Dear delegates, ECO welcomes you back to work with a recap of two Cancun decisions important for today's mitigation workshop.
Firstly, you promised the world to aim to limit temperature increases to below 2°C, and to review from 2013-2015 whether this aim needed strengthening to 1.5°C. That promise represented progress of sorts for many of you. Though we should note that the EU has argued for setting the 2°C threshold for many years.
That Cancun decision clearly did not reflect the most up-to-date scientific assessments of climate sensitivity that show that a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees – even one above 1.5 degrees – has a high probability of catastrophic climate impacts.
Secondly, in the Kyoto Protocol track you endorsed the IPCC Fourth Assessment that says that in order to keep warming to below 2 degrees, Annex 1 countries should reduce their emissions by 25-40% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. In order to do so, you asked yourselves to increase ambition in line with the IPCC's assessment, as the current pledges are no where near the 25-40% range.
Yet, we fear that the pledges we will hear about today do not even come close to these agreed levels of ambition.
Disturbing figures presented by AOSIS in the AWG-KP last year demonstrated that the actual reduction in aggregate Annex I emissions pledged in Copenhagen ranged from a feeble -1 to -7%. The UNEP Emissions Gap report underscored this lack of ambition and transparency by finding that weak rules, bad LULUCF accounting, and the potential carry-over of emissions credits could add 1-2 Gt CO2e to the already sizeable Gigatonne Gap. Double counting of CDM credits would increase the gap further; by up to 1.3 Gt CO2e.
Bare it all! Don't be shy. In today's workshop, ECO calls on Parties to explain the assumptions behind their pledges. To be completely honest and transparent about the loopholes they intend to use to meet their pledges. This would mark the start of an honest conversation on closing the loopholes and ultimately the gigatonne gap, thus living up to the decisions from Cancun to avoiding dangerous warming and meeting the Convention's requirement of developed country leadership.
ECO is very dismayed to hear that Parties, particularly the US, are considering shortening the duration of negotiating sessions in 2014 and 2015. While ECO is all for more efficient negotiations, there is more than a hint here that there are alternative motives. Could it be that this is a way to shift attention to the Major Economies Forum and other non-UNFCCC forums? Those may serve well as informal arenas for discussion and development of innovative ideas, but in no way can they substitute for the UNFCCC as the locale with the resources, scope and legitimacy for international negotiations of the breadth and depth required to negotiate a fair, ambitious and binding deal to stop dangerous climate change.
The choices leaders make this week will determine whether the world achieves a tipping point. A tipping point into a new era of cooperation and solidarity, or a disastrous tipping point in the climate system leading to direct conflict about the remaining environmental space.
The world demands nothing less than a Fair, Ambitious and Binding (FAB) deal. Three major gaps can and must be bridged in the remaining time: the gap between current emission reduction pledges and the science; the gap between the finances on the table and the need in developing countries; and – perhaps most critically – the gap between nations where trust must be forged. We clearly need a radical transformation.
ECO has written before about the “gigatonnes gap.” Put simply, the emission reductions currently on the table, from developed and developing countries, will fail to meet the challenge posed by the science. Independent experts ranging from Lord Stern to McKinsey for Project Catalyst and Ecofys/PIK, show that we are way off track for staying well below 2°C, not to mention 1.5°C, which the latest science and most vulnerable countries demand.
At the heart of the problem lie the industrialised country targets (particularly the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). So far, the industrialised countries’ targets are proving much more effective at capping ambition and innovation than they are at capping emissions. The picture gets even bleaker when the huge loopholes – notably “hot air” allowances and bogus LULUCF accounting – are taken into account. Under the current approach these would lock economies and the planet into a costly high carbon future and undermine a green new deal that could pave the way out of economic recession. They render mute any shared vision referring to keeping warming below 2°C. Without urgent triage, there is no prospect of a peak in global emissions before 2020. Without a radical departure in Copenhagen, the world risks staying the course for warming of at least 3°C, very likely 4°C or more – even the prospect of “Venus” conditions on Earth.
The second huge gap is the finance gap. Again, there is a crisis in ambition. The EU has put forward figures for long-term finance, but these fall far short of the need. Norway and Mexico have proposed a new green fund. But, collectively, developed countries have failed to quantify the scale or to commit to a specific contribution.
Closing these two gaps will be even more difficult without clear action to close the trust gap. In these complex negotiations, fear, mistrust and suspicion have come to rule – particularly between industrialised and developing countries. The reality of historic responsibility, the vast disparity in per capita emissions, the legitimate development needs of countries whose populations struggle with the crisis of poverty and the existential threat posed by climate change must be faced.
Without trust the discussion has persistently returned to legal architecture – drowning out discussion of substance. Each side is afraid to be taken advantage of by the other, prefering to debate who will be bound to what, instead of what they will do. Challenging times require creative solutions, demonstrating real action and sowing seeds for a new spirit of international cooperation.
The most obvious step that would change this dynamic is for the US to offer a more ambitious target and deliver on climate finance. Everybody in Copenhagen recognizes this as “the elephant in the room”, while understanding the challenging political situation the US administration finds itself in. The good news is: studies show the US can reduce its emissions by 18% below 1990 levels by 2020 – it’s probably easier than to go back to the moon.
Parties could embrace a large number of hard-edged practical measures that can wipe out gigatonnes to make a FAB deal. Here are some creative ideas to spur the transformation. Why not take: Action on a global feed-in tariff for renewable energy? Ambitious global standards to improve energy efficiency and drive forward clean technology? An accelerated phase-out of HFCs and other potent greenhouse gases in consumer products? A targeted fund to address non-CO2 industrial greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries instead of relying on an expensive offset mechanism? Clear measures to strip out the hot air and LULUCF loopholes? New and concrete agreements on key technology IPRs, now?
There are similarly innovative ideas to plug the public finance gap and mobilise complementary private money to fuel the transformation. Decisions could be taken in Copenhagen to reduce emissions and raise money from international aviation and shipping or the auctioning of allowances. The USA recently proposed to the G20 to agree to redirect fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. George Soros last week here in Copenhagen suggested better utilising Special Drawing Rights. Some of these ideas may need more work, but without vision they will remain orphans.
As Lord Stern said: “If we assume people and politicians will be irretrievably short-sighted, quarrelsome and narrow in their judgment of their interests and act accordingly, then our pessimism will be self-fulfilling.” Now is the time for politicians to show that such an assumption is unfounded. Fight for the FAB deal!