Working the Workstream

30 November 2012

It was with some optimism that ECO joined the roundtable discussion of the ADP workstream two (“workstream 2 degrees”, as one delegate was heard when entering the room). All Parties had noted the pre-2020 ambition gap with grave concern back in Durban, and after a year of little—if any—progress, Doha seems to be a good moment to get down to work. 

However, that's not quite the way that the US delegate started it. First explaining how failing to adopt domestic climate legislation – which he said would have allowed offsets to do about half of the mitigation job, somehow, constitutes a doubling of ambition – as cuts now need to be done entirely at home. Right…The problem is that while the level of domestic effort will in fact be higher, the atmosphere won't see a single additional ton of emissions reductions. 
ECO rather liked the approach by the Ethiopian delegate who sported the ambition to get the country carbon neutral by 2025 – an undertaking not seen as over-ambitious – if needed support would materialize.
ECO agrees with the developing country delegates who pointed out that there is also lots of ambition work to do outside the ADP: finalising the homework in the KP and the LCA before they close; achieving the highest possible ambition including through getting rid of the hot air for CP2 and beyond; and agreeing common accounting for non-CP2 developed country Parties (the free-riders and ship-jumpers) to ensure comparability of efforts.
Apart from that, ECO noted the suspicious emphasis that was given to what is often referred to as ‘complementary activities.’ To be clear, any activities, initiatives or measures that can cut emissions of carbon or other GHGs are highly welcome, including those outside the UNFCCC context. These include measures to cut HFCs (via the Montreal Protocol), black carbon, international bunker fuels (where mitigation mechanisms can be designed to generate climate finance along the way) and notably, action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies (mentioned a few times at the roundtable, with an estimated potential savings of around 2 Gt). But those activities, will have to be additional to existing pledges and cannot be used as the vehicles to implement them, as in such a case the ambition gap doesn’t get any smaller. 
Also, not all such measures are equal in their long-term effect. Action on short-lived climate forcers can make a contribution, but as their effects are short-lived (hence the name), ECO does not want to see them as a substitute for action on long-lived climate forcers like carbon dioxide. As suggested by some, submissions and technical papers to analyse all of these options, including their overlap with, or additionality to, existing pledges, would be most welcome.
The second group of remarks at the roundtable discussion of the ADP workstream two circled around the fact that a sizable number of developing countries haven’t yet submitted mitigation pledges or NAMAs. Any such pledges or NAMAs will be warmly received, especially from those developing countries with economic capacity comparable to or greater than some (less wealthy) developed countries and growing responsibility for emissions. Here, a technical assessment of the mitigation potential would be helpful, and in particular, a process to identify the needs for means of implementation that would enable countries to eventually submit, and later implement, pledges or NAMAs.
ECO wonders if the reason that complementary activities and ways to get more countries to submit pledges or NAMAs got so much attention lies in the comforting (for developed countries) side-effect that this way the elephant in the room, or what should be the third pillar in this workstream 2 gets less attention — the pathetically low level of ambition by developed countries, whether in Kyoto or not. 
In ECO’s view, any reasonable 2013 plan for workstream two would necessarily have to include a serious debate about these countries’ current pledges. Clearly, removing conditions around the pledges or the ranges is needed, but eventually increasing beyond the top end of the ranges will be unavoidable in order to move developed countries into the 25-40% range. Some Parties noted that such a discussion will have to take place throughout 2013 at a ministerial level, as otherwise the political buy-in will not materialise. If that fails, ECO fears, workstream two might one day have a successor named workstream 6 – six degrees.

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