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Paris Climate Change Deal: The Wrap

The world comes together: Regular updates on the UN Paris Agreement

Follow developments at the COP21 Climate Change Convention in Paris, and the fallout of the landmark Paris Agreement. Guest blogger and climate science writer Jo Chandler draws on experts across the University of Melbourne to provide insight, analysis, and a local take on the talks.


17 Dec 2015

Wrapping up: there’s the good news, and the bad news

First the bad news. Sharing the floor with Professor Ross Garnaut at a University of Melbourne forum reflecting on the Paris agreement yesterday (see his comments in the blog post below) was Professor Roger Dargaville of the Melbourne Energy Institute.

In his presentation Professor Dargaville highlighted the map above, recently produced by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The data plots temperature anomalies across Australia in October 2015, scaled according to how far they fall outside the average. (This is calculated with respect to the average over the 1961 to 1990 reference period.)

The “big brown blob”, Professor Daraville explained, was where temperatures were 6C or more above the average.

“These are really extraordinary conditions. We’re very fortunate in a way it happened in October and not in January or February, because it didn’t feel so incredibly uncomfortable” - at least for humans.

But from an environmental point of view, “this is really quite scary, because all kinds of biological cycles that we depend on for agriculture and so forth are very sensitive to these kinds of changes - even in October.

It’s extremely disconcerting, and drives home the point we need action as soon as possible.

In that context the Paris Agreement, for all its caveats and flaws and uncertainties, as discussed and scrutinized by experts and commentators cited in this blog over the past two weeks (and we invite you to trawl back through them if you haven’t had the pleasure), is the good news.

Well, some good news.

We’ll always have Paris ... (caveat: unless we have trump*)

“Something really important has happened,” eminent University of Melbourne economist Ross Garnaut told a gathering at the university yesterday.

But it didn’t happen in Paris last weekend.

While the University of Melbourne Sustainability Charter Forum reflected on the implications of the Paris Agreement, Professor Garnaut - the author of two landmark reviews for the Australian Government on climate change - sought to put Paris in the context of a wider, ultimately defining, series of shifts in the global political narrative.

“You had that historic agreement of the President of the United States and the President of China at the APEC meeting in Beijing at the end of 2014. That was the first time China had committed to mitigation goals in an international context.”

“What happened in the US under Obama in his second term, and in China over these past few years, is truly historic,” Professor Garnaut said. Meanwhile the Europeans, led by Germany, Britain, and France, fed momentum by continuing to walk the talk on strong climate action.

A coal power station: G7 countries push to have zero net emissions.

Then the G7 meeting of heads of government in Germany last June recognised that developed countries would have to have zero net emissions by the middle of this century.

“That put an anchor on things. That was an unequivocal point of agreement amongst the seven biggest developed countries.”

European leaders and the US President then sought to use the G20 meeting in Brisbane a couple of months later “as a launching pad to Paris. Our (then) Prime Minister set out to sabotage that, and (Obama) on the spur of the moment decided to publicly rebuke him and gave that speech to 10000 adoring students at Queensland University”.

It was a defining moment in former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s downfall, Professor Garnaut said. Meanwhile in Canada, the other stand-out outlier on climate action, the winds were also shifting. “Climate change was a major issue in the Canadian election just six weeks ago,” Professor Garnaut said. “(Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau and the Liberal Party won a very big victory on a quite far-reaching climate program.

“All of those show a growing international commitment. And that has come together in Paris.”

Asked by a member of the audience whether it might all yet be undone, Professor Garnaut said that “as long as you have US leaders continuing with what is in place, it will be difficult for leaders to stand outside growing momentum.*

We’ve got that anchor point - zero net emissions by the middle of the century. You can fudge things for a little while, but there is some indisputable arithmetic implication of that end point which will put pressure on everyone.

“And for that reason I will be surprised if Malcolm Turnbull, if he is Prime Minister of Australia in 2017, if he doesn’t lead a review that leads to a substantial strengthening of Australia’s position” heading into the 2018 UN meeting which will gear up to review the post 2020 commitment.

The Paris process laid out in the agreement “will only work if peer pressure across countries, and domestic political pressures on government is effective in upgrading national commitments over time. So far so good.

“There’s big structural change that the world has to go through, but we now know that is a manageable change, it need not upset life as we know it, even economic life as we know it, if we do it right.

“The work of the Melbourne Energy Institute demonstrates that we can make a energy transitions which are consistent with playing our full part in a global movement toward zero net emissions by the middle of the century and to do that at a reasonable cost.”

* “If (Donald) Trump because President of the US next year, everything would go back into the melting pot.” Professor Garnaut is wagering that won’t happen, but “accidents happen”.

What’s in a word? just the fate of the world

Over the past couple of days, there have been several meaty analyses of the Paris Agreement which reflect in part on the question of whether after all those years leading into the talks, those last intense weeks, and finally those three gruelling, defining all-nighters, the whole deal might have been sunk by a syllable.

The drama turns on the word “shall” as opposed to “should”. It’s application is in Article 4.4 of the 31 page agreement. The difference between “shall” and “should” in this context, the lawyers explained, was that the former would legally oblige developed countries to undertake economy-wide absolute emissions reduction targets, as opposed to try really hard. This presented a huge problem for the US, because it would likely have compelled the Obama administration to take the deal to the Republican-led US Senate for approval. Game over.

This much has been well ventilated in various reports we’ve pinged to earlier in this blog (like this one from Politico).

The Guardian’s Environment Editor, John Vidal, picks up the story from there in an insight filed overnight. “According to some, it had always been intended that both rich and poor countries should have the same obligation, namely “should”, not “shall” ... Others claimed that the US was objecting unfairly at the last possible moment to the developing countries’ most important “red line”

“The whole summit, indeed, had turned on the argument that rich countries, which had admitted causing climate change, should take the lead cutting emissions.”

The US objected. There was, as Vidal describes, a very real prospect that the whole deal would unravel.

Then: “At the very last minute, the French came up with a diplomatic solution. It was agreed that there had been a “typographical error” which was put down to an anonymous sleep-deprived negotiating team transferring lines from one draft text to another. The embarrassed French presidency, it seems, agreed that the amendment change of “shall” to “should” could be dealt with as a “technical error”.

Vidal quotes several senior insiders who are just not buying it. “Was it a stitch-up?” Vidal asks? “America’s great escape? Or a genuine error? Either way, the world had a historic, universal climate change deal.


16 Dec 2015

The board room: it’s getting warm in there too

Image: WikiCommons

The Climate Alliance is a top-end-of-Melbourne town gathering of suits concerned about climate change - business and corporate chiefs attune to the risks (and opportunities) it presents. At the group’s recent annual business leadership awards, the focus was on how the atmospherics of a warmer world are penetrating the rarified (and climate controlled) air of the board room.

Sarah Barker, a corporate law specialist and special counsel at Minter Ellison, acknowledged in her keynote that yes, it can sometimes be challenging to engage directors on issues such as climate science. As within the wider community, it’s often formidably tough for the science to penetrate deeply held personal beliefs.

But she also observed that nothing quite “focuses the mind of a director as the spectre of personal liability”. In an era of increasing concern and activism around stranded assets, investment integrity and corporate responsibility, a responsible director can’t afford not to plug into the scientific, political and economic narratives around warming.

Directors, she argued, have a fiduciary duty to proactively and critically evaluate the material financial risks - and opportunities - of climate change on their corporation or fund. (You can find links to a similar presentation she gave to the first Global Conference on Stranded Assets and the Environment at the University of Oxford here, together with a range of other academic and corporate voices on the theme.)

So how might the new ambitions for tackling climate change thrashed out at the Paris COP21 talks play out in the context of corporate behaviour and leadership?

Professor John Howe, Deputy Dean of the Melbourne Law School, and a Director of the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law, says that there has been a ratcheting up of talk and action in the business sector around corporate social responsibility, including environmental responsibility. In the aftermath of Paris, he expects this will only amplify and gain more traction.

But there’s a big question beyond the rhetoric. “What are companies really doing?”, Professor Howe asks. “It’s easy to have a company policy that declares ‘we are socially responsible’, but what is actually in these policies? What teeth are in these things?” What are the regulations or mechanisms that make companies accountable for walking the talk?

Community activism, much of it drummed up with the assistance of social media, has emerged as a powerful player in this context - witness the fossil fuel divestment campaigns exercised on institutional investors and universities.

“The counter pressure is that directors will often say that their central legal obligation is to act in the best interests of the company. To make money. That they can’t invest in risky green technology.” For many of them, fossil fuels have long been a lucrative safe bet. But as modelling by Professor Malte Meinshausen and his colleagues at the Australian-German College of Climate & Energy Transitions in the wake of the Paris Agreement signals, this may be about to change dramatically.

As the targets agreed in Paris resonate through industry and business, Professor Howe anticipates that corporate leaders - even those in sectors outside the front line areas of energy and forestry and mining - will be increasingly compelled to weigh their short and long term obligations in a fast-shifting framework of climate action.

how pacific island voices floated to the surface in paris

When we ponder the impacts of climate change, certain archetypal images have become part of the vernacular: the polar bear adrift on shrinking ice; the shattered mosaic of parched earth; the tropical island vanishing under a rising tide.

Climate change “will not stop at the Pacific islands”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked in a forum in Sydney late last year at the wrap-up of the G20 talks. The remark rankled me a bit at the time. Perhaps because I was on assignment in Papua New Guinea, talking to communities already wrestling the conditions predicted for a warmer future. And it is not as one dimensional as eroding coastlines, though the evidence of that is documented in the inundation of traditional burial grounds and freshwater wells; the abandoned coastal gardens; the ad-hoc seawalls being hastily improvised to try to save hallowed ground like the churches.

On Manus Island (yes, there is an island outside the wire of the Australian Government’s asylum seeker detention centre) villagers were deeply concerned about food security as staple sago and yam crops struggled or failed, and by diminishing fish catches and inadequate drinking water - the wet seasons are wetter, but the dries are longer and villages don’t have the tanks to capture a safe supply.

While Merkel’s remark was part of a pitch urging Australia to do more to cut its greenhouse emissions, the sub-voce appeal was if you don’t care about them, save yourselves.

And yet by all accounts, the plight of island communities played powerfully in shaping the Paris Agreement, rather to everyone’s surprise. As the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute’s Professor Robyn Eckersley observed in her final Paris analysis identifying the villains and heroes of the talks, a stand-out in the latter camp was the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands Tony de Brum, who orchestrated the new High Ambition Coalition “that cut across the traditional ‘developed vs. developing country’ divide”.

There’s been plenty of reporting around the clinical playbook of climate negotiations a la Paris, but in an article published in the New Yorker today by Amanda Little, we get some insight into the resonance of human voices at their most raw and impassioned. She writes that before the negotiators at the Paris summit released the final text of their agreement on December 12, members of the Alliance of Small Island States (whose ranks include Australia’s closest neighbours - PNG, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvulu, Timor Leste) started to sing.

“They continued for five minutes, a group of more than eighty delegates from forty-four low-lying coastal and island countries, through weeping and cheering and bursts of applause, until the chorus of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” had been repeated many times over.

“The words of that refrain—“Every little thing gonna be all right”—were understood by everybody to be an overstatement. For all the promise of the agreement, the alliance still has plenty to worry about. Many island nations have recently seen their populations displaced by severe flooding and erosion, their food supply disrupted by increasing soil salinity and ocean acidification, and, in several cases, large portions of their G.D.P. wiped out by extreme weather events.”

For all the excitement around the final agreement, it can only be - in the words of Oxfam Australia chief Helen Szoke, “a frayed lifeline” to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

As Enele Sopoaga, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, told Little: “Seventy-five per cent of the people of my country have already said that, if nothing is done immediately and urgently, we are leaving Tuvalu.”

Nonetheless, momentum for the “High Ambition Coalition, spearheaded by the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands and eventually garnered support from a hundred and forty countries, was an unprecedented diplomatic feat”.

Little quotes Andrew Deutz, the director of international government relations for the Nature Conservancy (which has several climate adaption programs active on Manus Island).

