Sculpting a climate change accord

Canada’s energy strategy fails on imagination and vision

The Shining Path to Lima

Peru climate summit to draft global climate business plan for next thirty to fifty years, says UN climate chief

Sculpting a climate change accord

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by Felix von Geyer

As the Paris COP 21 climate talks continue into their second week in the political quest for a global climate accord that could rally the world’s governments to prevent the onset of serious climate change, Québec sculptress Sarah Marceau-Tremblay continues her second and final week of her climate change inspired exhibition, ‘La Robe de Sophie’ (Sophie’s Dress).

Indeed, La Robe de Sophie is itself a dialogic intercourse with the public and Marceau-Tremblay dresses up climate change as a collective human, cultural, intellectual and anthropological failure.

There is no coincidence between the idea of Sophie’s Dress and the similarly named philosophical novel Sophie’s World by Norwegian Jostein Gaarder that sought to bring Western philosophy to life for a young girl.

As a sculptural narrative or ‘conte sculpté’, Marceau-Tremblay’s works adorn Montreal’s Galerie Viaduc on Boulevard St Laurent as they depict key pages of the book in narrating the tale of humanity’s demise as a consequence of the inability to accept the reality of its relationship with the environment.

The works signify the breakdown of this relationship in similar fashion to the Stations of the Cross during the Easter Passion that narrate Christ’s journey to Calgary.

The sculptor herself remains faithful to her almost post-Frink style. She contrasts solidity with static stubbornness as the death of elegiac human beauty and movement caused by climate change drags all humanity into an infernal descent. This descent is effectively self-prophesied through the obstinacy of those unwilling to accept that any other economic, social and political path is either possible or necessary; let alone embrace it.

admin @ December 8, 2015

Canada’s energy strategy fails on imagination and vision

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by Felix von Geyer

If Canadians want an energy revolution, a psephological earthquake at the federal elections is the best place to start.

Indeed, Canada`s ten provincial and territorial premiers were unanimous in calling for more involvement from Ottawa`s federal government before concluding their two-day meeting Friday with the production of a 40-page document that outlined the approach for a new energy strategy. The strategy`s consultative process started in the tar sands province of Alberta in 2013.

The repetitive and brittle communication spin surrounding the protracted document reveals the reality that Canada’s energy future is seriously grounded in the past, offering an old value proposition that will fail to provide environmental or climatic security as it looks to invest C$650 billion over the next decade in building Canada`s energy future.

Three themes inform the premiers` strategy: sustainability and conservation; technology and innovation and delivering energy to people. In each area, the debate is almost a decade old if not more.

In Canada the conversation was most alive in 2007 around the Harper government`s Clean Air Act was taken to task by the Liberal opposition party and Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez introduced the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act – prompting Harper’s former Environment Minister John Baird to declare that implementing Kyoto would create the largest recession Canada had ever seen.

The energy strategy`s own statistical out-takes seek to sell the economic benefits of Canada`s existing energy infrastructure and the need for energy security and stability to provide economic growth, but instead reveal that less than one per cent of Canadians are directly employed by the industry.

Furthermore, it highlights that Canada is the world`s second largest producer of Uranium (mostly located in Saskatchewan) and and the paper is confusing in its promotion of the 73 per cent renewable (low or zero emissions) segment of Canada`s electricity. Hydroelectricity accounts for 63 per cent of Canada`s total electricity generation in one headline figure, where later the small print reveals the figure was 57 per cent in 2012.

But the devil himself must be starving in the lack of details proposed by the premiers’ energy strategy whose ten areas of focus include the need to promote energy efficiency and conservation and to transition to a lower carbon economy with no glimpse of a target. Normal palliatives to carbon pricing can be found in the absence of any vision of renewable energy targets and greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Canada`s pro-oil sands Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently submitted its Nationally Determined Commitment to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change to reduce the country`s greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The government has no plan in place that would achieve this.

Again, details are scarce in mentioning the need for accelerated development and deployment of research and technology to achieve more efficient production and transmission outside of further talk about the long-awaited East-West Grid allowing provinces to transmit electricity to other provinces. Quebec could sell its hydro to Ontario, preventing the latter from having to develop extra nuclear capacity.

Facilitating development of green or renewable resources is another vague area of focus but the need to speed-up regulatory approval and market liberalisation receive greater mention in offering a proactive and stable framework.

