2020 may be ‘last opportunity’ to limit warming to 1.5°C

Comment: Whether countries deliver on their pledge to raise ambition will be more consequential to the future of the Paris deal than even Trump’s withdrawal

Countries’ decision to meet their pledges for enhanced climate action this year could be the last opportunity for the world to limit global warming to 1.5C, writes Kevin Rudd. (Photo: UN Climate Change/Flickr)

While it’s unfair to describe the Madrid climate change conference in December as a complete failure, there is no sugar-coating the reality that it achieved much, much less than what the people and planet need to avoid catastrophic climate change this century.

It’s especially painful to acknowledge that my country, Australia, shares a lot of the blame for the outcome.

The current government’s insistence on using so-called “Kyoto credits” (carried over from my own period in office when we did take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) towards the implementation of their lacklustre Paris target, only sowed division and disharmony at the talks.

Australia’s climate change polarisation hampers long-term bushfire fixes

Such accounting trickery does nothing to fight climate change. It’s legally dubious. And it only opens the back door for other countries to do less at a moment we all need to do more.

And all while our country is suffering under the worst bushfire conditions we have ever seen with more than forty-six million acres burned, more than 2,000 homes destroyed and innocent lives lost.

The outcome in Madrid would have been worse if it weren’t for progressive nations, led by the tiny Marshall Islands, and Spain’s bold environment minister, Teresa Ribera, who worked feverishly behind the scenes to bring away some kind of outcome. History will be kind to them, if not to Cop25.

But now is not the time to simply reflect on what’s been done. We must quickly regroup in the knowledge that this coming year will be the most important year for climate action for a long time.

You see, a decade ago, in the wake of the Copenhagen talks in 2009, the usual suspects were eager to seize on the failure to agree substantial top-down emissions cuts.

Erosion crisis swallows homes and livelihoods in Nigeria

But, in the conference’s dying hours, some of us worked hard to cobble together from the ashes of Copenhagen a compromise (The Copenhagen Accord) that would let countries continue setting their own targets from the bottom up.

This accord was enshrined in international law at Paris in 2015, but came with the essential understanding that countries would come back to the table every five years with new, more ambitious targets.

The reasoning was that countries could periodically lift their ambitions because technological advances would make decarbonisation cheaper and easier over time.

Take, for example, solar power. When we were in Copenhagen, the average cost per watt of solar power in the US was around $8.50; today it is only $2.99. If countries set rigid national targets too far in advance, they risk doing so on quickly outdated projections of what was once technologically feasible, and veer towards low ambition as a result.

And the more political opportunities there are to raise national – and therefore global – ambition, the more likely world leaders are to actually seize them as new alternative energy and energy efficiency technologies become available.

Fast-forward to today. Whether countries now deliver on their core commitment in 2015 to raise their ambition is likely to be more consequential to the future of the Paris Agreement than even Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from it.

Indeed, any such decision will almost certainly be swiftly overturned by a future Democratic president.

Climate change tops risks for world in 2020 – Davos report

The fact that every current Democratic contender has also vowed to aggressively and quickly ramp up the US’s own efforts to close the ambition gap, both at home and abroad, will help to reassure others contemplating their own next steps.

This includes China, which at present is under no pressure from the US administration’s current inertia to do the same.

Thankfully, the UK as the hosts of this year’s conference in Glasgow, will be in the driver’s seat. The British will have a clear focus, bolstered by their strong election result and the opportunity to put Brexit behind them.

Furthermore, the UK government is assured that support for climate action is not just bipartisan, it is the law of the land.

The UK’s vast diplomatic reach – one of the largest in the world – will also help, as will the personal energy of Boris Johnson who used his victory speech to reaffirm his commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

As one of the heavy lifters of the EU’s collective emissions reduction efforts, London will have no issue announcing a superior national target that will pressure the rest of the world to do likewise.

Nevertheless, the scale of the task is still of biblical proportions. While more than 100 countries have now pledged to enhance their Paris targets by the end of this year and develop longer-term plans to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, this still doesn’t include enough of the world’s biggest emitters.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has rightly identified, persuading these big emitters is a top priority for 2020. His decision to convene an event to take stock of the summit of world leaders he hosted last September will help.

But everyone – from political insiders to ordinary citizens – has a role to play in helping him and incoming Cop president Claire Perry O’Neill ensure that every world leader understands the need to act, feels the weight to act, and trusts they have the support to act.

