Newsbytes from The GWPF:
UN Climate Summit May Fail If Developed Nations Don’t Deliver, India Warns
For all their efforts to get 200 governments to commit to the toughest possible cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, climate negotiators have all but given up on creating a way to penalise those who fall short. The overwhelming view of member states, says Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, is that any agreement “has to be much more collaborative than punitive” – if it is to happen at all. To critics, the absence of a legal stick to enforce compliance is a deep – if not fatal – flaw in the Paris process, especially after all countries agreed in 2011 that an agreement would have some form of “legal force”. —EurActiv, 12 October 2015
1) Climate Negotiators Give Up On Enforceable Paris Deal
EurActiv, 12 October 2015
For all their efforts to get 200 governments to commit to the toughest possible cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, climate negotiators have all but given up on creating a way to penalise those who fall short.
The overwhelming view of member states, says Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, is that any agreement “has to be much more collaborative than punitive” – if it is to happen at all.
“Even if you do have a punitive system, that doesn’t guarantee that it is going to be imposed or would lead to any better action,” Figueres said.
To critics, the absence of a legal stick to enforce compliance is a deep – if not fatal – flaw in the Paris process, especially after all countries agreed in 2011 that an agreement would have some form of “legal force”.
They warn that a deal already built upon sometimes vague promises from member states could end up as a toothless addition to the stack of more than 500 global and regional environmental treaties, while the rise in global temperatures mounts inexorably past a U.N. ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), with the prospect of ever more floods, droughts and heatwaves.
International climate court?
That fear finds its sharpest expression in a proposal from Bolivia’s socialist government for an International Climate Justice Tribunal with powers to penalise countries that break commitments.
Diego Pacheco, Bolivia’s chief negotiator, said anything less would be “dangerous to Mother Earth”.
But the idea is a non-starter with almost every other country going to the Paris talks, from Nov. 30-Dec. 11.
Even the European Union, which has long argued for a strong, legally binding deal, is increasingly talking about a “pledge and review” system under which national commitments would be re-assessed every five years against a goal of halving world emissions by 2050.
Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation, insisted that strong compliance mechanisms were vital. “Weak rules would undermine the whole structure,” she said.
However, many developing nations oppose reviews of their goals, wanting oversight to be limited to the rich.
Nick Mabey, chief executive of the E3G think-tank in London, says a Paris deal is likely to be more like international agreements limiting nuclear weapons than accords under the World Trade Organization, which can impose sanctions.
A watchword of nuclear non-proliferation – “trust but verify” – could be the basis, he said.
Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ former top climate official, said he remembers the moment when he realised that the principle of sanctioning countries for non-compliance was dead.
In 2001, as a senior member of the Dutch delegation, de Boer attended a closed-door meeting of environment ministers in Bonn, Germany, that was designing rules to enforce the U.N.’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obliged about 40 rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
He recalled being struck by the strength of objections, even from once-supportive countries such as Australia and Japan, to any attempt to punish those who fell short of emissions commitments.
“The agreement was to be legally binding, but it became very clear that a lot of countries didn’t want sanctions,” he said.
Despite the opposition, a sanctions regime was agreed later in 2001. It required any developed country that missed its greenhouse gas targets between 2008 and 2012 to make even deeper cuts in the future.
But even those sanctions were an empty act of bravado by rich nations angered by U.S. President George W. Bush’s decision in March 2001 to stay out of Kyoto, said Jan Pronk, a former Dutch environment minister who chaired the Bonn meeting.
“There was a political feeling that the United States cannot just kill something that is so important internationally,” Pronk recalled. But now that even the flawed Kyoto agreement had expired, he added, “sanctions don’t mean anything any more”.
He noted that Japan, Russia and Canada – which was set to break its pledge – have simply abandoned Kyoto in recent years, without suffering sanctions.
“Kyoto was the high-water mark for the idea of sanctions in climate agreements,” said Alex Hanafi of the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund.
“Race to the top”?
