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The fuller significance of the Copenhagen Accord became a little clearer this week – and a little murkier too.
The nonbinding deal struck six weeks ago by a couple dozen world leaders left open two immediate questions: exactly which countries would be signing on to it, and just what targets or actions they would be promising. The parties gave themselves until January 31 to fill in those blanks.
Domestically and internationally, climate action in 2009 laid critical groundwork for potential breakthroughs in Congress and global negotiations in 2010. Yet with an issue as complex and political as climate change, turning groundwork into policy is a challenge. 2010 will undoubtedly be a pivotal year for climate change – but first it is instructive to take a look back at what happened in 2009 and how that shaped where we are today.
We captured these highlights in our annual Year-in-Review Newsletter – a useful compilation of 2009’s big climate change stories and related insights. The year’s major domestic action included passage of the landmark House climate and clean energy bill along with numerous Obama administration efforts to improve our climate and economy. These accomplishments included the stimulus bill’s $80 billion in clean energy-related funding and EPA actions, including the endangerment finding, the greenhouse gas reporting rule, and stricter auto-efficiency standards.
Copenhagen consumed international climate attention in 2009, culminating in the pre-dawn hours of December 19 when final touches were put on an accord directly brokered by President Obama and a handful of key developing country leaders. While many questions remain after Copenhagen, our summary of the conference provides a sound starting point for grasping what transpired at the year’s largest climate event.
The lead-up to 2009’s main events required a great deal of work, and some of the year’s highlights include the detailed Blueprint for Climate Action released one year ago this month by the influential business-NGO coalition U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). More industry leaders also showed support for mandatory climate action by joining our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). And efforts to reach business communities, employees, and families expanded through the Make An Impact program. In partnerships with aluminum manufacturer Alcoa and utility Entergy, we continue to provide individuals with strategies to save energy and money while protecting the environment.
We continued to educate policy makers and opinion leaders, producing reports, analyses, and fact sheets on topics ranging from clean-energy technologies, climate science, competitiveness, and adaptation. Featuring expert insights and thoughtful opinions, we informed broad audiences about the immediate need for climate action. And our timely, relevant work moves forward in 2010 as we seek progress in addressing the most important global issue of our time.
Tom Steinfeldt is Communications Manager
Source: An, F., and A. Sauer. 2004. Comparison of Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy and GHG Emission Standards Around the World. Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Washington, DC; Updated data obtained from “Global passenger vehicle standards,” The International Council for Clean Transportation, Retrieved from here, June 2014.
In the United States and worldwide, vehicle standards have been the main mechanism for improving vehicle efficiency and reducing emissions of conventional air pollution and greenhouse gases from the transportation sector. Increasing vehicle fuel-economy standards have had the effect of lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from what they otherwise would have been, because GHG emissions are closely related to fuel use.
Vehicle fuel economy standards can be expressed in miles per gallon (mpg) or kilometers per liter (km/l). Vehicle fuel economy can be improved by increasing energy efficiency of the drivetrain (engine and transmission) and by decreasing the amount of energy needed to move the vehicle (through reducing weight, aerodynamic drag, and rolling resistance). Countries with fuel economy standards include Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
Some vehicle GHG emission standards limit the tailpipe emissions from a vehicle, as well as from air conditioning, and are typically expressed as grams of CO2-equivalent per kilometer (gCO2e/km) while other standards only include CO2 in the measurement. The European Union uses a standard in gCO2/km while the United States uses a gCO2e/mi standard alongside the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program.
This graph is an update of our 2004 report that takes into account the new U.S. vehicle fuel economy standards (see here for more information). For this graph, the CO2 per kilometer standard in the EU and the other standards that are not measured in fleet average miles per gallon are converted to CAFE-equivalent miles per gallon values in order to establish an equivalent comparison. This conversion and adjustments are not straightforward since the form of the standards varies from country to country. For example, different countries cover different segments of the vehicle fleets, and use different procedures for determining compliance. For a description of the methodology for comparing the standards on a common basis, see here.
By Namrata Patodia
December 24, 2009
This article first appeared in Nature India.
As the Copenhagen Climate Conference drew to a close this past weekend, many debate the success of the talks. It is important at this juncture to step back and take stock of the expectations leading up to Copenhagen and what the conference delivered.