Above all, this means acting to keep global temperature increases below the 1.5°C guardrail that Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed and I first proposed at Copenhagen. And, as the science tells us, this year might be the last opportunity to do that. SOURCE

Over 55 Climate Scientists Call BS on Joe Biden’s Claim No Scientists Support Bernie Sanders’ Climate Plan

Former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, right, at a January 2020 presidential primary debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Over 55 scientists have signed an open letter rebuking Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that the climate plan rival contender Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders supports, the Green New Deal, isn’t supported by anyone in the scientific field.

Sanders has proposed spending $16.3 trillion through 2030 to radically reshape the U.S. economy, including $2.37 trillion to renewable energy and storage, over $2 trillion in grants for low- and middle-income families as well as small businesses to buy electric vehicles, and $964 billion in grants for those groups to electrify gas and propane heating systems. His plan also calls for $526 billion on a smart electric grid and hundreds of billions on replacing diesel trucks and buses and new mass transit and high-speed rail lines.

Biden’s plan, while still more sweeping than any prior federal effort to address climate change, calls for $1.7 trillion in new spending and only arrived after immense pressure from environmentalists to detail a concrete approach. Biden has also called for ending fossil fuel subsidies across the G20, a stark departure from his tenure in the Obama administration, when domestic crude oil production skyrocketed by 77 percent. It’s far from nothing, but that hasn’t blunted criticism that it’s not as ambitious as it claims to be on the tin.

But the vice president is insisting that doing more isn’t realistic. Last week, Biden attacked Sanders’ plantelling reporters in New Hampshire that “there’s not a single solitary scientist that thinks it can work,” adding that he doesn’t think zero emissions by 2030 wasn’t possible (note that Sanders’ plan actually calls for 71 percent cut in domestic emissions by that date). 57 scientists from universities and research institutes responded to Biden’s comments in an open letter in support of Sanders released Tuesday.

…“The top scientific body on climate change, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), tells us we must act immediately to bring the world together to stop the catastrophic impacts of climate change,” the scientists wrote. “The Green New Deal you are proposing is not only possible, but it must be done if we want to save the planet for ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and future generations.”

“Not only does your Green New Deal follow the IPCC’s timeline for action, but the solutions you are proposing to solve our climate crisis are realistic, necessary, and backed by science,” they added. “We must protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we call home.”

Several of the signatories told Earther that Sanders’ plan recognizes that the U.S. is running out of time to cut emissions and adapt to a changing climate, which will require a massive amount of resources. They also emphasized that continuing to operate in a business-as-usual fashion (which could put the Earth on path to a 3 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures or more by the year 2100, far more than the Paris Agreement targets) would have dire consequences. MORE


A tidal project in Scottish waters just generated enough electricity to power nearly 4,000 homes

  • The European Commission has described “ocean energy” as both abundant and renewable.
  • The MeyGen tidal stream array has now exported more than 25.5 gigawatt hours of electricity to the grid since 2017.

H/O - AR1500 turbine

SIMEC Atlantis Energy

A tidal power project in waters off the north coast of Scotland sent more than 13.8 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity to the grid last year, according to an operational update issued Monday. This figure – a record – almost doubled the previous high of 7.4 GWh in 2018.
In total, the MeyGen tidal stream array has now exported more than 25.5 GWh of electricity to the grid since the start of 2017, according to owners Simec Atlantis Energy. Phase 1A of the project is made up of four 1.5 megawatt (MW) turbines.
The 13.8 GWh of electricity exported in 2019 equates to the average yearly electricity consumption of roughly 3,800 “typical” homes in the U.K., according to the company, with revenue generation amounting to £3.9 million ($5.09 million).

Onshore maintenance is now set to be carried out on the AR1500 turbine used by the scheme, with Atlantis aiming to redeploy the technology in spring.

In addition to the production of electricity, Atlantis is also planning to develop an “ocean-powered data centre” near the MeyGen project.

The European Commission has described “ocean energy” as being both abundant and renewable. It’s estimated that ocean energy could potentially contribute roughly 10% of the European Union’s power demand by the year 2050, according to the Commission.

While tidal power has been around for decades — EDF’s 240 MW La Rance Tidal Power Plant in France was built as far back as 1966 — recent years have seen a number of new projects take shape.

In December last year, Scottish tidal energy business Nova Innovation was issued with a permit to develop a project in Nova Scotia, Canada.

