Tag: US

ECO’s Climate Summit expectations

As the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit approaches, we are sure Parties, investors and businesses are wondering how to pack their bags and appropriately prepare for New York this September.

ECO would like to help. We know that Parties sometimes struggle with long lists of things they need to prepare. There is a regrettable tendency for some Parties to forget what they have already packed interventions in their bags already, or to wear old items of clothing in the hope that we don’t notice that it’s just the same old thing refashioned.

However, without any kind of a list to work from, ECO is concerned that Parties will arrive in New York completely not dressed appropriately for the occasion. Hot air and vague promises are not going to provide the cover needed at the summit. So here is what ECO recommends that Parties should pack for the Climate Summit:

1) New measures to scale up investment in, and deployment of, renewable energy and energy efficiency. This will to help fill the pre-2020 mitigation gap, but will also help you to pledge your support for a just transition to a fossil-free and 100% renewable future by 2050.

2) Then, if you are committed to a just transition, you will want to come to New York with substantial pledges for the Green Climate Fund and a commitment to increase the overall scale of climate finance.

3) And obviously, becoming fossil free means sending a strong signal that the age of coal is over. That means announcements from the US and China (inter alia) on domestic limits to coal use (going beyond current plans), the phase out of export credit and development bank finance for coal infrastructure from OECD countries, and coal divestment announcements by private sector actors.

If you arrive at the Summit with all of this in your suitcase, then you will be the talk of the town as all your clothing choices will make a climate fashion statement that the world will applaud about your determination to achieve a strong climate agreement in Paris and stop climate change.

Thanks in advance from ECO. We can’t wait!

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Ministers, Remember the KP?

The KP has its fans for good reasons, like legally binding commitments, its base year and common metrics, not to mention its compliance regime. ECO knows that the KP is not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got, and it has to serve as the baseline for the new regime. And Ministers, ECO must be loud and clear – we must see more ambition.

The news that virtually none of our KP Ministerial friends will be joining us is highly distressing. The KP matters, both politically and practically.  The Protocol is the mechanism that demonstrated and institutionalised political leadership from developed countries. The second commitment period and a commitment to increase ambition from ALL developed countries pre-2020 was a key part of the package in Durban that resulted in the launch of the ADP. 

It’s not just ECO asking for more ambition. We think the Antarctic ice sheet melt might have been a sign that Ministers should do more, or perhaps that the cacophony of voices around the IPCC fifth assessment report analysis would have spurred them into action.

So where is developed country leadership right now? ECO reviews the state of play.

Those still making it legal….

EU, here we are again: "yes, but." Yes, Europe has made a real effort and arguably leads the world on climate action. It's on track to overshoot KP commitments and can boast during today's ministerial. But only a few key political supporters blocked tougher targets from becoming a reality. Those deeper 2020 cuts could surely (and still can) be met. And if they aren't, it sets Europe back for the post-2020 period by forcing lower ambition, while leaving excess credits in the system that will be held over to make compliance easier and ultimately undermining real decarbonisation.

Norway, with your wealth and high potential for renewables, you of all countries should be able to show that securing prosperity without destroying the climate is possible. But that means planning for life beyond oil and no longer wreaking havoc via your state-owned company Statoil pursuing ever dirtier and riskier oil in the Arctic and in the Canadian tar sands business. Drop your double-standard on climate action.

Australia, Tony Abbott's messed it up again. The latest rumour ECO has heard is that the G20 will exclude climate change from the agenda. Did Tony not notice the strong signals sent by two G20 members about cutting emissions and regulating coal? Ha! If anything should be excluded, it should be mining and burning more coal. But from a country that has a measly 5% reduction target for 2020, ECO is not surprised and might be laughing but for the impact of that dirty coal…

Those who jumped ship

Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Russia: it’s the same old song, so we won’t sing it. But we all do know how it goes.

That one big country that never did join in the end….

USA gave a great big kick to coal at the beginning of this week. ECO supposes it’s better late than never, but there is still a lot of ground to make up and greater cuts to be made. So keep going and this time, be sure to bring it to the party!

