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Elliot Diringer, a veteran environmental journalist and a deputy press secretary in the Clinton White House, is now director of international strategies at the Center. This column is being written in cooperation with Grist Magazine.
Tuesday, 17 Jul 2001
BONN, Germany It's a fair bet that many in the diplomatic horde converging on Bonn for the latest round of global warming talks would rather be somewhere else.
|Banner at a protest outside yesterday's talks.|
Photo: Independent Media Center.
In the past when they've gathered, the government negotiators charged with forging an international strategy against climate change could usually expect to produce enough forward movement, however incremental, to go home declaring success. Until, that is, the unsettling impasse last fall in The Hague, where tough decisions were due but longstanding differences proved too difficult to bridge.
This time around, the outlook is gloomier still. Indeed, "success" in Bonn might best be defined as averting an outright collapse.
Nearly a decade ago, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, nations committed themselves ever so tentatively to the fight against global warming. I covered that heady affair as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Five years later, having just joined the environmental policy office in the Clinton White House, I was a U.S. delegate to the historic Kyoto conference, where industrialized nations went the next step, pledging to finally start taking real steps.
Now I come as an "observer" representing the Center, an independent nonprofit that is part think tank, part catalyst for corporate action against global warming. My first observation is not a cheery one: Nearly a decade after the search began, the formula for mobilizing a genuine global effort against our greatest environmental threat seems as elusive as ever. Apart from the raft of high-stakes issues still dividing countries, the world's largest emitter, the U.S., has now renounced the Kyoto Protocol, declaring it "fatally flawed."
The official conference agenda calls for picking up where The Hague left off. Negotiators will again spend long, tedious hours haggling over the issues that bedeviled them last time: Should nations be forced to achieve most of their emission reductions at home, or be free to purchase all the emission credits they want from countries with spare ones to sell? How much credit should be allowed for carbon sucked from the atmosphere by forests and farms? How much money will rich countries provide poor countries to help them cope with and combat global warming?
But the real questions looming over the resumed Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change are more basic: With the United States now refusing to go along, is the rest of the industrialized world still prepared to continue down the path charted in Kyoto? And if not, what is the alternative?
|Dreary prognosis, colorful critical mass ride in Bonn.|
Photo: Independent Media Center.
Chances are that when weary negotiators head home 10 days from now, those questions will be left begging. Barring an unexpected turn of events -- say, a sudden breakthrough when G8 leaders gather later this week in Genoa -- there will be no decisive outcome to COP6. Europeans will be unable to persuade Japan to join them right now in an unequivocal embrace of Kyoto, providing the critical threshold to put the treaty into effect. Ministers will speechify and take stock, then jet back to their capitals to weigh options for the next round, this October in Marrakech.
This dreary prognosis, particularly when set against the growing scientific certainty that global warming is already upon us, might all too easily be cause for despair. I prefer the long view.
An effective global response to climate change would, if mounted, be the largest experiment in directed change ever undertaken. It would shape countless policies, investment decisions, and technology choices for decades to come, with the goal of gradually weaning industrialized nations from fossil fuels, and keeping the booming developing world from becoming ever more dependent. The challenge is unprecedented, and getting 180 nations to agree on the best way to meet it may well be the greatest diplomatic feat ever attempted.
For all the recent setbacks, there are in fact encouraging signs. Even without a global framework, many nations, both developed and developing, have begun taking concrete steps to curb their emissions. The public and press are more attuned than ever. And the corporate community, which at the time of the Kyoto in 1997 was still in deep denial, is coming around. Major companies like those we work with at Pew are taking, and demanding, real action.
But this momentum, however modest, will be lost unless nations commit themselves to mandatory action with legally binding targets. That was the premise going into Kyoto, and for all the negotiations since. But in rejecting the Kyoto, the U.S., for now at least, rejected that basic premise as well.
Japan still holds out hope of luring the Bush administration back to Kyoto; the European Union favors forging ahead with or without the U.S. The U.S., having offered no alternative or even saying when it might, has promised not to stand in the way. "If other countries want to shoot themselves in the foot," one American official told me, "they're welcome to."
Unless the U.S. offers up a credible alternative, and does it soon, the best course may well be for other countries to settle outstanding differences and make Kyoto real. These two weeks in the city by the Rhine will, hopefully, give us a clearer picture of whether that's possible -- or whether it's time to contemplate other paths forward.
Either way, our ultimate goal must remain the same: an international agreement that includes all the major emitters and delivers real reductions in greenhouse gases at a price the world can afford. It's a tall order. But it's why we're here.
Elliot Diringer, a veteran environmental journalist and a deputy press secretary in the Clinton White House, is now director of international strategies at the Center. This column is being written in cooperation with Grist Magazine.
Thursday, 19 Jul 2001
BONN, Germany About a year ago, Bob Page and his wife were hiking high in the Canadian Rockies in an area they had last visited 10 years before. Approaching a vast expanse of ice known as the Saskatchewan Glacier, they were stunned by what they saw.
"The glacier had retreated about a kilometer," he told me. "Suddenly, there was a new valley there we hadn't seen before. That sight was just so powerful." Page knew instinctively that he was viewing stark evidence of global warming.
Today, Page is hiking the corridors of a stuffy conference center half a world away. He is one of the thousands gathered here in hopes of resuscitating the global drive to keep the world's glaciers intact and avert the many other threats posed by our planet's warming.
|Chair Jan Pronk speaks in the conference center in Bonn.|
Page, however, is not part of the army of environmental NGOs whose representatives routinely buttonhole negotiators and issue press statements hounding governments to action. He is a company man, a vice president for the Canadian-based TransAlta Corp., one of North America's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
His message, nonetheless, is much the same: Serious consequences await us unless governments and businesses alike get down to the job of protecting our climate. TransAlta, Page said, is fully committed to doing its part. The electric power provider, which generates much of its energy by burning coal, has set a goal of reducing net carbon emissions from its Canadian operations to zero by 2024.
Claims of corporate commitment to the environment are often greeted with skepticism by greens and the public, frequently with good reason. But one of the most profound shifts in the climate debate in recent years is the emergence of leading corporations that don't simply talk the talk -- they are also taking concrete steps to cut emissions and calling on governments to step up their efforts.
To be sure, there are powerful corporations that continue to dispute the scientific evidence of climate change and oppose real efforts to address it. Their views seem to hold sway at the highest levels in Washington. But a growing number of others, including TransAlta and 35 other major corporations we work with at the Center, are stepping up to the climate challenge.
Many of them are here pressing their case. They want a strong international agreement that sets binding targets for reducing emissions. They also want clear, sensible rules that allow for emissions trading, carbon sequestration, and other creative approaches that will enable countries and companies to meet those targets without sending economies or profits into a tailspin.
As ministers arrived here today, and the talks turned from "technical" to "political" issues, the odds still appeared low for such an agreement being struck here in Bonn. The goal is to agree on rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol so countries can weigh ratifying the treaty, even though the U.S. has rejected it. While negotiators reported progress on some issues, big differences remain on the tougher ones and, in some cases, positions appear to be hardening.
Companies are addressing climate change for a host of reasons. Many are taking a long-term strategic view -- picturing how the world will look decades from now and how they can best position themselves in it. Some, like major insurers, see enormous risk from the potentially catastrophic impacts of a warming climate. Some companies see profit potential in marketing renewable energy and energy-saving technologies, or in becoming brokers in the emerging emissions-trading market. Some simply accept that mounting scientific evidence and public pressure will eventually lead to stiffer government controls. After three decades of environmental wrangling, these companies have learned that they're better off engaging early to help shape rules that are both effective and workable.
