Thirty-one more countries ratify Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement on climate change took a big step toward becoming effective Wednesday as two and one-half dozen more countries signed on.

Sixty nations have now ratified the Dec. 2015 accord, five more than the minimum needed, but they account for only 47.76 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement will take effect only when countries representing at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions join it.

“What seemed at one time impossible is now inevitable,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “I am confident by the time I leave office (on Dec. 31), the Paris agreement will have entered into force.”

The Paris Agreement aims to keep warming of the atmosphere to an amount below 2 degrees Celsius. Each country is to develop a reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions produced by its economy.

The countries that acted formally Wednesday to signal intent to comply with the Paris Agreement included Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei, Dominica, Ghana, Guinea, Honduras, Iceland, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco,  Namibia, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Tonga, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Vanuatu.

Ukraine ratified the Paris Agreement on Sept. 19, while Micronesia indicated its acceptance on Sept. 15.

The period in which countries can ratify, adopt, or accept the Paris Agreement ends on Apr. 17, 2017.

Obama administration considering expansion of California Coastal National Monument

view-from-stornetta-public-lands-added-to-ccnm-in-2014-photo-courtesy-blm-photo-by-jim-pickering
This view is from the Stornetta Public Lands, added to the California Coastal National Monument by President Barack Obama in 2014. Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management, photo by Jim Pickering.

A senior official of the U.S. Department of Interior visited California last week to discuss a proposal to expand the California Coastal National Monument, indicating that the Obama administration may be considering a request by several of the state’s federal legislators to increase the preserve’s size.

Bureau of Land Management director Neil Kornze attended a forum in Cambria on Friday, along with U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and the leader of the state’s natural resources department, John Laird, to hear public input on the idea.

Kornze did not say whether the Department of Interior would recommend that President Barack Obama accept the suggestion by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Capps, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) to increase the size of CCNM by more than 6,000 acres.

“Designating each of these land areas as individual units of the larger National Monument will create a network of protected onshore federal coastal lands,” the Feb. 11 letter containing the proposal said. “These additions will provide improved access to the California Coastal National Monument and numerous benefits to the well-being of the land and neighboring communities, while providing important protections for these unique and historically important areas.”

The land suggested for the CCNM expansion is administered by BLM and is located along the coast in Humboldt, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo counties. Acreage that includes the Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area in San Luis Obispo County, Lighthouse Ranch and Trinidad Head in Humboldt County, the Cotoni-Coast Dairies in Santa Cruz County, and the Lost Coast Headlands would be part of the national monument if Obama accepts the recommendation.

looking-north-from-lighthouse-ranch-south-spit-of-humboldt-bay-photo-courtesy-blm
This image shows the view looking north from Lighthouse Ranch, toward the south spit of Humboldt Bay. Lighthouse Ranch is located on Table Bluff in Humboldt County, California. Image courtesy Bureau of Land Management.

Obama has the power to add to CCNM’s size. The American Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the chief executive the authority to designate public land that meets certain qualifications as part of a national monument:

“[T]he President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected . . . ”

CCNM was established by President William J. Clinton in 2000. Obama expanded it once before, in 2014, by adding 1,665 acres in Mendocino County.

Boxer and Capps are lead sponsors of legislation in both chambers of Congress that would give Congress’ imprimatur to the expansion they ask President Obama to proclaim. The bills are S. 1971 and H.R. 3565.

 

Brazil, Panama join Paris climate agreement

The Paris climate agreement is getting closer to taking effect as two Latin American nations are on the verge of adopting it.

Brazil and Panama completed their internal ratification processes on Sept. 12, according to a report published by Climate Change Policy & Practice.

They are the 28th and 29th countries to indicate acceptance of the Paris Agreement, which can take effect only after 55 nations that represent 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratify it.

Brazil is the world’s seventh-largest contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution, contributing 2.48 percent of the planet’s emissions.

Panama is a much less significant contributor to anthropogenic climate change. The Central American nation is responsible for about 0.03 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

The addition of the two countries means that nations that emit more than 40 percent of worldwide greenhouse emissions have formally entered the agreement.

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon announced July 18 that he will convene a ” High-Level Event on Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change” in New York on Sept. 21. Countries will be afforded the opportunity at the event to formally indicate their participation in the Paris Agreement.

 

 

China, U.S. formally enter into Paris climate change agreement

Obama signature on Paris Agreement document, Sept. 3, 2016
President Barack Obama signed the Paris Agreement on behalf of the United States on Aug. 29, 2016. Photo courtesy The White House.

President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, announced Saturday in Hangzhou that the world’s two leading greenhouse gas emitters have formally acceded to the terms of last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change.

The two nations account for 40 percent of the planet’s atmosphere-warming pollution. Obama pointed to the action Saturday as a key step in assuring that the 195 country-strong deal reached last December in France does lead to an effective response to climate change.

