Sunday, November 21, 2021

Pandemic ponderings: Protect nature to avoid future pandemics

IPBES Pandemics report identified the risk and solutions

New research from the University of Queensland highlights Biodiversity loss and ecosystem health are strongly linked to human health. Scientists have investigated the links between the COVID-19 pandemic and the deterioration of the world’s ecosystems and their biodiversity, discovering feedback loops that suggest a potential increase in future pandemics.

“We’ve long known that issues like land-use change, intensive livestock production, wildlife trade, and climate change drive the emergence of zoonotic diseases, as they increase human-wildlife interactions." said Master of Conservation Biology graduate Odette Lawler, a contributor of the study  in Professor Salit Kark’s Biodiversity Research Group at University of Queensland. 

The study was published in Lancet Planetary Health as  The COVID-19 pandemic is intricately linked to biodiversity loss and ecosystem health.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Glasgow Climate Pact outcomes: ambition, but too slow to prevent catastrophic climate impacts

There will be those who condemn the Glasgow COP a failure, and others that hail it a success. 

On a meeting level where 197 countries + Europe need to agree on outcomes based upon using a consensus process, it is somewhere in between.

The decision text incorporates the science and the urgency, but then fails to step up with the requisite actions to match the science.  

The science says we are still causing too much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, heading for around 2.4 degrees Celsius Global warming by the end of the century according to Climate Action Tracker assessment released 9 November: Glasgow’s 2030 credibility gap.  Many countries targets (such as Australia) are still far from sufficient.

And the science as provided in the IPCC 6th Assessment report has only got clearer that passing 1.5 degrees poses enormous risks to life and health, biodiversity, and passing tipping points in the climate system making reversing global heating more difficult. The UN Secretary General called it a Code Red for Humanity.

We are losing the race against time to bring emissions under control. The Paris climate target of 1.5C is almost out of our reach.

So what were the outcomes of the Glasgow Climate Pact?

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Australia at COP26 diary

UN climate conference, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) is ocurring in Glasgow from Monday November 1 to Friday November 12, 2021 (but may also go overtime into the weekend). This is my digital diary of Australia at COP26. I may not be able to be present in Glasgow but I can still follow whats going on. Follow with me.

You can watch press conferences, main plenaries at the UNFCCC COP26 livestream site program. Civil Society have organised Climate Fringe TV that includes livestream events.

15 November: 

Glasgow Climate Pact outcomes: ambition, but too slow to prevent catastrophic climate impacts

A list of what COP26 achieved, but also the failure to live up to what the science requires. The Emissions Gap has diminished, but is still subtantial. Responses from Australia Institute, Climate Council and Australian Conservation Foundation. Major signal that coal is on it's way out, but also more subtle signals for phase out of oil and gas. Blog: Glasgow Climate Pact

COP26 inches to a close, for the first time including language on coal and fossil fuels phase down

Watching the UNFCCC livestream

UN Climate Change conferences are reknowned for running extensively into overtime with last minute negotiations to try and salvage a way forward through the consensus process. This one was no different with a Saturday afternoon ending.

Draft texts are issued, debated, watered down, reissued, debated and further watered down until enough compromise has been achieved for consensus. Occasionally some new ambition may sneak in, but generally its a dilution of action. It's a tough process, especially when urgency and ambition is required, which empowers countries with vested interests in maintaining fossil fuel production. 

Australia has taken advantage of this process in the past, such as when the Australian delegation threatened to walk out in 1997 at final stage of negotiations unless a special clause on land use emissions was inserted. We got our way and a special clause was created specifically called the Australia clause which allowed us to increase our emissions by 8 percent while all other countries had commitments to reduce emissions.

During the final days of this negotiation process, Small island states and many developing countries gave up  in the spirt of compromise on the Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility to be replaced by a vague Dialogue during 2022 as part of Draft texts version 3, but they were not happy about this. But the fact there were other areas of ambition in the overall deal and they are suffering now from climate impacts, made them commit to consensus.

