Kjells Page


The Myth of Development

Today, we are chasing a myth. The myth of development. Today's so-called development is not an achievement.

In historical terms, it is a flash in the pan. It will last less than a human lifetime in most places.

In social terms, it is an unequal pleasure. While a small minority enjoys luxuries unheard of before, a majority is excluded from the most basic benefits of a "developed" lifestyle.

In ecological terms, it is an outright catastrophe. We are destroying the very basis of our own survival.

Let's look at the way "development" is framed in our minds: the more money, the more GDP, the more industries, cars, shopping centers, the more "developed" we are, right? In reality it is a cancer that destroys our Mother Earth. Those who are more "developed" destroy her faster. But because develoment also thrives on inequality, they don't worry. Once they have destroyed most, they will still be able to occupy whatever is left of functioning green capacity (clean water, air and a predictable environment) for themselves, while shutting out the poor.

Fossil fuel addiction = development

If you calculate the energy contained in coal, oil and gas and translate it into people working for you, you can get an idea of how many "fossil fuel slaves" a person employs to maintain their lifestyle. A typical consumer would have tens of fossil energy slaves. A German 50 on average. A Chinese 40. A Mexican 30. An Indian ten. An average Indian that is. An Indian of the consumer class would be closer to the German figure, while a rural Indian wouldn't usually be employing any significant number. Maybe one every once in a while.

Development is a myth. Take a look at environmentally "progressive" Germany. Germany has 20 energy slaves per person in renewable energy. What do we do with it? We use it. But we also use our own dirty coal (called lignite), we use imported oil, imported gas, lots of products that destroy the environment in other countries. We live like kings and destroy our home planet. And we are the shining example to the rest of the world? This is a myth. Destroying your home planet, living a life in luxury is not right. It is wrong. We are all wrong. Consumer society is wrong. We are all living a historic error. And we had better rectify before we have destroyed too much of our precious home. We are burning down our home, having a big party and envying each other for who is getting bigger pieces of the luxurious cake we're eating while burning down the house. Forget about that. Development is a myth.

What we need is a way to feed ourselves, have clean water, health, a home and clothes in a sustainable way. Without burning down the house. Ask a German on how to live without fossil energy. We have all forgotten about it. The development myth leads us into fossil fuel addiction. Europe and North America and all the other so-called "developed" countries are fossil fuel addicts. They are addicted to destroying our home. And China is rapidly catching up in getting addicted too. That's what development does to us. It leads us into a deadly addiction that will leave a destroyed planet and a small survivor population, struggling to eke out a living on the bits and pieces of the biosphere that remain productive after the crash.

Where to start

Shutting down fossil fuel supply is a key lever. As long as the cheap fossil fuel keeps flowing, breaking the fossil addiction will be a pious wish that gets swept away by the flow of things at every corner. Only if we manage to turn off the tap, will we be able to reduce our addiction and keep others from getting addicted.


On a theoretical level, a number of alternatives have been proposed: buen vivir, ecological civilization, cyclical economy, xiaokang shehui (小康社会), self-sufficiency economy, 100% clean energy transition.
On a practical level, none of these has managed to break the myth of development. But there is no way of avoiding it any longer. The myth of development is killing our Mother Earth and it is set to kill human civilization as well.

Forget about development. A decent, sustainable life for everyone is what we need. Let's get to work.

Kjell Kühne, 6.5.2017


Climate Strike!

Here is our latest addition to the building wave of climate action: a million students mobilizing to stop fossil fuel extraction, transition to 100% clean energy and supporting climate change victims.

A global Climate Strike on November 30th, 2015!

Please join us!


A new way to look at the climate crisis

The LINGO & Life Manifesto

Dear fellow fighters for a safe planet,

we are all trying to find a way out of the climate crisis. But we seem to be trapped in a fossil world where burning fossil fuels is good and economic growth is the measure of things. I would like to propose a simple goal for our climate movement:

Let's shut down all coal mines, oil and gas wells in our lifetimes, and guarantee the right to life.

That is the one responsibility that we, as a climate movement have. You can call it "ending the fossil age", "putting fossil technologies into the museum", "the global energy transition", "zero emissions" or "leaving it in the ground". But I find it helpful to focus on shutting down the mines and wells that we have in our countries and that feed our countries.

Systemic drivers
If we look at the system of humans and the climate, the cheap supply of fossil fuels is the strongest "driver" of the system - even stronger than a global deal on climate would be! (see A Systems Analysis of the Climate Crisis)
If there is no cheap fossil energy around, we will of course start moving away from it. So let's make it expensive by resisting extraction and by shutting down mines! Shutting down a mine leads to less supply, makes coal more expensive and will lead to people choosing renewables (or nuclear, or gas, unfortunately). Of course a higher price also makes it more attractive for companies or exporters to push through new coal mining projects (or tar sands, or Arctic drilling, or exploration for some undiscovered "cheap" oil deposit somewhere). But that's why we need to get smart at resisting extraction.

