Bearing Witness 2017: Year 2 of a Pacific climate change storytelling project

Source: Pacific Media Centre

Analysis published with permission of PMC

David Robie, Pacific Media Centre

Monday, February 25, 2019


In 2016, the Pacific Media Centre responded to the devastation and tragedy wrought in Fiji by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston by initiating the Bearing Witness journalism project and dispatching two postgraduate students to Viti Levu to document and report on the impact of climate change (Robie & Chand, 2017). This was followed up in 2017 in a second phase of what was hoped would become a five-year mission and expanded in future years to include other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. This project is timely, given the new 10-year Strategic Plan 2017-2026 launched by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in March and the co-hosting by Fiji of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, during November. The students dispatched in 2017 on the  ‘bearing witness’ journalism experiential assignment to work in collaboration with the Pacific Centre for the Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) and the Regional Journalism Programme at the University of the South Pacific included a report about the relocation of a remote inland village of Tukuraki. They won the 2017 media and trauma prize of the Asia-Pacific Dart Centre, an agency affiliated with the Columbia School of Journalism. This article is a case study assessing the progress with this second year of the journalism project and exploring the strategic initiatives under way for more nuanced and constructive Asia-Pacific media storytelling in response to climate change.

Bearing Witness 2016



MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: UN Secretary-General Outlines UN Priorities for 2019

Source: Small Island Developing States

16 January 2019: UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Member States to do their best to make September 2019 a defining moment for stopping runaway climate change, achieving the SDGs and building a fair globalization. Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in a briefing at the start of 2019, Guterres reflected on the UN’s achievements in 2018, and outlined priorities for the coming year.

The briefing was convened by UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés on 16 January 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It followed a briefing, on 15 January, on her own priorities for the remainder of the 73rd UNGA session.

Guterres told delegations that the UN had made a difference in 2018 in the areas of: the search for peace diplomacy in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia and Armenia; the adoption of the Paris Agreement Work Programme during the Katowice Climate Change Conference; and the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and of the Global Compact on Refugees in December 2018.

He noted that work intensified to reach the SDGs, with 102 States having presented Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) so far to assess national-level implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On humanitarian aid, he reported that approximately US$15 billion coming from country contributions helped reach about 100 million people in need. He also noted that for the first time in the history of the UN, it reached gender parity within the senior management and among the candidates for the position of resident coordinator.

Guterres also highlighted initiatives launched in 2018, including the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative endorsed by 151 countries and four major organizations, and the launch of Youth 2030, the UN’s strategy for working with and for young people. On the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General, he said: the repositioned UN Development System is now in place, including a new Resident Coordinator system and a new generation of Country Teams; the UN peace and security architecture has been fortified to strengthen prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding; and new management capacities, structures and practices, including new levels of transparency, simplification and accountability will underpin these changes and “deeply transform” the UN.

Countries welcomed the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General, and stressed the need for the high-level events of September 2019 to renew commitments to the 2030 Agenda and combatting climate change.

On the work ahead, Guterres stressed the need to accelerate the “surge in diplomacy,” and to strengthen partnerships. He said “there can be never room for hate speech, intolerance or xenophobia,” and called for investing in social cohesion, education, new skills for people to adapt, and safety nets for those that risk to be left behind. He announced that the UN will continue to strengthen its partnership with the African Union (AU) in order to consolidate gains towards peace, adding that lasting peace must be based on a broad consensus of society, “with women as full participants in all peace processes.”

Guterres asked to dramatically accelerate efforts on key 21st-century challenges, namely: the fight against climate change; achieving the SDGs; and stepping up new technologies that can “turbocharge” this work. Further on climate change, he remarked that by 2020, under the Paris Agreement, Member States are meant to assess progress and submit new pledges to meet the goals to which they agreed. In addition, by 2050, net zero global emissions should be reached. On technologies, he indicated that “later in 2019” his High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation will report on proposals for reducing digital inequality, building digital capacity and ensuring that new technologies are on “our side and are a force for good.”

