Tag: Kyoto Protocol

Questions, Questions . . .

Dear U.S. Delegation, We appreciate how much more approachable you have become since the Obama administration took office. So we hope you won’t mind responding to a couple questions that have gotten our attention lately. Over the years, ECO has had an interesting experience learning more about United States politics and your legislative process. We started our studies on Senate ratification from the early Kyoto days. And now, although sometimes it all seems a bit strange, we think we understand your two party system as well as the differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Most recently, we have been sorting out the mechanism of checks and balances between your President and the Congress. The highly visible health care debate provided a wonderful example of this in practice. First, the health care bill resulted in a clear victory for President Obama due to his diligence and political prowess in forging compromise on a very controversial topic. It is reasonable, therefore, to draw a parallel to the climate change debate and be encouraged by this outcome. But ECO, ever the logical onlooker, wants to ask, if President Obama and his administration made such remarkable progress in Copenhagen, why do they now remain on the sidelines while the Senate squabbles over climate proposals? After all, President Obama did win a Nobel Prize in part for his willingness to take leadership on climate change. Second, is it fully understood that the Senate bill expected later this month may fall miles behind the provisions required to help those most needing support in responding to climate change in our world -- the poor nations, the vulnerable, the forests, and their people? In fact, ECO hears that the already inadequate international climate finance provisions passed by the House of Representatives last year will be mostly eliminated in the forthcoming Senate bill. If the President and his administration are truly committed to fulfilling their pledges in Copenhagen, won’t they insist that the Senate bill include more substantial amounts of funding for adaptation, clean technology and REDD? Since this is an open letter, ECO has questions for others as well. To leaders and ministers who negotiated with President Obama and the US delegation in Copenhagen – will you make your concerns clear about the prospect of minimal international climate finance levels in the Senate? And to all other delegates reading this: we’d like to suggest you chat up the friendly U.S. delegates you encounter in the corridors or between meetings and ask them about this as well. We’re sure they will be happy to answer your questions. And since we’re all still in learning mode on the US political system, maybe they can shed some light on other mysteries, such as, what exactly does the Electoral College do anyway? Signed, your new Best Friend Forever (BFF) ECO

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Final Innings For a 2 Degree World !