TransAlta is counting on good rules to help meet its zero-emissions target. Although the company is investing in renewable energy and new technologies to capture and bury carbon from the coal it burns, its strategy depends heavily on "offsets" -- essentially, paying for actions to reduce or avoid carbon emissions elsewhere as a way of compensating for its own releases.
In one of its more novel projects, TransAlta is supporting a company in Uganda that will market a feed supplement to help cattle digest their food better. Healthier cattle not only produce more and better meat and milk, but they also emit less methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. TransAlta is also one of the pioneers in emissions trading, forging the first trans-Atlantic carbon trade last year with a German electric firm.
But the company will not get emissions "credit" for such transactions unless governments agree on rules for trading and other offset mechanisms. "Unless the market mechanisms are in place," said Page, "it just won't happen."
Even as governments waver, however, financial markets are beginning to recognize the long-term risk of rising carbon emissions and reward companies taking steps to minimize them. Earlier this year, Page said, stock analysts quizzed TransAlta on its carbon outlook. "This was the first time in history we'd been questioned by analysts on our policies in this area," he said.
Failure here in Bonn will be disappointing, but it will not deter TransAlta from its carbon-cutting strategy, according to Page. "A global agreement of some kind is very important to us as a company," he said. "If Kyoto does not survive, we hope the son or daughter of Kyoto will emerge soon."
Elliot Diringer, a veteran environmental journalist and a deputy press secretary in the Clinton White House, is now director of international strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. This column is being written in cooperation with Grist Magazine.
Monday, 23 Jul 2001
EN ROUTE FROM BONN, Germany I was working the cell phone from the backseat of a Mercedes cab rushing to the airport a few hours ago, and, suddenly, I was struck by the spirit of the scene I'd just left behind.
|Jan Pronk sealed the deal.|
Photo: Courtesy of IISD.
Moments earlier, a beaming Jan Pronk had slammed down his gavel to seal a deal keeping the Kyoto Protocol alive. A hall full of exhausted delegates (some had haggled through the night, while others draped the floor and couches of the Maritim's smoky corridors) exploded in applause. Against all odds, Pronk's idiosyncratic brand of diplomacy had managed to move nearly the entire world forward in the fight against global warming.
I couldn't help but think back eight months to a very different scene in The Hague, where Pronk's earlier efforts as conference chair had ended in acrimony and despair. I was with the U.S. delegation at the time, and while virtually no one was faultless in the failure there, I hadn't felt particularly proud about the part we had played.
The events of the intervening months have left me more troubled than ever about America's "contribution" to what so obviously must be a global effort to stem a global threat. The events of this morning provide a powerful balm. Despite my government's refusal to lead or even go along, the rest of the world, for now at least, has resolved to push ahead.
In the plenary hall, ministers were still taking turns congratulating one another and reciting the many challenges yet ahead. But I couldn't stay. It's my son's birthday tomorrow and I don't want to miss it. So I grabbed a cab and dialed reporters while cruising down the Autobahn for Cologne, lending my voice, and that of my organization, to the worldwide declaration of success.
Now I'm 35,000 feet over the northern Atlantic, halfway home. Out the window of the 747, I can see the gleaming glaciers of Greenland, so vast and remote, and seemingly impervious. Looking down, I wonder how much they've retreated since we began tinkering with the chemistry of our atmosphere. I'm reminded that in the race against global warming, we've barely begun.
|Outside, protesters are happy but skeptical.|
Photo: Courtesy of IISD.
Kyoto, the imperfect instrument that might finally mobilize our efforts, remains a work in progress. Nations drew the basic outlines four years ago in Japan. In Bonn, they filled in the broad brushstrokes. Later this year in Marrakech, they must add the finishing touches. The goal is ratification by enough countries to put the treaty into effect by the time of Rio+10, a major environmental summit late next year in Johannesburg.
Given the extraordinary array of complexities and competing interests, getting Kyoto up and running would be a remarkable achievement. But it would be only a start. Kyoto promises just a fraction of the reduction in greenhouse gases that ultimately is needed to avert climatic disaster. And it offers no real strategy to bring on board the developing countries, whose growing prosperity and populations could completely overwhelm even the most strenuous efforts of industrialized nations.
There remains also, of course, the matter of the U.S. There are all sorts of ironies in today's outcome in Bonn. This is a deal that, in most major respects, would have satisfied U.S. negotiators in The Hague. In other words, now that the U.S. has renounced Kyoto, other nations are willing to make the concessions that conceivably might have kept us on board.
Although some of those who counseled President Bush to reject Kyoto no doubt hoped to deliver the treaty a fatal blow, their advice may well have had the opposite effect. In unilaterally proclaiming its own response -- an emphatic no -- the administration cast in stark relief a legitimate question: Is Kyoto the way forward? With the taste of failure still fresh from The Hague, and with a decade of diplomacy at stake, the rest of the world decided the only possible answer was an equally emphatic yes.
Fortunately, the 178 countries that backed the treaty did it in a way that leaves the door open for the U.S. to come back. The particulars of how that could be done may be negotiated in due time. What's more critical right now is that the U.S. begin genuine efforts at home to curb its soaring greenhouse gas emissions. Here, too, the administration appears to have inadvertently created new momentum. All sorts of bills are being drafted on Capitol Hill, and the prospects for action have never been better. Who knows? By this time next year, Bush might be signing legislation that finally puts the U.S. on the path to climate protection.
My son Ty was barely a year old when I flew off to Rio to cover the Earth Summit, the conference where the international effort against global warming first took shape. Tomorrow, he turns 10. We've made some headway. I'd like to think that by the time he turns 20, we'll have made a whole lot more.
Elliot Diringer, a veteran environmental journalist and a deputy press secretary in the Clinton White House, is now director of international strategies at the Center. This column is being written in cooperation with Grist Magazine.
Friday, 20 Jul 2001
BONN, Germany After four days of slogging through dense text, clearing away underbrush, and settling some of the simpler issues before them, climate negotiators today got down to the real business at hand. And while no one with any sense would predict the outcome, it was possible for the first time in a long while to detect a few glimmers of hope.
"We're making a little progress. Sneaking forward," a senior Chinese diplomat told me smilingly during a break in negotiations.
On all the key issues -- how much emissions-cutting credit countries can claim for carbon soaked up by soils and trees; whether the international market in emission credits will be free or capped; how rich countries will help poor countries address climate change -- major gaps remained.
But lots of subtle signs (something about the body language, if you will) suggest that this time negotiators would much rather go home with a deal.
The tactics and tone are not like those at the deadlocked talks last fall at The Hague. Negotiators are not throwing up all sorts of procedural objections just to keep the talks from going forward. When ministers took the podium yesterday at the start of the high-level segment of the talks, their speeches focused more on positions, with less of the posturing and vitriol seen in the past.
"Everyone was on very good behavior," said Tom Jacob of DuPont, a veteran observer of climate negotiations. "They were going out of their way not to be offensive while still staking out their positions. There was a remarkable degree of diplomacy."
Diplomacy, of course, is what these gatherings are supposed to be about. But climate change, an issue that literally implicates every nation on earth, poses more than the usual challenges of treaty-making. It calls for near-term action to avert a long-term threat, something difficult enough for one government, let alone 180. Technically, the issues are complex -- frankly, impenetrable to the uninitiated. The economic stakes are high. And the debate is fraught with all the pent-up tensions between the North and the South.
