As part of a monthly online feature, Impact investigates the latest news, projects and discoveries in the battle against climate change.
With COP 21 ( Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto protocol) in full swing in Paris this week, it is timely to look back at the events which have occurred in the lead up to the potentially pivotal conference. With the global climate march completed in over 2000 towns and cities around the globe and with intense lobbying from important figures in the climate movement, it is hoped that pressure is mounting from below to convince world leaders to act swiftly.
Friday the 6th November saw U.S. president Barack Obama reject, after seven years of political wrangling, the building of the ‘Keystone XL’ pipeline. The project would have delivered highly controversial tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast in Texas. Obama declared in a statement that the United States is ‘now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action on climate change’. Later in the month the popular appointment worldwide of liberal Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began with pressure on him to address climate change and in his first speech on the topic since his election, declared his intention of working closely with indigenous groups who are ‘taking a leadership role in climate change’.
The World Bank released a report as a preface to the Paris conference asserting climate change will likely push hundreds of millions of people into extreme poverty by 2030 and increase the risk of the spread of diseases such as malaria. Further predictions from elsewhere in a report from Barack Obama’s advisor on energy to the U.S. army described how climate change was one of the greatest threats to American national security.
The World Meteorological Organization reported that carbon dioxide levels have now reached 4 hundred parts per million in the Earth’s atmosphere, which has been unprecedented for thousands of years. It also noted the discrepancy between what nation’s had pledged to cut compared with it’s actions. Average global temperatures were reported as being a whole degree Celsius higher and a 30% increase in ocean acidity levels.
The divestment movement has celebrated considerable gains in the last few weeks, Allianz, the financial services conglomerate, has committed to moving the 30% of their revenue from coal investment to increase their shares in wind energy. Oslo became the world’s first capital city to commit to total divestment from fossil fuels in October. This was followed in November by Münster banning the use of its pension fund for fossil fuel investment, the first German city to do the same. British councils are beginning to follow suit, with Norfolk becoming the fifth council to support divestment. Fossil Free reported the successful campaigns at the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield, Surrey and the London School of Economics to commit to divesting their endowments from their academic institutions. Combined, these investments add to over £200 million.
Continuing this momentum at Nottingham, the most recent students’ union council passed motions to oppose fracking and to campaign for the university to remove it’s endowments from similarly ‘damaging and unethical investments’. This included the intention for the union itself to completely divest and also pressure the university into ending its financial relationships with these institutions.
It is clear at the present time that there is a strong desire for radical action to be taken on climate change and these individual ‘victories’ form part of the case for a grander scale of policy changes to be made in Paris in the coming days.
Science editor for the University of Nottingham student magazine IMPACT