Social Justice Ireland published its latest analysis and critique of environment and sustainability in Ireland as well as its policy proposals in the annual Socio-Economic Review published in April, 2013. The full text can be accessed here.
The world’s aggregate level of effort on climate change mitigation is not in line with the science and existing country commitments are insufficient to adequately address climate change according to a major study on the issue. Social Justice Ireland welcomes the publication of a new paper by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the support of the Government of Ireland. The report, entitled
Building the Climate Change Regime: Survey and Analysis of Approaches, reviews more than 130 proposals put forward by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics to design a climate regime capable of delivering adequate mitigation action.
The paper is in response to studies which show that the world’s aggregate level of effort on climate change mitigation is not in line with the science and existing country commitments are insufficient to adequately address climate change.
The findings are crucial and timely because in less than a month countries will gather in Durban, South Africa, to try to reach agreement on an ambitious programme for tackling climate change. The report shows that there are far more options to counter climate change than acknowledged or promoted.
“The analysis provided in this new report offers many options that can happen either in the formal negotiations or as complementary measures elsewhere,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP. “Options that can assist the more than 190 United Nations member states move quickly to harvest the opportunities of a transition to a climate resilient, low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy,” he added.
Building the Climate Change Regime clearly shows that there is a path forward for climate negotiators and offers a menu of options to national governments to mitigate climate change, both within and outside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The report, which suggests that there are a number of pathways toward the desired level of ambition, also highlights the need to mobilize a range of public and private sector actors at the international, national and sub-national levels, who can contribute to climate governance, emission reductions, and adaptation investment.
“We know that more needs to be done globally to reach our long-term climate objectives. The reality is that there is no shortage of options and these proposals show the wealth of pathways available,” said Manish Bapna, Interim President of WRI. “At the upcoming climate meeting in Durban, countries have the opportunity to turn these ideas into action and start to bridge the ambition gap needed to truly have an impact.”
“The publication of the paper is very timely. It presents real options for addressing difficult political issues that still remain to be resolved in the international negotiations, not least in relation to the legal form of a future international agreement, the timeframe for agreement, and the need to increase the level of ambition on mitigation action”, said Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Ireland.
The report breaks down proposals into five key issues that have been major points of debate:
1. Options under the UNFCCC to Increase Ambition: Within the UNFCCC, new approaches could involve reducing the emissions of additional greenhouse gases, including additional sectors, and strengthening accounting rules for emissions and emission reductions. Utilizing tools within the UNFCCC can be beneficial because they minimize duplication and implementation costs while facilitating trust-building. However, other complementary options should also be considered.
2. Options outside the UNFCCC to Increase Ambition: Beyond the UNFCCC process, approaches include multilateral, plurilateral, bilateral and domestic strategies. These approaches offer prospects to mobilize actors around shared interests like development, trade, human rights, energy or food security. While these new strategies can generate greater ambition, one disadvantage of following approaches outside the UNFCCC is a risk of undermining existing processes and creating inefficiencies.
3. Means for Sharing the Mitigation Effort Under the UNFCCC: Various proposals could be used to allocate responsibility to bridge the gap between the current level of effort and scientific recommendations. Possible approaches include dividing mitigation efforts based on countries’ capacity or based on countries’ contribution to the problem. Setting a global carbon budget would help ensure that the climate regime meets the adequacy standard, but it could be difficult to implement new allocations for emission obligations.
4. The Role of Various Actors in Tracking Country Performance on Mitigation: Harmonized global accounting, reporting and verification standards are fundamental to progress. Two options are to use tools within the UNFCCC or outside the UNFCCC. Both options are discussed in detail.
5. The Legal Form of a Future Climate Agreement: The issue of legally binding commitments is central to the debates ahead of Durban. The paper presents multiple options for climate negotiators: to proceed without new, legally-binding commitments; to commit to achieving new legally-binding commitments immediately; or to strengthen the components of legal character over time to achieve new, legally-binding commitments as soon as possible.
