Today, the Obama Administration has formally recognized the importance of black carbon as a component of broader policies to address climate change. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Nancy Sutley, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, announced an initiative aimed at reducing emissions of black carbon. The United States is committing $5 million towards international cooperation to reduce black carbon emissions in and around the Arctic. According to Chair Sutley, the new initiative will include investments to study the effects of black carbon, demonstrate options for reducing emissions, and begin to quantify both the climate and public health benefits of reducing emissions. The initiative will focus on diesel engines (both on-road and non-road, including those used for port operations), older district heating and industrial facilities, and agricultural and forest fires.
We just released a new white paper highlighting the climate impacts of black carbon (Black Carbon: A Science/Policy Primer). Over the last decade, a growing body of evidence indicates that soot and smoke are major contributors to climate change. Black carbon, a component of soot, warms the air by absorbing sunlight in the atmosphere, changes rainfall patterns and, when deposited on snow and ice, accelerates melting. Black carbon is produced by both natural processes and human activity from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass. Primary sources include diesel engines, small industrial sources, residential coal and solid biofuels for cooking and heating, and agricultural and forest fires.
The new paper summarizes current knowledge on the climate effects of soot components (black carbon and organic particles) and identifies emission sources and technologies to mitigate their impacts. It also presents perspectives on the potential role of soot mitigation approaches in developing more comprehensive climate strategies.
Black carbon remains in the atmosphere for only days to weeks, meaning it has strong regional climate effects. Recent studies suggest that black carbon may be responsible for 30-50 percent of recent warming in the Arctic, contributing to the acceleration of Arctic sea ice melting. Loss of Arctic sea ice is one potential “tipping point” that could lead to rapid warming and irreversible climate change. Black carbon is also driving increased melting of the glaciers in the Himalayan Plateau, upon which some 40 percent of the world’s population depends for fresh water. Reductions in black carbon would help address these issues and also would have many co-benefits, particularly in public health and especially in the developing world.
Controlling emissions of CO2 and long-lived greenhouse gases must remain the centerpiece of policies to address climate change, since they ultimately drive the Earth’s temperature in the long term. However, reducing black carbon emissions represents a win-win scenario: it would have an immediate cooling effect on the Earth’s climate, potentially delaying temperature increases in the short run and helping reduce the risk of irreversible tipping points in the climate system, and it would reduce air pollution, significantly improving public health.
Jeremy Richardson is Senior Fellow for Science Policy
The recent announcement by EPA, declaring that greenhouse gases are a danger to public health and welfare, should not come as a surprise to anyone. EPA has made it clear that it would respond to what the science demanded and to what the Supreme Court (Mass v. EPA) mandated.
The endangerment finding, by itself, does not regulate any sources, but it lays the necessary foundation for future EPA regulations. The likely first one will be the recently proposed light duty vehicle and engine rule which is scheduled to be finalized in March 2010.
But EPA’s future actions are best viewed in the broader context of other activities also aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. State and regional partnerships have stepped up to the plate over the past several years and now 23 states either have or are developing programs to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, several recent court decisions (see for example, Conn. v. AEP) have opened the door for common law nuisance claims against firms emitting greenhouse gas emissions.
Both the judicial and executive branches of our government have answered the call and have begun to actively address concerns about climate change. Now is the time for Congress to take control and pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. A broad consensus exists that comprehensive legislation would be far more cost effective than leaving the field to individual states, EPA or the judiciary. The path forward in the Senate won’t be easy, but it certainly is necessary.
Despite the recent hue and cry over hacked e-mails, the overwhelming scientific evidence supports the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Yes, there are certainly aspects of some of the recently exposed e-mails that suggest scientists themselves can act peevishly toward one another and more substantively, that better guidelines for making data available and transparent might be useful. But let there be no mistake, the compelling evidence from multiple data sets and from multiple lines of research hasn’t changed. The words of a recent report by the US Global Change Research Program resound loud and clear, “global warming is unequivocal and primarily human induced.”
The case for Senate action is also unequivocal.
