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The UN Climate Summit on September 24, 2014 has once again underlined the threat of global warming and climate change for future generations but stopped short of responses to what constitutes the overriding challenge for Humanity.
A mobilisation event is not enough, even if the thousands of people that flocked the streets in USA and Europe have been impressive.
Action is required; and it must come urgently and be effective. Bottom-up approaches by cities, regions or corporations are welcome but too tiny to have a global impact.
To keep the planet temperature from rising beyond the critical two centigrade humanity must reduce C02 emissions between 40 and 70% until the middle of the century, which only the EU has pledged to do so far, with its 80-95 reduction target.
In order to be successful the international community must focus on the major countries and sources accounting for the high and rising level of C02 emissions:
Humanity has become fossil-addicted; very few people can imagine 9-11 billion human beings doing without fossil energies by 2050-2100.
Coal being by far the worst polluter the international community should in a first step agree on a halt of new coal-fired power plants and a phasing out existing ones by 2050.
To that end, the December 2015 Paris climate conference should agree to:
The USA has started the process of replacing coal by shale gas which emits only half as much C02 as coal-fired power plants. Between 2012-16 it plans to retire 60 GW of the total capacity of 310 GW.
The EU is sending mixed signals.
On the one hand, major coal countries like Poland and Germany continue expanding lignite/coal fired power.
On the other ,UK is preparing to build a 450 MW demonstration plant that will capture 90% of its C02 emissions and store them in deep North Sea waters. UK aims to phase out its coal-fired power and become one of the world leaders in carbon capture and storage technology, a strategy for which it deserves praise.
Politically, it will be anything but easy to conclude an international agreement to stop commissioning new and phase out existing coal-fired power plants.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be the way to overcome the understandable resistance, in particular from emerging countries like India that have hardly contributed to global climate change so far.
It is therefore urgent to build demonstrations plants like the UK is doing.
In parallel, utilities should invest in power plants operating on shale gas, LNG, wind/solar and biogas as alternatives to lignite/coal.
The first step is for the EU to take: it must urgently freeze and start phasing out its lignite/coal-fired power capacity.
This would constitute a strong gesture to the international community.
Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 20/9/2014
In support of the United Nations Climate Summit and in keeping with its longstanding goals of sustainable growth, the aviation industry joined other business and government groups in making a commitment on climate action. The commitment is between the UN agency ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Air Transport Action Group, which represents the aviation sector.
Through this commitment, aviation is pledging to “a pathway of sustainable growth encompassing all areas of the commercial industry and governments working in partnership.” It is building on a record of action, as an industry and with ICAO — for example, the historic agreement at the 2013 ICAO Assembly on creating a global, market-based mechanism to limit carbon emissions.
The partnership will also focus on developing sustainable aviation biofuels, deploying new and energy-efficient technology, modernising air traffic control to minimize climate impacts, developing a common carbon emissions standard for new aircraft, and building aviation sustainability capacity in ICAO member states around the world.
The commitment includes Airports Council International, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, the International Air Transport Association, the International Coordinating Council for Aerospace Industries Associations, and the International Business Aviation Council — representing all the stakeholders in the aviation industry, including airports, airlines, air traffic control, and aerospace firms.
“Today’s announcement builds on the collaborative action taking place across the commercial aviation sector. It is impressive to see all parts of the industry working with each other, and with partners in research, government and other sectors to deliver the climate actions we have committed to as an industry,” says ATAG Executive Director Michael GIll. “Aviation is a force for good in the world, supporting economies, fostering tourism and allowing global cultural exchange. We believe that we can continue to deliver these benefits to the world whilst also addressing our climate impacts.”