Monthly Archives: January 2012
The Northern Gateway Pipeline is pitting U.S. interests against the Chinese, and Alberta against B.C. Five oil sands companies have revealed themselves as supporters of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, lending their names to a massive infrastructure proposal that has stirred intense opposition in Western Canada. Cenovus Energy Inc., MEG Energy Corp., Nexen Inc., Suncor Energy Marketing Inc. (a subsidiary of Suncor Energy Inc.),and Total E&P Canada (the domestic arm of French giant Total SA) have each spent money to help develop the $6.6-billion pipeline which, if built, will funnel massive volumes of oil sands crude to the West Coast for export to California and Asia. Gateway’s financial backers also include Chinese state-owned energy company Sinopec. And there are others who have yet to step forward. Market sources have said they believe China National Petroleum Corp. also holds an interest in Gateway. Sinochem Group, another Chinese energy firm, is also believed to support Gateway.
Against this backdrop a story is emerging that Canadian environmental groups receive some funding from US charities. Canada’s Conservative government is using this as a “talking point” against the swelling opposition to the Gateway pipeline and tar sand development. The government seems to be taking a very narrow view as to what constitutes the “national interest.”
No one can deny that billions of dollars of foreign investment will impact the Canadian economy. It seems easier, however, for the government to deny that billions more tonnes of greenhouse gases will impact the Canadian (and global) climate. Despite the petro-dollar funded denials it remains an “inconvenient truth” that we are mortgaging the health and welfare of our children and grandchildren in the rush to exploit the last remaining fossil fuel deposits and get them to market across BC’s pristine northern forests and rivers.
Oil and gas geologists know very well what global warming is doing to arctic ice and northern tundra. They drive through the infestation of warm weather pine beetles in BC’s boreal forests. For them it is merely the cost of doing business, knowing that they are not even being asked to pay those costs. Those costs are being passed on to our children in the form of catastrophic climate changes now occurring faster than the IPCC’s worst predictions.
Environmentalists are raising the alarm because the facts are truly alarming. This is much more than merely an environmental or economic issue. It is an eldership issue of survival. Elders have understood for generations the dangers of reckless exploitation and resource exhaustion. Those cultures that heed the warnings survive and thrive while those that don’t disappear into the mists of history. The difference now is that the impacts are global and there are no more uncharted territories to shelter the survivors.
Ecology has no national interest. Iroquois Law is often described as decreeing that decisions must consider seven generations. Sadly, governments are bound instead to election cycles and oil companies are bound to balance sheets and annual reports. Eldership transcends those limitations and never was there a greater need for elders to be heard. Canada’s national interest is a sustainable future for its next generation. Who will speak for them?
The most important thing out of Durban to understand is that we have not yet succeeded in moving the world away from a dangerous trajectory towards well above two degrees of global warming.
In Durban, the political space has been kept alive for further negotiations, but without political will leading to a big increase in mitigation action from developed countries, and investment to support such action in the larger developing countries, global temperatures will continue to rise, moving the world from increasingly frequent extreme climatic events towards tipping points and catastrophe.
The period between now and 2020 is a crucial time for action. To raise our chances of stabilising the climate (i.e. preventing a temperature rise of more than 2°C), climate science indicates that 2020 is the latest date by which emissions must have peaked and begun to decline. A legally binding agreement requiring emissions cuts from all countries before 2020 is doubtful, and thus a disaster waiting to unfold.
An increase in global temperatures of 4°C is potentially a death sentence for many countries in Africa, many Small Island States, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide.
The negotiations on adaptation were aimed at following up the agreement in Cancun last year to establish the Adaptation Framework. Agreement was reached in Durban on four elements of this:
1. Guidance on the Preparation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) was agreed. This is for least developed countries and other developing countries who wish. NAPs were agreed to be country driven, participatory and gender‐sensitive, and fit in with other national planning and development strategies, hence the guidance is not prescriptive. The agreement last year indicated that funding would be provided to meet the cost of plan preparation, and later, implementation. In Durban, all that was agreed was that an existing fund, the Least Developed countries Fund, may now also support National Adaptation Plans. This fund was established to support an earlier set of plans for least developed countries (National Adaptation Programmes of Action, (NAPAs)), which were actually defined as short term projects.
The main problems with this are that this fund, managed by the GEF, has been very slow to disburse funds to countries, and developed countries are requested to support NAP preparation, either in bilateral arrangements or through making contributions to the LDC Fund. Until long term finance is agreed, and flowing into the Green Climate Fund, the outlook for adequate support for adaptation is bleak.
2. Establishment of an Adaptation Committee was agreed. The Adaptation Committee will be the overall advisory body to the COP that will oversee all of the different adaptation activities under the UNFCCC. Its remit will be to ensure effective sharing of information on good practice in adaptation and coordination between the various regional and UN bodies that work on adaptation, as well as with other centres and networks. The Committee will have scope to organise workshops, commission reports, and establish expert groups, to assist in its work.
The Committee’s composition has been agreed, and will have a developing country majority, and while governments nominate the members, they are encouraged to nominate people with relevant expertise. The committee is encouraged to involve civil society and other relevant bodies in its work, and the meetings will be open to observers. The work programme for the first three years of the committee is to be drawn up during 2012 for approval by COP 18.
3. Agreement was reached on Loss and Damage due to Climate Change. This is related to the impacts of extreme weather events and slow onset events, and how to manage the risk associated with them. A work programme during 2012 will hold workshops and prepare reports for consideration at COP 18. This agreement was a stronger outcome than we expected.
4. Agreement on two further years of knowledge sharing and capacity building programme on understanding the impacts of climate change, and adaptation. There will be workshops on water, climate impacts and adaptation, and on ecosystem‐based adaptation. Support will be developed on national adaptation planning. The two year programme is to be undertaken with close involvement of partner organisations, who are invited to share their ideas for further activities within the programme, and to offer support to meet the needs of governments.
Technology & Adaptation
Decisions on technology were linked with decisions on adaptation, since access to knowledge and technologies is vital for enabling adaptation. This led to the establishment of the Technology Executive Committee, and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). Key roles of the CTCN include:
- Identifying currently available climate friendly technologies for mitigation and adaptation that meet their key low‐carbon and climate‐resilient development needs; and
- Facilitating adaptation and the deployment of currently available technologies to meet local needs and circumstances. An open tender process will be invited for hosting the Climate Technology Centre in 2012.
The Road Ahead
All of these fairly positive decisions have to be seen against the backdrop of postponement of strong and binding emissions targets on developed countries, and a lack of commitment on finance after the end of 2012. In this context, adaptation will become extremely difficult for many communities, and poorer countries will struggle to develop and implement programmes to help protect their people.
Rachel Berger is the Practical Action Climate Change Policy Advisor, DEW Point Development Resource Centre, United Kingdom. The news item has been reproduced with the kind permission of DEW Point.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.