Oslo becomes first capital city to divest from fossil fuels

Creative Commons: George Rex, 2014

Creative Commons: George Rex, 2014

The City of Oslo has, today, become the first Capital City in the world to ban investments in fossil fuels, as it announced it will divest its $9 billion pension fund from coal, oil and gas companies.

Today’s announcement follows a previous pledge in March to ban investment in coal.

Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, of the Green Party in Oslo said:

We are very happy to announce that Oslo will take responsibility for the climate, both through our own policies and our investments. The time for climate action is now, and the new city government will address climate change both locally and globally. The reduction in pollution will make the city even better to live in, and ensure that we take our global responsibility.

In June this year, the Norwegian Parliament also announced the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund – worth $900 billion – would sell off over $8 billion in coal investments.

Oslo’s “brave decision” just weeks away from the UN climate talks in Paris has been welcomed by but national and international environmental groups.

Oslo joins a growing movement of 45 cities around the world that have committed to ban investments in coal, oil and gas companies.

Last month, a study showed that to date over 400 institutions and 2000 individuals from across 43 countries, and managing more than $2.6 trillion have pledged to ditch their holdings in fossil fuels.

Continue reading here.




Obama Cancels Arctic Drilling Leases

Kayaktivists protest Arctic drilling in Seattle, Washington. Photo credit: Natural Resources Defense Council

Kayaktivists protest Arctic drilling in Seattle, Washington. Photo credit: Natural Resources Defense Council

It just keeps getting better and better for the Arctic. First, Shell Oil pulled the plug on its horrific current drilling effort there two weeks ago.

Now the Obama administration has taken its first concrete steps to reduce future threats. Yesterday, it cancelled new lease sales scheduled for next year and 2017 in our Polar Bear Seas—the Chukchi and Beaufort—off the north Alaskan coast. And just said “No” to extension requests from Shell and others holding existing leases in the region.

This is big. Up to now, the federal government has treated Arctic Ocean drilling as a done deal. As recently as last May, the President tweeted: “we can’t prevent oil exploration completely in region.”

Kayaktivists spotlighted Arctic drilling as a climate issue—rightly, because huge new investments in dirty fuels can’t be harmonized with accelerating the shift to a clean energy future.

Continue reading here.






2015 Livable Cities Forum: Presentations Now Online

LCF2015_sessionpromoER 2Presentations from this year’s Livable Cities Forum, held September 28-30 in Calgary, are now online.

This forum focused on building flood resiliency and included such topics as public perception of flood risk, what data is needed to reach resiliency, building community trust, and financing resilience. ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford spoke about this last topic as her talk focused on how local government can pay for adaptation and flood mitigation infrastructure and planning. Check out Deborah’s presentation on this topic, as well as the many other excellent presentations, by clicking this link. (Presentations are available under each session title in the program.)

Deborah’s presentation centred on ACT’s recent report “Paying for Urban Infrastructure in Canada: An Analysis of Existing and Potential Economic Instruments for Local Governments.” This report outlines many more tools for local governments to pay for adaptation planning. If you haven’t yet, read our report here to learn more.


Canadian Climate Forum Symposium 2015: Food Security in a Changing Climate

The Canadian Climate Forum is holding their 2015 Symposium November 12th and 13th in Ottawa.

This event is a one and a half day gathering to raise awareness, share knowledge, and drive action to address food security in the face of a changing climate. The event’s main objectives are to:

  • Enhance levels of understanding about the impact climate change has on food (and seed) production, distribution, value, and life cycle management.
  • Engage stakeholders from multi-sectors and jurisdictions to share evidence, strategies and solutions.
  • Develop priorities and recommendations for action to help guide decisions and best practices that lead to more sustainable, safe, and nutritious food.

ACT is one of the sponsors of this event, and ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford will be moderating one of the sessions. Additionally, ACT’s water policy adviser, Bob Sandford, will be one of the distinguished speakers at this symposium. Bob is also the co-author of ACT’s new book, “The Climate Nexus”, which looks at the nexus between water, food, energy and biodiversity in a changing climate and will be released shortly.

If you are in the area November 12-13, check out more information and registration here! 




Map Shows Where Sea Level Rise Will Drown American Cities

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Rising tides are already lapping away at shorelines from Bellingham to Biscayne Bay. And with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels steadily rising, many of the country’s coastal cities and towns will someday be under water.

