The UN climate change negotiations in Cancún were originally supposed to be over at 6pm CST. Instead of heading to the beach, bars, or nightclubs, delegates were treated with a new negotiating document at 5pm and the promise of all-night talks in an effort to finish the two-week session with a “positive outcome.”
This document is being poured over right now by delegates in advance of another stock-taking meeting at 11pm. What happens at that point is anyone’s guess.
But here are some highlights from my quick, first read of the document:
- On the vision for long-term action, the document keeps the Copenhagen Accord goal of a 2° limit on global warming but also calls for a review beginning in 2013 and concluding in 2015 to see if the science calls for a safer goal of 1.5°.
- Gas emissions should peak “as soon as possible.” There is no specific date listed, but it calls for working “towards identifying a time frame for global peaking.” Most economists argue the sooner we peak, the cheaper the adaptation costs.
- On mitigation for developed countries, it asks developed countries to communicate their emissions goals to the Secretariat and leaves to the future the precise mechanisms for identifying how they will do this (e.g. the role of offsets, land use, etc…).
- Significantly, the mitigation section makes no mention of Kyoto and has no specific numeric targets or a deadline for developed country mitigation actions! The first emission is less problematic because of advances on the Kyoto track of negotiations while the latter makes the document extremely weak. You really need to have SOME target if you are going to reach the 2 degree goal!
- On mitigation for developing countries, the document calls for them to take “appropriate mitigation actions…aimed at achieving a deviation in emissions relative to ‘business as usual’ emissions in 2020.” Like the developed countries, they will communicate their actions to the secretariat. The implications of some of the language is hard to decipher, but in this section the document explicitly uses the worlds “voluntarily inform.”
- On monitoring and verification (a big concern of the US): goes for domestic verification “in accordance to guidelines to be developed under the Convention”–whatever that means. This is clearly an attempt to bridge the US and China dispute on monitoring and verification. The latter sees international monitoring and verification as an infringement on its sovereignty. Will it work?
- On fast-start finance: it “notes” the Copenhagen accord commitment of $30 billion through 2012 and “invites” donor countries to submit information about their spending.
- Decides to establish a Green Climate Fund with a board comprising 24 members with equal developing and developed country. It “invites” the World Bank to be the fund’s interim trustee. representation.
- The AWG-LCA will continue to discuss legal options
I am sure there is more that I am missing, but on first glance it looks like this is a document meant to operationalize the Copenhagen Accord. It keeps the 2 degree ambition, but fails to recognize that there is a gap in the Copenhagen commitments achieving that goal. It asks all countries to reduce emissions or emissions growth, but has no strong mechanisms to insure countries keep their word. And it doesn’t resolve the controversy over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
Parties are scheduled to debate this text at around 11pm. It should be a long night.
While most of my posts from Cancún have focused on the progress in the climate negotiations, that is only one element of the UN climate change conference. Each day there are dozens of side events where researchers and policymakers talk about specific responses to the climate crisis.
This afternoon as the high level ministers delivered their statements on the negotiations, I attended three side events. These give you a flare for what one could expect to encounter in a typical day.
The first one was organized by the European Parliament and focused onj what the EU is doing on the policy front to encourage energy efficiency. For many of the developed countries, a significant proportion of their emissions are the result of waste.
Recognizing that waste is one of the “low-hanging fruit,” that should be easy to eliminate with education and the right incentive structure, they have adopted some pretty simple and inexpensive policies to address this issue. Ivo Belet talked about the new energy labeling program, where by the end of next year, many products will have to have written on their packaging their greenhouse gas content. He discussed specifically a new labeling system for automobile tires, saying that tire performance is a strong determinant of fuel efficiency. Give consumers the information, and they are more likely to make smart purchases. Conincidentially, a group of Republican-led House members came out today against better auto fuel labeling in the US. The EU is implementing a lot of simple and effective policies. One wonders why policymakers in the US are incapable of learning from their European counterparts.
Later, I went to a side event sponsored by the government of Brazil. Two researchers from the Institute of Applied Economic Research presented work estimating the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that could be mitigated from stronger recycling programs in the country. They proposed a shift in the incentive system to give a better price for certain recyclables based on their total ecological worth, rather than their simple market price.
The last event I went to was sponsored by the United States Departement of State and involved three uniformed representatives from the Department of Defense. The topic was the national security consequences of climate change–a topic that gets very little treatment in both the political and policy circles.