Steve Seidel is Vice President, Policy Analysis
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful we base policy decisions on peer-reviewed science instead of emails!
The kerfuffle over email correspondence hacked from a server at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit is making climate change deniers giddy. But just like all the other non-smoking guns they’ve waived around over the years, this “mushroom cloud” will soon blow away. Nothing has come to light that undermines scientific assessments of the climate system, which are firmly anchored in peer-reviewed scientific publications, not emails.
Some of the past “smoking guns” that were supposed to put the theory of human-induced climate change in an early grave are among the hot topics flying around in the hacked emails. One was a paper by Soon and Baliunas published in a peer-reviewed journal called Climate Research in 2003. That paper was supposed to put to rest the conclusion of the 2001 IPCC report that the late 20th century was warmer than any previous period in the past millennium, but it was quickly and thoroughly refuted in the peer-reviewed literature (not in emails). Another was a 2005 paper by McIntyre and McKitrick in an often-not-peer-reviewed journal called Energy & Environment. This paper had the same goal as the first one, but it too was rebutted in the peer-reviewed literature and in a report by the National Academy of Sciences (not in emails). In the emails, climate scientists complained about these papers and expressed frustration that they were published in spite of serious flaws. However, policymakers did not use these emails to help them determine America’s policy actions on climate change.
Much of the bickering in the emails boils down to scientists’ irritation over serious breaches of the normal peer review system to get denialist papers published (see here, here and here). The publisher of Climate Research (CR) admitted that the major conclusions of the paper by Soon and Baliunas “cannot be concluded convincingly from the evidence provided in the paper. CR should have requested appropriate revisions of the manuscript prior to publication.” The paper was so bad that three editors resigned in protest over its publication. The paper by McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) wasn’t peer reviewed at all and the editor of Energy & Environment openly stated, “I'm following my political agenda – a bit, anyway. But isn't that the right of the editor?” Scientists value the peer review process and they find it unfair and objectionable when they subject their own work to potential rejection while others circumvent this critical step in the scientific process to force low-quality research into the debate.
Luckily, none of this matters since the scientific assessments produced to inform policymakers about the science of climate change are based on peer-reviewed science publications, not on the opinions of individuals expressed in email correspondence. As happens in the normal scientific process, when the occasional bad paper slips through the peer review cracks it gets refuted through subsequent scrutiny in the peer-review literature. In the end, what may be said in emails doesn’t matter; the scientific peer-review process will prevail.
Jay Gulledge is Senior Scientist and Program Manager for Science & Impacts
Scientists to Congress: You can argue about the politics all you want, but if you decide not to act on climate change, it won’t be because the science wasn’t strong enough.
In a letter sent today, a slew of scientific organizations, including the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, Crop Science Society of America, and American Chemical Society, informed the U.S. Senate that there is a strong scientific consensus that manmade greenhouse gases are changing the climate and that claims to the contrary are scientifically indefensible:
“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”
And they go further: “there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment.” They also say the United States will experience significant impacts; climate change isn’t just a problem for poor or developing countries:
It’s been difficult for average citizens to imagine what global warming means for them. After all, a few degrees of increase in the global mean temperature doesn’t seem too bad. But one consequence that has already been documented is an increase in intense downpours with longer dry periods in between. A recent report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program said,
“Changes in the geographical distribution of droughts and flooding have been complex. In some regions, there have been increases in the occurrences of both droughts and floods.” (p. 18) “The widespread trend toward more heavy downpours is expected to continue, with precipitation becoming less frequent but more intense.” (p. 24)
The historic drought that gripped the Southeast for the better part of two years and the severe flooding that hit the same region last week illustrate this pattern all too graphically.
The sheer amount of misinformation on the science of climate change is stunning. It’s no wonder that the public is confused (see our FAQ for some clarity). The latest argument is easily dismissible, or at least it would be if it weren’t being repeated so much in the press (like this story in last Friday’s Washington Post, along with a series of ads for a new group pushing the idea). You may have heard a politician or two talking about the “benefits” of carbon dioxide—it goes something like this: plants breathe in CO2, so more of it is good for them. Nothing to worry about, they say, let’s go on burning fossil fuels as we always have. A group even has a new website dedicated to spreading the lie that more CO2 is good for the planet.
