Climate change is a global challenge and requires a global solution. Through analysis and dialogue, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions is working with governments and stakeholders to identify practical and effective options for the post-2012 international climate framework. Read more
December 10, 2009
The climate talks won't seal a binding global deal, but a lot can still go right in Denmark.
By Eileen Claussen
This article originally appeared in BusinessWeek.
Two years ago this week, on the island of Bali, representatives of 180 nations agreed on an ambitious timeline for reaching a global agreement to address climate change. The Bali Road Map, as it was called, identified key issues to be resolved and set a 2009 deadline for completing the negotiations.
That deadline has now arrived. Yet as nations gather for the climate talks in Copenhagen, the real negotiating has barely begun. The draft text is a lengthy, confusing compilation of every single proposal from a wide swath of nations. Many of the ideas are implausible, but all remain in play. President Barack Obama and other world leaders recently confirmed what was widely presumed: Copenhagen won't deliver a final legal agreement. The goal is now an interim political deal setting the stage for a full treaty in 2010.
The delay is disappointing to many but comes as no surprise. Obama is putting a "provisional" target on the table, but until Congress enacts comprehensive climate legislation, the U.S. is in no position to take on a binding international commitment. And there are many other obstacles. Governments still remain far apart on core issues: how to finance stronger efforts in developing countries, whether major emerging economies such as China will take on binding commitments, and how fulfillment will be verified.
But important and heartening progress has been made since Bali. In Washington, the House passed a comprehensive bill in June aimed at reducing U.S. emissions and fostering a clean-energy economy. Meantime, the U.S. government has taken positive steps—with stimulus funding and proposed regulatory actions—to support the development of lower-carbon energy sources and to reduce emissions.
In China, which now surpasses the U.S. as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the government has set ambitious goals for increasing renewable power and energy efficiency, and it just announced a voluntary goal of reducing by 2020 the carbon intensity of its economy 40% to 45% from 2005 levels. India and other emerging economies are also pledging stronger action, while the European Union already has an emissions-trading system in place that is beginning to deliver actual reductions.
But all of these positive developments fall far short of a viable global solution. With leadership from the world's major economies, we need an international agreement to ensure that all countries are doing their part to reduce emissions and that these combined efforts are getting us to a place where scientists affirm we can avoid the worst effects of climate change.
A Legal and Institutional Framework
Copenhagen can propel us toward that goal. Many governments have come prepared to announce political commitments. Wealthy nations also can be expected to pledge up-front money to help poorer countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. But it is critical that the talks in Copenhagen make substantial progress in establishing the legal and institutional framework for converting these pledges into a binding treaty with a robust design. There must be legal clarity about countries' commitments and their compliance with them, so that each can be confident that all are delivering their share. And there must be a sensible, accountable system for providing the support developing countries will need to do their part.
Simply building this framework will require the major parties to do something they've so far resisted: compromise. And compromise requires political will. Countries will have to embrace real commitments, and they will have to look beyond short-term political concerns so we can forge a solution that protects all nations and all people for decades, even centuries, to come.
The science on this issue is now absolutely clear: Climate change is largely the result of human activities, it is happening now, and it is happening much faster than predicted. But it is political reality, as much as science, that will drive the global climate talks. And right now the political reality is that key countries have a lot of work to do to resolve core issues before a lasting global agreement can be reached.
No one is expecting miracles out of the Copenhagen meeting this month. But it is imperative that we see genuine gains—with the goal of agreeing to a final climate treaty when the negotiators meet at the end of 2010 in Mexico City. The Bali Road Map misjudged the distance from Bali to a final agreement, but at least we can take heart that the nations of the world are still on this road together. The challenge is to stay on course to a destination that proves itself worth the trip.
Eileen Claussen is president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
|This post first appeared in|
Amid the distracting dramas of purloined emails and secret texts, it’s easy to lose sight that Copenhagen has already proven a catalytic event. Every major power arrives here with its own explicit pledge to curb emissions. That these promises will be delivered in most cases by heads of state reflects an absolutely unprecedented level of political will.
It’s also easy to lose sight of precisely what more we need from this conference.
A year ago in Poznan (the site of last year’s climate summit), my colleagues and I got beat up pretty badly for suggesting out loud that Copenhagen was unlikely to produce a final deal, and the aim instead should be an interim political agreement. Here we are in Copenhagen, working on an interim political agreement.
