Energy giants face 35 per cent output cut to hit Paris climate goals: watchdog

Pollution

The 2015 Paris deal enjoins nations to limit temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) and to a safer cap of 1.5 C if at all possible. (AFP)

The biggest listed oil and gas giants must slash production by more than a third by 2040 to keep emissions within targets laid out in the landmark Paris climate deal, an industry watchdog said Friday.

Carbon Tracker, a Britain-based think tank, said that current rates of emissions from the energy majors would see the world’s carbon budgets surpassed within decades due to an inexorable rise in oil and gas output.

The 2015 Paris deal enjoins nations to limit temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) and to a safer cap of 1.5C if at all possible.

In order to hit these targets, the world must undergo a drastic drawdown in emissions of planet warming greenhouse gases.

Because carbon dioxide contributes to global warming at a known and predictable rate, scientists can calculate Earth’s “carbon budget” for a range of temperature rise scenarios.

Carbon Tracker estimated that a current emissions rates — and emissions are still rising annually — the carbon budget for a 1.5C temperature rise will be exceeded in 13 years.

For 1.75C — already a level deemed far from safe by the world’s leading scientists — that budget gets exceeded in 24 years, according to the watchdog.

It used the International Energy Association’s BD2S climate scenario to predict a rise of 1.6C, then compared that to data assessing the emissions trajectories of major oil and gas projects. The analysis showed that the listed majors on average needed to cut production by 35 percent within two decades to stick to the 1.6-C path.

“There’s a finite limit for any carbon that can be released for any given level of global warming and that implies that if we are going to have a good result under Paris or any other climate target, fossil fuel production is going to need to shrink,” Andrew Grant, senior oil and gas analyst at Carbon Tracker, told AFP.

“While companies may all say they support Paris — whatever that means — they still plan to keep producing more oil, gas and coal.”MORE

 

 

 

Climate Summit: What’s at Stake for Canada and the World

What needs to happen in New York starting Monday.

TrumpTrudeauPodiums.jpg
Off target: The nations led by Trudeau and Trump, like most other signatories to the Paris agreement, are far behind in fulfilling their UN emissions reducing pledges. Photo via the White House Flickr.

As world leaders converge on New York City for the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, they enter what may be the most consequential week in climate politics since Donald Trump’s surprise election as president of the United States in 2016. Trump, of course, announced soon after taking office that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, the landmark treaty signed at the last big UN climate summit in 2015.

UN Secretary General António Guterres convened this week’s summit precisely because the United States and most other countries remain far from honouring their Paris pledges to reduce heat-trapping emissions enough to prevent catastrophic climate disruption. This includes Canada, whose inadequately slow progress Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand earlier this year described as “disturbing.”

The events of the coming days — including a global climate strike on Sept. 20 by the activists whose protests in the past year have pushed the term “climate emergency” into news reports around the world — may help answer a question that has loomed over humanity since Trump’s election: Can the rest of the world save itself from climate breakdown if the richest, most powerful nation on earth is pulling in the opposite direction?

And what happens if other developed countries elect fossil fuel-supporting leaders who have little interest in solving the crisis, as could be the case in Canada after the federal election this fall?

Signed in December 2015 by every government on earth except North Korea and Costa Rica, the Paris Agreement stands as the strongest achievement of climate diplomacy since governments first debated the issue at the UN “Earth Summit” in 1992. In a shock to climate insiders, the agreement not only committed signatory governments to limit temperature rise to the relatively less dangerous level of 2 degrees Celsius. It also obliged governments to keep temperature rise “well below” 2 C and, in a major victory for the most vulnerable countries, to strive for 1.5 C.

That half-degree may not sound like much, but it spells the difference between life and death for low-lying coastal nations such as Bangladesh and island states such as the Maldives — two of many places that, science says, would literally disappear beneath the waves with more than 1.5 C of warming.

The announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was big news, but also widely misunderstood. Despite Trump’s bluster, the U.S. withdrawal still has not happened. Precisely to guard against such capriciousness, the negotiators in Paris stipulated that every signatory was legally bound to remain in the agreement until four years after the treaty took effect, which would only happen after countries responsible for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. Thus, the Paris Agreement did not take effect until Nov. 4, 2016. That means the United States cannot leave until November 4, 2020 — which, not by accident, is one day after the U.S. 2020 presidential election. If Trump loses that election, his successor almost certainly would move to remain in the Paris Agreement.

