Tag: climate change

Presentation - Building on Kyoto - Dec 2004

While the Kyoto Protocol is not yet in force (due to the unilateral declaration by the George W. Bush Administration of the United States that it would not follow the Kyoto Protocol, as well as delay in Russiaís ratification of it) already many difficulties have been overcome, with deailed operational rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol having been agreed upon at the Seventh Conference of the Parties (COP7), and more than 120 countries having ratified it.  This indicates that the large majority of the countries and people of the world are strongly in support of the Kyoto Protocol as the only international system of rules that could allow us to confront global warming.


Memo to Annex I Delegates

Your government signed up to the Bali Action Plan. By doing so, it agreed that developed countries would make commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the 25-40% range by 2020 (even though science showed the need for cuts to be above 40%).

That should be your benchmark for ambition, not developing country actions. Your government also agreed that developing country actions were to be enabled and supported by finance provided by developed countries.

If your instructions here say something different, you are at the wrong negotiations. Please check that you have been given the right instructions and that you are indeed in the right building in the right city. The last time we checked, the World Trade Organisation was still headquartered in Geneva.

Tick Those Kyoto Boxes

It is high time that certain rules and issues under the Kyoto Protocol get resolved if countries are to complete them by Copenhagen. Some of these have been discussed for two years or more and Bangkok needs to bring these to a close. After all, the more time spent talking about base year, for example, the less progress there is on discussing level of ambition.

ECO urges parties to tick these boxes in the three remaining days of Bangkok:

Aggregate target of at least -40% from 1990 by 2020

Developing countries are stepping up with their action and industrialised countries need to do the same. You made a pledge to limit warming to 2oC, remember?

Five-year commitment period

Shorter commitment periods mean matching targets to the latest science. Parties backing an eight-year commitment period will have to wait six years between the IPCC’s fifth assessment report and the start of commitment period three.

A mid-term review ending no later than 2015

To ensure that the best science is reflected as soon as possible, a review of commitments in the second commitment period would make sense, immediately following the IPCC’s report.

1990 base year

Come on Canada. Are you really going to hold up 191 countries on this issue just to try to “hide” your embarrassing emission increases since 1990?

Expressing quantified emission targets in percentages

Here again, Canada is holding up progress. Japan is the only other country to not know whether targets should be in percentage decreases or tonnage decreases. Japan’s government is barely a month old. What is Canada’s excuse?

As some Parties have commented, using existing Kyoto guidelines just make things easier. Resolving these here will make the road to Copenhagen not quite so steep.

IEA World Outlook: Our Planet is Worth Saving

The benefits of taking serious steps to solve global warming far outweigh the costs, says the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its World Energy Outlook 2009 Climate Change excerpt report released yesterday.

A tool for the IEA’s regular projection of global energy use and global warming pollution, its report this time is particularly significant as the IEA has often been criticised for inflating costs and underestimating benefits. In this instance, the IEA used a measure of 450 ppm when the latest science shows the world needs to find a way to stay below 350 ppm to avoid even costlier effects of climate change. Hence, the IEA’s findings are actually quite “conservative” which make them even more compelling.

The IEA report provides the first analysis to account for the global impact of the financial crisis on energy emissions and the first time that they broke down their 450 ppm scenario on a country-by-country basis. Looking at 2010 to 2030, the report found:

•  A total additional investment of $10,500 billion will be needed to bring global emissions slightly below current levels

•  Savings in energy costs will be $8,600 billion

• Reduced costs of local air pollution will be  $40 billion in 2020 and $100 billion in 2030

• Every year of delay will increase the energy sector’s mitigation costs by $500  billion.

Measures that provide economic benefits in the medium term will already yield positive results for the climate. Yet, it has to be noted that for staying below 2oC with good certainty, actions greater that those estimated by the IEA are required. Even so, based on its analysis it is fair to say that costs will remain reasonable compared to the massive benefits of taking action.

Other findings of note state:

If we do not take action we are headed for a 6°C world (a 1,000 parts per million one)

We can get onto a path to solving global warming with the right investments. Clearly it requires a large investment and political focus to drive these results but it pays off. Energy efficiency is the dominant source of reduction (65% of the reduction in 2020), followed by renewables (17% of the reduction).

Oil imports are reduced. In the industrialised countries imports are reduced by 7 million barrels per day in 2030 below what they were in 2008; in China and India oil imports are lowered by 10%. These kinds of energy security benefits and consumer savings drive tremendous public support for climate action in many nations.

Big reductions in local air pollution as a result of taking action on global warming pollution. In 2030, sulphur dioxide emissions are 29% lower, nitrous oxide emissions are 19% lower and particulate matter is 9% lower. This saves $200 billion in 2030 for the cost of pollution control and lessens the impact of smog and other air pollutants that contribute to asthma, death and lost work days (just to name a few).

Hence, it is loud and clear that taking action on global warming at Copenhagen is a good investment for the world – the balance sheet is positive. The IEA’s new analysis adds to previous assessments which stated that addressing global warming saves countries money compared to continuing with the current business-as-usual pathway. And this does not include the costs of global warming impacts which will tip the balance sheet even further in favour of taking action.

