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An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.
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Africa’s first climate summit
FINANCE FIRST: World leaders gathered in Nairobi, Kenya this week for the continent’s first climate summit. The need for more finance to help African nations transition to net-zero and adapt to climate impacts dominated conversations, with Kenyan president William Ruto calling for debt reform to help raise climate finance, according to Kenyan newspaper the Standard. In an interview with the Financial Times on the second day of the three-day summit, Ruto said: “If you don’t solve the debt issue, you can’t solve the climate issue.”
CARBON CREDIT RUSH: Several superpowers talked up the role that carbon markets could play. Speaking at the summit, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen pitched carbon pricing and “true carbon credits” as important tools to accelerate the net-zero transition in Africa, Politico reported. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates tried to position itself as a carbon-credits leader in Africa, announcing its intention to buy $450m of carbon credits generated on the continent by 2030, Climate Home News reported.
GLOBAL CARBON TAX: On the summit’s final day, African leaders released a “Nairobi declaration” demanding that countries rally behind a global carbon tax to raise climate funds, BBC News reported. According to the declaration, this should include “a carbon tax on fossil-fuel trade, maritime transport and aviation, that may also be augmented by a global financial transaction tax”. When asked about the call for a global carbon tax during the summit, US climate envoy John Kerry said that president Joe Biden has “not yet embraced any particular carbon-pricing mechanism”, according to Africa News.
US scientist sparks media storm
WILDFIRES STUDY: A US researcher caused controversy by claiming he was forced to focus on climate change to get his wildfires study published in the high-profile journal Nature. Dr Patrick Brown’s claims were criticised by much of the scientific community and the editor-in-chief of Nature has released a statement denouncing the allegations.
MEDIA STORM: Despite Brown’s claims being quickly debunked by Nature, his comments have been reported widely in right-wing media, including on the frontpage of the Daily Telegraph, as well as the Daily Mail, Sun, Times and Fox News. In a newly published factcheck, Carbon Brief explained how scientists have poured water on his claims, including an exclusive critical reaction from one of his co-authors.
Invasive alien species report
SPREADING: Buoyed by climate change, land use and trade, invasive alien species are now spreading around the world at “unprecedented and increasing rates”, according to a landmark report from the world’s nature authority, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report took four-and-a-half years to complete and draws on more than 13,000 scientific references. Carbon Brief has published a detailed explainer on the report’s main findings.
NEW NATURE SCIENCE CHIEF: This week also saw IPBES appoint a new chair in Dr David Obura, founding director of Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa. Obura told Carbon Brief that his aim as chair will be to strengthen “cohesion and impact”. He added: “For IPBES to increase its already significant impact we need to reach even wider – to get the IPBES findings and policy options in front of decision-makers not only in governments but also in business, in industry and in all walks of life.”
- UK RENEWABLES: A string of headlines touted an end to the effective ban on onshore wind in England, but the i newspaper said little had changed, according to experts. Meanwhile, the latest UK auction for renewables failed to secure any new offshore wind, as Carbon Brief detailed in a just-published in-depth report.
- STOCKTAKE: The UN’s climate change body has just published a synthesis report as part of the Paris Agreement’s “stocktake” process finding there is a “rapidly narrowing window” for countries to get on track to limiting global warming to 1.5C by the end of the century.
- MODI’S WARNING: Ahead of this weekend’s G20 meeting in India, prime minister Narendra Modi in the Times said that developed countries should “move away from a purely restrictive attitude of what should not be done” to tackle climate change.
- RAIN IN SPAIN: Record rain caused major flooding in Spain, Euronews reported. Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece also faced deadly floods, the New York Times said.
- GABON COUP: Gabon’s former environment minister Prof Lee White, a UK conservationist feared missing following a military coup, is currently safe, but remains in a “desperately worrying” situation, a UK parliamentary source told Carbon Brief.
- AMAZON RECOVERY: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell 66% in August to its lowest level for the month since 2018, Reuters reported. On the country’s Amazon Day on 5 September, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva officially recognised the existence of two Indigenous territories, Democracy Now reported.
The number of consecutive months that have been warmer-than-average globally, a stretch spanning 44 years, reported the Washington Post.
