Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

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

Monday, September 29th, 2014

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.

Russian oil and gas subsidies create energy wastage equal to UK’s total demand

Monday, February 20th, 2012

At least six percent of Russia’s oil and gas industry in 2010 was subsidized through direct and indirect government aid that leads to inefficient energy consumption, enough to fuel the entire United Kingdom, according to a study released Monday by non-governmental organization, WWF Russia.

WWF identified thirty different schemes of government subsidies, seventeen of which were indirect and included use of government infrastructure that amounted to a value of US$8.1 billion in 2009 and US$14.4 billion in 2010, or 4.2 percent and 6.0 percent respectively of the total value of oil and gas production in Russia, according to the WWF.

Two schemes in particular comprised almost half the total value of subsidies in 2010, according to the WWF. These were an export duty exemption for new oil fields in Eastern Siberia the WWF estimated was worth approximately $4 billion with tax holidays for mineral extraction again in Eastern Siberia worth a further $2 billion.

At issue for the WWF is that the subsidies only stimulate new field development including in the Arctic region rather than intensifying development within the energy sector as a whole.

Russia is the least efficient of OECD countries in terms of energy per output according to the US Energy Information Agency and energy saving is a critical issue, according to Mikhail Babenko, Oil & Gas Officer at WWF’s Global Arctic Programme.

“Russia has a great potential in energy saving,” said Babenko. According to International Energy Agency estimates estimates, had Russia achieved the energy efficiency of Canada, Sweden or Norway, the country could have saved over “Two hundred million tons of oil equivalent (approximately 1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent) from its primary energy demand, equal to 30 percent of its consumption,” said Babenko.

Babenko concluded that this was the equivalent to the UK’s total primary energy in the same year.

Canada’s ‘meaningful’ climate action brought under scrutiny by report

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Canada will likely miss its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reductions target by almost a third according to latest analysis by Canadian environmental think-tank the Pembina Institute.

At the recent Durban UN climate change conference, Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent referred to Canada’s ‘meaningful action’ on climate change and the government’s targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 as the government sought to negotiate a global climate agreement that included all major emitters.

However, Pembina’s report ‘Responsible Action’ indicates that their projected shortfall in Alberta’s provincial target would actually reduce Canada’s mitigation ambitions to 12 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, assuming the government is successful in reducing its emissions elsewhere.

Kent has frequently underlined Canada’s commitment to the Copenhagen Accord, and declared in his recent Ministerial declaration speech in Durban that “Kyoto is in the past.” On Monday, Kent announced Canada would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol whose targets of reducing emissions 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 it abandoned reaching in 2007.

Under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, world leaders agreed to limit the increase in average global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius in order to prevent serious climate change, a target that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states would require global emissions to stabilize at 450 parts per million by volume before being reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050.

Pembina’s projected emissions shortfall for Alberta would likely mean Canada’s emissions would be almost 13 percent above 1990 levels in 2020.

Australian government to triple income tax thresholds in return for a carbon price

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Australia’s Labour government announced Sunday it will triple the tax-free threshold that Australians can earn before paying tax as part of a government plan to price greenhouse gas emissions at A$23 per tonne of CO2 equivalent starting next year, 1 July 2012.

In a step that Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated would reduce emissions by 159 million tonnes a year by 2020, the Clean Energy Future plan is expected to increase Australians’ individual incomes by 16% or A$9,000 per year while creating an extra 1.6 million jobs by the end of the decade.

The carbon price will increase incrementally by 2.5% per year over three years to 2015 when a full ETS will become operable, according to the government’s plans.

Initial price increases caused by the carbon tax will be compensated by recycling half the overall revenue to households to offset against these price impacts. Four million households will receive assistance that exceeds the expected price increases while 6 million households will receive assistance meeting the price increases while 8 million households will receive some assistance. Government forecasts predict a $9.90 increase in costs for households and the average assistance will be $10.10 per week.

Increases to pensions and family allowances are also promised.

Furthermore, the tax-free threshold will more than triple from A$6,000/year to $18,200 by 1 July 2012 and increase a further $1,200 to $19,400 in 2015.

