Friday, 17 November 2017

Climate Change: Australia Almost Comes Last In World Ranking

NEWS.com.auCharis Chang (with AFP)

WE’VE come up short in an important world ranking of more than 50 countries in what has been described as embarrassing.


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AUSTRALIANS are proud of their clean, green environment but when it comes to cutting pollution, the country has been ranked fourth-last in the world.
The Climate Change Performance Index uses four key categories to rank more than 50 nations — greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, clean energy, and climate policy.
It rated Australia 57 out of 60 countries, although the top three positions were not filled because no one achieved a “very high” rating.
Only Iran, Republic of Korea and Saudi Arabia performed worse than Australia on overall performance to tackle climate pollution. Even China managed to beat Australia.
Overall Australia was among 15 countries rating as “very low” in general, including the United States, which was ranked 56 just ahead of Australia.
Sweden was the best performing country, followed by Lithuania, Morocco and Norway.
The United Kingdom was ranked eight, New Zealand was 33 and China was 41.
A separate Climate Action Tracker analysis also released this week found US President Donald Trump’s pullout from the Paris Agreement would push up global temperatures by nearly 0.5C, with temperatures on track to reach 3.2C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Even if all 196 countries, including the US, honoured their carbon-cutting pledges global, temperatures are still expected to increase by 2.8C.
Countries need to step up their efforts if warming is to be kept under 2C and avoid the impacts of climate change like extreme drought, deadly heatwaves and super storms.
Even though the climate index still rates China’s performance as “low”, analysis released by the Lowy Institute notes the country had become an active participant in climate diplomacy.

Australia's carbon emissions according to data from the Department of Environment and Energy, March 2017 Quarterly Emission Results, Released August 2017. Source: Australian Conservation Foundation. Source:Supplied
Australia's carbon emissions according to data from the Department of Environment and Energy, March 2017 Quarterly Emission Results, Released August 2017. Source: Australian Conservation Foundation. Source:Supplied
Report author Dr Sam Geall, executive editor of chinadialogue, said China’s domestic commitments were consistent with its climate pledges and go even further.
China plans to roll out a nationwide emissions trading scheme, the biggest in the world, in late 2017. It also leads the world in the technologies needed to mitigate climate change.
“Chinese companies account for five of the top six global solar photovoltaic manufacturers, and seven of the top 15 wind turbine manufacturers,” Dr Geall’s analysis noted.
“Four of the five biggest renewables deals in 2016 were made by Chinese companies.
“China is also the dominant manufacturer of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, which among other things are used in electric cars.”
While Dr Geall believes it is unlikely China will take a leadership position on climate change in the short term, it may eventually show greater ambition in the future.
The Climate Change Performance Index rated China’s climate efforts as higher than Australia’s.
The index takes into account pollution per person, developments in the last five years in absolute pollution and how Australia’s targets compare to the action needed to keep global warming below 2C.
In particular, Australia was rated as one of the “very low” performing countries in three of the index’s categories: for efforts to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency and to develop a decent climate policy.
Efforts on clean energy achieved a slightly higher “low” category.
Australia’s poor rating has been described as an embarrassment by the Australian Conservation Foundation, which was an adviser to the assessment.

Chinese workers ride in a boat through a large floating solar farm project under construction by the Sungrow Power Supply Company on a lake caused by a collapsed and flooded coal mine on June 13, 2017 in Huainan, Anhui province, China. The floating solar field is billed as the largest in the world. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images  Source:Getty Images
“This assessment has found Australia has the highest level of climate pollution per person,” ACF chief executive officer Kelly O’Shanassy said.
“This is a national embarrassment for a wealthy nation with so much at risk from climate change and such abundant sun and wind that could be harvested for clean energy.”
Ms O’Shanassy said Australia’s climate pollution was on the rise and the continued reliance on burning coal and gas for power contributed significantly to climate change. Australia’s exports were also creating more pollution overseas.
“Australia’s continued failure to put in place a robust and comprehensive national plan to cut pollution is raising alarm bells around the world,” Ms O’Shanassy said.
The report was prepared by Germanwatch, Climate Action Network Europe and the NewClimate Institute, and was released at the latest round of major UN climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany.
It noted that experts had emphasised the need for Australia to strengthen its 2030 targets, especially in terms of emissions reduction and renewable energy.
Australians should be demanding governments implement credible policies to meet targets, the report added.
Opposition spokesman on climate change, Mark Butler, said the Federal Government’s own data suggested Australia would have zero emissions reductions by 2030 on 2005 levels.
“(Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull is incapable of standing up to the hard-right fossils of his party and implementing credible climate policy,” the Labor MP said in a statement.
“Not only will Turnbull fail our international obligations, he is failing future generations of Australians.”
A national review of climate policy was due next month and Ms O’Shanassy said the poor rating should give the Turnbull Government a push to deliver a strong plan.
“Our elected representatives need to put in place a comprehensive plan to cut climate pollution, swiftly transition to clean energy and end the burning of coal and gas,” she said.

