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Africa/Global: Beyond the Paris Climate Talks
December 10, 2015 (151210)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
As the climate talks in Paris draw to a close this week, the
countries present are still far from full agreement. Among the
latest surprises was the announcement by the Marshall Islands and
St. Lucia of a "Coalition of High Ambition Countries," spearheaded
by small island states which are the most at risk of being submerged
due to climate change. The coalition includes over 100 countries,
including the European Union countries and the United States, but
notable exceptions are the largest developing countries, such as
China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.
Details of the latest negotiations are complex, the outcome still
highly uncertain, and positions within each of the many negotiation
alliances are themselves subject to change. The remaining stumbling
blocks as of today are summarized in this article in The Guardian,
which has been covering the talks extensively as part of its "Keep
it in the ground" campaign.
"The six key road blocks at the UN climate talks in Paris" The
Guardian, December 10, 2015 http://tinyurl.com/p2nakd8
What is agreed among virtually all observers and participants is
that the results of the conference will fall far short of that
needed to curb climate change short of even more catastrophic
results in the coming decades, added to the documented increase in
"extreme weather events" already making themselves felt.
The outcome will depend in part on the agreed words on paper in the
next few days, but even more on the practical effect of multiple
technical and political trends around the world, both positive and
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains substantial excerpts from
articles on two particularly important issues beyond those in the
Paris text, namely the future of coal, and the threat to climate
action by governments coming from parallel and little noticed
negotiations in Geneva on the "Trade in Services Agreement" (TiSA).
There are also brief snippets from other relevant articles, on
agriculture, on critiques of the new OECD report estimating rich
country contributions to climate finance to date, and on rapid
advances predicted in renewable energy for both Africa and the
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate and the environment,
Year-end Break for AfricaFocus; Asking for your Support
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Best wishes to all for the holiday season and for the coming year.
William Minter, Editor, AfricaFocus Bulletin
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
"Thousands of Planned Coal Plants, if Built, Could Doom Efforts to
Contain Global Warming"
by Maureen Nandini Mitra, managing editor, Earth Island Journal
Alternet, December 4, 2015
I landed in Calcutta (Kolkata, if you are a stickler for official
names) on November 30, the day the world leaders, policy makers, and
environmental activists gathered in Paris to figure out how to curb
climate change. Officially, it's wintertime in this city of my
birth, but the air on Monday night was anything but chilly. Instead,
it was uncomfortably muggy. The only sign of winter was the hazy air
-- a regular year-end feature in this overcrowded, traffic-choked
metropolis in eastern India.
The unusually warm weather might be an anomaly, at least that's what
the local weathermen say, but in my experience, winters here have
certainly become milder in recent years. (While winter is receding
here, the waters are rising. Calcutta is among coastal cities across
the world most vulnerable to increased flooding due to climate
Meanwhile farther south by the tip of the Indian peninsula, another
coastal city, Chennai, has been flooded for two months due to
torrential rains that have submerged homes and disrupted normal
life. The Indian Army has been deployed there to rescue people
stranded in their homes. The rains have broken a 100-year-old record
with one day's rainfall covering an entire month's average in a city
that's more used to blazing heat than damp days.
When I spoke with a journalist friend living there last morning
(it's past 3 a.m. Thursday morning here as I write this), she was
stuck in her second floor apartment with her invalid mother and
little girl with no power. Her cellphone, the only way she can
connect with the outside world, had barely any charge left. The
first floor of her building was completely inundated and she feared
the waters would soon rise further. "Even if the rescue boats come,
I can't leave because they most likely won't be able to evacuate my
mother," she told me, before I hung up, not wanting to waste her
cellphone charge needlessly. I haven't heard from her since.
This is it: the real, harsh, personal face of climate change. Given
such stark news, it was doubly depressing to read a new report by
Climate Action Tracker that shows that thousands of new coal plants
being planned in countries across the world, including India, could
doom efforts to contain global warming.
If all the 2,440 coal plants in the pipeline were to be built, by
2030, emissions from coal power would be 400 percent higher than
what is consistent with a 2degC pathway, says the "Coal Gap" report,
which was released in Paris on Tuesday. Using data from Earth Island
Institute's CoalSwarm project's updated Global Coal Plant Tracker,
the researchers calculated the effect of coal-fired power on global
emissions and concluded that even with no new construction, in 2030,
emissions from coal-fired power generation would still be more than
150 percent higher than what is consistent with holding warming
The researchers based their assessment on planned new coal plants
both globally, and in the eight countries that each plan to build
more than 5GW of coal power capacity: China, India, Indonesia,
Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines, Turkey -- plus
the EU28. In emerging economies, like India, the plants are being
planned in hopes of meeting rapidly increasing electricity demand,
while in the EU28, new coal plants will mainly replace existing
Of course, the biggest offender here is China, which has 722 planned
plants that would emit 2.2 gigatons of carbon emissions a year. But
India isn't lagging too far behind. The report notes that the large
amounts of new coal capacity planned in India and Turkey "could have
a relatively significant impact."
