Sunday, 7 June 2009

Climate negotiations -- an overview

Bonn negotiations leading up to Copenhagen UNFCCC

Click here for a table comparing the negotiating positions. It will be updated as positions change.

"The negotiations on the design of the international climate policy regime after 2012 are currently in full swing” at Bonn, announce Climate Strategies (Oxford and Cambridge U experts).

Kathleen Modegaard of Population Action criticizes “Powerful injustice at the Bonn climate talks” in Grist 5 June 09 – the poor nations of Africa and SIDS are excluded by complex English-only texts and travel costs.

Environmentalists raise many questions about the impending deal:
  • market-based mechanisms (i.e. carbon trading) to create climate mitigation & adaptation funds: are supported by John Kilani, assistant to UNFCCC chief Yves de Boer, proposals for a reformed UNFCCC GEF fund, UNEP executive director Achim Steiner, and UNDP Carbon Facility fund. Donations and funding are still in doubt. G77/China want a say in these funds. The GEF is currently "inadequate, inefficient, and unresponsive". A worse alternative is the World Bank whose carbon funds are 100 times larger, are controlled by rich countries and would impose conditions similar to the notorious SAPs.

  • This funds problem goes back to the deliberate underfunding of the UN, leading to Kofi Annan's Faustian pact with the multinationals in 2000: the Global Compact.

  • sectoral targets (this was the “windfall profits” loophole that weakened the EU ETS) have been sought by WBCSD, confirmed by Yves de Boer, and carbon market reporters. Oxfam says WBCSD’s voluntary sectoral agreements could undermine the principles of a fair and safe deal. Jonas Meckling, Global Sectoral Industry Approaches to Climate Change: Helping or Harming? (Oxfam 2009), calls for strict conditions relating to intellectual property rights, governance with poor-country participation, and reform of the Clean Development mechanism.

  • Climate Strategies says CDM will expire, but could be converted into JI. Both systems can be, and have been, scammed. The Guardian 2 Jun 07 reported “abuse and incompetence” in CDM verification but chairman Hans-Jürgen Stehr imposed a gag. See also Scientific American (June 2009) on CDM.

  • JI additionality can be scammed by poor countries in order to secure Adaptation funds

  • past carbon offsets have proven to be bogus, carbon-intense, and/or harmful to civil rights of locals and aborigines: Larry Lohmann, Carbon Trading (2006), FOE REDD Myths(Dec 2008)

  • a “carbon casino” has already begun with a Swiss bank's “slice and dice” packaging of good and bad offsets in Nov 2008. See Michelle Chan's Subprime Carbon study for FOE.

US Council on Foreign Relations posted an excellent primer (19 May 09) on cap-and-trade schemes. Jake Schmidt in Grist 3 June 09 analyzes schemes in the current Copenhagen draft text, pointing out some loopholes. He suggests that carbon fees on air travel, sea transport, and offset markets could generate technology funds for poor countries -- but such taxes are fiercely opposed by powerful lobbies. For developing country views see the 19 Mar 09 International Policy Dialogue.

147 environmental groups have protested against biochar megaprojects which the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) lobby wants to include in REDD carbon offsets. IBI has secured major conservation groups' support with corporate donations of land or money. Similar buyoffs seem to have occurred in USCAP.

China's Environment Ministry is considering a carbon tax on industrial polluters, and intensity targets of a 50% cut in emissions relative to GDP,and that total CO2 emissions should peak between 2030 and 2040. These are not enough to stabilize world CO2 between 350-450ppm, says Joseph Romm's Climate Progress 5 Jun 09; see also Grist 1 Jun 09.

India so far refuses to set targets; adaptation funding might change its mind: EurActiv 6 May 09. Brazil stated 19 Mar 09 that adaptation funds fell 80% short of developing countries' needs, a position other Latin American states describe as ecological debt.

John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Todd Stern are negotiating a US side deal with China. This must include technology transfer, probably financed by cap-and-trade -- with big payoffs to US corporate patent-holders. Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations started the dialogue some years ago. Major behind-the-scenes negotiators are now NDRC's China Program and China's Global Environmental Institute (GEI). Like India, China's shopping list at Bali Dec 07 included "energy efficiency, renewable and nuclear" technology. At the Major Economies Forum 29 May 09 China specified "mechanisms dealing with technology transfer, its adaptation and funding." In July 2008 the G8 decided to build 20 CCS demo plants. China will be the first location, but other major emitters Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa are likely recipients.