Trump is not expected to attend this week’s summit; the U.S. delegation will instead be led by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal company lobbyist who is now the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. In keeping with Trump’s denial of climate science and his administration’s dismantling of environmental regulations and accelerating of fossil fuel development, Wheeler testified to the U.S. Senate last January that he would not call climate change “the greatest crisis” facing humanity.

Which highlights a question that may shape whether this summit turns out to be a success, a failure, or something in between: What role will the United States play? Will it be a spoiler, actively seeking to disrupt progress? Will it be a braggart claiming to, as Wheeler boasted (inaccurately) in that testimony, represent “the gold standard for environmental progress”? Or will it be more like the addled uncle at the family reunion whose babblings provoke eye-rolls and are ignored?

“Don’t bring a speech, bring a plan!” For months now, that’s what Secretary General Guterres has been telling heads of state and government. Instead of the endless blah-blah-blah heard at most UN meetings, Guterres wants this summit to be more like “show-and-tell,” a meeting where governments share concrete and replicable examples of how they are cutting emissions and boosting resilience to the climate impacts already unfolding. As such, the summit aims to address a glaring deficiency of the Paris Agreement. In part, because the agreement made emissions cuts voluntary, global emissions have continued to increase since 2015. MORE

Greta Thunberg has talked about a ‘carbon budget.’ What is it, and why does it matter?


(Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

“If we are to have a 67 per cent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees [C], we had, on Jan. 1, 2018, 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget. And of course, that number is much lower today. We emit about 42 gigatonnes of CO2 a year. At current emission levels, that remaining budget is gone within 8 1/2 years.”

Those words were delivered by youth climate activist Greta Thunberg to the French parliament on July 23, 2019. She said she has not heard much on the subject of a “carbon budget,” either from politicians or the media. But what’s left in our carbon budget is of utmost importance if we hope to limit global warming.

Simply put, this budget refers to how much carbon — which includes CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane — we can emit into the atmosphere before we pass the point of warming the Earth to 1.5 C or 2 C.

The carbon budget was discussed in the first of three special reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in October 2018. The final instalment, the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), will be discussed in Morocco this weekend, with a summary due to be released next Wednesday.

The Paris Agreement seeks to limit a global temperature rise to 2 C above pre-industrial levels this century (with a goal of keeping it to 1.5 C). The key to understanding the carbon budget is that even if countries keep in line with the Paris accord, if the budget is depleted by then, it won’t matter. The damage will already be done. And it will be irreversible.

“If you think about annual emissions and reducing emissions without thinking about the carbon budget, you could really blow past the Paris Agreement,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists. “That’s the trouble.”

After a few years of stable global CO2 emissions, they rose in 2018, and there are concerns they may rise again in 2019.

If we don’t pay attention to the carbon budget, it increases the chance of a host of global problems: the loss of coral reefs, no summer sea ice in the Arctic, more severe weather events and changes in crops that could lead to further food scarcity.

If it sounds dire, Ekwurzel said we have the power to change the trajectory.

“Whenever we’ve been faced with a problem before and really … lean into it, we make big changes,” Ekwurzel said. “And a lot of those changes we’re calling for, we can do.” MORE

 

It’s time we took a seat ‘at your table’: Guterres calls on world youth to keep leading climate emergency response

Older generations have “failed to respond properly” to the climate emergency said the UN chief on Sunday, while the young are “stepping up to the challenge” and taking the lead to slow the destructive pace of global warming.

Lisboa +21 The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, at the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth 2019 and Youth Forum Lisboa+21, in Lisbon, Portugal

António Guterres was making the closing address at the UN-backed World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, and Youth Forum, in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, Lisboa+21.
António Guterres was making the closing address at the UN-backed World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, and Youth Forum, in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, Lisboa+21.

The summit comes 21 years after the adoption of the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes, and provides a place for national governments to talk about progress made with young people directly, and well as introducing new approaches to empowering youth in politics and decision-making.

Building on an argument he has been making for some months now in the face of the existential threat posed by climate change, enshrined in the Paris Agreement of 2015 to keep warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the Secretary-General said that it’s “not enough to listen to young people and provide a seat at the table – we need to take a seat at your table”.

The summit comes 21 years after the adoption of the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes, and provides a place for national governments to talk about progress made with young people directly, and well as introducing new approaches to empowering youth in politics and decision-making.

