Post-2020 contributions -- information needed!

ECO appreciates the efforts made by several countries in their submissions this month to address the issue of the types of information Parties should submit with their initial post-2020 nationally determined mitigation contributions. A paper launched this week by the World Resources Institute outlines how this information could vary for countries whose contributions are in the form of economy-wide GHG mitigation goals, versus for those countries putting forward intensity-based or sectoral contributions, policy-based contributions, or contributions consisting of discrete projects or NAMAs.

Clarity and transparency of contributions is important to:

- Build confidence in the robustness of the economic, technological, and policy assumptions underlying the proposed national contributions;

- Enable comparison with other Parties;

- Improve the assessments of individual country and collective global emissions reductions resulting from the proposed contributions; and

- Foster a constructive dialogue amongst Parties on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and how they translate into the level of ambition and effort undertaken by each Party.

ECO underlines the need for Parties to make substantial progress on this issue at the next Bonn session in June, as many countries are already starting to prepare their national contributions. The earlier that Parties have clarity on what information is going to be expected of them, the better.

ECO also notes that most of the discussion thus far has centred on information requirements for mitigation contributions. To have any chance of meeting the collective level of ambition needed on post-2020 emissions reductions, developing countries will need to take ambitious mitigation actions with enhanced international climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity building. Developed countries must also put forward their finance contributions to facilitate this ambitious action by developing countries.

If there is not greater clarity and confidence soon about the expected magnitude of such support in the post-2020 period, developing countries will understandably be reluctant to inscribe potential additional emissions reduction actions in the final agreement in Paris.

It’s essential that in June, Parties not only deepen the discussion started here this week but that they also start to intensively engage on the information that they (in particular, developed countries) will need to provide on the finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building elements of their intended national contributions. 

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Kicking coal – one court case at a time

So, an Italian judge, a Beijing provincial official, a London banker and an Australian firefighter walk into a bar… Sounds like the start of a bad joke doesn’t it? It is, and all of these people get that the continued use of coal would be the worst joke of all.

Earlier this week an Italian judge ordered two coal fired units of a power station to be shut down for allegedly exceeding emissions limits. The company is charged with environmental crimes and manslaughter for the premature deaths of over 400 people. Is this judgement a taste of things to come? Research findings have suggested European Union wide impacts of coal combustion amount to more than 18,200 premature deaths; about 8,500 new cases of chronic bronchitis; and over 4 million lost working days each year. The economic costs of the health impacts from coal combustion in Europe are estimated at up to €42.8 billion per year.

The “airpocalypse” gripping many Chinese cities and regions is further evidence of the direct health impacts of coal combustion. It has been estimated that the environmental and social costs of coal added up to more than 7% of China’s GDP in 2007. There can be no doubt that because of these health impacts, societal costs and contribution to the climate crisis, have seen Chinese province after Chinese province announce a cap on coal in recent months. 

Nor have these developments gone unnoticed in the financial sector. Bankers and rating agencies in the financial centres of London and Hong Kong are becoming increasingly aware of the “carbon bubble” and the likelihood of significant stranded assets. Their colleagues in New York, Frankfurt and other financial hubs are soon to follow, or so ECO logically assumes. It is estimated that between 60-80% of fossil fuel reserves of publicly listed companies will need to stay in the ground if the 2 degrees Celsius goal is to be met; with even higher figures for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Nowhere is this more true than for the Australian coal industry which is heavily dependent on exports to China. The same China that is capping coal. 

And what about the Australian firefighter? Well, it just so happens that the coal plant that’s been ordered to shut down in Italy is partially owned by the same company which owns the open-cut coal mine that’s been burning for weeks in Australia’s Latrobe Valley. The extreme heatwave the region was suffering made it far easier for a fire to take hold. Such dire heatwaves as well as droughts and fires are becoming all too common in Australia as the impacts of climate change intensify. Climate change caused in large part by – you guessed it, that bad joke of a power source, coal. 

