Archive | mitigation

when we do something to avert or slow down the affects of climate change

The question of climate finance

You may have heard the term ‘climate finance’ somewhere or perhaps you’ve never heard of it.

Climate finance has long been included in the international agreements, protocols and conventions governing actions on global warming – the Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Wind turbines can be erected in many environments including islands and hills such as these

Climate finance can fund wind-powered energy projects in developing countries.

It’s basically for the richer, developed countries to help developing nations to gear-up in the latest technology and know-how to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Along the way, developed countries signed on to mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help shift the globe to greater mitigation and adaptation. The Green Climate Fund and Global Environmental Facility are the two main climate finance organisations.

But…

There is not one agreed, nor concise, definition of climate finance.
The UNFCCC does not define climate finance and in fact institutions, broadly speaking, have individual, independent definitions of climate finance.

The Conference of the Parties – most of the world’s nations in the United Nations Framework Convention or UNFCCC – have yet to endorse the UN’s very own Standing Committee on Finance’s definition, that climate finance is aimed at:

reducing emissions, and enhancing sinks of greenhouse gases and aims at reducing vulnerability of, and maintaining and increasing the resilience of, human and ecological systems to negative climate change impacts.

The problem with climate finance

This lack of an operational, universal definition is the foundation of climate finance contention in international climate change negotiations. It is hindering progress on mobilising the US$100 billion by 2020 and fuelling the fires of climate politics along the way.

How can there be trust and confidence among the various players if there is so much freedom bestowed on developed countries in deciding how much to give and how to disburse their voluntary contributions under the UNFCCC?

During the Fast-Start Finance period from 2010-2012, developed countries were free to adopt their own criteria for whether funds were new and additional as required. How climate finance should be governed, whether it should be grants or loans, net or gross flows, are still points of debate.

It’s common sense

We all know, as a simple fact of money transactions, that money can’t come from an untraceable source without specific regulations and timeframes agreed between the donor or giver and the recipient.

Anything else generates corruption or illegal activity, an element of climate finance that has caused distrust among the developed nations in how some developing countries may have been handling their funds for mitigation, resulting in a push for transparency on implementation, capacity and institutional development in poorer nations.

Terrorism, statelessness

However, climate finance is not the only global issue that is suffering from a lack of action due to the inability of UN Member States to agree on a universal definition. There is not one universal definition of terrorism – a definition needed by law and policy in order to implement UN-related activities.

It has been recognised that having a global definition of terrorism means there can be an international strategy and mobilisation of bilateral and multilateral agreements. Schmid (2004) points out that an agreed, central definition of terrorism is more of a political problem than a legal or semantic one.

It makes one wonder whether rich-country negotiators deliberately disagree on definitions so as to not have a legal responsibility in the case of climate change?

When groups or individuals have different value systems and interests in a situation, the definition of one and the same situation has – given the legitimizing function of words – implications for the situation itself and its permanence (Schmid 2004 p.402).

An incoherent definition is also causing problems for the issue of statelessness – the UNHCR does not have a universally-accepted definition of statelessness, which is estimated to effect around 10 million people globally.

Schmid argues (2004) it is a typical UN problem not to have a common global definition. Or are such issues as climate finance, terrorism and statelessness, difficult to define on a global scale given their transboundary nature? Is the focus on a global, public or UN narrative part of the problem?

References

Australia, Canada, European Union, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, & United States of America, 2013 and 2014, Submissions on Fast-Start Finance, Finance Portal for Climate Change, UNFCCC, viewed October 2016 http://www3.unfccc.int/pls/apex/f?p=116:8:193298212269467

Buchner, B, Falconer, A, Herve-Mignucci, M & Trabacchi, C 2013, ‘The landscape of climate finance’, in Haites E (ed), International Climate Finance, Routledge, New York and Canada, pp.14-31.

Fridahl, M, & Linnér, B 2016, ‘Perspectives on the Green Climate Fund: Possible compromises on capitalization and balanced allocation’, Climate and Development, Linköpings University, p. 105.

Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion 2014, The World’s Stateless, Wolf Legal Publishers, The Netherlands, viewed October 2016, http://www.institutesi.org/worldsstateless.pdf

International Development Finance Club, 2015, ‘IDFC Green Finance Mapping For 2014’, World Resources Institute and ECOYS, November 2015.

Jakob, M, Steckel, J, Flachsland, C, & Baumstark, L 2015, ‘Climate finance for developing country mitigation: blessing or curse?’, Climate and Development, vol/no.1.

Roberts, T, & Weikmans, R December 22 2015, The unfinished agenda of the Paris climate talks: Finance to the global south, blog post, The Brookings Institution, Washington DC USA, viewed October 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/planetpolicy/2015/12/22/the-unfinished-agenda-of-the-paris-climate-talks-finance-to-the-global-south/

Schmid, A 2004, ‘Terrorism – the Definitional Problem’, Case Western Reserve Journal Of International Law, vol.36, no. 2/3, pp. 103-147.

Setty, S 2011, ‘What’s In A Name? How Nations Define Terrorism Ten Years After 9/11’, University of Pennsylvania Law School, viewed October 2016, https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/139-setty33upajintll12011pdf

UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance 2014, Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance Flows Report, UNFCCC, Bonn Germany, viewed October 2016, https://unfccc.int/files/cooperation_and_support/financial_mechanism/standing_committee/application/pdf/2014_biennial_assessment_and_overview_of_climate_finance_flows_report_web.pdf

Westphal, M, Canfin, P, Ballesteros, A, & Morgan, J 2015, Getting to $100 Billion: Climate Finance Scenarios and Projections to 2020 (Working Paper), World Resources Institute, Washington USA, viewed October 2016, wri.org/publication/getting-to-100-billion

Winkler, H, & Dubash, N 2016, ‘Who determines transformational change in development and climate finance?’, Climate Policy, vol. 16, no.6, pp. 783-791.

Yamineva, Y 2016, ‘Climate Finance in the Paris Outcome: Why Do Today What You Can Put Off Till Tomorrow?’, Review of European Comparative and International Environmental Law, vol. 25, no. 2, pp.174-185.

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Energy security at Mt Hotham

Resilience from potential power blackouts is one of the main drivers behind a trial of renewable energy at Mt Hotham snow resort in south-east Australia.

It’s an issue the snow resort knows well at the moment. Mt Hotham and some surrounding areas have been experiencing a telecommunications blackout for at least 18 hours as part of a regional landline phone and mobile service drop-out in Victoria.

View of the Orchard ski area during the 2015 winter season

View of the Orchard ski area (Caroline Gonzalez)

The resort’s management board Chief Executive Officer Jon Hutchins says besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a renewable energy system would make Mt Hotham independent of the electricity grid and provide energy security.

‘Being in a remote area, it’s about resilience, and so we have a chance to get off the grid, guard against blackouts, and provide utility for our guests,’ Mr Hutchins says.

A bank of diesel generators currently provide a back-up source of power in the event of electricity outages, he says.

The International Energy Agency says climate change will have an impact on energy supply and infrastructure. Approximately 1°C of warming can be expected to reduce available electricity generation by 16 per cent in the United States in the 2040 decade.

Pilot projects

Mr Hutchins says there are several small trial projects in renewable energy at Mt Hotham.

It’s part of the snow resort’s Master Plan that will be submitted to the State Government for approval this year.

Solar-powered lights have been installed in the village in addition to PV cells on several ski lodges.

The resort chipped in half of the cost for a geothermal heating project at an apartment complex.

An electric car sub-station was installed at a private apartment in the village, which has an elevation of 1750m – the highest village in the state of Victoria.

Further potential

With the elevation also comes strong winds, up to 120km/hour. The mountain’s Master Plan states that two 2.3MW wind turbines would produce about 16,300MWh of energy each year – equal to about 3050 average homes in Victoria and saving 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Diesel fuel powers the 13 ski lifts, which constitutes about 25 per cent of the mountain’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The renewable energy project will cost an estimated $20million to implement, requiring public and private investment.

Mr Hutchins says climate change is well and truly an issue at all snow resorts but the biggest impact is increased bushfire risk in the summer.

Snowmaking equipment has been used to put out fires on the mountain, he says.

Mixed winter

It’s been a variable winter season in Australia so far. Victorian ski resorts have had several major snowfalls in between periods of heavy rainfall and milder temperatures.

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Aspen’s renewable legacy

Before the world knew the phrase ‘climate change’, Aspen snow resort in the United States was busy setting a goal to get 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources.

It was the 1990s and the municipal City of Aspen wanted to invest in building its own hydro power dams and solar and wind farms.

Aspen Mountain in autumn or fall - showing leadership on climate change

Aspen Mountain in autumn/fall

Fast forward to 2015 and that goal was achieved – ahead of the world’s snow resorts.

It was a continuation of setting records. In 1880, Aspen was the first city west of the Mississippi River in the States to have electrified street lights powered by hydroelectricity.

Aspen, regarded as one of the best and glamorous snow resorts, attracts celebrities and tourists from around the world.

Renewable energy mix

Ashley Perl from the City of Aspen explains the municipal city owns two hydro dams, a solar farm and wind farms, and is currently building a community solar farm.

  • hydro 50%
  • wind 45%
  • solar 5%

Additionally, renewable energy is supplied from the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska (MEAN).

‘I’m not aware of any other ski resorts that have 100 per cent renewable energy,’ Ashley says.

A small portion of the renewable energy is used to power the chair lifts on the four mountains that make up Aspen resort.

The majority of the energy is used to provide electricity to the Aspen city of 6000 permanent residents, plus the thousands who come every year to hit the ski slopes.

Furthermore, electricity rates have been locked in at a set rate for the next 20 years.

‘We’ve the sixth lowest energy rates in Colorado,’ Ashley says.

One of three

In the United States, only two other towns can boast 100% renewable energy use – Burlington in Vermont and Greensburg in Kansas, says Ashley.

But of course when we are talking about renewable energy today, it does not mean everything runs on clean energy.

There are buildings and houses that use natural gas, and cars and buses run on oil and petrol or diesel, says Ashley.

‘So the only way to reduce energy consumption now is through efficiency and to convert to electricity eventually,’ she says.

Emissions targets

Therefore, through its Canary Initiative, the City of Aspen has targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050, below 2004 levels.

Ashley, the director of the Initiative, says it includes schemes such as a community bike share program, which has achieved a 60 per cent usage rate by locals. A Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system gave more than a million rides in 2012.

‘You can get anywhere in Aspen with a bus,’ says Ashley.

Ashley says Aspen has always been in a good position to lead on climate change action due to its name and reputation as a national and international snow tourist destination.

‘If we could influence people who come here to take that back to where they come from, that’s the biggest win in our view,’ she says.

A 92 kw solar PV system at Aspen's water treatment plant, combating climate change

The 92 kw solar PV system at Aspen’s water treatment plant

The Maroon Creek Hydroelectric plant produces 450 kw of energy

The Maroon Creek Hydroelectric plant produces 450 kw of energy

Global drive

Snow resorts around the world have been taking stock of climate change impacts for a number of years.

Many resorts boast lifts and gondolas that are powered by renewable energy.

Saveoursnow.com measures initiatives in generating or using renewable energy with a database of around 200 resorts from around the world.

Last year, in the lead-up to the world negotiations on climate change action in Paris in December, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project launched its ‘I am Pro Snow’ campaign to drive more snow resorts to shift to 100 per cent renewable energy.

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Footprints on the weather

Are you having trouble keeping up with the weather forecast?

Temperature averages are increasingly reaching extremes around the globe and in many cities no other time of year – be it autumn/fall or spring – can bring out the biggest of temperature fluctuations.

Melbourne, in south-eastern Australia, is prone to fluctuating weather, a well-known fact among its residents. Senior forecaster from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Scott Williams, said October was notorious for big temperature fluctuations in Melbourne due to the weather patterns over the continent. Winds over central Australia warm up at the end of winter, bringing warm northerly winds over the city and then cold southerly winds reach up from Tasmania and beyond.

However, Scott said, Melbourne had just experienced its hottest October on record. The mean temperature for the month in the city was 24.3 degrees Celcius in October – almost five degrees above average.

“This last October would have to be viewed as a very extreme month and I’m sure climatologists will claim there’s significant human impact in that,” Scott said.

We know that the global surface temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Celcius or 1.4 degrees Farenheit since 1880, as highlighted by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research. The majority of that warming occurred in the past three decades.

 

Mount Discovery in Antarctica

Photo courtesy of Michael Studinger, Operation IceBridge project scientist. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

 

So, how should you respond to such news?

Laura Faye Tenenbaum is part of an award-winning team as Senior Science Editor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She also teaches oceanography at a college in the US.

She recommends:
a) knowing that you have power with your personal choices
b) focusing on what you can change – with a huge emphasis on can. For instance, if you live in an apartment, you won’t exactly get to grow your own food but you can choose to buy locally-grown produce or catch the bus to work.

“Calculating your carbon footprint and understanding your specific impact on the environment is a huge first step,” Laura says.

Take this quick video game-like quiz to get a fair idea of your carbon footprint: Global Footprint Network calculator.

“Then you get to decide how to lessen that impact. Try to lower your footprint by 10 per cent or 20 per cent,” Laura says.

Remembering the power of your money is also important, she says.
“Minimize disposable single use items and buy things that last. Buy locally produced items and minimize purchases of things that have to be transported long distance,” Laura says.
“Try growing some of your own food. That is something we all can do.”

At the end of the day, anthropogenic climate change – otherwise known as human-induced climate change – is the greatest threat of our time, but Laura adds, it’s also a great opportunity.

“As a society, we now have the opportunity to come together, to connect with each other and the world around us, to re-evaluate what’s important in a big way and to build a cleaner way of living using new technologies,” she says. “Without impetus, nothing would ever shift and climate change will certainly provide a big impetus.”

Check out The Green Herald’s road-test of online carbon calculators.

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Calculate your carbon


Reduce your carbon footprint, catch the train

 

The Green Herald spent a bit of time road testing online carbon calculators.

For many of the calculators, you can do a simple assessment or a more detailed check where you will need your utility or energy bills at the ready.
If you like details, you need to look at your utility bills and enter information based on a selected timeframe in the Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Or you can try a quick questionnaire where you just tick boxes set up by WWF in the UK.

German climate protection organisation atmosfair provides a clear comparison of your carbon emissions specifically for travel. Simply enter your flight destination and arrival, and you get the picture.

Carbonindependent.org – a voluntary set-up by two doctors in the UK – provides a simple, one-page set of questions. Your result is then compared with individual averages from other countries – the results will surprise you.

 

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