It suddenly became the club that everyone wanted to join. Nobody wanted to be the spoiler, and that ended up being a huge advantage for vulnerable nations in the negotiations.



15 Dec 2015

AND FROM THE DANCE FLOOR OF THE PARIS COP21 AFTER-PARTY....

We can relay this morsel, via RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson.

There he was at the over-the-Summit soiree, bravely getting in amongst it as the negotiators and delegates and activists and scientists maintained their epic run of sleep deprivation.

Parkinson reports bumping into Professor Malte Meinshausen, a formidable carbon number cruncher who holds senior research positions at both the University of Melbourne and Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The pair started small-talking clause-and-effect on the freshly gavelled global deal. As you do.

The Professor shared “one little gem” which suddenly cast the terms of the deal in a new light, says Parkinson. If the coal industry, and indeed the Australian Government, were thinking that the terms of the new agreement were loose enough to allow some slack, “they are kidding themselves”.

The “gem” is Article 17 of the Paris Agreement, which “notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required” than those already put on the table by nations to hold global average temperature rise to below 2 ̊C above pre-industrial levels, let alone to the 1.5 ̊C aspiration. This would mean reducing global emissions to 40 gigatonnes, as opposed to the projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030.

“The Australia-German Climate and Energy College, of which Meinshausen is a member, published an analysis of what the Paris deal translates to in terms of energy and other emissions.

“The analysis suggests that to get to that, a full decarbonisation of the electricity sector must occur by 2050. And even quicker if the world is aiming for “well below 2°C” as agreed in Paris, or the aspirational “1.5°C” goal.”

Parkinson quotes Kobad Bhavnagri, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia, saying that although imperfect and falling short of a mandate to stop fossil fuel use, the agreement “naturally implies that global usage of coal will need to be curbed if the stated ambitions are to be met.”

“He said Australia would need to deepen its current pledge of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 towards the 45-65 per cent range recommended by the Climate Change Authority.”

Which, reading between the lines, had Parkinson dancing on the ceiling.

PARIS FALLOUT: the roundup

In the aftermath (afterglow?) of the Paris Agreement, as the clauses percolate through noble institutions and experts start to publish substantive analyses of the environmental and economic consequences, we also begin to accumulate morsels of insight into the human narrative behind the moment.

How the deal was done. How it might have been undone. The tactics and semantics and backroom plays.

It’s a safe bet that we can look forward to some substantial profiles focused on Tony de Brum, the driving force behind the defining “High Ambition Coalition” bloc, a “genial 70-year-old from the Marshall Islands ... an unlikely hero at the Paris talks”. But for now some words from his colleague and constituent, Selina Leem, “a small island girl with big dreams”.

“The coconut leaf I wear on my hair and I hold up in my hand is from the Marshall Islands. I wear them in today in hope of keeping them for my children and my grandchildren.”


Here’s a sampler of some favourite reads emerging in the past day or two:

  • “Deep in the legally binding part of the final draft agreement, Article 4, the text said wealthier countries “shall” set economy-wide targets for cutting their greenhouse gas pollution, rather than “should.” The words may be interchangeable outside the negotiating rooms, but in U.N.-speak, “should” isn’t legally binding, while “shall” is. That would have forced U.S. President Barack Obama to submit the final deal to the Senate, where the Republican majority had promised to kill it. Instead of protracted negotiations, (French Foreign Minister Laurent) Fabius treated the language as a typo, pushed through a quick amendment to the text. Seconds later he banged his gavel and the deal was done. “With a small hammer you can achieve great things,” Fabius joked. - Extract from the Politico’s intriguing explainer.

  • The Washington Post has pulled together this insight into how tiny islands drove huge ambition in Paris. Behind closed doors, “Antigua and Barbuda made a series of impassioned pleas to the nations gathered to negotiate a climate treaty ... . officials from the islands warned that their homeland was literally in danger of being swept away by rising sea levels ... Similar appeals have been made for years, but in Paris the islanders acquired new allies: African nations, Europeans, even some Americans expressed sympathy”.

  • The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert, whose archive of writing on climate science so powerfully blends lyrical storytelling and scientific rigour, has today published this reflection. “Though it may seem impossible, both ... those who say Paris is just words and those who call it a triumph, are probably right. In order to reach an agreement in Paris ... delegates in Le Bourget decided, in effect, to sacrifice coherence for comity. This means that the pact is not a realizable blueprint for the future but, rather, a collection of aspirations, some of them contradictory.”

  • This piece in Foreign Policy by Keith Jackson looks ahead, exploring the science of the world that is shaping up in the context of the deal. “Plenty of the worst impacts of climate change are already baked into the system ...Sea levels are rising at ever-faster rates and will continue to rise even after 2100, regardless of what happens now. Some big chunks of ice, like the West Antarctic ice sheet, appear to have passed the point of no return and will disappear no matter what steps are taken. Oceans have become increasingly acidic, thanks to rising carbon concentrations, and acidification will likely intensify irrespective of any drastic changes the world makes today. That’s a big reason why even climate experts who praise the accord stress that it is just a starting point, not the culmination, of an arduous and uncertain journey.
  • And for some economic fortune telling in the Post-Paris world, there’s this from Bloomberg Business. “Saving the world isn’t going to be cheap. If you sell oil, coal or old-fashioned cars, that threatens disaster. For makers of stuff like solar panels, high-tech home insulation, and efficient lighting, it’s a potential miracle.”

What does the Paris agreement mean for carbon markets?

In the lead-up to the COP21 UN Paris Summit, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim was revving up momentum for a global carbon trading.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons

“There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison,” he declared in a statement of world leaders championing carbon pricing.

“It marks a turning point from the debate on the economic systems needed for low carbon growth to the implementation of policies and pricing mechanisms to deliver jobs, clean growth and prosperity... The science is clear, the economics compelling and we now see political leadership emerging to take green investment to scale at a speed commensurate with the climate challenge.”

While the text of the Paris Agreement doesn’t mention carbon markets in so many words, it’s inevitable that from 2020 there will be a range of inter-linked trading systems up and running, argues Katherine Lake, research associate at the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at the University of Melbourne.