(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)
In the west African coastal nation of Senegal, most power is sourced from fossil fuels, as illustrated in the chart above. But this is set to change, as the country has signed a “just energy transition partnership” (JETP) deal, establishing a goal to source 40% of its electricity in renewables by the end of this decade. In a guest post for Carbon Brief published this week, some of the architects behind the deal explained how the country could rise to this challenge.
Palestine’s seven-year struggle to access climate funds
As the COP28 climate summit in the Asia-Pacific region of the United Arab Emirates nears, Carbon Brief reports on Palestine’s years-long struggle to access the climate funds it is entitled to.
Palestine’s annual CO2 emissions were 3m tonnes in 2021. This is less than the US produces in a day.
Despite its small contribution to global emissions, Palestine is already feeling the impacts of climate change, according to Ibtisam AbuAlhaija, head of climate change at the Palestine government’s ministry of agriculture. At the COP27 climate summit in Egypt last year, she told Carbon Brief:
“We have a shortage of rainfall days. It is affecting the soil, we have lots of soil erosion. It’s affecting the infiltration of water into the aquifers that we depend on. I think in the future that we will have a shortage of groundwater.”
Palestine became a full member of the UN climate convention, the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in 2016. It is a signatory of the Paris Agreement, the global deal to strive to limit global warming to below 2C by the end of the century.
Under the convention, it is – along with most developing nations – defined as a “non-annex I” party. The UNFCCC recognises that non-annex I parties are in “special need” of investment to help them tackle their emissions and address the impacts of climate change.
But, since joining the convention, Palestine has struggled to access the climate funds that non-annex I parties are entitled to.
It is a recipient of the Green Climate Fund, which was established under the UNFCCC and aims to help developing nations tackle and adapt to climate change.
However, it has for the past seven years been prevented from accessing most types of funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), according to AbuAlhaija. GEF is a large-scale climate and nature fund that is mandated under the UNFCCC to help countries tackle and adapt to climate change. AbuAlhaija told Carbon Brief:
“Unfortunately, we cannot access the GEF as a Palestinian party. We cannot do that. It seems that there is a huge veto on this.”
The US is a major donor to GEF and it is headquartered in Washington DC.
Conservative figures in the US take a hardline stance on providing philanthropic funding to Palestine, with former president Donald Trump in 2017 pulling the country from the UN’s heritage arm, Unesco, over its decision to grant full membership to Palestine. But the current president Joe Biden is reportedly considering rejoining Unesco and, in 2021, reversed Trump’s cuts to aid for Palestine.
Back in 2018, Climate Home News reported on how GEF ignored multiple appeals from Palestinian representatives for the funding that they are entitled to, according to GEF’s own guidelines.
This included financing to help Palestine prepare reports of its greenhouse gas emissions, which all developing nations are required to submit to the UNFCCC. According to GEF guidelines, “all non-annex I parties” are eligible to receive such funds.
AbuAlhaija confirmed to Carbon Brief that Palestine still has not been able to access funds for the preparation of its greenhouse gas reports – or any kind of major funding.
A spokesperson for GEF also confirmed to Carbon Brief that Palestine “has not been a recipient” of GEF funding allocated to parties of the UNFCCC and “has not yet accessed set aside resources” for the preparation of greenhouse gas reports.
When asked whether GEF plans to provide Palestine with funds it is entitled to in the future, the spokesperson noted that negotiations for GEF’s ninth cycle will begin in 2024, adding:
“Climate vulnerability is one of the important factors in these discussions, including in the water sector, and it will be extremely important that the GEF is able to mobilise STAR [System for Transparent Allocation of Resources] and other financial resources towards this agenda in the GEF-9 replenishment.”
SUMMIT SUMMARY: Power Shift Africa director and long-time COP watcher Mohamed Adow explained on Twitter why the Africa climate summit outcome is comparable to “a man dying of thirst in the Sahara Desert and being offered only his own urine”.
CHART JOY: The Washington Post presented a series of charts that illustrate why people should feel “stubbornly optimistic” about the chances of taking on climate change.
DISHA RAVI: Ahead of the G20 summit in India, the Drilled podcast interviewed young climate activist Disha Ravi about being arrested for speaking up on climate change.
DeBriefed is written in rotation by Carbon Brief’s team and edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to [email protected]
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