By Ercilia Sahores
On Nov. 6, the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicked off in Bonn, Germany, the nation's former capital. Germany is one of the world's worst offenders when it comes to pollution. It's also the largest polluter in all of Europe. But Germany is not alone in the polluting business—and countries are not the only big polluters.
The world's top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of Germany, according to a report published by GRAIN, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and Heinrich Böll Foundation.
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The 23rd annual Conference of Parties under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change kicked off in Bonn, Germany Monday morning, as the world nations gather to discuss implementation of the Paris agreement.
The Trump administration's June announcement that it intends to exit the agreement is set to complicate matters for the U.S. team in Bonn, as other nations resolve to continue negotiations with the U.S. on the sideline.
By Jake Schmidt
It has been almost two years since world leaders agreed to the historic Paris agreement. Since then a lot has changed (both positive and negative). As leaders meet in Bonn, Germany for the next round of international climate negotiations there will be several key issues on the table. This meeting will set the tone for how leaders will come together in the era of President Trump and show that they are prepared to carry forward climate action.
Ocean acidification can no longer remain on the periphery of the international debates on climate change and the environment and should be addressed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other global environmental conventions, urges International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Ocean Acidification Reference User Group (RUG) at the climate change summit in Durban, South Africa.
In the run up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro in June next year (Rio+20), world experts from RUG call for decision makers to urgently address the critical issue of ocean acidification.
“The increasing amounts of carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere every day are changing our oceans, steadily increasing their acidity, and dramatically affecting marine life,” says Prof. Dan Laffoley, marine vice chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and chair of RUG. “This may also have severe impacts on human life in the future. Only by reducing our CO2 emissions and enhancing the protection of oceans to strengthen their ability to recover, can we effectively address this issue. Policy makers in Durban, and in Rio in June next year, need to recognize this and take appropriate actions.”
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, particularly CO2, which is the main driver of climate change and the main cause of ocean acidification, is one of the goals of the UNFCCC. But the latest RUG publication calls for a broader strategy to reduce ocean acidification, alongside those tackling other threats to the marine environment such as overfishing and pollution.
According to the experts, although both climate change and ocean acidification are caused by excessive amounts of CO2 emissions, and so should be tackled together, not all approaches used to address the former will be effective in the fight against the latter.
"For example, geoengineering solutions, such as reflecting solar radiation, which are often suggested to deal with climate change, will not address the progressive acidification of the ocean," says Dr. John Baxter of the Scottish Natural Heritage and deputy chair of the RUG. "Both climate change and acidification need to be taken into account when designing solutions to these challenges."
Each year, the ocean absorbs approximately 25 percent of all the CO2 we emit. Its acidity has increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the industrial revolution and acidification will continue at an unprecedented rate in the coming decades. This can have a negative impact on marine organisms, especially the calcifying ones such as shellfish, molluscs, coral reefs and various types of zooplankton and phytoplankton. Increasing ocean acidity requires them to use more energy to build their shells, which has potentially severe ecological consequences. If the current acidification rate continues, it could lead to extinctions of some species and impact others that feed on them.
“Through its ability to absorb large amounts of CO2, the ocean plays a crucial role in moderating the rate and severity of climate change," says Dr. Carol Turley from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the knowledge exchange coordinator for the U.K. Ocean Acidification Research Programme, one of the partners of the RUG. “But in many ways our ocean is also a victim of its own success, as this capacity jeopardizes its future health, its biodiversity and its ability to continue to provide us with food and sustainable economic development. Ocean acidification requires urgent and effective action now, before it’s too late. The obvious action is to reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere."
To view the publication, click here.
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In lead up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in Durban, South Africa, members of the Stand with Africa campaign urged U.S. policymakers Nov. 21 to focus their attention on the people already suffering from the impacts of climate change rather than playing politics and making other excuses for delaying action. The full name of the campaign is Stand with Africa; Act Now for Climate Justice.
The Durban summit takes place on a continent severely impacted by climate change. Africa is particularly prone to increased food and water stress due to climate change. According to the World Food Program, approximately 65 percent of the global total increase in climate-related hunger is projected to occur on the continent of Africa. And according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 75-250 million people across Africa could face more severe water shortages by 2020 as a result of climate change.
The U.S. has a particular responsibility to act, both as the single largest historic climate polluter and because we are facing great climate risks and impacts here at home. The Stand with Africa campaign calls on the U.S. to:
- offer a clear plan for how the U.S. will meet and exceed its current emission reduction target
- commit to at least one new innovative approach to generate public finance to help countries confront climate change
- support the operation of a transparent, accountable and environmentally sound Green Climate Fund (GCF).
