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Ice cover in North America’s Great Lakes hits lowest level for 50 years

Ice cover in North America’s Great Lakes hits lowest level for 50 years

Last Updated:  13 December 2023
A warm start to the winter season has left the Great Lakes virtually ice-free and with their lowest ice cover to kick off a new year in at least 50 years.

On New Year’s Day, only 0.35% of the Great Lakes were covered in ice, the lowest on record for the date, and well below the historical average of nearly 10% for this point in winter, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL).

This year’s missing ice in the Great Lakes adds to a growing trend of winter ailments plaguing the US, from dwindling snowpacks in the West to an ongoing snow drought in the Northeast, all becoming more common due to warming temperatures from the climate crisis.

Since record-keeping began in 1973, researchers have found the Great Lakes have been experiencing a massive decline in ice, with the peak coverage dropping by about 5% each decade.

“It’s certainly very low for this time of year,” James Kessler, a physical scientist at NOAA’s GLERL, told CNN.

A person paddles a canoe down a street flooded by recent rain storms in Montpelier, Vermont, U.S., July 11, 2023.
The year’s most extreme weather shows what a warming planet is capable of, and what’s to come
Air temperature matters when it comes to ice cover on the Great Lakes, said Kessler. Cold air is needed to cool the water so the lakes can freeze. But with the climate rapidly heating up, records show warmer than average temperatures in the region are melting the chances for Great Lakes ice to form.

“We’ve had consistently above average air temperature in the region, and we haven’t had consistently cold days,” Kessler said. “That’s really what you need. You need a consistent number of days below freezing.”

Average December temperatures in the Upper Midwest states surrounding the Great Lakes soared 8 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the month. It was the warmest December on record for several cities along the Great Lakes, including Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota.

It was a similar story on the eastern side of the lakes as well, with Cleveland; Erie, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo, New York, all seeing one of the warmest Decembers on record. As a result, Lake Erie is currently completely ice-free.

It’s an ongoing trend. Lake Erie has seen a decline in ice coverage of about 5% each decade, according to Kessler, while Lake Superior is seeing the most rapid rate of ice cover loss of about 7% every 10 years. Recent studies have shown that Lake Superior is among the fastest warming lakes in the world, thanks to planet-heating pollution.

It is still early in the season, Kessler cautioned. One prolonged blast of Arctic air in the coming weeks could cause ice coverage to increase exponentially. And peak ice in the Great Lakes typically occurs in late February or early March.

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/408d30f6-f8fd-48bf-9007-a303e8d569de

State of the Global Climate 2023

State of the Global Climate 2023

Last Updated: 19 March 2024

The State of the Global Climate 2023 report shows that records were once again broken, and in some cases smashed, for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice cover and glacier retreat.

Heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones caused misery and mayhem, upending everyday life for millions and inflicting many billions of dollars in economic losses.

The WMO report confirmed that 2023 was the warmest year on record, with the global average near-surface temperature at 1.45 °Celsius (with a margin of uncertainty of ± 0.12 °C) above the pre-industrial baseline. It was the warmest ten-year period on record.

Key messages
  • State of Global Climate report confirms 2023 as the hottest year on record by a clear margin
  • Records broken for ocean heat, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice loss and glacier retreat
  • Extreme weather undermines socio-economic development
  • Renewable energy transition provides hope
  • The cost of climate inaction is higher than the cost of climate action

The publication provides a summary on the state of the climate indicators in 2023 with sections on key climate indicators, extreme events and impacts. The indicators include global temperatures, greenhouse gas concentration, ocean heat content, sea level rise, ocean acidification, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, Greenland ice sheet and glaciers and snow cover, precipitation and stratospheric ozone, with an analysis of major drivers of inter-annual climate variability during the year including the El Niño Southern Oscillation and other ocean and atmospheric indices. The highlighted extreme events include those related to tropical cyclones and wind storms; flooding, drought and extreme heat and cold events. The publication also provides the most recent findings on climate-related risks and impacts including food security and population displacement.

Source: https://library.wmo.int/viewer/68835/?offset=#page=1&viewer=picture&o=bookmark&n=0&q=

$293 billion needed for India’s tripling of renewables by 2030: Report

$293 billion needed for India’s tripling of renewables by 2030: Report

Last Updated:  29 November 2023

The tripling of global renewable energy installed capacity is one of the key targets being pushed for adoption at COP28.

If the IEA global net zero pathways are to be met, India would require an additional financing of $101 billion, over and above the money required for tripling, as per the report by Ember.

