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Posts Tagged UNFCCC

Dead rats and circumcision cindy Dec 14

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IMG_3372 - Version 2Saturday afternoon in Lima.

On the good side, the one place selling good coffee is still open (the proper machines, rather than the horrible little Nescafe machines that the locals call ‘no es café.”) And I’ve managed to eke out my stack of kiwi Dark Ghana chocolate, saving the last big block for today.

On the not so good side, there’s rumours of the meeting reconvening from anywhere from 6pm to 9pm this evening. Goodness knows when it will end. Conversation turns to whether this will beat the record of Durban, which ended at 6.30 am on the Sunday morning.

Being a bit of a COP veteran, I left the centre at 8.30 last night, got dinner and a good night’s sleep, coming back for 10 am this morning to see a lot of bleary-eyed people who’d been up all night to witness a complete lack of agreement.A couple of hours later plenary begins. There’s a draft Chair’s text before us, and let’s see what governments really think of it. This is the text on the “ADP” the discussions on the bones of a main agreement to be hammered out over the coming year and finalized in Paris.

It’s a horrible piece of text, a twisted compromise that nobody likes, but some people like it less than others, of course. We waited for the reaction. And there was quite some reaction.

Ian Fry from Tuvalu begins with his analogy: “the text needs a little surgery; we need to don gowns, get scalpels and carefully insert the vital organs needed for the agreement.”

He expresses a concern held by many, that the references to “loss and damage” had been removed, and was now only recognized by the Lima meeting in a reference that had the issue lumped in with adaptation.

There are many reasons why Loss and Damage should be a separate issue – but it’s very clear: you cannot “adapt” to the loss of a life, or a coastline. Loss and damage is a whole new area that needs to attract funding that’s separate to finance going to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change.

Many of the governments who speak say that while they’re not happy with the text, they can live with it, in a spirit of compromise.

New Zealand’s lead negotiator Jo Tyndall adds her charming point: “there are dead rats that have to be swallowed.” New Zealand could accept this draft text, she says.  But this isn’t surprising – we know NZ was one of the countries firmly opposed to the inclusion of loss and damage. And the text is weak, which is presumably why New Zealand. along with other recalcitrant developed countries like the US, Canada, Australia, can live with it.

The main group objecting has been the “Like Minded Developing Countries” a group of big developing countries and Arab states, including China, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, who are insisting on inclusion of the age-old “CBDR” mantra of these countries: the “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” enshrined in the convention, where they agreed that the rich countries needed to act first.

This hardline attitude has prevailed for 20 years, despite turning a corner in Durban where they agreed that these bigger countries have to bite the bullet and also take action.   Some see them as defending the poor. But a friend of mine sat next to an Indian NGO when India was talking about poverty, who almost exploded with rage: “India doesn’t give a s*** about our poor.”

Then Singapore, another LMDC,  takes the surgery analogy to a place nobody wants to go, talking about how “when circumcision becomes amputation.”

Things fall apart. It turns out that the “agreed text” wasn’t – at least half the world hadn’t been consulted – indeed the only governments the Peruvian Environment Minister HAD talked with were the US, China and some other members of the “Umbrella Group”.

Back they go to the drawing board.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

At the centre of this text is what governments will do with their  “INDC’s” – the “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” – the action they will all take and put on the table sometime before the Paris agreement next year:  what’s in them, how do they get measured, do they get measured at all?

Before last night, the text had a huge list of bullet points outlining what needs to be in them – a lot of technical points with a list of what a government needs to put forward with its INDC.   It included wording about what a technical review of these INDC’s would entail.

Overnight, that list disappeared. And the review went through an extraordinary transformation. It was replaced with very, very weak text around a review that would conduct a “dialogue” with countries “willing to do so.

Also, and even more worrying, was the disappearance of a fundamental task for that review – that it would calculate the aggregate effect of these INDC’s and compare them against the globally agreed warming limit of 2˚C.

Why should this matter?

The scientists I work with on the Climate Action Tracker have, this last week, looked at how the pledges and policies made by Governments actually add up and measure against the globally agreed limit of 2˚C warming.

They did have some good news on the new pledges by China, the EU and the US, but they also had some problems, both with China, which hasn’t provided enough data so the scientists could calculate the effect of its pledge, and also Australia, who’re notorious in their fudging of numbers and gaming of the Kyoto Protocol rules.

Australia is confident of meeting its (tiny) Kyoto target, despite Tony Abbott’s unraveling of the comprehensive climate legislation introduced by Julia Gillard. NGO’s have been puzzled at Australia’s confident statements about meeting their target – but now we know why: Kyoto rules allow Australia to increase their energy and industry emissions by 47-59 percent above the 1990 baseline – but still meet their target.

