UN Report Shows World’s Pledges for Paris Are Recipe for Climate ‘Disaster’

— by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams Staff Writer

New analysis by UNFCCC finds wealthiest countries must step up efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to stave off extreme warming

Developing nations are first in line to experience extreme weather events like drought, floods, and rising sea levels. (Photo: World Bank Photo Collection/flickr/cc)

The latest United Nations (UN) analysis of the climate pledges of world governments reveals the commitments are not enough to avert “climate catastrophe,” green groups warned on Friday.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and German State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth presented in Berlin on Friday their report (pdf) on the effects of 146 participating countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—representing 86 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—submitted ahead of the UN’s upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris.

“While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4°C catastrophe to a 3°C disaster.”
—Tim Gore, Oxfam

Their conclusion: the pledges will not be sufficient “to reverse by 2025 and 2030 the upward trend of global emissions. Furthermore, estimated annual aggregate emission levels resulting from their implementation do not fall within least-cost 2°C scenarios levels.”

“The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7°C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs,” Figueres said.

In fact, if emissions continue to go unchecked, current trends indicate that the global temperature rise could be by as much as 4.5°C by 2100, the UN reported—well above the threshold climate experts say would bring catastrophic floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events.

A 2°C goal is still within reach, the report said. But climate activists warned that meeting such a goal will require much more aggressive action by wealthy nations, many of which have recently come under fire for their lackluster pledges and attempts to evade financial obligations to developing countries.

“We’re going to need to see more ambition in Paris,” 350.org strategy and communications director Jamie Henn said on Friday. “The targets currently on the table still aren’t enough to prevent climate catastrophe. To close the gap, politicians must settle on a clear mechanism to increase ambition, make real financial commitments, and agree to a unifying goal of completely decarbonizing the global economy.”

However, the current inadequate pledges are “still enough to send a clear signal to investors that the age of fossil fuels is over—there’s no way to meet these targets, let alone the stronger ones necessary, without a full scale transition to renewable energy,” Henn said.

Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at humanitarian aid group Oxfam, added, “The UN’s verdict reveals that, while the world is making progress, much more needs to be done. While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4°C catastrophe to a 3°C disaster.”

“The targets currently on the table still aren’t enough to prevent climate catastrophe.”
—Jamie Henn, 350

The Least Developed Countries (LDC), a coalition of frontline nations taking part in the climate talks, were even more critical of the findings, which come just days after preliminary negotiations in Bonn ended without a concrete plan for rich countries to step up their part.

“Today’s analysis shows the urgent need to address the lack of ambition within the INDCs,” said LDC chair and Angolan diplomat Giza Gaspar-Martins. “Governments must do more in Paris, but the work does not end there. For the INDCs to succeed they must be adjusted before 2020 and reviewed in five year cycles from 2020 to ensure national actions quickly and rapidly progresses, or we all face a grim and uncertain future.”

Small island nations are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, Gaspar-Martins continued. “For 48 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, economic development, regional food security and ecosystems are at risk in this 2°C ‘safe zone’. So we once again call on the world to grow its ambition for a 1.5°C target,” he said.


CC-BY-SAThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Advertisements

‘Thirsty’ Global Fracking Industry Puts Water, Environment, Communities at Risk

‘The fracking industry needs to be urgently reined in before it’s too late for our planet and people across the globe.’

— by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams staff writer

Multinational oil and gas companies are moving into increasingly vulnerable countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia where the ecosystems, communities, and authorities are even less able to cope with the impacts of fracking and shale gas extraction, according to a new report from Friends of the Earth Europe.

Fracking
Mexico’s shale gas reserves and water-stressed regions overlap significantly. (Credit: Friends of the Earth/World Resource Institute/US EIA)

The report, Fracking Frenzy: How the Fracking Industry is Threatening the Planet (pdf), shows how the pursuit of fracking in countries such as Mexico, China, Argentina, and South Africa is likely to exacerbate the climate, environment, social, and human rights problems those countries already face. While much has been written about fracking in the United States and the European Union, this study “seeks to provide a global overview of shale gas development in the rest of the world,” its authors note, focusing specifically on 11 countries that are leaders in shale development on their respective continents.

“From Brazil and Mexico to Algeria and South Africa, this thirsty industry is exploiting weak regulation and causing untold environmental and social damage in the pursuit of profit,” said Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “The fracking industry needs to be urgently reined in before it’s too late for our planet and people across the globe.”

