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December, 2015:

COP21 climate change summit reaches deal in Paris

A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of intense negotiations.

The pact is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.

The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary.

Earlier, key blocs, including the G77 group of developing countries, and nations such as China and India said they supported the proposals.

President of the UN climate conference of parties (COP) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document.

“Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”

COP21: In summary

As he struck the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal, delegates rose to their feet cheering and applauding.

Media captionThe announcement was greeted by cheers and excitement in the hall

US President Barack Obama has hailed the agreement as an “ambitious” and “historic”, but also warned against complacency.

“Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one,” he said.

And although admitting that the deal was not “perfect”, he said it was “the best chance to save the one planet we have”.

Nearly 200 countries took part in the negotiations to strike the first climate deal to commit all countries to cut emissions, which would come into being in 2020.

The chairman of the group representing some of the world’s poorest countries called the deal historic, adding: “We are living in unprecedented times, which call for unprecedented measures.

“It is the best outcome we could have hoped for, not just for the Least Developed Countries, but for all citizens of the world.”

Key points

The measures in the agreement included:

• To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century

• To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C

• To review progress every five years

• $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Hollande join in the celebrations

Analysis: The BBC’s Matt McGrath in Paris

The speeches and the cliches at the adoption of the Paris Agreement flowed like good champagne – success after all has many fathers! The main emotion is relief. The influence of the COP president, Laurent Fabius, cannot be overstated. His long diplomatic career gave him a credibility seldom matched in this arena. He used his power well.

The deal that has been agreed, under Mr Fabius, is without parallel in terms of climate change or of the environment. It sets out a clear long term temperature limit for the planet and a clear way of getting there. There is money for poor countries to adapt, there is a strong review mechanism to increase ambition over time. This is key if the deal is to achieve the aim of keeping warming well below 2C.

More than anything though the deal signifies a new way for the world to achieve progress – without it costing the Earth. A long term perspective on the way we do sustainability is at the heart of this deal. If it delivers that, it truly will be world changing.

Ahead of the deal being struck, delegates were in a buoyant mood as they gathered in the hall waiting for the plenary session to resume.

Mr Fabius was applauded as he entered the hall ahead of the announcement.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande called the proposals unprecedented, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on negotiators to “finish the job”.

However, the celebratory mood has not been shared among all observers.

‘Almost nothing binding’

Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations.”

Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal.

However, the targets set by nations will not be binding under the deal struck in Paris.

Observers say the attempt to impose emissions targets on countries was one of the main reasons why the Copenhagen talks in 2009 failed.

At the time, nations including China, India and South Africa were unwilling to sign up to a condition that they felt could hamper economic growth and development.

The latest negotiations managed to avoid such an impasse by developing a system of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

In these, which form the basis of the Paris agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise “well below” 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels, nations outline their plans on cutting their post-2020 emissions.

An assessment published during the two-week talks suggested that the emission reductions currently outlined in the INDCs submitted by countries would only limit global temperature rise by 2.7C.

Nick Mabey, chief executive of climate diplomacy organisation E3G, said the agreement was an ambitious one that would require serious political commitment to deliver.

“Paris means governments will go further and faster to tackle climate change than ever before,” he said.

“The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age.”

Business pledges at COP21: Progress or COP out?

Businesses at COP 21 have promised to reduce their emissions, invest in renewables, and support climate policy. But are these commitments true progress or greenwash? Eco-Business gets the view from civil society observers.

While government negotiators are hard at work finalising a global climate change treaty in Paris this week, the private sector has also been busy unveiling a series of commitments that officials are hailing as “unprecedented”.

Civic society groups, however, are divided on whether the pledges reflect a sincere effort by companies to tackle climate change, or if they are merely greenwash.

Initiatives launched by businesses in the two weeks since the conference started include:

  • The Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing programme, where 65 companies with a total market value of US$1.9 trillion agreed to set an internal carbon price, report it publicly, and called for a carbon market.
  • The Science-Based Targets initiative, through which 114 companies including IKEA, Coca-Cola, and Kellogg will set emissions reduction targets in line with scientific recommendations for limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy programme, where 114 companies will track their activities that influence climate policy, ensure these are consistent, and be transparent about their policy position on climate change.
  • A move by two of the world’s biggest institutional investors – German firm Allianz and Dutch pension fund ABP – to join the Portfolio Decarbonisation Coalition, a group of investors which has promised to rid their portfolios of high carbon investments.

