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Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

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Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

2 December 2016
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Legal experts from key international organisations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, are meeting to develop a climate change legal toolkit to help countries carry out the Paris Agreement.

The two-day consultation is taking place between 1 and 2 December at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London. Academics, think tanks and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are exchanging knowledge and pooling resources to explore how to best support the legal needs and priorities of countries for climate mitigation, adaptation and finance.

Partners include the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and UN Environment. Participants include representatives from six United Nations entities and the World Bank. The Paris Agreement was signed by 193 countries and aims to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

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Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement Celebration and Reality Check

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Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement
Celebration and Reality Check

 Paris Climate Change Agreement

Bonn, Germany, 12 December 2016 – One year after the world adopted the Paris Climate Change Agreement, climate action across governments, business and societies continues to scale new heights. The challenge now is to take this to an even higher scale with a speed and an urgency that reflects the scientific reality.

“2016 was an extraordinary year in many ways. In less than 12 months the Paris climate agreement entered into force and almost weekly, more countries ratify. Meanwhile nations, cities, regions, businesses and investors continue to signal their unwavering support through practical action, shifts in investments and ever more ambitious pledges, “said Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This urgency and this action needs not only to continue but to go to scale and gather ever more speed over 2017 and the years and decades to come—because current ambition still falls short of what is needed. In 2016 the UN’s World Meteorological Organization announced world-wide average temperatures had risen 1-degree Celsius in 2015 and that concentrations of the key greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, reached past the significant milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere over the entire year, “she added.

Ms Espinosa said achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement will also rest on the speed and urgency of realizing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015.

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Investing in Infrastructure? Don't Forget the Electric Grid

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Investing in Infrastructure? Don't Forget the Electric Grid

Solar panels and wind generators against a city view

December 7, 2016

Photo by artJazz/Getty Images

by Aimee E. Curtright and Kathleen Loa

One of the initiatives on President-elect Donald Trump's agenda for his first 100 days in office is a plan that would spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years.

Along with fixing America's dilapidated roads, bridges, transit and airports, the plan envisions spending $52 billion in taxpayer money on electricity infrastructure, with a presumed emphasis on integrating advanced “smart grid” technologies. While many consumers might see this as just another technology rollout that could be best left to the private sector and the free market, leaving the future of the electricity grid to chance should not be an option.

To maximize the potential benefits of a multibillion-dollar smart grid investment, a closer examination of smart grid technology and policy is needed.

A smart grid is an electric grid that connects electricity producers to consumers in new ways, including allowing for electricity and information to flow not just from the producers, but back to them as well. It includes the various pieces of equipment and devices that are used to produce, deliver and monitor the electricity that keeps America's lights on.

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The environmental costs and benefits of fracking: The state of research

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The environmental costs and benefits of fracking: The state of research

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On July 30, 2014, the United States did something that had been legally prohibited for nearly 40 years: It exported domestically produced crude oil. While minor exports had occurred through the years and the July shipment involved some technical sleight-of-hand (the product was classified as lightly refined “condensates”), it was one of the first significant oil shipments since Congress banned exports in the wake of the 1974 oil embargo.

Respecting the law up to now has been easy, given America’s declining domestic oil production and thirst for imported oil — in 2006, the country imported 3.7 billion barrels. What changed between then and now all comes down to one word: fracking, the popular name for hydraulic fracturing. Combined with horizontal drilling, the technique has powered a boom in U.S. energy production, unlocking substantial petroleum and natural gas deposits trapped in shale formations. A lot of this is good news: U.S. consumers and industry rarely complain when energy prices fall, and reducing imports from unstable parts of the world has considerable appeal. Natural gas also releases half as much carbon dioxide as coal, allowing it to potentially serve as a “bridge fuel” to the cleaner energy supported by the majority of Americans.

U.S. oil production, 2000-2014 (U.S. EIA)

Despite these advantages, fracking remains highly controversial, in large part because of the potential damage it poses to human health and the environment. Reports of fracking operations contaminating aquifers are widespread, and research has found indications of higher rates of silicosis among well workers, an increase in congenital defects to children born nearby, and elevated cancer risk due to air pollution. Even earthquakes have been linked to fracking operations. Such concerns have led a number of towns to try to ban the practice, and fracking has become one of the central issues in the 2014 battle for Colorado’s governorship, a crucial swing state.