That’s even if the December Paris climate talks lead to significant global emissions cuts. A new map from Climate Central shows how the water will flow into hundreds of US cities under the best and worst global warming scenarios. It uses data from an accompanying study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that links CO2 to sea level rise to the topographic contours of the coastal US.

Coastal topography maps accurate down to a few inches showed where the water would rise. “Local, state, and federal agencies have been flying lidar missions over coastal areas for 15 years now,” says Strauss. Finally they added the 2010 census, and used the historic high tide lines to measure which pixels (each representing about 15 feet per side on the ground) would be drowned in the inundated future.

Or at least, some version of the future. They projected their data using four future emissions scenarios, ranging from extreme carbon cuts to emissions-heavy business as usual.

Continue to the full article for the detailed maps.

In Canada, over 7 million Canadians live in coastal communities. ACT’s work on sea level rise has primarily been with the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project, a 5-year multinational research project to document these increased risks facing coastal cities. Learn more about our work with CCaR here.



EU climate boss says G20 countries can improve pledges to cut emissions

In this Nov. 13, 2014 file photo, a passenger airliner flies past a coal-fired power plant in Beijing, China. (AP / Andy Wong, File)

In this Nov. 13, 2014 file photo, a passenger airliner flies past a coal-fired power plant in Beijing, China. (AP / Andy Wong, File)

RABAT, Morocco – Europe’s climate chief has acknowledged for the first time that climate pledges made by national governments ahead of a major UN conference fall short of meeting the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said the EU’s projections show the current pledges to cut or curb greenhouse gas emissions would put the world on a path toward 3 degrees C (5.4 F) of warming.

He says the fact that almost 150 countries have made pledges ahead of a December climate conference in Paris is “an extraordinary result. But we are not there.”

He said some G20 countries could raise their ambitions — and didn’t rule out improving the EU’s own emissions target.


The Associated Press
Published Monday, October 12, 2015 9:25AM EDT


If we could talk to climate refugees around the world, what would they tell us?


Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, devastating portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, in early November 2013. The Philippines faced a humanitarian crisis days after the typhoon hit with 1.9 million homeless and more than 6,000,000 displaced. In Tacloban alone, ninety percent of the structures were either destroyed or damaged.

Second in a series of blogs on climate change and population displacement.

By Claire Havens, ACT population displacement researcher.

After meeting someone who identified themselves as a climate refugee for the first time a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about the stories that other people displaced from their homeland might tell us. How did their livelihoods come to be threatened by climactic changes, or by political conflict exacerbated by extreme weather patterns? Was this a gradual change they saw coming for years, or a sudden, violent event that wrenched them from their beds and set them on the long road to finding a safe haven? When they reached a refugee camp, or crossed into a new country, what did they experience and did our international protocols and organisations like the UNHCR kick in to help them?

I came across a report today called Moving Stories, published by the UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition in 2014, written in the hopes of highlighting the voices of people who move due to severe environmental change, voices that are largely absent from the mainstream dialogue on climate migration. It’s a heartbreaking read.

The stories include testimonies of survivors of repeated typhoons in the Philippines, devastatingly powerful weather events that are being exacerbated by climate change. There is no such thing as climate change denial in the Philippines, where natural disasters such as floods, landslides, drought and forest fires are now the most significant factor driving internal displacement.

The report also looks at impacts occurring in Latin America, where internal displacement is also on the rise; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that migration from the countryside to cities in the region will be intensified by the impacts of climate change.

A villager from Bolivia expresses concern regarding climate-induced migration sending the next generation from developing to developed countries:

“I am very worried. The snow and ice are disappearing and melting day-by-day, year-by-year. The sun is stronger. It doesn’t snow as much. We are very concerned … There could be a tremendous drought. There might be no more snow, no more water coming down. So how would we irrigate our plots of land? My son would have to leave and go somewhere else, to other countries.”

Indonesia is another vulnerable region detailed in the report. The capital, Jakarta, home to some 9.6 million people, and the islands of Java and Sumatra are at risk from rising sea levels and coastal flooding. The Asian Development Bank estimates that as many as 20.5 million Indonesians could be at risk of coastal flooding by 2050.

One fisherwoman notes: “Previously the weather change was manageable. Now the weather in recent years has gotten worse. It has become more difficult to sail the sea, especially for those using rowing boats. The sea is not safe for us anymore.”

