“The world has to move forward without the US” — PIK Research Portal

1/09/2016 – Science cannot expect positive climate action from President-elect Donald Trump, says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The world has now to move forward without the US on the road towards climate-risk mitigation and clean-technology innovation,” he states.

“President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on global warming is well known,” says Schellnhuber, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. “Ironically, he contributed to the popularity of our recent ‘Turn down the heat’-report series for the World Bank by attacking it on Twitter. Yet apart from this, science cannot expect any positive climate action from him. The world has now to move forward without the US on the road towards climate-risk mitigation and clean-technology innovation. The US de-elected expertise and will likely show a blockade mentality now, so Europe and Asia have to pioneer and save the world.”

“Formally leaving the Paris Agreement would take longer than one Presidential term, yet of course the US could simply refuse reducing national emissions which would mean a de facto exit out of international climate policy,” Schellnhuber adds. “Now the US are one of the world’s biggest economies, and even just four years of unbridled emissions staying in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years would make a substantial difference. The climate system doesn’t forget, and it doesn’t forgive. The US is prone to potentially devastating climate change impacts. Hurricanes hit US coastal cities, the California drought affected farmers, and a state like Florida is particularly exposed to sea-level rise. Sadly, in the long run nature itself might show the US citizens that climate change as a matter of fact is not a hoax. But it might be too late.”

Source: “The world has to move forward without the US” — PIK Research Portal

The Great Investment Turnaround: how to finance a sustainable world economy — PIK Research Portal

07/20/2016

– Banks and insurers can play a crucial part in stabilizing the climate, while at the same time safeguarding their clients’ assets. Leading representatives of finance and climate research will discuss the best strategies for a turnaround in investing this Thursday in Berlin. The event is hosted by the Swiss global bank UBS, the French multinational insurance firm AXA, CDP, the European innovation initiative Climate-KIC, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

Divestment – the diversion of capital from fossil fuel industries to green innovation and sustainable businesses – is a new approach to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which could turn out to be a global “game changer”.

Already today, investments of billions of Euros are being redirected. Pioneered by students of wealthy US universities, divestment has reached financial big shots like Allianz by now: the financial services company announced its intention to divest from its assets in coal mining. The foundation of the legendary US oil dynasty Rockefeller plans to divest their funds from the fossil fuel industry as well.

“The risks of climate change affect everyone and everything. When the finance sector now divests billions from the fossil business, this does not only reflect a moral responsibility but also makes good business sense,” says PIK director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, co-initiator of the conference. “While weather extremes increase already, many of the biggest climate impacts, like the consequences of sea-level rise, will become perceptible only after it would be too late to act. Therefore it is important for the finance sector to recognize the warnings of science and to ramp up sustainable investments as soon as possible. The Paris Agreement substantiates that the nations of the world aim at reaching zero emissions by 2050. This means we are now in year one of the Great Transformation. Whoever still invests in coal and oil will not only damage the environment, but eventually also lose a lot of money.”

“Recognize the possible economic and social impacts of climate change”

„As a global bank it is of major importance to recognize the possible economic and social impacts of climate change, in order to better prepare us and our clients,” says Axel Weber, Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS Group AG. “The financial sector is working hard to lay the foundations for filling gaps in financing climate action and to support nations in delivering on their corresponding commitments. We aim for a sensible long-term allocation of capital that is congruent with a low-carbon economy.”

Christian Thimann, Global Head of Strategy, Sustainability, and Public Affairs at AXA Group and Vice-Chair of the FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, says: “Finance has an important role in addressing climate change, because it steers long-term investment. Investors need to understand how companies address climate change in their strategies, which goes well beyond the current carbon footprint. Under the mandate of the G20 and the Financial Stability Board, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure seeks to develop consistent voluntary disclosures by companies and enhance investor understanding of climate-related business risks and opportunities. Such disclosures and better investor understanding will foster implementation of the COP21 agreement.”

