International

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

 

What would a "legal" agreement in Paris look like?

There is broad acceptance that the new international climate pact due this December in Paris will be a legal agreement. But governments have yet to agree on precisely which elements will be legally binding, an issue that directly affects whether and how the United States and other key countries will become parties.

The Paris negotiations are taking place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The outcome will likely be a package containing a mix of legal and political outcomes housed in a variety of instruments: the core agreement, related decisions of the Conference of the Parties (COP), and parties’ intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs).

Under the 2011 Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which launched the negotiations, the Paris conference, known as COP 21, is to produce a “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties.”

The Paris talks: Looking behind the scenes

Negotiations toward a new global climate agreement resume Monday in Bonn amid growing concern that time is running short – the agreement is due this December in Paris – and that the remaining task is monumental.

Indeed, while the new text negotiators will be working from is a bit more coherent than the last one, it is still a very long way from something countries could sign on to in Paris.  Parties hopefully will make progress this week narrowing options and will task the co-chairs with producing a much more streamlined text for the next meeting in October.

The state of the text, though, may not the best measure of the state of the negotiations.  The tedious slog of the formal sessions in Bonn may be what’s most visible. But countries are spending even more time talking in other, less formal settings, at multiple levels. And the conversations there are considerably more encouraging.

One example is C2ES’s Toward 2015 dialogue, which brought together senior negotiators from China, the United States and 20 other European, Asian, Latin American and African countries for eight in-depth discussions over 15 months.  A final report last month from dialogue co-chairs Valli Moosa and Harald Dovland outlines key elements of a Paris deal.

Breaking through the Montreal Protocol stalemate

The latest working group meeting of the Montreal Protocol in Paris produced much useful discussion, but few concrete results due to limited but vocal opposition to an amendment to phase down hydrofluorcarbons (HFCs), a fast-growing, extremely potent family of global warming gases. 

Efforts to achieve an amendment at the upcoming Meeting of the Parties in November had gained considerable momentum over the past year.  Four proposals for an amendment had been submitted by India, the European Union, the Island States, and North America (Mexico, Canada and the U.S.).  Beyond those proposals, the African States also have voiced their clear support for an amendment and recent meetings between President Obama and his counterparts from Brazil, India, and China had produced joint statements in support of action on HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. 

Despite support for these proposals from nearly 100 countries, the week-long meeting in Paris this month failed to reach agreement on even starting the negotiating process through the creation of a contact group.  After opposing these efforts over several meetings, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries) voiced their willingness to allow a two-stage process to move forward, but Pakistan stood firm in opposition, blocking any agreement.

In the absence of a mandate to begin negotiations, a number of sessions in Paris focused on a very useful exchange of views on issues raised by the four amendment proposals.  India, China and others identified concerns about the costs and availability of alternatives to HFCs (including concerns about obstacles created by patents), the performance of these alternatives in high ambient temperatures, the time required to address flammability concerns of some key alternatives, the importance of energy efficiency, and the need for financing through the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund.

All agreed to hold another working group session prior to the November Meeting of the Parties. But time is fast running out on this year’s efforts to reach agreement on an HFC phasedown amendment.  

What can be done to break this stalemate?

In the past, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has sometimes played an active role convening senior representatives from key countries and driving needed compromise. During the early years of the Protocol, UNEP’s Mostafa Tolba was masterful in bringing key countries together to find a workable solution.  Through informal, senior-level consultations, Tolba either forged a compromise text acceptable to all, or developed his own proposals that he would offer as a way forward.

While times have certainly changed, it may be that the moment has now arrived for Achim Steiner, UNEP’s current executive director, to actively engage with senior officials from key countries with the goal of advancing efforts at bringing HFCs into the Montreal Protocol.

Companies pledge climate action

Thirteen companies took a public stand for climate action at the White House today, pledging to reduce heat-trapping emissions, increase clean energy investments, improve efficiency, and support efforts to reach a global climate agreement this year in Paris.

