Tag: Mitigation

Let’s Get Ethical

FYI: ECO is highly principled, and believes that a key role of the Paris agreement will be to enshrine durable principles. Specifically for carbon markets, the following principles should be inscribed:

Real: unless the emissions reductions have actually occurred, and are not an accountancy trick, what’s the point of a market?

Supplemental: a failure of carbon markets has been the result of inadequate levels of ambition to drive the market. Only countries with targets that represent their fair share of effort towards the 1.5oC goal should be allowed to trade, and then only for levels of ambition above that fair share.

Additional: any credits that are traded need to represent emissions reductions achieved above a credible baseline.

Internationally verifiable: for those participating in the market, confidence in the quality of the credits is paramount. Alas, only through transparency will this confidence be achieved.

Permanent emissions reductions: having the emissions reappear at a later date makes the credits a mere accountancy trick.

Avoid double counting: despite getting a Fossil on this, Brazil still does not understand that this is an issue. Counting a single credit twice as contributing towards action misses the whole point.

Deliver sustainable development co-benefits: there are many other environmental, developmental and human rights issues that at worst credits and markets should not undermine, and at best should actively contribute to improving.

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Hot Air

With all the puffery at these talks, you’d think a little more hot air might not be noticed. The problem is, it’s not just a little bit of hot air, the result is sweltering.

The lack of integrity of the market mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol, combined with weak targets, have created an 11 gigatonne CO2e hot air loophole. That’s right, 11 big ones — clearing up that loophole would go a long way to closing the gigatonne gap. One important way would be to agree the KP hot air credits must be ineligible for compliance in the Paris agreement.

To ensure that we learn from the KP experience, the Paris treaty should define principles for the eligibility of use of international markets to achieve a country’s Nationally Determined Commitment. This should include how markets should reach standards that deliver real, supplemental, additional, verifiable, permanent emissions reductions, avoid double counting of effort, result in a net atmospheric benefit, and deliver sustainable development co-benefits. These principles will need to be defined in the COP decisions. Unless the core agreement specifically refers to these well-established standards, the transparency and environmental integrity of many Parties’ NDCs that depend on the use of markets cannot be assured.

To be effective, only countries with NDCs expressed as multi-year carbon budgets should be allowed to use markets for compliance. Such countries should also only be able to use market mechanisms if they have an ambitious 2025 mitigation target in line with their fair share 1.5°C target. Confidence in the carbon markets post 2020 requires rigorous MRV and accounting of emissions.

As Winston Churchill put it: “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” Will we learn from the KP experience? The agreements you come to, dear delegates, will test whether you indeed have learned.

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Remember the Science: 2°C is Not Safe

When working at a microscopic level, we know there is a danger of delegates losing perspective. In June, the presentation of the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) results saw intensive exchanges on new science, the impacts of climate change and how to keep warming at 1.5/2°C. But the end saw Saudi Arabia and others sideline an agreement to inform the ADP on their work and conclusions.

The SED found that the ‘guardrail’ concept, in which up to 2°C of warming is considered as relatively safe, is in fact inadequate due to the severe risks and potential irreversible impacts. Instead, the long-term goal should be defined as a ‘defence line’ and efforts should be made to put the line as low as possible. It’s important to note that more than 100 Parties already support limiting warming to 1.5oC, a group only likely to gain members in the run-up to Paris.

From the 10 key SED messages, ECO wants to reiterate three:

1) Warming of 2°C would lead to catastrophic impacts, slow down economic growth and hinder poverty reduction efforts considerably.

2) The world is not on track for a path towards a 1.5/2°C scenario. Past and recent global GHG emissions have accelerated, the emissions gap is growing, and the current Cancun pledges are more consistent with pathways limiting global warming to 3-4°C.

3) Keeping warming at 1.5/2°C is still achievable. Deep emission cuts are needed to keep warming at 1.5°C and below 2°C levels. This would require full decarbonisation of energy systems. Achieving this would not significantly affect global gross domestic product growth.