So whether they get together in a bar, a court, the stock market, a coal mine fire, or in a parliament – the judge, government official, banker and firefighter would all agree that coal must be on its way out. Now we just need 

UNFCCC negotiators to get the joke as well – they can help to achieve a just transition to a better future through raising ambition in the near-term and as part of their post-2020 commitment preparations, including support for those countries that would need it. Because clearly what a South African judge, French urbanite, Indian banker and Peruvian firefighter must have in common is a renewable energy future. 

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2015 Agreement lost and damaged without adaptation?

ECO has noted with pleasure that this week many Parties provided their initial views on the role of adaptation and loss and damage in the 2015 agreement. There’s no doubt whatsoever that these two elements are integral to the 2015 agreement. The agreement simply cannot ignore the growing evidence of how increasingly severe climate change impacts are eroding hard-won development gains due to the massive mitigation and adaptation gaps.

However, ECO is concerned about some Parties’ views that characterise adaptation as a national responsibility. How can it be acceptable to shift the burden of dealing with the impacts of irresponsible consumption and production in some countries to the most vulnerable without offering any support?

For ECO, climate change 101 is pretty simple:

  • 1 x lack of mitigation = required support for adaptation.
  • 2 x lack of mitigation = 2 x required support for adaptation +  loss and damage.

The links between mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage are as obvious as basic math. And here is another more frightening equation:

∑ All current mitigation efforts = >4℃ warming.

Or for those not mathematically inclined, the total sum of all current mitigation efforts will still lead to more than 4℃ of warming.

These equations, like mathematical proofs, are universally applicable. Vulnerable developing countries are not the only ones who will need to adapt, and that will suffer loss and damage. That’s why ECO believes that we need a Global Adaptation Goal which could help the Convention recognise the connection between mitigation and adaptation. Additionally, many countries are understandably calling for an important space for loss and damage in the 2015 agreement.

It’s clear for us here at ECO that the months ahead require fleshing out how the 2015 agreement can ensure that adaptation action is scaled-up massively, including through adequate finance and technology transfer to developing countries to reduce loss and damage. The Adaptation Committee, the Adaptation Fund, the Warsaw Mechanism and the Nairobi Work Programme have all laid a good foundation for further work and Parties should ask these bodies to  provide guidance on how to scale up adaptation in the near- and long-term.

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ECO: An open letter from ECO

 

Dear developed countries, and other Parties,

With all this talk of reviews and ratcheting during Bonn, ECO would like to strongly remind developed country Parties that the first opportunity to in fact test these mechanisms would be during the forthcoming session in June. With the KP and ADP Ministerial’s looming large, ECO wants to send a take-home message to all developed countries: now is your moment to demonstrate that developed countries are going to show leadership through presenting more ambitious pledges, both emission reductions and finance. This does not only apply to KP parties; ECO strongly urges the US, New Zealand, Japan, Russia and Canada to step up to the plate and start walking the talk by presenting comparable ambitious commitments as well.

If developed countries fail to capture this important political moment, there could be serious implications for a new agreement in 2015. There is no logic to developed countries demanding more from developing countries when they have thus far been unwilling to fulfil their own responsibilities. The ambition gap is large. It needs to be filled. The best way for this to happen is through the ratcheting up of existing emission reduction and financial commitments from developed countries.

ECO supports the efforts to look at other concrete actions, such as scaled up renewable energy and energy efficiency actions, that can help close the gigatonne gap. That said, we are also weary of these being used as a means to circumvent the basic responsibility for developed countries to lead. Coming back to Bonn in June with revised pledges will send the signal that this process so sorely needs - that developed country governments are serious about climate change and that they are willing to take their fair share of effort in dealing with the crisis. It will also send an important signal to developing countries that so desperately want to see concrete signs of good faith in these negotiations.

To the US, EU, Canada, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan - come to June with Ambition or take the responsibility for placing at risk a future global agreement.

Yours truly,

ECO

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See you in Bonn, with your homework done!

ECO hopes that the climate gets what it needs in 2014, a year of ambition as we delivered a good draft text for Paris. After this year’s first UNFCCC meeting, it’s clear that much more effort will be needed for 2014 to be a success. Below a few things ECO hopes delegates will focus on as they return home from Bonn and prepare for the next session back here in June.