In an analysis published in The Conversation today, Ms Lake writes that the call for a global carbon price was a central talking point in the sidelines at the meeting.

Article 6 of the agreement establishes a new mechanism to “contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development”. The mechanism allows for the participation of both the public and private sectors, and significantly, she argues, it aims to deliver an overall reduction in global emissions.

It will operate under the “authority and guidance” of a body to be designated by countries who have signed the agreement. “While much of the detail of the new mechanism is yet to be fleshed out, the framework sends a long-term signal to investors that all countries support the emergence of a global carbon market.

“Public finance alone cannot transition developing countries away from fossil fuels. The mobilisation of private sector finance through carbon markets could play an essential role in scaling up low emissions development, provided that clear accounting and monitoring, reporting and verification rules are established.”

Reflecting on Australia’s apparent softening on the concept of carbon markets - citing the comments of Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop on the importance of carbon markets - Ms Lake argues that as part of the agreement by nations to strive for more ambitious emissions reduction targets from 2018, Australia should consider enlisting carbon trading to “make a responsible contribution to stabilising temperatures at 2℃ or below”.

the psychology of climate denial, inertia and action

How we think about climate science is an exploding area of psychological research.

Image: Peter, Flickr

What are the obstacles to communicating the scientific consensus on dangerous human-caused warming? Is the main hurdle complexity, or are there other factors at play? What are the social and psychological drivers of science denial? What techniques and approaches might be enlisted to effectively debunk climate misinformation?

In terms of getting populations on board with the industrial, economic, domestic and behavioural transformations that will be required to meet the warming targets set out in the new Paris Agreement, deploying this science effectively will be critical.

For those with an interest in this area, there are some useful resources and insights appearing in the landscape. One is this online course (MOOC, or massive open online course) developed by John Cook, creator of the internationally renowned Skeptical Science website, and offered through the University of Queensland. There’s the work of UK social scientist Professor Stephen Lewandowsky and colleagues plunging bravely into the murky waters of denialism and conspiratorial thinking. Or there’s the fascinating work being conducted by Yale University’s Cultural Cognition Project. (You can find a piece I wrote about that research for The Age a couple of years ago here, opening with gratuitous sexual reference just to lure you in with that old sure-fire psychological hot button.)

In a recently published study in the journal Nature Climate Change, University of Melbourne social psychologist Yoshi Kashima and international colleagues discuss some fascinating findings that indicate that one way to really galvanise grassroots interest in climate action is to plug into our desire to live in stronger, closer communities. If climate action can deliver healthier relationships in our neighbourhood as a co-benefit, the research indicates that even science sceptics find powerful incentive to get on board.

“Co-benefits can motivate action across ideological divides,” the paper finds.

“Our study shows the most consistent selling point for climate action is the promise of increased communality, and it’s true in every country, regardless of the level of economic development,” Dr Kashima says in an article just published in Pursuit. The research draws on work by a team of social scientists working across 24 countries and surveying over 6000 participants.

“The co-benefit of communal society appears to have a universal appeal – and therein may lie a hope and indeed an opportunity for humanity.”

No matter where you go and what you do, people put a very high value on having a communal society.


14 Dec 2015

between the lines: more EXPERT INSIGHTS INTO THE PARIS AGREEMENT

Professor David Karoly, one of Australia’s most eminent, visible and outspoken climate science advocates, channels astronaut Neil Armstrong at another epic moment in human history to frame his verdict on the Paris Agreement.

“It is a small but very important step to avoiding dangerous climate change, but it is a great leap for humankind.

“It sets a much stronger target for limiting long-term global warming, which is critical for reducing the long-term impacts from global warming and minimising climate change.

For the first time, it includes targets for action by all countries, both developed and developing.

“The current commitments are not yet enough to ensure that target is reached but the agreement also includes regular reviews so that greater action can be implemented.”

His University of Melbourne colleague, Professor Malte Meinshausen, Director of the Australian-German College for Climate & Energy Transitions, has also weighed in with some reflections on the substance of the deal.

“In our assessment, the Paris Agreement rises to the challenge of limiting dramatic climate change,” he says. “It sets the framework for a chance to limit multi-metre sea-level rise in the long-term. Individual post-2020 country targets put on the table before Paris are insufficient to the task of limiting warming to 2°C, let alone 1.5°C.”

But because the so-called INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) were not beefed up in the course of the Paris talks, there is still a big gap between what those pledged cuts will deliver, and what the global compact aims to achieve.

“This will need to be bridged by upgraded mitigation contributions from countries in the years to come.”

future cities: beyond the bright lights

Limiting the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels, as the new Paris Agreement decrees, let alone getting in the ballpark of the wishful ambition of 1.5C, will require nations, economies and cities to adhere to a strict low carbon diet. “It won’t be easy - or cheap.” Kicking fossil-fuelled habits is going to hurt, we’ve long been warned.

Surveys show the majority of Australian citizens want greener cities, but what’s getting in the way? Photo: Google

But in terms of urban realities, when thinking about life in a city geared to a low emissions future, the cost needs to be seen in the context of what it achieves not just in terms of atmospheric measurements, argues Professor Peter Rayner of the University of Melbourne School of Earth Sciences, and head of the newly formed Clean Air and Urban Landscapes (CAUL) Hub.

The reality of a carbon-constrained future does not have to be endured merely because it is nutrious and good for you, environmentally speaking. With a bit of forethought, it makes for an all-round satisfying meal.

“Good public transport means cleaner, healthier, quieter cities,” says Professor Rayner. “It also means fewer cars. Cities with more trees and shared open spaces have healthier populations. They also need less cooling. More paths for walking and cycling lower health costs, but also result in less driving and hence less emissions. Good policy must consider the interplay of all these aspects.”

Often in the silos of research, the interplay of things like health and engineering, infrastructure and emissions, gets too tangled to be measurable. Hence there is a reluctance to explore - let alone contrive - happy accidents as strategies bump up against each other in such a dynamic, complex system as a modern city.

