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
“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.
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.
The Ultimate Goal: A Ratifiable Treaty
Negotiations are proceeding on parallel tracks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which includes the United States, and under the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which does not. The ultimate outcome could take many forms; the most coherent would be a single comprehensive agreement under the UNFCCC.
Whatever its particular form, it is important that this final outcome be legally binding. Countries will deliver their strongest possible efforts only if they are confident that their major counterparts and competitors are as well. This confidence is best instilled and maintained through mutual and verifiable commitments. While the United States and other countries are moving to strengthen their domestic climate efforts, and most will be ready to announce political commitments in Copenhagen, not all are prepared to take on binding legal commitments. An interim agreement in Copenhagen would significantly advance the global climate effort by settling fundamental legal and design issues so that governments can then negotiate specific commitments in a ratifiable agreement post-Copenhagen.
In Copenhagen: A Strong Framework Agreement
Much of the focus in Copenhagen will be on the political commitments announced by governments on their domestic climate efforts, and on the decisions and “prompt-start” finance needed to quickly operationalize new support for developing countries. It is critical that the Copenhagen agreement also begin to establish the legal and institutional framework for converting these interim pledges and
decisions into an effective treaty with legally binding commitments. It should go as far as possible to define:
Ambitious Goals. The agreement should recognize the imperative of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius and set an aspirational goal of reducing global emissions at least 50 percent by 2050.
A Framework for Mitigation Commitments. The agreement should clearly define the nature of mitigation commitments and how they are to be reflected in a final agreement (e.g., through “appendices” or “schedules”). Consistent with the UNFCCC’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” it should allow varying forms and levels of commitments depending on national circumstance:
- Absolute economy-wide emission targets for all developed countries; and
- A wider range of quantifiable policy-based commitments for major developing countries (e.g., sectoral emission targets, energy efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, sustainable forestry goals).
The agreement should launch and support a process, such as a “registry” process, to elaborate country-specific commitments for the major developing countries and to align support for them. It also should go as far as possible in defining implementation and accounting rules.
Support for Developing Countries. The agreement should broadly establish the mechanisms, sources, and levels of support to be provided in a final agreement for adaptation, capacity building, forestry and technology deployment in developing countries. It should: set initial funding levels and a timetable for periodic replenishment; set criteria to determine countries’ contributions to and/or eligibility for support; rely on, rather than replicate, existing multilateral financial mechanisms; provide for stronger developing country representation in the governance of climate finance; and, recognize the full range of multilateral and bilateral funding sources.
A Sound System of Verification. The agreement should establish basic terms for the measurement, reporting and verification of countries’ mitigation actions, and of support for developing country efforts, as called for in the Bali Action Plan. Building on existing reporting and review requirements under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, it should require annual emissions inventories by all major-emitting countries (with a phase-in period and support for developing countries); national verification of countries’ mitigation commitments; and, regular implementation reports subject to international review. The review process should culminate in a clear determination of whether or not a country is complying with its commitments, with facilitative remedies in cases of non-compliance.
BARCELONA -- Will the U.S. bring numbers to Copenhagen?
That is the question most on the minds of negotiators here in Barcelona as they struggle to chart a path toward success at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen. And with good reason – what can be achieved next month in the Danish capital will depend in large measure on what the United States brings to the table.
Every developed country except the U.S. already has formally adopted or proposed emission targets for 2020. (According to a compilation by the U.N. climate secretariat, these numbers amount to a collective reduction of 16 to 23 percent below 1990 levels.) U.S. negotiators are being very coy about whether they will be able to add theirs by the time of Copenhagen.
While a host of other issues bedevil these talks, there is no question that the lack of U.S. numbers severely constrains the range of possible outcomes. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine even a solid political deal coming together in Copenhagen if the U.S. is unwilling to, at least provisionally, lay out its intentions on the emissions front.
At the same time, it’s understandable why the U.S. might hold back. It would be pointless, and potentially disastrous, for the administration to put forward numbers that Congress would not in the end support. And while the House of Representatives has passed a comprehensive climate bill, the Senate process is just now beginning and won’t conclude before Copenhagen. So it’s hard to say just where Congress will come out.
Under these circumstances, venturing forward with numbers carries certain risks. First, there are risks to the domestic climate process: If too many on Capitol Hill feel the President is getting out ahead of Congress, that could make it harder to build the bipartisan support needed to get legislation done. Second, there are risks to the international process: If the U.S. dangles numbers it can’t ultimately sign on to, any interim deal in Copenhagen will unravel, and the negotiations could wind up back at square one. Finally, if the U.S. puts forward numbers yet no agreement is reached, both the domestic and the international processes could suffer.
