Weekly wrap: Record warm streak fires up UN ceremony

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(photo: UN)


Our wrap this week comes as the main event kicks off in New York – a signing ceremony for the Paris climate deal.

There have been plenty of trailers, mind, with the Dalai Lama, World Bank and Google broadcasting their support.

No fewer than 167 countries (plus the EU) are slated to attend the UN victory lap, with 11 ready to deposit their instruments of ratification.

Belize and Somalia join a collection of vulnerable island states in formally approving the deal, in the hopes of bringing it into force early. India, South Africa and Australia are among the bigger hitters aiming to ratify this year.

For all its recent talk of a post-oil future, Saudi Arabia is not planning to put in an appearance. Still, we’re expecting details on its $2 trillion plan to rebalance its economy next week, so watch this space.

Here’s the schedule. We’ll be live blogging the action.

Number of the week

11 – The number of consecutive record-breakingly warm months globally, NOAA reports. Things are set to calm down soon, as El Nino gives way to La Nina. Still, it’s a foretaste of conditions to come as global warming continues.

Shipping stalemate

Not everyone has caught climate fever. At the International Maritime Organization in London, talk of a shipping emissions target was yet again deferred.

The US sided with emerging economies against a proposal for the sector to define its “fair share” of carbon cuts. That should wait until they’ve gathered ship-level data on fuel use, its envoy argued, which observers say will take 7-15 years.

Pricing push

Canada, France and Germany are among six countries challenging fellow governments to slap a price on carbon.

They want to see half the world’s emissions covered by taxes or emissions trading schemes by 2030.

What a difference half a degree makes

The 1.5C aspirational limit on global warming may or may not be achievable, but the difference from 2C is not insignificant.

A study out on Thursday showed the tougher threshold offers hope of survival for coral reefs and could prevent 10cm of sea level rise this century.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum called on all countries to resubmit their carbon-cutting plans by 2020 to keep that limit in reach.

Quote of the week

“It’s time to underline the moral seriousness of the challenge by putting our bodies on the line” – 350 co-founder Bill McKibben on plans for a global wave of fossil fuel protests next month

India’s coal-solar tussle

Far and away our most read story this week was India’s energy minister Piyush Goyal asserting solar power is now cheaper than coal to install.

To put that into context, many readers then clicked through to Goyal’s December comments that coal was essential for base load generation.

Oh, and his scathing attack on Western aid initiatives in African villages that stop at solar lamps. Larger scale energy was needed to run TVs and fans, he argued.

Still, it was a notable shift in rhetoric, echoed by Goyal’s environmental colleague Prakash Javadekar, who urged rich countries to ramp up coal taxes and funnel the cash into climate aid.

Gerard Wynn analysed the data.

Quick hits

Vattenfall: Swedish utility takes $3bn hit to exit German coal
BRICS bank: Hands $811m in green energy loans
Sun Edison: Solar sector thriving despite bankruptcy
Maldives: UN green funds are boosting water security
Revving down: Why Europe’s biggest carmakers are in for a rough ride

Read more on: Breaking News