Another Look at Closing the Gigatonne Gap


In narrowing the negotiating text here in Tianjin, delegates should focus on a shared vision of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5° C and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide of no more than 350 ppm. 

Anything above these levels would result in a host of severe impacts, including the inundation of low-lying island nations, the complete loss of coral reefs and summer Arctic sea ice, as well as the potential triggering of irreversible feedbacks adding massively to climate disruption. 

For this reason, more than 110 countries support reducing carbon dioxide to 350 ppm.  A shared vision that accomplishes anything less would surely consign future generations to ecological and economic

As indicated by several scientific assessments, emission reduction pledges made at Copenhagen fall far short of the action needed to limit temperature rise to 2° C, much less to 1.5° C/350 ppm.  Even viewed in the most optimistic light, the Copenhagen Accord would increase global temperatures by more than 3° C and push carbon dioxide levels past 650 ppm, a recipe for disaster. 

To provide a 50/50 chance of limiting warming to an average of 2º C above pre-industrial levels, emissions by 2020 should be no more than 44 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2e globally.  For the safer 1.5º C/350 ppm target, global emissions would need to be no greater than 40 Gt. 

The Copenhagen Accord pledges, on the other hand, would end up at 48 to 55 Gt in 2020, so there is your ‘gigatonne gap’.  And it’s not a pretty sight.  Parties must formally acknowledge this gap in Cancun and adopt a firm process to close it.  The laws of physics and chemistry will not bend to fit political convenience.

There are many potential measures to close the gigatonne gap, including increased emission reduction commitments by developed countries, dealing with excessive use of AAUs, capping emissions from bunkers, closing loopholes in greenhouse gas accounting, and additional financing to facilitate greater emissions reductions from
developing countries. 

Because there is a shrinking window of time to address the climate crisis, expressly acknowledging the need to close the gigatonne gap is critical, and bold action will be needed to meaningfully address the climate crisis. There is no more time to lose.

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A Question of Balance


Eco is confused.  There seem to be a number of different definitions of ‘balance’, a word that has become high fashion in the halls of the Tianjin conference centre.  

But what is balance?  Is it ‘allow me’ or ‘after you’?  There have been a range of so-called ‘balanced options’ put forth in these negotiations.  A lot of times, though, it seems to be more about sequencing than balancing.  Some examples:

• Transparency before Finance

• Architecture before Ambition

• Higher Ambition before NAMAs

• Kyoto before LCA

• Rules before Targets

Instead, ‘balance’ should mean getting something you want, but also something of what you don’t want, in order to move forward.  But consider other comparisons that are also coming into play, such as:

• Profits before Science

• Coal before Floods

ECO would like to gently remind Parties that if one ‘balances’ the actions on climate change actually taken recently by countries against the number of major climate impacts felt this year, the scales do not tip in favour of an outcome that resembles any sort of equilibrium. 

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The Adaptation Fund Leads by Example

While Parties consider how to set up the new Climate Fund here in Tianjin, the Adaptation Fund, established under the Kyoto Protocol, has reached full operationalisation and set important milestones.

Two weeks ago, the members of the Adaptation Fund Board met again in Bonn and took decisions which mark the beginning of a new era in climate finance. The AFB approved the first two projects which will receive USD $14 million from the Adaptation Fund.

One project originated from Senegal and was submitted through the first accredited National Implementing Entity (NIE), the Centre de Suivi Ecologique. As the first direct access project, it focuses on combatting coastal erosion exacerbated by climate change and rising sea levels in three regions in Senegal: Joal, Rufisque and Saly.  The Senegalese project further stands out in terms of transparency and participation of local, vulnerable people in the decision-making. And it comes with a management fee that is only half of that charged by the multilaterals.

The second approved project was submitted by Honduras through the UNDP acting as the Multilateral Implementing Entity (MIE).  This project aims to reduce the vulnerability to climate change of the poorest households in the capital region of Tegucigalpa by improving water management.

Six further project concepts have been approved so far and may result in full project applications soon. But it is also notable that the AFB has rejected a number of projects.  The Board is taking seriously its responsibility for the quality of adaptation funding. Overall, it took two and a half years from the AFB´s operationalisation to the approval of the first projects.   By comparison, the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience under the World Bank so far has not put one single dollar into concrete projects.

In addition, direct access was expanded through the accreditation of two further NIEs, the Planning Institute of Jamaica and the Agencia Nacional de Investigacion e Innovacion of Uruguay. And the Secretariat of the AF has also reported that around 30 developing countries have expressed interest in direct access.