In an interactive discussion, countries highlighted the need to protect and strengthen multilateralism, and welcomed the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General on development, management and peace and security. Many UN Member States also referred to the high-level events that will take place in September 2019 during the UNGA’s annual General Debate, including the UN Climate Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, and the ‘SDG Summit.’ They stressed the need to renew and reaffirm commitments towards the 2030 Agenda and combatting climate change.

Thailand for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said the theme of Thailand’s 2019 ASEAN chairmanship is ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability,’ and this reinforces the idea that multilateralism should be protected. The EU stressed the importance of universal values, respect for rule of law, promotion of human rights and human dignity, and for a UN that is tailored to new challenges, in line with the UN reforms.

Thanking other countries for their words of comfort and condolences following the terrorist attacks in Kenya on 15 January, Kenya stressed the importance of working closely together to tackle the “global phenomenon” of terrorism. South Africa reported that the relationship between the UN and Africa has strengthened, including through the Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security, and the AU-UN framework for the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Referring to challenges with the UN’s financial situation, the US suggested reforming its budget process and improve its ability to better manage resources to deliver on its mandates. Afghanistan stressed the need to find new ways to implement UNGA and UN Security Council resolutions, noting that their implementation “remains weak.”

On climate change, Fiji noted that climate action speaks to all areas of the UN reforms and, if not addressed could be an “extreme threat” to all the SDGs combined. Chile underscored the importance of addressing climate change, and noted that the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 25) will take place in Santiago.

On efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, Mexico said his president signed a decree through which all the country’s public and social policies will be inspired by and based on the 2030 Agenda. Colombia said the SDGs are a guide to “administrate globalization” and to ensure the effectiveness of multilateralism, adding that his country has incorporated the 17 SDGs into its domestic policy, and the Goals are considered permanent guidance for public policy in Colombia.

On migrants and refugees, Mexico said his country is the first or second largest corridor in the world for migration, and it will take the Global Compact on Migration as a basis for its legislation and policies. Jordan called on the UN to continue to support countries that host refugees. [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNGA President Letter Announcing the Briefing] [UN Secretary-General Website] [UN News on Secretary-General’s Briefing] [UN Webcast] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: UNGA President Sets out Plans, Coordination Efforts for 2019

Source: Small Island Developing States

15 January 2019: UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces briefed Member States on plans for the remaining eight months of the 73rd UNGA session. She outlined several upcoming events and initiatives related to the 2030 Agenda, financing for development, synergies among UN bodies, gender equality, climate change, plastic pollution and the role of cities.

Espinosa said the 2030 Agenda is “a cornerstone of the success of multilateralism,” and more public understanding and support for the SDGs is needed. She highlighted several events related to the 2030 Agenda that will convene in 2019 and that require coordinated planning.

First, she reminded delegations that the HLPF will convene twice in 2019, once under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July, and in September 2019 under the UNGA as the ‘HLPF Summit.’ She said the two must be closely coordinated, and she is working closely with the ECOSOC President and the co-facilitators to ensure synergies between the meetings. According to a document circulated at the briefing titled, ‘Preliminary List of High-level Events and Key Meetings’ a Leaders’ Roundtable on SDG Targets will convene alongside the HLPF in July 2019.

Espinosa also highlighted two meetings on financing for development (FfD) taking place in 2019: the ECOSOC Forum on FfD Follow-up, which she said will feed into the outcome of the HLPF Summit, and the UNGA’s High-level Dialogue on FfD. The President said she is working with the co-facilitators of those events to ensure synergies, as well.

She also stressed the need for all of the high-level UNGA meetings scheduled for the opening week of the 74th Session to be handled in a coherent, synergetic way. In addition to the HLPF summit, these meetings include: a high-level meeting on universal health coverage; a high-level meeting on the elimination of nuclear weapons; and the mid-term review of the Samoa Pathway on small island developing States (SIDS).

Espinosa noted that she will convene a joint briefing with the ECOSOC President on 31 January to discuss coherence among the bodies, including with regard to the 2019 HLPF meetings. The briefing will address the ongoing process to enhance synergies and coherence and reduce overlap among bodies in light of the 2030 Agenda. It will also include updates on: the HLPF, youth, decent work and FfD.

