Tag: Mitigation

Cancun Building Blocks - Oct 2010

THE POST-COPENHAGEN ROAD

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. 

To negotiations and beyond

ECO has become increasingly concerned about the slow progress towards negotiations based on draft text for the elements of the 2015 agreement.

The Co-Chairs’ approach to this task reminds ECO a bit of the movie “Groundhog Day”, where the main character relives the same day over and over again. Sure, the workshop approach has yielded some interesting exchanges of views and even a few new ideas. But the exercise of Parties continually repeating their well-known positions has its limits. And it seems to ECO that this should really come to an end now so that real negotiations can begin.

Negotiators will notice there is strong asymmetry between the various texts, with actual draft decision text for the INDCs and for Workstream 2, but only a Co-Chair’s paper listing Parties’ ideas for elements for the 2015 agreement.

This delay in moving to text appears to be rooted in fears of being overwhelmed by a comprehensive text running to several hundred pages and polarisation of Party positions. The fear of a long text can be addressed by Parties agreeing on a proper mandate for the Co-Chairs. Yet, the fundamental differences in positions are real. ECO believes it could help to bring them out in the open so they can be confronted directly by ministers and leaders.

ECO suggests that the Co-Chairs produce a draft negotiating text on the elements of the 2015 agreement before Lima. They can draw on the discussions here in Bonn, along with Party submissions (including any additional ones made over the next couple of weeks) to produce a bracketed text with options that reflect the range of positions of Parties.

The Co-Chairs could then be given the mandate to synthesise the various Party proposals to some extent, to avoid ballooning the text up to hundreds of pages, while still presenting a representative range of positions in a manner that is recognisable to the proponents.

Having the chance to engage in real negotiations around clearly defined proposals for the 2015 agreement, representing the full range of views of Parties, will create the conditions for finalising the INDC and WS2 decisions in Lima, as well as the long list of other ongoing work under the COP and SBs. Conversely, a continuation of the discussion format that we’ve experienced at the last two sessions in Bonn on the elements text will almost certainly not lead to agreement, and could jeopardise chances for agreement on the INDCs decision as well.

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The end of king coal?

As delegates prepare to leave these halls, many may be feeling that there’s only been a lot of talk. ECO turns its eyes back to the real world—and sees actions that offer a glimmer of hope. China’s “war against pollution” may be one of those, with Chinese President Xi urging an“Energy Revolution”. It’s signs that China’s transition away from dirty coal is gaining momentum. For the first three quarters in 2014, both production and consumption of coal in China have decreased by over 1% compared to last year, pushing down the price of coal to its lowest level in many years (due to a lack of demand). As a result, the coal industry, often referred to as “King Coal”, is suffering from huge profit loss and ominous future prospects.

China’s coal use was booming until 2012. Now, a potential coal peak is seen as possible in the coming years. Cement, iron and steel production could also peak by 2020. ECO hardly needs to point out how significant such a shift would be to the global effort to limit carbon emissions.

The main driver of these developments is China’s economic restructuring efforts. However, there have also been recent environmental and low-carbon policies that may lead to a sustained transition and enable a more appropriate and strong price signal to the market. Such policies include resource taxation reform, a renewed tariff on coal imports, and efforts to address air pollution. If such efforts are maintained with strong political support, they could hedge against potential market fluctuation and renewed coal growth in the future, and stimulate faster growth in renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions to climate change.

If this continues, these recent developments could put China below previously assumed emission trajectories. Perhaps on the road to Paris, we might hear ambitious statements relating to regional emission peaks from Chinese delegates?

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The EU 2030 package: on time, yes, but where was the ambition?

ECO waited with bated breath for the European Council decision on the EU’s climate and energy package as news trickled through in the early hours of Friday morning.

Is this package, setting a reduction target of “at least” 40% by 2030, up to the challenge of preventing dangerous climate change and staying well below 2°C? The short answer is no. The longer answer is still no, unless other Parties are willing to make up the remainder of the EU’s fair share.

Either way, the package shows that the EU isn’t serious about the necessary transformation away from dirty fossil fuels towards 100% clean energy by mid-century.

Of course, the EU is first in the class to submit its homework (take note, fellow developed country Parties). But being the first does not mean being the best, and ECO sees a lot of room for improvement. The EU may want to review and improve its proposed 2030 target with the word ambition always in mind. There is at least an opening for such an outcome, as the two key words “at least” leave room to bring the reduction target (and the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets) more in line with the 2°C limit. ECO calls on EU Member States to make every effort to do this, as the last thing the world needs is a lock-in of low ambition in the Paris agreement.

A discussion is also needed about the EU’s obsession with its ten year cycle — five-year cycles are much more suitable to avoid a dangerous lock-in of low ambition.

And ECO hasn’t forgotten the EU’s environment and finance ministers. Their respective council meetings over the next weeks have the potential to keep the EU keep working hard on the road to Lima and thereafter. Both meetings should send much clearer signals to developing countries that the EU is serious about all of the elements of the 2015 agreement, importantly including the means of Implementation for both mitigation and adaptation.

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A parable for our time

Far back in the mists of time, Parties agreed on a Durban Platform. Concerned that the train of negotiations might leave the station and quickly gather speed, Parties proceeded to have a two-year “contemplation phase” in an effort to stay on track.

They then decided to go into a “workshop phase” where they were expected to express their basic desires to their benign and all-knowing spiritual guides. These guides would then translate these desires into suitable language for polite company before presenting them to the outside world. But some of the travellers began to complain that they preferred their own words, however unrefined and divergent.

The language of the much-anticipated central covenant of all the peoples was given special treatment, since agreement was not needed immediately. It was particularly elevated and deliberately vague, so that the travellers would not begin to bicker over the details. But some began to rebel against the ritualistic debates and increasingly frustrating attempts to discover exactly what others were talking about, and what they might be able to agree on once they had to make decisions.

More of them started putting forward their own versions of the covenant. Though the guides paid little attention to their crude efforts, they did generously offer the possibility of going into a side carriage on their own and return with more worthy offerings. But they never said what fate would await these offerings.

Meanwhile in the main carriage, the travellers continued to offer up their modest ideas, in the hope the guides would find some of them worthy to put into their non-covenant. But most of them looked in vain for a true representation.

However, the words of one wise traveler resonated from beyond the dawn of time: “Discussions in the absence of negotiations cannot prosper.”

Then began a clamour for true negotiations –to engage with the actual words of their fellow travellers, and not the words of the guides. More and more of them made this demand, but fearful of the consequences if the travellers became too aware of the real divisions among them, the guides preferred to hold to their more refined version as long as possible…

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Beyond binary

ECO has always believed that the Convention, with its Annexes and principles, need not, and must not, be a straight jacket that restricts the ability of the UNFCCC to adapt to emerging realities. While some developed countries give the distinct impression that they would like to sweep the Annexes (and perhaps the whole Convention) aside and start over, there are now some developing countries showing how we can move forward by building on the current structure of the Convention.

Different proposals have been put forward that provide interesting ways to move past a binary world to cross the rigid firewall.

The LDCs proposed an interesting idea in this regard: Annex I Parties should adopt economy-wide targets, and non-Annex I Parties “in a position to do so” (the so-called “POTODOSO countries”) should do the same. Both of these groups – all parties with economy-wide commitments – would then inscribe these commitments in Annex A to the new agreement. This would be an elegant way of using the current Annexes to ensure no backsliding, while progressing beyond an exclusive reliance on these commitments. ECO could imagine other creative ways to do the same thing.

Another way of moving beyond a binary world is the route proposed by Brazil (yes, that Brazil!). Making clear they did not support a bifurcated approach, Brazil proposes “concentric differentiation”, where Annex I countries with absolute reductions targets are at the centre of concentric circles of less rigorous commitments going outward. (ECO is paraphrasing here.)

So far, so good (or, “so far, so Art. 4.1/4.2”, as it were). But where Brazil advances the discussion is by saying that everyone should be encouraged to move towards the centre over time. This would pave the way for voluntary graduation, and prevent any voluntary backsliding. Many countries should be prepared to move close to (and some into) the coveted inner circle now. ECO is sure they know who they are.

Not content to just signal an interest in an enhanced interpretation of the Convention, Brazil also made a very useful suggestion on finance. Brazil recommended that developing countries indicate South-South financial contributions and collaborative actions in their INDCs. The LDCs’ and AILAC’s submissions also call for financial contributions from an expanded group of countries, while placing primary responsibility on Annex II Parties.

ECO wonders how developed countries will justify their refusal to talk about finance in their INDCs when developing countries are willing to do so.

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Want concrete deliverables from WS2? Switch to RE and EE now!

In the TEMs followup meeting yesterday , ECO was reminded of the need to move beyond never-ending discussions into concrete action under Workstream 2. It also appears that the areas where Parties show the greatest interests are renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE). In their Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs), Parties have also expressed their priorities for mitigation technologies, and guess what? They begin with EE and RE. The science tells us that to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5°C, we need to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 and phase in 100% RE as quickly as possible. This means that in the pre-2020 period, we should be rapidly scaling up RE to at least 25% globally, along with doubling the rate of EE.

It just so happens that RE and EE are the two issues that have been most thoroughly analysed throughout the TEMs. Being armed with a good understanding of the policies that are needed for a rapid scaling-up of these approaches marks a potential turning point for transforming understanding into action.

In a Workstream 2 decision, Parties should explicitly call on the GCF and other international funding institutions to prioritise, within their mitigation windows, investments in tried and tested policies that promote sustainable renewable energy and energy efficiency. All multilateral energy funding should only flow towards clean and sustainable renewable energy technologies, and highly efficient industrial and demand-side applications. This funding will have to come from somewhere, so developed countries should indicate what kind of support (finance, technology and capacity building) they intend to make available under Workstream 2, in addition to the actions that they themselves will take. To help, ECO has an idea: Lima could be the time for a TEM session to consider how actions with high mitigation potential could be supported.

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Turn Back Japan: Don’t Go From Nukes To Coal

The tragic Fukushima nuclear accident showed the world how dangerous and unsustainable nuclear technology is. As affected people continue to suffer, it’s clear that nuclear is not an option for the Japanese people any more. ECO was encouraged to see the rapid expansion of renewable energy since the disaster thanks to the feed-in-tariff introduced in 2012. The focus on energy efficiency by individuals and companies also proves that there is still plenty of potential for energy efficiency improvements in Japan. That’s why ECO is astounded by the news that there are now plans for the construction of 25 new coal-fired power plants (totalling 13,640MW) between 2016-2027. They would emit more than 82 Mt CO2 per year. Shockingly, most of these plans were conceived after the Fukushima accident, and it is expected that more plans will come.

Energy transition is an urgent need in all countries, and it is key to get the direction of the transition right, Japan! Hint: when we talk about energy transition we are talking about transitioning away from, not towards, high-carbon technology. Coal a the dirty fossil fuel. The IPCC warns that if we don’t shift investments away from high-carbon infrastructure, future emission reductions will be difficult.

ECO hopes that Parties have read the IPCC report, but in case some important details got lost in translation: coal is not needed as an alternative to nuclear. The Japanese government’s own research shows that Japan has large renewable energy potential.

ECO has learnt that Japan is finally starting discussions about its own INDC today. Here’s our friendly tip: stop the coal expansion. It would help you put forward an ambitious reduction target by March 2015.

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