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.
It is 1 AM and reports are still coming out of the Bella center and around Copenhagen on the finalization of COP15. I am up because I want to sleep on the flight home tomorrow, so why not let the blog about what is happening.
What the news agencies are reporting is that 5 countries, the US, Bolivia, India, China, and South Africa have come to a “meaningful agreement,” as Obama put it.
As an environmentalist, I am disappointed that the negotiations did not come to a more fair and promising outcome, but what we have realized at this conference is that UN proceedings lack the transparency and fairness that one might expect.
What it seems like to me is that this ending was planned by the countries that have the money, power, and wealth without properly consulting the other parties involved. There were around 119 heads of state at this conference yet this new deal was brokered by just 5. How is that equitable when those who were not consulted are going to be the countries that are entirely destroyed from the impacts of climate change in less than 100 years?
Adding to my frustration is that on the final day of the talks there were several draft texts floating around between the parties, and I don’t feel as though the small island, African, and other less prominent countries around the world have the man power or resources to keep up with all the changes. Reading and understanding those texts fully (I heard they can be around 40 pages long) is key in policy, because every way a word is used, or a sentence is phrased, is crucial in the meaning of the statement.
It doesn’t help my frustration that all the non-government organizations were restricted access (basically kicked out) when all this is going down. The activists and youth would have been there if they could have been. These delegates were crucial in assisting and supporting the marginalized parties, yet UN proceedings prevented that.
While the conference has not completely ended, it is clear that the text that the US has agreed upon will not curb the devastating effects of climate change. The AP is reporting that an Obama administrator said that the agreement requires each country to list the actions they will take to cut global pollution by specific amounts. It also includes a mechanism to help poor countries prepare for climate change by giving them billions of dollars. (which will probably end up going through the World Bank anyways, which presents a whole new level of problems)
The developing world needs more money to combat what the developed world has done to them, and this agreement simply won’t go far in remedying the problem, but at least it is a start and Obama being here did bring US news agencies attention to climate change, which educates the public, and makes polices to curb US energy use politically feasible in the US. Once this happens, we can help, along with the rest of the global community provide more money, technology, and sustainable growth to the people who need it most.
Most of our class has expressed interest in traveling to COP16, next year in Mexico City, which will be cheaper, warmer, and closer than Copenhagen and we will keep on trying to get climate change on the political agenda back home.
“Climate REDI” (renewable energy development initiative) is a new program that was annoced today at a presentation by the US Department of Energy. The main speaker was US secretary of Energy, Steven Chu. Prior to his presentation, the partner countries in this new intitive, ministers from India and Italy, as well as a representative from Australia said a few words on the initiative and the partnerships.
It was obvious that the point of Chu’s presentation is to show that the United States is serious about changing out direction or energy use, but as one question from the public pointed out, it does not seem that the US targets on reducing our energy consumption are very ambitious. While this may be true, the initiative does include expensive and expansive programs to address current and future developments in clean and renewable resource development.
The emphasis for new technologies within the US and in developing countries that Chu presented were efficient batteries, wind turbines, solar power, LED lighting, smart grids, and energy efficient appliances.
While I didn’t hear much of the programs goals in other countries from Chu, the representative from Australia did say that a priority of Climate REDI is fast-tracking renewable resource technologies in developing countries. Chu touched on the battery and LED power for lighting in developing nations, but nothing else specifically.
So what is the $80 billion down payment in the recovery act for a clean energy economy and the $85 million over the next 5 years for the Climate REDI initiative going? He talked a few minutes on wind power, saying that the US has invested in blade testing in order to create the next generation of compact wind turbines. Also, the funds to revolutionize the way buildings are designed and retrofitted, using an example of creating embedded tools in architecture design programs that would show energy efficiency to buildings architectures and designers. They are also working on applications for smart phones in which consumers would be able to visually see their energy usage and help them make energy efficient changes.