* None of the countries achieved positions one to three. No country is doing enough to prevent dangerous climate change.  **rounded © Germanwatch 2017
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Many Small Island Nations Can Adapt To Climate Change With Global Support

The ConversationMartina Grecequet | Ian Noble | Jessica Hellmann

COP 22 President Salaheddine Mezouar from Morocco, right, hands over a gavel to Fiji’s prime minister and president of COP 23 Frank Bainimarama, left, during the opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Island nations are on the front lines of global climate change. Heavy rainfall and rising sea levels are eroding shorelines and causing flooding. Warming and increasingly acidic oceans are damaging coral reefs that support fisheries and attract tourists. Some island communities are already moving or making plans to relocate.
Fiji, a chain of 300 islands in the South Pacific, currently is chairing the meeting of the Conference of Parties of the U.N. Climate Change Convention in Bonn, Germany. Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji and president of COP-23, has called on all nations to take climate action because “we are all vulnerable to climate change and we all need to act.”
Fiji’s leading role in Bonn presents an opportunity for island nations to raise their voices. Islanders know that sea level rise could completely eliminate their homelands. Their concerns, symbolized by the Fijian canoe on display at the Bonn conference center, have been a legitimate and powerful force in international climate change negotiations.
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But it would be a mistake to assume that their only option is to abandon their islands now or at some future point. Many of these countries are taking steps today to adapt to climate change impacts. If the international community can agree on ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions and aggressively pursue local adaptation, it may be possible to preserve many island nations and cultures.

Measuring vulnerability
We all participate in an initiative hosted at the University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Initiative that works to measure individual nations’ vulnerability to climate change. This index is designed to help governments, businesses and communities prioritize investments for a more efficient response to immediate global challenges, such as food security.
The index combines information on future impacts of climate change, such as changes in a country’s crop yields; sensitivity to climate hazards, such as that nation’s dependence on agriculture; and its capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change through steps such as increasing protected ecosystem areas. The first two measures describe a country’s risk, while the third indicates its ability to reduce that risk.
The index shows that not all island nations are equally vulnerable or prepared to deal with impacts of climate change. Among Pacific Island nations, Papua New Guinea is the most vulnerable – on a par with countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Fiji, on the other hand, is less vulnerable to change and more prepared to invest in adaptive measures. Some nations, such as the Republic of Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu, are considering international migration as an option for adapting.
Many island nations are taking steps to reduce their climate risk. For example, Fiji is working to expand its economy by investing in public infrastructure, adjusting taxes and reorienting away from agriculture toward services and tourism to generate capital for investments in climate adaptation. Palau is expanding its network of marine protected areas to reduce stresses on its reefs and fisheries. And Tonga is slowly decreasing its economic reliance on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture.

The prospect of relocating is wrenching for many residents of Tuvalu and Kiribati.

