Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Virtual Durban: Tuvalu, PNG, and Elizabeth May

Today I urge you to watch the full thirteen minutes of Elizabeth May's news conference on leaving for Durban. It captures the banality of the fall of democracy in Canada, how small administrative details have enormous consequences for the nature of governance, how delicate a structure our democracy really is. I know I'm not selling it, but it really is a fascinating insight into the internal workings of government and the subtle way that democratic principles can be quietly smothered.

Click the link here to watch the video on CBC.

The video also captures some of the flavour of a COP with the different levels of badges granting access to different levels of meetings. The almighty 'pink' badge of the delegate trumps all.

And the punchline to the story is that May was finally given delegate status upon arrival in Durban. The nation of Papua New Guineau embraced her as part of their delegation and granted May one of the coveted pink badges. Sounds like my kind of country!

Photo courtesy of UNFCCC

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Virtual Durban: An exercise in sadness

Following the climate talks from afar is turning into a full-time job and an exercise in sadness. No matter how I examine it or what sources I use, the news is not good.

First, the problem is not going away. Even the venerable International Energy Agency says time is running out. The world's authority on all issues associated with energy declared a five year window for meeting any civilization-saving climate goals. The IEA is one of the most conservative sector organizations in the world. So when they warn about the urgency of climate change, I sit up and take notice. CBC's coverage here.

Second, my nation is one of the most obstructionist participants in this climate change conference. Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol yesterday, on the same day that China offered to make concessions. Not a very cooperative stance. Not a good sign for hope of a future global treaty to save humankind. We used to be a world leader in collaborative politics and progressive ideas. By pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, Canada took the global lead in selfishness. It is ironic that Canada's position seems protectionist. It will ultimately lead to economic stagnation, as we find ourselves outside of international markets when carbon trade barriers block Canadian goods and other nations take advantage of the clean tech economy. Read The Toronto Star's coverage of Canada's intransigence here.

Finally, there is the sadness of the realization of the devastation that climate change is wreaking even as I write this. On the eve of the first day of the Durban COP 17 conference, there was a flash flood that destroyed a village, killing ten people very near to the conference site. If the real devastation of a community by climate change on the eve of the conference does not inspire our leaders to make a change, there may be no hope for any of us. Sad to say, greed may be trumping hope. Even more sad that my country may be leading the greed parade. Huffington Post's Heather Libby's account of the flash flood here.

Photo is courtesy of the UNFCCC and depicts signs from the Day of Protest on Saturday.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Virtual Durban: COP17 Online

The annual United Nations Climate Change meetings begin in Durban, South Africa next week and for the first time in two years, I won't be attending in person. I will miss catching up on the latest science and policy surrounding the big topics that make up the climate change negotiations. However, I plan to track the proceedings as much as possible through the wonderful tools that the UNFCCC provides in the form of live webcams, up-to-the-minute documents with amendments, and online apps. As well, there are some hard-working activist groups that bring brilliant insight to the proceedings. Tcktcktck and our own Canadian Youth Delegation are just two of the best of these.

It won't have the flavour of the personal meetings and the networking that just can't be duplicated at home, but I intend to bring the virtual Durban to my blog. Starting next week, the meetings run from November 28 to December 9. Stay tuned to keep up on frequent summaries of the salient negotiating points, and interesting facts from the heart of the climate change negotiating centre.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Climate Change: Responsibility and Consequences

Let me digress today from my usual reports about carbon accounting, carbon markets, and government policy into the big picture perspective of why we do what we do, why we need to track every last ton of GHG emissions, account for it, reduce it, and blinking-well pay for it.

The 17th Conference of Parties (COP) takes place later this month in Durban, South Africa. This is the annual conference hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that brings together the nations of the world to work on collective solutions to the collective problem that is climate change. There are many agreements under parallel development at these meetings, but one of the most significant thrusts will be the talk of 'responsibility' for climate change and how those who are most responsible for climate change should step up to the plate and look after those who are suffering the consequences of climate change.

For example, I learned today that Bangladesh will press home for migration opportunities for the climate victims. Their foreign minister will also demand operation of the international climate fund on co-operational basis and transfer of technology for mitigation and adaptation of climate change free of cost. “Those who are responsible for carbon emissions would have to bear the cost of technology”. Full story here.

