–Reactions to the US, China, India, South Africa and Brazil all having reached an agreement tonight Friday (December 18) to cut greenhouse gas emissions–
YVO DE BOER, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “The mountain goes on and on, it seems. I do think we need to see how this text is received by the broader group of countries. It’s great that [a] small group of leaders gets together and tries to advance the process but ultimately, the way things work here, it has to be acceptable to every country.”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, US President “We’re going to have to build on the momentum that we’ve established here in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time. We’ve come a long way but we have much further to go.”
XIE ZHENHUA, Head of Chinese Delegation “The meeting has had a positive result, everyone should be happy. After negotiations both sides have managed to preserve their bottom line. For the Chinese this was our sovereignty and our national interest.”
GORDON BROWN, British Prime Minister “We have made a start. I believe that what we need to follow up on quickly is ensuring a legally binding outcome.”
NNIMMO BASSEY, Chair of Friends of the Earth International “Copenhagen has been an abject failure. Justice has not been done. By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world’s poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change accelerates. The blame for this disastrous outcome is squarely on the developed nations.”
JOHN SAUVEN, Executive Director, Green Peace UK “The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport. There are no targets for carbon cuts and no agreement on a legally binding treaty. It seems there are too few politicians in this world capable of looking beyond the horizon of their own narrow self-interest, let alone caring much for the millions of people who are facing down the threat of climate change.”
Today in a side event put on by the UN regarding intergenerational equity, Yvo de Boer and panelists from around the world discussed the importance of youth involvement in climate change policy and the vitality of intergenerational equity as a part of climate change legislation that may come out of COP15. The panel consisted of adult and youth representatives, all of whom brought unique insight to the debate about how much the leadership present in Copenhagen should be listening to the young people who will be responsible for continuing to mitigate greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change farther into the future than the delegates debating policy. Perhaps the most enlightening and moving portion of the presentation was the reading of an essay by a young woman from India detailing her personal experiences dealing with the adverse effects of climate change. As a result of rising temperatures, the city of Mumbai has been suffering from floods that are increasing not only in frequency, but in severity as well. In fact, according to the youth speaker, people in India are beginning to accept this constant flooding as a normal part of life. She also detailed personal experiences spending hours wading through waist-high water, watching dead animal carcasses float by, just to get from school back home. Her moving story and striking message, that the youth of the world must not only form an alliance in order to better address climate change in the future, but trust our leadership to do the right thing. Her powerful story and meaningful words regarding a mutual trust among youth and leadership was received with a standing ovation from the crowd. In response, de Boer cautioned youth in the room to force their leaders to earn their trust, as he believes world leaders and those negotiating climate change policy at COP15 have not yet proven they deserve our trust to properly address climate change. Before departing, de Boer expressed his hope for the future generation, and his desire for those in charge to take a cue from the youth to do what is right and protect future generations from climate change.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited US President Barack Obama. In addition to being the guest of honor at the first state dinner at the Obama White House, Singh and Obama talked climate change.
Their joint statement and press conference had strong words on wanting a “successful,” “substantive, “comprehensive” outcome in Copenhagen.
They didn’t utter “legally binding,” for sure; but their statements were pretty strong given the pessimism that has marked the last few weeks of commentary on Copenhagen’s prospects.
AFP is reporting that the next few weeks leading up to the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen could be marked by a bilateral diplomatic offensive.
President Obama is going to visit China in the next few days and upon returning to Washington, will host the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh at the end of the month.
Obviously both countries are important to coming to an agreement in Copenhagen for action on climate change.
The AFP article also indicates that US Energy Secretary Steven Chu will visit China and India as well to search for common ground.
It will be interesting to see what transpires with the Obama and Chu visits. Since China, in particular, has said that it wants to reduce its carbon intensity in the mid term, it seems that the ball is in Obama’s court to start talking specifics–something he is reluctant to do without legislation passed in Congress.
Perhaps these meetings will help grease the wheels for something significant to transpire in Copenhagen with Obama providing closed-door promises. It is difficult to say, but with these high-profile meetings happening in the days prior to the Copenhagen meeting and the recent feelers that Obama put forth about attending the meeting if it looks like progress can be made, climate change certainly will be on the agenda.