Clearly the developed world still has a lot of work to do to fulfil its ‘leading’ role. A lack of ambition from developed countries could be the perfect excuse, were any country seeking one, for avoiding commitments or ambitious actions in the future. But ECO is confident that no country will stoop to such crass opportunism. All countries are now fully aware of the scale of the global effort required and the need for urgent, ambitious and equitable actions. In Mexico and Indonesia, more action is underway. 

The game is on Minsters, there are less than 500 days left to get your act together.  So step up and deliver.




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President Obama: We Hope for Change

In his victory speech after being re-elected to a second term, President Obama swelled the hopes once again of people around the world who care about climate change when he said, "We want our children to live in an America that is not burdened by debt, that is not weakened by inequality, that is not threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet." Those hopes continued to swell when in a press conference a few days later, he responded to a question from the media on climate by saying that he planned to start "a conversation across the country..." to see "how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward...and...be an international leader" on climate change.  President Obama appears to understand that climate change is a legacy issue that was not adequately addressed during his first term in office.

The question therefore has to be, what next? In his second term, will President Obama deliver the bold action needed to reduce the threat of climate change to the US and the world, by shifting the US economy towards a zero carbon future, and making the issue a centerpiece of US foreign policy? In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, and the drought, wildfires and other extreme weather events that have afflicted the US over the last year, it is clearly time for President Obama to press the reset button on climate policy, both nationally and internationally.
First, the world needs to hear from the President and his negotiating team here in Doha that they remain fully committed to keeping the increase in global temperature far below 2 degrees, that it is not only still possible but essential to do so, and that the USA is going to provide leadership in this collective effort.  
The administration should then make clear how it will meet its current 17 percent reduction target. While US emissions are decreasing slightly – both as a result of the administration's policies on renewable energy and vehicle fuel economy standards and because of sharply lower natural gas prices that have reduced coal use for electricity generation – it is unlikely that without additional regulation or legislation that the US will meet its 2020 target. The delegation should also clarify what the Obama Administration will do to put the US on track to the near-elimination of emissions by mid-century called for by the scientific community.  
Finally, delegations need to hear that the US remains committed to meeting its fair share of the Copenhagen pledge of mobilizing $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020, as well as which innovative finance options the administration is prepared to support to get there.
These four steps would go a long way to reset US climate diplomacy. They would show that instead of dragging the world down to the level of what is (not) possible in the USA, President Obama and his team are going to pull the US up to what the science and the world demands to avoid catastrophic climate change.  
One last point: every coach knows that when you find your team down by several goals at half-time, a change in your game plan may not be enough; it may also be time to make some substitutions to the players on the field.
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Is It the Grave For “Noting With Grave Concern”?

“We believe that the world has had a lot of time to think. What we need is not more thinking. What we need is more action”. Inspiring words indeed in Durban from the EU, LDCs and AOSIS (the artists formerly known as the Durban Alliance). In the whirlwind after COP17, Europe was at pains to stress the importance of its victory on the inclusion of language in the Durban Platform “noting with grave concern” the significant (understatement of the year) gap between aggregate mitigation pledges and pathways consistent with below 2 degrees C. This was the foundation of the alliance with the LDCs and AOSIS. Further, in Bonn, ECO witnessed an epic battle by these groups and others to include pre-2020 ambition on the agenda.

But what have we here in Bangkok? Has Europe’s jet lag gone to its head? It appears as though the EU has abandoned its most vulnerable country allies, and is instead cosying up with the notorious ship jumpers – the US, Japan, Russia and Canada – on the critical issue of raising developed country targets pre-2020. Indeed, in the KP discussion on numbers, one EU Commission official went as far as to say that raising the EU’s 2020 level of ambition to 25% “is not reality, it is wishful thinking”. Given its urgent call for much greater ambition, ECO calls on the EU to commit to at least 30% domestic emissions reductions, and 40% overall, below 1990 levels by 2020. In addition to where it comes down on its 2020 target, the EU’s decision on how to handle AAUs will very much affect the overall level of ambition, as will its provision, along with other Annex II countries', of finance in a post-FSF world.