In an announcement at the time, the firm said a total of 15 tidal stream turbines would be installed by the year 2023. The project, according to the firm, will produce enough electricity to power 600 homes. MORE


These Are the World’s Most Environmentally Friendly Countries

Go green on your next trip. These 5 destinations are doing the most to tackle important environmental issues.

Switzerland is the most eco-friendly country in the world, especially when it comes to its efforts in air quality and climate protection. Photo by Burben/Shutterstock.

Many factors can influence a traveler’s decision about where to go next. The kind of destination is of course important, as is the type of experience: Is the goal to have a quiet beach getaway or a lively multi-city tour? But as climate change becomes an increasing global concern and as it becomes harder to ignore the impact that travel has on the environment, another question that well-informed travelers might want to ask themselves is: Which destinations are making the biggest efforts to “go green”?

The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a biennial report that determines which countries around the world are leading the front in making—and enforcing—policies that safeguard the environment. Created in 2006, the global index determines a country’s ranking based on its efforts to address the environmental issues that have the most impact on health and sustainability worldwide, such as climate change and pollution.

The EPI’s most 2018 report ranks 180 countries using performance metrics organized under the following categories: air quality; water and sanitation; heavy metals; biodiversity and habitat; forests; fisheries; climate and energy; air pollution; water resources; and agriculture.

In 2018, these were the five countries named the world’s most sustainable. The next EPI is slated for release in early 2020; whether these destinations will remain on top is yet to be seen.

Top 5 countries from the 2018 Environmental Performance Index:

1. Switzerland 

2. France 

3. Denmark 

4. Malta 

5. Sweden 

According to 2018 EPI data, Switzerland currently leads the world in sustainability, with an overall score of 87.42. The country received almost perfect scores for water sanitation (99.99) and water resources (99.67), placing second overall for air pollution, behind Equatorial Guinea, as well as climate and energy, following the Seychelles archipelago, which the 2018 EPI indicated as the “most improved country over the past decade.”

France (83.95), Denmark (81.60), Malta (80.9), and Sweden (80.51) rounded out the EPI’s top five most environmentally friendly countries list, with France, Denmark, and Malta earning top rankings in the biodiversity and habitat category. Malta was in the lead for water and sanitation and water resources; Sweden received a perfect score in heavy metals (addressing the life-threatening impact of lead exposure). Denmark, Malta, and Sweden also stood out for high scores in air quality.

Essentially, this index highlights the world’s leading countries in progressive environmental performance and policy. For travelers who prefer supporting “green” destinations, these results can be helpful when planning your next trip. SOURCE

The EPI is produced by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. For the full list of countries ranked, see the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).


Settler nations have failed as care-takers of nature. It’s time for a new approach.

Great Bear Rainforest. Photography by A.S Wright

I am from Mikamak’ik and I’m a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation with shared settler-nation ancestry. My Elders taught me to see and feel the essential connectedness of all life. As a Mi’kmaq, I view Creation as a gift. This gift encompasses everything we have and need to survive, and we have an inherent opportunity to be Creation’s care-takers.

But this gift is on fire. Down under in Australia, and here, too. The sacred Creation is in flames.

The global media response to the tragedies unfolding in Australia in recent weeks must provide us with an opportunity to create a profound shift in our global consciousness. Like a moth to a flame, our global attention has been drawn to the climate-change-induced fires ravaging Australian landscape and communities.

Can this fire, or its spiritual resonance, help us tear down the boundaries that have divided us as urban and bush cultures, earth and sky beings, and, ultimately, as human and animal brethren?

An unprecedented number of media stories are tracking the loss of life in Australia, but the situation extends much farther. Media outlets across the globe are sharing images of charred landscapes, asphyxiated animals and desperate emergency responders. We are viewing the destruction of our commons in a real-time-streamed tragedy.

Our modern culture has induced this global-warming moment, and a return to nature may help us correct our course.

The lands and territories occupied by Canada are home to 30 per cent of the world’s total remaining wild forests and 20 per cent of its freshwater. Forests, oceans, grasslands and wetlands are massive holders of carbon and serve as our first defence in the climate struggle. These landscapes are also Indigenous territories and the frontlines in the fight for cultural and environmental survival.

On Wet’suwet’en territory, communities stand their ground to block the imminent destruction of their sacred lands, while the RCMP attempt to remove Elders and women with state-sanctioned force. We cannot allow this to happen. Full stop.