„Divestment is one of the most potent signals of investor discontent”

Susan Dreyer, CDP Country Director Germany, Austria, Switzerland adds: „Divestment is one of the most potent signals of investor discontent and can be a valuable method to manage portfolio risk, given climate risks are becoming more urgent every day. Having built a platform for transparent and comparable climate strategies, into which 5600 companies worldwide are voluntary reporting today, CDP knows of the impact investor engagement can unfold. Shareholder resolutions or setting joint reduction targets are good examples. And yet, the clear signal from both civil society and investors that fossil based business models do not have a future in the decarbonized world of 2050, is helpful and needed.”

Source: The Great Investment Turnaround: how to finance a sustainable world economy — PIK Research Portal

Global trade deal threatens Paris climate goals, leaked documents show | Environment | The Guardian

Arthur Nelson, 20 September 2016

Controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) could make it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels as part of efforts to keep temperature rises to 1.5C

A far-reaching global trade deal being negotiated in secret could threaten the goals of the Paris climate deal by making it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels, a leak of the latest negotiating text shows.

The controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) aims to liberalise trade between the EU and 22 countries across the global services sector, which employs tens of millions in Europe alone.

But a new EU text seen by the Guardian would oblige signatories to work towards “energy neutrality” between renewable energy and fossil fuel power, although amendments proposed by the EU would exempt nuclear power from this rule.

The document, marked “limited distribution – for Tisa participants only”, would also force member states to legislate against “anti-competitive conduct” and “market distortions” in energy-related services. This is viewed by campaigners as code for state support for clean power sectors, such as wind and solar.

A right to regulate is explicitly mentioned in the paper, but governments would first have to prove the necessity for regulations that legally constrain multinationals.

The same clause was used in the World Trade Organisation’s Gatt and Gats treaties which entered into force in 1995, and led to 44 complaints by multinationals via their governments. Of these, 43 were upheld.

Susan Cohen Jehoram, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, told the Guardian: “We fear the same thing will happen with Tisa but on a much larger scale, when legislation is proposed to keep temperature rises to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels, as agreed at the Paris climate summit].

“If we want to reach that target, governments will need a toolbox of measures that can give incentives to cleaner energy. Tisa, like the proposed TTIP and Ceta trade agreements, would increase the power of multinationals to prevent governments taking desperately needed measures to decrease CO2 levels.”

The Paris climate agreement called for “making finance flows consistent with a pathway to low greenhouse gas emissions” but the deregulatory thrust of the negotiating text, which was obtained by Greenpeace Netherlands, seems to run counter to this.

Its energy annex says that the trade rules will apply to all legislative measures covering power generation services, “whether the energy source is renewable or non-renewable”.

It also contains a “standstill” clause freezing in perpetuity the high watermark of liberalisation in certain sectors, and a “ratchet” clause to stop countries reintroducing trade barriers that had been previously removed. Both mechanisms have been proposed by Australia.

Under their tenets, any government elected on a ticket of reversing the liberalisation of services contained in the treaty would thus be unable to do so, campaigners claim.

The UK’s shadow international trade and energy spokesman, Barry Gardiner, Labour MP, told the Guardian: “Whilst every effort should be made to promote business and trade, this must not be at the expense of the protection and enhancement of workers’ rights, environmental safeguards and the wider interests of the British people.”

While Brexit could prevent the UK from being bound by the planned trade treaty, any agreement allowing access to the EU’s single market would probably oblige it to follow the new rules.

Opposition to the proposed text from Theresa May’s government is thought unlikely. David Davis, the minister for Brexit, recently described the similar Ceta trade agreement with Canada as his preferred model for a trade arrangement with the EU.

Gardiner said: “The British people have voted to come out of the European Union to preserve the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, it cannot be right then that secret trade deals are currently being conducted entirely outside the scrutiny of national parliaments and law-makers.”

“The structure of such deals are like a lobster pot – once you have gone through and given power to the commercial interest it is no longer possible to recapture democratic control. What we do hear, through leaks and rumours, are terms which clearly prevent the ongoing capacity of governments to govern in the public interest.”

