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Updated: 9 hours 45 min ago

UK Takes Historic Step to Fight Climate Disruption and Phase Out Coal

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 12:05

While the U.S. was celebrating the President’s Day weekend, and shortly after the Republican-led Senate rejected legislation upholding climate science, the leaders of the three main parties in the United Kingdom signed an agreement to work together across party lines to tackle the climate crisis head-on. Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron joined forces with Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg as well as Labor Party leader Ed Milliband to:

  • Seek a legally binding, global climate deal that limits temperature rises to below 2°C.

  • Forge an agreement on carbon budgets according to the Climate Change Act.

  • Accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy and to end unabated coal for power generation.

This announcement comes after sustained advocacy by groups working to protect the health of UK citizens from both the danger of climate disruption and pollution from coal-fired power. According to the Health and Environment Alliance pollution from coal plants cause 1,600 premature deaths, 363,266 lost work days, and over one million incidents of lower respiratory symptoms every year in the U.K., costing $1.7 to $4.7 billion each year. Moreover, the nation is forced to find coal from unfriendly sources, spending around $1.5 billion on coal imports from Russia even as the situation deteriorated in Ukraine and new sanctions were introduced.

But this new pledge goes far beyond simply addressing domestic concerns around the use of coal and climate – it sets the tone as we go into the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris later this year. While the naysayers like to claim the U.S. would be acting alone, it is clear that there is global momentum for action. From the historic agreement between the U.S. and China in November, to this news out of the UK, we are seeing proof that countries around the world are prepared to take concrete steps to counter climate change.

Nicole Ghio From Compass

A Love Story for Global Divestment Day!

Sat, 02/14/2015 - 10:06


To kick off Valentine's Day weekend, the University of Illinois Beyond Coal Campaign is hosting  “Breaking Up with Coal,” an event in honor of Global Divestment Day featuring a twenty foot long comic about breaking up with coal.


Starting Friday afternoon, UIUC students can stop by, grab a valentine, warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, and participate in a photo petition to call on U of I to break up with coal.


The UIUC Beyond Coal Campaign has come a long way in the fight to divest. Last November, the campaign launched a major petition drive and achieved an unprecedented 6:1 vote on a ballot initiative from the student body in favor of coal divestment. Currently, it is estimated that $5.1 million dollars of the active University endowment pool, of about 1.81 billion dollars,  is invested in the “Filthy Fifteen” largest coal mining and utility companies.

Transitioning from coal to a clean energy future will prevent premature death, asthma attacks, and heart attacks. So this Valentine’s Day, we are asking students to pledge to save a heart by taking part in a photo petition supporting UIUC’s breakup with coal.  

Divestment campaigns across the nation will be hosting flash-mobs, vigils, sit-ins, pledges, and rallies to pressure their institutions to divest from fossil fuels. Recently, Stanford University, the City of Seattle, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and countless other religious organizations and institutions have committed to divesting from coal.


The University of Illinois is making significant headway on addressing climate change. U of I is the first Big Ten university to submit a climate action plan, pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, end coal combustion from the local Abbott Power Plant by 2017 and just broke ground on a 5 MW solar installation. The University is also writing new plans that look at moving up its carbon neutrality date, which includes 100% clean energy purchasing.   


As UIUC leads the way for large universities and clean energy, one crucial step will be for the University to divest. The University’s achievements regarding carbon neutrality will always be limited by its investments in coal.

Join UIUC for Global Divestment Day! And take the pledge to go fossil free today!

Erika Weir From Compass

#COP21: Geneva: Effort Rising In The Face Of Challenge And New Strategies

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 13:59

In the lead up to the COP21 climate negotiations this December in Paris, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is currently hosting its annual Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) session in Geneva, Switzerland. This session, ADP 2.8, comes just two months after the conclusion of COP20 in Lima, Peru, and presents the Parties -- the negotiating bodies for each country -- with a need to further develop and clarify the text that came out of Lima. This text will be used during the final 2015 climate negotiations in Paris.


Janice Meier is a volunteer with the Sierra Club who volunteers on the Club's behalf as a co-chair of the Climate Action Network's Technology Working Group. She is blogging from Geneva.


The story for this ADP session is shaping up to be one of excellent cooperation and stepped-up Party effort as the new Co-chairs’ strategic planning seems to be engendering effective cooperation. While this session must produce a draft negotiating text by May in preparation for an agreement in Paris, the co-chairs approach of focusing first on Parties’ text additions seems to have reassured Parties that they are being heard and inspired their focused effort.


This is not to say that differences have disappeared. There has been reference made to the disagreement on differentiation (how countries at different levels of development should be treated differently) being papered-over in Lima, that make clear that “slick language” won’t save the agreement. Then there is the question of handling “Loss and Damage,” that is, what happens in the most vulnerable countries when the impacts of climate change are beyond adaptation. And there are a host of others as well.


But, overall, the mood in the rooms has been upbeat in Geneva, and already, we’ve seen dramatic shifts from the process in Lima -- where you couldn’t pay a delegation to moderate the length of their interventions in Lima, in the opening plenary in Geneva, we had Parties agreeing to hand in text for file rather than read out their interventions. And in the ADP sessions since, Parties have engaged constructively to follow the new Co-chairs lead, including focusing first on new text submissions as a definitive way to put to rest Parties’ fears that text was being ignored.


And there have been real wins for environmental non-governmental organizations as a number of Parties took up ECO’s Human Rights challenge and almost competed to introduce the text that was suggested in an ECO article, and likewise, offered long sought after text on the assessment of potentially risky climate technologies


But mid-week, the process seemed to hit a snag when the Co-chairs suggested reverting to the Lima text and announced that the results of the “streamlining process” that was about to be embarked on would not be reflected in the new draft text. What was not made immediately clear is that their reason for doing so was to protect the draft text that they had. Had they re-opened that text and if any disagreement had ensued they risked not having enough time left to get to agreement again this week and missing the mandate for text before May.


In essence, the process was a victim of its own success. Because Parties agreed to the draft text so quickly, there was unplanned time, but because the draft text needed to be protected, no further change could be made to it. The meeting adjourned a bit early, and the next morning began with a discussion on guiding questions that gave the parties time to better understand each other’s positions. In the afternoon the streamlining work began, again with Parties cooperating to find solutions.


Yes, this process has challenges and is likely to have many more between now and Paris -- including how to deal with a voluminous text -- but the good news is that if this new-found effectiveness carries through 2015, we may be on the high road to a successful Paris agreement. Let’s give the negotiators kudos and all the support we can muster.

From Compass