Finally, legislation to grant the AFB legal capacity by the German government is well underway and will hopefully be concluded soon, so that releasing project funds can
actually start early next year.

Congratulations, Adaptation Fund Board! You have managed to progress significantly on difficult issues and have led by example.

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The Great Climate Wall – ‘I will act on climate, will you?’


In a gesture that signaled more urgent engagement to cool the planet, UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres opened the first international climate conference in this country by sealing the symbolic Great Climate Wall of China, a mosaic wall of 4,000 photos of people from China and around the world who are concerned about our warming planet. 

The executive secretary received a traditional Chinese stamp from 13-year old Ji Mengyang of Tianjin and Chung Jahying, a Chinese youth representative of the Great Green Initiative.  The stamp has the Chinese proverb: ‘With everyone’s determination, we can win anything’. 

Ms. Figueres noted, ‘Addressing climate is not just about governments making the decisions they need to make, it’s about each of us individually having the determination to change our behaviour in our lives. And it’s also about all of us collectively deciding about what kind of stamp we want to leave on the wall of human history.’

This event, sponsored by the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA), Tck tck tck and Greenpeace, showcased the latest example of art for the public interest by the Great Climate Wall’s creator, 26-year-old sculptor and fine artist Joseph Ellis.

An American raised in upstate New York, Ellis has lived and worked in Beijing for five years, during which he became the first Westerner to graduate from the Central Academy of Fine Arts’ prestigious sculpture program.  Greenpeace worked with Ellis two years ago to design an hourglass presented to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton during a climate event at the US Embassy in Beijing. In 2009, Greenpeace commissioned Ellis to execute 100 life-size sculptures of children carved from ice for another climate action.

To create the Great Climate Wall of China, Greenpeace and other NGOs collected snapshot portraits, which Ellis assembled into a mosaic to form a dominant image of the real Great Wall. He printed the impressionist mosaic on fabric, fitted it to supports and assembled the display in side-by-side units to build a tall, colorful barrier with a direct message: ‘I will act on climate, will you?’

The entire project, start to finish, was completed in six days. ‘It’s amazing what you can do in China in just under a week. The people here are incredible and the resources at my disposal never cease to amaze,’ said Ellis.  ‘When we combine our efforts, the chance for change is in our grasp.’

The Great Climate Wall shows just a small portion of the growing global movement of people who are ‘rolling up their sleeves and getting on with it’.  The current wave of action peaks on October 10th with the 10/10/10 Global Work Party with over 7,000 events in 180 countries.  This will be followed by a flurry of activities driven by the development and anti-poverty groups in the GCCA alliance.

The negotiations in Tianjin must make headway and lay the groundwork for breakthroughs on these issues in Mexico this December.  So, dear negotiators, what stamp will you leave this week on the wall of
human history?

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Tianjin 2010 ECO 2

In this Issue

  1. Greetings from Chinese NGOs: Huanying lai Tianjin! Welcome to Tianjin!
  2. The Adaptation Fund Leads by Example 

  3. The Great Climate Wall – ‘I will act on climate, will you?’


CAN Position: Les piliers de la négociation à Cancun: Résumé, November 2010

Le Réseau Action Climat- International (CAN-International)
Papier de position

 Les piliers de la négociation à Cancun: les étapes-clé vers un accord juridique équitable et ambitieux


Stand and Deliver

Next Sunday, October 10, the day after the close of the Tianjin conference, the world will take action – over 5,000 actions, to be precise, in more than 165 countries around the globe.

The 10/10/10 Global Work Day organized by 350.org and many others will highlight the public appetite for action that has only grown stronger since Copenhagen.            

And herein lies one of the great ironies of our time.  Public support for action on climate change is mounting in every country, and yet at exactly the same time, the climate negotiations are increasingly coloured by calls for lowering expectations and questions about the credibility of the multilateral process.

There is a climate crisis, and there is a crisis of confidence in the international process. Both require urgent action. Following the stalemate of Copenhagen, this week’s meeting and the Cancun COP are critical.

Let’s not fool ourselves – a failure to
deliver now will land the UN process in a royal mess. Failure to deliver tangible
results in Cancun could well see a repeat of the WTO experience . . . meeting after
irrelevant meeting.

The Kyoto Protocol is the first needed and legally binding response. A second commitment period for the KP is one essential building block toward a fair, ambitious and binding (FAB) deal that needs to be finalized at COP 17 in South Africa.

