Tag: Gigatonne Gap

Close the Gap!

The Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy by 2050, published by WWF
in association with Ecofys, clearly shows how the gigatonne gap can be closed and emissions
reduced for a total carbon budget preserving a strong likelihood of no more than 2° warming

On Wednesday the second Structured Expert Dialogue of the 2013-2015 review began to assess overall progress towards achieving the long-term global goal, including the implementation of commitments under the Convention.
The IPCC authors conclude that there is a 1000 Gt carbon budget for humankind from the starting point of the fossil fuel era. Within that budget there is a 66% likelihood of staying below 2 degrees.

We have already used half of that budget and, taking into account other greenhouse gases, only 270 Gt can still be emitted to remain within the safe lines.  That’s a shockingly small carbon budget to stay with a climate that is relatively safe – and even then substantial impacts will still occur.

Most numbers from the IPCC are associated with uncertainties. From a risk assessment perspective (or common sense, depending on how formal you want to be), higher uncertainty requires a lower carbon budget. So remember, even a 66% likelihood means a one-third chance of going beyond 2 degrees.

Furthermore, action on short-lived forcers like methane cannot replace or ‘buy time’  on long-lived greenhouse gases, especially CO2.  We need substantial reductions of them all.

However, while the Structured Expert Dialogue did not formally draw conclusions, it is clear that the overall progress made so far towards achieving the long-term global goal is small and far less than what is necessary.  

That point was underscored by the side event on the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2013, which followed shortly after the conclusion of the dialogue. This third update of the now-famed gigatonne gap report shows that the actual trajectory of global emissions is much higher than emissions pathways needed to keep global temperature rise below 1.5/2°.

We are now at annual emissions of 49 Gt CO2e, when we should be at no more than 44 Gt. On current trends, the gigatonne gap could increase from 5 Gt per annum to 12 Gt or more unless the world takes effective action.

But all is not lost. The UNEP report shows which measures should be implemented to close the gap and reap substantial co-benefits at the same time.
Borrowing a famous quotation, ECO’s advice is: Make it so!

 

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Japan: Cool Earth 50 or Scorched Earth?

Rumour has it that that Japan, the third largest economy in the world, is going to announce its new 2020 target here in Warsaw. This would be Japan’s contribution to closing the gigatonne gap, right?

But ECO is puzzled by the target number circulating in media reports. At first we thought Japan must have made a mistake on where to put the decimal point.  But it seems the number really will be one digit smaller than it should be.

In fact, if the reported number is true, Japan would be increasing its emissions above 1990 levels.  Surely it cannot be true, Japan! ECO doesn’t want to believe wild rumors and instead expects Japan will present a target that honors the name of "Cool Earth 50" -- a plan the current Prime Minister originally released to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050.

The devastating catastrophe in Fukushima taught us that nuclear is not the solution for climate change. It is good to hear that nuclear is not included in the target the government is considering, but that cannot be the reason for a low target.
ECO hopes that two and a half years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Japan finally shifts its energy development fully to renewables and takes the lead in raising the level of climate ambition.

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Keep Ambition on the Agenda(s)!

ECO is gravely concerned that the Emissions Gap continues to grow, and that there is insufficient political will to close it as urgently as possible.

ECO insists that we must have greater action from developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol and LCA, and is concerned that some countries appear to be running away from these commitments.

ECO maintains that a work plan on pre-2020 ambition is also vital under the ADP, and a key element of the Durban package. This work plan should lead to urgent, specific, concrete decisions that work to close the Emissions Gap at COP18 and each subsequent COP.

ECO understands that this ADP work plan on scaling-up pre-2020 ambition will be implemented under the existing legal regime of the Framework Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and other existing legal frameworks.

This ADP work plan should ensure enhanced mitigation commitments by developed countries and actions by developing countries, com-parability of effort among developed countries, and means of implementation for developing countries, as expressed in the Bali Action Plan.

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“CAN Collectibles”: South Africa

We Put the “fun” in “Mitigashun”!

