Tag: Europe

Oh Aarhus Wherefore Art Thou?

Apparently, Parties didn’t get the message from ECO’s “CDM ‘Appeal’ for Justice” on Saturday. In an SBI informal, where Parties discussed the CDM appeals procedure, ECO is reliably informed that China pressed to shut stakeholders out of the discussions. ECO is now calling on Parties to stand strong and support our call for justice: project-affected peoples, communities and their civil society representatives must have the right to appeal CDM Executive Board decisions. Will someone please throw us a lifeline?

The European Union has indicated that it will consider saving this drowning child by “exploring” the expansion of the right of appeal to “those who have a right to be consulted during the local stakeholder consultation process.” This statement alarms ECO. This discussion is not about harmonizing rules for the bendiness of bananas but about public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. This implicates its obligations under the Aarhus Convention, which is legally binding on 44 Parties to the UNFCCC, including the European Union.  The Convention links environmental with human rights and gives Parties obligations regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice. If the European Union is serious about its pledge for government accountability and environmental protection, it will need to reconsider whether “exploring” is enough to save this drowning child called justice

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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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Does Anyone think that there is no gap?

Hearing no objection it is so decided. So can ECO take it then, that, thanks to the challenging question by the European Union in Thursday’s workshop on developed country mitigation pledges, there is universal agreement that there is a gap? Fine.

So let’s move to the next step: looking at ways to increase ambition (to close the said gap), which was among the agreed purposes of the workshop, yet tacitly but plainly avoided by most developed country presenters. The European Union, at least, made a good faith attempt on the issue, and, yes, including more gases and sectors is among the things to look at. Yet ECO missed a slide explaining what the MRV- able conditions the EU has to move to (at least!) a 30% target. Instead, we were slightly amused when told that even the 20% target would be hard work. ECO reminds Parties that current EU legislation allows for more than half of the effort needed between 2013 and 2020 to be covered by carbon offsets instead of domestic action. That would also mean that with current emission levels (-16% below 1990 levels), no more domestic action is needed until 2020.

Yet, ECO’s readers will know the story of the one-eyed among the blind. Canada merrily implied that its pathetic target be comparable to the EU’s (considering that Canada is suggesting an increase over 1990 levels), and smartly dodged the question by a delegate how a target that is even weaker than its current Kyoto target could possibly constitute progress towards meeting the 1.5°C/2°C challenge. Canada’s Southern neighbours had, likewise, not much to offer, except maybe the notion that one needn’t be worried about the gap now because the review could maybe fix it later. ECO wonders if the US understands that leaving the gap unaddressed now, will require very, very steep reductions to make up for the delay, and if the US will be the country to champion that.

Delegates planning to attend today’s spin- off groups on developed country mitigation might want to keep in mind the conclusion by the co-chairs at the end of the workshop: that there is a gap, that there is some resolve to address it, and that further work needs to be done. ECO couldn’t agree more and suggests a four step approach for today’s informal sessions: (1) Developed countries make clear what their net domestic emissions will be in 2020; (2) Parties agree to close the loopholes by Durban, e.g. on hot air or carbon offset use, and have Parties not use bogus LULUCF projections meant to hide emissions but use historic reference levels and cover all emissions (see separate article in this issue); (3) Developed countries move to the high end of their pledges, by Durban, as a first important step; and (4) begin addressing the remaining gigatonne gap, by recognizing its size and a firm resolve in Durban to close it through a fair sharing of the globally needed mitigation effort, based on responsibility for emissions and capability to cut them.

And now: it is so decided!

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Historic Landmark in German Energy Policy

ECO clearly missed a presentation by Germany in Thursday’s workshop on developed country mitigation. Germany could have taken the opportunity to present its package of wide reaching energy and infrastructure legislative proposals, presented this Monday, as a response to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

While these negotiations rarely deal with nuclear energy, delegates would surely have been intrigued to witness what could become a historical turn in energy policy taking place in a leading industrial country. One that, if planned and executed carefully, could become a development! model for many other countries struggling with their dependence on increasingly expensive, climate change causing fossil fuels or nuclear energy with its risks and dirty and dangerous legacy. Because, ECO notes, the government has confirmed that phasing out nuclear energy will not alter the country’s resolve to cut itsgreenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 80-95% by 2050. Not replacing the nuclear threat with a new climate threat is ambitious, but possible, as numerous experts from all sides have confirmed. ECO hopes that dirty industry and its buddies in government aren’t going to screw it up.

The most prominent piece is the accelerated phase out of nuclear power plants, with the 8 oldest plants not going online anymore at all, and the remaining ones shutting down one by one more gradually until 2022. Earlier phase out, such as in 2017, would have been possible, but nonetheless the legislative proposals, which have now been presented to the German Parliament represent a significant shift.

