Close the Gap!

The Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy by 2050, published by WWF
in association with Ecofys, clearly shows how the gigatonne gap can be closed and emissions
reduced for a total carbon budget preserving a strong likelihood of no more than 2° warming

On Wednesday the second Structured Expert Dialogue of the 2013-2015 review began to assess overall progress towards achieving the long-term global goal, including the implementation of commitments under the Convention.
The IPCC authors conclude that there is a 1000 Gt carbon budget for humankind from the starting point of the fossil fuel era. Within that budget there is a 66% likelihood of staying below 2 degrees.

We have already used half of that budget and, taking into account other greenhouse gases, only 270 Gt can still be emitted to remain within the safe lines.  That’s a shockingly small carbon budget to stay with a climate that is relatively safe – and even then substantial impacts will still occur.

Most numbers from the IPCC are associated with uncertainties. From a risk assessment perspective (or common sense, depending on how formal you want to be), higher uncertainty requires a lower carbon budget. So remember, even a 66% likelihood means a one-third chance of going beyond 2 degrees.

Furthermore, action on short-lived forcers like methane cannot replace or ‘buy time’  on long-lived greenhouse gases, especially CO2.  We need substantial reductions of them all.

However, while the Structured Expert Dialogue did not formally draw conclusions, it is clear that the overall progress made so far towards achieving the long-term global goal is small and far less than what is necessary.  

That point was underscored by the side event on the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2013, which followed shortly after the conclusion of the dialogue. This third update of the now-famed gigatonne gap report shows that the actual trajectory of global emissions is much higher than emissions pathways needed to keep global temperature rise below 1.5/2°.

We are now at annual emissions of 49 Gt CO2e, when we should be at no more than 44 Gt. On current trends, the gigatonne gap could increase from 5 Gt per annum to 12 Gt or more unless the world takes effective action.

But all is not lost. The UNEP report shows which measures should be implemented to close the gap and reap substantial co-benefits at the same time.
Borrowing a famous quotation, ECO’s advice is: Make it so!


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The time is now for gender equality in the climate change negotiations. And you ask why? -- doesn’t climate change affect us all?

Gender Equality: Making ProgressA common sense human perspective on climate change and its solutions needs to uphold the rights and respond to the diverse needs of the entire population. Gender is one of the foremost social categories in determining roles, experiences and perspectives in human society. If climate policies and solutions are to meet the needs of women and men, girls and boys, equally – and be effective – policy makers must understand these gendered dynamics.

It took 19 years for common sense to land on the agenda of the UNFCCC, but here it is.  The dynamic discussions on gender equality and climate change in the SBI, during both Tuesday’s workshop and Wednesday’s SBI contact group on the draft conclusions, highlighted great strides in recognizing the human face of climate change in this process.  Yes, there is progress in a sea of stagnation.

Now, Parties have an opportunity to take robust and innovative action towards the goal of gender-responsive climate policy, or to put it another way, policy that meets the needs of all individuals equally.

Recommendations are being tabled to incorporate gender guidelines into ongoing and existing initiatives, programmes and processes under the UNFCCC; tools for accountability to and reporting on gender responsive climate actions; calls for innovative funding, capacity building and networking to strengthen women as decision-makers in this process; and recommendations to further education and training on how to understand climate policy through a gender lens.


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The CDM Must Protect Human Rights

During the CDM workshop held this past June, Parties heard firsthand testimony from Weni Bagama, who spoke out passionately about the impacts of the Barro Blanco CDM project -- a 29 MW hydroelectric dam currently under construction on the Ngäbe indigenous territories in Panama.

Weni described how the company failed to adequately consult the affected communities, a clear violation of CDM rules and international human rights standards. Despite concerns raised regarding consultation and other human rights abuses during the validation process, the CDM executive board approved the project in January 2011.

Since then, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, visited the affected communities to investigate the human rights abuses associated with the hydro project. In his concluding statement, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the Barro Blanco case, and clearly articulated the international human rights obligations that should apply. He further stated that this case is emblematic of the many development projects that are threatening the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples in Panama.  

Barro Blanco does not stand alone.  It is one of many projects that illustrate how the CDM has failed to ensure that projects are designed, implemented and monitored in a manner that protects human rights. In Cancun, parties agreed to ‘fully respect human rights in all climate change-related actions’. This has not yet been realized.

Now is the time to translate words into action. As part of the CDM review process to be concluded this week, ECO calls on Parties to establish safeguards that would help to prevent social and environmental harm, promote greater accountability, and ensure the effective participation of all stakeholders.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that the negotiations on the the CDM appeals procedure – now punted to the next session – can adequately protect the rights of affected communities. Now is the time for real reform to protect human rights in the CDM.

A side event on human rights in the CDM will take place today at 11:30 am in Room Cracow (Level 2, Zone B2), to discuss how the experiences and lessons learned from the CDM can inform the design of new market-based mechanisms.


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‘I am an Australian . . .’

I am an Australian. Which is quite an admission in these halls at the moment.