An illustrative finding in the report is that it is possible to build upon existing UNFCCC processes to strengthen the climate regime and raise the overall level of ambition. For example, a review under the UNFCCC of aggregate progress towards the 2 degree goal could facilitate an increase in the ambition of countries’ commitments.
The UNFCCC can also provide a strengthened institutional framework, possibly binding in nature, to anchor, coordinate and review the commitments of countries.
“Many institutions and actors can play a part in the broader climate regime,” said Remi Moncel, Associate at WRI and one of the authors of the paper. “The proposals reviewed show that we can take an all-hands-on-deck approach where the UNFCCC and other actors work in tandem based on their respective strengths. We need to move the conversation from ‘we are not doing enough’ to ‘how can we do more collectively’, and these findings take us one step closer.”
Whilst a number of studies have demonstrated that the level of climate mitigation pledged to date is insufficient to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees C, this paper clearly demonstrates that there are a range of good ideas and options available that could help correct the course and move toward a safer and more stable climate.
To read the full report, visit: http://www.wri.org/project/moving-unfccc-forward.
Social Justice Ireland believes that a central initiative to promote environmental sustainability and tackle climate change should be the developmentof“satellite” or “shadow” nationalaccounts.
· Our present national accounts miss fundamentals such asenvironmental sustainability. Their emphasisisonGNP/GDPasscorecards of wealthandprogress.
· These measures, which came intowidespreaduse during WorldWarII,more orlessignore the environment, and completely ignore unpaidwork.Only money transactionsare tracked.
· Ironically,while environmental depletionisignored,the environmental costsof dealing withthe effectsof economicgrowth,suchascleaning up pollutionorcoping withthefelling ofrain forests,areaddedto,rather thansubtracted from,GNP/GDP. New scorecardsare needed.
To find out more about the World Resources Institute visit www.wri.org
To find out more about UNEP visit www.unep.org
Social Justice Ireland's views on sustainability and environment may be accessed here.
Comhar, Ireland’s Sustainable Development Council, has published its research report, ‘Creating Green Infrastructure for Ireland’ (August 24, 2010). The full report may be accessed here. A leaflet providing some key points may be accessed here.
The report states that green Infrastructure, through a properly functioning biodiversity, provides space for nature to deliver vital ecological services that underpin our quality of life. Green Infrastructure can be broadly defined as an interconnected network of green space that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations.
The report goes on to make the following key points:
Development has been a major driver of habitat degradation and biodiversity loss in Ireland. Biodiversity continues to decline because its value is not reflected in decision-making by business and government. While tools such as ‘Strategic Environment Assessment’
and ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ have become part of our development process, they are essentially reactive measures. The introduction of a Green Infrastructure approach to planning policy would help to protect, create and manage green infrastructure in an integrated and proactive way. It would also enhance Ireland’s biodiversity and improve resilience to climate change. Green infrastructure should be a core part of Ireland’s planning policy, including local development
plans to the national spatial strategy. This would require mapping of natural ecosystems to provide evidence of the value of biodiversity and ecosystems to the economy and society.
Green infrastructure is a network of green spaces that help conserve natural ecosystems and provide benefits to human populations through water purification, flood control, carbon capture, food production and recreation. Such spaces include woodlands, coastlines, flood plains, hedgerows, city parks and street trees.
Green infrastructure mapping underpins the whole approach and, while there are data gaps and needs, a lot of useful information already exists at national and local levels. This should be made available in a coordinated and accessible way for use in green infrastructure mapping. The report shows how this mapping can be carried out and used to inform the development of green infrastructure. It contains three case studies that illustrate green infrastructure planning in different areas, namely urban, peri-urban and rural areas (North East Dublin City; Broadmeadow, Fingal, and Offaly-Westmeath). In addition, a national framework map was developed for the country, which highlights - among other elements - the existing biodiversity and ecological networks; water quality and flood attenuation infrastructure, and recreational / quality-of-life infrastructure. From these preliminary maps alone, the report highlights where the most valuable green infrastructures exist, and where there is potential to further develop and connect green infrastructure to maximise the potential benefits.