Fast Facts About Countries That Can Increase Their Ambition in Qatar!

Bonus Double Saturday Edition!

National term of greeting:

Howzit? / Heyta!

Annual alcohol consumption:

>200 litres per person per year (beer equivalent)

Annual cheese consumption:

We prefer meat.

Best things about South Africa:

Sun, surf, sand (take that, Australia!). Lots of unspoilt open spaces.

Worst things about South Africa:

Our soccer team. Lots of unspoilt open spaces targeted for fracking.

Things you didn't know:

South Africa has 3 capitals separated by as much as 1600 km.

Existing action on the table:

Peak national emissions between 2020 and 2025, plateau for up to a decade and then decline. Bring emissions below business-as-usual trajectory by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025, conditional on receipt of adequate support. 9% of SA’s electricity supply from new renewables (excluding hydro) by 2030.

Additional actions South Africa should agree to as its 2020 contribution, at a minimum:

Peak emissions by 2020 and as far as possible below 550 Mt/annum. Achieve 15% of electricity from new renewable energy technologies by 2020. Adopt a process, with timeline, to establish a national carbon budget, or at least sectoral budgets covering at least 80% of national emissions, by mid-October 2013. Deploy over 25 million m2 of solar water heating collection. Enforce comprehensive energy efficiency labelling regulations.

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2015 – Setting the Pace in the Race for Ambition

 As delegates bounce back to the Maritim, high off their post-Durban buzz, ECO thinks it’s worthwhile reminding them of the gravity of what they are negotiating. Durban very nearly failed. Had it done so, it would have empowered the formidable naysayers across the global economy, providing them with ample fuel to dismiss not only climate change but the multilateral system altogether.

 Whilst the Durban outcome was far from perfect, delegates still had the Cancun prophecy ringing in their ears – “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. What we got from Durban was an opportunity, as opposed to an outcome, of a hard deadline of 2015. And, importantly, we got the world caring again. When the Indians and Europeans battled it out in the grand “huddle”, determined to come to a resolution, international leaders and investors finally looked up from their navels and took notice.

 Now, back in the confines of the Maritim, we need all parties to knuckle down, and begin the long, hard slog to negotiate the final outcome. Opening up old wounds will not prevent climate chaos.

 As Cancun pointed out, tactical negotiating will not be enough to secure us a 1.5 degrees C future. Skilled diplomacy has not required any of the critical countries to move beyond the red lines we grew to know, love and hate in Copenhagen. Parties acknowledged that the politics aren’t yet right to secure a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal. But what we got in Durban was a grace period.

 The politics of 2015 do, however, provide an opportunity for more ambition compared to 2011. “It’s the economy, stupid”, barely encompasses the political preoccupation across Europe and OECD countries. But by 2015, it is likely that the worst of the recession will be over. And importantly, the rhythm of the electoral cycle across a swathe of key polluters to 2015 gives hope and promise to greater levels of ambition and political commitment. Unless countries recognise the very real danger that climate change poses to their national interests, they will not budge any further than their pre-Copenhagen mandates.

 But it’s not only the politics of ambition which need to be mastered. That little old chestnut, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, also needs some help. And it would appear as if, finally, most Annex 1 countries have received the message loud and clear (ECO does not need to spell it out; we all know who the deaf countries are). Unless a fair settlement is sought, a deal in 2015 is unrealistic. Fairness is not a hurdle towards greater ambition, but a key component to incentivise a successful deal. Scepticism that 2015 will be “Copenhagen the Sequel” misreads the politics since COP15. Anyone daft enough to think politicians and their negotiators would endure another Copenhagen should be doomed to eat Maritim sandwiches for the rest of their lives. 2015 will be very different.

 Firstly, a key advantage for 2015 is that the political change we need to see can now be leveraged off significant quantities of low carbon investment and confidence across a broad range of countries. Adding to this, the UNFCCC has made significant progress in defining the mechanisms which can be ramped up to deliver ambition. Secondly, the embryonic Durban Alliance and Cartagena Dialogue can help keep their Annex 1 partners on their toes, and help shape a Fair, Ambitious and Binding (FAB) deal over the years ahead. And finally, 2015 will no doubt be an important milestone on the road to a global low carbon economy, alongside Rio, Qatar and other high profile events.

