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World Wide Views on Climate and Energy

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Stipulating the crucial role of the citizens input during the global debate on Climate Change, Dr. Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou was the keynote speaker at the”Athens World Wide Views on Climate and Energy”. The Greek audience applauded the chance to take part at the event the first of a series of large global citizens consultations ahead of COP 21 in Paris.

The participants were informed on the IPCC Reports on Climate Change, the international consultation process and were asked to vote on the steps that should be taken in Paris.

241561924Dr. Avgerinopoulou, who Chairs the Circle of the Mediterranean Parliamentarians on Sustainable Development, COMPSUD, and was a f. Chair, of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs said: ” Our public consultation takes place in the heart of Athens, the cradle of Democracy. I cannot, thus, avoid commending that public consultations as a means of policy- and decision-making are and should be in the heart of global democratic governance. Dr. Avgerinopoulou asked for the vivid support of public participation in climate change negotiations now and in the future.

The “World Wide Views”, pilot project of globally constructed public consultations offers an initial answer to the question on how to fill the so-called “democratic gap” on the international level. More constructed dialogue processes should officially take place before environmental meetings of such international importance, as the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

Due to lack of specialized environmental education and limited access to information, the involvement of the public in climate change consultations is of vital importance. The “public factor” acts correctively to the divergence of opinions that actually exists between the scientific community. Even today, a small minority of scientists still believe that climate change is not anthropogenic, does not occur and that there is not much we can do to reverse it.

However, people, in cities and villages, all over the world feel the consequences of climate change in their everyday lives. Farmers see their cultivations being too often destroyed by unusually extreme weather conditions; fishermen observe changes in the natural routes and habitats of fisheries and depletion of fish resources due to illegal overfishing; coastal populations lose part of their coasts as sea level rises; urban populations cannot enjoy healthy lives in the cities due to high temperatures; people in vulnerable regions of the world suffer under extreme weather conditions, and natural disasters. All of these people know very well that climate change exists and that the international community has to do something to avert it now!

Public participation in the climate change negotiations signifies the end of ambiguity in the climate change debate. People from all over the world request immediate action and changes in both international and domestic policy choices and the economy.

In December 2015, in Paris, in view of the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2020, the international community should move forward and adopt a new legally binding protocol to combat climate change. The Protocol should not only be binding, but should also be ratified by all countries. There should be no “free riders” in a climate just world.

We see now that people from all over the world demand from their political leaders to;

• act decisively and adopt bold binding goals for the reduction of CO,

• adopt binding commitments both for developed and developing countries, while assisting developing countries with the adoption of nationally appropriate mitigation actions enhancedby technology, financing and capacity-building;

• develop adaptation plans for all;

• protect forests worldwide in order to protect our climate and us;

• protect our valuable biodiversity and maintain the habitats for all species;

• restructure the economies in order to untap the green investment potential; invest in clean energy; and make patterns of production and consumption more sustainable;

• advance education and foster societal changes leading to a more smart and inclusive sustainable development; and

• last but not least, develop new technologies for capture, storage, conversion and reuse of CO and other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), in order to mitigate the phenomenon as quickly as possible.

Recalling international instruments, among others: “The Future We Want”, “Harmony with Nature”, the “Quito Communique”, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and overarching principles of Public International Law and Relations, among which the Principle of Harmony; envisioning a zero waste society, a low carbon economy, a harmonious life among other species, and environmental justice among peoples and among generations;

Athens, Greece, is today sending the strongest message to the participants of COP 21: STOP CLIMATE CHANGE NOW. Together we can do it! Go world!”

Dr. Avgerinopoulou, a f.M.P, of the Hellenic Parliament and f.President of the “Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection of the Hellenic Parliament” ended her speech asking from the hosts of the event, namely, the Commission for the Study of the Climate Change Impacts of the Bank of Greece, the Mariolopoulio-Kanaginio Foundation for Environmental Sciences and the Master’s Program of the School of Medicine of the National and Kapodestrian University of Athens on “Environment and Health”, headed by Professor Nikolopoulou – Stamati, to convey the message of the Greek people “directly to the Capital of France”. As Dionysia stated “Paris,will be the capital of the world for a few days in November and December of 2015, when the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is going to take place, in order to pave the way, mitigate climate change and alleviate its impact on human society and our natural environment”.

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2021 will be defined by the more long-term crisis facing humanity: Climate change

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Rather than low-tech and often unworkable solutions (reduced or no travel, mass vegan diets) governments are increasingly embracing technology to help us understand and influence the climate – rather than merely respond to it. This should become the norm for public authorities across the world.

China’s weather modification programme, for example, could be a lifeline for workable solutions to climate change globally. The technique, known as cloud-seeding, uses silver iodide and liquid nitrogen to thicken water droplets in the cloud, leading to increased rain or snowfall. 

