Tag Archives: United Nations

Paris climate talks: Developed countries must do more than reduce emissions

Repost from The Guardian
[Editor:  An important discussion of “survival emissions” in developing nations vs. “lifestyle emissions” in industrial nations.  – RS]

Paris climate talks: Developed countries must do more than reduce emissions

By Shyam Saran, 23 November 2015 05.35 EST  –  Saran is a former foreign secretary of India. He was India’s chief negotiator on climate change from 2007 to 2010
Preparations for the upcoming COP21 climate summit t Le Bourget, near Paris, France
Preparations for the upcoming COP21 climate summit t Le Bourget, near Paris, France. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

We are only days away from the climate change summit in Paris. Several world leaders are likely to be present to applaud a successful outcome, which is virtually guaranteed since the bar has been set so low in terms of effort expected from the major industrialized economies.

Under the UN process which the negotiations have been taking place, countries are required only to present their climate pledges (known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, which are voluntary and subject to an international review but with no strict compliance procedure.

It is this pledge and review system which will become the template for future climate change action. Past experience shows that such weak international regimes, which posit only a best endeavour commitment, rarely deliver expected results.

The UN recently reported that aggregating all the INDCs so far, the world would be on an a trajectory of 2.7C, when a 2C rise is already the limit of safety defined by scientists.

What many people fail to realize is that global warming is the consequence of the stock of greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly CO2, which has accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of fossil fuel based industrial activity in the industrialized countries of the world.

This is the reason why the UN recognizes the historical responsibility of the developed countries in causing global warming even though current industrial activity in major developing countries such as China and, to a much lesser extent, India is adding incrementally to that stock.

If developed countries do not make significant and absolute reductions in their emissions there will be a progressively smaller carbon space available to accommodate the development needs of developing countries. There is a difference between the emissions of developing countries which are “survival” emissions and those of developed countries which are in the nature of “lifestyle” emissions. They do not belong to the same category and cannot be treated on a par.

To blur this distinction is to accept the argument that because “we got here first, so we get to keep what we have, while those who come later must stay where they are for the sake of the saving the planet from the threat of climate change.” Far from accepting their historical responsibility developed countries are instead trying to shift the burden on to the shoulders of developing countries.

This they have been doing by keeping attention focused on current emissions while ignoring the source of the stock of emissions in the atmosphere. A sustainable and effective climate change regime cannot be built on the basis of such inequity.

A coal-fired power plant near residential property in Badarpur, Delhi, India
Emissions billow from smokestacks at a coal-fired power plant near residential property in Badarpur, Delhi, India. Photograph: Kuni Takahashi / Bloomberg / Getty Images

One often hears the argument that it is all very well to preach equity but given the planetary emergency the world faces from the threat of climate change we must set aside the equity principle in the interests of humanity as a whole. This is a wholly specious and self serving argument. It reflects the sense of entitlement to an affluent lifestyle, based on energy intensive production and consumption, while denying the even modest aspirations of people in developing countries.

In a densely interconnected and globalised world, it will be impossible to maintain islands of prosperity in an ocean of poverty and deprivation. It is not that developing countries are claiming the right to spew as much carbon as possible into the atmosphere without regard to the health of the planet.

As the main victims of climate change– the impacts of which they are already suffering – they have a much bigger stake in dealing with this challenge. They are, in fact, doing much more than most developed countries, to adopt energy frugal methods of growth, conserving energy, promoting renewable power and limiting waste within the limits of their own resources.

They could do much more if they had access to finance, technology and capacity building from developed countries, a commitment which is incorporated in the UN. Success may elude Paris if developed countries continue to evade their responsibility to provide adequate financial resources and transfer appropriate technologies to developing countries to enable them to enhance their own domestic efforts.

Climate negotiations have become less about meeting an elemental challenge to human survival and more about safeguarding narrowly conceived economic self interests of nations. These are negotiations conducted in a competitive frame, where each party gives as little as possible and extracts as much as possible. The inevitable result is a least common denominator result and this is what is expected at Paris.

