For Peat’s Sake – Let’s Get On With It

Understandably during Covid-19, Small World Consulting Ltd. Carbon Baseline for Cumbria 2020 report got buried under other news, however the report’s recommendation that Cumbria becomes Net-Zero by 2037 now deserves some attention.

While Net-Zero by 2037 is an ambitious target – the big solution for Cumbria will come from a whopping 400% increase from the sing song sounding ‘LULUCF’ (Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry) and their net negative emissions.

Surging to a 400% increase in just seventeen years, will mean a substantial rise in land management actions such as peatland restoration, scrub creation, woodland creation and haymeadow restoration etc.

The report also suggests we need to reduce our energy C02 emissions in 2037 by 13% annually; 5% annual reduction in food and other purchased goods emissions and a 10% annual reduction in visitor travel per visitor day emissions.

Source: Cumbria Carbon Baseline Report, 2020. Recommended pathways to Net Zero for Cumbria by 2037

Visitors aside, another key issue the report identifies is that on a per capita basis, Eden residents have the highest production-based transport footprint. But it’s not just them – Cumbrian’s drive around 20% more than the UK average and this is probably a reflection of the unaffordable public transport options and the poor rural coverage here. We need many more EV infrastructure facilities, buses running regularly and going to more rural areas, electrified trains, and far more cycling lanes.

But back to peat. Damaged peatlands are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, but when they are fully-functioning and protected, they also sequester (remove) carbon and they are one of the UK’s largest carbon stores. They also help with reducing the risk of flooding, improve water quality and act as a fantastic host to all sorts of ecosystems.

Peat, while not as glamorous as say carbon woodland management, makes up about 11% of land area in the UK and about 22.9 million tonnes of carbon is stored in the Lake District’s peatlands – equivalent to 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.1

Quite rightly then, peat and other LULUCF projects should be regarded as shiny jewels in Cumbria’s crown in its fight against climate change.

There are various peatbog restoration projects happening – Bampton Commons, Bolton Fell Moss, Wedholme Flow, Roudsea Wood and Mosses National Nature Reserve etc. These and other projects are creating large carbon savings with the highest savings coming from restoring severely degraded peats. However, there is so much more to do and there are many sites in a very poor state and further funding is needed to stop further carbon loss and water pollution.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bampton-common-img_20200122_115846_0-1.jpg
Bampton Commons Peatland Restoration. Photo Credit: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Peatland restoration received a funding boost in the UK March Budget 2020 and it’s positive that nature-based solutions are rising up climate policy and financing agendas. [How much of the March funding will go /has already gone to Cumbria I have no idea].

For useful reading on this, see the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) recent report that sets out how farming and land use must change to include planting around 30,000 hectares of broadleaf and conifer woodland and restoring at least 50% of upland peat and 25% of lowland peat.

Success will come, in part, by incentivising landowners and farmers to make the switch to carbon farming and some carbon farming payment tests and trials have already started in the UK as part of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) Scheme payment for “public goods”.

While peat restoration and other LULUCF projects are very important solutions to help remove and store carbon – it is also important to consider the transition period to ELMs and the complexity of the measuring and managing. Plus, the extensive stakeholder engagement to get the incentives and payments right and the funding flowing. These points and others could well make it tricky for Cumbria to reach the proposed 400% LULUCF target by 2037. That said, the NFU have set a Net-Zero target by 2040 and you can read about it here.

At the same time, it is important to continue to ramp up efforts to reduce and replace fossil fuel use. Counter to this, and indeed contradictory to the UK’s Net-Zero by 2050 target – is the proposed deep coal mine at Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven. While a decision is currently postponed, if it happens it would generate around 8.4 MtCO2e per year (calculated using emissions factors from BEIS, 2017).

This is over 1.5 times higher than the GHG footprint of all Cumbrian’s 2 and would throw everyone into an ever steeper emission slashing battle.

So far, this project has been justified by Cumbria County Council based on the 500 jobs it would create, “We felt that the need for coking coal, the number of jobs on offer and the chance to remove contamination, outweighed concerns about climate.

This is true – the need for jobs is undeniable, but it is not a stretch to wonder why 500 people from the area can’t be retrained and employed instead in renewables? Just 8 miles or so from Whitehaven there are plans swirling around for a full-scale tidal lagoon on the coast near Workington. This is potentially a very exciting project and capitalises on the fact that West Cumbria’s coast has one of the UK’s highest tidal ranges. 3

The Walney wind farm. Photo credit: BBC News, PA

As we know, offshore wind is doing well and off the coast of Cumbria is the world’s largest operational offshore windfarm, the Walney Extension generating clean electricity for nearly 600,000 homes. Also being discussed is the (apparently controversial) proposed plans for an even bigger wind farm – by Copeland Council nuclear and energy committee. I would be interested to know how Council members consider stakeholder opinions. Do they use some sort of weighted matrix to quantify and calculate stakeholder concerns on visual impact – versus meeting the UK Net Zero target by 2050 and benefits to the local community and economy?

