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.
Photo Credit: Sarah Rifaat
Video Credit: OneClimate
Durban, South Africa – The first day of the United Nations climate change
negotiations started off badly for Canada. It earned the First Place Fossil of the Day
for failing to support a Second Commitment Period for the Kyoto Protocol, and
abandoning even its current participation in Kyoto. It also took Second Place Fossil
for insulting the Least Developed Countries, some of the nations that will suffer most
from Canada and other industrialized countries' greenhouse gas pollution. Rounding
out the awards, the United Kingdom received Third Place for helping to move tar
sands oil into Europe.
The Fossils as presented read:
“The 3rd place fossil of the day is awarded to the UK, following revelations that UK
Ministers have done a deal with the Canadian government to support the entry of tar
sands into the European fuel supply chain, undermining proposed provisions of the
European Fuel Quality Directive. The UK does not appear as frequently as Canada on
the fossil roll-call, but when they do, they do it in style. Despite claiming to be the
'Greenest Government Ever', the ruling coalition in the UK has become champion for
the world's dirtiest fuels.
The UK might have a different opinion from Canada on the value of the Kyoto
Protocol (we hope so), but there is one thing they can agree on - a Government's best
friend is its oil lobby.”
"The 2nd place fossil of the day is awarded to Canada following statements by their
environment minister that they are coming to Durban to “play hardball” with
developing countries. This quotation from Canadian Environment Minister Peter
Kent, doesn’t even require paraphrasing in typical fossil humour – it is sufficiently
outrageous on its own:
‘Emerging and developing countries need to stop “wielding the historical guilty card”
and asking for a free pass on emissions reductions just because in the past,
industrialized countries had more emissions than the rest of the world’.
Hands off, LDCs; that “free pass” on emissions reductions belongs to Canada!"
"The 1st place Fossil also goes to Canada. Although Canadian environment Minister
said he hoped to win less fossils then his predecessors, he is not off to a very good
start! Canada has proven its fossil track record with 4 consecutive fossil of the year awards,
but if you can believe it, it seems they are even worse than we thought!
Environment Minister Peter Kent has articulated clearly that they will not budge with
international pressure on a second commitment period of Kyoto (a great attitude to
have in negotiations). This is unfortunately not necessarily a surprise, Canada has
been ‘separated’ from its Kyoto targets for years, but it seems they are headed for
In fact, reports are saying that on Canada’s side it is already a done deal, and yet hear
they are, planning to spend two weeks negotiating a treaty they intend to soon
This is a tough one for fossil because it is hard to joke about. Canada is here in
Durban in bad faith. Countries should be asking themselves why Canada is sitting at
the Kyoto negotiating table with a secret plan to formally withdraw from the protocol
mere weeks after the talks end.
This move is a slap in the face to the international community. Canada is further
isolating itself in these talks as a country that not only is refusing to take meaningful
action at home (tar sands anyone?), but also one that does not deserve trust and
respect from the international community here in Durban.
Shame on Canada."
About CAN: The Climate Action Network is a worldwide network of roughly 500
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working to promote government and
individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable
About the fossils: The Fossil of the Day awards were first presented at the climate
talks in 1999 in Bonn, initiated by the German NGO Forum. During United Nations
climate change negotiations (www.unfccc.int), members of the Climate Action
Network (CAN), vote for countries judged to have done their 'best' to block progress
in the negotiations in the last days of talks.
As we all settle in for the 17th Conference of the Parties and take advantage of all that Durban has to offer, ECO interrupts our regular programme for this special bulletin: The world’s effort to mitigate dangerous climate change cannot wait any longer.
Durban must deliver a package of agreements that cements what we have and clearly articulates a path forward incorporating the urgency and ambition needed. The key elements of the Durban outcome must include:
Legal form. For those Parties who somehow missed the urgent demand to secure the future of the Kyoto Protocol through agreement and ratification of a 5-year long second commitment period, what rock have you been hiding under? Second, to go alongside the second KP commitment period, a strong mandate is needed to reach agreement on a comprehensive, fair, ambitious and binding agreement with legally binding commitments, no later than 2015, to enter into force on 1st January 2018. A third pillar is to build architecture to ensure commonality and comparability for the non-KP Annex I Parties (yes, we mean you, USA) including common accounting and low carbon development strategies.
