Tag Archives: Climate Change

Climate and Energy Policy in the Global Context

by Brandon Huck, Coordinator, UNA-SNY Energy Project

On September 17, the Southern New York Division’s (SNY) Energy Project held an event entitled “Climate and Energy Policy in the Global Context” at the UN Foundation Office in Manhattan.

The featured speakers were Tapio Kanninen, PhD and George Garland, DBA.   David Stillman, PhD, a UNA-SNY Division board member and Executive Director, Public-Private Alliance Foundation, served as the event’s moderator. The nearly 30 other participants included UN staff and consultants, UNA members, professionals from various fields, faculty, and students. The event coincided with the lead up to Climate Action Week in New York City.

Dr. Kanninen’s presentation began with graphs depicting how the recent growth in fossil fuel emissions is increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, matching historically high average temperatures and leading to sea level rises. Dr. Kanninen also posed a series of questions related to global energy consumption patterns and the need to produce more energy from renewable sources to displace the world’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Among his key points were:

– Increased demand and use of fossil fuels from the ‘BRICS’ and other rapidly developing countries is only adding to the already unsustainable levels of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

– Only 30-40 percent of current proven fossil-fuel reserves can be burnt to have a reasonable chance of remaining below the 2°C target increase in the earths’ average temperature. Yet the flow of investments into fossil energy is about 3-4 times bigger than into renewable energy sources.

– Present alternative energy sources – primarily solar, wind, and nuclear—contribute only a small proportion of global energy supplies relative to fossil fuels and would not sustain current global economic growth.

– The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is marshalling experts from various fields in robust dialogue and reporting about climate change’s causes and effects. However, its call to “double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix” is not enough on its own.

– One proposed market solution is a cap-and-trade system and this option will be included in the climate change discussions at the 2015 Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris.

– Global challenges are more than interconnected than ever, but humans consistently underestimate the impact or threat from these connections.

Dr. Kanninen finished by underscoring that the change of focus from short-term to long-term sustainable development goals (SDGs) is not going to be easy. Therefore, there is a need to educate people at all levels about the climate change crisis and to provide ways for them to do their part to help stem the tide of climate change.

Dr. Garland started by noting that China has passed the U.S. in total CO2 emissions, with the U.S. now second and India third. However, the U.S. still leads by far in per capita emissions. Meanwhile, the EU altogether produces about half the level of U.S. emissions.

He also pointed to several facts from recent reports and studies on the impact of current energy consumption:

– An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicts that at current energy use rates, the world will miss the proposed carbon reduction goals by a factor of more than two.

– The OECD’s International Energy Agency foresees world energy consumption being up 56% by 2040, with approximately 90% of the increase coming from countries outside the OECD.

– US Energy Information Agency foresees a 25% increase in power generation by 2040, with one-third of increase coming from renewables and two-thirds coming from natural gas.

– A recent McKinsey report indicated that the US could reduce its energy consumption by 20% through efficiency programs. Although more than 75% of U.S. states now have energy efficiency requirements, state and local governments must continue to take the lead in innovating.

– The U.S. is stymied from taking more action at the federal government level to reduce emissions due to either political stalemate between the President and U.S. Congress or because of legal barriers, such as state lawsuits against energy use regulations proposed by the EPA and other agencies.

– One corrective measure that could be used is implementation of a tax on carbon emissions.

– Bangladesh offers an example of a government that is encouraging its people to change their behaviors, for example by promoting solar power, by taxing energy usage, and by cooperating with private enterprises to identify effective incentive programs.

Dr. Garland concluded his remarks by warning that the UN’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative is likely to be insufficient in solving for the lack or limited access to energy that 1 billion people suffer from daily.

Click here for a video of the event

You can receive Dr. Kanninen’s presentation and Dr. Garland’s notes by emailing a request to: unasouthernny@gmail.com.

Resources

UN Global Pulse: Features the work of scientists and statisticians who produce data on climate change.