Moving out of vulnerable zones
Development agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank, are prepared to fund projects to help island states adapt to climate change, using both hard solutions, such as sea walls and levees, and softer solutions, such as replanting coastal mangroves or installing early warning systems in case of floods. But many communities are already finding that they need to relocate away from flood-prone areas of their islands, which is a socially and economically disruptive process.
In Fiji, for example, coastal communities are threatened by extreme storms and rising sea levels that cause flooding, especially at high tide. The government has established a Climate Change Mitigation Fund with its own resources to help relocate villages that wish to move. The village of Vunidogolo was the first to move in January 2014, settling on a site on their traditional land one mile inland. Villagers were even able to move their cemetery so that their ancestors were not abandoned.
Hundreds of other Fijian villages are at risk. About 40 were planning similar moves when Cyclone Winston struck Fiji in February 2016. The storm caused extensive damage: Recovery costs are estimated at US$1 billion, which represents about 20 percent of Fiji’s gross domestic product. Assistance for recovering and “building back better” has flowed into Fiji, and more villages now are considering relocating.
The Fijian government is taking a proactive approach to financing climate-related needs. In October 2017 Fiji became the first emerging nation to issue a sovereign green bond, raising $50 million to fund climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. Proceeds from green bonds are exclusively applied to projects that have clear environmental benefits and promote low-carbon, climate-resilient growth. They are attractive to investors seeking socially responsible portfolios, such as pension funds. Some of the proceeds from these bonds will be used to create more resilient village societies.
Palau has created extensive marine reserves to protect coral reefs and other ocean habitats, which it relies on for food and tourism revenues. Jeff~, CC BY
Adapting locally
Moving to new locations off-island is not an easy solution for many islanders. Those who move will need income sources and social contacts in their new locations. And some moves may actually put migrants at greater climate risk – for example, moving to urban areas in coastal regions that are exposed to flooding.
New Zealand leaders are considering creating a new visa for people migrating from areas affected by climate change. While this is a positive step, the first priority for funding agencies should be to support local adaptation within island nations.
For example, one recent study found that while the shapes of low-lying atolls may shift under the force of waves and tides, these islands will not necessarily erode as long as they retain enough sediment. But human activities such as sand mining, sea wall construction and land reclamation amplify shoreline losses. Reducing these impacts is essential for island states seeking to adapt to climate change. Funding agencies can support those efforts.
Pacific Islanders have lived on atolls for at least 2,000 years, and have adapted to life there in spite of isolated conditions and limited resources. By pursuing climate adaptation strategies that build on their accumulated knowledge, and driving development that is economically and environmentally sustainable, they can minimize the number of communities that may have to move to other shores.

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U.N. Climate Projects, Aimed At The Poorest, Raise Red Flags