"In India, stopping new coal fired power plants to be built could
mitigate 0.7 GtCO [gigatons of carbon emissions], provided low
carbon technologies are implemented," it adds.
The researchers say, ideally, plans for these plants should be
canceled, but I sincerely doubt that will happen. At least not here
in India, where coal companies have deep ties with the political
class, and where the environment minister (who's currently in Paris)
gives that same old line about the floods in Chennai being a
"natural calamity" that "can't be directly linked to climate
The Coal Gap: planned coal-fired power plants inconsistent with
2degC and threaten achievement of INDCs
Climate Action Tracker, Dec. 1, 2015
- Holding temperature increase below 2degC, or below 1.5degC by
2100, requires a rapid decarbonisation of the global power sector.
IPCC AR5 scenarios indicate that this sector needs to reach zero
carbon emissions globally around 2050, 35 years hence. This means
phasing out emissions from coal-fired power by 2050.
- Even with no new construction, emissions from coal-fired power
generation in 2030 would still be 150% higher than what is
consistent with scenarios limiting warming to below 2degC above preindustrial
levels (middle of the range). If the planned new coal
capacity - estimated by the Global Coal Plant Tracker - were to be
built, it would exceed the required levels by 400%.
- The planned new coal plants alone (globally, 2440 plants,
totalling 1428 GW) could emit approximately 6.5 GtCO2 , 16 - 18% of
the total allowed emissions in 2030 (under a 2degC-compatible
scenario). Including existing capacity with a technical lifetime
beyond 2030, total annual emissions from coal-fired power generation
could reach 12 GtCO2 in 2030.
- The CAT has assessed the impact of planned new coal plants both
globally, and in the eight countries that each plan to build more
than 5GW of coal power capacity: China, India, Indonesia, Japan,
South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines, Turkey - plus the EU28.
[The USA only plans to expand coal capacity by 3.5 GW.]
- Of these nine countries (incl. EU28) all have a CAT-rated INDC of
"inadequate" or "medium" (i.e. not sufficient to keep warming below
2degC), and have "current policy pathways" that are even less
ambitious. Their combined planned new coal capacity (2011 new coal
plants, totalling 1210 GW) could put them in an even worse
situation, adding emissions of around 1.5 GtCO2 to the CAT's
projected currently policy levels.
- In seven of the nine studied countries - China, EU28, India,
Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Turkey - planned coal plants
threatens the achievement of the already only medium or inadequate
- The estimated emissions impact of planned plants that have been
announced and pre- permitted - i.e. not under construction or
permitted - would be 3.5GtCO2. Cancelling these plants could lead to
emissions reductions of 2GtCO 2 below current policy levels,
bringing countries closer to their proposed INDC levels.
[more at http://tinyurl.com/h7b7jfp]
Climate Deception: Non-binding "Targets" for Climate, but Binding
Rules on Trade in Services by Deborah James
Huffington Post, December 4, 2015
[Also note that the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS)
network works with PSI against the proposed TiSA. For more
information, visit http://ourworldisnotforsale.org/en/themes/3085]
The whole world is watching as world leaders from nearly every
country across the globe meet in Paris this week to set carbon
emission reductions targets to address global climate change.
Unfortunately representatives of 50 of the same governments are also
meeting this week in Geneva to negotiate binding rules that will
seriously constrain countries' ability to meet those targets.
The 15th round of talks to create a "Trade in Services Agreement,"
or TiSA, are occurring once again in Geneva. Members of the TiSA
currently include Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico,
New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, South Korea,
Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the U.S., and the 28 member states of
the European Union. How come everyone knows about the Paris talks,
but not those in Geneva? Because the Geneva talks are convened in
secret - precisely because the negotiators don't want the public to
know what they're up to.
The TiSA is modeled on the General Agreement on Trade in Services
(GATS) of the WTO, which Naomi Klein has documented in her book,
This Changes Everything, has been used extensively against
environmental policies. Yet the point of the TiSA is to go further
than the GATS because corporations see the existing rules as not
"ambitious enough." The financial services, logistics and
technological corporations, largely in the United States and also
the EU, are attempting to expand the WTO's GATS to develop a set of
deregulation and privatization rules that constrain public oversight
of how services operate domestically and globally, setting aside
environmental, labor, and development issues in favor of
transnational corporate rights to operate and profit.
Fortunately, Wikileaks has come again to the rescue. Today they are
publishing analysis and secret, leaked proposals that would create
far-reaching rules that give corporations rights to access markets
and limit public oversight of environmental and energy services and
road transportation in TiSA member countries.
The analysis of a proposal for an "Energy Related Services (ERS)"
annex of the TiSA would give "rights" to foreign energy corporations
in domestic markets. Far from mandating reductions in carbon
emissions or promoting access for poor countries to clean
technologies, the proposed TiSA annex would actually limit the
ability of governments (on national, regional, or local levels) to
set policies that differentiate between polluting and carbon-based
energy sources, such as oil and coal, from clean and renewable
energy sources such as wind and solar. This is according to the
"principle of technological neutrality," revealed in the analysis of
the proposed chapter by Victor Menotti published by the Public
Services International (PSI) global union federation today.