Rather than negotiating long documents and resolutions, this is a time for ensuring capital flows “at scale and urgently” for climate change and the 2030 Agenda.

In remarks following the President’s briefing, El Salvador highlighted the “double HLPF” taking place in 2019, cautioning that the HLPF Summit should not be “drowned” out during the high-level week but be utilized as a true opportunity to examine the implementation of the 2030 Agenda four years after its adoption.

Canada, noting his role as a co-facilitator for the High-level Dialogue on FfD, along with Ghana, said the meeting needs to be planned in coordination with the other processes underway, such as the FfD Forum and the HLPF Summit. He called on everyone to think outside of the box on “how we’re going to do this.” He stressed that given the need for action on the 2030 Agenda, this is not a time for long documents or negotiations on reoslutions, but making sure the right actors are engaged so that “capital flows way more, at scale and urgently,” for climate change and the 2030 Agenda.

Tanzania and the UK said that they will present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during the HLPF in July, with the UK noting its intention to include a focus on financing the SDGs.

On gender equality and empowerment of women, Espinosa reported that she has established a Group of Gender Equality Leaders as an informal forum of eminent persons to accelerate gender equality. The Group’s first meeting will take place on 29 January, in collaboration with the UN Foundation. It is aimed at identifying barriers to women’s full participation and leadership in both the public and private sectors, and sharing best practices for accelerating women’s empowerment.

She also highlighted the Women in Power summit she is convening on 12 March 2019, on the margins of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Summit will promote women’s leadership, including by engaging young women leaders and fostering an intergenerational environment for dialogue.

On protection of environment, Espinosa said she expects 2019 to be “a decisive year, as we near the first milestones of 2030 agenda.” She highlighted upcoming events including:

  • On 14 February, a joint briefing with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Climate Summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba, to outline the roadmap for preparations for the event, which will take place on 23 September 2019; and
  • On 28 March, a high-level UNGA meeting to “build on the momentum from COP 24 and pave the way” for the Climate Summit.

On plastic pollution, the President highlighted efforts to reduce single-use plastics in UN Member States’ Permanent Missions and UN facilities. She will host a briefing on the action plan to integrate sustainable development practices into the Secretariat’s operations and facilities management, to ensure that these do not have a negative impact on the climate. The action plan was called for in UNGA resolution 71/228. In addition, she is organizing a festival with the governments of Norway and Antigua and Barbuda, on 27 April 2019 in Antigua and Barbuda, to encourage awareness and action on plastic pollution.

On the role of cities, Espinosa will hold a meeting with mayors and other stakeholders on 19 February in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to address the role of cities in sustainable development, food security, nutrition and climate change. Among other topics that Espinosa discussed, she said:

  • On the 75th anniversary of the UN, which takes place in 2020, she will appoint co-facilitators for discussions on the theme, date and modalities of the commemoration event;
  • On migration, co-facilitators have been appointed for consultations on the modalities of the International Migration Review Forum, which will be the intergovernmental platform for global discussions of progress on implementing the global compact on migration adopted in Marrakech in December 2018, and a high-level debate on international migration and development will take place on 27 February;
  • On decent work, Espinosa will convene a high-level event on 10 April. On 9 April, a town hall will focus on interlinkages between decent work and youth, peace and security, in the context of the ECOSOC Youth Forum, which convenes on 8-9 April. These events seek to build on the momentum created by the in-depth review of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) taking place during the July 2019 session of the HLPF, as well as the commemoration of the centenary of the International Labor Organisation (ILO);
  • On persons with disabilities, a Steering Committee on Accessibility at the UN was launched in late 2018, focusing on accessibility on UN premises, and on 10 June 2019 she will host a high-level event; and
  • On strengthening the multilateral rules-based system, the President will convene a meeting of former UNGA presidents, on 4 February, in order to craft a set of recommendations. In addition, a High-level Event will take place on the International Day of Multilateralism, on 24 April 2019.

