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Dossier:

Climate Change

After the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 and CMP 11, was held in Paris, yet another World Climate Conference will be on the agenda, this time in the former German capital Bonn, November 2017.

In the run-up to this conference, and while Hurricane Harvey turns out to be the worst storm in U.S. history, we present a dossier on climate change and divestment opportunities.

This year, the month of May was the hottest since the beginning of weather records, and still there is too much unawareness and denial around. Particurlarly, at a time when already more than 20 million people are displaced because of climate change, and countless suffer from extreme weather conditions all around the globe. As often, it’s the weakest who are affected the most.

But this is not only about the devastating consequences of climate change, we also want to show and discuss how we, as citizens, can take political, legal and economic action to change the fate of our planet – and thus ours.

01.

As I write these lines...

Melting Ice

As I write these lines,

the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has risen to 410 ppm (parts per million), the highest value ever measured. This year’s May was declared the hottest May since the beginning of weather records, once again, as in the previous year and the year before. In the Antarctic, an iceberg twice as big as Luxembourg is about to break free from the ice shelf and is set to make its way up north. Both, north-east and north-west passages are now regularly passable by ship in summer; some researchers assume that the Arctic Ocean will be completely free of ice in summer by 2030. And one of the largest oil companies in the world, ExxonMobile, and its Russian counterpart Rosneft have agreed to start drilling in the Kara Sea north of Russia’s Arctic Ocean coastline, at an oil field bigger than all of Saudi Arabia’s known reserves.

As I write these lines,

the reigning President of the United States appears front of the world press in the Rose Garden of the White House and declares that the United States of America withdraws from the Paris Agreement, the climate protection treaty adopted at the World Climate Conference in Paris in 2015.

Does this mean the end of climate protection efforts worldwide? Is the fight against the melting of the polar caps and the glaciers, the rise of the sea level over now? The spread of the deserts? The loss of the rainforests? Of biodiversity? Of drinking water? Of the very basics of life?

As I write these lines,

government leaders around the world are declaring their commitment to continue and to intensify the fight against climate change. Senators from California and other US states, as well as mayors of countless US cities openly claim they will go on and go ahead to protect our climate despite the announcement of the US president. Global corporations, even US-American energy companies, are committing themselves to climate protection by announcing that the age of fossil fuels must be overcome, and that the future belongs to renewable energies. Not to mention the millions of people who put solar panels on top of their roofs; who order „clean electricity“ from alternative vendors; who recycle glass and paper, and try to avoid plastic waste; who change their bank accounts to make sure that their savings are used in a sustainable way; who act as responsible shareholders and urge their companies to act responsible, too.

„We, the citizens of the world, are in charge, too.“

In autumn, yet another World Climate Conference will be on the agenda, this time in the former German capital Bonn. A good opportunity for FAIRPLANET to present a dossier on „Climate Change & Divestment“ – as an appetizer, so to speak.

For it’s not only the governments and corporations that can take on climate change. We, the citizens of the world, are in charge, too. Everybody can do something, can get active to some extent. We can use our power as consumers, as money savers, as citizens. ‚Divestment‘ is the new mantra of many activists around the world who want to unleash the power of the individual to save the world.

Anne Weiss, a well-known author of non-fictional books, tells us about the „Generation Doomsday“ and how we took up the fight against climate change in the 1980s until today.

Harald Kunstmann from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology explains how climate research works in detail and shows us the latest state of the art.

Moussa Waongo has its story to tells about how climate change is already causing major problems for farmers in West Africa. Scientists from Europe and Africa present a simple and effective method of weather forecasting that could help many farmers to adapt to climate change. 

Oemar Idoe, project leader of a German development aid organization, reports from Bangladesh, a country directly threatened by climate change, describing the consequences of the loss of the mangrove forests for the local people.

Alexander El Alaoui presents the case of a Peruvian farmer who has dragged a German energy company to court for climate-damaging practices.

Josephine Koch takes a closer look back at the famous ‚Yasuni ITT initiative‘, which gave rise to such great hopes, not only for Ecuador’s rainforest, but also for the world to overcome the fossile threat to our climate. She explains what went wrong and what can still be done.

Finally, Alexander El Alaoui introduces the concept of divestment in detail, an idea in which many experts see a very benign way of achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement to save our planet.

As I write these lines,

there is still time to take our fate into our own hands. But we should not wait too long.

02.

Pay attention, Generation Doomsday

As a child of the eighties,

I grew up in a time when our planet was already badly battered. The hole in the ozone layer. Poisoned rivers. Dying forests. Bark beetle infestations. Acidification of the North Sea. Nuclear waste storage and reprocessing. You could only possibly find these things obscene. The only advantage compared to today was that the problems seemed more or less clear cut and we could shield ourselves from them. It was also a time when many of us got onto an airplane for the first time because flights finally became affordable. Successful holidays were coming back from Alicante with a sexy suntan.

doomsday 2

There was indeed talk of climate change though, for example, when Der Spiegel in 1986 ran a front page with the headline “The climate catastrophe” with a picture of Cologne cathedral half-submerged in water. But global warming was always something slowly happening in the background, while our minds were more preoccupied with Pershing II missiles, Chernobyl and Frankfurt airport’s new runway.

But the climate bomb was already ticking away. In June 1989, one of the UN’s senior environmental experts, Noel Brown, insisted that the window of opportunity to stop global warming was closing and that we only had until the beginning of the new millennium.

It was stupid that hardly anyone listened to him. Eventually, the whole Western world descended into a collective frenzy: the Cold War ended, the Eastern bloc melted like Arctic ice in the sun. And the West German economy rubbed its hands together, because the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communism opened up a whole host of new markets. From the former GDR alone, 16 million new consumers went from a planned economy to an industrial one. People, understandably, were after goods and freedom of travel, all things that pumped out more and more CO2.

„Hardly anyone was thinking about climate change of course.“

Berlin Wall

When the East German economy collapsed in the 1990s, greenhouse gas emissions fell slightly, as more environmentally friendly technology emerged. Everything actually seemed to be on the right track, there was no reason to worry. In 1997, the global powers gathered in Kyoto to agree that climate change was a man-made phenomenon and that something had to be done about it. But when power politics came into play and the economy ramped up, CO2 emissions climbed again. Never in the history of mankind has so much CO2 been squandered as in the first decade of the new millennium, as low-cost airlines, home computers, and online shopping became commonplace.

Noel Brown’s window had already closed and the bill came swiftly due. The first decade of the new millennium broke all temperature records, Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and Bangladesh was ravaged by natural disasters. Temperatures increased, floods struck Europe, particularly the Elbe in 2002.

doomsday 1

And it’s gone on like this until today. 2014, 2015 and then 2016 were the hottest years since records began. This year is likely to continue that trend.