What’s that mean? There’s a lot of emphasis from the United States and others on this being an “operational” agreement delivering “immediate” results. Let’s hope so. But an equally important test for Copenhagen is whether it charts a clear path toward the next agreement – one that turns political pledges into binding legal commitments.
Summary of the Copenhagen climate summit
December 7-18, 2009
A new political accord struck by world leaders at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen provides for explicit emission pledges by all the major economies – including, for the first time, China and other major developing countries – but charts no clear path toward a treaty with binding commitments.
The basic terms of the Copenhagen Accord were brokered directly by President Obama and a handful of key developing country leaders on the final day of the conference, capping two weeks of harsh rhetoric and pitched procedural battles that made the prospect of any agreement highly uncertain. It then took nearly another full day of tense negotiations to arrive at a procedural compromise allowing the leaders’ deal to be formalized over the bitter objections of a few governments.
The Center's Copenhagen Events
The UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen presents a critical opportunity to strengthen the international response to global climate change. The aim in Copenhagen should be a comprehensive political agreement that puts countries on a clear path to concluding a legally binding agreement in 2010. This interim agreement should deliver both immediate action and the broad architecture of a future treaty, including:
- Ambitious political commitments for mid-term action by all major economies: economy-wide emission reduction targets for developed countries, and quantified mitigation actions by major developing countries;
- A “prompt start” on adaptation, forestry, technology and capacity-building activities and support in developing countries;
- The core elements of a legally binding agreement to be finalized over the coming year, including: a framework for verifiable mitigation commitments by all major economies; new arrangements for sustained mitigation and adaptation support to developing countries; and a system to verify countries’ actions and support; and,
- A clear mandate to conclude negotiations on a legally binding agreement at COP 16 in December 2010.
- Post-2012 International Climate Policy Briefs
- Paper on the Legal Form of New Agreement: Avenues and Options
- Report on MRV Options
- Copenhagen Accord text
- UNFCCC Resources
A high-level panel of government and business leaders will examine critical issues from the perspectives of both the public and private sectors, and developed and developing countries. Partcipants include:
- GOVERNOR CHRIS GREGOIRE
Governor, Washington State, US
- GINA MCCARTHY
Assistant Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency
- MARTIN PARKINSON
Secretary, Department of Climate Change, Australia
- GRAEME SWEENEY
Executive Vice President, Future Fuels and CO2, Shell
- BILL TYNDALL
Senior Vice President, Federal Government & Regulatory Affairs, Duke Energy
- BJORN STIGSON
President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
- ELLIOT DIRINGER
Vice President, International Strategies
- Our Copenhagen briefing assessing expectations for outcomes in Copenhagen and beyond, and addressing the path forward for U.S. climate legislation in Congress - December 16, 2009
Watch the Webcast
- Our Copenhagen Briefing with Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers - December 10, 2009
Watch the Webcast
- Pre-Copenhagen Briefing - December 1, 2009
Eileen Claussen and Elliot Diringer discuss likely outcomes in Copenhagen and the outlook for reaching a final global climate deal in 2010.
Listen to the Briefing
Copenhagen Conference Blog Posts
- Copenhagen Reflections
- Gov. Gregoire Highlights State Action
- Delivering More Than Promises
- Where's the US on Verification & Compliance?
- Reframing a Copenhagen Deal
In The News
International Brief #3
Read full brief (pdf)
The European Union (EU) is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter after the United States and China, accounting for 13 percent of global emissions in 2005. Since 1990, EU emissions have declined about 10.7 percent as a result of structural changes, such as Germany’s reunification and the substitution of natural gas for coal in the United Kingdom, and new policies at both the EU and member state level. Reductions have occurred across most sectors of the EU economy, although in the transportation sector, emissions have increased significantly.
For details on policies and measures related to climate change in the European Union, please read the full brief (pdf).
By Namrata Patodia
December 3, 2009
This article first appeared in Nature India.
With less than a week to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the question on everyone’s mind is what a Copenhagen deal will deliver.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, in a recent statement, announced that countries should aim for an ambitious political agreement that would launch immediate action and set the stage for a full legal agreement next year. Irrespective of what is finally agreed to in Copenhagen, the high-level engagement throughout the year leading up to the conference has mobilised countries, both developed and developing, to strengthen their national efforts. This has been true for India as well.
