Does Anyone think that there is no gap?

Hearing no objection it is so decided. So can ECO take it then, that, thanks to the challenging question by the European Union in Thursday’s workshop on developed country mitigation pledges, there is universal agreement that there is a gap? Fine.

So let’s move to the next step: looking at ways to increase ambition (to close the said gap), which was among the agreed purposes of the workshop, yet tacitly but plainly avoided by most developed country presenters. The European Union, at least, made a good faith attempt on the issue, and, yes, including more gases and sectors is among the things to look at. Yet ECO missed a slide explaining what the MRV- able conditions the EU has to move to (at least!) a 30% target. Instead, we were slightly amused when told that even the 20% target would be hard work. ECO reminds Parties that current EU legislation allows for more than half of the effort needed between 2013 and 2020 to be covered by carbon offsets instead of domestic action. That would also mean that with current emission levels (-16% below 1990 levels), no more domestic action is needed until 2020.

Yet, ECO’s readers will know the story of the one-eyed among the blind. Canada merrily implied that its pathetic target be comparable to the EU’s (considering that Canada is suggesting an increase over 1990 levels), and smartly dodged the question by a delegate how a target that is even weaker than its current Kyoto target could possibly constitute progress towards meeting the 1.5°C/2°C challenge. Canada’s Southern neighbours had, likewise, not much to offer, except maybe the notion that one needn’t be worried about the gap now because the review could maybe fix it later. ECO wonders if the US understands that leaving the gap unaddressed now, will require very, very steep reductions to make up for the delay, and if the US will be the country to champion that.

Delegates planning to attend today’s spin- off groups on developed country mitigation might want to keep in mind the conclusion by the co-chairs at the end of the workshop: that there is a gap, that there is some resolve to address it, and that further work needs to be done. ECO couldn’t agree more and suggests a four step approach for today’s informal sessions: (1) Developed countries make clear what their net domestic emissions will be in 2020; (2) Parties agree to close the loopholes by Durban, e.g. on hot air or carbon offset use, and have Parties not use bogus LULUCF projections meant to hide emissions but use historic reference levels and cover all emissions (see separate article in this issue); (3) Developed countries move to the high end of their pledges, by Durban, as a first important step; and (4) begin addressing the remaining gigatonne gap, by recognizing its size and a firm resolve in Durban to close it through a fair sharing of the globally needed mitigation effort, based on responsibility for emissions and capability to cut them.

And now: it is so decided!

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LULUCF Rules… Which Rules?

It is tough to spot the actual emissions reduced through the current thicket of different Annex I country pledge formats. And many countries suggest to further obscure the actual impact by including complex means of accounting for sources and sinks from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).

In the Annex I mitigation workshop on Thursday, AOSIS highlighted the potential contribution of lax LULUCF rules to the gigatonne gap, as described by UNEP. The Secretariat’s recent paper on the assumptions and conditions of Annex I Parties’ targets begins to clarify the extent to which Annex I countries will rely on the LULUCF sector to comply with their targets.

However, the question remains: which LULUCF rules are we talking about? These rules for the 2nd commitment period have not yet been decided!            ECO seconds the statement made by St. Lucia on Thursday that there is a pressing need for much greater transparency regarding what assumptions Parties are using in their LULUCF accounting, and encouraging the use of common methodologies.

Targets without clear LULUCF accounting rules are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get. To remedy this situation, ECO thinks Annex I Parties should take the suggestion that Colombia made in Bangkok – to submit tables showing what

their commitments would be under different accounting options, including the different options on the table for LULUCF. These tables would make the role of this sector clearer to everyone.  They would also illustrate clearly which countries are relying on their forests to help meet their targets, and which Parties are expecting to use delayed accounting for wood products or the exclusion of emissions from natural disturbances in their accounting.

It is impossible to make informed decisions on targets until it is clear what rules underpin them. With the kind of clarity and transparency Colombia has requested, Parties may be able to complete the task of decision-making that they failed to finish in Cancun.

