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Climate Emergency Institute
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Submission Document: Download
  • Additional Document:

The Climate Emergency Institute respectfully makes this submission to the 2012 Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

By all environmental and economic indications, it looks like this UN sustainable development conference is our best chance to prevent the collapse of all human civilization, for all time.

What are the expectations for the outcome of Rio+20, and what are the concrete proposals in this regard, including views on a possible structure of the Outcome document?

Our hopes and expectations are as follows. In general, we expect that:

1. All governments will affirm that our Mother Earth (Mother Nature), the community of Earth species, and the future survival of humanity are our most sacred trusts.

2. Nations will acknowledge that a state of global environmental emergency exists due to accelerating atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and that fasterthan-projected climate change impacts are coming on top of other ongoing global environmental degradations.

3. Nations will agree that our best hope for survival is the rapid and full implementation of the intentions and terms of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit conventions and agreements. We have no time to "reinvent this wheel."

4. Environmentally destructive subsidies (both direct and indirect) will be stopped forthwith. Direct fossil fuel subsidies will be switched to rapid development of clean, zero-carbon energy.

5. Nations will acknowledge that the loss of the Arctic summer sea ice is potentially catastrophic to the northern hemisphere and to the planet, through loss of albedo cooling on top of committed* further global warming.

*The global temperature increase to which we are already committed today is 2.4C, according to the climate science (Ramanathan and Feng, 2008, PNAS, On avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system). This projection excludes inevitable further warming by large Arctic carbon feedback emissions and excludes the warming from loss of Arctic summer sea ice.

On the global climate change emergency, we expect that:

6. Nations will acknowledge that today's committed additional global warming, accelerating atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution, and unprecedented and still accelerating atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations mean that the climate situation is "far beyond dangerous interference with the climate system" and risks global climate catastrophe.
. "Climate change is coming at us faster, with larger impacts and bigger risks, than even most climate scientists expected as recently as a few years ago."
. "The stated goal of the UNFCCC ? avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate ? is in fact unattainable, because today we are already experiencing dangerous anthropogenic interference. The real question now is whether we can still avoid catastrophic anthropogenic interference in climate."
. "There is no guarantee that catastrophe can be avoided even if we start taking serious evasive action immediately."
? Dr. John Holdren (now science adviser to the US administration), Meeting the Climate Change Challenge Lecture, 2006, Woods Hole.

7. Nations will agree that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide must be reduced to below 350 ppm of CO2 (versus 390 ppm today), with equivalent reductions of the concentrations of other long lasting greenhouse gases to avoid global climate catastrophe.

8. Nations will acknowledge that the science is definite**, and that only zero carbon dioxide emissions can possibly allow the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to drop.

**IPCC 2007 WG 1: Frequently Asked Question 10.3

If Emissions of Greenhouse Gases are Reduced, How Quickly Do Their Concentrations in the Atmosphere Decrease?

"While more than half of the CO2 emitted is currently removed from the atmosphere within a century, some fraction (about 20%) of emitted CO2 remains in the atmosphere for many millennia. In fact, only in the case of essentially complete elimination of emissions can the atmospheric concentration of CO2 ultimately be stabilised at a constant level."

Our comments on existing proposals for sustainable development:

We applaud the exemplary work of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the global climate emergency and the great work of the United Nations Environment Program on educating humanity on the rapidly deteriorating state of our planet.

We believe that the economic conversion to sustainable development, as defined by the 1992 UN Rio Declaration and comprehensively planned by Agenda 21, is the best if not only chance we now have for our common survival.

We attach in poster format our latest State of the Climate Science, showing that, as UNEP has said, "the potential for runaway greenhouse warming is real and has never been more clear." ? UNEP Year Book, 2009. (For all we know, it may already be too late.)

We attach our report on committed food productivity losses that will result from today's committed global warming and climate change, which shows catastrophic losses for huge human populations and losses for all regions.

Our views on implementation:

The economic and energy conversions demanded by the global climate change planetary emergency are also the measures needed to achieve the objectives of the green economy and poverty eradication. The only way to implement these in short order (or likely at all) is by nations implementing in full the extant agreements that nations made at the 1992 Earth Summit.

On specific cooperation mechanisms:

It has to be recognized that the survival of all populations (of all species, hence crucial biodiversity) living in all regions is now threatened by the rapidly increasing risk of global ecological and world economic collapse. If all nations agree to move to a green ZERO-CARBON economy as rapidly as possible, then the "level playing field" of one global goal and commitment will enable and enhance international cooperation rather than competition.

On the relevant time frame:

We are all in a planetary emergency with no time left for anything but emergency action.


The proposals are good but they all need to be implemented on a global emergency basis.

The international negotiations under the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are making no substantive progress. It is therefore essential that global climate change be placed at the top of the 2012 Rio+20 agenda.

In 2007 nations acknowledged the following findings by the UNEP GEO-4 consensus process:

"There are no major issues raised in Our Common Future for which the foreseeable trends are favourable. And, this may threaten humanity's very survival.""Climate change is a global priority, yet there is a remarkable lack of urgency and a woefully inadequate global response."

"The need couldn't be more urgent and the time couldn't be more opportune, with our enhanced understanding of the challenges we face, to act now to safeguard our own survival and that of future generations."

"The systemic destruction of the Earth's natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where ? the bill we hand on to our children may prove impossible to pay."

The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is an excellent convention. The clear intention of the UNFCCC is the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions to ensure climate safety for all future generations. Climate safety is clearly and specifically defined in the Convention.

In 2012, nations must affirm that they are unconditionally bound by the intention of the Convention to prevent irreversible climate change damages (adverse effects) to global ecosystems and to regional managed agricultural systems. They must affirm that they are required to prevent damages (adverse effects) to human population health.

The 1992 Agenda 21 is the "UN blueprint" that nations agreed to and no better plan exists. Nations are expected to reaffirm and make Agenda 21 a binding obligation and a rapid priority. Everything in Agenda 21 still applies today ? in fact, even much more so.

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