Released as United Nations climate talks open in Peru, the report illustrates the variety of dangers posed by the rapidly expanding fracking industry. In Northwest Africa and Mexico, for example, longstanding water scarcity issues will only be exacerbated by fracking operations that require millions of liters of water per project. In the earthquake-prone Sichuan basin in China, the Karoo basin in South Africa, the Himalayas, or the Sumatran basin in Indonesia, drilling around complex underground geologies raises the prospect of increased seismic activity, higher costs, and “incalculable environmental impacts and risks.” In Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, drilling activity on or near indigenous lands is already leading to conflicts with local communities.

“The emerging planned expansion of the shale gas industry outside the EU and North America raises serious concerns because of the almost unavoidable environmental, social, and health impacts already seen at existing fracking sites,” reads the report. “Given that these problems have proved difficult to avoid in countries with relatively strong regulations to protect the environment, how can this industry be properly monitored in countries where environmental standards are often lower (and sometimes non-existent), and/or where enforcement capacities are frequently limited and where corruption can be an everyday reality?”

Far greater scrutiny of the industry’s climate impacts is warranted, the report concludes, “particularly in countries which are already and will be much more directly affected by the consequences of climate change.”

Natural gas “is not—and never has been—the clean fuel that the industry has tried to claim,” it reads. “In fact it poses an immediate threat to attempts made to fight climate change.”

Friends of the Earth is urging the 195 nations gathered in Peru this week to consider these assertions.

“Around the world people and communities are already paying the price of the climate crisis with their livelihoods and lives,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “Fracking will only make things worse and has no place in a clean energy future. Europe and other industrialized countries most responsible for the climate crisis need to use the talks in Lima to make genuine commitments to end their reliance on corporate-controlled fossil fuels and embrace clean, citizen energy.”


CC-BY-SA   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

10 Terrible Amendments Offered by Republican Senators

Mar 22, 2013 | By ThinkProgress War Room

The Senate has been debating the Democratic budget for the past few days. One of the quirks of Senate rules means that the amendment process on the budget is completely open, allowing senators to file and request a vote on an unlimited number of amendments. They don’t even have to say what their amendments are in advance, but many still choose to file them in advance. Since the process is so open, a rarity in the gridlocked Senate, senators often use this opportunity to file highly political message amendments. We sifted through the more than 400 amendments filed and found dozens that are terrible, ridiculous, nonsensical, damaging, or just plain crazy. Here’s a look at ten of those proposals.

