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Will humanity take effective action against climate change?

Mon, 2014-04-14 05:41

In the fall of 2015 the international community is set to adopt a comprehensive action plan to combat climate change. Paris having been chosen as the meeting place the French government is showing more interest in climate issues and trying to mobilise the EU on a rapid agreement of its 2030 climate objectives.

The UN preparatory machinery keeps running full steam to obtain a successful outcome.

This goes above all for the scientific aspects.

In the last seven years, Humanity has accumulated a huge amount of scientific data on the climate change that has taken place during the 20th century and is likely to occur during the 21st century. Never have human beings known so much about the climate. It is therefore no longer possible for anyone to deny climate change taking place and being mostly man-made.

There is also a consensus on its main causes: C02 and methane emissions from burning fossil energies for heating, cooling, transport, industrial processes and massive deforestation are the principal villains.

If Humanity were able to contain these major causal factors within the next five decades it would still have a chance of mitigating climate change.

Theoretically this is possible.

Humanity can do without burning as much fossil energy as it does. This goes in particular for the wealthy West and China.

Wind, solar, biomass and waves can substitute fossil energy, provided storage facilities and long-distance grid interconnections are in place.

As long as they are still more expensive than coal and gas temporary subsidy regimes should offer incentives.

But why should the 2015 “big bang” in Paris be any different from the 20 preceding “Conferences of the Parties” and lay out a convincing path for Humanity to throw off the burden of climate change that will weigh so heavily on the shoulders of the coming generations?

The 195 countries that will attend the COP 21 remain deeply divided on the nature of the commitments and the burden sharing they will have to accept for a successful outcome. So far they are likely to agree only on the necessity to contain global warming within the critical margin of two centigrade; but that would be nothing new and rather meaningless without firm and verifiable commitments as to the actions to be taken.

But the international community is less than ever concerned about climate change. According to the last assessments the impact of climate change on the global economy is likely to be much lower than projected only six years ago by the Stern Report. And how many politicians care already about the impacts on biodiversity, natural catastrophes or even a steep increase in the numbers of “climate refugees”!

It is therefore not surprising to see the emphasis shifting from mitigation to adaptation. Humanity seems to prefer the costs for adaptation rather than invest in mitigation efforts, even if that will be risky because of the irreversible effects of climate change.

It is fully in line with this trend that:

  • big polluter countries like Japan, Australia, Canada or Russia are anything but keen combating climate change;
  • all major fossil energy producing countries refuse phasing out their massive oil and gas subsidies;
  • EU climate policy suffers from the global indifference. The EU rightly underlines that its efforts matter less and less as its share of global emissions is approaching 10 per cent. Contrary to the wishes of the UN Secretary General, it is not likely to play the role of a powerful locomotive in Paris, however regrettable this may be.

China and USA, the two emission giants, accounting for about half of global emissions, might be a glimpse of light in the gloomy picture.

But China will take another 20 years or so before its emissions might start falling; and the US objective of reducing its emissions by 17 per cent until 2017 compared to 2005 will not be a glorious achievement, considering its extremely high per capita emissions of 14 tons and the EU scheduled reductions and by at least 40 per cent until 2030 over 1990.

In conclusion, it looks presently unlikely that the COP 21 in Paris will turn out to be a thrilling success.

It would be a great progress if:

  • the 20 major emitter countries responsible for about 75 per cent of global emissions committed themselves to formulate 20-year strategies within a UN framework and to submit annual performance reports;
  • all rich countries, including the oil/gas exporters, offered the World Bank the financial means – say $ 100 billion per year – to help finance a big programmes for wind, hydro and solar energy;
  • the tropical forest countries were to curb illegal wood cutting and receive appropriate compensation for these efforts.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 11/4/2014

China Takes on Big Risks in Its Push for Shale Gas

Fri, 2014-04-11 21:32
While China is eager to wean itself from energy imports and coal, its extraction of shale gas is likely to be more expensive and dangerous than elsewhere.