Dear Delegates, It is April 2010 and we are back . . . with a whimper? The bottom line: Copenhagen wasn’t the stuff of dreams after all. It certainly didn’t deliver up our dream of a climate threshold well below 2 degree C (let alone 1.5 degree C) for the planet! Meanwhile, the science is ever more loudly telling us to kick-start a “race to the top” for more ambitious mitigation targets. Parties are busy finding distractions and reasons not to deliver the needed outcomes under the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP tracks. And none of this, sadly, is very different than what we observed in the long runup to Copenhagen. So here we are. All too many developed country parties continue playing to weaken the ability to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding outcome, based on narrow national interests. To take it beyond these generalities, ECO has a few suggestions where improvement is especially needed. First off, the existing LULUCF rules under the Kyoto Protocol, riddled with far too many loopholes, are leading to perverse outcomes as long predicted. And yet the revised rules drafted and partly negotiated at Copenhagen go even further in the wrong direction. Parties must abandon attempts to stretch the LULUCF rules even more, hiding future emission increases from the sector and undermining the integrity of a climate deal. A revised LULUCF framework must be free of loopholes, use historic baselines and not future projections, and set an explicit goal to actually reduce emissions and increase removals from forestry and land management. Surely this is not unreasonable for a climate deal ? Likewise, even after two full years of negotiations, the Shared Vision text coming out of Copenhagen is far from wholesome. One thing the text has is too many brackets. They surround a number of major elements including the long term global goal, developed country emissions, peak year, and review process. The current Shared Vision text also skips over the next commitment period, the legal nature of the outcome, and a compliance clause among other aspects. Instead, the Shared Vision needs to guide the negotiations toward the final outcome rather than be wrapped up at the end of the process. Next up, a focus of the negotiations that must not be lost. While all nations – especially top-emitting countries – should strive to put forward emissions reduction proposals that fully address the prospect of dangerous climate change, the pledges to date are far from what is needed. Instead of putting us on track to achieve the Copenhagen Accord commitment to keep increases below 2 Degree C, the pledges in hand instead lead toward nearly a 4 degree increase, according to a recent analysis by the Sustainability Institute. Not only that, merely pleading ‘political realities’ will not stem the rising Gigatonne Gap, as demonstrated by the current science. Catching up after 2020 really isn’t an option, is it, if we are serious about containing global warming. Now let’s turn to an issue that has been gaining prominence recently but needs more prioritisation. Everyone now agrees that adaptation is a major challenge . . . so let’s treat it that way. In the work plan for the rest of this year, Parties should focus on producing an adaptation text containing a concrete agreement on both fast-start and long-term finance, as well as a robust mechanism for delivery. The Adaptation Fund is proving to be an excellent mechanism with governance and outcomes founded on the principle of equity. Here is a working prototype for a well-managed, equitable and effective climate fund under the auspices of the UNFCCC. That brings up a broader point. There are troublesome winds blowing on the sources and scale of finance so that developed countries meet their obligations under the Convention. The Secretary-General has employed his good offices in convening the high-level Advisory Group on Climate Finance (AGF). But remember -- ultimately, Parties have the responsibility to produce a decision in Cancún. For fast track financing, developed countries should make good on longstanding commitments and provide expanded financial resources to the mechanisms that already exist under the authority of the COP – the Adaptation Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund and Special Climate Change Fund. Nearing the end of our highlights tour, let’s turn to REDD. Requests for further work on methodological issues in the draft LCA text should be agreed and forwarded to SBSTA at this meeting, so it can fully engage on this agenda in June. Meanwhile, the LCA REDD group should also continue its work at the June session full speed, focusing first on issues that can be resolved without reference to the broader process -- for example, the operationalization of safeguards, and an objective for REDD.Furthermore, time should be set aside in the LCA work plan to consider outstanding REDD issues that cut across to other aspects of mitigation such as MRV and NAMAs. Based on the submissions by parties post-Copenhagen, it is clear that developing country parties will not compromise on their core ask for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The outcome of negotiations under the LCA track, regardless of form, must provide for and significantly advance the full implementation of financial obligations of developed countries under the Convention. And the legal form and nature of the LCA track outcome must be in full respect of equity principles, including “common but differentiated responsibilities”. We have reached the last innings on many fronts: inter-generational equity, intra-generational obligations, and the possibility of achieving the overarching goals of poverty alleviation and climate-neutral sustainable development. Yours sincerely, 6.8 billion people... and counting...on Planet Earth…

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Africa stands tall

ECO did note one encouraging development at the start of the second week. The Africa Group dug in its heels in defence of the two-track approach, with most of the G77. Ministers considering the process proposal for the day perceived an agenda too close to the paper leaked early in the first week, which sought to terminate the Kyoto Protocol.

Four ministers broke off their own meeting and marched to the office of the COP President. Fortunately, the ensuing consultation resulted in a reworking of the order of business for the day and negotiations proceeded with restored respect for the two-track process.

The principled response to a threat to the Kyoto Protocol by the Africa Group is applauded.

Focus on the most vulnerable

ECO wants an Adaptation action framework with scaled-up implementation, particularly through reliable developed countries support, coming out of Copenhagen. Priority must be given to the needs of communities in vulnerable developing countries. And the inclusion of their perspectives in the development and planning of adaptation policies. Agreeing on this focus here would send an important signal.

These thrusts will not contradict the principle of being country driven. For instance, the identification of vulnerable people would be made at the country-level. While adaptation finance is seen as a form of compensation for harm caused, its character is that of restitution finance. This means it is bound to a certain purpose, namely to fund adaptation. ECO is concerned that such language has disappeared in the most recent co-chairs’ adaptation paper.

Many have spoken out on this matter. African environment ministers in the “2009 Nairobi Declaration on the Africa Process for Combating Climate Change” stressed that “Africa’s priorities are to implement climate change programmes with a focus on adaptation […], with emphasis on the most vulnerable groups, especially women and children.”

Similarly, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Panama demanded that the “poorest and most vulnerable populations such as women, children and indigenous peoples,” should be the first to benefit from adaptation funding.

Further, all Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in 2008 adopted as a strategic priority of the Adaptation Fund that “in developing projects and programmes developing countries shall give particular attention to the needs of the most vulnerable communities”.

