People's Stories Livelihood

Failure to adapt to climate impacts will increase inequality
by Reuters, Global Commission on Adaptation, agencies
Sep. 2019
As the planet heats up, governments and businesses must radically rethink how they make decisions in key economic areas such as agriculture and infrastructure, said a flagship report aimed at pushing climate adaptation measures up the political agenda.
"If we do not act now, climate change will super-charge the global gap between the haves and the have-nots," said Ban Ki-moon, who co-chairs the Global Commission on Adaptation with philanthropist Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban said there were many opportunities to avoid losses caused by disasters and build economies that can better withstand wild weather like powerful Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas this month.
But the commission - which is backed by 20 countries and 34 high-profile international figures - would need commitment from political leaders to expand the "bright spots" Ban had witnessed at the far larger scale needed, he said.
Investing $1.8 trillion globally in early warning systems, more robust infrastructure, improved crop production, mangrove protection and resilient water resources from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in net benefits, the report said. That amounts to an average of about $4 for every $1 spent, it said.
"In other words, failing to seize the economic benefits of climate adaptation with high-return investments would undermine trillions of dollars in potential growth and prosperity," it added.
Without adaptation, climate change could cut agricultural yields by up to 30 percent by 2050, hitting the world''s 500 million small farms the hardest.
And it could force hundreds of millions of people in coastal cities from their homes, while pushing 100 million people into poverty in developing countries by 2030, the report warned.
Yet despite the cost of not acting and the potentially "huge" returns from doing so, climate risks were still not being factored adequately into decision-making, said Andrew Steer, a commissioner and head of the World Resources Institute.
Poor people, in particular, should be targeted with help to adapt to climate change, as they are often the most harshly affected by disasters but "do not have a voice", said Steer.
Most funding for adaptation "never gets close to communities", he added, urging a radical overhaul of how that money is provided so it reaches those who need it faster.
The report outlined actions that could enable key economic systems affected by climate change - from food production and water supplies to the natural environment and cities - to function better and provide for a growing global population.
Later this month, the commission will outline specific plans for a "year of action" on climate change adaptation.
Those will include working with finance ministers to build climate risks into spending and taxation, and a doubling of the scale of agricultural research to support farmers, it said.
Former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said a common justification for not investing in adaptation was that it did not generate a direct revenue stream. But instead, it should be viewed like good public health - as a way of keeping economies safe and allowing them to grow.
"The main message of this report is either we delay and pay, or we plan and prosper," she told journalists.
Sep. 2019
The current worldwide sustainable development model is threatening to reverse years of progress, if strategies don’t drastically change, an independent group of scientists has concluded in a major new report launched on Wednesday.
The UN report will be at the centre of discussions during the UN summit on the SDGs later this month.
Worsening inequalities and potentially irreversible damage to the natural environment on which we all depend, demands concerted action, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), urged in a statement on the report findings, compiled by a team of 15 UN-appointed experts.
“Achieving human well-being and eradicating poverty for all of the Earth’s people—expected to number 8.5 billion by 2030—is still possible,” they highlighted, “but only if there is a fundamental—and urgent—change in the relationship between people and nature.”
The report, “The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development,” points to understanding the relationships between individual SDGs and the “concrete systems that define society today” to devise a plan to ameliorate global instability.
At the request of countries to evaluate progress of the 2030 SDG Agenda, adopted in 2015, the Global Report on Sustainable Development (GDSR) consists of surveys on scientific findings from ocean livelihoods, to sustainable consumption, production, and disaster risk management, among other issues.
The current roadmap for development has generated prosperity for “hundreds of millions,” the scientists said, but at the cost of other resources and a growing inequality that undermines global growth.
Boosting economies via increasing consumption for example, is exhausting the planet’s materials and creating toxic by-products which threaten to overwhelm the world. At the current rate of consumption, “use of material is set to almost double between 2017 and 2060, from 89 Gigatons to 167 Gigatons”, resulting in consequential “increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and other toxic effects” from resource extraction, they stressed.
