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Paris 2015: COP21

The Paris climate agreement at a glance
On December 12, 2015 in Paris, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change finally came to a landmark agreement. Signed by 196 nations, the Paris Agreement is the first comprehensive global treaty to combat climate change, and will follow on from the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020. It will enter into force once it is ratified by at least 55 countries, covering at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the key points.

Five things you need to know about the Paris climate deal
The UN climate talks in Paris have ended with an agreement between 195 countries to tackle global warming. The climate deal is at once both historic, important – and inadequate. From whether it is enough to avoid dangerous climate change to unexpected wins for vulnerable nations, here are five things to help understand what was just agreed at COP21.

Historic Paris climate pact reached – experts react
Expert reactions on the agreement, loss and damage, climate adaptation and emissions reductions from:

  • Robyn Eckersley, Professor of Political Science, University of Melbourne
  • Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University
  • Peter Christoff, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne
  • Matt McDonald, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Queensland …and more.

Paris climate deal: key points at a glance
Governments have agreed to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels: something that would have seemed unthinkable just a few months ago.  There is a scientific rationale for the number. John Schellnhuber, a scientist who advises Germany and the Vatican, says 1.5C marks the point where there is a real danger of serious “tipping points” in the world’s climate. The goal of 1.5C is a big leap below the 2C that nearly 200 countries agreed as a limit six years ago in Copenhagen. But bear in mind we’ve already hit 1C, and recent data shows no sign of a major fall in the global emissions driving the warming.


Paris climate deal: The word that almost brought down a global agreement
The acceptance of the Paris agreement was met with cheers that rang across La Seine, the specially constructed hall for the historic talks. The voice of the English translator broke with emotion as she relayed the words of the host, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.  It was followed by laudatory speeches from leaders around the world.  The head of the UN climate change body Christiana Figueres gave a speech that had her staff dancing in the aisles.  But just a few hours before the celebrations, there was a crisis that nearly saw the entire deal unravel agonisingly close to its conclusion.

How US negotiators ensured landmark Paris climate deal was Republican-proof
White House officials at COP 21 helped craft a deal congressional Republicans would not be able to stop – and the effort required major political capital.

Paris UN Climate Conference 2015: Paris delivers, but can Malcolm Turnbull?
With the Paris summit wrapping up having delivered an historic global climate agreement, questions will inevitably turn to whether Malcolm Turnbull will use the international momentum to advance the climate debate back home. For half a decade, Australia has been stuck in a fact-free debate on climate policy – one that has seen one of the biggest challenges the world faces turned into a domestic political chew toy. But where the failure at Copenhagen helped derailed Kevin Rudd’s climate ambition back in 2009, success in Paris presents the opposite opportunity for Turnbull, who many believe has a deep desire to move to a more robust climate policy.

Paris climate deal: What will the historic agreement mean for Australia?
Australia’s target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 remains unchanged, but the Paris agreement will put pressure on the Government to do more. The deal puts in place mechanisms to review reduction targets every five years starting from 2020, which will include Australia. Each stocktake will have to result in a more ambitious target. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop conceded that would be a challenge for the Government, but that the deal would provide further “flexibility” to do more on climate change. “Of course if we’re being ambitious over time we will need to work even harder,” Ms Bishop told reporters in Paris after the signing of the deal. But we don’t want to damage our economy without having an environmental impact.”

Paris climate agreement: Now it’s time for Australia’s real work to start
The historic Paris climate agreement has left Australia in a conflicted position. While today’s historic international climate agreement will boost existing investment trends and herald a move to a zero carbon global economy, it also highlights the glaring inadequacies of Australia’s commitments and policies when compared with the necessary action to be taken and that of other countries.

Paris climate deal: Environmental groups welcome landmark agreement
AUSTRALIA – Prominent environmental groups have welcomed an historic global accord to tackle climate change, but are urging nations to put the agreement into action… The Climate Council’s Tim Flannery said it was a watershed moment in the global effort to tackle climate change… The Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO, Kelly O’Shanassy, said the agreement was a sign of how important it is to solve global warming… Grassroots organisation, who is pressing financial institutions to divest form fossil fuels, said the 1.5 degrees Celsius reference is key.

Paris climate deal: New Zealand must improve plans to meet global target
Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, who led the New Zealand delegation to Paris, described the deal as a “huge and historic step forward”. “For the first time, we’ve got a very serious, comprehensive deal in place and climate change is a permanent part of the policy framework: I don’t think one could have really said that before…[so] this is a big shift.” While the aspirational 1.5C target was more aggressive than some had hoped for, Groser did not believe any drastic changes to New Zealand’s energy policy were required as a result.

Paris climate deal: what does it mean for New Zealand?
… What about New Zealand? How do we stack up? Not that well: Green Party co-leader James Shaw says the Government’s current target of a 30 per cent reduction below the CO2 level in 2005 by the year 2030 (an emission rate 11 per cent below our 1990 output) is “clearly out of line” with the Paris agreement.

‘Help us replant’: Fresh call from foresters after Paris climate deal
NEW ZEALAND – Foresters say the Paris climate deal has cast a spotlight on New Zealand’s poor tree replanting rate and the needs to fix it… Brian Stanley, president of the Wood Council which represents contractors, millers and wood manufacturers, said New Zealand’s poor replanting rate of radiata trees after harvest was not going to get better without a serious revamp of carbon credits. He said that when forestry was pulled into the previous climate agreement, the Kyoto protocol, foresters had an incentive to replant because other polluters were offsetting their emission by buying carbon credits.

Climate deal: the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running? | Bill McKibben
With the climate talks in Paris now over, the world has set itself a serious goal: limit temperature rise to 1.5C. Or failing that, 2C. Hitting those targets is absolutely necessary: even the one-degree rise that we’ve already seen is wreaking havoc on everything from ice caps to ocean chemistry. But meeting it won’t be easy, given that we’re currently on track for between 4C and 5C. Our only hope is to decisively pick up the pace.

Energy and Climate Change

Paris emissions cuts aren’t enough – we’ll have to put carbon back in the ground
I wonder how many of the delegates in Paris realise that they have just created the mother of all “take-back schemes”. As a consumer, you may have already come across this sort of deal: if you don’t want to dispose of the packaging of your new sofa, you can take it back to IKEA and it’s their problem. In many places, you can even take back the sofa itself when your kids have wrecked it. For the Paris climate deal to succeed something similar will have to happen, where companies that rely on fossil fuels will be obliged to “take back” their emissions.

Gold Coast shopping centre adds 636kW solar carpark – Australia’s largest
A shopping centre on Queensland’s southern Gold Coast has installed one of Australia’s largest solar car park arrays, as part of a $30 million redevelopment project. The 636kW system installed on the roof of the carpark at The Pines Elanora will generate over 1000MWh of electricity a year, enough to power up to 20 per cent of the centre’s air conditioning.

FCEVs Get Another $35 Million From US Energy Department
If you ask the US Energy Department, hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles are on the verge of a major commercial breakthrough. You’ll get a somewhat different answer from battery electric vehicle experts, but the fact of the matter is that the Energy Department is going with its gut. Earlier this year, the agency launched a $35 million round of funding for advancing hydrogen technologies for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and last week it doubled down with another $35 million offer covering 4 key areas of interest.

Environment and Biodiversity

See The Animals That Have Already Died Off As The Pace Of Extinction Speeds Up
Scientists say the rate of extinction is quickening as a result of climate change, habitat loss, and the introduction of non-native species. One estimate showed we could lose 15%–37% of all species by 2050. The graphics here—produced by the Discovery Channel for its series Racing Extinction—show the toll so far. You can see how there were four times as many extinctions in the 1900s than the 1800s, that North America accounts for 37% of extinctions so far, and that a staggering 27,000 species are in danger of becoming extinct.

Federal Government to abandon plans to log World Heritage Area if UNESCO will not ratify it
AUSTRALIA – The Federal Government would abandon a plan to log in Tasmania’s World Heritage Area if it was not ratified by the United Nations environment committee. UNESCO has previously said it does not support the logging of specialty species timbers in the Wilderness World Heritage Area, which covers about 20 per cent of Tasmania, about 1.6 million hectares. The Federal Government has supported the proposal for logging outlined in the Tasmanian Government’s draft management plan for the region.

Lake Tutira in northern Hawke's Bay is too toxic for swimming, boating and kayaking.

Lake Tutira in northern Hawke’s Bay is too toxic for swimming, boating and kayaking.


Some lakes and rivers already on the toxic list
NEW ZEALAND – As Kiwis venture out this summer in search of rivers and lakes to swim in, the Greens are warning that already 16 lakes and rivers in Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury are too toxic to swim, wade or boat in. In Waikato, lakes Whangape, Waikare, Ngaroto, Rotokaeo, Rotoroa, and Rotorua are affected. Well known pollution hotspot Lake Tutira in northern Hawke’s Bay, which has a popular camping ground by its shores,  has been declared unfit for swimming, boating or kayaking by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.


Economy and Business

Backstage at COP21 – why business support for a climate deal is on the up
Backstage at the conference, big shifts in business outlook on climate change have been obvious and evident at sideline events like those hosted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). CEOs like Paul Polman of Unilever and many others have expressed firm commitments to concrete action against climate change. He announced that Unilever will be “carbon positive” by 2030, committing to eliminate fossil fuels from its operations and produce more renewable energy than it consumes. Monsanto announced that they will be carbon neutral by 2021 in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of its crop production. This is a markedly different position than in Copenhagen at COP15.

Business reaction largely positive to climate change deal
NEW ZEALAND – Businesses have reacted largely positively to the successful end to climate change talks in Paris, although some believe the system to achieve our target will need serious reform.  The COP21 climate change agreement in Paris has been hailed as a “huge and historic step forward by the Minister for Climate Change Issues, Tim Groser.  Back in New Zealand, businesses were rethinking how the deal might affect them. Here are their thoughts.

The coming electrification of everything
At Obvious Ventures, we believe stored electricity, increasingly derived from renewable sources, will entirely replace fossil fuels as the preferred method to power everything in our lives. From cars to scooters to boats to locomotives to industrial equipment, we are in the midst of a transition that will electrify everything previously driven by combustion. There are two simple reasons we’ll make this change sooner than most people think. First, electrically powered things just work better. And people want things that work better. The second reason is really just a piece of the first. “Better” increasingly means “better forever.” That is, not just better in the moment for that use, but also better for our surroundings, our health, and the health of our planet.

Ford accelerates EV transition with $4.5bn investment
Ford is ploughing $4.5bn into electric vehicle (EV) solutions and extensions through to 2020, in an enhanced investment programme that will see 13 new EV models added to the US carmaker’s portfolio.

Politics and Society

New Aboriginal languages course should count towards ATARs
From 2016, high school students will be able to study any one of the 70 or more Aboriginal languages of New South Wales. Teachers, academics and the wider community have fought hard for this policy shift in this state. But it’s disappointing that the course will only count towards the Higher School Certificate (HSC) and not contribute toward a student’s Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). By not making the subject ATAR-accredited to help students gain entry to university, it acts as a disincentive to study Aboriginal languages.

Video: ‘Koch Brothers’ Sponsor Star-Studded Climate Denial Anthem
A satire music video in the style of the 1985 collaboration “We Are The World,” highlights the flawed thinking of climate change deniers, with the help of some celebrities. Mocking the ultra-wealthy Koch brothers, Beau Bridges plays both David and Charles Koch, and invites “the world’s hottest conservative pop stars to sing a song.”

Built Environment

Delhi considers shutting schools as toxic smog continues
Authorities in Delhi are considering shutting schools in the sprawling Indian capital as a bout of toxic smog stretches into a second month. The megacity, already the world’s most polluted by some measures, has been suffering record levels of pollution which exceed recommended WHO guidelines by between 15 and 30 times.  The smog, a combination of exhaust from cars and lorries, dust, smoke from fires and industrial output which is intensified by cold temperatures, is predicted to last for months to come.

Want to build better cities? Get the private sector involved in rail projects
AUSTRALIA – Our cities are slowing down. Traffic speeds have slowed in the world’s cities for 30 years and rail transit is now faster than road speeds in most cities. Rail is needed in all of the world’s cities as it can enable travel time savings and space efficiencies no longer achievable by car and bus. Rail can carry 20 times as many people compared to a single lane of freeway and five to 10 times that of a bus way. The problem for getting more rail is obviously funding. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated that he wants to see a greater involvement of private sector funds in urban rail. How can this be done?

Food Systems

Celebrities put weight behind environment vs taste bud issue
Is it time we all went vegetarian? Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is now telling us to cut down on meat, so how serious should we be? During an interview after a speech to the [COP21] conference, the former Governor of California claimed that 28 per cent of all greenhouse gases are caused by intensive farming.


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