Since reducing the dependence on fossil fuels is the basis of much
of today's climate policy, it is hard to imagine how governments
could achieve the reductions in fossil fuel usage required by the
targets if they are not able to differentiate among energy sources.
Developing countries have demanded that principles of common but
differentiated responsibility become enshrined in any new climate
deal; the TiSA would instead sidesteps developing country concerns
raised at the WTO, and fails to include the (weak) flexibilities for
developing countries included in the WTO's GATS.
In fact, a main point of the TiSA seems to be to "shift political
power over energy and climate policies from people using their
governments for shaping fair and sustainable economies to global
corporations using TiSA for restricting governments from regulating
energy markets, companies, and industry infrastructure," according
to Menotti. This includes ensuring domestic economic benefits from
natural resource extraction, a key strategy for poverty reduction in
many developing countries.
Both the TPP and the proposed TiSA would restrict governments'
ability to use public procurement to promote "green purchasing,"
through the chapter disciplining government procurement, which in
the TiSA is cross-referenced to environmental and energy services
chapters. According to the analysis by the Third World Network,
government purchasing "provides a major source of demand for
domestic service suppliers and reserving that for domestic companies
(or otherwise preferring them) can facilitate social and economic
development, provide employment and business opportunities for
marginalized or disadvantaged individuals and communities and act as
a 'wealth redistribution' tool." The leaked chapter on government
procurement in the TiSA would open up government purchases that are
subject to public tender, by all government agencies, in any amount.
Thus like the TPP, the TiSA constrains the ability of governments to
set policies that favor environmental job creation policies
advocated for by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy and the call for
a Just Transition developed by the International Trade Union
Confederation (ITUC) and endorsed by We Mean Business, The B Team
and seven major civil society networks including CIDSE (the
international alliance of Catholic development agencies), Friends of
the Earth International, ActionAid International, Greenpeace
International, Christian Aid, WWF and Oxfam International.
[For more, read full article at more at http://tinyurl.com/h6femp2]
Other relevant recent articles
(snippets only; for full articles see links)
"US Solar Market Prepares for Biggest Quarter in History" Greentech
Media, Dec. 9, 2015
GTM Research expects the fourth quarter of this year to be the
largest quarter for solar installations in U.S. history. Led by the
utility-scale segment, the United States will install more than 3
gigawatts. Looking further out, cumulative PV installations will
nearly double between now and the end of 2016, bringing the
nationwide total to 41 gigawatts.
"Africa plans renewable energy drive that could make continent
world's cleanest," The Guardian, Dec. 7, 2015
The African Renewable Energy Initiative (Arei) plans to develop at
least 10 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and
at least 300 GW by 2030, potentially making the continent the
cleanest in the world.
The International Energy Agency, which has said that Africa is at
the “epicentre of the global challenge to overcome energy poverty”,
estimates that annual electricity consumption per capita in Africa
for 2012 was around 600 kWh, compared with the world average of
The plan to accelerate solar, hydro, wind and geothermal energy
could see Africa leapfrogging other continents by developing
thousands of small-scale “virtual power stations” that distribute
electricity via mini-grids and would not require transmission lines,
which involve a loss of up to a quarter of power during the process.
"More countries reject OECD study of climate aid" The Guardian, Dec.
China, Brazil and South Africa have joined India in rejecting a key
OECD study stating that rich countries have already mobilised nearly
two-thirds of the $100bn (£67bn) pledged to secure a new climate
The refusal by the world's four most powerful developing countries
to accept the methodology used by western economists, to calculate
the money raised for poor countries to adapt to climate change,
suggests that finance will be the major hurdle at the end of the
talks on Friday.
The OECD study claimed that rich countries had already mobilised
$57bn of climate aid in 2013-14, as pledged in 2009. But Indian
government economists have claimed that the OECD study counted loans
made to developing countries and double-counted aid money, putting
the real figure closer to $2bn.
"A secret weapon to fight climate change: dirt" The Washington Post,
Dec. 4, 2015
We think of climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels.
But a third of the carbon in the atmosphere today used to be in the
soil, and modern farming is largely to blame. Practices such as the
overuse of chemicals, excessive tilling and the use of heavy
machinery disturb the soil's organic matter, exposing carbon
molecules to the air, where they combine with oxygen to create
carbon dioxide. Put another way: Human activity has turned the
living and fertile carbon system in our dirt into a toxic
It's possible to halt and even reverse this process through better
agricultural policies and practices. Unfortunately, the world
leaders who gathered in Paris this past week have paid little
attention to the critical links between climate change and
agriculture. That's a huge mistake and a missed opportunity. Our
unsustainable farming methods are a central contributor to
greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change, quite simply, cannot be
halted without fixing agriculture.
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