Trudeau’s climate policy a disaster as UN climate summit kicks off

Protesters at COP21 in Paris. Image: John Englart/Flickr

Image: John Englart/Flickr

The United Nations COP25 climate summit began this week, and is set to run through December 13 in Madrid, Spain. Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s new environment minister, will be in attendance. What will his message to the world be, given the Trudeau government’s dismal record on carbon emissions?

An annual report on emissions from the UN now says that Canada’s emissions are projected to be 592 megatonnes in 2030. That’s the figure that was projected by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) this past June.

That may be an optimistic calculation. In March 2017, Environment Canada projected that Canada would emit between 697 and 790 megatonnes in 2030.

Even if we work with the lowest public figure, the Trudeau government is still falling short of its own promise and the imperative to do more. The House of Commons will reconvene on December 5, just a few days after COP25 starts.

In order to avert further climate breakdown, Canada must take emergency action to dramatically reduce emissions. Key measures would include cancelling two tar sands pipelines, committing to keep the oil in the ground, and eliminating billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies to transnational oil and gas corporations.

As COP25 kicks off, and the House of Commons resumes this week, here are the numbers Trudeau government’s climate policy failures.

592 megatonnes, not 512 (Paris Agreement)

Under the Paris Agreement, the Trudeau government pledged to reduce Canada’s emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Given Canada’s emissions were 731 megatonnes in 2005, a 30 per cent reduction would mean a 2030 target of 512 megatonnes. This number has also been reported as 513 megatonnes.

592 megatonnes, not 381 (UNIPCC)

In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said carbon emissions must be cut by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 to keep global warming from rising about the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius mark. Given Canada’s carbon emissions were 692 megatonnes in 2010, that would set a 2030 target of 381 megatonnes.

592 megatonnes, not 450 (NDP) nor 292 (Green Party)

The Green Party of Canada has called for emissions to be cut by 60 per cent below the 2005 amount by 2030, meaning about 292 megatonnes cut. The NDP calculated that their plans would cut emissions to 450 megatonnes by 2030.

592 megatonnes, not zero

Extinction Rebellion has called for net zero emissions by 2025, environmental groups have called for net-zero emissions by 2040, and the IPCC says emissions must be eliminated by 2050. Canada is still far from zero emissions.

Keep it in the ground

Back in January 2015, British researchers stated in a report published in the journal Nature that three-quarters of its oil reserves and 85 per cent of the tar sands would need to say in the ground in order to stay below the then two-degree Celsius target. Now, 1.5 degrees C is viewed as the preferred target.

The Trudeau government’s approval of both the Line 3 and Trans Mountain pipelines in 2016 signals the federal government is not committed to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Line 3 adds 19 to 26-plus megatonnes

On December 1, the Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to Manitoba became operational. The American portion of the pipeline is expected to begin service in 2020. When that portion is completed, the pipeline will have an export capacity of 760,000 barrels per day.

The Line 3 pipeline is expected to result in 19-26 megatonnes of upstream carbon pollution per year and a larger number of downstream carbon emissions.

Trans Mountain adds 92.4 to 97.4 megatonnes

Furthermore, the federally-owned Trans Mountain pipeline, once expanded, will move 890,000 barrels per day. The expanded pipeline should be in service by mid-2022 and is expected to emit between 21 and 26 megatonnes of emissions each year and 71.4 megatonnes of downstream carbon equivalents.



The Justin Trudeau Climate Playbook Version 2.0


James Hansen: The Wheels of Justice

Image result for james Hansen panel presenters

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn.  The judicial branch of government can be agonizingly slow, yet lawsuits form a crucial front in the fight to assure a healthy climate and a bright future for young people and future generations.

Lawsuits against governments receive attention, deservedly so.  Our government is violating Constitutional rights of young people such as equal protection of the law and due process.

Dan Galpern, my legal adviser, and I argued at the recent COP25 meeting in Madrid that it is important to put increased emphasis on lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry.

My reason for such a focus is not to punish the industry, even though they may deserve it.  I am more interested in climate solutions, and the fossil fuel industry has the resources to become a big part of the solutions, if they redirect resources toward clean energy.

We cannot count on the government to do the investment and R&D fast enough.  Better innovation potential exists in the private sector, which the government should encourage.  An example is space launch capability.  NASA, predictably, became a government bureaucracy.  However, there were people in NASA smart enough to foster the private sector.  Result: we have innovative capabilities such as Space X, with launch costs reduced a factor of 10 – we no longer need to rely on Russia to launch our heavy payloads!

In my remarks at COP25, I pointed out that the President of Exxon Research and Engineering in 1982 correctly described the climate threat: the climate system is characterized by a delayed response and amplifying feedbacks.  Together these imply an urgency for anticipatory actions.

