‘Most important years in history’ – last chance over climate, says UN report

Warming beyond 1.5C will unleash a frightening set of consequences and scientists say only a global transformation, beginning now, can avoid it. Climate Home News reviews the warnings in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change research report released yesterday.

Only the remaking of the human world in a generation can now prevent serious, far reaching and once-avoidable climate change impacts, according to the global scientific community.

In a major report released yesterday, the UN’s climate science body found limiting warming to 1.5C, compared to 2C, would spare a vast sweep of people and life on earth from devastating impacts.

To hold warming to this limit, the scientists said unequivocally that carbon pollution must fall to “net zero” in around three decades: a huge and immediate transformation, for which governments have shown little inclination so far.

READ MORE: Global warming of 1.5C summary for policymakers

GLOBAL WARMING OF 1.5C -THE REPORTGLOBAL WARMING OF 1.5C -THE REPORT

“The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) research into the impacts of warming.

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The report from the IPCC is a compilation of existing scientific knowledge, distilled into a 33-page summary presented to governments. If and how policymakers respond to it will decide the future of vulnerable communities around the world.

“I have no doubt that historians will look back at these findings as one of the defining moments in the course of human affairs,” the lead climate negotiator for small island states Amjad Abdulla said. “I urge all civilised nations to take responsibility for it by dramatically increasing our efforts to cut the emissions responsible for the crisis.”

What happens in the next few months will impact ON the future of the Paris Agreement and the global climate

Abdulla is from the Maldives. It is estimated that half a billion people in countries like his rely on coral ecosystems for food and tourism. The difference between 1.5C and 2C is the difference between losing 70-90 percent of coral by 2100 and reefs disappearing completely, the report found.

Small island states
Small island states were part of a coalition that forced the Paris Agreement to consider both a 1.5C and 2C target. Monday’s report is a response to that dual goal. Science had not clearly defined what would happen at each mark, nor what measures would be necessary to stay at 1.5C.

As the report was finalised, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative on sustainable energy Rachel Kyte praised those governments. “They had the sense of urgency and moral clarity,” she said, adding that they knew “the lives that would hang in the balance between 2[C] and 1.5[C]”.

37 things you need to know about 1.5C global warming

At 2C, stresses on water supplies and agricultural land, as well as increased exposure to extreme heat and floods, will increase, risking poverty for hundreds of millions, the authors said.

Thousands of plant and animal species would see their liveable habitat cut by more than half. Tropical storms will dump more rain from the Philippines to the Caribbean.

“Everybody heard of what happened to Dominica last year,” Ruenna Hayes, a delegate to the IPCC from St Kitts and Nevis, told Climate Home News. “I cannot describe the level of absolute alarm that this caused not only me personally, but everybody I know.”

Around 65 people died when Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island in September 2017, destroying much of it.

In laying out what needs to be done, the report described a transformed world that will have to be built before babies born today are middle aged. In that world 70-85 percent of electricity will be produced by renewables.

More nuclear power
There will be more nuclear power than today. Gas, burned with carbon capture technology, will still decline steeply to supply just supply 8 percent of power. Coal plants will be no more. Electric cars will dominate and 35-65 percent of all transport will be low or no-emissions.

To pay for this transformation, the world will have invested almost a trillion dollars a year, every year to 2050.

Our relationship to land will be transformed. To stabilise the climate, governments will have deployed vast programmes for sucking carbon from the air. That will include protecting forests and planting new ones.

It may also include growing fuel to be burned, captured and buried beneath the earth. Farms will be the new oil fields. Food production will be squeezed. Profoundly difficult choices will be made between feeding the world and fuelling it.

The report is clear that this world avoids risks compared to one that warms to 2C, but swerves judgement on the likelihood of bringing it into being. That will be for governments, citizens and businesses, not scientists, to decide.

During the next 12 months, two meetings will be held at which governments will be asked to confront the challenge in this report: this year’s UN climate talks in Poland and at a special summit held by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres in September 2019.

The report’s authors were non-committal about the prospects. Jim Skea, a co-chair at the IPCC, said: “Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

Graphic from the IPCC’s special report on 1.5C.

‘Monumental goal’
Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a former lead author of the IPCC, said: “If this report doesn’t convince each and every nation that their prosperity and security requires making transformational scientific, technological, political, social and economic changes to reach this monumental goal of staving off some of the worst climate change impacts, then I don’t know what will.”

The scientist have offered a clear prescription: the only way to avoid breaching the 1.5C limit is for humanity to cut its CO2 emissions by 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach “net-zero” by around 2050.

But global emissions are currently increasing, not falling.

The EU, one of the most climate progressive of all major economies, aims for a cut of around 30 percent by 2030 compared to its own 2010 pollution and 77-94 percent by 2050. It is currently reviewing both targets and says this report will inform the decisions.

If the EU sets a carbon neutral goal for 2050 it will join a growing group of governments seemingly in line with a mid-century end to carbon – including California (2045), Sweden (2045), UK (2050 target under consideration) and New Zealand (2050).

But a fundamental tenet of climate politics is that expectations on nations are defined by their development. If the richest, most progressive economies on earth set the bar at 2045-2050, where will China, India and Latin America end up? If the EU aims for 2050, the report concludes that Africa will need to have the same goal.

Some of the tools needed are available, they just need scaling up. Renewable deployment would need to be six times faster than it is today, said Adnan Z Amin, the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. That was “technically feasible and economically attractive”, he added.

Innovation, social change
Other aspects of the challenge require innovation and social change.

But just when the world needs to go faster, the political headwinds in some nations are growing. Brazil, home to the world’s largest rainforest, looks increasingly likely to elect the climate sceptic Jair Bolsonaro as president.

The world’s second-largest emitter – the US – immediately distanced itself from the report, issuing a statement that said its approval of the summary “should not be understood as US endorsement of all of the findings and key messages”.

It said it still it intended to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

The summary was adopted by all governments at a closed-door meeting between officials and scientists in Incheon, South Korea that finished on Saturday. The US sought and was granted various changes to the text. Sources said the interventions mostly helped to refine the report. But they also tracked key US interests – for example, a mention of nuclear energy was included.

Sources told CHN that Saudi Arabia fought hard to amend a passage that said investment in fossil fuel extraction would need to fall by 60 percent between 2015 and 2050. The clause does not appear in the final summary.

But still, according to three sources, the country has lodged a disclaimer with the report, which will not be made public for months. One delegate said it rejected “a very long list of paragraphs in the underlying report and the [summary]”.

Republished under a Creative Commons licence.

A Nasa satellite photo showing the retreating extent of sea ice in the Arctic. The latest IPCC climate change report says unprecedented action is needed to keep global temperature rises to 1.5C. Image: IPCC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Plea for PM to be ‘game-changer’ in Pacific support for West Papua

A protest in support of West Papuan self-determination in Apia, Samoa. Image: PRN

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A New Zealand-based West Papua advocacy group has appealed to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other leaders meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru next week to support Vanuatu’s United Nations initiative.

Vanuatu has pledged to take a resolution to the 2019 UN General Assembly endorsing West Papua’s right to self-determination and calling for West Papua to be re-inscribed on the list of nations overseen by the UN Decolonisation Committee (the Committee of 24).

Vanuatu has the strong backing of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

READ MORE: PMC director condemns targeting of journalists and silence on West Papua

A statement from West Papua Action Auckland group said today New Zealand had the opportunity to be a game-changer at this Forum meeting.

“New Zealand is influential at the Forum and its support for the issue to go to the UN is crucial,” said spokesperson Maire Leadbeater, author of the recent book See No Evil about NZ’s “betrayal” of West Papuan aspirations.

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“The people of West Papua were cruelly denied their right to self-determination in the 1960s, setting the stage for decades of state sanctioned violence at the hands of the Indonesian military.

“The 1962 New York Agreement brokered by the United States delivered West Papua to Indonesian control without any consultation with West Papuan representatives.

‘Fraudulent exercise’
“The so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’ held in 1969 was a fraudulent exercise carried out under extreme duress.

“This issue is extremely urgent. The people of West Papua are experiencing slow genocide due to ongoing human rights abuses and the harmful conditions of life experienced by so many Papuans.

“Authoritative human rights reports document the routine use of torture and killings as well as the denial the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Not to mention the constant inflow of migrants and the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans.

“It is time to stand up for our Melanesian neighbours. West Papuans risk their lives to speak out for self-determination and freedom.

“New Zealand should have nothing to fear by joining in a call to involve the United Nations in what is the most grievous human rights crisis in our region.”

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Indonesia risks ending up with a doomed ‘can’t-do’ climate plan

By Warief Djajanto Basorie

Three hundred schoolchildren from the greater Jakarta area sat on a red carpet covering the cavernous Soedjarwo auditorium—named to honour the country’s first forestry minister—at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry in January this year.

They were there to participate in the government-led Climate Festival; the theme was “Three Years of Climate Change Achievements”.

Dr Nur Masripatin, the then Director General of Climate Change (she stepped down in February 2018), tossed the kids a question on climate change: what will become of Indonesia if nothing is done about climate change by 2030?

An elementary schoolboy said the country would become hotter and drier. Another two students added to his answer, talking about global warming and the greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

The director-general beamed broadly. Dr Nur Masripatin, who has a PhD in forest biometrics from Canterbury University in New Zealand, has been a veteran negotiator for Indonesia at the annual United Nations climate conference since 2005.

Indonesia is a country of islands, with a majority of the population living along coasts vulnerable to climate change, she explained to the assembled pupils. The government hopes that such an event will equip children with information on climate change that they’ll carry into adulthood.

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Reaching Indonesia’s targets
The event also sought to inform the public on the progress made in implementing international agreements and national policies, such as the Paris Agreement and the Nationally Determined Contribution, related to climate change. Government projects such as this one are only deemed successful if the people meant to benefit from the project feel that they have a stake in the issue, and commit to seeing it through.

The Paris Agreement, reached at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015, is a legally binding international contract to limit global warming “well below” 2˚C, through lowering carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and the degrading of forests. The ultimate aim is zero carbon emissions worldwide by 2050.

In undertaking to realise the Paris Agreement, Indonesia’s Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC, sets a target of cutting emissions by 29 percent against a “business as usual” scenario (in which no planned action is taken) and by 41 percent with international cooperation. This climate action plan is due to be implemented from 2020 to 2030.

One of the many documents handed out to participants of the Climate Festival was the country’s NDC Implementation Strategy, listing nine programmes with assigned activities spanning from ownership and commitment development to implementation and review. Also included was an academic paper on the draft government regulation for climate change.

The festival, and its accompanying books, talks, and handout material produced by the director general and her team, outlines an ambitious climate agenda. Yet what’s not covered is interesting, too.

While the NDC Implementation Strategy cites projected greenhouse gas emission levels, it does not provide details on whether, or how much, emissions have already been reduced since 2011, when the government issued its national action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020. Nor does the NDC explain the formula it uses to reduce emissions in the five slated sectors: land-use, energy, IPPU (industrial processes and product use), agriculture and waste. The first two sectors alone produced 82 percent of the country’s carbon emissions in 2010–2012.

Despite its absence in the Climate Festival’s documents, information on emission reduction is provided by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas). From 2010–2017, Indonesia has cut greenhouse gas emission by only 13.46 percent. It’s a figure the Indonesian government aren’t eager to publicise—it’s a long way from their target. The government doesn’t officially state how much carbon emissions has been reduced because the NDC does not start until 2020, a government official explained.

“The government shall regularly provide emission reduction achievements in line with the NDC target it has committed to after Indonesia ratified the Paris Agreement. This is in line with our commitment to the NDC up to 2030. The information can be accessed in SIGN SMART prepared by the Environment and Forestry Ministry,” says Dr Agus Justianto, Head of the Ministry’s Agency for Research, Development and Innovation.

A major emitter of greenhouse gases
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), Indonesia is the world’s sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the largest contributor of forest-based emissions—an unsurprising fact if one thinks back to the devastating forest and peat fires in 2014 and 2015. Images from the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released in 2014 and 2015 show dense smoke blanketing parts of the country and its neighbours. Those two years were exceptionally bad, but such burning takes place annually.

In September 2017, WRI Indonesia published a 36-page working paper on how Indonesia can achieve its climate change mitigation goal. The organisation found that existing policies in the land-use and energy sectors, even if fully implemented, are inadequate if the country is really serious about reaching the 29% target by 2030. Using its own methodology, WRI Indonesia estimated that the existing policies would only result in a 19% reduction.

A failure to achieve its mitigation target means that Indonesia won’t be able to contribute its declared share in global fulfillment of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Rethinking policies
Reaching the NDC goal would require revisiting existing policies, particularly in agriculture and energy.

In agriculture, the government wants to double the output of the highly lucrative oil palm by 2020. This would require the clearing of more forest and peatland to add to the 14 million hectares of oil palm plantations already present in the country—a move that would surely lead to more carbon emissions. The policy also undermines a forest moratorium, in place since 2011, on the issuing of permits to convert primary forest and peatland to oil palm plantations, pulp and paper estates and other land-use change activities.

Dr Agus denies any planned clearing of peatland, insisting that the moratorium is still in place. What the government wants to increase, he stresses, is productivity per hectare on existing oil palm plantations.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo also has a plan to boost the country’s energy capacity by 35,000 megawatts during his current term, which comes to an end in 2019. Only 2000 megawatts of that energy will come from renewable energy; 20,000 megawatts will come from coal-fired plants, another major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Oil and gas, as well as hydropower, will provide the rest.

This matter of generating 20,000 megawatts of energy from coal-fired plants was put to Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister for National Development Planning and Head of Bappenas, at the Southeast Asia Symposium jointly organised by Oxford University and the University of Indonesia’s School of Environmental Science.

The “best solution”, advocated by environmentalists, would be to phase coal-fired plants out completely and embrace renewable energy sources. It’s in line with the call of the “Powering Past Coal” alliance, a partnership of over 20 governments who intend to move away from coal. No Southeast Asian government has joined the alliance thus far.

Brodjonegoro, a former dean of the University of Indonesia’s School of Economics, replied that Indonesia’s plan relies on the “second-best solution”: new coal-fired power plants will use clean coal technology, and that renewable energy, such as solar, wind or biomass, will be developed for isolated areas that are not yet part of the country’s power grid. Energy is required for economic growth, he argued, and Indonesia has abundant coal deposits to meet that energy need.

But Indonesia might not need as much energy as policymakers initially thought. According to the Electricity Supply Business Plan 2018-2027 drafted by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, a projection in Indonesia’s additional power needs dropped from 78 gigawatts under the 2017–2026 plan to 56 gigawatts in the 2018–2027 plan. The decrease was due to overestimating the growth in demand; if the government had followed through with the initial plan, it would end up overspending by building unused power plants.

Plans are also underway to increase the portion of renewable energy—while renewable energy only provided 12.52 percent of Indonesia’s energy in 2017, it’s expected to rise to 23 percent in 2025. Coal is expected to decline as a source of energy from 58.3 percent in 2017 to 54.4 percent in 2025. But environmental groups say it’s still not good enough.

“Many nations like India, China and even Saudi Arabia have altered their investment direction to renewable energy, whereas Indonesia still depends on coal for more than 50 percent of its power source,” said Hindun Mulaika, Greenpeace Indonesia’s climate and energy campaigner, in a recent press release.

Other organisations have called for more ambitious action from the Indonesian government. Germanwatch and Climate Action Network pointed out in their 2018 Climate Change Performance Index that Indonesia has the potential to further develop renewable energy, particularly since it has relatively large amounts of hydropower. WRI Indonesia recommended other mitigation actions, such as strengthening and extending the forest moratorium, restoring degraded forest and peatland, and implementing energy conservation efforts.

According to WRI Indonesia, increasing renewable sources in the energy mix will require implementing multiple policies, such as a carbon tax on fossil fuel power plants, the replacement of coal-fired plants with wind or solar sources, and the provision of subsidies for the promotion of renewable energy.

Indonesia already has bilateral and multilateral agreements for cooperation in climate change, such as an accord with Norway signed in 2010, where the Scandinavian country pledged up to USD1 billion for “significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and peatland conversion”. The financial contribution is made based on a verified emissions reduction mechanism. However, an influential coal lobby makes it difficult for the country to take bolder steps away from coal power plants.

A target that cannot be achieved
As it stands, Indonesia’s 29 percent NDC target is not achievable, says a government technocrat.

“It is not based on what sectors knew, what the energy sector knew, what the road transport sector knew. No one has reliable data. Everyone has some sense of statistics,” says the technocrat, who has asked to remain anonymous as he’s not authorised to speak to the press.

The distinction between data and statistics is an important one—while statistics present a snapshot of one aspect of an issue, data is a real mapping of what exists, providing a more holistic picture. A good NDC should have reliable data from every sector, disaggregated to show the reality in each of Indonesia’s 465 sub-national districts and town governments. While there might be a political aspect to this process, politics should not be dominant, the official added.

“No one has reliable data. Everyone has some sense of statistics”

The lack of data is a big problem with a major impact on the way targets have been set. The government arrived at the 29% target via inter-sectoral meetings where each of the five mitigation sectors (energy, land-use, industry, agriculture, waste) stated how far they were willing to go in terms of reductions. But if the various groups only have “some sense of statistics” without actual reliable data, the targets set could easily be off the mark.

Hopes for a future generation
Indonesia’s climate future is not bleak; there’s still hope for significant progress moving forward. Beyond government policy and programmes, numerous civil society organisations are actively working on the issue.

One example is Climate Reality Indonesia, which had a booth at the Climate Festival. Its members, who have participated in Al Gore’s climate course, are from all walks of life: students, academics, public officials, business people, homemakers, journalists, artists, clerics. They’re committed to spreading climate awareness among their own circles to encourage a ripple effect that will increase public knowledge across the country.

“Climate change can be viewed from different angles: water, air, marine resources, forests, agriculture, energy, education, laws. Hence it’s important to break down the issue of interest to understand the ground sentiment,” says Amanda Katili Niode, manager of Climate Reality Indonesia.

There are signs that the public are interested. In 2015, a survey by the Pew Research Centre found that 63 percent of the country supported limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement. Climate Reality Indonesia is thus working on creating visual materials on specific climate change impacts and solutions to use in their outreach programmes.

Following Climate Change Director General Nur Masripatin’s session, Hidayatun Nisa, a 24-year-old university graduate, delivered a rousing speech before the assembled schoolchildren. She told them about her work as a facilitator in the Care of Peat Village project run by the Peat Restoration Agency in a village in Jambi province on the east coast of central Sumatra, calling on students to study how to protect the environment for a better future.

“I do hope the children can learn to be sensitive to living things and protect the environment where they live. This also applies to their parents as the educational process that has the greatest effect is the education at home,” says Nisa.

Without a change in gear for a more ambitious and robust emphasis on renewable energy and the safeguarding of the environment, Indonesia’s climate change ambitions could end up amounting to little more than a can’t-do plan. As it is, the current generation is already not on track to meet its own stipulated goals. If the country does not undertake a course correction soon, today’s Indonesian children will find themselves having to pick up the slack in the future.

Warief Djajanto Basorie is a contributor to New Naratif, an independent research and journalism publication. He has reported for the domestic KNI News Service in Jakarta 1971-1991 and concurrently was Indonesia correspondent for the Manila-based DEPTHnews Asia (DNA, 1974-1991). DNA is a feature service reporting on development in Asia for Asian media in English and the vernacular. This article is republished under a Creative Commons licence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media