Explainer: New negotiating text provides clarity on UN climate deal

  • 28 Jul 2015, 17:00
  • Sophie Yeo

UN Photo/Mark Garten

The United Nations has released a new document outlining what the Paris climate deal could look like, which countries hope to sign in December this year.

The two diplomats responsible for steering the challenging negotiations towards a successful outcome in December, Dan Reifsnyder from the US and Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria, released a new text - or a "tool", as they are calling it - last Friday.

It is the product of a six weeks of work, following  the latest round of talks in June. It attempts to summarise the latest positions and thinking from the 196 parties involved in crafting the new deal, which will guide international efforts to tackle climate change beyond 2020.


The new text is based on the  Geneva negotiating text - an 86-page document that countries constructed in February, following a major round of talks in December 2014 in Lima.

The new text has been reduced to 76 pages through a process of careful streamlining. This largely involved erasing duplication and redundancies from the Geneva text - a messy, if comprehensive, document, that had, as far as it was possible, attempted to accommodate all parties' views.

The co-chairs have not removed any substantive language or options from the text concerning the final content of the agreement. This sort of whittling down is the responsibility of the parties, and is likely to commence in earnest in Bonn in upcoming sessions, the first of which begins this August

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Hillary Clinton’s renewable goals could significantly raise US climate ambition

  • 28 Jul 2015, 10:10
  • Simon Evans

Hillary Clinton | Instagram

Renewable energy goals announced by Hillary Clinton, who hopes to succeed President Obama in 2017, could significantly raise US climate ambition.

Clinton wants renewables to supply a third of US electricity by 2027, enough to power "every home in America". Carbon Brief analysis shows this could shave a further 4 percentage points off US emissions, against its existing pledge to cut carbon by 26-28% by 2025.

Clinton says she wants to make climate change a major campaign issue in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections. Only two of 15 Republican candidates have acknowledged that climate change is real and must be tackled.

Carbon Brief explores what Clinton's renewable energy goals could mean for the climate and why solar seems to be top of her agenda.

Renewable target

Current expectations for US renewables are based on Obama's Clean Power Plan. Due to be finalised within weeks, the plan will set targets for power sector carbon intensity in each state and could encourage states to set or increase renewable portfolio standards that require generators to source a set share of electricity from renewables.

Under Obama's plan, renewables are expected to generate a quarter of US electricity by 2030, up from 13% today. If the renewable share were to grow steadily in the years to 2030, it would be expected to reach just 23% by 2027.

So Clinton's goal of 33% renewables by 2027 would represent a genuine increase in ambition. If nuclear plants continue to operate at current levels, then the US power mix would be roughly 50% zero carbon. This is the minimum for 2030 before billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer would give presidential hopefuls his backing and financial support.

Calculating the emissions impact of the 33% renewables target is not straightforward, however. US power plant emissions are expected to be around 1,700m tonnes (Mt) of CO2 in 2027, according to projections from the US Energy Information Administration.

If renewables met Clinton's 2027 goal and took generation share exclusively from fossil fuels, emissions in that year could be reduced by up to 280Mt. This is equivalent to 4% of emissions in 2005, the US climate pledge baseline.

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Daily Briefing | Hillary Clinton lays out climate change plan

  • 28 Jul 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Hillary Clinton | Shutterstock

Hillary Clinton Lays Out Climate Change Plan 
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton yesterday unveiled ambitious goals for tackling climate change and producing energy from renewable sources. She set a goal to produce 33% of the nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2027, up from 7% today - a higher target than the 20% that President Obama has called for by 2030. Clinton also called for half a billion solar panels to be installed by 2020 and to generate enough energy from carbon-free sources within 10 years of her inauguration to power every home in America, through she is still refusing to say if she opposes the Keystone XL pipeline. Clinton's words are significant but they are not "bold," the word her campaign used to describe them, says InsideClimate News. To be transformational would require her to set a price on carbon and walk away from big investments in long-lived fossil fuel projects. Promising to make climate change a key pillar of her campaign platform, these proposals are the first steps toward fleshing out what has mostly been bare-boned climate rhetoric, says Reuters.        New York Times

40 percent of adults on Earth have never heard of climate change 
A new survey across 119 countries finds that developed nations have a much higher awareness of climate change than developing ones, mainly thanks to higher access to education and communication. However, when participants were asked whether or not they perceived climate change as a threat, over 90% of people in every South American country, Mexico, India, Tanzania and Morocco all said yes. In Australia, the US, UK and most of the rest of Europe, more than 75% of people were aware of climate change but far fewer considered it to be detrimental to themselves or their families, reports The Guardian. Japan is one of the few highly advanced economies whose population shows very high concern about the risks of climate change.        Washington Post

Rain, Storm Surge Combine to Put U.S. Coasts at Risk 
Climate Central covers new research which looks at how storm surges occurring at the same time as heavy rainfall can up the risk of flooding in US cities. Author Thomas Wahl tells Time, "Usually it requires an extreme storm surge to cause flooding or an extreme rainfall event. But the combination of two events that are not really extreme on their own may cause larger damages than one of the two events alone." Carbon Brief has a guest post from the authors explaining their research.        Climate Central 

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Global survey: Where in the world is most and least aware of climate change?

