Defusing the time bomb

Mail and Guardian — 26 Nov 2010

Climate change is a priority on the South African government’s agenda. For the full article, click here.

SA gears up for a greener economy

Mail and Guardian — 26 Nov 2010

South Africa’s international commitments and direction towards cleaner energy options. For full article click here

A New Report – ‘The Emission Gap Report: Are the Copenhagen Pledges Sufficient to Limit Global Warming to 2°C or 1.5°C?’

Climate change represents one of the greatest challenges but also an inordinate opportunity to catalyze a transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient Green Economy.

This report informs governments and the wider community on how far a response to climate change has progressed over the past 12 months, and thus how far the world is on track to meet wider goals.

The pledges associated with the Copenhagen Accord of 2009 are the point of departure for this report. What might be achieved in terms of limiting a global temperature rise to 2ºC or less in the 21st century and in terms of setting the stage for a Green Economy?

And what remains to be done – what is the gap between scientific reality and the current level of ambition of nations? The analysis focuses on where global emissions need to be in around ten years time to be in line with what the science says is consistent with the 2°C or 1.5°C limits, and where we expect to be as a result of the pledges.

If the highest ambitions of all countries associated with the Copenhagen Accord are implemented and supported, annual emissions of greenhouse gases could be cut, on average, by around 7 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent by 2020.

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‘UN issues severe climate warning ahead of summit’

The world is now firmly on the path for dangerous climate change in the coming century, a major new assessment reveals today on the eve of the forthcoming UN climate conference which opens next week in Mexico.

All the pledges of the nations which have agreed to cut or limit their emissions of greenhouse gases, when added together, still leave the world far short of what is needed to halt the coming rise in global average temperatures to 2C, generally regarded as the danger threshold, according to the study from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The study sets a gloomy context for the international climate meeting opening on Monday in the Mexican resort of Cancun, which is the successor meeting to the abortive Copenhagen climate conference of last year.

Copenhagen dashed many hopes when the countries of the world failed to agree new legally binding targets to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases in an attempt to keep global warming under control. However, a last-minute agreement was patched up, known as the Copenhagen Accord, under which nations could voluntarily pledge targets or other actions to get their emissions down.

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‘China says it is world’s top greenhouse gas emitter’

Engineering News, 23 November 2010

China acknowledged on Tuesday it is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases stoking global warming, confirming what scientists have said for years but defending its right to keep growing emissions.

China’s chief negotiator in international climate change talks, Xie Zhenhua, made the comment while spelling out his government’s position ahead of negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 over a new global pact to fight global warming.

Scientists and overseas bodies have said that since 2006-2007, China’s greenhouse gas pollution has surpassed the United States’, the world’s top emitter for the 20th century.

But until now Beijing has hedged. Its officials have said it may possibly be the top emitter, that the issue needs more study or that average emissions per capita is a fairer measure to guide policy.

“Now we stand at world number one in emissions volumes,” Xie told a news conference in Beijing.

Rich countries should nevertheless lead with steep cuts in their emissions, said Xie, since over time they have contributed most to the build-up of greenhouse gases trapping more solar heat in the atmosphere, and they should give poorer countries room to grow their economies and emissions.

“China is taking steps in the hope that we can peak (in emissions) as early as possible,” he said.

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Watch Tim Jackson’s Economic Reality Check

As the world faces recession, climate change, inequity and more, Tim Jackson delivers a piercing challenge to established economic principles, explaining how we might stop feeding the crises and start investing in our future.

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‘US seeks trust, not caps, in Cancun climate talks’

Reuters, 19 November 2010

WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) – The Obama administration, weakened by political setbacks, will likely limit its role in global climate talks this month to building trust with other big polluters rather than blazing an ambitious path on binding carbon emissions cuts.

The U.S. Senate failed to pass a climate bill this summer and Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in November elections, putting out of reach any big moves by President Barack Obama to tackle global warming until at least 2013.