Clean Energy Supplements equivalent to 1.7% of pensions and family allowances equivalent of up to $338 per year in the case of pensioners will be payable initially in lump sums to families.

Families earning less than $80,000 will receive automatic tax cuts of $300 per year in addition to the increased tax-free threshold.

Programmes to re-train workers and assist industry to transform itself into a clean economy fall under a $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness funding package over the three-year timeframe.

The steel industry specifically will receive $300 million worth of government investment to enhance innovation and technological competitiveness toward a low-carbon economy and its progress reviewed in 2014-2015 under the government’s proposed EITE (Energy Intensive Trade Exposed) Productivity Commission.

Companies in the so-called EITE category claim their operations are rendered commercially uncompetitive against developing country companies that face no constraints on their carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol.

Ms Gillard in conjunction with Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet and Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson also announced an almost $1.3 billion Coal Sector Jobs Package where the coal industry who will face an effective carbon price of $1.80 per tonne of coal produced due to coal mine fugitive greenhouse gas emissions.

While a small number of gassy mines will likely pay higher costs, the package is aimed at three coal mines in particular whose operation is critical to their respective local communities and economy.

The coal package of A$1.264 billion will reward coalmines that reduce their historical greenhouse gas emissions intensity as opposed to ­absolute emissions. An additional $70 million Coal Mining Abatement Technology Support Package will further seek to enable the coal industry to deploy technology to reduce its emissions.

The government stipulated that it will endeavour to close 2,000 megawatts of brown-coal fired electricity generation.

Manufacturing industries will receive a further $1.2 billion to invest in low-emissions technology and capital equipment with $200 million specifically earmarked for the food processing and metal foundries industry.

Transportation fuel tax credits for industry will be phased out with the exception of forestry, fisheries and agriculture while domestic aviation will see its fuel excise increased in keeping with the carbon price.

Small businesses will be exempt from any future carbon trading mechanism which will be designed to include Australia’s top 500 polluters. However, the government plans to orchestrate a $40 million energy efficiency awareness programme that in line with a new $6,500 business instant asset write-off it hopes will encourage investments into clean energy investments.

Programmes for improving energy efficiency for low-income households, improved energy access for indigenous and remote rural communities are also included.

A Climate Change Authority will be established under the chairmanship of Bernie Fraser, a former head of the Energy Investment Office in the early 1980s and more recently manager of two of Australia’s largest superannuation pension funds.

The CCA will advise the government on how to design and implement its carbon trading mechanism slated to start in 2015.

NGOs in Australia welcomed  the Clean Energy Future plan. The Australian Conservation Foundation made a detailed analysis but was reticent of government plans to continue to subsidize the coal industry and specifically called for the Labour Party to live up to election promises of no new investment in coal.

ACF also called for an end to all fuel subsidies within the three-year timeframe. ACF recently launched report questioning why taxpayers were spending $11 billion in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Brent Hoare of the Green Cooling Association that seeks to phase out refrigerant gases that damage the ozone and cause climate change welcomed the government plan for including other greenhouse gases than just CO2, citing that per tonne, some gases have an average warming potential 4,000 times that of CO2.

“The potential direct emissions abatement that could be delivered by a widespread transition to natural refrigerants is estimated to exceed 15 million tonnes of CO2 per annum which would make an extremely significant contribution to the emission reduction target of 160 million tonnes of CO2,” Mr Hoare told New Orator.

In New Zealand where the government has an in principle linking up between any future emissions trading scheme emanating from Canberra, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith welcomed the Australian government’s announcement of a carbon emissions tax set initially at $A23 per tonne.

“New Zealand officials have been working closely with their Australian counterparts and any changes to New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme will take account of the Australian announcement,” Dr Smith said in a statement to New Orator.

Dr Smith will meet Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan in the next week to further discussions on how to bring the schemes more closely together over time, according to a spokesperson in his office.

In Canada whose economy is similarly founded on mining and oil and gas as in Australia, Green Party leader Elizabeth May told New Orator by e-mail: “It’s brilliant!”

Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent is yet to comment but he told New Orator last month that he would be announcing a Notice of Intent in July to regulate Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by sector.