After a week and a half of bickering over negotiating texts and repeating hard-line positions, parties finally agreed to a deal in the late hours of the conference’s last day. The main deliverable of the conference was the “Copenhagen Accord,” a deal directly brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Premier Wen Jiabao of China, President Luiz Inacio Lula of Brazil and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. While initially the deal was struck among these countries, it garnered the support of another 28 countries including the African Union and Alliance of Small Island developing States (the number of countries supporting the accord is not confirmed since countries can sign up on an ongoing basis). The official U.N. Conference Of Parties (COP) only “took note of” the accord by consensus, a fairly luke-warm response, which took an entire additional day to achieve.
The Copenhagen Accord, while a step forward, falls short in some fundamental ways. It remains a non-binding deal with no clear goal towards achieving a legally binding outcome in the near future. It was also unable to deliver on a long-term global goal of a 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
As a starting point the accord lays the foundation for all the key elements of the Bali Action Plan – shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology.
Most importantly, it calls for mitigation actions from all major economies, and for the first time, major developing economies including India. Developed countries (or Annex I parties) must commit to absolute emission reduction targets while major developing countries (or Non Annex I parties) must take mitigation actions. To ensure transparency of actions, the accord calls for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of actions by both developed and developing countries. In the case of the former, MRV will be conducted based on existing guidelines and those that are adopted by the COP. For developing countries, actions that receive international support will be MRV’d according to international guidelines. Unilateral domestic actions undertaken by developing countries will be domestically MRV’d with provisions for “international consultation and analysis under clearly defined guidelines.”
Financing for developing countries, which many called the key to breaking the deadlock in these negotiations, is also addressed in the accord. It calls for both near-term and long-term finance for developing countries. It establishes a prompt-start fund of 30 billion USD from 2010-2012 to assist developing countries for mitigation and adaptation actions. On long-term finance, developed countries are to help mobilize 100 billion USD by 2020 for developing countries.
Parties have also agreed to a long-term temperature goal -- “the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius” taking into account equity and sustainable development. Finally, the accord establishes a technology mechanism and a mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation and conservation of forest sinks (REDD plus) and calls for an assessment by 2015 including consideration of the strengthening of a long-term goal in relation to a temperature rise of 1.5 degree Celsius.
To ensure that we have a truly global response to climate change and one that prevents catastrophic climate change, it is critical that parties build on the foundation of the accord and lay the groundwork for a legally binding treaty.
Namrata Patodia is an International Fellow at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
Only time will tell whether the deal struck in Copenhagen proves a true turning point in the effort against climate change. Flying home after two chaotic and exhausting weeks, I find I’m of two minds.
The deadline of December 18, 2009, in fact drove many governments further than before. In the weeks preceding, the United States, China, India and others felt compelled to come forward with explicit emission pledges. Under the Copenhagen Accord, countries have until January 31 to put these numbers on record; then there is no taking them back.
These pledges are not binding. They are statements of intent, not obligation. But that is not what disappoints me. I never expected Copenhagen to produce more than a political accord.
What troubles me is that governments did not resolve to move next to a legally binding treaty. That goal was part of the tentative agreement announced by President Obama. But then he left, and in final deal-making, it somehow vanished. The negotiations will of course continue. Governments agreed they’d meet next year in Mexico, the year after in South Africa. But with what type of agreement in mind? That’s unclear.
Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Fifth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol
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.
In the end, parties adopted parallel decisions under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol that “take note” of the political accord and open the way for governments to individually sign on. In separate decisions, parties extended Ad Hoc Working Groups under both the Convention and the Protocol to continue negotiating toward a fuller agreement in late 2010 in Mexico. The unusual set of outcomes leaves uncertainty, however, about the formal standing of the Copenhagen Accord under the U.N. climate process and about the nature of any future agreement. The aim of a “legally binding instrument,” which appeared part of the deal when President Obama first announced it, was later stripped out.
Key elements of the Copenhagen Accord include: an aspirational goal of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius; a process for countries to enter their specific mitigation pledges by January 31, 2010; broad terms for the reporting and verification of countries’ actions; a collective commitment by developed countries for $30 billion in “new and additional” resources in 2010-2012 to help developing countries reduce emissions, preserve forests, and adapt to climate change; and a goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in public and private finance by 2020 to address developing county needs. The accord also calls for the establishment of a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, a High Level Panel to examine ways of meeting the 2020 finance goal, a new Technology Mechanism, and a mechanism to channel incentives for reduced deforestation. (See details below).
The Copenhagen conference culminated two years of intense negotiations launched with the 2007 Bali Action Plan. Known formally as the Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 15) and the Fifth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 5), the gathering drew a level of political attention well beyond that of any previous climate meeting. Ministers, who ordinarily attend only the final days of the annual COP, arrived the first week hoping to unlock the stalled talks. By its closing days, the summit had drawn well over 100 heads of state and government.