The IEA’s report shows that addressing the climate challenge can reap financial benefits. As a clear and strong outcome in Copenhagen will unlock this potential, ECO calls on world leaders to focus on driving these solutions.

The Week Ahead

Last week there was much talk of elephants in the room.

Today, ECO chooses to highlight members of the cat family. The UNFCCC process is crawling forward like a timid kitten but the pace must accelerate to cheetah-like speed at once if effective actions are to be taken in Copenhagen.

The first observation on last week’s sessions is that after many weeks of “negotiations” this process can move forward. But movement is not enough. We need speed, focus and intention. And needless to say, the texts are still way too long and the steps so far are way too small.

Second, we need to see the political commitment and ambition expressed by national leaders in New York last month flowing into the text, rather than marking time and holding off the necessary steps to consolidate, clarify and consolidate yet again. ECO urges delegates to keep in mind that each step sorting through the different options steers the process either towards a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, or towards a weak and empty deal which will get us nowhere. Every choice counts.

There is something else that needs to happen this week outside the UN Conference Centre. Heads of state and government should be clearing their calendars to attend the climate summit in Copenhagen. Their personal presence will signal that countries and leaders are willing to deliver the commitments required for a fair and effective global climate deal.

The current sad state of the discussions around finance and developed country mitigation action illustrate the very wide gap between low ambition of the offers on the table and the necessity of a high ambition outcome in Copenhagen.

This coming week is the time for negotiators to focus on accelerating their work significantly, sharpening the text and moving into full negotiations mode. To begin with, facilitators should be given latitude to consolidate text further. But there is one caution: shortening text by cutting out the ambitious options does not count as improvement at all.

Turning to the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) text in particular, ECO finds the following fresh footprints amidst the humdrum repetition of longstanding positions.

• Improvement and shortening of the technology text

• New clarity and progression in the adaptation text

• Commencement of shortening of

1(b)(ii) text

• Submission of the finance text for a round of consolidation after a positive political discussion

• Shortening and significant improvement of the REDD text

However, these are still the actions of a kitten’s hesitant forays into the bright new world. Delegates this week should start building up speed and sprinting like the cheetah with no delay.

[Article published in Climate Action Network's Eco Newspaper, Oct. 5, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiations - full PDF version here]

Parties light-years apart on finance

Mind the gap?!  That looks like the understatement of the year.

While the deplorable lack of funding for climate change adaptation is clearly being felt right now by the millions of residents of Metro Manila, and many more poor communities are suffering from monsoon disruption and related crop failure in South Asia, developed countries seem to be frozen in place, eyes tightly closed and voices strangely silent.

So far this week, the discussions in the LCA finance contact group have plainly highlighted how a good many developed

countries are attempting to renege on the agreement reached in Bali, where the need for their support to developing countries was spelled out and agreed to by all.

A number of developed countries fought hard to get rid of the very first paragraph in the finance text referring to the “substantial gap” between resources required and those that are currently available. Most disturbing was Canada’s intervention suggesting that the entire paragraph was “too negative” and that the negotiating text should have a more positive tone.

While the negotiations have been tied down for months by the stubborn refusal to put forward specific funding commitments from developed countries, the very same countries are now pointing their fingers at the developing countries and suggesting they should put money on the table for climate action.

The US “generously” recognized the need to scale up finance while counting carbon markets as financial transfers. It’s not clear whether they are talking about scaling up offsets, and thereby allowing developed countries more opportunities to avoid their obligations at home, or scaling up crucial public financial support to developing countries.

Furthermore, during Monday’s curtain raiser press conference, chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing made several statements indicating that the US team has not advanced their positioning on finance since Bonn I. The US ought to have come to Bangkok with numbers on the table, and not with a strategy that is sure to continue stalling the negotiations on financing.

Despite cheery advice from Canada, the predictions for the residents of Metro Manila and other climate-vulnerable areas seem bleak, until developed countries come to the table prepared to fulfill their commitments in Copenhagen.

[Article published in Climate Action Network's Eco Newspaper, Sep. 30, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiations - full PDF version here]

No sliding back, New Zealand!

Speaking to Point Carbon, New Zealand's climate change ambassador said that “if our conditions are not met we reserve the right to drop (our target) below 10%.”  So now you know, New Zealand's 10% to 20% is actually “do nothing” to 20%.

The truly off-key note in the interview was New Zealand's excuse for not having a unilateral target: “We didn’t think there was any point in setting a low-ambition figure.”  Mind you, could we expect any more from a country whose emissions trading scheme is slated to be so pathetic that New Zealand's emissions will continue going up well after 2020.

[Article published in Climate Action Network's Eco Newspaper, Sep. 30, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiations - full PDF version here]

Bonn III: Creative Accountants for Rent

As regular readers will know, ECO prides itself on seeking out the most shocking, least noble attempts by parties to avoid their responsibilities for tackling climate change, no matter how well hidden. And after thirty years of fearless reporting, there aren't many tricks of the climate negotiating trade that haven't been exposed on these pages.