The Pentagon representatives portrayed themselves as fully engaged with the implications of climate change. The bulk of the discussion by the presenters, however, was on adaptation. Given the fact that many military bases–particularly naval–are situated in threatened environments, it makes sense that they would be concerned with the impacts of climate change. They mentioned that climate change is given treatment in the Quadrennial Defense Review–a major departmental strategic document.
I found it interesting to hear these servicemen talk about the climate threat and to reflect on the disfunction in Congress on climate. Many of the most anti-science members of Congress like Inhofe or Fred Upton also purport to be “pro-military.” I’m wondering how they resolve these incongruities!
The UN climate change talks are in their last 48 hours. Ministers are here in Cancún as the conference enters its “high level segment.”
In an ideal world, the previous week and a half of talks would have produced a document that the ministers could laud whilst waxing admiringly about the ultimate effectiveness of multilateralism. However, as the past few years of talks attest, the ideal world doesn’t exist.
Skepticism emerged last week on the part of many small and poor developing countries who were concerned about secret negotiations and a repeat of Copenhagen where world leaders of a small number of countries flew in and essentially hijacked the talks.
In response, the Mexican president of the conference–Patricia Espinosa–went to great lengths to stress transparency and openness. However, that appears to not have been enough to quell concerns about backroom dealing.
Last night, Espinosa held a meeting with 50 ministers to try and bridge gaps. The meeting came on the heels of reports that the Indian environment minister, Jairam Ramesh revealed that India would not be averse to accepting legally-binding emissions cuts. The day before, China reiterated its position that it rejects this idea. Some observers see this as a significant breaking of the strong alliance that the two countries forged through their deal-making with the US last year at Copenhagen. Of course, a major provision of the Copenhagen Accord was that emission mitigation actions should be voluntary.
For the rest of today, ministers and the leaders who came to Cancún will continue to give their statements in the public portion of the meeting. It is certain that behind the scenes talks are continuing and documents are being developed.
On the penultimate day of negotiations the positions are clear: the US wants to see a “balanced package of decisions” which links financing to the Global South with movement on a verifiable emissions reduction commitment on the part of large developing nations; large parts of the developing world want the continuation of the Kyoto system that binds developed countries to a new round of emissions cuts.
Will the gap be bridged by new compromise alliances? Or will the talks essentially end with a resounding thud?
Early this morning the chair of the key group negotiating a global climate agreement in Cancún released a vision for “Elements of an Outcome” from the deliberations of the past two weeks.
As might be expected, the document makes minimal progress on some of the key issues keeping countries from coming to an agreement. On one level, the document could represent a step backward. The chair’s stock-taking document, released on Saturday, included a vision for holding global warming to 2° centigrade. This ambition is highly contested by many parties. In today’s document the 2° number was ‘bracketed” (meaning there is disagreement) and joined by options for 1° and 1.5° warming.
On other key points, it is hard to know whether the new document is an advance, a stagnation, or something else entirely. For example, the Saturday document called on the world to insure that emissions peaked “as soon as possible,” where as today’s document has that language bracketed and joined by a specific year for peaking (2015). The science and economics tell us that an earlier peaking date is more advantageous than one far off in the future, so seeing the 2015 year in the text is positive. On the other hand, the fact that it was inserted means that some parties are not satisfied with the vagueness of the earlier text suggesting little movement towards some compromise.
On the mitigation actions to be taken by developed countries, the issues I described in my previous post have not been resolved. The document continues to walk the line between the future of the Kyoto Protocol and a new agreement by incorporating language about continuing Kyoto emission obligations in the new document. But the specifics about what the emissions reductions should be for developed countries are missing.
The same thing applies to the issue of developing country mitigation actions. The US has been pushing China and India to submit their reductions to international scrutiny–something that those countries do not want to do. Instead, they assert that they will develop their own domestic procedures. This is not likely going to satisfy the US.
One advance in the new text are particular timelines for resolving the reporting and verification issue. For both developing and developed countries, the new text gives parties a year to develop more specific guidelines on how to understand and compare mitigation actions between countries.
On the issue of developing countries receiving finance for the transition to low-carbon sustainable development, there are still significant unresolved issues. The nature of the fund to be established to finance these activities is not clear. Options in the text include having the World Bank run the fund, the UNFCCC, or have some new managing authority.
I haven’t had the chance to look really closely at the new text in comparison to Saturday’s, but the fact that it is actually longer and is ambiguous on so many key points suggests a quagmire at best.
Delegates at the UN climate change conference in Cancún held “stock-taking” meetings and a key negotiating document was released over the weekend as high level ministers arrived for the final week of negotiations.
The memory of the last-minute deal in Copenhagen was clearly on the minds of many negotiators as the Mexican Minister overseeing the negotiations took the unusual step of scheduling an “informal stock-taking meeting” on Sunday, the only scheduled break in negotiations during the two-week period.
