Tag: China

An open letter to China’s Chief Speech Writer

Dear Chief Speech Writer,

Being a speech writer for one of the busiest people on earth is stressful, isn’t it? Don’t worry, ECO is here to help with some advice that you may want to consider in your draft speech for the Chinese leader in the upcoming Climate Summit.

ECO recommends having “coal” as the key word in your writing. We’re aware of the recent regional coal caps introduced in China, intended to tackle air pollution. Your country is making impressive progress in deviating from the coal dependent path. Why not write about it? Even better, how about expanding existing coal caps to the entire country and announcing this decision in the speech? Not only would this help alleviate air pollution in China, it would also bring down emissions significantly. You recently wrote your Premier an impressive speech to declare “war on pollution”. We’re pacifists at ECO, but could definitely get behind those efforts.

You should consider reaffirming the intention to communicate China’s “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDC) for the 2015 climate deal by the first quarter of next year. Speech elements that touch on the scope and ambition level of the Chinese offer will certainly be welcomed.

Our final piece of advice is to elaborate on some of the upcoming climate policies. ECO encourages you to write about the climate change legislation that is currently in the pipeline. Some clarity on how the ETS will be developed after 2015 will also be helpful. And don’t forget to mention peaking – something ECO cares about dearly. Please do not let ECO down by saying China’s emissions would peak by as late as 2030. In light of the latest IPCC reports, another 15 years of emissions growth would be a climate disaster!

So good luck with drafting! No pressure, but you are compiling a speech that everyone around the world will be listening to carefully. Make sure you adopt elements from ECO’s suggestions. That will for sure earn your boss applause for his climate moment.

Yours,

ECO

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Fresh air for fresh brains

ECO hopes that a fresh breeze of air in Bonn will give the Chinese delegation a break from Beijing’s filthy air, and perhaps a fresh perspective on the negotiations.

Last year, 92% of China’s cities failed to meet national air quality standards. The government has since mandated provinces to curb coal consumption, the biggest source of air pollution, in particular of PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 mm in diameter). A number of provinces have put forward specific coal control measures and some have even pledged to reduce absolute consumption by 2017. The aggregate of these provincial measures will reduce the country’s coal consumption by 655 million tonnes from a business as usual scenario by 2020.

ECO knows that there are significant co-benefits between addressing air pollution and mitigating greenhouse gases emissions. Over the past decade, China’s coal burning has accounted for half of the world’s CO2 emission growth. Slashing coal power generation will not only be good for the Chinese people, but also for the global community.

Provincial cuts to coal-based power generation will translate to roughly 1,300 million tonnes of emissions reductions, equivalent to the combined total annual emissions of Australia and Canada. If China delivers on these plans with a full implementation and by expanding its coal caps to broader regions, then its emissions pathway will be almost in line with the IEA’s 2°C scenario. Other countries must do their fair share to if China is to have confidence moving forward.

ECO thinks that the Minister’s further clarification on China’s proposed submission by March 2015 is a timely step in the right direction that needs to be built upon. China should also communicate its domestic successes here in Bonn to help build momentum in the international climate negotiations. More transparency will help build trust, enhance collective ambition, and might just allow everyone to breathe more easily.

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Dear Japan:

Hello and welcome, Mr. Japanese Minister!

We would like to introduce ourselves, as we did not have a chance to meet you here in Warsaw.

We have met the Japanese ministers at every Conference of the Parties since COP 2, held in 1996. We are wondering why the honorable Minister of Japan did not have the time to meet us in civil society this time around, and explain Japan's new ‘ambitious’ emissions target of 3.1% above 1990 levels by 2020 .

We are looking forward to meeting you in Lima, and hoping by then you can present a truly ambitious target of which you could be proud!

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Plans to Axe Warsaw’s Only Fair Share Mention Gets Fossil for Five Countries, while Australia’s Schoolboy Antics Get a Fifth Gong


Credit: David Tong, Adopt A Negotiator

The first place fossil goes to India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia, and China for proposing to delete the only reference to equity in the ADP text!  (And for the wonks, we mean paragraph 9 in the ADP text).  Equity is key to the 2015 agreement and Parties must leave Warsaw with a clear understanding of how the ex ante review will be conducted. This includes – at a minimum - details on submissions, expert workshops, and the development of a technical paper on a basket of indicators covering: adequacy, historical responsibility, capability, and development and adaptation need).  Details that are really hard to achieve if you just delete the whole paragraph.  We were shocked that with all the discussions here and in Bonn, equity did not yield more than a passing reference in the first version of the ADP text.  The next iteration must expand and not ‘streamline’ references to equity.  To these members of the Like-Minded Group, we urge you to engage in the development of an ex ante review, rather than hovering over the delete button.

