Monthly Archives: December 2011


Blogging Durban: Day 5 (Dec 2)

Categories: Climate Change, Durban COP-17, International Relations

Protests at COP-17

Hammering Out the Green Climate Fund (GCF)

At present, the Parties are still in the proposal stage for the GCF.  Tomorrow, they are planning to discuss the Report published by the Transitional Committee (PDF).  Let’s see… the Report makes a variety of interesting proposals:

  1. It should be run by a Board of 24, with parity between developed and developing nations (recall: NGOs have been adamant that it should also include civil society representatives – fat chance of that being the case, particularly since the Transitional Committee is staffed by government representatives);
  2. It “will” be funded by developed countries, but “may” receive additional inputs from other sources
  3. It should be operationalized as a “country-driven” approach, and will only “encourage” the involvement of the civil society – including “vulnerable groups and addressing gender aspects,” (which is not entirely encouraging for the chances of this instrument being used to empower the most marginalized populations). It will also encourage private sector activities through a private sector facility.
  4. On that note, and given the concern of indigenous peoples with respect to REDD, it will fund “…full and agreed incremental costs [for] adaptation, mitigation (including REDD-plus), technology development and transfer… capacity-building and the preparation of national reports by developing countries.
  5. At the same time, the Board “will develop mechanisms” for the involvement of civil society groups, women, indigenous peoples, and promote social sustainability in its function.

The last two sound very encouraging.  Very?  Somewhat encouraging.  One hopes, in particular, that the language indicating support for vulnerable populations is taken seriously and is not ignored in the conduct of implemented projects (PDF), a problem that has plagued other international financial institutions.

Obviously, with the KP expiring next year, the GCF would be subsumed under the UNFCCC, which lacks binding, iterated obligations – again, contrasting it with the financial mechanism of the Montreal Protocol.  It should be noted, however, that there remains substantial internal debate about the Report: the US is in favor of moving forward with it, given some amendments; other Parties are opposed; others want to adopt the document almost wholesale.

On to the delegates’ talking points!

The United States:

You know, given China’s and Japan’s withdrawal from the idea of binding commitments under the KP, the US suddenly doesn’t look so bad!  The benefit of lowered expectations…  I’m going to pay a lot of attention to them here, as the US is perhaps the most significant veto state, by virtue of being the largest economy, and the second largest emitter.

Dr. Jon Pershing, the special envoy is finishing up his time representing the US here this week, and will transition to a new delegate next week.  Before leaving though, he had a few points about the current state of the debate.  At present, the delegates are involved in, from his perspective, hammering out a “…package agreement that everyone can support,” again indicating some movement towards a globally applicable draft document.  Still, the US remains uninterested in a legal regime.

In discussing possibly the most likely outcome – the implementation of the GCF, Pershing states that the US is trying to make “…fully operational each of the key elements we agreed to in Cancún…” namely “…technology, adaptation, finance, and transparency.”  So, interest in moving towards a Green Climate Fund seems shared among the various Parties – and is certainly supported by the NGO community.

There is some stated confusion regarding who would be subsumed under legal obligations.  Pershing states, in the course of one speech, that rules would have to apply to “all major economies,” “all Parties,” and “major emerging economies.”  The problem is, these are different subsets of the international society – but they do, at least, include the BRIICS nations.  Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, while the US is usually portrayed as the bogeyman in the UNFCCC, the lack of progress towards a legal regime is the foot-dragging of the G-77 + China.  You really have to feel for AOSIS on this one.  With the Umbrella Group and the G-77+China at loggerheads, they and the EU have limited scope.

Another problem characterizing the debates, is that Parties seem to differ as well on what the timeline for additional action will be.  Some see the COP as aimed towards getting an agreement to cover action “between now and 2020,” some are looking for “a proposal beyond 2020.”  The US’ position is that Cancún “…takes us through 2020,” and is vocally skeptical about whether there is additional international interest, not only within the US, but among other nations, in creating new pledges between now and then.  Thus, for the US, Cancún (nonbinding, yes, and?) is the way to go.

The Emissions Gap

Recognizing, however, that (as indicated earlier) fully implementing the Cancún Agreement would still lead to an Emissions Gap, Pershing states that moving towards that is nevertheless a step in the right direction.  In short, rather than making the perfect the enemy of the good, Pershing states that you have to “…marry a politically pragmatic outcome with a scientifically important conclusion.  If you demand more than the politics can deliver, you don’t succeed.”