These initiatives were presented at the UN Global Compact’s Caring for Climate (C4C) Business Forum on Tuesday, held on the sidelines of the climate conference, which is commonly known as COP21.

The forum is part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), an initiative by France, Peru, and the UN to showcase commitments by businesses, cities, and civil society to reduce their emissions.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the commitments by companies, noting: “The collective momentum among the private sector for climate action is growing daily, and more companies and investors are leading on climate action than at any time in history.”

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change also called these pledges “unprecedented”.

Some civic society leaders, however, are sceptical about the sincerity of businesses behind their pledges.

What’s behind the scenes?
Jesse Bragg, media director at US-based Corporate Accountability International, questioned the motives of some energy and utility firms, and banks which have investments in these carbon-intensive outfits.

He told Eco-Business: “It’s fair to be sceptical of any corporation making climate commitments, particularly if their business model is predicated on the extraction of fossil fuels or requires cheap energy to survive”.

Despite their commitments, these organisations may have a vested interest in weaker climate policy, he added.

A recent report by CAI for example shows that notorious climate laggards like ExxonMobil – which was recently allegedly exposed for lying about climate change for decades – and Shell, which this year embarked on a controversial project to explore oil prospects in the Arctic, but later abandoned it – have also signed up to the LPAA platform.

Their participation amounts to little more than greenwash, said CAI in its report.

Bragg added that companies may also be trying to mask their energy-intensive activities by sponsoring the climate conference itself. French bank BNP Paribas, for example, is a COP21 sponsor, but it is also heavily invested in coal.

While the company has pledged not to finance controversial coal mines such as a project by Indian conglomerate Adani in Australia and made other announcements to improve its coal financing practices, it continues to hold coal assets, said Bragg. “Their sponsorship is therefore little more than “a half-hearted attempt at public relations,” he said.

Jonathan Jacoby, policy manager, private sector department, Oxfam America, acknowledged that some companies with a presence at COP are indeed lagging on climate change, but noted that the private sector today is “a tale of two business communities”.

There are regressive firms which try to weaken climate targets, but they are now outnumbered by firms which have good intentions, he noted.

And if the Paris talks deliver a strong commitment on decarbonising the global economy, “fossil fuel companies will have to be less complacent about diversifying their business” to include more sustainable energy sources, noted Jacoby.

Obfuscating climate policy

Bragg also noted that some companies unveiling climate commitments at COP 21 – such as French energy firm Engie – are members of trade associations like the Confederation of Europe Business trade association, which has long opposed efforts by the European Union to set strong renewable energy adoption and emission reduction targets.

“It’s a lot easier to believe that a corporation is operating in the best interest of the people if it is not behind the scenes undermining the very policies it advocates for,” said Bragg.

Companies which are sincere about climate action should distance themselves from these regressive trade associations until the latter shows support for strong targets on reducing emissions, he suggested.

But while some companies have been unconstructive in global climate policy, “what we have seen at COP 21 is unprecedented in terms of the business community’s commitment to align with climate science”, said Jacoby.

He cited Kellogg’s pledge to reduce its own emissions by 65 per cent and its supply chain’s carbon emissions by 2050 as an example of a company which formerly had been been “conservative” on sustainable sourcing evolve into a leader on climate action today.

A good climate agreement will also “enable the very difficult and uncomfortable conversations that are long overdue in traditional trade associations that these companies are members of,” he said.

It will send the message that “there is no legitimate political case for opposing climate action now”, he noted.

Michael Brune, executive director of US conservation group Sierra Club, noted that the company commitments represent an “undeniable momentum” in tackling climate change, and that they are also encouraging Ministers in the negotiations to push for higher emissions reductions targets.

There is reason for “cautious optimism” that the Paris agreement will reflect a strong and ambitious commitment to tackling climate change because businesses, cities, and regional governments have already shown their political and financial support to doing so, he added.

Companies, keep your word

While the commitments are a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen whether businesses will deliver on their promises, said Jacoby.

“Policies are the first step by which you can hold companies accountable,” he said. “They must demonstrate that they have truly fulfilled their emissions with evidence from third-party auditors.”

But reporting by companies alone is not enough, said CAI’s Bragg. A standardised way of tracking how companies deliver emissions reductions and other goals is essential, and “the best way to do that is through government regulation,” he said.

“You can’t rely alone on corporations to act out of the goodness of their heart, because they are ultimately beholden to shareholders,” he said. “You need governments to introduce strong, abiding regulation and have oversight of the commitments”.