We must seize the moment and shift our awareness and create a new reality.

In Australia, the latest reports point to one billion animals lost to this fire, in addition to the loss of human life and landscape. Around the world, a quieter crisis threatens one million species being permanently lost to extinction.

Our modern culture has induced this global-warming moment, and a return to nature may help us correct our course.

But this is more than an extinction event. This is an extermination event fuelled by global wealth and privilege through the accumulation and inequitable distribution of resources and information in a manner intended to skew our understanding of the harm being done to our planet and climate.

The care-taking teaching essential to my culture has not been sufficiently respected and practised by settler nations. The chronic undervaluing and lack of caring for nature and local Indigenous knowledge has been a key driver of climate change and of the tragedy unfolding in Canada and around the world.

But there is hope.

Some governments, including Canada, have made important commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian government plans to expand protected areas in nature to safeguard wildlife habitat and biodiversity by protecting 17 per cent of lands by the end of this 2020 and 25 per cent of land and ocean by 2025, leading to 30 per cent by 2030. They have also committed to investing in nature-based solutions, including the planting of two billion trees and the rewilding of urban areas.

Drawing on the difficult stories from Australia, we must dismantle the conceptual and systemic barriers that keep us apart. The new reality is here when teenagers rescue koalas fleeing the flames, when families and people stand in the ocean to escape the fire, and when communities that were once strangers reach across borders to extend relief and support.

The new reality holds up an ethic of survival and solidarity, not limitless growth. We must draw on each other for a new kind of strength, a strength to be unapologetically resilient. In addition to urgent action needed to limit emissions and protect nature, we need to take concrete steps to defend and protect the rights of all to a safe existence.

The International Panel on Climate Change recognizes that the protection of land and water, and the recognition and proper implementation of Indigenous Peoples rights is a way to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The ecosystems being defended by Indigenous Peoples are home to an astonishing biodiversity and a sacred way of life, which, if respected, can sustain our nations, our well-being and our economy.

If we act now and steward wisely, while respecting people’s rights, we can care for our future effectively. Indigenous governments, local communities, and nature groups across the country are ready with proposals for protecting natural areas, led by Indigenous knowledge and laws, which can help Canada reach its conservation targets. We are ready to work together.

The time to act is now. Our resolve is strong, and growing. The current protected area targets are but steps on a journey. Ultimately traditional knowledge and western science both tell us that nature will need at least half of the planet if any of us are to survive.

Weal’in. / Thank You


2020 planet’s most sustainable company revealed

The largest energy company in Denmark, Orsted, has been ranked as the most sustainable company in the world in the Corporate Knights’ 2020 index of the Global 100 most sustainable corporations in the world.

Orsted was ranked 70th in 2018 and 4th in 2019.

The index examined the sustainability efforts of more than 7,300 global companies with up to $1 billion in revenue.

Orsted was recognized owing to the firm’s strategic and fundamental business transformation from fossil fuels to renewable energy over the past decade. Corporate Knights says it ranked Orsted as No. 1 because the company increased the share of revenue earned from renewable energy by 10%, from 58.4% to 68.1%.

In the 2020 Global 100 index, 49 companies are from Europe, 29 from the U.S. and Canada, and 18 from Asia.

Sustainability efforts implemented by Orsted include:

  • Reduced carbon emissions by 83% since 2006. The utility has vowed to become carbon-neutral by 2025,
  • Providing energy from wind farms to 13 million people, with an aim to increase the base to 50 million consumers by 2030,
  • Reduced its renewable energy targets from three decades to a single decade,
  • By 2023, Orsted will finalize the phase-out of coal from its portfolio of combined heat and power plants to run on certified sustainable biomass,
  • Company car fleet will be 100% electric by 2025,
  • By 2032, will reduce emissions in the supply chain and from energy trading by 50% compared to 2018.

“We’re immensely proud to rank as the world’s most sustainable company,” said Henrik Poulsen, chief executive officer of Ørsted. “From our origins as a traditional fossil fuel-based energy company, we’ve transformed into one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world. Every day, we deliver green energy solutions at scale to combat climate change, the defining challenge of our time.

“… we’d prefer to see the world develop more sustainably. Global greenhouse gas emissions have been rising for decades and are now at their highest level ever. We have no time to lose if we want to halt global warming and halve global emissions by 2030 as recommended by science.