The report contains a range of recommendations to government on how green infrastructure can be developed in Ireland. These include the development of national guidance and objectives; the inclusion of green infrastructure in policy and legislation; green infrastructure maps, and measures to improve data availability and harmonisation.
For further information see the Comhar website - http://www.comharsdc.ie
The opening session of the UN Commision on Sustainable Development in New York saw the EU input totally ignoring the pollution, poisoning and impoverishment caused by many mining corporations.
Dr. Istvan Teplan, Senor Advisor of the Hungarian Secretary of State for the Environment, speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Members States, made a bland presentation in which he ignored the substantial evidence that illustrates the downside of much mining activity.
Social Justice Ireland believes this is a totally inadequate position for the EU to take at such an important conference and calls on the European Commission to ensure these issues are addressed and discussed honestly in this UN Commission meeting.
The 19th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development opened on May 2, 2011 and will continue until May 13th 2011. This website will carry regular reflections and updates from this session written by Sean McDonagh, a Columban missionary and well known author on sustainable development issues.
The Commission on Sustainable Development emerged from Agenda 21, the programme for action for sustainable development adopted in June 1992 by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) also known as the “Rio Earth Summit.” Agenda 21 called for the creation of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), to ensure an effective follow-up of the UNCED. The CSD has 53 member states.
This session of the Commission is very important as it prepares for Rio+20 - the Conference that will take place in Brazil on 4-6 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 conference in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. Reo+20 is envisaged as a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives. The Conference will result in a focused political document.
The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, concluded on December 11, 2010. Fr Sean McDonagh, SSC, attended the conference. Below are his final reflections on the agreement reached at Cancun. His previous ten updates can also be accessed below.
His tenth update (Decfember 7, 2010) is available here. In it Sean preseents the Ecumenical Declaration presented at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. It was presented at an event hosted by Caritas Internationalis and the World Council of Churches at the UN Climate Change Conference.
His third update (December 1, 2010 available here) concerns REDD (reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) which is shaping up to be a major topic at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Cancun.
Sean McDonagh is a Columban missionary who worked for many years in the Philliipines. He has written a number of book on the environment one of which, entitled Climate Change: The Challenge to Us All is especially relevant in the context of the Cancun conference. He has a PhD on this topic. We will upload his updates onto this site as they become available.
The Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy document does not contain any measureable outputs, policy goals or short, medium or long-term implementation plans in order to reach the stated targets.
The Government’s stated target for renewable energy is the target set in the Europe 2020 Strategy, that 16% of all energy consumed in the state is from renewable sources, with a sub-target of 10% in the transport sector.
Renewable energy contributed 5.0% of gross final energy use in 2009, increasing to 5.5% in 2010. Government has outlined no interim targets or measurable outputs to ensure that it can track progress towards meeting its targets.
More worrying is the lack of progress towards the sub target of 10% of all gross final energy use in the transport sector coming from renewable sources. Renewable energy contributed to only 1.5% of transport consumption in 2009 according to the latest figures available from the SEAI. According to the SEAI’s Energy Forecasts for Ireland to 2020 the increased prices of fossil fuel potentially places an increased demand in electricity consumption and outlines other possible risks to Ireland reaching its 2020 targets.
Social Justice Ireland believes Government should outline measurable interim targets and invest significantly into the infrastructure needed to support and develop renewable energy in Ireland.
To read the Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020 click here.
To read Irelands National Renewable Energy Action Plan click here.
To read the Energy Forecasts for Ireland to 2020 click here.
To read SEAI’s Renewable Energy in Ireland 2010 update click here.
Sean McDonagh's 2nd reflection from the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development's 19th session in New York reflects on the ground-breaking 'Limits to Growth' study published in 1972 and charts developments over the intervening period.