In contrast, however, Runge-Metzer speaking for the EU, calls for even more ambition than has been indicated so far, given the implications of an unstable climate on global well-being.  At the very least, Parties should start, by the latest next year, 1) trying to understand what the Cancún Agreements mean for Parties; 2) continue the CDM; 3) develop a clear accounting mechanism for all GHG emissions.

The EU

My main man, Tomasz Chruszczow!  Artur Runge-Metzer, in the house!  In discussing his region’s push for a “road map” towards an “…instrument, that eventually we will have on the board, all emitters.  100%.  Globally.”  He claims that developed and developing countries are on board for a legally binding agreement involving 100% of the Parties – this sounds extremely unlikely.  At the same time, the EU is also on board with the idea of creating a second commitment period of the KP which, again, has been rejected so far by Japan, the US and Canada.

Even the EU, however, thinks that a binding agreement will not emerge before 2013 – 2015, but stresses that one has to be created at, “…by the latest, 2020.”  All major economies will have binding emissions agreements, with “common, but differentiated responsibilities.”  Perhaps with voluntary commitments among the poorer LDCs?

Chruszczow makes a point about the problem of linking China with the G-77 as a negotiating bloc: understandably, the G-77 is concerned about applying binding emissions requirements to poor, comparatively agrarian, under-industrialized countries – particularly since they tend to have less emissions per capita than the wealthy nations.  China, however, has per-capita emissions of almost 6 tons of GHGs, while India has emissions at only 1.8 tons per capita.  The implication is that China is covering their irresponsibility with concern about the legitimate grievances of poorer LDCs who are now being asked to respond to a problem not of their making.

Positive Outcomes?

Perhaps the most positive is the interest from all Parties in the GCF.  Other than that, I’ve learned how to spell “Chruszczcow.”

Thanks for the Shout Out

Categories: Conservation, Corporate Behavior, Green Consumerism, Nature Preservation

Worth, Literally, Millions of Dollars!

Wow, this is flattering: my blog has been listed as a useful resource tracking the Durban climate talks.  This plug provided on the Forest Carbon Portal, a website run by the Ecosystem Marketplace, a research organization dedicated to analyzing the benefits of marketizing ecosystem services, including biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and water.  As indicated, their primary goal is to help “…give value to environmental services that, for too long, have been taken for granted.”

They have a wealth of information on forest and carbon markets, including work on REDD.  Check their site out, see what you think, or see the new links provided to their reports in the Research and Resources tab.

Blogging Durban: Day 4 (Dec 1)

Categories: Climate Change, Durban COP-17, International Relations

Demonstrations Outside COP-17

Good news!

Oh, wait.  No there isn’t.  Anyway, back to COP-17.  At present, the EU is by far, the biggest pusher for a binding regime.  They’ve already adopted, in 2008, a regional plan to cut 20% of EU emissions by 2020, and promised that they will increase that to 30%, if a binding agreement is signed for the post-Kyoto commitment period.  Moreover, they’ve been pretty adamant about getting parties on board a “road map” towards a binding agreement which should enter into force by the latest, 2020.

At present, it’s not entirely clear what the EU proposed Durban Road Map will look like: one major issue is that Tomasz Chruszczow stated on November 24 that a binding regime should include “100 percent of all emissions under one global umbrella,” while other recent press releases refer to targeting the “major emitters.”  This is an important distinction – due to the necessity of obtaining consensus to create protocols and new agreements under the UNFCCC – just on the basis of numbers – it will be far easier to create a binding regime focusing on the top 12 emitters (which combined, emit 80% of the world’s GHGs) than to try to convince close to 200 countries to agree on something.  Of course, doing so would mean breaking down the G-77 bloc on this issue.  The thought, at this point, of global consensus on binding obligations, is mind-boggling.

Brazil, the EU Road Map, and Financing

Some of the delegates themselves seem, already, to be somewhat disillusioned.  In discussing the EU Durban Road Map today, the Brazilian delegate, ambassador André Corrêa do Lago stated with some resignation, “Well, we have to talk about the same subjects, basically, every day.”  No kidding.  Anyway, Corrêa do Lago indicates that there may be some confusion among the principals about what the proposal is.  While expressing support for a binding regime, strengthening the UNFCCC and KP he states some concern about textual ambiguity in the EU proposal: “The issue is that, in these negotiations, a little word can make a lot of difference.  We have to see which elements Brazil can be comfortable with.”  Finally, reiterating the position of the G-77 + China bloc, “we are not agreeing with the idea of the world, in this road map, as a whole.”