The status quo must change, scientists said, in order to eschew further loss in “social cohesion and sustainable economic growth,” curb biodiversity losses, and save a “world close to tipping points with the global climate system.”
For this to happen, all sectors must come together in coordinated action, the report urges. Increasing investment in science for sustainability, is one key approach, and acknowledging that achievement of the SDGs requires economic growth be divorced from environmental degradation, while reducing inequalities.
The experts noted that “the extensive transformation that is needed will not be easy, and the report suggests that a deep scientific understanding is needed to anticipate and mitigate the tensions and trade-offs inherent in widespread structural change.”
Key points of intervention
According to the report, there are 20 points of intervention that can be used to accelerate progress toward multiple goals and targets in the next ten years.
Among these, basic services must be made universally available - healthcare, education, water and sanitation infrastructure, housing and social protection - as a prerequisite” toward eliminating poverty.
In addition, ending legal and social discrimination, scaling up trades unions, nongovernmental organizations, women’s groups and other communities will “be important partners in efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda”, the experts said.
Inefficient food and energy systems are depriving some 2 billion people of food security, while 820 million are undernourished, and 2 billion adults are overweight. Production processes are causing severe environmental impact.
Transitioning to renewable energy systems could help reduce the 3 billion who rely on pollutants for cooking, and avoid premature deaths, estimated at 3.8 million each year, they cited.
Meanwhile, the energy access gap has left close to one billion without access to electricity at all. Increases in renewable energy supply in the past decade have corresponded with price drops in clean fuel technology - around 77 per cent for solar power and a 38 per cent drop for onshore wind.
With an estimated two-thirds of the global population projected to live in cities by 2050, the experts said achieving the 2030 Agenda will require “more compact and efficient” urban areas that will be nature-based in infrastructure; but the ecosystem’s services and resources “must be safeguarded.”
What the scientists call “the global environmental commons” - the rainforests, oceans, and atmosphere - need support from governments, international actors and the private sector to ensure good practices.
7 Sep. 2019
Pope Francis says deforestation must be treated as a global threat. (Reuters)
Pope Francis said on Saturday rapid deforestation and the loss of biodiversity in individual countries should not be treated as local issues since they threaten the future of the planet.
Francis made his appeal on a visit to Madagascar, the world''s fourth-largest island, which research institutes and aid agencies say has lost about 44% of its forest over the past 60 years, abetted by illegal exports of rosewood and ebony.
Francis zeroed in on endemic corruption, linking it with persistent, long-term poverty as well as poaching and illegal exports of natural resources.
Addressing Madagascar''s president, Andry Rajoelina, his cabinet and other officials, Francis said some people were profiting from excessive deforestation and the associated loss of species.
"The deterioration of that biodiversity compromises the future of the country and of the earth, our common home," he said.
"The last forests are menaced by forest fires, poaching, the unrestricted cutting down of valuable woodlands. Plant and animal biodiversity is endangered by contraband and illegal exportation," Pope Francis said.
Jobs must be created for people whose livelihood harms the environment so they will not see it as their only means of survival, the pontiff added.
"There can be no true ecological approach or effective efforts to safeguard the environment without the attainment of a social justice capable of respecting the right to the common destination of the Earth''s goods, not only of present generations, but also of those yet to come," he said.
The Amazon fires have lent new urgency to Francis''s calls to protect nature, tackle climate change and promote sustainable development -- all themes enshrined in his 2015 encyclical on environmental protection.
Madagascar is one of world''s poorest countries. The U.N. Nations World Food Program estimates that more than 90% of its population of 26 million live on less than $2 a day, with chronic child malnutrition widespread.
Corruption is also rampant, Transparency International says.
Francis urged the nation''s leaders "to fight with strength and determination all endemic forms of corruption and speculation that increase social disparity, and to confront the situations of great instability and exclusion that always create conditions of inhumane poverty".
Conservation groups say that during Rajoelina''s first stint in power, his cash-strapped administration presided over a spike in deforestation to supply rosewood and ebony to China despite a national ban on such exports.