World Briefing: Japan: New Energy Strategy Approved

Fri, 2014-04-11 21:21
Japan’s cabinet approved a new national energy strategy on Friday that designates nuclear power as an important energy source and calls for restarting idled nuclear plants that meet new safety standards.

China, Russia vow to deepen energy cooperation

Fri, 2014-04-11 09:49
Leaders from China and Russia called on Wednesday for efforts to promote solid bilateral cooperation in the nuclear, natural gas, oil, electricity and new energy sectors.

Environmental politics: A run for his money

Thu, 2014-04-10 10:59
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Leviathan of last resort Fly Title:  Environmental politics Rubric:  Tom Steyer is betting that campaigning on climate change can win elections. Is the verdant billionaire right? Location:  SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  20140412_USP001_0.jpg DEMOCRATS have often feared big money in American politics, perhaps because most of it doesn’t go their way. When the Supreme Court struck down the caps on aggregate campaign donations last week, Republicans, broadly speaking, cheered and Democrats jeered. In the 2012 election cycle, four of the five biggest donors to superPACs—independent groups that raise money, often from the extremely rich, and spend it on outlandish political advertising—were Republicans. Tom Steyer, a San Francisco-based billionaire who worries about climate change, is doing his best to help his fellow Democrats get over their qualms. Perhaps best known for his opposition to the ...

Op-Ed Contributors: Global Warming Scare Tactics

Tue, 2014-04-08 19:48
There is evidence that efforts to raise public concern about climate change by linking it to present-day natural disasters will backfire.






Electromobilité : le plan d’action berlinois

Mon, 2014-04-07 08:29

Le 26 mars dernier s’est tenue la seconde conférence sur l’électromobilité dans la ville de Berlin. Les deux autorités en charge, l’agence s’occupant du programme et le Sénat de Berlin, ont ainsi révélé leur plan d’action. Locations de voitures et vélos électriques, production d’énergies renouvelables décentralisées, développement des smart grids…  Alors que de nombreuses stratégies sont déjà mises en place depuis plusieurs mois, voire années, les projets de la ville sont aujourd’hui encore ambitieux.

Alors que Paris vient à peine de réussir à sortir du niveau d’alerte maximum en termes de pollution aux particules fines, une ville comme Berlin surprend par son engagement et montre sans nul doute l’exemple que la capitale française devrait suivre depuis déjà de longues années. Preuve qu’il est possible aujourd’hui de réduire les émissions dans une grande ville sans en faire pâtir les habitants, la ville s’est dotée, ces dernières années, de pas moins de 5 plans d’action : le Plan cadre Berlin Ville d’industries 2010-2020, le Plan de développement urbain Transport, le Plan d’action ProIndustrie, la Stratégie énergétique 2030 et la Stratégie commune d’innovation Verlin-Brandebourg. Une totalité de cinq plans réunis plus  globalement sous l’appellation « Plan d’action 2020 ».

L’enjeu est de taille pour la ville : être reconnue dans le monde entier comme un modèle de l’électromobilité en instaurant une économie forte afin de créer une nouvelle chaîne de valeur. Les transports sont bien évidemment au centre de ce plan d’action, sous toutes leurs formes. La ville développe aujourd’hui un réseau de voitures et de vélos électriques pour les déplacements individuels, mais réfléchis également à développer d’autres modèles de transports personnels comme l’auto-partage. Pour les transports de fret, extrêmement polluants, deux axes sont envisagés. Il serait d’abord possible de remplacer les propulsions habituelles par des propulsions électriques. L’électrification du dernier kilomètre des livraisons ou encore la micro-mobilité électrique pour les livraisons de courte distance, d’autres solutions innovantes existent.

Vous l’aurez compris, Berlin mise sur l’énergie électrique pour réduire au maximum ses émissions. Celle-ci n’est cependant pas infinie et pour mener à bien ces projets, la ville doit également réfléchir à une meilleure gestion de son réseau ainsi qu’à l’intégration de plus d’énergies renouvelables dans celui-ci. Pour cela, personne n’a douté un seul instant : les smart grids constituent la piste la plus intéressante. Capables d’intégrer à un réseau électrique conventionnel de l’électricité provenant de sources d’énergie renouvelable, les réseaux électriques intelligents peuvent également aider la ville à adapter l’offre en électricité à la demande et ainsi éviter les pics de consommation ou les gaspillages.

