Environment Forum

Are the Copenhagen climate talks failing?

COP15picIn the last few days it has seemed like the only thing everyone can agree on in Copenhagen is that time is running out.

The heads of state start arriving today and descend in full force on Thursday.

Negotiators say they don’t want their leaders arguing over the placement of a comma or a set of brackets, and so everything needs to be tied up by Friday morning.

That leaves just over two days, and more than 190 countries gathered in the conference hall can’t even settle on a draft text to argue over.

The parties seem to have divided into three factions – although officially it is rich vs poor, as developing countries say they are united.

In reality, developed countries responsible for most emissions currently in the atmosphere are facing down the major developing countries expected to produce the majority of emissions in coming decades.

from Mario Di Simine:

Stunts, pins and pamphlets: Getting the word out at COP15

aliens2When you're one of thousands of people trying to get a message out at once, you need an edge.

In Copenhagen during the COP15 conference a plethora of nongovernmental organizations, environmental groups, country delegations and even businesses have gone to sometimes unusual lengths to get their word out, and hopefully into the newspapers, or onto the Web and television.

The more adventurous -- and humorous -- the better your chance of catching a journalist's eye.  Some have had members dressed up as aliens, holding up placards reading "Take me to your 2015 peak year".  The aliens, brought to us by the environmental action group Avaaz,  have been a presence at the Bella Center for pretty much the whole conference to date.

Cap and trade not the solution, climate scientist says

Fighting climate change is a huge investment opportunity but not through emissions trading and investors should instead put their money into renewables which will power the economy in the future, says a leading environmental scientist and cap and trade expert.

As yesterday’s walkout by African nations showed, getting anyone to agree on anything at the U.N. Climate Conference is easier said than done. The use of markets to address pollution is no different. Supporters of cap and trade — the system which allows companies or groups who meet their emissions targets to sell their remaining carbon credits — are out in force, but so are the groups who say the scheme prevents less responsible companies from breaking their bad habits.

Scientist Payal Parekh, from International Rivers, has come to Copenhagen to lobby on the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to highlight the failures of the cap and trade system. She said: “We are working here to ensure that we get ambitious reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases so that we can make a smooth and efficient transition to a clean and green economy. This means that we really need to set up a system that rewards innovators as opposed to allowing dirty industries to continue polluting.

from Mario Di Simine:

Change must start from grassroots, Schwarzenegger tells COP15


The COP15 conference on climate change will be a success even if no deal comes out of it, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday in Copenhagen.

“It depends on what your definition of a deal is,” Schwarzenegger told the media. “The important thing is to move the agenda forward.”

The governor is in Copenhagen to participate in a number of events on the sidelines of the main conference. Before meeting with the media, Schwarzenegger delivered a speech to an audience of mostly non-governmental organization members on California’s climate change efforts and the important of leading from the grassroots level.

Can science and politics mix in Copenhagen?

As a trained physicist, Angela Merkel knows scientific findings and political negotiations don’t always mix well.

GREENLAND/So the German Chancellor, who has no doubts about the scientific evidence of climate change, is going with a somewhat uneasy feeling to the climate conference in Copenhagen, where negotiations are taking place for something that she thinks should be non-negotiable: fighting global warming.

“Limiting a rise in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius is an ambitious target but it’s absolutely necessary to reach that target,” she told a group of foreign journalists in the chancellery, which is covered with 1,300-square metres of solar panels producing nearly 150,000 kWh of electricity per year. “Because if global temperatures do rise above 2 degrees there will be a need for adaptation and there will be reactions that will be not only enormously expensive but far more difficult to manage.”

Life on Commonwealth Bay

It’s Dec 14, a special day for those of us lucky enough to be in Antarctica. On this day, 98 years ago, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole. He was wearing skis and heavy fur clothing and hauling his gear behind a team of dogs (many of which became dinner throughout the journey).

Almost a century later, as I look around our little camp at Cape Denison on the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf, overlooking the penguins of Commonwealth Bay, I can see how much has changed: high-tech waterproof fabrics and Velcro have taken over from fur, Skidoos have replaced the huskies and hand-held GPS can pinpoint our position to the centimetre.

Living in tents
One thing, however, has not changed: sturdy canvas tents still serve as ideal accommodation on the ice, even in the windiest place on Earth, right here at Commonwealth Bay.

GM, Chrysler cleared executive decks in 2009

When 2009 began, both General Motors and Chrysler were sliding toward bankruptcy. As the year ends, both companies have survived to fight another day.

The same can’t be said for their senior executives.

Of the top 10 executives at GM’s glass-towered Detroit headquarters in January, only one — Bob Lutz – remains.  At Chrysler, only two of the 10 highest-ranking executives are still in Auburn Hills.  

At GM, the churn took a dramatic toll at the vice president level. Of the 55 top executives, including vice presidents and divisional leaders, who were at GM at the start of the year, 26 have left the automaker.  Of the remainder, few remain in the same positions they held, according to a Reuters tally.

What can ordinary people do to slow climate change?

(Updates with comments from Knut Alfsen of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo (CICERO))

Today’s expert panel discusses the question, “What can ordinary people do to slow climate change?”

Join the discussion and let us know what you think.



Gidon Eshel, physics professor at Bard College:

What can ordinary people do to slow climate change? A lot.

Which is extremely important as it appears increasingly unlikely that Obama the president will deliver  what Obama the candidate promised.

Which countries make the grade in solar power?


Germany is still at the top of the class when it comes to solar power, according to a new report by nonprofit Global Green USA.

The group graded 16 countries plus the state of California in terms of how much solar power they added in installations and what kind of policies they have for future development.

Germany– the world’s biggest solar power market — again got the highest grade, with an A minus.

from Mario Di Simine:

Climate costs up front worth gains later, EBA chief says

Fiona Wain photoMany negotiators and large industry groups at the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen argue that climate action is a question of cost, but the price paid up front is worth the savings later, says the chief executive of a leading business think tank.

The cost often referred to in talks is regarding initial capital expenditures, or capex, but climate change solutions should be compared with operational costs, which would be decreased, and they should also be compared with the collateral of damage avoided cost benefits, Fiona Wain, chief executive officer of Environment Business Australia (EBA), told Reuters.com in an interview.

"If you haven’t got pollution, if you haven’t got waste, if you haven’t got greenhouse gas emissions, that’s a significant lessening of the drain on the public purse in all countries," she said.