People keep coming up to me and asking what’s going on? Why is my government doing such terrible things on climate policy? Why are they so addicted to coal? Why are they so determined to go backwards? How can they trash their climate policies when the rest of the world is meeting here in Warsaw to try and move forward on climate? And particularly when our neighbouring countries, especially the Philippines, are suffering such devastation.

But the main question they ask me is - do the Australian people support all of this negativity and destruction?

The answer to that question is they categorically do not. The majority of Australian people do not support repealing the carbon price, trashing renewable energy support, dismantling the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and winding back support for a long-term target of reducing carbon pollution by 80% by 2050.

If you want evidence of that look no further than the story of Australia’s Climate Commission. One of the first things the new government did was shut down this publicly funded body. But within only one week, over 20,000 Australians donated to get this vital organization back on its feet.

Ordinary Australians are keen for action on climate change because we’ve lived through its beginnings. We’ve seen “one in a hundred year floods” happen in Queensland twice in a period of just twelve months. And in the same period Queensland copped it with Cyclone Yasi – the worst cyclone in nearly 100 years. We’ve had the worst drought ever within the last decade – and parts of the country are in drought again. In Sydney, where I live, we just had devastating bushfires, in October – mid Spring! But of course none of this comes close to the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.

Recent polling showed that the majority of Australians want a higher target (15% or 25%), as our country’s independent Climate Change Authority recommended. And 65% of people said they wanted stronger action on climate change.

The Coalition that Prime Minister Abbott leads have a long-standing policy of supporting this target range, set back in 2009, along with the conditions for moving up the range. We need immediate clarification from our the government on where they now stand.

Most Australians know it’s in our national interest to get serious about climate change. Not only because we along with so many of our neighbours are so vulnerable to climate change, but also because unless we increase our target and take more action, we’re in danger of falling behind the rest of the world.

So listen up, Prime Minister Abbott. We’re expecting you to come to the Ban Ki-moon Summit in September 2014. We’re expecting you to put a real target for 2020 on the table, along with long term goals for mitigation and climate finance that reflect Australia’s fair share. And we Australians will be pushing every day to make sure you do this. Starting this Sunday – where Australians in every corner of the country will be at a National Day of Action (www.theheat.org.au).

(This is an edited version of a statement by Julie-Anne Richards at yesterday’s CAN press conference.)  


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Farewell to Fossil Fuels

Fossil of the Day, COP19, Warsaw, 14.11.2013


It’s not enough to cap emissions or reduce their growth.

To prevent warming of 2°C or more, net emissions need to be brought to zero. This was a key message from the IPCC presentations in yesterday’s expert dialogue on the 2013-2015 review.

The IPCC concentration pathway that keeps below 2°C implies that fossil fuel emissions  must peak before 2020 and get to zero by 2070 (see IPCC WG1 Figure TS.19).  And it would have to be much faster if we don’t want to rely on negative emissions after 2070, or peak and decline doesn’t happen early enough, or we take into account “surprise factors” and feedbacks not included in the models.

On Tuesday, the International Energy Agency released their latest World Energy Outlook, again repeating their message that meeting the 2°C target (with about 50% likelihood) means that two thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. Furthermore, three quarters of the world’s proven but not yet in production oil reserves will have to remain untapped – leaving no space for Arctic oil.

ECO wonders when countries will truly accept this reality – that we simply need to get rid of fossil fuel altogether, and leave vast majority of the oil, coal and gas we’ve found in the ground.


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Please Don't Split Up

ECO found this letter in the waste bin next to Plenary 1. Can we help make this relationship work . . . ?

My dearest,

Since our winter holiday in Copenhagen, where you proposed our marriage, I feel that you have never stopped breaking your promises. All we do is talk, talk and talk some more – and yet, you still don't get it.  

You have to stop spending all your money on expensive cars and fancy jets, and start helping me and the family. This is the last straw.  I need reassurance that we have a future, that we will grow old together.

I need action rather than words. Tell me what the future will bring – you and I need a global roadmap to the 100 billion so I know you really mean what you promised. Don’t try to cheat on me; don’t make some private company fulfill your promises. It really should be all public money. Don't forget your promise to send an immediate check for our children's Adaptation Fund, and make sure you order that transfer to our GCF saving account by 2014. And finally, I really need you to commit at least 50% of our savings to be spent for adaptation.  

Look, darling, we really need to sort this out. If you do not get your act together now, I really don't think I can marry you in 2015.

Nona N. Nexone

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EU: where is your short-term mitigation ambition?

Closing the Short-Term EU Mitigation Gap

We all know that if the ambition gap is not closed or significantly narrowed by 2020, the door will close on many options to limit temperature increase to 1.5° C.

An interesting truth is that the EU has already met its 20% target for 2020 eight years ahead of schedule. Including international offset credits, European greenhouse gas emissions were actually down nearly 27% on 1990 levels in 2012!

Therefore, it is a no-regrets option to make these reductions legally binding domestically and internationally, and adopt a 40% reduction target for 2020. And the EU has a concrete opportunity to do so in the context of revising its commitments under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol before May 2014.

