UN releases new, slimmer negotiating text for Paris climate deal

Officials say document outlining proposals for 2015 emissions-cutting pact offers ‘clearer picture’ of possible outcome UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres address the media in Geneva (Pic: UNFCCC/Flickr)

Last updated on 26 July 2015, 8:13 pm,  By Ed King

A fresh set of proposals for a 2015 climate deal have been released which UN officials say offers a “clearer picture” of a possible agreement, scheduled for later this year.

The 83-page text will be used by governments as they prepare for the final two sets of negotiations on a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.

“The document provides for the first time clarity on what could be contained within the emerging legal agreement in Paris,” the UN said in a statement.

“It also clarifies what decisions with immediate effect could be taken at the moment the agreement is adopted.”

Entitled a ‘non-paper illustrating possible elements of the Paris package’, the document offers an insight into what parts of a treaty could be enshrined in international law.

For instance, commitments to tackle global warming could be legally binding, but details on how countries would meet these goals could be in a separate agreement.

Some governments – notably the US – are wary of signing any document that means they will be bound into ever tighter emission cuts.

Mixed reviews

Jennifer Morgan from the World Resources Institute said the co-chairs had “cut through the clutter” and made the text more coherant.

“This streamlined agreement text gives delegates a strong foundation to advance the climate negotiations,” she said.

Other assessments were less generous. Oxfam’s Jan Kowalzivg said language on regular climate finance assessments was “weak”.

…(read more).

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Alaska’s terrifying wildfire season and what it says about climate change

Alaska-fires

FAIRBANKS, AK – JULY 16: From left, Jason Robles, Vladimir Tamashiro-Loma and Louis Yu, all of the Team Rubicon 3 firefighting crew, work to extinguish a hot spot at the Aggie Creek fire. The Aggie Creek wildland fire, located about 30 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. (Photo by Marc Lester for The Washington Post)

Energy and Environment   By Chris Mooney July 26 at 5:48 PM

FAIRBANKS, AK – JULY 16: From left, Jason Robles, Vladimir Tamashiro-Loma and Louis Yu, all of the Team Rubicon 3 firefighting crew, work to extinguish a hot spot at the Aggie Creek fire. The Aggie Creek wildland fire, located about 30 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. (Photo by Marc Lester for The Washington Post)

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Hundreds of wildfires are continually whipping across this state this summer, leaving in their wake millions of acres of charred trees and blackened earth.

At the Fairbanks compound of the state’s Division of Forestry recently, workers were busy washing a mountain of soot-covered fire hoses, which stood in piles roughly six feet high and 100 feet long. About 3,500 smokejumpers, hotshot crews, helicopter teams and other workers have traveled to Alaska this year from across the country and Canada. And they have collectively deployed about 830 miles of hose this year to fight fires.

An hour north of the state’s second-biggest city, firefighters were attacking flames stretching across more than 31,000 acres, including an area close to the Trans-Alaska pipeline system, which stretches from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. And that’s just one of about 300 fires at any given time.

“People don’t fathom how big Alaska is. You can have a 300,000-acre fire, and nobody knows anything about it, because nothing’s been done about it, because of where it is,” says Tim Mowry, spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry.

(read more).

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Hillary Clinton’s Plan To Combat Climate Change With Half-A-Billion Solar Panels

by Emily Atkin Jul 26, 2015 7:31pm

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton at a campaign event, Sunday, July 26, 2015, at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. On Sunday evening, the Democratic candidate released her plan to fight climate change.

Hillary Clinton is going all in on renewable energy.

On Sunday evening, the Democratic presidential candidate released a fact sheet detailing her plan to fight climate change, and it focuses heavily on promoting clean energy generation across the country.

Among other things, the plan includes a promise to install half a billion solar panels by 2021, or the end of Clinton’s first term. That would represent a 700 percent increase from current installations, she said. Clinton also promised that, if elected, enough renewable energy would be produced to power every home in the country within 10 years.

“We can make a transition over time from a fossil fuel economy, predominantly, to a clean renewable energy economy, predominantly,” Clinton said in Iowa on Sunday, Yahoo reported.

The aggressive transition to renewables proposed by Clinton would be achieved partially through extending and strengthening tax breaks those industries, Clinton said. Last week, the Senate proposed renewing two tax incentives for the wind industry, which are currently expired.

Clinton is expected to explain more details of the plan during a Monday event in Des Moines, according to Yahoo’s report.

…(read more).

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Published on Jul 26, 2015

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We have to do much more — and we have to do it now. Watch Hillary’s plan to curb climate change.