New York Times

Tidal flooding on South Tarawa, one of the atolls that makes up Kiribati. Credit Josh Haner/The New York Times
A landmark pledge seven years ago by the world’s richest nations to spend billions to help developing countries tackle climate change seemed like a godsend for Kiribati, the Pacific island nation threatened by rising seas.
The result of that promise was the Green Climate Fund. But Kiribati — like many of the poorest countries most vulnerable to climate change — has yet to see any project funding.
Instead, many of the projects that have won early backing were approved despite concerns raised by current and former observers on the fund’s board over whether officials had done due diligence on projects — especially on those involving the private sector, which make up half of the approximately $2.6 billion in project financing authorized so far.
“We raised our objections, but the gavel just came down,” said Liane Schalatek, one of two civil society observers on the fund’s board and associate director at the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, an environmental group associated with the Greens party in Germany.
“There’s a real lack of transparency,” she said.
The observers took issue, for example, with a proposed project that would hand out $265 million in equity and grants to Geeref Next, a Luxembourg-based investment fund that proposed to finance renewable energy or energy efficiency projects in about 30 countries — with no explicit plan to disclose what those projects would be.
The fund’s 24-member board approved the proposal.
The board observers have also asked why the fund’s finances, set up to back locally owned projects that reach the most vulnerable communities, were going toward private-sector enterprises led by global investment firms — like $110 million in loans and grants for solar projects in Kazakhstan led by London-based United Green Energy and the investment arm of Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund.
Those concerns also went unaddressed.
  • $25 million in equity and grants administered from Mauritius, a corporate tax haven, for off-grid solar power in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda;
  • $50 million in loans and grants to repair a Soviet-era dam in Tajikistan, even though experts have warned that hydropower there is vulnerable to the retreat of the snow melt that feeds dams;
  • $9 million in loans to a renewable energy project in rural Mongolia that observers worried would be used to power coal mining.
The Green Climate Fund also faces challenges on the donor front.
This year, President Trump said the United States would no longer pay into the fund — a snub that accompanied the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
The United States had promised to contribute $3 billion — more than any other country, though less than other donors on a per-capita basis — of which the Obama administration delivered $1 billion.
Industrialized nations have indeed pledged to generate $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and address the effects of climate change. The fund has so far secured $10.3 billion in financing.
To be sure, the climate fund has also enjoyed some notable successes, including private projects. The off-grid solar projects in Rwanda and Kenya, for example, have been praised for their focus on reaching remote communities.
But the board observers’ concerns underscore the challenges facing the fund, now a pillar of the Paris climate pact, as negotiators gather this week at United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany.
Critically, the early mix of approvals has meant that less than a tenth of the funding has gone to the kind of projects that make up the fund’s mandate: those owned and controlled by the poorer nations themselves.
An aerial view of North Tarawa. The government has said rising seas and extreme storms “threaten the very existence” of the country. Credit Josh Haner/The New York Times 
“There’s little enough, as it is, of public funds for climate, and so much of it is going toward sweetening returns for the private sector,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development and another observer on the fund’s board.
The fund’s growing pains reflect the competing pressures — from its donors, from the private sector, and from the countries it is meant to assist. Eager to show taxpayers back home that the fund is being put to work, donor countries have put pressure on the fund to ramp up its disbursements. Similar pressures arise from bank’s need to raise private investment to make up for the expected shortfall in contributions from industrialized countries.
The fund’s secretariat did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But in response to some of these criticisms, the bank has adopted a monitoring framework meant to strengthen transparency at the fund. The fund also recently set up an independent evaluation unit to assess the effectiveness of its projects.
“I hope we can learn, and learn fast, about what works for climate change action,” Jyotsna Puri, the head of the new unit, said in an interview posted on the fund’s site last month. “Otherwise, just imagine the waste of resources.”
For places like Kiribati, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Much of the country, a string of atolls and reef islands that straddles the Equator, lies no higher than six feet above sea level. The prospect of rising seas and more extreme storms threatens “the very existence” of large segments of the population, the government has said.
Officials in Kiribati have said they desperately need funding for desalination plants to provide safe water for the 110,000 residents of country, where much of the water has become contaminated by seawater intrusion into groundwater. The government is also seeking to elevate land on its main atoll and invest in renewable energy to end the country’s almost complete reliance on fossil fuels.
But with little diplomatic and financial heft, officials have struggled to secure funding.
“We can’t do it alone,” the president of Kiribati, Taneti Mamau, said in a video message before the Bonn meeting. “We need the hands of our partners and those who are ready to assist.”
The fund has pledged to improve the quality of its projects. It is also working to improve access for countries applying for smaller projects of less than $10 million.
“Unfortunately so far, we have not taken the observers’ comments into consideration for our decision. That is true,” said Omar El-Arini, a member of the climate fund’s board. He stressed that his personal views were not representative of the entire board.
“But we just started. There are competing interests — from countries, from the private sector, and we are trying to wade through this maze of conflicting interests,” he said. “We will get there.”
Kiribati scored a small victory this year when it qualified for a $586,000 grant to help the country prepare a new application to the fund.
The island nation, however, has also taken some heart-wrenching measures.
In 2014, Kiribati bought 8 square miles of land in Fiji, more than a thousand miles away, as an insurance policy against the rising oceans.
Mr. Mamau stressed that migration from Kiribati would be an absolute last resort.
“The idea is to build Kiribati’s resilience,” he said. “We don’t believe that Kiribati will sink like the Titanic.”

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Thursday, 16 November 2017

'Ringing Alarm Bells': Australia Near The Bottom Of The Heap For Climate Action

Fairfax - Peter Hannam

Australia ranks as one of the world's worst performing nations when it comes to climate action, with only South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia faring worse among 56 countries scrutinised by 300 international analysts.
The annual Climate Change Performance Index, led by Germanwatch and other groups, listed Australia as "very low-performing" for its greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and climate policy. It scored a "low' rating for renewable energy.

Trees in Australian cities threatened by climate change
Research from the University of Melbourne has found that street trees and urban forests are facing a grave threat if emissions keep rising.