Yet from its opening the conference was marked by bitter divisions, confusion, and setbacks. The Danish government, which had invested extraordinary effort to ensure Copenhagen’s success, found itself undermined from the start by the “leak” of a draft text opposed by developing countries. Though President Obama and other leaders had indicated weeks earlier that they foresaw only a political agreement, the talks were bottled up for days by Tuvalu’s adamant but unsuccessful demand for immediate consideration of a legally binding outcome. A new draft political agreement finally tabled late in the first week was roundly rejected by developed countries. Attempts to break the impasse by referring core issues to smaller groups of countries, rather than continuing to negotiate all issues with all parties, were repeatedly rebuffed by many developing countries, who insisted on full “transparency” and “inclusiveness.”
Those issues continued to dominate in a bitter closing debate as Venezuela, Sudan, Nicaragua, Bolivia and a few others fought to block the leaders’ agreement because most parties were outside the room when it was negotiated. Venezuela declared the agreement a “coup d’etat against the United Nations,” and Sudan likened its effects on poor nations to those of the Holocaust, prompting a round of angry demands that the comment be withdrawn. Though the accord ultimately won formal recognition despite the lack of full consensus, the episode left many privately questioning the prospects for significant further progress within a fully global, procedurally bound U.N. process.
Other dramas in Copenhagen included open squabbling among the typically unified developing country Group of 77, and the struggle between the issue’s two lead protagonists – the United States and China. The two sparred before the press and remained deadlocked behind closed doors until nearly the end. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived ahead of President Obama, upped the pressure by declaring U.S. support for the goal of $100 billion a year for developing countries, an offer that many African and small-island countries did not want to let slip by. It was only then that Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei appeared to concede on U.S. demands that its actions be open to some form of international scrutiny.
President Obama closed the deal the next day in a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula, and South African President Jacob Zuma, He then announced the tentative agreement to the press and headed home, leaving other leaders to consider the terms, and weary negotiators to devise the final procedural maneuvers.
Following is a summary of the core outcomes of the Copenhagen conference (full text of all decisions is available at http://unfccc.int/2860.php):
The Copenhagen Accord is a political (as opposed to legal) agreement of a novel form. Formal decisions under the U.N. climate process are typically taken by consensus. As some parties opposed the accord, the decision entering it into the conference’s proceedings is not technically an acceptance of its substantive content by the Conference of the Parties (or by the parallel Meeting of the Parties under Kyoto). Rather, the decisions by the two bodies only “take note” of the attached accord. Individual countries, in all likelihood a strong majority of the Convention’s 192 parties, will affix their names to the accord in the coming weeks. The accord declares itself “operational immediately,” although many of its provisions will require further elaboration (in some cases explicitly, and in other cases presumably, by the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties). The timeline for doing so is not specified.
In substance, the accord speaks to all of the core elements of the Bali Action Plan: a long-term goal; mitigation; adaptation; finance; technology; forests; and measurement, reporting and verification.
Long-Term Goal – The agreement “recogniz[es] the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius.” It also calls for a review of the accord by 2015, including a consideration of strengthening the long-term goal “in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Mitigation – Under the accord, Annex I (developed) countries “commit to implement” economy-wide emissions targets for 2020, and non-Annex I (developing) countries “will implement mitigation actions.” (Least developed and small island countries “may undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of support.”)
The developed country targets and an initial set of developing country actions are to be entered into two appendices by January 31, 2010. It is widely expected, although not specified in the accord, that the targets and actions entered will be consistent with those floated by governments in the run-up to Copenhagen. Additional developing country actions can be added to the appendix on an ongoing basis. Actions for which developing countries are seeking support are to be recorded in a registry, and those receiving support will later be listed in the developing country appendix.
Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) – The emission targets of Annex I countries, and their delivery of finance for developing countries, will be MRV’d “in accordance with existing and any further guidelines” from the COP. These guidelines are to ensure “rigorous, robust and transparent” accounting of both targets and finance.
Actions by developing countries “will be subject to their domestic” MRV, with the results reported in biennial national communications. The information reported will be subject to “international consultation and analysis under clearly defined guidelines that will ensure that national sovereignty is respected.” Developing country actions receiving international support will be subject to international MRV under guidelines adopted by the COP.
Adaptation – Developed countries “shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable” finance, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation actions in developing countries.
Forestry – The accord declares the “immediate establishment of a mechanism…to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries” to support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to enhance forest sinks.