Then of course, there is the rain and Cumbria’s great bounty of flowing water. Hydro, hydro and more of it will also make a positive difference and it is good to read about hydro projects at Logan Gill, Hause Gill and Hayeswater etc. You can read about Cumbria’s considerable potential to deliver on all things renewable energy here.

What is needed now is that all of this good work is pieced together in a Net-Zero Strategy for Cumbria and Mike Berners-Lee’s recommendation for Net-Zero by 2037 are discussed widely. Alongside this, there should be a ‘Just Transition’ Strategy that maximises the opportunities of decarbonisation, while giving workers and communities a voice to help make the transition to a greener economy a fair and far-reaching one.

 Ciara Shannon, EdenWorks

[1] Source:

[2] Source:

[3] Source:


Financial Sector Lagging Behind – But Gathering Pace

By Ciara Shannon

Recent analysis from InfluenceMap shows the finance sector as a whole is lagging behind on climate change and is not moving the needle fast enough and portfolios held by the 15 largest asset management groups are significantly misaligned with the targets of the Paris Agreement. HSBC, Standard Chartered, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland continued to invest in coal to the tune of a whopping £24.7 billion between 2016 and 2019. In the USA, BlackRock, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup continue to pour vast amounts of money into fossil fuel companies.

In Australia, the big four banks – ANZ, CommBank, NAB and Westpac have provided direct finance for 17 new fossil fuel projects (despite committing to 2°C) in the last few years. These projects are expected to release 4.9 billion tonnes of CO2 – enough to cancel out Australia’s emissions reduction commitment (2021-2030) almost five times over.

Investor Advocacy is On the Rise

Globally, we are seeing a raft of investor climate coalitions forming. One example is Climate Action 100+, an impressive investor stewardship and lobbying coalition that is engaging or directly influencing the world’s largest corporate GHG emitters to take action. Plus, a record number of investors are mobilising under the ‘Investor Agenda’ to ask governments for clear policy signals to achieve a 1.5°C world. And a group of investors managing close to US$4 trillion in assets have committed to converting their investment portfolios to net-zero emissions by 2050 through the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance.

These are significant announcements given the immense influence that these investors hold. As part of the Investor Agenda a record number of investors, some 631 investors managing over US$37 trillion signed the Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change and called on world governments to step up ambition to tackle the ongoing climate crisis. This is the largest-ever group of investors to call for climate action.

Divestment from Fossil Fuels is Increasing

It is significant that the mighty Goldman Sachs (with 2018 annual revenues of about US$ 38 billion), will stop financing new drilling for oil in the Artctic and will not invest in thermal coal anywhere in the world (announced Dec 15, 2019). This is the most progressive move so far in the US by any bank. Praise should also go to the Indigenous Gwich’in communities in Alaska and Canada and other NGOS that have been pressing Goldman Sachs to stop financing Arctic drilling for some time.

There was also the announcement that Standard Chartered will withdraw from the lending consortia for three new coal-fired power plant projects– two of which are in Vietnam. They will also end their support for thermal coal companies by 2030, making it the first major UK-based bank to stop their support to coal, but, their phased reduction between 2021 – 2030 is weaker than other European banks. Plus, news that the new parliament in Switzerland, may soon instruct the country’s central bank to drop all fossil fuel assets from its US$800-billion investment fund is also important as the Swiss National Bank is one of the biggest reserve banks in the world. Its portfolio includes shares in Arch Coal, ExxonMobil, and Chevron (for now).

To date, about 120 financial institutions globally have put some restrictions on coal finance, several with fully phasing out coal finance. While coal is the primary offender to climate stability and air pollution, oil and particularly gas production and consumption need to be reduced in line with meeting the Paris Agreement objectives.

Climate Stewardship

Strong climate stewardship is being shown by the asset management arms of Legal & General, UBS, Aviva, AXA, Allianz and Credit Agricole (all participants of the Climate Action 100+) and by Walden Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management, and Zevin Asset Management in the USA. Other bright lights come from asset owners such as large pension funds – Calpers, NY State Common and Swedish AP system, who collectively own over US$28 trillion of assets globally (OECD, 2018).

An interesting new development is that the Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), the world’s largest pension fund (US$1.6 trillion) is no longer allowing short selling of its US$700 billion + equity portfolio, focusing instead on greater control of its long-term ESG #stewardship responsibilities.

Still A Long Way to Go

According to WRI, there is not yet an accurate way of showing sustainable financing versus brown financing and some banks think comparing sustainable finance commitments against fossil-fuel financing is misleading. However, WRI’s graph below is an interesting one, for example JPMorgan Chase financed US$63.9 billion in the fossil fuel sector in 2018, compared to their sustainable finance commitment of US$22.2 billion.

Of importance are the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), established by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and chaired by Michael Bloomberg. TCFD aims to increase climate transparency in financial markets and their recommendations help financial companies understand and manage their climate risks, as well as help the market know where climate risks exist in portfolios.

While the demand for TCFD disclosure is enormous, much more needs to be done to get markets to price in climate risks and it will be interesting to read the final language of Article 6 being discussed at COP25. Mark Carney said recently of the TCFD that “progress in both quantity and quality is uneven across sectors.” According to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance’s survey of 272 investment professionals, 87% said they didn’t believe that markets were yet pricing climate risks into company and sector valuations.