But let’s be fair, the EU is by no means the worst culprit here in Bangkok. That dubious distinction goes to the United States, which, despite agreeing to the Durban Platform  language on the urgent need to increase pre-2020 ambition, is now asserting that there should be no expectation of it or the other KP ship-jumpers increasing their pledges. Or – heaven forbid – turning them into QELROs. (Read on – ECO has more to say about the US later in this issue.) Instead, it’s all about everyone else. ECO would like to remind the US that all Parties “noted grave concerns” about the gigatonne gap, and notes the US would be first to say the ADP is “applicable to all Parties”. So yes, USA – this means you! And as for Japan, Canada and Russia, just because you’re cowering behind the US, doesn’t mean ECO will not name and shame you (and you too Australia and New Zealand, if you fail to sign up and ratify a second Kyoto commitment period).

Just last week the planet suffered another severe blow from lack of mitigation ambition. The Arctic – our planet’s canary in the coal mine on climate change – suffered record ice loss, according to scientific reports. Last week’s figure not only smashed all other records, but also came three weeks premature! The canary’s not dead yet, but it is gasping for breath.

And that means that the hundreds of millions of people here in Thailand and South East Asia, as well as around the globe, who are already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis, will suffer far more unless urgent action is taken. The earth is in grave danger. Developed countries must act now by committing to reduce their collective emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. ECO notes (wait for it...with grave concern) that their current pledges are woefully inadequate.

ECO agrees with Colombia, which in the ADP roundtable on ambition yesterday, noted that dealing with climate change is an urgent matter of global security. As Brazil further noted (so much noting!), many analysts think climate change is on par with global thermonuclear war as a threat that we have to do our utmost to avoid.


Good Things Come to Those Who Talk

One of the key emerging stumbling blocks for an outcome in Durban is the unrepentant blocking of progress by some countries on long-term sources of finance.  ECO is not amused by the strong arm tactics of the US, Japan, and Canada.  As part of the balanced package in Cancun, countries agreed to meaningful progress on finance, which didn’t just include creating institutions.  After all, why create bank accounts if you don’t fill them with some money?

These few countries are either confident they can get the money they have committed mobilized all on their own, and don't need to talk about how to do that here, or they weren’t serious in the first place.

Giving these countries the benefit of the doubt and assuming they’re serious about keeping their long-term finance commitments, it's not unreasonable for others to ask them what their plan to deliver on those commitments looks like.  Surely discussing the plan with others will also be mutually beneficial - after all, many heads are better than one.

A new process to discuss the mobilization of long-term finance would enable countries to bring their best ideas into the mix. It would enable all countries to start talking about how to implement a certain finance option or set of options. Instead of talking about the “many, many” reasons why they can’t do something, Parties could discuss how to find solutions. Last we checked, saying “no, no, no” doesn’t qualify as problem solving. 

ECO is disappointed that these countries – with so much finance expertise – wouldn’t see an opportunity to help mobilize the kinds of resources needed to address climate change.

Opportunities exist that can help the US, Canada, Japan and others to raise the resources they have committed, if they work with partners in this process, not on their own outside it. Spurring a process to price emissions from international shipping under the International Maritime Organization is just one example.  

So stop blocking and instead help to create a process to bring to bear your expertise in finding solutions. You are claiming that you are doing a lot to scale up climate finance, there will be no gap between 2013-2020 and that you are fully committed to deliver on your long term finance commitments. So why resist moving forward via having text as basis for negotiations?

We know that there are red lines issues, but this shouldn’t be one of them for the U.S., Japan, and Canada.


Fossil of the Day

Extra Extra! The US wins the first Fossil of the Day for 2011! 

This fossil is formally presented for their complete refusal to accept the concept of a common/standardized accounting system for measuring national emissions reductions towards their target.  

During Sunday’s workshop on national mitigation targets and strategies, the US made it exceptionally clear that they do not envision a common accounting framework.  ECO noted the continual expressions of that view by the US, while noticing that the US seemed to be pretty alone in that view.  The irony of that position became even more glaring as the US raised several questions in the developing country session regarding a common framework for developing business-as-usual scenarios for developing emissions.  The irony wasn’t lost on ECO. One can only hope that the US will “review the tape” and remember that the US has always been a strong proponent of rigorous rules.  Maybe a relaxing spa treatment in Bangkok will refresh their memory.


