Weekly wrap: Figueres sells message of hope to UN leadership race

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Christiana Figueres hugs mother Karen Olsen Beck - also a distinguished diplomat - at her UN leadership campaign launch (Screenshot)


After an emotional farewell to the UN’s climate change body this week, Christiana Figueres was straight home to Costa Rica to launch her bid for the top job.

Played in by a full orchestra and surrounded by flag-waving children, she bounded on stage at the national theatre brimming with optimism.

A refugee crisis, terrorism threats and multiple conflicts hold no fear for the woman who rescued a global warming pact from the ashes of Copenhagen.

“Impossible is not a fact, it’s an attitude” is the catchphrase, familiar to observers of the climate talks.

For all her popularity in climate circles, it is the five permanent members of the Security Council Figueres must impress – and she is up against candidates with more direct security experience.

Look out for further analysis from Ed King on the challenges ahead.

Number of the week

€87/MWh – A record low price for offshore wind power bid by Dong Energy in the Netherlands

UK climate sceptics broke cover after Brexit to argue the next government, liberated from Brussels, should tear up its low carbon policies.

Figueres’ achievement was illusory and the government shouldn’t trust it, said a law professor invited to speak in Parliament by Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Embarrassing, then, that David Campbell based his entire lecture on an outdated draft of the UN climate deal. Remember “shallgate”? Well, it passed him by.

Battle lines

At a time much of the electorate distrusts experts, however, such details may not count for much.

Lord Deben, head of the government’s climate advisory body, is not complacent, urging green business leaders to defend environmental gains.

We will be faced by a concerted very well-funded series of attempts to reduce protection of environment and workers’ rights and we are going to have to have to fight it,” he said.

Arctic death spiral

A favourite sceptic trope is to cherry pick data showing polar ice increasing. Well, an animated spiral plot of Arctic sea ice volumes by Reading University’s Ed Hawkins could not be clearer about the trend since 1979 – it’s shrinking.

Meanwhile, June data showed the extent of sea ice hit a record low for the time of year, the Guardian reported.

Ratification watch

Saudi Arabia and Germany will ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of the year, leaders said at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue.

France’s Segolene Royal is keeping up pressure on the EU to do the same, stubbornly ignoring the uncertainty over member state contributions.

That is “a big question mark,” acknowledged special envoy Laurence Tubiana, who nonetheless expects the whole deal to be up and running by 2018. Watch her comments on Brexit, business and the next climate summit in Marrakech.

Quick hits

India: Javedekar out, Dave in as environment minister
Just transition: Banks urged to blacklist Czech coal guzzler EPH
IEA: China is building a third of Africa’s new power capacity
UK: Fracking will blow carbon goals without stricter rules
Red planet: What Mars can teach us about geoengineering

Read more on: Climate politics