Most science journalists have finally gotten beyond the “he-said, she-said” articles that falsely portray a balance of views where no controversy exists among experts. Simply put, no experts in climate change are arguing that because plants use CO2, it’s ok for us to emit as much as we want. That’s because they understand that humanity has released so much CO2 into the atmosphere that it’s beginning to affect the planet. Without aggressive reductions in emissions, we are facing (among other impacts) rising sea levels, an increase in extreme weather, changes in precipitation patterns, and ocean acidification—oceans absorb CO2, threatening fisheries and marine ecosystems. The world’s scientific community has assessed the science of climate change and concluded that “warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” (See this report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program or the comprehensive assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)
Policymakers, businesses, the media, and the public are increasingly interested in this complex issue. This generates a multitude of information and opinions about climate change, and presents significant challenges to accurately and effectively communicate the issue.
The information shared on this page aims to offer insights into these communications challenges and highlight credible, relevant sources of related information. This is not a comprehensive list of climate change communications materials. Rather, it is an evolving collection of useful resources to help advance an understanding of the communications challenges posed by the climate issue.
The findings and opinions expressed in these materials do not necessarily reflect views of our organization. We do, however, find them all to offer interesting perspectives.
- Communicating climate change science
- Communicating with skeptics
- Messaging: The importance of framing and media’s influence
- Communicating climate change and social media
- Studies & Polls
- Other resources
Communicating About Climate Risks While Avoiding Dire Messaging
Matthew C. Nisbet
May 2, 2011
The role of social and decision sciences in communicating uncertain climate risks
Nick Pidgeon and Baruch Fischhoff
March 29, 2011
A Reporter's Field Notes on The Coverage of Climate Change
Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
Yale Environment 360
March 11, 2009
Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences
U.S. Global Change Research Program
Don't ignore climate skeptics – talk to them differently
Christian Science Monitor
June 24, 2011
Do Climate Skeptics Change Their Minds?
May 12, 2011
Q. and A.: Taking On Climate Skepticism as a Field of Study
New York Times: Green Blog
April 9, 2011
The culture and discourse of climate skeptism
Andrew J. Hoffman
Strategic Organization's So!apbox Editorial Essay
The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism
December 8, 2010
Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments
DB Climate Change Advisors
Realities vs. Misconceptions about the Science of Climate Change
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science
April 18, 2011
The Importance of Risk Perception for Effective Climate Change Communication
December 13, 2010
Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter for Public Engagement
Matthew C. Nisbet, American University
How Much Would You Pay to Save the Planet? The American Press and the Economics of Climate Change
Eric Pooley, Kalb Fellow
Joan Shorenstein Center
The Real Swindle
Max Boycoff, James Martin 21st Century Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute
February 21, 2008
Moving Beyond Gore's Message: A Look Back (And Ahead) at Climate Change Communications
Matthew C. Nisbet, American University
January 9, 2008
The Role of New Media in Engaging the Public with Climate Change
Saffron O’Neill and Maxwell Boykoff
Chapter in Engaging the Public with Climate Change
Growing Role for New Media Foreseen as Climate Science/Public Opinion Diverge
Michael J. Coren
Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media
April 6, 2009
A Two-Step Flow of Influence?: Opinion-Leader Campaigns on Climate Change
Matthew C. Nisbet, American University
John E. Kotcher, National Academies
Science Communication, Sage Publications
Communicating Climate Change podcast
Joe Cone, producer
Global Warming's Six Americas in May 2011
Anthony Leiserowitz, PhD (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication)
Knowledge of Climate Change Across Global Warming’s Six Americas
Anthony Leiserowitz, PhD (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication)
Climate Compared: Public Opinion on Climate Change in the United States and Canada
American Teens’ Knowledge of Climate Change
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
The Energy Learning Curve: Coming from Different Starting Points, the Public Sees Similar Solutions
A report from Public Agenda by Scott Bittle, Jonathan Rochkind and Amber Ott
April 3, 2009
Global Warming's Six Americas
Anthony Leiserowitz, PhD (Yale Project on Climate Change)
Edward Maibach, MPH, PhD and Connie Roser-Renouf, PhD (George Mason University Center for
Climate Change Communication)
Americans Favor Carbon Cap
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
March 25, 2009
Generation Gap in Understanding Climate Change
March 13, 2009
Increased Number Think Global Warming "Exaggerated"
March 11, 2009
Climate Change and American Public Opinion: The National and State Perspective
Miller Center of Public Affairs, UVA
December 10, 2008
Climate Concepts: Analogies and Useful Descriptions
Climate Change Guide
Met Office, Hadley Center
Center for Climate Change Communication (C4)
George Mason University
Nature Reports Climate Change podcast
The Science of Climate Change: Global and U.S. Perspectives
Tom M. L. Wigley, National Center For Atmospheric Research
This report is available for download only.
