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Entries tagged "Kyoto Protocol"

Janet Redman provides live updates from the UN Climate Summit, Doha

November 30, 2012 ·

UPDATE Friday, November 30, 2012, 11:30 AM ET:

Janet Redman, Co-Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, will be at the UN Climate Summit in Doha, Qatar, providing live updates from the conference and advocating for innovatice sources of finance – such as a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions – to fill the Green Climate Fund. She's just spent her first day at the summit,

Redman is calling for the United States to take bold action at the UN climate summit. Faced with extreme weather, environmental instability and a growing sense of economic vulnerability, Americans rejected inequality and climate denialism in the voting booth, she says. Now, they are calling on newly re-elected President Barack Obama to take bold action to stop climate disruption in Doha, Qatar, at the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“We recognize there are constraints on the president – in no small part from Congress – but the electorate wants action on climate change before Superstorm Sandy becomes business as usual.” Redman added, “There are measures we can take now. We can join European countries and agree to tax financial transactions, which could raise hundreds of billions of dollars for climate programs and other public goods. And we can promote the Green Climate Fund as the main channel for public finance to support low-carbon and climate resilient sustainable development priorities of countries and communities most impacted by climate change.”

While some at the center of Obama’s climate team warn that a second term will not bring a new approach to the administration’s foreign policy on climate, Redman asserts that, “re-election is a mandate for the U.S. to be a constructive player that supports equitable action on climate. That means the U.S. has to take responsibility for its historical contribution to global warming by committing to deeper pollution cuts and providing support for poorer countries to respond to climate change. It’s time to hold Obama’s feet to the fire.”

UN Climate Summit protests - Janet Redman, IPS, will be blogging and providing updates from the summit.

Janet will be tweeting @Janet_IPS and blogging at http://www.ips-dc.org/ and will be available for interview from the climate summit in Doha.

Climate Protest Rainbow frame

Durban Diary: #Occupy the COP

December 2, 2011 ·

With the Occupy movement spreading faster than wildfire, it's hard not to ask how every issue relates to it. Climate change is no exception. The question is particularly compelling right now because representatives of 194 countries are gathered in Durban, South Africa, to negotiate next steps for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Former Costa Rica President Jose Maria Figueres wants vulnerable countries to Occupy the UN negotiations. Photo by Pixel y Dixel.The connection is easy to make, actually. Like the economic crisis that sparked the Occupy movement, climate change is about inequality.

A few countries are responsible for releasing the vast majority of the global warming pollution that’s in the atmosphere. And they got rich pumping the subsidized oil and burning the cheap coal that produced those emissions. Their wealth did come at a cost — but to poor communities, especially in the global South. And, ironically, the countries and communities that are least responsible for today’s climate crisis are some of the most vulnerable to its impacts and have the fewest resources to respond.

A cacophony of global voices comes together at the annual UN climate summit. Policymakers, indigenous nations, labor unions, youth activists, environmentalists — you name it, they’re probably here, trying to stop global warming.

But powerful corporations whose bottom line depends on access to cheap energy, land, water, and other natural resources are here as well. Not surprisingly, their mission is to defend the status quo, and they wield the political weight of some of the richest nations and the most influential financial institutions (like the World Bank).

Frustrated with the seemingly boundless clout of corporate interests and those heralding the benefits of market-based solutions, like carbon trading, critics have taken to referring to this 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the climate convention as the Conference of Polluters. They're putting out a call to #OccupyCOP17.

José María Figueres, a former Costa Rican president, echoed the sentiment. Calling on all vulnerable countries to occupy the meeting and refuse to leave until progress is made, he said, “We need an expression of solidarity by the delegations of those countries that are most affected by climate change, who go from one meeting to the next without getting responses on the issues that need to be dealt with."

Figueres was referring to two key goals. First, developed countries must renew their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol — the only internationally binding treaty on climate pollution. Second, they must commit to providing developing countries with the money they need to support their adaptation to a warmer world and the transition to low-carbon economies. The United States and other rich countries are sidelining both of these broadly shared objectives.

Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies, is observing the United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa. www.ips-dc.org

Join the global call for climate justice by participating in 1,000 Durbans in conjunction with the December 3rd Day of Action on Climate Justice.

