Tag: Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia

No Nuclear for Mitigation

Nuclear power has long been promoted as one of the tools to mitigate climate change. Japan has always been one of the biggest promoters of this theory and has not only tried to get nuclear power accepted in the CDM, but has also developed its own “bilateral crediting mechanism,” to include nuclear. ECO assumed that Japan would change this position after the Fukushima disaster, so we were taken aback by Japan's intervention in the flexible mechanisms discussion, stating that the CDM should be open to all technologies, including nuclear.

New nuclear power plants require massive public subsidies to go forward – monies that would be much better invested in the development and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The nuclear energy industry has   been   pushing   COP   after   COP to promote their technology as a tool for carbon reduction, but even a massive four-fold expansion of nuclear power by 2050 would provide at best a 4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Against the background of the Fukushima tragedy and all the risks inherent in nuclear energy, ECO finds it amazing that countries still keep promoting nuclear energy as a mitigation option.  There’s no point in trying to jump out of the climate frying pan by jumping into the nuclear fire.  That would be like trying to cure one’s addiction to smoking by taking up crack cocaine.  After the massive demonstrations in Japan, and the German and Swiss decisions to phase out nuclear energy, ECO calls upon Japan to become a leader in ensuring the exclusion of nuclear power from the CDM.

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Umbrella Series Part 4: Here Comes the Russian Swan Song!

In Bangkok, Russia presented its different baselines and scenarios of Russian greenhouse gas emissions. These scenarios vary from an unrealistically fast economic growth based on old carbon technologies leading to a 14% emission reduction by 2020, to a more reasonable scenario with greenhouse gas emissions at -28% at 2020. While challenging, this ambitious scenario could be achieved through energy savings and energy efficiency measures, but the real Russian puzzle was not revealed in Bangkok.

 What Russia did not say was that these scenarios exclude any contributions from LULUCF and AAU carry over. That is, Russia already assumes that it will not carry forward its existing hot air (ECO and the atmosphere say thank you Russia!), and accepts that the reduction potential is noticeably bigger through reductions in the LULUCF sector.

In 2009, Russian greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF were at -35%, but with LULUCF Russia was at -59% from 1990 levels! ECO believes that Russia should raise its emission reduction commitment to a minimum of -25% by 2020 -- without LULUCF and AAU carry-over. Including LULUCF, emission reductions targets for Russia could increase to at least -40% by 2020.

If this does not happen, we will see Russia, together with Ukraine and Belarus, undermining the environmental integrity of global action on climate change.

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Did Anyone see the Elephant in the (Workshop) Room?

While ECO found it extremely pleasant to hear Chile, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Kenya, Bolivia and Cote d'Ivoire’s plans to contribute to global climate action during yesterday's workshop on Non Annex 1 mitigation action, ECO wonders why some of the big emitters from the developing world tried to hide under their desks. You can’t hide an elephant... or its emissions. ECO knows that some of these countries have big plans, and would like to see more information about their targets and their plans. Take some countries with high emissions from deforestation. Brazil and Indonesia made short interventions in Bangkok, but we were expecting some more information in Bonn. Especially given the news that reached ECO about the proposals to “reform” the Brazilian Forest Code and the message from a large amount of Brazilian scientists that the proposed amendments would make it difficult if not impossible for Brazil to achieve the pledges it has inscribed into the famous INF documents. And ECO still misses news about the target of DRC, and wonders why the government's ambition to reduce emissions from deforestation to zero below 2030 has not been submitted to the UNFCCC. Similarly, it would be quite interesting to get more information from countries like Nigeria, Iran, Venezuela, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Thailand, who are all part of the biggest emitters.

Obviously, if all these countries, led by Argentina, would send their pledges to the UNFCCC, that would make an important contribution to closing the gigatonne gap, as ECO learned from a presentation by AOSIS, showing that also developing countries have a contribution to make in the fight against the gap.

Clarification on all these plans will allow Parties to look at the real contribution of current developing country plans, and would allow a discussion on what more can be done, by looking into what other supported action could be taken. Which makes a discussion on innovative sources for long-term climate financing all the more important. ECO knows that most Parties are aware of that but has heard it couldn't pass some umbrellas. Perhaps some of the suggestions made at the end of the workshop, including the development of formats and guidelines, and an initiative to ensure Parties learn from each others’ experiences and good practices could help.