In the build-up to the Premiers’ meeting, Saskatchewan’s Premier Brad Wall had publicly decried the demonization of Canada`s oil industry, claiming national benefits are derived through equalization payments distributed by Ottawa to poorer provinces.

The reality is far different. Oil and gas companies provide maybe one percent of Ottawa`s revenues. However, to place Wall`s words into perspective, Saskatchewan has the world`s highest GHG emissions per capita of any jurisdiction. At sixty tonnes of GHG emissions per head Saskatchewan outstrips Saudi Arabia’s 45 tonnes per capita.

Reliant on enhancing the oil recovery of its own end of life oil wells through carbon capture and storage to inject the CO2 into the wells to lift the oil, the province is also home to a portion of Canada`s tar sands. Saskatchewan is also a leading producer of uranium, an energy-intensive extraction process as well as the world’s largest producer of potash.

The Premiers meeting came at the same time as US scientists produced their annual report stating that the oceans would continue to warm for centuries as they are the main sink for absorbing anthropogenic CO2 emissions. It also came at the same time as reports leaked of a new double-walled pipeline owned by Nexen Inc spilled 5 million litres of oil sands crude in Alberta and a rail train carrying oil sands crude derailed in North-Eastern Montana.

In the meantime, new Albertan Premier Rachel Notley of the formerly left-wing New Democratic Party picked up where her Conservative predecessors have so far failed. Notley has asked Canadian Premiers to adopt the C$12 billion Energy East pipeline to carry oil sands crude from Alberta to the Eastern Maritime Province of Nova Scotia to be shipped to Europe. The European Union wants to become as energy independent as possible from Vladimir Putin`s Russia and hopes Eastern Canada can provide the shortfall with as much crude oil and LNG as possible. India is also a likely LNG customer.

So if Canada wants an energy future that is likely to deliver climate security and a stable environment on whose back its economy is drawn, its citizens will need to tell its policy-makers – and fast.

admin @ July 19, 2015

The Shining Path to Lima

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by Felix von Geyer

As the world’s climate negotiators pack their bags this week for darkest Peru where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will host its twentieth Convention of the Parties (COP 20), New Orator sheds light on what some of the key issues will be.

The Lima UN Climate Change Conference will aim to hammer out as much of the draft text required for next year’s Paris COP 21 as possible for the world’s governments to commit to a global climate treaty and framework ‘with legal force’ that is to be implemented by 2020.

This is what governments agreed to at the 2011 COP 17 in Durban where they agreed that any 2015 agreement would be informed by the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC was quite categorical in its report that fossil fuels needed to be phased out by the end of the 21st century.

More specifically, the International Energy Agency stated in its recent World Economic Outlook, that the IPCC’s global carbon budget is likely as much as 1000 gigatonnes of CO2 before global warming would exceed 2 degrees increase in average global temperatures and deliver serious climate change.

According to the IEA, the current state of the world’s global energy infrastructure means that carbon budget will be used up by 2040. Only in 2011 the IEA stated that to avoid exceeding 2 degrees, the world had until 2017 to avoid a 100 percent locking-in of the global energy infrastructure that would create serious climate change.

The IEA message remains clear. All parties to the framework should include a mitigation component that should address their country’s energy infrastructure and transition to a low-carbon future. Speaking on Thursday, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven outlined 5 pathways for negotiators and policy-makers to consider as climate talks reconvene in December:-

A downward bend of the global emissions curve by 2020 is necessary to create a pathway to reduce global emissions; a focus on decarbonisation of electricity; an immediate reshape to accelerate innovation in low-carbon technologies; a mobilisation of otherwise non-climate goals such as economic development, air quality improvement and liveable communities and achieving fiscal balance as goals best promoted through emissions reductions within the energy sector. Finally, strengthening the energy sector’s resilience to climate change.

Van der Hoeven was forthright that governments must get started immediately in addressing these fundamentalsand should reflect these pathways within their INDCs. Essential components of an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) should include policies and actions to unlock existing high emissions assets; the new landscape of emissions trading schemes; energy metrics to track decarbonisation progress and targets to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions.

To achieve this requires an agreement to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies and transfer that investment into renewable energies between 2014-2035 to achieve a so-called 450 Scenario – where emissions do not increase beyond 450 parts per million by volume, the level at which IPCC scientists believe serious climate change will be unleashed.

Yet the question remains, how will governments and the UN framework approach the whole issue of INDCs at the Lima climate talks?