Les infrastructures de rechargement seront également prochainement repensées. Outre les smart grids, la ville pourrait également faire le choix de décentraliser sa production d’énergies renouvelables à Brandebourg. L’augmentation du nombre de vélos et de voitures électriques en location s’accompagnera du développement de nouveaux types de batteries basés sur l’hydrogène et l’induction. Enfin, la dernière étape de la transformation de Berlin en une capitale mondiale de l’électromobilité passera par une large stratégie de communication. Évènements, salons, et coopérations internationales seront les pendants de cette révolution énergétique berlinoise. Paris n’a plus qu’à en prendre de la graine.

Combating climate change will be a long difficult haul

Mon, 2014-04-07 06:01

While the international community is due to finally take serious action against climate change it is worthwhile having a look at Denmark, Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Finland and Norway that have succeeded to generate two thirds of their electricity from renewable sources, mostly from wind and water.

But despite intensive efforts and favourable conditions – zero population growth, large forest areas, a very big hydro power potential and ideal wind conditions – they are still miles away from a fossil-free energy supply which Denmark aspires by 2050.

Still, the international community might learn a few lessons from their experience:

  • build a strong political and popular support.

Without such a support technical efforts will go nowhere. This support is there in each of the countries.

  • set long term objectives, buffered by short-time targets on which to focus concrete action.

    Thus by 2020 Denmark aims to cover one third and until 2050 its entire energy needs from renewable sources.

Similarly the EU operates with 2020/30 targets within a 2050 horizon.

  • put in place a strong institutional framework: a climate and energy ministry and energy agency.

    Denmark has led the way.

  • introduce cost-effective support schemes for accelerating the shift from fossil to renewable energy.

    Denmark has tried a panoply of measures, strongly focused on wind power, its principal renewable source, investment grants to enterprises shifting their energy supply from fossil to renewable sources and recently also premiums for solar power.

    Unlike Germany which has wasted huge amounts of subsidies for photovoltaic installations, not ideal in a country lacking sun during much of the year, the Scandinavian countries have concentrated their efforts on wind energy of which they have plenty. Such a focus on the most effective source of renewable energy is crucial for obtaining cost-effectiveness.

  • offer subsidies only for a limited period (10 years) and adapt them to falling production costs.

    Here too Denmark is a better example than Germany that has offered premiums unchanged for 20 years.

  • invest from the start in energy storage and interconnections for periods without wind or sunshine.

    Here Germany has also failed for a long time.

  • begin with renewable electricity even if heating and transport are more important energy consumers.
  • do not forget pushing for more effective thermal insulation of the building stock, where the Nordic countries have also been outstanding.

  • do not renounce mandatory action, for example energy efficiency standards if you can monitor their implementation.

  • last not least, phase out all direct and indirect subsidies for fossil energy.

In conclusion, if Humanity is serious with reducing green house gas emissions every major energy consuming country must without delay put in place the institutional and legal bases for reducing its fossil energy consumption.

To be effective it must draw up an appropriate strategy containing a long term vision and short term operational measures.

It is up to the UN to invite its most appropriate institution to help countries in that exercise and make sure that those countries implementing effective climate strategies will benefit from the financial assistance that has been promised by the international community.

But even with the most devoted efforts the Nordic countries` experience shows that it will take decades before such policies will produce strong results. Homework should therefore start without any further delay.

 

National Briefing | South: North Carolina: Judge Denies Shield for Duke Records

Fri, 2014-04-04 22:36
Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway on Friday denied Duke Energy’s motion seeking to shield records in a civil suit related to groundwater pollution from 33 coal ash dumps in the state during a separate federal criminal investigation.
    





Anadarko Pays Billions in Settling Toxins Case

Thu, 2014-04-03 20:06
The oil company agreed to pay the United States government to restore thousands of sites polluted by toxins and compensate thousands of personal-injury claimants.
    





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