“We have a saying in America — that you need to put your money where your mouth is. And when it comes to combating climate change, that’s what we’re doing, both the United States and China. We’re leading by example. As the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters, our entrance into this agreement continues the momentum of Paris, and should give the rest of the world confidence –- whether developed or developing countries -– that a low-carbon future is where the world is heading.”

Nations were able to sign the Paris Agreement starting on Earth Day of this year. The Paris Agreement will take effect only when 55 countries that represent 55 percent of all GHG emissions on Earth ratify, accept, approve, or accede to it.

With the acceptance by both China and the U.S., 179 nations and the European Union have indicated approval, but only 26 have ratified it. The ratifying nations account for about 39 percent of planetary GHG emissions.

NATION CONTINENT RATIFICATION DATE
Bahamas, The Aug. 22, 2016
Barbados Apr. 22, 2016
Belize North America Apr. 22, 2016
Cameroon Africa Jul. 29, 2016
China Asia Sept. 3, 2016
Cook Islands Oceania Sept. 1, 2016
Fiji Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Grenada Apr. 22, 2016
Guyana South America May 20, 2016
Maldives Asia Apr. 22, 2016
Marshall Islands Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Mauritius Africa Apr. 22, 2016
Nauru Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
North Korea Asia Aug. 1, 2016
Norway Europe Jun. 20, 2016
Palau Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Palestine Asia Apr. 22, 2016
Peru South America Jul. 25, 2016
Saint Kitts and Nevis Apr. 22, 2016
Saint Lucia Apr. 22, 2016
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Jun. 29, 2016
Samoa Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
Seychelles Apr. 29, 2016
Somalia Africa Apr. 22, 2016
Tuvalu Oceania Apr. 22, 2016
United States of America North America Sept. 3, 2016

The Paris Agreement was reached at the 21st Gathering of the Parties of the UNFCCC. As the first international agreement aimed at limiting the warming of the planet’s atmosphere and oceans now underway as a result of human exploitation of fossil fuels, the Paris Agreement does not require any specific actions by nations to reduce GHG emissions.

Instead, the accord is aspirational. As the United Nations assistant secretary-general for climate change told CBS News last December, it is a plan that aims to “name and encourage” the nations who fail to meet commitments to reduce GHG emissions.

Those commitments, known as “nationally determined contributions,” are to be “ambitious” and “represent a progression over time.” The content of NDCs are to be established “with a view to achieving the purpose of the [Paris Agreement].”

The core of the Paris Agreement is the specification of climate change-related objectives:

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

“(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; [and]

“(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

During the first half of this year the average worldwide temperature was about 1.3 degrees Celsius above that recorded in 1880. Moreover, a study published in Nature on June 30 concluded that all of the NDCs in place so far would not lead to warming of less than 2 degrees Celsius.

 

 

 

 

 

Conservation congress begins in Hawaii

IUCN World Congress 2016 logo.png

A quadrennial gathering of government leaders and civic activists aimed at developing an agenda for environmental protection got underway in Hawaii Wednesday and President Barack Obama was in Honolulu to welcome the event to the United States.

More than 8,300 delegates are participating in the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Congress. They represent 184 countries.

They are expected to focus on four key priorities: climate change, ocean conservation, private investment in conservation activities, and wildlife trafficking.

Obama put the spotlight on climate change during his address Wednesday to the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, which is also happening in Honolulu:

“When it comes to climate change, there is a dire possibility of us getting off course, and we can’t allow that to happen. That’s why our united efforts are so important. Government has a role to play, but so do scientists and inventors and investors, all working to revolutionize clean energy production. Entrepreneurs and academics and leaders in this room are collaborating across continents. And everyday citizens of the world are going to have to push their own communities to adopt smarter practices, and to push those of us in positions of power to be less concerned with special interests and more concerned about the judgment of future generations.”

The first full day of events  will occur on Friday. Among them will be a press conference that discusses the findings of the Great Elephant Census, a project that counted 93 percent of all elephants in Africa.

The GEC found that far fewer African elephants than previously thought are roaming the continent, with only about 352,000 remaining in all African countries covered by the study. That represents an estimated 30 percent decline between 2007 and 2014.

Other events will highlight updates to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, report on the extent to which the planet’s oceans are warming, and name new Marine Hope Spots.

The latter are areas of the oceans designated by the conservation advocacy organization Mission Blue as being particularly needful or worthy of protection. The concept was proposed by oceanographer Sylvia Earle in a 2009 TED talk.

According to a description of the program posted on the Mission Blue website, Marine Hope Spots are those that exhibit:

  • Particular populations of rare, threatened or endemic species
  • A site with potential to reverse damage from negative human impacts
  • Spectacles of nature, e.g., major migration corridors or spawning grounds
  • Significant historical, cultural or spiritual values
  • Particular economic importance to the community

Delegates are also expected to vote on a number of motions aimed at putting the IUCN World Congress on record in support of particular policies. Those are expected to include a plea for all nations close domestic markets to ivory, increase protection for pangolin species, improve forest conservation practices, and work toward improvements in the system for preserving biological diversity outside of national borders.