What's more, each delegation must calculate not only how its position will be received by counterparts here, but, perhaps more important, how it plays at home -- how it bears on the next election, the domestic economy, the national budget, and the president's or prime minister's standing in the polls.
So it is no surprise that these affairs are chaotic, unwieldy, and not prone to success. The process itself is mysterious, and often the focus of intense debate. At the outset this morning, the way forward was so unclear that the official printed agenda said simply: "Programme to be determined."
By early afternoon, the parties agreed on how to proceed. They anointed a "small" group of 35 with a set number of seats at the table for each of the negotiating blocs, including the European Union, the Umbrella Group (the U.S., Japan, and other developed countries outside the EU), and the G77, which represents developing countries. For each seat at the table, each bloc was allowed two additional observers.
The plan was for this group to meet behind closed doors, surfacing periodically to report on progress or lack thereof, and leaving thousands of other delegates, observers, and press to mill about, swapping rumors and business cards.
|Although the atmosphere inside the talks has been subdued, activists outside have tried to brighten things up.|
The atmospherics here are somewhat more subdued than at past climate conferences, in part by design. The center of activity is the glitzy Maritim Hotel, where participants must show conference badges and pass through metal detectors in order to enter. Inside, climate junkies hobnob while keeping watch for key delegates who might actually know what's going on. But this time, booths where organizations like mine ordinarily distribute literature and show the flag are not allowed, perhaps to minimize distractions so delegates can stay focused on their work. Police barricades ring the hotel, and vans crammed with bored officers and riot gear are parked at strategic spots.
Press operations are housed several hundred yards away. So are the offices of the many environmental organizations represented here, perhaps to avoid an unseemly spectacle like the one at The Hague, where as the talks collapsed, spokesmen for competing green camps jumped atop tabletops in the conference hall, trying to drown out one another as they spun the press.
The groups can stage their protests -- this morning, a parade of polar bears struggled to unfurl a banner as delegates arrived -- but only from a safe distance.
Back in the Maritim, some delegates suggest that the best possible outcome here is a partial agreement that at least keeps things moving forward. But the hope is that by Sunday night or Monday morning the group of 35 will reach agreement on all the key issues on implementing the Kyoto Protocol. Ministers would then bless the package and head home, leaving their teams to convert the broad outlines into painstaking text. This, in turn, would have to be formally approved, probably at the next round of negotiations this October in Marrakech.
Then countries would ratify the protocol -- President Bush has made clear that the U.S. would not be among them -- and Kyoto would be a real working treaty.
Given how long it's taken negotiators to get not very far, it might seem highly implausible that in a mere 48 hours a grand deal could be struck. But as demonstrated in the final chaotic hours in Kyoto, if everyone really does want to get to yes, it can be done.
That's the optimistic scenario, anyway. Check back to see how things really turn out.
Climate change is a global challenge that requires a global solution; Building an Effective International Treaty (Policymakers' Guide, July 2001) is important. Negotiations resuming this month in Bonn, as well as further meetings scheduled in November 2001 in Marrakech, are critical next steps.
The talks in Bonn, Germany, July 16th - 27th, 2001, are aimed at completing the rules of the Kyoto Protocol, which would significantly strengthen the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established in 1992. (See our section on International Climate Negotiations (Policymakers' Guide, July 2001) for a full background and timeline on climate policy at the international level.)
In order for Kyoto to enter into force, it must be ratified by 55 countries representing 55 percent of developed country emissions. As of May 2001, 84 countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol *(including the U.S.) (Policymakers' Guide, July 2001), and 34 have ratified it. Most countries were waiting for the outcome of the November 2000 meeting in The Hague before moving forward with ratification. Due to the Impasse at the Hague (Policymakers' Guide, July 2001), they are now awaiting decisions that might be made in Bonn or Marrakech.
In light of the Bush Administration's rejection of the Protocol, it remains uncertain whether the Parties will choose to continue down the path of Kyoto or attempt to develop an alternative international regime. The European Union has declared its intent to ratify the Protocol, but without the United States, meeting the threshold for entry into force will also require ratification by Japan and Russia.
Check this Web site for daily updates from Bonn, and analysis of the issues surrounding the extraordinary challenge of global climate change.
- Update - July 17, 2001
- Update - July 18, 2001
- Update - July 19, 2001
- Update - July 20, 2001
- Update - July 23, 2001
- Read reports on the Kyoto Protocol's market mechanisms:
- Read the opinion editorial featured in the L.A. Times July 13, 2001.
More coverage of the proceedings:
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
- Earth Negotiations Bulletin at the International Institute for Sustainable Development
For Immediate Release:
February 11, 2003
Contact: Press, 703-516-4146
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE OTHER GASES
New Report Examines Climate Impacts and Mitigation Costs of Non-CO2 Gases
Washington, DC - To effectively limit climate change, and to do so in a cost-effective manner, climate policies must address emissions of both carbon dioxide (CO2) and the other greenhouse gases, according to a new report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Although CO2 is the principal greenhouse gas contributing to global warming, other gases-including methane, nitrous oxide, and a number of manmade, industrial-process gases (such as hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride)-are also important contributors to climate change.
"The non-CO2 gases contribute a great deal to climate change, yet there is currently little or no incentive to control these emissions," explained Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Curbing emissions of these greenhouse gases is both environmentally important and cost-effective."
Multi-Gas Contributors to Global Climate Change: Climate Impacts and Mitigation Costs of Non-CO2 Gases discusses the sources and amounts of these emissions, the atmospheric interactions of the various gases, and the relative costs of reducing them. Report authors John Reilly, Henry Jacoby, and Ronald Prinn of Massachusetts Institute of Technology use a general equilibrium modeling framework to analyze the costs and climate impacts of controlling various greenhouse gas emissions. The report discusses opportunities and difficulties associated with incorporating non-CO2 greenhouse gases into a climate policy framework.
The authors demonstrate that including all greenhouse gases in a moderate emissions reduction strategy not only increases the overall amount of emissions reductions, but also reduces the overall cost of mitigation: a win-win strategy. If, for example, total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States were held at year 2000 levels through 2010, many cost-effective reduction opportunities would come from the non-CO2 greenhouse gases.
In developing countries like India and Brazil, non-CO2 gases currently account for more than half of total greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, any cost-effective effort to engage developing countries in climate change mitigation should also include these other gases.
"The reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions is a critical component of a cost-effective climate policy, so any efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide should proceed hand-in-hand with reductions of the other gases," said Claussen.
Forum on the State and Development of The Greenhouse Gas Market
Remarks of Eileen Claussen, President
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
International Emissions Trading Association's Annual Conference
December 5, 2002
Thank you for that kind introduction. I'm delighted to be here. I had the pleasure a year ago of welcoming IETA to Washington for its first annual conference. And I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to speak again, this year here in Brussels.
I'm reminded of a story about George Bernard Shaw. One of his plays was about to open in London and he sent two tickets to Winston Churchill with a note that read: "Enclosed are two tickets to the first-night performance of a play of mine. Bring a friend -- if you have one."
Churchill, never to be outdone, quickly wrote back: "Dear G.B.S. -- I thank you very much. Unfortunately, I am engaged that night, but could I have tickets for the second night… if there is one."