ECO recommends that this language be brought back into the text to ensure that adaptation finance has a proper focus and is able to facilitate a larger flow of resources.

Rumors of Copenhagen's demise have been greatly exaggerated

Originally posted on Grist.org on 16 November

Waking up on a dreary Sunday morning this weekend in Copenhagen (where I've recently moved to prepare for the upcoming climate talks in December), I was met with a barrage of headlines, mostly from U.S. media, telling me that Copenhagen is doomed to total failure and I might as well head off to Mexico City where next year's summit will be held. The New York Times cried out: World Leaders Agree to Delay a Deal on Climate Change. The Washington Post bellowed: Copenhagen talks unlikely to yield climate accord, leaders told. Not the best way to start a Sunday morning.

Is Copenhagen really over before it begins? Had I moved to this dark, rainy (but beautiful!) city for no reason? Should we all just pack it up and hope that political declarations will solve it all?

The answer, thankfully, quickly became a resounding "no." As Grist's own David Roberts is often the first to point out, the mainstream media clearly got it wrong. There's still hope -- a lot of it, at that.

Let's start with those headlines. Who are these "world leaders" who agreed to delay? Well, the plural may be accurate, but just barely.

In the 48 hours since initial reports, as Ministers and other government representatives have trickled into Copenhagen for the "pre-COP" preparatory meeting, it's become clear that while the media reported that all 19 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders were in agreement on the so-called "one agreement, two steps" approach, that's not at all the case.

The real story occurred at a hastily arranged APEC breakfast. Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen made a last-minute visit and surprised the room with a speech that was only vetted by a few of the so-called "leaders." One can only imagine a room full of bleary-eyed Heads of State sitting around a big table sipping their coffee and politely nodding at Rasmussen's climate change speech without really understanding how their nods would be translated by the media.

Rasmussen began his speech by saying:

...I would like to share with you how I believe a Copenhagen Agreement could be constructed to serve the dual purpose of providing for continued negotiations on a legal agreement and for immediate action...

And later towards the end of the speech he says:

Some of you might have wished for a different format or for a different legal structure. Still, I believe you will agree with me on one fundamental point: What matters at the end of the day is the ability of the Copenhagen Agreement to capture and reinforce global commitment to real actions.

Doesn't sound like consensus to me; it sounds like a man trying to convince an audience to go along with him. It's not entirely clear who actually did agree with the Prime Minister, but what is clear is that there is nowhere near consensus on such a delay approach; in fact, dozens of countries oppose it and are still wishing--and fighting--for more.

Now, what about the actual plan itself -- the "one agreement, two steps" plan? Two steps to an agreement doesn't sounds so bad, right?

As NRDC's Jake Schmidt wrote, the strategy might not be so bad if you actually thought that the second step would ever be taken. Unfortunately, what Rasmussen has put forward is a cynical approach. It's becoming clear that all he cares about is getting a "positive" result in Copenhagen, and that the second step could just be for show.

If you look closely at Rasmussen's APEC breakfast speech, there's very little incentive to actually finish the job in 2010 (as in, to take the "second step"). Rasmussen explains his vision thusly:

The Copenhagen Agreement should capture progress already achieved in the negotiations and at the same time provide for immediate action already from next year.

The Copenhagen Agreement should be political by nature, yet precise on specific commitments and binding on countries committing to reach certain targets and to undertake certain actions or provide agreed finance.

The Copenhagen Agreement should be global, comprehensive and substantial, yet flexible enough to accommodate countries with very different national circumstances.

The Copenhagen Agreement should finally mandate continued legal negotiations and set a deadline for their conclusion.

Why would any developed country with high emissions want to go back to the table and flesh out a legally binding deal after the pressure of Copenhagen has passed and there is no real obligation to do so? Despite his lip service to "continued legal negotiations", there's no clarity nor firm deadline. Rasmussen's invention of "politically binding"--a term no one seems willing or able to define--is also repeated here.