The second place in today’s fossil goes to Australia, who along with some other developed countries is impeding progress towards setting up an international mechanism on loss and damage here in Warsaw, as proposed by G77 and China. Trying to keep out key text elements proposed by more than 130 developing countries (such as on non-economic losses and permanent losses), delaying negotiation progress through procedural manoeuvres, and lacking a clear commitment to strong support provisions in the decision text is highly concerning.  Australia is the leader of those lacking constructive spirit.
 
We call on the other developed countries to work seriously for the needs of the most vulnerable countries and help in establishing an effective international mechanism on loss and damage here in Warsaw.

AUSTRALIAN CARBON PRICE REPEAL DRAGS COUNTRY BACK TO THE FOSSIL ERA


Photo Credit: David Tong, Adopt A Negotiator

It has been millennia since the rumble of dinosaurs has been heard, but now in 2013 at COP19 to the UNFCCC we find ourselves among prehistoric fossils once more. 

Overnight, the Australian government tabled legislation to repeal effective climate policy. Instead they hope to bring in an almost Orwellian-named “direct action plan” which they claim will meet their paltry 5% reduction target. Though if it doesn’t, which most leading economists agree it will not, further funding or even a Plan B are low on the list of the new government’s priorities.

As well as repealing the carbon price (hence hurling Australia back into the abyss of time, as opposed to the more than 40 countries, states and provinces who have moved into the modern times with a carbon price), in equally grim news, the bills will also strip $435 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and remove $10 billion of investment in clean energy. This comes amongst uncertainty around Australia’s 2020 targets, with a lack of clarity on whether the new policy regime will meet 5% and a review of a review of a possible review to take place in 2015 as to any further commitments.

In an extra outrageous statement the Prime Minister Tony Abbott opened the new parliament with the bold claim to the Australian people that “as far as the government is concerned, the adults are back in charge.”  All of this earns Australia today’s first place Fossil of the Day award.

For the people who might not know this country, let’s us describe it a bit. This country has increased its carbon emissions 124% from 1990 levels. In the past few years, this country is recording the largest relative increase in annual carbon emissions. If you still don’t know what country this is, here is an other clue: this country is the 4th biggest coal investor in the world. If you still cannot figure it out, this is an Annex 1 country without any pledges. Also, this country has recently issued an exemption to all state owned electricity production companies on all environmental permits and legally binding environmental investments until 2021.

38% of this country’s electricity production comes from state owned plants. Have you guessed yet? Today’s second place Fossil goes to Turkey.

It seems that previous fossils were not enough for Turkey to take its responsibility so we're hearing rumours like the country has closed down their Interministrial Climate Change Coordination Council as well as they dismantling other institutions that have to work on climate change. But the last thing we saw from participant list was unbelievable. Turkey didn't bring one single person from the Ministry of Environment, even from Climate Change Department. We don't want to believe that Turkey came to UNFCCC for a tour of Warsaw’s sights. We also don't want to believe that Turkey is here with Ministry of Energy to participate to Coal & Climate Summit. We're giving this fossil to Turkey for their love of coal and dismantling climate policies and institutions but we also want you to know that you still have a chance to be loved. Now be responsible and take your pledge!

What is worse than appalling action on climate change? Having an appalling record on climate change AND congratulating others for their appalling climate policies. With Australia taking steps to dismantle its climate protection program and its carbon price, the Canadian government jumped at the opportunity to take Question Period talking points to the international stage. Canada’s rejection of carbon pricing in favour of an ineffective regulatory approach has been demonstrated to be the wrong way to actually get emissions down – with the government’s own estimate putting their projected 2020 emissions 20% above their Copenhagen target. We shake our heads in disbelief that a government publicly congratulates others on moving backward and dodging their responsibility on climate change while people are dying from climate impacts. That’s why we award Canada the Fossil of Disbelief today.

HFCs: Finally Phasing Out One Man-Made Problem?

 

ECO was pleased to wake up Sunday to the news that Presidents Obama and Xi had agreed to work together to combat climate change by phasing down the super greenhouse gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), under the Montreal Protocol. An agreement under Montreal could prevent emissions of 100 billion tonnes CO2e by 2050. First that great party on Saturday, and then this?!

For a while now, the EU has been busy pushing a COP decision at Warsaw that will urge Parties to begin this exact same process under the Montreal Protocol, and they are clearly excited to have China and the US in agreement. As Connie Hedegaard tweeted Saturday, “Welcome on board!” All eyes are now on the next intersessional meeting of the Montreal Protocol happening in a few weeks, hoping it will turn this political arrangement into concrete, short-term action, which must not stop at phasing down, but start phasing out with appropriate finance and technology support to developing countries.