 But we must not focus on the glitz and glamour at the expense of harvesting incremental achievements, building session by session the systems and instruments needed to deliver success along the way. Putting all our eggs in one basket, when the scale of the challenge is enormous, is no longer a feasible option. Parties are now acknowledging that success in 2015 will be measured by a combination of progress inside and outside the UNFCCC, top-down and bottom up measures, in shaping emissions trajectories to 2030.

 In Bonn, ECO will not take the promise of post-2020 ambition as an excuse for lack of short-term measures. Broaching the gigatonne gap, outlining ambitious proposals for the review of adequacy and beginning to map out the process for developing an equitable outcome will be vital in securing a 2015 deal. Haggling over the text that has already been gavelled through contradicts the constructive spirit reached in South Africa.

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10 Points of Action

Ministers – thank goodness you are here. Your delegations may have been burning some midnight oil in the last few days – but they have left the hard decisions for you! Here’s what your agenda for the next 4 days looks like:

1.  Don’t just “Mind the Gap” – do something! Ministers, at Durban you must show that you live on the same planet as the rest of us and acknowledge that the current mitigation pathway puts us on track for over 4° C warming. You must explicitly acknowledge the 6 to 11 Gigatonne gap, agree to a 2012 work plan to close the gap by increasing developed country targets to at least 40% by 2020, and provide guidelines and timeframes for NAMAs to be registered and supported where required. The ambition work plan must include clear markers through 2012, including submissions, technical papers and a dedicated intersessional meeting, to ensure we don’t have another year of wishy washy workshops with outcomes.

2. Commit for the long term. Negotiators have made no progress at all in setting a peak year and a long term global goal for emissions. Ministers now should explicitly agree that each country contribute their fair share to the globally needed mitigation effort, leading to a peak by 2015 and a reduction of global emissions of at least 80% below 1990 by 2050.

3. Stop spinning wheels in the Review. Ministers need to ensure that the Review will be effective, and limiting the scope will help it get off the ground as an effective instrument. We must focus on the important things: reviewing the long-term goal and the overall progress towards achieving it. Leave the biannual reports under MRV to cover the inputs like the means of implementation.

4. High Time for legally binding. A 5 year long second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is an absolute necessity as it contains important architectural elements which are crucial to ensure that mitigation commitments are legally binding and have environmental integrity. Nobody believes that a temperature rise of 4° C might be OK. So now is the moment to act decisively. An LCA mandate to agree a comprehensive legally binding instrument can build on the KP. Parties need to go beyond their long stated positions and immediately kick off negotiations toward a comprehensive, fair, ambitious and binding agreement to be agreed no later than 2015.

6. KP is essential – but it must have integrity. When added together, loopholes in the KP could wipe out Annex I ambition for the second commitment period.

In LULUCF, hidden and unaccounted emissions could significantly undermine Annex I targets, and cause us to doubt your commitment. Ministers must therefore ensure emissions from forests and land use are accurately accounted and reject the options on the table with the lowest environmental integrity.

All of the parties to this relationship know that the hot air / carried over AAUs is a bad joke that threatens to sour our relationship.  To keep it pure we need you to retire your surplus AAUs, or at least reduce them to 1%. Flexible mechanisms need clear rules and governance structures to avoid double counting of both emissions and finance, strengthen additionality testing and ensuring the standardization frenzy does not leave us with a highway for free-riders. Let’s start by keeping CCS and nuclear out of the CDM and let’s exclude coal power projects. Last but not least, we do indeed need stakeholder involvement in the CDM. Don’t back down, we are counting on you!

PS: CDM’s little brother JI has been up to a bunch of no-good stuff: hot air gussied up in new clothes (ERUs) is still hot air.

