain is broken at the manufacturing stage and wholesale and retail segments are not covered. Under this sales tax system, the FBR has so far registered less than 200,000 people and only 117,000 file returns.
HOPES FOR BREAKTHROUGH RISE AS 195 NATIONS ADOPT CLIMATE BLUEPRINT
Dawn, December 6th, 2015
LE BOURGET: Negotiators from 195 nations delivered a blueprint on Saturday for a pact to save mankind from disastrous global warming, raising hopes that decades of arguments will finally end with a historic agreement in Paris.
The planned deal would aim to break the world’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy, slashing the greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil, coal and gas that are causing temperatures to rise dangerously.
Tortuous UN negotiations dating back to the early 1990s have failed to forge unity between rich and poor nations, and the Paris talks are being described as the “last, best chance” to save mankind.
They began on Monday with a record-breaking gathering of 150 world leaders who sought to energise the process, and the next crucial phase ended on Saturday with the adoption of a draft text of an agreement.
Negotiators finalised the draft following an often tense week of talks at a conference centre in Le Bourget on the northern outskirts of Paris.
And while many extremely contentious points still have to be resolved by ministers during a scheduled five days of talks starting on Monday, delegates said they felt the foundations had been laid for success.
“We are very happy to have this progress. The political will is there from all parties,” China’s chief climate envoy, Su Wei, told reporters.
After the draft was adopted to loud applause, South African negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko drew on her nation’s revered democracy icon in a bid to inspire others.
“In the words of Nelson Mandela, it always seems impossible until it is done,” she said.More than 50 personalities committed to fighting climate change, from US actor Sean Penn to Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma, also gathered at the conference on Saturday to help build momentum.
But no one in Le Bourget is under the illusion that a December 11 deal is guaranteed.
“Perhaps this is the most exciting time in human history,” Penn told a special event at the conference.
“Those illusions of having too many difficult choices have always created chaos. Now we live in a time where there are no choices. We have certainty”. Scientists warn our planet will become increasingly hostile for mankind as it warms, with rising sea levels that will consume islands and populated coastal areas, as well as catastrophic storms and severe droughts.
Small island nations most vulnerable to rising sea levels and stronger storms, which are often railroaded by the powerful in the UN talks, also expressed cautious optimism about the draft agreement.
“We would have wished to be further along than we are at this point, but the text being forwarded so far reflects our key priorities,” said Thoriq Ibrahim from the Maldives and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.
There are vivid memories of the spectacular failure at the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, the last time the world tried to create a global warming pact.
“At this point in Copenhagen we were dealing with a 300-page text and a pervasive sense of despair. In Paris we’re down to a slim 21 pages and the atmosphere remains constructive,” Greenpeace climate expert Martin Kaiser said.
“But that doesn’t guarantee a decent deal. Right now the oil-producing nations and the fossil fuel industry will be plotting how to crash these talks”. One of the keys to success in Paris is the submission by most countries of voluntary plans to curb their emissions from 2020, when the pact would come into force.
Scientists say these pledges, if fulfilled, would still fall far short of what is needed to cap warming at 2.0 degrees Celsius below pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Also crucial to the Paris accord, environment campaigners and many delegates say, will be agreement on a review every five years at which nations’ commitments may be strengthened.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD NOVEMBER 17TH TO DECEMBER29TH, 2015
EL NINO WORST IN OVER 15 YEARS, SEVERE IMPACT LIKELY: UN
The News, November 17, 2015
GENEVA: The “El Nino” phenomenon, which sparks global climate extremes, is this year the worst in more than 15 years, the UN weather agency said on Monday, warning it was already causing severe droughts and flooding.
The World Meteorological Organisation said El Nino, which occurs every two to seven years, had resurfaced a few months ago, become “mature and strong”, and was expected to become even more powerful by the end of the year.
“Severe droughts and devastating flooding being experienced throughout the tropics and sub-tropical zones bear the hallmarks of this El Nino, which is the strongest in more than 15 years,” WMO chief Michel Jarraud said in a statement.
El Nino is triggered by a warming in sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. It can cause unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.
The UN agency said this year’s event was expected to push water surface temperatures in the east-central Pacific Ocean more than two degrees Celsius above normal, making it one of the four strongest El Ninos since 1950.
Previous particularly strong El Ninos occurred in 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98.
Typically, El Nino events reach their maximum strength between October and January, but often continue to wreak havoc through the first quarter of the year.
The phenomenon usually leaves countries like India, Indonesia and Australia drier, increasing chances of wildfires and lower crop production.
In recent months, bone-dry conditions caused by the El Nino have sparked some of the worst forest fires in Indonesia’s history.
The phenomenon also often leads to heavier rainfall in the eastern Pacific and South American nations, raising the spectre of floods and landslides.
WMO linked this year’s El Nino to the “very active tropical cyclone season” in the Pacific, including the record-breaking Hurricane Patricia that hit Mexico last month.
The UN meanwhile warned last week that El Nino could significantly increase the number of people going hungry, as countries like Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti are expected to see drier conditions, and others, including Kenya, Somalia and Uganda are at risk of floods.
While El Nino will certainly have severe impacts in many parts, Jarraud said the world was far better prepared for the event than in the past.
“The level of international, national and local mobilisation is truly unprecedented,” he said, pointing out that a wide range of disaster management campaigns were expected to “save lives and minimise economic damage and disruption.”
But while scientific understanding of the phenomenon has increased, Jarraud warned that due to climate change it could be “playing out in uncharted territory”.
While scientists say climate patterns like El Nino are not caused by climate change, rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming is believed to impact their intensity and frequency.
CHOKING AIR, MELTING GLACIERS: HOW GLOBAL WARMING IS CHANGING INDIA
The Express Tribune: November 17, 2015
NEW DELHI: Its Himalayan glaciers are melting fast, its agricultural heartland is drying up and its capital is choking on the world’s filthiest air.
Yet India’s government is one of the few major economies refusing to pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of this month’s major climate conference in Paris.
Global warming is already changing the face of rapidly developing India, a nation forecast to become the world’s most populous, overtaking China, in less than a decade.
“No one has done less to contribute to global warming than India and Africa. No one can be more conscious of climate change than Indians and Africans,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a recent Delhi summit.
In the Himalayas of Kashmir, scientist Shakil Ahmad Romshoo fears for the future of the pristine region which relies heavily on its more than 100 glaciers for water.
At least two major ones have disappeared completely in the last 50 years, while those in a key basin have shrunk by more than 27 per cent over the same period, Romshoo’s studies show.
“The impact of climate change in Kashmir is loud and clear. We have noticed a significant decline in stream flow from the glaciers,” the glaciologist, from the University of Kashmir, told AFP.
In villages nestled in the foothills downstream, less water flowing into rivers and ponds has forced farmers to completely change their way of life.
Instead of rice paddies dotting the landscape, farmers have switched to growing apples which use less water, raising concerns about a drop in India’s grain supplies.
As snow melts faster on the peaks from warmer temperatures, farmers, who have stuck with traditional crops, have been thrown into turmoil.
“All the snow melt on the mountains now melts away by April when we actually start needing it for agriculture,” said Haji Mohammad Rajab Dar in Chandigam village.
“I used to get 230 to 260 sacks of rice from my fields. It is reduced to just 90 this year,” the 70-year-old said, explaining that his land is not conducive to growing apples. “So we are ruined and turning into beggars slowly.”
India’s landscapes are changing — from the melt in the Himalayas, to the increasingly arid farm belts in the middle and the stunning coasts where fishermen talk of rising, warmer seas eroding their shores.
“Changes in sea level and temperature have affected our livelihood. Over the last decade, the amount of fish caught has reduced by 40 per cent,” said Ayub Hajji whose family has been fishing off Gujarat’s coast for generations.
India says developed countries are mostly to blame for climate change, and heaping demands on developing nations to cut emissions is both unfair and hypocritical.
Authorities insist they must focus on meeting the growing needs of its 1.25 billion people, 300 million of whom lack access to electricity.
In its action plan for the Paris COP21 meet, India pledges to reduce its carbon intensity — a measure of a country’s emissions relative to its economic output — by 35 per cent by 2030, rather than an absolute cut in emissions.
Globally, India is the third largest carbon-emitting country — though its per capita emissions are only one third of the international average — according to the World Resources Institute.
While the government has an ambitious programme to ramp its use of renewables, including solar energy, it has also vowed to continue expanding its use of coal.
It plans to double coal production to one billion tonnes by 2020 — saying it was vital to meet the needs of its burgeoning economy, which grew seven per cent last quarter.
But the increasing emissions are taking their toll on health, with Delhi now officially the world’s most polluted capital, a problem compounded by the steady rise in car ownership.
At one of Delhi’s leading chest hospitals, Dr Manu Madan said the corridors are full of patients suffering asthma and other ailments linked to the dirty air. “We see more than 600 patients a day in the out-patients department,” said Madan, who normally skips lunch to try to keep the queues down.
Madan said his team from the Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute are bracing for winter, when heavy cloud cover traps the pollution. “Children suffer the most because of less immunity. At least two to three months during the winter are the worst. In many cases, we recommend they move out of Delhi.”
In the fields of western Maharashtra state, large numbers of farmers are reeling from erratic rains which experts suspect are linked to climate change.
Sudden heavy downpours followed by weeks of no rain at all are accelerating topsoil erosion and leading to less fertile and even barren fields, said Shantaram Sakore, director of a local farmers’ NGO.
With no access to irrigation and heavily reliant on the annual monsoon, farmers are increasingly competing to dig deeper borewells to tap groundwater to cope with drought. “Collectively they have depleted the ground water level substantially,” said Sakore, calling for more education on climate change.
Rice farmer Narayan Nipurte, from Thane district north of Mumbai, knows little of the complexities of global warming. But he understands the drier monsoons are making it more difficult to feed his family. “There will be some seasons when there is no rain, so what do you do?” Nipurte asked.
CLIMATE CHANGE SHOCKWAVE
The Express Tribune, November 21th, 2015.
Syed Mohammad Ali
Global consensus concerning the dangers of climate change is growing. Moreover, the pace of climate change is faster than earlier expected, and the magnitude of the risks and costs associated with climate-related disasters is also graver. The richer industrialised countries around the world have contributed most to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. While emerging economies like China have also become major polluters, the adverse impacts of climate change are being felt in poorer countries as well, even though they have not significantly contributed to this global problem. Small island countries, sub-Saharan Africa, and also Pakistan have already begun experiencing the brunt of climate change over the past decade.