The 73rd UNGA session will close on 16 September 2019, and Espinosa will be succeeded by the President of the 74th session on 17 September. The next President is to be selected from the Group of African States. The UNGA will hold interactive dialogues with the candidates in early May, and the election will take place in early June. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Statement of UNGA president] [UN press release] [Meeting webcast]

MIL OSI Asia Pacific

MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: Report Examines Legal Foundations of a Global Pact for the Environment

Source: Small Island Developing States

15 January 2019: In the context of the first substantive session of the Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group Towards a Global Pact for the Environment, experts have released a draft report on legal foundations for a Global Pact for the Environment. Through 26 chapters, the report discusses various principles and aspects of the Draft Global Pact for the Environment, which was developed in 2017 by the International Group of Experts for the Pact (IGEP). The report is a publication from the University of Cambridge.

The Draft Global Pact seeks to strengthen the coherence of global environmental governance, and to gather principles of environmental law in a concise text. It is presented as an indicative document to illustrate the concrete form a Global Pact for the Environment could take. The draft was introduced by France’s President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the 72nd UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2017, at a summit to launch consultations on the proposed instrument.

A Global Pact should be a binding treaty, providing an umbrella to a wider body of MEAs.

In May 2018, the UNGA adopted resolution 72/277 titled, ‘Towards a Global Pact for the Environment,’ by which Member States request the UN Secretary-General to submit a technical and evidence-based report that identifies and assesses possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments. This report was issued in December 2018. Also by resolution 72/277, the UNGA decides to establish an ad hoc open-ended working group to consider the Secretary-General’s report and discuss options to address possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments, with a view to making recommendations.

This Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group held its organizational meeting in September 2018, and is convening for its first substantive session from 14-18 January 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. The co-chairs of the Working Group are Francisco António Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative of Portugal, and Amal Mudallali, Permanent Representative of Lebanon.

Edited by Yann Aguila, President, Environment Commission of the Club des Juristes, France, and Jorge Viñuales, Professor, Cambridge University, UK, the report titled, ‘A Global Pact for the Environment: Legal Foundations,’ compiles studies from experts in international environmental law from around the world. In its first chapter, the report outlines the conceptual foundations of a Global Pact, including reasons why a Global Pact would constitute an important milestone in the evolution of international environmental law and of global environmental governance. It notes that a Global Pact should be a binding treaty, providing an umbrella to a wider body of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).

In its other chapters, the report also considers, inter alia: the right to a healthy and sustainable environment; sustainable development and integration; intergenerational equity; prevention; precaution; access to justice; the effective implementation of environmental law; the principle or resilience; and non-regression.

For updates from the substantive session in Nairobi, see the Earth Negotiations Bulletin’s coverage here. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]

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MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: Report Outlines How the Energy Transformation Will Reshape the World

Source: Small Island Developing States

11 January 2019: The report of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation analyzes how the rapid expansion of renewables will reshape relations between states and regions and between governments and citizens. It concludes that the global transition towards renewable energy will have far-reaching geopolitical implications comparable to those triggered by the rise of coal and other fossil fuels during the early industrial revolution.

The report titled, ‘A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation,’ was released at the ninth session of the IRENA Assembly. It investigates the key drivers of global energy transition, impacts of the transition on countries, potential shifts in power dynamics, and how the global energy transition, together with other factors, could cause geopolitical instability.

“Energy transition will ultimately move the world in the right direction by addressing climate change, combating pollution, and promoting prosperity and sustainable development.”

The authors find that energy transition will create a world “very different from the one that was built on a foundation of fossil fuels.” The influence of states that have heavily invested in renewables, such as China, will grow, whereas that of states relying on fossil fuels exports will diminish, if they fail to adapt to the energy transition.

Overall, the Commission concludes that energy transition will strengthen energy independence and energy security of most countries leading to a long-term decline in energy-related conflicts. While some states my face a challenging adaptation period, a global energy transition will “ultimately move the world in the right direction by addressing climate change, combating pollution, and promoting prosperity and sustainable development.”