Climate change is not some crazy plan concocted by bored scholars shortly before falling into a drunken stupor. Contrary to what climate-sceptics would have you believe, 97% of scientists around the world agree that climate change is real, that we are firmly in the middle of it and it is largely driven by our way of life. Some even estimate that we have passed the point that Noel Brown pinpointed in the last century. The warming has already started releasing methane from the permafrost, a gas that has a greater effect on the climate than CO2. Climate change is out of control. Fortunately, there are still those who think it is not too late. Geoengineering, which could be used to combat the effects of climate change, is still in its infancy. And it also has its own risks.

So why does this affect us directly and immediately? Even in Germany, we have long been concerned with the effects of global warming: storm surges in 2015 in Hamburg, flooding in Braunsbach in 2016, the death of the bees and heatwaves are now everyday news. And what politicians and “concerned citizens” insist on calling “economic refugees” are in fact climate refugees.

21.5 million have been displaced by the climate, according to Greenpeace and a study by Hamburg University, because of things like flooding, scarce food and water and political and social instability exacerbated by extreme weather.

Nevertheless, we are still slow to act. Maybe it’s because we think someone else will give a damn, like the federal government for example. But we are sold a duff version of saving the climate. In Germany alone, we pump 906 million tons of CO2 into the air every year: the same as in 2009.

„The government can kiss goodbye to climate targets like cutting emissions by 40% by 2020 if we don’t stop using coal.“

Five of Europe’s ten most damaging coal-fired power stations are still based in Germany.

co2 emission

We have been warned. Leonardo DiCaprio told us on Oscar night in 2016. In Cannes, Al Gore recently screened the continuation of his “An Inconvenient Truth”. Greenpeace protested at the latest G7 summit in Sicily against the policies of industrialised nations, particularly Donald Trump’s, who still believes in the fallacy that is clean coal and once claimed China invented climate change. Movies like Chasing Ice show how glaciers have receded, how the Arctic and Antarctic ice is melting and how flooding and rain are the results.

So we can see it coming. And if we want to know more, then all the information is freely available on the internet. Some of the links are provided in this text.

We won’t be able to say we didn’t know what was happening, if our children ask us why we didn’t do anything. It is now up to us not to be branded Generation Doomsday. I have dealt with the subject in our new book “Planet Planlos”, which will be published to coincide with October’s climate conference in Bonn. It is becoming ever more clear to me that there is only one path open ahead of us: we have to be a part of the change we want to see on this planet.

It is in the hands of our generation now how life on planet earth will continue. It can get along just fine without us. But we can’t survive without it.

 

Anne Weiss and Stefan Bonner are the authors of one of the decade’s best sellers, “Generation Doof”. Since then, they have been writing critically and humorously about their contemporaries, including “Wir Kassettenkinder”, a look back at the roots of their generation.

Anne Weiss studied in Bremen, the city where the non-violent action community Robin Wood was founded in 1982. She writes as a freelance journalist for Spiegel Online and other magazines, loves animals and wouldn’t think of eating them, volunteers at animal protection organisation Animal Equality, carries an organ donation card and sometimes even hugs trees.

Stefan Bonner studied in Bonn after it ceased to be the federal capital. High-level politics probably always seemed a bit batty to him and as a journalist he wrote for numerous business publications before realising that steady growth on a limited planet doesn’t make any sense.

More about the authors can be found at www.bonnerweiss.de

03.

How realistic are our climate goals?

climate warming 01

fairplanet: Mr. Kunstmann, recent climate forecasts look gloomy. Many experts say we will not meet the 2-degree goal, and the rise of the seas can’t be stopped anymore. Can we still save the planet?

Prof. Dr. Harald Kunstmann is a professor at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Campus Alpin Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (KIT/IMK-IFU) and Deputy Director, Head of Division “Regional Climate Systems” and Chair for „Regional Climate and Hydrology“ at Augsburg University

 

Kunstmann: Well, there’s no easy answer. First of all, the debate on climate change is usually shortened to the 2-degree target and the rise of the sea level, because it shows the desired goal as well as one of the biggest problems in a compact and vivid way. The 2-degree goal has made it into the final document of the World Climate Conference 2015 in Paris. And there is also the even more ambitious goal of the 1.5 degrees up to the year 2100.


global-temp-and-co2-1880-2009 national climatic data center

Chart: National Climatic Data Center

However, we should be aware that these targets are based on the data from the beginning of industrialization. As for today, we have already reached an increase of one degree. So only 0.5 to 1 degrees to the end of the century, as global average, are left – a truly ambitious goal.

You emphasize the fact that this is a global mean.

Yes, because climate change is not a uniform, homogenous rise in temperature. Above the great land masses the rise in temperature is higher than above the surface of the sea. The water masses of the oceans absorb a large part of the heat, and water reacts much slower to temperature fluctuations compared to the air. At cold spells, for example, sea water acts like a giant heat storage. Conversely, summer heat is much better to bear at the coast because the water then has a cooling effect.

What about the rising sea level?

As for today, we are assuming that the sea level will rise by about half a meter at a temperature rise of 2 degrees. It is said that this magnitude could still be handled. What is often ignored here is that the melting of the pole caps is only partly responsible for the rise of the sea. Another part is due to the so-called „thermal expansion“, which means that water increases in volume as it heats up.

sealevel 1

 

U.S. Fishing and Wildlife Service

If our atmosphere gets hotter, not only the ice masses melt, but also the entire water of the oceans expands – and the sea level rises as a result.

The consequences would be serious.

hurricane

That’s right, especially for people who live directly by the sea. Many of the global megacities are located in close proximity to the coast or at large river deltas. But not only the cities are threatened by storm floods, also the rural population is at risk, directly through the floods of course, but also indirectly through the salinisation of near-coastal agricultural areas, which has consequences for agriculture and therefore for the food security of many, many people.

„Basically, the extreme weather phenomena are likely to intensify, both in terms of extreme“ droughts and extreme precipitation.“

And these weather phenomena are far more difficult to predict. In West Africa, for example, the beginning of the rainy season has shifted by about 3 weeks in the last 20 years.

west africa farming

This is a great problem for the farmers; They risk their crops if they sow too early or too late – and traditional methods to find the optimal time to sow are no longer valid.

According to the latest research results, what are the main causes of climate warming?

Well, the effects of carbon dioxide and methane are well known and proven. These two gases spread very quickly in the atmosphere, resulting in a warming of the lower parts of the atmosphere.

melbourne transformation
Another very important aspect, which is often ignored in the public debate, is the increasing large-scale change of the land surface, which can also result in changes in the regional climate.

You mean the sealing of green areas by concrete, for example for commercial areas …

No, that’s too small-scale, you should rather see it on a larger scale: the conversion of forest areas into agricultural areas or the massive urbanization as in today’s China or India.

