Go Europe! It’s been a while since the EU came up with anything new on the climate front, so ECO is delighted to reveal that the Commission published a paper just last week, demonstrating unequivocally that a -30% target (from 1990 levels) is not only possible, but easily possible for Europe. All the same, the paper doesn’t go anywhere as far as is achievable. The -40% target, which would finally push the agenda toward real ambition, has not even been analyzed (for shame!). And the -30% target is based on the assumption that a mere 50-50 chance of staying below a rather uncomfortably balmy 2º C increase is adequate -- but let’s not quibble too much. At least the EU, unlike, say, Canada, is looking at the option of increasing its pledge, and that is progress. Even though the Commission's economic analysis does not take into account all additional benefits, it is still very clear that there is no reason at all why the EU cannot increase its pledge. Even better, it should agree that the -30% should be done completely through domestic action, so that it is on its way to becoming a near-zero carbon society by 2050. The Commission’s paper provides the facts on which Member States will base their decisions on whether or not to unilaterally take on the higher target. This should happen at the EU Heads of State summit in September. If you, like us, want to see the EU break away from business as usual at -20%, here are a couple items to mention to any EU delegate you pass in the hallway here in Bonn. * First, ask them to ensure that every European Head of State reads the Commission analysis. The figures in the paper show that there is no real impediment, financial or otherwise, to a unilateral EU move to -30%. * Second, since the most recent data show current emissions already at 14% below 1990 levels, the EU is already halfway to reaching -30%. * Finally, EU international climate leadership has always had the most impact when leading from the front, as demonstrated with EU-led initiatives like the 2o C limit and fast-start finance. ECO expects EU delegates will be delighted to express their commitment to EU leadership on climate change, so don’t be shy!
Most developed countries came to Copenhagen asking the world to ignore planned increases in greenhouse gas emissions from logging and erase them from the books. It was a proposal that never deserved to see the light of day at a climate conference. Now it has to be put to rest.
The Climate Action Network has developed and proposed to negotiators a reasonable, technically sound and objective way to close the logging loophole: Account for all changes in forest management emissions compared to the average level of emissions between 1990-2007. It is so simple and so obvious that it’s boring.
It is imperative this loophole is closed if we are to have an agreement with environmental integrity. Closing this loophole will also strengthen overall targets by nearly 4%.
Will developed countries make this most basic commitment to environmental integrity or will they insist on keeping increased forestry emissions out of accounting even though they are in the atmosphere.
Austria, Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden – ECO is looking right at you.
What a rough ride it was for Canada yesterday. At about noon, a press release supposedly by Environment Canada emerged. It claimed that Canada was changing its stand and going for 40% emission reductions below 1990 levels by 2020, and was committing 1% of its GDP for mitigation and adaption in developing countries.
As it sounded too good to be true, it turned out to be what it only could be – a hoax. In spite of this, the news made it to various web sites including the Wall Street Journal only for them too to realise it was a hoax.
This was followed by another press release saying the first one was a hoax, which also turned out to be a hoax. And if that was not enough, a video by a Ugandan delegate reacting to the news on the UN website also turned out to be fabricated.
While all these goings-on must have given the Canadian government a massive headache, its reaction was irrational. The spokesperson for the Prime Minister of Canada publicly attacked a respected member of the Canadian NGO community and long time participant in the international climate negotiations process, of being the source of the hoax. That, in turn, generated a further storm of news coverage in Canada until Yes Man confirmed that they were behind the prank.
In summary, it was a bad day for Canada and there are at least four more days to go.
First Place – United States
The US won its first fossil of the COP yesterday for two reasons: first, for making absolutely no commitment on long-term financing for developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change and toreduce their own emissions even further. Second, because the US – far and away the biggest cumulative emitter of global warming pollution in world history – has among the weakest mid-term emission targets of any major developed country, a laughable 4% below 1990 levels by 2020. Will US negotiators ignore the interests of their own children and the poorest nations on the planet? Or will they bring the US into the community of nations, rich and poor alike, rising to the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced? US, all eyes on you: is it Hopenhagen or Brokenhagen?
Second Place – The EU
The EU won second-place fossil dishonours for failing to address a gaping loophole that undermines its targets: hot air and forest management. Allowing full carry-over past 2012 of Europe’s hot air, that is, targets based on 1990 levels that in fact allow huge increases in emissions could allow 11 gigatonnes of carbon emissions. Europe’s flagging credibility as a climate leader could crumble completely if this hot air loophole is not closed — and all of the EU member states are responsible.
Third Place – Canada and Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia and Canada received the third place fossil for their respective last and second-last place finish in the Climate Change Performance Index released yesterday by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe. The Index evaluates 57 industrial and developing countries which release 90% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Saudi Arabia’s record speaks for itself. Canada only finished second-last because Saudi Arabia received a zero rating for its climate policy! Canada is in the world’s top ten emitters, has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of emissions at 23 tonnes per person, and is 34% above its Kyoto target (which is just a modest 6% cut from 1990). Simply put: on climate change, Canada has performance issues.
Canada’s government must be working overtime chatting up reporters here in Copenhagen. The news they’re so eager to spread is that, according to Yvo de Boer, Canada has been “negotiating very constructively” this week.
The Canadian delegation is obviously as surprised as we are that anyone has good things to say about Canada, the home of one of the weakest mid-term emission targets in the industrialised world.