Beyond these questions of risk, there are some serious substantive issues:
- What numbers? Clearly, any numbers would have to reflect those now under discussion in Washington. The most obvious are the proposed cap-and-trade targets, ranging from President Obama’s initial proposal (14 percent below 2005; or 1990 levels), to the House-passed bill (17 percent below 2005; 4 percent below 1990), to the Kerry-Boxer bill proposed in the Senate (20 percent below 2005; 6 percent below 1990). The House bill and Senate proposal contain provisions that would deliver additional reductions, but there is no saying now how they will ultimately fare.
- In what form? As we have argued before, and as prominent voices now concur, any likely outcome in Copenhagen would be a political, not a binding, deal – as a basis for then negotiating a legal instrument with binding commitments. In that event, any numbers agreed in Copenhagen would be provisional. And without final U.S. legislation, presenting a range would be far wiser than presenting a single number (though the aim in a final legal agreement should certainly be a specific target).
- What’s the framework? There are significant differences between the U.S. and other parties on the nature of a future international framework – for instance, would developed country targets be verified according to national or international accounting rules? If it’s not possible to bridge those differences by Copenhagen, there will be some ambiguity around any targets on the table there.
What’s more, the prospects for a Copenhagen deal hinge as well on a second set of numbers: financial contributions to support developing country efforts. At this point, there are huge estimates of need but no firm offers from any developed countries. A deal presumably would require clear numbers from all, including the United States.
Whether the U.S. comes to Copenhagen with numbers is a political judgment that can be made only by President Obama. In our view, he should send numbers only if he is confident that he will be in a position to convert them into a binding commitment (pending ratification) within the timeframe agreed in Copenhagen for reaching a final legal agreement. His ability to deliver on that will depend on when Congress completes its job; that, in turn, depends at least in part on how vigorously the President chooses to engage in the legislative process. (His engagement is a necessary condition for – but by no means a guarantee of – legislative success.)
So in the end, the President’s call on numbers for Copenhagen will rest on his judgment of where Congress is, where other parties are, and whether his active engagement can get the job done in 2010.
BARCELONA -- The two men perhaps best qualified to judge have now openly declared that they do not expect next month’s Copenhagen climate summit to produce a legally binding agreement.
That is the sober assessment offered in separate briefings over the past couple of days by Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. climate secretariat, and Michael Zammit Cutajar of Malta, who for the past year has chaired the negotiations leading up to Copenhagen. (There are two negotiating tracks: one under the Kyoto Protocol, the other under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which includes the United States. Zammit Cutajar chairs the latter.)
Both were speaking to NGOs tracking the final week of pre-Copenhagen talks underway here in Barcelona. And both cited similar reasons: a lack of time, and a lack of consensus among parties that a new legal instrument is necessary or desirable.
To those who believe nothing short of a final legal deal in Copenhagen is acceptable, their pronouncements are a betrayal. But to those of us who have previously offered similar assessments, the two men’s courageous candor injects a badly needed sense of realism into a process that has been plagued by – and could ultimately be doomed by – unreal expectations.
Neither de Boer nor Zammit Cutajar is calling for decisions to be put off. Both emphasized that they see Copenhagen as a critical moment when governments must seal the best deal they possibly can. In their estimation, that would be a political deal laying out government’s intentions and the elements of a new international climate architecture. It would be a prelude to – and emphatically not a substitute for – a legally binding agreement sometime in 2010.
Both envision a Copenhagen outcome comprised of a set of “decisions” by parties – well more than a political declaration or communiqué, but without the binding character of a treaty. De Boer believes the package should include a mandate to translate its content into a legally binding instrument; Zammit Cutajar agrees, but said he doesn’t yet see a consensus for that among parties.
De Boer’s more detailed vision includes a “functioning architecture” and annexes listing: individual emission targets for all developed countries; actions to be undertaken by major developing countries (quantifying how much they will reduce emissions below business as usual); individual contributions by developed countries of “prompt-start” (immediate) funding for developing countries; and a cost-sharing formula for future developed country financial contributions.
Though still short of legally binding, getting even this far is a monumental undertaking in the mere month remaining. Although other developed countries have put emission numbers on the table, the United States has not; none have tabled numbers on finance. And while developing countries are showing a greater willingness to act, none have shown a readiness to reflect their actions in a form that would ultimately translate into an international commitment.