The results were released as talks in Bonn, Germany, aimed at shoring up support for the 2015 Paris climate accord enter their final few days.
As in the past three years, Australia has foundered near the bottom of the major tables, prompting the commentators to call on the Turnbull government to "sufficiently implement credible policies" to meet its Paris targets.
Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, now in Germany, earlier this week declared Australia remains committed to its pledge to slice 2005-level emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030.
Kelly O'Shanassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said Australia had the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of those assessed, and was also one of the world's largest exporters of fossil fuels.
"Australia's continued failure to put in place a robust and comprehensive national plan to cut pollution is raising alarm bells around the world," Ms O'Shanassy said, noting emissions have been increasing since 2013.
"This is a national embarrassment for a wealthy nation with so much at risk from climate change and such abundant sun and wind that could be harvested for clean energy," she said.
Australia doesn't stack up well with most other nations when it comes to climate action, an international report says. Photo: Martin Meissner
Sweden was the top-ranked nation, marked highly for its efforts to boost low-carbon sources of electricity and its increasing forest cover.
The US was among the big movers in the ranking, sliding from 35th two years ago to just one slot above Australia this year.
It got marked down for its declaration to exit the Paris agreement – a move that left it isolated after Syria – the last nation holding out – recently signed up to the accord.

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Climate Change Will Determine Humanity's Destiny, Says Angela Merkel

The Guardian

German chancellor, UN secretary general, Emmanuel Macron and others urge world’s leaders to succeed in their negotiations in Bonn
(L-R) French president, Emmanuel Macron, prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, 12-year-old Timothy Naulusala, German chancellor, Angela Merkel and Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the UN. Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA
“Climate change is an issue determining our destiny as mankind – it will determine the wellbeing of all of us,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has told the world’s nations gathered at a climate summit.
The delegates heard a series of strong political messages on Wednesday, urging them to use the final two days of the summit to complete important work on putting the landmark 2015 Paris deal into action. Without this, the world faces a devastating 3C or more of global warming.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, told the conference in Bonn of his visit to the Caribbean after this year’s hurricanes.
“The catastrophic damage of climate change is upon us and when the frontline is devastated, the whole army is lost” he said, railing against the $825bn invested in fossil fuels in 2016. “We must stop making bets on an unsustainable future.”
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, who has been among the most vocal critics of Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris deal, got the loudest applause when he committed France and European partners to filling the funding gap for the UN’s climate science panel, left by the US withdrawal. “They will not miss a single euro,” he said.
Macron also emphasised the global importance of tackling global warming, saying: “The fight against climate change is by far the most significant struggle of our times.” He also addressed the issue that underpins most disputes at the global negotiations: the responsibility of rich nations that caused climate change to pay for the solution and compensate for the damage: “Climate change adds further injustice to an already unfair world.”
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, representing African nations, said the need for faster action was urgent: “The fire is right under our feet. That is why I am expressing the extreme concern of Africa in light of the increase of disasters related to climate change. Africa suffers the loss and damage on a daily basis.”
“It is now time for the developed countries to live up to their responsibilities,” said Baron Waqa, president of Nauru and representing small island states. “Lack of resources is the problem.”
The talks in Bonn have progressed reasonably smoothly, without the drama and walkouts of previous summits. But one issue has flared up – whether rich nations are doing enough before 2020 to cut their emissions and to help poorer nations cope with the impacts of global warming.
It has been forced to the top of the agenda by the devastating floods and hurricanes seen around the world this year – as well as the meeting being run by the vulnerable island nation of Fiji. Negotiators agreed a deal on this on Wednesday, involving new stock takes of action in 2018 and 2019 and on progress towards the $100bn a year in climate funding that rich nations have promised to deliver by 2020.
The divisive issue of “loss and damage” – compensation for poor nations for the climate change damage – has been defused for now, with an expert meeting to address concerns next year. Progress has been made in drawing up the draft rules for implementing the Paris agreement, an essential step ahead of agreeing them in 2018.
Merkel, Guterres and Macron were almost upstaged by the first speech of the high-level session, given by 12-year-old Timoci Naulusala from Fiji, without any hint of nerves. Referring to the impact of Cyclone Winston in 2016, he said: “My home, my school, sources of food, money, water, were totally destroyed. My once beautiful village, which I called home, is a barren waste. Climate change is real, not a dream.”
Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and president of the summit, said: “We are not simply negotiating words on a page, but we are representing all our people and the places they call home.”
Merkel, who as an environment minister chaired the first climate summit 23 years ago, has been under pressure this week to phase out Germany’s large coal-fired power stations, which are likely to bust Germany’s climate targets.
“We still use a lot of coal, particularly lignite,” she said, acknowledging the issue is controversial, but she said jobs had to be taken into account too. She added that progress was expected in the next few days as she settles the terms of a new governing coalition with the Green and Liberal parties.
However, Prof John Schellnhuber, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and who has advised both Merkel and the pope, said the 20,000 German jobs in coal would be lost to mechanisation in any case, and were a small number compared to the 600,000 created in the wider economy each year.
Macron set out unusual detail for a head of state in his speech, saying France would close all its coal power plants by 2021 and would ban all new exploration for fossil fuel in its territories. He also said France would fund interconnectors and energy storage technology to spread renewable energy around Europe and work to push the cost of CO2 emissions to €30 a tonne, which would end the viability coal and drive out gas.

