Tag: Mitigation

CAN Submission: Cancun Building Blocks, October 2010


A fair, ambitious and binding deal is needed more urgently than ever. Climate science is more compelling by the day. Impacts are coming harder and faster. Disastrous flooding in Pakistan, heat waves and forest fires in Russia and hottest recorded temperatures around the globe, amongst other devastating climate-related events, all point to the need for urgent action. Levels of warming once thought to be safe, may well not be, 1.5˚C is the new 2˚C. 

Negotiations Post-Copenhagen
Copenhagen was a watershed moment for public interest and support for climate action – and people have not lost interest. More people in more countries than ever have put their governments on notice that they expect a fair,
ambitious and binding global deal to be agreed urgently. Trust-building is essential after the disappointment of Copenhagen. Developed country leadership must be at the core of trust building efforts. Countries must show
their commitment to the UNFCCC process by driving it forward with political will and flexible positions, rather than endless rounds of repetitive negotiations. Many countries are troublingly pessimistic for Cancun, and are working to lower expectations. While others, including countries most vulnerable to climate change, maintain high expectations.

Challenges ahead of Cancun
There are many challenges to getting a full fair, ambitious and binding deal at Cancun, including:

  • Lack of a shared vision for the ultimate objective of the agreement, and the equitable allocation of the remaining carbon budget and emissions reduction/limitation commitments;
  • Sharp divisions on the legal form of an eventual outcome;
  • Failure of the US Senate to pass comprehensive legislation this year; and
  • Current economic difficulties facing many countries, which make it difficult to mobilize the substantial commitments to long-term climate finance needed as part of any ambitious agreement. 

Positive moves afoot
However, more and more countries, both developing and developed, are stepping up their efforts to pursue low-carbon development and adaptation, despite the absence of an international agreement. This can be seen in a variety of ways:

  • Investments in renewable energies have continued their exponential growth, increasing to 19% of global energy consumed;
  • Progressive countries are working to move the negotiations forward;
  • There is a growing perception that low-carbon and climate-resilient development is the only option to sustainably ensure the right to development and progress in poverty reduction. 

So, what does a pathway forward look like?

Firstly we must learn the lessons of Copenhagen. The “nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed” dynamic from Copenhagen could mean that nothing would be agreed in Cancun. An agreement in Cancun should instead be a balanced and significant step toward reaching a full fair, ambitious & binding deal at COP 17 in South Africa. This will require parties to work together in good faith to create sufficient gains at Cancun, and a clear roadmap to South Africa. This paper outlines how that could be achieved. 

Let’s be clear

Being clear helps better direct policy and allocate resources appropriately. So ECO also wants to be clear. Paris needs to improve transparency and accountability on many different fronts: mitigation and adaptation actions and means of implementation. And to be even clearer, it does not mean additional burden.  And importantly, improved transparency and accountability will build trust.

Let’s start with guiding principles and rules to count emissions and preserve environmental integrity of commitments. We also need to assess the quality of information and scale of countries’actions, as well as a credible process to support compliance and effective implementation.

Of course, we’re not starting from scratch. Let’s build on the MRV experience of mitigation: measurement (collection of information domestically), reporting (provision of this information internationally), and verification (checking by independent experts).

It is critical to track whether the collective effort is enough to keep emission levels below the 1.5°C warming trajectory that we need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  Sharing information on current or planned domestic laws, standards, or other enforceable provisions also helps identify where international cooperation, support, or capacity building might be most helpful.

Without transparency, we cannot understand country pledges, avoid double-counting of efforts, or facilitate compliance.  Unless stakeholders perceive transparency provisions as fair, with continuous improvement of support, broader negotiations will stall.

The transparency system must be evolving, flexible and recognise that Parties are starting from different points and have varying levels of responsibility and capability.  Flexibility can be framed in terms of scope, level and type of actions, methodological tiers, and frequency of reporting – all leading to continuous improvement.  It is clear that Parties’ MRV obligations should not be less stringent than in the past or present.

Ahead of Paris, Parties can agree on the objective, scope and guiding principles, laying the foundation of an enhanced MRV regime that allows for improvement of data quality, and informs how actions and support can be scaled up over time.  Middle ground options can then be made clear and detailed work programs enabled in COP decisions for elaborating and reviewing  rules and guidelines. That way, we can leave Bonn with a clear direction on where we are going.

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Caring for Land, Securing our Food

Does anyone really question whether land is central to what we’re all trying to do here in the UNFCCC? No, didn’t think so. Not only is the land sector critical to our mitigation efforts, but one of the key reasons we so urgently need to stop climate change is to still be able to use it to grow food and, um, eat, in a few decades’ time.