Source: Global Sustainable Investment Alliance

Global Climate Leaders and Laggards

By Ciara Shannon

This year there has been an escalation in climate chaos – right now bushfires in Australia burn in five different states and 5+ million of hectares have been razed. Tens of thousands of fires across the Amazon destroyed more than 4.6 million acres of irreplaceable rain forest and many indigenous communities lost their land and livelihoods. Hurricane Dorian utterly devastated the Bahamas leaving 80,000 people homeless; drought spread through Africa, and vital farmland in Bangladesh was lost to sea level rise. Climate change is happening now and requires immediate and ambitious climate action.

85% of New Extraction will Come from North America

The Global Gas and Oil Network’s report says that over the next five years, oil and gas companies intend to invest US$ 1.4 trillion in fossil fuel extraction, locking in the release of 148 Gt of CO2. 85% of this new extraction will come from North America – the United States (much of it from the Permian Basin) and Canada. The other countries are Argentina, China, Norway, Australia, Mexico, UK, Brazil and Nigeria. Just 25 companies are responsible for nearly half of the production and these include European oil majors such as Shell, BP, Total and Equinor.

Yet, if we are to have any chance of keeping global average temperature increase to 1.5°C, we must leave the majority (up to 80%) of fossil fuels in the ground. (Source: Climate Tracker Initiative. Unburnable Carbon (2011). We can’t afford to dig or drill up oil and gas from new fields if we’re to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Source: Fires in Australia, December 2019. Photograph: BBC, Dean Lewins/EPA

Country Climate Leaders and Laggards

Based on some research I did, after discounting about 55 countries (which had limited comparable climate data) from the world’s 195 countries, we looked at climate data for 140 countries and identified top emitting and fossil fuel producing countries by looking at per capita and absolute emissions, oil, coal and gas production and consumption, their reserves, as well as countries with high deforestation rates.

We also considered which countries had signficant carbon sinks and which countries were the most vulnerable to climate change and how ‘ready’ they were. On top of this, we looked at countries international and national climate policy and we then ranked all of this data into various lists of ‘top 20’ and identified which countries came up multiple times as key ‘climate offending’ countries. (see below).

RankC02 per CapitaAbsolute Coal ProductionOil ProductionNatural gas ProductionOil ReservesCoal ReservesNatural gas ReservesDeforestationCarbon Sink
2KuwaitUSAMongoliaRussiaNorwaySaudi ArabiaRussiaIranBrazilColombia
4AustraliaRussiaKazakhstanBrazilEquatorial GuineaIranChinaUSAIndonesiaChina
5USAJapanSouth AfricaMexicoRussiaIraqIndiaSaudi ArabiaDRCZambia
7OmanSouth KoreaPolandNigeriaKuwaitUAEGermanyUAEMadagascarMexico
8PalauIranRussiaQatarNetherlandsRussiaUkraineVenezuelaIvory CoastBolivia
9EstoniaCanadaCzech RepublicNorwayAustraliaLibyaPolandNigeriaAustraliaTanzania
10KazakhstanSaudi ArabiaChinaAngolaUSAUSAKazakhstanChinaAngolaUSA
12South KoreaMexicoIndonesiaColombiaBoliviaKazakhstanSouth AfricaIraqLaosAustralia
14Czech RepublicSouth AfricaMontenegroIndonesiaNew ZealandQatarNew ZealandMozambiqueMozambiquePhilippines
15GermanyUKNew ZealandOmanKazakhstanBrazilBrazilKazakhstanGuineaSouth Africa

We looked at various climate data sources to get a clearer picture, but a challenge was getting recent data and comparable metrics for so many countries. As there are different ways to compare countries’ emissions, we looked at both absolute emissions and on a per capita basis. We did not look at historical emissions, or the carbon footprint of consumption, including imported goods. “Absolute emissions” are carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of coal, natural gas, oil and other fuels, including industrial waste and non-renewable municipal waste. Over time, the absolute amount is what affects atmospheric concentrations of GHGs and the global carbon budget.  

The Top GHG Emitters

The top four GHG emitters, China (27.2%), the United States (14.6%), India (6.8%) and Russia (4.7%) contribute more than half of total global emissions (53.3%), while the bottom 100 countries only account for about 3.5 %. The US is the world’s top producer of oil and has the largest coal reserves, Canada has the third largest oil reserves and third largest deforestation rates. Australia is the top producer of coal, has the third largest coal reserves and Qatar is the top natural gas producer and has the largest C02 per capita. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves and Russia the largest natural gas reserves and largest deforestation rates, followed by Brazil. China has the world’s largest absolute emissions and is the third largest oil producer with the fourth largest coal reserves.

Deforestation, land use change and carbon sinks

Deforestation and land use change is one of the main contributors to climate change producing about 24% of GHGs. Deforestation comes in many forms: wildfire, agricultural land clearance, livestock ranching, and logging for timber etc.