Historically, India has put the burden of responsibility to address climate change on the shoulders of developed countries. Recently however, India has been more engaged and open to the idea of implementing domestic policies and measures that will help reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The National Action Plan on Climate Change and its eight missions, announced in 2008, was a first step in that direction.
Within the international negotiations, India’s recently appointed environment minister Jairam Ramesh has introduced a new, pragmatic ‘can do’ attitude. Ramesh has said time and again that India will play the role of a ‘deal maker’ and not a ‘deal breaker’ in Copenhagen. While controversy has arisen around some of his remarks as being too progressive for a developing economy, his statements have, for the first time, allowed for a robust debate about India’s position on climate change. That debate led to Minister Ramesh’s announcement in Parliament this week that while India is not ready to accept a legally binding emission reduction target, it is ready to adopt a voluntary target to cut carbon intensity by 20 to 25 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.
Why should India sign up?
There are three primary reasons why India will benefit from strengthening its domestic actions and signing on to an ambitious and effective global climate agreement in Copenhagen.
First and most importantly, India ranks high among the list of countries that will be most impacted by climate change. Recent studies report that the impacts of climate change have been underestimated and that, in fact, climate change is occurring much faster and sooner than previously anticipated.
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the Himalayan glaciers – the largest freshwater resource outside the polar caps, supplying more than 2 billion people – are retreating and could potentially disappear by 2035, though the figures are still being debated over by the Indian environment ministry.
Other climate related impacts include reduced yields from major food crops, an increase in extreme weather events (such as the flooding of Mumbai last year) affecting highly populated cities, and a decrease of almost 40 percent in per capita water availability by 2050. Given the high stakes involved for a country like India, it will be to India’s advantage for countries to agree to an ambitious deal in Copenhagen that can result in urgent and effective action.
Second, with India’s population projected to reach 1.5 billion people by 2030, and a burgeoning economy growing at 8 percent a year, India will face the challenge of ensuring a secure and sustainable energy future for its people. Currently, about half of India’s energy consumption is from coal and studies show that India could run out of its extractable coal resources by mid-century.
A third of India’s total energy consumption is from oil of which 70 per cent is imported. It has been estimated that this number could become as high as 90 per cent by 2025. Increased dependence on foreign and dirty sources of energy is not a long-term sustainable option, economically or environmentally. Building the economy in a climate-friendly way will not only provide for energy security and health gains but also offer climate benefits.
It has been argued by some that India should concentrate on economic growth and development as a means to deal with climate change rather than invest resources in curtailing greenhouse gas emissions. India does not need to make a choice between the two; in fact the two can go hand in hand. As it develops it can ensure that it does so in a sustainable, low carbon way.
Government initiatives like the recently approved ‘Solar Mission’ that establishes an ambitious goal of 20 GW of installed solar capacity by 2022 and an aggressive programme to increase installed nuclear capacity five- fold by 2020, are evidence of this. Both initiatives will help put India on a low-carbon pathway while simultaneously reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. India can undertake further ambitious actions domestically for example, by installing more efficient coal power plants and increasing the use of natural gas. These measures will not only help strengthen its energy security efforts but also reap environment benefits.
Finally, investing in clean energy can be a source of sustainable economic growth. India’s renewable sector provides an example. India is currently ranked fourth worldwide in wind power generation. Private equity investments in the renewables sector increased ten-fold between 2006 and 2008.
While India seeks to position itself as an emerging power of the 21st century, it must assume the responsibilities that come with such stature. Copenhagen is a critical moment for the international community and an opportunity for India to demonstrate that it can be a global ‘deal-maker’. Such a deal must of course be fair and equitable and include ambitious absolute emission reduction targets for developed countries, and strong financial and technology assistance for developing countries. If those conditions are met, India should be prepared to commit to the efforts needed to shift its development onto a low-carbon pathway – a path that will help ensure a more sustainable future for India, and for the world.
Namrata Patodia is an International Fellow at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
Chikkatur, A., 2005. “Making the Best Use of India’s Coal Resources.” Economic and Political Weekly 40:
IPCC. (2007). “IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change: (AR4), Working Group II Report Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Geneva, Switzerland.
“Verifiable.” That is arguably the most important word in the Bali Action Plan, the agreement two years ago that launched the global climate negotiations about to culminate in Copenhagen. Our future climate commitments and actions, governments agreed, must be “measurable, reportable and verifiable.”
This construct is critical because, done right, “MRV” offers the promise of a global climate agreement in which countries can confidently ascertain whether others are doing what they promised.
Yet many governments now seem decidedly uncomfortable with the concept. Developing countries say MRV shouldn’t apply to any actions they take on their own, only those receiving international support (a point underscored last week by China when it announced its new carbon intensity target). In the case of a country like China, that means virtually none of its actions would be subject to international verification.
The United States, for its part, has offered up an MRV proposal that avoids the term verification altogether. This is a worrisome omission, one that underscores perhaps the most glaring weakness in the U.S. position going into Copenhagen – its absolute silence on the question of compliance.
On December 1, 2009, we held a teleconference with members of the media to discuss the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that takes place December 7-18.
- Click Here to Listen to an Audio Recording of the Briefing (wav)
Please allow time to download file
- Click Here to Download Elliot Diringer's Presentation (pdf)
With the Copenhagen talks beginning Dec. 7, Eileen Claussen and Elliot Diringer offer their assessment of likely outcomes in Copenhagen and the outlook for reaching a final global climate deal in 2010. Claussen and Diringer also discuss the implications of Copenhagen on the climate debate in the U.S. Senate.
-On the occasion of President Obama's decision to attend the Copenhagen climate summit in December.-
Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
November 25, 2009
President Obama’s decision to attend the Copenhagen climate summit is an important statement of his deep personal commitment to addressing this issue. It signals his determination both to enact strong U.S. energy and climate legislation and to secure a comprehensive international agreement ensuring that other countries do their part as well.
In announcing a provisional 2020 emissions target, the White House is making a strong and credible offer consistent with the emerging bipartisan consensus in Congress. However, in putting numbers on the table in Copenhagen, the United States must be very clear about what is needed in a final agreement next year in order for this target to become binding. A new treaty must establish clear and binding commitments for all major economies, strong support for developing countries, and a robust verification system to clearly determine whether countries are complying with their commitments.
Pew Center Contact: Katie Mandes, (703) 919-2293
This post originally appeared in Yale Environment 360.
Two years ago in Bali, climate negotiators set an extremely ambitious goal for Copenhagen that quickly came to be viewed as a deadline for achieving a new, ratifiable global climate agreement. Striking such a deal is certainly in line with what the science says is urgently needed. But political realities, not the science, dominate global climate negotiations.
And the political reality is that many of the major players are not yet ready to sign a binding deal. Many, including the United States, China and India, are making encouraging progress domestically. Yet there remain wide differences among parties on many of the core issues – the nature of parties’ commitments, how they will be verified, how to generate new public and private finance, etc. So the objective in Copenhagen must be a strong interim agreement that captures what progress has been achieved and creates fresh momentum toward a full and final deal.
Two major components involve carbon cuts and money. On emissions, a probable Copenhagen deal includes pledges from developed countries to meet reduction targets and pledges from major developing countries (e.g., China, India, Brazil) to meet other mitigation actions such as carbon intensity goals. On finance, developed countries would pledge near-term funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change and develop low-carbon strategies. It’s also imperative that Copenhagen produce a clear deadline for concluding a final legal agreement, with the December 2010 Mexico City climate summit providing a reasonable timeframe.
A Copenhagen deal should also go as far as possible in outlining the architecture of a legally-binding treaty. This includes: the nature of commitments for developed and major developing countries; how to verify that countries are complying with their commitments; and new financial mechanisms.
Achieving strong national pledges of action and making available some quick-start money to address immediate climate-related needs for developing countries will represent genuine progress, and will help bridge the gap between developed and major developing countries. But to be a true success, Copenhagen must be a springboard toward a legally-binding agreement in 2010.
Read more here.
Eileen Claussen is President
By Eileen Claussen
This article appears in the Innovations journal special edition, “Energy for Change: Creating Climate Solutions”, published by MIT Press.
Journal Launch Event: November 24, 2009 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC
Download the Article (pdf)
The United States and the rest of the world face a momentous choice. It is a choice that will determine the nature of our economies and our climate for generations to come. One option is to continue down our current energy path—relying to a substantial degree on fuels and technologies that will result in ever-increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases(GHGs). The other option is to chart a new path—a path by which we protect the climate and rebuild our economies by developing and deploying clean energy technologies.
The choice is obvious: we must pursue a clean energy future.
Click here for more about how to obtain a copy of the entire special edition from MIT Press.