Eyes on Paris: Weekly Photo Challenge

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The first week of the Paris Climate Talks started five days ago, on Monday.  As the talks opened, Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister,  reminded delegates:

“The eyes of the world are upon us.”

Others echoed this theme:

“I have my #eyesonParis.” Naomi Klein tweeted

“Let there be no doubt.  The next generation is watching what we do”.  President Obama declared.

“The eyes of millions of people are on you not just figuratively, but literally.”  Christiana Figueres, Head of UNFCCC,  proclaimed.

These metaphoric quotes were gathered in an entertaining article by The Guardian:  COP21: the best metaphors from the Paris climate talks.

Have you seen the #EyesonParis trend, launched on Twitter, with people posting eye selfies to show that they are watching the progress of the negotiations?

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For the photo challenge, I edited a picture of my eyes, taken while I was trying on glasses in January.  Trust me, I tried to take a selfie today, but lack of skill and photogenicity (my word) led to dismal results.

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And then there was the #Zero by 2050 action organized by SustainUS and youth delegates.  The campaign is for zero carbon emissions by 2050 to keep global warming below 2ºC.  I heard about it through the Canadian Youth Delegation.  They posted the following photo on Twitter showing their symbolic action:  painting a large zero around one of their eyes:

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This post is a submission to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Eye Spy’.  The cat photo was taken and edited by Ontheland.wordpress.com.

‘Love song to the earth’ Limerick—#sharethelovesong

'Love song to the earth' you're our
Anthem, letter, pop star choir,
Tell us, we won't chafe,
How do we keep this planet safe?
Tell the truth, what must transpire?

2 degrees global warming almost here today,
Rising coastal floods taking homes away,
Droughts, wildfires,
Military strife, hunger pyres,
Nations cry: 'Keep climate change at bay'.

People everywhere show eco smarts,
Conserve and care for earth with eager hearts,
Companies going green,
Municipal action often seen,
Now's the time: Global leaders, please step up and do your part.



This multi-verse limerick was guided by the Day 4 prompt for Writing 201. The theme was ‘Imperfection’, the form was  limerick, and the poetic device suggestion was enjambment. The topic of this poem is ‘Love song to the earth’ released in September 2015. It’s an empowerment song, sponsored by the United Nations Foundation and Friends of the Earth U.S., to arouse and demonstrate public support for a bold consensus at the upcoming Paris Climate Talks. For a music video of ‘Love song to the earth’, please visit my October 7 Writers Quote Wednesday–BeWoW post or visit the official website.

©2015 All rights reserved by Ontheland.wordpress.com

Spotlight on Paris, Host of the 2015 UN Climate Summit

Today I would like to feature the City of Paris, host of the upcoming international climate summit, and share a Paris video.  The international climate change talks at the end of this year are extremely important.  In every country we need national leadership to transition from a fossil fuel based society to a conserving, renewable, clean energy world. In some countries, more than others, focussed leadership  is lacking. Everywhere there are citizens, businesses, non-profits, cities, towns, provinces, states, and so on taking steps to reduce carbon emissions.  However, national leadership is still essential, to keep on top of goals and achievements and to create a consistent framework.  In my country, Canada, we have had poor environmental leadership from our federal government. Once there is a strong international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, this will have to change.

France has an important diplomatic role as host of the 21st meeting of the parties to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  France’s  role goes far beyond providing facilities for  thousands of delegates, visitors, and journalists who will descend on Paris in late November of this year.  As host of the talks, France is the official facilitator of negotiations, organizing preparatory meetings throughout 2015, and steering the  December talks towards a binding agreement.

If successful,  the world will emerge from the 2015 Paris talks with the first ever binding global agreement to achieve specific carbon reduction targets. The process has taken over 20 years–let’s hope that we, the global community, are successful in arriving at a fair, ambitious agreement.

Why is France hosting these talks?   Why France?  Why not France?  The answer is that world nations are divided into 5 UN regions: Asia-Pacific; Eastern Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; Western Europe and Others; and Africa. The facilitator role for the climate summits rotates from region to region.  For 2015 it was up to the Western Europe and Others Region to select a host.  In 2012 France’s President François Hollande announced his nation’s interest in taking on the task; the designation became official  in  2013.