HFCs are human-manufactured chemicals, primarily used in refrigeration, air conditioning and foam blowing, which were commercialised to replace the high-Global Warming Potential, ozone depleting, human manufactured chemicals phased out by the Montreal Protocol over the past 25 years. Yet, HFCs are also extremely harmful to the climate, with global warming potentials much higher than carbon dioxide. Fortunately, commercially available, climate friendly natural alternatives exist for most of their uses, and developed countries should ensure that these are provided to developing countries at an affordable cost to enable them to take a faster phase in.

Under the Montreal Protocol, all 197 Parties have accepted firm reduction commitments. These commitments are based on the legal principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that incorporates a grace period for developing countries and financial and technology transfer support. This allows them to implement mandated phase-out schedules after developed countries, in recognition of developed countries’ larger historical contribution to ozone depletion and developing countries’ right to continued growth and development. In addition, the Montreal Protocol has financially supported the phase-out of ozone depleting substances in developing countries through developed country contributions administered by the Multilateral Fund (MLF).

On Monday, the EU held a side event to discuss how to deliver progress on HFCs in practical terms. A far cry from some of the more theoretical debates happening elsewhere, this took a packed room through a demonstration of what the Montreal Protocol has achieved in terms of climate mitigation and technology transfer. A whopping 220 Gt CO2e have been avoided since the early 1990s alone, with the $3 billion channelled through the MLF. The message came across loud and clear: if you’re looking for bang for your buck, look no further than the Montreal Protocol. This led more than one participant to ask why we’re not using the tried and tested mechanisms already in place to get rid of these super greenhouse gases.

ECO wonders the same thing, and hopes Parties will stop their politics and get to work. ECO also calls upon developed countries to ensure that support is provided to financial and technology transfer to ensure these technologies are available at affordable costs to developing countries, and encourages a faster phase out to better technologies.

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Climate action takes on split personality ahead of first UN talks of 2013

With this year’s first session of the UN climate negotiations to open on Monday, international politics surrounding the planetary climate crisis were taking on a split personality, according to NGO experts speaking at a press briefing today by Climate Action Network-International and the Global Call for Climate Action. 

According to Alden Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists' director of strategy and policy, on the one hand, there are some signs of progress on climate action.
 
More developing countries appear keen to adopt low carbon development plans, renewable energy costs continue to decline, and the US and China just launched a process to develop a set of joint actions that “set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world."
 
In addition, several key high-profile political actors, such as IMF chief Christine Lagarde and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, are calling for increased action on climate change.
 
But on the other hand, there are several signs that the world is not coming to grips with the severity of the situation, Meyer said, such as continuation of some US$1 trillion a year in fossil fuel subsidies, increasing efforts to develop unconventional oil reserves and expand coal exports, and the growing gap documented by UNEP between the reductions in emissions required by 2020 in order to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Centigrade, and the much higher level expected as a result of current national pledges of action. 
 
"To top it off, we aren’t seeing the bold leadership needed by our political leaders to deal with the climate crisis, particularly those from developed countries,” Meyer said.  “This must change – and soon – if we are to get the much more ambitious set of international and national actions that are required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” 
Hope in the face of the climate threat was coming increasingly from developing countries. 
 
Lina Li, climate policy researcher from the Greenovation Hub in Beijing, said after some positive domestic developments on the climate front, there was potential for China to do more on the international stage. 
 
"The North-South paradigm that underpinned the international development and environment agenda is posing more questions than answers. Conventional wisdoms are being challenged while new imaginations are yet to be articulated. China’s new role, with the ongoing geographic power shift, will be identified within this context. This is one of the key questions that need to be addressed if we are going to achieve a fair deal in 2015," Lina said. 
 
Meanwhile, this year's major climate negotiations will be held in Poland in November, a country renowned for blocking further climate action in the EU, according to Julia Michalak, climate policy officer for Climate Action Network, Europe. 
 
"It’s difficult for the country that keeps looking back-ward to move the international process forward. Poland keeps mentioning its past achievement and has no vision on how to design its own climate policy, so it’s difficult to imagine it can offer a lot to international process."
 
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CANADA AND NEW ZEALAND TIE FOR THE INFAMOUS COLOSSAL FOSSIL 2012 AWARD

 

This year’s Fossil of the Year Award, The Colossal Fossil, goes to Canada and New Zealand! After a 5-year reign as the Colossal Fossil, it seems Canada is refusing to bow out gracefully into the irrelevance that comes with being an historic climate laggard. They, instead, stood strong for inaction throughout the UN climate talks, challenged only by the up and coming New Zealand.