The obvious, crucial required action was development of carbon-free energy.  Instead, Exxon chose to invest in ‘fracking’ and continued reliance on fuels of ever greater climate footprint.  They complemented this with a disinformation campaign, including a pretense that they were working hard on clean coal and renewables, as I noted in Fire on Planet Earth, while knowing full well that global fossil fuel emissions would continue to rise.

How can we get industry to become a big part of the solution?  A combination of carrot and stick is needed.  A rising carbon fee will provide the carrot – momentum for that is growing – we even have Presidential candidates in the U.S. who actually understand carbon fee & dividend.

The stick can be lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, for example as Dan Galpern discussed at COP25.  Dan and I have been working together for several years, via my non-profit, which is separate from the CSAS (Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions) program that I direct within the Columbia University Earth Institute. permits us to pursue legal cases, such as the recent ones listed on the eyechart, and also allows us to avoid overhead costs.    I will mention some of these cases in upcoming Communications.

Most of these past and ongoing cases tend to be defensive, e.g., efforts to block expansion of coal mining, tar sands development or deforestation.  We need to put more effort into offense.

Given the tremendous public support that we received recently (It’s A Wonderful Life) for CSAS, I am reluctant to seek support again in 2019 – but those who have not given, or who wish to contribute specifically to our litigation efforts, may wish to contribute to directly at Instructions for gift checks and wire transfers are available here.  Eunbi ( can provide additional information if you have any questions on how to contribute.


The most courageous climate action isn’t national, it’s in the cities and streets

“It’s time to support young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter.”

Image result for The most courageous climate action isn't national, it's in the cities and streets

High school students hold placards and shout slogans during a protest to demand action on climate change as part of the Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future in Athens, Greece, November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

What happened in Madrid at the U.N. climate talks seemed like a giant game of chicken with no one willing to move. Actually, it was more like collective breakdown. Leadership by the top four largest emitters was completely absent.

China and the U.S. brought no new proposals to ratchet up their reduction of emissions. India argued for a deadline extension. Europe showed signs of leadership on net zero emissions, but its member countries, notably Poland and the Czech Republic, are holding the EU hostage, waiting for a big payout for their consent.

Sure, there were important little things that happened, but not the big things we need if we’re to preserve a hospitable planet.

A courageous group of countries, including Denmark, other Nordics, and Canada, announced intentions to adopt science-based targets. That’s a start. We are told that this group, along with 15 others, are ready to announce a net zero commitment early next year and that they plan to rally others to join them. Europe’s net zero agreement could come by March.

That’s better than nothing. And, in some ways, it’s similar to the momentum-building we witnessed at the Paris climate talks in 2015. There, a coalition of countries rallied others to keep warming targets to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, which is what scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst of climate chaos.

But we’re nowhere near that target. Current national commitments would allow for warming of 3.2-degrees Celsius. The difference between 1.5 and 3.2 degrees is the difference between livability and ongoing catastrophes for the planet, millions of its species, and human communities.

This is where Greta Thunberg’s rage – and many others’ – is spot on. This is a horrendous failure on the part of national leaders.

That’s why we hoped we could rally national governments in Madrid to commit to more ambitious measures to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees.

Our window is closing. This moment – between the Paris climate talks in 2015 and the end of 2020 – is when national governments are supposed to proclaim goals that collectively keep the planet to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temps, instead of 3.2 degrees.

And the only way we’ll be able to do that is if we agree to a goal of net zero emissions by 2050. That would require all four big emitters to set stronger long-term goals.

What’s holding them back, of course – in China, the U.S., India and Europe – are their fossil fuel industry interests and fossil-invested financial partners.

Meanwhile, everyone else gets it. Cities, states, regions, businesses, and youth get it. Leaders from each rallied as hard as they could in Madrid.

The city, state, and corporate determination to act is so inspiring. (Check out the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance’s game changers as just one example of the leadership here.) This community has grown by leaps and bounds since Paris. They’ve shown creativity and purpose in proposing their own levels of ambition required to solve the climate crisis.

Most inspiring of all, though, were the hundreds of youth that demonstrated inside Madrid’s conference center, on behalf of millions of youth demonstrating globally this year, demanding their elders do better. They are a powerful rebuke to fossil fuel interests and their bankers. In Madrid, their courage – when they were forcibly removed from UN climate talks, shoved out of the building, and banned from re-entering – is deeply inspiring. Imagine if presidents and prime ministers were this courageous.

Going forward, this is where the most interesting climate action will be. Youth leaders, discouraged by the lack of government response to the climate emergency, are training their sights on bad corporate actors. Woe to fossil fuel and banking executives who face demonstrations by Greta and her peers in the coming year.