Durban Diary: What's on the Table?

November 29, 2011 ·

There are hundreds of issues and interests at stake at the 2011 UN climate summit, as well as representatives of the 192 countries who signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. But just two questions are on everyone's mind.

The first is whether the Kyoto Protocol will survive. The second is whether the world can agree on a climate finance system. Climate finance is the term we're all using for the money promised by developed countries to support developing countries as they adapt to a warmer world and shift to low-carbon development pathways.

Activists warn that the wealthiest countries are not negotiating in good faith at Durban. Photo by adoptanegotiator.

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 and enacted in 2005, is the only international, legally binding treaty regulating climate-warming pollution.

We're still in the pact's first "commitment period." For this phase, most developed countries (the recalcitrant United States didn't join) promised to reduce their emissions by 5 percent by the end of 2012.

That deadline is rapidly approaching. If countries don't agree to the second commitment period, which is slated to begin in 2013, there'll be nothing to keep global emissions from shooting through the roof.

But instead of getting behind a second commitment period, countries — especially the wealthiest ones — are dragging their feet.

Canada, Russia, and Japan say they won't sign up unless emerging economies like China take binding regulations. China says it shouldn't have to take mandatory cuts until the biggest polluter — the United States — shows any evidence of that it's reducing emissions or taking steps in that direction. And Washington flat out admits that it will never sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Stalemate.

U.S. climate negotiators say the world needs a new mandate. The Obama administration is proposing that the world move to a "pledge and review" model. It would allow countries to volunteer goals for cutting emissions. A couple of years later, world leaders would convene to see if anything's happened. There'd be no overall target that lines up with what scientists say is necessary, no repercussions if countries don't meet their goals, and no distinction between countries that are most responsible for creating the climate crisis and those that are primarily its victims.

This flies in the face of the "polluter pays" principle that we all learn in kindergarten - if you made the mess, you have to clean it up. It's also simply suicidal.

Social movements, environmental groups, trade unions, development organizations, human rights advocates, and youth activists — all the folks that will be most impacted by global warming — have made clear that inaction is not an option. "Governments are playing games with us while people are dying," said Desmond D'Sa, chair of South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, which helped organize an alternative summit called the People's Space being convened at Durban's University of KwaZulu Natal.

Developed countries made a commitment to reduce their emissions when they signed the UN climate convention. The mandate is there. It's clear. Now it's time for those countries, which grew wealthy exploiting cheap but dirty fossil fuels, to fulfill their promise.

Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies, is observing the United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa. www.ips-dc.org

Join the global call for climate justice by participating in 1,000 Durbans in conjunction with the December 3rd Day of Action on Climate Justice.

Bonn Climate Talks

June 7, 2011 ·

The Institute for Policy Studies has joined with Friends of the Earth International, Jubilee South Asia, Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance, Third World Network, and other movements and organizations fighting for climate justice in the international policy arena at the UNFCCC intercessional talks in Bonn.

We will provide regular updates on key policy areas and issues being debated here at the climate talks — such as emissions reductions, climate finance, halting deforestation, and carbon markets, among other issues.  We invite our allies to use these updates to help inform regional and national activities, provide information for media outreach, and enhance national and regional advocacy plans. Please feel free to circulate.

Update No. 1: Bonn Climate Negotiations

The Big Picture

United Nations climate negotiations resumed in Bonn, Germany, on June 6. This session follows the slow progress made at earlier talks in Bangkok in April, and are essential for building momentum toward the Durban climate conference in November.

The Bangkok talks were focused on setting the agenda for the negotiations for the rest of the year and were setback by divisions between countries over the scope of international climate talks. In Bangkok, some rich developed countries insisted on limiting the negotiations to implementing the narrow range of issues agreed at Cancun; in contrast most countries supported continuing under an agreed workplan from 2007 (the Bali Action Plan).[1]

The Bonn talks are to be based on the broad agenda advocated by most countries in Bangkok, but the clash in the "paradigm" for the negotiations will underline further disagreements in Bonn. These fault-lines include:

  • Setting binding emissions reduction targets through the Kyoto Protocol
  • Insufficient emissions reduction targets currently on the table
  • The Green Climate Fund

1. Setting new binding emission reduction targets in 2011?

The Kyoto Protocol represents the current model of international climate law – it requires developed countries to set binding emission reduction targets and to meet them over a 5 year period. The first five-year period ends in 2012 and time is running out to agree on targets for the next ‘commitment period’ (2013-2017/2020) in accordance with the mandated negotiations, which have been running since 2005.

