EU says binding treaty not likely at Cancun

Delegation says current proposals on the table are not adequate

Gletscher small 300x221 CC4SAN FRANCISCO By Ashley P. Lau, MarketWatch: European Union delegates on Thursday said that the current proposals on the table at the U.N. Climate Change Conference for curbing carbon emissions are “not sufficient” to reach a binding treaty by the end of this year’s conference in Cancun.“Cancun will not decide on any emission-reduction targets, Cancun cannot decide on any emission-reduction targets and Cancun should not decide on any emission-reduction targets,” said Peter Wittoeck, Belgium’s lead climate-negotiations delegate to the EU, at a news conference on Thursday.

Low turnout for Cancun conference

It is expected that this year’s climate change talks in Cancun will draw about half as many attendees as last year’s event in Copenhagen, Denmark. Wittoeck, joined by a panel of other EU delegates, said there are still a number of assumptions on emission reductions that need to be clarified before the group, formally known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP, can reach a binding agreement. See full coverage of Cancun climate summit.“It’s becoming evermore clear that the current proposals, if you add them up, are not enough to stay below the two-degrees [Celsius] target,” Wittoeck said.

At last year’s Copenhagen conference, the group set a target of two degrees Celsius for the increase in global temperatures, but were not able to reach a binding agreement on how to curb carbon emissions to reach that goal. The delegates said that although the EU is on target with its own emission reductions, the European countries account for roughly 12% of global emissions.

The U.S. and China remain two of the world’s largest carbon emitters. The U.S. is not a part of the Kyoto Protocol, which sets emission reduction commitments for 37 industrialized countries and the European community. “We are well on track to reach or over-achieve our Kyoto target,” said Laurence Graff, head of international relations of the European Commission’s climate unit.

The delegates said they would consider a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. How to move forward after the Kyoto Protocol has been a contentious issue in the first few days of the Cancun conference. Japan on Tuesday said it would not support an extension of the Protocol, but that it would instead be in favor of a new global climate treaty. “I would say that the EU’s position is somewhere in between the positions,” Wittoeck said, referring to the differing views between a large majority of developing countries on one hand — who are in favor extending the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol — and the Japanese opposition on the other hand.

Wittoeck said that the EU would be willing to consider going into a second commitment period, but that Europe’s efforts alone would not be enough to impact on the scale necessitated by global participation. “We do believe that here in Cancun we can make progress, but it will not be an absolute yes or an absolute no in terms of second commitment period,” Wittoeck said. “Looking at the positions of other countries around the table, we need to find some middle ground.”

NatureWorks will present a series of projects with the theme of “Innovative, Sustainable Product Development for Everyday Use”

 CC4MINNETONKA, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–During December’s UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties (COP-16) in Cancun, Mexico, NatureWorks LLC and Climate Action will present examples of how leading international brands are using Ingeo™ biopolymers to cut their carbon footprints. “Ingeo™ plastics and fibers and the products derived from them give the markets an additional tool to reduce CO2, something which we support.”Ingeo™ biopolymer is the market-leading material among a new generation of fibers and plastics, made from plants, not oil.

For the second consecutive year, NatureWorks will partner with Climate Action at a COP conference to develop a series of activities based on the theme of “Innovative, Sustainable Product Development for Everyday Use.” Their goal is to share how NatureWorks’ Ingeo™ biopolymer partners are contributing to COP-16 and Climate Action’s goals by demonstrating how every individual and company can do something tangible for the environment. An innovation gallery of commercially available, low carbon footprint Ingeo™ products produced by key international consumer brands will be on display at the Climate Action launch reception Dec. 3, 2010. “NatureWorks and Climate Action’s shared goal is to inform and educate on real innovation and responsible, low climate impact products and market choices,” said Marc Verbruggen, president and chief executive officer, NatureWorks. “The display of everyday products that can make a real difference at personal and business levels will be a great opportunity to drive awareness of how companies and individuals can make better choices.”

Ingeo™ fibers and plastics will be featured through the sustainable consumer product alternatives developed by partner companies. This project is unique within COP-16 since NatureWorks and its brand partners are the only companies approaching the environmental solution from a consumer perspective. “Our mission is to inform, educate, and find solutions for sustainable development and carbon neutrality,” said David MacConnell, CEO of Climate Action. “Ingeo™ plastics and fibers and the products derived from them give the markets an additional tool to reduce CO2, something which we

Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change

Knowledge CC4Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change reports results from a national study of what Americans understand about how the climate system works, and the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to global warming. Among other findings, the study identifies a number of important gaps in public knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change.

Overall, we found that 63 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, but many do not understand why. In this assessment, only 8 percent of Americans have knowledge equivalent to an A or B, 40 percent would receive a C or D, and 52 percent would get an F. The study also found important gaps in knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change and the earth system. These misconceptions lead some people to doubt that global warming is happening or that human activities are a major contributor, to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions, and to be unaware of the risks. Thus many Americans lack some of the knowledge needed for informed decision-making in a democratic society. For example, only: 57% know that the greenhouse effect refers to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat; 50% of Americans understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities; 45% understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth’s surface; 25% have ever heard of coral bleaching or ocean acidification.