There was no doubt in my mind that IETA would be back for a second performance, and I very much appreciate the invitation. It has been our privilege at Pew to work with IETA on a number of fronts to encourage the development of an active, global greenhouse gas market. And I look forward to continuing that partnership as we move forward and promote real solutions to the critical challenge of global climate change.
Today I'd like to offer you some thoughts on where we stand in the effort to meet the challenge of climate change - in particular, where the United States stands in this effort - and what it is going to take to move us further along.
I'd like to start with some reflections on the most recent round of international negotiations, which concluded last month in Delhi. It's been said that blessed is the one who expects nothing, for he is never disappointed. That may well have been the case with COP 8. With the big issues on Kyoto implementation resolved in Bonn and Marrakech, but the Protocol not yet in force, expectations for Delhi were low. And they were met. The issues on the table in Delhi were largely technical and incremental in nature. And, even on these, the progress was modest.
But there were a couple of important outcomes. One was a greater emphasis on adaptation - a recognition that we cannot focus on mitigation alone. The second was the emergence of debate over next steps - the question of how we move forward beyond Kyoto's first commitment period. Long looming in the background, the issue was placed squarely on the table in Delhi, dominating both the dialogue and the political dynamics of the conference.
In the end, after much debate and negotiation, the Delhi Declaration itself was silent on the question of next steps. But the critical conversation about how we move toward a truly effective long-term framework has at least begun.
Delhi is also noteworthy because of the role played by the United States. Having played a more peripheral role in the negotiations immediately following its rejection of Kyoto, the United States began to reassert itself in Delhi, and in ways that were not necessarily helpful.
You'll recall that President Bush said he was rejecting Kyoto, in part, because it did not include commitments for developing countries. Yet in Delhi, the United States was suddenly arguing that it would be unfair to ask these same developing countries to take on emission targets.
On the surface, this might appear inconsistent if not hypocritical. But it is consistent in this sense: Although the administration is delivering one message at home and another abroad, both serve to impede progress. Whether the United States is harping on the lack of action by others, or deterring action by others, the goal remains the same: avoiding commitments of its own.
The U.S. stance in Delhi underscores an unsettling reality. On the one hand, we are in fact making significant headway against climate change. For all its flaws, Kyoto is a remarkable achievement and its entry into force will be a critical milestone. Even within the United States, there are encouraging signs. I'll elaborate on some of those in a few moments. But - and here's the unsettling part - the reality is that at the end of the day, we cannot meet the challenge of climate change without the full and willing participation of the United States. Until and unless the United States demonstrates a willingness to tackle its own emissions, it will be extraordinarily difficult for other developed countries to go beyond the commitments they made in Kyoto, and it will be next to impossible to persuade developing countries to take stronger action of their own.
So our prospects for success may hinge on two questions: Where is the United States today on the issue of global climate change? And what ultimately will it take to secure the full and willing participation of the United States in an effective long-term effort to meet this challenge?
First, I think it's important that we have absolutely no illusion about what we can and cannot expect from the present administration. It may be a sign of progress that the White House is no longer openly challenging the broad scientific consensus that global warming is real. We've moved past denial. The administration is busily recruiting companies for voluntary emission reduction programs. It is moving to improve the federal government's woefully inadequate emissions registry. It is engaging in bilateral efforts with a long list of countries.
These are all good things. But they fall far, far short of what is needed. And - forgive me if I seem a bit jaded - they seem meant to convey the appearance of progress, and thereby deter actions that would achieve genuine progress. I'm asked often whether I think the Bush administration can be persuaded to take stronger action on climate change. And I have to say that, barring a dramatic and unforeseen shift in U.S. politics, the answer is no. There is little to suggest that this administration is prepared to engage constructively on this issue either diplomatically or domestically.
That, however, is not to say that the United States is a lost cause. In fact, I would argue that, odd as it might seem, the United States is much further along in addressing this issue than it was the day President Bush took office. Climate change is getting more attention than ever - in the press, in corporate boardrooms, in state capitols, and even in Congress.
In the business sector, we've seen a steady shift from denial to acknowledgment; from acknowledgment to action; and, in some cases, from action to advocacy.
Many of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the voluntary actions being taken by leading companies to reduce their emissions. At last count, we'd identified more than 40 major companies that have publicly committed themselves to greenhouse gas reduction targets. Now the Business Roundtable, at the urging of the Administration, is trying to get all of its members to commit to voluntary action. Even Exxon-Mobil, a leading champion of the Administration's business-as-usual strategy, recently ran ads touting its efforts to get a handle on its emissions.
These voluntary steps of course are commendable, but they are hardly enough. The companies that are truly committed to tackling climate change know that we will never achieve the deep emission cuts we need unless everyone moves far enough, and fast enough, in the right direction. And that will happen only if the government requires it.
That is why the companies we work with at Pew recently called for the development of a comprehensive national climate strategy that is flexible and market-based but also has teeth - a strategy of mandatory, not voluntary, reductions. We need more companies that are prepared not just to acknowledge, and not just to act - but to advocate as well.
Even more dramatic are the efforts being launched by state governments. At least 42 of the 50 states have programs that, while not necessarily directed at climate change, have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And some of these states, it's worth noting, have higher annual emissions than many industrialized countries. For instance, Texas emits more than France.
Last month we released a report taking a closer look at several state efforts, and the results are impressive, to say the least. Some states are tackling climate change head-on with comprehensive strategies aimed at reducing emissions across sectors. For instance, New Jersey, moved in part by the threat to its coast from rising sea levels, has set a goal of reducing emissions 3.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2005 and, through a combination of regulatory and voluntary initiatives, is well on its way toward meeting its target.
Other states are reducing emissions by diversifying their energy supplies, in particular through greater use of renewable energy. Twelve states have adopted renewable portfolio standards requiring utilities to obtain a share of their power from renewable sources. In Texas, for instance, the "oil rush" is now giving way to a "wind rush." It's estimated that the substitution of wind and other renewables for fossil fuels will reduce the state's CO2 emissions by nearly 2 million tons a year.
Nebraska was the first state to directly link agricultural policy with greenhouse gas reduction. It is pursuing carbon sequestration as a dual strategy - one that promotes better soil conservation, while also positioning Nebraska farmers to reap rewards in a national or international carbon market. Others agree - four other states passed similar sequestration laws last year.
Other states are establishing greenhouse gas registries. Some are requiring large generators to report their emissions. Still others are going the next step and mandating that large generators reduce their emissions. Massachusetts has a multi-pollutant law requiring six older power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions 10 percent over the next several years. The law, which allows for emissions trading, is expected to reduce emissions by 2 to 4 million tons a year.
And of course California, always at the leading edge in environmental policy, is now trying to regulate carbon emissions from cars and trucks. The state's new law is being challenged in court by the automakers, and by the Bush administration. But if it survives, it will have a profound impact well beyond California. If other states follow California's lead, it could effectively set the new standard for cars sold across the United States.
While different states are taking different approaches, our report found some common characteristics. First, these efforts are typically supported by broad, bipartisan coalitions. Second, they often succeed because states view climate mitigation less as a burden than as an opportunity. Third, many of these efforts have multiple drivers, and multiple benefits - from increased energy security to lower tax bills and cleaner air.
These state initiatives are encouraging. They are achieving real reductions. Actions in one state are being replicated in others. And while state action alone will not be enough, it will help move us where we need to go. It is common in the United States for federal policy to reflect lessons learned from state initiatives. And to the extent that a fragmented, state-by-state approach to climate policy leads to a patchwork of conflicting rules and regulations. this will increase pressure on Washington for a comprehensive, consistent national approach.