Why not "reduce emissions"?
Reducing emissions is the name of the climate game so far. At the UN, at home, in national policy. But it leads us nowhere.
Do "reduced emissions" mean we burn less fossil fuels? In theory. Which theory? Well, wishful thinking. Let me tell you something: Economic growth will eat up every last crumb of oil, coal and gas left by "reduced emissions". And if people burn no oil to heat their houses any more, they will simply fill it into their cars and go on vacation. The only thing that counts for the atmosphere is extraction. (thanks for the comrades at Oilwatch for insisting on this point)
If you think of "reduced emissions" as a way towards making shutdown of mines and wells easier/possible, then you are on the right track. But don't lose sight of the goal.

Mobilization is easier
Reducing emissions is about numbers. Fighting extraction is about places, people, stories. It is a much stronger case than what we have so far, as climate activists. What mobilizes people? Historical responsibility or a village getting bulldozed? 30% or keeping the air that we breathe and the water that we drink from being poisoned? Some of us are already working on this task, but many are not. Notably the UNFCCC negotiations are doing basically nothing to achieve our task. Standing with the people who are fighting the fossil monster economy where it wants to eat their land, their health and their history will help you keep your feet on the ground when fighting for decarbonization elsewhere (say the transport or housing sector, or even at your home).

Zero carbon transition plans as enabling LINGO
Transition Plans and zero carbon scenarios and strategies are a very helpful ingredient of our struggle. They give us the inspiration that getting off our fossil addiction is possible. They are the first step. (See a list of 100 cities, regions and countries that have walked at least this first step.)
The second step is getting off fossil fuels, as quickly as we can. Transitioning at home. The Future Box is a tool that can help you to achieve that very quickly.
The third step is to help others transition, too.
The fourth step is to make a zero carbon lifestyle the norm.
At some point during this walk we will gather the courage and the momentum to put a complete phase-out of fossil energy on the agenda.

The "right to development"
There is no such thing. And much less a "right to fossil fuel powered development". We don't have that right in Europe or North America, and we don't have that right in Asia or Africa. We simply don't have a right to destroy other beings for a "better" life and we have no right to destroy the basis of our children's survival.
I live a very comfortable life myself. I call it a "lifestyle of kings", because today's consumer class, to which I belong, has a better quality of life than kings used to have. But we have no "right" to live like that. Our grandparents didn't live like this. They probably worked harder. Do you want to insist that as grandchildren we have a right to burn oil, gas or coal to heat our house, instead of the strenuous work of making firewood? Try to think from the perspective of a Maldivian, a Kenyan or a Bangladeshi. Destroy their homes and lives for a little more comfort of some spoiled brats? Maybe we would have to get up a little earlier every morning to make it. Or rent a smaller apartment. Do we have a right to go on vacation overseas? Do we have a right to eat bananas? Do we have a right to use a computer, brought to us by slave workers and stained with the blood of Congolese victims of civil war? Of course we don't! We have no such right. We do it, because it is comfortable. But it is not right. And much less A right!
Those of us who live like kings, should clean up our mess! We should heat our homes with renewable energy, eat food that doesn't poison the land, and if we feel we need to buy "things", then we should make sure that they don't pollute the environment and allow those who make them to live decent lives.

Talking about a supposed right to development means legitimizing a predatory lifestyle that has no future. But before you start launching a counter-attack on my argument, please allow me to put forward an alternative:

The "right to life"
There is a right to life. Nobody must lose his life because of somebody else. And I believe that this right does not only apply to humans, but also to other beings. If we kill an animal or a plant for food or housing (or whatever other reason), we should be conscious of the fact that they are like a brother, giving their life so that we may live. We should be humble about that and ask them for forgiveness. There is no right to kill either.

The right to life as a logistical challenge for humanity
In order to realize the right to life, we must look after each other. Every single child born on this planet has a right to lead a healthy life. And if we think about what a healthy human life takes, it isn't actually that much. Water, food, housing, clothing, health care and being with the family. Let us frame this as a logistical challenge for our generation, too. How many bags of rice do we need to feed humanity? How many square meters of healthy soil for growing vegetables? How many solar pumps and filters for everyone to have clean water? How many millions need to find a new home, because their own is threatened by the desert, by flooding, by landslide? These are the logistical challenges that our human family faces in the times of crisis. We have been dealing with them before, we just didn't seem to apply too much effort, because we were so busy getting our own piece of the fossil energy cake. (see e.g. progress on the Millennium Development Goals)

The lessons from the climate crisis are simple: everyone has a right to live, and we must leave it in the ground.

And I am quite sure: We'll make it happen!