Building on an argument he has been making for some months now in the face of the existential threat posed by climate change, enshrined in the Paris Agreement of 2015 to keep warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the Secretary-General said that it’s “not enough to listen to young people and provide a seat at the table – we need to take a seat at your table”.

The summit comes 21 years after the adoption of the Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes, and provides a place for national governments to talk about progress made with young people directly, and well as introducing new approaches to empowering youth in politics and decision-making.

Building on an argument he has been making for some months now in the face of the existential threat posed by climate change, enshrined in the Paris Agreement of 2015 to keep warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the Secretary-General said that it’s “not enough to listen to young people and provide a seat at the table – we need to take a seat at your table”. MORE

Thawing permafrost, disappearing land a warning of dramatic pace of climate change in Arctic

How climate change is thawing the ‘glue that holds the northern landscape together’

The warming of the North is causing major changes to the very ground underfoot


Permafrost scientist Steve Kokelj points to an area off the Dempster Highway where the northern permafrost is thawing. (CBC)

This story is part of a CBC News series entitled In Our Backyard, which looks at the effects climate change is having in Canada, from extreme weather events to how it’s reshaping our economy.


In one of the coldest places in Canada, Steve Kokelj is searching for Arctic thaw. He’s driving the great Dempster Highway, 747 kilometres of gravel linking southern Canada to the Arctic.

“The large permafrost disturbances that we’re seeing now have really developed in the last one to two decades,” he says.

Kokelj is a permafrost scientist for the territorial government, and his job is to survey the alarming changes to the layers of ice and rock which underpin the North.

“Think of permafrost as sort of the glue that holds the northern landscape together.”

But as the Arctic warms three times as fast as anywhere else in the world, that permafrost — made up of leftover ice from the last glaciation, frozen for thousands of years — is degrading.

That’s glaringly obvious as he pulls over to point out a huge hole carved out of the Dempster highway embankment. Elevated moisture and warmth have caused the side of the road to collapse.

As rising temperatures thaw the permafrost, the terrain in the North is being changed by landslides and erosion, like this stretch of the embankment along the Dempster Highway. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

“As the ice-rich permafrost thaws, the ground settles proportional to how much ice there is in the ground,” Kokelj says.

In this case, that’s a lot.

Further along the highway, another road slump was dubbed “the million dollar hole” because so much gravel had to be poured in to shore it up.

The highway is drivable, but climate-related maintenance costs on the Dempster have more than tripled over a decade, to $5.1 million in 2016.

“It really highlights the need to start thinking innovatively about the solutions, because these types of phenomena are going to become more and more commonplace,” Kokelj says. MORE

House of Commons declares a climate emergency ahead of pipeline decision

Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs all voted in favour of the motion


Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna arrives at a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The House of Commons has passed a non-binding motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada, kicking off a week that will test the Liberals’ promise to balance environmental protection with economic development.

The motion, put forward by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, calls on the House to recognize that “climate change is a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity” and to “declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement’s objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

It passed Monday night with 186 votes to 63. According to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice guide, a resolution of the House “is a declaration of opinion or purpose; it does not require that any action be taken, nor is it binding.”

Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs all voted in favour of the motion, pitting themselves against the Conservatives and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

“If it is such an emergency, why is the prime minister jetting back and forth today from the Raptors parade, creating a big carbon footprint?” asked Conservative MP Michelle Rempel during debate.

Despite voting in favour of the motion, NDP MP Peter Julian rose in the House to call it “meaningless.”

“The Liberals are slapping each other on the back because they passed a motion that is meaningless. [On Tuesday] they are going to rubber-stamp the Trans Mountain pipeline, which will dramatically increase greenhouse gas production in the country. The hypocrisy is beyond belief,” he said. MORE

In-depth Q&A: The UK Becomes First Major Economy to Set Net-Zero Climate Goal

The UK is to raise its ambition on climate change by setting a legally binding target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to “net-zero” by 2050, prime minister Theresa May has announced today.

No.10 Downing Street at night, London, UK. Credit: Jeff Gilbert / Alamy Stock Photo.
No.10 Downing Street at night, London, UK. Credit: Jeff Gilbert / Alamy Stock Photo.