In this year alone, who could forget the shameful 'bar to zero' exposé that rocked the LULUCF closed sessions? Or the moment the news broke that the Japanese 2020 mitigation target was not as ambitious as their choice of base year suggested or their government claimed?

So it is with great excitement this week that ECO stumbled upon the latest trick from developed countries, this time seeking ways to avoid their obligations to provide adequate new and additional public climate financing to developing countries.

It is old news that developed countries are often found seeking to "double count" carbon offsets - both towards their own mitigation targets, and towards financing for mitigation in developing countries. But the EU and US have this week given the story a new twist.Confounded by accusations of "double counting", the big brains in the EU have been working over-time to find ways to get recognition under a Copenhagen deal for all the money they send out of their own countries to buy offset credits for mitigation projects in the South. ECO can understand why - after all, if they don't count funds flowing through offsetting, developed countries would actually have to fulfill their commitments to find and pay the new and additional public money they owe.

They found the solution in a single word: 'rent'. CDM offset credits are sold at the marginal price set by the market, but most are generated at much lower costs, meaning a significant economic rent, or profit, is earned on the sale. It is this profit margin that the EU have been considering counting towards their public financing obligations under a Copenhagen agreement.

It seems the idea is catching on fast. On Wednesday night, US chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing was heard to claim the US would be trying a similar trick. At a stroke it seemed Annex I financing obligations could be slashed without any further effort required beyond clever accounting.

Except there is just one problem. The rent that accrues from the sale of CDM offset credits is captured not by developing country governments, but by private sector companies operating in developing countries. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee whatsoever that this money will be used to take additional mitigation measures in developing countries nor to fund adaptation to climate impacts amongst the poorest and most vulnerable people. It takes real creative accounting to consider this climate value for climate money.

So ECO would like to suggest some homework for the EU, US and any other developed country delegation considering this latest scam as they leave Bonn: think again about what climate financing is needed for. ECO suggests that a minimum of US$150bn annually by 2020 in public finance is needed to cover the incremental costs of mitigation and adaptation for developing countries to meet the <2˚C target. And not a penny of public money less.

Bonn III: Anyone Remember Environmental Integrity?

From where ECO sits, Annex I nations seem increasingly committed to wiping countries off the face of the map. Their obstinate refusal to reduce emissions in line with a finite global emissions budget threatens the very survival of a number of countries, through sea level rise, or through impacts that will make them uninhabitable.
The compilation of pledged reductions for Annex I countries, presented by Micronesia on Wednesday's KP numbers session, so far adds up to an aggregate reduction by 2020 of -16% at best, and possibly as low as -10%, on 1990 levels. This is only a third to a quarter of what is needed for a number of nations to have a chance of simply surviving the fossil age.Even based on estimates prepared by the Secretariat, pledges only add up to 13-21% cuts on 1990 levels by 2020 - and these don't include the weak proposed US targets, which would further drag down the total. What's more, these figures are actually worse than the dismal estimates provided by the Secretariat in June. It seems some countries aren't worried at all - Japan for example told negotiators that they shouldn't think failing to reach the 25-40% range is wrong.
India has told Canada to do some soul-searching: ECO thinks all developed countries should do a great deal of soul-searching. Have they thought about the temperature rises their targets imply? Do they delude themselves that they will be immune from the consequences? Do they want to see global warming spiral out of control as the Amazon dies back and the Siberian permafrost thaws? Are they happy with the idea of a 4 or 5 degree warmer world - one perhaps unable to support a mere 1 billion people? Russia is clearly untroubled: when asked for its peak emissions date, Russia replied "that's a very good question." ECO wouldn't mind an answer.
Current aggregate pledges don't even scrape the bottom end of the IPCC's 25-40% range on 1990 levels by 2020 for developed countries, let alone the more than 40% cuts on 1990 by 2020, which, along with the small matter of $100bn per year of public mitigation finance for developing countries, is needed to be reasonably confident of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees.
And Annex I countries don't actually intend to reduce their domestic emissions even on the scale they have so far proposed, but rather to offset much of this effort through CDM and novel mechanisms, and to hide emissions through dodgy LULUCF rules. New Zealand told the KP that they wanted access to every kind of offset. This sends a message to developing countries that low carbon development is a contradiction in terms, too costly even for rich countries. Is that really the message they want to send?
Of course rich countries will cry poor and say that deeper cuts just aren't economically feasible. But we all know this is nonsense. For Australia - one of the most carbon intensive economies in the world - the government's own modelling showed that their top 2020 target of 24% below 1990 levels would only shave about 0.1 percentage points off their real per capita growth. So Australians would have to wait until about 2054 to be as rich as they would have been in 2050. But bear in mind that in this scenario the average Australian would still be more than one and a half times richer than they are today. Other less carbon-intensive economies would find it even easier to make changes. Developing countries are entitled to ask why the rich countries won't take the need for deep cuts seriously. Rich countries get richer while poor countries drown.


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