A reader, Eddie Pugsley, sends this photo taken at the Walgreens on Nepperhan Avenue, Yonkers, NY. His comment: “I guess, if you buy the Coke & Pepsi specials you’ll be happy about their diabetic supply savings..?”
Paris Climate Talks Q&A
More than 190 nations meeting in Paris in December 2015 reached a landmark agreement to strengthen the global climate effort. The Paris Agreement commits countries to undertake “nationally determined contributions” and establishes mechanisms to hold them accountable and to strengthen ambition in the years ahead. Countries are now proceeding with the steps necessary to bring the new treaty into force.
What was COP 21?
The Paris conference was the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP 21. The conference concluded a round of negotiations launched in Durban, South Africa, in 2011 with the aim of producing a new legal agreement among national governments to strengthen the global response to climate change. A record 150 heads of state and government attended the opening day of the conference.
What were the main outcomes of the Paris conference?
The Paris package had three main components: the Paris Agreement, an international treaty setting common goals, commitments and expectations; the intended “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) submitted by more than 180 countries; and the thousands of contributions offered by companies, states, cities and civil society organizations.
How did the Paris negotiations relate to the UNFCCC?
The UNFCCC, adopted in 1992, is a treaty among governments that provides a foundation for the global climate effort. Enjoying near-universal membership, the convention was ratified by the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. The convention set a long-term objective (avoiding “dangerous human interference with the climate system”), established principles to guide the global effort, and committed all countries to “mitigate” climate change by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement defines how countries will implement their UNFCCC commitments after 2020.
How does the Paris Agreement differ from the Kyoto Protocol?
The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement negotiated under the UNFCCC in 1997 to strengthen the global climate effort. Kyoto established emissions targets for developed countries only—the primary reason the United States did not join. By contrast, the Paris Agreement includes mitigation commitments from all parties. In addition, the Kyoto targets were legally binding, and countries’ targets under the Paris Agreement are not.
What are nationally determined contributions?
In 2013, at COP 19 in Warsaw, parties were encouraged to submit their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) to the Paris Agreement well in advance of COP 21. These INDCs represent each country’s self-defined mitigation goals for the period beginning in 2020. To date, 188 countries accounting for almost 99 percent of global emissions have submitted INDCs to the UNFCCC secretariat.
Developed countries have offered absolute economy-wide emissions targets (the United States, for instance, has pledged to reduce its emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025). Developing countries have offered a range of approaches, including absolute economy-wide targets, reductions in emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP), reductions from projected “business-as-usual” emissions, and reductions in per-capita emissions. C2ES has produced a summary of countries’ INDCs.
Final NDCs are submitted by each party upon its formal ratification or acceptance of the agreement, and are recorded in a UNFCCC registry.
What obligations do countries have under the agreement to reduce their emissions?
The Paris Agreement establishes a set of binding procedural commitments. Parties commit to “prepare, communicate and maintain” successive NDCs; to “pursue domestic mitigation measures” aimed at achieving their NDCs; and to regularly report on their emissions and on progress in implementing their NDCs. The agreement also sets the expectation that each party’s successive NDC will “represent a progression” beyond its previous one and “reflect its highest possible ambition.” The achievement by a party of its NDCs is not a legally binding obligation.
Does the agreement meet the goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius?
In agreements adopted in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancún in 2010, governments set a goal of keeping global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement reaffirms the 2 C goal, while urging efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C. The agreement also sets two other long-term mitigation goals: first, a peaking of emissions as soon as possible (recognizing that it will take longer for developing countries); then, a goal of net greenhouse gas neutrality (“a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks”) in the second half of the century.
Analyses of the INDCs submitted by countries conclude that, while they move us closer to the 2 C goal, they are not ambitious enough to achieve it. An analysis by the Climate Action Tracker, a consortium of research institutions, concluded that the INDCs, if fully implemented, could result in warming of 2.7 C, which would be 0.9 C lower than without them.
How will the Paris Agreement get countries to increase their ambition?
The Paris Agreement provides a durable framework guiding the global effort for decades to come. The aim is to create a continuous cycle that keeps the pressure on countries to raise their ambition over time. To promote rising ambition, the agreement establishes two linked processes, each on a five-year cycle. The first process is a “global stocktake” to assess collective progress toward meeting the agreement’s long-term goals. Parties will then submit new NDCs, “informed by the outcomes of the global stocktake.”
Because the Paris Agreement is to apply post-2020, the first formal stocktake under the agreement will not take place until 2023. But under a decision accompanying the agreement, parties will jumpstart the 5-year cycle with a “facilitative dialogue” on collective progress in 2018, and the submission by 2020 of NDCs running through 2030.
How will parties be held accountable?