Basic Science on climate change:
- Projections of future climate change suggest a global temperature increase of 1 to 6°C (2 to 10°F) from 1990 to 2100, with warming in most of the United States expected to be even higher.
- Current scientific research shows that climate change will have major effects on precipitation, evapotranspiration, and runoff — and ultimately on the nation's water supply
- While the net impacts of a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations on U.S. agriculture as a whole are likely to be small, the impacts are likely to vary considerably from region to region.
- Climate change will lead to substantial sea-level rise along much of the U.S. coastline, due mostly to thermal expansion of the oceans.
- The very real possibility exists that warming over this century will jeopardize the integrity of many terrestrial ecosystems and will pose a threat to our nation's biodiversity.
The Wigley report provides more information on how climate is influenced by anthropogenic factors. You may download a pdf of the entire report by clicking on the report cover above, or read portions of the report in html by following the links in the "In This Section" box.
Eileen Claussen, Executive Director, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
This report on the science of climate change seeks to explain how climate is influenced by anthropogenic factors. Understanding the effect of greenhouse gas concentrations on the atmosphere is key to understanding the potential magnitude of the "greenhouse effect," evaluating possible environmental impacts, and considering policy responses.
A variety of factors determine the rate and magnitude of climate change, including the emissions of greenhouse and aerosol-producing gases, the carbon cycle, the oceans, biosphere, and clouds. As our understanding in each of these areas evolves, it is important that researchers, policy-makers, the press, and the public be kept informed since these developments affect our understanding of the seriousness and complexity of this issue.
As part of the Pew Center's series examining the potential impacts of higher atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases on the United States, this paper by the distinguished climate scientist Tom M.L. Wigley, senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, addresses what is known and not known about the science of climate change. Its publication comes in an interim period between assessments of the science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which published its second assessment in 1996 and will publish its third assessment in 2001). The author uses preliminary estimates of greenhouse gas and sulfur dioxide emissions from the current IPCC review process as well as his own work to supplement previously published research.
The new research suggests the likelihood of slightly larger changes in temperature and sea level rise than projected in the most recent IPCC assessment. The temperature rise is expected to be greater in the U.S. than the average temperature increase across the globe. While changes in precipitation and extreme weather events such as hurricanes and other storms are more difficult to predict, it is possible that the intensity of rain and hurricane events could increase. Uncertainties in predicting the direction and magnitude of these changes make it difficult to predict the impacts of climate change. However, even small changes in climate can lead to effects that are far from trivial.
