Analysis

Behind the scenes at Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit: The view from New York

  • 24 Sep 2014, 17:40
  • Ed King

Wreathed in red and clutching her microphone tightly, a nervous Natasha Bedingfield surveyed what must have been the oddest audience in her brief career. The British pop star was an unusual choice to wrap up what was a fairly extraordinary UN climate summit, held in and around its headquarters alongside New York's East River.

"Love is a powerful thing", she told the remaining delegates inside the sumptuous General Assembly hall, who were probably as surprised as she was to see her on stage. In many ways her appearance summed up this meeting. Eye-catching, full of endeavour and high notes, ending with little tangible to take home, bar the memories.

Ban Ki -moon Opens Climate SummitBan Ki-moon opens the climate summit. Credit: UN Photos

That may sound unfair, given the bombardment of low carbon pledges from governments, businesses and foundations built on oil money over the best part of 48 hours. By the time he had finished his closing summary, just before Natasha swept onto the podium, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon could proudly say the summit had seen progress on forests, cities, finance and much more.

How much of this money was new, and how many of these plans - some of which seemed hastily cobbled together - will withstand scrutiny is likely to become clear in the next few days.

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Summaries of country statements given at the UN secretary general's climate summit

  • 24 Sep 2014, 16:30
  • Simon Evans, Christian Hunt and Mat Hope

The 65 summaries below are taken from the statements made to the UN secretary general summit yesterday by country delegates, often verbatim. We take you from Angola...

Angola

The world needs a two degree limit for warming.
Angola backs common but differentiated responsibilities [developed countries to lead]
Africa is particularly vulnerable.
Angola is already witnessing desertification, drought and torrential rain.
It has a national adaptation plan.

...through to Vietnam.

Vietnam

If sea level rises 1 metre, 40 per cent of the Mekong delta will be inundated.
We must limit temperature rise to less than 2 degrees.
Equity, common but differentiated responsibilities.
National commitments must take into account historical responsibility.
Calls on developed countries to increase commitment and action.
Vitenam aims to reduce emissions 8-10 per cent compared to 2010, reduce energy consumption per GDP by 1-1.5 per cent per year.
Plans to reduce power sector emissions 10-20 per cent compared to BAU.
Is in the process of drafting iNDCs.

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All the significant announcements from the UN climate summit, and whether they’re new

  • 24 Sep 2014, 13:50
  • Mat Hope, Simon Evans & Christian Hunt

Obama & Ban Ki-moon | Shutterstock

World leaders gathered in New York yesterday for the UN secretary general's climate summit. Over 125 countries sent delegates in an attempt to reinvigorate international efforts to tackle climate change.

Jonathan Grant, director, sustainability & climate change at consultancy PwC has  wisely said "It will take time to sort the new announcements from the old, and to understand whether the new announcements are a step change from business as usual".

Here's our effort at beginning to pick through the hours and hours of speeches to separate the new announcements from the old.

We have a full summary of country statements here.

International commitments

The United States was one of the only nations to come armed with completely  new policy announcements.

President Obama signed an executive order directing federal agencies to consider climate resilience when designing programmes and allocating funds. He also ordered government agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to  give their data to other countries to assist with managing climate change, and to extend programmes to train developing country scientists.

Oxfam America described the plans as  "not revolutionary".

China's Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli reiterated his country's goal to cut carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020.

He also said China's carbon emissions would peak "as early as possible".  A senior Chinese climate negotiator made a similar statement earlier this year, but it had not been considered official government policy until now. The flexible language makes it hard to tell exactly what the commitment means.

 

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Daily Briefing | World leaders address UN climate summit

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

Ban Ki-moon & Obama | Shutterstock

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Climate summit advances towards Paris deal 
Yesterday's climate summit in New York marked "a positive start" on the road to a new global agreement, with France promising a billion dollars for the Green Climate Fund and a declaration to end emissions from deforestation by 2030, reports the BBC. The gathering of 120 world leaders in New York yesterday resulted in a day of impassioned speeches but, as anticipated, delegates held back on making new commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, says The GuardianThe Independent called it a "fragile consensus" on climate change, with prime ministers and presidents vowing to be united in time to strike a deal to limit climate change in Paris next year. You can see live coverage of the summit here. 
BBC News 

Climate and energy news

UK pays £200m to tackle deforestation in poor countries 
The UK has committed in excess of £200m to tackle deforestation in poor countries, as part of a new UN declaration to halve deforestation globally by 2020 and halt it completely by 2030. The pledge could save between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tonnes of carbon emissions per year - the equivalent of taking all the world's cars off the road, reports The GuardianThe TImes has more on the new agreement, signed by 32 countries. Brazil refused to sign the deal, saying the measure had been drafted "behind closed doors", says ITV News
The Telegraph 

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Antarctic sea-ice hits new high as scientists puzzle over the cause

  • 23 Sep 2014, 16:59
  • Robert McSweeney

Broken Ice | Shutterstock

For the third year in a row, the extent of sea-ice around Antarctica has surpassed the previous record high. The extent is now the largest since satellite records began in 1979.

But at the North Pole the decline of Arctic sea-ice continues to accelerate. Scientists haven't yet been able to pin down why the opposite is happening in the Antarctic.

Poles apart

The two poles are very different. The Arctic is a body of water surrounded by land, while the Antarctic is a continent surrounded by water.