Pakistan has already witnessed major human casualties, besides infrastructure damage, and loss of livestock and livelihoods due to recurrent, severe flooding. In the last five years, Pakistan has sustained over $14.5 billion losses due to floods and other natural disasters, according to official statistics. This past summer, over a thousand people died due to a severe heatwave in Karachi. The severity and frequency of droughts is also increasing. The poor are hit the hardest by these climate-instigated disasters. Yet, they often have the least resilience to cope with disasters, and are also bypassed by relief efforts.
A World Bank report estimates that in a high-impact scenario, climate change could reduce the income of the bottom 40 per cent of the population by more than eight per cent over the next 15 years. Nearly 62 million more people in South Asia alone could fall into extreme poverty by 2030. Such a scenario would wreak havoc on the lives of the already deprived masses within countries like our own. Increased food prices and crop losses would worsen the existing levels of malnutrition. More infrastructure damage would worsen already dismal health and literacy outcomes, and further reduce scant livelihood opportunities, and make economic growth even more sluggish.
Given this situation, there is a need to prepare more comprehensive plans of action to deal with climate change. Despite the latest carnage in Paris, France is to go ahead with its plans to host a global climate change summit later this month. This summit is very important since it expects countries to submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to address climate change, besides securing increased pledges of international financial support to help developing countries build low-carbon and climate-resilient societies. According to a draft of the INDCs prepared by the Ministry of Climate Change some months ago, Pakistan was supposed to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent on its own, and aim for a further five per cent reduction financed through external support. However, more recent developments suggest that Pakistan may backtrack on this resolve and instead reiterate a generic commitment to the global cause of combating climate change, based on international financial and technological assistance.
It is true that Pakistan has certainly not reached a point of peak carbon omissions, given that our current share of global carbon output is estimated to be only 0.8 per cent. However, we are ranked amongst 10 countries worst-affected by climate change. Instead of relying on international assistance to address climate change, we need to take a more assertive stance, particularly to build the resilience of the already vulnerable segments of society.
The list of things we need to do differently in order to ensure that our poor citizenry is able to better cope with the varied implications of climate change is long. We should aim to curb the rampant environmental degradation and pollution within our midst, which may not be a significant contributor to global warming, but which is causing more misery in the lives of people who do not have the luxury of drinking bottled water, or living in areas not surrounded by hazardous wastes. Instead of patronising large landowners and the corporate farming of cash crops, we need to focus on supporting smaller farmers and providing them with the knowhow and support to grow climate-resilient crops. Social safety nets must become more effective, and more must be invested in addressing the basic needs of the poor.
CARBON CAPTURE: KEY GREEN TECHNOLOGY SHACKLED BY COSTS
The News,22 November, 2015
By Joshua Melvin
Paris (AFP) – Every credible plan to save humanity from global warming reserves a key role for a green energy technology called carbon capture and storage.
But there’s a problem: no one has figured out a viable way to pay for it.
Usually just called CCS, the technology can take carbon dioxide — the dominant greenhouse gas — from major pollution sources like power plants or steel mills and pump it deep underground, out of harm’s way.
CCS is crucial to many scenarios — including from the United Nation’s climate science panel — for keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), considered the redline for catastrophic climate impacts.
But despite decades of testing, only a handful of the projects are actually in service.
One of the main reasons, experts say, is a very hefty price tag that has kept nervous investors at bay.
“There are 22 large-scale (CCS) operations in the world,” said Isabelle Czernichowski-Lauriol, president emeritus of CO2GeoNet, a European research network.
“We need to have over 1,000,” she told AFP.
“There has been a delay in regards to what was expected, but it has mostly been due to the lack of an economic model.”
Catching, transporting and storing just a fraction of the world’s carbon emissions would require the construction of a massive new industry.
CCS works by compressing a gas, CO2, into a liquid form and pumping it into the ground.
Scientist and analyst Vaclav Smil, a respected voice on environmental and energy matters, has calculated that a CCS infrastructure — to capture and store 20 percent of the world’s CO2 from burning fossil fuels — would need a capacity 70 percent larger than the petroleum flow handled by the global crude oil industry.
The scale of effort needed for any substantial reduction of emissions and the operating costs “combine to guarantee very slow progress,” he wrote.
At the moment, Canada’s Boundary Dam power station in Saskatchewan is the world’s only commercial-scale coal-fired power plant that uses carbon capture to keep its emissions out of the air.
It is designed to grab 90 percent of the plant’s CO2 gases — the equivalent of the pollution from 250,000 cars — which are then sold and pumped to nearby facilities for use in squeezing oil out of the ground.
Sale of the gas provides extra revenue for the station, which cost 1.5 billion Canadian dollars (one billion euros) to build. About a sixth came from government subsidies.
“Cost is one of the main barriers to CCS,” said Samuela Bassi, a policy analyst at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Building these plants is expensive.”
Adding carbon capture technology to coal-fired power plants pushes up their cost by 40-80 percent, and by up to 50 percent for natural gas-burning stations.
One reason carbon capture is so expensive is the technology is relatively new as a climate change solution — about a decade old — and some of the projects are one-of-a-kind.
A developing technology without a proven, viable business model is also seen as risky by investors, driving up the cost of borrowing money, analysts said.
Further handicapping CCS, a lot of government subsidies — and regulatory support — are going to competing technologies such as wind and solar.
“For CCS you don’t yet have this type of system in place, except in the UK,” said Bassi. “But in the rest of the world you don’t have that kind of economic support.”
Analysts say the cost of CCS-equipped power plants will come down significantly as more projects get built and the technology is refined.
However, just two carbon capture-equipped, industrial-scale power plants — both in the United States — are due to come online next year, and there are a dearth of big projects on the drawing board.
There are 22 large-scale CCS projects that are either in operation or are slated to be up and running by 2017.
Another 23 big projects currently in various stages of development are “maybes”, according to a spokesman for the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, an industry group.
That total number of industrial-scale projects — 45 — is an 18-percent decrease over the 55 listed in the institute’s 2014 report.
EU targets have called for the equivalent of 11 large-scale, CCS-equipped power plants by 2030, which would cost up to 35 billion euros ($40 billion), according to the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
So far 1.3 billion euros in public funds have been, or are being, spent on developing these projects.
ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION: ‘PAKISTAN HIGHLY VULNERABLE TO CLIMATE CHANGE’
The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2015.
LAHORE: “Pakistan is grappling with a number of environmental issues such as floods, glacial lake outburst floods, tropical cyclones, heat waves, shifting rainfall and river flow patterns, declining groundwater levels, droughts, expanding desertification, aridity and sea-level rise,” WWF-Pakistan Senior Director Ejaz Ahmad said on Monday.
He was addressing a press conference that the WWF-Pakistan and the French embassy in Pakistan had organised to launch Pakistan se Paris – On the road to 2015 Paris Climate Conference. The forum will be held at Alhamra Arts Council on October 13 and 14.
Ahmad said the forum Pakistan se Paris, a precursor to the actual event in December 2015, was a call for the government to submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions so that Pakistan could highlight its condition as a climate affected country and seek funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
In a statement, the WWF-Pakistan said the Paris Climate Conference was significant for Pakistan as the country was one of the most vulnerable to climate change. Since the past few years, the country is facing the deadliest impacts of climate change in form of floods, cloud bursts, droughts, cyclones, sea intrusion and heat waves. From the 2012 floods alone, Pakistan has faced a loss of $6 billion, equivalent to one per cent of its GDP, the statement said.
“The forum in Lahore is conceived as a prelude to the Pakistani participation at the international conference. The forum is an opportunity for the Pakistani government, NGOs and related institutions to come together, discuss and share with the public the challenges posed by climate change in the country and the existing and future solutions to tackle it.”
French Embassy Political Counsellor Nathalie Dupont, French Embassy’s Olivier Huynh Van, lawyer Parvez Hassan, Centre for Climate Research and Development’s (CCRD) Rina Saeed Khan, Taimoor Sohail also from the CCRD, Aisha Khan from the Mountain and Glacier Protection Organisation, International Union for Conservation of Nature-Pakistan director general Mahmood Akhtar Cheema and Ali Tauqeer Sheikh from LEAD Pakistan also spoke on the occasion
THE CLIMATE COP OUT
The News,October 13, 2015
This is how the war against climate change has progressed thus far: it began in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when an international treaty framed by the United Nations – the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – was introduced to the world in an effort to combat dangerous climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions.
The treaty was put into force in 1994, with 192 parties ratifying its objectives of creating a set of shared yet differentiated responsibilities for developed and developing countries. The former would drive the climate change war by setting positive examples of emissions reductions, and would provide finance and technology to developing countries to enable them to mimic these demonstrated achievements; and the latter would ensure utilisation of funds and technology to embark on effective programmes of poverty eradication and economic and social development.
A few years later, in 1997, under the auspices of the Kyoto Protocol, the first legally binding targets for developed nations were introduced, including monitoring and verification mechanisms and an obligation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. A total of 189 countries signed on except the US, which in effect meant that Kyoto was a failure that would resonate significantly till COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009. Between Kyoto and COP-15 came the Bali Action Plan in 2007, which aimed to bring the US to the climate change negotiating table and set new targets for existing ‘Kyoto protocol countries’ to reduce emissions and take structural and strategic mitigation and adaptation measures, devise schemes for technology transfer to developing countries and provide the funding that would realise the nationally appropriate mitigation actions expected of developing countries.
COP-15 was a cop out, with the US manipulating the media and strong-arming the conference to ensure an outcome that would promote the status quo – the climate change debate continuing along informal lines with a zero accountability obligation for the US. A weak agreement was thus birthed at COP-15, with no real future for an effective global climate change agreement in sight. Then, in 2011, at the UN Climate Conference in Durban a new climate treaty was pledged for 2015, one that would come into legal force in 2020 and would, in addition to the developed western nations, also secure commitments from India, China and Brazil to reduce emissions.
And that’s the buzz now, as we speed through the remaining three months of 2015 and head into COP-21 in December, where more than 190 countries will meet to make history, by signing a blue print for a safer, sustainable and greener planet for generations to come. And Paris, in December, is also precisely where the waters of the climate change debate will be ever murkier to navigate through. Here are a few reasons why: the developed countries, in particular the US and Canada and much of Western Europe and Russia simply cannot imagine a world where there will be checks and balances on their individual technological and industrial goals.