So. If all these Governments submit their intended climate actions to the UNFCCC in April, but nobody actually looks at what they add up to, how will we know how good the Paris agreement will be? If the scientists can’t add up these figures, how can anyone else accurately judge the climate action they’re all so desperately trying to avoid anyone scrutinising?

Night is now falling. There’s no sign of anybody agreeing anything right now. I’m off to dinner, while the media lurk around the conference centre, waiting hopefully for an outcome that may or may not be soon, and may or may not be good.

To finish on a lighter note (well, sort of): one mantra of the youth seen at the talks today is that
we’ve been negotiating all their lives.

image

(HT: the fabulous perudeawakening tumblr)

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to this…

more to come …

 

NZ: pushing the world to go beyond 2 degrees cindy Dec 05

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head-in-the-sandNew Zealand is coming under increasing scrutiny in Lima, not least because it’s our turn to be reviewed by the UNFCCC process.

Early next week our representatives will have to defend our position and our lack of action to 190 governments in our first “multilateral assessment.”

Already, there have been some tough questions, coming especially from the EU and China. New Zealand’s answered them, but will have to more to defend itself than these carefully fudged answers.

Our negotiators have been trying to promote our position around the meeting, including a botched attempt in a science discussion yesterday, when they were interrupted halfway through a blatant PR presentation. They were told to get back to the issue at hand (science, not promotion of a country’s so-called “efforts”), after a number of governments objected to our highjacking the agenda.

Right now, our ballooning emissions are on track to be at least 36% above 1990 levels – instead of the 5% below 1990 that we’ve promised, and they’re going to continue going up. In short, we’re in trouble. And we’re going to get hammered for this next week.

But let’s turn for a minute to our efforts to actually solving this problem at the global level.

At the centre of NZ’s proposal for the Paris agreement is the notion that while elements of the global deal should be legally binding, targets for cutting emissions should not be legally binding.

Everyone should just add up what they feel like doing, put them in a schedule, and the sum total should be the agreed global target. And the national targets should not be legally binding.

This proposal drew praise from Obama’s climate envoy Todd Stern a few weeks back, and the idea is also supported by a band of the most recalcitrant countries on climate change: Australia (where “coal is good for humanity”) and Canada, home of the tarsands, who have, like NZ, walked away from the Kyoto Protocol.

On the other hand, the EU, in their first press conference in Lima this week, were unequivocal in their opposition to the idea. Elina Bardram, head of the EU delegation told reporters that:

 “The EU is of the mind that legally binding mitigation targets are the only way to provide the necessary long-term signal, the necessary confidence to the investors … and provide credibility in the low carbon transition worldwide.”

This is the EU’s negotiating position on a global deal. The EU is one of the few who have actually put a target on the table – with a cut of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, so they are backing this with action at home.

But here’s a funny thing about New Zealand’s proposal.

NZ’s “unconditional” target is to cut emissions by 5% by 2020 (below 1990). We have spelled out a specific set of conditions under which we’d improve this to 10% – or even 20%, although these two improved targets tend to cause hysterical laughter if one looks at our emissions projections.

Nick Smith told the UNFCCC on 31 January 2010 that, among other conditions, this agreement must:

“…[set] the world on a pathway to limit temperature rise to not more than 2˚C.”

That seems reasonable, right? On the face of it, it looks like NZ’s keen to keep to this globally agreed temperature limit (even though we know 2˚C of warming will wreak a fair level of havoc on the planet).

However, there appears to be a discrepancy between our conditions – and what we’re actually proposing for a Paris agreement. And this discrepancy has been pointed out by none other than the New Zealand Treasury.

Treasury’s advice to the incoming Climate Minister in November went to great lengths to explain our proposal, explaining in detail how we should only do our “fair share” – a line that is Tim Groser’s mantra, yada yada yada. But even Treasury admits:

“This may mean that the level of action is less than is required to limit global warming to two degrees, but negotiators have chosen to prioritise participation at this point in time.”

So let me get this right:

We are holding out on increasing our international commitment to climate action because we want to see a strong 2020 agreement that keeps the world on a below 2˚C pathway.

Yet even Treasury says our proposal for the Paris agreement will not achieve this.  Have our negotiators had a brainfade? Did they forget what they agreed just a few short years ago?

Or do they have instructions to do their best to avoid a 2˚C pathway so that we don’t have to increase our target?   Perhaps next week’s questioning could focus on this issue. I look forward to the event.