In broad stroke, the proposals by de Boer and Zammit Cutajar correspond to the type of outcome we recommended. They also echo the types of ideas now being floated by the Danish government, which will host the Copenhagen summit. One difference is that the Danes have taken to characterizing their preferred outcome as “politically binding,” a novel term that appears intended to convey more than is really there.
It’s understandable, now that the Danes have enticed a growing number of heads of state to attend, that they might be tempted to inflate the significance of whatever agreement is reached. Better, we think, to be realistic about the best that can be achieved and, when it’s achieved, to call it what it is. A binding agreement must remain the ultimate goal. A solid political agreement in Copenhagen would put that within reach.
Congressional Testimony of Eileen Claussen: Copenhagen and Beyond: Is There a Successor to the Kyoto Protocol?
Copenhagen and Beyond: Is There a Successor to the Kyoto Protocol?
Statement of Eileen Claussen, President
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Committee on Foreign Affairs
United States House of Representatives
November 4, 2009
Mr. Chairman, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the critical issues confronting the United States and other nations in the negotiations toward an international climate change agreement. My name is Eileen Claussen, and I am the President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is an independent non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing practical and effective solutions and policies to address global climate change.1 Our work is informed by our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC), a group of 45 major companies, most in the Fortune 500, that work with the Center to educate opinion leaders on climate change risks, challenges, and solutions.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to focus my testimony on three questions: the type of climate agreement we ultimately need; the type of agreement we might hope to see in Copenhagen; the central issues in the climate negotiations. In the course of addressing these topics, I also will speak to the role of the United States in helping to deliver a strong and effective climate
An Effective Post-2012 Climate Agreement
The 2007 UN Climate Change Conference in Bali marked a significant turning point in the international climate negotiations. The United States and other parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Bali Action Plan, launching a two-year process with the aim of reaching a comprehensive “agreed outcome” at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties to be held in December in Copenhagen.
The Pew Center believes that, to be effective, a post-2012 climate framework must establish binding, verifiable international commitments for all of the world’s major economies. Mobilizing to effectively address climate change is a serious long-term challenge for all nations. Each nation is likely to deliver its strongest possible effort only when it is confident that its counterparts and competitors are as well; this confidence is best instilled and maintained through mutual and verifiable commitments.
An agreement on commitments for all major economies will be feasible, however, only if it allows some flexibility in the types of commitments taken by different countries. We believe all developed countries should commit to absolute economy-wide emission reduction targets. They are effective and efficient, and are the foundation of a global greenhouse gas market. For reasons both political and practical, however, most developing countries cannot be expected at this stage to assume economy-wide targets. For these countries, the framework should allow fora broader range of policy-based commitments. These would be commitments to implement nationally defined policies – such as energy efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, sustainable forestry plans, or other sectoral policies – that will yield reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These commitments must be quantified, and verifiable.
In addition, a post-2012 framework must provide incentives to developing countries to reduce their emissions, through market-based mechanisms and public finance, and it must help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
I will elaborate on many of these core elements of a post-2012 framework later in my testimony.
A Copenhagen Agreement
We have believed for some time that it would not be feasible to achieve a full, final, ratifiable agreement in Copenhagen. While parties have made significant progress since Bali in clarifying issues and tabling concrete proposals, major differences remain on many of the core issues. For some parties, including the United States, domestic political processes have not advanced far enough for them to be able to bind themselves to specific and binding commitments of the type needed to form a final agreement.
We believe that, despite those constraints, the Copenhagen conference might still present an opportunity to significantly advance the international climate effort. It could do so by producing an agreement on the fundamental architecture of a post-2012 framework, which would provide a basis for then negotiating towards specific commitments in a final legal agreement. Ideally, this interim agreement would:
Set ambitious goals. It should recognize the imperative of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius and set an aspirational goal of reducing global emissions at least 50 percent by 2050. As mid-term markers, developed countries could collectively declare the range of reductions they intend to achieve by 2020, and developing countries could agree on a peaking year for their aggregate emissions.
Establish a legal framework for mitigation commitments. The agreement should clearly define the nature of mitigation commitments and how they are to be reflected in a final agreement. Consistent with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” it should allow varying forms and levels of commitments appropriate to national circumstance, as I outlined earlier.
Create a new architecture for climate finance. The agreement must broadly establish the mechanisms, sources, and levels of support to be provided in a final agreement for adaptation, capacity building and technology deployment in developing countries. It also should provide immediate support for developing mitigation actions and for high-priority adaptation needs in highly vulnerable countries.
