Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Policy

  1. Climate Science On Trial Again

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    • their most important argument – one that could take their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – is that the federal government’s failure to do enough about global warming will damage the planet so profoundly that it violates children’s constitutional rights to life and liberty

    by William Becker Dec 8 2017 read full Huffington Post article here

    …In their lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, the youngsters charge that the government is contributing to climate change by doing things like allowing coal and oil to be produced on public lands. They argue that a climate system capable of sustaining human life must be protected by the government as a public trust. But their most important argument – one that could take their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – is that the federal government’s failure to do enough about global warming will damage the planet so profoundly that it violates children’s constitutional rights to life and liberty.

    Based on those arguments, lower courts have allowed the case to proceed. A trial against the government is scheduled for next February, but President Trump and his Administration want to keep it from taking place….

  2. The role of cities in climate change: massive upscaling of local climate policies key to achieving 1.5 °C target

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    • Local governments are crucial actors in the multi-level climate governance system.
    • A massive upscaling of local climate policies is key to achieving the 1.5 °C target.
    • Local climate action must go hand in hand with higher-level governance initiatives.

    Fuhr, H. et al. The role of cities in multi-level climate governance: local climate policies and the 1.5 °C target. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. Volume 30, February 2018, Pages 1-6.  Published on line Nov 2017

  3. ‘Zero tolerance’ plan for plastic pollution considered by UN environment ministers

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    • Governments are being asked to move towards a legal treaty banning plastic waste from entering the sea.
    • At the moment ships are prohibited from dumping plastic overboard but there’s no international law against plastics flooding into the sea from the land.

    A plan for zero tolerance of plastic pollution of the oceans may be agreed by nations at a UN environment summit…..

    Experts say ocean plastics are an obvious subject for a global treaty: plastics present a large-scale threat….Plastic pollution doesn’t recognise international borders. Delegates in Nairobi preparing the way for the UN’s environment ministers meeting next week are said to be in broad agreement on the need for tougher action to combat the plastics crisis.

    Plastic on a beach

    …China – the world’s biggest plastics polluter – is said to be cautious about being bound by global rules. Other big polluters like India and Indonesia are said to be generally supportive about the resolutions….

    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently applauded the clean-up of plastic from a beach in Mumbai, saying: “It is our duty to protect the environment for our future generations.”

    Eirik Lindebjerg from WWF said the Nairobi meeting could prove a turning point in the plastics crisis. He told BBC News: “The treaties on climate change and biodiversity were initiated in this forum – so it has a track record of making things happen.”….

    …The meeting will also discuss pollution of the air and water. A global ban on lead in paints may be approved.

  4. Climate Scientists Watch Their Words, Hoping To Stave Off Funding Cuts

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    November 29, 2017 Rebecca Hersher read full NPR article here

    Scientists appear to be self-censoring by omitting the term “climate change” in public grant summaries. An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steadily decreasing number with the phrase “climate change” in the title or summary, resulting in a sharp drop in the term’s use in 2017. At the same time, the use of alternative terms such as “extreme weather” appears to be rising slightly.

    The change in language appears to be driven in part by the Trump administration’s open hostility to the topic of climate change. Earlier this year, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, and the President’s 2018 budget proposal singled out climate change research programs for elimination.

    Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has been systematically removing references to climate change from its official website. Both the EPA’s leader, Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry have said they do not accept the scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to get warmer….

    …There is evidence that other agencies are making similar decisions. Earlier this year, a project coordinator at a Department of Energy lab emailed a researcher at Northeastern University asking her to adjust the language a public abstract for research funded by the DOE….

    …Avoiding the term “climate change” could also lead to a more fractured scientific community. Climate change research is an inherently interdisciplinary field and shared terminology allows people to collaborate, either through interagency groups or through university departments that reflect the larger trends in available funding.

    …And all of that could translate into problems for average citizens. Cities, some of them already dealing with rising sea levels and more severe storms, rely on the federal government for information about climate change. Water resource managers and emergency officials look to federal climate programs for long-term data. And insurers are using climate change data to determine rates for homeowners.

    “This is the biggest environmental challenge in human history,” says Mote. “Absent political winds, I don’t think researchers would avoid using the term ‘climate change’ to describe it.”

  5. Bonn Climate Summit Coasting Forward, but Acceleration Needed

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    • Steady progress on implementation rules for the Paris Agreement, but more work to do
    • Two years after adopting the Paris Agreement, the global climate policy process is on cruise-control in the race toward a low-carbon, resilient future.  We are still headed in the right direction, but since the U.S. took its foot off the accelerator, the risk of global climate action slowing down has increased. the pace of increasing ambitions has slowed down.
    • We are in the race towards a low-carbon, prosperous and healthy future, being chased by a poorer and less secure one. It’s time to accelerate.

