COP21: Kickout the big Polluters

As the world leaders get ready to meet in Paris for 21st Conference of the parties (COP21), to establish a solid ground to solve the climate crisis, doubts shadow whether or not corporate business and big oil polluters have taken over the agenda.

The corporate involvement, specially fossil fuel lobby groups within the UNFCCC is not new. From the very beginning of the earth summit and 1995 COP1 (Statement by the International Chamber of Commerce before COP1) in Berlin till cop20 in Lima, we have seen corporate parties taking every action to jeopardize any climate agreement and to make sure their interest is not harmed, which they refer to as ‘Business as usual’.

The negotiation to bring the countries on same page in solving climate crisis has been going on for 20 years now through COP. And each time the outcome was same: No universal agreement. Closest were COP3 and COP15, but there were no legal binding. The corporations and fossil fuels lobbyist group played a key role ensuring that.The failure of 20 climate summits to date has corresponded with a dramatic speed up of greenhouse gas emission rates. In fact, since 1988, more than half of all industrial carbon emissions have been released, raising the prospect of irreversible climate change.

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CO2 level has never been this high in human history. Credit: NOAA & Scripps Institution of Oceanography

But, why do organizations like UNFCCC let business corporations take over things? A short history lesson will help us understand that.

Back in 70s, UN took up an initiative to monitor big corporations so that they can’t  create pressure on underdeveloped nations for business. With time, UN changed that policy and the companies were given priority to invest in the name of foreign direct investment through UN. Later in the 90s, the financial crisis within the UN, opened doors for more Corporate-UN partnership. UNFCCC is just one part of it.

Corporate influence

The corporate influence within UNFCCC—Polaris Institute

With COP, the whole world has seen the effort fossil fuel lobbyist group indulge in. From ‘business as usual’ market based solution to ‘greenwash’ every effort has been put into place to care for profit, not for the environment. To them, climate action is important, but can’t jeopardize the growth. Carbon tax is another loophole, which shifts focus from emission reduction to emission transfer.

So, when the French Senate cut funding for COP21, the French government’s announced that corporate sponsors would cover 20 percent of the €170 million event was not a surprise.

CORPORA
Corporate and dirty, does not look smart—COP21 sponsors

Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability International and many other civil society organizations have been pointing out the corporate involvement with COP for years. The corporate sponsorship of COP21 creates a dangerous conflict of interest in two key points [1]:

  1. Most of the sponsors invest heavily in fossil fuel, and with a weak climate agreement, they benefit the most
  2. UNFCCC and its member governments are allowing the corporations responsible for causing the climate crisis to greenwash their brands while continuing to make no meaningful changes to their polluting operations.

 

Fossil Fuel lobbyist are also becoming desperate. With downward pressure on gas and coal prices, both the removal of Fossil Fuel Subsidies and implementing renewable energy strategy is possible without raising much energy cost. Then there is their public image, which is also facing much scrutiny as fossil fuel industry knew about their effect on climate change since 1980s and they continued to fund deniers throughout.

So, what this means? This means that whatever outcome we get from COP21, may also serve the fossil fuel industry, a reason why a drive is now ongoing to kick out the big polluters from COP21 negotiation. World Health Organisation (WHO) had done such before in one of United Nations quickest ratified treaties in 2005 which introduced a bar between public health officials and tobacco industry. We do not want the same history to be repeated again and again, as we have found for the last 20 COPs, big polluters find their way in. It’s time that we say no to them through an action like WHO, for us and for the planet.

More to come, this week: Have you heard, renewable can save the world by 2050? Stay tuned. 

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The unheard refugees: floating with Climate

Just because we have not counted the victims of climate change, does not mean they are not there.

Fred Pearce

How do you define victims of climate change? What happens when climate change takes it’s toll?

One such phenomenon due to climate change is migration or mobility which can be characterized by the production of ‘refugees’. [Farbotko & Lazrus, 2011]. It took us some time to use the term ‘climate refugee’ even though ‘environmental refugee’ came into being in 1990s . These are yet to become legal terms.

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Typhoon Haiyan Damage in Philippines Credit: Asian Development Bank

Climate change refugee is a term used to describe people temporarily or permanently displaced across national/international borders by the effects of climate change. The concept is closely linked to that of ‘ecological refugee’ which has been used since the 1970s and ‘environmental refugee’ – used since 1990s – to denote persons who are forced to migrate for environmental reasons nationally or internationally [Docherty & Giannini, 2009; Farbotko & Lazrus, 2012; Williams, 2008].

