Reports documenting the state of global climate change released in advance of the Climate Ambition Summit

The online Climate Ambition Summit on December 12 marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, to be co-hosted by the U.N. and the United Kingdom and France, in partnership with Chile and Italy. It calls itself “a monumental step on the road to the UK-hosted COP26 next November in Glasgow….. countries will set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and finance commitments. There will be no space for general statements.”

In the weeks before the meeting, intergovernmental agencies have released a number of reports documenting the urgency of the issue:

State of the Global Climate 2020 from the World Meteorological Organization  – a detailed discussion of global climate change impacts related to temperature, ocean temperature, precipitation, storms, GHG emissions and Covid-19.  The highlight:  “The average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 °C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024”.

The Production Gap Report measures the gap between the aspirations of the Paris Agreement and countries’ planned production of coal, oil, and gas. This year’s report concluded that countries plan to increase their fossil fuel production over the next decade – and singled out Canada, Australia and the U.S. in this regard. The takeaway message: “the world needs to decrease production by 6% per year to limit global warming to 1.5°C”.  The report also outlines six areas of policy action needed in COVID-19 recovery plans, including reduced government support for fossil fuels, restrictions on fossil fuel production, and commitment to direct stimulus funds to green investments. The Production Gap Report is produced jointly by the Stockholm Environment Institute , International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute, and E3G, as well as the United Nations Environment Programme.

The Emissions Gap Report  published on December 9 by the United Nations Environment Programme documents  global greenhouse gas emissions: GHG’s have grown 1.4 per cent per year since 2010 on average, with a more rapid increase of 2.6 per cent in 2019 due to a large increase in forest fires. Even with a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century. Hope lies in a low-carbon pandemic recovery which could cut 25 per cent off the greenhouse emissions expected in 2030. The report analyses low-carbon recovery measures so far, summarizes the scale of new net-zero emissions pledges by nations and looks at the potential of the lifestyle, aviation and shipping sectors to bridge the gap.   It concludes with a chapter titled The Six Sector Solution to Climate Change, which argues that reducing emissions in the sectors of  Energy, Industry, Agriculture and Food, Forest and Land Use, Transportation, and Buildings and Cities has the potential to limit emissions enough to hold the world temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

The 2020 Arctic Report Card was published on December 8 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), written by 133 scientists from 15 countries. It finds that the Arctic as a whole is warming at nearly three times the rate of the rest of the world, owing to feedback loops between snow, ice and land cover.  The report summarizes trends that are growing more extreme and have far-reaching implications for people living far outside the region.   A Canadian view of this report appears in “Scientists Plead for Action as Soaring Temperatures Show Arctic in Crisis” in The Energy Mix   (Dec. 11).

Ocean Solutions that Benefit People, Nature and the Economy  is  a report released by the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy in December as part of the launch of a new campaign, Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.   Canada is among the 14 nations who are members of the Panel; the Secretariat is at the World Resources Institute.  The report “ builds on the latest scientific research, analyses and debates from around the world—including the insights from 16 Blue Papers and 3 special reports commissioned by the Ocean Panel: ‘The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action’, ‘A Sustainable and Equitable Blue Recovery to the COVID-19 Crisis’ and ‘A Sustainable Ocean Economy for 2050: Approximating Its Benefits and Costs’. “  A compilation of the many reports of the Panel is here .

World Oceans Day a Good day for Fisheries and Arctic Conservation, but much more needs to be done

On World Oceans Day, June 8, Greenpeace announced that  it had brokered an agreement between fishing companies, processors and retailers that will prevent fishing for cod in a part of the Arctic Ocean where it has not been fished previously.  (Canada has also signed on to a 5-nation Arctic Fisheries Declaration in July 2015, pledging to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in  the central Arctic Ocean).  However, the peril of the larger Canadian fishery is comprehensively described in Here’s the Catch: How to Restore Abundance to Canada’s Oceans  released by Oceana Canada on June 23, and summarized at the National Observer  .  The National Observer has reported repeatedly on the difficulties of Canada’s salmon fishery, and most recently, “Dire warnings in the battle for Atlantic Canada’s lucrative northern shrimp” (June 10).

Shell Canada marked the World Oceans Day  by transferring  its 30 offshore exploration permits in Lancaster Sound, in the Eastern Arctic, to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which will transfer them  to the federal government, allowing the government to finalize creation of the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, one of the richest   marine mammal areas in the world . Although the company maintains it is not related, the World Wildlife Fund had filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in Canada in  April, 2016 demanding that Shell’s  permits be declared invalid.

Also on June 8, Spanish oil and gas company Repsol abandoned drilling in the Chukchi Sea north of Alaska.  According to ThinkProgress, “The Spanish company joins the rush of oil drillers — Shell, ConocoPhillips, Eni, and Iona Energy — departing the Arctic region after concluding that offshore drilling is not worth the expense or the risk.”  CBC reported about the start of this exodus  in September 2015,  in “Oil companies give Arctic the cold shoulder ”  .

The Brookings Institute provides  a sober overview of the issues and some international research: “On World Oceans Day, a reminder that climate change action must consider the oceans” , but last word goes to Howard Breen, the Director of Urgent Ocean and Climate Rapid Response (UCORR)  in “We need tsunami of action to stop runaway ocean collapse”  (June 3)  : “Given the dire prospect of runaway ocean collapse, we must immediately build an aggressive citizen consensus that fossil fuels have absolutely no moral justification, and their urgent abolition is now critical.”