Environmental campaign group TRAFFIC estimates that at least one million rosewood logs have been illegally shipped from Madagascar since 2010. As Asian supplies of valuable hardwoods including rosewood used to make luxury furniture have been depleted, Chinese importers have shifted to Africa, according to Chinese customs data cited by U.S.-based non-profit group Forest Trends.

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Bank of England boss says global finance is funding 4C temperature rise
by Carbon Tracker, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Oct. 2019
Bank of England boss says global finance is funding 4C temperature rise. (Guardian News)
The governor of the Bank of England has warned that the global financial system is backing carbon-producing projects that will raise the temperature of the planet by over 4C – more than double the pledge to limit increases to well below 2C contained in the Paris Agreement.
In a stark warning over global heating, Mark Carney said the multitrillion dollar international capital markets – where companies raise funds by selling shares and bonds to investors – are financing activities that would lift global temperatures to more than 4C above pre-industrial levels.
World leaders agreed in the Paris climate accords to keep the temperature rise this century well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5C.
But in a stark illustration of the scale of the decarbonisation challenge facing the world economy, Carney suggested companies had already secured financing from investors in the global capital markets – worth $85tn (£67.2tn) for stocks and $100tn for bonds – that will keep the world on a trajectory consistent with catastrophic global heating.
The risks associated with temperatures at or above 4C include a 9-metre rise in sea levels – affecting up to 760 million people – searing heatwaves and droughts, serious food supply problems and half of all animal and plant species facing local extinction.
Speaking to MPs on the Commons Treasury committee, Carney did not give a timescale for the temperature rise, but said: “The objectives are there, but policy is not yet consistent with stabilising temperatures below 2C.
“There are some companies out ahead, either because of stakeholders, or because they’re anticipating that that will change. But there are others that are waiting for the policies to adjust.”
Carney sounded the alarm in the wake of the Guardian last week revealing the 20 biggest companies behind a third of all carbon emissions. The Bank’s governor said the financial system was now starting to wake up to the risks of global heating.
He said some investment companies have analysed the carbon-linked assets in their portfolios, including Japan’s $1.6tn Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF).
Carney told the committee that GPIF’s analysis showed it held assets consistent with 3.7C heating, and that the fund was now trying to manage this down. He said that AXA, the French insurance group, priced US government bonds at 5.4C, to reflect the carbon-intensive nature of the American economy. The UK is much lower, he said.
Based on these assessments, “it indicates that if you price the capital markets – and I’m not giving you a precise figure – that all of the assets are probably north of 4C for the capital markets as a whole,” he said.
“We can observe where the market is in terms of pricing the transition. It’s at least 3C or 3.75C, it’s probably north of 4C. That tells you something in terms of the sum of global climate policy.”
The Bank’s governor has spoken at length about the need for the financial system to accelerate its efforts to tackle the climate emergency, warning that firms that ignore the crisis will go bankrupt.
He said that banks should be forced to disclose their climate-linked risks within the next two years, and said that more information would prompt investors to penalise and reward firms accordingly.
Sep. 2019 (UN News)
Climate change poses an “existential threat to commodity-dependent developing countries”, the United Nation’s trade chief said on Wednesday, pointing to a newly released report highlighting the need to diversify economies and exports.
The extraction and consumption of highly polluting fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas continue to increase unabated, exacerbating the climate crisis.
Moreover, the staggering amounts that many countries are still spending on fossil fuel subsidies are an indication that more work needs to be done in terms of aligning domestic policies with the overarching objective of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The low ambition of commitments by major countries to counter climate change, the very countries that are largely responsible for creating this problem, combined with the lacklustre response to calls for assisting developing countries to adapt to the consequences of climate change, indicate that more leadership is needed at the international level in order to rise to the challenge posed by the climate crisis.
The 2019 edition of the Commodities and Development Report is titled "Commodity Dependence, Climate Change and the Paris Agreement". It seeks to further the understanding of the interactions between climate change and the commodity sectors.