To understand this, perhaps a small-scale example. In terms of land surface change, the question of what happens with the solar radiation is crucial. If sun rays hit land, they are partly reflected directly and partly absorbed and converted into heat. A well-known phenomenon: if you wear a black shirt it gets hotter than when you wear a white shirt – because black absorbs sunrays much more than white does. However, when sunrays hit water surface, they are partly reflected and partly result in the evaporation of water, which requires energy, and therefore has a cooling effect locally. It’s the same with the moisture in the soil; It regulates how much energy is converted into perceptible heat and how much in evaporation. But if everything is concreted and sealed, this natural warming regulation just doesn’t work.
That is why near-natural land surfaces are so important. An intact vegetation with regulating soil moisture can have a great positive effect on the local climate.

What about your personal assessment? Can the 2-degree goal still be achieved?

To be honest, I’m not that optimistic. I think it’ll be very, very difficult. Despite all the scientific findings and the countless publications, documentations and campaigns, there is simply no trend reversal in emissions.

„The most disturbing fact is: last year, we had a level of emissions worldwide that exceeded even the most pessimistic scenario of our estimates.“

According to that, in the year 2100 we would find ourselves, on average, at values of 4-5 degrees or even higher. This would mean a rise in sea level by several meters.

At the World Climate Conference in Paris in 2015, the two-degree goal was a big issue.

But the problem is, at the World Climate Conference nobody was specific about how all these goals should be achieved. All of the previous climate protection inputs from the contributing countries are not yet enough to reach 2° C, they’re more likely to end up at 3° C in 2100. What we need is a giant leap, so to speak.

What would be a giant leap here?

Let’s take air pollution, for example. Last year, there was a discussion in Germany about diesel engines. Their nitrogen oxide emission is highly problematic.

There have been (and still are) considerations to prohibit diesel engines completely in the cities. This would be a giant leap, but it would be „radical“ – and any politician who wants to be re-elected will be careful to tackle something radical.

The same is true for climate protection. In Germany, we want to reduce our emissions by 40% compared to the level of 1990. At the moment we are at 27%. And this is only because the reference year 1990 was very advantageous due to the abolition of large industries in the former socialist East-Germany. In order to reach the remaining 13% over the next three years, major uncomfortable political decisions would have to be made that would challenge us personally at our daily routine – a giant leap, if you like.

These are indeed very pessimistic prospects.

A holistic approach is important, a kind of „development contract“. We must recognize that climate change has long been underway. It is therefore important to promote both climate protection and adaptation to climate change, just like the United Nations‘ “Green Climate Fund”, for example.

„Climate protection and adaptation measures must be accompanied by measures for poverty reduction and education.“

This is exactly what the world climate conference’s final paper does. They were aware that one can not be achieved without the other.

You once referred to climate research as a battle of material. What did you mean?

Well, the higher the computer performance, the more precise the climate prediction. At our ‚Campus Alpin‘ of the KIT in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, we use extremely powerful computers to calculate the highest-possible climate predictions for different regions worldwide.

In our models, we divide the atmosphere and the floor into grids. Cuboids are formed, from which, depending on the model, we calculate the values at the center or at the corner points. And the smaller the cuboids, the more precise the calculation. The number of variables to be calculated also increases with the quality of resolution. In each of these cuboids we calculate the changes for a minute into the future – up to 100 years in advance! So you can imagine the necessary computer performance here. This is why energy consumption is also a huge issue for us. At our institute in Garmisch-Partenkirchen we have an annual electricity bill of 10,000 euros

Equipment, the weather services in developing countries can only dream of.

Yes. And keep in mind, what huge amounts of data are generated. When we completed one of our research projects in West Africa, we were unable to send our data via the Internet. The data volumes were just too big for the local networks. We had to bring the hard disks physically – by car! – to the data center for climate research in Hamburg.

Is it true that the number of weather stations worldwide decreases despite all efforts to improve climate estimates?

Yes, it seems paradoxical, since the importance of climate research is now clear to everyone. In fact, the number of automatically measuring weather stations is more or less constant, but the number of stations that are not working automatically decreases worldwide. This is probably due to the fact that the gauges are often installed in remote areas, where data is collected manually only and at intervals of days or weeks, and the necessary maintenance work is carried out only irregularly – if at all. Many weather services are investing less and less in their infrastructure because they are hoping to switch to satellite data or radar measurements in the near future. But that would only be indirect measurements. The direct precipitation measurement with rain gauges on the ground is the backbone of meteorology and climate research. Therefore, the decline in such monitoring stations is dramatic, especially in Africa, where the infrastructure is weak. And, thus, the foundations for proper research are lacking both for weather forecasts and for long-term climate projections.

Precise weather forecasts are vital, especially in Africa …

Take Nigeria, for example. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and is regarded as the economic powerhouse of West Africa. But from Nigeria, we are now receiving no more rainfall data at all!

Either the systems are now dismantled, perhaps stolen, or the data are no longer collected or simply not passed on; We do not know exactly. Corruption could be an issue, too

In 2010 a project called WASCAL was launched, in which you are also involved. What is it about?

WASCALmeans „West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use“. It was developed in cooperation with the German Ministry of Education and Research and ten West African partner countries. An expertise should be set up in order to better adapt to climate change. This includes graduate training (Master and PhD) and various research programs in cooperation with German universities and research institutes. We at KIT’s ‚Campus Alpin‘ are particularly involved in climate and hydrology research.

„The aim is to establish and promote a concerted network of universities and weather services in the partner countries. This also includes the construction of new measuring stations and IT infrastructure. In return, already collected records of all countries will be freely available to the researchers.“

Mr. Kunstmann, thank you very much for this interview.

04.

What climate change looks like in today's African agriculture

Africa Agriculture

 

Moussa Waongo is a little late this year.

He should have planted his seedlings already. Maize and sorghum, those used to be the most important plants for him and his family. But the rainy season has not yet started in Burkina Faso. If he plants too early, he might lose his seedlings due to another long dry spells which might occur shortly after planting. If he plants too late, the seedlings wouldn’t make it to full maturity until the end of rainy season.
But when does the rain come?

„In the last 20 years, the onset of the rainy season has shifted by an average of three weeks“

Waongo doesn’t know, nor do his neighbors. Millions of fellow African farmers don’t really know it anymore.

Climate change will hit the weakest first, scientists say. In Africa, these are the millions of small-scale farmers struggling to make a living. Rainfed agriculture is the main source of income and the main driver of economic growth in Africa, particularly in West Africa.

Unlike almost every other region in the world, the crop production in the sub-saharan regions of West Africa remains at the same level as in the 1960s. The small increases that occurred where due to an increase in accessible land for agriculture rather than an increase in yield.

agriculture subsahara 1 agriculture subsahara 2

The farmers still rely on traditional knowledge, which has been passed on for generations. But that does not help them anymore in the light of climate change. The delivered processes of sowing and harvest need to be re-adjusted. And they are reluctant to cultivate new varieties that are said to adapt better to the changing conditions, because they are afraid to end up in dependency to the new suppliers – quite a reasonable concern.

