Leading climate activist and writer, Bill McKibben, at a protest outside COP.

By Gary Cuneen

Natural Gas and Climate Goals

With protests chanting loudly in the background admonishing high ghg emitting countries to pay developing nations for loss and damage as I write this post, scientists continue to remind that we have less than a decade to significantly reduce ghg emissions or face breaching a critical warming threshold. New gas projects are predicted to consume 10% of the world’s remaining carbon budget which would make it all but impossible according to scientists to stay within 1.5 degrees. Emissions this year in the U.S. and India have increased while small decreases have occurred within China and the EU leading to record high ghg pollution. Despite this prognosis, some see natural gas as a “transition fuel”, with this year’s host Egypt and next year’s host United Arab Emirates and other nations and the U.S. increasing natural gas developments. The Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu has called for a fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty, and other nations are working on fossil fuel phase out plans. Scientists continue to state that natural gas is not a low carbon fuel source, and IPCC scientists assert that we will not stay within the 1.5-degree threshold if we build new oil and gas production facilities.

 Oceans, Nature-based Solutions and the Preservation/Adaptation of Ecosystems

Broad themes related to tackling the world’s ocean issues were discussed – which include preserving ecosystems and biodiversity, battling ocean pollution and implementing climate solutions that sequester carbon and reduce the heating of the oceans – as was the “Source to Sea” need to see the connectedness of the issues, break out of silos related to geography and focus of study and establish governance coordination to address the issues. Panel experts at the Ocean Pavilion at COP27 advocated for involving local residents and businesses in education about the issues impacting our oceans and engaging them in solutions accompanied by science. The tension between long-term solutions to restore ocean ecosystems and mitigate against climate change that is decimating our oceans – and the need for local people to survive and thrive economically was addressed. Alternative jobs need to replace those that are damaging the environment, and decision-makers and local residents need to be educated about the ecosystems benefits that oceans provide and the need to restore their health…all within a strict timeline as climate change continues to impact these precious resources. A coalition called Coastal 500 – the largest global network of mayors committed to work towards thriving and prosperous coastal communities – is engaging 500 mayors on ocean coasts to work together to protect the ocean resource they all have in common. 

The U.S. Center

A forum of three U.S. senators (MD, RI and MA) celebrated the $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act IRA), which is the largest climate legislation in U.S. history. With President Biden, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, John Podesta, Senators Markey, Cardin and Whitehouse in attendance among many other U.S. dignitaries, elected officials and experts, the forum began by sending a clear message that the U.S. is back in the game and ready to lead. Senators discussed the difficulty of getting the IRA passed, citing that Republicans have been the major obstacle and that they will not go where there corporate fossil fuel funders won’t allow them to go in terms of climate legislation. Fossil fuel companies receive roughly $600 billion in U.S. subsidies. In addition to the passing of the IRA – and its strong equity components – the senators discussed the bi-partisan passing of the Kigali agreement (not opposed by the fossil fuel lobbyists), which is an agreement to take Hydrofluorocarbons (not a fossil fuel) out of the atmosphere which contribute to climate change. The senators were emphatically committed to continue upping the U.S. commitment and role in staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius and stated that the U.S. ought to be leading the enactment of legislation that places a high cost on carbon. In a chance meeting and chat near the protest for loss and damage with Bill McKibben – leading author, environmentalist and co-founder of 350.org – Bill stated that more nations need to adopt policies like the unprecedented U.S. Inflation Reduction Act if we’re going to have a chance at staying within 1.5 degrees.