World powers lead frenetic final push for climate accord

Le Bourget (France) (AFP) – World powers led a frenetic final push Friday to seal a UN accord aimed at averting catastrophic climate change, as sleep-deprived envoys battled in Paris over trillion-dollar disputes blocking a deal. The 195-nation conference in Paris had been scheduled to wrap up on Friday, delivering a historic agreement that would brake global warming and ease its impacts. But weary negotiators braced themselves for a third straight round of all-night haggling after ministers wrestled with a myriad of deal-busting rows. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he would submit a proposed final agreement on Saturday morning, and declared he was “sure” of success. “We are almost at the end of the road and I am optimistic,” said Fabius, who is presiding over the talks that began nearly a fortnight ago with a record summit of more than 150 world leaders. Many leaders billed the talks as the last chance to avert disastrous climate change: increasingly severe drought, floods and storms, as well as rising seas that would engulf islands and populated coasts. The planned accord would seek to revolutionise the world’s energy system by cutting back or potentially eliminating coal and other fossil fuels, replacing them with renewables such as solar and wind. The Paris talks have largely been free of the fierce arguments that have plagued previous UN climate conferences. But the biggest disputes over funding the climate fight, worth trillions of dollars over the decades to come, remain as potential deal-breakers in a draft accord released on Thursday night. – Success not guaranteed –

Source: World powers lead frenetic final push for climate accord

Climate Change Is Happening. Here’s How We Adapt | Alice Bows-Larkin | TED Talks – YouTube

Imagine the hottest day you’ve ever experienced. Now imagine it’s six, 10 or 12 degrees hotter. According to climate researcher Alice Bows-Larkin, that’s the type of future in store for us if we don’t significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions now. She suggests that it’s time we do things differently—a whole system change, in fact—and seriously consider trading economic growth for climate stability.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more. Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at http://www.ted.com/translate

FATAL EXTRACTION

Australia is a giant in African mining, but its vast — and in some cases deadly — footprint has never been examined.

Australian-listed mining companies are linked to hundreds of deaths and alleged injustices which wouldn’t be tolerated in better-regulated nations.

The stories that follow are from people across Africa, rarely heard outside their own communities.

via FATAL EXTRACTION.

“Humanity at risk “: climate scientist Schellnhuber speaks at the Vatican — from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Pope Francis’ much anticipated encyclical “Laudato Si” on inequality and the environment mirrors not only religious insights but also the findings of climate science. “Not the poor but the wealthy are putting our planet, and ultimately humanity, at risk,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), at the presentation of the encyclical in the Vatican today. “Those who profited least from the exploitation of fossil fuels and contributed least to greenhouse-gas emissions are hit hardest by global warming impacts, unless we strongly reduce emissions.” Schellnhuber is the only scientist who has been invited to speak, alongside Cardinal Peter Turkson. 

“Humanity at risk “: climate scientist Schellnhuber speaks at the Vatican — PIK Research Portal.

Fossil fuel divestment is rational, says former Shell chairman | Environment | The Guardian

This is an important example of the way the “keep it in the ground” discourse has been captured by the oil industry and reframed as carbon capture – burying the carbon in the ground. Not only is this anything but the safe alternative promoted here, but also, and importantly, putting a price on carbon thus becomes an impetus to develop carbon capture infrastructure which in turn will enable oil mining to continue as usual.

“….But he also approved of fossil fuel divestment, a fast-growing and UN-backed campaign to persuade investors to dump their stocks, on the basis that current reserves of coal, oil and gas are already several times greater than could be safely burned. The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign is highlighting the divestment argument and calling on the world’s two largest medical charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foudnation and Wellcome Trust – to divest their endowments from fossil fuels.

“Divestment is a rational approach,” Moody-Stuart said, speaking at a dinner in London organised by Carbon Trust, which provides advice to businesses on reducing emissions. “If you think your money can be used somewhere else, you should switch it. Selective divestment or portfolio-switching is actually what investors should be doing.” He pointed out that all the major oil and gas companies divested their considerable coal operations in the 1990s. “It was a perfectly rational decision.”

Moody-Stuart condemned the lack of industry progress in addressing climate change. “I find it quite distressing that 18 years after major oil companies, such as BP and Shell, acknowledged the threat of climate change, and the need for precautionary action, and began to put in place modest steps to address it, that the world in general and the industry has made remarkably little progress,” he said.

Moody-Stuart added: “There are two realities acknowledged by most businesses. The first is the needs that have to be met today [but] business leaders also recognise there will at some point be radical change, and industries will be completely transformed. The gap between how we get from one to the other hasn’t really closed.”

The oil and gas majors should be developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) quickly, Moody-Stuart said. “The industry has a real role to play in CCS. We can do it and it can be perfectly safe. it is not rocket science.”

He said a key problem was the vast infrastructure needed for CCS, on the same scale as the existing oil business. “CCS has the potential to have a major impact but I worry because of the scale and we haven’t made much progress with it.”

via Fossil fuel divestment is rational, says former Shell chairman | Environment | The Guardian.

Climate change dominates marathon Shell annual general meeting | Business | The Guardian

Totally unacceptable and deliberately myopic argument from Shell executives at its annual general meeting.. To wait until the second half to this century is to consign the world to 6 degrees warming. that is not survivable.

“…Van Beurden said Shell would be at the forefront of change but that it needed to find more oil in the short term to meet the demands of population growth and economic development in emerging markets.

He rejected the idea that Shell could be left with “stranded assets” that cannot be extracted because climate change will make them unviable. He dismissed as a red herring the argument that there was a carbon bubble of investment in fossil fuels.

Van Beurden said in the second half of this century solar power would become dominant as a source of energy but that the world would have to rely on oil and other traditional fuels in the meantime.

Simon Henry, Shell’s finance director, said fossil fuels made up 80% of the world’s energy sources and that oil was needed to produce and transport food, make clothes and manufacture roofs. “Modern life would not be possible” without oil, he said.”

via Climate change dominates marathon Shell annual general meeting | Business | The Guardian.

New Study Shows Here’s How Canada Could Have 100% Renewable Electricity by 2035 | DeSmog Canada

Canada could become 100 per cent reliant on low-carbon electricity in just 20 years and reduce its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a new study shows.

The report calls for bold policies to be adopted immediately in order for Canada to transition to a sustainable society.

“Twenty years ago Canada was a leader on the climate change file. But today our reputation on this issue is in tatters,” James Meadowcroft, political science professor at Carleton University and one of the report’s authors told DeSmog Canada. “It is time for us to get serious and take vigorous action to move towards a low carbon emission economy.”

The report is a collaboration between 60 Canadian scholars and outlines a 10-point policy framework to achieve dramatic emission reductions. At the top of the list is the need to put a price on carbon which was unanimously recommended by the report’s authors.

via Here’s How Canada Could Have 100% Renewable Electricity by 2035 | DeSmog Canada.

Government bows to oil industry with new tailings rules – Vue Weekly

Imagine, for a moment, that you happen to be in charge of a jurisdiction that claims to have world-class environmental standards and regulations. As part of that rhetoric and reputation, imagine that six years ago you put in place a set of regulations that you claimed set strict and enforceable guidelines and rules for dealing with, and eventually eliminating, oilsands tailings. Now, imagine that not one single oilsands operation was able to meet the requirements and expectations of that policy. In fact, instead of shrinking, tailings lakes became even more of a problem. What would you do?

Would you make a strong statement about how environmental policies are only as good as the enforcement mechanisms behind them, and then proceed to fine and punish the industry to the extent of the law?

Would you state unequivocally that the government is very concerned about the growth and expansion of toxic tailings lakes, and that if companies cannot develop and deploy technology for safely dealing with those tailings, they will simply be forbidden from producing more?

If you were Alberta, you would simply state that the goals contained in the old legislation were clearly too ambitious, refuse to fine or penalize anyone, and ultimately scrap the legislation. You would then set about writing new regulations that made things much easier for the oilsands industry, wouldn’t really require them to do anything about tailings in the near future and contained no meaningful enforcement provisions.

That is exactly what the government of Alberta did last week with the introduction of its new Tailings Management Framework. After having suspended Directive 74, the 2009 regulation that set hard targets for dealing with tailings in Alberta with clearly articulated penalties for non-compliance, the government needed to come up with something to replace it.

What they have done, however, is essentially acceded to everything the industry wanted to see in tailings regulation. Under the new framework, companies are given a discretionary three to 10-year period at the beginning of their life during which they can accumulate tailings without limit. At that point, the total volume of tailings they are allowed is capped. In other words, the mines are allowed to keep their tailings volume constant after their initial accumulation. Then the mines have until 10 years after they close to fully reclaim all of their tailings. In other words, under the new framework, we will not see any significant reclamation for decades to come.

The framework also gives the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) some flexibility in dealing with mines that surpass their allowed tailings volume, suggesting that the AER will be allowed to permit a certain percentage deviation in volume, while not actually detailing what that percentage will be.

Perhaps most concerning, however, is the lack of specificity in the Framework around enforcement. What will happen to mines that surpass the allowed volume of tailings? The regulation speaks of a compliance levy, but  it does not say how that levy will be calculated and provides no guarantee that it will be enough to serve as a deterrent. There needs to be some guarantee that the cost of the levy will be higher than the cost of investing in cleaning up tailings, or industry will simply choose to pay the levy and tailiings will continue to grow.

Connected to that is the concern that mines do not have to completely reclaim their tailings until 10 years after they close. Mines can have a life span of 50 years—that’s a long time to wait for meaningful reclamation.

via Government bows to oil industry with new tailings rules – Vue Weekly.

Our Renewable Future Post Carbon Institute

Or, What I’ve Learned in 12 Years Writing about Energy

(7000 words, about 25 minutes reading time)

Folks who pay attention to energy and climate issues are regularly treated to two competing depictions of society’s energy options.* On one hand, the fossil fuel industry claims that its products deliver unique economic benefits, and that giving up coal, oil, and natural gas in favor of renewable energy sources like solar and wind will entail sacrifice and suffering (this gives a flavor of their argument). Saving the climate may not be worth the trouble, they say, unless we can find affordable ways to capture and sequester carbon as we continue burning fossil fuels.

On the other hand, at least some renewable energy proponents tell us there is plenty of wind and sun, the fuel is free, and the only thing standing between us and a climate-protected world of plentiful, sustainable, “green” energy, jobs, and economic growth is the political clout of the coal, oil, and gas industries (here is a taste of that line of thought).

via Our Renewable Future Post Carbon Institute.