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St. Vincent Embarks on Renewable Energy Path

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has installed 750 kilowatt hours of photovoltaic panels, which it says reduced its carbon emissions by 800 tonnes annually. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, Jan 12 2015 (IPS) – For decades, the fertile slopes of La Soufriere volcano, which occupies the northern third of this 344-kilometre-square island, has produced illegally grown marijuana that fuels the local underground economy, and the trade in that illicit drug across the eastern Caribbean.

But now the 1,234-metre-high mountain, which last erupted in 1979, is now being explored for something very different — its geothermal energy potential.

The Ralph Gonsalves government believes that geothermal energy will be a “game changer” for the local economy.

In this country, where tourism is the mainstay, the cost of electricity ranges from 40 to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour — several times what consumers pay in the United States.

Householders and manufacturers are hoping that the geothermal energy exploration, which has been underway for more than a year, will in fact produce the 10 to 15 megawatts of electricity that the country desperately needs to relieve its dependence on high-cost fossil fuels and give new life to the manufacturing and agro-processing sectors.

The geothermal energy exploration is a partnership between the Unity Labour Party government, the Icelandic Firm Reykjavik Geothermal Ltd., and Emera Inc., an international energy company with roots in Nova Scotia, Canada that also owns power stations in the Caribbean.

…(read more).

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Africa Advised to Take DIY Approach to Climate Resilience | Inter Press Service

Carcases of dead sheep and goats stretch across the landscape following drought in Somaliland in 2011, one of the climate impacts that experts say should be actively tackled by African countries themselves without passively relying on international assistance. Photo credit: Oxfam East Africa/CC by 2.0

By Fabiola Ortiz

PARIS, Jul 23 2015 (IPS) – African countries would do well to take their own lead in finding ways to better adapt to and mitigate the changes that climate may impose on future generations instead of relying only on foreign aid.

This was one of the messages that rang out during the international scientific conference on ‘Our Common Future under Climate Change’ held earlier this month in Paris, six months before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), also to be held in Paris, that is supposed to pave the way for a global agreement to keep the rise in the Earth’s temperature under 2°C.

Africa is already feeling climate change effects on a daily basis, according to Penny Urquhart from South Africa, an independent specialist and one of the lead authors of the 5th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Projections suggest that temperature rise on the continent will likely exceed 2°C by 2100 with land temperatures rising faster than the global land average. Scientific assessments agree that Africa will also face more climate changes in the future, with extreme weather events increasing in terms of frequency, intensity and duration.

“Most sub-Saharan countries have high levels of climate vulnerability,” Urquhart told IPS. “Over the years, people became good at adapting to those changes but what we are seeing is increasing risks associated with climate change as this becomes more and more pressing.”

Although data monitoring systems are still poor and sparse over the region, “we do know there is an increase in temperature,” she added, warning that if the global average temperature increases by 2°C by the end of the century, this will be experienced as if it had increased by 4°C in Southern Africa, stated Urquhart.

…(read more).

Pesticide found in 70 percent of Massachusetts’ honey samples | Harvard Gazette

Harvard study says it’s among class of pesticides implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder July 23, 2015

By Karen Feldscher, Harvard Chan School Communications

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More than 70 percent of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contain at least one neonicotinoid, a class of pesticide that has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which adult bees abandon their hives during winter, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study appeared online in the July 23 issue of the Journal of Environmental Chemistry.

“Data from this study clearly demonstrated the ubiquity of neonicotinoids in pollen and honey samples that bees are exposed to during the seasons when they are actively foraging across Massachusetts. Levels of neonicotinoids that we found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental health effects in bees, including CCD,” said Chensheng (Alex) Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study.

Since 2006, there have been significant losses of honeybee colonies. Scientists, policymakers, farmers, and beekeepers are concerned with this problem because bees are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of all crops worldwide.

Previous studies analyzed either stored pollen collected from hives or pollen samples collected from bees at a single point in time. In this study, the Harvard Chan School researchers looked at pollen samples collected over time — during spring and summer months when bees forage — from the same set of hives across Massachusetts. Collecting samples in this way enabled the researchers to determine variations in levels of eight neonicotinoids, and to identify high-risk locations or months for neonicotinoid exposure for bees. The researchers worked with 62 Massachusetts beekeepers who volunteered to collect monthly samples of pollen and honey from foraging bees, from April through August 2013, using pollen traps on the landings of beehives. The beekeepers then sent the samples to the researchers.

…(read more).

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