  • 27 Jul 2015, 17:35
  • Robert McSweeney

Form closeup | Shutterstock

Analysis of a global survey finds that more than a third of the world's adults have never heard of climate change. For some countries, such as South Africa, Bangladesh and Nigeria, this rises to more than two-thirds of the adult population.

The study says that education is the "single strongest predictor" of public awareness of climate change. Improving basic education and public understanding of climate change are vital to garner support for climate action, the researchers add.

Awareness and concern

The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, uses the results of a Gallup World Poll in 2007-08, which collected responses in 119 countries. This is the largest survey ever conducted on climate change, the paper's authors tell Carbon Brief, representing more than 90% of the world's population.

The poll asked people: "How much do you know about global warming or climate change?" Those who were aware of the issue were then asked the follow-up question: "How serious a threat is global warming to you and your family?"

The results show that adults in developed countries were more likely to say they are aware of climate change. Awareness rates in much of North America and Europe were well over 90% of respondents. Japan comes top with 99% of the population aware of climate change, with the US (98%) and Finland (98%) following closely behind.

Lee Et Al (2015) Table 1

Percentage of respondents saying they were aware of climate change: top and bottom 10 countries. Data source: Lee et al. (2015)

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How storm surges and heavy rainfall drive coastal flood risk in the US

  • 27 Jul 2015, 16:00
  • Dr Thomas Wahl & Dr Shaleen Jain

Hurricane Sandy | Jason DeCrow

A guest post from Dr Thomas Wahl of the College of Marine Science at University of South Florida and Dr Shaleen Jain at the University of Maine.

Nearly 40% of the US population lives in coastal counties. These are often low-lying and densely-populated areas, which means flooding can have devastating impacts. 

For coastal areas, flooding can happen in two main ways: from sustained heavy rain that doesn't drain away, or from storm surges, when storms drag the sea up and over the coastline. But when they occur together, or in close succession, the consequences can be even more severe. 

In a study, just published in the journal Nature Climate Change, we look at how heavy rainfall and high water levels combine to cause "compound flooding". The results show the risk of compound floods has increased for many major US cities in the last century.

Compound flooding

When a storm weather system is over the sea, its low pressure centre pulls up the surface of the water. As the storm blows onto the land, the wind pushes the sea towards the coast, creating even higher sea levels and battering the coastline with large waves. This is known as a  storm surge, which can breach coastal defences and cause flooding. With higher global sea levels, storm surges are more likely to overwhelm sea defences.

Heavy rainfall can combine with a storm surge to cause a "compound flood". High water levels can impede stormwater draining into the sea, causing flooding inland, or high rainfall can add yet more water to an existing tidal flood. You can see this illustrated in the graphic below.

How the joint occurrence of rainfall and storm surge (large enough to cause direct flooding or to slow down or fully block freshwater drainage) can lead to compound flooding in coastal regions. Credit: Theodore Scontras, University of Maine.

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Daily Briefing | Hillary Clinton stakes out climate change agenda

  • 27 Jul 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Hillary Clinton | Shutterstock

Hillary Clinton Stakes Out Climate Change Agenda 
Hillary Clinton said she would both defend and go beyond the efforts of Obama to address climate change in the first detailed description of her potential environmental polices if elected president. A four-page campaign fact sheet said the goal was to increase the share of US power generation from renewable sources to 33% by 2027, compared to 25% under Obama's carbon plan. Clinton pledged to defend from legal or political attack the Obama administration's rule to cut carbon pollution from the nation's fleet of power plants, as well as rewarding communities that speed rooftop solar panel installation, backing a contest for states to go beyond the minimums called for in the environmental rules, and boosting solar and wind production on federal lands. Her promise to install half a billion solar panels by 2021 represents a 700% increase on current installations, Climate Progress reports. The announcement was accompanied by a video, in which she also criticises her Republican opponents' stance on climate, the Hill reports. The Guardian also carried the story.     Bloomberg New Energy Finance 

U.S. companies pledge financial, political support for U.N. climate deal 
Thirteen major American companies are to announce $140 billion in low-carbon investments to lend support to a global climate change deal in Paris in December, the White House has said. Companies including General Motors, Bank of America, Microsoft and Coca Cola, will today join the US Secretary of State John Kerry at the White House to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge to support the administration as it tries to secure a climate agreement. The companies also announced they would bring at least 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy on line, reduce water use intensity by 15 percent, purchase 100 percent renewable energy, and target zero net deforestation in their supply chains. Securing long-term climate finance is seen as a crucial step for a deal in Paris, Reuters reports.        Reuters 