Furthermore, there is only a passing mention of the Kyoto Protocol later in the speech. Despite what some would have you think, however, the Kyoto Protocol does not expire in 2012. In fact, in 2005, the parties to the Kyoto Protocol agreed to negotiate a second commitment period (2013-2017) and further committed in Bali in 2007 to reaching a conclusion on what that second commitment period would look like. In Rasmussen's vision, this goal seems to disappear in favor of a "politically binding" outcome.

Indeed, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper--one of the leading climate negotiation blockers now that George W. Bush is out of the picture--has been positively beaming in the press about this announcement. Not a sign of a positive development.

Luckily, there's still time to push for more. The Alliance of Small Island States, the African Group of nations, and other vulnerable and least developed countries will surely be pushing back on this plan during the prep meetings in Copenhagen this week. In fact, 11 Pacific Island States already have. Some European nations are also likely to stand up to this plan.

The planet and its people need a fair, ambitious, and binding outcome from this process. Countries should be working on such a document in Copenhagen and they can and should finish it there. After all, it's what they committed to in Bali just two years ago.

Beyond Borders: Progress on a Global Level

Two experienced UNFCCC activists explain how to become “climate smarties” and create a fair, effective and ambitious global climate deal.

Generally, when we discuss the effects that greenhouse gases have on the world’s atmosphere, we prefer the term climate change. Global warming simply isn’t an accurate description. But we do like one thing about this description: it reminds us that the problem we face isn’t just local or national, it’s global. Humanity is experiencing a global problem -- and that problem requires a global solution.

The United Nations has a very important part to play in fighting climate change. It provides a forum for governments to work together, and hammer out solutions to international problems. Global problem- solving is a long, slow process -- and a thankless one a lot of the time. You may have read news articles about the countless international conferences on global warming and wondered what goes on at those meetings. Different nations bring competing agendas to the table; representatives from all nations must overcome language and cultural barriers; and national governments face pressures at home from business, organized labor, and opposition parties. The world’s glaciers may be receding faster than international agreements can move forward.

And yet, despite all the impediments, the world’s nations make progress. Even better, sometimes they enjoy huge successes, such as the international agreement to stop the destruction of the ozone layer. Our world today is a safer place because of global agreements.

Global agreements hold countries accountable for certain actions and give nations a set of rules enforced through United Nations international law.

The world’s governments have been struggling with climate change for more than 20 years. The process has been painfully slow, and those governments still have a lot to do. But, right from the start, every country (well, almost every country) agreed that no one nation can solve the problem of climate change alone.

Why Global Agreements Are Important

Countries can do a lot to tackle global warming individually, as we discuss in Chapter 10. But the problem is far too great, and the solutions are far too complex, for countries to attempt to address climate change on their own. Each country is responsible for a portion of greenhouse gas emissions and has the ability to reduce global emissions anywhere from a fraction of a percentage up to 25 percent. But it is only with a collective effort that global emission can be reduced 50 to 80 percent. The world needs a global agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions and fight climate change.

Excerpted from Global Warming for Dummies, Elizabeth May and Zoe Caron (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Commissioning the Climate Finance Castle

When constructing a solid building, starting from scratch is often more efficient and cheaper than to trying to retrofit an existing building for a new, much larger purpose.  In the same way, developing countries argue that when it the design of the financial mechanism, a new architectural approach is needed.

ECO observes that over the last two years the construction of a modern home for climate finance has progressed significantly, with one particular building block providing an increasingly solid foundation from which the rest of the design can benefit: the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol.

This result has come about because of solid guidance from the commissioning body (the Kyoto Parties) combined with the time and attention of the architects (the Adaptation Fund Board) to carefully lay out the necessary details of both form and function.

First, developing countries will soon be able to use their keys to access the front doors (direct access through national implementing entities), or enter through the side (multilateral implementing entities) if their personal keys do not yet fit.
Second, house rules are crucial for the successful long-term maintenance of the castle. The condition for obtaining a key will be agreeing to the house rules (that is, special attention to particularly vulnerable communities and sound fiduciary management standards).

The crux of the matter in this construction project is that all those who commissioned the Adaptation Fund (the Kyoto Parties) had equal influence and represented a balance of interests in guiding the architects. Clear instructions from the commissioners to the architects were a crucial precondition for a solid and successful construction, while the architects had to work out the operational details. In the event, the architects did good work last year before Poznan, where about 99% of their proposals satisfied the Parties without major controversy, with significant additional progress over the last months.

