Features

United Nations Climate Summit 2014

Siqi Zhou

The Climate Summit at the United Nations on September 23, 2014 was an “unprecedented and important gathering” of more than 120 Heads of States and Government, and business and civil society leaders. During the Summit, leaders at the highest level united to advance climate action on five fronts: cutting emissions, mobilizing money and markets, pricing carbon, strengthening resilience, and creating new coalitions. Global leaders from diverse sectors came together to announce bold commitments in eight action areas: agriculture, cities, energy, financing, forests, industry, resilience and transportation. The Summit also aimed to strengthening political will for a meaningful universal climate agreement at the Paris COP-21in 2015.

A very exciting grassroots action to curb climate change occurred in New York City two days before the Summit. It is estimated that over 300,000 people participated in the People’s Climate March on September 21. “Our citizens keep marching,” Obama said in his address at the Summit, “We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”

The one-day Summit focused on tangible climate actions. U.S. President Barack Obama promised to announce more aggressive targets on emissions reductions next year and the European Union committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels and pledged about $22 billion to the Green Climate Fund to aid developing nations. Later in the program, during a Private Sector Forum luncheon many companies announced their support for carbon regulatory policies, like carbon taxing and cap-and-trade programs. Six global energy firms signed onto the “Climate and Clean Air Coalition Oil and Gas Partnership” to reduce methane emissions.

Read more: United Nations Climate Summit 2014

Interview: Power Africa

Shari Berenbach

GEI: Please briefly share with the story and rationale behind Power Africa.

Shari Berenbach: The United States recognizes that energy is a significant constraint for Africa and it can have a catalytic effect on Africa. When we look at the tremendous economic growth that is taking place in Africa currently, one cannot help but be excited at recent trends, which offer a great opportunity for the continent. The U.S. government initiative, Power Africa, was created to help spur this catalytic effect by: 1) providing electricity for more manufacturing and more economic growth and 2) extending the delivery of power to more parts of Africa so that more segments of the African population can benefit from and participate in the economic growth trajectory.

We believe that Power Africa is good for Africa, and also good for U.S. business, including the export of major infrastructure equipment. Undoubtedly, from a development standpoint, it was an absolutely compelling reason to focus on Africa’s energy constraints, which are choking Africa’s economic and human potential in the short and the long-term.

Read more: Interview: Power Africa

Science and the Media Collide

Michael Mann

There is a basic inconsistency between the here-and-now incentive that drives our popular media, and the slower, more deliberate manner in which science advances. While dramatic (and, unfortunately, many times misleading) headlines may help sell newspapers and get us to view evening news and commentary shows, they are not faithful to the way scientific progress generally occurs—or indeed to how any complex situation unfolds.

Individual scientific studies, as discussed earlier, rarely change our basic scientific understanding. Rather, the accumulation of evidence from many studies and the process by which some findings are reinforced and validated – while others fall to the wayside – typically leads to slow but steady scientific advancement.

Newspaper articles and television or radio broadcast news segments (sometimes aided by carelessly written press releases) tend to play up controversy and minimize uncertainties and caveats. Yet it is those caveats—the “error bars,” the conditional and tentative assertions, the qualifications—that scientists often emphasize (frequently to a fault) in their efforts to prevent their findings from being misinterpreted, overinterpreted, or generalized beyond their range of applicability. Evidently, scientists and journalists (or at least their editors), in this respect, tend to work at cross-purposes.

Who can blame press officers, journalists, and their editors for emphasizing that which appears most novel, unusual, or surprising about a breaking science story? They must find a “hook” to sell their story if it is to compete effectively with the numerous other stories seeking a place in the ever shrinking “news hole.” Incremental refinements may seem dull and uninspiring to the lay public, but controversy sells, and conflict, if a reporter can find it in a story—well, that’s the mother lode.

Read more: Science and the Media Collide

Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) Forum

Roopa Kamesh

Sustainable Energy for All is a major United Nations and World Bank-led global initiative to achieve three inter-connected objectives by 2030: 1) provide universal access to modern energy services, 2) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and 3) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix from its current share of 18% to 36%. The initiative aims to link universal energy access to national development priorities, and recognizes the integrated role of public and private sectors, financial institutions, and civil society to achieve these goals.

With the objective of galvanizing efforts and building momentum for this vital initiative, the first annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum was held on June 4-6, 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters. During the three-day forum over 1,000 high-level delegates, representing international organizations, national government, the private sector and civil society, discussed progress that has already been made and envisioned a roadmap to make Sustainable Energy for All a reality by 2030.

Read more: Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) Forum

 

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