Balboa

Balboa is disappointed -- but not surprised -- with the news coming out of Washington these days.  It seems that the State Department has been receiving some ‘significant counsel’ from well-connected corporate lobbyists while conducting a review for the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL is a 1,700-mile fuse to the largest Carbon bomb on the planet, the Alberta tar sands. Exploiting the tar sands is a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Saying NO to Keystone XL would be a positive step for the US to demonstrate seriousness in face of the climate crisis.  Balboa looks forward to seeing President Obama pumping his fists at the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps later this year after he denies the Keystone permit.  (If readers are lost on the reference, be sure to watch any Rocky Balboa -- no relation -- movie on the flight home :)

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Increasing Ambition & Common Accounting – What are you Waiting for?

As negotiations have now gone into a somewhat un-transparent mode, ECO had little choice but to catch delegates on their way out of the developed country mitigation informal yesterday – and was pleasantly surprised that indeed Parties used the session to address two of the elephants in the room – the lack of ambition of developed countries’ pledges, and the need for common accounting rules. It came as no surprise that while almost everyone recognized the latter, a few considered that such accounting would pose inconvenient hurdles they weren’t ready to take. This “unhelpfully resisting the numbers,” as one delegate put it after the session, doesn’t strike ECO as particularly plausible for a country that in other circumstances insists on level playing fields (when it suits them).

 ECO was pleased to hear the EU referring to its submission on options for increasing ambition. Their proposal indeed contains a useful list to start with. However, the most obvious “option” for the EU does not require a submission but bold action – upping its own target to 30% reductions by 2020. One (large) developed country has been reported to have suggested that the meeting was not the place to discuss increasing ambition by developed countries. If not here, then where, wonders ECO. Yet, there has been no lack of ideas to increase ambition. ECO cannot resist to line them up into four broad steps, as a service to the hurried negotiator and to help the upcoming next informal meeting today:

Step 1would seek full clarity on developed countries’ net domestic emissions in 2020 resulting from current pledges, based on assumptions on LULUCF accounting, AAU carry-over, or the use of carbon offsets.

Step 2would close the damn loopholes. For instance, LULUCF rules would use historic reference levels rather than some bogus projections into the future; AAU carry-over would be limited and no new hot air allowed to enter the system – you get the picture.

Step 3would move developed countries to the high end of their pledges as a first step. Where needed, countries would clarify (a) what part of the conditions have been met so far and (b) what would fulfill the remaining conditions.

And finally, Step 4, developed countries would go beyond the high end of their current pledges to get them into the 25-40% IPCC range, and then (double-check with them if they are still up for 2°C) to at least 40% cuts by 2020. Difficult? Ask Denmark.

Stepping up the Adaptation Committee

ECO is pleased to see that adaptation negotiators are getting busy with detailed discussions on the Adaptation Committee. Since this is the only adaptation issue currently on the LCA agenda here in Panama, we expect progress towards taking a decision in Durban, especially before negotiators start enjoying the train ride along the Panama Canal (Tourist advice of the day!). ECO would like to thank Parties for agreement to provide access to the informals and consequently was able to follow some of the discussions. ECO heard that all Parties seem to support getting the Adaptation Committee up and running in Durban, including a work programme for the first year. That is the right approach, and we hope that no one falls back into a “taking hostage” mood linking the committee to other negotiation issues.

ECO understands that there are some controversies about the link of the Adaptation Committee to the entities of the financial mechanism, in particular the Green Climate Fund. The Adaptation Committee could become a key institution, galvanizing and synthesizing knowledge and experience on different aspects around adaptation, and providing technical guidance on planning and implementation at programme and policy levels. Then existing and emerging institutions like the Green Climate Fund could build on their work, such as guidelines for funding, on the recommendations of the Adaptation Committee in order to ensure adherence to the adaptation framework, and take into consideration the growing adaptation sciences and emerging issues.

 This however does not mean that the Committee should trespass into the core business of the GCF Board (or other institutions). A soft link will be a way to increase the overall coherence which is so demanded by everyone.