Globally, forests act as carbon sinks and store large amounts of carbon sequestered from the atmosphere, but primary forests, rather than secondary forests (forests regrown after clear-felling of trees) are the best carbon sinks and must be protected against deforestation.

Australia’s annual emissions budget in 2018-19 was 532 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, however the bushfires, which have burnt through more than 5+ million hectares across the country, are estimated to have released two-thirds of this amount – or about 350 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere so far. This is a low estimate as the bushfires are still spreading. (Source: NASA’s Global Fire Emissions Database). Experts warn the forests in Australia may take more than 100 years to absorb what’s been released so far this season.

Before the fires in the Amazon, a study published in the journal Ecology showed that regrowth in the Amazon rainforest is happening slower than previously thought. Even after 60 years of regrowth secondary forests hold just 40% of the carbon held in primary forests left undisturbed by humans.

Avoiding deforestation and improving land and forest management can reduce emissions significantly, but contradictory subsidies, poor land management and vested corporate interests prevent this from happening. To consider which countries have the highest deforestation rates, the only available data for so many countries was for 2014. Recent devastating fires and deforestation in Australia, Amazon and Indonesia are not considered.

Top 10 – Multiple Issues

We then looked at which countries appeared in the ‘top 20’ for multiple issues (as above). Given many countries have multiple climate ‘offences’ that all pack a punch, ordering them in the above way is useful when looking at which issues to focus advocacy on for each country. (noting there is detailed data behind every country ranking).

RankTop ‘Offending’ Countries Multiple Issues in Top 20 (in bracket the number of)
1CanadaC02 per capita, absolute emissions, oil, coal and natural gas production, oil, coal and natural gas reserves and deforestation (9)
1RussiaC02 per capita, absolute emissions, oil, coal and natural gas production, oil, coal and natural gas reserves and deforestation (9)
2USAC02 per capita, absolute emissions, oil, coal and natural gas production, oil, coal and natural gas reserves (8)
2ChinaC02 per capita, absolute emissions, coal and oil production oil, coal and natural gas reserves and deforestation (8)
3AustraliaC02 per capita, absolute emissions, coal production, natural gas production, coal and natural gas reserves and deforestation (7)
4IndonesiaAbsolute emissions, oil and coalproduction, coal and natural gas reserves and deforestation (6)
4Kazakhstan Coal, natural gas and oil production, oil, coal and natural gas reserves (6)
5QatarC02 per capita, natural gas and oil production, oil and natural gas reserves (5)
5KuwaitC02 per capita, oil and natural gas production, oil and natural gas reserves (5)
6IndiaAbsolute emissions, coal and oil production and coal reserves (4)
6BrazilC02 per capita, oil and coal reserves and deforestation (4)
7VenezuelaNatural gas production, oil and natural gas reserves (3)
7GermanyAbsolute emissions, coal production and coal reserves (3)
7IranAbsolute emissions, oil and natural gas reserves (3)
7South AfricaAbsolute emissions, coal production and coal reserves (3)
7ColombiaOil production, coal production and coal reserves (3)
7ArgentinaOil production, natural gas production and deforestation (3)
7MexicoAbsolute emissions, oil reserves and deforestation (3)
7PolandC02 per capita, coal production and coal reserves (3)
7UKAbsolute emissions, oil and natural gas production (3)
7NigeriaNatural gas and oil reserves and deforestation (3)
7EgyptNatural gas and oil production and natural gas reserves (3)
8AngolaOil reserves and deforestation (2)
8MozambiqueNatural gas reserves and deforestation (2)
8South KoreaC02 per capita and absolute emissions (2)
8OmanNatural gas and oil production (2)
8UAEOil and natural gas reserves (2)
8EcuadorOil production and oil reserves (2)
8NorwayOil and natural gas production (2)

Russia and Canada

Russia and Canada share the top spot for being ‘worst offenders’ for multiple issues. Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves and the eighth largest crude oil reserves, most of Russia’s production and reserves are found in the Western Siberia basin. Russia is also the biggest exporter in the world of natural gas, contributing more than 40 % of the overall world’s gas export. Plus. Russia has the largest area of forests in the world, with around 12 million km2 of boreal forest, larger than the Amazon rainforest. It is estimated that 20,000 km2 are deforested each year.

In Canada, about 60% of its industrial emissions come from the oil and gas sector and Canadian proven oil reserves are estimated at 171.0 billion barrels. Alberta is Canada’s largest oil and natural gas producer and is home to vast deposits of both resources. According to Canada’s Energy Future report, Canadian oil output will grow by nearly 50% to around seven million barrels per day by 2040, while gas increases by over 30%. This growth is for their export market, as energy use per person is expected to increase by less than 5% by 2040, while the population grows by 20%. Canada’s deforestation rates are high as their forests have been subject to large insect infestations and forest fires.