The task ahead of Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s Minister of the Environment and President-Designate of COP 20 will be to create an ‘elements’ text that comprises elements of a draft negotiating text with the express view that it will become the negotiating text for Paris 2015. The starting point will be a ‘non-paper’ due from the Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action set up in 2011.

As Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice-President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES – formerly the Pew Center for Climate Change) think-tank said during a webinar on Thursday, there are three options. One is to have mitigation included with adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building. The second is to have differentiated mitigation levels for developed and developing countries following the line of thinking of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDRRC) that could also take the same approach as the Kyoto Protocol in partitioning emitters into Annex 1 countries – effectively developed nations who are historically responsible for the bulk of GHG emissions, and non-Annex 1 developing countries who may be allowed a higher emissions profile in their quest for economic development and poverty alleviation or eradication.

The final option is mitigation only.

However, the timeframe for mitigation and other national commitments might be contentious with 2025 and 2030 becoming likely competing timeframes. However, the recent US-China accord agreed between US President Obama and Chinese President Xi two weeks ago could create a spirit and intent akin to previous language of contraction and convergence, where developed countries supposedly act first to reduce emissions while develop countries converge mitigation efforts to meet developed countries’ efforts but at a later point, similar to the 2007 Montreal Protocol agreement to eliminate ozone depleting substances.

However, the level of ambition remains essentially contested as does the concept of a binding agreement ‘with legal force’ as agreed at the Durban climate talks during the infamous huddle in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Diringer for one cannot see how a Paris Agreement next year could be any more legally binding than the Kyoto Protocol – from which Canada, the world’s leading rogue nation on climate change, withdrew during the final year of the first period without penalty despite failing to reduce any of its greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. Instead Canada’s own emissions projections for 2035 will likely be 35 percent beyond 1990 levels. This emissions profile will exceed 2005 levels by around 15 percent compromising Canada’s pledge at the Copenhagen 2009 talks to reduce its emissions in line with the US to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Consequently Diringer stated that a binding commitment will not actually guarantee countries will meet their commitments. However, he did offer the caveat that any substantive agreement might be slow, as is often the case until the last moment at climate talks. But where van der Hoeven’s first request is for countries to seek to a downward bend on the global emissions curve by 2020, Diringer cannot see that initial INDCs will put the world onto a 2 degree or 450 ppm pathway.

For Lima to prove a success and provide any shining path on the way to Paris will require having all the elements in place for an agreement that can be seamlessly scalable to increase all future levels of ambition for mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance without the need to renegotiate the framework agreement itself.

admin @ November 23, 2014

Peru climate summit to draft global climate business plan for next thirty to fifty years, says UN climate chief

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By Felix von Geyer

Energized by over 300,000 climate demonstrators who marched through New York ahead of United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon’s climate summit last week, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) told a Montreal audience on Friday to expect a draft global agreement in Peru this year to address climate change.

“We must, can and will” address climate change, Figueres told the 600 delegates assembled at the Principles for Responsible Investment conference on Friday morning before she listed a host of pledges and commitments that had poured from the New York summit earlier that week.

Three major pension funds committed to invest up to $31 billion into renewable energies to help decarbonize the energy sector in the battle against climate change was one major initiative. A further $100 billion of pension funds were likely to be divested from fossil fuels. The eagerness of 75 of the world’s governments alongside 1,000 global corporations to call for carbon pricing, whether through a cap and trade emissions trading scheme or carbon tax was another major step forward, said Figueres.

Moreover, if the Rockefeller brothers whose ancestor JD Rockefeller founded Standard Oil that later split into what is now Exxon Mobile and ChevronTexaco could divest the Rockefeller Foundation’s investments from oil as they announced last week, then “there is something in the air,” said Figueres.

Figueres asked PRI’s delegates to help her by undertaking three tasks in her quest to find a major global climate agreement in Paris in 15 months’ time.

“Help me to scrub the lobbying practices to avoid systemic risk and avoid human pain,” she said, referring to the lobbying process of the fossil-fuel industry that has helped prevent progress on addressing climate change beyond a broad commitment at the 2009 Copenhagen summit to avoid exceeding two degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures.

Moreover, Figueres called on investors to maximize their ability to influence Finance Ministers around the world and make them realize that any draft text Peru’s Environment Minister is looking to craft for agreement in Paris in December 2015 is “not an environment agreement but a major technological, economic and risk opportunity,” she said.

