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#COP21: Latest Draft Climate Change Agreement Online: Responses

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You can read the draft text here. Michael Jacobs, Senior Adviser for the New Climate Economy project, and former advisor to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown: “This is a strong and carefully balanced text, but the negotiations have not finished and there are still some important issues unresolved. There is a lot of work left to do.”

Jennifer Morgan, Global Director of the World Resource Institute’s Climate Program: “While negotiations of the past usually get bogged down in the final stretch, the stakes here are too high. At this critical summit, the negotiations must be exceptional. The big question is which leaders are going to step forward to grasp this moment and make the agreement both fair and ambitious? Ten days ago leaders came to Paris calling for a strong climate agreement. Now those leaders need to start picking up the phone and work together to turn those words into action.”

Liz Gallagher Programme Leader, Climate Diplomacy E3G: “Significant progress has been made, but this is not the final outcome. It’s a text and it’s still in play, but it is a text to defend and strengthen.”

Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of IIGCC, a network of 120 institutional investors with over EUR13trn in assets under management said today: “We welcome the latest draft agreement, in particular the long term goal, the five year review cycle and possible progress on climate finance. Investors came to Paris to showcase their many actions on climate risk and to call for a robust accord that will increase both the pace and scale of investment in all aspects of a cleaner low carbon energy system.

“Through the INDC process many countries already recognise the opportunities available to them in the low carbon transition. Investors are hopeful many countries will use the five year updating process over time to bend the emissions curve well below a 2 degree pathway. As part of the immense and diverse coalition of non-state actors assembled in Paris, we encourage political leaders to secure the agreement we all know is essential.”

Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s Climate Change Advocacy Coordinator said: “As the climate talks near their final hours, compromises are being made on the strength of the deal. Over 100 climate vulnerable countries, supported by civil society, have lead a rallying call for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees to contain the worst impacts of climate change. This goal is now clearly reflected in the draft, complemented by a long-term emission reduction goal which, if implemented, can lead to the necessary phase-out of fossil fuel emissions by 2050.

“Some key issues remain open. There are still several different options for addressing loss and damage, a key concern to vulnerable developing countries, some of which would be very weak. There is even the risk of losing it from the Paris Agreement, which would be a disastrous outcome for the world’s poorest countries.”

Nigel Topping, CEO, We Mean Business: “Business thanks the French Presidency for its continued leadership of COP21. We ask you to stay strong in finalizing an ambitious climate agreement, which will send a catalytic signal to the real economy. We urge you to fulfill your promise to “leave nothing behind” – including the long-term goal and the five-year ambition mechanism, starting from 2020 onwards.”

Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of IIGCC, a network of 120 institutional investors with over EUR13tn in assets under management: “Investors came to Paris to showcase their many actions to address climate risk and to call for a robust agreement that will make it easier to increase the pace and scale of their investment in all aspects of a cleaner low carbon energy system. As part of the immense and diverse coalition of non-state actors assembled here, we encourage our political leaders to secure the agreement we all know is essential. Regardless of what form the final Paris agreement takes, the momentum now driving climate action amongst investors is irreversible.”

Dr. Bettina Menne, Climate Lead, WHO Europe: “As doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, it is our duty to safeguard the health of our families and communities. This new Presidents’ text takes us one step closer to a Paris Agreement which could secure this future, protecting the public from the impacts of climate change – the defining health issue of this century. A strong agreement in Paris must bolster community resilience, strengthen our health systems, and help tackle inequalities.”

Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Climate Change Lead, World Health Organization: “Every tonne of carbon that we put into the atmosphere turns up the planet’s thermostat, and increases risks to health. The actions that we need to take to reduce climate change would also help clean up our air and our water, and save lives. To take a medical analogy: We already have good treatments available for climate change, but we are late in starting the course. We hope that in Paris we can agree on the prescription as soon as possible.”

Professor Hugh Montgomery, Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change: “The new text is an important step in reaching an agreement in Paris. As we enter the last stretch of the negotiations, governments must be ambitious and courageous, taking action to secure our health and future, and that of our families and children. We can no longer defer. To leave Paris without a strong agreement puts us all at risk.”

Pascal Canfin, special advisor for climate, WRI: “That’s a great leap forward that needs to be confirmed in tomorrow’s final agreement. We must remain vigilant to ensure commitments are reviewed as early as possible so we don’t get locked into a 3°C pathway”

Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Advisor, said: “This penultimate text shows we are on the verge of our first truly global climate deal. This draft represents good progress and we are within touching distance of the summit.

“In these last few hours we need countries to hold their nerve and insist that the final agreement includes provisions to increase climate ambition over time. These final negotiations will be a physical endurance but the short term suffering of delegates will hopefully result in less long term suffering for the world’s most vulnerable people. There are three things that we need to see in the final version. Loss and damage to help the vulnerable, finance to help the poor, and provisions to increase climate ambition to keep global temperatures in check.

“It’s great that we have widespread agreement on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, but it’s useless without a way of getting there. Without an ambition mechanism we only have enough fuel to drive ourselves half way to our destination. For a review and resubmission process to be worth anything we need the review part to happen sooner rather than later. That’s why we must have a big political moment in 2018 where countries will be brought back to the table and forced to ramp up their climate action.”

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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