Resistance against REDD+ around the world

If you are against REDD, you are not alone. Around the world, a growing number of communities, organizations and movements as well as experts are not limiting themselves to asking critical questions about REDD any more, they have explicitly declared their opposition to the mechanism. A coalition of indigenous peoples’ organizations has called for a global moratorium on REDD projects. Bolivia has a mandate (from the Cochabamba People’s Summit) to not let REDD pass at the UNFCCC level. Interpol has warned about the opportunities REDD provides for organized crime. If you are not into the REDD business because you hope to make some money with it, then you should start asking yourself whether all these voices can and should be dismissed.

Read my full post on REDD-Monitor.


Systems Analysis of our Fossil Civilization

This systems analysis followed the insight that "turning off the tap" of fossil fuels would be a very strong lever for solving the climate crisis (see previous analysis). It tries to map out the territory where interventions with that goal will have to take place. The Leave it in the Ground Coalition (LINGO) is working towards that goal, uniting extraction resistance movements with those who work on transitioning to a post-carbon society.

The variables:

Impacts of each variable on each other variable:

How active the different variables are and how much they are involved in positive feedback loops (aka vicious/virtuous cycles):

A graph to show the roles of variables in the system:

The results indicate that we should take a closer look at the Fossils Lobby, to follow their steps and counter their influence. While Mitigation Targets and lately also Fossil Subsidies rightfully receive a lot of attention, there is another variable which may be a good candidate for some more investigation and targeting: Fossil Research and Development.

Today, billions are getting invested in pushing the fossil frontier further, increasing the pie of unburnable carbon that we can't have anyway. I am pretty sure that some noise about this would drive some investors that have a heart (and common sense plus a long-term interest) out of those investments.

Another insight coming from this analysis is that the Fossils Lobby, its Investments, Subsidies, Prices, Infrastructure, etc. are so closely intertwined that the analysis is running in circles, because everything leads to everything else. (I identified about 80 positive feedback loops, and I cut it at 3-4 links, there are surely more.) This level of integration deserves the name "complex". Similar to the military-industrial complex in the US, we should call this the "fossil complex" and our goal must be to break it, or at least to tranform it, to put the fossil age to an end.

I left out things like CCS, REDD+, public transport and biofuels, because I either know from previous analyses that they are not important players in the system or I have a notion of what their systemic role would be. Please feel free to try it out for yourself with those or other variables included.
Here you can find the full analysis.


A systems analysis of the climate crisis

Most of us are worried about the climate crisis and our future to some degree. Many of us are actively trying to make a difference. But often the question arises: is what I am doing effective?
In order to answer that question, we must look at the big picture and at the dynamics at play. Below is an attempt to develop an understanding which variables play together in the system comprised of humans and the planet and where we find positive feedback loops, levers and buffers. When you are an activist, you don't want to target buffers. You would be wasting your time. You want to find the strongest levers. One very strong lever is a global deal on climate change. That is what climate activists and many others focussed on in Copenhagen. But it didn't work. There are two more strong levers: development models (which can be carbon-intensive or free of fossil fuels) and the cheap supply of fossil fuels. By leaving fossil fuels in the ground, we can automatically shift the system into a different state.

Please take a look at the analysis, comment, criticize, give feedback or develop your own model. This is an invitation to get smart at understanding systems dynamics and make use of them!

The relevant variables of the system:

How each variable impacts each other variable. This is a very simple exercise, called the "paper computer" that takes about an hour and is the key element of the analysis. (no impact=0, small=1, medium=2, strong impact=3)

Counting together active figures (impacts on others) and passive figures (impacts a variable receives) we get an idea of the (potential) role of a variable within a system.

Feedback loops make the picture more complex. Even if a variable is not a powerful (i.e. active) player in itself, it might play a role in some vicious or virtuous cycle. (and that way have a come-back as a target for activists)

Here you can find the whole analysis.
Instructions on how to do your own analysis.


Durban 2011 - Start of the Leaving it in the Ground Coalition (LINGO)

The UNFCCC is approaching its 17th Conference of the Parties, in the attempt to find a global solution to climate change. But the negotiations are stalled in the key questions and CO2 emissions continue to rise (around 40% since its 1st meeting). The proposed responses to the climate crisis (such as offsetting, CDM and carbon markets) are inadequate, unambitious, and in some cases counterproductive. Pledges to reduce emissions are voluntary and focused purely on the demand-side. In the absence of a global cap on emissions - which seems decades away - demand-side mitigation isn't a guaranteed successful strategy. The reality of mitigation is that to stay within the proposed 1.5°C or 2°C temperature rise, the taps must be turned off, and the better part of known reserves of fossil fuels must remain untouched in the ground. But at the United Nations climate talks, supply-side mitigation is currently not on the agenda. While the UN and governments stall, corporations invest heavily into expanding the fossil frontier into ever more sensitive environments through deep sea drilling and exploitation of shale gas and tar sands, locking us into a path of high emissions and a toxic future. To build a climate friendly world requires alternative plans to live a good life (known in Latin America as "buen vivir") powered fully by renewable energy. These plans will help us to effectively challenge the need for fossil fuels in our societies. Let's use the opportunity of meeting in Durban to unify the struggles against the growth of the fossil economy with the solutions for a society that respects the Rights of Mother Earth. This group demands and proposes to work towards: A) a stop to all expansions of the fossil frontier B) putting supply-side mitigation on the UN agenda and C) developing zero fossil fuel plans for all countries, regions and cities We invite all to work together on this. Please enter your organization's or personal details below, if you would like to be involved:

LINGO - Leaving it IN the Ground cOalition

I would like to be informed about activities that relate to leaving fossil fuels in the ground as a response to the climate crisis.
* Required
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFdUblMxdEJ5bHA5Tzc3X2dGLU5Xa1E6MQ We will meet on Tuesday, November 29th 2011, 7:00-8:30 pm at TB Davis L6, UKZN Howard College, Durban, to touch base and plan strategic next steps. Please reply to confirm your assistance. You can also come spontaneously but we want to get an idea of who will be there. We would like to share all events related to this agenda that happen during the two weeks of the climate summit in this LINGO Event Calendar Please use this form to add your events to the calendar:

Add an event

Please enter any event that has a connection to the goals of leaving fossil fuels in the ground and living a life without them.
* Required
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEtFc0dPc0t5dGlIUUQ4dVpQdjFpOHc6MA#gid=0 We are looking forward to seeing you in Durban! 350.org Ben Brangwyn (Transition Network, UK) Generation Zero (New Zealand) Gunter Pauli (Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives) Ivonne Yánez (Oilwatch, Ecuador) Kim Bryan (Centre for Alternative Technologies, UK) Kjell Kühne and Stephen Murphy (initiators, Mexico and South Africa) Patrick Bond (Centre for Civil Society, UKZN, Durban, South Africa) Rehana Dada (South Africa) Thomas Youngman (UK Youth Climate Coalition Delegate to COP17) P.S.: The attached picture beautifully illustrates the point. "Soil" is used because it rhymes, but it is obviously not where the oil is.


La Era del Petróleo va de Salida en México

La economía Mexicana floreció sobre su propio petróleo durante los últimos 40 años. Pronto eso será historia. El campo más grande (Cantarell) está en declive y las reservas probadas se acabarían en diez años, si fuera posible mantener los niveles de extracción actuales. Pero como el último poco siempre es más difícil y costoso de sacar, la producción está bajando. Abajo encuentran unos gráficos que calculé y dibujé con ayuda de mi amigo Marcelo de Argentina. Si eres Mexicano, puedes ponerte a tí mismo, a tus padres y abuelos, y a tus hijos en la imágen. Toda la Era del Petróleo habrá tardado unos 55 años - menos de una vida - cuando terminará por ahí del 2025. O sea, cuando las niñas bebés de hoy cumplan sus quince, ya se habrá acabado la fiesta. Nosotros, la "Generación Cero" tendremos que pasar por el final de esa era y ver como le hacemos. Hasta aquí todavía va bien. Ahora, el problema es que el presupuesto del gobierno en un 40% proviene de los ingresos del petróleo. Y la economía (que genera los ingresos por impuestos) depende de la gasolina barata (que hoy cuesta muy por debajo de los precios internacionales en México). El país, además se "alimenta" económicamente del flujo de dinero que entra vía las remesas, los turistas y el tráfico de drogas. Esas tres fuentes dependen de una economía de Estados Unidos fuerte y sana, cosa que ya no se puede tomar por seguro, y menos en el mediano y largo plazo. Y luego está la cuestión de la comida. Con el TLC bajaron los precios del maíz, porque en Estados Unidos se subsidia de manera tan agresiva que millones de campesinos Mexicanos se vieron obligados a abandonar sus milpas para buscar un sustento en otra parte. Bajó la producción de maíz en México y hoy la tercera parte del maíz que comemos se importa de Estados Unidos. Con una mala cosecha nos va a ir mucho peor que en 2007 con la crisis de la tortilla. Vienen tiempos duros. El pico del petróleo lo pasamos en tiempos de Fox (en 2004), ahora con Calderón la producción está bajando de manera evidente. El siguiente sexenio verá una situación donde aún hay petróleo, pero tal vez no suficiente para mantener todos los servicios como hospitales, escuelas, mantenimiento de caminos etc. Ya a partir del sexenio que le sigue (en 2018) todos sabrán que lo que dura es lo que no necesita del petróleo para funcionar. Hay que empezar a prepararnos para la época pos-petróleo e invertir lo que queda de esa riqueza en cosas que nos sigan sirviendo en el futuro!