Which is where the new CAUL Hub, drawing together expertise from a range of disciplines, slots in. “We are researching urban air quality, urban greening, urban infrastructure/planning and urban biodiversity,” Professor Rayner explains in an article just published in Pursuit. “Investing in any one of these is likely to bring benefits to many of them. They also bring a carbon dividend.

“Surveys overwhelmingly show that citizens want these kinds of changes. Yet a quick glance at growth patterns of modern cities in the developed and developing world shows that most large cities are not heading in this direction. Why do we get this dissonance between what we want and what we get?

“One reason is the commons problem,” says Professor Rayner. “Most of us believe we could improve our own situation more if we spent that money on ourselves ... But unless we democratically, strategically agree to pool these resources no one gets these benefits.”

The second problem is to recognise the gulf between the ideal city, and the messy accidents of history and politics and geography and aspiration where urban folk actually live - “to find solutions that can survive the huge multi-player game that is a real city.

That is the task of politics in its highest form: collective decisions obeyed in the common good.


A new dawn in the anthropocene?

In Paris on Saturday nearly 200 nations finally agreed - after 20 years of messing about - on a strategy to try to put a lid on dangerous climate warming.

So what’s in the deal, and how effective is it likely to be to arrest the catastrophic scenarios scientists have long predicted in a warmer world?

There are plenty of commentators who ruminate darkly that only time will tell. But others venture informed perspective and some ideas about how it might play out from here.

For pithy perspective on the actual language and mechanics of the key passages of the compact, dip into the New York Times’ excellent running commentary of the talks and the 31 page final deal. It’s rich in context and expert voices, with this pared-down look at the nuance of some of the key points. (There’s also a link through to a more extensive analysis.)

For some world-weary analysis, George Monbiot does it best: “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster ... The talks in Paris are the best there have ever been. And that is a terrible indictment.”

Turning to local voices, Associate Professor Peter Christoff, part of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute team in Paris, digs into some of the politics and posturing around the push to encourage a 1.5℃ warming limit in his contribution to an expert wrap published in The Conversation this morning.

“Robust reference to 1.5℃ was strongly contested and opposed by Saudi Arabia, China, India and some other developing countries as an impediment to their development,” Professor Christoff writes. By contrast, the US and EU joined the “high ambition coalition” mustered together by the Marshall Islands.

“Some are sceptical about why they did so. To quote one negotiator: “The inclusion of these targets merely recognizes the desperate need of climate-vulnerable states, buys their support, weakens their resistance on other issues, and helps split the developing state bloc.”

Such cynicism misses the point. The new goal is not empty symbolism.

“It is still achievable and has beneficial real-world implications. It ramps up urgency, strengthens expectations for rapid mitigation by governments and the private sector, and intensifies pressure for funding transfers to the developing world. (The Agreement also calls for a new IPCC report in 2018 to look at mitigation pathways associated with achieving 1.5℃.)

In his wrap of the deal for Yale Environment 360, veteran UK science writer Fred Pearce shed some light on the tensions between the scientific and diplomatic corps in Paris. “The day before the final deal was done, climate scientists here had ripped into a penultimate draft, saying its temperature aspirations were admirable, but were made meaningless because they were not matched by mechanisms for reaching them,” Pearce reported. “Diplomats understand the economics, but not the science,” said Kevin Anderson, of Manchester University, England.

“But in the final hours, science was added to the agreement to put some numbers on reaching the aspirations,” Pearce says. “It did not bridge the gap between aspirations and pledges, but it shone a light on the gap that had to be filled and offered some opportunities for when it might be narrowed.”

Diplomats may consider the job done, for now. But scientists aren’t pulling punches on the scale of the task ahead, the repercussions of the damage already done, and the potential fallout even if the pact does surprise them and succeed in hauling back warming to under 2C over pre-industrial levels, or even achieves something in the realm of 1.5C.

  • “It is clear that the 1C temperature rise over pre-industrial levels that we have seen so far has triggered a whole range of effects including melting of mountain glaciers, significant sea-level rise, devastating droughts, and flooding,” said Professor Stephen Harrison of the University of Exeter.

  • Sydney Morning Herald Environment Editor Peter Hannam quotes research by Professor Malte Meinhausen and his team at the University of Melbourne showing that emissions must fall more than 22% by 2030 to avoid dangerous climate change. (And you can find some of the slides Professor Meinhausen presented to an expert forum in Paris here.) “Meinshausen says, to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and the carbon reduction goals are in line with staying well below 2 degrees. The problem is that what nations have offered as post-2020 targets “is woefully inadequate compared to the goalpost that the international community has set itself”. Hannam also quotes Professor John Schellnhuber, director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, saying that 2C “is probably the red line for the Greenland ice sheet melting”. Global sea-levels would rise six metres with such a meltdown, US science agencies say.

  • There are anxieties about the amount of detail left to be resolved at the next major climate talks in 2016. “On transparency, the agreement is a little bit loosey-goosey,” says Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University in New Jersey, quoted in the Nature journal wrap. “It could be turned into something that is very effective, but the delegates kicked the can down the road.”

  • On the eve of the final agreement being thrashed out and published, retired NASA climate scientist Professor James Hansen - the man who blew the whistle on dangerous warming in testimony to a US Congressional committee back in 1988 - had some damning words on the direction the deal was taking. He was quoted telling The Guardian that the talks were a “fraud” and a “fake” because they would not result in a carbon tax that would drive down fossil fuel use. US Secretary of State John Kerry begged to differ, arguing that the pact that emerged sent “a very clear signal to the marketplace of the world that people are moving into low carbon, no carbon, alternative renewable energy. And I think it’s going to create millions of jobs, enormous new investment in R&D [research and development], and that R&D is going to produce the solutions, not government.”

  • Some scientists also voiced concern about the fact the new deal allows several years to pass before ramping up emissions reduction efforts, France 24 reported. “For all that is encouraging in the agreement, the time scales -- or the lack thereof -- are worrying,” said Ilan Kelman of University College London. “Little substantive will happen until 2020 whilst clear deadlines for specific targets are generally absent.” Jean Jouzel, a leading French climate scientist, questioned the feasibility of hitting at 1.5°C target, saying it could only be achieved by overshooting the mark and then pulling back, which could take decades or longer.