But during the discussion India, Iran, Nigeria and China objected to the wording around coal and inefficient fossil fuel sibsidies phase out. The stocktaking plenary was adjourned and huddles reformed.

Australia actually had accepted the deal that included a call for "accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies." They had already successfully lobbied with others to soften the text with those two adjectives: unabated and inefficient.

When the plenary restarted India proposed asking to change language to "phase down" coal instead of "phase out". Switzerland, Europe, Mexico, Marshall Islands and Fiji all expressed profound disappointment at this proposed change, and questioned this as a non-transparent process. Switzerland received overwhelming applause. 

The most eloquent statement came from the Marshall Islands:

"On behalf of the Marshall Islands I wish to read into the record our profound disappointment with the change in the language on coal from phase out to phase down. I ask that this be reflected in the report of this meeting. This commitment on coal had been a bright spot in this package. It was one of the things we were hoping to carry out of here, back home with pride, and it hurts deeply to see that bright spot dim. We accept this change with the greatest reluctance. We do so only, and I really want to stress only, because there are critical elements of this package that people in my country need, as a lifeline for their future. Thankyou.

Fiji said "we were told 2 days ago that we could not add Loss and Damage language because it was "last minute", now new language on coal has been added 2 minutes before adoption of the text. A "phase-down" has no demonstrable measures to monitor the end of coal."

The reaction actually put COP President Alok Sharma into tears for a moment, as he said, "I am truly sorry about how this process has unfolded. It is also vital that we successfully conclude this package"

This is going to lead to a much greater push next year for Loss and Damage implementation and finance, at COP27, which has been long delayed at these conferences. 

Antigua and Barbuda speaking on behalf of AOSIS commented that they "would like to take note that we expect to see the development of a Loss and Damage facility by COP27." Venezuela added that they "would like to take up the issue of unilateral measures in subsequent COPs".

There was cheering in the American delegation and around other sections of the Plenary hall as the decision on Article 6 on carbon markets was gavelled, putting in place this important part of the Paris Agreement rulebook, although it seems there are already identified issues of integrity with the rules passed.

Read my blog on the assessment of outcomes from the Glasgow Climate Pact.

You can follow the flow of the diplomatic huddles and statements in the tweet thread below:

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Australia, Captain of the Fossil Fueled Five, wins Colossal Fossil of COP26

Australia wins Colossal Fossil Award of COP26 - Jo Dodds accepts award

Loss and damage is very real even for first world people in Australia. After the Black Summer bushfires there are still people living in tents two years later, while a bushfire recovery fund remains entirely unspent. This is the same arrogance that Australia has treated our first nation people since invasion and colonisation, and our Pacific neighbours who have pleaded for Australia to step up on climate action, phase out of coal, and fund loss and damage in our region.

Australian really is at this time the unrepentant captain of the Fossil Fueled Gang of Five and well deserves the Colossal Fossil award of COP26.

This is Australia's shame, especially disturbing given the abundant renewable energy resources, and the deep knowledge of indigenous people from 60,000 to 80,000 years of experience of land management and culture. Our First Nation peoples have already experienced climate change and sea level change on our continent, and have embedded knowledge of these changes within dreamtime stories that can provide insight to transition.

Jo Dodds, President of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, accepted the award for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Australia the captain of the villians? The Fossil Fueled Five - Comparing Rhetoric with Reality on Fossil Fuel Production at #COP26

Launch of the Fossil Fueled Five Report at Panda Hub at COP26

A new report investigates the role of 5 western developed countries, their current climate plans and their current fossil fuel expansion plans.

The Fossil Fueled Five report comes at a critical time as there is gowing discussion at UN Climate conferences and generally in the community that fossil fuel production needs to be reigned in as demonstrated by the recent Production Gap Report, and the UN Environment Program Emissions Gap Report.

We saw the coal exit pledge gain ground at this UN climate change conference, and the launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance.

This report was produced by the University of Sussex and conducted in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and key regional partners in each of the 5 countries – Uplift (UK), Oil Change International (USA), Greenpeace (Norway), The Australia Institute (Australia) and (Canada).