 

Some have suggested that climate change refugees should be incorporated under the existing Refugee Convention, but for others the very usage of the term ‘refugee’ is considered inappropriate, as this might undermine the protections currently offered to conventional refugees [Williams, 2008]. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) avoids any reference to refugees, and instead refers to ‘environmentally displaced persons’ which it defines

persons ‘who are displaced from or who feel obliged to leave their usual place of residence, because their lives, livelihoods and welfare have been placed at serious risk as a result of adverse environmental, ecological or climatic processes and events

The UNHCR has also made clear that these persons do not fall under their mandate for internally displaced people. In recent times, migration and refugee has become a major concern for many of the developed and developing countries. Though many perceive, Ecological disasters do not typically lead to mass migrations, this has been proven to the contrary with increasing occurrence of climate disasters over the last 40 years. Most of this type of migration occurs within countries, instead of internationally. Case studies indicate that sudden onset disasters will generally cause only short-term local displacement, This may be due to economic and social factors, as those most affected are often poor with little social support and thus have limited mobility.

Norman Myer, first ever put a number about world’s Environmentally displaced people. According to estimates by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), around 185 million people were displaced by disasters in the period 2008–14. Found in a policy brief in 2008, below are some numbers.

  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) estimated in 2001 that for the first time the number of environmental refugees exceeded those displaced by war.
  • UNHCR (2002:12) estimated there were then approximately 24 million people around the world who had fled because of floods, famine and other environmental factors.
  • IPCC predicts 150 million environmental refugees by 2050 – equivalent to 1.5% of 2050’s predicted global population of 10 billion.
  • Myers, who in 1993 predicted 150 million environmental refugees, now believes the impact of global warming could potentially displace 200 million people (Myers 2005).
  • The Stern Review, commissioned by the UK Treasury, agrees it is likely there could be 200 million displaced by 2050 (Stern 2006).
  • UNEP argues that by 2060 there could be 50 million environmental refugees in Africa alone.
  • Most apocalyptically, Christian Aid have postulated that a billion people could be permanently displaced by 2050 – 250 million by climate change-related phenomena such as droughts, floods and hurricanes and 645 million by dams and other development projects (Christian Aid 2007)

Kosi Floods - IndiaNow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified three expected effects of climate change which are considered as trigger effects for migration. These are: more frequent flooding; more frequent droughts; and a rise in sea levels. Climate change migration will affect populations in small island states, low lying coastal areas, Africa, Asia and Latin America with sea level rise symbolizing the greatest danger to these regions. Researches suggest that migration is not inevitable, as once financial resources are available protective measures can be implemented; thus, even sea level rise can be somewhat neutralized by engineering, like the case of Netherlands.

The countries which are and will suffer the most effects are generally those which contributed the least to climate change. These countries should get compensation and migration initiative to cope up with the change. As COP21 is few days away, it will be interesting to see what actions INDCs and country leaders take in order to address climate refugees if they take any at all?

 

Why Ramsar Convention is Crucial: Introduction

Wetlands are the most productive ecosystem in the world, and the most threatened as well. Why? Cause 60% of the world’s population live around such environment. Wetlands provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, protection from hurricanes and flooding. Then they have recreational opportunities, water purification ability and can recharge groundwater supplies. But, Wetlands continue to decline globally, both in area and in quality. As a result, the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to humans and society are diminishing. Ramsar Convention has been providing the basic framework for wetland conservation.

The Ramsar Convention is a major Environmental Agreement which works as standard for wetland management and biodiversity governance system. Though development of Ramsar was a lengthy process as universal consensus was the target, the convention was signed in Ramsar (Iran) in 1971 and came into force in 1975. The mission of Ramsar Convention according to 4th Strategic Plan (2016-2024):

Conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.

The Ramsar convention was adopted to stop the continued destruction of wetlands, particularly those which support migratory waterfowl, and to recognize the ecological, scientific, economic and recreational values of wetlands (Kusler and Kentula, 1990; Hails, 1996). There were two characteristics in the conceptual development of the convention: 1) Area protected by conservation approach and 2) an immutable deference to ‘national sovereignty’ was echoed (Hettiarachchi et al. 2015). International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was asked to host to ensure neutrality and there was funding shortage as well.

The current organizational framework of the Ramsar framework. (Hettiarachchi et al. 2015)
The current organizational framework of the Ramsar framework. (Hettiarachchi et al. 2015)

Currently, Ramsar has 2,218 Sites covering 214,131,110 ha worldwide in 168 countries (October 2015). In order to declare a site as ‘Ramsar site’, there are 9 criteria that are taken into considerationRamsar has three pillars to which all joining parties commit:

  1. Ensuring the conservation and wise use of wetlands it has designated as Wetlands of International Importance,
  2. Including as far as possible the wise use of all wetlands in national environmental planning, and
  3. Consulting with other Parties about implementation of the Convention, especially in regard to trans-boundary wetlands, shared water systems, and shared species.