An agreement on tripling of renewable energy installed capacity is expected to be one of the main points of discussion at the upcoming COP28 climate meeting in Dubai. But highlighting the challenges in effecting such a transition, a new report has found that India would need an investment of about $293 billion to triple its renewable energy installed capacity by 2030.

That translates to about Rs 24 lakh crore. But a mere tripling of renewable capacity by India might not be an adequate contribution if the world is to align itself to a net-zero pathway. The International Energy Agency (IEA) net zero scenarios are contingent on India being able to do much more than just tripling its renewable capacity.

A new report by Ember, a UK-based independent think tank focused on climate affairs, notes that India had already set its sights on tripling its renewable energy capacity for 2030, much before it was acknowledged as a mandatory global goal to ensure that there is still some chance of holding global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times. India has announced its plans to reach 450 GW of renewable installed capacity by 2030, more than three times the current capacity of about 135 GW.

But if the IEA global net zero pathways are to be met, India would need to take its renewable installed capacity to about 570 GW by 2030, Ember said. That would require an additional financing of $101 billion, over and above the money required for tripling.

“This involves an extra investment of approximately $68 billion for solar, $8 billion for wind, $14 billion for storage, and $11 billion for transmission capacity additions. This brings the total investment in this scenario to around $394 billion (about 32 lakh crore),” the report said.

The tripling of global renewable energy installed capacity is one of the key targets being pushed for adoption at COP28. The proposal was included in the G20 summit outcome in New Delhi in September and has been endorsed by about 60 countries after that.

According to IEA estimates, this singular measure has the potential to avoid about 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions between now and 2030. Installation of new renewable energy capacity has been growing at 9-10 per cent yearly, but this would need to be almost doubled to reach the tripling target by 2030.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/billion-india-tripling-renewables-2030-report-9046505/

Countries pledge $400m to set up loss and damage fund

Countries pledge $400m to set up loss and damage fund

Last Updated:  30 November 2023

loss and damage fund

Germany and Cop host UAE led contributions to get a fund for climate victims up and running, in an early win for the Cop28 presidency

By Matteo Civillini

Governments have collectively pledged more than $400 million to establish a loss and damage fund for the victims of climate disaster.

On day one of UN climate talks in Dubai, negotiators rubber-stamped plans to get the fund up and running. The arrangements had been hashed out by a transitional committee over five fraught meetings in the past year.

The Cop28 president Sultan Al Jaber hailed the decision as “historic”, with a broad smile, after watching delegates burst into a round of applause.

“This sends a positive signal of momentum to the world and to our work here in Dubai,” he added.

Initial pledges

Following the text’s adoption, a handful of countries promised contributions to the start-up phase of the fund. Germany and Cop28 hosts the United Arab Emirates committed $100 million each, followed by the United Kingdom (£40m or $50.5m), the United States ($17.5m) and Japan ($10m).

EU member states, including Germany, are expected to collectively deliver at least €225m ($245m).

The relatively paltry contribution from the US – the world’s largest economy – attracted immediate criticism. Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, called it “embarrassing.

Avinash Persaud, special envoy to Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley and a member of the transitional committee, welcomed the “hard-fought historic agreement”. But he said the pledges were unlikely to represent new and additional resources.

“Because the fund was only approved today, we can’t expect [them] to open up new budgets… so this initial money will be coming from existing budgets,” he told a press huddle, as reported by Carbon Brief’s Josh Gabbatiss.

How the fund will work

Significantly more money will be needed to help vulnerable communities benefit from the new mechanism once it gets up and running. The fund is designed to receive contributions “from a wide variety of sources”, including grants and cheap loans from the public and private sectors, and “innovative sources”.

The World Bank is set to initially host the fund for four years, despite strong resistance to its involvement from developing countries.

All developing countries “particularly vulnerable” to the effects of climate change will be eligible to benefit from the mechanism. However, the definition of vulnerability – one of the thorniest issues – is not detailed in the text.

The agreement is an “early win” for the Cop28 hosts, as it sets the start of the conference on a positive collaborative tone, Ana Mulio Alvarez, a loss and damage expert at E3G, told Climate Home.

Speaking at the plenary session, several negotiators underlined the difficult compromises needed to strike a deal.

Compromise deal

Developing countries had initially opposed a role for the World Bank, airing concerns over high costs, slow procedures and the US influence on the institution. But they eventually relented and accepted a compromise, with certain conditions attached to World Bank involvement and an out after four years.

Rich nations attempted to broaden the pool of donors expected to contribute, but made limited headway. The text “urges” developed countries to provide financial resources to the fund, while other nations are only “encouraged” to do so “on a voluntary basis”.

The EU climate chief, Wopke Hoekstra, has said China and petrostates like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar should pay into the fund. Others want to broaden the donor base to countries with high-emitting economies categorised by the UN as developing nations like South Korea and Russia.