But to rely on the traditional varieties is becoming more and more like a lottery game. And since weather phenomena like heavy floods and droughts are likely to intensify, one of the consequences for the farmers is expected to be an exacerbation of land degradation, especially a continuous depletion of soil nutrients which will lower crop yields. And the soil fertility is expected to decrease even further due to those new erratic climate conditions.

Therefore, applying the latest technologies and approaches
in the field of agricultural water management are vital for
agricultural development and thus food security. However, only those strategies which require little resources in terms of labor and money have a chance to be used by
a large number of farmers.

„What those farmers need the most is a reliable prediction of when the rain will come“, Waongo explains. “Knowing when the rainy season starts is key, no matter what variety of seedlings is used.”

Waongo_PhD_graduation_bearbeitet

In 2010, after achieving a masters degree in Physics at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and an engineer degree in Agro météorology from AGRHYMET Regional Center in Niamey, Niger, which is a specilaized institution of the Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), Moussa Waongo went to Germany to achieve his PhD in Natural Science. He applied at the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU) in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

One of his lecturers remembers Waongo as a very talented young scientist. „Whatever he learned here, he always had its practical application in mind, the question ‚How does that knowledge help me and my fellow farmers and neighbors in Burkina Faso?’”

So it is not surprising that Wanogo’s PhD thesis provided a method to derive optimal planting times for farmers in West Africa.

And he learned about a project that could truly be a game changer, as it could – in a few years time – revolutionize the weather forecast in Africa.

See next chapter “Cell Phones for Weather Forecast” in this dossier.

When he left Germany, Moussa Waongo was awarded the „Outstanding Student Poster Award 2014“ by the European Geoscience Union (EGU), the association of European geoscientists. Now Waongo works as a meteorologist at the University of Ouagadougou. He became head of the agrarian climatology department at the national weather service in Burkina Faso. But there is something more important than awards and medals, he says: „In the future, we will have better rain forecasts, and our farmers will gain from that. They’ll know how to plant and when. Safe harvests mean food security for all of us, and I would like to contribute to that.“

MerkenMerken

05.

Cell phones for weather forecasts

Harald Kunstmann is deputy director of the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research,

which is part of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). In Garmisch, with a view of rugged alpine mountains, he and his team developed a groundbreaking technology, using a revolutionary method for rain measurement and forecast.

The innovation is based on a physical phenomenon that was already discovered in the 1940s by American military engineers: Raindrops tend to dampen mobile signals. They don’t interrupt phone calls anymore. However, the attenuation of the signal strength can be precisely quantified.

Kunstmann and his team have developed a computer program that allows them to calculate the amount of precipitation that goes down between two signal masts. All they need are transmission data, provided by the mobile operators.

In September 2016 Kunstmann and his scientists were able to use already 3300 masts for their research in Germany. They are hoping for a nationwide coverage later this year. The results were promising right from the beginning of the project, the measurements matched by more than 80 percent with the results of conventional rain measurement.

In Germany rain measurement is perfectly organized: About 2000 rain gauges are operating according to the German weather service (DWD), almost half of them working fully automatically. And there are 17 rain radar units in place. „In Germany, our method is just a complement,“ Kunstmann says. „Although it might be useful in mountain regions or in cities, where signals are sometimes blocked.“

Rain gauges provide one spot measurement only, Kunstmann explains, a rain radar allows only for indirect measurement: it sees rain cells at high altitude, but it doesn’t tell how much rain makes it to the ground. „With mobile radio signals, we can measure rain over long distances at ground level.“

The size of the drops, whether spraying or cloudburst, does not matter. Only snowflakes can not be detected.
Compared to these instruments, rain measurement in Burkina Faso looks like a past century’s arrangement: there’s a single rain radar operating at the international airport of Ouagadougou; A total of 140 rain gauges are in place, ten of them transmitting their data automatically. The remaining data are still written down on paper and stored in file folders.

weather forecast cell phone 1

In many african countries the entire infrastructure is in questionable condition, at best – except the mobile network. Most streets are fortified in the city centers only. Most farmers are excluded from stable power supply and have no access to clean drinking water. For them, the radio is the most important connection to the outside world. And the mobile phone. Of the roughly 18 million inhabitants of Burkina Faso, just under 15 million mobile phones are at use by 2015.

„A total of 93 percent of Africa’s area is covered by mobile network, in Burkina Faso it is said to be 98 percent.“

For Kunstmann and his team, this is the most attractive aspect of their project – and an great opportunity for this huge continent. „With our method, there is no need for additional devices to be installed,“ he says. Neither does the maintenance cause any problems, because it will be done by the provides, since a trouble-free operating network is key to their business success.

In the summer of 2012, when the rainy season in Burkina Faso had already started, a research group from the University of Ouagadougou took up Kunstmann’s new method and started a first field experiment – and succeeded: the scientists were able to measure over 95 percent of the rains measured conventionally.

„But only an international network allows for a weather forecast out of local rain measurements: The farmers of Burkina Faso must know when the southern neighbors – Ghana, Togo, the Ivory Coast – report the onset of the rainy season.“

In order to expand rain measurement across the whole of West Africa, it is crucial to encourage mobile network providers to cooperate with meteorological services and research institutes in the region. There is no direct added value for companies, but also there are no additional costs.

In Burkina Faso, the providers are ready to cooperate. “Telecel Faso”, operating 450 signal masts, agreed to provide data. And just recently, “Telmob”, the country’s largest mobile operator, is set to sign a cooperation agreement.

weather forecast cell phone 2

Kunstmann’s project is part of an initiative called WASCAL (West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use), initiated by ten West African countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo – and Germany’s Ministry of Research. The aim is to prepare the people for climate change, inter alia through the establishment of climate competence centers throughout West Africa.

The “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft”, the “Energiesiftung Baden-Württemberg” and the “Helmholtz Gemeinschaft” are also providing funds respectively. Parts of the funding are about to expire, but Harald Kunstmann is optimistic about getting new funding. „The question of how to adapt to climate change is of such great importance to society that we should use all our technical know-how to support the most important economic sector in Africa, agriculture. Our project shows that this is possible without expensive investments.“

06.

How the loss of mangrove forests increase Bangladesh's vulnerability to climate change

 

sundarban mangroves

Since 2015, Oemar Idoe has been the Principal Advisor of the “Management of the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest for Biodiversity Conservation and Increased Adaptation to Climate Change Project” (SMP) at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has been working with GIZ since 2011 on topics related to co-management of protected areas and sustainable management of natural resources among others in Cameroon.

fairplanet: According to Climate Risk Index 2016, Bangladesh ranks among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change. Why is Bangladesh so especially threatened by climate change?

Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Bangladesh delta nasa

Oemar Idoe: Bangladesh is located within a massive river delta system formed by the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna.