She won’t be alone. We all need to stand with Greta outside financial and fossil fuel industry corporate offices, holding their feet to the fire. And governments must listen, too, and show up at the next climate talks with plans to avoid more than a 1.5-degree level of warming. Otherwise, these kids, and the rest of us, are toast.

It’s time to support these young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter. SOURCE


Dr Peter Carter: With the exclusion of science COP25 was designed to fail

Dr Peter Carter: summarising the lack of “climate emergency” at #COP25


In this 23 minute video, Dr Peter Carter, the Director Climate Emergency Institute and an IPCC expert reviewer,shows why COP25 was a show of unprecedented criminality and designed to fail from the start.

After watching the video, in all probability you will want to read Dr. Carter’s book, Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival.

We have entered Churchill’s “period of consequences”, yet governments have simply watched the disasters magnify, while rushing ahead with new pipelines and annual trillions in fossil fuel subsidies.

Governments simply cannot say they did not know. The events we are seeing today have been consistently forecast ever since the First Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was signed by all governments back in 1990, which The Lancet has described as the best research project ever designed.

BookAuthority Best Climate Change Books of All TimeUnprecedented Crime first lays out the culpability of governmental, political and religious bodies, corporations, and the media through their failure to report or act on the climate emergency. No emergency response has even been contemplated by wealthy high-emitting national governments. Extreme weather reporting never even hints at the need to address climate change. A breathtaking array of technological solutions to the climate crisis are outlined in the book.

Rolly Monpellier,  Below2°C :
Unprecedented Crime is a game-changer.

For decades, the peer-reviewed science has been clear and consistent about the looming climate crisis. But something has gone awfully wrong. Unprecedented Crime exposes the criminality and the liability of the fossil fuel industry, governments, and the corporate sector that have suppressed this information. The authors, supported by book reviews from sociologists and criminologists, argue the case that this suppression is a crime against humanity, especially young people.

The book is timed to coincide with the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit, in which 21 children and youth will sue the U.S. Government early this year for their constitutional right to a stable future climate. In January, the city of New York announced its intention to launch lawsuits against five major oil companies in an effort to recover the city’s costs of addressing climate change.

Over the last decade, environmental laws have grown in number and importance, fast becoming a strategic tool in the war against climate change. Climate lawsuits are forcing policy-makers and the international community to be more ambitious and comprehensive in their approaches to climate change. Mitigation, adaptation and finance are now part of the climate dialogue happening at international climate talks. Litigation has evolved into a powerful strategy against governments for the crime of omission to protect the rights of their citizenry – the duty of public trust.

In Part 2 of the book, Carter and Woodworth outline the multiple actions that people must take to bend the curve on the relentless increase of greenhouse gas emissions by helping the reader see “powerful game changers on the horizon”. Highly effective advances in providing zero-carbon energy are growing apace in developing countries but are seldom reported to citizens in the high-emitting Global North.

The movement to price carbon emissions is also rapidly growing around the globe. There is loud call for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies worldwide to facilitate the transition to a clean energy platform. Global markets are leading the transition to a clean energy future with solar energy now becoming mainstream.

Led by New York City, dozens of cities are engaged in emission-reduction strategies showing ambitious targets of 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The authors claim that the central purpose in writing this book is to elevate solutions whose time has come into general consciousness and government action at all levels.

The truth of climate science is unstoppable. Climate change is not abstract and we can no longer look away from the only solution that can save future generations: a near zero-carbon economy by 2050. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and the very survival of future generations is at stake. The book is a call to action aimed at ordinary people who understand this crisis and love their children.

Unprecedented Crime is itself a game-changer


Whiplash for Canada at COP25

Protests against Canada in Madrid, Spain. Dec. 11, 2019. Photo by Indigenous Climate Action / Allan Lissner

Pity the poor staffers assigned to Canada’s negotiating team at COP25, they must be suffering whiplash.

Walk the halls of this sputtering summit and you’ll find UN delegates gratefully heralding Canada as a bulwark against the global tide of authoritarians and extraction populists ignoring climate calamity. You’ll run into climate advocates praising Canada’s pledge to go zero carbon. But step into a side conference and you’ll find a panel of carbon experts PowerPointing the pollution impacts of Canada’s rapidly expanding oil and gas industry. They’ve ranked Canada 55th out of the 61 biggest countries in the world, rating our performance “very low.”

Need some fresh air? Outside, activists from every corner of the world are protesting Teck Resources’ proposed mega-mine in the Alberta oilsands which the feds need to nix or approve in the next couple months. Canada’s delegates would probably rather stick near the negotiating rooms where observers praise them for pushing stronger international climate rules. Or maybe head over to the finance panel where the United Nations rep is showcasing Canada’s Just Transition strategy for coal workers as a model for the world to follow.

