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International Brief #3
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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.
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.