“The UAE’s contribution of $100 million is welcome, both for its solid cash and for the pressure it puts on the world’s biggest polluters to also step up and recognise their responsibility for decades of pollution,” said Teresa Anderson, climate justice campaigner with ActionAid International.

“Innovative sources” of finance could mean carbon taxes on international aviation or shipping, financial transactions or fossil fuels. France and Kenya are set to launch a coalition at Cop28 to develop these options.

Civil society experts have said much more work lies ahead and, ultimately, the success of the fund will depend on how much money it is equipped with.

The cost of loss and damage for developing countries is projected to reach $400 billion per year by 2030.

“Although rules have been agreed regarding how the fund will operate there are no hard deadlines, no targets and countries are not obligated to pay into it,” said Adow. “The most pressing issue now is to get money flowing into the fund and to the people that need it.”

Source: https://www.climatechangenews.com/2023/11/30/countries-pledge-400m-to-set-up-loss-and-damage-fund/

France, Kenya set to launch Cop28 coalition for global taxes to fund climate action

France, Kenya set to launch Cop28 coalition for global taxes to fund climate action

Last Updated:  16 November 2023

Cop28 coalition

The taskforce, set to be launched at Cop28, will consider the feasibility of levies on shipping, aviation, financial transactions and fossil fuels.

By Matteo Civillini

France and Kenya are set to launch an international taxation taskforce at Cop28 to push for new levies to raise more money for climate action.

The governments are in advanced discussions with a handful of European and Global South countries that could join the coalition in Dubai, according to a source with knowledge of the talks.

The taskforce is planning to consider a broad range of options, including levies on international shipping, aviation, financial transactions and fossil fuels, Climate Home understands.

Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, France’s development minister, said the goal is to agree on specific proposals by Cop30, in two years’ time. Those could then be negotiated in relevant international institutions, like the OECD, the UN or the G20, she added.

Barbados’s climate envoy Avinash Persaud told Climate Home the country is “happy to participate” in the initiative.

What can be taxed

Many country leaders and climate experts see taxes as among the most promising so-called innovative sources of finance that could help plug the large gap in the provision of climate funding to vulnerable countries.

“The need for additional resources internationally is paramount”, said Persaud. “The Green Climate Fund, the new loss and damage fund, these all need real resources in the billions of dollars and they can’t come from existing tax-revenues so easily, so we need additional revenues.”

Taxes on fossil fuel extraction and the emissions of the shipping industry could raise up to $210 billion and $60 billion a year respectively, according to a recent study by Climate Action Network and the European Commission.

Sources of taxation and potential revenues, according to the CAN study.

However, reaching an agreement over those measures is politically challenging and would require several years.

French-Kenyan alliance

Political momentum has gathered pace since the global financial summit in Paris last June, when 40 countries agreed to look into new avenues for international taxation, focussing initially on large greenhouse gas-emitting sectors.

Speaking at the end of the event, France President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of global coordination. “It doesn’t work when you do it alone, the financial flows go elsewhere”, he said.

Shades of green hydrogen: EU demand set to transform Namibia

Macron found a crucial ally in Kenya’s President William Ruto, who put the issue on the agenda at the African climate summit in Nairobi in September.

That summit’s final statement floated the idea of a global carbon taxation regime, formed by levies on fossil fuel trade, maritime transport and aviation, and potentially “augmented” by a global financial transaction tax (FTT).

Broad framework

The French and Kenyan governments have accelerated efforts over the last couple of months to form a broad coalition, receiving interest from countries, a source with knowledge of the matter told Climate Home.

Those pushing the plan have not yet finalised a detailed framework or specific targets because they don’t want to put any country off at this early stage, they added.

Farmers’ Protest in Gerona, Philippines. Basilio Sepe / Greenpeace

France’s Zacharopoulou said during last week’s Paris Peace Forum that the coalition will both provide a detailed analysis of each taxation option and gauge how acceptable they are to  different governments.

“It is a sensitive conversation that needs to be led with a cool head”, she added.

Developing countries sensitivity

Many large developing countries have opposed climate-related international taxation. They claim they would distort markets, hamper development and shift responsibility for reducing emissions.

Brazil led resistance from a group of governments to a tax on the global emissions of the shipping sector at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) earlier this year.

They argued that such a tax would disproportionately hit developing countries and particularly Brazil, whose economy relies on shipping heavy low-value things long distances.

Countries eventually decided to study new ‘technical’ and ‘economic’ measures to tackle the climate impacts of shipping, pushing a decision into the future.

