Environment Forum

Auxiliary verbs at 10pm and the scarcest resource – sleep

CO2tonneThe issues are global and urgent, but the bureaucracy can sometimes be mind-bogglingly slow and petty.

After a day of stalled talks, the 193 nations at UN-led climate talks finally met for a plenary to discuss one of the main drafts floating around the summit, just two days (and two hours) from the deadline for a deal.

First on the agenda – auxiliary verbs. There was a discussion of should vs shall, before an appeal from the chair.

“I would ask you to consider the most scarce resource in this room – sleep”

Her request was applauded, but the talks anyway soon plunged into a discussion of clauses and sub-clauses.

Can you trust the science?

Today we pose the question to our virtual panel of experts, “How far can we trust the science of climate change?”

Join the debate and leave your comments below.

bjorn2

Bjorn Lomborg, statistician and author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist”:

The vast majority of climate scientists tell us that increases in carbon dioxide cause higher temperatures over time. We know that this will mean changes in rainfall, melting of snow and ice, a rise in sea level, and other impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans.

There is still meaningful and important work going on looking at the range of outcomes that we should expect–it is wrong to suggest that “all of the science is in”– but I think it is vital to emphasize the consensus on the most important scientific questions.

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.

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.

Sleeping next to activists in Copenhagen

There’s no concierge, no bellboy nor even a check-in counter. There’s no lobby, nor mini-bar and not even any heating. But despite the lack of amenities there was still something special about sleeping alongside 2,000 other climate change activists in an empty warehouse in an industrial section of northwest Copenhagen last night. 

It’s cold, loud and dusty. But the price is unbeatable and so is the atmosphere. CLIMATE-COPENHAGEN/You could say they were all happy campers.

There’s no charge but donations are welcome. There’s even breakfast available, a delicious porridge concoction.  And even free wireless, which is helping me get this post written.  Last night I managed to find a fairly empty corner on the cold cement floor of this drafty warehouse shortly before midnight but by the time I woke up at 7 a.m. there were hundreds more activists in sleeping bags crowded around me. They had been streaming in through the night.

Forget polar bears, who will save the prostitutes?

Among the many messages sent out by politicians during the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, “Be sustainable — don’t buy sex” has to be one of the least expected. This was the advice circulated by Ritt Bjeregaard, the city’s mayor and a former EU Environment Commissioner, sent via postcard to all the hotels in the city to tell them to stamp down on conference-goers looking to patronise prostitutes on their premises.

Prostitution is legal in Denmark (though brothels and pimping are not), and sex workers had been expecting to do a roaring trade during the two-week conference.

Mayor Bjeregaard’s note sparked an angry response from the Sex Workers Interest Group, which pointed out that its members are not breaking the law and promised free sex to any attendees who produced one of the postcards along with their conference accreditation.

Youth groups bending the ear of business at COP15

There are numerous youth groups at the Copenhagen Climate Conference (they are known as ‘Youngos’, short for young non-governmental organisations) and they have all come here to make sure their collective voice is heard as delegates negotiate an agreement on how to tackle climate change.

Youngos represent a significant portion of the 34,000 people who have registered to attend the conference, and some have even managed to gain access to politicans and business leaders to put pressure on them on ethical business strategies.

One of these unfailingly vocal groups is the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC), which has travelled to Copenhagen to lobby businesses, investors and world leaders to adopt practices which would safeguard the environment for future generations.

Climate skeptics hold their own Copenhagen conference

With the world’s eyes firmly fixed on the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen it is easy to forget that there remains a significant group of scientists and politicians who do not accept that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate change.

These climate skeptics are in Copenhagen too and they held their own two-day conference not far from the Bella Center, home of the main summit. The Copenhagen Climate Challenge brought together a cluster of scientists who believe the real causes of climate change are being overlooked, ignored and even purposefully distorted.

They presented their evidence and called on world leaders to recognise that there is in fact no scientific consensus on climate change and asked that their dissenting views are given a fair hearing.

from The Great Debate UK:

John Reid on climate change and global security

johnreid- John Reid MP, formerly UK Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Defence, is the Chairman of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Barack Obama’s announcement that there will be no all-encompassing protocol agreed at Copenhagen underlines that climate change is perhaps the most complex issue facing the world today.  In part, this is because it involves long-term thinking and modeling which our existing political, financial and economic institutions and governance frameworks are ill-designed and configured to grapple with and resolve.

With uncertainty building over what, if anything, the Copenhagen Summit can still achieve, now is therefore the time to remind ourselves about some of the larger stakes in play next month at what has been billed by some as the most important environmental summit in world history.

Forest carbon schemes – new hope for the Amazon?

By Stuart Grudgings

In the tiny settlement of Boa Frente on the banks of a tributary to the Amazon river, bright blue butterflies flitting through trees and the constant squawks of parrots add to the feeling of a paradise on earth. The poverty endured by most of its residents quickly shatters that illusion, but environmentalists hope this village and 35 others in Brazil’s Juma reserve could be a model for saving the world’s greatest forest from destruction.


This feature about the Juma REDD project, which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, gives a fuller account of the issue.
REDD projects, in which reserves in developing nations with forest like Brazil and Indonesia receive funds from rich nations looking to offset carbon emissions, have emerged as one of the few areas in which a strong deal is possible in the divisive United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen this month.
My trip to Juma, which lies about an hour’s flight from Manaus city in Brazil’s vast Amazonas state, gave me an idea of how much is at stake as the seven-seater plane glided over a carpet of unspoiled forest that stretched to the horizon on every side. I also found that opinion is starkly divided over how to go about REDD schemes and whether Juma, whose backers include Coca Cola and hotel chain Marriott, is a desirable model.
For the 320 families in the reserve, the benefits are already becoming clear. As well as a $30 monthly stipend for all families, Boa Frente has gained a smart new school with Internet access that stands in sharp contrast to the simple huts that residents live in.  If the REDD scheme takes off according to plan they could stand to gain $7 million a year by 2020 from carbon credit sales. That would go some way towards fulfilling a long-held truism of Amazon protection — that people will only stop cutting down trees when it becomes more valuable to keep them standing.
Yet some environmentalists I spoke to back in Manaus were surprisingly critical of the project. One worried that such projects would create dependency among the families and do little to address what he saw as the main causes of their poverty — a lack of markets for forest products. Another head of an environmental group who has worked with river communities for decades said that Juma community leaders were being manipulated by the project and were losing their freedom.
While REDD certainly represents new hope for preserving the Amazon and other tropical forests, there is a largely unheard debate over how they should best serve the interests of the forest dwellers who will have to live with them.

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