That means U.S. climate negotiators at the talks, being held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10 in Cancun, Mexico, lack the bargaining chips to demand that rapidly developing countries like China and India agree to binding emissions cuts.

The United States could concentrate on trying to loosen its deadlock with China on how to share the economic burden of cutting carbon emissions by teaming up with growing U.S. ally India to put pressure on Beijing.

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‘SA business leaders add voice to calls for climate change progress’

Engineering News, 19 November 2010

South African business leaders added their voice on Friday to those of hundreds of other chief executives from around the world in renewing calls for movement and collaboration on the international climate policy agenda at the upcoming meeting in Cancun, Mexico. The United Nations Climate Change Conference, encompassing the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP16), will be held from November 29 to December 10, 2010, in the picturesque coastal city.

Resources group Anglo American South Africa hosted a function in Johannesburg at which ‘The Cancun Communiqué’ was presented to the South African government. The statement, which emerged as an initiative of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, calls for “an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change” – the initiative includes major international businesses working with the University of Cambridge.

The communiqué has already secured the support of more than 250 companies based in over 36 countries, including such diverse enterprises as Alstom, BskyB, Deutsche Telekom, EDF, Enel, Nestlé, Philips Lighting, the Renault-Nissan Aliiance, Standard Chartered Bank, and Vodafone.

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‘UNFCCC climate conference to be held in Durban next year’

Engineering News, 15 November 2010

The 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP17) would be held in Durban, from November 28, 2011 to December 9, 2011.

Durban was announced as the venue for the conference in Parliament, after competing against Johannesburg and Cape Town to host the event.

“Durban as our host city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal has again done us proud and this major conference will not only boost the profile of the city and province, with expected tourism benefits, but will also allow us to showcase our diverse developmental programmes of the city and province during the COP17 meeting,” said Durban Premier Zweli Mkhize.

“Durban looks forward to welcoming as many as 40 000 COP17 visitors, which will include Heads of State, government officials, businessmen and other delegates. Durban has consistently demonstrated that we are truly a climate change leader,” added Durban mayor Obed Mlaba.

The COP17 conference will be hosted in the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre as well as the Durban Exhibition Centre, which is the biggest convention centre in South Africa.

“The benefits to the city will not only boost Durban’s tourism and hospitality sectors, which will imply the creation of new jobs, but will also generate a significant amount of international publicity for the city and continue to maintain the positive reputation created by the World Cup,” noted Durban City manager Dr Michael Sutcliffe.

Durban would also have an opportunity to showcase its greening projects, some of which were first in Africa.

The UNFCCC is an international treaty arising from the United Nation’s conference on environment and development.

The treaty aims to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions to minimise climate change. The COP is the governing body of the convention, and advances its implementation through the decisions it takes at its yearly meetings since 1995.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol introduced binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The meeting was held in Copenhagen Denmark in 2009, and was touted as disappointing because the many member States could not negotiate with finality, and no binding, legal decisions on emission reduction were made.

The COP would be held in Cancun in 2010, and started on November 29.

Just Released: ‘UNESCO Science Report 2010: The Current Status of Science around the World’

Europe, Japan and the USA (the Triad) may still dominate research and development (R&D) but they are increasingly being challenged by the emerging economies and above all by China. This is just one of the findings of the UNESCO Science Report 2010 launched in Paris on 10 November 2010.

Written by a team of independent experts who are each covering the country or region from which they hail, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 analyses the trends and developments that have shaped scientific research, innovation and higher education over the past five years, including the impact of the current global economic recession, which has hit the Triad harder than either Brazil, China or India. The report depicts an increasingly competitive environment, one in which the flow of information, knowledge, personnel and investment has become a two-way traffic. Both China and India, for instance, are using their newfound economic might to invest in high-tech companies in Europe and elsewhere to acquire technological expertise overnight. Other large emerging economies are also spending more on research and development than before, among them Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.

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