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As U.S. Sheds Role As Climate Change Leader, Who Will Fill The Void?

New York TimesLisa Friedman

Credit Photo illustration by NYT; photos by Lintao Zhang/Getty; Kham/Reuters; Daniel Leal-Olivas/A.F.P.-Getty; Jim Wilson/NYT; Alain Jocard/Pool photo; Felipe Trueba/European Pressphoto Agency; Salvatore Di Nolfi/European Pressphoto Agency 
BONN, Germany — When President Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, America officially ceded its global leadership on climate change.
The retreat had actually begun months earlier, when climate change disappeared from most government websites and vanished from America’s domestic and international agendas.
No longer would the United States federal government address climate change at home or raise global warming with ministers and heads of state, as former President Barack Obama and his cabinet routinely did.
It was a dramatic shift, and it was meant to be.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Mr. Trump said in repudiating the accord. “The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”
Since then, others have taken up the climate leadership role. In Europe, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France have vowed that the Paris agreement will flourish without the United States. President Xi Jinping of China and the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, are promoting their countries as climate change champions.
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, has pulled nations together to demand deeper emissions cuts. And American governors, mayors and business leaders have forged their own coalition, even taking over the United States pavilion at United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, this week.
Political analysts say it’s not clear whether any of them can replace the United States and the immense diplomatic machinery it commands when engaged on an issue. Here’s a look at some of the strengths those leaders bring and the challenges they face.

Credit Photo illustration by NYT; photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images    
1. Xi Jinping
President Xi Jinping didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name at the opening of the Communist Party Congress last month, but his meaning was clear when he declared that China had taken a “driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change.” He also criticized countries that “retreat into self-isolation.”
Many political analysts say China has indeed moved dramatically on climate change, both to meet its own pledge under the Paris accord to cap carbon emissions by 2030, and to start the world’s largest carbon market and swiftly expand the use of electric cars. In recent months, China has hosted ministerial-level meetings on clean energy and joined Canada and the European Union to lead discussions on climate.
Robert N. Stavins, the director of the environmental economics program at Harvard University who was in China recently to discuss climate change, said he had seen a dramatic shift in tenor among Chinese officials. “Having been engaged very, very closely on climate change with the Obama administration as a co-leader, China appears quite content to move from co-leadership to sole leadership,” he said.
Yet skepticism abounds. While the country is ahead of its Paris target, China still burns more coal than any other country. It also remains to be seen how eager the country will be to allow greater transparency of its own carbon reduction efforts, and many fear it will revert to old demands that it and other developing countries be treated with softer rules.

Credit Photo illustration by NYT; photo by Kham/Reuters
2. Justin Trudeau
For many years Canada was considered a laggard on climate change, leaving the Kyoto Protocol and rarely making an impression at United Nations negotiations.
That all changed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who cozied up to panda bears and declared “Canada is back” at the Paris global warming talks in 2015. Mr. Trudeau said he was “deeply disappointed” in the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris deal, declaring “Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change.”
Since then, he has made good on much of that goal — doubling his country’s contribution to the United Nations science body and sliding into America’s place in some international arenas. In September, for example, Canada hosted a meeting of the world’s largest economies to discuss climate change. American officials in the George W. Bush administration had created that gathering, originally known as the Major Economies Forum, and it continued under Mr. Obama. The Trump administration essentially abandoned it this year.
“If the U.S. is going to step back, we’re going to step up,” Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, said.
But the country is still struggling to deliver meaningful climate change policy at home, and Mr. Trudeau in recent months has approved bitumen pipelines and liquid natural gas projects. Activists in Canada say if Mr. Trudeau wants to be a true leader, he’ll have to reject new fossil fuel infrastructure — something that will be a steep and perhaps unmeetable challenge.