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“If, and this is the case here, there is a high risk of dangerous climate change with severe and life-threatening consequences for man and the environment, the State has the obligation to protect its citizens from it by taking appropriate and effective measures.”

 The Hague District Court, 24 June 2015

You can’t have missed it: the Dutch NGO Urgenda, alongside over 900 citizens, recently won a historic climate lawsuit against the Dutch state. The Court in The Hague confirmed what scientists, the public and civil society have long known: developed countries must take more climate action, now. And if they don’t, they face being held legally liable for impacts of their inaction.

Accordingly, the Court ordered the Dutch government to reduce its emissions by a minimum of 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, deeming the current target of 17% wholly inadequate.

And rightly so: for a likely chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, developed countries must make much bigger cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions. In mandating a 25% target, the Court expressly provides a great deal of leeway for the Dutch state, noting that, “a reduction target of this magnitude is the absolute minimum“.

However, what might have been an opportunity for Dutch leadership and an ‘orange is the new green’ attitude has instead become a fossil-worthy fiasco. Earlier this week, the Netherlands announced its intention to appeal the case—despite numerous protests all pleading “#ganietinberoep!” (don’t appeal!).

There are strong signals that the government’s main rationale for the appeal is that it hopes to continue its dirty ways, with less than 5% of the country powered by renewables and annual fossil fuel subsidies approaching $10 billion.

With its future adaptation costs estimated in the billions, this low-lying country should really know better. The Netherlands is just the first in a long line of countries that could eventually be held legally accountable for climate inaction and delinquency towards their citizens.

All developed countries must cut their emissions by at least 40% by 2020 from 1990 levels in order to help bridge the emissions gap. The Urgenda case is an indictment of all who put the priorities of powerful vested interests above those of their citizens, and a clarion call to the need for quick and powerful action on climate change

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An Inconvenient Gap

ECO would like to draw Parties’ attention to new analysis out today: even though only two-thirds of the world’s emissions are covered by currently submitted INDCs, there is a substantial gap in mitigation ambition as we speed toward Paris. Submissions for 2025 put us on a dangerous track to warming of well over 1.5°C, and the 2030 goals are simply not good enough. And the 2030 commitments submitted thus far would make 2°C “essentially infeasible”, and 1.5°C “beyond reach”.

Then there’s the pesky problem of actually meeting the commitments put forward so far, let alone any new ones. Only the EU and China have realistic pathways to meet their 2025 targets. Everyone else needs to step up their game to ensure stabilisation of the climate.

It’s time for countries to take a hard look at global goals and play their part. ECO has three prescriptions: increased ambition for 2025 targets, 5-year cycles to ensure an opportunity for course correction, and strong encouragement to increase ambition back home to pass policies in line with stated commitments.

Ambition Graph

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WS2: How To Do Better

Constructive proposals have pleasingly been coming out of the Workstream 2 discussions. Crucial emissions gap language, missing since June, has been reintroduced. This includes discussions around a forum to move WS2 towards implementation, improved Technical Experts Meetings, appointment of champions for actionable initiatives, and a Technical Examination Process on adaptation, among others.

Efficient systems and processes need to be put in place to close the ambition gap. It is important that WS2 be enhanced, as it could be a pilot for future efforts to close the emissions gap left by inadequate INDCs. ECO appreciates that many Parties recognise the potential of non-state actors in these processes, too.

However, while this—collaborative actions and actions by non-state actors—are critical components of closing the emissions gap, they cannot account for the full 8-10 Gt CO2e gap that is still expected for 2020. Governments will have to play their part, especially developed countries. ECO is concerned that some interventions by developed countries, though constructive in part, consistently avoid the fact that developed countries should set an example through enhanced domestic action.

Unexplored mitigation potential, as South Africa put it, in developing countries exists due to lack of access to technology, capacity or finance. If developed countries are calling for all countries to close the gap, they must recognise that this will firstly require them to deliver additional support to unlock the dormant potential.

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How Long-Term is a Game Changer

ECO has joyfully watched the birth of a new vision for the world’s economy – one where fossil fuel emissions are rapidly phased out, and clean, renewable sources of power are phased in. Millions of citizens from the global north and south, thousands of leading businesses, faith leaders and health professionals are now demanding this transition.

We all passionately believe in this vision — not least because science tells us that without it, and early deep cuts in GHG emissions, we will not be able to achieve the ultimate aim of the Convention: the stabilisation of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

If our global energy systems are not fully decarbonised by 2050 there would be neither equity nor fairness. It would mean a world where hard-won development is lost to dangerous climate change. The transition must happen in a fair, just and sustainable manner. Those with greater responsibility and capability must act first and support others to get to a new energy future. That means insuring that we do not neglect the challenges of adapting to the climate change impacts happening already today.

In this spirit, ECO has some proposals:

  • A long-term goal on mitigation that reflects the need for differentiation. This means that specifying the time-scales for decarbonising at the national level should reflect Parties’ differing responsibilities and capabilities, and what support is available to them. Bearing this in mind, all Parties should show clear but differentiated trajectories to phasing in 100% renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuel emissions.
  • Those with the greatest responsibility and means to must act now by increasing their existing pre-2020 ambition obligations.
  • Achieving this transformation will require strong outcomes on pre- and post-2020 finance.  Countries requiring support may want to consider national emission reduction commitments with unconditional and conditional components, with the latter put up for matching support.
  • A long-term goal for 2050 must be combined with a robust mechanism to increase ambition over time. Progress towards a long-term goal should be the defining factor over each 5-year cycle.
  • There also needs to be a long-term goal to enable and support adaptation alongside the mitigation one. The Parties that are committed to a fair and equitable outcome in Paris — and ECO hopes that this is everyone! — should never allow the two goals to become separated and lonely.

As part of a Paris outcome that respects these five suggestions, a long-term mitigation goal will embody the Convention’s fundamental principles and help achieve its ultimate objective.

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Location, location, location!

ECO has noticed lots of talk about “houses” as nations work to construct a new climate agreement. Just as location is important in selecting a house, Parties will be carefully considering the location of key text to be agreed in Paris: what goes in the core agreement, decision text, and supplementary instruments or lists. ECO has some advice to ensure that the right house is built.

ECO believes that a package deal with careful placement of issues is critical to a Paris outcome that safeguards ambition, accountability, and equity, while taking into account national circumstances. Amongst other things, the core legal agreement should:

Establish key principles to guide implementation, including human rights for all.

Introduce strong, durable commitments for the post-2020 climate regime, including a commitment to phase out fossil fuel emissions and phase in 100% renewables for all by 2050; and global adaptation and technology goals.

Provide a means for Parties’ to anchor Nationally Determined Contributions as legal commitments, with an introduction of 5-year commitment and review cycles for both action and support.

And as for the COP decisions? They are necessary to create the operational foundations to ensure ratification and implementation of the core agreement. And they are particularly appropriate for elements that may need to be revised over time, for operationalising high-level principles from the core agreement, and for pre-2020 work programmes, including those needed to raise pre-2020 ambition and climate finance.

Annexes and/or supplementary instruments can play a critical role in enhancing transparency and accountability.  The core agreement should establish a legal connection to one or more annexes, schedules, or lists detailing differentiated national mitigation targets and actions. Mitigation commitments should be additionally recorded in a document and database managed by the Secretariat, in a way that ensures transparency and enables unilateral ambition enhancement without requiring ratification.

And after you sign on the dotted line in Paris for your new home, you can make one or more political declarations to complement the agreement. But ECO reminds countries that political declarations are no substitute for legally binding instruments or COP decisions.  ECO certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable moving into a new home on a handshake deal, and you wouldn’t either, would you, Parties?

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