  1. BOSS IN YOUR BEDROOM: Sens. Fischer (R-NE), Cruz (R-TX), Johanns (R-NE), and Enzi (R-WY) introduced an amendment to put your boss in your bedroom by allowing them to deny you birth control coverage based on their beliefs, not yours. This is just one of numerous anti-Obamacare amendments offered by Republicans. Incidentally, the law turns three tomorrow. 42 GOP senators and 2 Democrats voted for this amendment.
  2. NRA-FUELED CONSPIRACY THEORIES: Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) offered an amendment that would prevent the U.S. from signing on to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. The NRA and other right-wing groups falsely claim that this is some backdoor gun grab, which led the Senate to fail to ratify the treaty last year. The NRA is currently making a full court press to kill or at least gut the treaty. Sen. Vitter (R-LA) offered a similar amendment that would prohibit the U.N. from registering or taxing Americans’ guns, something the organization obviously has no plans to do.
  3. HOUSE GOP BUDGET: While Republicans found time to cook up hundreds of other amendments, it seems no Republican senator wanted to vote on the House GOP budget as a substitute for the Senate Democratic plan. When Democrats offered the draconian Ryan plan that ends Medicare and raises taxes on the middle class in order to slash them on the wealthy, a measly 40 GOP senators voted for the plan from their counterparts in the House. Three GOP senators, however, voted against it because it wasn’t extreme enough.
  4. GIVEAWAY TENS OF BILLIONS TO WALL STREET BANKS: In the same so-called “reconciliation” bill that was necessary to finish passing Obamacare was a provision that stopped routing federal student loans through the big banks. Previously, the banks acted as a middleman between the federal government and borrowers, reaping billions in fees each year even though they bore no risk because the government was the one guaranteeing the loans. The banks role was eliminated in 2010 and the money was shifted to Pell grants. Earlier today, Republicans put forward an amendment to repeal all of the Obamacare bill, including the student loan reforms. This would literally take money away from students and hand it over to the Wall Street banks. 45 Republicans backed this proposal, which also was the third time this week that GOP senators forced a vote on repealing Obamacare.
  5. OBAMAPHONE: One of the more racially-charged moments in last year’s presidential campaign came when Republican groups promoted a video of an African-American woman proclaiming her support for Obama because, she said, the government was giving out free cell phones, among other things. The Drudge Report and other right-wing media immediately dubbed this the “Obamaphone” controversy. As it turned out, the FCC’s Lifeline program offering free cell phones to low-income Americans began under President George W. Bush and is based on a Reagan-era program to provide low-income Americans with subsidized telephone service. Sen. Coburn (R-OK) offered an amendment to “reform” or, more likely, eliminate, this otherwise obscure program that is important to low-income Americans.
  6. MITT ROMNEY’S TAX PLAN: The Democratic plan raises close to $1 TRILLION in revenue just by closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy and corporate special interests like Big Oil. Republicans wanted to replace this with revenue-neutral tax reform that used the money to pay for huge new tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations instead of using it to reduce the deficit. This is almost identical to the Romney-Ryan tax plan that raised middle class taxes and which voters soundly rejected last year. All 45 GOP senators voted for this recycled Romney plan, which Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) also included in this year’s House GOP budget.
  7. KILL WIND JOBS, SEND CLEAN ENERGY INDUSTRY TO CHINA: Sen. Alexander (R-TN) wants to repeal the vital tax credits for wind power, just as Mitt Romney proposed last year. This would kill 37,000 jobs more or less immediately and effectively cede the clean energy industry to China and our other foreign competitors.
  8. LEAVE THE UN: Sen. Paul (R-KY) proposed one measure to save a very small amount of money: withdraw from the United Nations.
  9. RACE-BAITING WELFARE LIES: You may remember that Mitt Romney and other Republicans advanced the outright lie that President Obama “removed the work requirement from welfare.” This was categorically untrue, but that didn’t stop Republicans from airing millions of dollars in ads about it. In any case, the GOP campaign of distortion around the amendment has resulted in no states taking advantage of the flexibility requested by some Republican governors that the Obama administration offered to grant. Nevertheless, Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) is still so concerned that he offered an amendment to address the non-existent problem of the work requirement having been removed from welfare. For good measure, he offered a second mean-spirited amendment that mandates drug testing for welfare recipients.
  10. CREATE A PERMANENT IMMIGRANT UNDERCLASS: Sen. Sessions (R-AR), who has faced charges of racial prejudice in the past and was once denied a seat on the federal bench as a result, put forward a proposal to bar even those immigrants who receive legal status from receiving numerous tax breaks directed at the working poor. This would even prevent immigrants from receiving tax breaks that they are claiming on behalf of their American citizen children.

These are just a few of the dozens of terrible proposals put forward today by Republican senators.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Getting Small Arms Out of the Wrong Hands

The NRA shouldn’t be allowed to derail Senate support of a new global weapons agreement.

— by Don Kraus, President/CEO of Global Solutions

Don Kraus

Did you know that international laws dictate the rules of the game when it comes to selling bananas and iPods, but not grenade launchers and AK-47s?

It’s crazy but true. Fortunately, a solution is at hand. Negotiators at the United Nations will soon wrap up a global Arms Trade Treaty that will establish much-needed rules to prevent selling arms to human rights violators.

Every year, more than 500,000 people around the world are killed as a result of armed violence. Firearms are used in armed conflicts and to carry out human rights violations, including genocide, gang rape, and the practice of forcing children into combat as under-aged soldiers.

There are about 250,000 child soldiers.

image

Roughly 60 percent of documented human rights violations involve the use of small arms (such as rifles and machine guns) and light weapons (such as grenade launchers and shoulder-fired missiles). In fact, more human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other category of weapon.

The new Arms Trade Treaty sets uniform standards for international arms sales that will bring foreign governments up to U.S. standards and move the black markets out of the shadows. It will protect legitimate trade while holding governments accountable for selling arms to human rights violators. Without the treaty, warlords and terrorists will continue to get weapons used to force child soldiers to kill their parents, to attack American soldiers and missionaries, and to rape refugee women and girls.

U.S. support for this agreement should be a no-brainer.

The UN resolution that authorized the treaty talks ensured that the agreement only dealt with international sales and reserved “the exclusive right of [individual nations] to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership.”

Despite this assurance, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has gone on record saying the Arms Trade Treaty will threaten Americans’ rights to bear arms. The February 2013 cover story from the NRA’s magazine America’s 1st Freedom pushes a baseless conspiracy that the treaty will be used by “the minions of tyrannical and thieving governments” to achieve “total disarmament of freedom-loving people all over the world.”