In SummaryCountries
High Emitters and ProducersArgentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, UAE, UK, USA and Venezuela
High Deforestation CountriesAngola, Australia, Brazil, Canada, DRC, Ivory Coast Madagascar, Mexico, Mozambique, Paraguay and Russia
Need to Protect Their Carbon SinksArgentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, PNG, Tanzania, USA and Zambia
These Countries Need More Support on Vulnerability and ReadinessBurkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Central African Republic, DRC, Haiti, Madagascar, Mali, Sudan and Zimbabwe
Laggards in Climate Policy (this will change once countries update their NDCs).Australia, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Slovenia, Ukraine and USA
Leaders in Climate Policy (this will change once countries update their NDCs).Argentina, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland and UK
RankMost Vulnerable and Least Ready Countries ( Source: 6 & 7)
4Central African Republic
8Haiti (SIDS)
10Guinea-Bissau (SIDS)
11Burkina Faso
14Madagascar (SIDS)

The list above comes from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative – ND-Gain Country Index which uses a common set of indicators to measure countries vulnerability to climate change and their readiness. Most African countries are highly vulnerable to climate change and the least ready for its impacts. Asia is also very vulnerable to climate change and is home to a large majority of the global poor. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise and an increase in intensity of cyclones etc.


  1. C02 Per Capita – Per capita is useful as individual countries vary vastly in size and population. Source:
  2. Absolute Emissions: Source:
  3. Oil reserves: Source:
  4. Coal reserves: Source:
  5. Natural gas reserves: Source:, coal and natural gas reserves.
  6. Vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Source:
  7. Climate Readiness – measures a country’s ability to leverage investments and convert them to adaptation actions. Source:
  8. Deforestation (Gross loss tree cover) Global Forest Watch. Source: www.
  9. Carbon Sink: Source:
  10. Leadership on Climate Change Policy Source:

Snapshot of COP25

Source: Adapted DeviantArt

By Ciara Shannon

COP25 was stymied by a failure to agree on market mechanisms and a failure to agree on financing loss and damage for countries being impacted by climate change. Reaching consensus on these decisions has been pushed to next year under “Rule 16” of the UN climate process. Although, this COP was not supposed to announce increased climate pledges, there was still hope that Parties might send a strong message of the need to enhance ambition. This didn’t happen – revealing instead a deep and dangerous disconnect between the UN process, the climate crisis and the loud calls for action from around the world.

Greta Thunberg summed it up well when she said: “Finding holistic solutions is what the COP should be all about, but instead countries find ways to negotiate loopholes, double count and do clever PR to avoid raising their ambition.” 

Outside of the negotiating rooms there were many positive announcements. The EU Commission announced it will formally unveil a “Sustainable Europe Investment Plan” on January 8th, 2020 outlining a Green New Deal, that includes one trillion euros of investment over the next decade and a lengthy taxonomy on green standards. One aspect of this is the Just Transition Fund, a mechanism of at least €35 billion that would support “regions most exposed to decarbonisation challenge”. In the future, the Commission plans to mobilise €100 billion worth of investment to help the EU’s economies transition away from fossil fuels. The announcement that revenue from Germany’s carbon emissions from heat and transport will be used to pay to support the country’s just transition was also welcome news.

Plus, some 73 governments, 14 regions, 398 cities, 786 businesses, 16 investors and 2,100 signatories of the ICC Chambers Climate Coalition committed to achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 through the Climate Ambition Alliance.

Tricky Negotiating Points at COP25

A difficult negotiating point was Article 6 – the rules for “the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” also known as carbon trading.  A key aspect of this is how to deal with existing credits in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Australia, Brazil and the US blocked progress on Article 6 (note the US is leaving the Paris Agreement, but remains a (blocking) party until next year). The draft final text proposed that Kyoto-era credits could be accounted against climate pledges until 2025, a view that many countries found unacceptable and many of the details of what this means remain vague with many saying: “No Deal is better than a Bad Deal”.

Australia (the third biggest fossil fuel exporter and 16th largest emitter of absolute emissions ) is a good example of a country wanting to use a double counting ‘loophole ‘ to claim its 367 Mt of Kyoto Protocol credits and ‘carryover’ these over towards meeting their Paris commitments. Including carryover credits could cut Australia’s 2030 target to a 14% cut, even though their emissions from transport, industry, deforestation and fossil fuel extraction continue to rise. According to Climate Analytics, if Kyoto carryover units are allowed to be used to meet the #ParisAgreement they could lead to an additional 0.1˚C of warming or more, that what would not have otherwise occurred.

To counter this, 31 countries led by Costa Rica published the ‘San Jose Principles‘ minimum standards for carbon markets that rule out double counting and use of Kyoto-era credits.

Despite the uncertainty of the rules governing carbon markets, some 40 countries (including the US, EU and China), 20 cities, states and provinces already use carbon pricing mechanisms covering about half their emissions or equal to about 13% of annual GHGs. Carbon markets are often favoured as they enable countries to decarbonise their economies at a lower cost. All emissions trading markets operate in a similar manner: – the regulating body sets a cap on emissions and divides this into allocations for each smaller division, a state for example. The state then determines the levels each individual polluting company can emit.

Applying meaningful carbon pricing – be that tax or trade, is critical to reducing GHGs and it has been said that a carbon price of between US$50-$100 per tonne will be needed by 2030 to deliver on the Paris commitments. (Stern, 2017).

