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
When I founded a new nonprofit organization 15 years ago, the United States and the world urgently needed practical solutions to our energy and climate challenges. That need has only grown more urgent.
Earlier today, I announced my plans to step aside as the President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) once my successor is on board. As I look back, I find we have come a long way. That said, any honest assessment of our progress to date in addressing one of this century’s paramount challenges must conclude that we have much, much further to go.
When our organization, then named the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, first launched in 1998, 63 percent of the world’s electricity generation came from fossil fuels. Incredibly, that number is even higher today – 67 percent. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, is also higher than it was then – in fact, at its highest level in more than 2 million years.
Scientists around the globe have just reaffirmed with greater certainty than ever that human activity is warming the planet and threatening to irreversibly alter our climate. Climate change is no longer a future possibility. It is a here-and-now reality. It’s leading to more frequent and intense heat waves, higher sea levels, and more severe droughts, wildfires, and downpours.
We at C2ES have believed from the start that the most effective, efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spur the innovation needed to achieve a low-carbon economy is to put a price on carbon. It’s a path that a growing number of countries, states, and even cities are taking.
With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) poised to release its Fifth Assessment of the science underpinning our understanding of climate change, it’s useful to take a step back and recap some of the “big picture” facts.
What is already clear from the science:
- Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases act to warm the planet.
- Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere due to emissions from human activities.
- The Earth has been warming during the past century. The amount and speed of the warming is unusual compared to past records.
- Humans’ emissions of greenhouse gases are largely responsible for this warming.
- If emission rates continue, the warming in the 21st century will be much more significant than the warming in the previous century.
by Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President – Published in Nature, September 2013
Climate change: A patchwork of emissions cuts
Download the article as a PDF.
Read Elliot Diringer’s article in Nature on the potential path forward for international climate talks. Below is a brief summary.
With the failure in recent years of international attempts to deliver a binding treaty on emissions reductions, individual countries are finding their own ways to address the issue.
This patchwork approach could work for climate-change mitigation, C2ES Executive Vice President Elliot Diringer says in Nature, but we need an overarching framework of rules by which progress can be measured.
“Much of the real work to stave off climate catastrophe must happen at home,” Diringer writes. There are encouraging signs for reaching a new international agreement, but nations are still struggling with how to build ambition into the model, to ensure that collective action does reduce global emissions overall.
Diringer writes that home-made national approaches can be effective for climate-change mitigation if countries agree on rules and build trust.
Statement of Eileen Claussen
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
December 21, 2012
We strongly applaud Sen. Kerry’s nomination as Secretary of State.
Sen. Kerry has a long history of supporting policies to help the environment. No member of Congress has devoted more energy over the past two decades to strengthening the international effort against climate change.
Global climate change is one of the key challenges of our time. Sen. Kerry will bring vital expertise and knowledge on the issue of climate change as we endeavor to work toward a meaningful, balanced international agreement in 2015.
Contact Laura Rehrmann, email@example.com or 703-516-0621
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. Launched in November 2011, C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
Despite some modest steps forward, the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha was a reminder of the slow-paced nature of international negotiations. Annual conferences like these aim to achieve international agreement on reducing the man-made emissions causing climate change, but 20 years after the launch of the U.N. climate process, global emissions continue to rise.
Progress is being made at the domestic level, however, and in many cases, the policy of choice is emissions trading. One of the major challenges going forward is linking these emerging trading systems to achieve the efficiencies of an integrated global greenhouse gas market. The European Union and Australia have announced plans to link their trading systems, and California and Quebec are working toward linking theirs.
UN Climage Change Conference
COP 18 & CMP 8
November 26-December 7, 2012
In a package of decisions dubbed the Doha Climate Gateway, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change brought to a close two long-standing negotiating tracks and advanced a new, unified track aiming for a comprehensive legal agreement in 2015.
The Doha Climate Gateway:
- C2ES Statement on the Doha climate talks
- Shifting gears in Doha, blog post by Elliot Diringer
- Reflections from Doha: It's never easy, blog post by Elliot Diringer
- Not yet on track for 17 percent reduction, blog post by Doug Vine
- Previous International Negotiations
- The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement, December 2012.
The Durban Platform talks, aiming for a new global agreement in 2015, present an opportunity to assess and strengthen the international climate change effort. Since launching the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change two decades ago, governments have tried both "top down" and "bottom up" approaches. Neither has achieved the levels of participation or ambition needed to reverse the continued rise of global greenhouse gas emissions. Going forward, governments should draw on both models to forge a more effective global agreement.
Presentation in Doha:
- The Durban Platform Negotiations: Work Stream One, ADP Special Event, December 8, 2012
Daniel Bodansky, Lincoln Professor of Law, Ethics and Sustainability, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, shares his analysis of the components of an effective global agreement.
- UN climate talks stumble as scientists raise alarm, Nature article, December 9, 2012
- Climate talks buffeted by the force of Superstorm Sandy, Los Angeles Times article, November 28, 2012
Statement of Elliot Diringer
Executive Vice President
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
December 8, 2012
The Doha deal is unfortunately the best we can hope for at this stage. This is the first year of a four-year negotiation, and what was most important was moving the process forward. This agreement does that.
The countries most vulnerable to the rising toll of climate change understandably pushed hard for more. But it was clear coming into Doha that the major economies were not ready to commit to stronger emission cuts and there would be little new money on the table. We can't expect strong new commitments until 2015, the deadline the parties have set for a comprehensive new deal.
Keeping Kyoto alive for now was essential politically but is merely a bridge to a more balanced agreement in 2015. The fact that it was so hard to achieve even Doha's modest steps underscores how tough it will be to deliver a truly meaningful accord in three years. It's also a reminder that we can hardly rely on the UN process alone to mobilize strong global action. We need to ramp up efforts in other multilateral forums too and, most especially, at the domestic level. International agreements work only if countries have the domestic policies needed to deliver on them. Putting those policies in place remains the highest priority.
It's disappointing the United States was not in a position in Doha to credibly claim that it's on track to meeting President Obama's emissions pledge. An ambitious and durable deal in 2012 will be possible only with stronger U.S. engagement. The administration should move forward right away with sensible rules to cut power plant emissions. And Congress should seriously consider a carbon tax as part of a broader solution to the country's mounting fiscal challenges.
Contact Laura Rehrmann to arrange interviews, firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-516-0621
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. Launched in November 2011, C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
With the latest round of international climate change talks underway in Doha this week, it’s a good time to check in on the United States’ pledge, made three years in Copenhagen, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Are we on track to meet that?
The short answer: Not yet. But projections depend on assumptions, so let’s look at a few recent projections.