Developing countries, particularly the Africa Group, have made clear that a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is essential, as it provides a paradigm of legally binding emission reduction targets. Some developed countries, including Russia and Japan, have indicated they will walk away from their international legal obligations to agree commitments for the period after 2012. The United States is similarly opposed to binding emissions reduction targets. Instead of negotiating science-based targets reflecting their fair share of the global effort, they are now proposing a “pledge-based” system in which each country does whatever it determines domestically.

Bonn represents a pivotal moment for the future of the Kyoto Protocol. The Bonn climate talks need to pave the way for agreement in Durban on the next phase of legally binding emission reduction targets. Durban is the last chance to agree, as the first phase of commitments ends in 2012. If there is no agreement in Durban, the world may be faced with climate anarchy, without an international regime in place.

2. Will those new pledges be enough?

The latest science shows that negotiators at Bonn will be out of touch with what the latest science clearly requires if the world is to avert dangerous climate change. The current pledges risk warming of 2.5 to 5 degrees according to the United Nations Environment Programme. The problems with developed countries’ proposed targets are manifold: they are too low to meet what the science requires but they are also accompanied by ‘creative accounting’ proposals which result in emissions reductions only on paper. Furthermore the extensive use of offsets will see rich countries shift the burden for reducing emissions to developing countries – while doing almost nothing at home.

Analysis revealed in Bangkok showed that when emission reductions were converted into gross amounts – rather than percentages – it was clear that developing countries’ pledges for emission reductions were even higher than those from developed countries (3.6 Gigatonnes to occur in developing countries with only 1.9 Gigatonnes to occur in developed countries).[2] Together, these pledges fell well short of the 14+ Gigatonnes the UN says is necessary to be on path to remain below 2 or 1.5 degrees C.

In addition, the emissions reduction targets proposed by developed countries are ridden with loopholes. The rules currently being considered do not take into account emissions from shipping and aviation, overestimate emissions reductions by forests and land use in developed countries and allow the carry-over of unused pollution permits and offset credits . This means that the total emission of developed countries could actually increase even if their ‘official’ targets say they are making reductions.[3]

The debate over these rules, how they shift the burden of reducing emissions to developing countries and whether they are in line with the science will be of central importance in Bonn – particularly as the agenda sets particular time for addressing this issue.[4]

3. Creating a "Green Climate Fund"

In Cancun, one of the few areas of agreement was the establishment of a "Green Climate Fund" (GCF) to oversee the collection and disbursement of "climate finance." Currently the details of the GCF are being negotiated by a ‘Transitional Committee’ (TC) which has already met in Mexico in April and again in Bonn from May 30.

Flashpoint issues in the negotiations of the GCF have already included the role of the World Bank as its trustee, given concerns regarding its potential conflicts of interest due to its role in financing fossil-fuel based projects, and its practice of mixing roles as a banker, financial advisor and project implementer (known as the "Arthur Anderson syndrome" following the financial crisis). This conflict may be compounded by proposals relating to secondments and staffing of the new fund, which draw heavily on the World Bank as a source.

Similarly, many observers are concerned that the process of the GCF is off-track. It is currently heavily focused on technicalities and structure – without having agreed to what the priorities of the fund should be or the actual scale of public funding. In Cancun, countries agreed to a "goal" to "mobilize" $100 billion by 2020 from “a wide variety of sources”. However, developed countries are yet to commit to any specific level of public funding.

A further critical question here is what a "balanced" allocation of finance between adaptation and mitigation really means.[5] It is to be expected at Bonn that developing countries, who are the most vulnerable to climate impacts, will push the GCF to identify the needs and priorities of recipients before designing structures to best meet those needs.