While the analysis presented is the work of one author, this report has been subject to extensive peer review. The Pew Center and the author are indebted to many scientists and organizations for their constructive comments on previous drafts of this paper or sections of this paper. Their comments have helped improve the text substantially, and so, while the opinions expressed in this report are solely those of the author, we gratefully acknowledge their input: E. Barron, B. Felzer, C. Hakkarinen, A. Henderson-Sellers, M. Hulme, M. MacCracken, M. McFarland, J. Mahlman, G. Meehl, N. Nakicenovic, B.D. Santer, M.E. Schlesinger, K.P. Shine, J.B. Smith, and S.J. Smith. The A1, A2, B1, and B2 scenarios developed in the current IPCC working group process have been used with the kind permission of their producers, represented by T. Morita, A. Sankovski, B. deVries, and N. Nakicenovic. D. Viner of the Climate Impacts LINK Project (UK Dept. of the Environment, Regions and Transport contract EPG1/1/68) supplied the HadCM2 data on behalf of the Hadley Centre and UK Meteorological Office. In addition, the Pew Center would like to acknowledge and thank Joel Smith and Brian Hurd of Stratus Consulting for their management of this Environmental Impacts series.
The average surface temperature of the globe has warmed appreciably since the late 1800s, by about 0.6°C. Since this warming cannot be adequately explained by natural phenomena such as increased solar activity, human-induced increases in greenhouse-gas concentrations appear to be at least partly responsible. In addition to the warming effect of greenhouse-gas increases, however, changes in temperature over the past century are likely to have been significantly influenced by the cooling effect associated with changes in the sulfate aerosol loading of the atmosphere, arising from fossil-fuel-derived sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. When greenhouse-gas, sulfate aerosol, and solar influences are considered together, observed climate changes are consistent with model predictions.
Projections of future global-mean temperature and sea level change made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 1996 Second Assessment Report used emissions scenarios developed in 1992. Preliminary versions of new emissions scenarios produced by the writing team for the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) are now available. The most important difference between the old (1992) and new (SRES) scenarios is that the new scenarios have much lower emissions of sulfur dioxide. The reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions (and their attendant cooling effects through the production of sulfate aerosols) results in a slight increase in temperature and sea level rise projections from those previously given by the IPCC. If central estimates of model parameters are used, global-mean warming from 1990 to 2100 ranges from 1.9°C to 2.9°C. Sea-level rise estimates over the same period range from 46 to 58 cm. For temperature and sea level changes over the next few decades, projections are virtually independent of the emissions scenario.
Based on results from a number of climate models, the rate of future warming over the United States is expected to be noticeably faster than the global-mean rate. Future regional-scale precipitation changes are highly uncertain. The only result that is common to all climate models is an increase in winter precipitation in northern latitudes, from the northern Great Plains to the northeastern states. Even in the absence of large precipitation changes, there could still be significant changes in the availability of water for agriculture, human consumption, and industry because of the increased evaporation that should accompany warming. This factor alone would lead to drier summer soil conditions and reduced runoff. The effects of increased evaporation, however, may be partly offset by the direct plant-physiological effect that carbon dioxide (CO2) has in improving plant water-use efficiency and, hence, lowering evapotranspiration rates.
Changes in weather and climate extremes over the United States are certain to occur as the global climate changes. The frequency of extremely hot days is almost certain to increase, and the frequency of frosts should decrease. Changes in the frequency of daily precipitation extremes are highly uncertain, although there is evidence for an increase in the frequency of wet extremes. For hurricanes and tropical storms, the evidence suggests that there could be small increases in their windspeeds. It is also likely that future such storms will be accompanied by larger rainfall amounts. While there is no credible model-based information on changes in the number of hurricanes and tropical storms per year worldwide, there is empirical evidence that suggests that a small increase in frequency is possible in the North Atlantic region. For all extreme events, however, it is unlikely that the projected changes will become evident in a statistically convincing way for many decades, with the exception of temperature extremes, which should become evident sooner.
About the Author
Tom M.L. Wigley
Tom M.L. Wigley (B.Sc., Ph.D.), formerly Director of the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K., currently holds a Senior Scientist position with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO. One of the world's foremost scientists in the area of climate change, he has published in diverse aspects of the broad field of climatology. His main interests are in carbon cycle modeling, projections of future climate and sea-level change, and interpretation of past climate change particularly with a view to detecting anthropogenic influences. Recently, he has concentrated on facets of the global warming problem, and has contributed on many occasions to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and assessments.