But one thing is clear: our Government has its head firmly planted in the sand on climate change, as activists across the country will be pointing out on Sunday.

The bear necessities of climate agreement in Lima cindy Dec 01

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The population in the seaside capital of Peru, Lima, has grown exponentially in the last few days ahead of the latest round of UN climate talks, with  11,000 official delegates, 40,000 police, and thousands more who’ll attend the Peoples Climate Summit, all descending on the city.

“The streets are filling up with gringos,” a horrified friend who’s living in Lima told me today.

It is a relief to be at climate talks hosted by a government that’s less in the thrall of the fossil fuel industry than the last two, in Doha and Warsaw. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can count on more action as a result.  I hope they act like Paddington Bear (whom I believe has a Peruvian background1 ) — in terms of his “trying hard to get things right” rather than his getting into trouble.

This is the first of a few blogs I’ll be writing, so let’s take a quick look at what’s at stake in Lima.

Apart from the usual “future of the planet” stakes that get higher every day, there are a number of key issues that governments can get to grips with over the next two weeks. This meeting is an important stepping stone on the way to Paris late next year, which should come up with a new global climate agreement designed to set the world on the right path towards keeping global warming below 2˚C.

Pre-2020 action

The Paris agreement is one that would be agreed in 2015, and come into play in 2020. But what happens before then? Some Governments, like New Zealand and the US, see the paltry 2020 emissions reduction targets they made after Copenhagen as being the only targets they’ll accept for the next six years.

Scientists have told us that if nothing more than the Copenhagen pledges are fulfilled by 2020, then we’ve very little hope of keeping to that 2˚C limit, without having to make ridiculously huge changes to the world’s energy systems in 2021. Their messages are consistent: the sooner we take action, the cheaper it will be. Waiting longer is a risky business, in terms of both climate impacts and economics.

There are many of us – from vulnerable developing countries to scientists and NGOs – calling for the world to ramp up the action now, instead of waiting until after 2020. But will it happen?

I find it extremely unlikely that New Zealand would contemplate any increase on our paltry target of 5 percent reductions by 2020 (on 1990 levels), given that all indications are that we’re set to massively overshoot that by more than 30%.   I won’t go into our situation too much, suffice to say it’s had considerable – and much-deserved- scorn poured on it recently,  from our Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to the NZ Herald’s Brian Fallow, to name but a few.

So much for doing, to repeat the government’s mantra, our “fair share.”

INDCs

Let me introduce you to a relatively new UN acronym: INDCs. They used to be called “emissions reduction targets” or “commitments” which, under Kyoto, were legally binding commitments to cut emissions.  However last year in Warsaw some governments didn’t like the name – it was far too direct, and to the point, for comfort, and implied Committing To Something.  So they came up with “INDCs”: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (read: doing what you feel like, depending on how much pressure the big emitters at home are giving you, but not wanting to be tied to it).

On the road to Paris, by next March, all governments, large or small, developing or developed, must submit their INDCs to the UNFCCC. But before they do that, they have to decide the criteria. What information must be in them? How specific do they have to be? This is absolutely crucial to these INDCs being useful.

As the chair of the Least Developed Countries, Prakash Mathema, told the RTCC blog:

“Among the criteria to be included are: type of commitment/contribution, base year or period, baseline emissions trajectory, peaking year, coverage in terms of GHGs and sectors, geographical boundaries, percentage of total or national emissions, expected emission reductions to be achieved, approach to accounting for the land-use sector, additional specific information depending on the type of commitment/contribution, and indicators relating to fairness and ambition.”

So there’s plenty of scope for those discussions to go on late into the evenings and extra days at the end of the session.

Of course the NZ Government hasn’t decided on our INDC yet – no doubt it will be too busy here in Lima making sure that the criteria agreed contain enough loopholes for us to get away with committing to as little as possible. This is New Zealand’s modus operandi in these talks, and I see little change on the horizon, not least because our emissions are expected to balloon in the coming decades. Those will be emissions that will be increasingly costly to reduce. All the global reports released recently say that the sooner you take action, the cheaper it will be.

Finance

Another key component of this meeting is the ongoing subject of finance. Finance to the world’s most vulnerable countries to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change – and to reduce their own emissions along the way.

This finance is another crucial stepping stone towards the Paris Agreement. They’ve finally got the “Green Climate Fund” (GCF) set up so that it can deliver projects and programmes to make sure money gets to the right places, and now Governments have nearly $10bn pledged towards that fund. But that’s just a start. By 2050, this fund needs to deliver $100 billion a year, every year.