Imagine if each country came with the intention to contribute as much as it can and take away as little benefit to itself as possible, because we are all faced with an urgent and global challenge. We would then get a maximal outcome – which is what the world requires if it has to escape the catastrophic consequences of climate change. The negotiating dynamic may change dramatically.

Villagers carry illegally scavenged coal from an open-cast coal mine in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, India
Villagers carry illegally scavenged coal from an open-cast coal mine in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, India, trying to earn a few dollars a day. Photograph: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images

The leaders can capture the imagination of people around the world if they explicitly acknowledge the seriousness of the threat we all confront and commit themselves to a global collaborative effort to deal with it based on the principle of equitable burden sharing.

Countries can then contribute according to their capacities and resource availability and I have no doubt that emerging countries such as India, China or Brazil will be enthusiastic participants in such initiatives. Even if we are unable at this stage to go beyond the INDCs which have already been submitted the adoption of these initiatives may reassure the world that a new and more promising process has been set in motion to deliver a more sustainable future for our common home.
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    UN adopts 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

    Repost from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN News Centre

    UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development for people and planet by 2030

    September 25, 2015, New York

    The 193-Member United Nations General Assembly today formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with a set of bold new Global Goals, whichSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.

    “The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home,” declared Mr. Ban as he opened the UN Sustainable Development Summit which kicked off today and wraps up Sunday.

    The UN chief’s address came ahead of the Assembly’s formal adoption of the new framework, Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is composed of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate over the next 15 years.

    The Goals aim to build on the work of the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000, rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.

    The Summit opened with a full programme of events, including a screening of the film The Earth From Space, performances by UN Goodwill Ambassadors Shakira Angelique Kidjo, as well as call to action by female education advocate and the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai along with youth representatives as torch bearers to a sustainable future.

    The adoption ceremony was presided over by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who stressed the successes of the MDGSs and the need for the full implementation of the new Agenda.

    Speaking to the press after the adoption of the Agenda, Mr. Ban said: “These Goals are a blueprint for a better future. Now we must use the goals to transform the world. We will do that through partnership and through commitment. We must leave no-one behind.

    In his opening address to the Assembly, which also marks the Organization’s 70th anniversary, the UN chief hailed the new framework as an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership. “It conveys the urgency of climate action. It is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all.”

    Mr. Ban urged the world leaders and others convened at the event to successfully implement the Global Goals or Agenda 30 by launching ‘renewed global partnership.’

    “The 2030 Agenda compels us to look beyond national boundaries and short-term interests and act in solidarity for the long-term. We can no longer afford to think and work in silos.

    Institutions will have to become fit for a grand new purpose. The United Nations system is strongly committed to supporting Member States in this great new endeavour,” said Mr. Ban.

    “We must engage all actors, as we did in shaping the Agenda. We must include parliaments and local governments, and work with cities and rural areas. We must rally businesses and entrepreneurs. We must involve civil society in defining and implementing policies – and give it the space to hold us to account. We must listen to scientists and academia. We will need to embrace a data revolution. Most important, we must set to work – now,” added the Secretary-General.

    “Seventy years ago, the United Nations rose from the ashes of war. Governments agreed on a visionary Charter dedicated to ‘We the Peoples’. The Agenda you are adopting today advances the goals of the Charter. It embodies the aspirations of people everywhere for lives of peace, security and dignity on a healthy planet,” said Mr. Ban.

    General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft called the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development “ambitious” in confronting the injustices of poverty, marginalization and discrimination.

    “We recognize the need to reduce inequalities and to protect our common home by changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. And, we identify the overwhelming need to address the politics of division, corruption and irresponsibility that fuel conflict and hold back development,” he said.

    On the adoption of the new agenda, UN Economic and Social Council President (ECOSOC) Oh Joon said action on Sustainable Development Goals must start immediately. “The Economic and Social Council stands ready to kick-start the work on the new agenda,” he added.

