Category Archives: III. Action follow-up

The information / actions following up the event

Young Scientist/Youth Declaration

by a group of young delegates to the Planet Under Pressure 2012 Conference, reprinted with permission from  http://yodecom.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Dear leaders of the world,
 
We are young delegates to the Planet Under Pressure conference, and we ask you for concrete action based on the scientific knowledge of global challenges outlined in the State of the Planet declaration from the conference.
 
Problems of environment, economics, equity and social justice are intrinsically linked. Any action addressing one affects them all.  Science (including social science) can help to identify solutions, but citizen engagement is vital for solutions to work.  Where solutions exist that improve all of them, we ask you to implement them. If they have already been implemented, we ask you to enforce them. Where solutions exist that address one at the expense of the others, we ask you to rethink them.
 
Where solutions for environmental, economic, and societal problems conflict, we commit to finding better solutions. To start, we propose the following:
 
·      Replace GDP with a metric that also incorporates environment and social equity
·      Remove barriers for developing countries to have more voice and decision-making power in international dialogues
·      Reform market mechanisms to allow participation in decision-making from stakeholders at all scales
·      Offer financial incentives to young eco-social entrepreneurs and social and environmental researchers, especially in developing countries
·      Regulate open access to knowledge in all arenas of business, policy, and science
·      Transition from short-term projects to long-term programs for education and sustainability-oriented decision-making
·      Make the sustainable development activities of business and government more accountable to citizens
 
We promise to:
 
·      Make science more accessible and translatable across sectors and interests so that it can be used for policy making and long term business decisions that will ultimately drive a sustainable society
·      Expand trans-discliplinary research and engage with user communities in efforts to develop integrative solutions for sustainability
 
These lists are incomplete, but they are a good place to start. You will have to take hard positions against vested interests standing in the way of such decisions. We, your constituents, support you in this. You the decision-makers and we the citizens must stand together to achieve a stable and sustainable future for our children and for future generations.
 
During the Planet Under Pressure conference (London, March 26-29 2012), young natural and social scientists from throughout the world drafted an address to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio de Janeiro, June 2012). This was the Final Draft, re-printed from the Youth/Young Scientist blog http://yodecom.blogspot.co.uk/  Their blog chronicles that process. 

 

How to rewrite the Durban script

by Guest Blogger Sunita Narain,  Director, Centre for Science and Environment, India

It’s that time of the year again. Climate change talks are heating up in Durban at COP17/CMP7. There is heat but no light. The negotiations are stuck despite the clear signs of climate change: dangerous and potentially catastrophic extreme weather events.

Not much is expected in Durban, except the usual shadow-boxing. The European Union  is leading the pack of climate champions. It wants the world to fast track negotiations for a single, legally binding treaty on cutting emissions. It does not say (loudly) that its real plan is to junk the Kyoto Protocol, which demands that industrialised countries cut emissions marginally, roughly 6 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The agreement in this Protocol is that rich countries, major historical and current emitters, go first, creating ecological and economic space for the developing world to grow. In time, the rest would follow. To facilitate actions in the developing and emerging world, technology and funds would be committed. All this done well would lead to a real deal. But it was not to be.

The US and its allies walked out of the Kyoto Protocol and now EU wants to dump it as well. It finds it difficult to meet its commitments to reduce emissions domestically.

At Durban, once again the stage is set for a dud act. EU will advocate climate action and its proposal for a single, legally binding treaty will get predictable responses. The US, the world’s biggest climate renegade, which pulls all strings, will oppose the proposal. Its objective is to do little at home, but most importantly, not to be made responsible for taking action based on contribution to the problem. It wants the distinction between the past and present polluters to be removed. It wants no discussion on a legal instrument. The other big polluting guns—Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada—will stand behind the US.

In the Durban-script the roles for the rest of the actors have also been written. The Association of Small Islands States (AOSIS), which is rightfully angry over inaction, will go with the EU-designed approach. It will see no choice but to back EU’s proposal, even as it knows the stalemate will only prolong. On the other hand, China and India will side with the US and join the deniers. The rest, with small differences, will wait for the game to play out.

The host, South Africa, will want a deal in its city. What will this be? This country more than any other reflects the climate dilemma: to act or not to act? It has very high per capita emissions—almost equal to Europe’s —but it is yet to share economic benefits and energy access with its majority poor. It is dependent on coal mining and exports, which it cannot jeopardise. But it wants to play the gracious host and somehow get its basic friends—the coalition of the emerging polluters, Brazil, India and China—to dine the last supper. Brazil may play along; it hosts the next big environment summit and would want to look good. But China and India will know too much is at stake. Once they accept a single instrument, they will have to take costly action, with no resources.

The die is not even cast. But the end game is known.