Under the Spotlight.  Of course the host of an international conference on climate change will ideally set a good example, demonstrating good practices in sustainability, conservation, and low carbon emissions in running the event.  Paris has some very interesting innovative projects on the go.  I hope you enjoy this  Paris video showing urban sustainability solutions in practice–you’ll probably recognize some of the initiatives also occurring in your community.

The flow of the video is quick, but that can be better than slow.  Here are a few of the initiatives that are mentioned:

  • City climate plan with goals for reducing carbon emissions and increasing use of renewable/recovered energy by 2020
  • Transportation sharing through bike and car rentals 
  • Cycle paths
  • Circular economy promoting recycling and composting
  • Pneumatic waste collection (I haven’t seen that one before)
  • Green walls and rooftops 
  • Geothermal heating; Solar panels
  • Renovating for energy efficiency
  • Planting trees and creating green spaces
  • Local food markets.

What’s going on in your community?  Is there a “green” initiative that you are particularly happy about?

My sources:

Official Website of COP21-CMP11

French Amer-Can Climate Talks (FACTS):  “FACTS aims to mobilize French, American, and Canadian public opinion on the issues of the conference and reinforce the dialogue between experts from these countries. FACTS is a public conference series planned to take place in seven cities in the United States and Canada involving renowned scientists, civil society representatives, NGOs, political figures, journalists and entrepreneurs”.

Road to Paris Countdown:—–100 Days to COP21

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As of today, August 17, there are 100 days to the International Climate Summit in Paris, to be held from November 30 to December 11, 2015.  Did you know that they expect roughly 40,000 people to attend the summit at Paris-Le Bourget—20,000 of whom will be officially registered?  I had no idea until today.  For those who are not in the halls of negotiation, there will be displays, and events such as debates, talks, and screenings.  There is an official  website  for COP21, which includes a wide range of information, such as a webzine with quick fact sheets, information for those planning to attend, a calendar of diplomatic events leading up to the summit,  news releases, and more.

 ACRONYM OF THE DAY:   COP21-UNFCCC 

21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

 

 

 

Road to Paris 2015: Sizing Up America’s Clean Power Plan

I am a climate change traveller–an explorer. Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change initiatives and  international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, law, and politics–yet of utmost importance, affecting global welfare today and for generations to come.

Nobody cleared a path for themselves by giving up.

Palacia Bessette, Simply from Scratch, 2010; Courtesy of Quotationspage.com

Under the Clean Power Plan announced by the President of the United States almost two weeks ago,  power plant emissions will be reduced by 1/3 of 2005 levels by 2030.  Power plants are responsible for a major chunk of U.S. carbon emissions. The diagram below shows that electricity generates almost 40% of  U.S. carbon and that transportation is the runner up generating 34% :

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration published in How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Some states have already started to promote clean energy and others will have catching up to do. The end result will be a change in the types of energy used to generate electricity. The image below shows the energy mix for power generation on a national level in 2014. Did you know that after hydro, wind is currently the leading source of renewable energy? Carbon emitting fossil fuels–coal and natural gas– make up almost 70% of the national mix.

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration, published in How much US electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015.

Few cases of eyestrain have been developed by looking on the bright side of things.

Author unknown. Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

Under the Clean Power Plan, less coal will be burned–to be replaced by natural gas and clean renewable energy sources (wind,sun, geothermal, biomass and hydro). Recognizing that energy mix profiles vary from state to state, power plan strategies will be designed by each state to address their unique situations.

The graphs below show how the national electricity energy mix will change under the Clean Power Plan.  The starting point is on the left, projections for a no Power Plan scenario in the middle, and expected changes with a Clean Power Plan on the right. The colours are intuitive, with green for renewable energy, blue for natural gas, black for coal, and red for nuclear. Notice how on the far right there is more green renewable energy and less black coal.  By 2040, fossil fuels–coal and natural gas–will drop from 70% of the national mix to 55%.  

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (May 27, 2015)

Looking at the Big Picture

A considerable amount of fossil fuels will continue to be part of the power mix.  The Clean Power Plan contributes only a fraction of  Total U.S. emission reductions planned for post-2020 under the United States INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution), submitted for the UN climate treaty negotiations in Paris later this year, which in its simplest form is:

26 to 28% reduction from total 2005 carbon emissions (not just from power plants) by 2025 and at least 80% reduction by 2050

Nevertheless, I choose to be optimistic.  If allowed to unfold, the Clean Power Plan will reinforce current momentum and inspire new initiatives, unleashing a snowball effect.