Finally there is concern that the GCF is too focused on "private finance" options (through loan guarantees, publicly-provided insurance, or other risk sharing instruments) and thus risks putting too much power into the hands of profit-driven interests. Market failures and distortions by private interests are a significant structural cause of the climate crisis and many countries fear a continued focus on the private market could have the effect of financing projects that are ineffective at confronting climate change but are very effective at transferring public monies into private coffers. These countries and observers will be pushing for the GCF to be primarily funded through public sources (including innovative mechanisms such as Special Drawing Rights and the "Robin Hood Tax").

 

[1] See recent affirmation of the importance of the Bali Action Plan and the Kyoto Protocol at the India-Africa forum, 25 May 2011, (para 7), http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=72319

[2] Stockholm Environment Institute, “The Implications of International Greenhouse Gas Offsets on Global Climate Mitigation” (March 2011), www.sei-us.org/Publications_PDF/SEI-WorkingPaperUS-1106.pdf

[3] Stockholm Environment Institute, “Assessing the current level of pledges & scale of emission reductions by Annex I Parties in aggregate, AWG-KP In Session Workshop, Bonn, 2. August 2010; and, Kartha, S. “How Accounting Tricks, Loopholes, and Strategic Carbon Banking Could Negate Developed Countries’ Copenhagen Pledges”, Tellus Institute Brown Bag Lunch Series, 10 November 2010.

[4] On Thursday 9 June 2011 according to preliminary schedule.

[5] This is a reference to the objective of the fund from the Cancun outcome document – see Annex III of 1/CP.16, http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2010/cop16/eng/07a01.pdf#page=2.

Cancun: More Exclusion of Civil Society, More Bad News from Governments

December 8, 2010 ·

I'm commuting to the Cancun climate talks on a bus packed with the Friends of the Earth International delegation and hanger-onners like myself. This morning, when our bus arrived at gigantic Cancun warehouse where climate civil society groups are convening — along with our personal police escort — we were stopped again. This time, the federal police said that the bus that we arrived on didn’t match the license plate of the bus we had arrived on yesterday. In fact, that bus had broken down, so this was a different bus.

But the fact was that we arrive with a police escort, so the fact that the police then didn’t let us into the venue was just over the fine line of what many of us could handle at 8 a.m. after two weeks of sleep deprivation.

Then, when we were finally allowed into the building complex, people who had been standing where an action had taken place yesterday and had had their pictures taken were barred from entering even the civil society space.

Meanwhile, the deteriorating state of negotiations inside the UN climate talks is pushing people further toward the edge.

Yesterday, the prime minister of Kenya’s announcement that they were fine with rich countries abandoning a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was met with gasps of horror from the developing countries assembled in a high level plenary.

He later retracted the statement saying that he had read an early draft — not the correct final intervention. As it turns out, a Japanese bureaucrat had written that draft — revealing Japan’s attempt to bring developing countries into their campaign to kill the Kyoto Protocol.

A second blow to climate justice was struck when Ethiopian president Meles Zenawi proclaimed that the Cancun talks must result in adoption of the Copenhagen Accord — a deal that would lead to a “pledge & review” process instead of a global greenhouse gas target with equitable effort in reducing emissions among developed countries. A recent UNEP report shows that the pledges under Copenhagen Accord would lead to a worldwide average temperature inccrease of 2.5-5 degrees Celsius — which scientists say would push us part the tipping point of climate chaos.

What's worse is that if the Copenhagen Accord is the model for a new deal here in Cancun, governments have locked the world into dangerously warm planet.

The ALBA countries — notably Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Paraguay — are still standing strong, but are coming under increasing fire for resisting a pledge and review process, and climate finance without first making concessions on being legally bound to mitigate their own emissions — even while the true climate criminals responsible for the vast majority of emissions remain free.

The game now is to support African countries in resisting Meles’ attempts to ram support for a bad deal through the Africa Group, call bullies like the United States and Japan out for attempting to tank a fair process, and hold up those countries like Bolivia who are willing to speak truth to power.

We’ll see what happens today as we race closer to the wrap up of the UN climate talks here in Mexico this Friday.