Three companies making pledges – Alcoa, Bank of America, and General Motors – are members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council, a group of mostly Fortune 500 companies, representing a combined $2.3 trillion in revenue, that support climate policy solutions that will move us toward a low-carbon future.

These business leaders – and many more – recognize the reality of climate change and the necessity to act.

For instance, HP recently announced that it will power 100 percent of its Texas-based data centers with renewable energy, thanks to a 12-year agreement to buy power from a 112 MW wind farm in Texas, in partnership with SunEdison.

Dow has reduced 320 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its operations compared to 1990 levels, and announced that by 2020, its trajectory for absolute emissions from operations and purchased power will meet internationally recognized targets for a 2 degree Celcius maximum global temperature rise.

Bob Perciasepe's Statement on Business Act on Climate Pledge

Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

July 27, 2015

On the White House announcement of business leaders committing to climate action and supporting efforts to reach a global climate agreement in December in Paris.

We applaud the companies that have come forward to pledge action to reduce heat-trapping emissions, increase clean energy investments, improve efficiency, and support efforts to reach a global climate agreement this year in Paris.

Climate change is posing rising environmental, social, economic, and security risks. Delayed action only means greater costs.

Business leaders get it. They see climate risks firsthand -- in damaged facilities, interrupted power and water supplies, disrupted supply and distribution chains, and impacts on their employees’ lives.

And the business community will be essential to mobilizing the technology, investment and innovation needed to transition to a low-carbon economy.      

Several of the companies making pledges today – Alcoa, Bank of America, and General Motors – are members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council that is committed to climate action.

Although businesses, cities, states and nations are working toward a more sustainable future, it will take a global effort to address a global threat. Paris is our best opportunity to get all the major economies on board a lasting agreement that strengthens the global effort and works to strengthen it over time.

Many nations, including the United States, China, and the European Union, have already announced their goals for reducing greenhouse gases. But the strength of any agreement will rest on the parties’ political will to implement it.

The strong support of business leaders for climate action, like that exhibited today, can only help to strengthen that will.

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To talk to a C2ES expert about business engagement on climate change, contact: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org 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 our climate and energy challenges. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Elements emerging for an effective Paris climate agreement

Press release
July 15, 2015
Contact: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621
 

Report outlines emerging elements of climate agreement
Year-long dialogue of senior negotiators produces 'Vision for Paris'

 

The emerging elements of a Paris agreement are outlined in a new report based on in-depth discussions among senior climate negotiators from leading countries. The report foresees a durable legal agreement that sets binding commitments for all parties, holds countries accountable, and works to progressively strengthen global ambition.

Vision for Paris: Building an Effective Climate Agreement was prepared by Valli Moosa of South Africa and Harald Dovland of Norway, co-chairs of a year-long dialogue among negotiators from China, the United States and 20 other European, Asian, Latin American and African countries. The Toward 2015 dialogue was organized by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).

Drawing on nearly 100 hours of discussions among the negotiators, who participated in the dialogue in their personal capacities, the report outlines the co-chairs’ vision of the new agreement under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be reached this December in Paris.

“Our discussions were frank, substantive, and productive. We saw strong convergence on many of the key issues for Paris,” said Mr. Moosa, former environment minister of South Africa. “This was a rare opportunity for genuine dialogue and the spirit throughout was very constructive.”

“Certainly there are tough negotiations ahead, but the broad outlines of a deal are becoming clear,” said Mr. Dovland, former lead climate negotiator for Norway and co-chair of several UNFCCC negotiating bodies. “We’re encouraged because behind the scenes we see a real desire to find common ground.”