New Zealand’s own contribution to the GCF slipped out almost unnoticed last month — and no wonder — it’s an astoundingly low $3 million. Even the Czech Republic has pledged almost double that amount.  OK, so the Australians are not going to contribute anything, they say, but do we really want our Government to be like Tony Abbott’s?

The slow progress on the GCF has engendered much distrust amongst developing countries, so the pledges have been a welcome first step. If, by Paris, the pledges are turned into actual money in the bank, and those programmes are up and running, this will make a huge difference.

There’s a lot of work to do here in Lima, and I haven’t touched on all of it. Let’s hope those gringos filling up Lima’s hotels will actually get down and do some work worthy of the thousands of tonnes of emissions we’ve all shoved into the sky by flying here.

  1. GR adds: Indeed he has. In fact his Aunt Lucy lives in the Home For Retired Bears in Lima.

We Play Dirty at the Climate Talks Too: New Zealand’s Dirty Politics of Climate Gareth Renowden Sep 01

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This guest post is by David Tong, an Auckland based community lawyer working on his Master’s in Law on the UN climate talks. He chairs the P3 Foundation and co-chairs the Aotearoa New Zealand Human Rights Lawyers Association, and last year tracked New Zealand’s climate negotiators as an Adopt a Negotiator Fellow.

Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics and the subsequent revelations have shaken New Zealand’s Government. On Saturday, Minister of Justice Judith Collins resigned, facing allegations of interfering with Serious Fraud Office investigations. On Sunday, the Inspector General of Security and Intelligence summonsed the Prime Minister — or perhaps just his Office — to appear before a hearing into the Dirty Politics allegations on 11 September 2014, just nine days before the election.

But three key ministers have escaped remarkably unscathed from the scandal: Ministers Tim Groser, Nick Smith, and Amy Adams. Tim Groser, our Minister for Climate Change Issues, has danced past the scandal without a speck of dirt. Minister for Conservation and Housing Nick Smith, who resigned as Minister for the Environment after admitting two relatively minor indiscretions must be spitting mad at how many final warnings Judith Collins flouted before resigning. Of the three, only Amy Adams faced a substantive allegation in Hager’s book, which alleges that she printed, scanned and forwarded an invitation accidentally sent to her by the Labour Party to Judith Collins, who then leaked it to the far right blogger at the heart of the scandal.

But compared to the other allegations in Dirty Politics — or even the past conflict of interest allegations levelled at Adams — these matters are minor. Hager’s book only mentions climate change once. Other emails show at most that Slater ran an ineffectual smear campaign against Generation Zero, which may or may not have been encouraged by Government figures. All this could be interpreted to mean our Government plays cleaner on climate change than it does at home.

That suggestion is wrong. Our domestic and international politics mirror each other. Dirty politics at home are mirrored by dirty tricks at the climate talks. The last few rounds of negotiations brim with examples.

My first exposure to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations came when I attended the 2011 Durban Talks with the New Zealand Youth Delegation. Three days into the talks, small island negotiators torpedoed my naiveté when I was lucky enough to get into a closed door Alliance of Small Island States briefing. Hearing representatives from some of the most vulnerable states describe New Zealand as “pulling the Kyoto Protocol down to the lowest level of ambition, and the lowest level of cooperation” by taking “deliberately inconsistent” stances sank my idealism about my country without a trace.

Like Hot Topic‘s Durban correspondent Cindy Baxter, I had no idea what we were playing at, but knew we were “cheating and lying”. In particular, we stood accused of proposing a “wild west” carbon market allowing secret, bilateral sales of carbon credits, with no central register to prevent us from selling the same units twice. By the end of the Conference, our veneer of conditional support for a Kyoto Protocol had collapsed, with Minister Groser describing a Second Commitment Period as “actually an insult to New Zealand”.

In the eyes of the NGO community, though, we had improved a tiny bit, narrowly escaping a Colossal Fossil award for disrupting negotiations the most by sneaking into third place, after coming second overall in 2010.

We made up for lost time in 2012, by walking away from the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol. In doing so, we further abandoned our past claims of conditional support for a Second Commitment Period and, ultimately, further betrayed the trust of our Pacific neignbours: “Its island partners in the Pacific should think again before ever trusting NZ again.” After our near misses in 2010 and 2011, we cleanly took out the 2012 Colossal Fossil award. The Climate Action Network sledged our “exceptional blindness to scientific and political realities” and accused us of trying to “drown the talks” — and our Pacific neighbours. What credibility we had in the talks, we tossed away with the Protocol. For our dirty deeds, the Doha talks agreed to shut NZ out of international carbon markets from next year.