13 Dec 2015

‘history will remember this day’: un secretary general ban ki-moon

The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people.

In Summary (analysis from Scientific American): “The new Paris Agreement declares an ambition to hold global average temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius if possible, calls for greenhouse gas pollution to be balanced with greenhouse gas emissions after 2050, implements a 5-year cycle of reviews of national plans and actions starting soon as well as monitoring of those actions, and confirms at least $100 billion per year to help those countries most affected by climate changes. It also calls for scientists to weigh in on how exactly the world might aim for 1.5 degree C given that temperatures are already up 1 degree C in 2015—the hottest year on record. Global greenhouse gas pollution must peak “as soon as possible,” the pact states. The first official global “stocktake” of efforts to meet all these ambitions of the Paris Pact will occur in 2023.”

US President Barack Obama called it “the best chance to save the one planet we have”. In a statement delivered after the agreement was ratified in Paris, Obama said humanity could be more confident the planet would be in better shape for the next generation, that the deal shows the world has the will and ability to take on “this challenge.” But he warned that even if all the goals are met the world is only on its way to reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

Other commentary in the aftermath of the moment reflected a similar mix of euphoria, aspiration, relief and caution:

  • “Today the world is united in the fight against climate change. Today the world gets a lifeline, a last chance to hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies.” - European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

  • “Our chance for survival is not lost.” - Convenor of the High Ambition Coalition and Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands Tony de Brum.

  • “We have set a course here. The world has come together around an agreement that will empower us to chart a path for our planet, a smart and responsible path, a sustainable path.” - US Secretary of State John Kerry.

  • “Governments must now put words into actions, in particular by implementing policies that make effective progress on the mitigation pledges they have made. That is why my key message is to price carbon right and to do it now.” - International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde.

  • “We called for strong ambition, for remarkable partnerships, for mobilization of finance, and for implementation of national climate plans. Paris delivered. Now the job becomes our shared responsibility.” - World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

Below, some grabs of the expert reaction from the University of Melbourne team in Paris. (You can find their full reactions on the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute Paris Blog here, with more to come over the next week.)

  • “We have witnessed something incredible today. Finally, we can feel hopeful that we are on a path to tackling climate change.” Climate Council chief, former Australian of the year and Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute Professorial Fellow Tim Flannery

  • “I think there are two historic outcomes. One is the agreement itself, which sets an ambition that even gives us hope to save the Great Barrier Reef ... The other historic dimension to this is the momentum that’s been built through the commitments of cities, states, business, and civil society, to do much more.” - Don Henry, Public Policy Fellow, Environmentalism, University of Melbourne.

  • “The Paris climate agreement, agreed at COP21 on December 12, signals the end of the fossil fuel era and opens the door to a rapid transition to a just and resilient zero-carbon global economy.” - Professor John Wiseman, Deputy Director, MSSI.

Keep tuning in for more expert analysis and insight over the next week, with a particular emphasis on the Australian angles and implications. Meanwhile, for a snappy, meaty piece of analysis in the global political, economic and environmental contexts, we recommend this piece from The Economist.

12 Dec 2015

breaking news:

It’s not quite 5am in Paris, and the BBC is reporting that a final text for a new global compact to act to stop dangerous global warming has been agreed after two decades of failed talks, four years of work, two weeks of intensive negotiations, and a marathon last push extending nearly 16 hours after the talks had been scheduled to close.

“An official in the office of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the AFP news agency the draft would be presented to ministers at 10:30 GMT Saturday in Paris.

“Significant progress had been reported on a range of issues in the latest version of the document, with evidence of real compromise between the parties, reports the BBC’s environment correspondent Matt McGrath in Paris.

“He adds that countries supported a temperature goal of 2C but agreed to make their best efforts to keep the warming rise to 1.5C. However, the language on cutting emissions in the long term was criticised for significantly watering down ambition.”

In other late developments:

  • Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that Australia had joined the “High Ambition Coalition”, although according to this Guardian report this morning this was news to the convenor of the coalition, Marshall Islands foreign Minister Tony de Brum. The coalition gained significant momentum over the last days of the talks, enlisting more than 100 developed and developing countries including the US, EU, Canada and Brazil.
  • Going into the overtime slog, and having agreed on the middle-ground warming ceiling of aiming for well under 2C warming while striving for 1.5C, the major sticking point was reportedly around the “ratchet mechanism,” which would require countries to boost their climate ambitions incrementally over time. As Newsweek explained in this final-quarter wrap: “It’s an essential component for actually meeting the 1.5 degrees C target (or even the less ambitious 2 degrees C target), because the promises countries have made so far add up to about 2.7 degrees C—a level of warming that could ultimately prove catastrophic around the world”.
  • Andrew Revkin, for The New York Times Dot Earth blog, filed some compelling insight into the high-stakes brinksmanship going on in the last leg. This includes an account sourced from India’s Business Standard about a “tumultuous moment Thursday night” during which US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly “threatened that developed countries would walk out if the agreement they were asked to commit to differentiation or financial obligations as ministers tussled over the scope and nature of wealthy countries’ financial commitments to vulnerable developing countries. ‘You can take the U.S. out of this. Take the developed world out of this. Remember, the Earth has a problem. What will you do with the problem on your own?’ he told ministers from other countries during a closed-door negotiation on the second revised draft of the Paris agreement.”

11 Dec 2015

save the corals: the fast-looming marine conservation mission

A shoal of anthias swarm over a coral garden, Great Barrier Reef. Picture: Flickr: Richard Ling

As human industry has pumped more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, oceans have worked to absorb the consequences, swallowing both heat and CO2 in a kind of deep inhalation that fundamentally alters the dynamics and the chemistry of the blue expanses of the planet.

So it is that coral reefs are in the gun in a warmer world, threatened by shifts in ocean chemistry (ocean acidification) and ocean temperatures, as well as being battered by more intense and more frequent storms.

The latest IPCC report stated that “the current rate of ocean acidification is unprecedented within the last 65 Million years if not the last 300 Million Years.”