After a miserable day mired in the inanities of United Nations procedures, you might want to head over to the Canadian embassy for a quiet drink. But it might not be so quiet because there you will find Indigenous youth who have occupied the reception area in protest, calling out the government for authorizing pipelines despite First Nations opposition, and approving mega projects which threaten their homes and future.

Indigenous youth occupy the Canadian embassy in Madrid, Spain. Dec. 11, 2019. Photo National Observer


Canada’s experience at the Madrid COP is a bit of a microcosm of the country’s predicament. Canadians overwhelmingly want more ambitious action against climate change. Two-thirds of voters made that clear in the last election.

The federal government has brought in a package of climate legislation better than most in the world. Our electricity is among the greenest anywhere and is moving towards zero carbon. Provinces with good EV programs are selling electric cars as fast as dealers can get them on the lots.

In fact, 85% of the country is pretty much on track to meet the climate targets Canada pledged to the international community.

And yet, despite our tiny percentage of the world population, Canada is the ninth largest climate polluter in the world. The main reason is that we’re a top-five producer of oil and gas. Back when most of us hadn’t realized the climatic dangers of burning fossil fuels, we built an industry that is a true wonder of engineering and technology.

We should have recognized, even then, that the foundation of this engineering marvel was crushing human rights while poisoning, fragmenting and, in many cases, obliterating the land and territories of Indigenous people.

But most Canadians benefited greatly from the wealth generated by the fossil fuel boom. What’s different today is that we are belatedly reckoning with the brutalities of colonialism. And now we do know — we know the climate impacts of burning oil, gas and coal. But we are only just beginning to reckon with these fossil fuel impacts. We are phasing out coal use domestically. But with oil and gas, we are doing exactly the opposite — we are doubling down, massively expanding the industry year after year. Fossil fuel production has levelled off in most countries, but it is still growing globally. About 85 per cent of that global expansion of new oil and gas projects is happening in the U.S. and Canada.  MORE

Indigenous activists protest proposal of massive Alberta oilsands mine at COP25 in Madrid

One of the protests was held Monday outside the Canadian embassy in Spain’s capital and another took place inside the COP 25 UN Climate negotiations, according to a news release issued by Indigenous Climate Action, which describes itself as “Canada’s premier Indigenous-led climate justice organization.”

Elizabeth May

Action at from Canadian Indigenous peoples opposing the Teck Frontier oil sands project. Canadian Greens agree: Trudeau must reject application for giant new oil sands mine.

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READ MORE: Public invited to comment on proposed $20B Frontier oilsands mine project in Alberta

A pair of protests were held this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid that saw Indigenous activists speak out in opposition to a colossal oilsands mine proposed for northern Alberta.
 A pair of protests were held this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid that saw Indigenous activists speak out in opposition to a colossal oilsands mine proposed for northern Alberta. Courtesy: Allan Lissner


Earlier this fall, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada invited members of the public to comment on the Frontier project proposal. The window for offering comment closed late last month.

“A report released last week by 17 research and campaigning organizations, used oil and gas industry projections to show that Canada will be one of the worst violators of the Paris Agreement if it expands its oil and gas extraction as planned, second only to the United States,” read the statement issued by Indigenous Climate Action on Tuesday.


“Rejecting the Teck Frontier mine is an important first step the federal government can take to ensure a safe climate future.”

Canada to work towards net-zero economy by 2050: Environment minister Canada to work towards net-zero economy by 2050: Environment minister

Elder Francois Paulette said all 33 First Nations of the Dene Nation, which he represents, are opposed to the proposed Frontier mine as well as expansion of the oilsands in general.

“My First Nation is the Smith Landing First Nation in Alberta [and] we outright opposed the Teck project,” he said.
“It’s 30 kilometres south of Wood Buffalo National Park. This project did not consult with us [and] their report did not include Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge.”
A pair of protests were held this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid that saw Indigenous activists speak out in opposition to a colossal oilsands mine proposed for northern Alberta.
 A pair of protests were held this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid that saw Indigenous activists speak out in opposition to a colossal oilsands mine proposed for northern Alberta. Courtesy: Allan Lissner 

Over the summer, a federal-provincial panel ruled that the oilsands project was in the public interest even though it could fundamentally cause harm to both the environment and to Indigenous people. The panel offered recommendations for mitigating harm to wildlife, tracking pollutants and for consulting with nearby First Nations.


Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is now tasked with weighing the findings and recommendations of the panel report with public comment before making an environmental assessment decision on the Frontier mine.