It’s obvious that to help us stay below 1.5°C temperature rise, some types of land must act as sinks and carbon stores. We need to do everything we can to protect, maintain and restore critical ecosystems such as natural forests, grasslands and degraded peatlands. Our survival, and most of the living species we share our planet with, depend on it. In fact, we need the work on land to come on top of everything else we can do to reduce our emissions from other sectors, particularly industry and energy. So let’s be honest; land cannot be used to lower ambition elsewhere.

At the same time, let’s not get carried away in our enthusiasm for mitigation in the land sector. Countries need to avoid any perverse incentives that conflict with food production, destroy natural ecosystems, threaten indigenous peoples’ rights, drive land grabs, increase hunger, harm animal welfare, or make life even tougher for vulnerable communities. ECO suggests a rather elegant solution: Parties should be as clear as possible in the text about the kinds of lands and mitigation actions that should be prioritised, and that peoples’ rights must be protected.

With this in mind, ECO hopes that there will be resounding support for the Parties that have introduced text to ensure food security and social and environmental protections into the General Objective of the new agreement.

Addressing land properly in the new agreement presents an exciting opportunity to fix the gaps in the old regime, step up ambition, and protect our future food security.  We’re all hungry for change.

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Let’s Get Ethical

FYI: ECO is highly principled, and believes that a key role of the Paris agreement will be to enshrine durable principles. Specifically for carbon markets, the following principles should be inscribed:

Real: unless the emissions reductions have actually occurred, and are not an accountancy trick, what’s the point of a market?

Supplemental: a failure of carbon markets has been the result of inadequate levels of ambition to drive the market. Only countries with targets that represent their fair share of effort towards the 1.5oC goal should be allowed to trade, and then only for levels of ambition above that fair share.

Additional: any credits that are traded need to represent emissions reductions achieved above a credible baseline.

Internationally verifiable: for those participating in the market, confidence in the quality of the credits is paramount. Alas, only through transparency will this confidence be achieved.

Permanent emissions reductions: having the emissions reappear at a later date makes the credits a mere accountancy trick.

Avoid double counting: despite getting a Fossil on this, Brazil still does not understand that this is an issue. Counting a single credit twice as contributing towards action misses the whole point.

Deliver sustainable development co-benefits: there are many other environmental, developmental and human rights issues that at worst credits and markets should not undermine, and at best should actively contribute to improving.

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Hot Air

With all the puffery at these talks, you’d think a little more hot air might not be noticed. The problem is, it’s not just a little bit of hot air, the result is sweltering.

The lack of integrity of the market mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol, combined with weak targets, have created an 11 gigatonne CO2e hot air loophole. That’s right, 11 big ones — clearing up that loophole would go a long way to closing the gigatonne gap. One important way would be to agree the KP hot air credits must be ineligible for compliance in the Paris agreement.

To ensure that we learn from the KP experience, the Paris treaty should define principles for the eligibility of use of international markets to achieve a country’s Nationally Determined Commitment. This should include how markets should reach standards that deliver real, supplemental, additional, verifiable, permanent emissions reductions, avoid double counting of effort, result in a net atmospheric benefit, and deliver sustainable development co-benefits. These principles will need to be defined in the COP decisions. Unless the core agreement specifically refers to these well-established standards, the transparency and environmental integrity of many Parties’ NDCs that depend on the use of markets cannot be assured.

To be effective, only countries with NDCs expressed as multi-year carbon budgets should be allowed to use markets for compliance. Such countries should also only be able to use market mechanisms if they have an ambitious 2025 mitigation target in line with their fair share 1.5°C target. Confidence in the carbon markets post 2020 requires rigorous MRV and accounting of emissions.

As Winston Churchill put it: “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” Will we learn from the KP experience? The agreements you come to, dear delegates, will test whether you indeed have learned.

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Remember the Science: 2°C is Not Safe

When working at a microscopic level, we know there is a danger of delegates losing perspective. In June, the presentation of the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) results saw intensive exchanges on new science, the impacts of climate change and how to keep warming at 1.5/2°C. But the end saw Saudi Arabia and others sideline an agreement to inform the ADP on their work and conclusions.

The SED found that the ‘guardrail’ concept, in which up to 2°C of warming is considered as relatively safe, is in fact inadequate due to the severe risks and potential irreversible impacts. Instead, the long-term goal should be defined as a ‘defence line’ and efforts should be made to put the line as low as possible. It’s important to note that more than 100 Parties already support limiting warming to 1.5oC, a group only likely to gain members in the run-up to Paris.

From the 10 key SED messages, ECO wants to reiterate three:

1) Warming of 2°C would lead to catastrophic impacts, slow down economic growth and hinder poverty reduction efforts considerably.

2) The world is not on track for a path towards a 1.5/2°C scenario. Past and recent global GHG emissions have accelerated, the emissions gap is growing, and the current Cancun pledges are more consistent with pathways limiting global warming to 3-4°C.

3) Keeping warming at 1.5/2°C is still achievable. Deep emission cuts are needed to keep warming at 1.5°C and below 2°C levels. This would require full decarbonisation of energy systems. Achieving this would not significantly affect global gross domestic product growth.

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“If, and this is the case here, there is a high risk of dangerous climate change with severe and life-threatening consequences for man and the environment, the State has the obligation to protect its citizens from it by taking appropriate and effective measures.”

 The Hague District Court, 24 June 2015

You can’t have missed it: the Dutch NGO Urgenda, alongside over 900 citizens, recently won a historic climate lawsuit against the Dutch state. The Court in The Hague confirmed what scientists, the public and civil society have long known: developed countries must take more climate action, now. And if they don’t, they face being held legally liable for impacts of their inaction.

Accordingly, the Court ordered the Dutch government to reduce its emissions by a minimum of 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, deeming the current target of 17% wholly inadequate.

And rightly so: for a likely chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, developed countries must make much bigger cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions. In mandating a 25% target, the Court expressly provides a great deal of leeway for the Dutch state, noting that, “a reduction target of this magnitude is the absolute minimum“.

However, what might have been an opportunity for Dutch leadership and an ‘orange is the new green’ attitude has instead become a fossil-worthy fiasco. Earlier this week, the Netherlands announced its intention to appeal the case—despite numerous protests all pleading “#ganietinberoep!” (don’t appeal!).

There are strong signals that the government’s main rationale for the appeal is that it hopes to continue its dirty ways, with less than 5% of the country powered by renewables and annual fossil fuel subsidies approaching $10 billion.

With its future adaptation costs estimated in the billions, this low-lying country should really know better. The Netherlands is just the first in a long line of countries that could eventually be held legally accountable for climate inaction and delinquency towards their citizens.

All developed countries must cut their emissions by at least 40% by 2020 from 1990 levels in order to help bridge the emissions gap. The Urgenda case is an indictment of all who put the priorities of powerful vested interests above those of their citizens, and a clarion call to the need for quick and powerful action on climate change

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An Inconvenient Gap

ECO would like to draw Parties’ attention to new analysis out today: even though only two-thirds of the world’s emissions are covered by currently submitted INDCs, there is a substantial gap in mitigation ambition as we speed toward Paris. Submissions for 2025 put us on a dangerous track to warming of well over 1.5°C, and the 2030 goals are simply not good enough. And the 2030 commitments submitted thus far would make 2°C “essentially infeasible”, and 1.5°C “beyond reach”.

Then there’s the pesky problem of actually meeting the commitments put forward so far, let alone any new ones. Only the EU and China have realistic pathways to meet their 2025 targets. Everyone else needs to step up their game to ensure stabilisation of the climate.

It’s time for countries to take a hard look at global goals and play their part. ECO has three prescriptions: increased ambition for 2025 targets, 5-year cycles to ensure an opportunity for course correction, and strong encouragement to increase ambition back home to pass policies in line with stated commitments.

Ambition Graph

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WS2: How To Do Better

Constructive proposals have pleasingly been coming out of the Workstream 2 discussions. Crucial emissions gap language, missing since June, has been reintroduced. This includes discussions around a forum to move WS2 towards implementation, improved Technical Experts Meetings, appointment of champions for actionable initiatives, and a Technical Examination Process on adaptation, among others.

Efficient systems and processes need to be put in place to close the ambition gap. It is important that WS2 be enhanced, as it could be a pilot for future efforts to close the emissions gap left by inadequate INDCs. ECO appreciates that many Parties recognise the potential of non-state actors in these processes, too.

However, while this—collaborative actions and actions by non-state actors—are critical components of closing the emissions gap, they cannot account for the full 8-10 Gt CO2e gap that is still expected for 2020. Governments will have to play their part, especially developed countries. ECO is concerned that some interventions by developed countries, though constructive in part, consistently avoid the fact that developed countries should set an example through enhanced domestic action.

Unexplored mitigation potential, as South Africa put it, in developing countries exists due to lack of access to technology, capacity or finance. If developed countries are calling for all countries to close the gap, they must recognise that this will firstly require them to deliver additional support to unlock the dormant potential.

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