But oceans were not anywhere to be found on the formal agenda at the UN COP21 talks in Paris over the past two weeks. This constitutes “the big blue elephant in the room”, in the words of legendary oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle (“Her Deepness”, and if you aren’t acquainted, here’s a piece I wrote when she visited Melbourne a couple of a years ago).

She’s been part of a campaign by marine scientists and activists to push oceans into the frame in the Paris talks. Along with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Dr Earle was at an oceans breakfast this week where Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the University of Queensland marine scientist who has lead the oceans chapter for the IPCC, laid out the scale of the emergency shaping up in the blue.

On our present emissions trajectories, coral reefs are under the threat of disappearing by mid-century, he said. This is not just a tragedy for marine life - and about one quarter of species live in coral reefs.

The loss of coral reefs will put at least 500 million - mostly poor - people at risk.

In an article published in Pursuit today, Professor Madeleine van Oppen, Chair of Marine Biology at the University of Melbourne and Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, outlines some of the strategies her research team is exploring to try to help corals survive.

“Heat stress often leads to a disruption of the close association between coral and its algae, and causes a loss of the algae from the coral tissues, leading to paling of the coral colony (i.e. coral bleaching),” Professor van Oppen says. “If unfavourable seawater conditions persist, and this tight association cannot recover, the coral will die.”

There are deep concerns that the monster El Niño event now playing out across the Pacific will trigger a massive bleaching event.

One of the avenues Professor van Oppen’s group is investigating is helping corals evolve characteristics that improve their capacity to cope with environmental stress. “This approach, referred to as (human)-assisted evolution, does not create genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – no new genetic material is being inserted into corals – our work focuses on accentuating and optimising characteristics already present in some corals.”

Having cultured the algae that live inside the coral, in the laboratory her team expose them to elevated temperature and CO2 levels over many cell generations. The strains that survive will be offered to young corals, and we will “see what happens”.

Other strategies involve manipulating the bacterial populations that associate with corals, and selectively breeding relatively stress-tolerant corals in the laboratory.

“While the root causes of climate change need to be addressed, ways of mitigating the impacts of climate change on our natural systems need to be explored,” Professor van Oppen argues.

Our project is one possible biological approach to preserve some of the stunning biodiversity present on the world’s coral reefs today.



‘I think, dear friends, that we will make it’: laurent fabius

It’s 4 am in Paris. Not a lot of sleeping going on. Below, some dispatches from the front line:

  • Around 1 am, the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, and the marshall of the strengthening “High Ambition Coalition”, whose ranks include the US and EU but not Australia, sent this into the ether:

He elaborated in this statement:

“This text is a good attempt to work through some of the options toward finding landing zones. It forces countries to fight for what they really need to see in the final Agreement.

“There is a clear recognition that the world must work towards limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that it would be much safer to do so. With this, I would be able to go home and tell my people that our chance for survival is not lost.

“The language on emissions neutrality sends a clear signal that the world will rapidly bend the emissions curve and phase out fossil fuels by the end of this century. Governments and businesses across the world would know that renewable energy is unquestionably the new game in town.

“The text maintains 5-year updates, starting in 2020, as we’ve been arguing and as is supported by our new High Ambition Coalition. Critical this is maintained. Anyone that seeks to water this down is irresponsible and not committed to urgent climate action.”

  • Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute Research Fellow Cathy Alexander filed an update from Paris on the MSSI Blog reporting that the mood was upbeat and focused, and a meaningful deal to try to avoid the most dangerous extremes of warming so close “earnest, tired negotiators can almost taste it”. The two most likely scenarios taking shape are a) a “fairly strong deal which charts a course towards avoiding dangerous levels of global warming” and scope to be racheted up over time; or b) a less ambitious compact that would “let countries off the hook on their emissions”, and not feasibly keep the planet out of the too-warm danger zone.
  • The New York Times reported expert opinion that the ultimate measure of success of the agreement would be whether it would be strong enough to persuade financial investors to move their money away from fossil fuels and toward renewables. “Without that signal, there is little chance that emissions will be reduced enough to stave off the most catastrophic impacts of global warming ... (The latest draft) dodges the issue of how countries would monitor, verify and report their levels of planet-warming pollution.”

  • And if caffeine and momentum aren’t enough to propel negotiators to the finish line, there’s this contextual pick-me-up courtesy of the World Economic Forum:


between 1.5C of aspiration and 3.5C of action, an unfriendly earth

Picture: janinsanfran Flickr

The draft now in the hands of the deal makers/breakers in Paris aims to contain future warming at somewhere well under 2C above pre-industrial levels, while also aspiring to haul it back to under 1.5C.

But there remains a whopping gap between this ambition and the reality that would be delivered by the actions nations propose in their emission reduction commitments (or INDCs). Research papers presented in Paris calculate that these strategies would deliver us into a future somewhere between 2.7 and 3.5 degrees warmer, which in turn puts the Earth into the orbit of so-called “tipping points”.

What are these tipping points? They are defined as the “critical threshold at which a tiny pertubation can qualitatively alter the state or development of a system”. In this context, we’re talking scenarios of runaway climate change. They include things like the melting of ice sheets as warm waters erode them from below; the bubbling up of methane hydrates from the sea floor, releasing potent greenhouse gases; the disabling of the powerhouse rhythms of winds, rains and currents on which nature turns and human civilisation is founded.

“The good news from Paris is that there are we now seeing many technological, economic and political ‘tipping points’ which demonstrate huge potential for accelerating the speed and scale with which the global economy can be decarbonized,” says Professor John Wiseman, deputy director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, in his latest dispatch from Paris on the MSSI Paris Blog.

John Wiseman speaks at an official COP21 event with other Australian panellists.

He then proceeds to outline priority actions needed to accelerate the speed of economic de-carbonisation in Paris (and you can read his 10 point strategy here.)

In the Australian context, Professor Wiseman argues an absolute priority must be for Australia to “get on board with the language of zero carbon economy or economic de-carbonisation and the goal of a mid-century target date.

“As research conducted by the Climate and Energy College at Melbourne University shows, real climate leadership by Australia would require a 2030 emissions reduction target of 66% below 2010 levels (the current target is a 26 to 28% cut).”

