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.

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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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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:

Guardian Post: New energy storage plant could ‘revolutionise’ renewable sector

Originally published in Guardian

Foundations for an energy storage plant in Ireland that could “revolutionise” the integration of renewable power into electricity supplies will be laid within weeks.

The plant will use a motor-generated flywheel to harness kinetic energy from the grid at times of over-supply. This will then be released from submerged turbines at times of supply shortfalls.

The project in Rhode, County Offaly, is expected to launch commercially in 2017, with an operating capacity of 20MW.

Although the system will initially feed off all energy in the grid – clean and dirty alike – it has the potential to resolve the transmission system operators’ dilemma of how to store large amounts of energy created during windy or sunny conditions for instantaneous use when the weather changes.

At the moment, such energy shortfalls are compensated for with fossil fuel generators such as coal or gas-fired power plants, or by hydro pump storage. Unlike conventional coal and gas generators which have an efficiency ratio of 35-40%, the flywheel operates at upwards of 85-90% efficiency.

“The hybrid flywheel is a disruptive innovation with the potential to revolutionise the system services market, decoupling its provision from electricity generation by delivering energy-less system services,” Jake Bracken, a research manager for the Schwungrad Energie project, told the Guardian.

“In Ireland we have a 50% maximum limit on the amount of intermittent renewable energy that we can take on at any one point. But Eirgrid [the Irish transmissions systems operator] is looking at increasing it to 75% over the next decades and our system has the potential to facilitate that,” he said.

In flywheel plants, advanced carbon fibre tubes up to 3m high and 1m wide are floated on magnets inside a vacuum, and spun by electricity in a near frictionless environment, until power is needed back in the grid.

The technology’s impact will be keenly watched in Brussels, where the EU’s vice president for energy union, Maroš Šefčovič last week called for an overhaul of Europe’s last-century grid networks for a future in which they will carry data, products and services, as well as energy.

“Smart grids will do for us what shale gas did for the United States,” he told a Brussels conference. “Smart grids should become the EU’s shale as, if we had them today, we would need 30% less transmission capacity.”

The EU envisions a future in which grids become immediately responsive to consumer demand, allowing people to sell back surplus electricity from their solar panels or electric cars to the electricity network. This would singularly reduce the power of energy utilities, but would require investment now.

Currently, “you have many streets in the EU where, if you plugged in five electric cars at the same time, you would blackout the neighbourhood,” Šefčovič said. “We will soon be talking about many thousands of electric cars on our roads and for that we need to make sure our grids are smart, resilient and can handle new demands that are not here today.”

One of the Irish project’s co-designers, professor Noel Buckley of the University of Limerick, said that it would be able to match variable renewable energy supplies to consumer demand, whenever it arose.

“The grid is designed to run at 50 hertz and when there is an imbalance between supply and demand, the frequency starts to change,” he told the Guardian. “When wind goes down, generating capacity goes down, and even if the wind comes back up in a few minutes, you need to have some energy to put back into the grid in the short term.”

By using back-up flow batteries which store electricity in tanks in a liquid form, “you can scale up your power and storage capacities separately so that, in principle, the storage can be unlimited,” he added.

So far the technology has only been used on a limited basis in the US, but the Irish project is already attracting interest from national grids across Europe, which plan to increase their renewable energy penetration in the years ahead.

The flywheel project has received funding from the European Commission and the Irish government. It is expected to create 50 new jobs.