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The world's cities are growing rapidly and in 2050 two thirds of the global population is expected to reside in urban areas, compared to 50 percent today. That puts pressure on infrastructure, energy supply and housing capabilities in a global climate that is poised to become hotter and less predictable. The challenges become even more complex considering that climate change does not affect urban dwellers equally, with low-income households and poor neighborhoods being particularly vulnerable.

Yet, some cities are using climate action as an opportunity to simultaneously address systemic social challenges. Seoul, the capital of South Korea and Tshwane, in South Africa, are just two cities with solutions featured in this sector which readily demonstrate how climate action and social development can go hand in hand.

Seoul's Energy Welfare Public-Private Partnership Program, for example, seeks to provide cheaper and more reliable power to low-income households, while creating jobs for disadvantaged job seekers. The program trains and employs socially vulnerable workers as energy consultants who assess energy performance and potential savings in poor communities. The program is partly funded by peak hour energy savings from municipal buildings.

The Tshwane Food and Energy Centre provides cooperative farming opportunities and self-sustaining renewable energy generation to an underprivileged community. The 25 cooperative farms allow small-scale farmers to ensure their own food security, earn income from food sales and produce on-site clean energy.

Now in its second year, Cities100 is produced in partnership between Sustainia, C40 and Realdania. It features 100 city solutions, ranging from solid waste management to transportation, that show how cities are blazing a path towards climate adaptation and mitigation.

"Faced with climate change, making our cities fit for the future is not just a matter of survival, but also presents us with an important opportunity to address social inequality," Mark Watts, executive director of C40, said. "I am inspired to see so many cities taking strong and urgent action."

The publication comes during COP22, when government officials are gathered in Marrakech to put into force the Paris agreement—the most extensive and ambitious agreement on climate action the world has ever seen. Cities will undoubtedly have a huge role in keeping temperatures from rising. Morten Nielsen, managing director for Sustainia, commented, "As we enter into the climate negotiations at COP22, the solutions presented in Cities100 show that climate action is already happening, often in nimble and collaborative ways that do not rely on the will of national governments. By addressing climate action in tandem with social equity, it's clear that cities have a major role to play in shaping global sustainable development."

Jesper Nygaard, CEO of Realdania, is confident that cities are up for the challenge, he said, "Cities and local governments are at the forefront of climate change. This year's Cities100 clearly shows that mayors will not sit idly by when they are faced with climate change, rising inequality and slowing economic growth. I am impressed at the scale of action and it fills me with optimism when I see holistic action provide multiple benefits to citizens, cities and climate.

Nearly 200 countries reaffirmed their unequivocal commitment for the Paris agreement in the Marrakech Action Proclamation, demonstrating a show of strength amid fears that Donald Trump would withdraw from the climate deal.

"We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority," reads the proclamation. Forty-seven of the world's most climate vulnerable nations, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Costa Rica, also pledged to aim for 100 percent renewable energy "as rapidly as possible."

Meanwhile, California is exploring whether it could join the climate talks as a sub-national party if Trump pulls the U.S. out of the agreement.

"If Trump does the unthinkable and quits the Paris Agreement, it will be up to the rest of United States to make sure that we meet our climate targets with or without the White House," 350.org Executive Director May Boeve said.

"The Paris Agreement represents the bare minimum of what is necessary to preserve a livable planet. We need more action, not less. Scientists are very clear that we do not have four years to waste waiting for the United States to come back to the table. It's all of our responsibility to make sure we continue to raise the level of ambition rather than let Trump drag us under the rising seas," Boeve concluded.

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More than 365 businesses and investors, from more than a dozen Fortune 500 firms to small, family-owned businesses across more than 35 states, sent a strong message today to President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump and other elected U.S. and global leaders, reaffirming their support for the historic Paris climate agreement and the need to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy at home and around the world.