So what are the odds that we will see one? As I said earlier, you should not expect any new initiative on this issue from the Bush administration. The prospects, however, may be significantly better in Congress, where both Democrats and Republicans have shown more interest than ever before in addressing climate change. Indeed, three times as many legislative proposals were introduced in the last two years as in the previous two years.
Climate change emerged as one of the major sticking points in the most recent effort to produce a comprehensive energy bill. The Senate version of the bill included two bipartisan climate provisions - one establishing a new office in the White House charged with developing a long-term climate strategy, the other establishing a system for tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions that would start out as voluntary but could become mandatory after five years.
The outcome of the recent midterm election, which gave Republicans control of both houses, might suggest that the recent surge in climate activity will be short-lived. Certainly, the odds of moving any major climate legislation in the foreseeable future are not especially good; frankly, they weren't much better before the election. But I think there's a good chance that the climate change debate in Congress will be very much alive.
Indeed, the debate could soon become far more serious. As many of you may know, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman have been working on legislation to establish a greenhouse cap-and-trade system in the United States. The Pew Center has been deeply involved in this effort from the start. We provided extensive input as the bill was being drafted and arranged for company representatives and independent experts to provide input as well. As you can imagine, crafting a sound, workable trading bill that has any political viability is no simple matter. I'm sure each of you could find something to quibble with in this bill. But on the whole, at least as it's presently drafted, the bill represents a very credible start. It is economy-wide. Its targets are aggressive but not unreasonable. And it allows for flexibility through sequestration and international trading.
The bill is likely to be introduced early in the new year. And while it's not about to come to a vote anytime soon, it's not likely to disappear either. With the Republicans taking control of the Senate, Senator McCain will again be chair of the Commerce Committee, and he said the day after the election that climate change will be one of this top priorities.
So while the Bush administration will continue to favor appearances over action, we have companies calling for mandatory carbon reductions, we have states stepping into the leadership vacuum, and we may soon have a genuine debate in Congress over national climate policy. What will it take to build on this momentum and produce real, sustained action? What will it take to make the United States and full and willing partner in the global effort against climate change?
For starters, it will require the continued resolve of the international community. Other nations must not allow the United States to deter them from acting. Having resolved their differences on Kyoto, they must now move forward with it and make it a success. They must fulfill their commitments and they must give the market the chance to achieve the necessary reductions as cost-effectively as possible.
Kyoto's success is the most effective form of diplomatic pressure that can be brought to bear on the United States. It is essential. But at the end of the day, the only pressures that can tip the scale - the only pressures that can persuade Washington that it is time to act - are those that come from within.
Ultimately, this requires the engagement of the American public. As I said earlier, we've seen a gradual evolution within the business community on this issue: first, a company accepts that the issue is real; next, it takes steps to address its own contribution to the problem; and then it engages in the policy debate, calling on government to do its part. We need to promote the same kind of evolution within the American public.
Most Americans already accept that climate change is real. But they need a much clearer understanding of its causes - of the ways in which their everyday activities contribute to climate change; and of its consequences - of the threats it poses to their communities, to their natural surroundings, and to future generations.
Next, people must better understand the choices they can make to reduce their own contribution to climate change - how as consumers they can choose more energy-efficient cars and appliances; and how as investors they can encourage more responsible corporate behavior.
Finally, the American public must demand action on the part of their elected leaders. Often it has taken a dramatic event or circumstance to mobilize public support on an environmental issue - the Cuyahoga River caught fire, our skylines literally disappeared behind the haze, families were forced from their homes at Love Canal. Climate change is different. We can't afford to wait for a climate disaster. We have to make the case for taking action now, before the crisis is upon us.
It may seem as if I've strayed quite far from the topic of this conference: the state and development of the greenhouse gas market. But actually I think I may be addressing the very heart of the matter. To have a functioning market, it is not enough to create institutions and accounting procedures. You must also have demand. Right now, it is not there. Our challenge, I would submit, is to create it.
Thank you for listening. I would be happy to take your questions.
Global Climate Change: The Complexities of Crafting a Workable Framework
Remarks of Eileen Claussen, President
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
The George Washington University's Elliott School Evening Lecture Series
November 6, 2002
Good evening, and thank you for that introduction.
While the Elliott School itself is just over ten years old, the truth is, students at George Washington have been instructed in international affairs for over 100 years. So it is a real pleasure to be here, to be a part of this lecture series, and be a part of this historic continuum in the analysis of international affairs.
I also want to thank you for choosing climate change at the Marvin Center over "Crossfire" at the Morton Auditorium.
In a way, I guess both events are about hot air. One difference, though, is that at "Crossfire" the goal seems to be generating as much hot air as possible. My goal, on the other hand, is just the opposite.
I believe that achieving that goal - in other words, protecting future generations from the worst consequences of global warming - is one of the most profound challenges of our time. What I'd like to do tonight is explore with you some of the complexities of that challenge - both the complexities of climate change itself, and the complexities of forging a workable international framework to address it. I'd like to offer a glimpse of how far we've come and how we got here. And perhaps most importantly, I'd like to lay out for you some of the core issues we must confront if we are to meet the goal of a safe, stable, and sustainable climate. Those of you tracking the climate talks that concluded last week in New Delhi know that negotiators began grappling with these very questions. And while there was little progress achieved, it is encouraging that at least the dialogue has begun.
So let's begin with the complex nature of the challenge. I think it is fair to say that climate change is different from any other global challenge we have faced before, and I believe that there are four specific reasons why. First, climate change is cloaked in uncertainty. Second, it is a long-term challenge. Third, it is a global challenge. And finally, it is inherently unfair.
Let's begin with the uncertainty.
I want to be clear. I think the science on climate change is both clear and compelling.
There is overwhelming scientific consensus on three basic points: the earth is warming; this warming trend is likely to worsen; and human activity is largely to blame. Yes, you can find scientists who will argue otherwise. But these are the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which draws on the expertise of hundreds of climate scientists around the world. They are also the findings of a special, well-balanced panel put together by the National Academy of Sciences at the request of President Bush.
True, the earth's temperature has always fluctuated. But ordinarily these shifts occur over the course of centuries or millennia, not decades. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire millennium. The last five years were among the seven hottest on record. Scientists project that over the next century, the average global temperature will rise two to ten degrees Fahrenheit. A ten-degree increase would be the largest swing in global temperature since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago.
But even knowing all of this, we still cannot accurately predict exactly how much the earth's temperature will rise or how quickly. Will it be just be the two degrees over the next century? Or will it be 10 degrees, the high end of the estimate? Similarly, we can not forecast precisely what impacts will be felt where. Is it safe to assume that if the temperature rise is gradual so, too, will be the impacts? Or, as some scientists believe, is there a significant risk of triggering sudden changes in the climate system that will lead to catastrophic consequences?
There are large economic uncertainties, as well. How quickly can our engineers perfect climate-friendly technologies? How quickly will companies and consumers adopt them? Might the economic benefits of addressing climate change be greater than we think because we will at the same time be solving other problems, like air pollution and our costly reliance on imported oil? And how much will this transformation of our economy to climate-friendly technologies actually cost?
We don't have good answers to these questions, and because we don't, some prefer a "wait and see" approach. They argue that the warming might not be as bad as predicted, so why act now?.
