COP25 disappointing outcomes

This is the official summary by Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the missed opportunity to respond adequately to the accelerating climate emergency, especially by the major carbon emitting nations.

We need to be clear that the conference did not result in agreement on the guidelines for a much-needed carbon market – an essential part of the toolkit to raise ambition that can harness the potential of the private sector and generate finance for adaptation.  Developed countries have yet to fully address the calls from developing countries for enhanced support in finance, technology and capacity building, without which they cannot green their economies and build adequate resilience to climate change. High-emitting countries did not send a clear enough signal that they are ready to improve their climate strategies and ramp up ambition through the Nationally Determined Contributions they will submit next year.


This short video outlines how local authorities can cut CO2 emissions by installing heat pumps under their parks and selling the converted ambient heat from underground to heat nearby homes. One borough in London – Hackney – is already installing this system which also boosts the financing of parks that has been cut due to government austerity policies. Maybe this idea could be suggested to the local council in Tychy, although the coal-burning power station might see it as competition!

Here is the link to the Wikipedia technical description of how heat pumps work.


This book review by Jeremy Williams is on a short new book “The Case for Universal Basic Services” which is a term first used in 2017 and is an alternative to the idea of universal basic income.

Basic government services already exist. In Britain we get our education for free, and healthcare for free. Police and emergency services are free. But what else should we consider basic? In the connected 21st century, should internet access be considered basic? What about access to travel? Or childcare? The UBS approach invites us to work out what we might consider “everyday essentials that everybody needs to live a decent life”, and then pool our funds so that they are “available and affordable for everyone.”

Finally, one of the best things about UBS is that all the various bits of it are already done somewhere in the world. They’re just not usually all in one place. Lithuania has universal free broadband and it’s the best in Europe. Estonia has free bus transport. The Scandinavian countries prioritise childcare. In that sense UBS isn’t revolutionary. It’s a new articulation of how wealthy countries could make the best use of their wealth, and create inclusive economies that benefit everybody. I’d vote for that.


This article is a response to the the slogan ‘system change not climate change’ that features in many current street protests. It sets out and elaborates six tangible proposals:

1. Stop wasting energy; 2. Tax greenhouse gases; 3. Make local public transport free; 4. Quit trading cheap stuff; 5. Planetary diet, rewilded grasslands; 6. Keep shouting for a new political economy.


Johan Rockstrom and colleagues have recently added to the concept of planetary boundaries with further research on the tipping points that will lead to severe ecologial damage that become irreversible. In this article from the journal Nature “climate tipping points – too risky to bet against” the research is summarised. The conclusion is that new evidence suggests that previous estimates of risk and urgency have been too low.

Information summarized in the two most recent IPCC Special Reports (published in 2018 and in September this year)2,3 suggests that tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2 °C of warming (see ‘Too close for comfort’).

If current national pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are implemented — and that’s a big ‘if’ — they are likely to result in at least 3 °C of global warming. This is despite the goal of the 2015 Paris agreement to limit warming to well below 2 °C …  warming must be limited to 1.5 °C. This requires an emergency response. Models suggest that the Greenland ice sheet could be doomed at 1.5 °C of warming3, which could happen as soon as 2030.

Climate change and other human activities risk triggering biosphere tipping points across a range of ecosystems and scales (see ‘Raising the alarm’).

The world’s remaining emissions budget for a 50:50 chance of staying within 1.5 °C of warming is only about 500 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2. Permafrost emissions could take an estimated 20% (100 Gt CO2) off this budget10, and that’s without including methane from deep permafrost or undersea hydrates. If forests are close to tipping points, Amazon dieback could release another 90 Gt CO2 and boreal forests a further 110 Gt CO211. With global total CO2 emissions still at more than 40 Gt per year, the remaining budget could be all but erased already.

Atmospheric CO2 is already at levels last seen around four million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch. It is rapidly heading towards levels last seen some 50 million years ago — in the Eocene — when temperatures were up to 14 °C higher than they were in pre-industrial times. If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization. No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.

We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best. Hence we might already have lost control of whether tipping happens. A saving grace is that the rate at which damage accumulates from tipping — and hence the risk posed — could still be under our control to some extent.

The stability and resilience of our planet is in peril. International action — not just words — must reflect this.


Stockholm Resilience Centre researchers have just published an important academic paper on how the earth’s landscape has been modified by humans to provide food. This human-made ecosystem is called the Global Production Ecosystem (GPE):

The GPE is the result of three important and interacting trends:

(1) the continued conversion of the Earth’s biosphere into simplified production ecosystems,

(2) the increased intensification and dependence of these production ecosystems on human inputs, and

(3) their expanding connectivity through global markets. The GPE integrates multiple sectors, broadly referred to here as forestry, agriculture (crops and livestock) and fishery (wild capture and aquaculture)

This short description of the longer paper introduces the main themes and conclusions:

Three avenues forward

The fragile anatomy of the global system for production of biomass is one of the grand challenges facing humanity, the authors conclude. To change course, the researchers suggest three overarching strategies:

  1. Redirecting finance for sustainability, exemplified by actions like divestment from unsustainable palm oil production, the insurance sector refusing to insure fishing vessels involved in illegal fishing, and banks denying loans to clients that do not comply with sustainability standards.
  2. Radical transparency and traceability, governmental policies that ensure that social and environmental criteria are met along whole supply chains. It also requires education and information to consumers in the form of certification, labelling and public campaigns.
  3. Keystone actors as agents of change, the handful of large transnational corporations that currently dominate agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In this context, the study also calls for improved science–business partnerships to complement public policies and governmental regulations. One example is the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) initiative, in which centre researchers directly engage with ten of the world’s largest seafood companies to influence their 600 subsidiaries with operations in at least 90 different countries.

But the researchers warn that the three strategies will never be successful without profound shifts in worldviews and belief systems.

“Ultimately, moving towards a more sustainable global production ecosystem is likely to require radical shifts in deeply held values, educational systems, and social behaviour that underpin current economic paradigms, consumption patterns and power relationships,” they write.