“We are sinking” and “no-agreement-text”- What is the relation between both ideas?

Mónica López Baltodano
Officer for Climate Change
Centro Humboldt
Nicaragua

While the negotiations in the UNFCCC concluded in the Bangkok intersessional meeting in September 2012, many questions arise for us in preparation for COP 18 in Doha. Can we find any logical relationship between developed countries’ claims that this was an “informal session, meaning “no-negotiation-text” should be agreed in Bangkok, while we read there´s super-shrinkage of the Arctic sea ice?

The massive heat wave melting the Arctic is just one –of many- clear signals that expose governmental representatives of countries around the globe aren´t achieving what they are supposed to in UNFCCC negotiations. The ultimate objective of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is to guarantee the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. But, that clearly can´t be achieved if developed countries are limiting the negotiation process, hiding their lack of political will to act with procedural claims and “formality” excuses.

Coming from a highly vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change, this seems more like a bad joke - not funny at all. Even though we understand that climate change claims for actions in the developing world, particularly in emerging economies, we cannot accept this to be an excuse for developed countries not to act as needed.

When we hear United States, Australia, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, the European Union, New Zealand and others saying there is not supposed to be any negotiating text on adaptation issues and finance under the LCA, we fear this is leading to a dead-end. Of course, there is clearly a much needed link between, for instance, Adaptation Committee, Standing Committee and Green Climate Fund Board´s work. Why would developed countries fear this should be in an agreed text coming out of Doha?

There are no “political skills” necessary to understand that this might mean they are not truly committed to fund adaptation actions in our countries as needed (i.e. promptly and effectively). If this is true, it would certainly undermine any strong effort in the most afflicted countries, including LDCs, SIDs and Central American countries.

We surely expect that, in the road to Doha, these countries find the logical connection between “we are sinking” –in all of its meanings- and the need to complete the work in the LCA track. This means an agreed outcome is a MUST, including a clear agreement on international finance for adaptation actions to take effect now.

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Keep up your end of the bargain, Parties.

In Durban, Parties agreed to a package – the adoption of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a successful conclusion of the LCA, urgent action to close the pre-2020 mitigation gap between the 2 degrees goal and the collective pledges now on the table, and collective movement toward a fair, ambitious and binding agreement in 2015. Parties must honour this political bargain.

Let's start with the KP. Those trying to get another bite of the negotiation cherry by dragging out submitting their carbon budgets (QELROs) have to understand that this will be perceived as acting in bad faith. Australia – ECO remembers the brinkmanship with your QELRO last time. So for you, as well as New Zealand, Ukraine and others on the fence on the Kyoto second commitment period, ECO demands to see your QELROs up front. And, of course, just any old KP second commitment period won’t suffice. We must have a robust, ratifiable agreement that respects the original intention of the KP to raise ambition and create real environmental integrity. The AOSIS and Africa Group proposals will facilitate this endeavour. Effectively eliminating surplus AAUs and ensuring the environmental integrity of the CDM is also essential – you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

On to the LCA. There are a number of elements that jump to the head of the queue in importance. We need a positive decision on finance – including ensuring that the discussion on scaling up Long Term Finance following the report of this year's work programme, among others, has a home in 2013 and beyond. And who needs an empty fund? We hear that the EU, Australia, Japan and Canada already have budgets they could allocate. Don’t be shy!

Enhanced post-2012 climate finance is essential to enable developing countries to implement low-carbon development strategies and facilitate desperately needed adaptation. Deciding to hold back on finance until the last moment – or not coming forward at all in Doha – will undermine confidence and faith in moving the climate negotiations forward.Japan, Canada, Russia and the United States, do not think that by jumping overboard from the Kyoto Protocol that you’re diving into balmy waters. You're still on the hook to do your share of closing the gigatonne gap, by putting forward quantified economy wide emissions reductions AT LEAST as stringent as the QELROs of Kyoto Protocol parties, and using common accounting to an equal standard as the Kyoto Protocol. We also expect to see your QEERTs well before Doha.

On these and the other LCA issues, it is essential that the LCA Chair, and the spin-off group facilitators, be supported to develop text proposals to put forward in Doha. Finally, on the ADP, you all need to do your homework between now and Doha on the ADP work programme. Doha must agree to a plan of work, including a clear timeline and milestones. So let’s take inspiration from our setting here in Bangkok – these milestones can incorporate a period of “contemplation” on some issues. How equity and CBDRRC will apply in the 2015 protocol will require a work stream that allows discussion and agreement on principles before being applied to all of the elements that will constitute the final deal. On other elements, including ways to urgently enhance short-term ambition, Parties must pick up and start negotiating immediately in Doha and beyond.