Mexico's Oil Age Coming to an End

The Mexican economy has been thriving on its own oil for the last 40 years. This will be over soon. The biggest oil field (Cantarell) is in decline and proven reserves are projected to last for about ten years at current production levels, which are impossible to sustain, because the last bit of the oil is always more difficult and costly to access. I calculated and drew the graphs below with the help of my friend Marcelo from Argentina. Please take a look and if you are Mexican, you can put yourself and your parents, grandparents and children in the picture. The whole "Oil Age" in Mexico will have lasted about 55 years - less than a lifetime - when it ends around 2025. Us, the "Generation Zero" will have to live through its end and make the most of it. So far, so good. The problem here is that 40% of government revenue comes from oil. The economy thrives on cheap gasoline (a liter costs about 0.60 Euro cents at Mexican gas stations) and is kept up by an inflow of money from the three big powerhorses besides oil: remittances (from legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico to the US), tourism and drug traffick. They are all dependent on a strong US economy which I don't take for granted anymore, when thinking in the medium term. And then there is food. After NAFTA brought down corn prices, because US agricultural produce is heavily subsidized, millions of farmers left their land in Mexico. Corn production dropped and today a third of Mexico's corn gets imported from the US. Come a bad year and Mexico will have to pay dearly (as in the 2007 tortilla crisis). Rough times ahead. The next president (to take office at the end of next year) will still have some oil to "work" with. But it is going straight down. We Mexicans need to prepare for the post-oil era now!


20th April - Global Day of Action to End Extraction!

April 20th was the day disaster struck on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. It has now been declared the Day of Action Against Extraction. We are living the beginning of the climate crisis and have to put an end to the fossil age as quickly as possible. This includes ending extraction of fossil fuels. Here are my contributions to the day: Galileo rapping "Coal, don't dig it! Leave it in the ground, it's time to get with it!" Two leaflets pointing to the fact that it's possibly already too late to save New York, Cancun (and a number of other low-lying cities). Cancun is Under Water New York is Gone My page on zero emissions with lots of elements for actually achieving it. A Facebook cause: End the fossil age!


Why zero emissions is the way forward

The UNFCCC negotiations are stuck. And rightly so. Because there is no credible solution to the climate crisis in sight. Not globally, not nationally, not in your city and not in your individual life. The dominant discourse talks about "reducing", "low carbon", "green growth", "low carbon development" etc. The real way forward is not even identified yet. "Polluter wins" is still the way the climate game works. Everyone talks about more or less reductions, and obviously who is polluting more (or projecting to pollute more through a shameless "business as usual" scenario) has more reductions on offer. Zero emissions must be the new standard put forward by the Youth Climate Movement and everyone else who is on our side. Globally: We are at 390ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and need to get below 350 for a safe climate. How? Going down to zero fossil emissions as quickly as possible (before 2050) and removing carbon from the atmosphere through a land-use that captures carbon. Zero emissions implies leaving all fossils in the ground and powering everything with renewable energies. There is no other way (barring geoengineering) that we could stay below 1.5° warming. 1.5°=zero emissions globally, within our lifetimes. Nationally: Do you have a zero emissions target in your country? I know the answer. It is no. Not one single country has a zero emissions target yet, let alone a detailed plan. There are a few brave countries that have gone ahead and declared carbon neutrality as their target (ask me for the list). But that is only a first step, because it supposes counting land-use sinks against continuing fossil emissions. We need to stop fossil emissions completely and use the land-use sector as emergency carbon removal option. 1.5°=a zero emissions target for every country, a plan and implementing it. City level: Do you have a zero emissions plan/strategy in your city? Most likely no. (if you do, or would like to create one, please get in touch) Obviously countries can only get to zero emissions, if cities get there, too. 1.5°=implementing a zero emissions plan in every city. Individual level: Are you a climate activist? Most likely yes. Do you lead a zero emissions lifestyle? No. Do you make climate change worse through causing fossil emissions every day? Yes! :( We need a deep transformation of our economy and our lifestyles. The triangle car-TV-supermarket is at the heart of today's development model which is powered mainly by burning fossils. We need to change that. There is no zero emissions economy today, only small, disconnected seeds here and there. We all need to use our everyday lives to pioneer the way to a zero emissions economy. Your money is either water on the mills of the fossil monster economy or of the new zero emissions economy. You decide if you take the pains to help create that zero emissions economy or wait for others to do it, or disaster to strike. 1.5°=some zero emissions pioneers in the next couple of years, everyone going zero emissions over the next few decades. So what is your role in this? 1. Help to get real targets on the UNFCCC agenda. At COP17 in Durban a global 2050 target will be set. This target must be zero emissions. And your national government must know that it cannot be anything less than that. This is a great opportunity to raise consciousness about the global situation and the profound transformation that our generation needs to accomplish. 2. Go climate positive. Start moving towards a zero emissions lifestyle today. There is a template, which I call "climate positive living". It consists in a pledge to maintain a positive personal greenhouse gas balance, absorbing more GHGs from the air than you emit. It involves accounting, eliminating and over-compensating your personal GHG emissions. Please get in touch if you would like to join or learn more. 3. Start planning for zero emissions in your community, city, region, country. Learn about approaches in other regions (see a compilation). Identify the actors who will likely join efforts to promote zero emissions targets and can help to design a first outline of a zero emissions plan. Get in touch with them and talk about it. 4. De-fossilize your mind. We are constantly reinforcing the fossil monster economy model by recreating it in people's minds by using "developing/developed" countries terminology. The "developed country" status quo is the problem, not the solution! It is a very dangerous way of burning Mother Earth through a polluting, wasteful, consumerist lifestyle. Call them "big polluter countries", "over-consuming countries" (as suggested by Mr. Oposa at COY6) or "Annex-I countries" if you like. We need to use language that creates the image of a climate friendly future in people's heads. Let's brainstorm ways to call different countries to make this clear! Let's bring down the monster and build a clean and safe future! Kjell


