Tags » UNFCCC

 
 
 

Blogging Warsaw: Nov 19 – Energy and Development

Categories: Warsaw COP-19

Warsaw COP-19

Energy Industry and Climate Change

World Energy Council Prof. Karl Rose spoke about the recent report from the WEC on Global Scenarios 2050.  Like the recent Emissions Gap report from UNEP (under Executive Director Achim Steiner), the report shows that, due to rising energy demand (likely to double by 2050), our current model is still likely to take us well above the increase in global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius.  As Rose says, “We see what we would call a very inconvenient truth, to paraphrase somebody else.  We are not getting there.”  (For some reason, the WEC has described its projected scenarios of GHG emissions as either Jazz or Symphony, which is horribly twee.  I mean, come on).

Screen shot 2013-11-19 at 10.16.37 AM

Click Here for Interactive Map on Copenhagen Climate Commitments

Anyway, Rose is skeptical about a neoliberal approach to addressing carbon production in the fossil fuel industry.  “The market has no incentive to actually optimize on anything other than an optimum cost picture.”  In other words, market driven actors are all about the cash, yo.  Don’t even act like corporate actors care about anything but that dolla.

The EU: The Environmental Conscience of the North?

Valentinas Mauronis of the EU reiterated that the EU is completely committed to creating a binding agreement by 2015.  Moreover, the EU is trying to get something underway now, by creating the framework to come up with a globally binding treaty in the next two years: “We need to leave Warsaw with new decisions in relation to mobilizing long-term climate finance and addressing adaptation, and loss, and damage.”  In discussing the so far hypothetical (because it hasn’t yet come into force) post-2012 era, Mauronis said: “Let me make clear that the EU is working hard to prepare our ratification of the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Connie Hedegaard of the European Commission went on, clarifying the EU’s determination to address the issue of climate change head on, even re-thinking the role of development and environmental problems: Noting that the traditional way of separating environmental costs from economic ones, she pointed out that “one of the things we need is to change our whole economic paradigm.  The way we structure our budget, the way we think about economic growth, and progress.”  To this end, Hedegaard spoke about unilateral EU commitment to reducing GHG emissions:

“20% of the whole EU-level budget for the next 7 years will go to support our climate change policies.  It is 3 times what you have in the present budget.”

Moreover, Hedegaard is concerned that the commitment of US and China to think about phasing out one category of major GHGs, namely HFCs, is insufficient.  She pointed out that at recent discussions at the Montreal Protocol, those same states were interested only in minor reductions of their production and consumption.

Finally, Hedegaard called for immediate action to meaningfully reach the 2015 deadline for creating a globally binding agreement:

“2015 is not a tentative deadline. It is a deadline that the whole world must take very seriously…  Some will say, ‘Yes, maybe we are not ready, with the work we have to do.’  Let me make clear: Paris 2015 is six years after Copenhagen…  There is no excuse.”

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?

Blogging Warsaw: End of Week 1 of COP-19

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

Haiyan/Yolanda, Developing Countries, and Climate Change

Aw yeah!  Blogging time!  Since I didn’t learn anything from COP-17 in Durban, it’s time to cover some of the goings-on, claims, positions, and new developments sure to come over the next week at Warsaw, where the Parties to the UNFCCC hold their 19th COP.  This is a pretty interesting time for the climate change regime, particularly since it’s the first year of the (post-Kyoto?  Second commitment period?  Ambling zombie-fied regime?) post-2012 era.  To recap: the Parties have so far agreed that it was impossible then (2010, 11, 12) to get a binding agreement before Kyoto expired, but committed to commit in the future to a globally binding Protocol, with Obligations and Requirements for All.

Finance and Development

As expected, one of the major issues has to do with the economic and environmental vulnerability of developing nations to climate change.  As academics like Roberts and Parks noted in the book A Climate of Injustice published by MIT Press, developing countries have argued persuasively that the problem of climate change is in part a problem of inequity.  In short, the accumulation of GHGs and the warming climate came because of industrialization and growth in the developed world; now the ones facing the major impact of the predicted increasing strength and frequency of storms like Hayian/Yolanda, are the poorer countries in the developing world, who are also now expected to curb development to solve a problem they had little hand in creating.

Yolanda’s Devastation in the Philippines

At the very least, academics and activists from the developing world have argued that they will take action to curb emissions, but this action must be heavily subsidized by mitigation and adaptation finance provided by the richer nations: 1) they can afford it; 2) they are responsible largely for the crisis. The events of Typhoon Haiyan provided the backdrop for all this, as representatives from the Philippines and the developing world were very clear that they saw the Storm as a result of the global society’s inaction on climate change.

NGO Participation: Terms Subject to Change

Long-term finance was particularly important to the Third World Network (consisting of ENGOs like ActionAid USA and Jubilee South from the Philippines) who were explicit in saying that what was needed to address current and future crises in developing countries was not “ad hoc, charity donations,” but rather actual commitment to help poor nations deal with loss and damage from climate change.  This was a sticking point for this coalition, particularly since, as Brandon Wu of ActionAid USA noted, the Adaptation Fund set up to help developing countries was running out of money.

Wu stated acerbically that the lack of willingness from developed nations to sponsor adaptation & mitigation in poor countries is due primarily to a lack of political will, not capability.  For instance, the unfulfilled pledges for Adaptation for one of the major environmental crises of our time totaled a mere $100 million, or “0.014% of what US spent to bail out banks in 2008.”  In addition, while the international society agreed to establish a Green Climate Fund with full funding by mid-to-late 2014, Wu noted that the text & timeline of the Fund are “not legally binding.”  Wu went on: “There’s no money.  There’s no predictability,” and without those, we have no “…assurance that developed countries have at least some minimal interest in meeting their finance obligations.”

However, on Friday, three members of Friends of the Earth Europe were expelled from the COP, and banned from participating for the next 5 years for expressing solidarity with the Philippines ENGOs’ concern about Yolanda.

Negotiating Positions and Future Treaties?

One other point: after 2012, the Parties to the UNFCCC made unilateral pledges to curb GH emissions.  This week, we saw why unilateral, unbinding pledges are problematic.  Japan decided to reduce their pledge, saying “we used to have a mitigation target of -25% by 2020 from 1990,” but have now decided that their new mitigation target is -3% below 2005 levels, or equivalent to 3.1% over 1990 levels.  To be sure, this target was justified in light of Japan’s own recent environmental crises.  The representative stated that, in light of Fukushima, Japan was planning on building no new nuclear power stations.  “Perhaps we may be able to revisit the mitigation target in the near future…  Some of you may say this is a very easy target for Japan.  It is not.”

Fukushima At A Distance

While the COP isn’t necessarily trying to establish a new agreement now, time is short, and hopefully we will move closer to some kind of consensus by November 22nd.

***Want to donate to help victims of Haiyan/Yolanda?  Check for options here***