If the past three decades provide anything, it is foremost a damning testimony of the greed of the developed world. For in these three decades these most advanced nations have continued to consume ever escalating amounts of energy and food and water and natural resources, with a complementary increase in greenhouse emissions, deforestation, fresh and sea water pollution, soil degradation and declining biodiversity. And the brunt of the negative impact of this permanent damage has been felt primarily in the developing world.
So while climatespeak now makes continuous references to a ‘green tomorrow’, the giants of modern industry work to ensure that, while ‘green’ will always mean more efficiency with less damage and more innovations in industry and maybe even more equity in resource consumption, it must never mean less. And so the climate change debate is set to follow a particular course: developed nations will push the agenda for the world to utilise cleaner energy and devise sustainable, environmentally friendly industrial technology and obtain more carbon credits, for each acre of rainforest destroyed or every ton of carbon dioxide pumped out by North American and European factories.
In the meanwhile the profit-maximising global ‘big industry’ will simultaneously, quietly and smugly, continue to whet its insatiable appetite for ever increasing quantities of fossil fuels – shale oil in the US and the mining of tar sands in Canada being obvious examples – not to mention the increased consumption of water and wood and land and food, to service the highly energy dependent post-industrial lifestyles of its consumers.
Paradoxically, another hurdle towards a global, legally binding agreement for climate change will come from the developing world, convinced as it is that the only desirable future is one carefully and precisely benchmarked to the progress and the current living standards of, the industrialised west. For countries such as India and China and even Pakistan, who do not have a historical charge sheet against them for polluting the earth’s ecosystem, there will be little incentive to halt development on the directions of, on this count, the guiltier members of the developed world. On the contrary these and other developing countries will demand more tangible commitments from the west – in the form of funding and technology transfer and emission reduction pledges – before they make their own; and they will only make commitments that pose zero risk of compromise in their development goals.
There is hope yet that Paris may result in a tangible step forward, with the US also assuming responsibility for its role in climate change, like the other members of the Kyoto protocol. But the chances are slimmer for there being real debate or focus on reducing resource consumption, or exploring possibilities of limiting, if not altogether halting, the extraction of fossil fuels, or considering the enforcement of lifestyle changes in wealthier nations that may mean the consumption of less meat and wheat and industrial comforts per person.
For Pakistan, this week’s conference, a local prelude to COP-21 titled ‘Pakistan sey Paris – On the road to 2015 Paris Conference’ will give government representatives, international and national NGOs and other members of civil society a chance to deliberate on what they intend to take to, and get back from, Paris. Pakistan is one of the countries that are most vulnerable to dangerous climate change: the bulk of its population lives in locales that are constantly under threat from droughts and flooding and in each year in the last decade, the effects of global warming have caused immeasurable financial, development and infrastructural losses.
We need a strategy to safeguard against the roll-back of our development endeavours from the effects of climate change and we need to negotiate a mechanism of support from the west that respects our own requirements for economic and industrial development. What our heads of state, however, also need to guard against is conceiving a strategy and mechanism that eventually becomes mired in red tape and corruption, or is tantamount only to the kind of posturing that ensures that any hope of salvaging a truly sustainable, equitable and energy efficient future for Pakistan is stillborn.
BEYOND CLIMATE FINANCE
The News, October 13, 2015
Climate change is the preeminent challenge of our time. We need financing to mitigate and adapt to its impacts. Climate change cuts across most of the new Sustainable Development Goals which were agreed by global leaders in New York in September.
Indeed, action on the global climate is essential to attain other development goals, such as poverty elimination, water and food security, and sustainable economic growth. We are also expecting that in December a new global climate agreement will be finalised at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced last month that it will double its annual climate financing to $6 billion by 2020 – taking it to around 30 percent of our overall financing. This commitment reflects the importance of addressing climate change in Asia and the Pacific, where rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and weather extremes like floods, droughts, and tropical storms are damaging livelihoods and taking too many lives.
This announcement by ADB comes against the backdrop of a pledge by developed countries to mobilize $100 billion a year from 2020 to combat climate change in developing countries. ADB’s doubling of climate finance reflects its strategic priorities as well as the increase of overall financing capacity by up to 50 percent due to a more efficient use of its balance sheet.
But finance alone is not enough to meet huge challenges. It is imperative that we combine increased finance with smarter technology, stronger partnerships and deeper knowledge.
Technology: The Asia-Pacific region currently generates 37 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This will rise without aggressive interventions including a shift to cleaner technologies such as solar, wind, and geothermal, and to sustainable transport and smarter, greener cities. Similarly, adaptation technology solutions such as advanced drainage systems, heat-tolerant road surfacing, or better irrigation – can help safeguard communities from climate impacts.
This is already happening in places like Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, where an ADB-supported geothermal power project will enhance energy security and offer a blueprint for the next generation of geothermal plants. In the Maldives, one of the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, innovative hybrid solar systems being built in 160 of 192 inhabited islands will reduce greenhouse emissions, cut the cost of electricity and enhance energy security.
Such major initiatives require careful planning and deep knowledge of local conditions to ensure the best technologies are selected and applied. This is why ADB will adjust its procurement systems to integrate cleaner and more advanced technology into its projects.
Adequate regulatory and financial arrangements should also be in place to ensure the technologies are economically viable. Otherwise, countries with constrained budgets will almost certainly opt for cheaper, more polluting energy sources based on fossil fuels.
Partnerships: Strong partnerships are an essential component of a successful climate response because public budgets in developing countries are limited and government cannot do it alone.
The private sector can bring crucial financing, technology, and expertise to global efforts against climate change. But business is sometimes reluctant to get involved as climate relevant technologies can be regarded as risky.
Proper risk sharing can entice private sector financing, but this often only happens if the government takes an enabling role in a venture by providing equity or guarantees. Public-Private Partnerships, or PPPs, are one way of attracting private sector involvement in climate-friendly projects.
We need more initiatives like ADB-sponsored Asia Climate Partners, a $400 million joint venture that will make private equity investments in environment and climate friendly companies and transactions. It aims to invest in areas including renewable energy, clean technology, natural resource efficiency, water, agriculture, and forestry.
Knowledge: Finally, successful global action on climate change will depend on access to climate-relevant knowledge and information. This will require expanded partnerships between financing and knowledge institutions.
A model for future partnerships is the recently launched Climate Services for Resilient Development. It teams governments with multilateral development banks such as ADB, philanthropic institutions, and private sector companies to develop new tools, services, and approaches to boost the climate resilience of developing countries. This diverse partnership delivers a broad range of expertise through the involvement of institutions such as NASA, Google, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.
We have the ingenuity and the financial means to confront climate change. With the right technologies, partnerships, and knowledge, we can make real progress while there is still time.
The writer is president of the Asian Development Bank.
KNOWLEDGE REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE IN PAKISTAN APPALLING
The Express Tribune, October 15, 2015
LAHORE: Experts, academics, government officials and civil society activists discussed Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change on the second day of Pakistan sey Paris. The two major areas of concern discussed were the impact of climate change on the agriculture sector and water scarcity.
“Earlier, the optimal season for growing wheat used to be October. Now it has crossed mid-November,” University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) Vice Chancellor Iqrar Ahmed Khan observed while discussing the impact of changing weather patterns. Khan said two major changes had impacted crops’ growth cycle. He said these were a rise in temperature and the erratic behaviour of precipitation.
He stressed the need for agronomic diversity, since Pakistan’s agriculture sector largely focused on growing wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane. He said there was a need to look into new technology to conserve water. “We also need to grow crops that are more water efficient,” Khan said.
“Agriculture is amongst the first victims of rising carbon dioxide levels,” said, Food and Agriculture Organisation Country Director Patrick T Evans said. He said Pakistan’s efforts to address climate change could result in increased food insecurity. Evans linked the problem of climate change to growing population. “It is important to address the issue of population growth,” he said.
World Food Programme Deputy Country Director Stephen Gulling spoke about the need to create nationally-owned safety nets and programmes to address those particularly vulnerable to climate change. “We can no longer have a few organisations working on these issues. This requires strong leadership and partnership,” he said. Gulling said it was also crucial to look at ways of producing food that were resilient to climate change.
The impact of climate change on health was discussed by Nosheen Usman of the World Health Organisation and Heartlife president Sania Nishtar. Usman highlighted the relationship between rising temperatures and increasing outbreaks of diseases like malaria and dengue.
Speakers also pointed out that Pakistan’s response to climate change had been lacklustre. “Our strategies and plans are the best prototypes but they only exist on paper,” International Union for Conservation of Nature country representative Mahmood Akhter Cheema said. He said the rate of deforestation in the country was also high.
“The level of existing knowledge about climate change in Pakistan is appalling,” United Nations Development Programme Country Director Marc-Andre Franche said. Franche said while the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the Northern Areas was a great initiative, it would also increase truck movement that would lead to environmental degradation. He stressed the need to maintain a balance between development and the environment saying, “When it comes to developmental choices, Pakistan is still making choices of the ’50s and ’60s while the world happens to be in 2015,” Franche said.
He stressed the need to promote climate literacy saying it was not restricted to having more experts on the issue but also about enlightening government officials across the board. He said it was important to have officials who could think green when making decisions irrespective of their area of expertise.
World Meteorological Society Vice President Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry who also authored the National Climate Change Policy discussed its chief aims. He said it took into account the need to adapt and introduce smart climate solutions. Chaudhry also spoke about the forthcoming conference in Paris sounding hopeful of reaching a final deal. “The US-China and the US-India deals in this regard are very important,” he said.
TEN BIG ENERGY FIRMS VOW TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE
The News, October 18, 2015
PARIS: Ten of the world´s leading oil and gas companies vowed Friday to help fight climate change, notably by shifting towards cleaner natural gas, but their promise was dismissed by Greenpeace as a public relations ploy.
The initiative to limit climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions comes six weeks ahead of a critical summit in Paris to negotiate a global climate rescue pact. “We are committed to playing our part,” chief executives of the 10 companies in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative said in a joint statement, adding that they “recognise” the goal of limiting the global average temperature rise to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit).
The companies — BG Group, BP, Eni, Pemex, Reliance, Industries, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Statoil and Total — account for nearly a fifth of the world´s oil and natural gas production.