Global Warming Deal Takes Shape as UN Envoys Shuffle Options 
A global agreement to fight climate change is beginning to take shape after the United Nations published a new draft of a deal that 194 nations are working to seal at a December summit, Bloomberg reports. The 88-page document is intended to more clearly organise the options that negotiators have grappled with for months. The new version whittles down the main part of the agreement to a 19-page draft that lays out requirements for all nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The streamlined text "gives delegates a strong foundation to advance the climate negotiations," said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute.       Bloomberg 

Oil groups have shelved $200bn in new projects as low prices bite 
The world's big energy groups have shelved $200bn of spending on new projects in an urgent round of cost-cutting, as the oil price slumps for a second time this year. The plunge in crude prices since last summer has resulted in the deferral of 46 big oil and gas projects with 20bn barrels of oil equivalent in reserves - more than Mexico's entire proven holdings.       Financial Times 

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Explainer: Amber Rudd ends Green Deal energy efficiency scheme

  • 24 Jul 2015, 17:05
  • Sophie Yeo
A roll of insulating glass wool on an attic floor

Loft insulation | Shutterstock

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced that the government will no longer fund the Green Deal scheme, which provided loans designed to help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their property.

The department said that the latest target in its cull of green policies was aimed at protecting taxpayers, and was the result of low take-up of the scheme and concerns about industry standards.

But the government has yet to announce how it will fill the gap in its energy efficiency policies left by the Green Deal. 

It comes on the heels of an  announcement that subsidies for small scale solar and biomass projects would be scaled back.

DECC has previously forecast that the Green Deal scheme would provide savings on energy bills by 2020, as energy efficiency measures mean that tenants and homeowners pay less to heat their homes.

The government now has the task of designing a replacement scheme that will promote energy efficiency that fits with the Conservative ideals on how to tackle climate change - an approach that secretary of state Amber Rudd  promised today would be effective.

What is the Green Deal?

The Green Deal was officially launched in 2013, as a means to cut carbon emissions and save money on energy bills.

The government finances the scheme through the Green Deal Finance Company, which provides loans that can be used to install improvements, such as insulation, double-glazing and solar panels.

The beneficiary then pays back the money through a payment attached to their energy bill, which is cancelled out by the saving made on the bill by the new measures. The loan remained attached to the property, with the duty of paying back the loan falling on whoever pays the bills for the property.

However, the Green Deal did not prove the success that DECC had hoped it would be. Around 15,600 Green Deal plans had been issued by June 2015, according to the  latest statistics published yesterday. The f  igures by the department show a continuing downward trend on the number of households interested in applying for Green Deal financing.

Number -of -assessmentsNumber of Green Deal Assessments lodged by month. Source:  Domestic Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation in Great Britain, Monthly report


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Paris 2015: Tracking country climate pledges

  • 24 Jul 2015, 12:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Updated 24 July with Kenya's INDC.

31 March marked the loose deadline for countries to submit their pledges to the UN on how far they intend to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

These promises, known as "intended nationally determined contributions", or INDCs, will determine the success of the deal that the UN hopes to sign off in Paris in December this year.

While only five countries plus the EU made the deadline, more than a hundred others are expected to filter in throughout the coming eight months.

Carbon Brief is tracking the pledges made by each country. We'll update this post as each INDC comes in.

To find out exactly what an INDC is and why it matters, read our INDC explainer.

Indcs -kenya

Who has pledged an INDC so far, and what percentage of the world's emissions are covered. Credit: Rosamund Pearce, Carbon Brief, based on EU data

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Daily Briefing | Green Deal funding to end, government announces

  • 24 Jul 2015, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff
Double glazed window

Double glazed window | Shutterstock

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London 'imports' climate change risks, warns capital's Economy Committee 
Financial services and other businesses in London are increasingly vulnerable to climate change through their investments and supply chains that stretch across the globe, a new report from the London Assembly warns. Here's Carbon Brief's summary, now updated with a response from a spokesman for the Mayor of London.      Carbon Brief 

Iconic British birds and wildlife at risk from climate change 
Scientists have found that 27% of England's plants and animal species will be put at risk as temperatures climb, including some of the nation's best known birds. A new report from Natural England finds that the cuckoo, peregrine, short-eared owl and barnacle goose all face very high risk of decline with 2C of warming.        Carbon Brief 