“We must force Canada to reject Teck,” Eriel Deranger, the executive director for Indigenous Climate Action, said in Tuesday’s news release.

“The largest tar sands mine on the planet is being proposed in my peoples territory right now [and] it will impact the woodland buffalo — the last remaining wild whooping cranes on the planet — and many of the animals my people rely on for food,” Deranger said.

“Aside from the detrimental impacts it will have on my people’s food security, treaty rights and water, It will add 6.1-million megatonnes of carbon annually to the atmosphere.”

Teck Resources has said it projects the mine will emit 4.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

The Green Party of Canada tweeted a photo on Monday of its leader, Elizabeth May, joining protesters in Madrid to voice concerns about the proposed oilsands mine.

“We need to respect Indigenous rights and end this climate-killing project,” the tweet said. MORE

“We would love some action,’ Greta Thunberg says at climate summit in Madrid

Spanish capital is hosting 2-week, UN-sponsored talks on climate change

Activist Greta Thunberg again calls for urgent action on climate change

At a climate summit in Madrid, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg again appealed for awareness, and immediate action on climate change. 1:56

The voices of climate strikers are being heard, but politicians are still not taking action, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said Friday at a summit in Madrid.

“We are getting bigger and bigger, and our voices are being heard more and more, but of course that does not translate into political action,” Thunberg told a news conference during the United Nations-sponsored COP25 climate gathering.

Thunberg, who has sparked a global youth-led protest movement, said asking children to skip school to protest inaction by governments on climate change was “not a sustainable solution.”

“We don’t want to continue. We would love some action from people in power,” she said. “People are suffering and dying from the climate and ecological emergency today and we cannot wait any longer.”

Thunberg said she hopes the two-week annual round of climate negotiations, which opened in Madrid on Monday, would lead to “concrete action” and world leaders would grasp the urgency of the climate crisis.

“Of course there is no victory, because the only thing we want to see is real action,” Thunberg said. “So we have achieved a lot, but if you look at it from a certain point of view, we have achieved nothing.”

The Swedish teen arrived in Madrid on Friday to a swarm of media cameras and microphones at the Spanish capital’s northern train station.

In an ironic tweet, Thunberg said she had “successfully managed to sneak into Madrid.

“I don’t think anyone saw me…,” she said. “Anyway it’s great to be in Spain!”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, from Sweden, attends a news conference before a protest march in Madrid on Friday. (Sergio Perez/Reuters)

The two-week UN summit is aimed at streamlining the rules on global carbon markets and agreeing on how poor countries should be compensated for destruction largely caused by emissions from rich nations.

The talks came as evidence mounts about disasters that could ensue from further global warming, including a study commissioned by 14 seafaring nations and published Friday predicting unchecked climate change could devastate fishery industries and coral reef tourism.

Thunberg paid a surprise visit to the venue of the talks and joined a group of some 40 teens staging a sit-in there to demand real action against climate change.

Greta Thunberg

I successfully managed to sneak into Madrid this morning! I don’t think anyone saw me…
Anyway it’s great to be in Spain! 

QuickTake by Bloomberg


LOOK: Teenage climate activist @GretaThunberg arrives at a Madrid train station in Spain for the Climate Action Summit #COP25.

She traveled back to Europe from the U.S. via catamaran to promote sustainable travel

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Holding hands, the teens sang a version of John Lennon’s Power to the People and displayed banners with the logo of Fridays for Future, the global climate movement inspired by Thunberg.

In the presence of dozens of media cameras and curious summit participants, the protesters exchanged chants: “What do you want?” “Climate Justice” “When do you want it?” “Now.”

Thunberg did not appear unsettled by the commotion surrounding her.

“It’s absurd. I laugh at it. I do not understand why it has become like this,” the 16-year-old was quoted as saying by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, whose reporter rode with them in an electric car in Madrid.

“I don’t like being at the centre of the focus all the time, but this is a good thing,” she told Aftonbladet. “As soon as the media writes about me, they also have to write about the climate crisis. If this is a way to write about the climate crisis, then I guess it is good.”

While Thunberg seemed bemused by the attention, her father Svante was startled, saying it was “total madness.”

“I have never seen anything like this,” he told Aftonbladet.

The study commissioned by seafaring nations says climate change could cause hundreds of billions of dollars in losses by 2050, adding limiting global warming would lessen the economic impact for coastal countries, but they also need to adapt to ocean changes.

Thunberg meets with participants at the UN-sponsored COP25 summit on Friday. (Juan Medina/Reuters)

The authors said fish will migrate to cooler waters as oceans heat up and become more acidic, jeopardizing some fishing communities. While regions near the equator will suffer fish stock declines, the report forecasts increases in Arctic and Antarctic Oceans

Demands for greater action by non-governmental organizations and a whole new generation of environment-minded activists were expected to take the spotlight with the presence of Thunberg in Madrid.