They said they had already reduced greenhouse gas emissions from their operations by 20 percent.
The oil and gas groups foresaw a shift towards relatively clean natural gas, promising to contribute to “increasing the share of gas in the global energy mix” without giving details.
They also outlined technical solutions including carbon capture and the elimination of “routine” flaring of natural gas, which oil groups have already promised to halt. Investment in gas, renewables and technologies such as carbon capture and storage systems, “will contribute greatly to reducing the cost and impact of climate change for future generations,” they said.
CLIMATE CHANGE — ADAPT OR DIE
The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.
The origins of the phrase ‘adapt or die’ are disputed, but one possibility is that it was first uttered by PW Botha who was prime minister of South Africa from 1978 to 1984. He was speaking in the context of apartheid, and the phrase has become part of the language of business and trade — and climate change. In that context, never has it been more apposite, and never more so when applied to Pakistan that is currently in rabbit-in-the headlights mode when it comes to worries about the weather. A moot of climatologists in Lahore on October 14 was unequivocal in setting out the challenges and deficiencies that Pakistan faces as climate change advances and its effects are ever more extreme.
The bottom line was spelt out by Marc-Andre Franche, the UNDP Country Director, who said, “The level of existing knowledge about climate change is appalling.” He was right. It is. He stressed the need to maintain a balance between development — citing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — and the environment which would inevitably be degraded by the huge increase in traffic this would bring. He went on to be scathing about the developmental choices that Pakistan was making, saying they were redolent of the 1950s and 1960s rather than 2015. ‘Climate literacy’ needs to be the new buzz-phrase though whether it will ever gain currency outside the halls of academia is an open question. There is no push to include climate literacy in the ramshackle national curriculum, and children remain as ignorant of climate change and its effects on their country as they were 30 years ago. Two areas of particular concern are water shortage and the effect of climate change on the agriculture sector that is the economy’s backbone. Temperatures have risen, and rainfall has become more erratic in frequency, location and fluctuations in levels of precipitation. In terms of an existential threat to the survival and integrity of the state, climate change presents a challenge far greater than that presented by terrorism or even the growth of an extremist society. Adapt or die is no cliche, it is the grimmest of realities.
CLIMATE CHANGE FANS GLOBAL SECURITY CRISIS, KERRY
The Express Tribune October 17, 2015
MILAN: US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Saturday that climate change was a threat to global security and has inflamed volatile situations from Europe’s migration crisis to the Syrian conflict.
“Climate change is perhaps the most significant threat to global food security today. Make no mistake: the implications here extend well beyond hunger,” he said just weeks before a key world climate conference in Paris.
“This isn’t only about food security; it’s about global security, period,” he said during a speech at Milan’s 2015 Expo.
Kerry said it was “not a coincidence that, immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced the worst drought on record”, sparking the migration of some 1.5 million people “that intensified the political unrest that was beginning to brew”.
“I’m not suggesting the crisis in Syria was caused by climate change, obviously, it wasn’t. It was caused by a brutal dictator who barrel bombed, starved, tortured, and gassed his own people.
“But the devastating drought clearly made a bad situation a whole lot worse,” he said.
He described climate change as “threat multiplier”.
“Even if it doesn’t ignite conflict, it has the ability to fan the flames and to make situations much more complicated for political leaders to deal with.”
Kerry cited the mass migration to Europe as an example of a crisis provoked partly by climate change — which he warned will get significantly worse if large parts of the world become uninhabitable due to global warming.
“Here in Europe, you’re in the middle of one of the worst refugee crises in decades.
“Unless the world meets the urgency of this moment, the horrific refugee situation we’re facing today will pale in comparison to the mass migrations that intense droughts, sea-level rise, and other impacts of climate change are likely to bring about,” he said.
Kerry’s call comes ahead of the UN’s COP21 conference in November which aims to secure a pact on greenhouse gases that would limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.
Read: Austria warns migration crisis could lead to use of force on borders
The White House has made tackling climate change a priority, despite stern opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress.
The last big push for a world climate deal was in Copenhagen in 2009. It nearly ended in a fiasco after rich and poor countries bickered over how to share the burden for addressing the problem.
FROM PAKISTAN TO PARIS
The Express Tribune, October 18, 2015
Rina Saeed Khan
With a little over a month to go before the decisive UN Climate Change Conference 2015 is held in Paris, the French embassy, with the help of various NGOs working for the environment in Pakistan, held a large climate forum in Lahore. It offered an “unprecedented opportunity to all Pakistani stakeholders to coordinate their action”. Pakistan already ranks amongst the top 10 countries in the world that are most affected by climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index. As the recent devastating floods in Chitral have demonstrated, Pakistan is now continuously suffering from monsoon flooding, along with the recession of glacial and snow reserves, heatwaves in urban centres and droughts. Meteorological expert Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudry explained at the forum, “Climate change is considered a threat multiplier that will aggravate all the other challenges the country is facing and will result in increased hunger, poverty and conflict”.
Endangered: ‘Climate change threatening languages’
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the French (their ambassador, HE Martine Dorance opened the forum in Lahore) and civil society organisations like LEAD-Pakistan, UNDP-Pakistan, WWF-Pakistan, IUCN and the Centre for Climate Research and Development (CCRD), which all worked voluntarily with the French embassy to put the forum together, the government of Pakistan still did not consider climate change enough of a priority to participate fully at the highest levels. While the event held at the Al Hamra was a success, drawing the participation of hundreds of students, civil society members, journalists and bringing together as Ambassador Kamal of CCRD put it, “the Pakistani climate coalition”, there were a few notable absences. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was invited to give the keynote address. However, he did not show up; neither did Tariq Fatemi, the special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs (he sent the Foreign Office spokesperson to read out his speech instead).
As Marc Andre Franche, the UNDP’s country director in Pakistan pointed out in his no-holds barred speech, “The chief minister of the Punjab who is seen each year during the floods wearing his rubber boots will continue to wear those boots in the near future unless there is a change of paradigm in the way we think about development in this country; we need to integrate climate change in every project, in every investment we make.” Pakistan’s ambitious National Climate Change Policy, which was prepared with the support of the UNDP by the Ministry of Climate Change and is, in fact, a compendium of climate-smart solutions has shown “thin results” as so far there has been no implementation of the policy.
Knowledge regarding climate change in Pakistan appalling Climate change is currently considered “the first big challenge for humanity” and Paris is where the world hopes to come up with a solution. Already as Ghulam Rasul, the head of Pakistan’s Meteorological Department pointed out at the forum, “The climate is changing faster than predicted by scientific models”. The global carbon budget has largely been consumed and the window of opportunity to find solutions is narrowing. Countries across the globe have committed to create a new international climate agreement by the conclusion of COP21 (as the Paris conference is called). In preparation, they have agreed to publicly outline what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
As Malik Amin Aslam, vice president of IUCN pointed out, “The INDCs are floor commitments for Paris rather than ceiling commitments”. Paris is where each country’s commitments (which will be synthesised into a document) will lay the basis for negotiations. Unfortunately, Pakistan failed to submit its INDCs on time; the deadline was October 1, 2015. The document was not approved by the prime minister in time, and in fact, it still has not been submitted. Other countries, like Turkey and India, managed to meet the deadline. Our government clearly needs to get its priorities in order.
OBAMA TRYING TO WIN BACKING ON CLIMATE
The News International, October 20, 2015
WASHINGTON: The White House on Monday redoubled efforts to enlist US companies in the fight against climate change, announcing dozens more back a global climate deal and pledge to curb emissions.
Ahead of a meeting between President Barack Obama and CEOs later on Monday, the White House said 81 companies had committed to concreate mitigation measures.
The companies include Google, Xerox and Intel, who will take measures like reducing water usage, purchasing renewable energy and adjusting their supply chains.
In July, a dozen firms ranging from Apple to General Motors to Goldman Sachs made similar pledges.
But with weeks to go before a major climate conference in Paris, the administration has enlisted dozens more in its cause.
We are going to keep working this, to try to raise the profile of the effort, to try to encourage additional companies to look at what they are doing and sign on between now and Paris,” said Brian Deese, one of Obama’s top environment advisers.
At the December climate summit, countries from around the world will try to forge rules aimed at limiting global temperature increases to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Obama has made action on climate change a priority and has rallied support for the December talks.
Facing stiff opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress, his administration has responded with a steady drumbeat of initiatives to advocate for measures to curb warming.
He has encouraged other nations, domestic voters, companies and state and local government to get engaged, in the hope of reframing the debate.
Todd Brady, global environmental director at Intel, said the administration’s drive has given companies the push needed to deepen already existing climate efforts.
“Our pledge is a combination of both actions that are continuing, and new steps,” he said.
“It has caused us to step back and take a look at the steps we are taking and say maybe we should be doing more.”
ELEVENTH-HOUR SCRAMBLE TO DRAW UP CLIMATE TALKS PLAN
Dawn, October 24th, 2015
BONN: UN diplomats scrambled on Friday to sew up a draft plan for tackling the urgent challenge of global warming, with just hours of negotiating time left ahead of a crucial summit in Paris.
On the closing day of technical talks in Bonn, which opened on Monday, rich and developing nations were still bickering about the fundamental planks of the pact which will determine the scale of greenhouse gas cuts, and who should foot the bill.
The Bonn round was meant to come up with a clear and concise blueprint for a 195-nation agreement to be inked at a Nov 30-Dec 11 conferences in Paris.
The document is intended as a framework for political compromises to be thrashed out at the level of ministers and heads of state.
But instead of line-by-line negotiations for a consensus text, climate envoys wound up spending most of the week arguing about procedure and protocol.
“Process-wise it’s a nightmare,” political analyst Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace Inter¬national said.
Representing the G77 group of more than 130 developing nations, South Africa’s climate negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko expressed the bloc’s “profound dissatisfaction” with the week’s work.
“G77 and China will not be sidelined,” she told a stocktaking session, just days after accusing rich nations of “apartheid” tactics and dropping developing nation demands from the draft.
Developing countries say rich nations must lead the way in slashing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, as they are responsible for historic pollution.
And they want assurances of financing to help them decarbonise their economies and shore up defences against impacts.
But industrialised nations balk at being saddled with a higher burden of responsibility, pointing the finger to emerging economies spewing carbon dioxide as they burn coal to power expanding populations and economies.