The report highlights the challenges that commodity dependent developing countries (CDDCs) face as they manage their natural resource sectors in the context of the Paris Agreement. It also explores some potential benefits that might arise from climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The report recommends that CDDCs should reduce their strong economic dependence on natural resources through economic and export diversification. Acknowledgement of the limited capabilities of CDDCs to cope with mitigation and adaptation challenges implies that CDDCs require a unique set of incentives as well as financial, technical and institutional assistance to cope with the challenges associated with the climate crisis.
The climate crisis puts commodity-dependent developing countries most at risk because their economies depend on sectors which are highly exposed to extreme weather events, according to the report.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the worst affected, as are crop and fisheries production, which historically exist in low-latitude regions – where most commodity-dependent developing countries are located.
The report underscores that the high risk faced by these countries reinforces their need to adapt, diversify and modernize their economies.
The report echoes experts’ warnings that commitments made by countries to mitigate climate change under the Paris Agreement are not ambitious enough but must instead be quadrupled to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
For this, stronger political will and greater mobilization of financial and human resources are necessary.
The report underlines that climate-related funding, which is currently only a fraction of actual requirements, needs to be substantially scaled up given the high cost of climate mitigation and adaptation.
In addition, greening fiscal policies can help to ensure that taxes, subsidies and similar policy instruments assist in implementing action plans that would also work toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Climate actions need to be strengthened, including by building technical and regulatory capacities for institutions to implement more effective policies, and the report suggests reforming fossil fuel subsidies to further green fiscal policies.
Finally, developed countries need to meet their commitment under the Paris Agreement to transfer environmentally friendly technologies to developing countries to help them effectively participate in global efforts to mitigate and adapt.
Sep. 2019
Dangerous new hot zones are spreading around the world. (Washington Post)
Washington Post analysis of multiple temperature data sets found numerous locations around the globe that have warmed by at least 2 degrees Celsius over the past century. That''s a number that scientists and policymakers have identified as a red line if the planet is to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences. But in regions large and small, that point has already been reached. For Uruguay the report highlights the key vulnerability is in the ocean and the impact on ecosystem ecology:
Sep. 2019
A new report by the agency Carbon Tracker, notes that large investment projects in the pipeline of the oil and gas sector are failing to account for the required fall in emissions to meet the Paris Agreement and mitigate severe climate impacts.
The report highlights that oil and gas companies are on track to spend £5.2trn ($6.5trn) on new production by 2030.
However, the demand for said production is in line with a world where global warming is limited to 2.7C rather than a 1.6C pathway that has been outlined by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Under the 1.6C scenario, oil and gas production would need to reach £3.4trn ($4.3trn), creating a $2.2trn gap of potentially stranded assets.
Carbon Tracker’s senior analyst Andrew Grant said: “Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals.
“Investors should challenge companies’ spending on new fossil fuel production. The best way to both preserve shareholder value in the transition and align with climate change goals will be to focus on low-cost projects that will deliver the highest returns.”
Companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, Total, Eni and ConocoPhillips and Equinor have already spent 30% of their investment levels for 2018 on projects that are incompatible with the Paris Agreement, the report estimated.
Alongside the $50bn already spent, investment decisions on a further (£17bn) $21bn in 12 high-carbon projects are due this year.
Notable projects include ExxonMobil’s $2.6bn Aspen project in Canada – the first greenfield oil sands project in five years – which will require an oil price of more than $80 a barrel to deliver a 15% return.
The report states that for oil companies to become “Paris-compliant”, projects can break even by meeting demand at $40 per barrel.
ExxonMobil has the greatest risk of stranded assets in a low-carbon world, with more than 90% of potential spending over the next 11 years failing to comply with the IEA’s 1.6C pathway. Shell has a 70% risk, Total 67%, Chevron 60%, BP 57% and Eni 55%.
A Carbon Tracker report from earlier in the year found that no large corporates within the global oil and gas sector are currently providing “anything close to an ideal level of disclosure” around climate-related risks and opportunities.
