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Issue No. 106 - June 15, 2017

1. Commitment to Paris Agreement remains strong despite announce US withdrawal

US President Donald Trump's announcement that the US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement has triggered worldwide expressions of support for the historic climate agreement and announcements of new initiatives to mitigate
climate change.

Soon after the announcement by the US president, newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron met with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, who vowed that India would go "above and beyond" the Paris accord to combat climate change. President Macron also met with US billionaire and UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg, who has pledged to contribute up to $15 million through his foundation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to make up for an expected shortfall in US funding.

In addition to issuing a joint statement with the leaders of Germany and Italy calling the momentum for climate action "irreversible", President Macron strongly criticised the US move in a video message stressing his commitment to "Make our planet great again" and inviting US scientists and others disappointed by the US withdrawal to come and work in France. The French president has set up a website for applicants.

Meanwhile, California and China have signed an agreement to cooperate on renewable energy, Hawaii became the first US state to pass a law committing to the Paris Agreement, and more than 1,000 US governors ,mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities have pledged continued support for the Paris agreement and climate action.

The EU and China have issued a joint statement on climate change and clean energy, reaffirming their commitment to implementing the Paris agreement and cooperating to enhance it.
Trump: Climate change is a total hoax

Asked to comment on the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Ireland's new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "It's very disappointing… Donald Trump mentioned that he was elected to represent Pittsburgh and not Paris, but whether you're in Pittsburgh or Paris or Portlaoise, we all breathe the same air and we're all affected by the same climate."

Climate action advocates in Ireland have called on the new Taoiseach to reaffirm Ireland's commitment to the Paris Agreement. Eamonn Meehan, Executive Director of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, said: "This is an opportunity for Ireland to show leadership on the global stage by reaffirming our belief in and commitment to the targets set out in the Paris Agreement."

2. Renewable energy growing, but not quickly enough

Renewables 2017 - Global Status Report

REN21, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, based in Paris, has released the 2017 edition of its Renewables Global Status Report, which finds that while more renewable energy capacity was installed in 2016 at lower cost than ever before, global investment is down and remains insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, as Energy Mix reports.

Highlights from the report include the following:
  • 161 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable power capacity was installed in 2016, an increase of 9% compared to 2015. For the 5th consecutive year, investment in new renewable power capacity was roughly double the investment in fossil fuel generating capacity.
  • Costs for electricity from solar PV and wind reached record lows, with bids in some markets below USD 0.03 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
  • For the third year in a row, energy-related CO2 emissions remained stable despite 3% growth in the global economy and increased demand for energy.
  • The myth that fossil and nuclear power are needed to provide "baseload" electricity supply has been shown to be false. In 2016, Denmark and Germany successfully managed peaks of 140% and 86.3%, respectively, of electricity generation from renewable sources, and in countries such as Ireland, it is becoming feasible to achieve annual shares of 20%-30% electricity from variable renewable without additional storage. The key is maximum flexibility in the power system.
  • There has been an upsurge in cities, states, countries, and major corporations committing to 100% renewable targets -- because it makes economic sense, apart from the climate, environment and public health benefits.

However, the report finds that the transition is not happening fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which commits governments to keep global temperature rise below 2°C compared with pre-industrial levels, with the aim of holding it to a safer limit of 1.5°C. The sum total of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) adopted by 117 countries in 2016 would result in a global temperature rise of between 2.3°C and 3.5°C, according to best estimates.

REN21 notes that with the right policies in place, the electrical power sector could be emissions-free by mid-century, but that the energy market comprises three major segments: electricity, transport, and heating and cooling. While growth in renewable energy has been strong in the power sector, the progress in the transport and heating and cooling sectors is lagging behind. Thus, there is a need both for increased access to sustainable energy for all and a global improvement in energy efficiency, for which concrete targets are set forth by the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) initiative.

The report also shows that the energy transition could happen faster, with improvements needed in transport, heating and cooling, and energy efficiency, as well as a removal of obstacles such as fossil fuel subsidies.

To speed the transition, the report stresses the importance of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, and shifting efforts from investment in fossil fuel or nuclear "baseload" capacity toward developing dispatchable renewable energy and flexibility in the supply system.

3. 2020: The Climate Turning Point

Greenhouse gas emissions must begin declining rapidly, by 2020 at the latest, if the world is to have a realistic chance of meeting the Paris Agreement goals of keeping global warming "well below below 2°C" and of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

This is the message of a new initiative, Mission 2020, that was launched in April 2017 by former UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres. A report accompanying the launch, 2020: The Climate Turning Point, sets out the scientific basis for the need for emissions to peak by 2020, in order to achieve net zero emissions worldwide by 2050.

Quoted in the report, Prof. Johan Rockström, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, states: "We need to bend the global curve of emissions no later than 2020 and reach a fossil-fuel free world economy by 2050. Yes, this is a grand transformation. Is it doable? Yes. Is it a sacrifice? No. The evidence grows day-by-day that a decarbonized world is a more attractive world."

As Prof. Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern and IPCC Co-Chair between 2008 and 2015, explains on the Mission 2020 website, "Both delay and insufficient mitigation efforts shut the door on limiting global mean warming permanently. The year 2020 is crucial for the definition of global ambitions on emissions reductions. If CO2 emissions continue to rise beyond that date, the most ambitious mitigation goals will become unachievable."

The Mission 2020 initiative focuses on achieving the following six milestones by 2020:
  1. Energy: Renewables outcompete fossil fuels as new electricity sources worldwide.
  2. Infrastructure: Cities and states have established plans and are implementing policies and regulations with the aim to fully decarbonise infrastructure by 2050.
  3. Transport: Zero emission transport is the preferred form of all new mobility in the world’s major cities and transport routes.
  4. Land Use: Large-scale deforestation is replaced by large-scale land restoration and agriculture shifts to earth friendly practices.
  5. Industry: Heavy industry – including iron & steel, cement, chemicals, and oil & gas – commits to being Paris compliant.
  6. Finance: Investment in climate action is beyond USD $1trillion per year and all financial institutions have a disclosed transition strategy.

6 Milestones by 2020

The initiative stresses that while it will not be easy to meet these milestones, each is necessary, desirable, and achievable. The report addresses each of the milestones and outlines progress to date and the measures that need to be taken to achieve them by 2020.

The latest news on Mission 2020 developments can be found on Twitter at #2020dontbelate.

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