The technology has been used to prevent droughts and regulate weather before major events, like in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics

The Chinese cabinet has announced that its weather modification programme will cover half the country by 2025, with the aim to revitalize rural regions, restore ecosystems, minimize losses from natural disasters and redistribute water throughout the country.  

And China’s ambitious ‘Sky River’ programme could eventually divert 5 billion cubic meters of water annually across regions, which could protect millions of people from the effects of drought and water scarcity. 

Although critics have, without evidence, described these projects as ‘weaponization of the weather’, the humanitarian and development potential is huge. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, and this is truer than ever with regards to the climate. The world faces a climate-change induced water crisis, with 1.5 billion people affected globally. 

The UN predicts that at the current water usage levels, water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030. 

Carbon emissions are unlikely to be eliminated in high growth economies in regions like Asia, meaning that the world must develop a way to manage emissions’ effects on the climate. 

Whilst it is true that the basic solutions of eating less meat, cycling to work and cutting back on international flights can help to curb our carbon output in the long-run, it does nothing to help those who suffer from flooding or water scarcity today. 

Ultimately, technology is an essential part of the solution.

Big Tech is leading the charge in tackling climate change through the use of Big Data and machine learning. In November 2019, a group of data scientists published a paper entitled ‘Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning’. The paper laid out 13 different applications of using machine learning to tackle the impacts of climate change. One such application was using machine-learning to predict extreme weather events. 

Such an application is already being put into action. For example, Bangladesh is one of the most flood-prone countries in the world; approximately 5 million people were negatively affected by flooding last year alone. In order to help combat this, Google teamed up with the Bangladesh Water Development Board and the Access to Information (a2i) Programme to develop a flood notification app that is approximately 90% accurate

The app, which is enabled by AI flooding simulation, provides the population with timely, updated, and critical information that can help users make informed decisions on the safety of their families and friends. 

The same technology has been used in both India and South Africa, and has the potential to save thousands of lives and livelihoods. It is these sorts of innovations that we must rely on to help those who are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. 

It is not only cloud-seeding and weather prediction technologies that will provide humanity with a route out of its biggest existential threat. Breakthrough battery technology, green hydrogen, 5G-based smart grids and carbon-negative factories are set to become commonplace in our fight against rising CO2 levels. 

As a global society, we must set our political divisions and some critics’ technophobia aside, and step forward in a spirit of international collaboration.

Similarly to how the pandemic showed the need for united global action, climate change will do the same. And just as technology and science was a key part in how the pandemic was brought under control, climate change can only be addressed through tech-based solutions.

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The solution to marine plastic pollution is plural, and plastic offsetting is one of them

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Due to growing concerns around environmental protection, businesses, individuals and governments have been looking for solutions that can be largely implemented to close the tap on plastic pollution.

In the last five years, businesses have strengthened their Sustainability Approach to acknowledge the need to take responsibility for their plastic production and consumption.

If targets have been defined and strong policies followed them to ensure high recycling rates of plastic products, a problem remains. What is the solution for low-value non-recyclable plastics?

This is where plastic offsetting enters the scene. As a derivative of the Carbon Offsetting concept, where trees are planted or protected to capture CO2 emissions, Plastic offsetting also known as Plastic Neutralization, enables companies to take responsibility for their plastic footprint.

Put simply, neutralizing means funding the collection and treatment of plastic, equivalent to the plastic impact of the business. Therefore, giving it the opportunity to compensate for every ton of plastic it has produced by ensuring there is one ton less in the environment.

From linear to Circular Economy Itis also a breakthrough in our traditional model of production, the linear economy. By extending the producer responsibility (EPR), this concept allow to build the bridge that lead to the ideal model, the circular economy, where no waste remains.

This innovative solution brings with it diverse positive impact. To the environment, by protecting ecosystems from plastic pollution, reducing landfilling and CO2 emissions. A strong social impact, by local communities by empowering local communities with work and better incomes. But also businesses, by becoming more sustainable with the reduction of the plastic footprint and a strengthen corporate social responsibility.

TONTOTON, a Vietnamese company, based in Ho Chi Minh City has succeed to connect all stakeholders to create a new market for low-value non-recyclable post-consumer plastic, on the scheme of circular economy.

TONTOTON Plastic Neutralization Program

Following the idea that the informal sector achieve to collect and recycle large amount of plastic in poor waste management areas, Barak Ekshtein, director of TONTOTON decided to look closer to the problem. In fact, a study shows that ‘97% of plastic bottles were collected by informal waste pickers.

The problem therefore does not lie in the logistics but in the price. By giving a market price to non-recyclable plastic, it allows waste collectors to collect and treat waste and thus avoid plastic pollution.