Credit Photo illustration by NYT; photos by Daniel Leal-Olivas/A.F.P.-Getty; Jim Wilson/NYT
3. State and local U.S. leaders
Perhaps no group has made a bigger splash on the world stage this year than the coalition of United States governors, mayors and businesses who call themselves the We Are Still In coalition. Informally led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California; Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, the group has vowed to uphold the Paris agreement and move ahead with policies to fight climate change.
When the Trump administration opted not to have a United States pavilion at the Bonn climate talks to highlight American efforts on climate change, Mr. Bloomberg and others agreed to pay for it. Now the American pavilion is hosting a sort of shadow delegation of local leaders who say they are representing a different face of government. “I feel very strongly America should be represented there,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Yet without participation from more states, particularly those that are fossil-fuel heavy, the United States as a whole will still fall short of the Paris pledge, several analyses have found.

Credit Photo illustration by NYT; photos by Alain Jocard/Pool; Felipe Trueba/European Pressphoto Agency
4. Angela Merkel & Emmanuel Macron
The Obama administration gets a lot of credit for helping to forge the Paris Agreement, but in reality it was Europe that insisted on the accord in the first place. Since Mr. Trump’s withdrawal announcement, European leaders have lost no chance to reassert themselves as the guardians of global climate change ambition.
Mr. Macron in particular has continued to champion the agreement hammered out in his nation’s capital. He has invited American scientists who work on climate change to move to France, and pressed Mr. Trump several times to remain in the deal. In December, France will host a celebration of the Paris Agreement, to which the United States has not yet been invited. Ms. Merkel put climate change at the center of a Group of 20 summit of the world’s largest economies in Hamburg, Germany, this year.
It’s not clear how much those leaders’ efforts will shift United States policy. As Frank V. Maisano, a partner at the law firm Bracewell who represents energy clients, said recently, “Trump’s supporters don’t care that Macron is yelling at him. They like that.”

Credit Photo Illustration by NYT; photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi/European Pressphoto Agency
5. António Gutteres, U.N. secretary general
Mr. Gutteres stepped into his new role in January, and those who work with him say the former prime minister of Portugal jumped in with both feet. Mr. Guterres made sure climate change was highlighted during the United Nations General Assembly, meeting with former Vice President Al Gore and Governor Brown of California to discuss ways the United Nations can promote solutions. He also opened a special session to discuss climate change and its impact on small islands after several devastating hurricanes battered the Caribbean.
Robert C. Orr, the dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and a special adviser to Mr. Guterres on climate change, said the United Nations leader was “putting his own stamp” on climate change by hosting a major summit at United Nations headquarters in New York in 2018.

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Pacific Island Nations Urge World Leaders To Act As Islands Expected To Sink

NEWS.com.au - Matt Young

AUSTRALIA’S tropical island neighbours may exist today, but their leaders have urged us to help them from sinking.

How climate change will affect us.

A LARGE swath of Pacific Island nations are slowly being eaten away until residents will be forced to evacuate and the islands eventually sink into the sea — and it’s coming sooner than we think.
This modern-day Atlantis is thanks to sea levels across small island nations that have seen a dramatic rise over the past few decades, a rate of up to 3-4 times larger than the global average. Tuvalu, in the western Pacific Ocean, will reportedly be uninhabitable by 2050, while its island neighbour Kiribati, is expected to be fully submerged by 2100.
The Maldives, which has the lowest elevation in the world and a population of 427,000, may also have sunk by the end of the century.
It has led experts — including Professor Tim Flannery, climate change expert and Professor at La Trobe University — to believe we are “on a trajectory that will see those nations compromised”.
Five reef islands in the Solomon Islands have already been lost forever while a further six have been completely eroded. Last year, the island of Nuatambu had already lost half of its habitable area.
Professor Flannery told news.com.au The Maldives, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu were most at risk.
“It’s very much on their minds, they’re trying to work out how to deal with it,” Mr Flannery told news.com.au.