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Air Pollution in China

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Air Pollution in China

Coal is the leading culprit of air pollution in China. A recent University of Leeds study sponsored by Greenpeace East Asia traced PM2.5 (fine particles with a diameter under 2.5µm) in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and found the amount of PM2.5 released into the air in 2010 alone was more than ten million tons.

The study also confirmed that the majority of air pollution happens when certain gases are discharged into the air and turn into fine particles. And coal burning contributes most of these gases.

China's epic climb to the world's second-largest economy has had devastating health impacts. Another research project co-authored by Greenpeace on the health impacts of coal power plants shows that PM2.5 pollution from the 196 coal-fired power plants in the capital region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei caused 9,900 premature deaths and nearly 70,000 outpatient visits or hospitalizations during 2011. 75% of the premature deaths are caused by the 152 coal-fired power plants in Hebei Province.

Air pollution will remain a serious problem in China as long as coal continues to be the country's major energy source.

PM2.5 concentration levels have particularly endangered public health in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an. The PM2.5 concentration levels in all four cities exceed World Heath Organisation (WHO) air quality guidelines. This means higher health risks to the cardiovascular system, cerebrovascular system and an increase in the probability of cancer and premature death.

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Wind Turbine Technologies

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Wind Turbine Technologies

The purpose of this report is to give investors a better idea of which turbine is suitable for a particular setting and to provide a new outlook on vertical-axis wind turbines. Vertical-axis wind turbines are more compact and suitable for residential and commercial areas while horizontal-axis wind turbines are more suitable for wind farms in rural areas or offshore. However, technological advances in vertical-axis wind turbines that are able to generate more energy with a smaller footprint are now challenging the traditional use of horizontal wind turbines in wind farms. Wind technology has grown substantially since its original use as a method to grind grains and will only continue to grow.

Source: http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/research/#hydrogenforelectricitygeneration

 

How does oil affect the environment?

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How does oil affect the environment?

Crude oil is used to make petroleum products used to fuel airplanes, cars, and trucks; to heat homes; and to make products like medicines and plastics. Although petroleum products make life easier, finding, producing, and moving crude oil may have negative effects on the environment. Technological advances in exploration, production, and transportation of oil and enforcement of safety and environmental laws and regulations help to avoid and reduce these effects.

Technology helps reduce the effects of drilling and producing oil

Exploring and drilling for oil may disturb land and marine ecosystems. Seismic techniques used to explore for oil under the ocean floor may harm fish and marine mammals. Drilling an oil well on land often requires clearing an area of vegetation. These impacts are reduced by technologies that greatly increase the efficiency of exploration and drilling activities. Satellites, global positioning systems, remote sensing devices, and 3-D and 4-D seismic technologies make it possible to discover oil reserves while drilling fewer exploratory wells. Mobile and smaller slimhole drilling rigs reduce the size of the area disturbed by drilling activities. The use of horizontal and directional drilling makes it possible for a single well to produce oil from a much larger area, which reduces the number of wells required to develop an oil field.

Hydraulic fracturing

An oil production technique known as hydraulic fracturing is used to produce oil from shale and other tight geologic formations. This technique has allowed the United States to increase domestic oil production significantly and reduce the amount of oil that the country imports. There are environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. Fracturing rock requires large amounts of water, and it uses potentially hazardous chemicals to release the oil from the rock strata. In some areas of the country, significant use of water for oil production may affect the availability of water for other uses and can potentially affect aquatic habitats. Faulty well construction or improper handling may result in leaks and spills of fracturing fluids.

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Microhydropower Systems

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Microhydropower Systems

Microhydropower can be one of the most simple and consistent forms or renewable energy on your property.

Microhydropower can be one of the most simple and consistent forms or renewable energy on your property.

If you have water flowing through your property, you might consider building a small hydropower system to generate electricity. Microhydropower systems usually generate up to 100 kilowatts of electricity. Most of the hydropower systems used by homeowners and small business owners, including farmers and ranchers, would qualify as microhydropower systems. But a 10-kilowatt microhydropower system generally can provide enough power for a large home, a small resort, or a hobby farm.

A microhydropower system needs a turbine, pump, or waterwheel to transform the energy of flowing water into rotational energy, which is converted into electricity.

Our page on planning a microhydropower system has more information.

How a Microhydropower System Works

Hydropower systems use the energy in flowing water to produce electricity or mechanical energy. Although there are several ways to harness the moving water to produce energy, run-of-the-river systems, which do not require large storage reservoirs, are often used for microhydropower systems.

