Political will and urgent action required to save our planet, IPCC Report warns

IPCC 2018reportThe world’s climate science experts have spoken in the landmark report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 8.  The full title is: Global Warming of 1.5 °C: an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty . That dry title doesn’t reflect the importance and impact of this report –  the first time that the UN body has modeled the difference between the impacts of the Paris agreement goals of 2°C and 1.5 °C, and an urgent, unanimous challenge by 91 scientists to the policy makers and politicians of the world to act on the solutions outlined in their models .  An IPCC official  quoted in a CBC report strikes the hopeful tone the report tries to achieve: “We have a monumental task in front of us, but it is not impossible… This is our chance to decide what the world is going to look like.”

The official report, commonly called  Global Warming 1.5  runs over 700 pages. The official press release  states:  “The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air….Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes”.  A 34-page Summary for Policymakers and a 3-page Headline Statements provide official summaries. Climate Home News offers  “37 Things you need to know about 1.5 global warming”  and  The Guardian offers summary and context in  “We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or face more floods”  by Nicholas Stern and “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN”  (also republished in The National Observer) .

CAN CANADIANS EXPECT URGENT ACTION? :  A thorough CBC summary of the report appears in “UN Report on global warming carries life- or- death warning” , and the Globe and Mail published “UN Report on Climate Change calls for urgent action to avert catastrophic climate change”    (Oct 8) – yet no official reaction has been released by the federal government of Canada. “Trudeau’s Big Oil-friendly decisions mean climate chaos”  from Rabble.ca contrasts the IPCC report with a brief summary of Canada’s recent policy failures. “No change to Canada’s climate plans as UN report warns of losing battle” appeared in the National Observer (Oct. 8).  The National Observer also posted “We challenge every Federal and provincial leader to read the IPCC report and tell us what you plan to do” on October 9, characterizing Canada’s current divisions over a national carbon tax as representative of the world’s dilemma – the failure of political will to act on known scientific facts.  350.org Canada also addresses the issue of political will with  an online petition   calling for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Canada’s plan to limit climate change, in light of the IPCC report.

Opinion Pieces are still being written, including:  “To avoid catastrophic climate change, we need carbon pricing” by Dale Beugin and Chris Ragan of the Ecofiscal Commission in the Globe and Mail  (Oct. 9) which argues that  “The best that economics has to offer is telling us we have a key solution right under our noses. Carbon pricing is now a Nobel Prize-winning idea. ”

On Climate, Our Choice Is Now Catastrophe or Mere Disaster ” by Crawford Kilian in The Tyee  . ….” modern governments and most of their voters are sleepwalking into catastrophe. If anyone or anything can wake them up, we might have a chance. And if we don’t work hard to turn that catastrophe into a mere disaster, we won’t be able to say nobody warned us. ”

“Canada’s carbon-tax plan is collapsing just as the planet runs out of time” in the Washington Post (Oct. 9)…. ” Today, Canadians should take a minute to write to their elected officials provincially and federally and demand that we get the carbon tax done. Every elected official should take a moment to decide how they would like to be remembered. That is, assuming there will be anyone around to remember.”

WELL-INFORMED GLOBAL SUMMARIES :IPCC: Radical Energy Transformation Needed to Avoid 1.5 Degrees Global Warming”   and “Not Just CO2: These Climate Pollutants Also Must Be Cut to Keep Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees”appeared  in Inside Climate News. The World Resources Institute published “8 Things You Need to Know About the IPCC 1.5˚C Report” , accompanied by a  blog and infographic which  explains the consequential difference between 1.5 and 2.0 global warming levels. Climate Action International monitored the discussions leading up to the release of the report: here is their summary and a compilation of global reactions . A compilation of reactions from the academics at Imperial College and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (LSE) is here.

A brief Comment was already issued by the policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, which calls the report a “conservative assessment” because it omits discussion of some of the largest risks and their impacts – notably  population displacements, migration and possibly conflict, as well as  potential climate  ‘tipping points’, such as disruption to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and shifts in the monsoon in Africa and Asia.

Another key issue: the controversial role of geoengineering, such as carbon capture and storage or “carbon dioxide removal technologies”(CDR) .  “Negative Emissions technologies in the new report on limiting global warming” was posted at Legal Planet (Oct. 8) , pointing out how important geoengineering is in the report’s models. The author argues that ”  …. The text of the relevant chapter is honest about large-scale negative emissions, when it states:  “Most CDR  technologies remain largely unproven to date and raise substantial concerns about adverse side-effects on environmental and social sustainability. ” But the author argues that the message was deliberately watered down  in the executive summaries and in the Summary for Policymakers.

On October 4, just before the release of Global Warming 1.5, 110 organizations and social movements, led by Friends of the Earth International, released their Hands Off Mother Earth! Manifesto, which opposes any geoengineering solutions, including carbon capture and storage.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this report, and it will draw more and more discussion as the UNFCCC meetings in Katowice, Poland approach in December 2018.

