Blogging Warsaw: Nov 18

Categories: Climate Change, Durban COP-17, Haiyan/Yolanda, International Relations, Warsaw COP-19

Progress on Post-2012?

Bangladesh has signed the Doha Amendment (PDF) to the Kyoto Protocol, which establishes a new commitment period for some Parties after 2012, when the Protocol was initially slated to expire.  Four ratifications down, 144 to go!

The poorest countries are doing what they can, which is mostly focusing on trying to figure out what they can do to avoid impending climate catastrophe.  To this end, the 48 poorest of the poor have now submitted their National Adaptation Plans to address how, for example, subsistence agriculture will be made more resilient to deal with droughts, floods, and the like.

Notably, however, the Doha Amendment expires at 2020 (when the new current commitment period ends), and it is also not clear what is going to take place after that.

The US and the Post-2020 Climate

When asked about what the US would do in regards to attempts to create a new regime, the rep referenced Obama’s recent positive changes, including raising the CAFE Standards for automobiles, and support to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.  He also referenced the Climate Change Working Group, established with China, which is a voluntary, bilateral program to reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles and increase overall energy efficiency.  One of the important things they’re doing as well, is phasing out the tremendously warming HFCs (which initially, were inadvertently encouraged under the Montreal Protocol  to avoid depleting the ozone layer).  Given projections of a massive increase of HFCs in the future, and their huge Global Warming Potential, this is a big deal.

Projected HFC consumption

Still, while the US is thinking about a post-2020 commitment, they are unwilling to state anything concrete at this time.  They also expressed sympathy for Japan, having unilaterally dropped their commitment from cutting emissions by 25% due to their recent crises with Fukushima, and their shift away from nuclear energy.  When asked by a member of the press on the US’s negotiating position, or approach to dealing with international efforts to create a post-2020 treaty, he said, “I’m certainly not here to negotiate that with you, heh heh heh heh heh.”

Business and Energy

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC had some words for the coal industry today.  Stating that the fifth report from the IPCC – AR5 – “is not science fiction, [but] is science fact,” Figueres called on the global industry to make dramatic changes.  Interestingly enough, Figueres makes in part a financial argument.  Observing that international development banks are increasingly unwilling to finance coal, and that cities “choked by air pollution are limiting the burning of coal,” she pointed out that continuing coal extraction may create a “business continuation risk.”

Coal Mining in India

However, she also underlines that there is a major environmental need to change as well.  Since it is clear that business as usual will lead to us overshooting the two degree Celsius limit, she calls for pretty serious steps, such as leaving “…most existing reserves in the ground.”

In talking about coal use and consumption, the US representative said “that’s not gonna change overnight.  But at the same time, if we’re going to get a grip on climate change, the balance of energy is going to have to tilt much more toward non-fossil sources.”  Still, this seems slightly more accepting of current and projected coal use, since he noted that the proper way to deal with coal in the current climate (ha ha) is to adopt carbon capture and storage.  Why change your energy habits, if you can just hide them, after all?

About Kemi Fuentes-George

I am a professor in environmental studies and political science at Middlebury College.