Scientists are convinced more and more of these tiny islands at risk of sinking into the sea in the next 30 years and Pacific Island leaders have gathered to urge its neighbours, including Australia, to take action to save their dwindling nations.
“There only remains a few years before we exceed carbon dioxide levels that will make temperature rise to levels that will see many parts of the Pacific disappear,” the president of Nauru, Baron Waqa, said during a meeting with Pope Francis at climate talks in Germany this month.
“The president is right, it’s very concerning times, particularly if you live in a small island nation,” Mr Flannery said.
Mr Flannery said the threat of sinking islands was real and a “widespread phenomenon” affecting low lying islands and beaches — and it seems the locals agree.
“There is overwhelming evidence that if we do not wake up now and act, we will hasten the calamities that await us and threaten our future survival and existence,” read an article in Fiji’s Sun Online.
“Those, who live in coastal settlements in Fiji, threatened by the encroaching sea, know. Those, whose plantations have been destroyed by sea water, know. Those, who have been relocated from their ancestral site because it is no longer safe to live there, know. Those, whose homes have been destroyed, know.
“In a nutshell, we need to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions. Otherwise, we and our posterity face a grim future.”
An artist's drawing, based on an undated satellite photo, provided by Auckland University, shows islands of the Funafuti Atoll of Tuvalu in the South Pacific. The dotted lines indicate the coast lines in 1984 while the solid line represents where the coast line of the islands were as of 2004. Source:AP
Some scientists worry for years that many of the tiny, low-lying islands throughout the South Pacific will eventually disappear under rising sea levels. Source:AP
Rising sea levels are considered an “existential threat” to the inhabitants of these islands and combined with melting glaciers, some anxious nations are already planning their escape.
In 2014, Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, purchased land 2000 kilometres away in Fiji, as rising tides continue to besiege the tiny nation.
“I carry a huge burden and responsibility,” Enele Sopoaga, the prime minister of Tuvalu, 965 kilometres north of Fiji, told a climate summit in 2015.
“It keeps me awake at night. Will we survive? Or will we disappear under the sea?”
It comes as New Zealand ponders becoming the first nation in the world to create a new visa category for Pacific Islanders based on island displacement.



For many island nations like Kiribati, it comes as a welcome proposal. Coastal erosion and freshwater contamination have already altered the lives of Kiribati’s 110,000 citizens and the future for the island looks grim.
“It’s hard to say how this will unfold but many of those nations are already making agreements to deal with the problem as it develops,” Mr Flannery said.
“Things are happening, we hope it doesn’t unravel so quickly that it will cause a big crisis but people are aware of it and they are adapting.
Mr Flannery explained that not only are the islands at threat of disappearing into the ocean, but residents were threatened with loss of freshwater and agriculture before the cataclysmic event.
“As sea water rises it starts to penetrate the freshwater on the land, that’s the most immediate threat for a lot of the islands,” Mr Flannery said.
“Beach and coastal erosion and flooding is another threat. With these two factors it’s entirely possible within the next 30 years some islands could be rendered uninhabitable.”



While Professor Flannery said it was impossible to predict the future with 100 per cent accuracy, he said it was likely we would see evacuations of various Pacific Islands over the next three decades.
“After all there’s already been a few very small islands that people have left and climate impact has been one of the factors. It’s probable that it will happen again.
While Australia has committed a $300 million climate change package for the Pacific, experts say it’s not enough, and are demanding a moratorium on coal mines to stop the threat of carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, though Australia says it is on track to meet its Paris Agreement commitment to reduce emissions, it hasn’t reassured Pacific leaders who pointed out approximately two-thirds of the coal made in Australia will be sent predominantly to India.
“We should be doing more to help those nations,” Mr Flannery said, citing the end of coal mining would be the “easiest fix”.
A man bites to kill a fish he caught in a fishing net. Fishing has been the main diet of Kiribati but in recent years, the fish population has decreased in the oceans and it becomes increasingly difficult to live on fishing. Picture: Jonas Gratzer Source:Supplied
Though it’s not all doom and gloom. National Geographic reports some island have flourished in the past decade, with some even growing in size.
“Some islands grew by as much as 5.6 hectares in a single decade, and Tuvalu’s main atoll, Funafuti — 33 islands distributed around the rim of a large lagoon — has gained 32 hectares of land during the past 115 years,” it read.
“The islands are going to fight back as the environment changes, and adjust themselves to new equilibriums. But there may come a point when they can no longer do that, and we don’t know when that point will be reached. The biggest fear island people have is not knowing what will happen beyond that point.”


Note: Professor Tim Flannery spoke to news.com.au on behalf of An Inconvenient Sequel, Al Gore’s award-winning, impassioned, stirring and proudly memorable follow-up to 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth.

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