Leaving the workplan “loosey goosey” will result in a repeat of the Copenhagen tragedy. Rather, parties must agree on specific issues to manage each year while ensuring compilation text by COP19, complete negotiating text by COP20 and draft a fair, ambitious and legally binding protocol to be circulated by May 2015.This is indeed an ambitious agenda for Doha. But it is the least the peoples of the world demand, and expect their political leaders to deliver at a time when the impacts of climate change – and the costs in terms of both human suffering and economic development – are more evident than ever.

Markets On Our Mind

While most developed nations remain unwilling to commit to legally binding targets for CP2, discussions about market mechanisms have been (un)surprisingly vivid. The fact that carbon market prices are at a record low and surplus allowances threaten to bring prices near zero hasn’t added much urge to increase ambition.

ECO wonders why the many carbon market industry lobbyists haven’t made it clear yet that markets can only flourish with vigorous demand, which can only be created by binding reduction commitments. Let’s get that right: allowing emissions trading schemes from countries without enough demand to reach their voluntary targets with international offsets won’t help. The recent announcement of the Australian ETS linking up to the EU ETS has stirred worries that the lack of an international accounting framework will create a fragmented market that will undermine the environmental integrity of carbon markets altogether.

My dear negotiators, would you honestly buy the right to pollute with Japanese Yen from an Indian company if you don’t know whether the emissions reductions are calculated in watts, horsepower or feet? ECO presumes not. However, it’s definitely maths time: do the numbers and calculate the emissions reductions you need for your market to work.

Not only that, we also need a common accounting framework (look to your left) that ensures 1 tonne is 1 tonne. We also see the need to develop a UN common framework, with rules for countries that transfer credits and allowances for meeting QELROs, to ensure reductions are additional and not double counting. ECO looks forward to the outcome of the Parties’ calculation exercises to be presented in Doha, so that the environmental integrity and fungibility of carbon credits can be assured. All this, obviously, must be under the condition of strong and binding emission reduction commitments.

AAU Elephants

Negotiators are truly having a tough time putting the pieces for a second commitment period together. But soon they will face the enormous elephant in the room. A recent UNEP report estimates that up to 13 billion tonnes CO2 of surplus AAUs could be carried over to the next commitment period. This is almost three times the annual emissions of the EU. With the supply of hot air AAUs much higher than current reduction commitments (that are well under the 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 actually needed), carry-over would lead to no emission reductions compared to business-as-usual emission projections by 2020. As a matter of fact, CP2 commitments as they stand would likely lead to another surplus. This would be the case even if the large quantity of Russian surplus is excluded. Additionally, carbon credits from the CDM and JI that can be carried over would further lower actual emission reduction levels by 2020 by roughly 6%.

But there is hope! A proposal by the G77, which is technically sound and politically feasible in addressing this enormous loophole, could do the trick. Europe showed in Durban that it can pull its weight internationally by being the driving force behind the agreement for a new climate accord by 2015. This can’t be put at risk by domestic quarrels. The higher carbon price due to restricted carry-over could actually benefit surplus allowance holders, since it would avoid a likely price collapse after 2012.

However, ECO is deeply worried that a low ambition-laden second commitment period might emerge as a compromise. In particular, the differentiation of treatment between two types of hot air seems to be in the making. This could lead to an amendment that allows the European hot air that followed the economic crisis of 2008 to be fully carried over into the second commitment period. In particular, Brazil seems keen to allow such differentiation. ECO wonders why Brazil is so interested in helping further water down the weak European 2020 reduction target through the introduction of such a major loophole.

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Clarifying Clarifications

The two panels on quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets by developed country Parties left ECO feeling that there was something missing since Bali - like four years perhaps? - or a bit of ambition?

Surely Parties can cite 1(b)(i) from the Bali Action Plan in their sleep (“comparable” – remember)? Yet, as St Lucia pointed out, we still have different base years and metrics. That’s not going to help spotting the loopholes and freeloaders - oh sorry...everyone’s acting in good faith so no need to worry about transparency.

All in all, there are some surprisingly unsophisticated approaches on the table from some rather sophisticated economies – putting forward point targets rather than carbon budgets. And yes, ECO’s talking about those north of Latin America. This includes no clear idea how international credits used by states and provinces are going to affect the national level.  ECO was intrigued at issues for California being considered “within the noise” of measurement. Yes, who could possibly be concerned about accounting problems within an economy the size of Australia?

