From the Climate Bottom Meeting – Windows of Hope
Copenhagen, 5-18 December, 2009
With accelerating climate change happening all over the world today we are facing tremendous challenges that demand quick, consistent, well targeted and well coordinated action by world society.
An adequate climate agreement must include:
– an immediate moratorium on coal
– a reduction in greenhouse gases of 40% in 2020 (over 1990)
– a full phase-out of industrial agriculture
– a steep reduction in shipping and aviation
– a full phase-out of fossil fuels by 2050
– an objective of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5º C
– an objective to keep target atmospheric CO2 below 450 ppm (parts per million)
– a long-term objective of getting target atmospheric CO2 back below 350 ppm
– a re-examination of what growth philosophy means
– a reassessment of carbon trading and the ability of the market to protect the environment
– a reassessment of the appropriateness of consumer society and global free trade
– a dedicated joint effort towards sustainable cities, sustainable agriculture and sustainable forestry
– that all green technology be given free as global common property
– a targeted development of CO2-negative communities worldwide
– a renewed focus on the role of society and local communities in sustainable development
– an reassessment with models of understanding, where man is separate from nature
– an undertaking to preserve the living conditions of indigenous peoples
– development of a full global consciousness
By now, climate science has reached the point that the question is no longer whether climate change is manmade or not, but how we can address the development and how quickly we must take action in order to reverse the trend and obtain a long-term stabilization of the climate.
Today, climate change is a very tangible reality in many parts of the world. In recent years, climate scientists have come to the realization that climate sensibility towards increasing levels of CO2 is much higher than previously assumed. The changes in ecosystems and human life conditions are so pronounced that global climate objectives have had to be reassessed.
Until recently it was assumed that keeping global warming below 2º C compared to the pre-industrial situation would be sufficient to maintain the integrity of the ecosystems and avoid so-called ‘tipping points’, where climate change becomes self-accelerating. Today an understanding is emerging that global temperature rise must stay below 1.5º C to ensure long term climate stabilization. Otherwise, we are facing a considerable sea level rise, which will eventually cause flooding in densely-populated areas and endanger whole communities.
Similarly, objectives have changed from a global climate agreement ensuring the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere stays below 450 ppm, to a long-term target of 350 ppm. Today, CO2 concentration is already 389 ppm, and rising by 2 ppm per year.
This implies that we are busier than ever. Now there is no time for hesitation. We need a really strong joint effort to implement a global phase-out of fossil fuels – and thus a complete shift to renewable energy sources.
Burning all known coal reserves with present day technology before changing to renewable energy sources will mean a 100% guarantee of a future climate catastrophe. Therefore, we urgently need to halt construction of coal power stations all over the world and decide not to make use of fossil reserves such as oil shale and tar sands, whose extraction would lead to tremendous environmental destruction.
With a target of 350 ppm we must realize that it is not enough to reduce our CO2 emissions. We need to develop communities and methods of cultivation that overall absorb more CO2 than they emit.
With business as usual it is estimated that the CO2 concentration in year 2100 will reach 965 ppm and lead to a rise in temperature of 4.8º C. The specific reduction targets that the world’s countries have committed themselves to following the COP15 in Copenhagen will lead to an estimated concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere of 780 ppm in 2100 – a doubling of the present level – and cause a temperature increase of 3.9º C. Therefore, given that even a concentration of 450 ppm in the long run will lead to a full meltdown of the ice massifs of our Planet, the Copenhagen Accord is an utterly insufficient and irresponsible agreement.
In his speech to the world leaders during COP15, President Barack Obama put it clearly: “The question, then, before us is no longer the nature of the challenge – the question is our capacity to meet it.”
Whereas for a period of time it seemed to be climate sceptics and deniers who slowed progress, the situation today is rather that even those politicians who have recognized that something needs to be done are still not taking the necessary action, and certainly not fast enough. We could talk about climate action delayers. Nowadays, there is a tremendous gap between how climate scientists perceive the efforts needed to be made and how these are defined in the political system.
As citizens, we must show politicians that we are prepared and that we understand the implications so that politicians know and clearly understand that they must act consistently in the face of climate challenge in order to keep the support of their voters.
When you ask people around the world, there is a strong understanding of the importance of the need for change. For instance, around two thirds of the American population accepts the fact that significant political change will come. Yet American politicians are reluctant to initiate the necessary changes.
We need a world community, which – without listening to pettiness and the short-term interests of the industry – is capable of establishing a strong framework for a quick phase-out of all fossil fuels and a shift to a global society of equilibrium based on renewable energy and sustainable use of resources.
We must insist that the political system understands that the climate and the climatological development are not negotiable. It is not a question of if we should phase out fossil fuels, or if we are to achieve targets of 350 ppm and 1½º C, but solely how we, as a world community, can do it. Then we must share the challenges according to ability.
The industrialised countries’ lack of responsibility and lack of recognition of their climate debt is utterly embarrassing – and in the historical perspective unforgivable. For example, the EU should unconditionally acknowledge a 40% reduction target before 2020 and should, if at all possible, aim even higher. The world urgently needs this kind of demonstrated leadership. It requires a willingness to entertain a new type of thinking, but it should not be seen as a sacrifice. The countries that purposefully enter the transition to renewable energy will be much better off in the future than those countries who hesitate.
The insistence of the large developing countries on their right to first develop wealth through fossil fuels and then afterwards cut back on emissions is only true in a very limited perspective, and does not stand up to a global perspective. To deal with the current climate challenge we need a systematic shift to renewable energy and sustainable living conditions all over the world. Through a complete liberation of green technology as common property, we must ensure the establishment of welfare and decent living conditions all over the world. This takes as a precondition the realisation from rich countries, that the world’s wealth must be distributed far more equally.