Whenever I think about carbon trading, I think first about carbon “cowboys” and then John Maynard Keynes who once famously dismissed an optimistic view of market forces by arguing that classical economical theory might be right in saying that, in the long run, markets would always find a way to solve problems and regulate themselves. But, he added, in the long run, we are all dead.

I also think, so far, the rule of thumb has been that ‘polluter profits’ rather than ‘polluter pays’. In the past, in addition to cap and trade, the CDM did not represent an “emission reduction”, as there was no global benefit because offsetting became a “zero sum” game. An example being that if a Chinese mine cut its methane emissions under the CDM, there was no global climate benefit because the polluter that bought the offset avoided the obligation to reduce its own emissions.

I will write more on this once the new rules on Article 6 are clearer on ways the new market, referred to as the “Sustainable Development Mechanism” (SDM) will replace the CDM. In the meantime, see Carbon Brief’s good overview here.

Loss and Damage

Another tricky negotiating point was financing the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), that was created in 2013 at the Warsaw COP to address climate liability of developed countries in addressing the damages already incurred by developing and vulnerable countries. A technical point was whether the WIM is under the Paris Agreement’s Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Funds or the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP). However, a US-led group, blocked it from becoming a financial instrument, fearing it would open a Pandora’s box.

Previously, there has been no additional financial support allocated for loss and damage and many developing countries think it should not be channelled from finance for adaptation or mitigation. Instead, finance for loss and damage needs to be its own funding mechanism – additional and predictable to allow countries to plan and respond effectively.

Groups such as the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Latin American group (AILAC) – wanted a bespoke funding facility set up to compensate the victims of climate change. However, many developed countries instead discussed insurance saying it is the only mechanism they will consider.

Tensions escalated when some developed countries threatened to invoke Paragraph 51 of Article 8 which says developed countries cannot be held responsible or accountable for the losses and damages that developing countries have, are, and will experience, either by way of compensation or by legal means.

Disappointingly, requests for additional finance to help developing countries deal with loss and damage were not included in the draft final of the text. Instead, the text called for finance to be scaled-up, a reference was made to ‘the importance of scaling up the mobilization of resources’, and the board of the Green Climate Fund was invited […] to continue providing financial resources. An expert group, the Santaigo Network was formed to explore further ways of supporting vulnerable countries.

Civil society groups (and others) for some time now have spoken about a Climate Damages Tax that are ‘polluter pay’ sources of finance including, for example, a climate damages tax on the fossil fuel industry, international aviation and maritime to pay for the transition to renewable energy, green transport and jobs etc.

A report by Climate Analytics (2015) for Oxfam estimates that economic damage for developing countries could be US$ 428 billion per year (about 0.61% of GDP) by 2030 and goes up steeply to US$ 1.67 trillion per year (about 1.3% of GDP) by 2050 for 3 ºC of warming.

Source: Typhoon Haiyan, Getty Images

In addition to loss and damage, climate finance was addressed in a number of the negotiation streams, in connection to Long-Term Finance ie. mobilizing US$100 billion by 2020, but there was no decision reached on this financial support from developed countries to developing countries. Understandably, this caused anguish among several developing countries who were concerned that some Parties were backsliding on the Paris Agreement. There was also discussions on the Green Climate Fund, reporting on climate finance and support for the implementation of the Gender Action Plan.

Country Rankings – Leaders and Laggards

The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI, 2020), published by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and the Climate Action Network (CAN) was released at a side event at the COP. Top four performers on overall results are Sweden, Denmark, Morocco and the UK. Bottom four performers: Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the United States sinking to the bottom of the ranking. Denmark is high up due to national policy changes including the adoption of a national climate law, a 70% emission reduction target by 2030 and an official coal-phase out target. Poland is the worst performing EU country due to its increase of GHGs and low level of investments in renewable energy, as well as its opposition to the EU’s climate neutrality by 2050 goal and its plans to open new coal mines. (see my next post for more on this).

The CCPI 2020 (considers 57 selected countries and the EU) and is based on a methodology covering GHG Emissions, Renewable Energy and Energy Use. The Index is useful as it provides a comparison of the climate performance of countries that together are responsible for more than 90% of global GHGs.

Is IEA Fit for Purpose?

Throughout the corridors of the COP, there was a growing chorus of criticism against the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) energy modelling as being too fossil-fuel friendly. In their World Energy Outlook (WEO 2019) report, their most ambitious scenario, the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) doesn’t go far enough in mapping the deep cuts in carbon emissions needed and models net-zero carbon emissions from energy by 2070 (ie. 20 years too late). Their modelling holds important sway as it is used by governments to inform (and justify) energy policy, investment and infrastructure decisions and it’s a real concern that the IEA only dedicated a few pages to a 1.5°C trajectory, while the rest of the report outlined unacceptable levels of warming with not enough on the potential of renewables. See Oil Change International’s analysis here.

UK Green Finance and Buildings

A new Coalition for Energy Efficiency of Buildings (CEEB) was announced by the Green Finance Institute which aims to develop the market for financing net zero and carbon resilient buildings in the UK. The CEEB will develop some scaleable demonstrators of new financial solutions and outcomes of the CEEB’s market review will be published in Spring 2020. This is another positive intiative as there are 29 million homes in the UK which need to become low carbon.

Business Leadership

Another strong voice pushing for greater policy ambition came at the High-Ambition Day at COP25 from 177 leading businesses that signed the 1.5ºC pledge to set science-based targets across their operations and value chains. Business are seizing the opportunities of zero carbon and they are innovating and disclosing probably faster than any other sector.

Over 8,400 companies have disclosed their carbon through CDP, 732 major corporations have signed up to science-based targets and 211 companies have made a commitment to go 100 % renewable (RE100) (by no year). Over 50 companies in the fashion industry have committed to align with a 1.5ºC future through the Fashion Pact. Plus, traditionally hard to abate sectors such as cement and steel are making progress and trailblazers are thyssenkrupp AG, Royal DSM and HeidelbergCement.

Many large companies are already using internal carbon pricing as a shadow price which is added to future investments and operational costs and this is done to ‘price-in’ and prepare for climate policy decisions and carbon pricing mechanisms. 

(I wasn’t at this COP, but am grateful for daily updates from ClimateHome, Carbon Brief and ECIU).

Poem to Earth. Consider Us Fools

By Isadora Rawlinson

Climate change is here
It should fill you with fear
Catastrophe is about
Don’t ignore the screams and shouts
The planet is confused 
And every one snoozed 

The ticking earth
Cynicism and mirth
Diverse and unsolvable
The speed is uncontrollable
It’ s like a sickness
It’s now a big mess

Like a restless runaway
That pushes us at bay
The earth is changing
Priorities rearranging
Time for us to wake up
Time for a big shake up
Recycle your tins
Reduce the stuff in your bins
Reduce your carbon footprint
Walk more drive less( hint hint)
More windmills Less fossil fuels
If we don’t change now consider us fools.

(Isadora is my niece and she wrote this quite young, hatched down during Frankenstorm in Philadelphia, USA – Oct 2012. The picture is obv not Philadelphia, but it was in the Huffington Post at the time – moodily showing the storm. Am posting now as I just found it again on an old blog site I wrote for & I love this poem). Happy to post other climate poems, if you want to send on.

The Glare of the Glasgow Gavel

Source: VectorStock

By Ciara Shannon

We all heard the bang of the Paris Agreement gavel – the tears, cheers, the joy and France’s diplomacy played a key role in the success of this historic event. Five years on from the Paris Agreement, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow in November 2020 will be a critical milestone for global climate action globally.

It will also be one of the biggest global events ever held here and with people-powered climate movements stronger than ever, the world will be looking to the United Kingdom to lead. The UK must use its diplomatic might to corral countries to commit to reduce green house gas emissions (GHGs) by 50% by 2030 and be net-zero by 2050. Developed countries must commit to the US$100 billion climate finance price tag, so as to match the reality of climate science and the climate emergency.

Source: Global Carbon Project

The stakes are high. If COP26 doesn’t deepen the level of ambition and sort out the finances needed, we have little chance of keeping to 1.5 °C. We must keep to 1.5 °C to avoid the risk of setting off the tipping points or feedback loops within the climate system that, if passed, could send the Earth into spiralling warming and runaway climate change.

We must act fast. According to modelling by the Global Carbon Project, there is only 9% of the 1. 5 °C carbon budget left, which will be gone in roughly ten years at current emissions.

Starting now, the UK must outline an ambitious agenda for COP26 using its diplomatic clout and single out big GHG emitters and fossil fuel producers such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States.

The UK is well positioned to build momentum and establish a powerful legacy at COP26. Since 1990, the UK has reduced emissions faster than any other G7 nation, and it was the first advanced economy to legislate a net-zero 2050 target and it has so far achieved a ¬42% cut, marking a big stride in decarbonising its electricity sector and investing heavily in offshore wind. However, the lion’s share of UK’s GHGs come from heat, transport, industrial processes and manufacturing and this where (like for many countries) the largest decarbonisation challenge lies.

As COP hosts, our leadership also rests on ramping up and delivering our own climate policies and programmes. The UK is currently projected to not meet its medium-term climate targets for its fourth (2023-2027) and fifth (2028-2032) carbon budgets. There has been a lack of significant climate policies recently and there is a need to show a commitment to switching transport and industry to renewable energy, significantly upgrading our household heating systems, and increase finance supporting local, corporate and national actions for a just transition. Etcetera.

COP25, Madrid

Underway is COP25 hosted by the Presidency of the Government of Chile in Madrid and the two main negotiating points are working on finalizing the Paris Agreement’s rules including getting agreement on issues such as Article 6 on carbon markets and financing loss and damage. At this COP, there is no formal negotiation scheduled to build political momentum to increase national climate reduction targets. However, most countries are not on target to even meet the modest commitments they made in Paris four years ago, never mind enhance to meet 1.5°C.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report (2019), global carbon emissions continued to rise (up by 1.5% per year in the last decade) and from 2020 emissions will need to be cut by 7.6 % per year for the next 10 years to reach the 1.5 °C goal and 2.7 % per year for the 2 °C goal. To match this, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) must increase in ambition by at least fivefold for the 1.5 °C goal and threefold for the 2 °C.