The renewable energy act is confirming the principles of a long-term guaranteed feed in tariff and grid priority for renewable electricity. ECO has learned that this means the ambition to meet 35% of German power demand from renewable electricity by 2020 is therefore not a cap, but a minimum floor, from which to build beyond 2020. The dynamic development of renewable energies in Germany is a result of that policy.

The grid infrastructure laws are attempting the ambitious goal of increasing public participation and acceptance while reducing the length of the permitting procedures. Most proposals are sound but it remains to be seen how successfully they can be implemented.

The laws on energy efficiency could be much more ambitious and goals more binding. However, the conservative liberal coalition in Germany has set up a multi- billion support programme for efficiency measures, e.g. in the building sector.

All these proposals are slowly but surely exploring the practical possibility for a paradigm change in the systems of electricity generation, distribution and consumption.

Some industry lobbyists are, together with the four big utilities, warning that a “deindustrialization of Germany” is imminent. However, the overwhelming majority of studies show that a whole new industry – with substantial positive growth and labor market impacts – is emerging. The economic benefits of such a transformation will hopefully be understood by other sectors (e.g. transport) as a signal that the chances and rewards associated with such transition to a low carbon future are tremendous.

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LULUCF Rules… Which Rules?

It is tough to spot the actual emissions reduced through the current thicket of different Annex I country pledge formats. And many countries suggest to further obscure the actual impact by including complex means of accounting for sources and sinks from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).

In the Annex I mitigation workshop on Thursday, AOSIS highlighted the potential contribution of lax LULUCF rules to the gigatonne gap, as described by UNEP. The Secretariat’s recent paper on the assumptions and conditions of Annex I Parties’ targets begins to clarify the extent to which Annex I countries will rely on the LULUCF sector to comply with their targets.

However, the question remains: which LULUCF rules are we talking about? These rules for the 2nd commitment period have not yet been decided!            ECO seconds the statement made by St. Lucia on Thursday that there is a pressing need for much greater transparency regarding what assumptions Parties are using in their LULUCF accounting, and encouraging the use of common methodologies.

Targets without clear LULUCF accounting rules are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get. To remedy this situation, ECO thinks Annex I Parties should take the suggestion that Colombia made in Bangkok – to submit tables showing what

their commitments would be under different accounting options, including the different options on the table for LULUCF. These tables would make the role of this sector clearer to everyone.  They would also illustrate clearly which countries are relying on their forests to help meet their targets, and which Parties are expecting to use delayed accounting for wood products or the exclusion of emissions from natural disturbances in their accounting.

It is impossible to make informed decisions on targets until it is clear what rules underpin them. With the kind of clarity and transparency Colombia has requested, Parties may be able to complete the task of decision-making that they failed to finish in Cancun.

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Money – Now, New, and on the Table

In Copenhagen and reaffirmed in Cancún, developed countries collectively pledged USD 30 billion in ‘fast-start’ finance from 2010-2012 to support developing countries’ mitigation and adaptation efforts, and helping to maintain Parties confidence in the process.

Based on the fast-start finance reports submitted by developed countries, about USD 16.8 billion has been committed or allocated in 2010. However, opaqueness remains. Several countries are clearly not meeting the agreed criterion that the finance should be “new and additional,” and constitute a “balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation.” On balanced allocation, e.g. France has stated that 80% of its fast-start finance will go to mitigation and REDD+, with the rest to adaptation. This imbalance is not unique and implies that adaptation will remain heavily underfunded. Denmark has a better track record, with 48% of its fast-start finance in 2010 supporting adaptation and capacity building.

Furthermore, countries are not being entirely comprehensive, comparable or complete in reporting information on their finance. While countries do report on whether e.g., grants or loans have been used, they do not provide information on the terms (concessionality) of loans when used, nor on which projects are supported by loans versus by grants. While there is no political agreement on how to define ‘additionality,’ countries should at least be transparent about the baseline they are using to define this. Enhanced reporting guidelines are clearly needed, building towards a common reporting format in the longer term.

Despite this opaqueness, we can and should give developed countries credit for making a perceivable effort to get fast-start finance flowing   and reported on, despite a lack of formal guidance on how to do so. The EU yesterday hosted an open forum on their fast-start finance, which reflected on lessons learned – from the donor side and from the recipient sides – for improving the future provision of, access to, and reporting of financial support. Such stocktaking will help ensure the transparency, effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of finance in the future, and build much-needed trust between developed and developing countries in the international climate negotiations.

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