Leaders Must Respond to People Power

Leaders Must Respond to People Power

Australian climate change guru Professor Ian Lowe was heartened by what he experienced at Copenhagen but says now it is time for our leaders to follow the lead of the people, while a US analyst shows how the international accord matches his “Fab 5” desired outcomes.

First, Ian Lowe’s message of hope for 2010 & decade ahead:

“My main hope for 2010 is that the Australian government will recognise its responsibility and put forward a serious package of measures to produce real reductions of our greenhouse gas emissions. For the next decade, it is that we will become a global force for good by setting an ambitious domestic 2020 target of at least 40 per cent and working toward achieving it, by providing generous assistance to our Asia-Pacific neighbours to help them develop using clean energy and by committing to end the export of coal.

Second, an article by Ian Lowe:

The Copenhagen climate change conference was a significant step forward. Over 100 world leaders agreed that urgent concerted action is needed to slow climate change. For the first time, all the major greenhouse gas emitters have agreed to be part of a global accord to tackle the problem. That includes the USA, which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and the large developing countries that had no obligations under that agreement such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The Accord still needs to be turned into a treaty with legal force. There is a clear timetable for that to happen by next year’s meeting in Mexico.

I was heartened at Copenhagen to find that everyone understood the importance of the issue. Nobody takes seriously the climate change denialists, a motley crew who don’t even agree among themselves on anything except their starting point that we should do nothing. Every week the science is clearer and more alarming. It says we have only five to ten years to turn the upward emissions trend into a downward trend. The arguments are about which nations or industries will do what, and who will pay for the transition.

To slow down climate change, two elements are necessary. The first is the commitment by major developing nations to rein in the anticipated growth of their pollution. The equally important component is that developed nations – including Australia – have to put forward serious plans for the scale of emissions cuts needed, toward 40 per cent by 2020. As US President Obama said at the last night of the conference, the targets being put forward today are not sufficient. The science demands more aggressive action. Kevin Rudd has to stand up to the big polluters and set serious emission reduction targets.

The good news is that technical studies presented here for the UK, Denmark, California, Europe as a whole and even the world all came to similar conclusions. Developed countries can halve their energy use in the next twenty years with no loss of material living standards. The reduced energy demand can be supplied entirely by a mix of renewable energy technologies. One Stanford University study found world demand in 2030 could be powered entirely by renewable energy. That requires governments to stand up to the coal industry and the used car salesmen peddling nuclear power. Those old approaches have no role in the clean energy future.

As well as reduction commitments from the industrialised world and corresponding commitments to meaningful action by the large developing, the Copenhagen Accord puts money on the table to help poorer countries adapt to climate change and manage the transition to clean energy.

Pollution reductions must be measurable, reportable and verifiable. Everyone agrees with the principle. The challenge is finding mechanisms that command respect without infringing national sovereignty. The problems of nuclear technology remind us how difficult those requirements are.

While the Accord contains promising elements, including a commitment to try to keep the increase in average global temperature below two degrees, there is no stated target year for global emissions to peak. At least the conference rejected proposals to pervert the so-called clean development mechanism to include unproven technologies, like carbon capture and storage, and the proven dirty option of nuclear power.

Australia played a positive role at the conference, a great relief to me after the fifteen years when we actively obstructed progress. Our strong links with the USA, China and the European nations enabled us to propose creative solutions to the obstacles.

Kevin Rudd now has to produce a package of measures to effect real change in Australia. It must go well beyond the proposals in the watered-down CPRS. That was still too demanding for the Opposition and brought the denial faction to power in the Coalition, so the government has a real political challenge. But the conditions set by the Rudd government for going to a 25 per cent target have largely been met. The science says we should go further. There is no economic or social reason to delay.

Opinion polls show that the community understands the issue and wants to see concerted action. Tens of thousands of Australians joined the Walk Against Warming on 12 December. Huge numbers have insulated their houses, bought solar panels and shifted to public transport. Now it is time for our leaders to follow the lead of the people.

Ian Lowe is emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Source: www.acfonline.org.au

Third, Climate Change Insights from Jon Sohn:

Thanks to David Pointon of Sustainable Action for passing on this article by Jon D. Sohn, who attended Copenhagen for McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, an international law firm of attorneys and public policy advisors based in Washington, US.

Heading into Copenhagen, I provided a “Fab 5” of necessary outcomes for COP-15 to be a success.  The Copenhagen Accord took a number of pragmatic steps on finance, accountability and endorsing market-based approaches to tackling the challenge of global climate change.  The Accord will likely play well in the US Senate with a view to getting more support for domestic action through cap-and-trade legislation as it brings China, India, Brazil and South Africa along in bending the curve of business-as-usual emissions.  It also establishes accountability procedures for developing countries to report on those obligations through the Conference of the Parties.  Additionally, the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, never popular in domestic politics, appears dubious at best.  So these issues play well domestically.

However, in the trade-off for these pragmatic steps, the United Nations Conference of the Parties process was left in tatters.  While most countries signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, it was done so with a disdain for the process and skepticism for the result.  It will be difficult to regain the level of political momentum and multilateral engagement that was achieved in the lead up to Copenhagen through the UN.  Science-based targets to reduce emissions backed by a legally binding UN treaty to fulfill all commitments were lost, for now, in that effort.

President Obama is taking a lot of heat for the outcome.  Success for the Obama Administration now lies in proving it can actually deliver real action on 1. domestic mitigation, 2. international finance and 3. working positively with China and other emerging economies on real results, thus justifying their tough negotiating position in Copenhagen.  Otherwise, the Copenhagen Accord will be seen as all bark and no bite as many critics are already claiming.  Whether the bite is real depends on a mixture of Presidential leadership, domestic politics and international pressure.

Global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are in a fundamentally different place than they were before Copenhagen.  Pledges to reduce or curb emissions are now a global endeavor, not one just for developed nations.  At the end of the day, however, the Copenhagen Accord is a bunch of words on paper.  Emerging governance structures and actions to ensure fulfillment of the Accord will determine real success.  Perhaps, Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations assessed the wake of Copenhagen best: “The climate-treaty process isn’t going to die, but the real work of coordinating international efforts to reduce emissions will primarily occur elsewhere.”  The level of importance for the next COP in Mexico City remains to be seen.

Below the “Fab 5” goals are repeated with accompanying analysis of how they line up with language from the Copenhagen Accord.

1. Aggressive Emission Reduction Goals

Developed countries will need to agree upon on ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets.  The IPCC suggests that this implies a mid-term goal for 25-40 percent GHG cuts by 2020 based on a 1990 level baseline and 80 percent by 2050.  Collective action will need to be supplemented by individual national commitments such as those put forward by the United States and United Kingdom in recent days.  Likewise, developing countries will need to agree to taking GHG mitigation actions that are appropriate in their national development contexts ranging from shifting to low carbon power strategies to reducing rates of deforestation.  Some observers see a collective goal that recognizes the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels should not exceed two degrees Celsius as a more politically feasible outcome than the target cuts noted above.

Copenhagen Accord: “We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity.”

Analysis: As predicted, the tougher decisions about collective commitments to reduce emissions by the above noted 2020 and 2050 targets were left for another day, in favor of a 2 degrees Celsius approach.  It is difficult to reconcile the scientific reality with the necessary policy goals set in the Copenhagen Accord.  There is now a February 2010 deadline for countries to sign up their individual commitments in an Annex to the Copenhagen Accord.  For the first time, both developing and developed countries will put forward such commitments, yet there is doubt they will add up to either the IPCC figures or the 2 degrees goal.

2. Climate Finance Commitments

Countries need to agree upon climate finance mechanisms that will provide “fast start” funds of approximately $10-$12 to developing countries from 2010 to 2012.  This is viewed as a down payment of good faith towards future actions by developing countries.  The architecture for longer-term, predictable funding for climate adaptation and mitigation – including forestry and technology support will also need to be put into place.  However, it is less feasible for specific dollar amounts, governance regimes and sources of funding to be agreed upon in Copenhagen with respect to longer-term climate finance.

Copenhagen Accord: “The collective commitment by developed countries is to provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010-2012 with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation.”

“In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.”

“We decide that the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund shall be established as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention to support projects, programme, policies and other activities in developing countries related to mitigation including REDD-plus, adaptation, capacity building, technology development and transfer.”

Analysis: The Accord went further than I anticipated in terms of setting a 2020 target for $100 billion annually, and came in on target in terms of the “fast start” funds.  The challenge will be ensuring that these funds are truly “new and additional,” and words are followed by actions in the implementation of these measures.  The Green Fund concept provides an overarching framework and governance structure but will need significant negotiation on the road to a binding legal treaty.

3. Accountability for Commitments

Measurable, Reportable and Verifiable (MRV) national commitments and actions agreed at Copenhagen are a lynchpin of success.  If a global agreement will be more than rhetoric, there simply needs to be a standardized methodology to “trust but verify” with a view to equitable burden sharing in the transformation to a global low carbon economy.  Countries need to establish common international methodologies to track and report emissions and subsequent measures to reduce emissions.

Copenhagen Agreement: Developed countries: “Delivery of reductions and financing by developed countries will be measured, reported and verified in accordance with existing and any further guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties, and will ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent.”

Developing countries: Mitigation actions will be subject to “provisions for international consultations and analysis.”  Mitigation actions that seek international support will be “record in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and capacity building support” and “subject to international measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties.”

Analysis: The fundamental goal of moving towards a more transparent and accountable system for reporting and verifying emission reductions was achieved.  The language brings both developed and developing countries along.  Through a US political lens, getting China and other emerging economies to agree to this language will assist in efforts to persuade the Senate that all Parties will move towards reductions and thus lessen perceptions of competitive disadvantage.

4. Signals for a Global Carbon Market

Private capital needs to see signals that a process of linking nations in post-Kyoto Protocol market-mechanism efforts that reduce emissions will continue.  In order for private capital to continue the evolution of a liquid, cost-effective mitigation market begun under the Clean Development Mechanism and Emissions Trading systems, political signals of this approach must be provided in Copenhagen.  This will allow the evolution of so-called flexible mechanisms towards at scale reductions in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Copenhagen Agreement: “We decide to pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote mitigation actions. Developing countries, especially those with low emitting economies should be provided incentives to continue to develop on a low emission pathway.”

Analysis: Market mechanisms to reduce emissions and contain costs remained alive through the Copenhagen Accord.  However, the value of such mechanisms is only as good as the demand created by aggressive emission reduction targets and the rules that ensure environmental integrity of such approaches.  Copenhagen did not advance these goals and such mechanisms will largely fall to national approaches and a future legal treaty.

5. Political Agreement With a View to Legal Agreement

There is broad consensus that a political agreement is the likely outcome from Copenhagen but ultimately enforcement requires a legal agreement.  Towards this goal, it is anticipated the countries will politically commit to finalizing a more legally binding agreement in 2010.  In the US context, this approach allows the Obama Administration to sequence working collaboratively with the Senate on a final energy and climate legislative package prior to promising what cannot be delivered at the international level.

Copenhagen Agreement: “We call for an assessment of the implementation of this Accord to be completed by 2015, including in light of the Convention’s ultimate objective.  This would include consideration of strengthening the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Analysis: There is no commitment to move towards a legally binding agreement in 2010, but rather just an assessment of the effectiveness of the Accord in 2015.  While nothing prevents the Parties from moving towards a legal treaty by the next COP in Mexico City, it is by no means a certainty.

Source: www.climatechangeinsights.com

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