Past appearances have won her plaudits from some leaders — and criticism from others who’ve taken offence at the angry tone of her speeches.

Activist cross Atlantic aboard catamaran

An advocate for carbon-free transportation, Thunberg travelled by train overnight from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, where she arrived earlier this week after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from the United States by catamaran.

That became necessary after a sudden change of venue for the COP25 summit following a wave of anti-government protests that hit Chile, the original host.

British professional yachtswoman Nicola Henderson, yacht owners Elayna Carausu and her husband Riley Whitelum, with their son, and Thunberg dock earlier this week in Lisbon, Portugal, after crossing the Atlantic. (Horacio Villalobos/Getty Images)

Separately Friday, an alliance of American states, cities, academic institutions and companies opened its own venue at the UN climate talks, aiming to show that despite the federal administration’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord, many Americans remain committed to the treaty’s goal of curbing global warming.

Elan Strait, who manages the “We Are Still In” initiative for the environmental conservationist World Wildlife Fund, said the movement is “a short-term band-aid not only to get those carbon dioxide emissions down but also to encourage policymakers to lay the ground for further achievements.

“And that, regardless of the colour of the government that is in power,” Strait said.

Over 3,800 organizations and corporations representing 70 per cent of U.S. economic output have joined the coalition, organizers claim, amounting to roughly half of the country’s emissions.

The U.S. Climate Action Center is hosting Mandela Barnes, lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, Pat Brown, chief executive of non-meat burger company Impossible Foods, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and others.

The venue is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, a charitable organization founded by billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is now seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 U.S. presidential election. SOURCE


Greta Thunberg says school strikes have achieved nothing

Activist says 4% greenhouse gas emissions rise since 2015 shows action is insufficient

 Greta Thunberg holds a news conference in Madrid where the COP25 climate summit is being held. Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

The global wave of school strikes for the climate over the past year has “achieved nothing” because greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, Greta Thunberg has told activists at UN climate talks in Madrid.

Thousands of young people were expected to gather at the UN climate conference and in the streets of the Spanish capital on Friday to protest against the lack of progress in tackling the climate emergency, as officials from more than 190 countries wrangled over the niceties of wording in documents related to the Paris accord.

In the four years since the landmark agreement was signed, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 4% and the talks this year are not expected to produce new commitments on carbon from the world’s biggest emitters.

Thunberg, whose solo protest in Sweden in 2017 has since snowballed into a global movement, spoke at a press conference before a march through the centre of Madrid. She said that although schoolchildren had been striking around the world, this “has not translated into action” from governments.

South American indigenous people attend a protest in Madrid, Spain, over the climate
 South American indigenous people attend a protest in Madrid demanding action against climate change. Photograph: Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA Pinterest


“I’m just an activist and we need more activists,” she said. “Some people are afraid to change – they try so desperately to silence us.”

“I sincerely hope COP25 will reach something concrete and increase awareness among people, and that world leaders and people in power grasp the urgency of the climate crisis, because right now it does not seem that they are,” she said.

Although young people would keep striking, Thunberg said, they wanted to stop – if governments made credible promises and showed a willingness to act.

“We can’t go on like this; it is not sustainable that children skip school and we don’t want to continue – we would love some action from the people in power. People are suffering and dying today. We can’t wait any longer,” she said.

The march was scheduled to coincide with protests and youth climate strikes around the world. In the US, Bernie Sanders and Jane Fonda were among the politicians and celebrities planning to join in.

 Inside the mission to create an army of Greta Thunbergs – video

As well as the march and a sit-down protest in the conference centre, there were shows of international solidarity among young people from around the world, including a picnic in a central Madrid park. The conference centre was flooded with hundreds of schoolchildren accompanied by their parents, many with babies in prams, who were kept separate from the rooms where negotiators were working on a draft text to clarify aspects of the Paris agreement.

Young people voiced their frustration at protests inside and outside the conference centre on the outskirts of Madrid.

Brianna Fruean from Samoa, speaking for the Pacific Climate Warriors, told the conference: “World leaders need to know that people like me are watching them. The text we put down today on paper at COP is what our future will look like.”

Many of the young people joining the conference from developing nations around the world bore personal witness to suffering they had experienced or seen.

“I’ve had typhoid. I’ve had malaria. My grandmother died from cholera. I know what I’m talking about,” said Jimmy Fénelon, the national coordinator of the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network in Haiti. “We need to raise awareness among young people. We can get them to work together and send a strong message.”