Even a senior research fellow from the very conservative Heritage Foundation, Ted Bromund, has debunked this big lie.

“I don’t think that the [Arms Trade Treaty] is a gun confiscation measure for a variety of reasons,” Bromund said. “First, because I don’t regard that as within the bounds of possibility in the United States and secondly, because that is not what the text says.”

The NRA shouldn’t be allowed to derail support for the agreement when it gets to the Senate. This treaty is in America’s security, business, and moral interests. Not only is it good for our nation to have all countries operating from the same rule book, it’s also our responsibility. The United States, after all, is the top global supplier of major conventional weapons.

Fortunately, the White House is backing efforts to establish this treaty. And there’s broad support for it among U.S. military, religious, and human rights leaders.

Americans are debating our own gun safety laws with more fervor than we’ve seen in years. It’s also time for our nation and our senators to get behind a sensible agreement to protect millions around the world and at home.

Don Kraus is the President and CEO of GlobalSolutions.org.
Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org

Our National Failure to Commit

The Senate hasn’t approved any major multilateral treaties since 1997.

— By Don Kraus

Don Kraus

America is suffering from a failure to commit. Just ask Bob Dole.

While the former GOP presidential candidate and decorated veteran watched from his wheelchair on the Senate floor, all but eight of the Republicans in that chamber shamefully voted down the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It’s hardly a radical pact. To date, 126 other countries have ratified this treaty. Dole, who served as Senate Majority and Minority Leader for more than a decade, had championed it. So did veterans groups, disability rights organizations, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The treaty simply took our own Americans with Disabilities Act, and “expanded that kind of rights to people all over the world who don’t have them today,” explained Senator John McCain of Arizona, another former Republican presidential nominee and veteran with a disability.

But it takes two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty, and even with all 53 senators in the Democratic caucus supporting it, too few Republicans got on board for it to pass.

The treaty’s opponents seem stuck in a partisan twilight zone of UN black helicopters and conspiracy theories that undercuts U.S. influence in global affairs. They’ve perfected a method of defeating virtually every treaty that comes along. Since controversial treaties never pass in the Senate, opponents make any unobjectionable agreement divisive by inventing a big lie.

UN-ObamaThat global women’s rights treaty? Too pro-abortion. The International Criminal Court? A kangaroo court out to get American service members. TheConvention on the Rights of the Child? Kids could sue their parents. The UN Law of the Sea? An excuse to slap unfair global tax on Americans. An arms trade treaty? A ploy to deprive Americans of their right to bear arms.

To sabotage the disabilities treaty, Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, joined forces with former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Together, they crafted a ludicrous excuse for Republicans to rally around. Lee falsely claimed that the treaty would allow “a foreign body based in Geneva, Switzerland” to decide “what is best for a child at home in Utah.” They used this big lie to mobilize vocal opposition from the home-school movement.

These ploys generate enough angry messages from constituents to block the requisite approval for the United States to become a party to the treaty. In fact, the Senate hasn’t approved any major multilateral treaties at all since it endorsed the Chemical Weapons convention in 1997 — a year after Dole retired from Congress.

The Senate’s habitual failure to commit threatens our nation. It erodes U.S. global leadership. It limits our ability to express our collective values and blocks the development of worldwide agreements to address very real challenges that can decimate our civilization, including climate change and nuclear proliferation.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to defeat big lies. It’s called the truth.

Barack Obama, like all presidents who serve two terms, has a big incentive to leave a foreign-policy legacy. Here’s my suggestion: He should lead a national dialogue on global agreements, followed by a special Senate session devoted to clearing the backlog of multilateral agreements the United States has failed to approve.

A majority of U.S. voters support adopting each one of the above-mentioned treaties. Business, labor, civil society, and national security leaders are behind them too. The only thing missing is leadership and a serious discussion of the consequences of this national failure.

Ratifying these treaties would do little or nothing to ramp up U.S. spending but it would go a long way toward rebuilding the nation’s global credibility. We’d gain international respect and increase long term security by taking strides towards solving big global challenges like climate change and nuclear proliferation — problems that can’t be resolved by any one nation, no matter how powerful.

Americans understand that international cooperation is essential to build a more secure world. It’s high time that the Senate did something about it.


Don Kraus is the president and CEO of GlobalSolutions.org, a groundbreaking movement of Americans who support a cooperative and responsible U.S. role in the world.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)