Establish a sound system of verification. The interim agreement must establish basic terms for the measurement, reporting and verification of countries’ mitigation actions, and of support for developing country efforts, as called for in the Bali Action Plan. This verification system should lead to a clear determination of whether countries are in compliance with their obligations.
In addition, an interim agreement should set a clear mandate for concluding a final legal agreement by a date certain. We believe an agreement of this type would settle fundamental legal and design issues. Further, by specifying the level of effort they are prepared to undertake, and the level of support they are prepared to deliver, developed countries would in essence be placing a concrete and comprehensive offer on the table. This would create the necessary conditions to then negotiate the specific terms of developing country action, the major additional element needed to form a ratifiable agreement.
I would now like to focus more closely on five core issues that must be considered in the context of both an interim and a final agreement: the adequacy and comparability of developed country emission targets; the nature of developing country commitments; the appropriate means of supporting developing country actions; how an agreement should address verification and compliance; and the legal form a new agreement.
Developed Country Targets – All developed countries except the United States have adopted or proposed emission reduction targets for 2020. Some targets, like the one recently adopted by the new Japanese government, are contingent on a satisfactory international agreement being reached. The European Union and others have adopted emission ranges indicating the reduction levels they will achieve either unilaterally or with an international agreement. As they negotiate the emission targets in a new agreement, countries will assess proposed numbers in terms of both their adequacy and their comparability.
Within the negotiations, the generally accepted frame of reference for the adequacy of developed country targets are figures from the most recent assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicating that developed country emissions must decline to 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels in 2020 in order to stabilize global greenhouse concentrations to 450 parts per million (ppm).2 According to figures compiled by the UNFCCC Secretariat, the targets now proposed by other developed countries would reduce their collective emissions to 16 to 23 percent below 1990 levels. If the target levels now under consideration in the United States are factored in, the collective range falls to 11 to 18 percent below 1990.3 Negotiations may produce stronger targets for some parties. However, if, as appears likely, the aggregate reduction falls short of the range cited by the IPCC, any shortfalls would have to be made up in later years in order to stabilize concentrations at 450 ppm.
Under the Bali Action Plan, a new agreement is to ensure the “comparability of efforts” among developed countries. Comparability can be assessed on the basis of quantified metrics such as relative emissions, population, and gross domestic product, but also depends on specific national circumstances such as resource base, climate, geography, and patterns of trade. Given the multiplicity of factors, countries are unlikely to agree on an explicit formula to assess the comparability of targets, but rather will make their own assessments employing the criteria they deem most relevant.
One critical variable is the choice of base year against which reductions are measured. For instance, viewed against a 1990 baseline (the base year employed in the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol), the European Union’s present target for 2020 (a 20 percent reduction) appears very much at odds with the 2020 cap-and-trade target contained in the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), passed earlier this year by the House (a 4 percent reduction). Measured, however, against a 2005 baseline, the two targets appear considerably more comparable: a 14 percent reduction for the EU, and a 17 percent reduction under the House bill.
A related issue is whether targets should be measured according to internationally agreed accounting rules or individual countries should be allowed to set their own. (Such rules would relate, for instance, to the use of international offsets and the accounting of land use-related emissions and removals). National accounting would give countries far greater flexibility in designing their domestic policies, but would compromise the integrity of the international agreement, making it more difficult to compare and to verify countries’ targets, and to link domestic emissions trading programs.
Developing Country Commitments – A major step forward in Bali was the agreement by developing countries to negotiate “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” (NAMAs). A central challenge in the negotiations is defining these actions in a way that is acceptable to
developing countries and can be accepted by the United States and other developed countries as establishing genuine commitments.
Most of the major developing countries have now adopted national climate strategies outlining steps they are taking that help reduce their emissions and, in some cases, additional steps they could take with international support. China’s National Climate Change Program describes a range of efforts, including ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, and President Hu Jintao recently announced that the government plans to set carbon intensity goals. India has adopted a National Action Plan on Climate Change outlining existing and planned actions in eight areas, and recently adopted detailed programs to promote energy efficiency and large-scale solar power. Brazil’s National Plan on Climate Change includes policies to increase renewable energy and cut electricity consumption 10 percent by 2030. It also calls for reducing deforestation rates about 70 percent by 2017, with support from the international community.