Meanwhile, large majorities incorrectly think that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans contribute to global warming, leading many to incorrectly conclude that banning aerosol spray cans or stopping rockets from punching holes in the ozone layer are viable solutions.

However, many Americans do understand that emissions from cars and trucks and the burning of fossil fuels contribute to global warming, and that a transition to renewable energy sources is an important solution. In addition, despite the recent controversies over “climategate” and the 2007 IPCC report, this study finds that Americans trust scientists and scientific organizations far more than any other source of information about global warming. Americans also recognize their own limited understanding. Only 1 in 10 say that they are “very well informed” about climate change, and 75 percent say they would like to know more about the issue. Likewise, 75 percent say that schools should teach our children about climate change and 68 percent would welcome a national program to teach Americans more about the issue. ClimateChangeKnowledge2010 PDF

Now is the time to Move Beyond Petroleum

images6 CC4BIANCA JAGGER International human rights and climate change advocate Bianca Jagger delivered this speech at the ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference October 2010

Today we stand at a crossroads in history. The warnings from our most respected scientists are loud and clear, yet government leaders continue to ignore the scale of the threat. According to many scientists, we have less than a decade left to address the issue of climate change before we reach the “tipping point”, or the point of no return. The earth is perilously close to dramatic climate change that threatens to spiral way out of control. Scientists now generally accept that current pledges of 20% greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2020 are inadequate given the gravity of the current situation: we have already reached the threshold of dangerous climate change. The task now is to prevent catastrophic climate chaos. Failure to act effectively is likely to precipitate cataclysmic changes that may obliterate life on earth.

Our addiction to oil is dangerous and unsustainable. Our oil supply is finite, and the dwindling reserves simply cannot cope with our ever increasing demand. To compensate for the diminishing supply, oil companies have been attempting to reach reserves in deeper and more dangerous waters – often with environmentally catastrophic consequences. Bianca Jagger- Beyond Petro

Climate Change, Energy and Waste Take Center Stage at Clinton Global Initiative

bill clinton2 550x3851 300x209 CC4by Maria Surma Manka on September 21, 2010 After three bumpy flights and one nauseating cab ride (solved with a doughnut) AND one inadvertently canceled hotel room (solved with begging), I set up camp in New York City to report out from the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. CGI was started by former President Clinton in 2005 to help “turn ideas into action” – too often, he saw commitments by governments and business to a particular cause or issue, but rarely did he see follow-through or hear reports on progress. So, CGI was founded to foster public and private sector collaboration on education, environment/energy, health and economic empowerment – with an emphasis on measurable progress.

With a bias for the energy and the environment topic, I was excited to hear what was being done and what new commitments would be made this year at CGI. I also had some skepticism that I was going to hear the same buzzphrases like: “public-private collaboration,” “building partnerships,” or “the time for action is now.” But President Clinton made it abundantly clear that, to solve a problem like climate change, people outside of CGI have to be engaged. Governments, businesses and rich foundations can’t do it on their own. They have to respond to the needs and direction of local communities in order for any initiative to take shape and achieve measurable progress.

Example: Electricity in the Caribbean is the most expensive of anywhere in the world (35 cents per kilowatt hour – that’s about five times what I pay in St. Paul, MN). NRG Energy (a U.S.-based power generation company) is working with Haitian NGOs, governments and neighborhood groups to set up $1 million worth of solar panels to bring down that cost. And bringing down the cost of electricity doesn’t just mean cheaper bills and clean energy for clean energy’s sake: it means better infrastructure and a cheaper business climate to grow the private sector and help rebuild the country. What’s more, the Dominican Republic is connecting its electric grid with the Haitian one, which Clinton pointed out is pretty astonishing given the nations’ historical relations.

Another interesting point of discussion today: landfills. Clinton noted: “If you want to fight climate change, improve health, foster entrepreneurs and create opportunities for the poor, the closest thing to a silver bullet is to close all the landfills in all the cities around the world…Almost every landfill is a goldmine…glass and plastic can be recycled, food can be used as organic fertilizer and almost everything else can be used as a biogas fuel… [landfills] are an enormous source of wealth if they are recycled, converted, or burned for energy. They’re an enormous waste but also a staggering opportunity.” I considered myself knowledgeable in the use of landfills as an energy source, but I hadn’t thought about the greater potential of all we could be scavenging from them. Looking at it in this light, it calls to question how waste companies in the U.S. could be looking at their current landfills as additional sources of revenue (working with markets abroad in need of the materials we discard?) and perhaps avoiding the need for new landfills or expansions if the current ones could be capitalized and minimized. I’d love to hear from any companies who are doing this or something similar. What’s up for Wednesday: Discussions on market-based solutions to protect the environment. And, hopefully, I can score an interview with one of the many smart people here.