Before coming into effect though, any finalised Tisa text will most likely need to be approved by all EU member states – which currently includes the UK – and will also require approval from the European parliament.

Earlier this year, MEPs voted to back the deal, on the proviso that public services were excluded and that the deal legally secured the right to regulate at European, national and local authority level.

Parliament’s rapporteur, the former EU justice commisioner, Viviane Reding, has previously said that the assembly will “never consent” to any trade pact that diminished the EU’s right to regulate on climate, health and social laws.

Reding refused to comment on the leak but informed sources said that neither she nor the European parliament would consent to provisions which prevented public authorities from supporting renewables.

Reding, a conservative politician from Luxembourg, has also called on the Luxembourg government to demand an end to negotiations on the EU-US free trade deal known as TTIP, over the use of controversial secret investor courts, and threats to the environment and food safety.

Unlike TTIP, Tisa deals with the less tangible trade services sector that nonetheless constitutes more than half of the global economy, and could impact on an estimated 1.8 billion people.

As well as energy, any Tisa deal will apply to financial services, e-commerce, information and communications technology services, international maritime transport services, computer related services, postal and courier services, and government procurement of services.

A report by the UN conference on trade and development later this week is expected to say that mega-trade deals such as TTIP and Tisa are becoming increasingly politicised, and failing to provide a solution to the slowdown in global growth.

Source: Global trade deal threatens Paris climate goals, leaked documents show | Environment | The Guardian

Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks — PIK Research Portal

29/08/2016 – A forest with greater diversity of plants can better adjust to climatic stress. Now for the first time, a team of scientists can show this in computer simulations of the Amazon region by accounting for its amazing diversity of trees. Biodiversity can hence be an effective means to mitigate climate risks and should not only be seen in the context of nature conservation.
Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks

Amazon rainforest trees. Photo: Atelopus/thinkstock

“Plant trait diversity may enable the Amazon forests, the world’s greatest and maybe most fascinating tropical ecosystem, to adjust to some level of climate change – certain trees dominant today could decrease and their place will be taken by others which are better suited for the new climate conditions in the future,” says Boris Sakschewski from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead-author of the study to be published in Nature Climate Change. Tree survival for instance depends on what the scientists call ‘leaf economics’: their different size, thickness, longevity or density defines how well the plant can deal with higher temperatures and water scarcity. “Biodiversity shows not to be a nice-to-have but indeed a must-have,” says Sakschewski. “We find it could be functional for the long-term survival of Earth’s large reservoirs of biomass, such as the forests of the Amazon region.”

However, this depends on the level of stress. Only in a scenario of moderate climate change, high biodiversity can, after a sharp decline of biomass, contribute to substantial recovery in vast areas across the Amazon region after a few hundred years. Here, more than 80 percent of the Amazon area would show substantial regrowth, according to the study. In contrast, in a business-as-usual scenario of greenhouse-gas emissions leading to massive climate change, less than 20 percent of the area would show this positive effect.

A significant step forward in Earth system modelling

Never before have these dynamics been integrated in a biogeochemical vegetation simulation of climate effects, so this is a significant step forward in Earth system modelling. “To explain how plant trait diversity contributes to the resilience of rainforest we first investigated an experimental site in Ecuador and then extended the simulations to the Amazon basin,” says team leader Kirsten Thonicke from PIK. “We’ve been working on this for years. While it is well-known that biodiversity is relevant for ecosystem productivity and biomass storage, up to now it could not be shown in a large-scale quantitative way. We’re glad to advance previous research by closing this important gap.”

“This is good news for the Amazon forest – still, it doesn’t mean that climate change would not harm this unique ecosystem substantially, quite the contrary,” says Wolfgang Lucht, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Earth System Analysis. While high biodiversity enables the forest to eventually regain much of its biomass, there is a huge disruption in the transition and the species composition would be different afterwards even under moderate global warming. “Despite the encouraging findings on biodiversity’s functional value, the Amazon rainforest unfortunately remains one of the critical hotspots on the planet that demand very rapid decreases in CO2 emissions.”