The problem with that line of thinking is that uncertainty cuts two ways. Maybe the warming will be much worse than the scientists say. And that is a risk I don't think we can afford to take. The strategies needed to address climate change must be implemented over many years, even decades, and the sooner we begin the less costly they will be.
And that brings me to second attribute that makes climate change unique. It is a long-term challenge.
The buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past century happened in a blink of the eye on the geological time scale. But measured on the scale of a human lifetime, climate change is very slow moving. The added carbon dioxide now burdening our atmosphere has accumulated over the course of generations.
We are beginning to feel and see some of the impacts now. In Alaska, for instance, roads are literally crumbling and homes are sagging as the permafrost begins to melt. And, less dramatic, spring is arriving earlier here and in Europe. But the significant sea level rise& the increased flooding and increased drought& the more powerful storms and extended heat waves& and other types of extreme weather-related events -- those are still decades down the road. Indeed, the full impact of today's emissions will not be felt until the next century.
Just as global warming is slow in coming, doing something about it is also a long-term proposition. Certainly, there are steps we can and should take right now - for instance, there are countless ways we could be using energy more efficiently and therby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But ultimately what is needed is a fundamental transformation in the way we power our homes, our factories, our cars - in short, in the way we power our entire economy. Clearly, this can't happen overnight. It will take time - which, as I alluded to a moment ago, is all the more reason to get started now.
Admittedly, making the crucial investments now is a difficult proposition. How many candidates did you hear in the days leading up to yesterday's election talking specifically about climate change? Sure, a few talked about the environment in general& or related issues like decreasing our reliance on imported oil. But the fact is, our decision-making structures are not geared to taking the long-term view& and neither are most politicians.
The same holds true for businesses. Just as our political decisions are made with an eye toward the next election, our investment decisions are made with an eye to the quarterly earnings reports. Part of confronting climate change, then, is learning to think, and to act, for the long term.
Climate change is a long term challenge; it is also a global one. And that is the third attribute that really sets this issue apart.
The threat to the Earth's ozone layer was certainly a global one, but I don't know if we have ever before faced a challenge as all-encompassing as global climate change. That's because the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere influences the physical and chemical systems that shape climate literally everywhere on Earth. Yes, the impacts of global warming will vary widely from place to place. Floods in one part of the world might be droughts in another. But the fact is, whether the source of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere is gridlock on the Beltway or on a street in Beijing, it presents the very same risk.
No nation is immune. And thus, by the same token, every nation bears some responsibility for meeting this challenge. For that reason, while it may be noble for any one nation to limit its greenhouse gas emissions, it is an exercise in futility unless, ultimately, we all do.
That is not to say that every nation must act at the same time or in the same way. And that brings me to the fourth and final reason why I believe climate changes poses a challenge like none other. Climate change represents a common threat, and a common challenge. But we must also realize that climate change confronts us with extraordinary inequities. Put plainly, climate change is unfair.
Consider who is responsible for the emissions. If you look only to the past, the answer seems clear: the industrialized countries. Nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere over the past century as a result of human activity came from developed countries. Nearly a third was contributed by the United States alone.
But looking forward, the equation changes. As developing countries build their economies, they increase their emissions, too& particularly if they use the technologies now in widespread use in the developed world. And before long, probably in a few decades, their emissions will surpass those of the industrialized world.
Thus, in the long run, climate change cannot be effectively addressed without also limiting the emissions of the developing countries. And that poses a tough dilemma: developing countries are understandably reluctant to sacrifice their aspirations for the future, to solve a problem that is not of their making.
The equity issue, however, is not just one of economics or emissions& but effects also. In other words, when it comes to climate change, there is an unequal distribution of its impacts. Simply by virtue of their location on the planet and their natural endowments, different nations will be affected very differently. And it appears the worst impacts will fall disproportionately on the poorer nations.
In Bangladesh, the flooding of low-lying lands could displace millions. In Africa, increased drought and desertification could mean widespread famine.
At the end of the day, the consequences of climate change will fall most heavily on the countries that bear least responsibility for it, and are least able to cope with it.
I think the world community understood that when we met ten years ago in Rio. It was agreed that for all these reasons, the developed countries would act first. That is why the Kyoto Protocol sets emissions limits only for developed countries. But in time, all countries must be willing to bear their fair share of the responsibility.
So where are we today? After a decade of negotiations, we find ourselves on the verge of establishing the first international constraints on greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union and Japan have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and if, as expected, Russia follows suit, the treaty will enter into force within the next 12-18 months.
Kyoto forges both a vision, and a formula, for transcending national interests for the sake of a common, global, long-term good. It sets clear goals. And rather than fight the market, it tries to tap the market, and motivate the market, so those goals can be reached as affordably as possible. Thus, with or without the United States, Kyoto is a profound accomplishment and a crucial first step.
Of course, now we know, Kyoto will proceed without the United States, the largest emitter. President Bush has rejected Kyoto and offered up instead a domestic strategy that relies exclusively on voluntary action. The President's strategy sets a goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2012. That might sound good, but in reality, it allows actual emissions to keep on growing. It is essentially business as usual and unquestionably inadequate.
Still, I think it is also important to realize two things about where we are and how we got here.
First, there had evolved a fundamental disconnect in U.S. climate policy.
Internationally, George Bush, Sr. begrudgingly attended the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Clinton administration then supported a binding treaty and, in Kyoto, negotiated an ambitious target for reducing U.S. emissions. In fact, the United States was responsible for many, if not most, of the pro-market mechanisms that were negotiated into Kyoto - the emissions trading system is just one example.
But at home, the Senate - most notably with the "Byrd-Hagel Resolution"-- had laid down terms that made Kyoto's ratification a remote possibility at best, even with the pro-market mechanisms. In addition, the administration was barely contemplating let alone promoting the kinds of measures needed to meet the Kyoto target.
In other words, the United States has been both a driver and a drag on the process because it was in no way prepared to deliver at home what it had promised abroad. Of course, George W. Bush could have worked with other countries to address U.S. concerns within the Kyoto framework. But that's not the option he and his administration chose.
Regardless, there is a second thing we must realize about the current situation. And that is that despite President Bush's rejection of Kyoto, we are making progress - more than many people realize.
That's because President Bush's stance may have saved the Protocol abroad as other nations rallied behind it& and elevated the issue at home. Climate change has become a political story in the United States, and in Congress, members of both parties are more eager to demonstrate their interest in climate protection. As a matter of fact, nearly twice as many climate change bills were introduced in Congress over the past year as in the previous four years combined.
I mentioned that Kyoto was moving forward with or without the United States. Well, in the United States, concrete steps are being taken to meet the challenge of climate change& with or without Washington. At the state and local level governments aren't just debating. They're acting& and producing results. States and communities are delivering real emission reductions, along with other benefits, like cleaner air and lower tax bills.
Many companies are not waiting for federal government mandates either -- they're taking steps to reduce their emissions right now. At last count, we had identified more than 40 major companies that have publicly committed themselves to greenhouse gas reduction targets.
But it's not enough. These voluntary efforts are important, and they are to be commended. But the companies that are truly committed to tackling climate change know that we will never achieve the deep emission cuts we need unless everyone moves far enough, and fast enough, in the right direction. And that will happen only if the government requires it.
The same holds true on the international level.
Even if our current domestic efforts advance to the stage where they parallel those defined by Kyoto&
and even if these two structures for reducing emissions ultimately converge&.
they are still just initial steps in a much longer journey to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at levels that are safe.
