Why we may never get a Montreal protocol for climate change

  • 12 Sep 2014, 15:10
  • Mat Hope

CC 2.0 UN Climate Change

Good news! Earlier this week, scientists announced that the hole in the ozone layer has  stopped growing.

The news comes almost three decades after every member of the United Nations signed the Montreal Protocol, a treaty to curb emissions known to damage the atmosphere.

Some  have argued that the protocol's success shows what can happen when governments put their minds to tackling major environmental problems. Why, they ask, can't politicians do the same thing for climate change?

The question has been posed  many times, most recently by the Guardian's George Monbiot. Yesterday, he called on politicians to  show the same "political courage" they did back in 1987. If they do, maybe the world will at last see some tangible progress towards cutting emissions and curbing global warming, he argues.

But is political will the only thing stopping politicians establishing a comprehensive climate treaty? We explore the obstacles to creating the equivalent of the Montreal protocol for climate change.

Complex science

The Montreal protocol and international climate agreements are similar in as much as they both try to address problems in the atmosphere identified by scientists.

But the relatively simple impact of emitting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the ozone layer may have made the issue easier for policymakers to engage with than climate change.

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Daily Briefing | Saving energy more efficient than building new power stations, MPs say

  • 12 Sep 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Power button | Shutterstock

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Power plant construction programme 'may prove expensive and unnecessary' 
Building new power plant capacity instead of managing electricity demand more effectively could cost the UK an extra £350 million a year, according to a new study from consultancy NERA for a demand-management company. The Parliamentary ECC committee have also lent their support to the idea that 'demand side response' is a critical part of delivering energy security. The Telegraph also report the ECC letter. 
The Guardian 

Climate and energy comment

Canada PM to miss UN climate summit 
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper won't attend Ban Ki-moon's climate summit in New York later this month. The summit is an opportunity for world leaders to pledge action on climate change. Mr Harper has never been particularly enthusiastic about addressing the issue. 
The Hill 

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Rising air temperatures caused Antarctic ice shelf collapse

  • 11 Sep 2014, 19:04
  • Robert McSweeney

Larsen-B Ice Shelf | Shutterstock

The collapse of a giant ice shelf in Antarctica in 2002 was the result of warmer air temperatures new research concludes, allowing scientists to identify two clear ways in which ice shelves become unstable.

Single summer

At the beginning of February 2002, the Larsen-B ice shelf stretched across 3,250 square kilometers, an area larger than Luxemburg. By the end of the following month it was gone.

In the space of a single Antarctic summer the entire 220-metre thick ice shelf disintegrated into the sea.

Since the dramatic collapse, scientists have been trying to understand how the shelf could disappear so quickly.

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UN seeks billions to fill climate adaptation funding gap - but where's it going to come from?

  • 11 Sep 2014, 17:25
  • Mat Hope

UN and flags | Shutterstock

The world's climate adaptation efforts have a funding problem. But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes that situation is about to change.

He's invited world leaders to   a climate summit in New York in two week's time, where countries are expected to indicate how much they'll give to the UN's Green Climate Fund.

The fund was set up in 2009 to help poorer countries insulate themselves from the worst impacts of climate change. The initiative relies on the world's developed economies pledging cash. But after an initial flurry of donations, the fund is starting to run dry.


Countries created the Green Climate Fund at the Copenhagen summit five years ago. The agreement was hailed as one the  few successes of the otherwise disappointing summit.

The fund is politically important, as it offers developed countries a chance to back up their promise to help poorer countries cope with climate change with hard cash.

Countries promised that by 2020 they'd collectively be giving $100 billion to the fund each year. It's never been clear how much countries were expected to donate between now and 2020, however.

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Daily Briefing | Ozone hole over Antarctica has stopped getting bigger

  • 11 Sep 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Cloudscape | Shutterstock

Ozone layer showing 'signs of recovery', UN says 
The ozone layer is showing its first sign of recovery after years of dangerous depletion, says a report by the World Meteorological Organisation and the U.N. Environment Programme. The ozone hole that appears over Antarctica has also stopped growing bigger every year, though it will be about a decade before it starts shrinking. 
BBC News 

Climate and energy news

Saudi Arabia Tells OPEC It Cut Output 400,000 barrels a day in August 
The world's biggest exported of crude oil, Saudi Arabia, told OPEC that it cut production by 408,000 barrels a day in August amid signs of a supply surplus. The price of a barrel of oil dropped below $100 this week to a 16-month low. Saudi Arabia will make further reductions if the price drops any further, the article says. 