The last IUCN World Congress was held in 2012 on Jeju Island, South Korea.

Obama talks conservation in Nevada and Hawaii

President Barack Obama spoke Wednesday about the virtues of conservation before audiences at Lake Tahoe and in Honolulu, emphasizing the connection to fighting climate change and highlighting its benefits to wildlife and people.

Addressing the annual Lake Tahoe Summit, the chief executive explained that public policies aimed at conserving land and waters are essential to the entire range of Earth’s biodiversity.

“Conservation is critical not just for one particular spot, one particular park, one particular lake,” Obama said. “It’s critical for our entire ecosystem.”

The President told the audience that there is no doubt that human activities are causing the planet’s climate to change and, later in the speech, bluntly warned that any meaningful effort to address climate change must include preservation programs:

“A changing climate threatens even the best conservation efforts. Keep in mind, 2014 was the warmest year on record until, you guessed it, 2015. And now 2016 is on pace to be even hotter. For 14 months in a row now, the Earth has broken global temperature records. And because climate and conservation are challenges that go hand in hand, our conservation mission is more urgent than ever.”

Obama addressed the twentieth annual gathering of federal, state, and local leaders involved in ongoing efforts to protect Lake Tahoe’s water quality and aquatic life.

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe - photo courtesy Wikimedia
Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay is shown in this photograph. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

The lake, which is the largest alpine lake and second deepest lake in the nation, is warming rapidly as greenhouse gas emissions accumulate in the atmosphere. According to a report released by the University of California, Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center, during 2015 Lake Tahoe’s surface reached a temperature higher than at any time in recorded history.

Water at greater depths is also warming as fast as 15 times greater than the historic norm and only about 6.5 percent of precipitation in the 6,000 foot-plus elevation Lake Tahoe ecosystem now falls in the form of snow.

Since the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, governments have spent more than $1.8 billion on projects aimed at restoring wetlands, building transportation infrastructure, improving roads to reduce carriage of polluted runoff into the lake, and lower wildfire risks in the national forest that surrounds the lake.

The administration announced Wednesday that the administration would invest more than $29 million more into Lake Tahoe-related conservation efforts during the coming fiscal year.

A fact sheet released by the  White House said that the money would finance ongoing programs to reduce the number of dead and dying trees to reduce the likelihood of wildfire and improve stormwater systems.

In addition, the National Forest Foundation will pump at least $4 million into efforts to restore watersheds and assure that recreational activities are consistent with the region’s ecological health.

The administration also announced a draft of a compensatory mitigation policy that would allow individuals and entities to trade habitat for endangered and threatened species for credits that could be sold to developers.

The tool, called a habitat exchange, has been used in efforts to conserve a number of imperiled species. They include the monarch butterfly, greater sage grouse, and lesser prairie chicken.

“By adding habitat exchanges to the suite of preferred mitigation solutions, the Service is providing a foundational step to unleash the untapped potential of America’s working lands – its farms, ranches and forests – to reverse habitat loss and stop the extinction crisis,” Eric Holst, an associate vice president at Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.

Later in the day Obama spoke to leaders of Pacific Rim nations attending the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Congress in Hawaii.

His address there took on a personal tone. The President emphasized the need for a unified approach to climate change policy.

“When it comes to climate change, there is a dire possibility of us getting off course, and we can’t allow that to happen,” Obama said. “That’s why our united efforts are so important.”

Referring to the convention facility in Honolulu, he also spoke of his personal ties to Hawaii:

“[F]or me, this is especially meaningful. I was telling my staff, a lot of my life started about a mile from around here. My mother and father met probably a couple hundred yards from here. It’s true. I went to school about a mile from here. I was actually born about a mile from here. My grandmother and my grandparents lived most of their lives a short way away from here.

“And so since Malia was born, since my oldest child was born, I’ve brought them here every Christmas for the last 18 years now. And I want to make sure that when  they’re bringing their children here, or their grandchildren here, that they are able to appreciate the wonders and the beauty of this island and of the Pacific, and every island.”

Obama planned to visit Midway Atoll on Thursday. While there, the President is to see some of the ocean territory included in a marine national monument he expanded  an executive order issued last week.

 

Obama to commemorate Park Service anniversary at two preserves

Yosemite National Park - courtesy Wikimedia
Yosemite National Park is known for its meadows, valleys, and waterfalls. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

President Barack Obama will visit two national parks this month as he leads a celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday.

The White House announced the trip to New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park and California’s Yosemite National Park in a video released Thursday.

“I want to make sure that the whole world is able to pass on to future generations the God-given beauty of this planet,” Obama said in the video.

President John F. Kennedy was the last sitting chief executive to visit Yosemite National Park. President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation establishing that national park in 1890.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is known for its many species of bats and the more than 100 caves it features, was created in 1930.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act into law on Aug. 25, 1916.

The Organic Act created the National Park Service and established its mission to “promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations” and “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”