The document released on Saturday did little to resolve major issues related to long-term emissions mitigation and financing, which have plagued the talks for the last year. One interesting insertion was language pertaining to the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries have been adamant about keeping the Kyoto distinction between the two, given the fact that it is a legally-binding instrument that requires emissions cuts by major emitters.
Options in the new document acknowledge the Kyoto framework for countries currently parties to the protocol, but also provides for mitigation actions from the US as well as from the large developing country emitters.
In an ideal world it could continue Kyoto, bring the US to accept Kyoto-like mitigations, and also put developing countries on the record for appropriate mitigation actions. Early reports suggest this approach may satisfy China.
It is interesting to see this “Kyoto-+” approach emerge in the texts since a middle path between rejecting Kyoto’s second commitment period and starting over has been mentioned for at least the past two years. It seems to be a testament to the glacial pace of international negotiations.
As is normal with the international climate negotiations, progress has been slow this first week in Cancún. With expections for a substantive agreement at a low point and major issues between developed and large developing countries still evident, it is perhaps to be expected that movement towards agreement would be elusive.
Although the breadth of issues where gaps exist is large, one major fissure that was exposed this week was the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Japan’s announcement early in the week that it would not agree to a second commitment period for the Protocol is seen as a dramatic abandonment of the only global legal instrument in place to deal with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. If Japan isn’t committed to the treaty negotiated on its own soil, then why should anyone else?
This position has generated animosity–particularly from China–who insists on second period.
For the United States–which is not a party to Kyoto–the concern is that the dispute over Kyoto will derail any limited progress that has been made. US negotiators have been unrelenting in their support for the Copenhagen Accord–the political document that emerged from last year’s talks.
Although it is unlikely that the voluntary commitments laid out in the accord will be sufficient enough to meet the accord’s target to limit global warming to 2 degrees, senior US negotiators have said that they would rather start with a set of ambitions that are agreed upon in theory and then strengthen them, instead of seeing talks fail.
In the background are revelations from the WikiLeaks cables documenting developed country duplicity in climate talks over the past two years. Just as was the case last year, there are rumors of a “secret text” that will kill the Kyoto Protocol.
While that may or may not be the case, there is expected to be released today a more refined document based on the negotiations that have taken place over the past several days. What is included or excluded from that text will set the contours for next week’s discussions.
The United Nations climate change negotiations are underway in Cancún and the rhetoric from the major developed country parties is that they are searching for “a balanced package of decisions.” The top US negotiator, Todd Stern, used that term last week in a pre-conference press conference in Washington and Stern’s deputy on the ground in Cancún, Jonathan Pershing, deployed the similar language in a press conference on Monday.
So what does this mean? A somewhat ominous article in the Guardian suggests that the US is adopting an “all or nothing” approach to the talks. Essentially, the US is pushing large developing country polluters like China and India to submit to emissions cuts from business-as-usual that are internationally monitored and verifiable. In the absence of this, the US will be less likely to support key developing country concerns, such as financing for climate adaptation and technology assistance.
One reflection of this tension can be seen in the proceedings of the AWG-LCA–the negotiating stream that is looking for an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol. A negotiating text was prepared in August for this track, but at 70 pages, it is unwieldy and doesn’t resolve key issues on safe levels of global warming, who should mitigate emissions and by how much, and how emissions should be monitored and verified.
A shorter (33 page) text listing “possible elements of the outcome,” was prepared in the interim by the AWG-LCA chair. It largely papers over the differences in the negotiating text by accepting many of the elements of last year’s Copenhagen Accord to the extent that it presents a 2 degree warming threshold and a financing ambition for developing countries of $100 billion (USD) by 2020.
Like the Copenhagen Accord, the “possible outcome” text is sketchy on how to monitor emissions, actual emissions mitigation numbers, and how the financing mechanism will operate.
What is significant here is that the Copenhagen Accord is essentially being used as a basis for determining what exactly is in the so-called “balanced packages.” Because the US has pushed so hard for some type of international monitoring regime, it will be important to see how these discussions bear out over the next few days.
India has emerged as a broker of compromise, setting forth a proposal for international monitoring. This would meet US concerns, but at this point India is offering its proposal in exchange for keeping the Kyoto Protocol track alive–something that the US (and now Japan) are not interested in seeing.
China has been the most vocal about resisting US demands for an international monitoring regime, so their response to India’s gesture will be another key development to watch for over the coming days.
I’ll be blogging “live” from Cancún beginning tomorrow, so stay tuned at this site or over on twitter.
