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Climate Change

Carbon Dioxide Levels Reach Unprecedented Highs: But Catastrophic Climate Change Can Still be Avoided

Alan Miller's picture

 Courtesy of World Meteorological Organization
Graph shows concentrations of atmospheric Co2 for the last 800,000 years, with measurements, starting from 1958, made at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. - Image courtesy of World Meteorological Organization

Scientists monitoring atmospheric concentrations of CO2 from a mountaintop in Hawaii recently reported that the presence of this greenhouse gas exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in at least three million years – a period when temperatures were much warmer than today. The significance of this seemingly dry statistical trend is stunning as reported in the New York Times:

From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.

In addition to the location in Hawaii, several other Global Atmosphere Watch stations from the Arctic to the Equator reported CO2 concentrations exceeding 400ppm.

Experts believe that in order to limit warming to 2°C – a goal based on expected impacts – concentrations should rise to no more than 450 ppm, a level we may reach in only about 25 years based on current trends.

Climate Change: Lessons in Cross-Sector Collaboration

Lucia Grenna's picture

 The opening panel at the Alcantara dialogues with speakers from the worlds of fashion, architecture, production, government and international development. Photograph: Connect4Climate/Leigh Vogel
The opening panel at the Alcantara dialogues with speakers from the worlds of fashion, architecture, production, government and international development. Photograph: Connect4Climate/Leigh Vogel

Climate change is a pressing issue. Everyone knows that, certainly the development community and they don't need to be reminded of it. What they do need reminding of is that no one group can possibly solve this problem.

Strategic collaborations around climate change issues and action are essential. As World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said recently: "To deliver bold solutions on climate change, we need to listen to and engage broader and more diverse audiences." This is what the Connect4Climate (C4C) team has set out to do since the program began in 2011.

C4C is a global partnership program dedicated to climate change and supported by the World Bank, Italy's environment ministry and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). We operate as a coalition of more than 150 knowledge partners ranging from major UN agencies to academic institutions to media organizations and NGOs.

Our aim is to convene different organizations, groups and individuals who wouldn't normally speak to one another, around the table to talk about climate change. The first audience we had to convince of the merits of building relationships and networks outside of those which seem immediately relevant, was our own within the World Bank.

Talking to the UN Security Council about Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture

Flags at the United Nations. UN Photos

Last week, I had the honor of speaking to the UN Security Council about an increasingly dangerous threat facing cities and countries around the world, a threat that, more and more, is influencing everything that they and we do: climate change.

World Bank President Jim Kim was in Russia talking with G20 finance ministers about the same thing – the need to combat climate change. Every day, we’re hearing growing concerns from leaders around the world about climate change and its impact.

If we needed any reminder of the immediacy and the urgency of the situation, Australia Foreign Minister Bob Carr and our good friend President Tong of Kiribati spoke by video of the security implication of climate effects on the Pacific region. Perhaps most moving of all, Minister Tony deBrum from the Marshall Islands recounted how, 35 years ago, he had come to New York as part of a Marshall Islands delegation requesting the Security Council’s support for their independence. Now, when not independence but survival is at stake, he is told that this is not the Security Council’s function. He pointed to their ambassador to the UN and noted that her island, part of the Marshall Islands, no longer exists. The room was silent.

A new treaty to control mercury…could be good for climate too

Laurent Granier's picture

courtesy: UNEP

Early in the morning on Saturday, January 19, 2013, negotiators from around 140 countries completed negotiations for the Mercury Treaty that will be adopted later this year in Japan. It will be known as the Minamata Convention, in deference to the victims of mercury poisoning from industrial pollution that occurred when residents of the Minamata Bay ingested contaminated fish and shellfish in the 1950s.

The Convention that took four years to negotiate under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joins the ranks of a number of treaties that address chemicals and wastes. It is the first treaty to specifically address heavy metals.

Why is the international community concerned about mercury? Mercury is typically released into the environment in metallic, or “elemental”, form, or as an inorganic salt. In elemental form, it easily vaporises and can be transported great distances worldwide.  When deposited in the environment, mercury eventually can be transformed to its organic forms, including Methylmercury, which is highly toxic and readily accumulates and bioconcentrates in animals and humans. Eventually, mercury settles in cold climates and bioconcentrates up the food chains to the point that Indigenous Peoples in the North that rely on traditional foods are exposed to damaging high levels.

