Tag: Mitigation

America

Donald Trump’s election as the next U.S. president was a [unexpected][climatic][shocking] ending to a turbulent campaign that tapped into the anxiety felt by many American voters over globalisation, immigration, stagnating incomes and shrinking economic opportunities. The election revealed a deeply divided electorate: while Hillary Clinton received the most votes nationally, overwhelmingly won the youth, women and people of colour, Donald Trump won in enough states to prevail in the electoral college, thereby securing the presidency.

Understandably, delegates and reporters have questions about the implications of a Trump administration for domestic emissions reductions. ECO is confident that the rapidly expanding deployment of clean energy solutions by states, cities, and businesses across the country is enough to continue the drive to decarbonise the US energy economy, regardless of the actions that a President Trump takes—or doesn’t take. But a cut back on federal policy leadership, will no doubt impair the US meeting its 2025 emissions commitments.

President-elect Trump emphasised his campaign promise to create millions of new jobs for American workers. The most effective way to do this is by embracing the renewable energy revolution. While there are divisions between Democrats and Republicans on climate policy, there has been bipartisan support for investments in clean energy as well as in climate resilience. Trump’s infrastructure investment initiatives could provide a vehicle to address both of these needs.

ECO is also concerned about prospects for continued US finance and technology support for developing country mitigation and adaptation actions under a Trump administration. But what gives ECO hope is the coalition of US development, faith, environmental, and business groups has been actively engaging with both Democrats Republicans in Congress, educating them on how this assistance is not charity or a hand-out, but rather a smart investment with economic, environmental, and security benefits to Americans. This coalition will now work to make sure that Trump and his team understand this reality.

It’s clear that countries will continue to move ahead with the commitments they made under the Paris Agreement no matter what Trump does, as these commitments are in their own national interest. An increasing number of governments understand that decisive climate action helps reduce the impacts of climate change on their people and brings many public health and economic co-benefits.

But if President Trump decides not to honour America’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, he will quickly learn that this negatively impacts his ability to get support from other countries’ leaders on trade, terrorism, and other issues important to him. Climate change has become a geopolitical issue of the top order, and any country perceived as not doing its fair share to confront the climate threat will suffer consequences for its standing in the world.  Tuesday’s US elections did nothing to change these fundamental realities.

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Ah, Sweet Reunion

ECO felt the sweet tinge of elation, like when you meet a good old friend, when several Parties made a strong case for common 5-year commitment periods in yesterday’s APA informal. It was probably no coincidence that it was some of the most climate vulnerable countries (AOSIS, CARICOM and the Africa Group) that led the charge.

As has been emphasised many times, the NDCs currently on the table will lead to 3°C of climate catastrophe. That would spell doom for many, and leaves us with little to no choice. We need to speed up the transition considerably, starting now. Including via new and stronger NDCs from Parties in the coming few years. Failing that will lock the world in to catastrophic warming before the ink on the Paris Agreement has even dried.

ECO is perplexed that many Parties still labour under the delusion that no increase in action is needed this side of 2030. So far, many parties have been reluctant to enhance their NDC. This is rather curious as Parties advocating for 10-year commitment periods last year kept assuring, and then reassuring, ECO that such lengthy commitment periods would not lock in low ambition. ECO had even, being such a helpful soul, suggested that maybe 5-year commitment periods would be a much more reasonable approach. That way we could ensure that there is no delay in implementation, maintain political accountability and, indeed, avoid locking in a level of ambition that doesn’t take into account the changing reality of climate change and the evolving economics of the solutions.

ECO expects those Parties to make good on their promises after the facilitative dialogue in 2018. This invariably concludes what we already know: we need enhanced NDCs. But to avoid unnecessary fuss in the future, ECO strongly encourages all Parties to support the intelligent and reasonable suggestion from those for whom strong ambition matters the most, and agree on common 5-year commitment periods from 2030 onwards.

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The Danger and Opportunities of 1.5°C for Smallholder Agriculture

The decision to limit global warming to 1.5°C is vital for small scale family agriculture, which is especially climate-vulnerable. However, as the UNEP emissions gap report highlights, there is still too much distance between the Paris Agreement targets and Parties’ NDC commitments. This gap reveals a clear imperative for countries to reaffirm and set an ambitious course towards attaining this goal during COP22, a sentiment echoed across platforms here this week.