Only the previous day, the PRI members had made the ‘Montreal Carbon Pledge’ to track the carbon intensity and profile of $3 trillion of its funds that are otherwise estimated at a total of $22 trillion. Figueres’ third request was direct: “Take that Montreal Carbon Pledge to $22 trillion,” she stated.

Ultimately replacing the old fossil fuel infrastructure with a new energy infrastructure would transition to a better quality of life for everybody by reducing energy insecurities; immigration costs; transportation costs and health costs.

“To get there, we must have the future very, very clear,” said Figueres as she called for “global peaking (of emissions) over the next ten years and then carbon neutrality to restore what the Industrial Revolution disturbed.”

Later during a lunchtime talk at CORIM, the Montreal Council for International Relations, Figueres spoke of further commitments made in New York: the forestry sector pledged to halve deforestation by 2020; palm oil producers committed to zero net deforestation by 2020 while 500 million farmers worldwide sought to move to smart agriculture. Furthermore, an 8,000 kilometre energy corridor through Africa would provide renewable energy and six transnational oil companies were committed to best practices and reporting in acknowledgement that “We’re part of the problem but we can be part of the solution,” Figueres told the diners.

Any global climate agreement in Paris would need to chart the course for the next thirty to fifty years – “way beyond the electoral cycles of anyone,” stressed Figueres who asked the room to put pressure on their subnational governments to address climate change and not to give up on national governments.

“Here’s the truth: the transformation in the energy sector and other sectors will be so huge that we cannot afford to leave behind a country, a family or a person,” the UN’s climate chief declared.

Quoting Montreal-born singer/songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Everybody Knows,’ Figueres added that “Everybody knows – that we can do it. And everybody knows that deep in your heart that we have a choice about the future,” she said, stressing society had a choice to move into a low-carbon future either by crashing into physics or developing its policies.

“And everybody knows that it’s in everybody’s interest to move into that future with fifteen months to get this right. If not, it will take ten years to get around the table again and we will have economic disruption and a political crisis,” predicted figueres.

admin @ September 29, 2014

Solar to lead the way as leading renewable technology to 2050 says IEA

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by Felix von Geyer

Twenty-seven percent of the world’s primary energy supply should come from two-types of solar technology by 2050, the International Energy Agency said Monday in its new Technology Roadmaps.

The Paris-based organization said solar photovoltaic energy (PV) will lead the way at least until 2030 by which time solar thermal energy (STE) such as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) that uses the sun to heat towers of water that produce steam to drive turbines will be increasingly deployed.

Since 2010, the world has added more solar PV capacity than in the previous four decades taking global to over 150 gigawatts GW in early 2014. China is expected to lead the way in deploying solar PV that globally will grow at a rate of 100 Megawatts per day. Over half of this capacity is at the site of consumption such as residential, commercial and industrial. By the time solar PV comprises up to 15 percent of global primary demand, STE is expected to expand, particularly in very sunlit areas with clear skies, making STE a major opportunity for Africa, India, the Middle East and the United States.

To achieve the roadmap’s projections, total installed PV capacity must increase from 36 GW in 2013 to 124 GW per year on average, possibly peaking at 200 GW per year between 2025 and 2040. PV electricity costs will likely converge in different parts of the world as markets develop, with projected average cost reductions of 25% by 2020, 45% by 2030, and 65% by 2050 spreading the costs of PV between $40 to 160 per MW/hour at an assumed cost of capital of 8%.

However, to prevent stop-start cycles in solar investment that prevent solar achieving so-called ‘socket parity’ between prices for solar electricity and electricity from conventional energy grids, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven stated that “We want to be read by governments and we want this to be used by governments” during a press conference. This would require governments to adopt three policies: a long-term approach; market design that includes fair rules for residential and commercial use in a system approach; and to de-risk finance by reducing capital expenditure by lowering the cost of capital, said van der Hoeven.

Global fossil fuel subsidies are worth over $500 billion annually, prompting van der Hoeven to state that countries are “burning their oil, burning their gas and burning their money” whereas socket parity has already occurred without any subsidies.

Consequently greater investment in solar, particularly into STE technology and roll-out could also help generate alternative fuels. In September, an International Civil Aviation Organization seminar on Fuelling Aviation with Green Technology estimated that Solar to Liquids technology that used solar energy to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water and create a synthetic gas for aviation fuel could be produced for as little as $1.30 per litre.

admin @ September 29, 2014