It is “unfortunate to see some countries reverting to very rigid and somewhat outdated rhetoric that divides the world in developed and developing countries,” said Elina Bardram, top climate negotiator for the European Commission.
The Paris pact would be the first to unite all the world’s nations in a single arena for climate action.But after more than two decades of negotiations, Bardram said, it still boils down to one fundamental disagreement: “How do you divide responsibilities between developed and developing countries?” As negotiators quarrelled, US scientists reported on Thursday that the first nine months of 2015 had been the warmest on record worldwide.
Voluntary national pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions have gone part of the way towards the UN goal of capping warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the mid-19th century benchmark. But how to fill the remaining “emissions gap” remains highly contentious.
ALLY, NOT A THREAT
Dawn, October 27th, 2015
THE joint statement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Barack Obama issued last week provides a good overview of the present and future trajectory of bilateral ties between the two ‘disenchanted allies’.
It is a long statement covering a wide range of issues. There are several instances where the word ‘terror’ has been used and Afghanistan is mentioned far more than India. Like most diplomatic documents the text is tedious and lacks the hyperbole our media pundits would have preferred. Officials from both sides would have spent many hours working on every word to make it acceptable to both sides.
The statement can be divided into two. The first part deals with socio-economic issues, the second with defence and security. The first part focuses on trade, investment, education, health, environment and civil society. Issues such as defence cooperation, N-weapons and cyber security are included in the defence section and counterterrorism section. The document gives some idea about points of convergence and divergence. And, going by the draft, Pak-US relations are likely to see more cooperation and less confrontation in the near future. This is a good omen for Pakistan and the region.
Is there any big takeaway for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif? Yes — the reaffirmation that “a mutual commitment to democracy is a key pillar of the US-Pakistan partnership”. Not that Washington decides who gets to rule in Islamabad but this puts a damper on forces that may be entertaining extra-constitutional means to boot out Sharif. And what did the US achieve from Sharif’s stay? A pledge from Pakistan that it will not allow its territory to be used against any other country and an official commitment from Islamabad to act against outfits like Laskhar-e-Taiba. In areas of economic cooperation, environment, health, and energy, the joint statement is lean on substance. Reasserting general principles such as the need to expand trade, the officials would have had little difficulty in preparing a draft acceptable to their respective leadership.
In education, the news is more concrete. Joint funding will double for research grants in science and technology. For basic education, the US will fund initiatives to educate 200,000 girls. Much to the chagrin of Chaudhry Nisar Ali, the prime minister pledged that policies governing INGOs will be transparent, consistent and follow international norms. This will assuage some concerns of INGOs in Pakistan.
The section on counterterrorism and defence is where the points of convergence and divergence between the two countries’ perspectives become obvious. Defence cooperation has to take place in the backdrop of America’s concern with militancy and terrorism. To the dismay of Pakistan-bashers in the US, the Obama administration considers Pakistan a “partner” and recognises “the sacrifices that Pakistani civilian, military, and law enforcement have made … as they confront terrorism and militant groups”.
On Afghanistan, both countries called on the Afghan “Taliban leaders to enter into direct talks with Kabul”. While the US appreciated Islamabad’s efforts to organise the first round of talks between the Taliban and Kabul, Sharif assured Obama that “Pakistan’s territory will not be used against any other country”. This is a positive reaffirmation and every effort should be made to prevent assorted militants from using Pakistan to carry out acts of violence abroad. Such actions undermine our global credibility and bring little by way of furthering national interests.
On India, the language of the joint statement is quite instructive. The Americans have not, as many in New Delhi’s South Block would have wanted, accepted the Indian reading of affairs as the whole truth. Washington has acted in a measured way; it has stressed finding mutually agreeable solutions to outstanding issues between India and Pakistan. But the pressure is there for Pakistan to take action against LeT and its affiliates.
On nuclear matters, the statement traverses safe ground by emphasising the need for strategic stability in the region. Interestingly, the statement says the two leaders “discussed the continuing threat of nuclear terrorism”. This statement when denuded of diplomatic niceties conveys the following: Pakistan’s security establishment has been planting news of the primacy of full-spectrum deterrence over any possible compromise along the lines of the India-US civilian nuclear deal. The American side appears to have conveyed to Pakistanis that Islamabad’s track record on proliferation and possible lapses in ensuring the security of nuclear weapons is such that the main conc
ern is to address the “threat of nuclear terrorism” and there is no nuclear deal in offing.
Overall, Nawaz Sharif can be content with the document and can safely tell his detractors that he managed to convince the US to publicly acknowledge that Pakistan was a “partner” and not an adversary.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2015
TARIQ WASEEM GHAZI | A.K. SINGH
THE prime ministers of Pakistan and India are earning praise for their commitment to phase down the greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, under the Montreal Protocol. This will provide what may be the single biggest and fastest climate mitigation available to the world in the near term, stopping the equivalent of 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide from polluting the atmosphere by 2050, and avoiding up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100.
But the real praise will be due when India and Pakistan have ensured the final approval for the HFC amendment at the meeting of the parties next week in Dubai.
As former senior military officers in Pakistan and India, we consider climate change and its accelerating impacts to present an imminent threat to global peace and security that requires immediate action. To this end, we are principal participants in the Global Military Advisory Council for Climate Change (GMACCC), a group comprised largely of former senior military officers dedicated to understanding and reducing the security threat presented by climate change, which has escalated from a ‘threat multiplier’ that exacerbates security threats, to a direct cause of resource conflicts in countries with weak capacities and governance challenges.
The security threats are driven by record heatwaves, droughts, floods, extreme storms, and rising sea levels, as well as shifting monsoons. Warming in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush-Karakorum region, the origin of all our important rivers, threatens to destroy the snow and ice fields that store water for delivery year-round, magnifying the already severe water shortages.
The cumulative impacts on food and water security are already eroding social stability, leading to internal displacements. A growing stream of climate refugees will dwarf the current crisis and place additional burdens on our national security systems.
Fast action is needed to cut HFCs to counter the double-barrelled assault of self-amplifying climate feedbacks, starting with mitigating the melting Arctic sea ice. The shrinking ice shield is reflecting less heat back into space, and causing more to be absorbed by the exposed ocean. This has added a quarter as much global warming since 1979 as carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas causing at least half of all warming.
Prof V. Ramanathan at the University of California, San Diego, calculates that cutting HFCs and other short-lived climate pollutants, including black carbon soot, tropospheric ozone, and methane, can slow warming by 0.6°C by 2050, compared to cuts to carbon dioxide, which also must be done, but which would slow warming by only 0.1°C.
Ramanathan and colleagues also calculate that reducing short-lived climate pollutants can slow warming by 1.5°C by the end of the century, compared to cutting carbon dioxide, which slows warming by 1.1°C. While these numbers may seem small, the goal is to limit warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. We note with growing concern that major polluters in the past have already added enough emissions to warm the world by almost half that much, so there’s little room left to manoeuvre.
It is important to recall that in 1990 at the London meeting of the Montreal parties, Southeast Asia led the effort to ensure that developed countries would cover the incremental costs for all developing countries during their transition to environmentally-fri¬endly refrigerants. The resulting multi¬lateral fund has since provided more than $3 billion in funding.
The parties agreed in 2007 to provide a further 25pc bonus above the incremental costs to promote additional environmental benefits, inclu¬ding energy efficiency of air conditioners and other equipment and appliances using refrigerants. Impro¬ving the efficiency of room air conditioners by a relatively modest 30pc, for example, can double the climate benefits of the HFC amendment.
This would save enough electricity to avoid building up to 2,500 medium-sized power plants worldwide by 2050, including up to 500 power plants in India and up to 40 in Pakistan. Consumers would benefit by paying lower electricity bills and avoiding the daily indignities of rolling blackouts and load-shedding that impact business, everyday activities, and quality of life. However, for these benefits to accrue quickly, more needs to be done to lower any upfront costs of substitution, including monopoly on technology availability and resources.
We urge our leaders, and negotiators and technocrats who have made the Montreal Pro¬tocol the most successful of the world’s environmental treaties, to continue their leadership and conclude the HFC amendment to mut¬ual satisfaction when the parties meet next month. The leaders can then bring this success to the Paris negotiations for a new UN climate treaty in December, as a model of multilateral success that is possible when an agreement is fair, equitable and just for all parties.
Retired Lt-Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi is a former defence secretary of Pakistan. Retired Air Marshal A.K. Singh is former C.-in-C. of the Indian Air Force. They are GMACCC members.
OZONE HOLE GROWS OVER ANTARCTICA, BUT NO CAUSE FOR ALARM: UN
Dawn, October 30th, 2015
GENEVA: The seasonal hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica has widened to near-record size, the United Nations said on Thursday, insisting though that efforts to save the earth’s protective shield were still working.
The World Meteorological Organisation said colder-than-usual high altitude temperatures over the Antarctic combined with ozone-eating gases lingering in the atmosphere had stretched the ozone hole to an average of 26.9 million square kilometres over a 30-day period — covering an area larger than all of North America.
“This is the third largest observed after the record-breaking ozone holes in 2000 and 2006,” the UN’s climate and weather agency said in a statement.
The hole peaked on Oct 2, when it measured 28.2 million square kilometres, according to the measurements conducted by the US space agency Nasa.
INDIA’S MODI URGES ‘COMPREHENSIVE’ CLIMATE DEAL
NEW DELHI: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Thursday for a “comprehensive and concrete” agreement on climate change in December, as he addressed African leaders at a major summit in New Delhi.
Modi said no one had contributed less to global warming than India and Africa, warning that “the excess of (the) few cannot become the burden of many”.
He was speaking as world leaders prepare to meet in Paris in December to try to reach an agreement on tackling climate change, with the goal of capping warming at two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
“We are each making enormous efforts with our modest resources to combat climate change,” the Indian premier told delegates from all 54 African Union nations gathered in New Delhi.
“So, when the world meets in Paris in December, we look to see a comprehensive and concrete outcome that is based on the well established principles in the UN Convention on Climate Change.”
Modi also invited African nations to join an alliance of solar-rich countries that he plans to launch in Paris on November 30.
India has pledged to generate 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources within 15 years in an action plan submitted to the UN.
But India, which relies heavily on polluting coal, has rejected calls to curb its use, saying developed countries were mostly to blame for climate change.
Developing countries insist rich nations should lead the way in slashing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, arguing they started polluting earlier, and should bear a heavier duty for fixing the problem.
But industrialised nations balk at being saddled with a higher burden of responsibility.
Delayed for nearly a year due to the Ebola crisis, the approximately 1,000-delegate summit represents the highest number of foreign dignitaries to descend on India since 1983 and is thought to be the biggest ever overseas gathering of African leaders.
Modi will meet Thursday with leaders of countries including Angola, Ethiopia and Egypt after holding talks on Wednesday with leaders including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, the oil-rich nation key to India’s energy interests on the continent.
New Delhi has worked hard to showcase its commitment to the continent’s economic rise and historic friendship with African nations — with some thinly veiled jabs at China — as it vies for a greater share of its natural resources.
India’s economic presence in Africa is dwarfed by China, whose bilateral trade with the continent topped $200 billion last year — more than the GDP of the 30 smallest African economies combined.
Despite more than doubling since 2007 to $72 billion in the fiscal year 2014-15, India’s two-way trade with Africa is still comparatively small.
But it is gaining ground, dominated by the energy sector and led by private entrepreneurs.
Modi said Africa and India were “two bright spots of hope and opportunities in the global economy,” as he pledged $10 billion in concessional credit over the next five years to African nations.
“India is now a major source of business investments in Africa,” he said.
“Today, 34 African countries enjoy duty free access to the Indian market. African energy helps run the engine of the Indian economy; its resources are powering our industries; and, African prosperity offers growing market for Indian products.”
Africa primarily exports raw materials to India, including precious metals, gemstones and oil, which are then processed into goods such as cut diamonds or refined petroleum products.
STORMING THE BASTILLE
The News International, October 31, 2015
Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
World leaders will gather in Paris in just one month to hammer out a treaty to confront the global threat of climate change. It’s real, growing and, based on increasing scientific consensus, clearly caused by human activity. Since the dawn of the industrial age, humans have been dumping pollutants into the sky as if the atmosphere is a bottomless pit, able to absorb an infinite amount of our smoke and exhaust. These greenhouse gasses have been forming a blanket around the planet, trapping the heat of the sun.
The signs of the crisis are everywhere: 2015 is on course to be the hottest in recorded history. Hurricane Patricia plowed into Mexico last week as the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. It wasn’t only the power of Patricia, but the speed with which the hurricane formed, almost overnight transforming from a tropical storm.
In the Persian Gulf, scientists reported this week that “certain population centers … are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans owing to the consequences of increasing concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.” In other words, in cities like Doha in Qatar and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the daily high temperatures will simply be too hot for people to survive outside for more than a few hours at a time. In the polar regions, ice is melting at unprecedented rates, and the ocean is warming, causing the water to expand. Both phenomena are causing the sea level to rise, already impacting small island nations like Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Hundreds of millions of people will eventually have to flee the world’s coastal cities, scientists predict.
The goal is to limit average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit, over preindustrial temperatures. This will require global cooperation on an unprecedented scale, and the decarbonisation of the economy. In other words, people will have to stop using fossil fuels like coal and oil, and rely on renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The stakes are high for the Paris climate summit. Convened by the United Nations, the meeting is called by its shorthand name, COP21, for the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC. The process began at the ‘Rio Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, culminating in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
While that was a binding treaty, some countries refused to ratify it, most notably the world’s historically largest polluter, the United States. This time around, each nation will make voluntary pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, with no obvious way to enforce compliance.
How will the United States radically transform its economy and rid itself of internal-combustion engines, fracked gas and coal plants by 2050? Fossil-fuel industries exert enormous influence on every level of government in the U.S., making even incremental change almost impossible.
While world leaders will assemble for COP21 at Le Bourget, a sprawling convention centre in Paris, hundreds of thousands are expected in the streets. Protest organisers have called for global actions on November 28 and 29, demanding a fair, ambitious and binding agreement to confront, and ultimately reverse, the potential for catastrophic, human-induced climate change. If the leaders fail, many will be there to storm the Bastille.
The article originally appeared as: ‘Storming the Bastille at the Paris climate summit’.
UPSIDE OF ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE
Dawn November 2 2015
WILL the inter-governmental climate conference in Paris in December be a decisive turn in the world’s efforts to curb risks of catastrophic climate change? At present this is highly unlikely but not inconceivable. It will certainly not be enough of itself. But a combination of new technological opportunities and new approaches to a deal opens up fresh opportunities. The conference might mark the end of the beginning, the point at which serious efforts to change our trajectory begin.
In his book Why Are We Waiting?, Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Review on the economics of climate change, lays out the challenges and opportunities with clarity and passion.
He advances three propositions. First, humanity’s overriding goals for the 21st century should be the elimination of mass poverty and risk of catastrophic climate change. Second, these goals are complementary. Third, the case for early action is overwhelming, both because greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for centuries and be¬cause investments in energy, transport and urban infrastructure will lock in the carbon intensity of our economies.
These arguments rest on the view that climate risks are large and the costs of addressing them bearable. Doing nothing implies that risks are negligible. That position implies an absurd degree of certainty. On the costs, we will never know if we do not try. But the evidence is ever greater that what Professor Stern calls an ‘energy industrial revolution’ is within our grasp. If so, the long-run economic costs of addressing climate risk could be quite modest: maybe as little as the loss of one year’s growth of consumption by 2050.
Yet the path for emissions that is needed to deliver a 50pc chance of limiting the increase in temperature to 2C above pre-industrial levels is also radically different from that of the past. Hitherto, global emissions of carbon dioxide per head have risen, not fallen — despite all the global conferences — as the rapid growth of emerging economies, notably China, has swamped feeble efforts to curb emissions elsewhere. On anything like our present path the necessary declines in emissions will not occur. Humanity will have made an irreversible gamble on the chance that sceptics are, in fact, right.
Fortunately, new technological opportunities are opening up. Potential exists for a revolution in energy generation and storage, in energy savings, in transport, and in carbon capture and storage. Some call for the equivalent of the Apollo space programme of the 1960s, but for research and development in low-carbon energy. The opportunity is also in investment: choosing carbon-intensive technologies for energy, transport and urban infrastructure would lock in a perilous future. But to achieve the target, emissions per unit of output need to fall seven- or eight-fold by 2050. The challenge is daunting.
This revolution will not happen without state support. It would be helped by eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels, estimated by the International Monetary Fund at $5.3tn for 2015 (6.5pc of global output), with the inclusion of spillover effects, such as air pollution. This is three orders of magnitude larger than state spending on research and development in renewable energy.
The decision has now been made to sidestep the obstacles to reaching a binding global agreement that delivers a price of carbon. This makes sense. Reaching agreement on the allocation of tradeable pollution rights across border is impossible. Agreeing on a common tax rate is almost as difficult.
Furthermore, if countries are asked to make binding commitments, they will limit their promises to what they know they can deliver. Instead, countries are being encouraged to put forward ‘nationally determined contributions’. While these fall far short of what is needed, they are moving in the right direction, particularly now that China and the US are actively engaged.
Moreover, analysts are optimistic that, with the right push from governments, a virtuous cycle of technological innovation combined with reduced local pollution and other benefits might make the rapid adoption of low-carbon technologies and ways of living beneficial to national economies, without taking account of the impact on the climate. If so, reliance on national plans would make yet more sense. National plans are also more likely to overcome domestic vested interests if developed in parallel. But the need for rapid cross-border dissemination of innovation and for assistance to poorer countries in making investments in new energy and transport systems remains. Richer countries will have to contribute.
For those persuaded of the size and irreversible nature of the gamble humanity is taking with the climate, the news is both bad and good. The bad news is that the coming Paris conference will not deliver a credible path away from the potential disaster. At best, it will slow the pace at which we approach such a point. The good news is that in the longer term the relatively pragmatic approach now being adopted, combined with the likelihood of accelerating technological change, makes movement on to a path away from disaster more likely.
Whether this will in practice be enough to turn around the supertanker of global energy-related emissions in time is uncertain. But it is possible. It will also need a great deal more effort and determination in the coming decade. That effort must at least begin with the best possible agreement in Paris.
The writer is former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.
SPEAKERS CALL FOR GLOBAL RESPONSE
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2015.
ISLAMABAD: Speakers have said that stemming the tide of climate change was a collective responsibility that required a global response.
They were speaking at a public talk titled “Climate Change and International Security”, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) here on Monday.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who was the chief guest, said that the glacial melt has the potential to negatively impact availability of water. He mentioned the fact that the average temperature rise in Pakistan was also expected to be higher than the global average.
He said that stemming the tide of climate change was a collective undertaking that required a global response. He advocated that a new global climate agreement should be premised at the Paris climate conference on the principles of United Nations framework convention.
Aziz said that “we are fully committed to preventing any negative fallouts of climate change on our socio-economic wellbeing. The Vision “2025” of the government clearly recognizes global warming and climate change”.
Deputy Special Representative for the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) Philippe Lacoste quoted factors including rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions, costal degradations, glacial melt etc that were adversely impacting the climate. He said that defence forces must be ready for humanitarian relief. “Defence forces should also build disaster relief structures. Security forces also need to improve the conditions of harbours,” he said.
Lacoste said that Paris conference was not only about climate change but a step towards a better and a safe world.
ISSI Director General Masood Khan said that the main objective of the Paris conference will be to review the implementation of the ‘Rio Convention’ that was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 as the international response to climate change. He also mentioned that as a vulnerable country to climate change, Pakistan along with other developing countries will have work towards transition to a low carbon economy and climate resilient society.
Ministry of Climate Change Secretary Arif Ahmad Khan stressed the need for a shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources.
French Ambassador Martine Dorance mentioned that the Paris conference aims to reach a universal agreement that will limit the rise in the average global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. “There is real hope for success, but it is also an enormous task.”
THE EL NINO WINDOW
The News, November 04, 2015
After playing hide and seek with climate scientists for a year, the current El Niño is shaping up as the strongest since 1998 – when millions of people suffered hunger across Africa, Asia and central America – and might even eclipse it.
Climate experts predicted a monster El Niño in 2014, but the phenomenon did not set in as expected, even though that year was recorded as the hottest on record and sea surface temperatures remained unusually warm in the Central Pacific.
Conditions stayed ripe, however, for the build-up of El Niño in 2015 and in March the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) declared “the long-anticipated El Niño has finally arrived”.
Not only has El Niño arrived, it is here with heightened intensity, raising questions about its link to global warming and catastrophic weather.
Oxfam is warning that at least 10 million people are threatened with hunger globally because of failing crops attributed to El Niño, which will test our national coping mechanisms and Greenpeace’s response – to not only bear witness but also be part of the solution.
This El Niño is among the strongest on record approaching what should be the 2015-16 peak, with an approximate 95 percent chance of it extending into 2016 before gradually weakening in spring.
El Niño has exacerbated Indonesia’s dry season and the peatland and forest fires choking much of Southeast Asia in smoke. Greenpeace is demanding an end to deforestation and calling for forest friendly palm oil.
Mexico faced a different threat when Hurricane Patricia rapidly intensified to become the most intense hurricane ever recorded in either the eastern Pacific or entire North Atlantic basin. It exploded into life due to the unusually warm ocean waters that are driving the El Niño.
Typhoon Koppu dumped more than a metre of rain on the Philippines to swamp the country’s prime rice growing region, complicating El Niño disaster planning for the feared drought-induced harvest shortfalls.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia is co-ordinating a delivery of organic vegetable seeds and fertiliser to help farmers replant damaged crops, similar to our Typhoon Hagupit response.
In Australia, Greenpeace Australia Pacific is monitoring the Great Barrier Reef for potential massive coral bleaching from warmer ocean waters. Bleaching is one of the greatest long-term risks posed to the reef and why the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland must be abandoned to stop us cooking the climate.
The El Niño is a window into the future impacts of climate change and the potential human and natural disasters we can expect from it. We must improve the resilience of our global food and agriculture system and end the fossil fuel age.
The warnings are clear. One recent study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that the current rate of carbon emissions could mean twice as many extreme El Niños over the next 100 years.
El Niño is now occurring on top of, and interacting with, background conditions that have already been altered by long-term climate change.
While natural variability continues to play a key role in our weather systems, climate change has shifted the odds and changed the natural limits, increasing the probability that extreme weather will become more frequent and more intense.
This year’s El Niño is a reminder of what we don’t want and the need for strong emissions commitments at the UN climate talks in Paris. Now is the time to respond with everything we’ve got.
This article originally appeared as: ‘Climate change in the eyes of El Nino?’
THE G20’S SILENT STORM
The News International, November 07, 2015
Next week, the world leaders of the most powerful 20 countries will convene in closed-door meetings in the tiny Mediterranean resort town of Belek, Turkey, a short distance from the burgeoning city of Antalya. What kinds of protests will happen in the streets? Not a lot
But don’t be fooled. The G20 shouldn’t be ignored. Powerful storm clouds are gathering over the Mediterranean, as President Obama, Angela Merkel, Xi Jinping, Vladamir Putin, and other heads of state converge upon Turkey.
About half a million activists are expected to flood the streets of Paris for the COP21 Climate Summit. But the G20 Summit, happening just two weeks prior to the Paris meetings, seems to be drawing little interest from protesters. Global threat assessment agencies confirm that there are currently no public protests planned at all for the summit. Compare that to Paris, where a power club of environmental organizations like Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, and others are planning to hold one of the largest acts of civil disobedience that Europe has ever seen.
But there is something we’re missing here. If G20 leaders fail to commit funds to climate action, or fail to meaningfully address climate at all, the Paris meetings will be in jeopardy. The 20 countries in the G20 emit about 75 percent of all carbon emissions, so their actions will be critical in lowering world carbon emissions. These countries include the United States, Germany, Russia, China, and India, countries who often drive the agenda of large UN summits. If they say no dice, no dice. Some groups have applied pressure at G20 ministerial meetings this year, which is commendable, but we could go farther.
Climate finance has been one of the stumbling blocks in past climate summits, keeping poor countries from agreeing to lowering emissions unless funds can be made available for sustainable development. The G20 offers an important forum for reaching agreements on climate finance, and this year the Turkish forum hosts have made it an important part of the agenda.
“2015 will be a crucial year for the climate change negotiations as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is expected to render an agreement that will define the future of our efforts in this important field,” wrote the Turkish government in its Turkish G20 Presidency Priorities for 2015 document. “During Turkey’s Presidency, we will take up this issue with a particular focus on financing aspect and pay special attention to the needs of the [Low-Income Developing Countries].”
Last year, following the 2014 G20 meetings in Brisbane, Australia, President Obama announced that the United States would commit $3 billion to the UN Green Climate Fund. Japan contributed $1.5 billion.
The United States contribution to the Green Climate Fund “will help developing nations deal with climate change, reduce their carbon pollution and invest in clean energy,” said Obama.
But despite these hopeful signs, there is always the chance that climate funding could face further delays. If appropriate funds for sustainable development in poor countries are not committed before the Paris climate summit, poor countries may be somewhat reluctant to actually commit to reducing emissions. So let’s keep an eye on the G20’s climate funding discussions.
Another central concern in terms of G20 carbon emissions is a new physical infrastructure framework that the group has put forward. The infrastructure proposal would include $80 trillion in industrial infrastructure spending, but it is unclear whether environmentally sustainable approaches to development are part of the discussions. Such a massive project would significantly raise global carbon emissions, if undertaken without sustainable methods.
In March, an open letter signed by economist Herman Daly, activist Vandana Shiva, former Green Party presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, Greenpeace USA director Annie Leonard, Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle, and others urged the G20 to rethink the infrastructure proposal. The letter suggests that the G20 “discuss significant changes to the economic model,” educate themselves on planetary ecological boundaries, and shift toward ecologically sound infrastructure.
“Should the G20 facilitate the wrong path at its November meetings in Turkey this could nullify any gains made in Paris,” the letter warns.
Another issue is that Obama is expected to use the forum to build more global support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping trade deal that would take away our ability to enact environmental or labor protections, raise prescription drug prices, ship more jobs overseas, and give corporations even more power all signing countries, including the United States. Many groups in the United States, including a consensus of environmental groups and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, oppose the TPP.
The G20 is a forum of the ‘Group of 20’ countries, the 20 most important economies in the world, meeting at least once per year. Together they constitute about 60 percent of the world’s population and emit the lion’s share of global carbon emissions. Since its beginnings as an emergency response to economic crises, the G20 meeting agendas have widened to encompass a variety of issues, such as anti-corruption practice, food policy, financial transaction tax, youth employment, and especially expansion of economic growth.
The countries invited to the meetings are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The hosting of the forum rotates frequently between member countries.
I’ll be in the streets of Antalya, Turkey, looking for signs of dissent, of pressure, of something. In a country with a lot of recent turmoil, including the bombing of a peace protest in Ankara, it’s possible that people are reluctant to make a public stand. In addition, security barriers and checkpoints erected around Belek frustrate plans to be heard in the halls of power. But I’ll be there to witness whatever occurs.
I was present at the Pittsburgh G20 summit when a high-tech sound cannon device was employed right next to where I stood, to dispel the massive crowd, and I was tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets. I was in the fiery throngs at the Toronto G20, where I was violently arrested and thrown into detention with over a thousand others. I was at the Mexico G20 summit, where “YoSoy132” student activists joined labor unions, indigenous groups, womens groups and others, and flooded the streets. I’m not trying to sound like a “summit hopper,” but I do believe in the power of the people, especially in the face of authority
This G20 summit, however, comes at an important turning point. The G20 comes as the silent lightning before the thunderous storm of the Paris climate summit.
Next week, in a quiet resort town on the Turkish rim of the Mediterranean, some of the most important global players will be reaching agreements on climate issues, Pacific trade deals, infrastructure development, and more. This is a critical time for us to be paying attention.
AGRIBUSINESS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The News International, November 07, 2015
Climate science is shaking up the world as we know it. It is destabilising the establishment and threatening the interests of some of the most powerful financial groups. The facts regarding the key causes of climate change are also challenging many of our most favourite everyday assumptions and habits.
We now know that fossil fuel conglomerates have hidden information regarding the destructive impact of the fossil fuel industry on the climate. They also invested in false scientific information to deny that climate change is real and have used their power to suppress green energy alternatives.
Recently, Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn, the directors of the film Cowspiracy, have brought to global attention another well-kept ‘secret’. They expose the incredibly lucrative animal agriculture industry as the other key, if not the primary cause of climate change. We are also now learning about the manoeuvrings of animal agriculture lobbyists to keep this information hidden from public attention.
Animal agriculture is a leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions, water waste, water pollution, ocean dead zones, deforestation, habitat destruction and species extinction that each significantly impacts the climate. Additionally, the impact of the hormones, pesticides and antibiotics on the planet is devastating. A United Nations Environment Programme report emphasizes that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change.
From a human health perspective, many studies reveal that eating animal products is one of the leading causes of the health crises we face today. The well-known ‘China Study’, for instance, led by Cornell Professor Colin Campbell, shows that many chronic diseases are linked to the eating of animal products. More and more medical doctors are advocating plant based diets for healing paths as well as preventative medicine.
And then of course, beyond science and personal health there is the issue of compassion. The meat and dairy industry is a horrifically cruel one that sentences billions of sentient beings to lives and deaths of excruciating suffering. For those honest souls who dare to face the truth of what is on their plates, there are countless videos available on YouTube taken by undercover animal activists that reveal the range of atrocities involved in the production of the nicely packaged final food products.
Through whichever prism we choose to look, the reality of the animal agribusiness is gruesome and dangerous not only to the animals exploited for human gain, but for the people who consume these animal products, and for the planet and all its inhabitants. The evidence shows clearly that as an interconnected eco-system, all countries should be working together to divest from the meat and dairy industry and invest in organic, vegan plant-based nutrition and agriculture. So why don’t they? The main reason is that there is a lot of money invested in hiding the facts and maintaining the status quo.
In November 2015 the UN Climate Change Conference will take place in Paris. Global policy makers will be making decisions that will impact the future of the planet. Unfortunately those with vested interests will be working hard to protect and promote the animal agriculture business. The meat and dairy industries are financial giants. We can expect them to be lobbying hard, presenting scientific misinformation and offering vague long term strategies and goals in a language of compromise and legal loopholes to ensure the status quo is maintained for as long as possible. That is why we need to ensure that the animal agribusiness is urgently, honestly and comprehensively addressed at this landmark event.
This article originally appeared as: ‘For the love of animals… and planet’.
CLIMATE CHANGE HAS COST THE COUNTRY $20BN: REPORT
ISLAMABAD: The government estimates that Pakistan has, collectively, suffered losses to the tune of $20 billion due to the adverse and increasing effects of climate change.
In a detailed report submitted before the National Assembly on Friday, the government also accepted in so many words -that `Pakistan is among the countries which are most vulnerable to climate change, and has a very low technical and financial capacity to adapt to its adverse impacts`.
The more immediate and pressing task for the country was to adapt itself to this climate change, the government said.
In a written reply to a question put to the Ministry of Climate Change by PTPs Rai Hassan Nawaz Khan, the government stated that coastal and marine environment, dry land ecosystems, agriculture and livestock sector, forests, biodiversity and health were among the sectors that had been seriously affected by climate change.It noted that the phenomenon also posed a major threat to food, water and energy security in the country, since it induced the melting of glaciers, cyclonic storm surges, tropical diseases and epidemics, flash floods, droughts and variable monsoons, which had become `an inevitable reality for Pakistan over the past many years`.
However, the government`s lack of regard for the potentially devastating impact of increasingly erratic weather patterns is renectedinthefactthatsincethe resignation of former climate change minister Mushahidullah Khan in August, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has yet to find a suitable replacement for him.The senator was asked to resign following a controversial interview with the BBC, where he is said to have commented about the army`s alleged role in last year`s PTI sit-in.
The report stresses that only by devising and implementing appropriate adaptation measures can the country ensure its water, food and energy security and minimise the impact of natural disasters on human life, health and property.
Rai Hassan had also asked if the government had conducted any studies to determine the negative impacts of climate change, but the reply only referred to an assessment of the changing weather patterns of Islamabad.The assessment was carried out with the assistance of UN-Habitat, the Capital Development Authority and the ICT Administration and called the `Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of Islamabad`. Launched on World Environment Day, June 5, the study reveals that the capital and its surrounding territories were exposed to a host offactors that accelerated the impact of climate change, such as marked changes in the intensity, frequency and variability of temperature, precipitation, floods, droughts and other weather systems.
`The extreme weather events recorded so far in Islamabad include the highest maximumtemperature of 46.6 degrees Celsius on June 24, 2005, and lowest at -4.3 degrees on Dec 25, 1984. In 2001, the heaviest ever rainfall of 62.1mm was recorded over the course of 10 hours,` the report said.
The study proposed well thought-out interventions to make Islamabad a climate change-resilient city, but none of these has been implemented yet.
However, a number of cosmetic measures have been initiated in a bid to cope with the situation.
Realising the importance of the issue, government approved the National Climate Change Policy in 2012, but there has been no further progress on that front either.
WORLD IN ‘UNCHARTERED TERRITORY’ AS GREENHOUSE GASES HIT NEW HIGH: UN
November 9, 2015
GENEVA: Concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new high in 2014, the UN said on Monday, warning the resulting climate change was moving the world into “unchartered territory”.
In its annual report on Earth-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organisation said concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide once again broke records last year.
“We are moving into unchartered territory at a frightening speed,” WMO chief Michel Jarraud said in a statement.
The report came as country envoys on Monday gathered in Paris to iron out tough political questions ahead of a key summit tasked with sealing a climate rescue pact. “Every year we report a new record in greenhouse gas concentrations,” Jarraud said.
“Every year we say that the time is running out. We have to act now to slash greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have a chance to keep the increase in temperatures to manageable levels,” he warned.
His appeal comes just weeks before a Paris summit aimed at ensuring global warming is limited to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Jarraud said that CO2, by far the main culprit in global warming, can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the ocean even longer.
“Past, present and future emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification,” he said, stressing “the laws of physics are non-negotiable.”
WMO’s report, which does not measure emissions of greenhouse gases but rather their concentrations in the atmosphere, showed that CO2 had risen to 397.7 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere last year.
That was 143 per cent of levels prior to the year 1750, WMO said, adding that CO2 concentrations would likely pass the ominous 400-ppm threshold in 2016.
“We will soon be living with globally averaged CO2 levels above 400 parts per million as a permanent reality,” Jarraud said. “We can’t see CO2. It is an invisible threat, but a very real one,” he said.
“It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heat waves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans,” he said. Oceans swallow about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, while the biosphere sucks up another quarter.
The rising CO2 concentrations are especially worrying, WMO said, since the gas in turn hikes levels of water vapour — itself a powerful, albeit short-lived, greenhouse gas.
This is because warmer air holds more moisture, the UN agency said, cautioning that “further increases in CO2 concentrations will lead to disproportionately high increases in thermal energy and warming from water vapour.”
If CO2 concentrations were to double from their pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to 560 ppm, water vapour and clouds globally would hike global warming at three times the rate of so-called long-lived greenhouse gases, WMO said.
Monday’s report also showed that methane, the second most important long-lived greenhouse gas, reached a new record concentration of 1,833 ppm last year.
With 60 per cent of methane emissions attributed to human activities like cattle farming and landfills, hikes in such emissions have boosted concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere to 254 per cent of pre-1750 levels, WMO said.
Nitrous Oxide, whose impact on the climate is nearly 300 times greater than CO2 and which also destroys the ozone layer that protects from harmful ultraviolet rays, had an atmospheric concentration of 327.1 parts per billion last year, or 121 per cent of pre-industrial levels, WMO said.
The News International, November 10, 2015
African civil society organizations championing for climate justice have criticized the Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC’s) presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, calling them “weak, inadequate and not ambitious enough.”
At the previous UNFCCC negotiations, countries agreed to publicly outline climate actions they intend to take, geared towards mitigation and adaptation to the changing climatic conditions, in a pact that came to be known as Intended Nationally Determined Commitments.
But just weeks after the submission deadline, African civil society organizations feel that rich countries, which are responsible for global warming, are taking advantage of poor countries who are already suffering the effects of climate change.
According to a recent report titled Fair Shares: Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs, spearheaded by Oxfam International, PACJA and partners, there is a big gap between what it will take to avoid catastrophic climate change, and what countries have proposed so far.
The report points out that the ambitions of all major developed countries (in regard to their INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC) fall well short of their fair share, which include not only domestic action but also international financial contribution.
The assessment of fair shares used an ‘equity range’ taking into account historical responsibilities and considering countries’ contribution to climate change in terms of cumulative emissions since an agreed date. Also it took into account countries’ capacity to take climate actions using national income over what is needed to provide basic living standards, as the principal indicator.
According to the assessment, Russia’s INDC represents zero contribution towards its fair share. Japan’s INDC represents about one tenth of its fair share, while in the United States and the European Union, it represents about a fifth of their fair share.
A majority of developing countries have made mitigation pledges that exceed or broadly meet their fair share, but they also have mitigation potential that exceeds their pledges and fair share.
In less than one year, after President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the two major geothermal power plants with a total capacity of 280 megawatts, Kenya has become the world’s eighth largest supplier of geothermal energy with a total installed capacity of 585 megawatts. This represents five percent of the total global geothermal production, as rated by the World Geothermal Council.
According to Ed Pomfret, Oxfam’s Global Head of the GROW Campaign (aimed at fixing the global food system), the Paris Agreement will be judged on three main criteria.
First, there must be aggregation of INDCs and the willingness of governments to recognize the inadequacy and unfairness of collective and individual efforts.
There is also need for commitment to mechanisms in the new agreement to ensure that governments increase ambition in accordance with clear equity principles in the coming years. Pomfret said there needs to be the provision of significantly scaled-up finance, technology and capacity-building support for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and address loss and damage.
As African civil societies drum up ambitions, some governments have rejected notions of ‘fair shares,’ citing the uniqueness of their particular ‘national circumstances’ and their ‘right’ to determine their own level of climate ambitions.
But according to PACJA, “justice, fairness and equity at the forthcoming round of negotiations in Paris are not negotiable,” said Ogallah. “The current and the future generations’ survival highly depend on the outcome of these negotiations, they will never forgive us if at all we do not get it right,” he told IPS.
The civil society plan to mount pressure on developed countries during the Paris negotiations to ensure they take responsibility for their actions and account for historical injustices.
“We have no choice but to work towards saving the planet,” said Ogallah.
This article has been excerpted from ‘‘Equity and justice’: Africa demands more input to save the climate’.
CLIMATE CHANGE TO FORCE 100M MORE TO EXTREME POVERTY: WB
Dawn, November 10th, 2015
WASHINGTON: Climate change could force an additional 100 million people around the world to live in extreme poverty by 2030, warns a new World Bank report.
In Pakistan, climate change can reduce the income of the bottom 40 per cent by more than 8 per cent, the report warns.
It shows how this change makes it more difficult to produce crops and the resulting reduction in crops pushes food prices up, which then leads to big increases in extreme poverty in most countries.
The severity of poverty impacts will vary among countries — with Pakistan, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, and Yemen among the worst hit.
In describing how a natural disasters affect the poor more than it does the prosperous sections of the society, the report notes that the 2010 floods in Pakistan destroyed 2.1 million hectares of agricultural land, decimating production and sending prices of wheat upward of 50 pc above the pre-flood level.
After the floods, incidence of infectious disease and diarrhoea also increased as the floods affected the quality of water. Ongoing efforts to eradicate polio were also interrupted, further setting back Pakistan’s agenda for getting rid of the disease.
The report warns that around the world, climate change could lead to a 5 pc decline in crop yields by 2030 and 30 pc by 2080.
Disease spread during extreme weather events also threaten to exacerbate global poverty. Poor countries face the most risk as global warming worsens, the report adds.
South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, will be among the worst hit by higher temperatures, the report predicts where poor households will be more vulnerable to increases in food prices.
The report notes that poor communities are often built in areas most susceptible to the risks of climate change like flooding.
Poor people lose more when a natural disaster strikes. Disasters can destroy crops and seed reserves, destroying productive assets in agricultural communities and sparking food price shocks, as occurred after the unprecedented 2010 floods in Pakistan.
At the global level, warming could increase up to 2-3 C by 2030, which will also increase the number of people affected by up by 5 pc and by diarrhoea by 10 pc.
“We have the ability to end extreme poverty even in the face of climate change, but to succeed, climate considerations will need to be integrated into development work,” says John Roome, Senior Director for Climate Change at the World Bank Group.
“And we will need to act fast, because as climate impacts increase, so will the difficulty and cost of eradicating poverty,” he warns.