ECO suggests that negotiators review a recent study published by the Earth System Governance Project. It reviewed experience from multilateral institutions from a variety of areas with regard to participatory approaches and the inclusion of stakeholders in its governance structure.

Whilst ECO appreciates that there seems to be convergence towards allowing observers to attend the Adaptation Committee meetings, the lessons learned from this and other studies suggest that adding representatives from stakeholder constituencies to the governance structure of the Committee, either voting or non-voting, could add much needed expertise, insights and credibility to the work of the Adaptation Committee.

We surmise that this was also proposed by some Parties in the negotiations. There is no doubt that stakeholder constituencies would have to ensure appropriate representation from developing countries combined with adequate expertise. Now is the time to put the Adaptation Committee on the right track, to be ambitious and to converge as soon as possible.

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Unlearned Lessons From Fukushima

ECO cannot stop wondering; what will it take to make Japan come to its senses? Nuclear is neither safe nor clean. If the ongoing, dreadful tragedies in Fukushima cannot make this simple fact clear, what will it take?

And still, in the KP spin off group meeting yesterday, Japan, supported by India, once again refused to drop the option to include nuclear in CDM. This means the country still wants to  get credits for exporting  to developing countries the very technology that brought such tremendous hardship upon its own people.

This is inappropriate, irresponsible and even morally wrong.

The country still has not been able to stabilize the reactors and has not been able to take care of the residents in the heavily contaminated areas, nor dispose of radioactive waste arising from decontamination and from water treatment sludge.

How can Japan take this position in the midst of the nuclear crisis?

Just as a reminder, this technology does not fit one of the objectives of CDM, which is to contribute to sustainable development.

It is time for all Parties to make a simple decision: drop the option to "include nuclear in CDM." The world expresses great disapproval towards the Japanese position of continuing to promote nuclear in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.  

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Annex I Accounting – Not Just About Transparency

Since June, there has been much attention paid to the topic of Annex I accounting. This has been reiterated in the open session on mitigation.

There does seem to be some convergence on the need for transparency of assumptions underlying Annex I targets. This is absolutely critical and in line with the provisions of the Cancun Agreements. There is so much we don’t know about the pledges that have been put forward.  What are the rules for LULUCF underlying the pledges? What methodologies for offsets are being embraced? How is economy-wide being defined? What gases and sectors are included? How will double counting of emissions reductions be avoided?  Without information on these and other issues, it will be difficult, if not entirely impossible, to accurately assess the targets in the International Assessment and Review (IAR) process. This clarification process must be formalized beyond the workshops. A first step would be for the Secretariat to update their technical paper on Annex I targets, which came out in June this year. But furthermore, countries must be more forthcoming about their assumptions and this cannot be achieved without a more formal clarification process.

So what is the big deal around accounting? Can’t Annex I countries just report what they are doing and be done with it? Well, while transparency and clarification are vital they just are not good enough to ensure a robust international climate regime. Common accounting rules will be necessary if emissions reductions are to be assessed in a comparable way – a key objective of the Cancun Agreements. In addition, it will be very difficult to inform the periodic review if we do not have an accurate picture of emissions reductions. And last but not least, a lack of common accounting rules could lead to double counting of emissions reductions, confusion in the carbon market, incompleteness of coverage, and potential gaming. As the UNEP emissions gap report shows, accounting rules can directly affect the amount of emissions reductions achieved in the 2013-2020 period.

We need to make sure that the IAR process is not only about clarification – which is vitally important – but also about the development of accounting rules. The environmental integrityof the regime depends upon it.

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CAN SIDE EVENT -

Scaling-up Climate Finance from 2013

16:30-18:00 - Miraflores (Sheraton)

How to ensure sufficient and scalable longterm public climate finance starting in 2013, after the end of FSF. CAN will discuss the need for new and additional budget contributions and assess options for mobilizing supplementary sources of innovative public finance, consistent with CBDR.