Finance. Parties should approve the recommendations of the Transitional Committee and adopt the governing instrument of the Green Climate Fund. But an empty fund is about as much use as a empty envelope. Parties must ensure that the Fund is properly capitalized as soon as possible. This includes agreeing a trajectory to ramp up financing towards the 2020 goal of $100 billion of climate financing per year in support of developing countries, and adopting a work plan to consider innovative sources of public finance.
The ‘low hanging fruit’ is bunkers finance. Parties should give direction to the IMO and ICAO on creating mechanisms for raising funds from international marine and aviation transport that reduce emissions and result in no net incidence on developing countries.
Mitigation. It has not escaped ECO’s attention that, despite the promises in Cancun, governments have successfully avoided any reasonable steps to increase their levels of ambition. ECO wants to be optimistic that this is because delegates have been preparing juicy bits for a one-year dedicated work programme to close the gap between the 2°C objective (let alone 1.5° C) and current mitigation pledges. We look forward to the specifics of this workplan being agreed in Durban. ECO also thinks Parties need to find ways to close the ever-widening gigatonne gap, first by increasing their appallingly low pledges, and second by ensuring that loopholes are closed, including bad LULUCF accounting rules, “hot air” and double counting.
Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). Annex 1 countries have laid their LULUCF cards on the table, proposing to hide forestry emissions and largely not account for emissions from other land uses. This undermines targets and the integrity of the Kyoto Protocol. For countries, including developing countries, that are committed to securing rules with environmental integrity, Durban is the last chance to reject the worst options on the table and require robust rules.
Adaptation. Adaptation to disastrous impacts of global warming has become an issue of survival for the most vulnerable countries. At the “African COP”, negotiators should be reminded of the dramatic consequences that uncurbed climate change will have on the future of the African continent. Southern Africa in particular faces massive problems from droughts and changes in precipitation. Climate change impacts are already happening today and will worsen if the lack of ambition in mitigation continues. Scaling-up adaptation is indispensable to protect the lives of poor people and increase the resilience of their livelihoods. Adaptation negotiators face a heavy agenda: making the Adaptation Committee operational; solidifying the Loss and Damage work programme; preparing guidelines and modalities for National Adaptation Plans; and the next phase of the Nairobi Work Programme, amongst others. And ECO keeps hearing that some Parties want to hold progress on adaptation hostage. There is no justification for hindering progress on issues crucial for the most vulnerable countries who stand already with their backs against the wall (and with their feet in rising seas).
Shared Vision. Peaking global emissions by 2015 and adopting a long-term reduction goal (-80% globally by 2050) are issues of survival. ECO offers two key principles: the right to survival (which in turn defines ambition on the numbers); and the right to sustainable development. Durban should lock in these numbers with the understanding that each country shall do their fair bit to meet them. And we need a plan for a decent discussion on the fair shares concept after Durban.
Review. ECO will be highly disappointed if Durban doesn’t deliver a robust Terms of Reference for the Review of the long-term global goal and the process of achieving it. A Review Expert Body must be agreed to conduct the Review and recommend appropriate action to be decided by COP 21.
MRV. On MRV, ECO looks forward to robust guidelines for biennial reports, IAR, ICA, accounting for Annex I Parties, reporting on REDD+ safeguards, and a common reporting format for climate finance. Given that MRV is all about transparency, ECO is dumbfounded that the draft text doesn’t guarantee access to information and public participation in the IAR and ICA process, and reminds that ensuring meaningful stakeholder participation is a leading part of a successful Durban outcome.
Market Mechanisms. Here is a big stack of issues that Parties should tackle: stringent CDM reform; a framework for new mechanisms that results in a net decrease of emissions and is based on principles ensuring sustainable development and the protection of human rights; removal of loopholes that weaken targets such as surplus AAUs and non-additional carbon credits. And all of these must go forward on the condition that any market-based mechanism is premised on ambitious and binding emission reduction commitments.
Technology. A substantial outcome on technology is essential at Durban. This COP should ensure that issues concerning the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) host criteria are resolved, and calls for proposals are initiated. Further, the reporting of the Technology Executive Committee and CTCN should be addressed. What is needed will be an accountable, transparent mechanism guided by the COP. Technology outcomes should not be the victim of lack of political will dominating other critical issues, and Durban must deliver.
In Durban, we are at a crucial turning point in addressing climate change. Governments will choose either to delay progress or recognize that meaningful action is needed now. The world is dangerously close to passing the threshold for runaway climate change. Delaying the negotiation of a global binding deal to 2020 will condemn people worldwide to suffering accelerating and uncontrollable effects of climate change for generations to come.
