Report 9 from #COP21 - Wednesday December 9, 2015

9th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the next two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

Our ninth from Paul Price, a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Paul is a conservation carpenter with a MSc in Sustainable Development.

We really recommend you read these for the quality of Paul’s pen pictures of CoP21 as seen by a NGO participant - Laying it out clearly and starkly for us all

Report 9 from #COP21 - Wednesday December 9, 2015

Yesterday, I attended expert events conveying much information and urgency, including a high powered one on Public Health and Climate Change noting that any successful outcome here in Paris would be a major public health advance for the world.

However, the most essential information I can report from yesterday is the blunt analysis and conclusions presented by Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre (of UK climate scientists and climate policy experts). Today’s report then is a bullet point digest on the climate realities that continue to be ignored by those in the negotiating room and perhaps glossed over by many climate scientists reporting to policy-makers.

With apologies then for anything lost in my note taking, below are the key points from Anderson’s reality check:

  • Cumulative emissions (carbon budgets) directly determine global warming.
  • The remaining global carbon budget to stay below a temperature limit indicates the following:
    • It is too late for even a small chance of avoiding 1.5ºC without highly speculative tech, getting lucky with climate sensitivity and immediate global action with single focus on severely limiting the extremely small remaining 1.5ºC carbon budget.
    • A 2 in 3 chance of avoiding 2ºC is lost.
    • An even chance of avoiding 2ºC requires a war-like footing for action as for 1.5ºC
    • A 1 in 3 chance of avoiding 2ºC needs urgently delivered and enforced policy far beyond anything so far contemplated.
  • Every one of the 400 scenarios of the IPCC for 2ºC requires one or both of two very unlikely rabbits to be pulled out of the hat:
    1. Highly speculative negative emissions technologies that have never worked to date, are likely subject to feedbacks that limit any effectiveness and are often technically unfeasible – for example, CCS storage is not close to power plants and biomass for burning (a competitor with land for food) would be on a scale that would require a massive increase in shipping.
    2. Emissions have to peak in the past (requiring a time machine).
  • Conclusion: an outside chance of 2ºC is possible but requires:
    • Deep reductions in energy demand starting right now by all high emitting nations as there is not enough carbon budget to build our way out of trouble.
    • A massively funded Marshall Plan for 100% zero carbon energy globally by 2050, much sooner in developed nations.
    • All emission savings must be permanent, if they are ‘spent’ they don’t count. To date whatever we save, we take the cost savings and spend them on more emissions with global annual emissions up 60% in period since UNFCCC began.

In Q&A, as opinion, he noted:

  • Massive and extremely rapid emission reductions are technically possible, the only question is how quickly they can be politically possible:
    • Insisting on only best available tech and forbidding anything else in cars could reduce that sector's emissions by 50-70% within 10 years just at the current replacement rate. Same for other sectors.
    • As the Oxfam report finds, in all nations half of the total emissions are caused by the wealthiest tenth of the population. In the EU if the richest 10% reduced their emissions to the EU average there would be a 30% reduction in emissions overnight. A massive potential exists to cut emissions very fast by reducing the emissions by the wealthiest.
    • The richest nations could (and morally should) decide to leave their own coal, oil and gas [and peat] in the ground. Continued fossil fuel subsidies by these nations further undermine any credibility.
    • Agriculture is the elephant in the room on emissions.
    • The $100 billion on the table in the negotiations is a derisory sum given the scale of loss and damage that is being and will be caused by the current and historic emissions of the industrialised countries.
  • On science:
    • The role of scientists is to do research. Realism, not optimism or pessimism, is what we should expect.
    • There is a vital need for scientists to communicate their findings strongly, bluntly and vociferously, especially in an atmosphere where research is being funded focused largely on continuing the current (carbon-using) economic paradigm.

As Anderson has noted elsewhere, the very difficult path to avoiding warming above 2 degrees is no reason not to start acting urgently. On the contrary it is a clear and explicit signal of the need to act fast to avoid the escalating consequences of the extreme risks of global warming above 2 degrees that humanity continues to fuel.

Glen Peters from Cicero followed Anderson and confirmed the above carbon budget analysis also saying that USA/EU etc must go to net zero emissions fast but also India and China will have to get quickly on track for zero carbon if the rest of the world is to have any emissions space at all after 2040.

Later, New Zealand MP Kennedy Graham cut through an economic event’s diversion into ‘policy credibility’ to point out that limiting the remaining global carbon budget is the only credibility that the Earth’s climate will respect. As he said, the test of our collective morality will be whether we can do this and, above all whether we can do it equitably. It remains to be seen what, if any, concrete action (as opposed to high flown rhetoric and aspiration) the “Paris Agreement” will actually trigger, and whether that action will bear any serious relationship to the implacable physical science realities of our predicament.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org