In a major breakthrough, Parties have reached agreement on the Kyoto Protocol's compliance mechanism, deferring once again to a future conference on the question of binding consequences for non-compliance. Significant progress was also made on the makeup of the Clean Development Mechanism Executive Board.
The high-level segment of the Conference, which began Wednesday, continued on Thursday with official statements to the plenary. Meanwhile, negotiations on remaining issues continued in both closed and open sessions amid a cautious sense of optimism that final agreement could by reached on Friday.
Compliance - Conflicting interpretations of the compliance provisions of the Bonn Agreement - particularly with respect to the question of binding consequences - emerged early in the conference as a major stumbling block. The new agreement affirms and elaborates on the basic structure agreed in Bonn. It establishes a compliance committee with two branches: facilitative and enforcement. The principal consequence for failing to meet an emissions target will be the deduction of 1.3 times the amount of the excess emissions from the party's target for the second commitment period.
On the question of whether consequences for non-compliance will be "binding," the agreement incorporates text from the Bonn Agreement, again deferring a decision to the first Conference of Parties following Kyoto's entry into force. The EU and G-77 had pressed in Marrakech for binding consequences, a move opposed by Umbrella Group countries.
CDM Executive Board - The makeup of the CDM Executive Board has been resolved. It will have 20 members, 10 acting and 10 alternate. Parties are reportedly close to agreement on the nations and individuals that will be represented under the formula agreed in Bonn. The Executive will hold its first meeting in two days, following the close of the Conference. The extent of the Board's decision-making authority relative to the Conference of the Parties is to be decided by Ministers. The G-77 and China have proposed that ultimate authority over issues related to the CDM rest with the COP rather than the Board. Several Parties have objected on the grounds that the annual meeting schedule of the COP would hinder timely decision-making.
Article 7.4 - Co-Chairs Estrada and Chow have reportedly drafted a new non-paper on Article 7.4, which defines the accounting system that will govern the use of the Kyoto Mechanisms. A debate has developed around the transferability of the various carbon units. The G-77 has proposed creation of a new Removal Units (RMUs) representing credits produced by domestic carbon sequestration. The G-77 calls for them to be used exclusively for the purpose of establishing compliance with the Kyoto commitments. Several Parties have expressed a willingness to accept the new units as long as fungibility between the other carbon units is not threatened.
LULUCF - Russia's allocation for domestic carbon sequestration under Annex Z of the Bonn Agreement continues to be one of the most significant issues to be addressed by Ministers. Russia is reported to have made the case in that its request for an allocation of 33 Mt is a conservative estimation of the carbon that could be sequestered in Russia's forests and agricultural soils. The issue has become linked with the debate over reporting requirements. The G-77 has suggested that full reporting on domestic sequestration activities be made mandatory and that failure to meet these reporting requirements would result in loss of eligibility to use the mechanisms.
Mechanism Eligibility - One of the more contentious issues that has emerged in the course of the Conference has been the relationship between compliance with reporting requirements and the eligibility to use the Kyoto mechanisms. The G-77 has submitted proposals that would make mandatory reporting measures that had previously been voluntary. Reporting on supplementarity, LULUCF activities, the contribution to sustainable development made by emission reduction projects, and actions to minimise the adverse effects to other Parties of mitigation policies have all been proposed as mandatory requirements. Under these proposals, failure to meet the reporting requirements would result in the loss of eligibility to use the Mechanisms. Several Parties have expressed concerns with these suggested provisions, particularly amongst the Umbrella Group. Technical negotiations continue but this issue is expected to be added to the agenda for Ministers.
Commitment Period Reserve -- A debate has emerged over the nature of the Commitment Period Reserve. Canada has proposed that the 90% of Assigned Amounts that are to be held as a Commitment Period Reserve under the Bonn Agreement be a voluntary guideline rather than a requirement. This is opposed by both the G-77 and the EU. It is expected that this issue will also be added to the agenda for Ministers.