44 years later, the Ramsar convention works as the ‘bible’ for wetland regulation and management. In the 12th meeting of the Convention of Wetlands (2015), the key messages delivered were:

  • The global extent of wetlands is now estimated to have declined between 64-71% in the 20th century, and wetland losses and degradation continue worldwide.
  • Because of wetland losses and degradation, people are deprived of the ecosystem services that wetlands provide. Adverse changes to wetlands, including coral reefs, are estimated to result in more than US$20 trillion in losses of ecosystem services annually.
  • Despite some positive news about Ramsar Sites, even these are under threat. For example, although populations of wetland species appear to be increasing in Ramsar Sites overall, populations of wetland species in Ramsar Sites in the tropics are decreasing.
  • While there are ongoing initiatives that will provide a more precise picture of the extent of the world’s wetlands, it is clear that there is a negative trend and wetlands are still being lost or degraded, resulting in negative impacts on biodiversity and other ecosystem services.
  • Policymakers have sufficient scientific information to understand the urgent need to take appropriate actions to conserve wetlands and their services to people.
Natural wetland habitat area loss between 1975, 1990 and 2005 in a sample of 214 wetland sites around the Mediterranean
Natural wetland habitat area loss between 1975,
1990 and 2005 in a sample of 214 wetland sites around the Mediterranean

SO, how successful has the Ramsar Convention been? Michael Bowman in 2002-03 wrote:

considerable progress which has been made in the realms of wetland conservation over the thirty years since the Ramsar Convention was concluded, not least in the rehabilitation of the image of wetland features in human consciousness. Although the provisions of the Convention as originally drafted were deficient in various respects, a great deal of time and effort has been devoted to their clarification, amplification, and development, primarily through CoP resolutions, and this has undoubtedly enhanced the potential of Ramsar to advance the cause of wetland conservation

Ramsar Convention is one of the six treaties which are in the Liaison  Group of Biodiversity related convention. Ramsar guidelines support legal initiatives, including litigation and advocacy, to protect wetlands worldwide e.g. Mexico, USA, South Africa.

Urban wetlands were not formally considered before 2008 (Res. 27), and Urban setting is the most complex and crucial due to the fact that environmental degradation is more complex in cities, specially in developing countries.

For example, Bangladesh has only two wetlands as Ramsar sites and the data for these two site are not up-to-date and there are other sites which should come within the convention.

Live blog: Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training

3 day long Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training kicks off in Florida, with more than 1500 attendees from 86 countries. This is it’s 30th Session and the time is crucial as UN just announced the SDGs and Pope visit to United States was marked with lots of talk on climate.

Over the course of three days, experts will share information about the science behind the climate crisis as well as their experiences educating and engaging diverse networks and communities. The chance to connect with a group of extraordinary leaders from a variety of sectors and countries around the world is vast.

Mario Molina, Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training Director is hosting the training.

Florida is facing flash floods not because of rain but because of tides and that has taken over the discussion among the attendees. Al Gore in his introductory speech talked about it as he went down to see the condition himself.

Then Senator Bill Nelson took Stage:

Next came Mr. Berlin to talk about where we stand in all of it:

After Lunch, AL Gore is right now presenting on climate crisis and solution:

Most popular tweets on #climatechange: 7-24 July, 2015

As we inch closer to Paris Summit, lot starts to roll in the arena of climate change and denial.

Governor and Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger expresses his concern and asks people to act on climate: https://twitter.com/UNDP/status/623636330002649088

The white house has been actively tweeting regarding the climate change for the last few months and getting people’s attention:

Greenpeace talks about climate change deniers, what are their causes:

I myself work on models and I know how important they are. They work as our eyes in the future.

And last but not the least as I have always focused young people are the key in our effort to stop changing climate:

Most popular tweets on #ClimateChange : Week 29 June-6 July, 2015

The development world is now more focused on Sustainable Development Goal and MDGs report. But, Climate Change is addressed all over the world, as COP21 approaches.

POTUS continues to talk about climate, though the concern remains what will happen after the election?

Brazil, China and USA all together may pull the climate change down:

How is Ireland doing?

Activists play an important role in making sure, climate change voice is heard. What role again?

Most popular tweets on #ClimateChange : Week 21-28 June, 2015

This week the Lancet Commission Report got a lot of attention, providing the very link between climate change and health.

The Dutch court did what should have been done long time ago by many other countries:

African progress panel showed how much Africa is contributing in heating up the climate.

World Economic Forum came up with a better research: Eat less meat

Last but not the least, US national parks got share bit of attention:

Most popular tweets on #ClimateChange : Week 9-16 June, 2015

I will try to look at most popular tweets on some of the #hastags on climate change. Let’s start with #ClimateChange.

A cool art work on the street:

Banning words, will not ban the nature:

Pope was all over the news, on climate change:

Global concern is on the rise:

Obama takes it on Trade Bill:

Fossil Fuels get subsidies, maybe not everywhere:

The most popular tweet comes from NASA:

Image

We got food. What our future generation got?

Once the fourth largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea has been shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by irrigation projects. The sea spans the border between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south.

Aral Sea 4 decades time frame. Photo: UNEP
Aral Sea 4 decades time frame. Photo: UNEP

Latin America Green News: Mexico boosting renewables in agricultural sector, Brazil investing in solar, World Bank approves funds for Argentina | Maria Martinez’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Latin America Green News: Mexico boosting renewables in agricultural sector, Brazil investing in solar, World Bank approves funds for Argentina | Maria Martinez’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC.