Asia “Centre of Universe” for Emissions Reduction Efforts

Impressed by the commitment by 33 countries and 18 regions to start emissions trading schemes and heartened that more major companies are investing in renewable energy and working towards a low carbon future, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres is hopeful that a “multilateral solution” to climate change impacts will come about sooner than later. ABC Carbon Express and were there to listen to and talk to Ms Figueres. Read More

Last week, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres was in Singapore. ABC Carbon Express Editor Ken Hickson listened intently to her forthright and unemotional plea for recognition of the importance of a “multilateral solution” to climate change.

At the same time, she acknowledged the positive moves by many countries and regions to introduce emission trading schemes – to put a price on carbon – in addition to those already in place in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

She noted that next year, 33 countries will have committed to, or have in place, emission trading schemes, along with 18 sub-regional or regional schemes – including the state of California – which will regulate 20 per cent of global emissions.

She was quoted earlier this month saying Asia is now “the new centre of the universe” concerning emission reduction efforts. During the Carbon Forum North America event held in Washington D.C., she said the region currently leads the push toward the cutting of emissions through cap-and-trade and other market-based mechanisms, which is seen to be growing in the coming years.

In Singapore, she was quick to point out that there was a definite increase in investments – in Asia and elsewhere – in renewable energy production and other emission reduction programmes. She was pleased to see countries and companies taking action, particularly on energy efficiency measures– “because it makes perfect business sense” – will at the same time reducing fossil fuel emissions.

When questioned on the current carbon price – through the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) – and the impact this was having on genuine investments in renewable energy and other emissions reduction projects, Ms Figueres recognised the price was low and considered this was because of low demand – or lack of willing buyers – and a supply surplus of carbon credits, through the “successful” introduction of so many CDM projects.

The next UNFCC conference (in Doha end November this year) will see the much hoped for “second commitment” to the Kyoto Protocol and at the same time give greater confidence that the CDM can deliver what it was intended to. Meaningful mitigation measures/projects in developing economies and a suitable return by way of carbon price for the investors.

It was only last month, when the independent high-level panel established to take stock of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) released its eagerly awaited recommendations by urging nations to intervene forcefully to address the crisis in the carbon market and substantially increase their level of ambition when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It pointed out that the “ability under the CDM to earn a saleable credit for each tonne of GHG emissions reduced has spawned more than 4,500 project in 75 developing countries, everything from wind energy and efficient cook-stove projects to land-fill gas and large industrial projects.

However, the CDM, the report continued, “credited with creating the first global environmental currency, is now under threat due to the current low prices paid for credits, the result of low demand and uncertainty over the timing and level of future demand, which is tied to countries’ emission-reduction commitments”.

According to the high-level panel, “if nations permit the CDM mechanism to disintegrate, the political consensus for truly global carbon markets may evaporate. Therefore, the panel calls on nations to increase their mitigation ambition by strengthening the pledges that have been made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and by adopting corresponding domestic policies and measures.”

Ms Figueres is hopeful for the continued success of the CDM as well as a continuation of Kyoto Protocol, but urges all parties to acknowledge three very important factors:

  1. Climate change is global problem and no respecter of regional or national boundaries;
  2. Every country can contribute in its own way towards a low carbon future;
  3. We need to have a global accounting system in place to monitor emissions and climate change mitigation and adaptation progress.

While she makes no prediction in these volatile political and economic times, she maintains there is significant progress – even momentum – in the climate change negotiations for global commitments and expects the year end meetings in Doha to produce continued forward movement.



Here’s the report from Jenny Marusiak on (19 October 2012) who collected a little more from Ms Figueres talk and interview:

Climate negotiations: Minding the gaps

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told a Singapore audience that climate action was heading the right way, but lacks the urgency it requires.

Multilateral climate negotiations are “cumbersome but absolutely crucial” to responding to global warming, said the United Nations climate chief in Singapore on Thursday.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres said at a lecture hosted by the Rajaratnam School of International Studies that the world faced a big gap between commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the reductions that scientists say will be needed to minimize catastrophic effects.

“I have no doubt that the clean energy revolution is underway, and the tipping point (toward a low-carbon economy) is inevitable. But I am concerned about the timing and the speed,” she added.

Current commitments from governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions account for only 60 per cent of the amount to keep global warming within the commonly accepted target window of 2 degree Celsius.

To reach that target will take a combination of international government efforts and simultaneous action on national and regional levels from all sectors, said Ms Figueres to the 200-strong group of policymakers, academics and other professionals at the Shangri-La Hotel.

The global climate negotiation process has helped spawn an “endless number of efforts on the ground pioneered by an increasing number of sectors and stakeholder”, and has added climate change to the very short list of issues to which a truly universal response will be made, she added.

For example, she noted that in 2013, carbon prices in 33 countries and 18 sub-national regions will regulate 20 per cent of global emissions.

Ms Figueres said that governments were making progress on closing the three gaps that were identified at last year’s talks in Durban, South Africa, and that would help provide the policy certainty necessary to drive private sector action and investment.

The first gap is the time between the expiration of the only existing legally binding agreement on carbon emissions – the Kyoto Protocol – at the end of this year, and a new global agreement slated for adoption in 2015 and implementation in 2020.

In an unusual step for the negotiations, she said, governments have managed to come up with a preliminary draft text for a second period of the Kyoto Protocol – called the Doha Amendment – which will be used at the upcoming talks in Doha, Qatar.

Ms Figueres told Eco-Business in an interview after the lecture that –while the countries that commit to the second period of the Kyoto Protocol initially will account for only 10 to 12 per cent of global greenhouse emissions – the agreement would be an important reference point for work taking place on the new global agreement through 2015.

“In and of itself, it is limited in what it can do with respect to the trajectory of global emissions. It is, however, very important in terms of its rules and maintaining the environmental integrity of the process,” she said.

The second gap is the gap in financing to help developing countries cope with climate change. In 2009, wealthy countries committed to provide ‘fast-start’ funding in the form of US$30 billion annually by 2012. The following year in Cancun, negotiators agreed to establish a $100 billion Green Climate Fund by 2020, and have since been struggling with how to implement the fund.

However, the climate fund committee is making progress, noted Ms Figueres. “We have much better traction to launch the Green Climate Fund” and are working on resolving differing viewpoints and defining funding mechanisms, she added.

The committee in charge of the fund is currently meeting in South Korea, and is expected to announce which country will host the new fund on Sunday.

Negotiations for the 2020 global agreement, known as the Durban Platform, aim to close the third gap – the lack of sufficiently ambitious emissions reduction targets and the need for more countries to commit to making the required reductions.

In that too, governments are making progress after having received input from governments, NGOs, businesses and other groups, noted Ms Figueres.

“We have some preliminary ideas…and first thoughts on how to deal with the very, very different national circumstances of countries in shaping an effective, fair and ambitious agreement that would be applicable to all,” she said.

Climate talks involving every country and many negotiators – while frustrating – were essential to achieving a plan that was cost effective and durable, said Ms Figueres, adding that climate change was a universal problem to which every country could contribute in some way.

The expanding numbers of ministries and sectors adding input to the process has also increased the complexity of the talks, she noted, explaining that climate change was no longer a small environmental issue involving only environment ministers.

“This is a development challenge the likes of which the world has never seen,” she said.

Yet, while climate change could wipe out decades of development progress and threatens future sustainability, the challenge also pushes people towards improved ways of living and doing business that are in their own best interests, she noted.

“There is barely any measure you can take to address climate change that does not make sense to our development,” she told the audience.


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