In Workstream 2, you have identified the significant potential of renewables and energy efficiency to help close the gigatonne gap. ECO suggests you now turn to concrete additional actions you can take to realise that potential and present them at the next session. You should also think about which decisions you can take at the end of the year to ensure that existing UNFCCC institutions, such as the Climate Technology Centre and Network and, the Green Climate Fund support those efforts.

Another piece of homework is to accelerate the preparation of your nationally determined contributions and to prepare concrete proposals on the information requirements for such proposals.

After all the frustration expressed over the slow progress towards the 2015 outcome, ECO is confident that negotiations under the shiny new Contact Group will get off to a flying start at the June session. We need to ensure that clarity on the shape of the 2015 deal emerges from Lima, which requires countries to focus on developing the specific elements through elaboration of a tight and manageable negotiating text. More importantly, we need to be getting ambitious commitments and other contributions on the table. Ones that will actually shift the world to a below  1.5℃ pathway.

ECO recognises that Parties will want to see their initial positions reflected, no matter how far apart and incompatible they are. However, Parties also have a responsibility to create the conditions for a draft elements text that will allow structured negotiations to begin the resolution of these issues systematically.

Our co-Chairs will need to play a strong and proactive role in helping to bridge differences and shaping successive versions of the text based on party input. ECO, and our Fossil of the Day friends, will have little patience for procedural shenanigans this June. The process is full of skilled and able negotiators. They need to use their abilities for good, and not for delay, obstruction and protecting narrowly defined and outdated national interests and polluting industries.

So, ECO hopes all Parties are eager to get back to their capitals to begin the work that needs to be done over the next 12 weeks on closing the gap, preparing post-2020 commitments and elaborating elements of a draft text.

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Domestic preparations for dirty oil prevention

Domestic preparations for intended nationally determined contributions may, at first glance, seem an unpromising subject for an article. The issue couldn’t be more important, though. The contributions that countries plan to submit, ahead of Paris, and the terms by which they’ll do so, remains firmly at the forefront of ECO’s mind. We’re quite sure that the same is true for many negotiators.

ECO could spend many pages outlining details of what countries should submit, but for a change of pace, let’s talk about something that one particular country shouldn’t submit.

That’s right, we’re talking about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

As the US considers its plans to increase ambition, and as it moves (we hope) towards emissions reductions in line with the science, the only proper role for the Keystone XL pipeline is rejection.

But don’t just take ECO’s word for it. A new study by the financial analysts at the Carbon Tracker Initiative suggests that building the pipeline would incentivise growth in the Canadian tar sands production equivalent to the emissions from building some 46 new coal-fired power plants. Besides undermining American climate action, a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline would also mean substantial emission increases in Canada, moving the Maple Leaf even further away from the targets committed in Copenhagen.

International luminaries such as Desmond Tutu recently signed a letter stating, “The verdict on whether to approve or reject the Keystone XL pipeline could, in just one stroke, confirm or condemn America’s prospects for climate leadership.”

As we walk the road towards Paris, it’s imperative that all Parties take steps to build trust and show commitment to achieving the most ambitious outcome possible. One key step on the road must certainly be the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, don’t you think?

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Close the gap: shift investments

Once the negotiations move into a contact group, ECO can only hope that delegates will see finance as a central pillar of the 2015 package. Developed countries must show a record of year-by-year increases and projections of their continued increase towards 2020. Finance is instrumental to low global emissions and climate resilient development. A failure here will scupper any hopes for success in Paris.

South Africa has reminded everyone that the funding gap remains huge: trillions of investment dollars need to be shifted. All Parties, developed and developing, have parts to play in setting helpful policy frameworks and in adopting fiscal measures designed to make investors think about where their money is going. 

Providing public finance will remain key, too, such as support for adaptation in vital sectors like food production in poorer countries and mitigation in less developed countries. Parties will also have to leverage large volumes of private finance and shift investments much larger than the promised US$100 billion a year by 2020.

The debate over finance is part of the equity and adequacy debate. ECO suggests that the first pillar for developed countries is domestic emission cuts, and the second is the provisioning of finance. ECO can’t help but think that, when developed countries prepare initial offers for their nationally determined contributions, they would be well advised to keep the funding gap in mind, and ensure that their contributions are helping to close it. 