COP 17 has the potential to be a catalyst for positive change on a global scale. Parties should be laser-focused on addressing the climate crisis and creating the sustainable energy future that will benefit us all. The world needs a successful climate deal more urgently than ever. If a less than positive outcome is achieved in Durban, we risk losing the multilateral process that has kept alive our hope for a sustainable future. The science is compelling, the economics make sense, so why are countries holding back from achieving the progress the world so badly needs?
Success in Durban will come from forging a meaningful way forward on climate change action based on science and recognition that time is running out. The most positive outcome in Durban includes agreeing a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, securing a mandate to negotiate a legally binding instrument under the LCA to be adopted no later than 2015, and implementation of the Cancun Agreements.
EU leadership is absolutely crucial. The EU holds the key to the Durban outcome. If the EU does not come to Durban with the clear goal of adopting a second commitment period – and not some fuzzy “political commitment” – the Kyoto Protocol will wither and die.
United States has failed to fulfill its responsibility to the rest of the world on climate change. There are low expectations that the US will do its fair share in the near future. But the targets the US has put forward are much lower than others, including the EU, and the US has not put a finance offer on the table that is in line with its responsibilities. ECO would like the US to show leadership. But if it can’t or won’t, the US needs to get out of the way so that other countries can move forward. The US should let the rest of the world move ahead with building a climate regime that will facilitate a shift to green economic growth, and join when its own political situation is more forward-looking. Blocking won’t lead to the US getting its preconditions met, it will instead lead to acrimony and finger pointing.
ECO agrees with China in forcefully advocating for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and higher ambition from developed countries. However, as the largest emitter in the world today. China’s actions at home make it clear it is aware of this responsibility and is willing to act on it. China should match that progress within the international negotiations by agreeing to work toward a comprehensive, legally binding and ambitious agreement to be concluded in 2015 and can be implemented by 2018 at the latest.
Congratulations Australia on getting your carbon price legislation through Parliament. It was truly an achievement. But Australia must not rest on its laurels, and has an important role to play in preserving the Kyoto Protocol, so as to provide the basis for a more comprehensive regime in the future. Australia also has a crucial role to play in bringing together parties to ensure that a comprehensive regime is agreed as soon as possible – and should push for a mandate that ends in 2015 and maps out a clear pathway for implementation by 2018 at the latest. As the most vulnerable developed country, Australia has the most to gain on a successful outcome in Durban.
Ukraine should move closer to the progressive countries in the EU by not only agreeing to a second commitment period of the KP, but also increasing its target to a more ambitious level relative to its business as usual emissions (forecast to be 54% below 1990 levels by 2020), showing flexibility on its ‘hot air’ and ensuring that carry-over AAUs are minimized.
India aims to be a global champion of the poor and vulnerable by working constructively in the multilateral environment. ECO agrees with India’s equity based approach and its demand for operationalisation, starting with its strong demand for second commitment period. But India needs to be more pragmatic on the issue of legally binding outcome under the LCA for a comprehensive future climate regime that protects the rights of poor communities and countries.
Japan, Russia and Canada. ECO joins many in worrying about the direction being taken by Japan, Russia and Canada. As three heavily climate-affected countries, they should agree to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol since they haven’t offered any effective alternatives.
South Africa / COP Presidency. There is wide appreciation for South Africa’s open and transparent approach in the run-up to Durban. Now is the time to move out of pure ‘listening mode’. In its Presidency, South Africa should keep focus squarely on open and transparent exchange that drives the negotiations to a positive conclusion, whilst its national delegation champions the positions of the Africa Group and particularly the interests of the poor. ECO appreciates the scope of the work ahead and has confidence that South Africa can achieve its broad and ambitious goals in Durba
CAN Pre-COP 17 Workshop
19-21 October 2011
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, East Africa
The main objectives of the program:
1. Provide space for southern CAN members and other stakeholders to work on a common and unified southern voice for greater influence at Seventeenth Conference of Parties in Durban.
2. Strengthen the South–South dialogue and discussion in order to support the CAN-International policies to have impact in the climate negotiations through broader understanding and knowledge base.
3. Strengthen and reinforce the connection between the southern civil society members to continue dialogue and strategize for future advocacy and actions in their respective country and regions.
4. Have dialogue and interaction with African governments and/or the African Union.