Its topography is dominantly flat and in the majority of the country only little elevated from sea level. At the same time, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. As climate change progresses, extreme weather events such as intense precipitation, droughts as well as cyclones of increasing strength and frequency are expected.

At the same time, the sea water level gradually rises causing an increasing level of saltwater intrusion within the delta region. Although much progress has been made in recent years (Bangladesh recently was taken up in the list of lower middle income countries), poverty remains an issue (Bangladesh ranked 139 according to the Human Development Index 2016) that hampers the resilience building of people and the economy as to the negative impacts of climate change.

This not only threatens human livelihoods, settlements and infrastructure, but will also leads to changes in the natural environment, such as the unique Sundarbans mangrove ecosystem.

One region of exceptional importance seems to be the Sundarbans mangrove forest? Why is it so crucial for Bangladesh and beyond?

Covering a 10.000 km2 area, the Sundarbans constitute the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest which extends across India and Bangladesh. The Sundarbans Mangrove Forest (SMF), a UNESCO world heritage and RAMSAR site, extends over 6.000 km2 in Bangladesh.

sundarban mangrove

Due to its inaccessibility, the biodiverse Sundarbans ecosystem has preserved a unique range of animal species (birds, fish, crocodiles, snakes, axis deer, monkeys, etc.) which is of global importance. The Sundarbans represents the last remaining habitat for the critically endangered Bengal tiger in Bangladesh. 

sundarban tiger

The flora is comprised of a rich mosaic of different types of vegetation; within the delta, for example, half of all known mangrove species can be found.

Millions of people living in the periphery of the Sundarbans directly or indirectly depend on a functioning mangrove ecosystem for their livelihood and protection against extreme weather events of increasing frequency and intensity such as cyclones. On a larger scale, the forest plays an indispensable role as breeding and nursery ground for economically important fish species in the Bay of Bengal. Through this function the mangrove forest supports income generation and food security far beyond the direct boundaries of the forest and significantly contributes to the national economy of Bangladesh and of the wider region.

In 2015, German development agency GIZ started a project to protect the Sundarbans. Could you tell us more about the details? What is key to protect the Sundarbans, and how will you achieve a long term protection?

Several external factors are threatening the long-term protection of the mangrove forest: Up-stream agricultural practices and hydrologic interventions as well as increasing industrial development of the periphery are gradually deteriorating the mangrove ecosystem. These stressors on the forest are exacerbated by the negative impacts of climate change such as extreme weather events and sea level rise putting both peoples’ lives and properties in the delta as well as the integrity of the ecosystem at risk. While no one lives within the Sundarbans mangrove forest in Bangladesh, the growing population pressure in the periphery leads to the unsustainable use of natural resources when people enter the mangrove forests – some legally (fishing), some illegally (poaching) – to sustain their livelihoods.

„The economic losses related to a progressing deterioration of the forest are restricting the rights of men and women alike to enjoy an adequate standard of living.“

The Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) as the lead authority has the difficult task to manage this complex ecosystem under threat. It faces several managerial challenges such as limited funding for protected area management or overlapping mandates over the area requiring strong coordination.

The GIZ has been commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to technically support the BFD to protect the Sundarbans mangrove forest and to ensure sustainable management of natural resources. In order to do so, it is key to incorporate resource users from local communities. This is being supported through strengthening the co-management approach at both the local community and government (BFD) sides. We also focus on increasing the capacity of the BFD staff for patrolling, monitoring and data analyses. Inter-stakeholder- and inter-sectoral-coordination is another crucial element for long term protection.

How does the co-operation between GIZ and all the organisations, institutions and companies involved in the Sundarbans project look like? Are local communities involves and to what extend?

We at GIZ aim at strengthening already existing co-management structures in order to ensure that resource dependent community members can express their interests and partake in decision making processes. For example, together with the BFD, GIZ carried out a participatory governance assessment at community level. The outcome will help to better shape the collaboration between the BFD and the local communities adjacent to the mangrove forest through enhancing the co-management approach.

GIZ also supports the BFD in fulfilling its role as the coordinating body for all activities implemented by different government agencies, NGOs and other donors. Among others we successfully established a coordination mechanism for patrolling and data analyses at the local level.

What will be the costs for the project, when it’ll be finished in 2019?

BMZ commissioned up to EUR 5 Million for the implementation for this particular project. Activities piloted under the project are also continued to be funded by the Government of Bangladesh itself and other donors.

Could you give an outlook on how the Sundarbans will be protected in 2009, when the project will end?

Idoe: It is our aim that we will have supported BFD in its capacity to protect and manage the mangrove forest and to apply the principles of co-management. Local people dependent on the resources provided by the forest are already actively taking part in co-management and their needs are recognized and addressed in decision making processes. Regular patrols will monitor and control illegal activities, data analyses will facilitate management decisions that will contribute to biodiversity conservation.

07.

In bed with the US coal industry

US coal industry

Inside Charleston Civic Centre in West Virginia,

the then presidential candidate Donald Trump put on a miner’s hard hat as he blurted out “miners, get ready, because you’re going to be working your asses off.”

CoalJobsTraining

During Trump’s presidential campaign, his ambition to restore jobs for miners’ communities across the US has been key, and since the election his administration adhered to their promise. The only hindrance to Trump’s vision is that the coal industry is (and should be) declining, leaving thousands of families in need of support as they transition into a new, post-coal world.

„The coal industry holds 76,000 jobs. Google alone employs 61,000.“

The coal industry was a fundamental reason for Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, in conjunction he lifted a freeze of new coal mining leases on public land, all in the ‘hopes’ of securing a mere 76 thousand jobs. While this is a substantial amount, Google’s number of employees alone is 61 thousand. Together with 18% of coal jobs lost to renewable energy, and a growing percentage of job loss to automation the numbers are falling fast.

See: „We’ll always have Paris“

Trump claims he’s helping miners by reducing regulations on coal industries, but the inherently muddy connection between coal, coal miners, and coal companies allows him to pass legislation in favour of coal industry CEOs. For instance, Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy Company, is currently lobbying Trump’s administration to inflict softer criminal negligence laws on health and safety breaches, securing larger profits.

All of the above has little to do with neither the well being nor job security of coal miners. Instead, Trump’s administration has been cutting funds for non-profit organisation such as Appalachian Regional Commission.

appalachian county-economic-status

The ARC helps revitalise communities affected by coal mining job loss with funding employment programmes, such as Bitsource in Kentucky, hiring miners as software programmers and paying them throughout their learning course.

In lieu of a final profit to be had from a collapsing industry, the US government is leaving the miner communities in limbo by denying the necessary funding to create new jobs in rising industries.

08.

Global Neighbors

Melting Glaciers Andes

The air is thin, the ascent difficult. Most of those who are heading towards the stunning mountain lakes start in Huaraz. Just about an hour by car and more than 1000 meters uphill separate the tranquil Andean town from the glaciers, which rise above Huaraz in a dizzy height. A brittle path, enclosed by two massive rock walls, leads visitors up to the „Palcacocha Lagoon“. At the top, there is an idyllic postcard scenary. But appearance is deceptive.

