Five Big Lies About Climate Change, COP26 Takeaways and a Conversation with Chile’s Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobet

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The United States House of Representatives finally passed the Rebuild Better Act, legislation containing key provisions to combat climate change, such as a levy on methane emissions, a harmful pollutant released from oil and gas wells, livestock farming and other activities. He still faces an uncertain route through the Senate before reaching President Joe Biden’s office, but now is not the time to delay critical political action.

Political action is also the subject of this week’s climate talks, where Chilean Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobet discusses the country’s plans for phase out coal-fired electricity– and his reaction to the last minute change of language in the Glasgow Climate Pact.

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Five major themes of climate disinformation

Researchers who have examined more than two decades of climate change denial and misrepresentation have found five main themes and a shift in strategy: Currently, most of the climate misinformation focuses on undermining research on climate and proposals to moderate and prepare for climate change.


Progress

Breathe clean air was recently recognized as a human right, but it is not listed among the rights of the child in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). A global campaign supported by more than 29,000 young people took another step towards change.

White House plans to ban road construction and logging on 9 million acres of Tongass National Forest in Alaska, restore a set of restrictions for the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, lifted by the previous administration.

Challenges

The world has already seen global temperatures rise 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. British Columbia, which has experienced a heat dome, forest fires and flooding for the past six months, is witnessing the consequences of ongoing global warming.

French wine production this year was the lowest in more than 60 years due to a series of climate change-induced weather events that wreaked havoc on the country’s famous vineyards.


Climate talks

During COP26, the Chilean Minister of Energy Juan Carlos Jobet formally committed his country to end use of coal energy– which currently constitutes about 40% of the Chilean energy mix — by 2040, with half of the coal-fired power plants shut down by 2025. Chile is also one of the 22 countries (as well as the European Union) who have joined Mission Innovation, a global initiative to leverage public and private sector investment in research, development and demonstration of clean energy technologies.

What was your reaction to the last minute language change in the final COP26 deal, now calling for the “phasing out” of coal and fossil fuel subsidies?

I’m a little disappointed. We leave with mixed feelings. We have made good progress on phasing out coal, deforestation and methane. Article Six of the Paris Agreement was finally approved. We have seen a great commitment from financial institutions. But I think the final change in the wording of this agreement is bad news. Coal is the main source of emissions. We have to go faster there. But the developed world was also unable to come to an agreement on the $ 100 billion. [in climate finance towards developing countries] this was agreed several years ago. This tension between rich and developing countries is at the heart of what we need to resolve.

What do you think of the countries that have not yet made a commitment to phase out fossil fuel sources from their energy mix?

Chile has many renewable resources to generate electricity to generate cheap and clean electricity, which is not the case in all other countries. Every country is different, but we have to try harder. What we will or will not do over the next five to ten years is the bar by which our children and grandchildren will judge us. And that’s why I think we need to boost innovation, research, development, the deployment of clean energy all over the world.

Some believe the markets will phase out coal without government intervention. Is this too optimistic a view?

The cost of producing electricity with renewables today in many parts of the world is already cheaper than the cost of producing electricity with coal, but the problem is that we do not have solar electricity and 24 hour wind turbine. It’s a challenge that will take time to solve: we need batteries to be cheaper, we need concentrated solar power projects to work with renewable energies. These technologies, if they become cheaper, will allow us to replace coal, natural gas and other [fossil fuels]. Before that happens, we need regulation to increase the cost of generating electricity with coal. The carbon tax, or carbon pricing, is a very good tool to do this. So in the long run it might be true, but we don’t have time to wait.

What steps has Chile taken to prepare to move away from coal that other countries considering this transition should follow?

The first thing we did was we came to the conclusion that it was unfair to continue to burn coal. This is the first thing you must do! After that my suggestion is to bring everyone on board. It’s not something a government can decide in a boardroom with five guys around the table. At the beginning of 2018, we organized a group of representatives of the government, professional associations, labor unions, because there are people who are going to lose their jobs, local communities, etc. Be sure to take into consideration the concerns, fears and interests of all parties. The result won’t be perfect, but you need to have enough support to sustain these efforts over a long period of time. You also need a schedule based on good data and rigorous analysis. If you remove the charcoal too quickly and increase [energy] price to consumers, you could harm consumers and suffer a backlash that could slow down the process.

Will coal be entirely replaced by solar and wind or will there be a surge in oil and natural gas, and do you see nuclear playing a role in the energy mix as well?

We believe that natural gas will play an important role during the transition, but by 2050 we will hardly have any fossil fuels left in the grid. We believe that given the potential we have with solar and wind power and concentrated solar power, we won’t need nuclear power, but every country is different.


Lessons we should learn from COP26

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference made little progress in preventing global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, but there are at least four points to remember as attention turns to the COP27 in Egypt.


On the horizon

Even a very low carbon price would provide most farmers and herders with more income than raising animals for slaughter, according to the scientist who founded Impossible Foods.


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