In the question and answer part, Chu was asked about the connection between the program and transportation and how this will be designed with smart grids. Chu said the government has been and will continue to push to increase fuel efficiency standards, develop batteries, and other renewable resources to reduce CO2 emissions, and also work on using biofuels.
He concluded the presentation by stating that there needs to be a shift in thinking by Americans, leaving fossil fuel consumption, and going to a “hi-tech sustainable energy” economy.
I looked for the specific point of the program on both the Energy Department’s website, and their specific site for COP15, but there was no information obviously posted, so I might come back later and let you know what the specific of the program are.
found the department of energy’s press release.
Secretary Chu today announced the launch of a new Renewables and Efficiency Deployment Initiative (Climate REDI). The program will accelerate deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies in developing countries – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fighting energy poverty and improving public health for the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.
Climate REDI includes three new clean energy technology programs and funding needed to launch a renewable energy program under the World Bank’s Strategic Climate Fund…
Climate REDI is a “quick-start” initiative to complement the much broader technology and finance mechanisms of an international climate agreement. It will promote dissemination of clean energy technologies…
The combined budget for these programs is $350 million over five years. Funding for the first three programs above will total $100 million — $35 million that the United States intends to contribute, with the balance from Italy, Australia and other partners. Funding for the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program will total $250 million – $50 million that the United States intends to contribute and $200 million that the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland pledged previously…
Don’t let the headlines fool you, the road to Copenhagen is as rocky as ever. In a seemingly promising statement, China has stated that it wants to see no-change results from the December meetings on climate change. Li Gao, China’s top climate change negotiator, said that as world pressure mounts on an outcome in Copenhagen, “”We will try to make the summit successful and we will not accept that it ends with an empty and so-called political declaration,” Yet in a display of realpolitik, Gao said that all parties involved would have to operate under the dozen year old Kyoto Protocol “”or else the conference would end futile,” as China “will not accept any separate legal document”.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, there are zero requirements for green house gas reductions on behalf of China and other developing nations. Since Kyoto’s inception in 1997, China has grown to become the single largest green house gas emitter.
It is easy to see China’s motivation in sticking with the past document, despite their cheer for a successful conference. Progress as China defines it would be to” create a framework that would be worked out later, in next year’s delegations”. In the meantime, China said that their role in the talks as a developing nation is to reach out to other developing nations to share each other’s concerns and look to negotiate collectively.
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.
Politics versus Policy
In the past few months since I have been following news revolving around the Copenhagen climate change conference, the rhetoric used by the media and important actors has fluctuated significantly. There are those saying that the Copenhagen conference will be successful in determining explicit agreements and resulting actions for combating climate change and those arguing the exact opposite, saying there will not be a binding agreement.
On October 21st, the AP reported that China and India came to an agreement on taking a stand together in their negotiating positions and this happened as the two countries were disagreeing due to a diplomatic dispute. Currently, American politics are severely interfering with the ability for countries to come to an agreement about action that needs to take place in less than one month from today. With continued dispute between the developed, and developing world the UNFCC executive secretary, Yvo de Boer, midweek through the Barcelona talks, expressed that a successful outcome in Copenhagen requires a level of cooperation between, countries, levels of government, and the private sector that is unprecedented in any prior international policy. While the agreement between China and India may well have other political reasoning at the base, similar action will be helpful between all countries in order for an international treaty to be successful as possible.
As a public policy major, the reason I choose to care about environmental issues is because I want to create change that will help those that are less fortunate and keep the ecology of the planet sustained for future generations. Unfortunately, it is painfully obvious that human nature does not share this view and/or does not have the access to information that education provides myself and other interested parties. At this point in the process before meeting in Copenhagen, it seems no one knows if or when an agreement will be created, but the only direction we can take is toward progress. With one month left before we leave for Denmark the suspense is growing, the US is in the process of climate change legislation, and I hope that human morality will trump economic greed. However unlikely this is in the global economy, I am still going to be optimistic that the politics can come to an agreement to support changes in global policy that will result in the world avoiding chaos from environmental destruction.
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.