7. Fill the Fund. Operationalising the GCF in Durban is essential but not nearly enough – an empty fund is no good to anyone. We need initial capitalization of the GCF from developed country Parties in Durban. Reaching $100 billion per year by 2020 will require a commitment to scaled up finance from 2013 onward and clear progress on innovative approaches to generate finance. In Durban, parties should move forward on the establishment of mechanisms in the shipping and aviation sectors in a way that reduces emissions, generates finance, and ensures no burdens and costs on developing countries. Countries must also agree to a detailed one year work programme under the UNFCCC to consider a full range of innovative sources of public finance and report back to COP 18 with a proposal for action.

8. Gear Up and Deliver Technology. Technology is heading in the right direction, but speed is needed! Don’t be held back by other laggards. The Tech Mechanism could be operational by the end of COP 18.

9. Feel the Love for Transparency and Stakeholders. Your negotiators excised stakeholders’ right to participate from the IAR text and subject to heavy bracketing in ICA. But we know, Ministers, that you recognize the worth of engaging stakeholders to create a better process – rather than having us only campaign from the outside. Current text also falls short on common accounting rules for Annex I countries and clarification of pledges for all countries. Surely we’ve learned from the financial crisis! Robust reporting, such as Biennial Reviews and Biennial Update Report guidelines, including tables for reporting actions, and a common reporting format for finance must be agreed in Durban, so countries can complete their biennial reports in time for the first review. And where would this relationship between us and the planet, be without compliance for our commitments!

10.  An ambitious adaptation package at the African COP. Good agreements on Loss and Damage and the Nairobi Work Programme have already been reached. Wrapping up the package will require agreement on a strong Adaptation Committee including active civil society observers and direct reporting to the COP (as well to the SBs when COP does not meet). Furthermore, guidelines for National Adaptation Plans for Least Developed Countries must be adopted, plus modalities on how other developing countries can take these up. The prioritisation for LDCs must of course not be undermined.

A strong role for local, affected communities and civil society in national planning processes, building on the principles agreed in the Cancun Adaptation Framework, is essential. Finally, Parties must ensure that the Adaptation Fund does not dry up because of decreasing CER prices and lack of new pledges to the Fund from developed countries.

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2020 and the Climate: Milestone for Success or Epitaph for Failure

We cannot afford to wait any longer to begin serious mitigation efforts.  The emissions reductions pledged in the Cancun Agreement currently set the world on a trajectory for a 4.3° C temperature increase by 2100. According to the new UNEP “Bridging the Gap” report, an additional 6 to 11 Gt CO2 in emissions reductions are needed in order to reach a 2° C goal.  The good news is, UNEP shows how to reach the goal with economically and technologically feasible solutions, though the timeframe for success is narrow.  If rigorous action is postponed until 2020, success will drift beyond our reach.

Without political incentives to invest in alternative energy, governments will continue to rely on fossil fuels to meet growing energy demands, locking in carbon intensive technologies over the next eight years.  According to the International Energy Agency, for every $1.00 avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 in order to compensate for the increased emissions.  Of course, any shortfall in mitigation will drive up adaptation costs and real impacts on lives to a much greater degree.

We need to give our world time for the transition to a low carbon economy. Emissions must peak by 2015 and sharply decline thereafter.  The task is formidable.  According to UNEP, “the highest average rate of emission reductions over the next four to five decades found in the [integrated assessment model] literature is around 3.5% per year.” But based on the C-ROADS model, emissions reductions would need to decline even more, at a rate of at least 4% per year between 2020 and 2050 to reach the 2° C target – a ramp-down rate well beyond historical experience.

Time is of the essence.  Clifford Mahlung, a delegate from Jamaica, said, “We’ve already waited too long.  I know countries need a little more time to get over their economic woes -- but eight years?”  And we need to agree strong package here in Durban to launch that effort now, as the climate clock is running faster and faster.

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Launching the ‘Ambition Work Programme’

 

We are hearing delegates are having sleepless nights because of the yawning gap between current mitigation pledges and what’s needed for a credible 2° C pathway. Perhaps not all of them are genuinely worried because of the implications for humanity.

Some may just feel uncomfortable to be reminded that they have not done the homework they gave themselves back in Cancun. Developed countries promised to look at options and ways to increase levels of ambition, and then actually increase them. It really isn’t a hard concept to grasp.

There may be some further relief in paras 36-38 and paras 48-51 of last night’s new texts. Both texts include a key line: the recognition of the existence of the ambition gap. Parties that attempt to block this recognition into a COP decision can expect to be in a bright spotlight on this matter.

The next logical step is contained in the new text on developed country ambition: to launch work to address (as in “close”) the gap.

The new UNEP report clearly identifies this possibility. But instead, we see some tendencies toward stalling rather than making progress towards the 2° C objective. Work needs to start now, as every year of further waffling and delaying tactics will make the task much harder.

Closing the ambition gap will require effort on all sides -- both developed and developing countries.

Developing countries have pledged more mitigation until 2020 than developed countries but can do more (and certainly must be provided sufficient and reliable support to do so). Not all developing countries have pledged their NAMAs yet, and some countries may well be able to increase ambition of already pledged NAMAs.

It would be really good for the work programme to have a deadline set for COP 18 in Qatar as well as a set of clearly articulated outcomes. Otherwise we could end up here forever (or at least until the world melts around us).

By COP18, Parties should have studied all possible options to close the ambition gap, and developed countries should have moved up their pledges in line with science, i.e. to more than 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

As for inputs, why not ask parties to provide submissions on how to share out the 25-40% reductions, have the Secretariat compile a technical paper, and then negotiate the targets and how to square them with the existing pledges.

In turn, developing countries can register NAMAs that will result in emissions reductions well below business as usual (with sufficient support).

Much work remains to operationalise the NAMA Registry, to establish guidelines for NAMAs, and to register both NAMAs and support. Once these not insignificant tasks are completed (with substantial progress when we meet in Bonn in May 2012), the Secretariat will need to assess whether there is a shortfall in support, and how much this amounts to.

One element of the ambition work programme that Parties should launch here in Durban includes those low carbon strategies that developed countries should launch and implement to achieve near-zero decarbonisation by 2050.

And developing countries need to be encouraged (whilst receiving the support they need) to develop their own strategies. SBSTA should turn toward working out the guidelines for those strategies. All this would provide a significant first step in a more productive
direction.

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Fossil Subsidies: Hiding in Plain View

Looking to fill gaps?  Eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies!

On the way to Durban, ECO was rereading some of the past articles that have graced its pages. One that is particularly striking and poignant is from Bonn in June 2011. Title: “Developed country UNFCCC climate finance commitments in 2013”.  Article text: “0”. 

It is also striking just how many articles there have been on the need to close the gigatonne gap and stay as far below 2° C as possible.  If only there was a way to kill two birds (figuratively, of course, as we would not want to upset the CBD) with one stone – oh wait,there it is – eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies!

The OECD recently estimated that USD $45 to $75 billion a year has been spent on fossil fuel subsidies in its member countries in recent years.  And the IEA in its 2011 World Energy Outlook finds another USD $400 billion globally in consumption subsidies. 

Imagine if much of that money was used to support renewable energy, energy efficiency, adaptation and other climate-related measures so sorely needed?  Capitalization of the Green Fund would be a cinch! 

As for the gigatonne gap, a joint report by IEA, OECD, the World Bank and OPEC (yes you read that right) showed that phasing out subsidies to fossil-fuel consumption alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6.9% in 2020. That’s “more than Kyoto” right there and is only a portion of the subsidies that need to go.  (Of course, to assuage concerns over energy access, any phasing out of consumption subsidies in developing countries needs to be supported by climate finance to support safe renewable forms of energy – though we also know that consumption subsidies are socially regressive with only 8% of that $400 billion reaching the poorest 20%, according to the IEA).

So it is thrilling to see that “Removing fossil fuel subsidies and/or reporting thereof” is listed as a means to increase the level of ambition of Parties in the “matters relating to paras. 36-38” text.  As ECO has stressed many times before, the current targets and actions pledged by Parties are insufficient to keep warming below 2° C, let alone 1.5° C. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely the gap will be completely closed in Durban.  So it is essential that the process next year further clarifying targets and actions and closing that gap include the consideration of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. 

Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies can also contribute to efforts by developing countries to achieve a significant deviation from business as usual emissions by 2020, again with the proviso of climate finance to ensure energy access for all.  ECO expects to see this linkage made explicit in COP decision text adopted at here in Durban. MRV negotiators (hint, hint!) may also wish to draw inspiration from the OECD’s inventory on fossil fuel subsidies and how this could be incorporated and improved upon by reporting under the UNFCCC.

UNEP: Bridging the Gap

Many delegates at last year’s COP in Cancun failed to take note of a rather large elephant lurking in the meeting rooms and corridors. And now that elephant has made its way to this COP – and has grown even larger.

Just last week, the UN Environment Programme issued an updated version of its landmark Emissions Gap report. Once again, UNEP concludes that by 2020 global emissions need to be reduced to 44 gigatonnes if the world is to be on a credible pathway to keeping warming below 1.5° C or even 2°.

First the bad news – UNEP finds that the gap between what is needed and what is on the table increased even more over the past year. Even if all countries go to the top end of their pledge ranges to cut emissions, and all loopholes are closed, the gap in 2020 will still be 6 gigatonnes – as much as the annual emissions of the US.

In the real world the gap is more likely to be around 11 gigatonnes. Developed countries are stuck on weaker, conditional pledges and their targets are riddled with loopholes. In fact, with the current weak pledges and lenient accounting rules, UNEP says that developed country emissions will be hardly any different than business as usual.

But there is also some good news in the report. UNEP says that with strong action now, it is possible to do even more than close the gap, without significant technical breakthroughs or prohibitive cost. How? By strongly focusing on energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy. By a major drive to halt deforestation. By improved waste management and agricultural practices. And by taking action on the currently unregulated sectors of international aviation and shipping.

To enable these real, practical solutions to prosper, the ambition of current pledges must be increased. All countries can and must do more. But first, developed countries need to raise their game dramatically. The Cancun Agreements recognised that developed country targets should be in the range of 25-40% below 1990 levels.  In ECO’s view, the ambition must rise above 40% if you are serious about 2° C – let alone the 1.5° C small islands need to keep afloat.

In a rational world, countries at Durban would listen to the trumpeting of the elephant and increase their pledges here and now. So ECO lives in hope.

Land use, land use change and forestry. UNEP says that weak LULUCF rules could contribute 0.6 gigatonnes to the emissions gap. These rules would allow developed countries to increase emissions from forestry activities while still claiming credits. Parties must discard these bad rules, and instead focus on accounting options with environmental integrity.

Surplus AAUs. The use of surplus allowances from the first commitment period could increase global emissions by as much as 2.9 gigatonnes in 2020, UNEP says. Strong rules to prevent or minimise the carryover of this surplus are essential.

Double counting of offsets against both developed country targets and developing country pledges could, along with fake offsets, increase the gap by 2 gigatonnes. Governments can and must rule this out once and for all.

Here in Durban, governments must also agree a robust process to formally recognise, quantify and close the gap. They must also agree to a peak year of 2015 in the Shared Vision. And they must agree a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, alongside a mandate for a comprehensive legally binding agreement to be concluded no later than 2015 and enter into force on 1 January 2018, a timeline that will not rule out the prospects for an early peak in emissions.

Delegates should pay heed to the wise words of African proverbs. “A man who is trampled to death by an elephant is a man who is blind and deaf”. Or, more positively: “When an elephant becomes as small as a monkey, it ceases to be an elephant.”

If you want to find out more about the Bridging the Emissions Gap report, UNEP is holding a side event in the African Pavilion at 18.30 on Thursday 1 December.

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