As ministers arrive in Marrakech to begin the high-level segment of negotiations, major differences remain on a broad array of issues critical to the viability of the Kyoto Protocol. As they struggle to convert the broad political agreement struck last July in Bonn into detailed "legal" text, parties are offering conflicting interpretations of the Bonn Agreement and trying to turn its many ambiguities and inconsistencies to their advantage. The European Union and the G-77 are closely allied on many issues, pressing positions opposed by the Umbrella Group.
A major thread running through the negotiations is an effort by the EU and G-77 to quickly create a binding compliance regime and establish additional requirements that parties must meet to remain in compliance and thereby eligible to participate in emissions trading and the Protocol's other flexibility mechanisms. Other key open issues include reporting and accounting procedures; fungibility of emissions credits and allowances under the various Kyoto mechanisms; and Russia's request for a higher ceiling on its sinks allowance; and the text of a Marrakech Declaration to next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The king of Morocco, Mohamed the VI, will open the Ministerial portion on Wednesday, followed by national statements by ministers. The ministers will face more - and more technical - issues than many had hoped. However, with parties expressing a strong desire to maintain the momentum coming out of Bonn, most remain cautiously optimistic that they can resolve outstanding issues by the conference's scheduled close on Friday.
Compliance - While the Bonn Agreement spells out the broad structure of the compliance regime, parties remain deeply at odds over whether the consequences for noncompliance will be "binding." The EU and the G-77 maintain that the Bonn Agreement provides for binding consequences; Umbrella Group countries say the Agreement puts off a decision on binding consequences until the first meeting of the parties following Kyoto's entry into force. The outcome on this issue could influence ratification decisions by key countries including Russia and Japan.
Eligibility to use the Mechanisms - This issue is closely linked to the compliance debate because, under the Bonn Agreement, parties must accept the compliance regime in order to be eligible to participate in emissions trading and the other Kyoto mechanisms (Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation). Umbrella Group countries are opposing efforts by the EU and the G-77 to strengthen the linkage between compliance and eligibility by interpreting other requirements as "mandatory." The G-77, for instance, has proposed making certain reporting activities mandatory by substituting "shall" for "should" in pertinent portions of the text. A key example is Article 7.1 of the Protocol, which calls on parties to report on supplementarity - or the portion of their emissions target met through domestic efforts vs. emissions trading.
Fungibility - Article 7.4 of the Protocol, calling for procedures for the accounting of emissions allowances and credits, has emerged as a linchpin issue. Various proposals could significantly hinder fungibility - the equivalent treatment of allowances and credits under all the Kyoto mechanisms. The G-77 has proposed: establishing a new carbon unit, called the "Removal Unit" (RMU), for credits created through sequestration activities; and requiring that all credits (the proposed RMU, as well as credits under CDM and JI) be used exclusively for meeting a party's target, making them unavailable for trading. The Umbrella Group opposes these proposals.
Clean Development Mechanism - The makeup and mandate of the CDM Executive Board continues to be a source of much debate. A proposal to designate alternates for each seat (bringing the total number of potential members to 20) is opposed by some parties as an unnecessarily complicated way to deal with surplus demand for seats on the Board. Other issues held over for ministers include the definition of a quorum and voting rules.
Carbon Sequestration - Russia maintains that it needs a higher ceiling for sinks credits from forest management in order to ratify the Protocol. It has proposed a ceiling of 33 Mt as opposed to the 17.63 Mt allocated under the country-by-country allowances adopted in Bonn. While Russian delegates have maintained a rigid position in the few open sessions that have addressed the issue, they are reported to be showing some degree of flexibility in closed-door sessions. Flexibility is also reportedly being shown by the members of the EU. Many Parties are hesitant to simply adjust the number of tons because doing so would require reopening the Bonn Agreement. Negotiators are reported to be close to agreeing on an alternative means of making this adjustment and have expressed optimism that a deal will be reached before the close of the Conference.
Marrakech Declaration - Negotiators are drafting a declaration to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, next September in Johannesburg, South Africa. The draft text reportedly underscores the "sobering" findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Third Assessment Report and stresses the synergies between climate change, biodiversity and desertification.
Return to Marrakech: News and Information