Add to this, today's new report from the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that "paints a wild future for a world already weary of weather catastrophes costing billions of dollars. The report says costs will rise and perhaps some locations will become 'increasingly marginal as places to live.'" Full story in The Guardian

Finally, there's a new map of climate vulnerability that shows in blunt strokes who causes climate change and who is suffering. When it comes to GHG emissions we are all linked into the fate of the global community and when one group of nations is clearly causing the lion's share of emissions, certainly there is no doubt where the moral and financial responsibility lies. So when you hear of the climate negotiations turning to development aid later this month, you will understand that it is simple math based on the cold hard facts of where the emissions come from and who is bearing the costs of the resulting climate change. Our high carbon lifestyle comes with a price. Is it really fair that someone else is paying it?

[photo courtesy of National Geographic]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Tipping Point for Carbon Management?

I have been feeling like a voice in the wilderness shouting about carbon accounting on the fringe of the business world, ever since my very first blog about the importance of full cost accounting. But now I can touch the edges of 'mainstream'. It's a funny feeling after years of tilting at windmills. It just goes to show you that if you stand still on a principle long enough, sometimes the world can shift your way.

What has caused this sudden realization of a global shift in perception? This year's Carbon Disclosure Project's annual report released yesterday included this earth-shattering little headline:
For first time in CDP’s ten year history, most US companies reporting climate change strategies
The press release goes on:
The 2011 S&P 500 report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has found that while national and global policy remains uncertain, most large US companies recognize the opportunity to gain strategic advantage from acting to address climate change. For the first time since its inception, CDP has found that a majority of the S&P 500 disclosing companies now integrate climate change into core business strategy.
You have to remember that the CDP is largely a North American project focused mainly in the US. So that means that in the absence of coherent government policy or regulation, corporations are choosing to track and report their carbon liability. The article cites investor pressure, rising fossil fuel prices, extreme weather events, and a recognition of new revenue and product opportunities [emphasis added] as drivers for including carbon accounting as part of the new corporate reporting paradigm.

Business does nothing that is not in its self interest. When a majority of the reporting businesses in the US incorporate climate change accountability into their corporate strategies and reports, ya gotta think that carbon management has become a pillar of strong business planning. This may be carbon accounting's tipping point. It had to happen sometime.

Check out the Carbon Disclosure Project and the 2011 Report here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

24 Hours Starts Now - Climate Change Reality Today

24 Presenters. 24 Time Zones. 13 Languages. 1 Message. 24 Hours of Reality is a worldwide event to broadcast the reality of the climate crisis," proclaims the web site for the 24 Hours of Reality event.

The people at The Climate Reality project are fed up with the deniers and the opinion polls that show that Americans’ awareness of climate change is declining.

They are fighting back with science. They declare that the deniers “have millions of dollars to spend, but we have a powerful advantage. We have reality.

Their fight will consist of a new multimedia presentation created by Al Gore that will be delivered once per hour for 24 hours for every time zone on the globe.

Science and ‘reality’ are often long shots when it comes to fighting hard-wired beliefs and the power of the almighty buck, but I think folks know in their gut that something is changing on this planet. We see the extreme weather events increasing, the changes in growing seasons and weather patterns. We live these things. I’m hoping that champions like The Climate Reality Project and spokespeople like Al Gore will give us the tools to understand what we know is already happening. And maybe by understanding the science of it all, we will be empowered to take control of the politics and be inspired to make positive changes for sustainability.

I know I’ll be tuning in today. Looking forward to learning something new about the planet and about positive change for people dealing with climate change. You can check it out at:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

GHG Election Tracker - Vote for Action on Climate Change

The campaign is nearing its end as we approach the May 2nd election day. The coverage has been disappointing in terms of climate change as an issue or concern for candidates, electors, and the media. There are many reasons for this absence. The fear of the issue as a hot topic has kept candidates from raising it. But the Canadian electorate must take some of the blame for simply keeping it off the agenda as an item of concern.

Whether it made the front pages or not, climate change was clearly addressed in the platforms of all parties. I would encourage folks to vote on Monday to have an impact on our country's future. And if you're undecided or you weren't going to vote, perhaps you would consider voting for the long-term future of the health of our children and the safety of humans everywhere.

We've outlined the platforms of the big three parties and their stances on climate change policies. Here are a couple more helpful resources to help you decide who will best steward our country and planet for the future.
  • Read all the media releases and blogs from the Pembina Institute's climate change analysts, here.
  • The Climate Action Network provides analysis of party platforms and strategies, here.