I was in Katowice when a busload of NGO people went to Auschwitz. Alas, I could not go. I had a meeting I couldn’t skip. Seriously. But Tzeporah Berman went, and it seems that she can write as well.
The folks at inequality.org recently released this nice brisk introduction to the climate inequality emergency. It’s a nice intro to the subject, which I cite because it takes inequality and climate crisis as two crises that can no longer be successfully addressed in isolation from each other. The strategy of the piece is to juxtapose the IPCC’s new special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and Oxfam’s The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2018. The first of these, in particular, is a milestone document which has deservedly gotten a lot of attention, though few have noted that the IPCC itself has a lot to say about the equity challenge. See the discussion of this in After Paris: Inequality, Fair Shares, and the Climate Emergency, which was just published by the Civil Society Equity Review coalition.
A 2 degrees C rise would be catastrophic, and avoiding it requires radical change and climate justice. Click here for Tom Athanasiou’s review of the IPCC’s Special Report Global Warming of 1.5ºC, as published in The Nation.
And here is something new! A report that evaluates the current national pledges of action in the light of the IPCC’s bracing new report — Global Warming of 1.5°C — and in the context of an analysis that takes inequality within countries just as seriously as it takes inequality between countries.
The report is titled After Paris: Inequality, Fair Shares, and the Climate Emergency, and it has an extremely impressive list of organizational endorsers, from all over the world. Which is not surprising, as it was produced under the aegis of the Civil Society Equity Review coalition, which has built quite a bit of momentum at this point. EcoEquity, as one of the partners in the Climate Equity Reference Project, is one of the principle authors.
One of our partners even call this report “elegant,” which is something for this sort of a report. Take a look!
This is a quick notice of a brief “correspondence” piece, just published in Nature Climate Change.
Cascading biases against poorer countries (see the sharable link at https://rdcu.be/MMbA) was written by an ad-hoc group of analysts and philosophers who got together in 2017 to respond to Equitable mitigation to achieve the Paris Agreement goals (the sharable link is https://t.co/vXFWgLDBOV), which du Pont et. al. published in December of 2016 in Nature Climate Change.
Our published response to du Pont et. al., Cascading biases against poorer countries, is quite short, but we think it manages to make its core points. In a nutshell, our claim in that du Pont and his colleagues reach counter-intuitive conclusions (for example that the EU has made a more “equitable” pledge than either China or India) by way of a cascading series of decisions that, taken together, skew their approach towards various kinds of grandfathering, while, at the same time, appearing to be derived from a balanced and comprehensive set of high-level equity principles.
With the euphoria of the Paris breakthrough now in the rear-view mirror, and attention shifting to post-Paris action plans, it’s worth noting that all sorts of pledges – national NDCs, regional emissions caps, even the energy roadmaps of individual corporations – are being advertised as being “Paris compliant.”
In this context, with first-cut stocktake processes spinning up, remember that Paris lays out a “pledge and review” regime, and that the second term in this phrase must be taken as seriously as the first. There will, in particular, be no real ambition ratchet without real equity assessment. It won’t be easy to agree on a proper assessment process, but open dialog will certainly help. What else possibly could?
Paris’s Article 14, which lays out the terms of reference for the all-important Global Stocktake process, is quite explicit. This stocktake will be conducted “in a comprehensive and facilitative manner, considering mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation and support, and in the light of equity and the best available science.”
What does this imply? What does it even mean? What, in particular, does it mean for the assessment of individual national pledges?
Hopefully, the debate will quickly evolve, and hopefully, too, it will henceforth be productive and illuminating. To that end, disagreements should be respectful, but they should also be clear. Transparency is critical, particularly if the “equity and ambition” debate is to be comprehensible to new people. And we should all remember that none of us knows how to best engage the equity challenge.
Moving forward with the equity debate, some heat is inevitable. But our goal should be to cast light.
Climate politics can be brutally difficult. You have to tell the truth, for one thing, but if that’s all you do, you lose. The real trick is telling the truth in a helpful manner, one that opens doors. So kudos to Jason Mark, the Editor-in-Chief of Sierra Magazine, who pulls this off nicely in The Case for Climate Reparations, the cover story of the current issue.