Corrêa do Lago also makes an important, and potentially sobering observation.  One of the mechanisms through which the KP was being implemented is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  In short, Parties with Annex B commitments could get credits for cutting emissions by funding low-cost projects in less developed countries (LDCs).  Potentially a win-win situation, this theoretically would allow richer countries to cut emissions cheaply (since the atmosphere doesn’t care where carbon comes from), while fostering technological transfer to LDCs.  Without binding commitments, there will be no incentive to invest in the CDM.  This also raises a similar question about the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  While the Montreal Multilateral Fund was an important element in obtaining LDC support for phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs), it was created pursuant to a binding agreement.  Without that, it’s not immediately clear what kind of institutional support there will be to transfer the technology needed to China, India, Brazil, etc., to allow them to ‘leapfrog’ over the path of dirty industrialization, particularly as there would be no agreed-upon standard of cuts to which the provided funds would apply.


Japan has an interesting approach here, which may be comparable to that of the US.  Japan has already stated that, like Canada (and effectively the US), it has no interest in ratifying a second commitment to the KP.  At the same time, they’ve not withdrawn from the KP, and are in fact going to “…continue our efforts towards GHG reduction, and would like the improve the CDMs and so on.”  Moreover, they want to adopt “…a single legal document that establishes a fair and effective framework with which all the major economies will cooperate” in the future.  On this approach, they state they will stand “hand in hand with the EU” in lobbying for a binding regime – but one which does away with the KP’s limited approach, incorporating rules for a small majority of GHG emissions.

In addition, they’ve  been promoting their multilateral aid program on climate change, stating that “…it is necessary for both developed and developing countries to achieve low carbon growth all over the world.”  Under this plan, Japan is pledging to transfer policymaking expertise and technological know-how to LDCs through “concrete measures” intended to go right up until Rio + 20 next year.  At present, Japan has provided $12.5 billion dollars, primarily to the poorest countries, and is planning to develop technological transfers in goods such as solar cells.

Take it away, Climate Action Network!


Well, right off the bat, Kelly Dent from Oxfam states that the world will need $200 billion a year to get the action necessary to meet our climate goals.  I’m not sure what she’s basing these numbers on, but if she’s right, I’m buying beachfront property in Montana right now.  The rest of their press conference is too depressing to cover.

Overview: Are We Talking About the KP, or Something Else?

One thing that seems to be muddled in the discussion right now, is: what kind of a binding agreement are people talking about?  The NGOs, particularly CAN-I, as well as developing countries in the G-77 + China (if Argentina is to be believed) are primarily interested in creating a second commitment period to the KP.  The Umbrella Group is ostensibly interested in a binding agreement, but are explicit in saying that it should NOT be reification of the KP – again, for pretty valid reasons.  Now, the NGOs claimed today that the EU is on board for an extension of the KP, but based on the EU’s earlier pronouncements that LDCs should be held to binding obligations, it’s not clear that that is correct.

What would be the benefit of extending the horrid, horrid institution of the KP in a second commitment period?  It is doubtful that it would necessarily lead to decreased global emissions, particularly since the countries responsible for about half of the current GHG emissions (US and China) are not under the regime.  However, it would create incentives for continuing the CDM and, given the repeated interest in institutionalizing the GCF, may create the institutional support for the Fund.

Well, we’ll see.  At the moment, I’m primarily curious about the creation of the GCF.  At present, that remains my best hope for a positive outcome this year.  Again, I’m not sure how that will play out absent some kind of related regime, but, eh, couldn’t hurt.

Blogging Durban: Day 3 (Nov 30)

Categories: Climate Change, Durban COP-17, International Relations

Indigenous Protestors against REDD

So, where are we at now?  The statements coming from various delegates indicate that states are, more or less, going with their various representative blocs.  The Umbrella Group wants LDCs to commit to something binding and meaningful; the G-77 wants HICs to take the lead (especially the US), and to actually pay for the costs of transition; the US is not particularly interested in a binding agreement – and wouldn’t be able to commit to one anyway; the EU is trying to get people on board a binding commitment; the NGOs are mad at everybody.