“We have the necessary green technologies at hand to transform the world’s energy systems. Countries and businesses must work together and take bold steps to speed up the green transformation, reduce their emissions and limit global warming to 1.5C. As I see it, we owe it to the current and not least future generations.”

“We’re strengthening collaboration with our biggest and most important suppliers to work with them on reducing their emissions in line with science and to encourage them to run their operations on green energy.”

Ørsted develops, constructs and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities and bioenergy plants.

We need an international environmental criminal court now

The world needs to get serious about protecting the planet.


“Confraternity of the living sun, make the embers of financial and industrial internationalism pale upon the hearth of the earth.”– DH Lawrence

“The major problems in the world are the result of the differences between how nature works and the way people think.”– Gregory Bateson 

It was not a lawyer or economist who uttered those words about the “financial and industrial internationalism” but a poet and a prophet generations ahead of his time. The world convulses and fires sear across the face of the Earth. I speak not as a PhD economist or lawyer from Harvard or Oxford, for Mother Nature does not give awards or accolades. Her wisdom is of an incomparable, multimillennial mind we have lost touch with on a grand scale. I write these words because we have this year in which to start reversing the ways of our cannibalistic species or we lose the biosphere.

We have already lost the first 20 percent of the 21stcentury just as we have lost almost 20 percent of the rainforest in South America. It may go into dieback and become a savanna. To this end, in memory of Polly Higgins — who fought to make ecocide a part of the human conversation — to answer Prince William’s Earthshot challenge, to underscore what the International Bar Association has long recommended, it is time humanity create an International Environmental Criminal Court, representing all continents, to enforce environmental protection across borders, and to minimize damage to what remains of our only life support system. Before it is too late.

My son Lysander when he was 8 years old looked at the full moon rising over the Atlantic and said, “We have landed on the moon but we haven’t landed on Earth yet.” This year for the third time in a decade we were reminded of the extravagant fragility of the cryosphere in Greenland spilling 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean, an event that will upturn civilization as we know it. It seems especially relevant that a young boy was able to recognize the aberrant behavior of the adult world given that teenagers are leading the way with global activism and a universal declaration for saving the planet. The children’s crusade in 1212 failed. Today’s crusade cannot. We have become “cosmic outlaws” in the words of Henry Beston. The Law of Nature and Nature’s God was written into the Declaration of Independence abetted by the elders of the Iroquois Confederacy. What have we done with Nature since this country’s inception, since the Enlightenment? 

I was told 20 years ago by Southwest native elders that 2020 is the point of no return. How prophetic those words seem today. Do we still have time for waking up to the realities of our new geologic era? Tipping points in the world’s rainforests, the Arctic and oceans are being reached yearly. Witness the Amazon fires. Witness the apocalypse of Australia now. Witness the denialism of its conservative leaders. What will there be left of Australia by the end of the summer, never mind the end of the decade? The coal robber barons have hijacked an entire continent. We know the science; we have exulted in numbers for generations. The experts have spoken. The James Hansons who warned us about carbon dioxide emissions screamed the alarm decades ago.

The world has become asphyxiated with numbers. Numbers of voters disqualified from voting in the U.S. The fascination with Gross Domestic Product. Earnings and mind-numbing profits on Wall Street. Astronomical military expenditures. It is what DH Lawrence prophetically called “industrial internationalism.” One thing is certain: We have one planet and going to the moon again or Mars will not solve our terrestrial tribulations. Globalization as Jerry Mander warned in his tome The Case Against the Global Economy, has wreaked havoc on the world order. Demonstrations are weekly erupting like firecrackers. It seems that EF Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” was forgotten in the storm of economic profits that supported the 1 percent. And today the bedrock of existence trembles.

I helped alert the world to the elephant slaughter about 10 years ago. At first, no one in the media cared. I tried every major magazine to no avail and finally after five months of unrelenting concern convinced Vanity Fair to send Alex Shoumatoff to Africa. The result was “Agony and Ivory,” a blistering landmark article on the elephant’s plight across an entire continent. It was perhaps the greatest piece of investigative journalism on a single species ever. It galvanized the conservation world and warned of an “extinction vortex.” And indeed, despite the outrage and international efforts we still lost a third of Africa’s elephants and the fight is not yet over. But the world mobilized. China broke down its internal ivory market. Today, barely a decade later, it is every living being on Earth that is menaced. Insects, birds, ocean plankton are diminishing, and the social fabric of humanity is fraying.    

