Call for a Future Powered by 100% Renewables Gains Momentum as UN Climate Talks Resume in Bonn
As negotiators get ready to meet in Bonn for the next round of UN climate change negotiations, fossil fuels remain firmly on the backfoot and momentum for a renewable energy future is gathering pace.
This week, French energy giant Total signalled it would be the latest energy company to quit coal, Newcastle, Australia—home to the world’s largest coal port—became the latest city to join the global divestment movement, and scientists, activists and celebrities joined the growing chorus calling for strong climate action ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris this December.
Negotiators now have just 10 days of formal negotiations before the climate summit begins in Paris this December.
With that in mind, delegates meeting in Bonn have an important task ahead: to make progress on what a new climate deal—to be signed in Paris—could look like, and ensure that such a deal is in line with a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels and keeping warming well below the internationally agreed 2DegC danger threshold.
To aid the task, last month the talk’s co-chairs produced a new negotiating text aimed at offering a “clearer picture” of the new agreement.
The next text is split into three main sections. The first includes all of the elements to be agreed in the core, formal agreement, while the second section contains those elements likely to be incorporated into the supporting COP [Conference of the Parties] decision. Finally, a third section of the text currently contains everything that does not yet have a home under the other two sections.
This final section includes many important and ambitious proposals, such as on a long-term goal to phase-out greenhouse gas emissions, a toolkit to allow government’s climate action plans to be regularly reviewed and scaled-up over time in line with this goal, and mechanisms that will allow communities to build resilience and ensure vulnerable countries are given the support needed to take action.
Over the next week, negotiators will be working to lay out their preferences for which of these elements should be part of which section and whittling down the current options into a manageable menu for ministers later in the year.
While work continues inside the negotiations hall to streamline the text for ministers, and laying out the clear options for the 2015 agreement, much of the heavy lifting will be happening outside of the formal negotiations.
Bonn kicks off an important few months for climate action, beginning with a ministerial hosted by the French and Peruvian presidencies following right after the UNFCCC inter-sessional.
This will come ahead of a host of other high level meetings throughout September—including the UN General Assembly, where leaders will launch the world’s new to-do list to end poverty, injustices and climate change, and acknowledge for the first time that we cannot solve poverty without solving climate change.
These meetings will give ministers the opportunity to provide clear instructions towards further shaping the Paris agreement ahead of the December conference.
First step for governments, will be by putting their climate pledges—or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—on the table.
To date, some 56 countries, representing 60 percent of global emissions, have submitted their pledges—including some of the world’s biggest emitters such as Canada, the EU, the U.S., China and many of the world’s most vulnerable nations, most recently the Marshall Islands and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
— World Resources Inst (@WorldResources) August 28, 2015
But many countries—such as India, Brazil and South Africa—are still to share their plans.
As anticipated, these plans move us closer to, but not all the way to, a safe climate, but together with a robust agreement that scales up action over time, these plans can keep our chances of holding warming well below the politically agreed 2C threshold alive, while signaling the collective decision of all nations to end the fossil fuel age and embrace the era of renewables.
And while governments continue to work towards their December deadline, their work is not happening in a bubble, and everyone is getting on board with a low carbon future.
In June, the leaders of the world’s largest economies signaled game-over for fossil fuels when they called for a global decarbonization during the course of the century, and this week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff became the first leader from a major emerging economy to join this call, when she joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in committing to decarbonize the two countries’ economies.
French President Francois Hollande has made similar signals acknowledging a “viable” Paris agreement would see 80 percent of fossil fuel resources stay in the ground and the President of Kiribati has called for a global coal moratorium.
Muslim leaders, meanwhile, have urged the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to take climate action, just a few months after Pope Francis addressed a similar call to 1.2 billion Catholics adding yet further weight to the growing call from businesses, investors, health professionals, faith leaders and scientists calling for a future powered by 100 percent renewables.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
Is More CBD Really Better?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzYxMDMzN30.6B08i5QYW_Iq5bUf3qtm8oK8o6FKsRUZ74gdakgJ_TY/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ef5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac86abf3ce246742b18b0dc4052f4dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.