The 2050 net-zero goal was recommended by the government’s official adviser, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), last month. The CCC’s advice was requested following the 2015 Paris Agreement, which raised global ambition with a target to limit warming since the pre-industrial period to “well below” 2C and to make efforts to stay below 1.5C.

In a letter confirming the decision, May says: “Ending our contribution to global warming by 2050 can be the defining decision of this generation in fulfilling our responsibility to the next.” The UK would be the first member of the G7 group of major economies to legislate for net-zero. It joins others having set net-zero targets, including Sweden, New Zealand and Japan.

May’s announcement diverges from the CCC advice on some details, including the use of international “offsets”. It does not explicitly mention emissions from international aviation and shipping, but responding to questions from Carbon Brief the prime minister’s office says: “This is a whole economy target…and we intend for it to apply to international aviation and shipping.”

Draft legislation implementing the new goal must now be approved by both houses of parliament, in a process that could be finalised in a matter of days. The government says it will review the target within five years “to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action”.

Why is the UK setting a net-zero target for 2050?

The UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act includes a legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This was set in the context of international ambition to limit warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial temperatures.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement changed the rules of the game by raising global ambition to “well below” 2C and adding an aspirational goal of limiting warming to 1.5C. The Paris deal also commits signatories to “balance” greenhouse gas emissions and sinks “in the second half of this century” MORE

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Is Ontario doing its fair share on climate change?

A Green New Deal for Canada: What it means

 

The Green New Deal travels north

(Chris Wattie/Reuters)

On Monday, people across Canada rallied in support of the environment. It was the first salvo for the Pact for a Green New Deal by a coalition of more than 60 organizations — as well as celebrities such as k.d. lang, William Shatner and David Suzuki — pushing to make climate action a priority in the upcoming federal election.

Brendan Pietrobon spoke to Concordia University professor Damon Matthews, who was recruited by the Pact to speak to the scientific basis for climate action proposed in the Green New Deal.

What inspired this movement?

One is the U.S. version of the Green New Deal that has been gaining some traction. The other is in Quebec — Le pacte pour la transition launched in November of last year. It’s a similar idea — trying to develop a groundswell of support for social and economic transition in light of the climate challenge. Le pacte … has almost 300,000 signatories to date, mostly within the francophone community in Quebec.

What are the goals of the Pact for a Green New Deal?

It’s not meant to be a set of policy prescriptions at this point, but more an acknowledgement that we face challenges and that Canada as a country is not providing the kind of climate leadership that we could be. The premise of it is that we need to limit climate change to within a safe regime. Yes, that involves meeting our obligations to the Paris agreement, dramatically strengthening our national emissions targets. In order to be aligned with the Paris agreement, we should be targeting something like a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

What are Canada’s unique challenges?

The challenge for us is finding a way to move away from oil and gas as a fundamental part of our economy, while not leaving people behind who are dependent on that industry for their livelihoods.

The starting point, honestly, is a flat-out acknowledgement that the future of oil and gas is limited — and we haven’t had that conversation at the political level in Canada hardly at all. The conversation right now is still that oil and gas is going to be an important driver of our economy for the next several decades. That narrative fundamentally assumes that we do not take climate mitigation seriously. MORE

 

GOLDSTEIN: How Canada is ‘faking it’ on climate change


The steel mills on the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. Canada’s push to be a world leader in the fight against climate change may be hampered by its distinction for producing the most greenhouse gas emissions per person among the world’s 20 largest economies. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has come up with a new way to meet Canada’s greenhouse gas emission targets under the Paris climate accord.

Except it doesn’t reduce emissions. It’s an accounting trick.

Since there’s no way we can meet our looming target for 2030 that Trudeau agreed to when he signed the 2015 Paris climate deal — lowering Canada’s emissions to 30% below 2005 levels — the Liberals have started moving the goalposts closer to the target.

But it has nothing to do with what we’ve been told is the real problem — industrial emissions from man-made activities when burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) for energy.

Canada’s emissions in 2016 were 704 megatonnes, the last year for which figures are available, while Trudeau’s commitment under the Paris deal for 2030 works out to 512 megatonnes annually, or 192 megatonnes less. MORE

Major health study shows benefits of combatting climate change

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There’s something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity,” according to the medical journal The Lancet.

Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century

The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, by 150 experts from 27 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, is blunt: “A rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life, exposing vulnerable populations to extremes of weather, altering patterns of infectious disease, and compromising food security, safe drinking water and clean air.” MORE