Will the Paris Climate Talks Deliver the World We Need? Not Likely.

(Image: Nicholas Jones / Flickr)

(Image: Nicholas Jones / Flickr)

We need to leave more than 80 percent of known oil, coal, and gas reserves in the ground to avoid triggering catastrophic climate change. That means shifting away from an economy driven by digging, pumping, and burning fossil fuels to one that puts people and the planet first.

On this the science is simple, but the politics are fraught.

The upcoming UN summit in Paris, where governments from almost every country on Earth will meet to hammer out a new global climate deal, would seem the logical place to set that change in motion. These forums are the only place where nations sit together as equals, at least ostensibly, to address what’s truly a global problem.

So can these talks deliver an agreement that moves us into a post-fossil fuel world? The simple answer is no.

For starters, the draft ­agreement they’ll be using as the basis for discussion makes no reference to fossil fuels at all. Perhaps that should come as no surprise, given that dirty energy companies and their financial backers are among the sponsors of the summit.

In the absence of a concrete plan to roll back our reliance on coal, oil and gas, governments are kicking around climate “solutions” that let countries keep on burning them.

They’re entertaining ideas like carbon capture, use, and storage, or CCUS — a technology that would allow facilities like power plants to pump carbon emissions into the ocean or underground geologic formations. The approach is unfeasibly expensive, risky, and unproven at scale, but the U.S. and China favor it as an option that would preserve the role of dirty fuels.

The emerging concept of “net-zero” emissions goes a step further. Under that scheme, countries would be allowed to “offset” their carbon pollution with technologies that are meant to pull carbon dioxide out of the air, like producing vast quantities of charcoal and adding it to soils. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 6 billion hectares of biomass — that’s four times the total land used today to grow all the world’s food — would be needed to match our fossil fuel use.

In other words, even as governments are talking about setting climate targets, they’re working hard to expand the extractive global economy with measures that could deepen the climate crisis. That’s ridiculous. We need to cut carbon, not find new places to bury it.

More fundamentally, we need a new economy based on using less — and sharing it better.

Luckily, tens of thousands of people will also converge in Paris this December in spaces like the World Village of Alternative Solutions. They’ll share their visions of systemic change and offer concrete examples of places where people are experimenting with new forms of enterprise, energy systems, mechanisms for wealth distribution, and governance.

Workers from India’s Solid Waste Collection and Handling cooperative, for example, will be on hand to share their experiences providing grassroots, front-end waste management services in the city of Pune. The 2,300 worker-members, mainly women from marginalized castes, have on average tripled their income since joining the cooperative. And through improving recycling rates and diverting organic matter from landfills, they’ve mitigated 640,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually and minimized pressure on forest resources.

To challenge undemocratic corporate influence in the climate talks, meanwhile, civil society groups are also proposing that a new climate deal follows the example of the international Tobacco Treaty, which bars tobacco companies from participating in treaty negotiations or interfering in national public health policy. Proponents say it could go a long way to protect climate policy from the stranglehold of Big Oil, Big Gas, and King Coal.

New ways to distribute wealth, especially by disrupting the concentration of money and power at the top, are being brought to the table, too. A movement across Europe has already succeeded in pushing 11 countries to agree to a small tax on financial transactions (aka the Robin Hood Tax) that could pull down €35 billion from the big banks each year to invest in climate solutions in the hardest hit communities.

These are just a few concrete actions to help build a new economy that puts more control in the hands of the communities most impacted by climate change — and gets to the heart of the relentless drive for growth that’s causing it.

Any decision emerging from the Paris climate summit will almost certainly fail to confront the real problem: a global economic model that relies on fossil fuels to power the engine of expansion. Luckily, people in communities all across the planet are willing to take the lead.

The post Will the Paris Climate Talks Deliver the World We Need? Not Likely. appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.


Tokyo must act now to ensure they deliver the most sustainable Olympics yet – Supply Management (blog)

Supply Management (blog)
Tokyo must act now to ensure they deliver the most sustainable Olympics yet
Supply Management (blog)
First, they have to do everything London did; zero waste to landfill, 100 per cent FSC timber, no phthalates in tensile plastics, certified sustainable and locally sourced food, high levels of recycled content, the list goes on. Then they need to


Almost half the G20 countries have failed to deliver in the global fight against Ebola

Almost half the G20 countries have failed to deliver in the global fight against Ebola

Nine of the G20 countries have failed to deliver adequate support in the fight against Ebola despite calls for more help and the fact they are the largest economies in the world, Oxfam says today.


Coffee For A Cause What Do Those FeelGood Labels Deliver The Salt NPR

It doesn't take much effort to find bags of coffee with labels that promise social and Fair Trade Rainforest Alliance What's In A Coffee Certification

EU Finance Ministers break deadlock on transaction taxes and now must deliver for the poorest

Today EU Finance Ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, agreed to drop the idea of an EU-wide European Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). Instead, Ministers proposed to move forward in taxing the financial sector with a group of pioneer governments. 

 Nicolas Mombrial, Oxfam’s EU spokesperson, said:
“We’re delighted that a coalition of willing countries has finally asked the UK and other blockers to step out of the way.  Europe can finally move beyond talking, and has a real opportunity to introduce an FTT that will help to fight poverty and climate change.

“At next week’s EU Heads of State Summit, as many governments as possible must join the French, Germans and other countries and show they’re ready to put the interests of ordinary people before those of the financial sector.
“To gain popular support, a significant part of the revenues should go to people who have been hit hardest by the economic crisis in poor countries, as suggested by Presidents Hollande and Barroso this week. Using the proceeds of a new tax only for EU projects or to pay down deficits would be a betrayal of the millions who support a Robin Hood Tax.”


Notes to Editors

  • Yesterday, speaking at the Rio+20 summit, French President François Hollande committed to allocate a significant part of the revenues of an FTT to development http://bit.ly/Mk2P9l
  • Earlier this week at the G20 summit in Mexico, European Commission President José Manual Barroso said: “We are expecting FTT to become a reality, at the EU and if possible the global level. The FTT with other innovative ways of financing development will be a contribution to global solidarity. We expect to come to a decision soon on agreement on an FTT. I will raise this point at Rio: we will not forget the poorest of the world.” 
  • Also this week, fifty-two former and current financiers have written to European and world leaders calling on them to back FTTs to raise revenue for “people in urgent need at home and in the world’s poorest countries http://tiny.cc/uwmagw 
  • Recent Oxfam research revealed that a Eurozone breakup could cost the world’s poorest countries $ 30 billion in lost trade and foreign investment. http://oxf.am/Jfh