Now is the Time to Create Climate Wealth

jigar shah picture1 150x150 CC4By Jigar Shah: This week, business and non-profit leaders will meet in New York, for ClimateWeekNYºC, calling for bold climate action to secure a cleaner, greener, more prosperous future.

As they gather, this much is evident: Government and the general public do not believe that climate change solutions can scale to meet the problem, nor do they accept that reducing our carbon emissions by the 17 gigatons necessary to stabilize global temperatures won’t harm economic growth. So, to build the political will and garner public consensus, we need to convince them that it isn’t a choice between the economy and the environment.

As CEO of the Carbon War Room, I see ClimateWeekNYºC as a tremendous opportunity for us to convene as a community, identifying the best path for a transition towards a low-carbon economy. By expanding our efforts to focus on new financial and economic tools we can capitalize on the largest wealth creation opportunity of our lifetime.

Today, there are cost-effective climate change solutions capable of reducing 17 gigatons of carbon from our atmosphere which at the same time save people money and stimulate the economy.

In fact, as reported by McKinsey & Company, 50 percent of all carbon reductions can be achieved without adding any undue burdens to consumers. Unfortunately, market failures are preventing capital from flowing to more sustainable low carbon solutions.

While comprehensive policy has worked in the past, it will NOT in this case. Even if policy is enacted, the tools to scale and diffuse the solutions are not ready to go. We must begin to add the skills necessary to work with capital sources and entrepreneurs to scale existing solutions that work within existing policy frameworks.

In the shipping industry, for example, customers of shipping services have no convenient way to choose efficient ships from inefficient ships. It is astounding to think that the simple inability to choose the most efficient ships is causing customers to miss out on cost savings of at least 15 percent. The right standards can ensure that these ships are upgraded and financial products that rely on savings can help pay for the available upgrades.

The formula of complementing policy with trusted financial products should be replicated across all sectors of the clean economy from building retrofits and industrial efficiency to alternative-fuel vehicles, shipping and aviation. If we can achieve this, it will instill the confidence needed to pass policy that levels the playing field for everyone.

But we need to set new priorities.

First and foremost, we should focus our efforts on the benefits and issues that matter most to people — clean air, clean water, reduced health impacts, lower energy bills, creating jobs, economic development, etc. By communicating the co-benefits to business and society, we can seize control of the climate debate and enhance the great work already being done to garner support.

Next, we must work to create new trusted financial products for the implementation of clean technologies. The World Economic Forum and Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimate that we only need to shift approximately $550 billion to the clean economy in order to implement gigaton level reduction in carbon — this shift represents less than 1 percent worth of current private capital allocations. If we ask pension funds, high net worth individuals, sovereign funds and retail money what financial products they want to buy — and then collect the data necessary to provide them comfort — they will adjust their investments to lower risk, clean climate solutions.

At the same time, it is critical to capitalize on interim policy initiatives that can offer the first steps to success, as seemingly small wins can bring about significant economic change. Real estate investment trusts and master lease partnerships, for example, don’t currently take climate change solutions into consideration.

Through small changes to policy, we can generate large opportunities for economic and sustainable growth. Opportunistic moments like these are possible, and can be capitalized on without the need for national legislation. Collectively the business community can leverage moments to exert influence in the development of gigaton pathways sector-by-sector.

Finally, we need to address the lack of information that maintains market failures and prevents capital from flowing to the right solutions. The tools of capitalism must complement existing efforts to harness the power of entrepreneurial energy to unlock market driven solutions to climate change. Capital sources are eager to invest into climate change solutions, but they need tested, financial products to invest in – not just climate education.

It is time for the business community to seize the opportunity and shift our focus. By doing so, we can achieve results in the form of tangible solutions to bring about an absolute reduction of 17 gigatons of CO2E by 2020.

This is our great opportunity — creating wealth and jobs while ensuring the sustainability of the environment. Jigar Shah is the CEO of Carbon War Room. Source: Greener World Media

Rob Dunbar: Discovering ancient climates in oceans and ice

197990 254x191 150x150 CC4Rob Dunbar’s research looks at the earth and ocean as an interconnected system over time. With his group at Stanford, he makes

high-resolution studies of climate change over the past 50 to 12,000 years. Where does 12,000-year-old climate data come from? It’s locked in the skeletons of ancient corals from the tropics and the deep sea, and buried in sediments from lakes and other marine environments. His lab measures the chemical and isotopic makeup of these materials, and looks at how they’ve changed in response to changes in the solar and carbon cycles.

Dunbar’s also studying the reverse equation — how climate change is affecting a modern environment right now. He’s working in the Ross Sea of Antarctica with the ANDRILL project to study the ocean’s ability to take up carbon, drilling for ice cores to uncover the history of the climate of Antarctica.

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