 And talking of the latter – ECO believes the EU’s urgings were heard loud and clear.  Australia and New Zealand, you’re wanted in the KP.  As they say in those parts, “Come on Australia.” 

All in all, some in the Umbrella group must have been wishing they had their brollies to hide behind. Can’t imagine how “banking and borrowing” can be used with inventories and point targets? Well no problem in adding a ban to the UNFCCC rule book then... And funny how those with issues with their emissions trajectories seem to be the keenest for flexibility and most concerned that harmonisation might prevent full participation. A tip to New Zealand – choirs and rugby sides seem to manage it. 

So to clarify all that clarity, ECO supports South Africa's proposal for a common accounting workshop before Doha to assist the successful conclusion of 1(b)(i).  

ECO was rather more encouraged to see some of the good progress on NAMAs presented by developing country panellists. And just a reminder to those who seem to have forgotten exactly what NAMA stands for – it’s Nationally Appropriate Mitigation ACTIONS. It’s apparent that here, too, provision of detailed information is important because it gives more clarity on what measures countries are undertaking. And this clarity will provide confidence and facilitate access to further support. On this note, ECO is having a bit of difficulty seeing the support – more of this in a minute.

Now, even with the focus on actions rather than outcomes, it is still vital that we are able to understand what emission reductions have been achieved below BAU. Not to hold developing countries to a particular goal, but to track emission reductions on a country level in the context of collective efforts.

Panel 2 on means of support seemed to have a great deal of agreement.  Capacity building and, again, this cleverly invisible means of support for developing countries to be able to develop and design effective long-term NAMAs (aligned with low carbon development pathways) was emphasised time and time again.

 Particularly notable was how this was coming almost equally from both sides of the 1(b)(ii) equation – from developing countries in order to be able to act, and from developed countries in order to ensure value for their hard-to-find money. Given this last factor, ECO is left absolutely baffled as to why many developed countries seem to believe they have a logical basis for their determination to block the capacity building negotiation in the LCA. (But hey, ECO has gotten used to being baffled by flights of logic from developed countries many times before.) And let’s face it – some of those non-KP developed countries seem to need a bit of capacity building to help them produce their QELROs.

The Ugly, the Not So Bad and the Good

ECO listened with great interest to Parties' expectations of COP18 in Qatar this year. The greatest surprise came from those bottom-up loving Brollies, who mentioned the need to have a significant amount of technical preparation to give Ministers “options” on the Kyoto Protocol. Yes, you heard it, optionSSSSSS. Why do we need plural options? Surely one will suffice? Provisional Application – period.

But it wasn’t all bad, we liked the EU’s call for more creative thinking that shouldn’t just be exclusive to parties. ECO was jumping for joy. We will definitely let our creative juices run wild and are always happy to share these with our European colleagues, as well as others.

But the real music to our ears came from the UAE, which characterized itself, like Qatar, as a small but ambitious country, claiming that many countries in the region have renewable energy initiatives and targets, and hope that Doha can be a chance for these initiatives to get the "international recognition" they deserve. ECO is often wishful, but could this be the onset of support for the Arab countries to submit NAMAs? We hope so.

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Bangkok Fossil of the Day

 

"Saturday's 1st Place and only Fossil was awarded to the European Commission for attempting to show leadership in the wrong direction, away from the Durban decision to increase ambition - a decision which the EU actually claims to be champions of.

Keeping in mind that EU, if they implement the plans they already have on the table, will end up reducing around 24% of their 1990 emissions by 2020, it seems absurd that the European Commission suddenly argues that even an EU target of 25% is 'wishful thinking' and 'not reality'. Dear EU, 25% IS reality. Our wishful thinking is that you would get yourself together and increase you target to 40%, of which 30% should be domestic reductions."

And ECO wonders if the mere rumour that the EC had been awarded a fossil was behind the EU showing slightly better behaviour in the developed countries workshop. So maybe the fossil itself will have an even bigger impact - or is that more wishful thinking?

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Is It the Grave For “Noting With Grave Concern”?

“We believe that the world has had a lot of time to think. What we need is not more thinking. What we need is more action”. Inspiring words indeed in Durban from the EU, LDCs and AOSIS (the artists formerly known as the Durban Alliance). In the whirlwind after COP17, Europe was at pains to stress the importance of its victory on the inclusion of language in the Durban Platform “noting with grave concern” the significant (understatement of the year) gap between aggregate mitigation pledges and pathways consistent with below 2 degrees C. This was the foundation of the alliance with the LDCs and AOSIS. Further, in Bonn, ECO witnessed an epic battle by these groups and others to include pre-2020 ambition on the agenda.