For run-of-the-river microhydropower systems, a portion of a river's water is diverted to a water conveyance -- channel, pipeline, or pressurized pipeline (penstock) -- that delivers it to a turbine or waterwheel. The moving water rotates the wheel or turbine, which spins a shaft. The motion of the shaft can be used for mechanical processes, such as pumping water, or it can be used to power an alternator or generator to generate electricity.

A microhydropower system can be connected to an electric distribution system (grid-connected), or it can stand alone (off-grid).

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Ecosystem Services

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Ecosystem Services

What are Ecosystem Services?

Ecosystem sevices

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defined Ecosystem Services as “the benefits people derive from ecosystems”. Besides provisioning services or goods like food, wood and other raw materials, plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms provide essential regulating services such as pollination of crops, prevention of soil erosion and water purification, and a vast array of cultural services, like recreation and a sense of place..

In spite of the ecological, cultural and economic importance of these services, ecosystems and the biodiversity that underpins them are still being degraded and lost at an unprecedented scale. One major reason for this is that the value (importance) of ecosystems to human welfare is still underestimated and not fully recognized in every day planning and decision-making, in other words, the benefits of their services are not, or only partly, captured in conventional market economics. Furthermore, the costs of externalities of economic development (e.g. pollution, deforestation) are usually not accounted for, while inappropriate tax and subsidy (incentive) systems encourage the over-exploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources and other ecosystem services at the expense of the poor and future generations.

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Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads above Water

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Book Launch - Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads above Water

December 01, 2016
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM ESTWashington, DC

Learn how Bangladesh is leading the way forward in adaptation, from local community action to international negotiations.

Like most developing nations, Bangladesh emits a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gases. Yet it is one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, facing increasingly severe flooding, droughts and cyclones. Climate scientists estimate that rising sea levels alone will displace 18 million people by 2050.

But Bangladeshis are not simply victims of climate change. They have centuries of experience coping with environmental variability, and they are leading the way forward in adaptation, from local community action to international negotiations. Cyclone shelters and early warning systems have dramatically reduced fatalities, while Bangladeshi experts have played a central role in global climate talks.

David Hulme will launch his co-authored book, Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads above Water, and discuss the findings of the book with a participants and a panel of experts.

Speakers

David Hulme, Professor of Development Studies, The University of Manchester; Executive Director, Global Development Institute. David Hulme is Professor of Development Studies at the University of Manchester where he is Executive Director of the Global Development Institute and CEO of the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre. He has worked on rural development, poverty and poverty reduction, microfinance, the role of NGOs in conflict/peace and development, environmental management, social protection and the political economy of global poverty for more than 30 years. His main focus has been on Bangladesh but he has worked extensively across South Asia, East Africa and the Pacific. His recent books include Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change (Anthem, 2016), Should Rich Nations Help the Poor? (Polity, 2016), Global Poverty: Global Governance and Poor People (Routledge, 2015), Governance, Management and Development (Palgrave, 2015), and Just Give Money to the Poor (Kumarian Press, USA, 2010).

Moushumi Chaudhury, Associate, Climate Resilience, World Resources Institute. Moushumi Chaudhury is an Associate at World Resource Institute’s Climate Resilience Practice, where she builds capacity to prioritize adaptation options in Fiji and Kenya as well as supports South-South knowledge exchange. She previously worked with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) covering East Africa, West Africa and South Asia. Prior to her experience with CCAFS, she worked with the United Nations Development Program in New York, the Center for International Forestry Research Institute in Indonesia as well as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Moushumi holds a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. She has an MS in Natural Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a BA in Anthropology & Sociology from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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China turns to ecology in search of ‘civilisation’

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China turns to ecology in search of ‘civilisation’

BY James Oswald
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From obscure origins, China’s ecological civilisation model has grown into an international movement

In 2007, then Premier Hu Jintao announced that China would become an ‘ecological civilisation’, eschewing the previous development model that had seen economic growth take priority over environmental health.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a history of using the concept of civilisation, or wenming, as part of its moralistic methods of governance: material civilisation, spiritual civilisation, and political civilisation have all been invoked.

In the Deng era, material civilisation set an ideal material standard of living and spiritual civilisation guided the moral decisions of these Chinese nouveau riche. Later, Jiang Zemin introduced political civilisation that focused on regulation, law, governance and institution-building.  This Chinese notion of civilisation is best understood as a process, of ‘becoming civilised,’ rather than the Western conception of civilisation that has its roots in the notion of the city.