The co-chairs’ report foresees a “hybrid” agreement in Paris that combines top-down and bottom-up elements to achieve both broad participation and strong ambition. It says the Paris outcome should:

  • Reaffirm the goal of limiting global average temperature increase to below 2 °C, and acknowledge that this requires the progressive decarbonization of the global economy. 
  • Include a core legal agreement with binding commitments by all parties to submit and maintain nationally determined contributions (NDCs), report on implementation of their NDCs, and be held accountable. 
  • Reflect differentiation not on the basis of explicit categories of countries, but by respecting parties’ varied starting points, and committing all parties to put forward their best efforts, and strengthen them over time.
  • Require periodic updating of NDCs (e.g., every 5 years), with parties expected to progress in the type, scope and/or scale of their efforts, in line with their circumstances.
  • Establish a common transparency and accountability framework, with flexibility for varying national capacities.
  • Establish a stronger vision for adaptation under the UNFCCC; commit all parties to implement and report on national adaptation efforts; and establish a process to periodically assess adaptation progress and priorities.
  • Set a collective aim of mobilizing finance and investment; commit all parties to invest their own resources domestically and provide enabling environments for investment; enable enlargement of the circle of contributors; and establish a process to regularly track flows and assess needs. 
  • Recognize commitments and actions by non-state actors – including subnational governments, businesses, international institutions and civil society organizations – in support of countries’ nationally determined contributions.

The Toward 2015 dialogue included participants from Australia, Brazil, China, the European Commission, France, Gambia, Germany, Grenada, Japan, Mali, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Venezuela, and the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC).  The list of participants is available at http://www.c2es.org/international/toward-2015.

Mr. Moosa, South Africa’s environment minister from 1999 to 2004, was a leader of the African National Congress and supported President Mandela in negotiating the transition from apartheid to democracy. He serves as chairman of WWF (South Africa), chairman of Anglo American Platinum, and a director of Lereko Investments, Sun International, Sanlam and Imperial Holdings.

Mr. Dovland previously served as co-chair of the UNFCCC Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform, and chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol. He retired from the Norwegian Ministry for the Environment in 2011 and is currently Climate Policy Director for the consulting firm Carbon Limits.

The dialogue was directed by C2ES Executive Vice President Elliot Diringer and received financial support from the governments of Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.

Read the report

More about the Toward 2015 Dialogue and its participants.

About C2ES
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address our climate and energy challenges. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Countries should assess climate risk the way they assess other security risks

National security leaders deal with deep uncertainty on a daily basis about everything from North Korea’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon to the location and timing of the next terrorist attack by non-state actors such as ISIS and al-Qaida. Security decision-makers don’t use uncertainty as an excuse to ignore security threats.

Borrowing a page from security analysts, a new report out today by renowned climate experts and high-level government advisors from China, India, the United Kingdom and the United States assesses the risks of climate change in the context of national and international security.

China’s provinces learn how to reduce emissions with trading

As many U.S. states start to think about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the proposed Clean Power Plan, it’s eye-opening to see how Chinese provinces are taking many of the same first steps.

I recently joined state officials from Arizona and Michigan and a Georgetown University professor on a study tour of China’s climate policy and low-carbon technology use at the provincial level. In each city we visited -- Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu in Sichuan province, and Changsha in Hunan province -- our meetings with government officials, academics, and nongovernmental organizations had a common theme: Environmental issues are a serious challenge for China and greenhouse gases should be addressed along with other types of pollution.

It was very encouraging to hear national, provincial, and municipal leaders all agree that something has to be done to reduce China’s emissions. But they also agreed the country faces significant challenges in reaching its goal of peaking emissions no later than 2030.

How Canada and the U.S. can lead together on climate change

June 27, 2015
The (Toronto) Globe and Mail
Op-Ed by Janet Peace

With fossil fuel production going strong on both sides of the border, Canada and the United States face similar challenges in balancing energy and economic priorities with the urgent need to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

By sharing solutions, many of which are rising up from the state and provincial level, both countries have the opportunity to not only craft a national approach, but also show real leadership as we work toward a new global climate agreement later this year in Paris.

At one time, governments in both countries sought to contain greenhouse gas emissions by enacting economy-wide cap-and-trade programs. But neither materialized, and the national targets the two have announced ahead of Paris rely heavily on subnational policies.