Comparisons Ain’t Odious

The word ‘comparable’ in English carries a double meaning, meaning both ‘capable of being compared’, and ‘similar or equivalent’.

The capability of being compared remains a vital component to the evolving climate regime – otherwise we have no climate regime and will be in a completely bottom up world, with all the lack of ambition and massive destruction that this implies. The targets of developed countries need to be addressed through mandatory and uniform accounting rules, so that ‘special national circumstances’ (i.e. individually devised loopholes) are not used as a means to obfuscate the amounts of pollution each country is contributing to the atmosphere. The need for this common, complete, accurate and transparent information was recognized in Cancun. Is the US backtracking on the Cancun agreement already? The US seemed to be the only country yesterday speaking out against a rules-based system that includes common accounting of emissions.

It’s a great thing if, as the honourable delegate from the US explained, the US intends to assess reductions based on economy-wide emissions of all sources and sinks, and that the US target refers to complete domestic reductions. As far as Annex I countries are concerned, this target would therefore have a lot of integrity, if calculating emissions were the only important issue – and if ambition counted for nought. The honorouable delegate from the US went on to say that it was important to gauge the adequacy of country reduction targets as an aggregate, which contradicts his lambasting the idea of agreeing metrics to assess the adequacy of individual reduction targets. The US appears to be the only country opposed to this notion. Should we take this as another unfortunate example of US ‘exceptionalism’?

In truth the US is not the only developed country that would rather go it alone instead of playing well with others. As we have seen in interminable KP workshops, when asked to define comparability, meaning ‘similarity or equivalency’, developed countries come out with an astonishingly self-serving arrays of metrics that serve to minimize their ambition for clean sustainable development and mean that their eventual decarbonization will be steeper and far, far more expensive than early action would have allowed. While developed countries, each and every one, are not doing all they can possibly do to reduce their reductions in the face of this global crisis, then their actions are not, in this sense, comparable.


The Benefits of Public Participation

There isn’t much reason to praise the United States these days, so ECO is pleased to report that the US got it right in yesterday’s SBI contact group.  Echoed by supportive interventions from Mexico, the EU and Bangladesh, the United States highlighted that enhancing observer participation is not for the benefit of the observers, but rather is to benefit the Parties and the entire UNFCCC process.
Today, the SBI Chair is continuing contact group discussions on observer participation.  We appreciate the emphasis he has placed on this matter as demonstrated by his willingness to chair the contact group himself.  
Moreover, the Chair’s management of the contact group was a model for the implementation of one of the most important measures necessary to make civil society participation more meaningful.  Observers were given not just the opportunity to make one intervention, but were able to participate in the give-and-take of the discussion on an equal basis with Parties.  This kind of opportunity to provide input directly and in real time is vital to ensuring relevant, useful public participation.  
It is important to build on this progress.  The SBI should call on the Secretariat to implement new practices that ensure real-time access to negotiations and negotiators.  For example, open contact groups and other negotiating sessions should be the rule, not the exception.  Civil society should have immediate access to proposals and other documents that are necessary to make relevant input.  Observers should have substantially enhanced opportunities for oral interventions and written submissions should be included in MISC documents along with Party submissions.  And civil society must be able to use varied tools, including non-violent demonstrations and stunts, to put the spotlight on inadequate or inequitable developments in the negotiations.
These kinds of new rules and practices should be developed through a process that involves stakeholders as equals.  This means not only soliciting input at the outset, but also giving civil society the opportunity to review and comment on proposed new rules and practices before they are implemented.  
Finally, the SBI should avoid creating mechanisms that look like enhanced participation but really aren’t.  Some have proposed creating a few high-level panels through which NGO input would be directed to the COP or other UNFCCC bodies.  This would be an unwieldy process at best resulting in watered down input that would almost certainly come too late to be useful.  Similarly, while a pre-COP NGO dialogue might result in some interesting general input, it cannot be a substitute for real-time direct input into the negotiations.  That is the heart of real public participation benefits.

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