Guest post from John Lanchbery, Principle Climate Change Adviser at the RSPB, in Durban
The tropical storm that has been brewing all day has fallen upon Durban this evening, just in time to catch representatives of the World’s environment and development groups on their way back from a strategy meeting at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal. We are all hoping that this is not an omen for the UN climate change negotiations which begin today.
The local weather certainly merits Durban hosting the climate talks. The rains that should be about to start in December actually started in August and the rivers are in spate. We asked Keith, the BirdLife S Africa volunteer from Durban who drove us in from the airport, what the huge brown stains were that stretched way out to sea. He explained that they were vast amounts of silt washed down the Teluga river north of Durban. This always happens, but not so much, not three months early and not with even more heavy rain forecast.
The climate talks look like being as unpredictable as the local weather. In Copenhagen in 2009 the UN negotiations crashed but were resuscitated last year in Cancun where genuine progress was made, on finance, on adaptation to climate change and on saving tropical forests. Yet, in many ways, the Mexican meeting reached agreement on issues that could arguably have been agreed in Copenhagen. This year, we are back to trying to crack the really hard nuts that could not be cracked in Copenhagen.
The latest science, and most of the old science, says that we need absolute cuts in global emissions now, or certainly within the next few years. The aim of the UN process, agreed in Cancun, is to keep the Earth’s average surface temperature rise to less than two degrees Centigrade. With current promises on emission reductions from governments worldwide, we are heading for a three to five degree World. This does not sound much until you realise the about 10% of species are likely to be ‘committed to extinction’ for each one degree rise.
We do not want to risk losing half of the World’s species. That is why the RSPB and our BirdLife Partners are here.
The Durban meeting is not going to fix all of these huge problems in one go, but it does need to get things moving apace. Our overall policy agenda is clear. In terms of the big political things that you will hear about in the news media, we are advocating a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol together with the start of negotiation on a new and even better treaty to be concluded by the end of 2015, at the latest.
Within this framework, the RSPB and its many BirdLife Partners will be working to ensure that emission reductions are set at a level which will ensure that natural ecosystems can survive human-induced climate change, that tropical deforestation is halted and natural forests are conserved and that emissions from forests in developed
This is a powerful video presentation that was played at our conference the other week by Moussa Abou Mamouda (from ENDA Senagal & Africa Adapt). Clearly shows how people and nature are already being affected by climate change in Africa.
Thanks to colleagues at WWF and Mairi Dupar at CDKN for getting the video made.
See earlier posts for more on the conference.
Guest blogger: Olly Watts, Senior Policy Officer on Climate Change
Lord Taylor’s words not mine, as he closed his scene-setting talk at the climate change conference we held along with Natural England and WWF-UK at the Royal Society a couple of weeks ago. He’s right of course – it still is, both despite and because of all we’ve done. Yet this meeting brought home to me how we now find ourselves at the brink of a change likely to turn that wonder into a rather terrible and frightening awe if we let the insidious, invisible gases of our energy habits continue unchecked.
A select gathering of professors, doctors and front-line people brought some stunning, if sobering, headline messages. Across our planet, wildlife is responding in ways consistent with a warming climate. Around our coasts, marine animals are moving at 6 km a year and out in the sea, plankton by more than 20 km a year. The poles are experiencing the greatest warming, with record losses of Arctic sea ice and a ten fold reduction in krill in Antarctica. Warmer conditions in the Amazon forest bring escalating risk of tree mortality, which as they decompose would change the forests from being CO2 collectors to becoming greenhouse gas sources. Nature conservation will look very different in the future – we’re on the verge of entering a world with climate conditions which our current wildlife has never seen before. The limits to adaptation for wildlife bring some sobering truths for people, links which were made impressionably through a video presentation bringing African experience into the proceedings. We’re all dependent on the natural world and the signs of climate-induced cracks in our dependency are already showing, in human societies in many parts of the world.
Most sobering is the urgency with which we need to do something about all this. Every year that our emissions rise – and last year was a record year – staying within levels of climate change that we’re able to adapt to gets harder. It’s not yet beyond our grasp, but getting perilously close to being so: we have a handful of years left, to stop the carbon juggernaut and exchange our fossil fuel habits for low carbon ones.
So, a time for action. From our conference we’ve produced a short statement for the Durban climate talks which start on Monday. This will raise awareness and remind delegates and negotiators that the natural world is nearing the brink of a climate-induced tragedy that will affect us all. We need governments, including our own, to know that this is an issue that we cannot shy away from, and give them a mandate for determined and decisive action.
There will be a massive change ahead – either in our energy supplies, or in the life processes of our planet. It’s our choice, as to which it’s to be. It may seem daunting, but we’ll all want to look future generations in the eye and say yes, we did everything we could to help avoid the worst of climate change. So step up in the fight against climate change and make your voice heard alongside ours!
Why not make your next step taking part in the Africa Climate Connection (ACC) from 26 November to 3 December? There are events being held all over the UK to show MPs how much people in their constituencies care about climate change. There’s also a live online debate on Thursday 1 December at 7pm with the chance to pose your burning climate questions to Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP, and you can watch it live here. You can find out more about ACC here.
The UK Government is proposing to incentivise highly damaging bioenergy projects as it tries to meet renewable energy targets. Bioenergy is energy produced by burning organic materials such as wood, crops or wastes and RSPB research has shown that under current plans 33 million tonnes of wood could be imported each year for electricity generation unless policies change. Importing such large volumes of wood risks causing substantial harm to habitats and species overseas whilst doing nothing to avert catastrophic climate change – in fact it may even contribute to it.
The UK Government is currently consulting on proposals for the levels of subsidies it intends to provide for renewable electricity generation including bioenergy, and we need you to respond to this consultation and object to the damaging import of wood from overseas.
Please support our vital campaign by writing to the consultation and helping us put a stop to these destructive plans.
With your help, together we can really make a difference.
For more information, and details of how to make a submission to the consultation, please see the briefing document attached or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support.
As you read this there’s a battle raging. But it’s a different kind of battle. There are no guns, bombs or explosions. The enemy is silent and often slips by unnoticed. There are signs of its presence, but the majority don’t realise what these signs are or what they mean. This is the war against climate change and the world’s wildlife is on the front lines.
With global emissions reaching record levels last year and negotiations on a global deal to limit emissions continuing to stall, we’re likely to see an increase in temperature over the next 60 years that humans and the environment won’t be able to adapt to. This will change the landscape of our planet permanently.
I know it sounds all doom and gloom, but all is not lost. We still have a small window in which to put plans into place to keep climate change within the limits that will make adaptation possible for all of us. The time to act is now.
Today the RSPB, along with Natural England and WWF, are holding Climate change: biodiversity and people on the front line, a conference which brings together scientists and policy makers to discuss the impending threat of climate change on the natural world. There will be talks setting the scene for what our world will look like if climate change continues unchecked and what this will mean for the important links between wildlife, people and our shared environment.
For us, we want to make sure that when conversations happen about what needs to be done to cut carbon emissions to help tackle climate change, the natural world isn’t forgotten. We want to give nature a voice and make sure that its needs are taken into consideration. We only have the power to adapt to a changing climate to a certain point and if we don’t cut carbon emissions then we’ll end up with a world we simply can’t live in. We want these messages to be taken forward and help inform decisions made at the global climate meetings, continuing in Durban at the end of the month.
You can keep up with everything that’s happening at the conference by following our roving tweeter, Martin Abrams, on Twitter.