At first, the Copenhagen Accord was a huge disappointment – though not an absolute catastrophe. At best, it is the beginning of a process that can lead to a legally binding agreement including all the countries in the world. All parties have acknowledged that the Copenhagen Accord, as a result, is insufficient. And even if they were not included in the Copenhagen Accord, the targets of 350 ppm and 1½º C have come to stay. They are, as it were, the demands of nature and the future on the present – and are not negotiable.
The Climate Bottom Meeting – Windows of Hope fully supports the requirement of 117 countries in the world – including the poorest and most vulnerable to climate change – that a climate agreement must contain binding reduction targets and interventions that ensure a maximum rise in temperature of 1½º C and target atmospheric CO2 to be kept below 450 ppm – and in time brought back below 350 ppm.
Returning to a CO2 level below 350 ppm requires the development of CCS technology (Carbon Capture & Storage). In recent years, there has been focus on development of a CCS technology for coal power stations. However, it is far from certain that such technology will ever reach 100% efficiency, and it may take 20 years before it is available for wider use. Also, even if we succeed in developing it, it will most likely be so expensive and resource demanding that it is an open question whether it will ever be extensively employed.
Instead, we must systematically increase CO2 storage in the topsoil and vegetation of the biosphere. This includes a broad range of initiatives: increased vegetation density through forest plantations; urban greening; preservation of virgin forest areas while strengthening biodiversity and living conditions for indigenous peoples; development of new cultivation methods in agriculture and forestry with increased vegetation density and increased sequestration of CO2 in the soil through increased humus content and application of biochar.
Recent estimates from the Worldwatch Institute suggest that up to half of current emissions of greenhouse gases can be attributed to the world’s meat production. From a climate perspective, factory farming is an absurdity, which must promptly be reprogrammed.
Current climate negotiations aim at introducing a global carbon market. However, carbon markets established under the Kyoto Protocol up until now have clearly demonstrated that they are unable to ensure the necessary restructuring in the industrialised countries. In order to become more than just a symbolic releif for our bad consciences, a system must be established where the price for the right to emit one tonne of CO2 can be held at a level that makes it feasible to reduce at the source – in most cases. Therefore, to ensure that it is not cheaper to continue emissions as usual, the price level of carbon must be increased from the current 10-25 Euros to 100-200 Euros or more. And the carbon market must be extended to include all emissions – also in international shipping and aviation.
At the same time, the world community must reconsider the carbon trade system in terms of its ability to protect the environment. If instead, a general CO2 tax of the same size was imposed and then fully circulated back into society, it would probably have far greater effect, be much easier to administrate, and much harder to cheat with, which middleman profit from. At the same time it would reward those people and businesses, cities and nations that are actually optimizing their CO2 emissions.
The availability of cheap fossil fuels has led to a global division of labour in which goods and services are travelling still longer distances. We are moving ever longer hours between work and home. Even simple consumer goods contain components from many continents, and supermarket food is transported an average of 2,000 miles before we put it in our shopping baskets. Today we can buy seasonal food like asparagus and strawberries all year round.
It may have its purely economic logic, but from a climate and sustainability point of view, it is totally unacceptable. Therefore, the upcoming climate plan must necessarily include a strong down-regulation of shipping and aviation, and a systematic strengthening of local solutions, in which a much larger part of what we consume is of local origin.
If we are to create global support for the necessary climate agreement, it is important that the industrialised countries understand and recognize their climate debt – that throughout the industrialised era they have not paid the full price for their prosperity – and that now they have to finance the necessary restructuring of the entire world if success is to be achieved on time.
With industrialization, we human beings were given tools that enabled us to transform and manipulate our surroundings on an unprecedented scale. This has led to the situation today that biodiversity and ecosystems all over the world are threatened. We have to realise the impossibility of the current over-exploitation of the resources on Earth. We have to pass beyond today’s purely anthropocentric models of understanding to make way for a new understanding of human beings as an inseparable part of a living world. We are still only at the very beginning of the development of a full global consciousness.
The development of societies in sustainable equilibrium will require a frontal weighing up of the consumerism and growth philosophy of the rich countries – and the whole idea that continued growth is possible. It is crucially important to learn to distinguish between life quality and life quantity. All over the world, we must establish decent living conditions in balance with natural surroundings.
On behalf of the Climate Bottom Meeting – Windows of Hope:
Christiania Cultural Association, The Network Keeping Christiania as a Green City Biotope,
The Agenda Association in Sundby, Environmental Point Inner City-Christianshavn,
LØS, The Danish Ecovillage Network and GEN-Europe, Global Ecovillage Network
See also Climate Bottom Manifesto and Funeral of the Day etc. on:
PS. The Danish word for ‘summit meeting’ can be translated as ‘top meeting’. At Christiania, there is a tradition of arranging parallel NGO ’bottom meetings’ when the city is hosting ’top meetings’.
 Oil shale and tar sand denotes bitumen oil deposits in the upper soil layers. The extraction leads to comprehensive water pollution and colossal destruction of the landscape. For example in Alberta in Canada, one of the world’s largest tar sand areas, a forest area the size of England is facing total destruction in the coming decades.
Until recently these sources have not been exploited, because it was too expensive. But with rising oil prices, extraction is becoming feasible.
Oil shale and tar sand are among the most polluting fossil fuels. Thus a worldwide moratorium on coal should be accompanied by a worldwide moratorium on oil shale and tar sand.
 Biochar is charcoal. Biochar is produced by burning organic material with limited supply of oxygen. Biochar has a porous structure that allows it to bind moisture and stimulates the growth of microorganisms. Therefore mixing biochar into the soil can enhance fertility significantly. At the same time it provides significant CO2 storage which is stable for a time frame of several hundred years.