The idea of an environmental court is not novel, but its implementation would be. We need sanctions, a moral compass and immediate legal council to bear on countries’ actions to protect what is left of the planet. The Amazon does not belong to just Brazil, just as the Arctic’s icecap does not belong to the United States. 

Is it too much to ask the world to create an International Environmental Criminal Court that would sanction countries who allow environmental activists to be killed by the dozens from the Philippines to Mexico? Can we as a species prevent total ecocide and ensure restrictions on extractive and waste industries, oversee adhering to the cop21 Paris Climate agreement and generally mandate the preservation and hopefully regeneration of the world’s biodiversity? We have fought against imperialism, slavery and colonialism, although leftovers from all those have helped create the world as we know it. But the overarching, triumphal issue of our time is the life force of the planet. This decade could be the synthesis of the previous two if we manage to transcend our differences. We still operate with a Stone Age mind, acting with 21st century technology. The deadliest combination possible. What does this portend?  Can we allow humanity to dredge rare earth minerals in the oceans? Can the Arctic be completely devastated by the oil industry? It is time a Global Green Deal be implemented. Antarctica needs to be off limits to all mining interests. The IECC would make sure to that. Palm oil extraction that is scouring the forests of the world, and now Africa needs to become a thing of the past.  

I remember the words of the native Hopi, Dine and Apache elders from the Southwest who warned us of this time 20 years ago. Few in the dominant society listened to them. One grandmother from San Ildefonso told me, “We are living on borrowed time.” We have become overly cerebral and schizophrenic as a species. Need has been co-opted by systemic greed as EF Schumacher used to remind us.

After being transformed by his epic trip to Africa, Carl Jung came to New Mexico in 1925. It was there that the elder Mountain Lake admonished Jung that the white people thought with their head. Jung surprised, wondered what they should think with. The heart, the elder answered. It is the same kind of response an elephant researcher told us when she said that saving the Earth will come through poetry and not just science and the intellect. It will come through an emotional response to what needs saving.

An environmental court will have its many layers of complications and complexities that make up legal challenges today. But it cannot fail in humanity’s commitment to life. We do not need more satellite systems in space despite what Elon Musk tells us. That is economics, technology, the old system. Humanity, as Carl Jung would have warned us, must be able to die to one’s ego while letting slavery, apartheid, colonialism and ecocide die as well. It is the biggest challenge our species will ever face. A court for the environment is only a step but it could function as a much-needed brake towards a behavior that threatens life on a global scale. What we have to do is save the oceans, the bees, the forests, indeed what is left of the human soul. 

A small continent with prehistoric wonders is going up in flames. An elder in Kakadu, northern Australia, born under a rock escarpment, told us we needed to listen to the trees and the stars, they are talking to us. What would he say today knowing that a continent with the second oldest culture on Earth was ablaze because its leaders did not hold itself accountable to anything but shareholders? That a new coal plant was being planned in Queensland not so far from the Barrier Reef? Australia, whose bird life, koalas and plants mystify us, is in the throes of a global calamity. 

When I was in high school, I knew I needed to see the birthplace of humanity in East Africa. Four months in what many city dwellers would call the middle of nowhere were more meaningful and engaging than anything I ever learned amidst the glass towers, computers and steel palladiums of man. It was a harsh paradise but a garden of unimaginable splendor and challenge. When Charles Lindbergh landed in East Africa almost a century ago, he arrived in a plane that had traversed the world and opened up the trajectory of the jet age. Lindbergh, in his autobiography wrote that “many Maasai thought that ‘civilization’ is not progress.” They feel sorry for the white man because he has lost contact with nature. They question our basic values. “You speak of freedom in your country,” a Maasai elder told me, “but we have known freedom far greater than yours.” Bureaucrats, business elite of the world, well intentioned diplomats take heed. We are running out of time. The children of today and children of tomorrow are asking what has mankind done to this unique gem in the universe? This decade is the last in which we can even begin to hope to stabilize what is left of the world. SOURCE

Trudeau’s Pipeline Project Loses Support, Raising Political Risk

Image result for question period tmx pipeline

Pipeline will complicate any discussion on a coalition, informal or otherwise, with the NDP

(Bloomberg) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is losing support for a plan to expand the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, raising the stakes for his government as the project navigates continued legal challenges.