The Accord was the document that came out of last year’s negotiations. It is a document that aspires to restrict global warming to 2˚ centigrade but is not legally-binding. Consequently it relies on voluntary pledges from nations to reduce their emissions.
This report essentially runs the numbers submitted by various countries and compares them to climate modeling scenarios that would “likely” result in the 2 degree stabilization. Because there is no consistency in the commitments submitted by 138 countries in response to the Accord, the report develops four basic implementation scenarios.
The main takeaway is that no matter how you cut it, the Copenhagen Accord commitments are likely insufficient to keep global emissions at a level that limits global warming to 2 degrees.
The report does indicate that the gap can be lessened by having strict accounting for land use offsets and for limiting the number of Kyoto-era reduction credits applicable to Copenhagen Accord commitments.
One of the main problems with the Accord is the lack of specificity in how it “counts” emissions reductions and offsets. Although the meeting in Cancún is not expected to result in a legally binding treaty, there could be movement towards developing a shared understanding of some of these ambiguities. Whether negotiators choose strict accounting methods or allow a multiplicity of loopholes could give some indication about the efficacy of the Accord and the seriousness of the 2 degree warming limit.
International negotiators and civil society will be descending on the Mexican resort town of Cancún later this month for the first major UN climate change conference since last year’s much-hyped get-together in Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen conference failed to produce a significant international agreement causing many to downplay expectations for the COP16 conference in Cancún.
Yesterday, the head UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres gave a press briefing previewing her expectations for the conference.
She declared that there is “optimism for the planet” and “optimism at the multilateral level” for the UNFCCC process.
One interesting point she made to justify her optimism was that many countries have adopted more ambitious domestic climate plans than their international positions reflect. When pressed for examples she cited China–which is continually criticized by the United States for not agreeing to a sufficiently transparent method for verifying emissions.
As far as actual accomplishments she expects to see in Cancún, she mentioned that there should be a resolution on what should be done with the Kyoto Protocol. This seems pretty ambitious. One of the main problems of the negotiations has been the two-track approach endorsed in Bali three years ago. The first commitment period under Kyoto is set to expire in 2012 and by all accounts it has been ineffective in dealing with the global climate problem. Much of this has to do with the fact that developing countries are exempt from mandated emissions cuts and the United States does not accept the protocol.
The US would certainly like to see the Kyoto negotiating track get scrapped, but China and India are steadfast in their insistence that Kyoto be the mechanism to reflect the “common but differentiated responsibilities” of different countries.
This will be a key point to watch during the negotiations. It is likely that the US and the EU are working to get other major developing countries like Mexico, for example, to show more flexibility on the future of Kyoto. How things proceed in the Kyoto negotiation stream (AWG-KP) will be a key element to follow as the negotiations transpire.
Beginning tomorrow in suburban Washington, the main US negotiator, Todd Stern, will be convening a meeting of the major economies. This group includes India, China, the European Union and other key players. Although the future of Kyoto will not likely be resolved, the delegates will be discussing ways to deal with international monitoring of emissions by taking up a proposal from India.
Global climate negotiators hunkered down in Bonn’s Hotel Maritim today in one of the last negotiating sessions before the major meeting this December in Cancun.
Last year’s negotiations in Copenhagen ended with a political agreement brokered by the United States that said the world should limit warming to 2 degrees centigrade from pre-industrial levels. All governments that agreed with the sentiment were invited to submit their own domestic commitments by the end of last January. Those numbers would then be used as the basis for negotiating a more permanent agreement.
Leaving aside the fact that when you do the math, the global commitments come up short in providing a strong chance at the 2 degree stabilization, with the Senate’s recent decision to stop work on climate legislation the US is in a difficult position to defend its own actions at Bonn and help move along the negotiation process.
Today, the European Union envoy said that they are unlikely to sign on to a continuation of the reductions mandated under the Kyoto agreement without the United States involved in some sort of framework.
Head US negotiator, Todd Stern, today said that the international community shouldn’t worry: the US commitment stands. The assumption of the Obama Administration is that they can accomplish significant reductions using regulatory mechanisms via the EPA and other federal agencies.
This may be the case, but independent analysis indicates that even if the federal government and all of the states who have plans on the books for greenhouse gas reductions pursue the most aggressive actions, the US 2020 commitment will be unattainable in the absence of Congressional action.
It will be interesting to see global reaction to the US over the next week as the meetings progress in Bonn. With Stern not backing down from an untenable position, it will give other countries an excuse to avoid their own action creating further stalemate in the effort to come to a global deal.