Renae Baptiste, also from CYEN, said: “For us, climate change is no longer a concept or theory, it’s our new reality. It’s affecting our lives now.”

The activist Miguel van der Velden said: “These things are not games. They’re getting worse. They’re affecting millions of people around the world. I come here because I have hope that we can work together.” SOURCE




Greta Thunberg arrives in Lisbon after three-week voyage from US

Climate activist heading to COP25 in Madrid after crossing Atlantic on family’s yacht

Greta Thunberg arrives in Lisbon on La Vagabonde, which leaves little or no carbon footprint when its sails are up, using solar panels and hydro-generators for electricity. Photograph: Pedro Nunes/Reuters

The climate activist Greta Thunberg has arrived in Lisbon after a three-week catamaran voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from the US.

The Swedish teenager now plans to head to Spain to attend the UN climate conference in Madrid.

Thunberg hitched a ride from the US with an Australian family on their 48-ft (15-metre) yacht.

The white catamaran carrying Thunberg sailed slowly up the River Tagus under blue skies and a stiff breeze. Thunberg’s father, Svante, was also on the boat as it approached the Lisbon quayside.

 Inside the mission to create an army of Greta Thunbergs – video

Chile’s environment minister, Carolina Schmidt, saluted Thunberg’s role in speaking out about the threat of climate breakdown.

“She has been a leader that has been able to move and open hearts for many young people and many people all over the world,” Schmidt said at the summit in Madrid. “We need that tremendous force in order to increase climate action,.”

Thunberg was due to be met in Lisbon by local dignitaries and other activists. Her representatives said they could not confirm when she would travel to the Spanish capital.



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Flight shaming, offsets and electric planes: How aviation is tackling climate change

Air industry knows it has a carbon footprint problem – so what is it doing about it?

Domestic and international aviation accounts for approximately two per cent of global CO2 emissions. (David Gray/Reuters)

Delegates from more than 200 countries will be travelling to Madrid this week to take part in COP25, the UN’s annual climate conference.

The perceived hypocrisy of so many people flying from all corners of the globe to try to tackle the climate crisis has led some to call for an air travel ban for participants.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), domestic and international aviation accounts for approximately two per cent of global CO2 emissions produced by people. It estimates international aviation alone is responsible for 1.3 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

But air travel is only growing. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts 7.8 billion passengers will be flying by 2036, a near doubling of the four billion who flew in 2017.

According to Reuters, a Swedish-born anti-flying movement — perhaps inspired by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg — is creating a whole new vocabulary, from flygskam (which translates as “flight shame”) to tågskryt (“train brag”). The agency reports the movement is spreading to other parts of Europe.

What is the aviation industry doing?

In 2009, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the industry’s trade organization, set out to make the industry more fuel efficient and reduce CO2 emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050.

The plan was built around:

    • The use of more fuel-efficient aircraft and sustainable low-carbon fuels.
    • More efficient aircraft operations — such as reducing on-board weight.
    • Technology and infrastructure improvements, including modernized air traffic management systems, to allow for more direct routes.

In 2016, ICAO airlines (about 290 worldwide) also agreed to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). CORSIA aims to offset 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2035, by providing more than $50 billion Cdn for climate projects.

All participating countries will be required to begin offsetting any emission growth from 2019-20 levels starting in 2021. (As a signatory of CORSIA, Canada began monitoring and verifying emissions from international flights on Jan. 1, 2019.)

Do offsets really work?

As CBC News reported earlier this year, the general consensus is that carbon offset programs have improved. But there is still debate about whether they actually work.

The anti argument says they do nothing to actually reduce carbon emissions. The pro argument says if they weren’t tied to carbon offset projects, climate-friendly initiatives such as tree planting or wind and solar energy development would never happen.

The debate around carbon offset projects, such as wind farms, is seen as a controversial response to aviation’s contribution to climate change. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Kathryn Ervine, an associate professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax who has researched carbon offsets, said they are simply a way for airlines and individual travellers to try to appease their guilt, and aren’t beneficial.

Her suggestion? “Go and find a worthwhile green initiative that you know is making an impact and make a financial contribution to it.”

Are individual airlines doing anything?

Many airlines encourage travellers to buy carbon offsets, fly direct (which uses less fuel) and even to pack less (lighter planes use less fuel).

KLM has gone a step further by encouraging potential customers to consider travelling by train instead. It points out some train travel between major European cities is faster than flying.

British Airways recently announced plans to offset its domestic travel beginning next year, after becoming the first airline to commit to net carbon zero flying by 2050. But an investigation by BBC’s Panorama revealed the airline was also using a cost-cutting measure called fuel tankering, in which planes load up with extra fuel to avoid refuelling costs at their destination.
British Airways became the first airline to commit to net carbon zero flying by 2050. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

Panorama reported that carrying that extra fuel meant the airline generated an extra 18,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide last year. BA said it would review the practice.