"Implementing the Paris climate agreement will enable and encourage businesses and investors to turn the billions of dollars in existing low-carbon investments into the trillions of dollars the world needs to bring clean energy prosperity to all," wrote the powerful business group, in a statement of support at a press conference at the COP22 climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco. "Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk."

Among the diverse and iconic large and small U.S. businesses signing the statement are DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hilton, HP Inc., Kellogg Company, Levi Strauss & Co., L'Oreal USA, NIKE, Mars Incorporated, Schneider Electric, Starbucks, VF Corporation and Unilever.

"Now more than ever, Levi Strauss & Co. believes it is important to reaffirm our commitment to address climate change by supporting the Paris climate agreement," Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., said. "Building an energy-efficient economy in the U.S., powered by low-carbon energy will ensure our nation's competitiveness and position U.S. companies as leaders in the global market—all while doing the right thing for our planet."

The U.S., China, India, Brazil, European Union and more than 100 other nations representing more than three-fourths of global emissions formally ratified or joined the agreement, and it entered into legal force on Nov. 4. The agreement is the first-ever global, legally binding framework to tackle climate change.

In the statement, the large and small businesses pledged to do their part, in their own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris climate agreement's commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below two-degrees Celsius.

They are calling on elected U.S. leaders to strongly support:

  • Continuation of low-carbon policies in order to allow the U.S. to meet or exceed its promised national commitments.
  • Investment in the low-carbon economy at home and abroad in order to give financial decision-makers clarity and boost investor confidence.
  • Continued U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement in order to provide the long-term direction needed to limit global warming.

"The enormous momentum generated by the business and investment community to address climate change cannot be reversed and cannot be ignored by the Trump administration. That train has left the station and to stand in its way is folly," Matt Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management, said.

"Nevertheless, we know that now is the time to remind the incoming administration that virtually every company in the Fortune 500 and over $100 trillion in investor assets has acknowledged the reality of climate change and the need to address it head on," Patsky concluded.

The United Nations has announced that 2016 is very likely to be the hottest year on record, surpassing 2015, which had been the warmest year since records began.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports president-elect Donald Trump is seeking quick ways to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord to combat climate change. Trump is a longtime climate change denier who has described global warming as a Chinese hoax.

To talk more about the UN climate talks here in Marrakech and the significance Donald Trump's election for the world's effort to combat climate change, we are joined by Daniel Kammen, science envoy for the State Department and professor of energy at University of California at Berkeley.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.

"World governments spend $486 billion a year to subsidize an industrial food and farming model that the United Nations estimates, contributes 43-57 percent of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions," said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

"It's time to stop subsidizing agricultural practices that contribute to global warming, and start subsidizing food, farming and land-use practices that restore the soil's capacity to draw down and re-sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil."

"Our best hope to avert a climate disaster, restore public health and revitalize rural economies must include a plan that not only achieves zero emissions, but also draws down the billions of tons of excess carbon already in the atmosphere."

Speaking to a panel hosted by the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum in conjunction with the COP22 Climate Summit, Cummins told participants that "Climate-Smart Agriculture," is a clever term used to describe a limited approach to adapting to climate change and to addressing global food insecurity through agricultural practices that fail to meet the standard of regeneration.

"Scientists tell us that even if we achieve zero emissions tomorrow, the planet would continue to heat up for another thousand years," Cummins said. "Our best hope to avert a climate disaster, restore public health and revitalize rural economies must include a plan that not only achieves zero emissions, but also draws down the billions of tons of excess carbon already in the atmosphere. That plan exists. It's call regenerative agriculture or agroecology."

The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank coined the term "Climate-Smart Agriculture" at the 2010 Hague Conference on Food Security, Agriculture and Climate Change. The Food and Agriculture Organization floated the concept as a "triple win" for a type of agriculture that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help crops adapt to changing climate conditions and increase yields.

