Fresh Energy at the Global Climate Summit COP24

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Fresh Energy has officially arrived at the COP24 summit—which brings together an estimated 30,000 people from 195 nations. Follow updates below from the summit. Make sure to also sign up for our post-event live discussion on the results of the negotiations December 19 from 12:00 – 1:00 PM.

December 11 | The push is on

Opening of the political discussions of the negotiations

The push is on for the rule book to achieve ambitious 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) limit as per the Paris Agreement.

This second and final week of the United Nations climate change conference is the so-called “high level” week, when national ministers and heads of state arrive to negotiate the final language for new international climate actions. These technical, high level meetings are now taking place. Countries are discussing elements of the legal text for the rule book, including ensuring international transparency as to how well each nation is doing in achieving its climate goals. I expect to see a new draft of their text before tomorrow’s update.

What is at stake, as the scientists reminded us in the IPCC report, is that we have only 12 years in which to secure profound, rapid climate actions by all nations. The report stated clearly that a key component of action is that “coal needs to be exited from the power sector” including a reduction in coal emissions of 90 percent by the 2040s and the complete elimination of coal use in the power sector by the 2050s. The gap between what is needed and current emissions into the global atmosphere is huge.

The time for individual nations to declare wishes for the future has passed; what the negotiations need now is to deliver to the world a collective transnational agreement of how to do more—much more—on climate action. For the negotiations this year to be successful, these meetings must result in a decision on enhanced national “ambitions” for much greater climate action. These would include an agreement by each nation to increase its National Determined Contribution by the year 2020—actions originally submitted in advance of the historic Paris Agreement in 2015. We must limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees C and it is essential the rule book for doing so necessitates ambitious, transnational action.

Absent this text from the collective governments inviting countries to increase their climate commitments by 2020, we risk a global failure. In addition, the world at COP24 needs to ensure that financing is in place to secure support for implementing these national commitments in poorer nations.

At this point early in the week of the 5-day High Level Negotiations, there is a mood here in Poland of disillusionment with the negotiators. The Parties to the Paris Agreement seem to be aiming low. An egregiously bad example is the efforts by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait, to downplay the IPCC report’s findings. These nations have failed to acknowledge the need to dramatically scale up climate mitigation and adaptation actions worldwide.

Fortunately, as we’ve reported frequently, the price is way down for renewable substitutes for fossil fuels in the power sector. Renewables are cheaper than coal in every country, but all countries need better policy to ensure that the transition away from coal proceeds much more rapidly.

The Polish presidency of COP24 is ultimately responsible for delivering from the assembled nations the official rule book. President of the COP Michal Kurtyka must work with the ministers from all parties to the Paris Agreement, to craft a planetary emergency package for adoption at the conference’s closing plenary session on Friday, December 14. The world’s citizens demand—and expect—nothing less.

December 10 | Side shows won’t fix the climate problem

Pro-coal advocates line the American climate panel

The United States’ only official event at the world’s climate conference was held today, a 75-minute panel at the two week-long conference. Its topic? Greater promotion of fossil fuel use. The panel will likely draw a lot of attention, but let’s be transparent—this is a side show. It is obvious that no event promoting increased greenhouse gas emissions has any place in 2018 at a global climate summit.

The United States staged a nearly identical side show at last year’s climate conference in Germany. The purpose was and is clear: to divert time and attention from the real climate leadership needed to address the existential crisis that is climate change. Make it known—we are here to build leadership solutions into the rule book for implementing the Paris Agreement and we will not be deterred.

Today’s less than one-hour event (the proceeding was brought to a stop for 15 minutes by protesters of all ages from many continents; thanks to those s/heroes!) was designed to enrage the majority of people who accept climate science, and to appease patrons of fossil fuels who have a direct financial incentive to weaken the Paris Climate Agreement. Evidence lies in the paucity of the speaker lineup: the most prominent voice was not even from the United States and not a member of the Trump Administration. That voice was Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment. That’s right: the Administration couldn’t even convene an all-American panel to fill five seats.

Here are the data: U.S. coal plant closures have doubled during Trump’s second year in office. U.S. coal use will likely reach a 39-year low in 2018. As Ben Fowke, the CEO of Xcel Energy, has been stating publicly to the company’s investors and customers for five (five!) years: “Coal is on its way out; it’s just a matter of time.” Wind energy and soon solar energy in Minnesota are much cheaper than just the fuel for Xcel’s least-expensive coal plant, and cheaper than natural gas.

Today’s side show is best ignored. As last year, we expect these tactics to have no impact on the crucial negotiations happening here in Poland and concluding late this week. State Department diplomats continue their work. Stay tuned for the remainder of this week for my insights into the real business of a global climate summit—designing the parameters and rules for implementing the Paris Agreement to limit the worldwide and local damages from unabated climate change.

December 9 | Weekend news 

J. and Patrick Hamilton, who is representing the Science Museum of Minnesota, were honored to spend three hours meeting over the weekend with the Fiji Prime Minister and last year’s COP23 President, Frank Bainimarama, as well as negotiators from three other nations.

The Associated Press has been following United States representation at the event and our country’s commitment to bold climate action as part of the group We Are Still In. Learn more about next steps we can all take at our live discussion on December 19. We are looking forward to a robust week of negotiations when the conference resumes Monday. Stay tuned for more!

December 7 | Minnesota to COP24

We are still in on the Paris Agreement, and Fresh Energy’s delegation makes the business case for policy action at the scale of the problem. Our official delegation to the U.N. Climate Conference held in Katowice, Poland this year, includes Patrick Hamilton, who is director of global change initiatives at the Science Museum of Minnesota. We are proud that Patrick, also representing Minnesota, spoke at the global event this morning to kick off the work in Poland of the U.S. Climate Action Center.

Hamilton (who also happens to be Fresh Energy’s J. Drake Hamilton’s husband—talk about a “power” couple!) shared great Minnesota stories of ingenuity and success. He spoke of Xcel Energy’s work ten years ago with the Science Museum, when the utility introduced them to technology that could greatly reduce carbon emissions by reusing “waste” heat, in work pioneered by a Minnesota mechanical engineer. Using heat recovery engines manufactured by Trane in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, the Science Museum so far has cut heating load more than 65 percent and took this action because it made good business sense.

Patrick Hamilton also delivered the breaking news this week from Minnesota-based Xcel Energy. Xcel’s CEO announced that the company has become the first U.S. utility to set a goal to provide all its customers with 85 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035, and 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050. That decarbonization commitment is based on the urgent recommendations of climate scientists serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Since Xcel Energy provides electricity in eight states between the Canadian border and Mexico, setting a goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions with have a huge positive impact on reducing the impacts of global warming.

The panel also included representatives from We Are Still In, with over 3,600 members in all 50 states and representing over $9.46 trillion of the U.S. GDP. Members include the state of Minnesota, the cities of Eden Prairie, Duluth, Saint Paul, and Minneapolis, companies headquartered in Minnesota including Target and Aveda, Minnesota cultural organizations including the Science Museum of Minnesota, the American Swedish Institute, and the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, and health organizations including HealthPartners.

Drake Hamilton met this week with Polish citizens looking for hope and concrete ideas for carbon reduction. J. thinks it is critical that this year’s climate summit is deliberately being held in a coal-mining region of Poland. The Polish electricity system is presently 80 percent coal, and the Poles are extremely eager to make meaningful progress toward replacing that coal with renewable energy. Patrick Hamilton told the standing-room only crowd today: Minnesota as recently as the early 2000s was in as deep a hole as Poland in terms of coal for electricity; less than a generation ago, Minnesota’s power supply was 75 percent coal, and some utilities were 95 percent coal. Today, thanks to our successful renewable energy policy, Minnesota’s electricity generation is less than 39 percent coal, and decarbonization is continuing. What we’ve accomplished already in Minnesota is also possible in Poland.

The global audience warmly applauded both Minnesota’s progress on replacing coal with renewable energy and energy efficiency, and separately applauded Xcel Energy for setting a high decarbonization goal and for announcing its intention to model the pathway for all other U.S. utilities to follow. Fresh Energy’s delegate to the climate summit, thus explained to the world how Minnesota is proving the business case for deep carbon reduction action. As Governor-elect Tim Walz said during his campaign, during an interview on TPT’s Almanac show: “Climate change is an existential threat. If Washington won’t lead on it, Minnesota will. Minnesota’s future is in the green economy.”

November 30 | COP24 webinar: what can we expect?

Watch the recording of our pre-event webinar What do we need from the global climate summit? where J. reports on what to expect, how you can help, and what the world needs to accomplish at these critical meetings.

September 20 | Minnesota on the international stage

This December, Fresh Energy’s science policy director, J. Drake Hamilton, will travel to Katowice, Poland, to participate in the United Nations 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). The conference is part of the ongoing United Nations negotiations that created the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement—the unprecedented international commitment to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the U.S.—the world’s second largest emitter—has declared its intention to remove itself as a signatory, Fresh Energy will participate with other American businesses and civic leaders who are leading the American climate movement, working collectively as We Are Still In. This group, made up of American businesses, states, cities, nonprofit organizations, cultural institutions, universities, and more, have all made a firm commitment to reducing emissions. Fresh Energy will be showcasing to the world Minnesota’s leadership on carbon pollution cuts, which have been achieved through smart policy and leadership among businesses. Hamilton brings a depth of knowledge of to these summits, as a participant who has met with the official U.S. negotiators over the span of twelve years. She also recently traveled to Greece to deliver the keynote address at an international meeting focused on climate justice.

If you are interested in receiving updates about what will be happening at this global summit, please fill out the form below. J. will be sharing short daily written updates during her time there. Make sure to also sign up for our post-event reflection webinar on the results of the negotiations on December 19 from 12:00 – 1:00 PM.

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