Key Outcomes of the Paris Climate Pact

On Saturday December 12 2015, a landmark commitment has been reached by representatives from 195 countries to take strong measures to cut carbon emissions and minimize the impacts of climate change. The key components of this climate deal, a 31-page document that is the first one of its kind, are highlighted as follows:

  • The climate pact calls for limiting the increase in the global average temperature to just under 2 degrees Celsius above what average temperatures were during pre-industrial era. Currently, conclusions from climate scientists suggest that an increase in atmospheric temperatures of more than 2 degrees Celsius would result in catastrophic impacts, including devastating floods, food and water shortages and more powerful storms.
  • Also stated in the pact is that, countries should reach global peaking of GHGs as soon as possible. The pact recognizes that peaking will take longer for developing country parties; therefore, it states that those parties undertake rapid reductions after peaking.
  • The agreement points out the vitality of minimizing and addressing the anticipated damages associated with climate change. This affects countries that suffer the most from frequent extreme weather events and long-term impacts.
  • The deal requires all 195 countries to update and submit their plans to cut GHGs by 2020 and on a five year basis thereafter. The deal also requires a follow-up to assess how countries are doing in meeting their updated goals-starting in 2023 and also on a five year basis thereafter.
  • The agreement highlights a global standard system to monitor and report GHG emissions. In the past, developing countries, including China and India, had advocated for two separate metrics to account GHG emissions.
  • The deal points to establishing climate-related financing, whereby the 195 would collectively commit to at least $100 billion dollars on an annual basis.

(Source: Sewell Chan, The New York Times)

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Global energy negotiations require straight talk

(Source: The Hill)

As the United States engages in the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, activists here at home have ramped up pressure to repeal so-called "subsidies" for the oil and gas industry. A recent Oil Change International study proclaims that the United States provides more than $20 billion in national subsidies to the fossil fuels industry. A similar report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this year puts the price tag at $5.3 trillion worldwide. There's only one problem: American energy producers receive very few subsidies. What these advocate groups have done is consciously conflate subsidies — payments to companies financed by taxpayers — with tax deductions and other tax provisions meant to ensure businesses pay taxes only on their real income. The distinction between those two classifications is important, and when the line is blurred it moves the debate onto faulty ground. Subsidies prop up businesses or industries with government funding. Often they are used to support causes policymakers deem a priority, but that aren't able to make it on their own. Renewables like solar and wind, for example, are the beneficiaries of some of these subsidies. The purpose being to get those technologies to a place where they can operate independently, thereby expanding the country's energy portfolio.

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Bernie Sanders Unveils Forceful Climate Change Plan

(Source: The Huffington Post)

Setting himself apart from front-runner Hillary Clinton, Sanders offers a hard target to reduce carbon pollution beyond the current administration, vowing to cut emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. To achieve that, he would mandate emitters pay for the amount of greenhouse gases they pump into the air -- a policy that remains immovable in Congress. In the sweeping 16-page plan, Sanders lays out an agenda that would repeal fossil fuel industry subsidies; dedicate funding toward a clean-energy workforce of 10 million jobs; ban oil, coal, and gas lobbyists from working in the White House; and return billions to the communities hit hardest by the transition to cleaner energy sources and extreme weather tied to climate change.

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Oil Prices Plunge 5% After OPEC Stands Pat

(Source: The New York Times)

Crude oil prices slid a further 5 percent on Monday to fall to their lowest levels since the 2009 global recession, pummeled by the fading chance that Saudi Arabia would cut production to halt the commodity’s yearlong slide.In only 16 months global oil prices have collapsed from over $110 a barrel to less than half that, and the oil industry in the United States and around the world is reeling from its worst crisis since the late 1990s. On Monday, the American benchmark broke the $38-a-barrel mark, a price that makes drilling and completing wells a losing proposition in almost all oil fields around the country.

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Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy

(Source: The Guardian)

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez. In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts. It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina. Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation. Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

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Google just announced a gigantic new clean energy purchase

(Source: The Washington Post)

Google, the company that has in many ways been the leader of corporate clean energy purchasing, has announced its biggest new move yet.With the ultimate goal of powering everything that it does with clean energy, Google has been signing global “power purchase agreements” to buy clean energy, usually wind, in long term contracts. This electricity can then be used, either directly or indirectly, to power its data centers, which are major consumers of power. Thus, your Google searches, e-mails, and more are increasingly powered by wind and solar. Up until now, Google had purchased around 1.2 gigawatts of clean energy capacity around the world — a gigawatt is a billion watts. Indeed, prior to this announcement, the company says it had “already committed to purchase more renewable energy than any other company.” Now, Google  is adding 842 megawatts (.842 gigawatts) of additional capacity, across a variety of projects, to bring its total to an impressive 2 gigawatts.

 

 

 

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Can eating less meat help reduce climate change?

(Source: BBC)

As the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) draws near, the international spotlight is more focused on climate change than at any time since the Copenhagen talks of 2009. But amid all the talk of decarbonising energy and transport systems, one crucial area remains in the shadows. The livestock sector produces about 15% of global greenhouse gases, roughly equivalent to all the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet. A new report from the think tank Chatham House, Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption, argues that without concerted action to address over-consumption of meat, it will be near impossible to prevent global warming from passing the danger level of 2C.

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The hard truth behind America’s archaic crude oil embargo

(Source: The Hill)

Ask most Americans and they’ll agree there’s a broad divide between Washington and Main Street. According to a Gallup Poll earlier this fall, trust in the federal government to handle international and domestic issues has fallen to a record low. Considering the Obama administration’s apparent deference to ideology over evidence, we can see why confidence in Washington has plummeted. Take, for example, the ongoing debate about easing restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports.

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Why are so many Americans skeptical about climate change?

(Source: The Washington Post)

Climate change has long been a highly polarizing topic in the United States, with Americans lining up on opposite sides depending on their politics and worldview. Now a scientific study sheds new light on the role played by corporate money in creating that divide. The report, a systematic review of 20 years’ worth of data, highlights the connection between corporate funding and messages that raise doubts about the science of climate change and whether humans are responsible for the warming of the planet. The analysis suggests that corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.

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Most of Britain's major cities pledge to run on green energy by 2050

(Source: The Guardian)

Most of Britain’s major cities will be run entirely on green energy by 2050, after the leaders of more than 50 Labour-run councils made pledges to eradicate carbon emissions in their areas. The move will also pile pressure on the London mayoral candidates to make a similar pledge for the capital, with some Labour-led London boroughs, including Southwark, Lambeth and Greenwich, having already signed the promise. Ahead of the crucial Paris talks, similar pledges have been made by the leaders of other towns and cities around the world, including Copenhagen, New York, Sydney, Malmö and Munich.

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