Though these civilising discourses are a response to real or perceived problems arising from China’s development and incorporation into the global market economy, they differ from ecological civilisation in an important way. The previous civilisations are inward-looking attempts by the CCP to address issues arising from its development and modernisation. Ecological civilisation, in contrast, has international implications— after all, the present environmental crisis, while it may see a particularly severe expression in mainland China, is international in nature and its causes and manifestations are global.

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‘Promote ecological civilisation, build a beautiful China’. From the Central Propaganda Department’s magazine, Current Affairs

Ecological civilisation is distinct from its predecessors in another important way—it arose from an already existing academic debate, with Chinese academics developing the idea after reading about it in a Russian article from 1984.

The original publication describes ecological civilisation as a system that synthesises concepts from social science (in the Marxist-Leninist tradition) with ecological studies, so as to mitigate the negative effects that development has on the environment, and to advocate the frugal use of resources to promote ‘harmonious development.’  A summary of this original publication appeared in the Guangming Daily in 1985. The idea caught the attention of Liu Zongchao, then a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and inspired him to begin writing on the topic.

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How Urban Trees Can Save Lives

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How Urban Trees Can Save Lives

Planting Healthy Air report quantifies health benefits of trees for 245 cities globally

Heatwaves are one of the world's most underestimated threats, killing more than 12,000 people every year around the world—more than any other weather-related event. And heat is especially dangerous in cities, which tend to be much warmer than surrounding less-developed areas. On top of that, cities tend to have higher levels of air pollution, which contribute to more than 3 million deaths every year. With 70 percent of the world’s population predicted to live in cities by 2050, heat and air pollution constitute a major public health concern.

One relatively simple solution to this problem? Plant more trees in cities. Trees cool the air by casting shade and releasing water vapor, and their leaves can filter out fine particulate matter (PM)—one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, generated from burning biomass and fossil fuels. The Nature Conservancy has studied the effects of trees on air quality in 245 of the world’s largest cities and documented the findings in the Planting Healthy Air report.

Key Takeaways of the Report

The Planting Healthy Air report documents which cities stand to benefit most from tree plantings, in terms of both heat and PM reduction, and how much investment would be required to achieve meaningful benefits.

The analysis found that investing just US$4 per resident in each of these cities in tree planting efforts could improve the health of millions of people, and that trees are as cost-effective as many other common solutions.

Most of the cooling and filtering effects created by trees are fairly localized, so densely populated cities—as well as those with higher overall pollution levels—tend to see the highest overall return on investment (ROI) from tree plantings.

The localized nature of trees’ effects, however, means that particular neighborhoods in virtually any city could benefit from plantings. City planners can even target plantings to protect areas with especially vulnerable populations—such as near schools and hospitals—or use trees as a screen against PM coming from highways and industrial areas.

While trees alone can't solve the entirety of cities' air and heat problems, they are a critical piece of the puzzle. The report shows that even a conservative global investment in urban trees can save tens of thousands of lives.

Editor's Note: Scroll through the interactive map at the bottom of the page to see which neighborhoods within each of the cities from the study have the highest return on investment for heat and PM reduction.

Source: https://global.nature.org/content/healthyair?intc=nature.hp.news3

 

Marrakech Climate Summit Continues Momentum Towards Low-Carbon Future

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Marrakech Climate Summit Continues Momentum Towards Low-Carbon Future

by The Nature Conservancy / Press Statement

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO | November 18, 2016

Marrakech Climate SummitOver the past two weeks, leaders from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to taking decisive action together on climate change, and to advancing the landmark Paris Agreement. That Agreement, reached last December, established for the first time a strong framework in which all countries agreed to take national action to address the threat of climate change. Throughout this year’s climate conference in Marrakech, known as COP 22, negotiators began the tough work of implementing that agreement, by developing guidance to support countries’ efforts. By the close of COP 22, more than 100 countries had formally joined the Agreement.

The Marrakech conference followed closely other key advances in recent months, such as the speedy entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the recent aviation emissions reduction agreement from Montreal, and the Kigali agreement to reduce heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons used in air conditioning and refrigerators.

The results of the U.S. election of a candidate who has expressed skepticism about climate change occurred during the COP 22, and governments, businesses and civil society, including those in the United States, responded with renewed determination to advance management of the risks presented by climate change and to continue to develop a clean energy, low-carbon future. On November 16, more than 360 global companies and investors stated their continued support for previously agreed limits on global warming and to accelerating efforts to seize the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy.

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