From "polluter wins" to stabilizing the climate - 2050 goal, 2020 targets and equity principles.

It went almost unnoticed when COP16 in Cancun agreed that the global community would set a long-term global target to mitigate climate change at COP17 in Durban. I did not notice until I went to a meeting on "Implementing the Cancun Agreements" and had a read through the full text.
It says: "The Conference of the Parties, [...] Agrees, in the context of the long-term goal and the ultimate objective of the Convention and the Bali Action Plan, to work towards identifying a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050, and to consider it at the seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties;" (http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2010/cop16/eng/07a01.pdf page 3)
For me it is quite clear that by 2050 we need to reach zero fossil emissions. I don't want to live in a "2° world" which risks passing various tipping points. At 0.8° we may already have tipped over the Greenland Ice Shelf, which will lead to 6-8m sea level rise over the next 300 years. We don't know. But still we are planning to allow 0.7° more warming, or even 1.2° more.
A 350ppm Emergency Pathway, from which I reproduce the main graph below, gives us an idea of the sort of reductions we need to stay below 2° warming. For me, the better goal is maximum 1.5° warming. This goal is supported by over 100 countries, co-incidentally the most vulnerable and already affected ones. Agreeing on a global target needs some preparatory work during the year. In order to facilitate this work, I have calculated some numbers which are key, but unfortunately do not appear anywhere on the world wide web: the Copenhagen Accord Pledges, translated into per capita figures. How much - per capita - would countries like to be emitting in 2020. 2020 is exactly half way from 1990 when the problem was fully recognized to 2050 when the complete decarbonization of the world economy must have been accomplished, if we want to have any chance of staying below 1.5°C warming.
A huge problem in the current UNFCCC negotiations is that the challenge is still framed as "sharing mitigation effort". But "mitigation effort" is like "effort not to steal". It assumes that a bad thing is normal and not doing it requires effort. As pointed out to me by Maldives representatives in Cancun, there is no such thing as a "right to emit". We are already beyond safe CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and we need to stop emitting carbon as quickly as possible. And we will still be leaving behind a huge task of removing excess carbon from the atmosphere. In that situation characterizing the reduction of emissions as a burden and talking of "burden-sharing" gets it wrong. Nobody has a right to pollute and tip our Mother Earth off balance. So the discourse needs a turn. We need to look at zero fossil emissions as the standard. They were actually the standard just a few generations ago and will become so again within our generation. Whoever deviates from that standard, creates the problem and needs to change. So if you look at the per capita figures, you can see that some countries still have a long long way to go, to get down to the climate-friendly zero carbon standard.
Another helpful thing to look at are equity principles. The Cancun text insists that mitigation efforts must be shared "on the basis of equity". The IPCC has already (in its Third Assessment Report) compiled a list of equity principles (thanks to Jonathan Pershing for pointing this out): Once it is clear that the global goal must be zero emissions, and we need to get there as soon as possible, we can talk about how to shape this great transformation in an equitable way. The above principles will certainly help to come up with useful proposals.


Why REDD+ is dangerous (in its current form)

I wrote this little essay on REDD+ for the Youth Climate Movement and other people who are interested in (or working on) solving the climate crisis. Why REDD+ is dangerous (in its current form)