Time to pay up: Hong Kong parking fines to increase by 50pc from 2017 to tackle city traffic


Tony Cheung

The transport minister adds that public to be consulted over electronic road pricing pilot scheme in Central

Parking fines will increase by 50 per cent in 2017 while the public will be consulted on an electronic road pricing pilot scheme in Central, the transport minister announced today in an effort to tackle the city’s notorious traffic congestion.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung told the media that the sharp hike in the fines was necessary as it had not been increased since 1994.

“During that time, consumer prices have increased by 50 per cent,” said Cheung of the 21-year period. “Illegal parking cases also increased by 44 per cent from 750,000 cases in 2010 to about 1.08 million last year.”

He said the 50 per cent increase meant that the current fines, HK$320 and HK$450 for different vehicles, would be raised to HK$480 and HK$680 respectively.

The government was also launching a three-month public consultation on how to implement electronic road pricing in Central, the city’s financial district.

Cheung said it was a question of how, not whether, the pricing system should be implemented. But he said when, how and how much a driver would be charged, as well as how much it would cost, would be answered after the consultation exercise.

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Foul play: former Chinese environment official to be prosecuted for taking bribes, ‘accepting rounds of golf with executives’


Reuters in Beijing

China’s authorities will prosecute a former environment official for corruption after an investigation found he took bribes and accepted invites from company executives to play golf, the Environment Ministry said on Friday.

Xiong Yuehui was head of a technological standards division at the ministry until he became subject of a corruption probe in August.

An investigation by graft inspectors found Xiong actively sought to hamper the investigation, forming a “conspiracy of silence” with others, breaking party discipline rules and covering up his personal affairs, the ministry’s discipline body said.

He used his position to seek benefits for others, and took gifts including cash, the ministry said in a statement released by the ruling Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Xiong “many times went to private clubs and accepted invitations from company bosses to play golf”, it added.

It was not possible to reach Xiong for comment and unclear if he has a lawyer.

Tales of corruption and officials’ high living, including extravagant banquets and expensive rounds on golf courses, have stirred widespread public anger because bureaucrats are meant to live on modest sums and lead morally exemplary lives.

The party for the first time listed golf as a discipline violation in October as it tightened rules to stop officials engaging in corrupt practices.

Private clubs have also been a target of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping battle against deep-seated corruption due to their reputation in China as places where shady dealings or sexual liaisons are carried out by an extravagant elite.

Xiong has been formally removed from his position and his case handed over to legal authorities, the ministry said, meaning he will be prosecuted.

The Environment Ministry is at the forefront of government efforts to tackle the country’s serious pollution problem, including the smog that often covers China’s major cities.

The government announced a corruption probe into a former deputy environment minister, Zhang Lijun in July. There has been no news of him since.

China’s main anti-graft body reprimanded the ministry in February for a series of problems, including interference by ministry officials and their relatives in environmental impact assessments.

Environmental degradation is one of China’s most serious issues and a very sensitive one too, with thousands of protests every year sparked by concern about pollution, particularly from factories.


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Hong Kong local dirty politic – The Rich & Famous

SHRED Waste Grinders

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Waste data shows incinerator plan should not be a burning issue

An artist's impression of the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator. Waste data raises questions over the need for the project. Photo: SCMP Pictures

An artist’s impression of the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator. Waste data raises questions over the need for the project. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The Audit Commission’s report on the Environmental Protection Department’s management of Hong Kong’s waste casts serious doubt on the entire premise for the decision to build an incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau and three landfill expansions.

The Environmental Protection Department missed targets, mangled statistics, mismanaged capital assets, underestimated costs, undertook trifling projects, and underperformed in a critical task year after year. Key performance indicators for waste management have all deteriorated. Per capita waste disposed daily increased from 1.27kg in 2011 to 1.35kg in 2014. Waste recovered and recycled dropped from 49 per cent in 2009 to 37 per cent in 2014. Food waste increased from 3,227 tonnes per day in 2004 to 3,648 tonnes in 2013.

In particular, the data used to justify the incinerator and expanded landfills was shown by the commission to be seriously flawed.

The department presented a picture of a fast-accumulating mountain of waste looming over Hong Kong. However, we learn now that the inclusion of imported recovered waste vastly inflated the amount of waste that was generated and recovered, exaggerating the need for more waste disposal facilities.

Adding to the urgency, the department claimed that the capacity of the existing three landfills will be exhausted by 2018. However, as the commission noted, the department can produce no quantifiable data to explain its constantly changing assumptions about the serviceable life of the landfills.