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Analysis: Polling finds widespread doubt amongst Conservative MPs about climate science

  • 11 Sep 2014, 09:00
  • Leo Barasi

UK Parliament

A new poll of UK Members of Parliament has found widespread doubts about climate science, particularly among Conservative MPs. 

The poll, conducted for PR Week by Populus and  reported in the Guardian yesterday, found that 51 per cent of MPs think that man-made climate change is "an established scientific fact". Two in five think it is a theory that "has not yet been conclusively proved", while nearly one in ten say man-made climate change is "environmentalist propaganda".

The findings suggest that MPs have similar views on climate science to those of the general public. A poll in August 2013 by Opinium for Carbon Brief, with similar questions,  found that 56 per cent believe that climate change is happening and is caused by humans.

Polling 1

Polling 2b

MP attitudes on climate change (Populus, 2014) and public attitudes ( Opinium, 2013).

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Six things to know about the climate change summit happening in New York this month

  • 10 Sep 2014, 13:33
  • Christian Hunt

"There is a sense that change is in the air." That's the pitch for the UN secretary general's summit on climate change, taking place two weeks from now at the UN headquarters in New York. With international climate politics approaching a critical point, the UN wants to bolster the world's resolve to do something about climate change.

So what's planned, who is going, and what's the significance? We consider six things you might want to know about the summit.

This is a one-off summit, called by the UN secretary general

The summit seeks to "advance climate change action and ambition", and on the 23rd September it will bring together more world leaders to discuss climate change than at any moment since the ill-fated climate meeting in Copenhagen, five years ago.

Shutterstock _145257448

UN secretary general  Ban Ki-moon | Shutterstock

There's already a UN process to address climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This summit is something different. Secretary general Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to "bring bold announcements and actions to the summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will" to address climate change.

In practice, that means it's going to be a talking shop, albeit a pretty high-level one. Responding to Climate Change reports that  half the summit will be taken up by speeches from heads of state, designed to help create the right mood music for the climate politics to come in 2015.


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Daily Briefing | Tackling climate change won't harm economic growth - report

  • 10 Sep 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Market graph | Shutterstock

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Why tackling climate change and economic growth are compatible 
Business Green previews the publication next week of the New Climate Economy report. The project will calling for world leaders to make displacing coal by 2030 a global priority and will argue that tackling climate change is compatible with continuing economic growth. 

Climate and energy news

Dangerous climate warming 
Dangerous climate change is inevitable and governments and society should begin to prepare for the worst, according to an academic, reports the Herald Scotland. Philosopher John Foster will make the claim during a speech next week, the paper says, where he will argue that efforts to manage greenhouse gas emissions have failed. 
Herald Scotland 

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Going green is good for the economy (depending on your economic worldview)

  • 10 Sep 2014, 00:01
  • Simon Evans

Business concept | Shutterstock

The UK economy will be larger, its households better off, unemployment lower and its businesses richer if it chooses to cut emissions. Say what?

Most studies show tackling climate change will be a drag on the economy, but a new report from Cambridge Econometrics is different. It says the UK economy would be 1.1 per cent bigger in 2030 if it met its carbon targets, despite the costs associated with decarbonisation.

To understand how it came to such a counterintuitive finding, read on.

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The UK’s plan for a new global climate deal

  • 09 Sep 2014, 17:20
  • Mat Hope

UK Government

The government today released a  report outlining what it wants from a new international climate deal. World leaders are due to meet in New York later this month to add impetus to the negotiations, with a deal set to be agreed in Paris at the end of 2015.Here's what the UK is hoping for.

'Fair' commitments from all countries

The 70 page document makes it clear that the UK expects all countries to commit to making emissions cuts. It doesn't expect all the commitments to be the same, however.

"Countries will need to make the low-carbon transition in a way that reflects their national situation, the opportunities available to them, and both their relative past and future contributions to climate change", the report says.

It suggests a three-tiered system where countries make commitments based on their different levels of economic development. That wouldn't be a radical departure from the current system. The United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has already enshrined the idea of common but differentiated responsibilities in a similar way.

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