Last year, more than 350 national and international civil society groups, including the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, signed a letter urging decision-makers to reject what the groups called the "growing influence and agenda of so-called 'Climate-Smart Agriculture' and the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture." The groups criticized the lack of criteria for deciding what can or cannot be called "Climate Smart" and pointed to the potential for agribusiness corporations that promote synthetic fertilizers, industrial meat production and large-scale industrial agriculture—big contributors to global warming—to co-opt the term.

In the U.S., fossil-fuel-intensive agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, who are members of the North American chapter of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, claim to be practitioners of "Climate-Smart Agriculture."

There is growing evidence that man-made climate change is contributing to individual extreme weather and climate events, according to the latest analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Global five-year average temperature anomalies (relative to 1961–1990) for 2011– 2015. World Meteorological Organization

The report, released at COP22 in Marrakech, finds that greenhouse gas emissions raise the probability of extreme heat events as much as 10 times or more. The report also noted that 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record with 2016 on track to become the hottest year on record.

Among the worst extremes, a 2011-12 drought and famine in the Horn of Africa killed more than 250,000 people and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines killed 7,800 in 2013, the WMO said.

"The Paris agreement aims at limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts towards 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release.

"The effects of climate change have been consistently visible on the global scale since the 1980s: rising global temperature, both over land and in the ocean; sea-level rise; and the widespread melting of ice," Taalas said. "It has increased the risks of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, record rainfall and damaging floods."

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The UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech kicked off today, just three days after the Paris climate change agreement entered into force.

At the opening, Morocco's Foreign Minister and newly-elected COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar underscored his country's willingness to host the conference as a demonstration of Africa's commitment as a whole to contribute to global efforts to tackle climate change. "It emphasizes Africa's desire to take its destiny in hand, to reduce its vulnerability and strengthen its resilience," he said.

President Mezouar pointed to the groundswell of momentum building around the world. At the same time, he acknowledged the fact that the Paris agreement does not yet put the world on track towards the goal of a maximum global average temperature of 1.5 to 2 degrees, as agreed by the international community in Paris last year.

Addressing government delegates he said: "I would like to invite you over the coming 11 days to be more ambitious than ever in your commitments. All over the world, public opinion must perceive change. It has to be a change at all levels, from local projects through to those that cross international borders and it must create genuine win-win partnerships."

Together with Ségolène Royal, French environment minister and president of last year's Paris UN Climate Change Conference, Salaheddine Mezouar handed out solar lanterns to all delegates in the room, as a symbol of the transformation to clean technology which is essential to achieve the Paris agreement goals. The delegates then held up the lights in a show of solidarity.

In her opening address Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said that whilst early entry into force of the Paris agreement is a clear cause for celebration, it is also a timely reminder of the high expectations that are now placed on governments:

"Achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris agreement is not a given. We have embarked on an effort to change the course of two centuries of carbon-intense development. The peaking of global emissions is urgent, as is attaining far more climate-resilient societies."

Espinosa underlined five key areas in which work needs to be taken forward, notably on:

  • Finance to allow developing countries to green their economies and build resilience. Finance is flowing. It has to reach the level and have the predictability needed to catalyze low-emission and climate-resilient development.
  • Nationally determined contributions—national climate action plans—which now need to be integrated into national policies and investment plans.
  • Support for adaptation which needs to be given higher priority, and progress on the loss and damage mechanism to safeguard development gains in the most vulnerable communities.
  • Capacity building needs of developing countries in a manner that is both tailored and specific to their needs.
  • Fully engaging Non-Party stakeholders, from the North and from the South, as they are central to the global action agenda for transformational change.

"Our work here in Marrakech must reflect our new reality. No politician or citizen, no business manager or investor can doubt that the transformation to a low-emission, resilient society and economy is the singular determination of the community of nations," she said.

By Chris Hope

It should be a momentous occasion for the environment. On Oct. 5, 55 countries with 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions ratified the Paris climate change agreement. Today, it comes into force.

The main long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels. But what does meeting the Paris aims look like in the short-term, within our lifetimes?