Inventories look daunting but they can help with national policy making, NAMA design, tracking energy use which helps with national budgets etc. Also the suggestion for the secretariat to develop a technical paper on developing countries action could help the negotiations to move forward. The elephant caravan left from Bangkok, but all the elephants have yet to show up. They cannot hide forever.      We hope they show up by Durban.

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Umbrella Series Part 3: Ukraine Needs Realistic Goal Posts Urgently!

As an economy in transition, Ukraine, a member of the Umbrella Group, is a country with a special status in the UNFCCC framework. Nevertheless, this special treatment cannot extend to the setting of 2020 targets. Experts from the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) analyzed and compared the pledged emissions reduction targets of all Annex I countries. IIASA concluded that Ukraine’s emissions reduction pledge of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 was highly inadequate, since Ukraine’s business as usual scenario for 2020 will be as much as 54% below 1990 levels. Moreover, such a target means that Ukraine expects a huge amount of new hot air for trading. One should characterize Ukraine’s proposal not as an actual emissions reduction target, but a “no emission reduction measures necessary” target.

Experts have estimated that Ukraine could easily take a target of at least 57% below 1990 levels by 2020, with the added benefit of actually making money! With its National Climate Mitigation Strategy not yet in place, Ukraine should perhaps use this opportunity to develop a mitigation strategy that is not only realistic and economically viable but also delivers for the climate. ECO would be very interested to hear a presentation from Ukraine about its national climate change policies and assumptions and conditions related to a 2020 target. Such a presentation was notably missing in the workshops in Bangkok and Bonn.

While it is obviously one of the Ukraine’s priorities to see a continuation of its current special status, it should understand that it cannot also have its other demands met, like full carry-over of AAUs or continuing with a way-above business as usual scenario target.

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The Truth About Mitigation – It’s Still Inconvenient!

The bright and shiny moments in yesterday’s workshop on mitigation targets of developed countries were noticeable, albeit sparse, and mostly rhetorical. It seems to ECO, the truth is still inconvenient!

We learned that reducing emissions is good for the economy. Many countries re- affirmed the need to increase the ambition level and were very aware of the gap between current pledges and the cuts needed to stay below 2 degrees of warming, let alone the needed 1.5°C limit. And nearly everyone – except the U.S. – acknowledged the need for common accounting standards to ensure the environmental integrity of this global climate cooperation.

But, to put it simply, knowing a thing and doing a thing isn’t the same thing...

On the difficult questions CAN posed; negotiators did not have such positive answers. For example, what will their true emissions be? Assumptions on forests and other land use accounting, the use of carbon offsets and hot air carry-over are all huge potential loopholes. While there was some conversation on this subject – with the U.S. promising to count both sources and sinks in its land-based accounting approach and challenging other countries’ approaches – there was no definitive account of those true emissions. Russia, Iceland and others didn’t take up the challenge, but you know, there’s those inconvenient ‘national circumstances’ to consider. The offsets question was kicked to the MRV discussion...so stay tuned.

CAN expected that developed countries with current pledges below the 25-40% range would explain how their low pledges are consistent with their fair share of the needed global mitigation efforts. We did not get answers. We just heard a lot about ‘conditions’ that must be met before they will tell us their real target.

CAN expected developed countries whose pledges are below their current Kyoto targets, and/or below business as usual under existing domestic legislation and targets, to explain how those pledges constitute progress. To ECO’s dismay, one candidate for this question, Canada, didn’t even sit for the exam. Another, the EU, wiggled free of the challenge by explaining that member states really want to achieve their long-agreed voluntary energy efficiency targets which is needed to cut their domestic emissions overall by 25%. ECO, along with the Philippines, would like to ask how that makes the EU a climate leader.

ECO also wanted to know how their 2020 pledges will allow them to achieve near-zero emissions by 2050.        Only Norway seemed to come even close to answering, but Germany did present indicative decadal targets for -80% by 2050, while the UK’s trajectory to -80% is enshrined in national law. The UK’s model is overall not a bad model for a low-emission development strategy. There was a potentially encouraging admission by Poland that it was too addicted to coal and was embracing energy efficiency. Now, if only Poland took that realisation to Brussels.

While additional details remain to be tabled, equally important work must begin to enable the leading industrialized countries of the world to ensure the environmental integrity of their emissions targets.

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