Although Canada can share the honour for one more year, Fossil feels that Canada’s tar sands are, frankly, giving Canada an unfair advantage in this competition – Canada has been carbon doping!

For a country whose emissions are similar in scale to the Canadian tar sands, New Zealand has demonstrated exceptional blindness to scientific and political realities. Surprising many and disappointing all, New Zealand has fought hard to unseat 5-time Colossal Fossil winner, Canada, in a campaign of extreme selfishness and irresponsibility. While New Zealand may have helped drown the talks for another year, New Zealand's small and vulnerable Pacific neighbours should take heart that they have not been forgotten - New Zealand intends to drown them too.

 

Contact:

Ria Voorhaar
Communications Coordinator
Climate Action Network – International
rvoorhaar@climatenetwork.org
Home mobile: +49 157 3173 5568
Local mobile: +974 33 38 6907

 

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It's the Politics, Stupid!

The UNFCCC wouldn’t be the UNFCCC if the United States of America didn’t ruffle some feathers. So, right on cue, Friday’s intervention by US lead negotiator Jonathan Pershing in the ADP ambition roundtable certainly did the trick by labelling, yet again, the UNFCCC as a long and winding road to nowhere. This comes less than a month after Dr. Pershing's boss, Todd Stern, rocked his fellow negotiators with his assertion that negotiating "a treaty with binding emission targets stringent enough to...[hold] the increase in global average temperature to less than 2° centigrade above pre-industrial levels" is "entirely logical" but "ignores the classic lesson that politics – including international politics – is the art of the possible."

After a firestorm of reactions to his speech from both negotiators and NGOs, Stern issued a clarification that the US still supported the 2 degree goal agreed to by President Obama and other world leaders.  But the damage was done.

Don’t get us wrong – ECO, along with most others here in Bangkok, shares the frustration at the glacial (at least there are still glaciers somewhere) speed at which these negotiations proceed. But to paraphrase Bill Clinton: it’s the politics, stupid! The continual swipes and undermining of this process demonstrates the bad faith of the US.

ECO agrees with the US – and virtually everyone else – that other processes must help deliver the much greater ambition required to save civilisation as we know it.  We need all hands on deck. This battle can’t be won in the confines of the UNFCCC alone. But the UNFCCC is an essential element of an effective global response to climate change, and the US vision of a fragmented, bottom-up international process will never deliver enough ambition to keep us well below 2 degrees. Our experience with the agreements reached first in Rio, and more recently in Copenhagen, clearly proves this.

Higher degrees of trust and accountability are required to encourage greater ambition. Isn’t this why the US pushed so hard in Copenhagen and Cancun for more robust MRV from China et al? It claimed that reassurances of other countries' ability to meet their pledges is essential to persuade its Congress and public that the administration's pledge to reduce US emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (read: -4% based on 1990 levels) is reasonable. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, and it's constructive action that is demanded of the US to encourage others to act, all we get are claims of

“NO WE CAN'T”

The assertion that top-down agreements produce lower-ambition results is nonsensical. It goes without saying that complementary investments to support change in the real economy are critical to change a country’s perception of its national interest. But top-down agreements are essential to incentivise ambition, as only a serious multilateral regime can convince those whose capital allocation decisions shape the economy that a high-carbon business model will expose them to greater risk and hit their returns harder than betting now on a low-carbon future.

The Kyoto Protocol, though far from perfect, gave us a legal framework that culminated in European taxpayers and companies investing at least €40 billion to purchase international carbon credits. The Kyoto Protocol spurred on Europe’s renewable energy investments, which have helped create a global revolution in renewable energy investment now outstripping annual new fossil fuel-powered investments. Thanks to Kyoto, it is Europe’s energy regulations and standards which emerging economies are emulating, and which underpin a global market worth US$3 trillion. Without Kyoto, China would not have decided to implement a Five-Year Economic Plan based on the core assumption of rapidly expanding global markets in clean energy. It's clear that Kyoto, a top-down multi-lateral agreement, has shaped global economic reality. 

The sluggish progress we witness at these negotiations is not due to the intrinsic nature of the UN system, but is truly a reflection of the woeful political leadership of countries like the United States. It's ironic that a decade after the world was compelled to defend the Kyoto Protocol against the vicious and unfounded attacks of the Bush administration, the US is yet again proving a grave threat to the progress needed in these talks.

ECO would suggest the next time Dr. Pershing feels the urge to make yet another comment about the rapidity and effectiveness of agreements here in the UNFCCC, that he stop and take a long, hard look at what the US is doing, compared to its fair share of the much greater global effort needed to address the urgent threat of climate change.

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