Pathway to Paris #17: What are the pathways to deep decarbonization?

A biweekly climate briefing for municipalities

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In this Issue #17

  • Another remarkable speech
  • Pathways to Deep Decarbonization
  • The climate justice movement prepares for Paris
  • Game-changing act of diplomacy between US and China
  • Momentum for Change: the best ideas
  • Diplomats raise hopes for deal to cut greenhouse gases
  • Interesting week for Shell
  • Latin America and European cities are least dependent on fossil fuels
  • Pathway to Paris: POP Montreal
  • Featured network: United Cities and Local Governments


Another remarkable speech

Following shortly on the coattails of a flurry of powerful speeches touching on climate change by the Pope in the US (for example, was a remarkable commentary by the Governor of the Bank of England that sent shockwaves through the business sections of the media. Speaking at Lloyd’s, a major insurance company, Mark Carney pointed out that once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late- he called this the Tragedy of the Horizon. He also pointed to three types of risks:

Physical risks: the impacts today on insurance liabilities and the value of financial assets that arise from climate- and weather-related events, such as floods and storms that damage property or disrupt trade;

Liability risks: the impacts that could arise tomorrow if parties who have suffered loss or damage from the effects of climate change seek compensation from those they hold responsible. Such claims could come decades in the future, but have the potential to hit carbon extractors and emitters – and, if they have liability cover, their insurers – the hardest;

Transition risks: the financial risks which could result from the process of adjustment towards a lower-carbon economy. Changes in policy, technology and physical risks could prompt a reassessment of the value of a large range of assets as costs and opportunities become apparent.

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization

The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP), an initiative of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN), aims to explore how we can significantly reduce GHG emissions without compromising prosperity. Decarbonisation pathways have been modelled for 16 countries totalling 75% of the total global emissions. In the case of Canada emissions needed to decline from 21 tonnes per capita to 1.7 tonnes. To achieve this goal, the following policies were required:

  • Best-in-class regulations require the use of zero or near-zero emission technologies in the buildings, transport and electricity sectors, applied to all new installations and retrofits.
  • Mandatory 99 per cent controls for all landfill and industrial methane sources (landfill, pipelines, etc.)
  • A hybrid carbon-pricing policy, differentiated by heavy industry and the rest of the economy.
  • A land-use policy package that values the net carbon flows of large parcels of land.

The authors noted that without meaningful policy direction, there is a risk of locking in capital now that would be inconsistent with both the 2030 target and longer deep decarbonization, resulting hardship in the future. Pathways for other countries can be found here.

The climate justice movement prepares for Paris

This analysis applies the lens of justice to the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris, considering the impact of climate policy on poor and marginalised populations and the way in which activists are responding in terms of intellectual arguments and mobilisations. The report is accompanied by a video from the Unis´tot´en camp in British Columbia showing how the camp is stopping up to seven oil and gas pipelines, holding up billions in investment and keeping millions of barrels (and cubic metres) of fossil fuels under the ground.

Game-changing act of diplomacy between US and China

Building on their previous commitment of last November for post 2020 GHG emission reductions targets, President Obama and President Xi have agreed to a common vision for a global climate agreement to bring to the UN climate talks in Paris later this year. They also launched parallel domestic commitments, new commitments to climate finance, which are critical to an agreement in Paris. China announced that green buildings standards would be applied to 50% of the new building stock by 2020 and that the mode share of public transit would reach 30% by 2020. The same week, Germany and Brazil announced a program of cooperation on climate change, adding to a growing chorus of bilateral agreements.

Momentum for Change: the best ideas

The results are in from Momentum for Change 2014, a UN competition for replicable and scalable climate solutions for a low carbon resilient future. Check out the top entries in categories including ICT solutions, women in leadership, climate finance and urban poor, from a flood early warning system to an earthen roof construction design in the Sahel.

Diplomats raise hopes for deal to cut greenhouse gases

Just don’t mention Copenhagen. Diplomats are providing reassurance that this time round the pledges from countries are made on concrete policies, laws and actions already in motion, a shift from Copenhagen where vague political statements were made. This time the efforts are more resilient and less likely to fail, that and renewable energy sources are more affordable than in 2009. Part of this optimism lies in the structure of the UN negotiations. In Copenhagen, the intent was to mandate targets for countries based on their contribution to emissions and the overall reductions required to stabilise the climate at safe levels. In Paris, countries voluntarily commit to a target that they believe makes sense. The benefit: greater chance of a successful agreement in Paris. The cost: a meaningful path to ensure that warming remains lower than 2 degrees. The Carbon Tracker indicates that current commitments are on course for 2.7% of warming. The outstanding question: where will the additional reductions come from?

Interesting week for Shell

First the CEO of Shell Ben van Beurden acknowledged that solar power could emerge as a much bigger contributor to world energy needs. “I have no hesitation to predict that in years to come solar will be the dominant backbone of our energy system, certainly of the electricity system”, an unusual and even unprecedented statement by the head of an oil major. Only a few days later, Shell pulled out of the Arctic, ending a controversial drilling program at the cost of billions of dollars.

Latin America and European cities are least dependent on fossil fuels

Research from the Carbon Disclosure Project and the engineering company AECOM showed that 76% of Latin American cities and 59 percent of European cities use clean energy sources and are the least reliant on fossil fuels to power their electricity. Asia Pacific cities continue to exhibit a high dependency on fossil fuels, while North American and African cities sit somewhere in the middle.

Pathway to Paris: POP Montreal

Pathway to Paris , an initiative by SSG with partners, held its third concert on September 21st in Montreal, closing out Pop Montreal and marking the anniversary of the first concert (launching Pathway to Paris) that took place in NYC at Le Poisson Rouge. The night featured Thurston Moore, Anne Waldman + Fast Speaking Music, Jesse Paris Smith, Rebecca Foon, Brad Barr, Sarah Pagé, AroarA, Raju Lama and Shyam Nepali. Montreal Gazette featured SSG’s Rebecca Foon as well as a review of the event. Next up is Paris!

Featured network: United Cities and Local Governments
Founded in 2004, United Cities and Local Governments supports international cooperation between cities and their associations, and facilitates programmes, networks and partnerships to build the capacities of local governments. The organization promotes the role of women in local decision-making, and is a gateway to relevant information on local government across the world.They are based in Barcelona and will be active in Paris.

A briefing prepared by SSG’s Office of the Research
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