Characteristics of the Energy Transition

The analysis begins by explaining that the global energy transition is characterized by three primary aspects: increases in energy efficiency; growth of renewables; and electrification of end-use sectors currently relying on fossil fuels, such as transport and heating. Change in these three dimensions is driven by six enabling trends:

  • Declining cost of renewables;
  • The need to address climate change and air pollution;
  • The adoption of renewable energy targets in most countries;
  • Technological innovation;
  • Corporate and investor action, including fossil fuel divestment; and
  • Shifts in public opinion.

The following section explains how key differences between renewable energy sources and fossil fuels will transform geopolitics, including: their widespread availability in almost all countries; the fact that renewables are flow resources that do not exhaust themselves as they are used; the ability to deploy renewables at almost any scale; and the fact that most renewable sources have almost no marginal cost.

Impacts on Countries

How these characteristics and drivers impact a country will be determined to a large extent by its dependence on fossil fuel imports and ability to innovate. The publication shows how different countries and regions stand to benefit from, or be challenged by, the energy transition and why. The US, for example, is well positioned to benefit because of its near self-sufficiency in fossil fuel supplies and its strength in new technology development. China can capitalize on its cost competitiveness in renewable energy equipment manufacturing and its ability to attract large investments in renewable energy. South Asia and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will benefit most from reduced costs of fossil fuel imports, while some countries of Sub-Saharan Africa may be able to leapfrog fossil fuel development entirely. Fossil fuel-exporting countries, such as Russia, the Middle East and North Africa, on the other hand, are expected to face challenges in adapting to reduced fossil fuel revenues.

The subsequent section discusses the vulnerability of fossil fuel exporting countries to a decline in global demand and a resulting decline in geopolitical influence, by comparing their relative dependence on fossil fuel imports and their degree of resilience to respond to a decline on these revenues. This analysis results in four groups:

  • Highly exposed, low resilience countries, including Libya, Angola, Republic of Congo, Timor-Leste and South Sudan;
  • Highly exposed, highly resilient countries, including many Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Brunei Darussalam;
  • Moderately exposed, moderately resilient countries that can manage the transition if they implement additional policies to diversify their economies, including Russia, Iran, Algeria and Azerbaijan; and
  • Relatively low exposure countries where fossil fuel exports are less than 10% of GDP, including Malaysia, Bahrain, Colombia and Norway.

The Commission also discusses how energy transition can create opportunities for new energy leaders. Chile’s solar resources or Brazil’s biofuels capacity for example, could position these countries as exporters of renewable energy. Bolivia, Mongolia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo control a high share of the minerals required to deploy renewable technologies, and China leads in innovation and manufacturing by a wide margin. Nonetheless, the authors do not expect these countries to dominate global energy supply in the way fossil fuel exporters do today because of the widespread availability and diversity of renewable energy resources.

How the Energy Transition will Shape International Relations

The report then outlines the geopolitical implications that can be expected:

  • International alliances have already begun shifting from fossil fuel-based collaboration, such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to alliances focused on renewable energy, such as the International Solar Alliance, the Global Geothermal Alliance and Mission Innovation.
  • Similarly, the importance of maritime trade routes and strategic “chokepoints” in international trade, such as the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, can be expected to diminish as energy markets become more regional.
  • On the other hand, grid connectivity between neighboring states and within regions becomes a new strategic asset to ensure energy security and realize competitive advantages in renewable energy production.
  • The importance of “energy statecraft,” the use of the geostrategic importance of oil and gas as a foreign policy tool, is expected to diminish as energy production becomes more decentralized and diversified, thereby reducing the dependence of energy importing states. Instead, the Commission expects the emergence of complex networks of regional interdependence often driven by reciprocal energy flows.
  • In a similar vein, the authors also argue that the role of oil and gas as a driver of conflict is likely to diminish in the long run, as renewables alleviate pressure on energy resources. They note however, that energy is only one factor driving conflict that often aggravates existing political instability.
  • On the domestic level, the decentralization and diversification of energy supply will reduce the role of national governments as provider and distributor of energy. The authors find that citizens, cities and corporations will benefit from a shift of control over energy and energy assets from governments to a new type of businesses and “prosumers” enabled by the local production of solar and other forms of renewable energy.