Alongside ambitious offers for cutting their emissions, developed countries should also include information on what public finance they intend to provide now and beyond 2020. It’s also important that they note what strategies they will take to mobilise additional finance to shift global investments.

South Korea (speaking for the EIG) suggested that such contributions could be based on CBDR+RC, and be made by those countries in a position to do so. Developing countries could, when preparing their contributions, explain what finance (volume, instruments, etc.) they would need to go an extra mile beyond what they can do without support. 

ECO, like other observers, has of course noticed the unwillingness of some developed countries to even consider providing finance as part of their contributions to the 2015 deal. ECO wonders if this resistance illustrates a general unwillingness to hammer out a truly fair and equitable deal. We really would like to be convinced of the contrary here in Bonn.

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Fair Shares -- The Basics

Everybody always talks about equity, but no one ever does anything about it. In hoping that someday Parties might, ECO would like to present this quick cheat sheet.

Its not true that equity is in the eye of the beholder. Sure, there’s a lot to disagree about, but the UNFCCC really does give us somewhere to stand. Three places, actually, for when all is said and done, the Convention affirms three high-level precepts: 1) Avoid dangerous climate change, 2) Divide the effort of doing so on the basis of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,” and 3) Protect “the right to sustainable development.” If it’s consistent with these 3 principles, it’s probably fair, or at least a fair enough start.

It’s CBDR+RC, not CBDR. Those last words in the second principle – “respective capabilities” – may be challenging, but they’re not any more challenging than “historical responsibility”. And in any case, they’re not going away anytime soon. Just because some Parties wish that the responsibility issue would simply fade away, that doesn’t mean that other Parties are being helpful by trying to push capabilities off the boat. Two wrongs, as they say, don’t make a right. Not even a development right.

The climate crisis is a global commons problem  with the emphasis on the word global. However you understand your climate obligations, they’re global obligations nonetheless. The responsibility that each nation has to do its fair share is a responsibility to all the other nations, or rather, to all the people (and creatures!) of the world. If you have a lot of responsibility and capability, in addition to more tonnes of carbon to mitigate than is possible within your own borders  then doing your fair share means additionally providing the finance and technology to mitigate elsewhere. Which is to say that finance is part of your mitigation obligation.

Finally, we don’t have to absolutely agree about what’s fair and what’s not. An approximate agreement is a whole lot better than stalemate and standoff.

If we think of the problem politically, the world needs to be able to identify climate leaders (who are actually doing their fair share) and climate laggards (who are doing, or proposing to do, less).  Here a rough common understanding is quite enough. ECO thinks that if we can gain such an understanding, all else will follow.

Well, maybe not “all else” because no common understanding will substitute ambitious finance. We know Paris is not only about finance, but if we don’t get it then COP 21 is going to be grim affair indeed. 

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Adaptation Committee: All Hands on Deck

Entering its second year of work, last weeks 5th meeting of the Adaptation Committee (AC) marks a crossroad for the group. It either has to move full steam ahead providing value to the international response on adaptation or continue to get stuck in the doldrums.

Far from having the winds taken out of its sails, the AC achieved some important outcomes such as:

- The launch of the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) Task Force which will bring different UNFCCC bodies together to support developing countries in formulating and implementing their NAPs and,

- A decision to engage with the Green Climate Fund and ADP Co-Chairs to improve coherence on adaptation related agenda items.

If these achievements strike you as rather mundane, there’s more! Two days ago ECO applauded the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) for moving towards greater transparency, so it should be acknowledged that the AC is already “ace” in that respect, by allowing observers active participation in their procedures. More UNFCCC bodies should follow suit.

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When will Australia increase its pre-2020 ambition?

The independent review by the Australian Government’s Climate Change Authority (CCA) is clear that Australia’s current 5% target is “woefully inadequate”. Instead the CCA has recommended that Australia’s fair share would be a target of a 19% reduction of emissions below 2000 levels. 

So Australia - what will it be? Will you stay on ‘woefully inadequate’ or listen to what your own Authority is saying and increase your ambition to at least a 19% reduction in emissions? Because, let’s face it — as the OECD country with the highest per capita emissions, your weight is pretty hefty…

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