Members of the Stand with Africa campaign can speak about the range of innovative tools available to generate public finance. For example, in order to reduce emissions and generate finance, it is possible to set up mechanisms in the shipping and aviation sectors—two polluting industries—that both reduce emissions and generate climate finance in a way that ensures no new costs or burdens on developing countries.
Another widely supported option includes a tiny fee on financial transactions. According to the Austrian Institute for Economic Research, a global financial transaction tax of 0.1 percent could generate between U.S. $410 billion and U.S. $1.06 trillion per year, a portion of which could go to help developing countries confront climate change.
Members of the campaign will be available for comment on the progress of the negotiations and the role of the U.S. in the lead up to, during and after the Durban climate summit. For more information, click here.
The current list of Stand With Africa partners includes—ActionAid USA, Africa Faith and Justice Network, Americans for Informed Democracy, Center for Biological Diversity, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, Foreign Policy in Focus, Friends of the Earth USA, Greenpeace USA, Maryknoll Office for Global Concern, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Oxfam America, the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies, and World Wildlife Federation (WWF).
Commentary and Quotes
Ilana Solomon, senior policy at Analyst ActionAid USA, says:
“The Durban climate summit is taking place against a backdrop of climate-driven disasters. Recent floods across Asia have killed hundreds, displaced millions and have led to severe food shortages across the region. Droughts across East Africa have threatened the lives and livelihoods of more than 13 million people.
"The U.S. and other developed countries must go to the climate summit and uphold the interests of the poor—not of corporations and polluting industries. The U.S. must stop delaying progress and work with others to agree to new sources of public finance to help poor countries confront the climate crisis.”
Lou Leonard, managing director of Climate Change at WWF, says:
“The impacts of climate change are no longer just a threat to our future—they are with us today. As the Horn of Africa experiences its worst drought in more than 60 years, threatening millions with starvation, the United States is being battered by severe floods, droughts and wildfires. The climate crisis disproportionately affects the people least capable of adapting, and threatens the survival of the wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystems upon which we all rely.
"Meanwhile, Washington is absent at home and abroad on addressing risks posed by climate change, leaving cities and towns across America dangerously unprepared for these severe and growing impacts. The Obama administration needs to rise above the Washington gridlock and show leadership by developing and executing a U.S. strategy to meet our international climate commitments.”
Karen Showalter, executive director at Americans for Informed Democracy, says:
"Young people in the U.S. are keenly aware of the impacts of climate change both here at home and around the world. It is time for the United States to lead the way in addressing what is truly a global challenge."
Rose Braz, climate campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says:
“2011 should make clear that climate change is not an abstract problem for the future. Climate change is happening now, it’s caused by human activity and Africa is particularly vulnerable and hard hit. The longer we wait to act, the harder the problem will be to solve. It’s long past time for the United States and other developed countries to act urgently and ambitiously to curb global warming pollution.”
Michelle Knight, advocacy associate at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, says:
“Columban missionaries in countries such as Peru and the Philippines are already seeing the effects of climate change harming the communities with whom we live and serve. The U.S. must work with all countries at the summit towards reducing emissions and generating finance for affected countries.”
Kari Fulton, interim director, Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, says:
“The Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative is heading to Durban with a delegation of youth and community leaders to ensure that our government, and the world knows that within the United States there are people who are feeling the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice.
"We stand in solidarity with those impacted across the global south and are pushing our government to join the rest of the world in addressing the worst impacts of climate change with humanity, humility and as a true comrade of the world. We stand with Africa because Africa's story is not too far from our own. We are all facing the battle to adapt, but if we push together we all have a chance to thrive.”
Karen Orenstein, international policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, says:
“The Green Climate Fund is critically needed to support developing countries in confronting the climate crisis, and it must be operationalized in Durban. However, the GCF must not serve to subsidize developed country corporations. GCF resources must not be used to directly finance the private sector, particularly through the establishment of a private sector facility, and the U.S. must stop pushing this. The role of the private sector in the Green Climate Fund must be decided and regulated at the national and sub-national level in line with countries’ preferences and people’s needs, not corporate bottom lines.”
Jaqueline Patterson, NAACP director of Economic and Climate Justice Programs, says:
“U.S. communities of color and low income communities share a common cause with our African brothers and sisters as all of us are on the frontlines of climate change impact driven by the excesses of a wealthy few nations and corporations.
"Policymakers in the United States must uphold their ethical obligations to significantly reduce emissions and ensure financial support to communities and countries most affected by climate change.”
Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies, says:
“People living in poverty in the U.S. and throughout the African continent are already feeling the impacts of climate change. How many more lives must be imperiled before the U.S. acts? The U.S. and other developed country governments should learn from the Occupy movements that people are not willing to sacrifice the security of vulnerable communities for corporate profits.”
For more information, click here.