The most obvious point is that it requires countries to rapidly reduce their emissions. It's not clear by precisely how much or precisely when, this needs to happen—we just don't know enough about the climate sensitivity for that. But it is clear that to have a fighting chance of meeting the Paris target will require large and sustained emissions reductions, starting very, very soon.

Crystal-K / Shutterstock

This is not remotely close to the path we are on at present. The 2016 BP Energy Outlook, published after the Paris agreement was signed, sees emissions from fossil fuels continuing to grow substantially at least until the end of its time horizon in 2035.

As CarbonBrief notes, Paris did little to shift BP's view.Carbon Brief

So the world says warming of 2 degrees is unacceptable. But people aren't acting like it is. Something big is missing: a massive effort to cut emissions. If countries truly are going to meet the Paris goals, this has to change.

This effort could come in the form of lots of centralized regulations and subsidies for low-carbon energy sources. But many experts think strong, comprehensive prices on CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions will be considerably cheaper.

Given the scale of the effort required and the problems that typically occur when governments are asked to spend money on social goods, if we don't do it as cheaply as we can, we probably won't do it all.

The "polluter pays principle" is a basic tenet of environmental policy. It says simply that anyone who causes harm should have to pay for it. This calls for prices on CO2 emissions in the range of US$150 to $250 per ton, according to an economic model of the harm caused by climate change which I devised to guide policymakers—recent work by scientists at Stanford broadly agrees.

The price should be much higher per ton for methane released into the atmosphere by agriculture and fracking as this is a much more potent greenhouse gas.

To get the emission reductions needed, which could be 3 to 5 percent per year for more than 50 years, we need these prices in the form of strong, comprehensive taxes on greenhouse gases, paid by firms, farms and final consumers. And we need them now.

It's fair to ask what such taxes would do to energy prices. At $150 per ton of CO2, they would add 25 percent to petrol prices in the UK, 30 percent to the price of gas-fired electricity, 50 percent to gas prices, 75 percent to the price of coal-fired electricity. They would probably add nearly £100 to the price of a return air ticket from London to southern Europe (and just think what that does to the case for a third runway at Heathrow).

But remember that these measures are still the cheapest way of meeting the Paris target, if that is truly what we intend to do. Strict technical regulations and generous subsidies for solar power or electric cars are likely to cost far more.

Climate taxes also have an upside. At $150 per ton of CO2, they would bring in about £75 billion per year in tax revenue in the UK from year one—that's about 15 percent of all UK tax revenue.

If the government chooses, it could use this revenue to reduce VAT by two thirds, once out of the EU, making almost all products at least 10 percent cheaper at a stroke. Or it could reduce the basic rate of income tax from 20 percent down to 5 percent. Or, most likely, it could do some sensible combination, reducing income, sales and payroll taxes, while using a small part of the revenue for information campaigns, basic R&D and measures to avoid hardship, such as the winter fuel allowance for pensioners. There is some evidence that directing about 10 percent of the climate tax revenue towards the poorest two deciles would stop it being regressive. Given the Paris targets will require people to live much cleaner lives anyway, these seem like pretty good side-effects.

So how will the Paris agreement change your life? In all the obvious ways, like encouraging more energy efficiency, more windmills, more electric train travel, possibly more nuclear power. But also in the less obvious ones, like the extra pay in your bank account at the end of each month, the lower cost of a meal out at your favorite restaurant or the new job opportunities created by lower payroll taxes.

The alternative is to say that cutting emissions as far as this is just too much trouble. In which case we need to be prepared for a radically different world with temperatures rising by 4-6 C or more. That would see ice sheets melt, sea levels rise, new deserts form and many tropical locations become essentially uninhabitable.

The world would have to pay a lot to adapt to this new climate reality and to become resilient to the ever-worsening impacts of climate change.

I know which world I prefer.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.

