Environment Forum

from Commodity Corner:

Getting down to business at U.N. climate talks a hard task

A U.N. concession to delegates at this week's climate talks in Bonn to take off jackets and ties due to recent high temperatures may be going to some participants' heads.

Breaking the back of negotiations for a new climate pact after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 is proving hard work even though the talks' chair hopes to have a new negotiating text on the table by the end of the week.

Developing nations are still blaming the rich for global warming and the issue of who will contribute most to climate financing is still a matter for debate.

A year-end meeting in Cancun looms closer and the pressure is on to get the job done.
Yet, the acronyms being bandied around -- LULUCF, CDM, AAU, AWG-KP, AWG-LCA, REDD, to name a few -- are enough to make your head swim.

Even a Chinese negotiator on Tuesday admitted he did not understand a complicated forestry and land use presentation the previous day by the European Union.

Global warming accelerates; Climategate rumbles on

A report by a group of leading scientists that global warming is accelerating and that world sea levels could rise at worst by 2 metres by 2100* is grim reading.

But sceptics are using a flood of leaked e-mails from a British University — dubbed “Climategate” – to question the findings.

You can read the Copenhagen Diagnosis here, by 26 researchers worldwide.  It says a thaw of summer sea ice around the North Pole, for instance, has far outpaced projections in a report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) two years ago. They say world emissions must peak by 2020 to avoid the worst of climate change.

Could denying bedroom privileges save the planet?

There will be a record number of side events at the United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen next month, but one woman’s one-woman show could give the delegates, most of whom will be men, the incentive they really need to agree a new global warming treaty.

In “The Boycott“, Kathryn Blume plays Lyssa, First Lady of the United States and climate crusader.  Loosely borrowing from a play from ancient Greece, Lyssa launches a nationwide sex strike to fight global warming. As the play unfolds, Lyssa is forced to take on her indifferent husband, a hostile press and a romantic rival who’s not only in bed with the President, but with the oil industry as well.

Blume is co-founder of the Lysistrata Project, named after the Aristophanean comedy on which The Boycott is based.  Originally performed in ancient Athens in 411 BC, Lysistrata tells the tale of one woman’s attempt to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing all women to withhold bedroom privileges from their husbands.

Will Nobel Prize also take Obama to Copenhagen climate talks?

The surprise award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama just nine months into his presidency on Friday may put pressure on him to visit a 190-nation meeting on a new U.N. climate treaty in Copenhagen.

The prize will be handed over in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of the award’s founder Alfred Nobel, and the U.N. talks will run in Copenhagen from Dec. 7-18. It takes about an hour to fly between the two Scandinavian capitals.

And the Norwegian Nobel Committee heaped praise on Obama, including his climate policies, in its citation.

Better Than A Rainforest? Air Capture Climate Technology Gets A Closer Look

It sounds almost too good to be true: new technology that would be better than carbon neutral — it would be carbon negative, taking more climate-warming carbon dioxide out of the air than factories and vehicles put in. It’s called air capture technology, and Reuters took a look at some promising versions of it on October 1.

This technology is expected to help some of the world’s poorest countries capitalize on any global carbon market, which would put a price on carbon emissions and let rich companies that spew lots of carbon buy carbon credits from poor companies and countries that emit less. The least developed countries emit very little carbon now. But the way the carbon market is set up under the Kyoto Protocol, this puts them at a disadvantage. If you don’t emit a lot it’s tough to get access to financing and clean technology under the current rules.

Most of these less-developed countries are going to be on the front lines of climate change, if they’re not there already. The predicted ravages of a changing climate, including droughts, floods and wildfires, would hurt them worst and first. The idea is that they need to develop, to give themselves a cushion against these disasters. To develop, they need energy. And usually, getting energy has meant spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, adding to the climate change that caused the problem in the first place.

The Case Of The Forged Letters – a cap-and-trade mystery


A half-dozen fake letters, signed by people who don’t seem to exist and who work at made-up jobs, are causing a bit of buzz in the environmental world — mostly because the letters urged a Virginia congressman to vote against a cap-and-trade system to curb climate change.

The Sierra Club calls it “dirty tricks.” The Union of Concerned Scientists points out that the PR firm said to be behind the fake-letter lobbying effort has a history of working against climate legislation. Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs a House committee on energy independence and global warming, said the committee will investigate. The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville published a detailed story.

The congressman, Tom Perriello, voted for the cap-and-trade bill anyway. It passed by a slim margin and the Senate is expected to take up this matter in September.

Is Bill Clinton’s climate legacy a problem for Obama?

Who was president when U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose most sharply since 1990, the U.N. benchmark year for action to fight climate change?
– George W. Bush (2001-2007)
– Bill Clinton (1993-2000)
– George H.W. Bush (1990-1992)
(I’m giving presidents responsibility for the full calendar year of their inauguration in January; official U.S. data are only available until 2007)

Answer — Bill Clinton (by a long way).

Many people might have thought the worst scorecard was by George W. Bush, who gave up plans to implement the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, signed by the Clinton administration but never submitted to a hostile Senate for ratification.

But emissions rose by more than twice as much in the Clinton years, when climate campaigner Al Gore was vice president, as during the combined years when two Bush presidents, father and son, were in the White House since 1990.

The rich are different from you and me: they spew more carbon

Yachts do it. Limousines do it. Even air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. Which is sort of the idea behind a new strategy for sharing the burden of fighting climate change. Take a look at the Reuters story on this here.

Instead of the two-tier world envisioned by the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol — where developed countries have the lion’s share of responsibility for cutting emissions, while developing countries including China and India have few requirements — environmental strategists from Princeton, Harvard, the Netherlands and Italy say it might be better to track the wealthy, who live in every country.

On the grounds that individual rich people emit more carbon dioxide than most other people, these strategists suggest setting an international individual cap on the emissions that spur global warming. Rich people in rich countries are likely to hit this cap sooner than rich people in poor countries, so rich countries are likely to have to do something about their emissions before poor countries do. But eventually, every country that emits more than its share will have to take action, under this scenario.

Historic climate deal in Copenhagen: dream or reality?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy declares “nuclear is dead”; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is taken to hospital suffering from “confetti inhalation” and “hug-related injuries” after they agree to a historic U.N. deal to curb greenhouse gases in Copenhagen.

At least that’s part of the wishful thinking behind a spoof December 19, 2009 edition of the International Herald Tribune (left) showing a beaming German Chancellor Angela Merkel flanked by Sarkozy (left) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso above the headline “heads of state agree historic climate-saving deal”.

Among other headlines in the 8-page edition sponsored by environmental group Greenpeace: “Markets soar on news of Copenhagen climate deal”, “Exxon finally comes clean” (by abandoning oil and shifting to renewable energies), “Atmosphere named world heritage site”, “India turns its back on the carbon economy”, “Amazon forest a big winner in Denmark”.

Kyoto Protocol not the economic millstone Russia (and others) feared?

In 2004, an economic adviser to former Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for reining in global warming would kill off the world economy like “an international Auschwitz”.

Jewish groups deplored the remarks by Andrei Illarionov (left side of photo, with Putin) as trivialising the Holocaust. And his fears seem far from justified — in 2007, the Russian economy grew by 8.1 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by just 0.3 percent. (For a story, click here).

Putin went on to defy his advice — Moscow ratified the Kyoto pact and Russia’s “Yes” gave Kyoto enough international backing weight to enter into force in 2005, setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions for industrialised nations until 2012. In the United States, former President George W. Bush’s administration did not sign up, describing Kyoto as an “economic straitjacket”.

  •