Climate Action:  Climate Action works with the UN Environment Program to establish and build partnerships between business, government and public bodies to accelerate international sustainable development and advance the ‘green economy,’ partly through media.

Climate Reality Project: The Climate Reality Project trains individuals as speakers available to the public to discuss climate change topics and provides other opportunities personal involvement and action.

‘The Future of Energy‘: A new non-profit film about the clean energy revolution.  The site provides action plans and opportunities for screening the film.

2014 UNA-USA Annual Meeting: Dr. Robert Orr on Climate Change

By Weijia Li, UNA-SNY Energy Project

At this year’s UNA-USA Annual Meeting, I had the privilege of listening to a talk by the UN Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Robert Orr, who is also the most senior American at the UN. He focused on and stressed the significance of climate change, for several compelling reasons.

We cannot, he says, advance the Millenium Development Goals if climate change continues at this rate. Climate change affects every piece of the UN agenda and affects everything the UN is trying to do today for everyone, everywhere in the world. It is the underlying factor for peace, security, and development.

However, the UN needs the help of the US. The rest of the world also expects US leadership on climate change. So as Americans, we need to put forth rational energy policies that accelerate the use of renewables and to catalyze a clean energy revolution. Rather than wasting money on temporary fixes, we need to combat climate change directly. This will save us trillions of dollars in the future.

Every year that we delay action on climate change, the cost goes up for mitigating its effects. Even the Middle East has installed clean energy projects. I thought it was particularly compelling when Dr. Orr said, “If the Middle East can see the future, why can’t [the US]?”

The upcoming UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York will be the largest gathering of global leaders in history in one place. The Climate Summit is strategically scheduled to occur during this year’s annual Climate Week NYC and one year prior to the 2015 UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Paris. It is stated that “by catalyzing action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Conference, the Secretary-General intends to build a solid foundation on which to anchor successful negotiations and sustained progress on reducing emissions and strengthening adaptation strategies.”

My call to action for Americans is to write to your Congressman/woman and Senators to urge the US Mission to the UN to establish concrete goals at this year’s UN Climate Summit.

On a more personal note, I know that Dr. Orr’s wife Audrey Choi leads Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing and Global Sustainable Finance Group. With this in mind, I spoke with Dr. Orr after his talk and asked for his perspective on tackling climate change from the public/NGO sector vs. the private sector. He told me that the two are very different, but to be successful, we need to know both sides because both sides need to work together. This was reminiscent of a similar conversation I had with the Senior Policy Advisor on Energy to the UN Secretary-General.

What this means for all world citizens is that no matter what sector we identify ourselves in, we can make an impact to tackle climate change.

Hastings-on-Hudson, NY Tackles Climate Change

The Conservation Commission of the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY has tapped into local talent to produce a four-part series of presentations on climate change.  The series is:  Lifting the Fog: straight Talk on Climate Change – History, Science, Policy and Psychology.  Videos of the first two talks are available through the links below, and the others will be added as they take place.  To watch them full screen (advised) “right click” on the video, and choose “Zoom”.

PART ONE:  A History  –   January 22, 2012

Spencer R. Weart, physicist and noted historian, was Direcctor of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, until his retirement in 2009.  He is author of numerous books, including “The Discovery of Global Warming,” now in its second edition and translated into eight languages.  

PART TWO – The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Gap: International Climate Change Negotiations and Options for the United States.   Sun., Feb 12, 2012

Joseph A. Siegel – Attorney, Professor, Peacemaker.  Joe is a climate change lawyer, environmental conflict resolver, and educator of aspiring environmental attorneys.  Joe attended the United Nations climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico in 2010 with an NGO observer group focused on climate change ethics. As a certified mediator and facilitator, Joe is an Advisor to the Kheel Center on the Resolution of Environmental Interest Disputes and was a member of the Advisory Group to the United Nations Environment Programme and Permanent Court of Arbitration on environmental dispute resolution and dispute avoidance.