We need more info about China Sustainable Energy Program (CSEP), a renewables partnership managed by the Energy Foundation of San Francisco.

Quite different and more sinister is the ClimateWorks partnership with China and India, apparently involving corporate tech transfer on energy efficiency, and perhaps CCS. Funded by REDD offsets, it could be an end-run around emissions control.

US Congress

See Gar Lipow's critique of Waxman-Markey in Grist 21 May 09. He says:

  • sectoral allowances (aka downstream permits) are a “disaster”

  • offsets (CDM, REDD,“additionality” scams) are another disaster. We need cap-and-no-trade

  • prefer auction of permits, to giveaway allocations to big polluters

  • some say it is better than doing nothing. Its cap-and-trade section is "worse than doing nothing" -- delaying real emission reduction for at least a decade

Lipow in Grist 27 Oct 06: "Global warming is a political problem more than a technical one. It is bad strategy to frame the problem as 'energy independence'. Then coal (which is cheap and plentiful in the U.S.) becomes an obvious solution -- in spite of the fact that it is far worse for global warming than oil, and a major water polluter besides." His e-book Cooling It! (ca 2006) shows how the USA could make the necessary emissions cuts in each sector. It is the American equivalent of Monbiot's Heat.

Washington lobbyists boast of creating the myth of “clean coal” for ACCCE, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, and National Mining Association, etc. Bogus grassroots support fooled Dem and Rep politicians: Desmogblog 1 Jun 09. In reply listed its current clients. See also adbuster sites Coal is Dirty and Coal is Clean by The DeSmog Project, Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace USA; and their CCS myth. See also the Sourcewatch expose of “clean coal” front groups, and Isiria's blog summarizing current US coal issues.

USCAP Climate Action Partnership, which claims credit for Markey-Waxman, includes many of the same companies: fossil fuels, energy-intensives, along with Pew Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Nature Conservancy.

Congress is failing to set realistic renewable electricity standards (RES) for utilities. Target should be 12% renewables by 2012, 25% by 2025 . Waxman-Markey's ACES aim falls short, its loophole allows further watering-down by states, and Senate targets are even lower. Fossil lobbies outspent renewables $79 to 1.2 million in the first three months of 2009. Grist 6 Jun 09

Economist Jeffrey Sachs says CCS and nukes are “necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change”. There is “no choice”. Grist 1 Jun 09. Implicitly supports US corporate projects in China, to be bankrolled by carbon funds. Similar arguments are made by Clean Coal USA, James Lovelock and the nuke lobby. EU CCS projects in China. Environmental NGOs IUCN, WWF-Australia support "clean coal": one wonders what they expect in return.

Scientific American is publishing a series on clean coal, confusing the issue by lumping unproven CCS (sequestration) together with oil recovery, scrubbing, oxyfuel, coal gasification, etc., quoting mostly corporate sources such as Linde, Vattenfall, Pew Climate Center, Duke's Edwardsport, Dow, Dupont, DOE, Norway's Statoil, China's GreenGen, and the coal lobby's Clean Air Task Force (CATF).

Gore, Pew Climate Center and Krugman support Waxman-Markey as better than nothing.

Clinton's ex-climate strategist, physicist Joseph Romm approves of Waxman-Markey RES and energy efficiency allowances. A middle-of-the-roader among scientists, Romm argued in a Jan 2009 paper that:

  • Hansen's “aggressive” 350ppm is a safer target, leaving some choices open

  • BAU emissions are rising even faster than the IPCC predicted

  • tipping points (feedbacks) are earlier than IPCC predicted, raising needed reductions by 25%

  • the longer the inaction, the worse the cuts must be

  • a clean grid like California's could cut emissions 25% without new technology and without raising American electric bills.

  • cap-and-no-trade is essential: he quotes a Nov 2008 GAO study that “the use of carbon offsets in a cap-and-trade system can undermine the system’s integrity”

  • US reduction targets should be 20-30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050

But A. Siegel in Grist 1 Jun 09 says Waxman-Markey fails to meet Romm's own target of 450 ppm and 2ºC warming. 450ppm is a simplification: the IPCC best-scenario prediction, known to be underestimated, is 2º to 2.4ºC at 445-495 ppm CO2 equivalent; even this includes a <20%>

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