Maintaining and increasing ambition is crucial, but ECO reminds Parties that they should also consider how these commitments will be met. In order to meet the long-term goal, IPCC scenarios estimate that up to a billion hectares of land need to be dedicated to negative emissions efforts such as bioenergy—a strategy that can threaten land rights, trapping farmers between a warming world and restricted land access. If done wrong, climate action in the land sector could have massive negative impacts on food security, adaptive capacities, development potential, gender equality and the livelihoods of communities dependent on small-scale agriculture, as well as on biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, with an increased risk of land-grabbing and rises in food prices.

To ensure the 1.5°C target is reached in the best way, Parties need to be proactive in reducing their emissions before looking at offsets. Strong, comprehensive social and environmental safeguards that ensure human rights must be developed. Parties must prioritise emission reductions before 2020, instead of delaying on the assumption that they can compensate later with negative emissions. Moreover, solutions are at hand, in the energy, transport, and forest sectors, and within food systems (production and distribution models, diets, food waste, agroforestry/livestock combinations).

In Monday’s Opening Plenary Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stated that COP22 will herald a “new era of international climate action”. ECO urges this COP to work on ensuring that the legacy of 1.5°C is a movement towards a more just, equitable, and environmentally sound world – one in which land rights, local food sovereignty, and security are reaffirmed and emboldened, and not a reversal of the (hard won) development gains of the 21st century.

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Conditional NDCs Must Unlock Ambition

Every single assessment of the NDCs has indicated that Parties are not on track to meet the 2°C goal of the Paris agreement, let alone 1.5°C. Fortunately, some Parties have already put forward the seeds of a possible solution to this problem. Some have used their contributions to specifically indicate additional mitigation potential that could be unlocked with technology, finance and capacity-building support. These efforts, conditioned upon the delivery of support, represent an additional 2.4 GT of emissions reductions in 2030.

If we identified 2.4 GT of additional mitigation potential through contributions without any guidance, how many more GTs could be unlocked if developing country Parties indicated how much they can contribute to the international effort if a specified level of support was provided (in addition to what they could do with their own resources)? Developed countries should then honour their dual obligations to deliver mitigation efforts within their own borders as well as deliver support to unlock efforts in developing countries that are conditional on receiving support. More than any other space in the negotiations, partially conditional NDCs emphasise how critical the delivery of finance, technology and capacity building is to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. And they offer an opportunity for countries to work collaboratively to unlock additional emissions reductions.

As Parties pursue further discussions on the features to be included in future NDCs, ECO can only hope that they will all agree that clarity on conditional and unconditional efforts is a key feature that can help to unlock greater ambition by quantifying the levels and nature of support required.

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First Rule of Holes: When You’re in One, Stop Digging

Now that the Paris Agreement has been signed by 193 parties and ratified by over 100, one message is very clear: the era of fossil fuels is over. But it seems that not everyone has gotten the message. In many countries, the coal lobby stubbornly believes it can delay the inevitable.

Let’s take Brazil as an example. Brazil likes to boast about being a climate champion. But its Congress just approved a billion-dollar subsidy to the coal industry. Equally problematic, this comes at a time when coal represents less than 5% of electricity generation in Brazil, but over 20% of emissions. Has anyone in the Brazilian Congress done the maths?

The coal industry spends a fortune on lobbying. But President Temer now has the chance to veto this subsidy, as tens of thousands of Brazilians have urged him to do. The world is watching closely, and expects meaningful action from a country that could otherwise be one of the first to reach 100% renewables.

But it’s not only Brazil where coal still dreams of a future. Forbes Magazine recently described Japan as having a “renewed love affair with coal”, with over 40 new plants being built, planned or proposed before 2020. If implemented, this would be a nightmare for the climate.

Perhaps even worse, Tokyo’s renewed love for coal isn’t confined to home. As the world’s biggest contributor of public financing for coal projects, Japan invested over $22 billion overseas from 2007 to 2015, including funding for several proposed coal projects in–wait for it–Brazil. It’s high time for Japan to stop sleepwalking, catch up with the times and stop funding the dirty fossils of the past, both at home and abroad.

Turkey’s situation is nearly as sickening. The country won COP22’s inaugural Fossil of the Day award yesterday, in part for its absurd plans to build 70 new coal power plants that would add over 70 GW of dirty energy capacity. Just writing that sentence makes ECO nauseous. No matter how you cut it, this blatant denial of physics is bad, bad medicine for an ailing climate. If Turkey wants to be taken seriously, it needs to take some remedial lessons and get back on track for renewables. The coal financiers investing there and in the Balkan region are big players: largely Chinese money channelled through different development banks.

All around the world, the coal industry is desperately attempting to defy the laws of physics. It wants us to believe that when you’re in a hole, if you keep digging you just might get out. Thankfully, ECO had an excellent physics professor and has sounder advice: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. One thing is certain–if we are to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement, every country must show more ambition when it comes to emission reductions. Getting rid of dirty coal would be a great place to start.