 

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The Mandate

Yesterday, ECO noted that there are three groups of countries in the legal form negotiations that each need to bring proposals to the table at Durban: the KP developed countries, the non-KP Annex I Parties and the developing countries.

ALL the developed countries that have ratified their Annex B targets for the first commitment period should have their targets ready to plug and play for CP2. The non-KP Annex I Party[s] need to increase their ambition, be part of a common accounting system and MRV to bring forward the established KP systems - how else would the Bali Action Plan’s agreed ‘comparability’ be achieved?

Many are suggesting that we are facing a transitional period, where the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol keeps alive an architecture that, through Article 3.1 and other elements, keeps a science-based approach at the core of the global response to the climate threat. Through this post-2012 period, the elements of a new comprehensive legally-binding agreement[s] needs to be developed. In ECO’s view, this agreement needs to be in the form of a Protocol[s], or other such appropriate legal instrument, that respects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

However, we will not attain comprehensive legally-binding agreement[s] equal to the challenge we face unless Parties find common cause that such an agreement is needed. In ECO’s view, in addition to KP Parties agreeing a second commitment period in Durban, all Parties must agree on a mandate to negotiate a legally binding instrument covering all Bali building blocks under the LCA. This mandate needs, at a minimum, to agree:

-   what the result of the negotiations will be, specifying that Parties are working towards a legally binding instrument with legally binding commitments

-   the end date (ECO would suggest 2015 would allow time for institution building and for experience of MRV to bze enhanced)

-     the scope

-     the process, including forum

-     principles to guide the negotiations

Without a mandate for the third period of the climate regime, we will again face a gap – between commitments, but also in ambition, and the resulting sense of the world moving forward together to avoid the worst that an human-altered atmosphere can throw at us.

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Handing out medals in the LULU-lympics

Looking at the new reports being posted on the UNFCCC website, ECO feels some empathy for the reviewers tasked with ‘judging’ the forest management reference levels.

Since there was no agreement on the rules for reference levels, each Party has had to do its own thing.  And the results look as disjointed as a talent show.  Some sang, while others danced.  Some lifted impressive weights, while others performed magic tricks.  Maybe some have shown real talent, but how can we judge the quality of their performance when we have no basis for comparison?

Perhaps Parties should take note of another multilateral, global process – the Olympic Games.  In those Games, the rules are clear in advance, and thus the judges are able to score each performance on a set of common criteria – and those who don’t play by the jointly agreed rules, are disqualified.  

It would have made the “judges” – the expert reviewers – job easier if Parties had agreed to a single method for setting reference levels back in Cancun.  And of course, if that method had environmental integrity, the climate would be the ultimate victor.   That didn’t happen in Cancun, and now Panama may be the last chance for Parties to recognize that such global reference levels are in the interest of all of our “national circumstances”.  ECO says: “Go for the gold!” 

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Scientific Integrity in the UNFCCC?!

ECO appreciates the critical role of the IPCC, which provides scientific input to the UNFCCC process and led to the Convention itself and its Kyoto Protocol. But how will this link continue in future?

Yesterday’s technical briefing by the IPCC was meant to explore how this link will continue in the future and how the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) will serve as a key input into the 2013-2015 Review.

ECO applauds the use of communication technology (Skype) at this technical briefing to cut down on emissions from air travel and foster lower-carbon meetings. The IPCC Chair Pachauri promised improved policy relevance of AR5 compared to any previous report, strengthening links between the IPCC Working Groups –especially on adaptation and mitigation- to address cross-cutting issues. So far, so good. But how about the actual input for the Review process? AOSIS (Granada) asked this key question at the very end of the briefing: How will we merge the IPCC timeline with the Review’s requirements? Will the IPCC Synthesis Report be published at least a month before the concluding COP20, allowing for preparation of a decision at COP21? Apparently, IPCC will ask this question at its next meeting in Uganda this November. For ECO there’s only one possible answer: it must.  