 

Read more..Source: Amazon forests: Biodiversity can help mitigate climate risks — PIK Research Portal

Scorching Global Temps Astound Climate Scientists | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

“What concerns me most is that we didn’t anticipate these temperature jumps,” David Carlson, director of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) climate research program, told Thompson Reuters Foundation late Monday. “We predicted moderate warmth for 2016, but nothing like the temperature rises we’ve seen.” “Massive temperature hikes, but also extreme events like floodings, have become the new normal,” Carlson added. “The ice melt rates recorded in the first half of 2016, for example—we don’t usually see those until later in the year.”

Indeed, extreme weather events are currently wreaking havoc around the world. In Southern California, firefighters are battling one of the “most extreme” fires the region has ever seen. The so-called sand fire had consumed 38,346 acres as of Wednesday morning and forced the evacuations of 10,000 homes, and one person has died.

Read more…

Source: Scorching Global Temps Astound Climate Scientists | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Companies need to come clean about climate change risk, Mark Carney says – Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News

TORONTO – Only about one-third of the world’s 1,000 largest companies provide effective disclosure of the risks they face due to climate change, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Friday.

Lack of full disclosure, Carney said, makes it difficult for investors, creditors and regulators to assess who is on top of the increasingly critical issue.

“What is your strategy for managing climate-related risk?” he said. “Longer-term strategies are going to be much more important for evaluation.”

At the same time, he said, the transition to an environmentally sustainable future in the coming decades provides an annual opportunity worth trillions of dollars for companies and financiers.

One example he cited is the development of a green bond market in China that current estimates suggest will be worth US$500 billion a year. It’s a market Beijing is keen to open up, he said.

Carney’s comments came during a session with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna at a business breakfast forum. The former Bank of Canada governor noted that the number of extreme climate events has risen threefold in the last few decades while the cost of claims paid out as a result has risen fivefold.

Still, he said, part of the issue facing regulators relates to the different views on the seriousness of the threat posed by global warming and the ways governments are addressing the problem.

“We want to be neutral, create the information set out there, so that all of those views can be expressed in a market that is an efficient market,” he said.

In response to a request from G20 leaders, Carney said a private-sector task force that includes those who have to provide disclosure and those who use that disclosure is trying to come up with the information needed to allow consistent and effective comparisons among companies about their emissions and the risks they face.

The panel is expected to produce its final report at the beginning of next year.

The reality companies must face and must deal with is that governments around the world are serious about implementing various schemes aimed at lowering emissions believed to be at the root of global warming, Carney said. “Climate policy is real,” he said. “Emissions have to be capped.”

read more…

Source: Companies need to come clean about climate change risk, Mark Carney says – Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News

Leaked TTIP energy proposal could ‘sabotage’ EU climate policy | Environment | The Guardian

The latest draft version of the TTIP agreement could sabotage European efforts to save energy and switch to clean power, according to MEPs. A 14th round of the troubled negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal between the EU and US is due to begin on Monday in Brussels.

A leak obtained by the Guardian shows that the EU will propose a rollback of mandatory energy savings measures, and major obstacles to any future pricing schemes designed to encourage the uptake of renewable energies. Environmental protections against fossil fuel extraction, logging and mining in the developing world would also come under pressure from articles in the proposed energy chapter.

Paul de Clerck, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth Europe, said the leaked document: “is in complete contradiction with Europe’s commitments to tackle climate change. It will flood the EU market with inefficient appliances, and consumers and the climate will foot the bill. The proposal will also discourage measures to promote renewable electricity production from wind and solar.”

The European commission says that the free trade deal is intended to: “promote renewable energy and energy efficiency – areas that are crucial in terms of sustainability”. The bloc has also promised that any agreement would support its climate targets. In the period to 2020, these are binding for clean power and partly binding for energy efficiency, in the home appliance and building standards sectors. But the draft chapter obliges the two trade blocs to: “foster industry self-regulation of energy efficiency requirements for goods where such self-regulation is likely to deliver the policy objectives faster or in a less costly manner than mandatory requirements”.