Climate and energy news

Green Deal funding to end, government announces 
The government announced on Thursday it is ceasing to fund the Green Deal, effectively pulling the plug on the flagship energy efficiency policy. The scheme, which offered homeowners a loan to insulate their houses and install new boilers. was hailed as 'revolutionary' in transforming the UK's old and draughty housing stock at its launch in 2013. But with only 15,000 loans issued or approved, the department of energy and climate change is blaming low take up and concern about industry standards for its closure. There will also be no more funding for the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, which gave households money back on home energy efficiency improvements, reports  The Telegraph. A Telegraph  editorial says abolishing the Green Deal is a victory for common sense since tax payers can't support such schemes. It's notable that the announcement comes so soon after decisions to end onshore windfarm subsidies, curb solar subsidies and drop regulations to make all new homes 'zero carbon' from next year, says  The Guardian while  The Independent says the succession of announcements just as the House of Commons leaves for summer recess leaves David Cameron's vow to lead 'greenest Government ever' in tatters. Energy secretary Amber Rudd, has said a new improved scheme would be introduced but gave no details of what it might entail, reports  The Financial Times.     BBC News 

Climate change debate 'dictated by left-wing anti-capitalists', says Amber Rudd 
Climate change shouldn't be the preserve of left wing anti-capitalists and a Conservative approach is needed to prevent global warming, Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, is expected to say in a speech this morning. Tackling climate change is the "ultimate insurance policy" to ensure economic security but any action must be "pro-growth and pro-business," she will say. Rudd insists the Conservatives' approach is to stimulate low carbon businesses and get them off subsidies as soon as possible to keep bills down, says  BBC News, but green groups have accused the government of "gross hypocrisy" in light of recent policy changes and of "sticking up two fingers" to other nations at the climate conference in Paris later this year. Labour's shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint, warned that Rudd risked fracturing the UK's political consensus on climate change, reports  The Guardian.      The Telegraph 

Rapid climate change doomed mammoths rather than humans, study suggests 
Contrary to prevailing theories, humans may have played only a glancing role in the extinction of the woolly mammoth, woolly rhino and giant sloth, according to new research. Instead, short periods of abrupt warming may have markedly altered rainfall patterns where these ice age giants lived, with humans delivering the final blow long after the animals' fate was already sealed. The study extracted ancient DNA from the fossilised remains of the extinct creatures and compared it to climate data stretching back 56,000 years derived from Greenland ice cores.  The Washington Post and the  Daily Express also have the story. A   separate article in the Mail looks at another new bit of research showing how earliest civilisations in the Middle East and Fertile Crescent felt the impact of rapid global warming.      Mail Online 

Cuadrilla to appeal against fracking refusal by Lancashire county council 
Lancashire county council faces an appeal by a leading UK shale gas company after refusing its applications to frack for shale gas in the county. The Guardian reports the views of green campaigners, who say seeking to overturn the decision by Lancashire county council last month to reject planning consent for eight wells at two sites on the Fylde on the grounds of unacceptable noise and disturbance shows a "blatant disregard" for the views of local people.  The Telegraph has the story.      The Guardian 

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Iconic British birds and wildlife at risk from climate change

  • 23 Jul 2015, 12:05
  • Roz Pidcock
Wood warbler

Wood warbler | Shutterstock

Scientists have found that 27% of England's plants and animal species will be put at risk as temperatures climb, including some of the nation's best known birds.

new report from Natural England finds that the cuckoo, peregrine, short-eared owl and barnacle goose all face very high risk of decline with 2C of warming.

The nationwide study of more than 3,000 species has attracted a fair bit of media coverage today. The  BBC focuses on the risk posed to British birds, especially the curlew.  The Express says species in the north of the country will fare better than their southern counterparts.

Grahame Madge from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) tells Carbon Brief:

"This study confirms our fears that birds are vulnerable to climate change."

But not all species will suffer, as today's  Times points out. Garden favourites, such as the house sparrow, skylark, song thrush, blackbird and starling, will be reasonably unaffected. Meanwhile, wasps, bees and ants look set to flourish as temperatures rise, the research notes.

Climate 'envelope'

Plants and animals have a range of conditions in which they can live comfortably. For some, that range is small, making them vulnerable to slight changes in their environment. Others are less sensitive, being better able to tolerate a wider range of conditions.

Short Eared Owl

Short-eared owl | gbrazzil/flickr

Since there is no one-size-fits-all rule, scientists need to examine how climate change is likely to affect individual species across the UK, and then combine them to get an overall picture.

Natural England, the government's adviser for the natural environment in England, looked at how populations of 3,048 plant and animal species are distributed at the moment, and how each one's 'envelope' of habitable conditions is likely to change in future.

The scientists used the UKCP09 projections, which expect average temperature in the UK to rise by 2-7C by the end of the century. The bottom of that range is achievable only with stringent mitigation, while the top is what scientists expect if if fossil fuel emissions stay very high.

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