Professor Wiseman echoes the call of the Australian Climate Change Authority for the federal government to undertake an immediate review of climate targets and policies, recognising and reflecting the new evidence tabled in Paris over the past two weeks.

Australian leaders also had to encourage a “mature public debate” around the need to accelerate progress towards a robust global carbon price.

And there was encouraging news to this end with news overnight that the Turnbull Government had signed up to a New Zealand-led declaration backing the use of international carbon markets in tackling climate change. “After a brutal six-year war on carbon markets, is this the Coalition softening its position?” asked The Age’s Environment Editor, Tom Arup, in his latest report from Paris.

Professor Wiseman also urges that Australia pursue “a significantly stronger commitment to assisting the most vulnerable Asia Pacific communities meet increasingly formidable climate resilience challenges”.

We are now in a race against time to trigger the promising range of deep decarbonisation actions before we find ourselves confronting irreversible and catastrophic tipping points in the Earth’s climate system.



DAY 11: Paris when it sizzles

Just before 7.30am Australian time the UN published a new draft text for a global compact to try to halt dangerous climate change. It’s 27 pages and with far fewer brackets (defining the areas of remaining disagreement) but it’s still not a final text - that is supposed to be hammered out within the next 20 hours, though odds are that the deadline will be blown one way or other. Delegates were given two hours to digest the latest draft before getting back to business in closed sessions just before midnight in Paris. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, delivering the draft, said countries would need to compromise. “We want an agreement… we are close to the finishing line. We must find the responsibility for common ground.”

On the crucial question of what the deal’s ambition will be in terms of putting an aspirational ceiling on temperature rise, there were three options on the table The most ambitious said the target should be 1.5C, the windiest allowed for 2C. The latest text lobs somewhere in between. It proposes the deal:

Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C, recognising that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change.

Because this latest draft text landed late in the Paris evening, there’s unlikely to be much deep analysis by weary negotiators and commentators for a few hours yet. And by then it will hopefully have begun to morph into its final shape. But early reactions to this latest draft include the following:

  • Global green campaign group 350.org, argues in its quick analysis judges that “overall, this is a missed opportunity. What the world needs right now is a clear signal that the era of fossil fuels has come to an end. The text though as it stands right now shows a disconnect between diplomacy and science.
  • The Guardian’s Paris bloggers observe that the language around a long-term goal for phasing out fossil fuels has weakened. The previous text had options for specific dates and percentages for carbon and emissions cuts. “By contrast today’s text only has wooly language about cutting emissions as fast as possible, with no time scale or numbers”.
  • Dr Helen Szoke, CEO of Oxfam Australia, was positive. ““In a big win for developing and vulnerable countries, the draft has affirmed the need to set quantified funding goals for both climate change mitigation and adaptation for the years after 2020. This is a very encouraging development and we strongly urge negotiators to keep this in the final agreement. The only caveat is that no firm target for funds meant to help vulnerable people adapt to climate change has been identified.”
  • The Washington Post roundup quotes an upbeat Nat Keohane, vice president of the global Environment Defense Fund. “We can see an agreement in sight. Impressive progress has been made. Of course differences remain, but it’s clear that the countries here are very, very serious about the challenge before them. There is strong momentum as we head to the finish line.”
  • Suzanne Goldenberg, for The Guardian, reports the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres saying that “the draft text is still incomplete because it doesnt close all the issues, the political crunch issues.... differentiation, finance, and certain aspects of ambition and transparency. However it is already pointing towards an agreement that is ambitious, that is fair, and has the transparency of implementation over the few decades that the agreement will last ... so a very very good start for the government to go back into regional groups ...”


10 Dec 2015

READING ROUNDUP: the big picture

  • “We didn’t come to Paris to build a ceiling. We came to build a floor,” declared US Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech pledging up to $860 million in grant-based funding to developing countries by 2020. “We will not leave the most vulnerable nations among us to, quite literally, weather the storm alone.”. He stressed that the Paris deal had to have a legally binding enforcement system that would reassure energy investors. “What we’re doing is sending the marketplace an extraordinary signal – that those 186 countries are really committed – and that helps the private sector to move capital into that, knowing there’s a future that is committed to this sustainable path.” You can find a strong analysis from Forbes magazine here.
  • How does a country negotiate its own perceived demise? This is the question posed by Newsweek in this exploration of the role and tactics of Saudi Arabia at the COP21 talks. “The simple answer is that it does not. Instead it undermines and blocks those negotiations and their goal wherever possible. Of course, it’s more complicated than that: in doing so, it is also wittingly accepting death by other means, but with its eyes wide open.

  • “What is going to happen here in Paris is certainly that the direction will be very clear, but the pace is going to be insufficient,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres tells Nature in a wide-ranging Q&A.

  • And in a stark reminder of the precarious state of play in the world beyond the Le Bourget conference centre, scientists held a news conference highlighting one of the potent variables that could yet undo the best efforts to put a lid on warming. “It’s called permafrost,” the Washington Post reports. “As the planet warms, this frozen northern soil is going to continue to thaw — and as it thaws, it’s going to release carbon dioxide and methane into the air. A lot of it, it turns out. Potentially enough to really throw off the carbon budgets that have been calculated in order to determine the maximum emissions that we can release and still have a good chance of keeping warming to 2 C or below it.”

Latest from team australia

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop got the credit, but Greens leader Richard Di Natale collected the honors for Australia’s latest “Fossil Of The Year” gong in Paris overnight.

The ignominious title is awarded each day of the talks by climate activists to recognise which country has - in their view - done the most to obstruct a meaningful response to climate change in the previous 24 hours.

Ms Bishop gained recognition on Day 10 for a speech to an Indonesian-hosted forum the evening before arguing that while the world was going through an energy transition, coal still had a significant place in the mix. “Barring some technological breakthrough, fossil fuels will remain critical to promoting prosperity, growing economies and alleviating hunger for years to come.”

In their latest Paris dispatch, the Fairfax team report that Australia has “serious concerns” about the latest draft version of a climate change agreement being hammered out in Paris. They quote Australian lead negotiator Peter Woolcott saying he was “deeply disappointed” that some areas have been weakened in a bid to get deal.

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