Both China and the United States, the two top carbon emitters crucial to any effective agreement, made clear from the start of the current negotiations they would not agree to any form of international oversight. The U.S. position instead speaks of a collective “race to the top”, in which countries push each other to see who can be the greenest.
Nor do the loose commitments being made by countries lend themselves to easy enforcement. Russia’s pledge, for example, says only that limiting emissions to somewhere between 70 and 75% of 1990 levels by 2030 “might be a long-term indicator”.
All countries agree that that the emissions curbs pledged so far are too small to get the world on track to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
That means a strong mechanism will be needed for ratcheting up pledges after Paris.
Critics say that simply shaming outliers will not ensure compliance and that, unless there are costs for non-compliance, any country can share in the global benefits of reduced temperature rises while leaving the hard work of emissions cuts to others.
But Figueres, the U.N. climate chief, believes that cuts in greenhouse gases can serve countries’ economic self-interests. China, for instance, can improve the health of millions by shifting from coal-fired power plants that cause air pollution.
2) Paris Climate Summit May Fail If Developed Nations Don’t Deliver, India Warns
Press Trust of India, 9 October 2015
Unless there is credible action from the developed nations with regard to the Green Climate Fund, the Paris talks may fail.
Ahead of the crucial climate summit in Paris, India on Friday said developed nations are “historically responsible” for global warming and must do “justice” to the developing countries by delivering on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) promised by them to deal with climate change.
“Green Climate Fund is only talked about (and) not materialised. (The) Developed world has committed itself $100 billion per year by 2020. It has to be paid by the developed world to developing nations,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar told PTI here.
Javadekar said French President Francois Hollande, who will be hosting the Climate Summit in Paris, has indicated that unless there is credible action from the developed nations with regard to implementation of GCF, the Paris talks may fail.
“Therefore, we are saying that unless there is credible action … and even French Francois Hollande (the host of Paris summit) has said if there is no clear progress on Finance, Paris (talks) may fail. … He has warned,” Javadekar said.
The Green Climate Fund was set up under the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010 and developed countries had committed to raising $100 billion each year by 2020 to help developing countries deal with climate change.
Further, dismissing any suggestions that India is moving away from its role in protecting interests of poor and vulnerable nations in world summits, the Union minister said India is always at the forefront to ask for climate justice “which has caught up the imagination of the world, because it is a historical responsibility”.
Asked whether the bloc of newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China, formed to act on climate change, is still relevant in the changing global political scenario, Javadekar replied in affirmative.
“BASIC is relevant,” he said.
“We had a very good meeting last year. I was the minister. India hosted the BASIC meeting. Then, now China is hosting. I am going there. We are part of all groupings plus some additional new friends. We have not walked out of it,” he said as the nations prepare for the Conference of Parties (COP21).
3) What Good Is an Unenforceable Climate Deal?
The American Interest, 12 October 2015
With just a little over a month and a half left to go until the world’s next big climate summit kicks off in Paris, every indication is that we won’t be getting a binding international treaty, much to the chagrin of the green movement. Reuters reports:
For all their efforts to get 200 governments to commit to the toughest possible cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, climate negotiators have all but given up on creating a way to penalize those who fall short. […] Nick Mabey, chief executive of the E3G think-tank in London, says a Paris deal is likely to be more like international agreements limiting nuclear weapons than accords under the World Trade Organization, which can impose sanctions…A watchword of nuclear non-proliferation – “trust but verify” – could be the basis, he said.
This is hardly surprising. Back in May, Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief, told the world that negotiators would be concentrated on hammering out a deal focused on “enabling and facilitating” climate mitigation and adaptation policies, as opposed to (in her words) a “punitive-type” treaty. With one of the most important individuals involved in the push for a Global Climate Treaty essentially admitting defeat months ahead of time, the agreement could be worth less than the paper it will be printed on.
Figueres wasn’t wrong in attempting to deflate expectations this spring. Paris won’t produce a binding agreement and delegates won’t ultimately insist on one, because doing so would alienate important players at the negotiating table, chief among them the United States. It doesn’t seem likely that Congress would ratify any sort of internationally-enforceable deal.