Finance – “Scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding” is to be provided to developing countries to support mitigation efforts (including forest-related), adaptation, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building. For the period 2010-2012, developed countries have a “collective commitment” to provide “new and additional resources…approaching USD 30 billion.” Developed countries also commit to a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020, “in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation.” The long-term finance is to be a mix of public (bilateral and multilateral) and private resources.
The accord calls for a new Copenhagen Green Climate Fund as one channel for delivering finance and a High Level Panel “to study the contribution of the potential sources of revenue” toward the long-term funding goal.
Technology – The agreement establishes a new Technology Mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer for both adaptation and mitigation.
Relation to UNFCCC and Kyoto – The accord endorses two parallel decisions under the Convention and the Protocol (see below) extending the two formal negotiating tracks that existed prior to Copenhagen. Those decisions, however, do not cross-reference the accord. Thus, while some parties will likely look to those negotiating processes to elaborate and fully operationalize the accord, no formal link was established.
Ad Hoc Working Group under the Convention
Two years ago in Bali, the COP launched the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) as the forum for negotiating the “agreed outcome” to be adopted in Copenhagen. A set of decisions addressing the core elements of the Bali Action Plan, and a core decision tying them together, were not completed. While parties made modest progress in some areas, many of the draft texts remain heavily bracketed.
The COP adopted a decision forwarding the texts and extending the mandate of the AWG-LCA “with a view to presenting the outcome of its work…for adoption” next year at COP 16. A draft decision circulated at the time President Obama announced the tentative deal described the intended outcome next year as “a legally binding instrument.” However, the phrase did not appear in the text presented at the closing plenary. A number of countries including the United States argued for is reinsertion, but were opposed by others including India and Saudi Arabia.
Ad Hoc Working Group under the Protocol
A parallel Ad Hoc Working Group, the AWG-KP, was established under the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 to consider post-2012 emission targets for developed countries that are party to Kyoto. As with the AWG-LCA, its work remained uncompleted. The Kyoto parties adopted a decision forwarding the incomplete texts and calling on the AWG-KP to complete its work for adoption next year at the meeting of the Kyoto parties to be held in parallel with COP 16.
Dates and Venues of Future Meetings
Parties decided that COP 16/CMP 6 will be held November 29 to December 10, 2010, in Mexico, and that COP 17/CMP 7 will be held November 29 to December 10, 2011, in South Africa.
This summary was written by Elliot Diringer, Vice President for International Strategies, with contributions from International Fellows Kate Cecys and Namrata Patodia, and Daniel Bodansky of the University of Georgia School of Law.
Statement of Elliot Diringer
Vice President for International Strategies
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
December 19, 2009
The Copenhagen Accord is an important step forward in the international climate effort. In both form and substance, this political agreement falls well short of what ultimately is needed. But it will for the first time secure political pledges from all major economies to curb their emissions. And, at the insistence of the United States, it lays the foundation for a system to hold countries accountable. This represents real movement by China and other major developing countries.
Much remains to be negotiated. In setting a new negotiating deadline, governments unfortunately weren’t clear on the need for a legally binding agreement. Going forward, the goal must be a comprehensive new treaty with fair and effective legal commitments by all major economies.
Though it was formally launched two years ago in Bali, the Copenhagen negotiation in reality started just 10 months ago when President Obama took office. The President put forward all he reasonably could at this stage, and achieved good progress. But the U.S. wasn’t in a position to put final offers on the table, so other parties couldn’t be expected to either. It’s no surprise that some of the toughest issues still lie ahead.
This post first appear in Opinio Juris.
COPENHAGEN -- The climate negotiations ground to a halt for much of Monday, as negotiators debated the organization of work for the second and final week of the meeting. The ostensible cause of the breakdown was concern among some developing countries that the Kyoto Protocol (KP) track in the negotiations is moving more slowly, and getting less attention, than the Convention track (the so-called Long-Term Cooperation Action track, or LCA) Although since the LCA track is itself moving very slowly, it is a bit difficult to understand the concern.
For many members of the G-77, the differentiation enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol between developed countries (which have quantified emission reduction targets) and developing countries (which do not) is sacred. All last week, developing countries had been emphasizing the importance of continuing the Kyoto Protocol, rather than merging it into a single comprehensive agreement that addresses both developed and developing countries (as the EU, Japan and other industrialized countries would prefer). At the procedural level, this developing country position is reflected in a desire to maintain the complete separation between the two tracks in the negotiations, rather than merging them into a single discussion, as the Danes apparently envisioned.
Pew Center COP 15 Side Event - BUILDING ON COPENHAGEN: A High-Level Dialogue
Co-Hosted with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
December 14, 2009
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
- 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, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
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.