Leave it in the ground - the only way to solve the climate crisis

There is no way we could extract all fossil fuel reserves if we want to solve the climate crisis. We are not yet on track for solving it and this topic has not yet been addressed in public discourse or even in the scientific literature. We from the YOUNGO Zero Emissions Working Group did an action at COP16 in Cancun to draw attention to the topic so that it will eventually find its way onto the UNFCCC agenda.
The leaflet we distributed was the following:
Some issues we are wondering about…..
(the hidden Youth Agenda for COP16)
1. Global Emissions Budget
How big is the global emissions budget to 2050 and how are we going to SHARE it? The answer to that question cannot be delayed any longer. We are sorry for countries that feel unprepared for the inevitable consequence of this discussion: drastic cuts in over consuming countries (OCCs formerly known as “developed” countries, defining any country that has high per capita emissions) are necessary. For sharing the global budget, a per capita approach is the hottest candidate for making the race, with historical responsibility surely needing to be included.
2. Zero Emissions
Every country needs to create a zero emissions plan. Zero emissions is not a question of “yes or no”, it is simply a question of “when”. This question should be answered by each country and the UNFCCC should structure and facilitate that process. Obviously Annex I countries have to get to zero emissions much sooner than Non-Annex I countries. Some countries have already announced zero emissions targets. Who will be the next Zero Hero?
3. Fossil Fuels
How many fossil reserves do we have? What part of it are we going to extract and what part of it are we going to leave in the ground? This discussion is strangely completely absent from the UNFCCC and lets us worry about how serious everyone is about de-carbonizing the economy. We need to face the facts about how much fossil reserves we have and then talk about how to phase out extraction. By the way, who the ***** is still subsidizing fossil fuels at 390ppm?
These are the REAL issues that need to be talked about in Cancun.
Are you actually here to solve the climate crisis?
Truly yours,
the other half of the world population

Poll on Global Warming


Climate Movement 2.0

Here is an outline of an idea I had on how to invigorate the climate movement and make it really lead our societies towards a zero emissions future in a strategic way:
More information is available here:


The climate crisis and your personal role

Dear friends,
I have been silent on this channel for a long time. Now the situation obliges me to speak up and ask you for help. Humanity is at a crossroads. I am sure you have heard about climate change in the last months or weeks. I am sure you are aware that it is a huge problem. It is actually the biggest challenge that humanity faces today.
My question for you is this:
Have you thought about the consequences of climate change for yourself, in your private life and your plans for the future?
I have just recently really done that, and I don't like the outlook at all.
The situation
I will describe the situation from two angles: First, the dynamics of climate and the natural and human systems depending on it. Second, the political dimension with actors and the correlation of forces.
The atmosphere is rapidly heating up. The two main drivers are the burning of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, gas) - this is the bigger one, and deforestation - this is the smaller one. They drive up CO2 levels in the atmosphere which are leading to a hotter climate. Pre-industrial CO2 levels were at 280 ppm (parts per million) and now we are at 387 ppm. Until recently, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the authoritative international body on climate change science believed that a stabilization at 450 ppm would do the job of preventing climate chaos. Unfortunately this is no longer up-to-date. After new findings, we have to get back down to 350 ppm as fast as possible. Other figures you may hear in this context are the goals of 2°Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That is the official goal of the European Union. Unfortunately, that goal as well has turned out to be too weak. The Maldives (a small state in the Indian Ocean) would disappear at 2°C warming. There are several things that make us fear a run-away climate change which accelerates itself: the permafrost soils in the North which may melt and release an enormous amount of methane (CH4), which is a greenhouse gas much more powerful than CO2, the melting glaciers and polar icecaps which reflect much of the sun's energy back into space because they are white (the albedo effect) and if they melt are "replaced" by heat-absorbing water or rocks.
The ocean's sea level is going to rise and swallow not only the Maldives, but also part of Bangladesh (one of the most densely populated countries on Earth) and many other coastal zones. Because of higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, the oceans which absorb part of that gas will become more acidic. This, together with higher temperatures kills off corals. Most of them will disappear in this century. Coral reefs are important for young fish and an estimated 1 billion people rely on their contribution of fish to their diet. Agriculture in its current dominant form (big industrialized monocultures) is not very resistant to a changing climate. World population is still rising and soil fertility is declining and the total amount of arable land is also declining due to erosion, desertification and salinization. So we will have ever less space upon which to feed an ever bigger population. The first countries to break down will be those that are not self-sufficient in terms of food and cannot afford to pay for it. But in general, everybody will suffer economically much more than we would if we started making relatively drastic changes now in terms of phasing out fossil fuels and investing into low-carbon technology. The so-called Stern Report to the UK government has shown that.
We now have a window of opportunity to stop climate chaos from happening, but it is only open for a few years (maybe about 2012 or 2015). Once ice-caps and permafrost soils have melted, there will be no turning back.
From the political angle, we have taken two steps to address climate change so far: First the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 and establishes a "common but differentiated responsibility". This makes a lot of sense, since the industrialized countries basically caused the problem, but everyone gets affected. In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was signed which establishes that industrialized countries (so-called Annex-I-Countries) have to reduce their emissions, and the others don't. But the reductions agreed on in Kyoto are a meager 5% as compared to 1990 levels for the period of 2008-2012. And only for Annex-I-countries. And the US didn't ratify. As the biggest emitter (now taken over by China), and without any regulation for all of the other ("developing") countries, the overall emissions have increased since then, not decreased.
So now, a new deal has to be found to replace Kyoto after 2012. The "date with destiny" as Maldives president Rasheed calls it is in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7 to 18. Of course, the correlation of forces has been taken into account. The USA, still in economic and military terms the biggest nation on the planet, is the one that has the highest per-capita emissions. Over 20 tons of CO2 are emitted by every US citizen. Europe emits about 10 tons per capita, China 5, India less than 2, just as many poor countries that are even below 1 ton per capita. Even though the problem is caused by the rich few, all are going to suffer the same. In fact, the poor are going to suffer MORE, because they have less protection against failing harvests, extreme weather conditions or rising food prices.
So, it is obvious that the rich countries, and in particular the US have an enormous responsibility. But they are not living up to that. Obama has put 17% reduction until 2020 on the table. But that's compared to 2005 instead of 1990. For 1990 figures that means 3 or 4% reduction. Of course that can't work. Because so-called "developing" countries, especially China, are not going to take on any targets if the biggest contributor to the problem, the US does not drastically reduce its own numbers and help them with their own mitigation (emission reduction) and adaptation (living with the effects of climate change) efforts as well.
A coalition of vulnerable countries headed by the Maldives is calling for a "Survival Pact" and have gone ahead themselves by announcing their strategy to become carbon-neutral in only ten years! Civil society is also mobilizing on a global scale. The 24th of October has been called the biggest political demonstration in human history, because in thousands of places all around the globe people called upon leaders to take action and get us down to 350ppm as fast as possible. (See here for a video: http://www.youtube.com/v/noPcVKf24rk)
But oil and car industry have a huge influence on our political decision-making. In addition, our "democracies" are working in a way that forces politicians to optimize the short term, taking the long term less seriously. Add to that, that we (in the rich countries) are the last to be badly affected, the first who have to commit to changes in our lifestyle and the only ones who can really change the situation.
Together these factors make it seem difficult to get to a strong commitment by industrialized countries. But without that, China won't move. China has already mentioned that they would be willing to reduce 40-45% until 2020 not per capita, but per GDP. This means, if the economy keeps growing, they will continue to emit more and more. But in comparison with the US, they would still be "cleaner".
The solution
The solution to this big mess is actually quite simple and straightforward:
First, we need to agree on a GLOBAL CARBON BUDGET that is in line with IPCC recommendations to stabilize the climate. There is not much to say against a global cap that solves the problem. This may be set a bit higher (and consider bigger impacts which have to be managed - ideally with a bigger Adaptation Fund to help the climate change victims) or lower (thus reducing adaptation cost and the overall scale of the problem). But there is wide consensus that more than 2°C or 450ppm is neither acceptable nor sensible in any case. What is clear is that from now to 2020, emissions must be reduced noticeably(? Specificity is important here) and until 2050 must be reduced almost down to zero.
Second, we need to agree that all human beings are equal, thereby possessing both equal rights and equal responsibilities. This translates into an EQUAL PER CAPITA emission allowance, which can be easily deduced from the global carbon budget. This allowance will decrease as we move from the status quo (about 4ton per capita emissions today) to 2050 (carbon neutrality).
Of course, the high-emitting countries will have to change fastest and pay most of the price. But that reflects only their irresponsible lifestyle that must come to an end. But it is not actually hard. Europe has a higher quality of life with only half the emissions of the USA. (I mention this just to show that wasting more fuel doesn't necessarily get you a better life.) Low-carbon technologies such as renewable energies, energy efficiency, decentralized local economies and backyard gardening are already widely available but are not yet dominant because under current rules it is just so much easier and cheaper to do everything by burning fossil fuels. That must stop and it can easily be done with a global agreement.
What you can do
Because a global framework is of utmost importance for guiding the direction of the world economy, our leaders have to forge a strong agreement in Copenhagen from December 7 to 18. And we, the citizens of this world, have to oblige them to do so. So I would like to invite you to join the global movement from your city and make your voice heard.
On December 11th, all over the planet candlelight vigils (called "Vigil for Survival") will be realized. On http://www.350.org/vigil you can find out whether one is already happening in your city. If so, you could join it and invite all your friends and family. If not, you could even register one (as I did for San Cristóbal de las Casas). Just pick a central or symbolic spot, enter the place you set for meeting in the database and let everyone in your life know about it.
Additionally, I invite you to participate in online actions by avaaz.org, hopenhagen.org, www.action-pact.org or any other group in your country (I have put together a little list here: http://kjells.a.wiki-site.com/index.php/Climate_Change#Action)
I find it so important to mobilize now, because this moment will not repeat itself. You have a responsibility for your own life, but also that of your children and grandchildren. They cannot do this for you. You have to do it for them.
With hopeful wishes for all of us and for the planet,
P.S.: I have applied to be sent to Copenhagen as a Citizen Ambassador of "Hopenhagen". If you would like to support me, please go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/19/hopenhagen-ambassador-con_n_363672.html?slidenumber=qTK9QEG/CXM%3D#slide_image and vote for me until December 4th. (You will have to sign into the Huffington Post with your name and email or with your facebook account first.) Thank you. This is not so important, the important actions are the ones mentioned above!