By Patricia Espinosa and Salaheddine Mezouar

Humanity will look back on Nov. 4, as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster and set off with determination towards a sustainable future.

The Paris climate change agreement—the result of the most complex, comprehensive and critical international climate negotiation ever attempted—came into force today.

The agreement is undoubtedly a turning point in the history of common human endeavor, capturing the combined political, economic and social will of governments, cities, regions, citizens, business and investors to overcome the existential threat of unchecked climate change.

Its early entry into force is a clear political signal that all the nations of the world are devoted to decisive global action on climate change.

Next week's UN climate change conference in Marrakech represents a new departure for the international community and the first meeting of the Paris agreement's governing body, known as the CMA, will take place during it on Nov. 15.

This is a moment to celebrate. It is also a moment to look ahead with sober assessment and renewed will over the task ahead.

In a short time—and certainly in the next 15 years—we need to see unprecedented reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and unequalled efforts to build societies that can resist rising climate impacts.

The timetable is pressing because globally greenhouse gas emissions which drive climate change and its impacts are not yet falling—a fact which the Marrakech meeting must have at the front of its concerns and collective resolve.

The World Meteorological Organization has now confirmed that the average global concentration in the atmosphere of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, reached the symbolic and significant milestone of 400 parts per million for the first time in 2015 and broke new records in 2016.

This means that the world is not nearly on track to meet the Paris agreement's primary goal to limit global warming well below 2 C and as close to 1.5 C as possible to prevent dangerous climate tipping points, beyond which we may lose the ability to control the outcome.

Paris delivered a gift of hope for every man, woman and child on the planet. Yet today's celebration can also rest on the assurance that the policies, technology and finance to achieve these goals not only exist, but are being deployed as never before.

The Paris agreement swept into force on an unprecedented wave of action and pledges to build a global renewable energy industry, clean up existing power, production, construction and agricultural sectors and re-engineer economies and societies to be more resilient to the climate impacts already in the system.

Our collective ability to enact rapid change has changed for good because of the Paris agreement and particularly for the following reasons:

  • In Paris, governments formally accepted to lead climate action and presented a global set of national plans for immediate action, pledging never to lower efforts and to raise their ambition over time. They are now accountable and have the means to drive change even faster through more, stronger, climate-friendly policies and incentives.
  • Within a few short years—ideally no later than 2018—governments and parties will have completed the details of a rulebook which will measure, account for and review global climate action. This will ensure transparency on all sides needed to accelerate climate action by making sure that everyone is involved in the effort and is delivering to the best of their abilities.
  • Furthermore, governments agreed to strengthen adequate technology and financial support to developing nations so they can build their own sustainable, clean energy futures.
  • Finally and importantly, non-party stakeholders are showing increased interest and commitment to lowering the carbon emissions and supporting governments and parties in their fight against the dire effects of climate change.

We expect the Marrakech COP 22 conference to accelerate work on the rulebook and to see emerge a definable pathway for developed countries to materialize the flow of USD $100 billion per year by 2020 in support of climate action by developing ones.

Very large-scale reallocations of investment are necessary. UN estimates show that achieving sustainable development will require USD $5-7 trillion a year, a large slice of which must fund the transition to a low-carbon, resilient world economy. To fulfill these investment needs, we will need to look at creative funding options, beyond the traditional ones and in which both public and private sector flows are aligned and scaled-up.

This, too, is happening but needs to speed up. UN data show global financial flows over the past few years ratcheting up to the point where one trillion dollars a year should be achievable in the near future. This means governments, the multilateral and the private sector raising and allocating tens of billions of dollars at a time towards climate investments.

The foundations of the Paris agreement are solid and other key features of humanity's new home are starting to rise. Yet, we cannot and we must not rest until the roof is in place. This November in Marrakesh we will make sure it will be in place, sooner rather than later.

Patricia Espinosa is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary. Salaheddine Mezouar, is the president of COP22 and minister of foreign affairs and cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco.

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