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Colin Powell, U .S. General (1937-); Courtesy of Quotationspage.com.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, is in part a catch-up measure. As the President noted in his August 3 speech,  many power plants are already improving efficiency,  almost 50% of states have efficiency targets, more than 35 states have renewable energy targets, over 1000 city mayors have committed to reducing carbon pollution, and major corporations have set targets for reducing their emissions. The map below shows the number of states having targets for increasing renewable energy in power generation:

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Courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration Institute How much U.S. electricity is generated by renewable energy?, June 12, 2015

Opposition to the Plan is a reality, especially from the coal industry and those states that rely on coal the most.  The top 10 coal-burning states rely on coal for 67 to 97 % of their energy mix.  Clearly these states will face the stiffest challenges in formulating and complying with Clean Power Plan targets.  Nevertheless, their citizens can look forward to significant improvements in air quality and health as they switch to other energy sources.

The Paris Summit in December will be a major turning point.

The Clean Power Plan will give the United States more credibility at the negotiating table.  If world leaders successfully forge a binding climate agreement, the Clean Power Plan will be  less vulnerable to neglect, postponement, or repeal.

Want to know more  about your nation’s commitments and emissions? Take a look at these resources:

Interactive map showing which countries have submitted their INDC (post-2020 climate action plan) in preparation for the Paris talks. Click a country or area of interest for a pop-up summary of the INDC. Source:  World Resources Institute Climate Data Explorer.

Interactive map showing total CO2 emissions for the period 1990-2012 expressed in million metric tons (Mtco2e). Click  countries of interest to discover total carbon output. Source: World Resources Institute  Historical Greenhouse Gas Emissions Map.

Road to Paris 2015: What is the Green Climate Fund?

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Having arrived at the 3rd post in my Road to Paris 2015 Series, I thought I would clarify what I am setting out to do with these posts. If you have been following along, you will know that  Road to Paris 2015 is about the United Nations climate change negotiations–in particular, about the important summit to be held at the end of this year in Paris, France.

So this is  not a travel series–or is it?  In a sense I am writing as a travel blogger.  I am a climate change tourist–an explorer.  I will become more informed and share  tidbits that I gather, with you, my readers.  

Welcome to my excursion through the sometimes confusing terrain of climate change international negotiations–a landscape littered with acronyms, numbers, science, international law, and politics.

Getting Oriented–Why is the Paris Climate Summit Important?

  We (the world) are at a turning point.  Climate scientists have told us that average world temperatures must not increase more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial averages if we want to avoid catastrophic environmental changes. They have estimated a “Carbon Budget“:–the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the atmosphere before the 2 degree  ceiling is reached.  Based on current emission trends, our world Carbon Budget will be used up prior to 2050.  At the UN Paris Climate Summit, world leaders hope to arrive at a binding agreement that will set out major  greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to take effect after 2020.  Industrialized countries are being encouraged  to  make drastic cuts, aiming for zero emissions by 2050.

Green Climate Fund is Key to Successful Negotiationsimage

A key issue in climate negotiations is responsibility.  Who is responsible for climate change and who will bear the cost?  To date, the richest, industrialized nations have released the most greenhouse gases through activities such as large scale land clearing and burning fossil fuels for industry,  transportation, electricity,  and heating. Ironically, some of the worst impacts of climate change are  being experienced by less wealthy, developing nations–impacts such as major storms, drought, and rising sea levels.  Adaptation and survival costs are being faced worldwide and a major question is: ‘ Who will pay?’

Also on the table is how  developing  countries will be able to afford the cost of new technologies that will allow them to  grow  in  clean, sustainable ways.

The Green Climate Fund was established in 2010 in response to these financial challenges, by the countries who signed the 1992 treaty to address climate change (the UNFCCC–UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). Representatives of these countries  meet almost yearly  at Conferences of the Parties called “COPs”. The Paris Summit will be the 21st COP:  COP21.

The purpose of the Green Climate Fund is to support developing countries in:

  • limiting or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and
  • adapting to the adverse effects of climate change.

imageFund headquarters  opened in Korea in December 2013 and  the Fund started soliciting financial pledges in the summer of 2014.