It cannot be Canada’s record on Kyoto compliance that impressed the UNFCCC’s chief official. (In case anyone has forgotten: Canada’s emissions are now a solid 34% above that pesky Kyoto target.) The lack of financing pledge probably hasn’t won Canada any new friends either.
We also doubt de Boer was impressed by Canada’s decision to show up in Copenhagen without a serious plan for domestic emissions reductions. (Note to Canada: “waiting for the US” is not actually a plan. Nor is “massively expanding the tar sands.”)
But maybe the Executive Secretary was just anticipating even worse behaviour with the arrival of Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice this weekend. That would be the environment minister who recently vowed not to “be a Boy Scout” at the negotiating table, and swore not to “panic” when faced with the “hype and drama” of Copenhagen. In other words, the world better get used to Canada being the laggard.
This is the same Minister who dismissed a reduction target of 25% below 1990 levels for 2020 in Canada as “divisive” and “irresponsible” — even though a study has shown that Canada could meet this target while growing its economy by over 20% and creating nearly two million net new jobs.
If this is what constructive looks like, we’d hate to see destructive.
Last week, Canadian environment minister Jim Prentice did a great job not protecting the environment.
First he broke his promise to reveal the government's full suite of climate change policies before Copenhagen. As of now, there's no word on when the strategy (the third in four years) would be completed or even when draft regulations will be tabled.
So yes, strike three. And the minister will travel to Copenhagen with an empty briefcase (unless it contains a manual on how to continue disrupting progress in the climate talks).
A few days later, the minister reacted to a groundbreaking economic modeling study showing that Canada could dramatically reduce emissions by 25% in 2020 relative to 1990 levels, as well as build a strong economy and boost employment. His response to this great news? It was “irresponsible” to contemplate such a plan because the study showed annual growth rates between now and 2020 would drop mildly from 2.4% to 2.1%.
Here's what the minister didn't say: No mention of the economic opportunities provided in clean energy solutions. Nothing about Canadian emissions being 47% above 1990 if the country continues to do nothing, and nothing about the economic impacts of dangerous climate change.
Minister Prentice made it clear that his primary concern is the economic cost to Alberta, home of the tar sands and his own constituency. Yet the study showed that Alberta would still grow faster than every other province. Seems that, for the Canadian government, unhindered growth and damage from the tar sands trumps action on climate change. Now that’s “irresponsible.”
The Kyoto Protocol is the first small step in industrialised countries taking the lead to fight climate change. While there have been some growing pains along the way and there is definitely room for improvement in some areas, the Kyoto Protocol forms a strong basis upon which to expand industrialised country commitments. ECO would like to take a moment to remind Parties what is good and what needs to be improved in Kyoto.
At its core, Kyoto is an internationally binding multilateral framework that requires that all play by the same rules: from how they account for their own emissions, which credits they can use towards their targets and what the consequences of non-compliance are. This cannot change. To ensure a level playing field, we must continue to compare apples with apples and not let Parties pick and choose their own rules domestically.
In other words, the legal nature of the obligation (quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELROs)); the base year (1990); the gases and their global warming potentials (GWP); the sectors; the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) rules; and the accounting (assigned amount units (AAUs)) or the concept by another name; and reporting, review and compliance must be the same for all industrialised country Parties. They must not be subject to any loopholes that their domestic laws may provide. When industrialised countries’ Parties finally step up to the plate and recognise their financial obligations to support action in developing countries, the financial reporting rules will also need to be the same.
There are many areas in which the Kyoto Protocol could be improved. This is not surprising as Kyoto was a first foray into uncharted waters. However improving is different from fundamentally changing the architecture. The most obvious section of Kyoto that needs to be improved in the next commitment period, but one that seems to be lost on most industrialised countries is the targets inscribed in Annex B and the aggregate in Article 3.1. ECO expects Parties to reach an agreement on a -40% below 1990 aggregate target for 2020 here in Bangkok as conclusion on this agenda item is well overdue. ECO also hopes to see development of the review and compliance regime of Kyoto.
Finally, let us not forget all of the good work the expert review teams have been doing behind the scenes to help Parties improve the quality of their inventories and national registries and systems, and resolve disputes related to data submissions. The international review process keeps Parties “on their toes” as they never know which issues might be raised. The power of expert review teams to adjust emissions data serves as a further incentive for Parties to produce high quality emissions data.
As the review of initial reports demonstrates, these adjustments are not insignificant amounts. A total of 124 potential problems were identified; 117 of these issues were resolved through a dialogue between the reviewers and the Party. This demonstrates the cooperative and problem-solving nature of the review process. The remaining problems related to two Parties where adjustments were made. While the work of the ERTs is largely facilitative, it does help to have “the stick” of referral to the Compliance Committee to ensure access to data and the full cooperation of Parties. Adopting a peer review mechanism with no referral function or dispute resolution procedure would lose these crucial elements and undercut the effectiveness of the regime.
ECO finds it rather ironic that some Parties are now using Canada’s recalcitrance as an example for why Kyoto Protocol compliance has not worked. All this goes to show is that automatic early-warning triggers are required to bring Parties before the Committee (and not that the Committee itself does not work). ECO would be more than happy to refer recalcitrant Parties to the Compliance Committee, if Parties would only give us such an opportunity.
With only 10 negotiating days left until Copenhagen, let us focus on sewing up a deal that builds on Kyoto’s strengths rather than unravelling this multilateral structure in favour of domestic flexibilities.