    Source: UN News Centre
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      Why You Should Be Skeptical Of Big Oil Companies Asking For A Price On Carbon

      Repost from ClimateProgress

      Why You Should Be Skeptical Of Big Oil Companies Asking For A Price On Carbon

      By Emily Atkin, June 3, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      Shell, Statoil, Total, and BP were four of six companies to request a price on carbon be included in international policy frameworks. Six large European oil and gas companies are asking governments across the world to charge them for the carbon dioxide they emit.

      In a letter released Monday, Shell, BP, Total, Statoil, Eni, and the BG Group told the chief of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that a price on carbon “should be a key element” of an international agreement to address global climate change. The letter came while U.N. negotiators met in Bonn, Germany to work towards that agreement.

      For those who want to fight climate change, this is good news. But it’s not totally unprecedented. Other high-emitting companies, including Shell, have expressed support for a carbon price before. And big oil companies have been expecting some sort of carbon price for a long time — the biggest ones have already incorporated it into their business plans. Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, Shell; they’re all financially prepared for a carbon price if and when it comes their way.

      That more and more oil companies are now actively calling for a carbon price, though, is good for the climate fight. Total, BP, Statoil, and Royal Dutch Shell are all among the 90 companies causing the vast majority of global warming via their exorbitant carbon emissions. Now, they’re acknowledging they want to at least pay for some of those emissions, and that seems like a positive development.

      At the same time, it’s not like any of those six companies are halting their plans to drill. They haven’t recognized the science that says two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic warming. Shell is still planning to explore for oil in the Arctic; BP just recently expanded its operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

      More importantly, though — at least in terms of getting a carbon price in the final U.N. climate deal — the European companies that signed the letter wield little power within the U.S. Congress compared to other big oil companies. This matters because the terms of that deal will almost certainly have to be approved by Congress if it is to include an enforceable price on carbon. Under U.S. law, any international agreement that binds or prohibits the United States from actions not otherwise mandated by law must be ratified by Congress.

      BP, Statoil, and Total might be actively calling for a carbon tax, but the three biggest U.S. oil companies — ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — aren’t. (ExxonMobil says they would prefer a carbon tax to a cap-and-trade system, but they don’t outright support it). And those U.S. companies are spending much more to influence Congress than the letter-writing companies on campaign donations and lobbying.

      Contributions include donations from company employees, PACs, and soft money contributions.
      Contributions include donations from company employees, PACs, and soft money contributions. CREDIT: Patrick Smith

      To be fair, European companies have more restrictions on how much they can give than U.S.-based companies do. But not only are the biggest U.S. companies spending far more to influence U.S. politics, their money is going to politicians who are actively fighting efforts to price carbon in the United States.

      During the 2014 election, for example, the biggest receiver of funds from ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips was former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Landrieu marketed herself, among other things, as the “key vote” that made sure a carbon pricing system wasn’t implemented by Congress in 2010. Other candidates supported by those three companies were John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Mark Begich, John Cornyn — all have said they oppose a price on carbon.

      In fact, the Republican party as a whole in the United States is opposed to policies that price carbon. Though it says nothing about a carbon tax, the last official Republican party platform touts opposition to “any and all cap-and-trade legislation.” Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of all oil company campaign contributions is going to Republicans.

      oillobby (1)
      Oil Lobby CREDIT: Patrick Smith

      There are other reasons to be skeptical of any big oil company fighting for a price on carbon. For one, some companies have said they would support a carbon tax, but only if they can avoid other climate-related regulations. As David Roberts pointed out for Grist back in 2012, “the fossil fuel lobby would never give a carbon tax their OK unless EPA regulations on carbon (and possibly other pollution regs) were scrapped.” It’s also reasonable to assume that oil companies see profits increasing in the markets for low-carbon natural gas while the high-emitting coal industry tanks, and realize that coal would be hurt far worse by the policy.

      In other words, it is great that some of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change want to be charged for the carbon they emit. But we still have a long way to go before big oil actually joins the fight.

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