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CAN intervention - Opening AWG-KP Plenary - June 7, 2011

Thank you Mr Chair,
Distinguished delegates,
My name is Maike Pilitati. I’ll speak on behalf of the Climate Action Network.
As CAN has consistently emphasized, the Kyoto Protocol is important to help close the
gigatonne gap between your pledges and what is needed for the well-below 2C ambition that
YOU have agreed – let alone the 1.5C limit that is more consistent with the ultimate objective of
the Convention.
The gigatonne gap can be addressed through the KP in 2 key ways:
First, developed countries need to increase their pledges. Currently we only have 12-18%
reductions from 1990 levels – and that meager offer is from the group of countries legally
obliged to “take the lead” to avoid climate catastrophe. But even if developed countries move to
the high end of their pledges, this will not get us anywhere near the 25-40% IPCC range required
to limit warming even to 2.0-2.4C increases. We simply don’t understand: why are developed
countries, by dragging their feet now, choosing to put themselves on a more expensive and less
efficient path to decarbonization? QELROs are meant to drive domestic transformation to a low
carbon economy.
Second, CAN reminds delegates that, as the current economic crisis shows, dodgy accounting
leads to collapse. Developed countries are merrily using smoke and mirrors to undermine their
low ambition even further through proposing ever more loopholes, – leading us to a 3, 4 – or
more – degree world. And you all know what that means for all of us. Let us be clear: what the
atmosphere sees is what counts.  
Distinguished delegates, In Bonn you need to clarify the assumptions underlying your pledges on
domestic action, LULUCF accounting, hot air carry over and offset use. That would help us to
build on Kyoto’s existing common accounting framework and agree QELROs that are fair and
adequately ambitious.
Thank you Mr Chair.

Lies and NZ Statistics

Delegates will be fascinated to discover that New Zealand won’t release its forestry emission and removal projections to NZ NGOs so that it can “avoid prejudice to the substantial economic interests of NZ,” and “enable the Minister to carry on without prejudice, or disadvantage, negotiations.”

This raises the question of what forestry projections has New Zealand been providing to Parties in the UNFCCC negotiations these past couple of years? Perhaps New Zealand’s Minister of Climate Change Negotiations hides the real figures in his briefcase while his officials hand out merry works of fiction to fellow delegates.  ECO encourages readers to enquire for clear information from the NZ delegation on its LULUCF assumptions (and while you’re at it, you might want to ask about the substantive amounts of offsetting that is core to New Zealand’s positioning).

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Improving LULUCF Data Quality: An Issue of Political Will

ECO feels strongly that Parties should stop hiding behind the issue of data quality in order to avoid accounting for emissions from their lands sector. Indeed this is an issue that should be tackled in SBSTA discussions on methodological grounds this week. Under current LULUCF proposals, countries can choose which land use activities under article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol they want to account for. It is essential that, instead, we move to comprehensive accounting for emissions from land use. However, Parties often express the concern that they are not yet able to manage the necessary inventories and monitoring, and that existing methods tend to be expensive.

As a result, only a small proportion of the emissions from land use activities are accounted for. This means that many feasible and ‘low hanging fruit’ mitigation opportunities are missed. Furthermore, the emissions from the land use sector remain ‘hidden’ from Parties’ accounts and can increase without penalty.

ECO wants developed countries to agree on ambitious emissions reductions targets and therefore urges for Parties to move to improve data quality in LULUCF. The lack of high-quality data is no excuse for limiting the accounting regime. Getting the data right is not so much a question of lacking technologies and methodologies. Instead it is, above all, a matter of the lack of political of political will to improve capacity for better monitoring and reporting, and to allocate the funds needed to achieve this. Time and resources have been invested in MRV-ing REDD+. Surely then, developed countries should also be able to make similar investments for the land sector in their own countries.

All the capacity, methodologies and guidance for reporting and accounting for the most significant pools of emissions are already available or within reach before the start of the second KP commitment period. ECO therefore thinks the following stepping-stones could be achieved in the second commitment period:

 Mandatory accounting for all existing and new land use activities as soon as data quality can be achieved.

 Concentrate MRV efforts in the near term on hotspots (areas of land with the most significant emissions) and quantify these as accurately as possible.

 If data quality is not sufficient, estimates could be based on conservative values.

Parties can establish joint work programmes to support countries that lack capacity.

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Get the Slides Out – But Don’t Tell Us Something We Already Know

As Parties prepare their slides for the two upcoming mitigation workshops, ECO invites Parties to leave out those slides that do not contain new information but focus instead on what will help closing the gigatonne gap.

We would like to see on the first slide of each presenting developed country Party, the true emissions in that country in 2020 – after taking into account assumptions on LULUCF accounting, AAU carry-over and carbon offset use. Countries should further be explicit about what efforts they intend to make domestically.

