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John Sweeney

Professor John Sweeney has been a lecturer at the Geography Department NUI Maynooth, since 1978. Over the past 30 years he has published approximately 60 scientific papers and edited/co-authored 4 texts on various aspects of climatology and climate change in Ireland. As one of the contributing Authors and Review Editors of the recently published Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), John shared with several hundred other climatologists the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Fault Lines Emerge

Posted on December 10, 2015 by John Sweeney

Paris Committee Wed 9 - The
The "Paris Committee" of all 194 countries at COP21 meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the draft text produced by France. Photo: Cara Augustenborg

By this stage in the second week, COPs usually enter a crucial stage where the negotiations hit a wall. The issues are always the same, namely how the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) is handled.Essentially, how much mitigation by the Developed Countries will occur and how much climate finance will they guarantee to the Developing World to aid their sustainable development and climate adaptation strategies. How should rapidly developing countries such as China, Brazil and South Africa be accommodated in a new world order of climate governance? Positive sentiments often give way to hard realities at this stage, and so it was today (Wednesday).

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechange

John Sweeney's final thoughts from Lima.

Posted on December 15, 2014 by John Sweeney

Rosa-Palomino-Middle Lima 2014 -
"Changing weather patterns are disrupting our harvest. The medicinal plants that are part of our culture and our ceremonies are not growing. Climate change is changing our culture." Rosa Palomino (Middle), President of Unión de Mujeres Aymaras de Abya Yala for the region of Puno, Peru. Image: Luka Tomac, Friends of the Earth International.

The pattern of These UN Climate Conferences is similar almost every year.  Initial optimism gives way to deadlock. The clock is stopped and the conference is extended into Saturday when an agreement of sorts is produced under time pressure from departing delegates. So it was this week. When deadlock was evident on Thursday night the Peruvian President of the COP, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal worked feverishly behind the scenes to rescue talks which had become increasingly bitter. A compromise draft on Saturday was again rejected mainly by the developing country blocs. US delegate Todd Stern warned that the entire UN structure on tackling climate change was at risk. The prospects of the conference paving the way for an ambitious deal in Paris in 2015 seemed remote.

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechangeUNFCCCCOPCOP20Lima

Al Gore, Alex White and the Peruvian Irish - Wednesday at the Lima climate talks, by John Sweeney

Posted on December 10, 2014 by John Sweeney

Minister White and Dave Walsh with Prof Sweeney and Ciara Kirrane - Minister White and Dave Walsh meeting with Prof Sweeney and Ciara Kirrane in Lima on Wednesday. Photo: @DCENR
Minister White and Dave Walsh meeting with Prof Sweeney and Ciara Kirrane in Lima on Wednesday. Photo: @DCENR

In the aftermath of the disaster that was the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 (COP15 in the jargon, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN climate treaty), there were those that thought the COP meetings would gradually dwindle to insignificance as austerity and powerful vested interests conspired to de-prioritize concerns about climate change in many developed countries. Increased awareness of the appalling human costs of extreme events in the developing world and of the major economic impacts of such events in the developed world have however resurrected sensitivities. This has been further heightened by the growing scientific evidence of the IPCC and the championing of aspects such as climate justice by enlightened individuals such as Ireland’s Mary Robinson. European leadership during the dark days was also important in sustaining the faltering steps of international efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol. As the COP meetings of recent years have built an architecture which may yet lead to a comprehensive global agreement next year, so also have the annual meetings become foci for increased activity.

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechangecopunfccccop20lima

Planetary passion versus protecting the national interest. Tuesday at the UN climate talks

Posted on December 09, 2014 by John Sweeney

Evo Morales at COP 20

Tuesday of the second week is when the big guns come to town. The ground having been prepared for them by their officials, the Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers arrive to strut their stuff. Entourages sweep rapidly by the onlookers into various rooms as the multiple strands of the COP begin to either knit together or unravel in disharmony. It is too early yet to say which will be the fate of COP20 but certainly the commencement of the “High Level Ministerial Events” is also designed to inject urgency into the proceedings.