Mexico has set an aspirational goal to reduce emissions 50 percent below 2002 levels by 2050, and is developing sectoral targets with the aim of launching an emissions trading system by 2012. Finally, South Africa, following a detailed analysis of its mitigation options, has set a goal of stopping greenhouse gas emissions growth by 2020 or 2025, with absolute reductions to begin ten years later. The government intends to achieve its goals in part with an escalating price on carbon through a tax, emissions trading, or a combination of market mechanisms.
The fundamental question is how to “internationalize” the actions of, in particular, the larger developing countries with greater responsibility and capacity to reduce emissions. Critical issues within the negotiations include: the process, if any, for developing NAMAs and matching them with support; whether NAMAs include only actions receiving international support, or also actions that countries will undertake on their own; how actions are inscribed in an agreement; how ambitious they must be; and whether and how to differentiate expectations for different categories of developing countries.
Some developing countries have proposed, in various forms, the establishment of a “registry” where countries could list their actions. The listing could be for the purpose of international recognition, or as a step toward lining up support for specific actions, either through public finance or through emissions crediting. Other proposals from the United States and Australia would establish common formats for inscribing the actions of developed and major developing countries (called an “appendix” by the U.S., and a “schedule” by Australia), indicating a legal symmetry in their respective commitments.
These proposals could be usefully combined: an interim agreement could launch a registry process whereby countries propose and seek support for their actions; and the final actions, both unilateral and supported, could be reflected in a common schedule or appendix in a final agreement. What is critical is that these actions be quantifiable and be described with sufficient specificity to allow for their verification and review.
Support for Developing Country Efforts – Agreement in Copenhagen will not be feasible without major progress on the question of incentives and support for developing country efforts. The Bali Action Plan makes developing countries’ mitigation actions at least partially contingent on support from developed countries. Developing countries need assistance in analyzing their mitigation potentials, developing and implementing effective policies, deploying climate-friendly technologies, and measuring and verifying their emission reductions. In addition, the Bali Action Plan calls for stronger support for adaptation in vulnerable countries.
There is broad recognition that the majority of investment for mitigation will come from private flows, in part through greenhouse gas markets. But additional public finance is needed to supplement private flows for mitigation and to address adaptation. Donor countries have been reticent to propose funding levels without greater consensus on the nature of any new funding mechanisms. Issues include: whether any new fund or funds should be administered by the U.N. or an existing multilateral financial institution such as the World Bank; the roles of donor and recipient countries in governing new funds; whether public finance should be generated through an international mechanism such as a carbon levy, whether countries should generate their contributions internally, or both; whether contributions should come from both developed and major developing countries; and whether contributions should take the form of commitments or pledges.
H.R. 2454 would set aside some of the emission allowances under a domestic cap-and-trade system to generate support for reduced deforestation, adaptation, and clean technology deployment in developing countries.4 These provisions would use allowance value to provide ongoing support from the United States for these critical international purposes, on the order or tens of billions of dollars through 2050. Similar provisions and allocations are contained in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), introduced by Senators Kerry and Boxer. A comprehensive and effective international climate agreement will be most feasible with predictable financial support from developed countries. We believe it is essential that U.S. climate legislation retain these provisions, and that on that basis, the United States should be prepared to commit substantial support for an initial period under a new climate agreement.
Measurement, Reporting and Verification – The Bali Action Plan introduced a critical new construct into the climate negotiations with the requirement that the mitigation efforts of both developed and developing countries, as well as support for developing country actions, be “measurable, reportable and verifiable” (MRV). Credible approaches to MRV will be essential to establish and maintain parties’ confidence in their respective efforts and in the overall regime.
Established mechanisms under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol – in particular, the rigorous reporting and review requirements for developed country emission inventories – provide a valuable starting point for the verification of mitigation efforts under a new climate agreement. However, existing practices would need to be strengthened and adapted, and new ones established, to provide credible verification within a framework that is likely to incorporate
diverse mitigation actions and commitments.
We recommend the following approaches: annual emission inventories from all majoremitting countries, required immediately for developed countries, and phased in, with support, for major developing countries; national verification of mitigation commitments and actions, in accordance with international guidelines; regular implementation reports providing detailed information on a party’s implementation, and verification, of its mitigation commitments or actions; and expert review of parties’ GHG inventories and implementation reports.