Fossil fuel subsidies, plastics pollution, circular economy are key topics at the G7 Energy and Environment meetings

Following the G7  meetings at Charlevoix Quebec in June 2018, further meetings in Halifax from September 19 to 21 brought together the G7 ministers with responsibilities for Environment, Oceans and Energy.  The International Institute (IISD) published a comprehensive summary of the meetings  on September 25, with links to the official Chair’s Summary statements.  The National Observer was one of only a handful of media outlets which reported on these meetings.  Their report of September 25,  “Unscrambling the language of Canada’s G7 Climate Diplomacy”   is a plain language overview of what happened.  Environment and Climate Change Canada, as host of the meetings, also published press releases highlighting Canada’s commitments:  the press release of  September 19, titled “G7 environment meetings in Halifax focus on climate action, and the $26 trillion opportunity of clean growth and tackling air pollution”  announced a Canadian pledge of  $2 million for the National Adaptation Plan Global Network, to further climate change adaptation in  developing countries and $2 million for a new initiative to empower women entrepreneurs working on climate solutions in the developing world.  More broadly, Environment ministers discussed the  implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement on climate change – the Paris Rulebook –  in an attempt to move that forward before the scheduled deadline of the UNFCCC  Conference of the Parties (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.

On September 20, the Canadian government’s press release states : the Government of Canada committed to diverting at least 75 per cent of the plastic waste from government operations by 2030. It will achieve this by eliminating the use of unnecessary single-use plastics, increasing recycling rates, and leveraging its purchasing decisions to focus on sustainable plastic products. The Government of Canada also announced a $65 million investment through the World Bank for an international fund to address plastic waste in developing countries. ”

A contentious issue was fossil fuel subsidies. An earlier report by the National Observer , “G7 promise to kill fossil fuel subsidies hangs over Halifax meetings” (September 20)  , highlights the topic, which has been a perennial but never-resolved issue since the G20 first agreed to phase them out in 2009.  In 2016, the G7 first set a deadline for ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2025  ; Energy ministers at the 2018 Halifax meetings reaffirmed that commitment.

public-cash-oil-gas-en-1Despite the G7 commitment, “Canada is still the largest provider of subsidies to oil and gas production in the G7 per unit of GDP”, according to the newest report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), which has published extensively on the issue.   Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Canada: ‘Public Cash for Oil and Gas: Mapping federal fiscal support for fossil fuels , a September 2018  report was published by  the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), in collaboration with Oil Change International, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, and the Climate Action Network.  It also states that overall fossil fuel subsidies declined in Canada in 2016-2018 over 2015, but it  attributes this to the impact of oil price fluctuations on the value of deductions, and how companies use tax deductions,  rather than any substantive policy reform.  In a concluding discussion , the report states that the oil and gas sector will inevitably follow the economic path of the coal industry, and thus, “it is imperative that those in these declining energy sectors are part of the planning” for a Just Transition. Removing subsidies for the sector,  could create enough “fiscal space” to fund a just transition for workers and communities.

Green Budget cover 2019The Green Budget Coalition also weighed in recently on fossil fuel subsidies in its  Recommendations for Budget 2019 ,  which includes a discussion of the history of fossil fuel subsidies in Canada, a rationale for their phase-out, and calls for the government:  to provide a transparent accounting of what subsidies are in place to the Parliamentary Budget Office; not to introduce new subsidies; and to legislate a timeline for the phase-out of remaining deductions for fossil fuel exploration and production, and for direct subsidies.

G7 Summit makes some progress on Just Transition, plastics pollution – but not on fossil fuel subsidies

G7 leaders 2018With the chaos emanating from Donald Trump’s performance at the G7 Summit   hosted by Canada on June 8 and 9,  it would be easy to miss the news about one of the five Summit themes :  Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans, and Clean Energy  . But according to a brief statement by Canada’s Climate Action Network,  G7 Stands it Ground : “The G7 should be congratulated for publicly acknowledging for the first time the need for a just transition…..Canada showed leadership by stickhandling this climate outcome as the G7 host. ”

In contrast to the Final Communique of 2017, which contained only one paragraph on climate change,  the 2018 Official Communique   includes four lengthly paragraphs (#23 – 27,  including #26 which is the independent statement of the United States).   Included:  “Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union reaffirm their strong commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, through ambitious climate action; in particular through reducing emissions while stimulating innovation, enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening and financing resilience and reducing vulnerability; as well as ensuring a just transition, including increasing efforts to mobilize climate finance from a wide variety of sources. ….  Also, Recognizing that healthy oceans and seas directly support the livelihoods, food security and economic prosperity of billions of people, …. We endorse the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities, and will improve oceans knowledge, promote sustainable oceans and fisheries, support resilient coasts and coastal communities and address ocean plastic waste and marine litter. Recognizing that plastics play an important role in our economy and daily lives but that the current approach to producing, using, managing and disposing of plastics and poses a significant threat to the marine environment, to livelihoods and potentially to human health, we the Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union endorse the Ocean Plastics Charter.”

Background: As usual, several reports and position statements were released in advance of the international meetings.  The Climate and Energy Working Group of the G7 Global Task Force, (a broad coalition of over 40 civil society organisations) released  their  Recommendations  on a full range of climate change issues, and a separate Brief titled It’s Time for G7 countries to commit to Just Transition , which concluding with this: “Canada, as President of the G7, and building on the work of the Task Force on the Just Transition for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities has the opportunity to elevate this discussion, and promote mainstreaming of just transition principles across all G7 priorities and discussions for the upcoming years.”

Other position statements:  The Global Investor statement to G7 leaders, signed by 319 investors representing more than USD $28 trillion in assets , and a Statement from the We Mean Business Coalition  .  Both business-oriented groups affirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement and made recommendations.

g7 fossil fuel scorecard infographics_canadaAlso, from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Oil Change International (OCI), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) : the G7 Fossil Fuel Subsidy Report Card , released on June 4 . It states that  G7 governments continue to provide at least $100 billion in subsidies to the production and use of coal, oil and gas, and ranks the G7 countries according to seven indicators: transparency; pledges and commitments; ending support for coal mining; ending support for exploration; ending support for oil and gas production; ending support for fossil fuel-based power; and ending support for fossil fuel use.  Using these categories,  Canada ranked 3rd out of the G7 countries overall, after France (1st) and Germany (2nd), followed by U.K., Italy, Japan, and the U.S. (7th).  This, against the backdrop of an Ekos Research  public opinion poll from March 2018 that shows Canadians want an end to fossil fuel subsidies in virtually every part of the country and across gender, age, region, education, and income. For a new discussion of the issue and the Scorecard report, see “Canada leads G7 in oil and gas subsidies” in The Narwhal.

The National Observer coverage of the entire G7 Summit is here, with a focus on the trade dispute, but including “G7 still negotiating as clock runs down on climate commitments and “McKenna praises IKEA move to ban single-use plastics by 2020” , which discusses the broader issue.

Reactions :  A compilation of reactions appears in “G7 Leaders isolate Trump on Climate” in The Energy Mix, and CAN-RAC  released a position paper in response  Shaping the Future: A new vision for civil society and the G7 .   Environmentalists, including Greenpeace,  called the Plastics Charter inadequate because it is voluntary,and focuses on recycling and repurposing, rather than reduction or an outright ban on single-use plastics.  The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) released a statement of support of the Ocean Plastics Charter on June 10 , also stating that its members: ” had committed to goals of 100 per cent of plastics packaging being recyclable or recoverable by 2030 and 100 per cent of plastics packaging being reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040.”

 

 

 

Even before the Kinder Morgan fight, Canada is falling short on its climate goals

As we have noted in previous posts in the WCR  , many voices have warned that Canada’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is falling short of its commitments under the Paris Agreement.  Three recent reports provide more evidence.

On March 27,  Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada—A Collaborative Report from Auditors General—March 2018  was released by the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and for the first time ever, compiles the findings of the federal and provincial Auditors –General, with the exception of Quebec, which did not participate.  The results are presented for each province, and summarized as: Seven out of 12 provincial and territorial governments did not have overall targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; governments have different targets from each other, and of those that have targets, only two (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) are on track to meet their targets. Most governments had not fully assessed climate change risks, and their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consist of high-level goals, with little guidance on how to implement actions.  At the federal level, the report states: “ even though Environment and Climate Change Canada was the federal lead on climate change, the Department did not provide the leadership, guidance, and tools to other departments and agencies to help them assess their risks and adapt to climate change. Moreover, only 5 federal departments and agencies of the 19 examined undertook comprehensive assessments of the climate change risks to their mandates.”  There was limited coordination of climate change action within most governments. Some governments were not reporting on progress in a regular and timely manner.

The second analysis is from the Pembina Institute, which partnered with the Energy Innovation of San Francisco to develop the Energy Policy Simulator (EPS), an economic modelling tool to evaluate the effectiveness and costs of  energy and climate policies for Canada. Enhancing Canada’s Climate Commitments: Building on the Pan-Canadian Framework applies the Energy Policy Simulator to three different policy scenarios, including the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change   , and concludes “ that even if the PCF is fully implemented, 2030 emissions will exceed Canada’s goal by 161 million metric tons (MMT), a gap 3.7 times larger than the 44 MMT shortfall predicted by Canada’s government. Extending and strengthening PCF policies would allow Canada to come much closer to its target, save money, and save human lives.”  The Energy Policy Simulator is offered here  as a free, open-source app available for other researchers to use.

Finally, the devil is in the details when author Barry Saxifrage of the National Observer took a close look at the federal government’s report to the UNFCC in December 2017, the 7th National Communications report. In “Canada’s climate gap twice as big as claimed – 59 million tonne carbon snafu” (March 27)  , the author contends that “The Trudeau government says its proposed climate policies will get Canada to within 66 million tonnes of our 2030 climate target. That’s already a big gap, but the federal accounting also assumes we can subtract a huge chunk of Canada’s emissions.”  That “huge chunk” refers to a further 59 MtCO2 of carbon emissions which the government omits to tally as part of our Canadian emissions, presuming that offsets will be purchased by Ontario and Quebec through their participation in the cap and trade market of the Western Climate Initiative with California. So far, the U.S. has not agreed to such an arrangement.

On a more optimistic note, a new report states:  “Canada can reach its 2030 target if the federal, provincial and territorial governments implement climate policies in a timely and rigorous way. The Pan-Canadian Framework has the policy tools needed to achieve the target but measures will have to be ratcheted up to fill the 66 million tonne gap.” In  Canada’s Climate Change Commitments: Deep Enough?  ,authors Dave Sawyer and Chris Bataille use economic modelling to show that Canada could honour its Paris GHG reduction commitment (30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030) and still achieve GDP growth of at least 38 per cent. They compare this to a GDP growth of 39% if Canada took no action to reduce greenhouse gases.   The report calls for transformation changes, specifically: Building exclusively net-zero energy homes, i.e. buildings that generate as much energy as they consume. • The electrification of transportation, so that cars, trucks and trains can be powered by renewable energy rather than oil, which contributes to climate change. • Wholesale shifts away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. • Driving down energy needs by making industry, buildings and vehicles more energy efficient. • Embracing the full potential of energy storage to maximize the use of renewable electricity and building infrastructure to trade  that electricity between jurisdictions.

Canada’s Climate Change Commitments: Deep Enough?  was released on April 12 jointly by four environmental advocacy organizations: Environmental Defence, Climate Action Network, The Pembina Institute, and the Conservation Council Of New Brunswick.

 

AFL-CIO Convention adopts historic Climate Change resolution

afl cio sealThe 2017 Convention of the AFL-CIO   took place in St. Louis from October 22 to 25.  In a breakthrough, Resolution 55 on Climate Change, Energy and Union Jobs  was adopted, putting the AFL-CIO “on the  record” as  recognizing the threat of  climate change and acknowledging the need to move to a sustainable alternative energy system.  The resolution also calls for workers impacted by the energy transition to be protected.  The floor debate is available on YouTube , showing supportive speeches by members of  the Utility Workers, IBEW, LIUNA, USW, the Boilermakers, CWA,  AFA, the Montana AFL-CIO and the Southeast Minnesota Area Labor Council.  Speaking strongly against the resolution was the General President of the UA, which represents workers in the plumbing and pipefitting trades, including pipeline and energy industry workers. He objected to the exclusion of the UA in the process of drafting the resolution. Resolution 55 was, in fact, a compromise version arrived at by the Executive Council from several resolutions submitted.

From the text of Resolution 55 :  “ THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will fight politically and legislatively to secure and maintain employment, pensions and health care for workers affected by changes in the energy market; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO supports incentives and robust funding for research programs to bring new energy technologies to market, including renewables, carbon capture and advanced nuclear technologies; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will support the passage of key energy and environmental policies with a focus on ensuring high labor standards, the creation of union jobs and environmental sustainability; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED,  that the AFL-CIO will continue to urge the United States to remain in the Paris Agreement and to work to ensure that all nations make progress on emissions reductions; and BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO believes that the United States Congress should enact comprehensive energy and climate legislation that creates good jobs and addresses the threat of climate change.”

The full list of Adopted Resolutions from the 2017 AFL CIO Convention is here. The Labor Network for Sustainability has archived past resolutions by U.S. labour unions to their own conventions here .  LNS President Joe Uehlein stated: “The resolution certainly could have gone further to support climate protection but it is an important and historic step for the U.S. labor movement” .  And from the full statement of reaction by LNS,   The New AFL-CIO Stand on Climate Change: What Does It Mean for Labor and for the Climate?  , which concludes: “Overall, this resolution represents a powerful statement of labor’s stake in protecting the climate.  However, it retains many of the assumptions and approaches that have often put unions at loggerheads with concrete climate protection efforts. Whether it actually represents a new beginning or just old wine in new bottles will largely depend on the growing sector of the labor movement that is committed to putting labor “at the center of creating solutions that reduce emissions while investing in our communities, maintaining and creating high-wage union jobs, and reducing poverty.”