But what have we here in Bangkok? Has Europe’s jet lag gone to its head? It appears as though the EU has abandoned its most vulnerable country allies, and is instead cosying up with the notorious ship jumpers – the US, Japan, Russia and Canada – on the critical issue of raising developed country targets pre-2020. Indeed, in the KP discussion on numbers, one EU Commission official went as far as to say that raising the EU’s 2020 level of ambition to 25% “is not reality, it is wishful thinking”. Given its urgent call for much greater ambition, ECO calls on the EU to commit to at least 30% domestic emissions reductions, and 40% overall, below 1990 levels by 2020. In addition to where it comes down on its 2020 target, the EU’s decision on how to handle AAUs will very much affect the overall level of ambition, as will its provision, along with other Annex II countries', of finance in a post-FSF world.

But let’s be fair, the EU is by no means the worst culprit here in Bangkok. That dubious distinction goes to the United States, which, despite agreeing to the Durban Platform  language on the urgent need to increase pre-2020 ambition, is now asserting that there should be no expectation of it or the other KP ship-jumpers increasing their pledges. Or – heaven forbid – turning them into QELROs. (Read on – ECO has more to say about the US later in this issue.) Instead, it’s all about everyone else. ECO would like to remind the US that all Parties “noted grave concerns” about the gigatonne gap, and notes the US would be first to say the ADP is “applicable to all Parties”. So yes, USA – this means you! And as for Japan, Canada and Russia, just because you’re cowering behind the US, doesn’t mean ECO will not name and shame you (and you too Australia and New Zealand, if you fail to sign up and ratify a second Kyoto commitment period).

Just last week the planet suffered another severe blow from lack of mitigation ambition. The Arctic – our planet’s canary in the coal mine on climate change – suffered record ice loss, according to scientific reports. Last week’s figure not only smashed all other records, but also came three weeks premature! The canary’s not dead yet, but it is gasping for breath.

And that means that the hundreds of millions of people here in Thailand and South East Asia, as well as around the globe, who are already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis, will suffer far more unless urgent action is taken. The earth is in grave danger. Developed countries must act now by committing to reduce their collective emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. ECO notes (wait for it...with grave concern) that their current pledges are woefully inadequate.

ECO agrees with Colombia, which in the ADP roundtable on ambition yesterday, noted that dealing with climate change is an urgent matter of global security. As Brazil further noted (so much noting!), many analysts think climate change is on par with global thermonuclear war as a threat that we have to do our utmost to avoid.

“Feeling” Around for Better Decisions in LCA

 

ECO shares G77’s “strong feelings”. In the 1(b)(i) session this afternoon, the Group’s passion for their proposal on what needs to be agreed in Doha was evident. The Group's strong and eloquent intervention clearly set out an understanding of what is needed from developed countries under the LCA track to help achieve fair ambition pre-2020, building on some of the common frameworks that will help to inform the negotiations that will take place in the ADP on a new, global deal.

Helpfully, the G77 proposed decisions for Doha on the following essential elements of developed country mitigation:

-          Increasing pre-2020 ambition for all developed countries – those in the KP and those still refusing to (re)join – in line with the latest available science

-          Conversion of the 1(b)(i) pledges of non-KP developed nations into tonnes of CO2e, AAUs or a carbon budget, rather than point targets for a particular moment in time

-          Common accounting rules for all developed countries

-          Clarification of how the common accounting rules might alter actual levels of ambition

Though we appreciate the EU, Switzerland and Norway's expressed support for common accounting rules and transparency to allow comparability of efforts by developed countries, these countries should form common cause with the G77 proposal and show greater willingness to seize the opportunities for ambitious and comparable efforts under the LCA. After all, developed country modalities have already been negotiated, so there are clear precedents, developed over years of careful negotiations, to guide the work to a speedy conclusion.

As for the Brollie Groupers, who either think that the promise of 1(b)(i) has been exhausted, or that seem to advocate “transparency” through a smoke screen of self-determined rules for reporting and accounting – remember that developed country leadership you signed up to in the Convention? Postponing your duty to increase your ambition until the new deal will kill any chance of staying below 1.5/2°C – and probably a whole lot else as well. Refusing to play by the rules gives an impression of acting like spoiled children who have taken more than their fair share of the sweets and are now trying to hide the wrappers.

And just like any good parent would, we have “strong feelings” about that kind of behaviour.

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