It's around this time of year the Antarctic reaches its winter maximum extent and the Arctic reaches its summer minimum .

The latest figures show that at over 20 million square kilometers (sq km), Antarctic sea-ice currently covers a larger area than at any time over the 35-year satellite record.

The blue line on the figure below shows the sea-ice extent for 2014. Typically the annual peak is in September, but it may grow further before the end of the year.

 

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Labour's vision for a low carbon UK

  • 23 Sep 2014, 15:30
  • Mat Hope

The Labour party is preparing for government. At least, it hopes it is.

The talk in the corridors of the party's annual conference is bullish, with shadow cabinet ministers plotting ways to put themselves into office next May. One thing is clear: they think presenting Labour as climate champions could be a way to differentiate themselves from their Conservative rivals.

We went to Manchester to find out what a Labour government would do to the UK's energy and climate policy.

Energy efficiency

Unsurprisingly, Labour says it's unhappy with the government's current policies.

Labour's most prominent energy announcement this year is a plan to overhaul household energy efficiency policy. Party leader Ed Miliband nodded to the policy in his speech this afternoon, saying it was part of the party's plan to become a "world leader in the green economy".

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint today claimed a range of policies including free home energy use assessments and a "decency standard" for rented properties should help five million homes become energy efficient in the next 10 years.

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Why isn’t the Arctic sea ice free already?

  • 23 Sep 2014, 13:30
  • Roz Pidcock

Diminishing Arctic sea ice is perhaps the most iconic impact of climate change. There's a good chance that before too long we'll lose it altogether in summer unless we cut emissions, scientists say.

But according to polar scientist Dr Dirk Notz, the question isn't why is Arctic sea ice melting so fast, it's how come we have any left at all?

Notz told a Royal Society conference in London this morning that with the additional heat earth is absorbing Arctic sea ice "should be long gone by now".

So why isn't it?

Arctic decline

Arctic sea ice cover is declining by about  four per cent per decade. The seasonal low at the height of summer is shrinking particularly quickly, at more like 11.5 per cent per decade.

                      Arctic Sea Ice Low _Sep 17

The National Snow and Ice Data Centre announced this year's Arctic sea ice minimum on the 17th September. At 5.02 million square kilometers, it was the 6th lowest on record. Orange line is 1981 to 2010 average extent for that day. Source:  NSIDC

 

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How TV news covered the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s three big reports

  • 23 Sep 2014, 00:01
  • Mat Hope

TV studio | Shutterstock

TV audiences around the world aren't hearing much about climate science.

That's the main conclusion of a new study looking at how TV news covered the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) three big reports earlier this year.

While the IPCC's reports made a  small splash in the print media, the same wasn't true of television news. Media in many countries barely covered the reports. And when they did, they used an old-fashioned "doom" narrative to explain them, research by Oxford University's Reuters Institute finds.

That's concerning, because many people still get their news from the TV, and place particular trust in TV news to deliver a balanced account of climate science.

Here's which channels covered the reports, how, and why it matters.

Country divergence

The IPCC's first report on the science behind climate change was launched in October 2013. A second report on the impacts of climate change was released the final day of March 2014, with a  third report looking at policies to cut emissions following a couple of weeks later.

The Reuters Institute looked at how a selection of news bulletins in the UK, China, India, Brazil, Australia and Germany covered all three reports on their launch day, and the day before.

13 out of the 36 main news bulletins the Reuters Institute studied covered the IPCC reports. That adds-up to about 34 minutes of airtime.

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This year's Arctic sea ice minimum is sixth lowest on record

  • 22 Sep 2014, 17:39
  • Robert McSweeney

The eight lowest measurements of Arctic summer sea-ice extent occurred in the last eight years, scientists confirmed today.

The findings were presented by Professor Julienne Stroeve from the National Snow & Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) at a Royal Society conference on Arctic sea ice reduction.

On the 17th September satellites recorded the Arctic summer minimum extent at 5.01 million square kilometers (sq km). Stroeve confirmed that this year's summer sea-ice extent is the sixth lowest on record, in a series of satellite measurments stretching back over thirty years.

Arctic sea ice - conditions in context.

Sea-ice minimum

Mid to late September marks the end of the Arctic summer, and the point when Arctic ice is at it's smallest extent, before it freezes up again as temperatures fall in the autumn.

Measurements of sea ice taken over the past decades suggest the rate of sea-ice loss is accelerating.

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How to divide up carbon budgets fairly

  • 22 Sep 2014, 17:15
  • Simon Evans

Power station | Shutterstock

World leaders meeting for climate talks in New York tomorrow will be expected to give an idea of their countries' suggested contributions to cutting emissions. All eyes will be on the level of ambition on offer: will it be enough to avoid dangerous warming?

Our remaining 'carbon budget' means we can emit about 1,400 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and still have a 50/50 chance of staying below two degrees, scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say.

But as well as asking whether the world's emissions cuts will be enough, we might also ask whether they will be fair. Two newstudies examine how to divide the remaining carbon budget fairly, and show the answer depends on how you define fairness.

Ambitious cuts

Staying within our carbon budget means cutting emissions 5.5 per cent per year, a paper in Nature Climate Change finds, if action starts without delay. That's dauntingly and perhaps even impossibly rapid.

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