A key policy instrument here is the EU Emissions Trading System, the world’s first international cap-and trade system, covering nearly half of the EU’s carbon emissions. The European carbon market must be reformed quickly as it is increasingly ineffective as a tool to control pollution. It suffers from an oversupply of almost two billion emission allowances, mainly due to a record use of international offset credits, which has caused the carbon price to crash to under less than 5 Euro.

What's needed is a bold decision to remove surplus allowances permanently from the market and to adopt a steeper emissions reduction trajectory.

Based on its experience with domestic targets, the EU is well-placed to call for a framework that hastens the roll-out of renewables and energy efficiency through enhanced international collaboration.
The EU should ensure its 2020 climate and energy package demonstrates how ambition leads to success. At stake is not only the EU’s credibility but indeed the integrity of its climate policy.


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Australia! Please Explain!

Australian PM Tony Abbott said yesterday that he will cut greenhouse gases by no more than 5% below 2000 levels by 2020. This shock move would back away from Australia's longstanding commitment to a 15% to 25% target range.

However, the PM has previously indicated that his "off the cuff" remarks can't really be taken as gospel. Sometimes, you see, he gets carried away in the heat of the moment, and so only written statements could really be trusted as actual policy.

Obviously, it would be more than just a smidge of bad karma if Australia would walk away from the higher end of its target range at the same time as the worst ever typhoon wreaked havoc on their neighbours, the Philippines. This is particularly notable as the PM’s Coalition has endorsed the 15% to 25% range on more than one occasion – twice so far in 2013 alone.

Now let’s turn to the notion that Australia would review the conditions for moving to the 15% level because it is not "looking to make further binding commitments in the absence of very serious like binding commitments from other countries".

ECO suggests maybe Australia should have a word with their red-white-and-blue Umbrella Group mate. Even the US has committed to a 17% reduction by 2020 – weak as that may be, it’s now higher than Australia's 5% including adjustment for a different start date.  And as the Australian Climate Change Authority made clear only a week ago, Australia's 5% target puts it behind not only the US, but also China, in terms of targets and action.  Imagine that!

So we assume that this was simply one of those Abbott-branded “off-the-cuff gaffs” – and the government will promply set the record straight. Maybe you might ask a friendly Aussie delegate how that is going.

Surely, in the face of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, Australia will move to at least the top end of its range and – need we add, commit as well to substantial future climate finance.


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Japan: Cool Earth 50 or Scorched Earth?

Rumour has it that that Japan, the third largest economy in the world, is going to announce its new 2020 target here in Warsaw. This would be Japan’s contribution to closing the gigatonne gap, right?

But ECO is puzzled by the target number circulating in media reports. At first we thought Japan must have made a mistake on where to put the decimal point.  But it seems the number really will be one digit smaller than it should be.

In fact, if the reported number is true, Japan would be increasing its emissions above 1990 levels.  Surely it cannot be true, Japan! ECO doesn’t want to believe wild rumors and instead expects Japan will present a target that honors the name of "Cool Earth 50" -- a plan the current Prime Minister originally released to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050.

The devastating catastrophe in Fukushima taught us that nuclear is not the solution for climate change. It is good to hear that nuclear is not included in the target the government is considering, but that cannot be the reason for a low target.
ECO hopes that two and a half years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Japan finally shifts its energy development fully to renewables and takes the lead in raising the level of climate ambition.

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IPCC: 1.5 Still Alive

Parties in Doha requested expert advice to ensure the scientific integrity of the 2013-2015 Review. Well, yesterday they got it, fresh from IPCC Working Group I. In the first of two dialogues in Warsaw, IPCC experts provided advice on the adequacy of the 2oC goal in light of the ‘ultimate objective’ of the Convention.

Working Group I confirms what we already knew: warming is unequivocal, human influence is clear, and limiting climate change and its impacts requires substantial and sustained emissions reduction – in fact, down to zero.
But there is good news as well.  The “peak and decline” trajectory of the lowest concentration pathway (RCP2.6) could limit the increase in global mean temperature to 1.5oC and would increase the likelihood of meeting the long term global goal of keeping below 2oC. That’s not easy, but it’s still within reach.

The findings show that even 2oC warming will increase the potential for dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, and delaying emissions reductions would speed the pace and severity of impacts such as sea level rise and storm intensity. The WG I report gives Parties one less excuse to delay or hedge their mitigation commitments and actions up to and beyond 2020.

Working Group II will not release its full report on impacts until March 2014, but it is already evident that failing to reduce emissions quickly means that the ultimate objective of the Convention would not be met: sustainable development, food security and ecosystem adaptation would all be sacrificed. The joint contact group of SBSTA and SBI at COP 19 should advise that Parties' commitments and actions must be tabled at COP 20 and their adequacy must be benchmarked against the IPCC findings.

The second session of the IPCC expert dialogue is at 3 pm today, and it will continue to address findings of the highest importance.

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