Jake Schmidt of the National Resources Defense Council has an interesting post discussing a speech given yesterday by India’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh.
I’ve reported on statements made by Ramesh in the past few months that have been perceived as being relatively provocative.
Schmidt’s post, however, suggests that Ramesh is shifting tone. Yesterday he apparently highlighted the vulnerabilities faced by the country from climate change and highlighted the numerous domestic policies being undertaken to mitigate emissions, particularly with regard to regulations requiring efficiency in transport & building, expansion of renewable energy production, and deforestation.
With this approach it seems like India is following China’s strategy of highlighting domestic action to claim the moral high ground while the United States continues to stay quiet on the key issue of mitigation targets.
Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh released a report [.pdf] today that looks at five different projections for greenhouse gas emission growth in the country over the course of the next 23 years. The report contends that India’s emissions are set to rise, but they will remain lower than the global per-capita emissions level.
The average from the five studies estimates that per-capita emissions in India will grow to 2.1 tons of CO2e by 2020 and 3.5 tons of CO2e by 2030. This would put them well under the current global average of about 8 tons per-capita, but above the 2 ton number that economists such as Nicholas Stern have argued are necessary to ward off extensive climate damage.
The release of the report seems intended to fortify India’s position that it should not have to abide by binding emissions reduction targets in any global deal. Its release came on the day that UK climate minister, Ed Miliband, was in India. In an interview with the Guardian, Miliband embraced the idea that India should not be required to reduce emissions by 2020, although he apparently was less certain about longer term restrictions.
The specifics on timetables and binding reductions seem to be getting more difficult as the clock ticks down to the December negotiations in Copenhagen.
Photo of Jairam Ramesh and Hillary Clinton: US Department of State
If it seems like this blog is obsessing over Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, it’s not by intention. Rather, Ramesh seems to make news daily in his effort to solidify the Indian position in global climate change talks.
The latest Ramesh salvo is directed at economist Sir Nicolas Stern–the author of the eponymous Stern Report on the economic consequences of global warming and an advocate for a strong international agreement that requires an equitable deal for developing countries.
Seeing that developed countries pay their fair share is the main position of Ramesh and the Indian government, Stern would be an unusual target for the Indian minister. Apparently Ramesh was irked at a recent speech Stern gave at Chatham House on the issue of India and climate change.
Stern emphasized the responsibility of developed countries to cut their emissions, but also made the point that it will nearly impossible for the world to meet the 2 degree centigrade warming limit being discussed without a deviation by India and China from business as usual projections. Stern argued that India could maintain its moral authority and help solve the climate crisis by agreeing to cuts from business as usual projections under the condition that developed countries also have strong reductions and that developed countries get financial assistance to transition to a low carbon economy.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Indian officials over the weekend to discuss a number of issues, including climate change. India–along with China–is one of the main developing countries insisting that the United States and the developed world get its low-carbon economy in order before asking developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
While it was not likely that Clinton would announce a breakthrough agreement with India during her trip, the US press is reporting that the US delegation was struck by the forcefulness of India’s position. Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh said that there is “no case” for requiring emissions reductions from India.
India believes that it has a strong moral argument given the fact that its per-capita emissions are extremely low and that the West is historically responsible for the problem. After this month’s Major Economies Forum in Italy where Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh endorsed a document stating that global temperatures should be capped at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, one of his own negotiators blasted Singh, arguing that the international community will inevitably point to the agreement to demand emissions reductions.
Given the internal strife in India over the issue, Ramesh’s comments could be seen as an effort to placate domestic dissenters. Clinton herself tried to put a positive spin on the meetings, indicating that the discussions in general were “fruitful.”
These types of internal disputes should not be discounted–especially in the case of India where the argument that any binding emissions reductions on their part are inequitable runs deep.
Obama clearly sees India as a major player on a number of issues, including climate. One positive that came out of Clinton’s trip was the scheduling of a visit to the US by Prime Minister Singh on November 22–two weeks before the international climate change negotiations get under way in Copenhagen. It will be the first state visit of the Obama Administration.
Photo of Ramesh and Clinton, U.S. Department of State.