As negotiators in Paris put the finishing touches on a new global climate accord, it’s worth reflecting on how much the summit has already accomplished.
One event or agreement by itself can’t completely reverse the climate problem. But like other important moments in history, such as the drive to land on the moon in 1969, Paris can inspire innovations across society.The U.S. space program would not have been possible without technologies that still benefit us today like scratch-resistant lenses, computer microchips, smoke detectors and solar panels. Nearly half a century later, many businesses, cities, states and nations are taking new, bold steps to reduce emissions and move toward a clean energy economy.
Whether it’s paving the way for rapid, wide-scale development of renewables, investing in energy efficiency technology and lower carbon electricity, or building resilience to climate impacts, a huge wave of innovation has already been unleashed.
Consider just some of the announcements made before and during the Paris talks:
- Leaders of 20 countries announced they’ll seek to double investment in clean energy research and development over five years. Backing up this effort, called Mission Innovation, are more than two dozen investors led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates who have pledged to fund early-stage clean energy technology coming out of Mission Innovation.
- India and France announced an international solar alliance to dramatically increase the reach of solar energy to more than 100 countries in the tropics.
Photo Courtesy Xiquinho Silva, via Flkickr
St. Peter's Square
Pope Francis brings a clear and powerful moral voice to a climate change debate too often clouded by competing ideologies. He reminds us of our responsibilities to the planet and to one another, and makes plain the stakes and the urgency of stronger action.
Pope Francis’ encyclical, a top-level teaching document to more than 1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, builds on a foundation of accepted science that tells us the Earth is warming and that human activity is the primary cause.
But he is speaking to all of us, not only the Catholic faithful, about our core values – especially our duty to care for the Earth and all those who live on it.
Leaders at the February 2015 UNFCCC conference in Geneva. Photo courtesy UNFCCC.
The final year of U.N. talks aimed at producing a new global climate agreement kicked off this week in Geneva. As negotiators wrestle with the working draft of the new agreement, it’s clear that all the core issues remain very much in play.
The talks, under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), were launched in 2011 in Durban, South Africa, and are to conclude this December in Paris. The aim is a post-2020 agreement “with legal force” and “applicable to all.”
The more immediate goal in Geneva is to produce a “draft negotiating text,” which technically must be in circulation at least six months before Paris. But the text emerging from Geneva will be very far from a finished product. The starting point this week was a 39-page collection of parties’ proposals forwarded from COP 20 in December in Lima. By mid-week, the working draft had grown to nearly 90 pages.
The unwieldy text reflects the wide disparities remaining on all the core issues in shaping the Paris agreement.
Countries will soon begin submitting their “intended nationally determined contributions” to the agreement. That these INDCs (focused primarily on constraining greenhouse gas emissions) will be “nationally determined” suggests that the agreement will have a strong “bottom-up” character. Much of what’s at issue is whether and how to blend in “top-down” elements to create a hybrid agreement that delivers both broad participation and stronger ambition.
As Rio+20 negotiators rush to complete a consolidated text of outcomes before heads of state begin arriving tomorrow, participants at hundreds of side events are calling on business and government to take stronger action on clean energy, poverty elimination, food security, oceans, sustainable cities, green technology development, education, and more.
On Sunday at the U.S. Center pavilion, C2ES and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) convened a panel of companies, small-business innovators, and business representatives highlighting the critical roles played by each in promoting low-carbon innovation and sustainable development.
Over the past five years, countries have been working through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to strengthen the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. Because these issues are especially important to the United States and China, C2ES has been partnering with Tsinghua University to convene informal discussions among MRV experts from both countries.
In late 2010 with Tsinghua, we organized a workshop in Beijing on Reporting Practices Related to Climate Change and Other International Challenges. This initial gathering focused on MRV at the international level. Last week, we co-hosted a second workshop in Washington, D.C., on Domestic MRV of Climate Efforts.
While the issues can quickly become highly technical, it’s important to remember why stronger measurement, reporting and verification are so important: MRV contributes to stronger greenhouse gas mitigation by building confidence among countries, helps them track national and international progress, and provides opportunities to learn from one another’s experiences. In his opening remarks, Professor Teng Fei of Tsinghua University characterized MRV at the domestic level and MRV of international action as two sides of the same coin.
A new round of climate talks opened this week in Bonn, Germany, with the ambitious goal of reaching a comprehensive legal agreement “applicable to all Parties” by 2015.
Countries agreed to launch the new round last December in Durban, South Africa, as part of a package deal that also keeps the Kyoto Protocol alive, at least for now. The so-called Durban Platform negotiations offer governments the chance to consider new approaches and—one can hope—commit themselves to meaningful action.
Since the start of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 15 years ago, there’s been tension between two competing models—binding targets-and-timetables vs. voluntary pledge-and-review. And in actuality, parties have now constructed both: the first in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the second in the parallel framework that emerged in Copenhagen in 2009 and was further developed in Cancún and Durban.
Pew Center on Global Climate Change presents:
MULTILATERAL CLIMATE EFFORTS BEYOND THE UNFCCC
UN Climate Change Conference
Monday, June 13, 6:15 – 7:45 pm
Ministry of Transportation, Room RAIL
This event features presentations and discussion of options for addressing climate mitigation through other multilateral regimes – including the Montreal Protocol, LRTAP, ICAO and IMO – and implications for the future direction of the UNFCCC.
- MARCO GONZALEZ
Executive Secretary, Ozone Secretariat
- EIVIND VAGSLID
Head, Air Pollution and Climate Change, International Maritime Organization (IMO)
- TETSUYA TANAKA
Environment Officer, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- HARALD DOVLAND
Former Chair of the Executive Body of the CLRTAP
- ELLIOT DIRINGER
Vice President, International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Event Presentations and Related Report
Kicking off the new year, we released an update of its Climate Change 101 series. Climate Change 101: Understanding and Responding to Global Climate Change is made up of brief reports on climate science and impacts; adaptation measures; technological and business solutions; and international, U.S Federal, State, and local action. Last released in January of 2009, the updated reports highlight the significance of the global negotiations, climate-related national security risks, local efforts to address climate change, the most recent predictions on global temperature changes, and more.
This post orginally appeared in the Opinio Juris blog.
Oh, how much difference a year — and lower expectations — make!
The BBC report on the Cancún meeting declared that “if Copenhagen was the Great Dane that whimpered, Cancún has been the Chihuahua that roared.” Never mind that the Great Dane’s whimper was about the same decibel level as the Chihuahua’s roar. Last year, expectations were sky high for a new legal agreement that would extend, complement or replace the Kyoto Protocol, so the non-binding Copenhagen Accord was a major disappointment. This year expectations for the Cancún Conference were extremely low, so an outcome that essentially incorporates the Copenhagen Accord into the UNFCCC process is seen as a big win.
This post also appears in National Journal's Cancún Insider blog.
CANCUN – So what accounts for Cancún’s success? I can see a number of factors that thankfully conspired to produce the most tangible progress in the U.N. climate talks in years.
The first, without doubt, is the savvy and skill of the Mexican diplomatic corps. The Mexicans have been widely praised for doing their utmost to keep the negotiations inclusive and above-board. Less noted, but equally important, was the firm hand they maintained in the crucial closing hours. Taking the very practical view that consensus does not mean strict unanimity, they refused to allow a vocal minority to impede the will of the vast majority. In short, they ensured that everyone had their say, even if all didn’t get their way.