So what can change the outcome? I believe there is no other way but that the developing world regroups and takes leadership. Our world is the worst hit. We do not need to be preached about the pain of climate change. We know it. This leadership will require making tough demands. It will mean demanding drastic emission reduction targets for the rich world.

But it is equally important that our world does not hide behind the intransigence of the US. Our world must explain that it is already doing much to reduce emission intensity of its growth—growth of renewables in China, reduction of deforestation in Brazil and energy efficiency in India. It can and will do more. However, the high costs of transition to low-carbon growth must be paid for. This leadership must be firm on principles of climate justice and effective action.

This approach, I know, will be scoffed at and derided as being impractical. It is partly because the non-governmental groups following climate negotiations mirror the divide in the world. One half, the followers of the US and its grouping, will say this stance will jeopardise their democratic government and bring back the dreaded Republicans—Neanderthals who do not believe climate change is real. The other group, followers of EU and its grouping, will say this is good in words, but will not lead to effective action. In Durban they will want a deal, at whatever costs.

But their hedging will hide the one truth that needs to be revealed: most of the low-hanging fruit—easy options to reduce emissions—have already been picked in the climate-threatened world. This fact cannot be more inconvenient coming at a time when the rich world is faced with a double-digit recession; the euro-zone is threatened; and people are worked up against austerity measures.

The Durban deal (like its predecessors Copenhagen and Cancun will be bad for all if not based on accepting the hard truths of climate change. It is time we grew up.

Sunita Narain is an Indian environmentalist, political activist and is an avid supporter ensuring that green initiatives are embedded within sustainable development strategy.  She is the director of the Centre for Science and Environment , director of the Society for Environmental Communications, and publisher of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth.  She serves on Planet under Pressure 2012’s  Board of Patrons

Carbon

By guest blogger Liese Coulter, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) , Australia

Looking at the number of people who will amass for the Planet under Pressure Conference, I am inspired by the opportunities to cross pollinate new thinking even while I count the cost in carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

Flying can account for a lot of carbon dioxide and its equivalent added to the air and carbon is news in Australia, where I live. Who would have thought even 5 years ago that so many people would talk about carbon as if it was personally relevant? I hear it mentioned in the grocery store and coffee shops now, part of casual conversations. Next year in Australia, carbon will have a cost to everyone’s wallet not just to the environment.

The year we bought a diesel car I decided to balance out the emissions by paying towards a project that decreased carbon emissions somewhere else. Some people said you couldn’t trust the accounting and that some carbon offset projects were fake or would have happened anyway, so why bother? Being an information hound, I looked into it and ended up buying carbon offsets accredited by a third party that conform to a high standard. I still think my husband drives it too much, so the next year I made him pay for the offset.

Working for the Global Carbon Project in 2008, I researched voluntary carbon offsets to get a clear picture of the pitfalls and the standards that were being developed. They wanted to make their whole operation carbon neutral and figured it would be fairly cheap and simple since they are just a handful of scientists working in offices and using computers. And mostly it was true, except for the carbon costs of meetings and events, because scientists are always conferring at workshops and conferences.

The tricky question turned out to be, ‘Who is responsible for the carbon used to travel to a meeting?’ Is it the people who send out the invitations or the people who come to the party? In the end the clear lines of carbon accounting fell along the same lines as any other accounting. Whoever took responsibility for the cost of travel had the cost of the carbon as well. If I decide to pay for an airfare, then I have a choice and a responsibility to pay the total bill. If someone else agrees to pay for the trip, they owe the whole cost. Following the money might sidestep some finer points around social equality and global ethics but it holds up across a whole range of issues and went into the report. And it has been taken up by some businesses.

We looked at all the meetings they held and excluded travel paid for by other people but kept in carbon emissions from building heating and cooling, catering and local accommodation and ground travel. It turned out that about 90% of their carbon footprint was still air travel. So they found a third party accredited, high standard carbon offset and bought credits that balanced out their emissions.

Now there are many more voluntary carbon offset providers out there and some people are keeping tabs on how they source the projects and who checks their records so we can make informed choices. Some good sources are the Carbon Offset Guide and The David Suzuki Foundation’s How to host a carbon neutral event. The thing about offsets it that the atmosphere is global and a tonne of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) emitted in one place just adds to the total load of greenhouse gases. So an offset anywhere in the world reduces the total load no matter where the project is set up.

As I consider the unavoidable impacts from climate change, I am looking to support projects that build resilience into their planning. We all make choices based on a lot more than addressing climate change so as an information hound, I do like to see if I am supporting well planned forests or wind farms, projects in my country or in developing nations. How I choose an emissions calculator and why there are different totals depending on the methods, is a matter for another day.

Liese Coulter
Liese Coulter is the Knowledge Communication Manager for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) in Australia.