That leaves us with a treaty focused more on “good vibes” than lasting policy changes, and, while that approach may be familiar to many greens, it has to be seen as a setback for a modern environmental movement that has invested so much in this quixotic GCT endeavor. The best-case scenario for Paris is the production of a kind of eco-version of the Kellogg-Briand Pact—a fact that’s long been evident but is just now starting to feel real for greens.
4) Paris Climate Summit ‘Heading For Failure’ Scientists Warn
BBC News, 12 October 2015
The UN climate negotiations are heading for failure and need a major redesign if they are to succeed, scientists say.
The pledges that individual countries are offering ahead of the Paris climate summit in December are too entrenched in self interest instead of being focussed on a common goal.
The researchers say the science of cooperation is being ignored.
Instead, they say the negotiations should focus on a common commitment on the global price of carbon.
This means countries would agree on a uniform charge for carbon pollution, a scheme that would encourage polluters to reduce their emissions.
The comments from researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, University of Maryland, US, and University of Cologne, in Germany, are published in the journal Nature.
Ahead of December’s United Nations climate meeting, individual countries have submitted their plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. These are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – or INDCs.
However, the researchers say that this approach will not work.
Prof David MacKay, from the University of Cambridge, who was former chief scientific advisor to Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said: “The science of cooperation predicts that if all you are doing is naming individual contributions – offers that aren’t coupled to each other – then you’ll end up with a relatively poor outcome.
“We have the history of the Kyoto agreement as an example of this. Initially, the approach was to find a common commitment, but eventually it descended into a patchwork of individual commitments… and that led to very weak commitments and several countries leaving the process.”
The Paris negotiations, he warned, were heading in the same direction.
5) IEA: Southeast Asia’s Fossil Fuel Boom To Last For Decades
International Energy Agency, 8 October 2015
The energy landscape in Southeast Asia continues to shift as rising demand, constrained domestic production and energy security concerns lead to a greater role for coal, a sharp rise in the region’s dependence on oil imports and the reversal of its role as a major gas supplier to international markets.
“As Southeast Asia flourishes, it is moving to the centre of the global energy stage,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said. “Countries in the region now have much in common with IEA members. We must all work together to build more secure and sustainable energy supplies and markets, as platforms for promoting economic development.”
The World Energy Outlook Special Report on Southeast Asia (WEO Special Report) presents a central scenario in which Southeast Asia’s energy demand increases by 80% in the period to 2040, though the region’s per-capita energy use remains well below the global average. Despite policies aimed at scaling up the deployment of renewable resources, the share of fossil fuels in the region’s energy mix increases to around 80% by 2040, in stark contrast to the declining trend seen in many parts of the world.
Rising imports sharpen the focus on the economic and security aspects of energy use. By 2040 the region’s net oil imports more than double to 6.7 mb/d, a level equivalent to the current oil imports of China. Southeast Asia’s oil import bill surges to over $300 billion per year by 2040, compared with around $120 billion in 2014, with increases in spending in almost all countries in the region.
Indonesia supports a continued expansion of Southeast Asia’s gas and coal output, but production is increasingly consumed within the region. As domestic natural gas demand outpaces indigenous production, intra-regional and intra-country trade increases, and Southeast Asia turns into a net gas importer of around 10 bcm by 2040, compared with net exports of 54 bcm in 2013.
The power sector shapes the energy outlook for Southeast Asia, as electricity demand almost triples by 2040, an increase greater than the current power output of Japan. The sector continues its shift towards coal due to its abundance and relative affordability. Although the average efficiency of Southeast Asia’s coal-fired power plant fleet increases by 5 percentage points throughout the projection period, less-efficient subcritical technologies account for 50% of the region’s coal power fleet in 2040, highlighting the need to accelerate the deployment of more efficient technologies in the region to reduce local pollution and slow the rise in CO2 emissions.