A decade ago in Rio, it was acknowledged that to truly address climate change, we needed the "widest possible cooperation by all countries." Ten years later, that is still exactly where we need to go.
We must continue to work towards an international framework - one that includes the sustained participation of the world's largest emitters, developed and developing countries alike. That means reengaging the United States. It means building on Kyoto. Ultimately, it means looking beyond Kyoto. People have worked so hard over the last ten years to bring Kyoto to life that the understandable tendency is to look at Kyoto as the end in itself
But to paraphrase Winston Churchill, Kyoto is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But rather, Kyoto is just the end of the beginning.
That is not a criticism, by any means. Kyoto is a critical tool that has brought us to a critical stage. Kyoto requires that negotiations toward a second round of targets start by 2005. That may present the first formal opportunity to begin shaping a post-Kyoto regime. But if we are to seize that opportunity, we must start thinking openly and critically right now about the best way forward.
So how do we move beyond Kyoto? How do we create a workable international framework? One place to start is by recalling the fundamental characteristics that make the climate change challenge so unique.
I talked earlier about climate change being a long-term challenge. Perhaps a new framework requires a specific long-term goal. After all, the only way to meet the objective set in Rio - stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations at levels that are safe - is to reduce emissions. So wouldn't it make sense to define this objective more concretely - in other words, to set a specific concentration target - so we know just how much emissions must be cut?
The answer to that question is an unequivocal& maybe. There is no question that a quantified target would help determine the scale and timing of global emissions reductions. But there is also no question that negotiating such a target would prove to be extraordinarily difficult. What are the benefits and what are the obstacles? Are there alternative approaches? Perhaps we should aim for consensus on the overall direction and pace of our effort and ensure that near and medium-term efforts are adequately oriented to the long-term goal of climate stabilization.
A second critical issue is cost. Simply put, the viability and, ultimately, the success of any climate strategy rests in part on its ability to ensure that greenhouse gas reductions are achieved at the least possible cost.
That is why as we look beyond Kyoto, it is even more critical that we achieve the maximum environmental gain for dollar invested. Better market mechanisms may be part of the answer. But we must also ask if we can minimize cost by aiming for steeper reductions later rather than sooner? And if so, as I suspect, how do we send a strong, early signal to the marketplace so companies begin investing now in the technologies that will be needed to deliver deep reductions decades down the road?
Crafting a workable framework will also require us to rethink the structure of commitments.
Whereas the Kyoto Protocol employs absolute targets requiring fixed-percentage reductions& a post-Kyoto regime with broader participation will likely have to accommodate widely varying circumstances among nation. Should these targets be pegged to carbon intensity or GDP; should there be "growth" targets that allow developing countries to raise emissions? Could there be commitments that evolve from voluntary to mandatory?
Finally, to be effective, a long-term climate regime must be fair. Politically, the most difficult challenge in elaborating an effective post-Kyoto regime will be determining an equitable sharing of responsibility among nations both not just for reducing emissions& but for addressing the impacts of climate change.
Notions of fairness are not only elusive but shift over time. For instance, as I said earlier, there was consensus in Rio that developed countries should act first. Yet some, particularly here in the United States, did not agree. Indeed, in rejecting Kyoto, President Bush declared it unfair to the United States because it did not mandate action by developing countries like China and India. Interestingly, though, the Administration made a very different case at the recent talks in Delhi. There it argued that it would be unfair to ask commitments of developing countries because they must focus on reducing poverty and growing their economies. Delivering one message at home and another abroad is perhaps a way to impede progress on both fronts. It also underscores the potency of the equity argument and some of the difficulties we face in resolving it. But resolve it we must. Because in the end, nations will not commit to a serious, long-term global plan against climate change, let alone abide by it, unless each perceives it to be fair.
A long-term target. Cost-effectiveness. The structure of our commitments. And fairness. These are all tough issues, and right now, at least, they tend to lead to as many questions as they do answers. But these are the core issues in shaping a post-Kyoto regime. These are the issues we will have to analyze and understand if we are to meet the complicated challenge of global climate change.
I think that is a challenge we will meet. Not by yelling about it on "Crossfire"& but by committing to the challenge over the next decades&
By building on Kyoto and moving beyond it&
By having the ingenuity, savvy and fortitude needed to develop the technologies here at home& and participate in the treaties abroad.
And by crafting an international framework. One that is all-inclusive& one that is lasting&and one that works for everyone.
Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate
COP-8 marked the beginning of an important shift in international climate negotiations from the specifics of implementing the Kyoto Protocol to the broader question of what happens next.
The issues formally before negotiators in Delhi were largely technical, and progress on them was modest. Nonetheless there were important advances, including decisions paving the way for the launch of Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism.
Perhaps the most significant outcome, however, was the emergence of a vigorous debate over next steps in the development of an international framework for climate action. The question of future commitments, which has long loomed in the background, is now squarely on the table. It is no surprise that parties reached no consensus. An equitable sharing of responsibility for protecting our climate will emerge only after long and no doubt difficult dialogue. Now, at least, the dialogue has begun.
Regrettably, one of the major impediments to productive dialogue on next steps is the United States. Having rejected Kyoto in part because it did not include commitments for developing countries, the Administration argued forcefully in Delhi against any consideration of such commitments. Delivering one message at home and another abroad serves only to impede progress on both fronts.
The Delhi Declaration rightfully recognizes that meeting the objective of a safe and stable climate will require significant long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. At this critical juncture, it is imperative that developed countries - including the United States - move forward with concrete measures to reduce their emissions, and that all countries seek common ground for an effective long-term climate strategy.
Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries: Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey
Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries: Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey
Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
William Chandler,Battelle Memorial Institute
Roberto Schaeffer, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Zhou Dadi, China Energy Research Institute
P.R. Shukla, Indian Institute of Management
Fernando Tudela, El Colegio de Mexico
Ogunlade Davidson, University of Cape Town
Sema Alpan-Atamer, Med-Consult, Turkey
Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
One of the most contentious issues in the debate over global climate change is the perceived divide between the interests and obligations of developed and developing countries. Equity demands that developed countries-the source of most past and current emissions of greenhouse gases-act first to reduce emissions. That principle is embedded in the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding emission targets for developed countries only. With the Protocol now likely to enter into force, the focus will turn increasingly to the question of developing country emissions.
Addressing climate change in developing countries poses a fundamentally different challenge. For most, emission reduction is not a viable option in the near term. With income levels far below those of developed countries-and per capita emissions on average just one-sixth those of the industrialized world-developing countries will continue to increase their emissions as they strive for economic growth and a better quality of life. But their steadfast resistance to the idea of limiting their emissions has led to claims in some quarters that developing countries are not doing their fair share. Indeed, the Bush administration, in rejecting Kyoto, declared the Protocol unfair to the United States because it does not mandate action by large developing countries.
Accepting emission limits, however, is not the only measure of whether a country is contributing to climate change mitigation. Efforts that serve to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, whether or not undertaken in the name of climate protection, nonetheless contribute to climate mitigation. These efforts can occur across virtually every sector of an economy. This report seeks to document and quantify the climate mitigation resulting from such efforts in six developing countries-Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey.