How can these sad and thought-provoking stories help prepare us for the arrival of increasingly intense waves of refugees, as global temperatures rise and directly or indirectly affect vulnerable populations? Such firsthand accounts tug at our heartstrings. They also give us valuable data about specific impacts on people’s ways of life, and what affects the decision to move – whether internally, or across borders to safety.

They also give us a window into how those affected by climate change see their own circumstances. I was surprised to read many accounts of survivors who were very emphatic about the impacts they perceive climate change has had on their personal lives.

As a grandmother from Bangladesh laments: “Climate change has wrecked everything; our people are living in other towns and cities, like refugees. All I wanted was to grow old with my children and their children. But now they are gone and I don’t think they will ever return.

It is essential that we begin now to think about how Canada may be able to provide support and compassionate services for such people as they are displaced – for a country as large and affluent as ours will surely be a destination for them as the impacts of global warming advance in the coming years and decades. How can – and should – we prepare to receive the people telling these stories?


Register Now: Workshop on Climate Change-Induced Hazards

header4The Centre for Natural Hazard Research will host a workshop co-organized with the SFU Adaptation to Climate Change Team and Natural Resources Canada to stimulate a national discussion about weather-caused and -triggered hazards that are changing in a warming world.

The workshop will:

  • examine current and likely future changes in the frequency and intensity of hydro-meteorological hazards due to climate change;
  • consider “Non-stationarity” of hazards;
  • define the needs of professionals for information about future changes in the frequency and intensity of hazards controlled or affected by climate;
  • examine the potential for national support for a program that documents changes in hazards and risk, and identify champions for such a program (IPC subcommittee?);
  • examine “Implementation” of climate knowledge into hazard and risk assessments;
  • be national (not regional) in scope;
  • scope best practices for professionals.

The workshop will be February 22nd 2016.

For more information and registration, click here!


Activists promise largest climate civil disobedience ever at Paris summit

 The winning poster of the 2015 Saxoprints Creative awards for WWF was inspired by the famous painting Liberty Leading the People from Eugène Delacroix. Photograph: Pierre Gaudoin / Céline Lentz / WWF France/2015 Saxoprints creative awards

The winning poster of the 2015 Saxoprints Creative awards for WWF was inspired by the famous painting Liberty Leading the People from Eugène Delacroix. Photograph: Pierre Gaudoin / Céline Lentz / WWF France/2015 Saxoprints creative awards

Thousands of climate change campaigners have promised to blockade a major UN climate summit in Paris with what they say will be non-violent direct action on a scale Europe has not seen before.

Grassroots groups from 350.org to Attac France are throwing their weight behind the “Climate Games” event for the landmark climate conference in December. The protests will involve 10 blockades, themed around “red lines” which they fear negotiators for the nearly 200 countries inside the summit may cross.

Governments are meeting in the French capital in the hope of reaching an agreement for action on climate change after 2020. Campaigners have shelved earlier plans to prevent delegates leaving the summit until they reach an emissions-cutting deal that matches activist ambitions.

350.org posters for COP21 “The redlines idea strikes just the right balance between ‘shut it down’ and ‘do your job’,” the author and campaigner Naomi Klein told the Guardian. “I also think that it is strong enough to grab the narrative, which will be critical if governments try to sell a bad deal as a success.”

On the last day of the summit – 11 or 12 December – thousands of people are expected to converge around the Le Brouget summit site with inflatable red lines, said John Jordan, an artist and prominent activist in the laboratory of insurrectionary imagination.


MacArthur winner wants to make clean energy with fake leaves

Yang, a professor of energy and chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of this year’s MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipients. His lab has developed a “leaf” that uses nanowires between 100 and 1,000 times thinner than a human hair to capture sunlight. Bacteria cultured among the nanowires then use that sunlight to convert CO2 into oxygen and fuels like methane and butanol.

The Los Angeles Times recently caught up with Yang to discuss the technology and his hopes for the future:

How close are you to being able to use artificial photosynthesis on a large scale?

This year, we finally came up with a first-generation, fully-functional system — and that’s after 10 years of research. We demonstrated its feasibility, but in terms of robustness and cost and efficiency, it is not close to being commercially viable.

