Tag Archives: UNFCCC

Environment  Mongabay: EU sued to stop burning trees for energy; it’s not carbon neutral: plaintiffs


Forest like these in North Carolina are being cut with the wood turned into pellets shipped to the UK and EU to burn in former coal-fired power plants.

One of the most disturbing stories I’ve covered in recent years now moves from the forests and sidelines to — possibly — an international court in Brussels, as this story illustrates.

Here’s the gist of the story, as summarized by my editor Glenn Scherer:

  • Plaintiffs in five European nations and the U.S. filed suit Monday, 4 March, in the European General Court in Luxembourg against the European Union. At issue is the EU’s rapid conversion of coal-burning powerplants to burn wood pellets and chips, a process known as bioenergy. Activists see the EUs bioenergy policies as reckless and endangering the climate.
  • Bioenergy was classified as carbon neutral under the Kyoto Protocol, meaning that nations don’t need to count wood burning for energy among their Paris Agreement carbon emissions. However, studies over the last 20 years have found that bioenergy, while technically carbon neutral, is not neutral within the urgent timeframe in which the world must cut emissions.

Environment  Mongabay: COP24 — Summit a step forward, but fails to address climate urgency

Young people were more visible and vocal at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, than at any previous climate summit I’ve covered. It makes sense; it’s their future at risk. The banner at the top reads: ‘Which side are you on?’ Photo by Justin Catanoso

This last story from the UN climate summit in Poland sums up a bit of the best and worst of what happened at an annual meeting of 196 nations where everyone clearly understood the urgency and the stakes involved in accelerating global warming. Twelve years. Twelve years is the time scientists estimate we have left to take unprecedented transformational action to reduce carbon emissions, shift to renewable energy sources like wind and solar and slow the rate of deforestation to little or none. There’s no choice. There’s no Plan B. 

Despite the desperate pleas of NGOs and youthful activists to act aggressively, leaders of the industrialized world did not act aggressively. That’s because politically and economically, they refuse to. Elected leaders are absolutely the least capable people on earth to do what necessary to meet this challenge. They are simply are incapable of moving past their own interests, their own conflicts and their own short-term thinking. As one source told me, leaders of the G-20 will finally come around when its far too late to do anything meaningful to prevent climate catastrophe. 

So COP24 wasn’t a complete waste of time. But it didn’t send any courageous messages or signals that leading countries like the US, UK, EU, China and India — all major polluters — were ready to pull out all the stops to fight climate change. It’s unlikely the outcome will be any different at COP25 next year in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Environment  Mongabay: COP24 — Nations complicit in ignoring bioenergy climate bomb, experts say

For all the attention paid to the growth of solar and wind energy, burning biomass — wood pellets and chips — is growing more than three times as fast, imperiling forests and pouring CO2 into the atmosphere that countries don’t have to account for.

This story, linked here, is far and away the most important one I’ve reported and written in the five climate summits I’ve covered dating back to Lima, Peru, in 2014. It demonstrates politics triumphing over science, and it could not come at a worse time. In a conference dedicated to technical details, the unwillingness to accurately account for the escalating carbon emissions coming from burning wood for energy in the UK, throughout the EU and increasingly in Asia, amounts to a crime against nature — who is not fooled by what one source called “fraudulent accounting.”

An excerpt from my story: 

“Let’s be clear about this: delegates from developed countries are well aware of this dangerous loophole as they draft the Paris Rulebook that could be designed to remedy the problem at the 24th U.N. climate summit, or COP24, here in Katowice, Poland. Yet they have ignored the pleas, the scientific data, the detailed charts identifying the danger, submitted by impassioned NGOs over the past week and a half.”

EnvironmentRadio  WUNC/The State of Things: Trump Administration Pushes Fossil Fuel At UN Climate Summit

Leaders of the 24th UN Climate Summit. Photo courtesy UNFCCC

For the fifth time in five years, The State of Things, the noon program on WUNC out of Durham,  which reaches half of North Carolina, had me on live to talk with host Frank Stasio about the UN climate summit. The location this year, 2018? Katowice, Poland.

The link to the radio conversation is here.

Environment  Mongabay: COP24 – US, Russia, Saudis downplay IPCC report in display of disunity

Tom Steyer, one of the United States’ most influential environmental activists, at COP24 in Poland. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Reporting for my first story — linked here — at my fifth United Nations climate summit started shortly I arrived at the sprawling venue in Katowice, Poland. There was a reception at the US Climate Action Center, the unofficial hub of acitivity on the part of the United States in the age of Trump, who refuses to pay for a national pavilion like other countries.