Accountability will be achieved primarily through an “enhanced transparency framework.” All countries are required to submit emissions inventories and the “information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving” their NDCs. These reports will be subject to an independent review by technical experts and a “facilitative, multilateral consideration of progress” by fellow governments.
Unlike the current transparency system under the UNFCCC, which sets different requirements for developed and developing countries, the new transparency framework will apply to all countries but provide “built-in flexibility” to accommodate varying national capacities. The aim is for all parties to work toward the same standards of accountability as their capacities strengthen over time.
In addition, the agreement establishes a new mechanism to “facilitate implementation and promote compliance.” This “non-adversarial” committee of experts will seek to help countries falling behind on their commitments get back on track. There are no penalties for noncompliance.
How does the agreement address climate adaptation?
Adaptation—steps to cope with the impacts of climate change—receives much greater emphasis under the Paris Agreement than previously under the UNFCCC. Just as parties will submit mitigation contributions, the agreement requires all parties, “as appropriate,” to plan and implement adaptation efforts and encourages all parties to report on their adaptation efforts and/or needs. The agreement also includes a review of adaptation progress, and the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation support, in the global stocktake to be undertaken every five years.
What does the Paris outcome do to support the efforts of developing countries?
Developed countries committed under the UNFCCC to support mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. As part of the Copenhagen and Cancún agreements, developed countries committed to mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private finance for developing countries by 2020.
The Paris Agreement reaffirms developed countries’ UNFCCC obligations; the COP decision accompanying the agreement extends the $100 billion-a-year goal through 2025, and calls for a new goal beyond that “from a floor of” $100 billion a year. The agreement also broadens the donor base beyond developed countries by encouraging other countries to provide support “voluntarily.” China, for instance, recently pledged $3 billion to help other developing countries.
Many national governments offered new financial pledges in Paris. Collectively, developed countries pledged $19 billion to help developing countries, including an announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry that, by 2020, the United States will double its support for adaptation efforts to $800 million a year. In another sign that developing countries are now also providing support, Vietnam pledged $1 million to the new Green Climate Fund (GCF). And for the first time, subnational governments also offered pledges, including 1 million euros from the city of Paris for the GCF, and CAD 6 million from Quebec for the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund.
Does the Paris Agreement address carbon markets?
Many countries indicated in their INDCs that they intend to use some form of international emissions trading to implementing their contributions. To ensure the environmental integrity of such transactions, the agreement requires parties to follow accounting practices avoiding the double counting of “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes.” In addition, the agreement establishes a new mechanism contributing to mitigation and supporting sustainable development, which, depending on its design, could generate or certify tradable emission units.
How did the Paris conference engage stakeholders such as state, cities and business?
Although only national governments participate directly in the negotiations, COP 21 provided many opportunities to showcase the contributions of “non-state actors” to the global climate effort. The strong display of commitments by cities, subnational governments and businesses at the New York Climate Summit in September 2014 led to the establishment at COP 20 of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda and the online NAZCA portal, where non-state actors can register their commitments. By the time of Paris, the portal listed nearly 11,000 commitments from 2,250 cities, 150 regions, 2,2025 companies, 424 investors, and 235 civil society organizations. The unprecedented showing of action and support from all levels of society was widely credited as an important factor in Paris’ success.
Is the agreement legally binding?
Yes. The agreement is considered a “treaty” under international law, but only certain provisions are legally binding. The issue of which provisions to make binding was a central concern for many countries, in particular the United States, which wanted an agreement the president could accept without seeking congressional approval. Meeting that test precluded binding emission targets and new binding financial commitments. The agreement, however, includes binding procedural commitments – such as the requirements to maintain successive NDCs and to report on progress in implementing them.
Will Congress have any say over the agreement?
Under U.S. law, a president may under certain circumstances approve U.S. participation in an international agreement without submitting it to Congress. Important considerations include whether the new agreement is implementing a prior agreement such as the UNFCCC that was ratified with the advice and consent of the Senate, and whether it is consistent with, and can be implemented on the basis of, existing U.S. law. Because the agreement does not include binding emission targets, or binding financial commitments beyond those contained in the UNFCCC, and can be implemented on the basis of existing law, the president could choose to approve it by executive action.
A C2ES legal analysis examines issues surrounding U.S. acceptance of the Paris Agreement.
Could a future president withdraw the United States from the agreement?
Under U.S. law, U.S. participation in an international agreement can be terminated by a president, acting on executive authority, or by an act of Congress, regardless of how the United States joined the agreement. The Paris Agreement specifies that a party may not withdraw from the agreement within the first three years following its entry into force.
What happens next?
To formally join the Paris Agreement, a country must first sign it, and then, after completing domestic approval procedures, must submit an “instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession” to the U.N. The agreement will be open for signature for a year starting on April 22, 2016. It establishes a “double trigger” for entry-into-force: ratification or approval by at least 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If states ratify quickly, these conditions could be satisfied pre-2020.