UK aid cuts leave Malawi vulnerable to droughts and cyclones

Persaud said the taskforce will need to pay close attention to these considerations. “We need to rethink shipping and aviation emissions levies so they’re not a tax on remoteness which is a concern today,” he added.

Rachel Owens from the European Climate Foundation, which is involved in setting up the taskforce, said countries will drive forward discussions “in an equitable way”.

“This means not putting the burden on developing countries and ensuring that any adverse impacts are mitigated”, she added.

Source: https://www.climatechangenews.com/2023/11/16/france-kenya-set-to-launch-cop28-coalition-for-global-taxes-to-fund-climate-action/

Key COP28 draft document says countries must show progress on adapting to climate change by 2030

Key COP28 draft document says countries must show progress on adapting to climate change by 2030

Last Updated:  11 December 2023

Key COP28

Developing countries and island states likely to take the brunt of climate disasters and other impacts; India now meeting all adaptation expenses with its own money, but calls for “significant contributions”

By 2025, all countries must have in place a detailed plan to adapt to the current and future impacts of climate change in their countries, and must demonstrate progress in implementing such a plan by 2030, Sunday’s draft of a key climate document said.

A final version of this Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) document is expected to be part of the agreement when the UN’s COP-28 climate summit concludes in Dubai on December 12.

Much of the focus at the annual talks is on ‘mitigation’, getting countries to commit to time-bound plans to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change, reflected in the emphasis on the Global Stocktake process. However, there is an equally important process underway on ‘adaptation’, to push countries to take the steps necessary to cope with the current and future impacts of a changing climate. Global temperatures have already risen 1.1 degrees C since pre-industrial times and brought in their wake an acceleration in climate-related disasters, exhaustive scientific investigations show.

Adaptation framework
‘Adaptation’ refers to the adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems that countries must make in response to these, and other anticipated climate effects. These actions are country-specific and can range from building flood defences, setting up early warning systems for cyclones, switching to drought-resistant crops, and redesigning communication systems, business operations, and government policies, according to the UN climate division.

At COP 21 in Paris, negotiators decided that the GGA was necessary to get all countries on board a common framework for adaptation. Eight workshops were held after the last COP in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt where country representatives proposed concrete targets that could be used to quantitatively define whether the world was indeed becoming more adaptable vis-a-vis climate change.

For instance, they framed targets such as: “Enhance the adaptive capacity and resilience of the global population to adverse impacts of climate change by at least 50% by 2030 and by at least 90% by 2050”, or “…achieving100% coverage of multi-hazard early warning systems, climate information services and response systems by 2027”.

The cost of adaptation
Just as billions and trillions of dollars are needed for mitigation, adaptation too is expected to require developed countries to invest trillions of dollars in developing countries and island states, which are most at risk from climate hazards. Again, only a fraction of what is required has made its way to where it is required.

On Saturday, India had formally conveyed to the United Nations that it was meeting most of its adaptation expenses with its own money. “The total adaptation relevant expenditure was 5.6% of the GDP in 2021-2022, growing from a share of 3.7% in 2015-16… There is significant gap in adaptation resources which cannot be met only through governmental resources. Considering the increase in the adverse impacts of climate change as well as costs of resilience measures, significant contributions need to be channelized through bilateral and multilateral public finance and private investments,” India’s statement said.

‘Disappointing’
Several experts have expressed disappointment with the latest draft of the adaptation document, given the scale of the issue it aims to address. “There are no clearly defined targets, no clear definition of a framework, lots of very general exhortations, no outcome targets… This doesn’t do anything for the adaptation agenda for developing countries and is disappointing,” Dr. Anand Patwardhan, who teaches and researches climate policy at the University of Maryland in the United States, told The Hindu.

“Strengthening adaptive capacity is a multi-faceted endeavour that requires sustained and significant support. The Global Goal on Adaptation needs to have an ambitious and specific climate finance and technology commitment from developed nations that the current text lacks,” said Sameer Kwatra, policy director for India at a U.S.-based non-profit, the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Another expert said that it was encouraging that the GGA at least recognised the need for more adaptation finance. “We have seen that out of $1.27 trillion in climate finance flows in 2021-22, only $63 billion is allocated for adaptation. The allocation for adaptation has to increase given the acceleration of the effects of climate change globally,” said Arun Krishnan, an analyst with the think-tank, the Climate Policy Initiative. “The GGA’s implication is that India would need to increase domestic capital allocation for adaptation. India needs to set up a new fund with a broader mandate than the [existing] National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change to provide coverage for all aspects of adaptation and resilience.”

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/countries-must-show-progress-on-adapting-to-climate-change-by-2030-cop-28-draft-document/article67624912.ece