One of the reasons heavy metals are difficult to address is that they are mobilised through human activities, but they are also released in the environment through natural processes, for example through volcanic eruptions or in deep-sea vents. Nevertheless, estimates are that at any given time, 90% of the mercury cycling in the environment is linked to human activities – hence the need for action. The recently released UNEP Global Mercury Assessment 2013 outlines major sources of emissions, geographic and temporal trends, and behaviour in the environment. 

Moreover, international action is warranted because of the transboundary dimension of the issue. In the United States for example, it is estimated that half the mercury in fish caught in rivers comes from anthropogenic Continental sources – predominantly from coal burning – whilst the other half represents emissions from Asia. At the same time, by some estimates, approximately 50% of US releases are deposited beyond the country’s border. This is textbook justification for international action.

Living Landscapes: Solutions for a Sustainable World

Peter Dewees's picture

Photo: Mduduzi Duncan Dlamini, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Kingdom of Swaziland, providing the closing keynote for Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day.

The final rounds of Forests Day and Agriculture Day wrapped up at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha this week under a new shared banner: Living Landscapes Days.

Both Days have become annual events on the sidelines of the UN climate change conferences, meant to bring together scientists and policy makers and, originally, to bring forests and farming onto the Conference of Parties (COP) agenda. Forests have largely achieved this objective with the the emergence of various agreements about REDD+.

Agriculture has slipped down the list of priority issues tackled by the COP, which has been struggling to figure out what to do about extending the Kyoto agreements and a range of other issues, but is certain to re-emerge. The agriculture discussions this week at Doha aimed to identify scalable solutions to specific mitigation and adaptation challenges which can benefit farmers; gaps where there are limited existing solutions or limited available knowledge; and potential trade-offs in implementing existing, known solutions.

This year, the two worked together to build on the themes of climate-smart agriculture, which became prominent in Durban in the last COP: farming which builds soil carbon, increasing food security, and enhancing resilience to climate shocks.

Forging a new path forward on climate change

Vipul Bhagat's picture

As world leaders convene in Doha for this year’s UN Climate Change Conference  developing countries are looking for ways to maintain momentum for change to help them transition to climate-smart growth.

When it comes to delivering improved, cost-effective infrastructure and services – a precondition for green growth – public-private partnerships (PPPs) are one way forward. At a recent event co-sponsored with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Doha, we shared our unique perspective on public sector efforts to attract and leverage private sector climate finance through PPPs.

Some key takeways from the event include:

  • PPPs help tap new money for infrastructure:  Since the 2008 financial crisis, governments have limited financial resources to devote to capital expenditures and expanded public services. Involving the private sector offers a solution.
  • PPPs boost efficiency through cost savings and shorten delivery periods. They also spur innovation by bringing in private sector know-how.
  • PPPs facilitate projects under one umbrella: When it comes to climate initiatives, PPPs can efficiently organize and consolidate the numerous and complex arrangements that make a renewable energy (or any other climate-related) project work.
  • PPPs allow for appropriate allocation of supply and risk demand to the private sector, reducing taxpayer costs.
  • Since 1989, IFC has been the only multilateral institution providing advice to national and municipal governments on designing and implementing PPP transactions to improve infrastructure and access to basic services such as water, power, agribusiness, transport, health and education.

A Wake Up Call

Rachel Kyte's picture

Photo courtesy IISD

This week, negotiators from nearly 200 countries have gathered at the UN Climate Conference in Doha to try to hammer out an agreement on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Once again, the gathering of the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change highlights the lack of action on climate change, and the subsequent threat to the prosperity of millions. Climate change may roll back decades of development.

Several reports in the last month have reached the same conclusion. First, the science is unequivocal: humans are the cause of global warming, and major changes can be observed today. Second, time for action is running out – if we don’t act, we could experience a 4°C warmer world this century, with catastrophic consequences.

The World Bank commissioned the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics to better understand the potential impact of a 4°C warmer world on developing countries. Turn Down the Heat provides a stark picture of the state of the planet in a 4°C warmer world and the disruptive impacts on agriculture, water resources, ecosystems and human health. It also gives a snapshot of changes already observed. 