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechangecopunfccccop20lima

Can youthful idealism help bridge the global trust gap at UN climate talks asks John Sweeney

Posted on December 08, 2014 by John Sweeney

Lima FoE activists COP20 2014-1208

Climatically, Lima is to some extent the southern hemisphere counterpart of San Francisco, though considerably nearer the Equator. Like the Californian Current, the cold Peruvian Current ensures overcast and humid conditions generally prevail and Lima is well noted for its lack of sunshine. When the summer sun is warm enough, however, to burn off the low clouds in the marine layer, quite hot conditions can develop during the middle of the day. Week 2 at COP20 is experiencing just such a spell with temperatures a few kilometres inland rising into the high 20s in this city of 10M people. In an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the climate conference, and perhaps focus the minds of delegates on what global warming actually entails, the organisers have sought to minimise air conditioning throughout the venues, many of them prefabs and tented structures. There was thus a certain poignancy to the session on climate change and health where delegates were given advice by the World Health Organisation chairperson as to how to cope with the furnace-like conditions of the room.

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechangeUNFCCCCOPCOP20Lima

The Lows and Highs of a Day at COP15

Posted on December 16, 2009 by John Sweeney

It started as another day of inching along with the crowd seeking to register from around 9 a.m.. This time a further obstacle was presented to NGOs - a magic white pass issued on a quota basis which effectively eliminated entry for thousands of NGO observers who had surmounted the accreditation process successfully. In a scene which made us feel for an instant just a little like they must have felt at Auschwitz or Srebenica, NGOs were herded into a separate queue from the press, media and other observers. Those of us who had braved the 8 hours the previous day knew another similar day was ahead with no guarantee of success at the end. As with all queues, there are times you get your hopes up, only to be dashed. In this case around the 4-hour mark the VIPs began to arrive and the triage system was operationalised. NGOs were back at the bottom of the pile and the queue froze. It was turning into another eight hour queue day and for a time the heavy snowfall didn't help our spirits. The historic achievement of getting past the front gate, with the great co-operation of the Friends of the Earth's Molly Walsh was dashed as it became clear that there was a major logistics problem inside the building. Four hours later the cause of all the problems was apparent. 10-15 administrators were working flat out to register people, each one taking 5-10 minutes in total, or around 100 per hour passing through the system. Trouble was, around 45,000 people had apparently indicated they were coming to the conference and the bulk of these had obviously materialised for the second week. The system was now obviously hopelessly inadequate for the several thousand souls out in the snow. The United Nations got everything right except this crucial detail. 10 times as many administrators were needed at the registration desk and fewer security scanners. There are several good courses in Event Management at Irish universities which I could recommend!

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechange

Left in the Cold

Posted on December 15, 2009 by John Sweeney

It was 8 a.m. when I alighted from the train from the city centre to register for the conference as an NGO delegate for Friends of the Earth Ireland. In the sub zero temperatures the beginnings of a 500m queue of humanity could just be discerned stretching into the distance beyond the railway station. 3 hours later I had reached the railway station again, cold and weary, but still hopeful that the gates would at last open to the Bella Centre. The crowd around was generally patient and kept alert by the occasional noisy demonstration, extolling the virtues of a vegan lifestyle or denigrating the Australian government for their support of the world's largest coal export industry.

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechange

Copenhagen - a good place to bridge cultural divides

Posted on December 13, 2009 by John Sweeney

Copenhagen is certainly a suitable place to attempt to bridge the gap between two very different cultures regarding managing climate change. On an island where the Atlantic world meets central Europe and the progressive societies of Scandinavia, Copenhagen is where European meetings of minds have historically occurred. It is where hopefully the sensible reasoning of the inhabitants of this ancient place can be brought to bear on civilisation's greatest challenge to date.

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Permanent link | Categories: climatechange

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