„I ask RWE to take responsibility.“

 

Saul Luciano Lliuya Saul Luciano Lliuya court

Saúl Luciano Lliuya has traveled a long way to say this line. Not only the country, but also his role are new to him. In front of the Court of Essen (Germany), the Peruvian farmer and mountaineer appears as plaintiff. Opposite, on the dock, representatives of the German utility RWE sat down.

 

At home in Peru, he fears for his hometown; in Germany he hopes for justice. And he’s ready to stand up – like David against Goliath – and demand just that: justice.

What happened?

At the foot of the „white mountain range,“ as the Peruvians call it, they’re facing a great disaster. Thousands could fall victim to a huge flood, including Saúl Luciano Lliuya and his neighbors. It’s due to global warming and to those who cause it. As a result of the temperature rise, the glaciers melt in the Andes and elsewhere. And north of Huaraz it’s even worse. The white of the mountain peaks has turned grey.

The consequences are simple but cruel. The melting water causes the water level of the glacier lakes to rise permanently. They’re about to spill. When the rocks of the mountains, which are no longer covered by snow, are getting loose and drop into the swollen lakes, enormous quantities of water might spill. In the case of the Palcacocha Lagoon, the water would irresistably roll downwards, as on a bowling alley.

In the valley, the densely populated Huaraz would have nothing to fight the water masses. There is an early warning system – in theory. Emergency plans are ready, but no one has read them.

„The poorest will be the first victims. In Peru, climate change is first and foremost a social question.“

But what about RWE? We have nothing to do with it, they say. The company is thousands of kilometers away from the Andean city. And even if RWE’s emissions are fueling global warming, the company can not be prosecuted for potential damage to somewhere as far away as Peru, according to RWE’s spokesman. But that is precisely what this unprecedented case is all about. A verdict might fill the gap between the cause and effect of climate change. It would be the first time in history.

The argument goes like this: First the temperatures rise, then the glaciers melt. And by burning coal RWE contributed significantly to that.

Around half a percent of all historical greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the German utility. In court, Saúl Luciano Lliuya therefore not only calls RWE to take responsibility. RWE should also cover half a percent of the costs of protection measures in his home town, Lliuya claims. For RWE, it’s not about really big money here. Still, the action was rejected at first instance. Now it is being negotiated at a higher level.

„Should the lawsuit finally be successful, the case could become a role model worldwide, experts believe.“

Thomas Pogge, a professor at Yale University, is expecting plenty of lawsuits around the world that could bring companies to court. Climate change as a new field of law? Yes and no. Cases such as the one of Saúl Luciano Lliuya are new, but they are based on valid legal codes, for example in private and international law. It sounds trite, but the complaint against RWE is basically about a neighborhood dispute. Of course, between two neighbors who couldn’t be more unequal.


Noah Walker-Crawford

fairplanet: Mr. Walker-Crawford, you assisted Saúl Luciano Lliuya in formulating scientific and legal arguments against RWE. Why did the first trial fail? What went wrong?

Noah Walker-Crawford: The court dismissed the case due to legal technicalities. This way it avoided addressing the issue of substance – whether an emitter such as RWE can be held legally responsible for the impacts of climate change. The fact that the appellate court has chosen to reopen the case indicates that the lower court may have not sufficiently considered the suit.

What do you expect from the second trial?

The higher court is reexamining the case from the beginning. Ideally the court will take this case seriously and examine the evidence. This would give Luciano Lliuya a fair chance to argue why RWE should be held responsible for its contribution to climate change. This November, he will travel to Germany to defend his case in the first scheduled hearing. Whether or not he wins the lawsuit, he already considers it a victory that he could bring his initiative for climate justice to an international stage.

Thank you very much.

Noah Walker-Crawford is an anthropologist and advisor to Saúl Luciano Lliuya. He assisted the claimant and his lawyers in formulating the scientific and legal arguments against RWE.

09.

Equador's Yasuni National Park - A milestone in the fight against climate change?

Yasuni National Park 3

When Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa cancelled the famous „Yasuni-ITT Initiative“ in August 2013,

Josephine Koch, now a member of the ‚Forum on Environment & Development‘ in Berlin, was present and witnessed the disappointment of a large part of the population of the South American country, who had so great expectations of the project. She joined a non-governmental action alliance called ‚YASunidos‘, who launched a referendum to force a ban on the extraction of oil in the unspoiled part of the Yasuni National Park. 

Our contributing editor Frank Odenthal interviewed Josephine Koch. 

fairplanet: Ms Koch, in 2007, the Ecuadorian government proposed to abandon oil production in a certain part of the Yasuni National Park if the global community would compensate Ecuador for the lost profits. What did the Ecuadorian proposal look like?

Josephine Koch

Josephine Koch: First of all, the proposal came from the Ecuadorian civil society, which for over 25 years had tried to stop the exploitation of the land by the oil companies with all its damages to the people and to nature. When President Rafael Correa, then freshly elected, came to power at the head of an alliance of left-wing parties in 2007, he reacted to the pressure from environmental and human rights groups in the country, which wanted to protect the rainforest, which accounts for 19 percent of Ecuador, and its marginalized native people. More than 7 percent of all Ecuadorians are considered indigenous.

The proposal had four cornerstones. The area should cover about 23 percent of the entire Yasuni National Park, namely the areas called Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini, from whose initials the name of the initiative „Yasuni-ITT“ derives.

1. Preserving biodiversity. The Yasuni was classified by the UN as a World Natural Heritage and a biodiversity hotspot.

2. Protecting the territories of the indigenous population. Within the Yasuni-ITT area, two indigenous peoples are still living uncontacted. The Ecuadorian Constitution clearly prohibits any kind of resource exploitation in the territory of these peoples.

3. Global climate protection. About 410 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would be saved if the oil from the Yasuní-ITT is not burned; This corresponds approximately to the annual carbon emissions of France. The Yasuní-ITT Initiative would save 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide as a result of the avoided forest destruction and other damage caused by oil drilling.

And 4. The transition to a post-oil society. The gradual overcoming of dependence on oil and, if possible, other fossil raw materials.

„So the idea was to keep the oil in the ground forever and to diversify the economy of Ecuador.“

Therefore, the world community, especially the oil-consuming industrialized countries which are the actual cause of climate change, should deposit at least half of the annual lost profits from oil production into a trust fund of the UN. It was estimated that revenues would be $ 7.2 billion a year at that time, so at least $ 3.6 billion had to be paid into the fund.

From this, Ecuador should be paid a certain annual amount over thirteen years to invest in the expansion of renewable energies, to promote ecotourism, to finance education and health programs and other environmental projects.

Yasuni National Park 1

What is so special about Yasuni?

The national park covers almost 1 million hectares of tropical rainforest, with the surrounding biosphere reserve a total of 2 million ha.