But ECO wonders if the Parties are clear on how the IPCC will input into the 2013-2015 Review. To ECO it seems that more opportunities for Parties to discuss the review with the IPCC are critical to help answer the many questions that remain unasked and unanswered on this key element of hope for our collective future. ECO appreciates the critical role of the IPCC, which provides scientific input to the UNFCCC process and led to the Convention itself and its Kyoto Protocol. But how will this link continue in future?

Yesterday’s technical briefing by the IPCC was meant to explore how this link will continue in the future and how the 5th Assessment Report (AR5) will serve as a key input into the 2013-2015 Review.

ECO applauds the use of communication technology (Skype) at this technical briefing to cut down on emissions from air travel and foster lower-carbon meetings. The IPCC Chair Pachauri promised improved policy relevance of AR5 compared to any previous report, strengthening links between the IPCC Working Groups –especially on adaptation and mitigation- to address cross-cutting issues. So far, so good. But how about the actual input for the Review process? AOSIS (Granada) asked this key question at the very end of the briefing: How will we merge the IPCC timeline with the Review’s requirements? Will the IPCC Synthesis Report be published at least a month before the concluding COP20, allowing for preparation of a decision at COP21? Apparently, IPCC will ask this question at its next meeting in Uganda this November. For ECO there’s only one possible answer: it must.  

But ECO wonders if the Parties are clear on how the IPCC will input into the 2013-2015 Review. To ECO it seems that more opportunities for Parties to discuss the review with the IPCC are critical to help answer the many questions that remain unasked and unanswered on this key element of hope for our collective future. 

Reassessing priorities on long-term finance

Back in Bonn, Eco complained that the finance negotiations seemed more concerned with designing finance institutions than deciding where the long-term finance to fund them should come from. The result could be a Green Climate Fund that is an empty shell, and a Standing Committee that is left to stand still.

Paying a quick visit to yesterday’s finance informal, Eco was pleased to see a number of parties stress the need to readdress this balance. When Durban draws to a close, the world’s citizens will find it extraordinary if the African COP does not deliver the resources that poor and vulnerable people in Africa and elsewhere need to adapt to climate change and shift to a low-carbon development path.

A meaningful decision on long-term finance in Durban should cover at least three elements. First, a roadmap is needed for scaling-up climate finance from 2013 to 2020 to at least meet the $100 billion per year commitment by 2020. This should include a commitment from developed countries that there will be no gap after the end of the Fast Start Finance period. The roadmap should recognise that $100 billion is needed from public finance – mobilised first and foremost through assessed budgetary contributions of developed countries, and through supplementary sources of public finance, such as carbon pricing of international transport or financial transaction taxes.

Finally the roadmap should include a detailed workplan to drive towards the further decisions needed at COP-18, including technical workshops and submissions from parties, experts and observers.

But negotiators should not be satisfied with agreeing a roadmap alone. They must also get the finance car on the road and start driving down it.

The second key area to address in Durban is the initial capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund. Eco wants to be clear that an initial capitalisation should not merely cover the running costs of the Secretariat and Board of the new fund over the next year, but must extend commitment to a substantial first tranche of funding to enable the disbursement of climate finance to developing countries from 2013.

Finally, there should be a decision in Durban to move ahead with the most promising supplementary sources of public finance. Eco notes that the International Maritime Organisation is ready to get to work on designing an instrument to apply a universal carbon price to international shipping, which would both control high and rising emissions from the sector, and raise substantial new revenues. But the IMO process is waiting for guidance from the UNFCCC COP on how to do so while respecting CBDR.

There is no reason to delay giving that guidance to ensure the IMO gets down to work from March next year. A Durban decision should establish the principle that CBDR can be addressed by directing revenues as compensation to developing countries and to the Green Climate Fund. Further work will still be needed on the details of implementation, but better to start those discussions next year than wait another 12 months.

With progress on these elements in Panama, Eco is confident that Durban can yet deliver an balanced outcome on finance which helps both to operationalize the new finance institutions needed, and to mobilize the long-term revenues. The people watching the African COP will expect nothing less.

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