The same principles applied successfully to the Adaptation Fund 'building' also will apply to the climate finance 'castle.'  The heading for the instructions for the climate finance blueprint (‘guidance’/’authority’) is not sufficient by itself. The climate finance architects must also be clearly accountable to those who have secured their services. Furthermore, the architects must adhere to their original instructions rather than project plans other clients propose.

There is no complete agreement yet on what the final climate finance castle will look like. But ECO has checked the plans and is pleased to see that many proposals reflect elements of the Adaptation Fund blueprint.

The Japanese finance proposal published on Monday contains an explicit reference 'to take into account the current practices of the Adaptation Fund.'  The US finance proposal also outlines support activities administered by domestic institutions in host countries. This sounds quite compatible with the way the Adaptation Fund architects designed the direct access modalities.

The Group of 77 and China are reasonably demanding their own keys (direct access), but also a balanced representation of all Parties in the group of architects. So there are positive signs that the blueprint of the Adaptation Fund is now providing a useful model for constructing the climate finance castle, extending well beyond just adaptation finance.

Now that one building block of the climate finance castle is laid, it is crucial that the necessary investments are made, since this part of the castle is much smaller than what is needed to fulfill the requirements of climate finance.  Putting in additional resources to the Adaptation Fund would consolidate and accelerate the castle construction work immediately.

EU's Finance Figures Start Race to the Top

After delaying the decision all year, last week's summit of EU heads of state and government finally agreed on concrete numbers for the scale of public financing needed for adaptation and mitigation in
developing countries.

ECO of course recognises that the EU is the first Annex I Party to do so, but observes that much more will be needed to seal the fair, ambitious and binding deal we need in Copenhagen. And now is the time for other developed countries to come forward with more ambitious proposals, to push the EU further in the right direction and propel the world towards success at COP 15.

By now, nobody should doubt that the scale of new and additional public money provided by developed countries for climate action in developing countries is one of handful of top issues that will make or break the Copenhagen deal. In our assessment, at least EURO 110 billion in new and additional public finance is required.

The EU starts by heralding a figure of EURO 100 billion which they say will be devoted to the total investments needed for climate action in developing countries. But looking more closely, this is not entirely public money or even largely so; it includes a public finance estimate of EURO 22-50 billion, plus money that will flow through carbon markets for the purchase of offset credits, and even beyond that, contributions to be made by developing countries themselves.

A public finance share of EURO 22-50 billion must be considered inadequate for three reasons.
1. The public share is simply not enough. There are serious concerns on the ability of the carbon markets to finance reductions beyond the tonnes sold for offsets. So much reliance on non-public sources will reduce assurance for delivery of the overall finance required. And further, even the underlying European Commission calculations noted that low Annex I targets would mean dramatically higher public financing needs. A quick look at the current aggregate Annex I mitigation targets suggests a rapid upward reappraisal of these financing estimates is needed.
2. It is not clear the EU thinks this money must be “new.” All public financing contributions under a Copenhagen agreement must be additional to the 0.7% of GDP that developed countries promised long ago to developing countries for development assistance. In addition, we know that the EU by itself will get new and additional annual revenue of around EURO 30 billion by 2013 within the EU Emission Trading Scheme, a perfect opportunity to allocate some of these new public revenues to meet international adaptation and mitigation needs.
3. This money needs to come from developed countries. The EU is clear that it prefers that developing countries (except LDCs) also contribute alongside developed countries, on the basis of their GDP and -- most importantly -- their emissions. ECO would like to remind the EU that under the Convention it is the rich countries who have financing obligations. Developing countries are already paying the costs of climate change daily in the impacts on the lives and livelihoods of their citizens.
So the EU has broken away from other developed countries and raised the flag on concrete financing discussions -- with real numbers attached, numbers that these international talks have been starved for all year. But this is an opening bid, a starting point for constructive discussions on financing this week.

The spotlight will now unavoidahly shift to the US and other rich countries, and they should start talking real numbers too. The race that the EU has started must be continued towards the top. EURO 110 billion in new and additional public finance from developed countries marks the finishing line for a fair and safe outcome in Copenhagen.


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