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Paris 2015: COP21

Paris climate change talks yield first draft amid air of optimism
Negotiators paving the way for a global climate change agreement in Paris have cleared a major hurdle, producing a draft accord in record time and raising hopes that a full week of minister-led talks can now clinch a deal despite many sticking points. No part of the deal has been finalised because in the end it is likely to be a tradeoff between developing countries’ demands – particularly for financing to help cope with the impacts of locked-in climate change – and wealthier nations’ insistence that over time all countries properly account for the progress they have made towards emission reduction goals. And it remains littered with brackets – indicating areas of disagreement. But the document handed to the French on Saturday has refined 50 pages down to just over 20 and, unusually, was agreed on schedule, leaving a full week for ministers to reach agreement.

UN climate conference 2015: As ministers fly in to Paris the hard decisions are still to come
Ministers from around the world, including Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, arrive in Paris this weekend facing an enormous task to finalise a new global agreement to tackle global warming. However there is a sense of optimism that solutions to some of the toughest disputes are starting to emerge… But negotiators for a number of countries conceded many divisive topics – mostly centred around who should shoulder what amount of burden to tackle climate change – still remain unresolved and would require political intervention from ministers when they land.

4 Big Unresolved Questions in the Draft Climate Agreement
Negotiators from 195 countries signed off on a draft climate agreement here Saturday, but the document left so many huge questions unanswered that the real work is only just beginning… Here’s a look at four of the thorniest issues yet to be resolved.

Paris UN climate conference 2015: Five things we learnt this week
The nights have been long, and the progress steady but slow. So what have we learnt over the first week of the Paris climate summit?

Week one at the Paris climate talks – quiz
From the highs and lows to which world leader said what, how closely have you been following the action in the opening week of the summit?

Naomi Klein’s ‘Leap Manifesto’: we can’t rely on big business for a climate fix
Discussions at the Paris climate talks take place within incredibly narrow parameters. In fact, it would not be too great an exaggeration to say that the summit’s main purpose is to send the private sector a message about which way it should steer its future investments… I am under no illusion about the scale of business investment required to help developing countries move to low-carbon energy sources… These concerns are shared by the Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, who this week (alongside her compatriots, the film-maker Avi Lewis and author Maude Barlow) came to Paris to present her Leap Manifesto – featuring strategies for a just transition away from fossil fuels.

COP21 Day 5 review: Stock rising on green finance
Top of the list was the launch of new climate change disclosure taskforce, announced by the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney and headed up by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. The task force will offer climate change-related financial risk disclosures to companies and investors to help financial markets understand the implications of climate-related risks. Meanwhile, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) presented a program for scaling up energy efficiency finance in developing nations, which it says could deliver $25 billion.

African forestry scheme aims to build prosperity by restoring landscape
More than a dozen African countries have joined an “unprecedented” $1.6bn (£1bn) initiative to boost development and fight climate change by restoring 100m hectares (247m acres) of forest across the continent over the next 15 years. The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative – known as AFR100 – was launched on Sunday at a Global Landscapes Forum meeting during the Paris climate change conference.  It will be underpinned by a $1bn investment from the World Bank in 14 African countries over the next 15 years and by $600m of private sector investment over the same period.

Buildings Day: GBCA commits to net zero certification
The Green Building Council of Australia will introduce net zero certification for buildings from 2016, it has announced as part of the inaugural Buildings Day at COP 21 in Paris. The GBCA also said it would push for increased minimum energy efficiency standards in the Building Code of Australia.

Report: Cities Can Help Close COP21 ‘Emissions Gap’
If cities around the world take aggressive climate change action, they can help cut global emissions by 3.7 billion tons a year by 2030 — helping to close the “emissions gap” between what countries have promised to do before the COP21 climate talks, and what is needed to avoid a rise in temperature above 2 degrees Celsius, according to a new report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) on behalf of C40.

Michael Bloomberg to head global taskforce on climate change
Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, is to head a new global taskforce aimed at highlighting the financial exposure of companies to the risk of climate change. Investors, insurers, banks and consumers will be provided with more information under plans for a voluntary industry-led code announced by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the G20 body that monitors and makes recommendations about the financial system, at the COP21 Paris climate change conference on Friday.

Why are fossil fuel companies sponsoring the Paris climate talks?
Big international conferences frequently have corporate sponsors, but given the basic aim of the Paris talks — to dramatically reduce human-made greenhouse gas emissions — some of the event’s sponsors are drawing criticism for their close ties to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, some of the companies paying to keep the lights on and the coffee flowing at the vital climate summit may have a vested interest in limiting the scope of the international agreement.

This may be the biggest news yet to come out of the Paris climate meeting
When it comes to electric power, Africa is still a continent in the dark. More than half of its 1.1 billion inhabitants lack access to electricity, and Africa’s total generating capacity, from Cairo to Cape Town, is only 160 gigawatts, or about half as much as Japan, a country with one-tenth of its population. Against that backdrop, the plan unveiled this week by the African Union and African Development Bank is remarkably ambitious. Officials from the two organisations announced a goal of delivering at least 300 gigawatts – 300 billion watts – of electricity-generating capacity to the continent by 2030, all from clean or renewable energy.

Paris UN Climate Conference 2015: Australia backs target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees
Australia will support the inclusion of a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees – the level demanded by low-lying countries most at risk from climate change – in a deal being negotiated in Paris in return for favourable carbon accounting rules. The concession, extracted from Australia by the tiny Caribbean island nation of St Lucia and South Africa, followed lengthy negotiations in Paris aimed at resolving differences over how to treat carbon dioxide emissions.

Paris UN Climate Conference 2015: Greg Hunt extends the ‘Australia clause’
The Environment Minister, who makes way for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this weekend at the Paris climate summit, left satisfied he had delivered on the task assigned to him. Late on Friday night, after some last-minute wrangling, Hunt got what the Turnbull government had keenly sought: the acceptance of accounting rules that allow Australia unrestricted access to the 128 million tonnes of surplus emissions credits it claims from the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. That handy surplus will allow a big increase of emissions above current levels, and should the current upward trajectory of pollution breach the weak targets, Australia – once it ratifies stage two of the Kyoto Protocol – will get to tap international carbon markets to make up the difference.

Cartoon - COP21 Australia

COP21: UK under fire on climate policy
Allegations of hypocrisy will be levelled at the UK when the Climate Secretary Amber Rudd appears at the Paris climate summit on Monday. Environmentalists say the UK government is talking impressively on climate change to its international audience, but down-grading energy policy at home. Ministers say they are still committed to long-term CO2 emissions reductions. And the Prime Minister David Cameron impressed summit delegates with his passionate call to action.  But in recent months his chancellor has made many policy changes judged likely to increase emissions of greenhouse gases.

Energy and Climate Change

Paris COP21: Climate talks may not matter, because coal and oil will be redundant anyway
There is considerable concern in Paris – and elsewhere – about whether the deal negotiated at the UN climate change conference will be strong enough to drive the global decarbonisation effort that everyone recognises is needed. Tony Seba, a leading academic from Stanford University, says it doesn’t matter. He says the plunging costs of technology will sweep away political inertia and the resistance of vested interests. So much so that by 2030, he believes coal, oil and gas generation and usage will be all but obsolete.

Gates, Branson, Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Ma Launch Breakthrough Energy Coalition
“We need innovation that gives us energy that’s cheaper than today’s hydrocarbon energy, that has zero CO2 emissions, and that’s as reliable as today’s overall energy system. And when you put all those requirements together, we need an energy miracle,” Bill Gates recently told The Atlantic. Luckily, what The Atlantic article called Gates’ “solo global lobbying campaign,” is starting to snowball. The political outcomes of the United Nations climate conference, COP21, may still be unknown, but at least we can expect substantial investment in clean energy following major announcements from earlier this week.

Chinese solar firm says policy instability holding back Australian investment
Chinese firm Hareon Solar is “actively” considering a billion dollar investment in large scale solar projects in Australia, but the stability of government climate policy is its major concern, a senior company executive has told Guardian Australia. Jie Zhang, Hareon’s vice president of global business development said government subsidies were not necessary for the investment decision, to be taken within a year, but policy stability was required.

One dead, fears for 30 workers after oil well explosion in Caspian Sea
One person is confirmed dead and 30 oil workers are missing after the rig they were working on in the Caspian Sea was engulfed by a fire, Azerbaijan’s state energy firm SOCAR says.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Auckland University to decide whether to divest from fossil fuels
NEW ZEALAND – The University of Auckland Council is to hold a vote on Monday 7 December. The result will determine whether the council encourages its associated foundations to divest from fossil fuels. Student representatives have composed a report and gathered 2500 signatures from students, alumni and staff for a petition asking that the university promotes removal of investments from the fossil fuel industry. The report and the petition will both be presented to the University Council.

Environment and Biodiversity

500 years of drought and flood: trees and corals reveal Australia’s climate history
Australia is the land of drought and flooding rains, and in a recent paper we’ve shown that’s been the case for more than 500 years. As part of our Australia and New Zealand Drought Atlas we’ve published the most detailed record of drought and wet periods (or “pluvials”) since 1500…. The dominant theme of Australia’s drought history is variability. We may get one year of extremely wet conditions (for example in 2011) or we might get six years of extremely dry conditions (such as 2003-2009)… To tease out these complex patterns we need to look deep into the past.

App to help track loggerhead turtle movements along Indian ocean
AUSTRALIA – A world-first app will help conservationists discover the mysteries behind the movements of the endangered loggerhead turtles.  A team of environmental scientists and conservationists have gathered at Gnaraloo Station in Western Australia’s North West to track the journey of loggerheads through the Indian Ocean and make it available to anyone around the world.  It is hoped the project will help inform the conservation efforts of the species.

Reindeer in front line of climate change
In Norway, between 400 to 500 indigenous Sami families own 180,000 reindeer which can roam largely unfenced to Finland, Sweden and western Russia. But the reindeer herders of Noway are worried about climate change. Tor Mikkel Eira’s people have been tending reindeer for generations. He says that in Finnmark (the northern part of Norway) the winters over the past years have become warmer, the summers cooler and there’s more rain.

Economy and Business

Are rich countries selling the developing world short on climate change?
Rich countries say they are on track to beating the $100bn climate fund target, but poorer countries criticise the unfair burden of loans and a stark lack of money for adaptation.

Is Mark Zuckerberg The Next Bill Gates?
On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg was the world’s richest millennial. After a stunning announcement this week that he’s transferring 99% of his wealth to a new initiative aimed at improving the world, the world learned that Facebook’s founder is on his way to not even technically being billionaire anymore. Does the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, announced in a somewhat ham-fisted letter to his newborn daughter Max on Tuesday, make Mark Zuckerberg the new Bill Gates?

Waste and the Circular Economy

Circular Economy Package: Going for the Full Circle
The Circular Economy package is out. Pat yourselves on the back NGOs, businesses, MEPs and others who fought for the level of ambition in this package. True – some recycling targets are slightly lower than in the previous version, but the landfill rate is down to 10% from 25%, and is now legally binding… Furthermore the action plan aims to reduce the amount of waste, and the previous plan did not say anything about that. And overall, this package covers a more full circle approach and, importantly, the political ownership of the circular economy agenda is much more anchored in the top of the EU Commission than it has ever been.

Indonesia’s garbage pickers risk lives to earn a living
As negotiators in Paris thrash out a new climate agreement, developing countries like Indonesia struggle with the most basic of environmental measures. In Jakarta, households do not separate their waste or recycle — so the garbage of 10 million people is dumped straight into one giant landfill. You smell Bantar Gebang before you see it. The mountain of trash at Jakarta’s main landfill has to be one of the worst workplaces on the planet, but one of the workers here, 42-year-old Tarkidin, does not see it like that. He has been earning a living here since he was a teenager.

Politics and Society

Heavy hitters come out to ban rough handling of bobby calves
NEW ZEALAND – Public revulsion over the rough handling of bobby calves has brought seven groups in the dairy, meat and other industries together to ensure it will not happen again. The industry groups have joined with the Ministry for Primary Industries to “eradicate” bobby calves being mistreated and ensure animal welfare codes were being followed. The groups are DairyNZ, the Meat Industry Association, Federated Farmers, the Road Transport Forum, the New Zealand Petfood Manufacturers Association, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Veterinary Association.

Built Environment

NZ Transport Authority launches Bike Wise programme
The New Zealand Transport Agency says that over a million New Zealanders regularly take to their bikes, in a growing trend which shows no sign of abating. NZTA wants to see 10 million more cycling trips taken annually by 2019 – a long way from where the country is now, but national cycling manager Dougal List expressed his pleasure that the million milestone has been reached.

Food Systems

This Grocery Store From Trader Joe’s Ex-President Makes Healthy Food As Cheap As Junk Food
Think of a food desert, and you might picture a neighborhood where the nearest fresh vegetable is miles away. But the biggest challenge to healthy eating in poor neighborhoods isn’t always access to healthy food, it’s whether people can afford to buy it. One solution: A grocery store that gathers nutritious food that would otherwise be wasted and then sells it at insanely low prices.

Animal rights campaigners and mental health advocate Mike King welcome ban on ‘cruel’ pig crates
NEW ZEALAND – The manager of a piggery which once had a pig “rescued” from it during an animal cruelty campaign has accepted a ban on restrictive pig housing. But the new law got a warmer welcome from Mike King, the former comedian and pork industry promoter who helped spark it.


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