In the meantime, a new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement will begin meeting in May 2016 to develop a set of detailed decisions required to fully implement the agreement. At the same time, countries are expected to move forward with the domestic policies needed to implement their nationally determined contributions.
scientificamerican.com | Article Link | by Elizabeth Harball and ClimateWire
A growing feud over the use of American wood to fuel power production in Europe came into sharp relief yesterday as an environmental group staged a seafaring protest during a forest industry conference.
Participants at this week's Mid-Atlantic Forest Products Conference toured a deepwater export terminal near Norfolk, Va., owned by Enviva LP, a major wood pellet manufacturer and conference sponsor. The tour group was met by about 16 protesters on a party boat circling Enviva's Port of Chesapeake, brandishing a 16-foot banner reading "SOS—Save our Southern Forests" and waving smaller signs that read "Stop Enviva."
Organized by an Asheville, N.C.-based environmental group called the Dogwood Alliance, the protest is the latest move by activists to draw attention to the wood pellet industry's growth in the South, where they allege forests are being chopped down unsustainably so European nations can meet renewable energy targets.
"We shouldn't be exporting our forests to be burned for electricity in the U.K.," Scot Quaranda, a spokesman for the Dogwood Alliance, said before the protest Wednesday. "We need to find more ways to protect and preserve forests."
A spokesman for Enviva declined to comment on the protest. In a statement to ClimateWire, Seth Ginther, executive director of the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, said, "We are disappointed to see these anti-biomass campaigns continue to spread mis-information about the biomass industry.
"Biomass is sustainably sourced from low-value wood fiber, and from by-products and residues of other forest products industries," Ginther added. "Governments in European countries that are importing biomass for energy have set strict sustainability standards and requirements for biomass, which the industry is meeting through forestry certifications and continuous third-party audits, ensuring the sustainability of the product, as well as providing data on the carbon benefits associated with replacing coal use with biomass."
Image Courtesey of Wikimedia Commons/ Luc Viatour/www.Lucnix.be
forbes.com | Article Link | by Tom Lindsay
There is a variety of opinions in the media these days regarding online learning. Depending on what you read, online education can appear to be either a cure-all or cancer. In an effort to cut through the smoke, here are the top eight established facts you need to know.
1) Online learning is here to stay. Since 1986, when the first online degree program from an accredited institution was offered (by John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California), growth has been exponential. Today, one-third of America’s 21 million enrolled students are taking some or all of their instruction online. The eleven-year study by the Babson Survey Research Group shows over seven million online enrollments in the fall semester of 2013.
2) There is no significant difference in learning outcomes. Some 30 years of research, including that of the U.S. Department of Education, has found no evidence that online learning is qualitatively inferior to that obtained in a traditional classroom. Unfortunately, those who have preached online learning’s “convenience” for so long have led many to believe that this means “easy,” which is not true. Online courses can be more or less rigorous depending on the instructor who develops the course and the academic department that reviews it.
At the same time, advances in information technology now make it possible to offer significantly more rigorous courses that don’t “feel” as difficult because of the design of the course and the support features that can be directly integrated. For example, one online provider, Excelsior College, sought to address the fact that its students, like most students, live in fear of anything quantitative. In response, Excelsior built access to the Khan Academy‘s tutorials into the lessons for its required courses. The result? Both grades and completion rates went up, with no dumbing-down required.
Image Courtesey of Wikimedia Commons/Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon
nytimes.com | Article Link | Diane Cardwell
Expanding the notion of corporate benefits beyond discounted health club memberships and low insurance rates, a group of major companies is set to offer employees access to cheaper solar systems for the home.
Under an arrangement announced Wednesday, employees of the companies — Cisco Systems, 3M, Kimberly-Clark and National Geographic — will be able to buy or lease solar systems for their homes at rates substantially lower than the national average, executives said. The program, offered through Geostellar, an online marketer of solar systems, will be available to more than 100,000 employees and will include options for their friends and families in the United States and parts of Canada.
Conceived at the World Wildlife Fund, the program, called the Solar Community Initiative, aims to use the bulk buying power of employees to allow for discounts on home systems.
The program’s expansion is a reflection of the shrinking gulf between camps that were once considered mutually exclusive: environmental advocacy organizations and mainstream corporate America.
“Our objective was to make this as simple and cheap as possible,” said Keya Chatterjee, senior director for renewable energy at the World Wildlife Fund. After receiving discounts through a group program for employees last year, officials at the environmental group approached a few of their corporate partners, she said.
The program is consistent with the group’s approach of working closely with corporations, often quietly trying to nudge them toward change from the inside, rather than pushing from the outside through more confrontational tactics.
Image Couretesy of Wikimedia Commons/ Laslovarga