    November 20 2017  by Andrew Deutz, Director of International Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy; Read full article here

    Over the past two weeks, leaders and representatives from around the world came together to build on the promise of the Paris Agreement.

    The conference gets a grade of “meets expectations.”  The negotiators got down to the orderly business of working out the rules to implement, assess, and advance the Paris Agreement.  The processes did not get overly distracted by the U.S. government’s announced withdrawal from the accord.  In fact, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron celebrated the energy generated by the leadership of U.S. governors and mayors.  Nevertheless, the absence of national U.S. leadership was evident within the negotiating process this week and for driving more ambitious climate action in the future.

    Two years after adopting the Paris Agreement, the global climate policy process is on cruise-control in the race toward a low-carbon, resilient future.  We are still headed in the right direction, but since the U.S. took its foot off the accelerator, the risk of global climate action slowing down has increased. the pace of increasing ambitions has slowed down.  It’s time for someone to jump in the driver’s seat and floor it.

    Outside of the formal negotiations, the climate conference is also the world’s biggest trade fair of innovation and inspiration on climate action, and there were clear signs of commitments:

    • Every country needs to increase its climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.  New science shows that nature can provide up to 37 percent of the emissions reductions necessary to stay on track for the Paris Agreement goals by 2030.  Organizations including The Nature Conservancy worked to highlight the opportunities that forests, farms, and wetlands can play to help countries meet their existing climate commitments and accelerate those efforts in the future.
    • Financial innovation remains key to driving climate action and investment…[to] bring together the world’s richest and its most vulnerable nations to provide insurance solutions for poor and vulnerable people exposed to the impacts of climate change…
    • Climate leadership now comes in diverse forms.  COP 23 saw strong representation from growing state and municipal voices in the U.S., led by the U.S. Climate Alliance. Governors and mayors from across the U.S. highlighted the commitments and progress made in 14 states and hundreds of cities to advance their contributions to the goals set by the U.S. in the Paris Agreement.  Currently, those jurisdictions will reach approximately 36 percent of the original American commitment.  We look forward to the Climate Action Summit to be convened by Governor Brown of California in 2018 to augment and accelerate action.

    In the two years since Paris, governments, companies, and communities around the world have stepped up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the risks they face from climate change.  Taking climate action presents huge opportunities for innovation in all facets of human life – in how the world produces and uses energy, designs buildings and cities, and conserves and uses lands and coastlines.  Every day, new thinking and science is emerging to contribute to safer communities, stronger economies, and healthier lands and waters.

    2017 has shown us in a myriad of places that the negative impacts of climate change are upon us. We are in the race towards a low-carbon, prosperous and healthy future, being chased by a poorer and less secure one. It’s time to accelerate.

  6. UN Climate Meetings- Where are we? Process for Implementing Paris Accords, Rise of Focus on Agriculture

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    Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

    [Ellie’s Note: this UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP23) meeting in Bonn continued the process of agreeing on the rules for implementing the Paris Accords.  This is a multi-year consensus effort. After 5 years of debate, according to an UN Food and Ag Organization (FAO) leader and others, parties agreed to include agriculture in the Paris Agreement rule book (more on the importance of the rule book here) for the first time. See some background on UNFCC’s discussions around agriculture and land use here. Agriculture as a source of GHG emissions but also as a part of the solution was on the agenda in this year’s COP23 unlike ever before according to many people I spoke with.]

    November 17, 2017 read today’s full Climate Home Bonn Bulletin here

    That is the summary of the questions to be answered through the “talanoa dialogue”, which officially starts as these talks wrap up. Fiji will convene a year-long process alongside 2018 [UNFCCC COP24] hosts Poland, according to an informal note published late on Thursday.

    The plan, which they will ask ministers to endorse this afternoon, takes the UN special report on 1.5C due next September as a key input – anchoring that and not 2C as the target. A draft “Bula momentum for implementation” confirmed the need for an extra meeting next year to make sure the Paris rulebook gets finished….



  7. Europe steps in to cover US shortfall in funding climate science

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  8. A More Conciliatory Tone on Climate from the U.S. at Global Talks

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    • The United States offered a seemingly contradictory message at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, promising to engage in further talks while also vowing to exit the Paris accord.

    By LISA FRIEDMAN NOVEMBER 16, 2017 November 16, 2017 See full NYTimes article here

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    BONN, Germany — The senior American diplomat at the United Nations climate talks here told world leaders Thursday that the United States would remain engaged in global climate change negotiations even as it planned to exit the Paris agreement “at the earliest opportunity.”

    Judith G. Garber, a State Department acting undersecretary, gave the first official American remarks to the United Nations climate body since President Trump announced in June that he would abandon the Paris deal. It was a far more conciliatory message than a presentation earlier in the week by White House officials promoting fossil fuels, which drew catcalls and a walkout.