To do basic research, we have to be patient. I’m a big believer that discovery cannot be planned. It requires support from the government and industry. It will take the work of one or two generations of talented people to solve this problem.

Do you think artificial photosynthesis can ever compete with natural photosynthesis?

We want to learn from nature, but we have to be better than nature.

It took evolution millions of years to get green plants and leaves to their current stage, but their solar-to-chemical-energy efficiency is not that high. All they need to do is make enough energy to survive. To come up with a commercially viable technology, we have to do better than that.

Is that possible?

Theoretically, it is certainly possible. In solar panels the energy conversion efficiency is above 20%, much higher than what is happening in leaves. So in terms of design, we have the advantage — nature doesn’t have silicon to use. We do.

Continue reading here.


Carbon Talks: Resilient Renewable Communities


Source: Carbon Talks

How do you reduce energy use and shift to renewable energy while ensuring resiliency in a city?

A number of global cities, including the City of Vancouver, have adopted a 100% renewable energy target in one or more of their electricity, heating & cooling, and transportation sectors. While reaching these goals will require a shift towards renewables, the foundation lies in changing the way we plan and build cities and consume energy. Canadian cities are also on the forefront of coping with the impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather, and any urban planning and renewable energy strategy will need to keep the realities of a changing environment in mind. Moreover, any plan for achieving ambitious renewable energy and livability goals lies in a massive increase in energy efficiency.

For more discussion on these issues, check out this upcoming Carbon Talks event on renewable and resilient cities. This event takes place Monday November 2nd, from 12:30-1:30 pm at SFU’s Harbour Centre campus.

ACT’s Executive Director, Deborah Harford, will be one of the speakers at this event. Deborah will be joined by Larry Beasley, Professor of Planning at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning and Founding Principal at Beasley and Associates.

Though this event is free, please register in advance here!


Upcoming Webinar: Environmental Flows in Canada and BC

eventbannerlarge.eventbannerlargeRegister now for an upcoming webinar hosted by the POLIS Project on Eological Governance.

Environmental flows provide the foundation for healthy and functioning aquatic ecosystems, fisheries, and the human livelihoods that depend on those ecosystems. Protecting environmental flows is a complex process that involves preserving several dimensions of natural flow regimes, including the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows.

In this webinar, speakers Brian Richter (Chief Scientist, Global Water Program, The Nature Conservancy) and Deborah Curran (Hakai Professor in Environmental Law and Sustainability & Program Director, Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria) will share insights on the critical importance of environmental flows protection and how to achieve it in Canada. The discussion will highlight international leading examples and practices to protect environmental flows and will focus on the potential of BC as a new regime for environmental flows protection is contemplated as part of the soon to be in force Water Sustainability Act. The speakers will also provide insight on how environmental flows are dealt with in law, and on the reforms needed to implement a comprehensive protection regime.

This webinar takes place Wednesday October 14th at 9:00 am PDT.

Click here to register and for more information! 




An evening with Professor Tim Flannery

At this special lecture Professor Tim Flannery, recipient of SFU’s 2015/16 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue, will discuss global climate issues with local thought leaders Andrea Reimer and Ross Beaty, and will tackle the thorny topic of how to reconcile climate action with economic growth and resource development. Audience members will also witness the Canadian launch for Professor Flannery’s latest book, Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis, which follows his past international bestseller The Weather Makers.

Date: Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Start Time: 7:00 pm
Doors Open: 6:00 pm
Venue: The Playhouse 600 Hamilton St, Vancouver, BC
Tickets: $20.00*
Seniors, youth and students: $15.00*
*Tickets sold through Tickets Tonight. Surcharges included.
Can’t afford to purchase a ticket? Contact Jenna Dunsby: jdunsby@sfu.ca
For media inquiries contact Robin Prest: rjprest@sfu.ca, 778.782.7885
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About Professor Tim Flannery

Tim Flannery has published over 140 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has named 25 living and 50 fossil mammal species. His 32 books include the award-winning The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers, which has been translated into over 20 languages. He has made numerous documentaries and regularly reviews for the New York Review of Books.

He has received a Centenary of Federation Medal, and in 2002 delivered the Australia Day address. In 2005 he was named Australian Humanist of the Year, and in 2007, Australian of the Year. In 2011 he was made a Chevalier of the Order of St Charles.

In 1998–1999 he was a visiting professor at Harvard, and is a founding member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, a director of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and has served on the International Board of WWF.