About 37% of Canadians oppose the government-owned project, up from 31% in June, according to a poll published Tuesday by the Angus Reid Institute. Backing for the pipeline is at 55%, down from 58%, the survey showed.

Canada’s C$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion) purchase of Trans Mountain in 2018 has been a political quagmire for Trudeau, costing him support among his environmentalist base while winning him little favor with voters in conservative, oil-rich Alberta. The poll suggests that even if Trudeau overcomes legal hurdles, the project will remain a dilemma for his government, with opposition escalating largely in strongholds for his Liberal party.

The expansion would almost triple to 890,000 barrels a day the shipping capacity on the line, which travels from Edmonton to a port terminal near Vancouver. Canada’s oil industry considers the project key to developing new markets for its crude in Asia and reducing its dependence on U.S. refiners. Environmentalists say the expansion would allow for increased oil-sands output, contributing to the threat of catastrophic climate change and preventing Canada from meeting its greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

Trans Mountain won a major battle earlier this month, when the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed a case against the line. But it still faces a court challenge in British Columbia that’s centered on whether Trudeau’s government adequately consulted with indigenous groups along the pipeline route.

The Angus Reid poll of 1,528 Canadian adults was conducted online from Jan. 21 through Jan. 23, with a margin of error of plus of minus 2.5 percentage points. SOURCE


Pipeline project clears one hurdle, but divides Canadians

Opposition to Trans Mountain pipeline expansion spikes 11 percentage points, survey suggests

In Quebec, 55% of survey respondents say they oppose TMX

Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta., on June 18, 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

A new poll suggests that an increasing number of Canadians are opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The Angus Reid Institute poll found that opposition has risen 11 percentage points since June 2018, shortly after the Liberal government purchased TMX from Kinder Morgan.

Shortly after the purchase, support for TMX was 57 per cent, while 26 per cent were opposed. Now, opposition sits at 37 per cent.

A slight majority (55 per cent) of Canadians still profess to support the $7.4-billion project, which would ship 890,000 barrels of crude per day from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.

But in Quebec and Ontario and B.C., public opinion seems to have turned sharply against the pipeline.

Over the past 18 months, opposition has risen by 18 percentage points in Quebec (from 37 to 55 per cent), by 13 points in Ontario (from 23 to 36 per cent) and by 13 points in B.C. (from 28 to 41 per cent).

“Notably, this hardening of opposition has occurred in regions where the minority Liberal government must lean hardest for support,” the polling firm said in its release.

“In British Columbia, where the provincial NDP government has been opposed to the project since taking power in 2017, support still outweighs opposition. That said, opposition has risen since June of 2018 as construction has begun and court challenges have been heard and resolved.”

Meanwhile, support for the project has been unwavering in Alberta, and people in the other Prairie provinces are increasingly getting behind it.

The poll found that 87 per cent of Albertans want it built, and support is up 17 points in Saskatchewan and 22 points in Manitoba over the past 18 months.

Support in Atlantic Canada is up, too, by 11 points since mid-2018.

The poll also suggested that Canadians agree by a two-to-one ratio (53 per cent to 27 per cent) that the Supreme Court of Canada was correct in dismissing an appeal from the B.C. government challenging federal jurisdiction of cross-border pipeline content, bringing to an end one of the few remaining legal challenges facing TMX.

Asked to choose between two priorities, 58 per cent of Canadians said protecting the environment is the most important, while 42 per cent said ensuring economic growth should take precedence.

The survey also found that men are overwhelmingly in favour of the project while women under the age of 55 are more likely to oppose TMX.

The poll came as detailed route hearings were set to begin Tuesday for the pipeline expansion project.

They were the first hearings of their kind to be held since the project was reapproved last year.

James Stevenson, a spokesman for the Canada Energy Regulator, said such hearings typically deal with detailed routing issues, like area-specific tree removal or road crossings.

These are not the kind of hearings that could scuttle the project, he said.

“Now the project is approved, we need to make sure that it’s in the exact, best-possible location that it can be, as well as done the right way,” Stevenson said.

Two hearings were scheduled for today in Spruce Grove, Alta., but the landowners involved in both matters withdrew their statement of opposition, Stevenson said.

A hearing in Edmonton next month will be the last required in the province for the project.

Sixty-eight per cent of the pipeline’s detailed route has been approved so far.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted its survey online from Jan. 21 to 23 among a representative randomized sample of 1,528 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum.