Qantas followed BA’s lead on lowering emissions with a pledge to also be a net zero emitter by 2050. Australia’s national carrier has already experimented with flying a plane from Los Angeles to Melbourne using mustard seed biofuel.

“So, we know the technology’s possible,” CEO Alan Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He said the challenge is doing it commercially, at scale. “That’s why it’ll take some time to get there.”

Other airlines — including Air Canada — have committed to using more sustainable fuels.

An aviation carbon tax

But all of this isn’t enough for some European countries. Transportation is the only European sector currently increasing its emissions, so nine EU countries (the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and Bulgaria) are calling for the creation of an aviation tax.

In a letter to the EU chief executive of climate, the countries’ finance ministers said an aviation tax where “the polluter pays a fairer price for the use of aviation transport” is necessary to combat climate change.

“Compared to most other means of transportation, aviation is not sufficiently priced,” the letter said. The European Commission has said it plans to respond by the end of December.

A ban on business class?

Jozsef Varadi, the head of Hungarian economy flyer Wizz Air, is calling for a ban on business class for flights under five hours.

It’s not an entirely new idea. The World Bank studied the environmental impact of flying first and business class versus economy in 2013, and found that the higher-paying passengers generated about three per cent more carbon emissions. Why?

First and business class seats on airplanes are bigger, fewer passengers sit in those sections and so the aircraft’s fuel is used to move fewer people.

There have been calls to reduce business and first class travel for environmental reasons. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

Indeed, according to this online carbon calculator, a round trip flight in economy class from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to London Heathrow produces 4.9 tonnes of carbon emissions. The same trip in business class produces 9.5 tonnes.

What’s the future of flying?

In a word: electric.

Companies around the world are working on building all-electric aircraft. One of them is Vancouver-based Harbour Air.

The company’s founder and CEO is getting set to fly a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver float plane that’s been retrofitted with a 750-horsepower electric motor for the first time Dec. 11. It should be about a 10-minute flight but will add to the growing body of research about electric aviation.

NASA is also playing a big part in that research. Its first all-electric aircraft — the X-57 Maxwell — arrived at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. in early October.

NASA has been involved in the research, development and testing of electric aviation technology for decades. Its goal is not to build the first all-electric commercial airliner — or even a prototype — but to help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establish standards for electric flight.

“Before electric aircraft start flying everywhere, [the] FAA needs to set certification standards for certain systems,” said Matt Kamlet, senior public affairs specialist for aeronautics. “And our goal with X-57 is to help set those standards.”

That has involved years of designing and redesigning the model, as well as experimenting with different energy sources.

“We needed electric motors which take the electric power and drive the propellers,” said Sean Clarke, principal investigator for the X-57. “We needed motor inverters or controllers that take the DC power that batteries provide and turn it into a rotating power for the motor to use. And then we also needed batteries.”

So the team modified some commercial battery cells — the 18650 cell — and repackaged them with the requirements for aircraft. The whole system weighs about nearly 400 kilograms and provides about 45 minutes of travel.

Technicians work on NASA’s first all-electric plane, the X-57 Maxwell. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Clarke said NASA will be ground testing its electric plane in the next six to eight months and doing its first crewed flight test by the end of next year. The aircraft will be far quieter than current aircraft and in flight, it would be completely carbon-free.

If you think that 45 minutes of carbon-free flight isn’t of much use, Clarke pointed out that the technology will almost certainly benefit large aircraft as well.

“Hybrid aircraft — which could use a lot of the technologies from this vehicle and even batteries to some extent — could make a lot of sense at small scales up to ranges of two or three hundred miles [320 to 480 kilometres] pretty soon.”

So, should COP25 ban delegates from flying to Madrid?

Natalie Jones, a research associate at the Centre for Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, said no.

Given the conference is in Spain, you’d have delegates from European countries who could take the train, maybe delegates from some North African countries who could sail across the Mediterranean and perhaps North American representation, if their delegates could afford a two-week trip by sea across the Atlantic. That would leave those most affected by climate change on the sidelines.

“You’re missing most of Asia, probably. You’re missing most of Africa. You’re missing most of the poorest countries, the small island states in the Pacific. How are they going to send people?”

What about video conferencing? Jones said for many less-developed countries, the technology can be unreliable. Plus, so many key conversations at conferences like COP happen in hallways, in smaller rooms, even the lunch line. So being confined to one video line would be of little use.

Arguably you’ll be locked out of kind of where the … actual power is,” she said. “And so if you’re not there, then your interests are going to get absolutely trampled on.” SOURCE