    Ms. Garber’s address made no mention of coal while promising to help other countries “adapt to the impacts of climate change.” It was the only mention of climate change in the three-minute presentation, but that was one more than many Trump administration critics had expected. And in contrast to the noisy protests that greeted the White House fossil fuel event, Ms. Garber’s speech in a tightly-controlled plenary hall was met with polite applause.

    [Note: I (Ellie) was in this hall today before the US spoke…]


    The Trump administration has sent two sets of officials to the Bonn climate talks, where 195 nations are gathered to seek ways to strengthen the Paris agreement…..

    But because the Trump administration cannot officially exit the Paris climate agreement until 2020, it also sent a small State Department team to negotiate details of international climate policy, like greater transparency for emissions reporting from China and India.

    Environmentalists here said they found Ms. Garber’s message confusing, and a sign of the awkward tightrope that America’s diplomats are walking as they work on a deal Mr. Trump has disavowed….

    …Todd D. Stern, the former State Department climate envoy under President Barack Obama who helped design the Paris agreement, traveled to Bonn to tell his former counterparts that he believed America’s absence from the global accord would be short-lived.  He said his message to other nations was “not to let the retrograde, head-in-the-sand conduct in Washington divert you from your purpose and your course and your commitment. It’s too important to let that happen. And I just firmly believe the U.S. will be back in.” [See Todd Stern’s presentation today on the future of the Paris Agreement — at the alternative US Climate Action Center in Bonn– here.]…

    Graphic | Here’s How Far the World Is From Meeting Its Climate Goals Two years after countries signed a landmark climate agreement in Paris, the world remains far off course from preventing drastic global warming in the decades ahead.

  9. Carbon-Free City Handbook- 22 no-regrets actions with immediate results

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    • Includes 22 no-regrets actions that nearly every city should take to start the journey to becoming carbon-free. Disciplined application of four primary selection criteria helped cut through hundreds of possibilities to define a focused list for cities. The selected recommendations are:
      • Immediately Actionable: could be launched by city staff within one year
      • Achievable: recently proven and economically viable, with compelling examples of successful city implementation
      • Impactful: leading-edge solutions that either make immediate, significant impact or enable large, long-term carbon reductions
      • Broad Relevance: applicable for most cities globally (population: 100,000+
    • The end result of ambitious 100% goals paired with aggressive action is the same: transformational change mitigating climate impacts. It is about significant, rapid change on a short time frame, rather than slow, incremental change.

    November 11, 2017 Bonn, Germany  read full Rocky Mountain Institute article here

    The Carbon-Free City Handbook (pdf), launched at COP23 [at the UN 2017 climate conference in Bonn, Germany], helps city staff implement climate policies and actions that resolutely place their communities on an aggressive path toward sustainable, low-carbon economies.

    Cities are at the forefront of climate change risk and opportunity. Nearly 600 cities making climate commitments, but they will only get us so far and must be substantiated with on-the-ground solutions that enable cities to make rapid progress toward near-term decarbonization, and put them on a path to full climate-neutrality.







  10. Cities can cut greenhouse gas emissions far beyond their urban borders

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    • Upstream emissions may occur anywhere in the world and are roughly equal in size to the total emissions originating from a city’s own territory, a new study shows.
    • Cities should be encouraged and enabled to focus on their full emission spectrum — local and upstream — as they continue to develop their climate mitigation plans.
    • Among the cities studied, Berlin’s global hinterland is largest, with more than half of its upstream emissions occurring outside of Germany, mostly in Russia, China and across the European Union.
    • 20% of Mexico City’s considerably smaller upstream emissions occur outside Mexico, mainly in the US and China.

    November 7, 2017 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

    Greenhouse gas emissions caused by urban households’ purchases of goods and services from beyond city limits are much bigger than previously thought. These upstream emissions may occur anywhere in the world and are roughly equal in size to the total emissions originating from a city’s own territory, a new study shows. This is not bad news but in fact offers local policy-makers more leverage to tackle climate change, the authors argue in view of the UN climate summit COP23 that just started…
    The planned emission reductions presented so far by national governments at the UN summit are clearly insufficient to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the target agreed by 190 countries, therefore additional efforts are needed.

    If a city instead chooses to foster low carbon construction materials this can drastically reduce its indirect CO2 emissions. Even things that cities are already doing can affect far-away emissions. Raising insulation standards for buildings for example certainly slashes local emissions by reducing heating fuel demand. Yet it can also turn down the need for electric cooling in summer which reduces power generation and hence greenhouse gas emissions in some power plant beyond city borders.

    By choosing energy from solar or wind, city governments could in fact close down far-away coal-fired power plants….

    Peter-Paul Pichler, Timm Zwickel, Abel Chavez, Tino Kretschmer, Jessica Seddon, Helga Weisz. Reducing Urban Greenhouse Gas Footprints. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-15303-x