For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, the firm said. SOURCE

IMO under pressure to regulate new ship fuels over Arctic warming

New marine fuels introduced at the start of January could lead to an increase of the shipping sector’s climate impacts

Arctic shipping is forecast to grow as melting ice opens up new sea routes. (Photo: Fiona Paton/Flickr)

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is under pressure to regulate new shipping fuels introduced this month which may be accelerating warming in the Arctic.

From 1 January this year, stricter sulphur levels for ships have come into force to reduce air pollution and human health impacts such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Shipping companies and fuel providers have been using new blends of fuels to meet the sulphur guidelines. But instead, research suggested the new fuels could lead to an increase of the sector’s climate impacts.

A study conducted by Finland and Germany and submitted to the IMO found the new very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) used by ships contained more aromatic compounds which are causing a surge in black carbon emissions – a short-lived pollutant that strongly absorbs sunlight and traps heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

The new hybrid fuels resulted in a 10% to 85% increase in black carbon emissions compared to previously used heavy fuel oil, the study found. Black carbon is already estimated to represent up to 21% of shipping’s climate impact.

Is the shipping industry’s R&D climate fund a Trojan Horse?

“While black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only a few days or weeks, in that time, it traps 3200-times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, measured over a 20-year period,” Bryan Comer, a senior researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) told Climate Home News.

When black carbon settles on the Arctic, it reduces the reflectiveness of the snow and ice and generates heat, which accelerates melting. This makes the Arctic – which is already warming twice as fast as the rest of the world  – particularly sensitive to these emissions.

Global warming is melting Arctic sea ice and opening the region to more shipping, including a short-cut route between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Now campaigners are asking the marine fuel organisations responsible for drawing up official guidance on the supply and use of the low-sulphur fuel blends, why the impact on black carbon emissions was not identified before the new fuels were put on the market.

In a letter sent to the 11 organisations that co-authored the joint industry guidance, the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of organisations campaigning for a ban on heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping, demanded the authors to explain why action hadn’t been taken sooner.

“It’s hard to see how experts in marine fuels like yourselves could not have been aware of the elevated aromatics in these new fuels and of the link between aromatics in fuels and black carbon emissions, and we believe an explanation from industry and refiners is urgently needed,” the letter read.

Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance who wrote the letter, told Climate Home News: “If [the oil industry] know their product at all they would have realised there was a potential problem.”

The IMO’s sub-committee on pollution prevention and response is meeting next month and the issue of black carbon emissions and the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic are on the agenda.

An IMO spokeswoman said the committee will have the opportunity to discuss the submission made by Finland and Germany and report back to its parent body, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), which is meeting at the end of March.

CHN contacted seven of the 11 organisations recipients of the letter which have a formal consultative status at the IMO.

A spokesman for Ipieca, the global oil and gas industry association for advancing environmental and social performance, said the remit of the guidance provided to the shipping sector was “limited” and  focused on supporting ship managers with the “operational aspects of the transition” and “help ensure the safety of vessels and crews”.

He added the research by Finland Germany focused on fuel blends “most likely to be used in 2020” and that at this stage there was “no comprehensive overview available that documents the actual variability of fuel types and representative fuel quality on the market”.

This, he said, made it “too early to draw any valid and meaningful conclusions on the level of black carbon emissions” associated with the use of VLSFOs.

Today, shipping is taking responsibility for our role in the climate crisis

The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) and the Royal Institute of Naval Architects declined to comment before the issue was addressed by the IMO in February.

The International Association of Classification Societies (Iacs), the International Bunker Industry Association (Ibia), the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology IMarEST did not immediately respond to CHN’s requests.

Prior said the response needed to focus on the Arctic and called for “immediate measures” to require ships in the Arctic – and eventually everywhere else in the world – to switch to higher-quality distillates fuels, which have lower sulphur levels and emit less black carbon.

More than half of all ships in the Arctic are already using distillates fuel, Prior said. “This is not an impossible ask and could happen very quickly. This issue needs to be taken serious by the IMO.”

Lucy Gilliam, a shipping campaigner at the NGO Transport & Environment, described the blunder “a failure of [the IMO’s] regulatory process”.

Gilliam called for countries parties to the IMO, such as the EU, to demand urgent action at the February meeting.

The shipping sector accounts for about 3% of global emissions annually. In 2018, countries parties to the IMO agreed to cut the sector’s emissions by 50% by 2050. SOURCE