TONTOTON currently works in Southern Vietnamese Islands, Hon Son and Phu Quoc, and has already few tons of low-value plastic waste. To do so, it collaborates with local waste-pickers and thus provide them better incomes. The program focuses on preventing ocean plastic by following the Ocean Bound Plastic Certification. Their activities are audited by a 3rd party control body, the internationally recognized company, Control Union.

To treat the waste, TONTOTON partners with a certified cement plant, through co-processing, to valorize waste as an alternative energy and raw material. “Our system can solve two issues. Plastic is made of fossil fuels and contains more energy than coal. Thus we can replace industrial coal consumption with non-recyclable plastic waste. The plastic will not end up in landfill or oceans, therefore reduce levels of coal consumption and thus also CO2 emissions.”, says Barak Ekshtein.

Businesses engaged in their program can claim plastic neutrality on the amount of plastic neutralized to share their sustainability efforts. Moreover, indicate it on their neutralized product by bearing the “Plastic Neutral Product” label.

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Climate Change in Vanuatu: Problems Ensue

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Authors: Harsh Mahaseth and Shubham Sharma*

Vanuatu announced its intention to seek legal action against corporations and governments who have benefited from products which had caused climate change. Minister Regebvanu, in the 2018 Climate Vulnerable Summit sought to explore legal actions against companies, financial institutions and governments liable for the damages caused to Vanuatu due to climate change, either by direct to indirect actions of the said parties. Vanuatu, like other small island nations, is seeking damage claims against carbon emitters who have contributed to climate change and benefited from it. Vanuatu seeks to claim reparations for damage caused by events related to climate change such as the 2015 cyclone which wiped out an estimated 64 per cent of Vanuatu’s GDP.

A case of action against global polluters isn’t novel. Climate Change litigation has its precedence, with over 1300 cases having been filed across 28 countries, where various public and private entities have petitioned the Courts for environmental action or relief. The source of the litigation comes for various multilateral treaties, such as the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and others treaties combating pollution.

For Vanuatu, one of the major obstacle, other than the likely opposition from powerful States, includes finding a suitable forum; identifying relevant substantive obligations and various challenges relating to attribution, causation and evidence before they are able to make successful climate litigation before an international body such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ), scholars have argued that a path for successful litigation exists through Article 36, paragraph 2 of the ICJ Statute, where by accepting compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJa case for prevention obligations under the lex special is of the UNFCCC, human rights law or customary international law.

Strategic Public Climate Litigation, an injunctive relief solution where the aim is to influence public policy or policy decisions primarily through the attainment of injunctive relief by asserting governmental failure to account for GHG emissions associated with public projects and cases of judicial review of public regulatory action (or inaction) on climate change, has already achieved some degree of success. An example would be the Australian Conservation Foundation et al. v. Minister for Planning where there were concerns with regards to GHG emissions of a new coal mine which lead a tribunal to determine the lasting significant environmental effects of the coal mine in the future would be against the objective of the act which is to “maintenance of ecological processes” and the “future interest of all Victorians.” Another example is that of the State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation, where an injunction was sought to compel the Dutch government to reduce GHG emissions, the supreme court of appeals, upheld this view and ordered the Dutch government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by the end of 2020, compared with 1990 level.

The second option for Vanuatu is to cast a wide net of a variety of legal theories, such as domestic tort law against carbon majors similar to the petition brought before the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, which investigate the responsibility of 47 investor-owned carbon majors for human rights violations due to climate change. For this approach, the initial challenge Vanuatu faces is the lack of a national human rights institution who can bring rights violations caused by climate change. However, the lack of a human rights institution can be mitigated by Vanuatu’s independent judicial system, as it is competent to address claims for damage caused by climate change by the polluters. The major hurdle Vanuatu faces is establishing the causation between the defendants’ conduct and its result, which is to say whether the action of the defendant lead to or contributed to the disaster, and secondly, the ability to certain specific damage sorted by Vanuatu on the other, especially in cases of non-economic loss and damage.

The recent surge in climate change litigation bodes well for Vanuatu, as the establishing precedence only strengthens their claim for damages. However, Vanuatu still faces major obstacles. Firstly, a lack of an international body to address the issue. Even if a case is brought before the ICJ, it can only be against a Member State. Thus, action against private entities cannot be brought before the ICJ. Secondly, identifying the rights violated and then assessing and assigning the damage liability to individuals, entities and governments. Thirdly, if Vanuatu pursues action in domestic courts, there are issues relating to the appearance of the party to the summons and the ability of Vanuatu to enforce the judgment. As the primary means of compliance for offenders in the international area are sanctions, Vanuatu without support from larger nations wouldn’t be able to handout sanctions to force compliance. There are many problems that Vanuatu faces but they cannot sit still now, and it is time to act and make the polluters liable.

* Shubham Sharma is a graduate from NALSAR University of Law. He has worked on several research projects relating to human rights, juvenile justice, and climate change.

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