 Developed countries, with pledges below the 25-40% IPCC range, should show on their second slide which developed countries are going to compensate for their gap by making higher cuts instead, and how that goes along with a fair share of the globally needed mitigation effort. ECO believes that would guarantee some interesting discussions.

The third slide could include information on specific national circumstances. For instance, ECO is already sharpening its pencil awaiting anxiously a slide by Canada, that explains  how  a  pledge  that  is  even  lower than Canada’s Kyoto 1 target constitutes progress. Or take Ukraine’s (or, say, Russia’s) third slide, that, ECO suggests, should show how a target designed to bring in millions of tonness of hot air into the system will help close the gigatonne gap. Or, have the EU explain its continued refusal to move to a 30% emissions reduction target (or, better, the 40% that ECO understands gets the EU closer to its fair share of international action in line with the cold hard facts of science), despite growing consensus underpinned by economic studies that doing so would create net economic benefits for the EU even in the absence of increased action by others.

Generally, ECO encourages all developed countries that have pledged reduction ranges to show, on a fourth slide, under which conditions they will move to the high end of their pledges, and in particular what part of these conditions has already been met and what would it take to get away with the rest. ECO would be very interested to hear from countries like Australia on preliminary assessments of the fulfillment of such conditions.

ECO has some ideas for slides from developing countries, too. They should clarify their assumptions on baseline projections until 2020, for both emissions and underlying key factors such as energy use or population growth, and principally any additional information that allows experts to assess what the emissions will be in those countries. ECO believes that a slide illustrating the expected impact and listing costs of all envisaged measures would help other Parties understanding the offers and needs of each country, i.e. what countries can do on their own and what support they need for doing the rest. And ECO is looking forward to see presentations from countries like Turkey, DRC and Thailand to name a few, that, as ECO has been assured, have their own domestic targets and measures but have yet to insert them into the famous INF documents.

Following the workshops, Parties should fully incorporate their findings into the formal negotiations. After all, the purpose of these workshops is to better understand each others’ pledges, to identify the size of the gigatonne gap, to get developed countries move to the high end of their pledged ranges (as a first step), and launch, in Durban, a process that would actually mandate further talks to agree on further action to close the gap to 1.5°C.

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Expectations For Bonn

Friends, delegates:

We find ourselves at a crucial time.  A record increase in greenhouse gas emissions last year, to the highest carbon output in history, puts your target of keeping warming below 2 degrees in jeopardy.  It puts the more important temperature threshold of 1.5 degrees – the limit needed to keep the sovereignty of many small island states intact – in even more grave danger. 

Parties, delegates, this is your moment.  The threat of climate change has never been more evident; just ask the hundreds of millions of people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa who are already experiencing a food crisis.

Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA, says that disaster can be averted, if governments heed the warning. "If we have bold, decisive and urgent action, very soon, we still have a chance of succeeding."

The decisive action you must take, delegates, is to be productive at this Bonn intersessional, set yourselves a workplan for this year, that allows substantial progress to be made at Durban.  This work includes the following:

Advance the Adaptation Committee so that it becomes a driver for promoting coherence on adaptation under the UNFCCC. Agree on a Work Programme on Loss and Damage in Bonn and a further phase of the Nairobi Work Programme. Also advance modalities and guidelines for national adaptation planning that follow an inclusive and integrated approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems.

Bonn must take concrete steps to close the gigatonne gap. The first baby step towards that end is for developed and developing countries to clarify their pledges, including their assumptions on LULUCF, AAU carry over and carbon offsets, so that we know what amount of GHGs the atmosphere will see in 2020.

Ambition in the LULUCF sector can be increased by measures that include incentivizing emissions reductions below historical levels to add to overall effort and assist with deep, early cuts and increased targets. Parties must also move to address the bioenergy / biofuels emissions accounting loophole, ensuring that all bioenergy emissions are accounted for, either in the energy or LULUCF sector.

Parties must also talk about conditions that countries have attached to the high end of their pledged ranges – how will we know when these conditions have been met?  All that done, what do developed country Parties propose to do about the fact that their pledges are (far) below the 25-40% range and in some cases even below something Kyoto 1 targets.

Developing countries should be invited to make submissions on key factors underlying their BAU projections as well as the level and form of international climate finance needed to implement NAMAs that are conditional on such finance.

REDD+ negotiations need to start promptly in Bonn on all of the subjects that were mandated in Cancun.  By the end of the year, the COP needs to be able to decide on a mechanism for REDD+ that delivers adequate, predictable and sustainable

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