Many of the EU member states have signed up to an EU-wide pledge to be climate neutral by 2050 and Denmark, Sweden, and Finland all aim at carbon neutrality well before 2050. Austria aims for carbon neutrality by 2040 and (significantly) commits to 100% renewables in the electricity sector by 2030. However, Poland (has sought exemption), the Czech Republic and Hungary have been delaying the process on EU wide carbon neutrality. Once there is agreement, the next step is that the EU carbon neutral 2050 target needs to turn into EU law, agreed by both the European Commission and the European Council and the expected date is around June 2020.

Globally, 80 countries or so have indicated their ‘intent’ to enhance their NDC’s by 2020, but they represent just 10.5% of global emissions. Big emitters like Australia, the United States, Canada, Russia, India, China and Brazil, so far have not submitted revised NDC plans. Two useful platforms that track national climate commitments is Climate Watch‘s NDC Tracker and Climate Action Tracker.

Source: WRI

Reducing Both Emissions and Fossil Fuel Production is Vital

Countries must slash both their emissions, and their fossil fuel production and this doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. The Production Gap Report (2019), produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), highlighted that the fossil fuel production gap is wider than the emissions gap. Countries are planning to produce about 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 for 2 °C and 120% more than is feasible to keep temperatures to 1.5°C. The production gap is the largest for coal, and oil and gas will also exceed carbon budgets.

Source: UN Production Gap Report (2019)

Countries such as France, Costa Rica and New Zealand have committed to banning new oil and gas exploration and extraction and to phase-out existing production. The UK needs to do this too, we continue to extract coal, oil and gas and we need to #KeepInTheGround our 10 to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent in recoverable reserves and resources, of which a significant portion is gas.

In recent years, the UK oil and gas industry received £176 million more annually in government support than it paid in taxes and in 2016, and we spent the most in Europe on fossil fuel subsidies (£10.5bn), more than we spent on renewable energy (£8.6bn). Reducing subsidies must be a priority in 2020, as well as ensuring the just transition for workers and communities currently dependent on high carbon industries.

The UK also needs to reduce its funding of fossil fuels in developing countries, which according to CAFOD and ODI equalled £4.6 billion or 60% of £7.8 billion between 2010 and 2017. However, this might change given that the World Bank has stopped and the European Investment Bank (EIB) will stop funding new upstream* oil and gas projects. It will be interesting to see if and when the UK’s CDC and other development banks follow.

Eyes to the East

In China, they will soon annouce their ‘Clean, low carbon, secured and highly efficient’ 14th Five-Year Plan for 2021-2025. While China continues to reduce its carbon intensity, increase energy efficiency and has announced that it will reduce coal power production in the north-west of China by at least a quarter – it is still the largest global producer and consumer of coal (= 55% of China’s fuel mix). It also plans to install new coal power capacity equal to the EU’s entire coal capacity.

New coal-fired power plants in China need to be banned and reducing emissions connected to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (spanning across 68 countries = 65% of the world’s population) should be an urgent priority in the lead up to COP26 as many of these investments are skewed towards coal power. For more thinking on this, it’s worth looking at China’s Energy Research Institute, the think-tank of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and their proposal for ‘2C Asia’ an initiative to look at decarbonising energy systems in Asia. See more here on this from China Dialogue.

Climate Finance

An ambitious result in Glasgow also requires that developed countries deliver on the US$100 billion commitment by and annually after 2020. While it’s promising to see 27 countries recently pledge nearly US$9.8 billion over the next four years to the Green Climate Fund – many countries are yet to pay their share. Even then this funding is a drop in the ocean compared with the estimated US$ 1.6 – 3.8 trillion p/a trillion energy system investment needed to avoid the most harmful effects of climate change (IPCC, 2018).

A significant breakthrough could occur if countries cut their fossil fuel subsidies. Just 10-30% of the world’s fossil fuel subsidies, that equal US$775 billion to US$1 trillion per year, could pay for a global transition to clean energy, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) report. Reducing subsidies must be a priority in 2020, as well as ensuring the just transition for workers and communities currently dependent on high carbon industries and living in high risk climate impact countries.

Encouragingly, the UK is considered a global leader on sustainable finance and the Bank of England is the first regulator to start to stress test its financial system against different climate pathways. The UK is doing pioneering work on risk and ESG disclosure – waxing and weaving this into the heart of the financial system and it’s very positive that Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has been appointed the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance. See his ‘Fifty Shades of Green’ speech for the IMF here.

Ultimately though, how fast the sustainable financial system can make an impact and channel capital towards decarbonisation, adaptation and loss and damage will be determined by the ambition and implementation of climate policies. This leadership is much needed, given the recent stark warning from scientists Lenton et al in Nature, that the world may already have crossed a series of climate tipping points and the impacts could lead to a cascade of unstoppable events. This is frightening, to say the very least.

* Upstream is an industry term that refers to exploration of oil and natural gas fields, as well as drilling and operating wells to produce oil and natural gas.