Global mean temperatures are about 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels. Current greenhouse gas emission pledges place the world on a trajectory for warming of well over 3°C, even if the pledges are fully met. 

Climate for change in Istanbul

Joumana Asso's picture

A view of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. - Photo: Shutterstock 

As the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and its stakeholders from the private sector, government,  the multilateral development banks, civil society and indigenous peoples’ groups gathered in Istanbul to participate in the first CIF Private Sector Forum, their attention is increasingly focused on synergies between the private and public in addressing climate change.  There is a growing understanding among both governments and private sector players - from investors to small project developers to large utility companies - that gains are much larger if common strategies are developed and new partnerships are forged.

Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, opened the day with an energetic keynote address, provocative and positive, setting up the stage for the day by announcing the scope of challenge and opportunities for dynamic, and pragmatic climate investment strategies. Sessions on private sector adaptation, and business attitudes towards climate risk followed. The `Matching Expectations' panel brought together indispensable partners, the triangle of project developers-investors-policy makers, into discussion of regulations, fund raising challenges and investors' expectations and requirements. 

The day also showcased five CIF projects, beginning with the highlight of the Morocco Ouarzazate CSP project, a unique PPP model, presented by Paddy Padmanathan, the CEO of the project's developer ACWA Power. 

Consensus emerged that the private sector will deliver much of the innovation and finance required for investments in low carbon technologies and climate resilience in rich and poor communities alike. With scientists warning that we are not on a path to limit global warming to 2° or less, there is growing urgency to identify effective ways in which the public and private sectors can best work together to tackle and adapt to climate change.  The CIF provide a platform for learning by doing to develop such models for effective collaboration and share experiences among the network of CIF recipient and contributor countries.

Costa Rica scripts a new chapter in forest carbon finance

Benoît Bosquet's picture

Thick cloudy skies subdued the sunlight on an autumnal day in Paris. That did not stop the group of representatives from the public and private sector attending the 5th Carbon Fund Meeting of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) from making a decision that is a major milestone. Costa Rica is set to become the first country to access performance-based payments through the FCPF. This is the first time a national program is being supported by carbon funds in this global initiative of 54 countries and organizations, heralding a new phase in forest carbon finance.

This decision is a strong vote of support for Costa Rica’s ambitious plan to become the first “carbon neutral” country by 2021. Conserving forests and planting trees that capture carbon dioxide plays a large role in the national endeavor.

An interesting feature of Costa Rica’s proposal to the Carbon Fund is the quasi-national scope of the program that would be implemented in a mosaic approach on additional 341,000 ha of mainly privately owned land. Two-thirds of the targeted area is degraded land that the country aims to restore with reforestation, secondary growth and agroforestry, and one-third is old growth forest that will be protected from deforestation. The resulting emission reductions are estimated at 29.5 million tons of CO2. Close to half of these emission reductions (12.6 million tons of CO2) would be offered to the Carbon Fund, and would require an estimated financing of $63 million (assuming a price of $5 per ton of CO2).

How a small grant turned Humbo green

Edward Felix Dwumfour's picture

A comparative picture of the Humbo region in February 2002 and March 2010.

A number of years ago, I started a journey with seven poor communities located about 380 kilometres southwest of Addis Ababa, by a mountain called Humbo. The idea was to allow a degraded mountain to regenerate, and the communities would earn carbon credits for their efforts.

I still hear this phrase echoing in my ears: “With the meager amount of resources they have, this is an impossible agenda”. But the communities were stubborn and dedicated, and last week, the project was issued 73,339 carbon credits (temporary Certified Emission Reductions, tCERs) for their efforts. Similar payments will add up to $700,000 over the next 10 years from the BioCarbon Fund.

The Humbo communities wanted to see a transformation because they knew that their lands had been stripped as a result of unregulated cattle grazing and massive clearance of vegetation to meet their excessive demand for timber, firewood and charcoal. Soil erosion and flooding had intensified as a result. They could see their farmlands increasingly covered with silt, cobbles and boulders. Above all, they could attest that their farmlands were losing fertility, becoming unproductive and yields were down.

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