The Green Climate Fund and the Financial Mechanism?

On the plus side, there does seem to be movement towards creating a meaningful Green Climate Fund.  One of the more cited decisions of COP-16 in Cancún was Decision 1/CP.16 (PDF), which pledged the creation of a financial mechanism – modeled on the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol - to build the capacity and will among poor countries to transition away from high emissions practices.  The EU has been vocally supportive of the idea, and it’s certainly one appreciated by the G-77 + China, as well as the NGO community.

Among some of the issues being discussed by the Transitional Committee on the GCF include a submission by Malawi that the fund consider gender issues (PDF) in allocating resources, observing that women are disproportionately affected by environmental vulnerability.  Very good.  As discussed in the Millennium Development Goals, women are disproportionately affected (PDF) by poverty, which is exacerbated by the land degradation, erosion, and unstable agricultural conditions that will mark the changing climate.

In the interest of improving the link between local community needs and climate financing, Climate Action Network (CAN) also issued a recommendation to the Transitional Committee that the proposed GCF Board include, as non voting-observers, representatives from affected communities, civil society organizations, and the private sector.  This may be ambitious, but perhaps institutionalized financing may be one saving grace of COP-17.

Proposals and Changes?

Something potentially interesting: Papua New Guinea and Mexico have issued a proposal to the COP to change the voting rules.  In short, the proposal would allow amendments to the Convention to be adopted by a 3/4ths majority vote (PDF), if all attempts to achieve consensus have failed.  Intended to avoid the gridlock that characterizes international regime creation, this proposal is currently being debated in informal consultations under the COP.

At the COP: Science, Hot Air, and the CDM

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, starts off the 3rd meeting of the COP, observing that 20 – 30% of observed plant and animal species are likely to be negatively affected by climate change.  A further downer – melting ice-caps threaten low lying islands (so, what we already knew), but notes that in some places, things aren’t so bad: “…[In] some regions, droughts have become less intense, or shorter,” particularly in Central and Northwest America, and coastal Australia.  Moreover, Pachauri emphasizes that climate change is primarily a problem for developing countries – measured as loss in GDP, loss of life, and other metrics.

Poland, speaking on behalf of the EU, promotes the further utilization of the CDM, such that LDCs can “leapfrog” over dirty industrialization, but calls for greater top-down methodologies in calculating emissions reductions – ideally, this would reduce the capacity for states and corporate actors to cheat, gaining credits for minimal or no action.

Kazakhstan proposed an amendment to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol, which would effectively give the country a binding obligation to hold its GHG emissions to 100% of its 1992 levels (PDF).  While keeping emissions at 1992 levels would probably be a good thing for, say, the US and Canada, Kazakhstan is currently  emitting slightly below its 1992 levels, thus 1) encoding activity in which Kazakhstan is engaging anyway; 2) allowing that country to participate in Joint Implementation projects, or selling its ‘excess’ emissions, thereby gaining access to potentially lucrative investment and markets, while doing nothing to curb overall emissions.  This, of course, illustrates the ongoing problem with creating regimes – legal rules that violate the entire spirit of the endeavor.

The Civil Society Speaks

To highlight concerns associated with environmental injustice, Conrad Feather from the Forest People’s Programme raised the specter of disenfranchisement caused by the application of REDD projects. While using forests to curb global carbon may be a worthwhile goal in the abstract, it is decidedly not, if doing so requires the coerced relocation of rural and agricultural peoples.

Roberto Espinoza, an indigenous Peruvian from an indigenous rights advocacy organization and Jorge Payaba from the Madre de Diós federation discuss the problem of afforestation policies as a climate change strategy.  Espinoza, in a presentation on the “…piracy, abuses, and scams against indigenous people under the name of the REDD program,” argues that it is a piracy that is a “…design of the REDD program in its entirety.”  In short, the concern is that international assistance to the state of Peru is not translated into concern and well-being for local populations – the state benefits from hundreds of millions of dollars in international and financial capital, but it is a state that engages in land grabs, forced relocation, and the centralization over land tenure.  Thus, strengthening the state in the name of environmental green behavior obscures local injustice and unsustainable practices.

So, yes, OK, somewhat depressing.  Nevertheless!  Will there be meaningful financial commitment at the end of it all?  Will indigenous concerns be taken seriously?  We’ll see…