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All Hands on Deck!

Many of us have spent years in the UNFCCC bubble, where every bracket, and every comma (especially the commas) matter. Slowly, though, we are lifting our gaze and seeing that there is more to action already occurring on the ground. One concrete example is right in this COP’s backyard—the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station. It is one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants. It will provide renewable energy to more than one million Moroccans. ECO is impressed by such an innovative project.

This project convinces us that we can learn from the good things already happening out there. Non-state actors, such as cities and regions, businesses, and civil society groups are paving the way by demonstrating ambition and concrete achievements. Can these “outside processes”, such as Global Climate Action (GCA), help increase ambition inside these processes?

Another question remains: How can non-state actors help raise ambitions for the 2018 facilitative dialogue, including leading by example through setting science-based targets? And how can the efforts by state actors help to ensure credibility, ambition and transparency in voluntary initiatives and coalitions under the heading of GCA?

So-called inside and outside processes are both needed to function well. Each can enable and assist the other to create virtuous cycles so that all actors can do more.

ECO and our friends will be exploring these issues at a CAN side event Tuesday 8 November at 3pm in room Bering. Please join us.

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Year of the Turkey

Everyone loves a good COP — so much so that even though delegates are roaming around a half-finished conference centre. And although we don’t know where the 2017, 2018 or 2019 COPs will be hosted, we do know one thing: 2020 could be Year of the Turkey.

The Government of Turkey’s bid for the 2020 COP has caught the eye of some who happened to find themselves wandering around the colourful pavilions in Area D. It cannot overshadow the awarding of the Fossil of the Day award for most ironic agenda item request. Despite having not yet even ratified the Paris Agreement (like the hundred odd countries that have), yesterday Turkey had the nerve to ask for an agenda item on financial support under the Paris Agreement and the Green Climate Fund. Brave, courageous, audacious—or simply ludicrously out of touch?

Unfortunately, it is possibly the latter, given Turkey’s plans to support the opening of new coal plants and increase its greenhouse gas emissions in the near term. Instead of pretending to access financial support under the Agreement, Turkey should do the simple 1, 2, 3: ratify, increase ambition in its national climate action plan and move towards 100% renewable energy.

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Marrakech: Going Beyond Shoulder Patting to Action

The past year was tremendous for climate action. The Paris Agreement entered into force on Friday. HFCs are finally on their way out., The international shipping and aviation industries have started to reduce their emissions. With this success echoing through the COP halls, there couldn’t be a better time for a pep rally for COP22.

But, we are up against our greatest rival, and cannot afford time-outs. 2016 is set to be the hottest year on record, with a disastrous El Niño and massive coral bleaching in tropical seas. Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere passed the dangerous 400ppm threshold and continues to rise.

While the NDCs that were pledged in 2015 bend emissions into a downward trajectory, we’re still not on a safe path. UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report shows that our climate curve remains on a pathway towards 3.4°C warming by 2100. It confirms that global emissions in 2030 will still be 25% higher than they should be for a 2°C pathway.

In ECO’s view, Marrakech should be the start of the process to strengthen countries’ ambition, in line with 1.5ºC and national long-term strategies.

The facilitative dialogues in 2016 and 2018, and the first global stocktake in 2023, are built-in mechanisms to assess progress and scale up ambition. They are the action points. COP22 should get the ball rolling on these by successfully concluding the 2016 facilitative dialogue and setting up a process to define modalities for the 2018 dialogue. This is a team strategy, and one that is set to win.

While we work on improving the NDCs, time is running out to keep warming to 1.5ºC. Additional action pre-2020 is critical. We need all hands on deck to deliver additional efforts under the Global Action Agenda and through a revised TEP process.

Other key issues that require significant progress include long-term adaptation finance goals and improving rules for accounting for climate finance, in the context of the US$100 billion roadmap. The need for real balance between mitigation and adaptation expenditures—as well as finding ways to finance loss and damage—are essential to move the finance agenda forward.

Indeed, the Warsaw International Mechanism for loss and damage will be evaluated for the first time here, and gives Parties an opportunity to take steps to strengthen it and give it financial muscle.

Finally, due to the unanticipated speed of entry into force, Parties still need time to finalise most of the decisions. To actually benefit from early entry into force, most of the rules to start implementation need to be finalised by 2018.

COP 22 must capitalise on the achievements of 2015 by delivering an ambitious agenda on NDC ambition, the pre-2020 process, and the WIM, to deliver a 1.5ºC future.

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