While U.S. emissions generally have been trending downward, as lower-priced natural gas has displaced coal in power production, steeper reductions require mandatory limits on power plant emissions, as President Barack Obama’s administration has proposed. But implementation of the administration’s Clean Power Plan will fall largely to the states.

In Canada, meanwhile, emissions are rising and oil sands-related emissions could double over the next decade if development continues at projected rates. Similarly, getting a handle on Canadian emissions will be largely a provincial matter – resting heavily, in this case, with the new Alberta government.

One of the great virtues of promoting climate action at the subnational level is that it allows for policy experimentation and innovation. Both countries should draw on these lessons as they move toward economy-wide approaches that can achieve greater emission reductions at lower cost. And they should work to better align their respective efforts.

Here are some specific ideas:

First, as more states and provinces turn to carbon pricing to curb emissions, we should forge stronger links among those systems. Ten U.S. states have carbon trading programs. Others may soon follow suit as they look for promising paths to meet their Clean Power Plan emissions reduction targets.

Quebec’s cap-and-trade program is already linked with California’s, and Ontario will soon join them. British Columbia has a carbon tax and Alberta just announced it is extending its carbon-intensity-based pricing system. By setting a clear timeline for a gradual price rice, Alberta is signalling that the value of taking action will increase over time.

Second, the two countries should co-operate on reducing emissions from growing oil and natural gas production. Mr. Obama’s administration is expected to propose a mix of regulatory and voluntary strategies to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. It’s essential that the United States and Canada set the right example for other major energy producers around the world.

Third, both should strengthen and more closely co-ordinate efforts to develop and deploy carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Even with dramatic increases in renewable power, the world will continue to rely on coal and natural gas to generate electricity, making CCS key to any plausible strategy to reduce global emissions.

Canada has established itself as a leader with the world’s first commercial-scale, coal-fired power plant with CCS – Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan. The United States is working on its first CCS power plant in Kemper County, Miss. But the first two examples of any new technology are going to be expensive, and we’ll need greater support for CCS to build more commercial scale projects and drive costs down. Alberta has been a strong supporter of CCS. Now is the time to continue and even step up that investment.

Fourth, Canada’s abundant hydro resources can be a boon for both countries. The U.S. and Canadian electricity grids are linked through dozens of connections and more than a dozen states already import a significant amount of Canadian hydro. A recent C2ES study found that importing hydro from even a modestly sized new Canadian project (250 megawatts) could help states reduce power sector emissions. For example, California, Massachusetts and Washington state could each get about a third of the way toward their proposed Clean Power Plan targets.

Canada and the United States are blessed with abundant resources and vibrant economies. Both have the opportunity to show global leadership in dramatically reducing the emissions that are warming our planet and risking our environment and our economies. With the right mix of national and subnational policies, and by working together, the two countries can enjoy strong, sustainable growth while fulfilling the commitments they make in Paris.

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Janet Peace is senior vice-president of policy and business strategy at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). She is also a member of the Council of Canadian Academies on oil sands environmental technologies.

Read the original article on the Globe and Mail website.

Bob Perciasepe's statement on China's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution

Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions


June 30, 2015

On China’s announcement of its goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international climate agreement:


China now joins the United States, Europe and others with a credible, ambitious commitment to tackle climate change. This is a clear sign that we’re moving past the old developed-developing country divide to a new understanding that all major economies have to contribute their fair share to the global effort.

China understands both the risks and the opportunities posed by climate change and is placing its bets on a low-carbon future. Its intended contribution represents a significant undertaking beyond business-as-usual and will help slow the rise in global greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s encouraging to see so many of the major players coming forward already with their contributions to the Paris agreement. The announced targets are important indicators of countries’ intentions. But the numbers will be much more meaningful attached to an agreement that holds countries accountable for their promises. That’s what Paris must deliver.

The United States and China can no longer use inaction by the other as an excuse for ignoring the risks we all face from climate change. Both countries are acting. Working together they can help lead countries to common ground in Paris.

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Contact: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org, 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 challenges of energy and climate change. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
 

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