Watch the launch (below) which features Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, Freddie Daley from the University of Sussex, Tessa Khan, Lawyer, Founder & Director, Uplift UK, Colin Rees with Oil Change International, a young FoE Norway activist, and Richie Merzian from the Australia Institute.

Friday, November 12, 2021

UN Secretary General speech at #COP26: "We know what must be done" as negotiations centre on draft decision texts

UN Secretary General setting the tone for the final days of negotiations, arguing we need ambition in the COP26 decision text and in the CMA (Paris Agreement) Decision text.

The Draft decision text as of Friday morning still mentions coal and fossil fuels. The original Paris Agreement does not mention coal, oil or gas, or fossil fuels even once. Will it survive till the gavel comes down?

Veteran climate journalist Ed King has summarised current status, and he argues the draft text appears to maintain reasonable ambition:

"The latest COP26 draft political text landed at 0713 (UK time), and appears significantly more balanced with stronger elements on adaptation, finance and loss & damage. The elements of the text aimed at speeding up action to close the gap towards emissions goals are there - with no radical changes from the previous version and dates still intact. The language on coal has been qualified but has survived the night, which many predicted it wouldn't." 

  • Para 27: New UN work programme to scale up GHG cuts, reporting at COP27 in 2022
  • Para 28: 'Urges' [strong language] countries who have not landed new plans to do so by 2022
  • Para 29: Requests all countries to raise climate targets in line with 1.5-2C by and of 2022
  • Para 30: Commissions annual UN assessment of climate plans from 2022
  • Para 32: Urges [strong] countries to deliver net zero mid century plans by 2022
  • Para 36: Signal to countries to accelerate shift off fossil fuels, coal to renewable energy
  • Para 44: Notes "deep regret" of developed countries for missing $100bn target 
  • Para 46: Urges countries' to 'fully deliver on the $100 billion goal 'urgently' through 2025
  • Para 66: Welcomes further operationalisation of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage
  • Para 67: Decides [very strong] the Santiago Network will have a technical assistance facility to provide financial support for technical assistance on loss and damage 

Methane, coal transition, transport and forest pledges at COP26 still leave substantial emissions gap - Climate Action Tracker


I'd like to say the various pledges made these last two weeks have eliminated the emissions gap, but they haven't. If they are implemented and garner more signatories they will shrink the gap. New analysis by Climate Action Tracker shows that for the countries that have signed the pledges, they have closed the 2030 emissions gap between a 1.5°C path and government targets by around 9% - or 2.2 GtCO2e.

The UN Environment Program Emissions Gap report published late October showed that the planet heading to 2.7C climate catastrophe without needed 2030 ambition at COP26

"Even with all new pledges and such sectoral initiatives for 2030, global emissions are still
expected to be almost twice as high in 2030 as necessary to for a 1.5°C compatible pathway.
Therefore, all governments need to reconsider their targets towards COP27 in 2022 to jointly
enhance mitigation ambition." says Climate Action Tracker.

The final decision of the conference is presently being worked through. There is a draft clause which  give nations that have not submitted “new or updated” 2030 targets another 12 months to “revisit and strengthen” their emissions reduction effort in their Nationally Determined contributions. 

Fossil awards today to the UK on loss and damage finance, and to New Zealand squibbing on ambition in their NDC

Host country, the UK gets a fossil award for failing to do their homework on loss and damage finance. And they had a year extension to do it. 

The second award to New Zealand, thought that appearing green would disguise their lack of NDC ambition and they  literally said that just because a refreshing of the NDC has been asked of countries "it doesn't mean we have to.”  Come and join Australia in the (coal) sin bin neighbours.

Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance launches at COP26 - early movers on the production side of fossil fuels addressing climate change

Denmark and Costa Rica launch Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA)

Today saw 12 jurisdictions step up to announce phase out of oil and gas, to address the production side of the emissions gap.

These countries are the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, the early movers and initiators. The initiative is lead by Denmark and Costa Rica.

At the launch they were joined by France, Greenland, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Italy, and New Zealand. Sub-state jurisdictions included Quebec, Wales and California.