In 2007 he co-founded and was appointed Chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council. In 2011 he became Australia’s Chief Climate Commissioner, and in 2013 he founded and currently heads the Australian Climate Council. He serves of the Sustainability Advisory Board of Tata Power (India). His most recent book is Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis, published in October 2016 by Harper Collins.

About the Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue

The Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue is presented by SFU every second year to an individual who has demonstrated, internationally, excellence in the use of dialogue to further the understanding of complex and profound public issues. Past recipients of the Blaney Award include Reconciliation Canada Ambassador Chief Robert Joseph, Charter for Compassion founder Karen Armstrong, dance choreographer Liz Lerman, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, and leading international environmentalist Maurice Strong.

More information: sfu.ca/blaney


Resilient Cities 2015: Read the Report


Read the latest on urban resilience in the Resilient Cities 2015 report!

The report summarizes the core discussions and outcomes of all the sessions throughout the three days of the Resilient Cities congress and captures the broader developments and new directions in the evolving field of urban resilience. It provides actionable advice for local governments to create more resilient cities; presents numerous case studies from around the world; and features two “Reality Check Workshops” which put the new adaptation tools and solutions to the test.

Resilient Cities took place in Bonn, Germany from 8-10 June and focused on finance, collaborative approaches, resilient infrastructure, disaster risk reduction, and data for resilience. The 6th global forum also introduced new topics, such as communicating resilience and resilient public health systems and brought back the Urban Food Forum for the third consecutive time.

Read the Resilient Cities 2015 report today to get a detailed overview of the event and catch up on the latest developments in urban resilience!

And, be sure to check the Resilient Cities website for their call for contributions to the 2016 Resilient Cities congress! The call opens October 22nd.


Plastic-eating worms may offer solution to mounting waste, Stanford researchers discover

Mealworms munch on Styrofoam, a hopeful sign that solutions to plastics pollution exist. Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, discovered the larvae can live on polystyrene. (Photo: Yu Yang)

Mealworms munch on Styrofoam, a hopeful sign that solutions to plastics pollution exist. Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, discovered the larvae can live on polystyrene. (Photo: Yu Yang)

An ongoing study by Stanford engineers, in collaboration with researchers in China, shows that common mealworms can safely biodegrade various types of plastic.


Consider the plastic foam cup. Every year, Americans throw away 2.5 billion of them. And yet, that waste is just a fraction of the 33 million tons of plastic Americans discard every year. Less than 10 percent of that total gets recycled, and the remainder presents challenges ranging from water contamination to animal poisoning.

Enter the mighty mealworm. The tiny worm, which is the larvae form of the darkling beetle, can subsist on a diet of Styrofoam and other forms of polystyrene, according to two companion studies co-authored by Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford. Microorganisms in the worms’ guts biodegrade the plastic in the process – a surprising and hopeful finding.

“Our findings have opened a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem,” Wu said.

Continue reading here.



Mining and oil threatens one in three natural world heritage sites — report

he Nambia sand sea, one of the world heritage sites listed as at risk from oil and gas exploration or mining by the WWF. Photograph: Martin Harvey / Alamy/Alamy

The Nambia sand sea, one of the world heritage sites listed as at risk from oil and gas exploration or mining by the WWF. Photograph: Martin Harvey / Alamy/Alamy

Nearly one in three natural world heritage sites are at risk of exploration for fossil fuels and mining, a report from the conservation charity WWF has found.

The record high of 31% at risk is up from 24% last year. Natural world heritage sites are selected as the most important globally to conserve for reasons of natural beauty or significance, including game reserves, and unique natural features such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Some are home to species near extinction in the wild, including mountain gorillas, snow leopards and whales. Among those listed at risk are Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Malawi national park, Tanzania’s Selous reserve, Canada’s Wood Buffalo national park and the Danube delta in Romania. Together, world heritage sites currently cover less than 1% of the planet, but the number of designated sites is on the rise.

However, more sites are now in areas that could be opened up to the extraction of oil, gas and mining for minerals and ores, according to the report published on Wednesday called Safeguarding Outstanding Natural Value, and written by WWF, Aviva Investors and Investec Asset Management.

Continue reading here.

To learn more about climate adaptation, biodiversity, crops and food supply, see the following ACT reports:

Biodiversity Reports

Crops & Food Supply

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