„The Yasuní is one of the last intact rainforest areas in the world and is a true treasure trove of biodiversity.“

The Amazon is considered to be particularly rich in species, but the Yasuni is kind of „megabiodivers“: so far, there is no other place in the world with a greater density of plant, bird, mammal and amphibian species. More than 4,000 plant species are known in Yasuní. On one hectare there are 665 tree and bush species, which are more species than in the whole of Europe or the USA and Canada combined.

On the other hand, there are immense petroleum resouces hidden in the ground. About 20 percent of the country’s petroleum reserves are located in the 200,000 hectares of the Yasuni-ITT area alone. That is 850 million barrels. For illustration: This is a quantity that is consumed globally in nine days.

On the other hand, there is the irreplaceable nature of the Yasuni national park, its value as a carbon dioxide storage facility and the threatened indigenous groups in the forest. The Yasuní is thus a symbol of a current human conflict: exploitation and profit in the name of „development“ and „modernity“ versus a balanced co-existance of man and nature – in the sense of the indigenous “Buen Vivir” concept, the idea of a good life for all.

In the Western societies, Ecuador’s proposal was celebrated as a milestone in the fight against climate change. Did you share the euphoria?

It was indeed a revolutionary proposal. A relatively small country in the southern hemisphere, which is completely dependent on its oil exports (oil is the country’s largest source of revenue and accounts for about 55 percent of total exports), makes such a proposal. That was (and still is) unique. Man and nature were put above profit, and thus also put other countries with larger deposits of fossil raw materials such as oil, coal or gas under pressure. It meant a step towards climate justice, as well as empowerment for those countries whose raw materials have been exploited in a colonial manner.

„The ITT-Yasuní initiative represents a reversal in the current economic behaviour, for a counter-project to the usual growth fetish.“

It still inspires new forms of international cooperation to protect the climate, a necessity that sooner or later affects everyone.

There were, however, also critical voices, among others by former german development aid minister Dirk Niebel. What were the arguments of the opponents, and were the objections justified?

The role of Dirk Niebel is indeed to be emphasized. There was a decision beyond party boundaries by the German Bundestag to support the Yasuni ITT project.

„Niebel didn’t care. He said he did not want to pay a country for idleness; Who would be next then, Niebel argued.“

But that was the idea: to motivate other countries to followed Ecuador’s path and to keep their fossile raw materials unterground for the sake of our climate.

Germany could have taken a pioneering role, and they were ready to do so. But then, at first, nothing was paid into the fund, and later, alternative projects such as REDD, which are not uncontroversial because of their market mechanisms, were promoted. But when Germany left the Yasuni-ITT project, it was a signal for other countries.

However, on the other hand, the strategy of the government of Ecuador was doubtful. President Correa, in particular, was not really credible. For example, the appointment of former representatives of the US oil company Chevron-Texaco as top management positions of the ITT initiative, or even by threatening again and again with a „Plan B“.

And, of course, it can not really be guaranteed that any future government will adhere to the commitments to the initiative. That’s why it was agreed that the money would have to be paid back in the case of oil production in Yasuní-ITT.

Yasuni National Park 2

In 2013, the Ecuadorian President Correa declared the project failed and announced to award oil drilling licences at Yasuni ITT. What went wrong?

I think it would have been necessary to promote the project much more in public. The German federal government has missed a chance to take responsibility for its ecological guilt. In the end, by the middle of 2013, less than 1% percent of the agreed amounts were paid to the UN Fund, just 13.3 million USD, which is why the project failed.

However, the Ecuadorian government should have been more credible. As we know today, there were already secret negotiations with Chinese investors. President Correa’s commitment to extractivism, ie the massive exploitation of raw materials, was, above all, opportunistic. The destruction of nature for the promotion of oil contradicts the „Buen Vivir“, the good life, as it is anchored in Ecuador’s society and constitution. Today, the government’s planned expansion of oil production is absurdly carried out in the name of Buen Vivir.

What is the current status? Is the project dead? Or could it be revived?

On 22 May 2014, ironically, the International Day of Biodiversity, the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment awarded drills for Tambococha and Tiputini, two of the three ITT petroleum blocks. Since then the work on the necessary infrastructure is under way. It is unclear how much heavy oil, which is particularly expensive to extract, is already flowing. What financial gains the drilling could have is also more than questionable.

„There is no transparency, officially no one is given access to the drilling areas.“

In the meantime, secret studies of the state oil company Petroamazonas have surfaced, claiming that the necessary infrastructure for the drilling can not possibly be implemented by 2018; and, in addition, that it is impossible to limit the impact of oil production to only one percent of the total area of the Yasuni – but that was a pre-condition under which the Ecuadorian Parliament agreed to the oil drilling in 2014.

The reconnaissance campaigns of the YASunidos civil society coalition have given rise to a new discussion of the oil problem, especially during the presidential elections this year. Correa’s successor, Moreno, also from Alianza Pais, now has to deal with the growing skepticism about his government’s oil plans.

Whether the project can be revived is hard to say. The momentum at the state level is gone. A new start should probably come from a grassroots movement. The YASunidos movement, for example, has many new ideas for the development of Ecuador to a post-fossil society; It would be a movement „from below“, together with the frontline communities, the indigenous groups, and in cooperation with many NGOs from the northern hemisphere, through money, but also through know-how transfer in both directions. And movements such as „keep it underground“ and other divestment initiatives calling for all relevant actors in politics, business and society to avoid extractivism and to depart from fossil fuels.

But we can not wait for social-ecological movements like the Yasuni, or the Niger Delta, the Lofoten, Bolivia, Colombia, but also the anti-fracking movements in Europe or the fight against tar sands oil production in Canada, to be put again on such a high institutional level.

Through resolute action by a committed, enlightened civil society, which is solidarized across regional and national borders, great political pressure can be built for divestment of fossil raw materials and concrete alternative projects to be implemented.

Read also: fp-Dossier BEYOND PETROLEUM

One example is the international campaign „Break Free from Fossil Fuels“. Last year in May, thousands of people on 6 continents participated in courageous actions of civil disobedience. Also in Ecuador, where the YASunidos and other alliances occupied a site with a symbolic action, the terrain cleared for the construction of the so-called Pacific Petroleum refinery.

At the same time, YASunidos Germany participated in the end-ground campaigns against the end of coal production and combustion in the German mining areas. This year, at the same time, a human chain has successfully blocked an access road into the Yasuní. And German environmental alliance “Ende Gelände” is also planning a variety of creative actions this year to take climate protection into its own hands, and to turn governments and industry into alternative, viable solutions for all people.

10.

Divestment as a chance?

 

eiffel-tower-climate action

The autumn sun was heating up outside, but inside there was a much cooler breeze – and a cold rejection.