The study also discusses some of the risks of energy transition to political stability, including stranded assets in fossil fuel production, cybersecurity for integrated grid management and the need to develop policies for a just transition for employees in sectors that are bound suffer, such as coal mining.

In the final section, the authors conclude that the global energy transition will lead to fundamental shifts in the geopolitics of energy, calling on decision makers to prepare for the changes ahead to ensure a smooth transition.

The Global Commission on the Geopolitics on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation was convened by IRENA’s former Director General, Adnan Z. Amin in January 2018. Chaired by former President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland, the Commission comprises a diverse group of distinguished leaders from the worlds of politics, energy, economics, trade, environment and development. [Publication: A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation] [IRENA Press Release][SDG Knowledge Hub on the first meeting of the Commission]

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MIL-OSI UK: expert reaction to the EAT–Lancet Commission report on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’

Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

Research published in the The Lancet argues that diet and food production will need to change in order to improve health and avoid damage to the planet.

Prof Alan Dangour, Professor in Food and Nutrition for Global Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:

“The analysis demonstrates that shifts in our diets can have enormous beneficial effects on health and also substantially reduce our impacts on the environment.  This significant ‘win-win’ for health and the environment is not a new finding, but this analysis, which for the first time defines environmental boundaries for the food system, is the most advanced ever conducted.

“The Commission recommends a ‘healthy diet’ for all.  Populations around the world eat strikingly different diets that have been shaped among other things by tradition, culture and wealth.  The ‘healthy diet’ would require significant shifts to existing dietary habits in most countries (including the UK), such as large reductions in meat intake and substantial increases in fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes consumption.  There is a major question about the ability of populations to shift to such dietary recommendations and their wider public acceptability.

“Many of the important policy recommendations in the Commission cut across the portfolios of traditional government departments (such as agriculture and environment, health, trade, international development in the UK) and will be challenging to implement in many countries.

“This is an important set of analyses that highlights the critical link between human health and the health of our planet.  Urgently increasing access to healthy and sustainable diets for all people, and coordinating effective policy responses across government departments, are among the key changes required if we are to safeguard human and planetary health in the coming decades.”

Prof Guy Poppy, Professor of Ecology at the University of Southampton, said:

“The global food system is complex and is failing to be good for planetary and human health. Changing the food production system and human consumption behaviour is one of the biggest challenges for society, especially as it must be quick enough to have the right effect on the environment and public health.

“This commission is an exciting development which really takes a systems approach to the intractable challenge and clearly articulates the diets which are good for the planet and your health. Developing the business systems to deliver these recommendations and the need to ‘nudge’ human consumption behaviour so dramatically will not be easy; but this ‘call to arms’ with its clear solutions is timely, comprehensively researched and deserves immediate attention.”

Dr Howard Frumkin, Head of Wellcome’s Our Planet Our Health programme, said:

“The links among diet, health and the environment are well-documented, but, until now, the challenge of attaining healthy diets from a sustainable food system has been hampered by a lack of science-based guidelines. While this report does not have all the answers, it provides governments, producers and individuals with an evidence-based starting point to work together to transform our food systems and cultures.

“We know the risks a poor diet poses to health and, in turn, the risks unsustainable agricultural practices pose to our planet.  We now have a menu of actions that can help address these challenges.”

‘Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems’ was published in The Lancet at 23.30 UK time Wednesday 16th January 2019.

Declared interests

Prof Dangour: I hold competitive research funding awards to conduct research in the area of sustainable and healthy diets.  I am currently the Specialist Advisor to the (UK government) Environmental Audit Committee inquiry on Planetary Health.

Prof Poppy is also the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Food Standards Agency

Dr Frumkin: The Wellcome Trust is a founding partner of the EAT Foundation and funded this report


MIL-OSI UK: expert reaction to research on keeping warming below 1.5C

Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

Reactions to research published in Nature Communications that claims keeping global temperature increases below 1.5°C remains possible with immediate emission reduction across all sectors.