I got to hear Tom Steyer speak, someone I’ve been reading about for years. A billionaire from his Wall Street days, he has turned his fortune into political and environmental activism that helped stop the XL Pipeline and promote a youth vote in the 2018 midterm elections that helped Democrats retake the US House of Representatives. Interviewing him one-on-one, and then hearing him speak the following night at a private event, gave me my story idea. The Trump negotiators obstructive pettiness, which emerged in a Saturday evening session, ended up leading the story. Great editing by Glenn Scherer of Mongabay.

 

Environment  Mongabay: China flexes its new climate action muscles in Bonn; Trump administration blinks

Top officials celebrate after the Paris Agreement was signed in December. But critics see no acceleration.

Top officials celebrate after the Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015. Trump’s threats to withdraw from the agreement has touched off a hostile global response, especially from China. Photo by Justin Catanoso in 2016.

A good source with World Resources Institute in Bonn, Germany, tipped me off to this story about China’s disgusted reaction to Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. After a conversation with Mongabay editor Mike Gaworecki, we agreed to a quick follow up given that the mainstream media has not reported the news yet. They will. We just have it early.

Environment  Mongabay: Trump failure to lead on climate doesn’t faze UN policymakers in Bonn

Press coveringLast year (May 2016), I was fortunate to cover the first week on the UN mid-year climate conference in Bonn, Germany. This year, under the specter of a US president threatening to pull out of the historic Paris Agreement, I produced a story for Mongabay from my home office in North Carolina. The story is here. Thanks to editor Glenn Scherer for his quick and thorough work. The story quickly hit Mongabay’s Best Read list at No. 5.

In my reporting:

  • Bonn negotiators remain unfazed by Trump’s climate change denialism or his threat to withdraw from Paris. Every signatory nation is going forward with meeting voluntary carbon reduction pledges. Some policymakers do worry how the parties to the Paris Agreement will make up the loss of billions of dollars in U.S. climate aid promised under Obama, but now denied by Trump.

Environment  Mongaybay @ COP22: Trump vows Paris Agreement pull out; world unites behind green economy

While the Obama Administration — including John Kerry shown here at the Paris summit — was instrumental in successfully negotiating the 2015 accord, the international community at COP22 says it is committed to moving forward without the US. China is likely to fill the leadership void created by Trump. Photo courtesy of the US State Department

While the Obama Administration — including John Kerry shown here at the Paris summit — was instrumental in successfully negotiating the 2015 accord, the international community at COP22 says it is committed to moving forward without the US. China is likely to fill the leadership void created by Trump. Photo courtesy of the US State Department

My Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer requested this story over the first weekend of the 22nd United Nations Climate Summit in Marrakesh. I had already written a world reaction story to the stunning election of a boorish, bigoted charlatan as the next president of the United States. But Glenn wanted me to keep after the story. I’m glad I did. The specter of Trump hung over the entire conference and dominated almost every question at every press conference, and more than a few side side discussions.

Appearing at the mid-week press conference, Secretary of State John Kerry said angrily: ““This is bigger than one person, one president. We have to figure out how we’re going to stop this [Trump’s plan]… No one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people based solely on ideology or without proper input.”

John Pershing. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Jonathan Pershing. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Lead US negotiator Jonathan Pershing added: “It is no longer a question of whether to accelerate the [Paris] Agreement’s implementation, but rather a question of when and how.”

The offshoot: world leaders felt compelled to pledge an even stronger allegiance to the historic Paris Agreement, to not back away from their carbon-reduction pledges, and to do so with or without US participation or leadership. China now emerges as a potential leader in climate action, a development with grave implications for US trade and military policy and alliances. My story captures many of the storylines that dominated the final week of COP22.

Entrance to COP 22, UN Climate Summit, Marrakesh, Morocco

Entrance to COP 22, UN Climate Summit, Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo by Justin Catanoso

EnvironmentRadio  WFDD: World Leaders Ponder US Role in Fighting Climate Change

marrakech-cop22-2016

WFDD reporter Keri Brown interviewed me for my reflections on the outcome of the 22nd United Nation’s climate summit in Marrakesh. The link to the four-minute radio story is here. As I’ve written previously, the new president-elect has galvanized world leaders to take aggressive climate action, with or without US leadership.

Environment  Mongabay @ COP22: Forest advocates say zero-carbon goals too reliant on unrealistic tech

Edward Perry of Birdlife International speaks at a panel at COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Edward Perry of Birdlife International speaks at a panel at COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo by Justin Catanoso

This seemed an ideal story for Mongabay.  Protecting forests, fighting deforestation and striving to replant tens millions of trees as natural carbon sinks, are critical strategies in the Paris Agreement in slowing the rate of global warming. But fossil fuel representatives at COP22 aren’t quite getting it. They do not want to strand assets (oil, natural gas, coal) underground, and are promoting unproven technologies that haven’t even been developed yet as ways to do business as usual. Environmentalists aren’t buying it.