„We could not get out of the climate agreement even if we wanted to,“ said John Kerry, then US Secretary of State, to the crowded press tent in Marrakech, the Moroccan city, where steps to implement the Paris Climate Treaty were negotiated in November 2016. His speech was addressed to Donald Trump, who had been elected to the designated US president the week before. „To try that would not be a political failure, but a moral one.“

„Not politics, but markets dictate climate protection,“ Kerry said in Marrakech. The baton now has to go from politics to the economy.

Capitalism as a sheet anchor of the Climate Movement? It sounds grotesque.

Globar Warming

The fact that the new leader of the United States of America would be unimpressed by such reminders must have been clear to most of the audience in the room. And indeed, just a few months after his inauguration, Trump announced the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

 

Kerry also saw this step coming. In his speech, he appealed not only to reason, he also conjured up forces, which Trump seems to feel much more familiar.

But is it?

On the negotiating floor in Paris, the world has agreed to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. In order to achieve this goal, the states have committed themselves to setting their own climate goals and reviewing them on a regular basis. The Paris Agreement thus implements the G7 decision of Elmau, which calls for a complete decarbonisation of the world economy. Not only the fossil energy sector is affected, but all sectors. Industry, transport, agriculture.

Standing up to climate change denial at the White House

Therefore, in the French capital not only tougher climate goals were decided.

The signing of the contract leads to a conversion of the entire financial architecture.

Article 2.1 of the framework is set to do so. It states that all capital flows should be brought into line with a development path free of carbon dioxide.

As a result, the Paris Agreement sends an important signal to investors. Companies that continue to produce emissions intensively could soon turn out to be no longer lucrative.

The British economist Nicholas Stern speaks of „technological cost traps“, and at the same time recommends investors to convert existing investment plans at an early stage. The Paris Agreement is already a milestone in climate diplomacy. Countless attempts were made to negotiate a contract that almost all the countries of the world feel committed to. A new feature of the treaty is that, while taking all responsibility into account, the States still have sufficient scope for implementation.

Another new feature is that not only the many governmental delegations have contributed to its success, but also the countless helpers on the side line. Scientists, climate activists, company bosses. For the first time, they did not face each other in opposing parties.

Paris became a place where a narrow, though pragmatic, act of solidarity of different forces could be observed. Not an unfortunate alliance, rather a community of interests, considering respective advantages. Pareto optimal. Not united by ideology, but probably by the common concern. An alliance of climate protectors and investors.

For the economy, the unabated rise in temperature is bad for business. When weather catastrophes throw a spanner in the works of global trade chains and lead to reductions in revenue. Not surprisingly, climate protection has become the new entry in manager’s glossary. Risk management instead of mere company responsibility.

And climate change poses many risks. Especially when agreed climate goals have the scent of regulation and some companies are already in court. Exxon Mobil for not passing on internal climate knowledge to the public. RWE for its emissions causing damage elsewhere.

All this played an important role in Paris. Already months before the start of the negotiations, the French finance minister had asked the G20 group to investigate how climate change could affect international financial stability. A little later, the Financial Stability Board started its work, launched already in 2007 in response to the world financial crisis.

Mark Carney, head of the agency, had previously attracted great attention with his own report. He laid out why the British insurance industry is already affected by the global temperature rise. Therefore, Carney, who is also governor of the Bank of England, has been seen as something like the figurehead of smart climate protection.

This is especially true for the climate protection alliance „Fossil Free“. The initiative wants climate-damaging businesses to be closed down and calls investors for „divestment“, ie selling shares of companies in fossil fuel industries, ie coal, oil and gas.

With its demand, the movement has been making big headlines for years now, especially in the USA. Climate protection by means of boycott, that appeals to many.

Divestment is free of any ideology.
Divestment is not apolitical, but also not anti-capitalist.
Divestment is not directed against the government or the economy, but is instrumentalizing both.
Divestment is social necessity and economic self-interest at the same time.

Already in 2015 analysts of the Citi Group, one of the major US-American banks, warned of a possible financial bubble („carbon bubble“). The reason: if a large part of the fossile fuels were burnt, the climate goals would be impossible to achieve. If they were to be respected, however, energy companies would be stuck with their fossil reserves and would thus become a risk for investors, as they would have to fear a sudden loss of value of their investments.

Not only climate change, but also the fight against it could put companies and investors at unimagined risks. A classic dilemma. In many countries, debates are aroused as to how the financial world can once again master the situation. Some governments have therefore already imposed stricter reporting requirements.

France, for example. Since the beginning of the year, investors have to disclose how they want to deal with climate risks in their portfolios.

More information, they assume, would help to forecast the extent of the imminent losses. Even some central banks are now thinking about climate stress tests.

But another trend is also emerging. Instead of political intervention, corporate self-commitment is increasingly relevant. The message: The economy will fix it.

From main street to Wall Street,
new initiatives are emerging which are trying to anticipate regulatory measures and to develop their own plans to take climate change to open up promising new markets.

Because where risks are lurking, there are also opportunities.

divestment
Graphic: Fossil Free

Renewable energies, for example. According to the Climate Policy Initiative, in 2014 alone, about 392 billion US dollars were spent on climate protection initiatives – more than ever before. The majority comes from private investors. In many parts of the world, the increase in investment makes renewable energies competitive and thus produce electricity cheaper than fossil fuels.

This is putting pressure on operators of classic industrial plants. In China and the USA, the world’s largest issuers of hazardous greenhouse gases, many coal-fired power plants had to close down already. Similarly, the tar sands industry in Canada is coming to a standstill because of the shale gas boom in the USA. The market is turning and with it the investment appetite of large investors.

And politics react. In order to meet climate goals, a tight political framework has now been set up, with suggestions of G7, G20, EU and UN working groups currently underway, providing all kinds of guidelines and criteria for a sustainable financial regulation.

See: THE G20’S ENVIRONMENTAL HYPOCRISY

But all that glitters is not – green. While the divestment movement can report almost new successes every single day, it is by no means clear whether and to what extent the supposedly freed up money flows into sustainable alternatives. And what is sustainable anyway? The concept of sustainability has been overstated by its inflationary use to the point of being unrecognizable, and has become a formula for just about everything: often for the well-meant, rarely for the well-made.

Therefore: divestment is necessary, but not sufficient. For with the sole withdrawal of capital, the climate will still need more efforts of protection. The International Energy Agency assumes that funds of around US $ 16.5 trillion will be needed to comply with the Paris Agreement. In addition, the divestment movement is at risk of becoming a game of public relations strategists: when divestment decisions make headlines without any measureable effect.

Nevertheless, the divestment movement is promising. It shows the shady side of an overhauled industry and, by means of catchy formulas, can translate the otherwise complex climate science into a simple pictorial language and make it mass-efficient. This is perhaps a parallel to the government style of Donald Trump. With a difference: reason and facts form the core of this new movement.

Credits:
Editors: Frank Odenthal, Murat Suner, Ama Lorenz
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