The subtitle, “It’s Time the Carbon Barons Paid the Costs for our Unnatural Disasters,” signals the secret of Mark’s success. He’s asking for something real, but he’s not asking for the world. This is the Transitional Justice way. Reparations are just one tool in the toolkit, one device among many. The real challenge is to face history, and to do so in a meaningful way that makes it possible to then move forward.
That said, reparations are a very special device, for they go beyond the recognition of past wrongs to demand paybacks for historical debts. In South Africa, after Apartheid, these are the debts owed by colonizers to their former subjects. Today, in the United States, on the reparations for slavery front, they are the living legacy of the Confederacy, and of “reconstruction” and its cruelties, and of “the new Jim Crow.” (For more on these themes, see The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.)
But, again, Mark is making a measured case. He’s not even naming the great challenge of “differentiated responsibilities” a phrase from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that, overplayed in decades of often bitter negotiations, has left the realists terrified of equity in any form. Quiet conveniently terrified, actually. He’s just talking about the fossil corporates, his “carbon barons,” and suggesting that it’s their time on the block, their time to face history.
The Sierra Club should be congratulated for this piece. I hope they don’t have to put up with too much carping for running it. Because the truth is that, unlike the challenge of mitigation — which can to some degree be met with technology, and market mechanisms, and policy reforms — the challenges of adaptation and loss & damage are absolutely going to elude the devices of politics as usual. When the waters rise in earnest, and they will, when the deserts spread and intensify, and they will, the question of responsibility is going to hang heavy in the air.
In fact, it already does. And facing it in a helpful way is going to be hard. But, hey, we gotta start somewhere. Why not with the fact the Exxon lied?
The new Christian Aid fair shares report — Climate Inequality in the Commonwealth: A call for urgent action (which we provided the analytic support for) is a step forward for at least two reasons. First, it very practically provides a fair-shares analysis at a sub-global level, within the 53 member Commonwealth of Nations. Second it calls for the wealthy Commonwealth nations to support the poorer members by very specifically aiding them in eliminating energy poverty. In fact, it expresses that support not in cash terms but in terms of in terawatt hours of renewable electricity generating capacity. The renewables side of the analysis is based on the latest work of the International Renewable Energy Agency
Oil Change International, the very model of an activist climate think tank, has released an excellent critique of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) climate scenarios. It’s called Off Track: The IEA and Climate Change, and it’s well worth your time. Also note that the principle author of the report, Greg Muttitt, has recorded a concise webinar version of the report which is archived here.
This is pretty technical stuff, but if given that the IEA’s New Policy Scenario is one of the most influential climate / energy projections in all the world, and given that it is massively inconsistent with the Paris temperature goals, it’s also pretty important.
Just one specific point. The IEA not only has its New Policy Scenario, it also has its so-called Sustainable Development Scenario, and even this latter scenario is nowhere close to being consistent with the Paris temperature goals. Moreover, the IEA’s conception of this more stringent scenario is nowhere close to being equitable.
This graphic, from the Oil Change report, makes this clear. It shows that, in the IEA’s view, the bulk of the reductions that need to be made if we’re to increase ambition from the from the New Policy level to the Sustainable Development level, should be made in the developing countries.
If this is what passes for realism in the IEA, we’ve really got a problem.
It’s two years now since Paris, and time for another dose of Kevin Anderson, straight-shooter extraordinaire. You can get it by watching this talk, given at Anderson’s home base at the University of Manchester. The talk begins at time-code 11:00 and runs until about 42:20. There’s a lot more to say, but Anderson fits a lot into those 31 minutes. My only quibble is with his explanation of why the political elites behind the Paris Agreement were so eager to celebrate it, which I find to be painfully thin. But the mainline of talk is great, as far as it goes, and that’s pretty far, actually. Here’s a sample slide:
The Heinrich Boell Foundation has published an excellent report on COP23, which you can find here. It’s long, but if you’re going to read one piece, this is the one. Also, I just did a half-hour interview with Earth Island’s Maureen Mitra on KPFA’s Terra Verde, here. It’s not bad, though I probably said “Loss and Damage” too many times. On the other hand, this may be a habit we all get into in the years ahead.