The commission believes that the landfills have a lifetime beyond 2018. A simple calculation based on the department’s record of the utilisation of the three landfills since their inception in 1995 shows that their capacity will not be exhausted until around 2022. The planned and funded expansion of those landfills will add another 20 years of waste disposal capacity.

During this week’s hearing by Legco’s Public Accounts Committee, legislators were sharply critical of the department’s errors in crucial data, noting Legco had approved the incinerator and landfill expansion based on wrong information.

Given the capacity of the landfills currently available and to be available in the next 27 years, why does the department want to spend HK$19 billion in taxpayer money to build the incinerator? Who does it benefit? The obvious beneficiaries are the consultants engaged by the department, the companies who will do the reclamation and build the infrastructure on Shek Kwu Chau, and the vendor who will operate the incinerator.

The incinerator project should stop, pending a full audit and thorough review.

Tom Yam, Lantau

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Hong Kong has set an ‘aggressive’ carbon emission reduction target, claims Environment Sec.

Hong Kong has set an “aggressive” carbon emission reduction target of 50 percent to 60 percent by 2020, Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing claimed after attending the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

“I understand that this week’s Climate Change Conference is a crucial moment, and of course Hong Kong is concerned about this issue [of climate change]. I also hope that there would be a positive outcome at the conference,” Wong told the media after returning from COP21 in Paris on Thursday morning.

“We discussed the work Hong Kong has done to tackle climate change at the China Pavilion, and I presented the Hong Kong Climate Change Report 2015… Hong Kong’s current emission reduction targets are actually aggressive, with an aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 60 percent by 2020.”

At the COP21 Summit, Wong has also said that Hong Kong is aiming to become a low-carbon liveable city, and that there is a new target to reduce the city’s energy intensity by 40 percent by 2025.

‘Nothing new’

On Wednesday, Wong was criticised by an NGO delegate from Hong Kong for focusing merely on the city’s past actions rather than speaking about future plans.

“All the leaders were talking about future pledges. But nothing of that sort came out of Wong,” CEO of CarbonCare Asia Albert Lai told RTHK.

Wong refused to comment on whether the Environment Bureau will ask the two major power companies to reduce the electricity fees, saying that it will be announced in due course. Earlier, it was reported that CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP) and The Hong Kong Electric Company Limited have overcharged for electricity and fuel costs to the tune of nearly HK$5.7 billion.

In Hong Kong and around the world, we all have a part to play in combating climate change

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Carbon dioxide is not the problem

Letters to the editor, December 9, 2015

When it comes to climate change, carbon pollution and the like, you are being conned. Carbon and carbon dioxide are not pollutants; they are the daily support of life on this planet. Carbon dioxide, via photosynthesis, is the earth’s major plant food. More carbon dioxide means more trees and more food. Unelected bureaucrats at the European Union and United Nations, in their efforts to demonise and reduce carbon dioxide, promoted diesel cars across the EU zone to meet carbon emission targets. It was successful in reducing carbon dioxide by 15 per cent. The bankrupt EU then boasted to the world how “environmentally friendly” it was. However, this EU/UN effort to reduce carbon emissions made things much worse for humans and the environment. Cancerous nitrogen dioxide emissions increased over 150 per cent and particulate matter increased by over 300 per cent.

To improve air quality and health in Hong Kong and the rest of China, all efforts need to be geared at reducing criteria air pollutants, namely: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter (both PM2.5 and PM10), and sulfur dioxide. When it comes to global warming, the EU and UN are up to their old tricks again, ignoring 4.53 billion years of evidence that the climate is driven by solar activity and not by carbon emissions. They are brainwashing people into believing carbon dioxide is bad when in reality carbon dioxide is good, as it provides more food, via photosynthesis, to feed a growing population. Reducing carbon dioxide will not improve air quality; reducing criteria air pollutants will.

Further, reducing carbon emissions is irrelevant to climate. Genuine climate scientists know this and have accordingly resigned from the UN puppet organisation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calling it a political not scientific body. Hong Kong and the rest of China should reject international agreements and focus on the very real problems at home, namely reducing air pollution, reducing toxins in products and reducing electronic waste. Not a single dollar of tax payers’ money should be wasted in trying to reduce carbon dioxide. For those individuals that think carbon dioxide is a problem; stop driving, stop flying, stop bombing other countries, and stop sending your kids for an overseas education – hypocrisy should not be tolerated. Dr Robert Hanson, Tseung Kwan O

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