Dr Phillip Williamson, Honorary Reader at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said:

The analysis by Christopher Smith and his colleagues is welcome.  Climate change policy does need some good news, and their message is that we’re not (quite) doomed yet.  If from now on, the greenhouse gas-emitting power plants, factories, cars, ships and planes are replaced by non-polluting alternatives as they reach the end of their lifetimes, then the threshold of 1.5C warming might not be crossed. 

“Yet that is a very big ‘if’.  The authors are clear in their paper that ‘we do not seek to assess the practical feasibility of this transition’; they also assume that land-use related emissions (currently nearly a fifth of the total) magically drop to zero in 2020, and there are no significant amplifying climate feedbacks, such as increased forest fires or melting permafrost.  According to Smith’s paper, there is then a 2 to 1 probability of keeping warming below 1.5C.  

“But the optimism should not be overstated.  The paper’s title is potentially misleading in that regard: whilst current infrastructure may not take us over the top, there is unfortunately insufficient evidence to say that it definitely will not happen.  Therefore this analysis is not an excuse for inaction, but further incentive to make the necessary changes, with the requirement for nothing new that burns coal, oil or gas.”

Prof Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at UCL, said:

Smith and colleagues have produced a detail study of potential global warming based on when and how we reduced global greenhouse emissions.  This study provides optimism for the future if we act now.  The research shows we can keep global warming to below 1.5˚C even with our current fossil fuel infrastructure, if we ensure it is replaced with renewable sources at the end of its life time and we aggressively cut global emissions starting this year.   Each year we fail to cut global emissions will make it more and more unlikely that we can keep global warming below 1.5˚C. If emission reductions do not start until 2030 then it is all but impossible to keep below the 1.5˚C threshold recently recommended by the IPCC.”

Prof Dave Reay, Chair in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“An insightful and important look at the chances of holding average global temperature increase to 1.5C, and how delays in weaning our world off fossil fuels could well scupper these chances.

“Whether it’s drilling a new gas well, keeping an old coal power station open, or even buying a diesel car, the choices we make today will largely determine the climate pathways of tomorrow. There’s plenty to give hope here – retiring all high-carbon infrastructure as it reaches the end of its planned life can avoid this ‘carbon lock-in’ and give us a better-than-evens shot at 1.5C.

“The risks of climate curve balls, like warming-induced faltering of the land and ocean carbon sinks or huge belches of Arctic methane, are still out there, but the message of this new study is loud and clear: act now or see the last chance for a safer climate future ebb away.”

Current fossil fuel infrastructure does not yet commit us to 1.5 °C warming’ by Christopher J. Smith et al. was published in Nature Communications at 4pm UK TIME on Tuesday 15 January 2018.

Declared interests

Dr Williamson is an Honorary Reader at the University of East Anglia, employed by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC, part of UKRI).  He is the Science Coordinator of the NERC-led Greenhouse Gas Removal programme.

Prof Maslin: I have no interests or associations with this study or its finding

Prof Reay: No interest declared.


MIL-OSI UK: expert reaction to research claiming ‘pause’ in global temperature increase never existed

Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

Research published in Environmental Research Letters shows that there is little evidence for a lack of trend in global mean surface temperature using  historical or current data.

Prof Richard Betts, Head of ClimateImpacts Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said:

“While these papers provide useful analysis on recent global temperature trends, I find it quite concerning that the authors openly accuse the climate science community of confusing the public and holding back climate policy.  Scientists should be free to investigate whatever they wish, and when an interesting phenomenon is seen then it should be investigated.  Research carried out in good faith which increases scientific understanding should be valued on its own merits, even if it does reveal greater complexities than the public or policymakers were previously aware of.”

‘A fluctuation in surface temperature in historical context: reassessment and retrospective on the evidence’ by Risbey etal and ‘The “pause” in global warming in historical context: Comparing models to observations’ by Lewandowsky et al was published in Environmental Research Letters at 00.00 GMT on Wednesday December 19 2018.

Declared interests

None received.