The oil and gas industry is estimated to account for more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy consumption, with some research suggesting that the sector is responsible for as much as 71% of global CO2 emissions.
While there is some transition away from carbon-heavy technologies, services and products, the sector’s 24 largest publicly listed firms spend just 1.3% of their combined capital expenditure into low-carbon technologies and projects between January and October 2018, according to CDP.
Earlier this week, environmental groups criticised the UK''s offshore oil and gas industry''s blueprint to contribute to net-zero emissions by 2035, claiming that the accompanying evidence fails to "leave fossil fuels in the ground".
Sep. 2019
Scientists set out how to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
Solar and wind power, are now cheaper than fossil fuels in many regions, and they must be scaled up rapidly to replace coal-fired generation, and this alone could halve emissions from electricity generation by 2030, according to the Exponential Roadmap report from an international group of experts.
If the rapid uptake of electric vehicles in some parts of the world could be sustained, the vehicles could make up 90% of the market by 2030, vastly reducing emissions from transport, it said.
Avoiding deforestation and improving land management could reduce emissions by the equivalent of about 9bn tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2030, according to the report, but contradictory subsidies, poor planning and vested interests could stop this from happening.
Key to any transition will be the growing social movements that are pressing for urgent action on climate breakdown. By driving behavioural change, such as moving away from the overconsumption of meat and putting pressure on governments and companies, civil movements have the power to drive the transformation needed in the next decade, say the report’s authors.
The experts identified 36 developments that would produce the emission cuts needed, from renewable energy to changes in food production, the design of cities, and international transport, such as shipping. All of them are judged possible to achieve by 2030.
“While the scale of transformation is unprecedented, the speed is not,” said Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “This is now a race against time, but businesses and even entire industries have made many significant transitions in less than 10 years.”
Social movements will be a top priority because consumers can put pressure on the companies whose goods they buy, and public support makes it possible for political leaders to adopt bolder policies. Countries including the UK, France, Sweden and Norway have adopted a net-zero-carbon target for 2050.
Sep. 2018
Sleeping financial giants – Opportunities in financial leadership for climate stability, report from Future Earth, Stockholm Resilience Centre
In recent decades, scientists have begun to use the term “tipping points” to describe large-scale and abrupt shifts to big earth systems—the Arctic changing from having year-round sea ice to having none in the summer, or vast areas of the Amazon rainforest becoming savanna, following a buildup of pressure on the system.
These big earth systems that could suddenly shift from one state to another in a warming world are also called “sleeping giants”. At present, they quietly promote a stable climate by removing carbon dioxide, generating rain and supporting the livelihoods of millions of people, but if they were to shift, they would have “large scale impacts on the global climate by becoming large-scale emitters of carbon dioxide, as opposed to storing carbon in soil and vegetation,” according to the report.
Although this is still an active area of research, “there is a broad consensus that the further and faster the Earth System is pushed into a warmer state, the greater the risk of surprises.” There is also the risk of creating a domino effect, where crossing one tipping point pushes the world closer to another.
The Sleeping Financial Giants report is the result of a scientific project which aims to increase awareness among the public and investors alike, about the impact of the investment sector on key tipping points in the Earth System affecting our global climate.
According to the report, “The implications for the global climate if these regions ‘tip’ raise new and urgent concerns that are of critical importance for the financial sector and humanity at large.”
The report provides a short state-of-the-art review of the scientific knowledge around tipping points in the Earth System, and explains the complex interactions between large global investors and such tipping points to help make informed decisions about the future of our planet.
According to the report''s Executive Summary:
“Finance cannot be made single-handedly responsible for a transition to climate sustainability, but it can and must play a critically important role. By taking responsibility and using power and leadership for the good of the planet and their portfolio, financial actors could contribute meaningfully to an emerging and necessary pathway towards biosphere stewardship and climate stability. Yet time is short – financial actors, and humanity at large, need to wake up and recognize the new and urgent challenges posed by nonlinear dynamics in the Earth System.”


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