The report demonstrates that efforts undertaken by these six countries have reduced their emissions growth over the past three decades by approximately 300 million tons a year. Further, it finds that many of these efforts are motivated by common drivers: economic development and poverty alleviation, energy security, and local environmental protection. Put another way, there are multiple drivers for actions that reduce emissions, and they produce multiple benefits. The most promising policy approaches, then, will be those that capitalize on natural synergies between climate protection and development priorities to simultaneously advance both.
Just as equity demands that developed countries act first, the physical workings of our planet demand that in time developing countries limit and, ultimately, reduce their emissions as well. The search for consensus on an equitable sharing of responsibility must begin with a fair accounting of how nations already are contributing to this common effort. The authors and the Pew Center gratefully acknowledge Charles Feinstein, Alan Miller, Jiahua Pan, Cedric Philibert, and Leena Srivastava for their review of previous drafts of this report.
Greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries will likely surpass those from developed countries within the first half of this century, highlighting the need for developing country efforts to reduce the risk of climate change. While developing nations have been reluctant to accept binding emissions targets, asking that richer nations take action first, many are undertaking efforts that have significantly reduced the growth of their own greenhouse gas emissions. In most cases, climate mitigation is not the goal, but rather an outgrowth of efforts driven by economic, security, or local environmental concerns. This study attempts to document the climate mitigation resulting from such efforts in six key countriesBrazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkeyand to inform policy-making aimed at further mitigation in these and other developing nations.
The six countries examined here reflect significant regional, economic, demographic, and energy resource diversity. They include the worlds two most populous nations, a major oil exporter, Africas largest greenhouse gas emitter, and the country with the largest expanse of tropical forest. While their circumstances vary widely, these countries share common concerns that have motivated actions resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions growth. Primary among these concerns are economic growth, energy security, and improved air quality. The analysis presented here demonstrates that actions taken by these countries to achieve these and other goals have reduced the growth of their combined annual greenhouse gas emissions over the past three decades by nearly 300 million tons a year. If not for these actions, the annual emissions of these six countries would likely be about 18 percent higher than they are today. To put these figures in perspective, if all developed countries were to meet the emission targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, they would have to reduce their emissions by an estimated 392 million tons from where they are projected to be in 2010.1
The six case studies identify a broad range of mitigation activities and potentials:
Brazil's annual emissions are 91 million tons, or 10 percent lower than they would be if not for aggressive biofuels and energy efficiency programs aimed at reducing energy imports and diversifying energy supplies. A tax incentive for buyers of cars with low-powered engines, adopted to make transportation more affordable for the middle class, accounted for nearly 2 million tons of carbon abatement in the year 2000. If alcohol fuels, renewable electricity, cogeneration, and energy efficiency are encouraged in the future, carbon emissions growth could be further cut by an estimated 45 million tons a year by 2020. Deforestation, however, produces almost twice as much carbon dioxide as the energy sector. Government policy, with few exceptions, indirectly encourages emissions growth in the forestry sector.
China has dramatically reduced its emissions growth rate, now just half its economic growth rate, through slower population growth, energy efficiency improvements, fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and afforestation. Emissions growth has been reduced over the past three decades by an estimated 250 million tons of carbon per year, about one-third of China's current emissions. Continued policies for economic reform, efficiency, and environmental protection could reduce emissions growth by an additional 500 million tons a year in 2020.
India's growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions was reduced over the last decade through economic restructuring, enforcement of existing clean air laws by the nation's highest court, and renewable energy programs. In 2000, energy policy initiatives reduced carbon emissions by 18 million tons-over 5 percent of India's gross carbon emissions. About 120 million tons of additional carbon mitigation could be achieved over the next decade at a cost ranging from $0-15 per ton. Major opportunities include improved efficiency in both energy supply and demand, fuel switching from coal to gas, power transmission improvements, and afforestation.
Mexico was the first large oil-producing nation to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Major factors affecting Mexican greenhouse gas emissions are population growth, economic development, energy supply growth, technological change, and land use change. Mexico has begun to reduce deforestation rates, switch to natural gas, and save energy, reducing annual emissions growth over the last decade by 5 percent, or 10 million tons of carbon per year. Mexican carbon dioxide emissions are projected to grow 69 percent by 2010, but alternative strategies could cut this growth by 45 percent.
South Africa's post-Apartheid government places its highest priority on development and meeting the needs of the poor. Over one-third of the nation's households are not even connected to a power grid. Yet, emissions growth could be reduced 3-4 percent a year by 2010 through efforts to reform the economy and improve energy efficiency. The government is already taking steps to phase out subsidies to its unusual, carbon-intensive coal liquefaction industry and to open the country to natural gas imports. As in many other developing countries, the absence of rigorous and publicly available studies of future energy use and greenhouse gas emissions remains an obstacle to future emissions mitigation.
Turkey's high rate of energy-related carbon emissions growth is expected to accelerate, with emissions climbing from 57 million tons in 2000 to almost 210 million tons in 2020. Carbon intensity in Turkey is higher than the western developed nation average. Energy-intensive, inefficient industries remain under government control with soft budget constraints, contributing to undisciplined energy use. Planned industrial privatizations may close the oldest and most inefficient operations and modernize surviving ones. Elimination of energy price subsidies could stimulate energy conservation, reducing energy and emissions growth below current projections.
Taken together, these six country studies support four broad conclusions:
- Many developing countries are already taking action that is significantly reducing their greenhouse gas emissions growth.
- These efforts are driven not by climate policy but by imperatives for development and poverty alleviation, local environmental protection, and energy security.
- Developing nations offer large opportunities for further emissions mitigation, but competing demands for resources may hamper progress.
- Developing countries can use policies to leverage human capacity, investment, and technology to capture large-scale mitigation opportunities, while simultaneously augmenting their development goals.
The six case studies also identified common barriers to climate mitigation. In many cases, the lack of good data impedes efforts to identify and realize mitigation potential. Insufficient human capacity-to analyze energy and emission futures, identify mitigation opportunities, execute economic reforms, and cultivate investment opportunities-represents another significant barrier. In most countries, public control of at least a portion of energy resources works against emissions mitigation by preventing the emergence of more efficient private actors.
Finally, a range of concerns-from the absence of transparency and rule of law to the extra risk associated with nontraditional energy investment-impedes investment and technology transfer that would contribute to emission mitigation.
The experiences of these six countries have implications for future policy at multiple levels-for national efforts within developing countries, for the evolving international climate framework, and for other bilateral or multilateral efforts aimed at encouraging emission reduction in developing countries.
One broad lesson, given the diversity of drivers and co-benefits, is the need at both the national and international levels for flexible policy approaches promoting and crediting a broad range of emission reduction and sequestration activities. Other policy priorities include: continuing to promote market reforms, such as more realistic energy pricing, that can accelerate economic growth while reducing emissions growth; working within developing countries and through bilateral and multilateral efforts to improve investment environments and create stronger incentives for climate-friendly investments; targeting capacity-building assistance to most effectively capitalize on natural synergies between climate mitigation and other development priorities; and supporting policies that address both climate and local environmental needs, such as improving air quality and reducing deforestation.
While this analysis has documented significant greenhouse gas mitigation in key developing countries, energy use and emissions will continue to climb as these countries attain higher levels of development. Far greater efforts to reduce emissions in both developed and developing countries will be required in the coming decades to avert the worst consequences of global climate change. These efforts must include stronger national policies as well as an evolving international regime that ensures adequate efforts by all major emitting countries. By highlighting the current and potential contribution of developing countries to emission mitigation, this report aims to enhance the prospects for stronger international cooperation toward the shared goal of climate protection.