We believe that, in addition, an agreement should provide for a clear determination of whether parties are fulfilling their obligations. We recommend the establishment of an Implementation Committee appointed by parties and empowered to make determinations of
parties’ compliance or non-compliance on the basis of expert review reports and other input from parties. This compliance procedure should be largely facilitative, rather than punitive, geared toward helping to identify and overcome obstacles to implementation. 5
Legal Form of a New Agreement. One overarching question is the very form of a new agreement. The present negotiations are proceeding under two parallel tracks, one under the UNFCCC and a second under the Kyoto Protocol (the United States is a party to the former, but not the latter). Some parties, in particular many developing countries, strongly favor retaining the Kyoto Protocol and adopting any additional provisions in some form of parallel agreement under the UNFCCC. If this parallel agreement took the form of an amendment or protocol, it would be legally binding. It would not be binding, however, if it took the form of a decision or decisions by the Conference of Parties, as some parties favor.
Alternatively, most developed countries now favor merging the two tracks in a single comprehensive agreement. Such an agreement could take the form of a new binding protocol, and could incorporate elements of the Kyoto Protocol. Developed countries differ, however, on what features of Kyoto should be retained. For instance, the European Union and others favor maintaining an international system of accounting for emission targets, while the United States supports allowing the option of national accounting.
The United States has proposed an “implementing agreement” with many of the same legal characteristics as a protocol. The proposal differs significantly from the Kyoto Protocol in that it would establish mitigation commitments for major developing countries, which, as I noted earlier, would be reflected in a common “appendix” alongside the targets (and any other commitments) of developed countries. An implementing agreement could be structured to succeed or to stand alongside the Kyoto Protocol.
We believe the best outcome would be a single, comprehensive, binding instrument, such as a protocol or an implementing agreement. We further believe that in the interest of comparability, verifiability and a smooth-functioning international greenhouse gas market, this agreement should set common accounting standards for emission targets.
We have seen recent progress, in the United States and in many other countries, toward stronger action to address climate change. Copenhagen presents an opportunity to build on that momentum by beginning to erect a post-climate framework that can give countries confidence that all are contributing their fair share to the global effort. In Copenhagen, governments must get as far as possible in hammering out the basic architecture of this post-2012 framework.
What can be achieved in Copenhagen will depend in part on what the United States is able to bring to the table, in terms of both emission reduction figures and financing. But it is important to point out that many issues will require resolution in order to reach a comprehensive agreement on a post-2012 framework. Developing countries must agree to make commitments that can be internationally verified; the legal form of a final agreement must be agreed; a financing mechanism must be accepted and at least initial financing must be brought to the table; and an approach to verification and compliance must also be accepted and agreed. If the world can make progress on these issues, and a broad framework successfully negotiated, we believe this would be substantial progress. If this is not possible, a political declaration, with a long-term objective of 2 degrees Celsius and perhaps resolution of some of the outstanding issues, may be all that is possible. In all cases, it would be important to establish a new end date for the negotiations in 2010.
Mr. Chairman, I thank the Committee for the opportunity to present our views on these critical issues. I would be happy to answer your questions.
1. For more on the Pew Center, see www.c2es.org.
2. See Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Chapter 13, page 776.
3. The U.S. range is based on the targets proposed by President Obama (14 percent below 2005, the equivalent of 1990 levels) and in the Kerry-Boxer bill (20 percent below 2005, or 6 percent below 1990).
4. For reduced deforestation, the bill sets aside 5 percent of allowances in 2012, declining to 2 percent in 2040. The set-asides for adaptation and clean technology are each 1 percent of allowances in 2012, rising to 4 percent in 2030.
5. For additional details, see Verifying Mitigation Efforts in a New Climate Agreement at http://www.c2es.org/docUploads/brief-verifying-mitigation-efforts-in-new.... pdf
Experts from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change offer insights into the latest Congressional and regulatory efforts to reduce U.S. emissions, and outline recommendations for a comprehensive framework agreement in Copenhagen as a foundation for negotiating a ratifiable treaty.
Tuesday November 3
Fira Gran Via Convention Centre, Barcelona
Vice President, Federal Government Outreach
Presentation: U.S. Domestic Climate Legislation - State of Play (pdf)
Vice President, Policy Analysis
Recent U.S. Federal Actions to Address Climate Change (pdf)
Vice President, International Strategies
Presentation: A Copenhagen Agreement (pdf)
- Brief: A Copenhagen Climate Agreement
- Post-2012 Climate Policy Briefs
- U.S. Senate Legislation (under debate)
- U.S. House Legislation (passed House in June)
- Paper: Legal Form of a New Global Climate Agreement
- Report: MRV in Post-2012 Agreement
- U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP)