in Uncategorized

The failure of the UN Climate Action Summit. Helped by the distraction of Natural Climate Solutions

This week saw the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. The highlight was Greta Thunberg’s “How dare you?” speech. She pointed out that the remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than nine years at today’s emissions levels. “There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today,” she predicted.

Needless to say, she was right. While she was speaking, the UN Secreatry-General António Guterres was also on the stage. He clapped when she finished speaking.

Yet in his speech at the end of the summit, by which time it was obvious that nothing meaningful had happened during the summit, Guterres said,

“Dear friends, in planning this summit, I had one overriding objective. This was to be a summit of action plans not platitudes. I thank you for delivering.”

He listed the “action plans” starting with 77 countries that committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. And 70 countries that announced that they will “boost” their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020.

Obviously, none of the “action plans” involved leaving any fossil fuel in the ground. Addressing the fossil fuel industry’s contribution to climate breakdown isn’t on the UN’s climate agenda.

Guterres addresses oil and gas CEOs as “Dear friends and colleagues”

The day before the Climate Action Summit, Guterres was invited to take part in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative dinner. On her website “Heated”, Emily Atkin writes that Guterres sent along his Special Advisor, Robert Orr, with a message for Orr to read out at the dinner.

Members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative include some of the most polluting companies on the planet:

But instead of telling the CEOs of these companies that they are going to have to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we are to stand a chance of addressing the climate crisis, he welcomed the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’s greenwash.

Atkin posted Guterres’ message to the oil CEOs on her website:

Dear friends and colleagues, we are facing a climate emergency. Science and current events show that climate change is driving and exacerbating crises affecting all economies and all citizens across the world. This is not something humanity can and should accept. This is not something government leaders or economic leaders like you should accept. This is not something that I will not accept.

Global challenges require global solutions, and I welcome the collective power OGCI has been building since its launch 5 years ago. The platform has catalyzed concrete actions, including a delivery of a methane intensity target last year, as well as your support to the U.N.-led global methane alliance.

But our best efforts today are not enough. We are taking action, but not at the scale and speed that meets the urgency of the situation. Everyone, in every sector, must do more.

Your industry has the assets and the expertise to demonstrate the ambition we need and to lead the way. The world needs, and is demanding, an ambitious road map to reduce the carbon intensity of your industry, and to demonstrate your commitment to align with the goals of the Paris agreement.

This is the ask I have made of everyone. And I hope and expect that you can deliver ambitious and meaningful targets, including as soon as COP25 in Chile, to meet net zero emissions in the coming 30 years.

Sure enough, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative made no promises at the Climate Action Summit to do anything that might affect its member companies to continue profiting from pollution. Instead, they promised to invest in carbon capture, use and storage, a 2025 carbon intensity target, and support to carbon pricing

And of course they promised to contribute to nature based solutions.

In a statement about the Climate Action Summit, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative wrote,

Nature Based Solutions are crucial to achieving net zero emissions, in tandem with CCUS. OGCI has joined the Natural Climate Solutions Vision initiative, convened by the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

More than 150 nature-based solutions

In his closing speech at the UN Climate Action Summit, Guterres told an almost empty room that, “more than 150 nature-based solutions to cut carbon emissions were announced” at the summit.

The UN Environment Programme has set up a Nature Based Solutions contributions platform on its website. There are currently 195 contributions listed.

Before the UN Climate Action Summit, UNEP helped develop a “Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Manifesto” which states that “Nature-Based Solutions are a fundamental part of action for climate and biodiversity”.

The manifesto refers to the study that estimates that “one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2°C”. It even describes it as “authoritative research”, despite the fact that the study is based on completely unrealistic assumptions.

No prizes for guessing that the manifesto makes no mention of the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Thunberg and Monbiot promote natural climate solutions. With help from Conservation International

Last week, Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot put out a video promoting natural climate solutions. The video does mention fossil fuels.

Thunberg says, “To survive we need to stop burning fossil fuels, but this alone will not be enough.” And Monbiot says, “These natural climate solutions could make a massive difference, but only if we also leave fossil fuels in the ground.”

But the video does not mention of carbon offsets. Neither does the video attempt to deal with the fact that the oil industry loves natural climate solutions.

The video was funded in part by Conservation International, and with guidance from Nature4Climate. Monbiot’s Natural Climate Solutions initiative lists Conservation International and Nature4Climate as “allies”.

Both of these organisations are in favour of carbon offsets. Conservation International runs several REDD projects, selling carbon credits to anyone who will buy them.

Nature4Climate is an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme, with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and four US-based NGOs: Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Woods Hole Research Center, and World Resources Institute. UNDP is one of the organisations behind the UN-REDD programme, that exists to generate carbon credits from REDD. All of the organisations in Nature4Climate are carbon offset proponents.

In its press statement about the video, Conservation International explains how the film team used public transport to travel to Sweden, and electric vehicles in the UK, before adding, “The remaining carbon footprint was offset through NCS investments.”

PHOTO Credit: Screenshot from António Guterres‘ closing speech at the UN Climate Action Summit.

Leave a Reply

  1. Could George Monbiot and Greta Thunberg please reply to this post? Carbon credit distractions have taken more than a decade away from focused attention on the major challenge before all of us: face our responsibilities before increased global warming. No more time for delay tactics that are favored by “financing” type bartering as the only response these critical times need.