There are two steps for getting  funds in place.  First, nations make a pledge and then, they sign an agreement to make it official.  As of July 23, 2015, thirty-five governments  made pledges for a total of USD$10.2 billion— but  only USD$5.8 billion has been committed to in signed agreements.  The gap between pledging and signing is the gap between the intent of political leadership and the political hurdles that precede signing a deal.  For example, the United States pledged $3 billion over 4 years, but signing has yet to be approved by Congress.

The Green Climate Fund Pledge Status Report lists the 35 pledging nations, the amounts pledged, amounts signed for, and the per capita amount of each nation’s pledge.  It might be interesting to check this status report to see what your country has pledged and signed for.

imageThere are many concerns about the Green Climate Fund:  Will enough money be committed to keep the negotiating process afloat? What financial institutions should manage the funds? Which nations should get support and for what projects? Should support be in the form of loans or grants?and so on.  Politics on a national level can be intricate, but on an international level, the complications are mind boggling.  The next major meeting of the Green Climate Fund is in November and by then it is expected that they will be announcing some pilot projects–possibly to include small island developing nations and African states.

For more information about this topic, including some analysis,  I would recommend a recent article published by Elizabeth Douglass for InsideClimate News: Climate Treaty’s Finances on Shaky Ground.

Road to Paris 2015

Introducing:

Road to Paris 2015 Blog Series

IMG_1296Today I am launching a series of posts tracking international climate change negotiations. In December of this year there will be a major United Nations climate summit held in Paris, France, where international leaders will, once again,  attempt to negotiate a binding agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Road to Paris”  is the name of a strategic campaign initiated by business and government leaders in 2013, to  promote  solutions in preparation for the Paris Summit.  “Road to Paris”  is now a twitter hashtag (#RoadToParis), a Climate Reality Project campaign, a website hosted by the International Council for Science, and more (including this humble blog series).

2014 and 2015 have been particularly busy years for governments, businesses, and citizens concerned about climate change.  Why is the 2015 Paris climate conference, a.k.a. COP 21,  so important?— why is there so much buildup and drama preceding a United Nations December conference in Paris, the 21st UN Framework Convention on Climate Change?

The answer is simple: we are running out of time to slow down global warming.  The general science-based consensus is that global warming is already having negative side effects–such as droughts, floods, devastating storms, and ocean warming.  Once average global temperatures exceed pre-industrial levels by 2 degrees C,  turning back will be extremely difficult as negative causes and effects will have gained momentum. World leaders generally agree that:

  • Carbon emissions must be reduced to prevent warming from exceeding 1.5 to  2 degrees C above average pre-industrial temperatures; and that
  • In order to prevent temperatures from continuing to rise, global emissions must be cut very deeply by 2050 and reduced to zero by 2100.

With such a short time frame, it is obvious that the time to act is now.  Significant commitments  and actions are needed to reduce carbon emissions and many people, organizations, and governments are hoping that a real, binding plan will be established at the Paris Climate Summit.

A Recent Event:  Climate Summit of the Americas, July 2015

Leaders from North and South America have just come out of a summit held  in Toronto, Canada called,  “Climate Summit of the Americas”.  It was a three-day event organized by the government of Ontario, which brought together provincial, state, and municipal leaders. The outcome was the first Pan American Action Statement on climate change. It was signed by representatives of the following 22 jurisdictions, according to a National Observer report:

CANADA:  Provinces–Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia,  Newfoundland/Labrador, and Northwest Territories; Cities: Burlington, Hamilton, Kitchener, Whitby and Vancouver.

UNITED STATES:  States–Vermont, Connecticut, California, Washington State, and Oregon.

MEXICO:  States–Jalisco, Baja California, and Yucatan.

BRAZIL:  State–Para; Cities– Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

In the Climate Action Statement, participants agreed to implement one or more of the following:

  • Carbon pricing;
  • Public reporting of emission levels;
  • Action in transportation and energy sectors;
  • Compliance with existing greenhouse gas reduction agreements.

Although commitments were loose, continental neighbors came together expressing a general consensus that  deep emissions cuts must be achieved by mid-century. This  was an important step. Cooperation at state, provincial, and city levels, will only increase possibilities of cooperation and action at national levels.

Postscript

The purpose of my Road to Paris 2015 blog series is to inform myself and you, my readers, of  events and issues leading up to to the UN Climate Summit in Paris this December.  If there are related topics that you would like to read about, please let me know in the Comments. Now for a relaxing picture:

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