20 years on, NZ’s Rio response inadequate: WWF

PandalogoThe WWF report this week on how New Zealand has handled its responsibilities since the first Earth Summit 20 years ago is damning on the matter of greenhouse gas emissions. We have failed to measure up to our undertakings given back in 1992 and again in 2002. New Zealand signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on the first day of the that Rio meeting, and subsequently ratified it. We committed in Article 4 to:

“Adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change, by limiting its anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing its greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs. These policies and measures will demonstrate that developed countries are taking the lead.”

The WWF report points out that nothing happened here for the next fourteen years and the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase. They flattened off after 2007, but that was mainly due to a major drought affecting agriculture and then the subsequent recession. The report considers the Emissions Trading Scheme enacted in 2008 and weakened in 2009 has had limited impact on emissions.

We have clearly failed to set emissions on a downward trajectory.

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IEA: emissions up, 2ºC target looking unlikely

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA) said at Reuters’ Global  Energy & Environment Summit this month that the door for a 2 degree Celsius target is about to be closed and closed forever. That’s a serious statement, but one which has been backed up in recent days by a news release from the IEA announcing that their preliminary estimates show that in 2011 global carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt).

This represents an increase of 1.0 Gt on 2010, or 3.2%. Coal accounted for 45% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2011, followed by oil (35%) and natural gas (20%).

The 450 Scenario of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2011, which sets out an energy pathway consistent with a 50% chance of limiting the increase in the average global temperature to 2°C, requires CO2 emissions to peak at 32.6 Gt no later than 2017, i.e. just 1.0 Gt above 2011 levels. The 450 Scenario sees a decoupling of CO2 emissions from global GDP, but much still needs to be done to reach that goal as the rate of growth in CO2 emissions in 2011 exceeded that of global GDP.

Not surprisingly Birol repeats his warning: “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close.”

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The Climate Show #27: Aussie hockeysticks, cherry pies and electric planes

It’s a first! Glenn, Gareth and John manage to record a show that clocks in at under an hour — but it’s still packed with interesting stuff. We’ve got news about a new Australasian hockey stick — a paleoclimate reconstruction that demonstrates that the last three decades are the warmest in the last 1,000 years, a look under an Antarctic ice shelf, more methane research, and good news from Greenland. John Cook from Skeptical Science looks at the misuse of temperature records from the Sargasso Sea, and we look at electric planes and boats and the latest version of the solar “leaf”. And… Glenn announces his imminent move to the UK, but never fear, the show will go on — just as soon as he sets up his computer in London (which might be a couple of months).

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

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Brittany speaks truth to power

Wellington schoolgirl Brittany Trilford won TckTckTck’s Date with History competition with this powerful message. She has earned a trip to the Rio+20 Conference in a month’s time, and — with luck — will get the chance to express her feelings to the assembled world leaders. Speak truth to power, Brittany. Speak it loudly. Our leaders, such as they are, need all the truth they can get, and urgently.

G8: self-deception on energy and climate

The section of the recent G8 Camp David declaration which deals with energy and climate change can only be described as depressing. No clarion call from these nations. Instead, a confused jumble starting with an “all of the above” statement:

… we recognise the importance of meeting our energy needs from a wide variety of sources ranging from traditional fuels to renewables to other clean technologies. As we each implement our own individual energy strategies, we embrace the pursuit of an appropriate mix from all of the above in an environmentally safe, sustainable, secure, and affordable manner.

How fossil fuels can be considered environmentally safe and sustainable elements in an energy mix is not explained. But apparently this mix is somehow compatible with a low carbon economy:

We also recognise the importance of pursuing and promoting sustainable energy and low carbon policies in order to tackle the global challenge of climate change.

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