Campaigners fear that this could tip the balance in future policy debates and setback efforts to tackle climate change. Jack Hunter, a spokesman for the European Environmental Bureau said: “Legally-binding energy standards have done wonders to lower energy bills for homes and offices, so much so that energy use has dropped even as the British economy has grown and appliances have become more power-hungry. Advertisement “Voluntary agreements have a place, but are generally ‘business as usual’ and no substitute for the real thing. If they became the norm, it would seriously harm our fight against climate change.” Read more..

Source: Leaked TTIP energy proposal could ‘sabotage’ EU climate policy | Environment | The Guardian

UN climate chief to UK: ‘Stay calm and transform on’ | Climate Home – climate change news

By Adam Vaughan and Anna Menin Britain must continue to be a world leader when it comes to acting on global warming despite the EU referendum result last week, the UN’s climate chief has urged. Christiana Figueres warned that should article 50 be triggered it would bring uncertainty for two years but cooperation on climate change could be one area of continuity between the UK and EU. “Should that be the case [article 50 being triggered], there is going be quite a lot of uncertainty, transition, volatility for at least two years,” she told an audience of business leaders in London on Tuesday. “However, let us remember that the Brexit vote was not about climate change, it was not about should the UK continue to modernise its industry and its manufacturing, and it was certainly not a vote about innovation, which is fundamentally the opportunity that we have by acting on climate change,” said the outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Figueres, who played a key role in forging the Paris climate deal last December and is believed to be considering running for UN secretary general, riffed on the world war two poster “keep calm and carry on”. “Over these next two years, my suggestion would be to use the proverbial UK [message]: ‘stay calm and transform on [to a low-carbon economy]’. It’s not ‘stay calm and do nothing’, it’s ‘stay calm and transform on’ because the UK and EU have had a very important leadership on climate change, there’s no reason to change that whatsoever.” Asked if the Brexit vote would become an obstacle to action on climate change, she said: “No. Climate change action is by now unstoppable. It is global.” Weekly briefing: Sign up for your essential climate politics update A pre-referendum poll found that leave voters were more likely to be climate sceptics than remain voters, and green groups have raised fears that the Brexit vote could lead to “the climate change-denying wing of the Conservative party” being strengthened.

Source: UN climate chief to UK: ‘Stay calm and transform on’ | Climate Home – climate change news

BREAKING: Brexit Vote Roils UK, EU Climate and Energy Policy | The Energy Mix

… Britain was a staunch European leader in offshore wind production that nevertheless “firmly opposed the EU Commission’s interference in determining the national energy mix in favour of renewables. That was clearly a step backwards, since shifting towards renewable energy is an inevitable component of an effective climate mitigation strategy that is capable of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Now, however “to achieve a positive European future, characterized by a green and low-carbon economy, state sovereignty and national self-interests are going to have to recede,” Bosak wrote. “Purely national solutions are simply not going to be enough to solve complex environmental problems, such as climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss which often pay no heed to national borders.” But Canadian energy journalist Andrew Nikiforuk counters that the Union’s size and unwieldiness has been its own undoing. “In the end, bigness—like any empire—concentrates power and delivers misery, corruption, and waste,” he writes. “And that’s the problem today with the European Union, with big corporations, large governments, and a long parade of big trade pacts.” In a “global labyrinth of bigness,” he adds, the EU “has become another symbol of oversized ineptness, along with a technological deafness that ignores locality, human temperament, culture, ecology, tradition, democracy, and diversity.” Nikiforuk cites a recent open letter that recalled the Union’s original positive promise. “There is nothing about freedom, solidarity, or friendship in the European Union. The European Union has proven to act on behalf of the interest of banks, multinational enterprises, and groups in the shadow, as advised by professional think tanks and lobbyists, not in favour of its people,” a group of Greek citizens wrote to Britons last week. “The European Union is designed as a cartel and typically, there is a lack of democratic structures and processes: democracy becomes a disturbing factor.”

Source: BREAKING: Brexit Vote Roils UK, EU Climate and Energy Policy | The Energy Mix