We hear a lot in the KP discussions about the importance of ‘the other track’. ECO has no doubt on this point: only by showing good faith in the KP can Annex B parties secure progress in the LCA. They must stop stalling and commit at Cancun to the second commitment period of the KP.  It is crucial to the world’s effort to limit climate change.

Trust-building is essential.  And make no mistake, developed country leadership is central to that. The current pledges by Annex B parties and existing loopholes put us on a path that far overshoots the threshold for dangerous climate change. But all countries must show their commitment to the UN process by showing political will and flexible positions.

We must learn the lessons of Copenhagen and move beyond ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.  Reverting to the pre-Copenhagen grab bag of text is a recipe for recreating the Copenhagen stalemate.

To make real progress in Cancun, it is imperative to seek convergence and reduce the wide range of options in the text to workable proportions. That will allow for political decisions to be made at Cancun, where Parties must agree a clear mandate for a full fair, ambitious and binding deal to be concluded in South Africa.  It is no exaggeration: the credibility of this process and the fate of future generations are both at stake.

What are substantive examples of tangible progress?  Here is a starter kit to help go further and faster.

In the area of adaptation, the insurance mechanism can be put on track; a committee can start working with the most vulnerable countries on an insurance mechanism, and regional adaptation centers can be set up.

In the area of deforestation, the level of ambition should be quantified.

On finance, the governance of the new fund with a strong relationship with the Convention can be agreed, as well as the sources and scale of funding.

On mitigation, pledges should be formalized, and in doing so, the gigatonne gap needs to be recognized, and a process launched to deal with the gap.

On technology, a work programme can be agreed that empowers the committee to deliver specific technology action programs on solar concentrated power, building efficiency, and many others.

Finally, to fulfill the mandate contained in the Bali Action Plan, a decision on the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is needed. This decision should include clarity on the legal outcome to be delivered in South Africa.

This week, ECO again suggests, Parties should make offers, not demands.  The purpose here in Tianjin is not to force fouls, but to use teamwork to create a safe climate. 

Dear negotiators, we have said this before: you are the only team we have that can save the planet.

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Agenda for Adaptation

With a new negotiating text for negotiations under the LCA track, ECO finds many valuable elements but we nevertheless have some important concerns.  First and foremost, there seems to be the tendency, by developed countries in particular, to push towards the weaker options. 

In order to make the adaptation framework a driver for action in developing countries, rather than an empty shell, Parties must strive to provide clear linkages in the adaptation framework between plans and implementation, institutions and finance.  What is needed is a legal commitment to fund adaptation in the vulnerable countries according to their own priorities and preferred measures.

There are more than enough arguments for scaling up action. Here are three good suggestions made by the LCA Chair, fully supported by ECO.  Achieving progress on these issues in Tianjin will make a big step towards a successful and effective agreement in Cancun.

1. On institutional arrangements, ECO supports the establishment of an Adaptation Committee. While the Nairobi Work Programme generated important knowledge and lessons learnt, it is limited to scientific and technical work.  An Adaptation Committee not only can benefit from the NWP but also would have the task and the mandate to give additional impetus for large scale implementation, as well as providing the COP with the insights needed for more concrete direction-setting.

2. On the issue of monitoring and reporting of both finance and activities, ECO considers that developed countries should report on the support they deliver, and developing countries should report on their actions, progress achieved and lessons learnt.

However, the two types of reporting have to be considered separately. Based on their obligations, developed countries must report in the context of a defined, stringent monitoring system of finance (MRV). Reporting by developing countries on their actions is required to provide information and outcomes of the funded activities and analysis of the effects, but should not be used to deny future funding. Including local-level monitoring is crucial to ensuring that local populations targeted by the actions are given the opportunity to present their views.

3. Finally, the chair wants ideas on how to address loss and damage from climate change. ECO supports the demand put forward by the particularly vulnerable countries facing climate impacts for which adaptation will not be possible, for an international mechanism to address their losses and damage.  This should be established as soon as possible, but it must prioritise the particularly vulnerable countries and people. Conversely, inclusion of response measures is not acceptable at all; to begin with it would divert resources from the most vulnerable. The negotiating text (option 1) already provides a good overview of the required functions. While more time for technical considerations may be appropriate, an open-ended process of further consideration and a vague commitment of cooperation, as suggested through option 2 in paragraph 8 of the adaptation text, would not be appropriate. ECO highlights how important it is to move forward right here, right now.

The outcomes at Cancun will have a serious impact on the future of the UNFCCC process, with the most vulnerable countries having the most to lose from falling short or even outright failure.

Parties must carefully weigh the shortcomings in the current text and find a way to agree a framework that will signify success in the UNFCCC process. 

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