I went back to the climate talks last year as an Adopt a Negotiator Fellow, tracking New Zealand in the talks. After the beating we took in 2013, we kept our heads down. But, again, I saw a duplicity between domestic politics and international posturing. While ministers laughed at Russel Norman quoting Philippine lead negotiator Yeb Sano and denied the very existence of climate change at home, our negotiators advanced a platform of “Bounded Flexibility” — a nice name for almost pure voluntarism. Jim Salinger described this sort of approach as inviting people to volunteer to pay taxes. And when I was lucky enough to spend a day with Marshall Islands Minister Tony de Brum, I couldn’t help but compare our hollow lack of ambition in Warsaw with our decision to sign the Majuro Declaration on Climate Leadership. At the Pacific Islands Forum — and no doubt this week at the Small Island Developing States Conference — we pledged to stand with our Pacific neighbours, but in the UNFCCC, we don’t — and they know that.

We play dirty on climate change. If our international record wasn’t enough to show this, you just have to look at our domestic emissions trading scheme. Far from cutting emissions, it has subsidised pollution.

The only question is whether a change in Government will change this. Under Helen Clark’s Labour Government, we still copped at lot of flak at the climate talks. Last year, in Warsaw, our lead negotiator said that she did not believe a change in government would change our international stance. Paradoxically, however, we have excused inaction around this month’s Ban Ki Moon Summit because of the uncertainty around our election. Labour and the Green Party have both committed to meaningful domestic action, but this needs to be coupled with cleaning up our international act.

On Wednesday night, the Climate Voter Coalition are hosting a debate, and all the major parties have fronted up. Tickets are sold out, but you can stream it live here. I will be watching it with interest, because our climate politics need cleaning up. It’s time to wash out the dirt.

The Moral Challenge of Dangerous Climate Change Bryan Walker Apr 22

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The combination of a recently acquired desktop video magnifier and a kindle has for the time being restored some ease to my reading. Hence this review. I was drawn by the title The Moral Challenge of Dangerous Climate Change: Values, Poverty and Policy, since I can’t see the resistance to energy reform mounted by powerful fossil fuel interests being overcome without some kind of moral determination by a significant portion of the population. I was also attracted by the fact that the author, Darrel Moellendorf is a political and moral philosopher and I was curious to read a philosophical perspective on the climate change issue.

Although the book is intended to be accessible to readers who are not versed in the discipline of philosophy it is no light read. The discussions of the various policy issues it addresses are exhaustive and rigorous. There are no ringing calls, just appeals to humane rationality. But the conclusions are no less compelling for that.

Moellendorf is heavily focused on the poverty in which a large proportion of the human race currently lives: “It should be scandalous that nearly half the world’s population lives in desperate poverty, especially while many lavish in such plenty.”  He declares the problem of global poverty to be central to climate change policy. The two issues cannot be separated.  In this respect he parallels Nicholas Stern who in his book The Global Deal similarly coupled combating climate change with poverty reduction as the two greatest challenges of the century and claimed that we shall succeed or fail on them together – to tackle only one is to undermine the other.

In Moellendorf’s view it is vital that climate change policy should not put restrictions on poverty-eradicating human development. He introduces what he calls the anti-poverty principle as a standard against which the actions proposed to address climate change should be measured. It’s no surprise then that the primary responsibility for action rests with the highly developed rich countries, as recognised by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. On those countries rests the responsibility of sharply curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, not through a steep reduction in economic activity but through the promotion of a technological revolution in energy. Subsidising the growth of renewable energy in the least-developed economies may well be part of this responsibility.

Moellendorf frequently refers to the UNFCC as an important source of norms and principles in determining climate change action and defends several of those principles in the course of his book. The convention provides compass and continuity in international negotiations.

Moellendorf fully understands the scientific consensus about the warming world and the risks it poses for humanity. He sets the risks out in some detail, acknowledging the uncertainties but seeing them as all the more reason to be concerned. He writes of the possibility of cascading uncertainties if various positive feedbacks are triggered by the warming. Climate change, he concludes, poses risks of catastrophic changes to human communities and ecosystems. The risks are particularly dangerous to people made vulnerable by the coincidence of poverty and geography, whether in the great river deltas of North Africa and East Asia, the glacier-fed rivers in Asia and South America or the  arid regions of central and southern Africa.

All of this points to a precautionary approach in attempting to mitigate climate change. It would be dangerous to gamble on a lower climate sensitivity than predicted by the science. The cost of mitigation, estimated at 2 percent of GDP, is low when set against the threat of a 3 degree rise in global temperature.

Moellendorf is not impressed by economists who attempt to discount the need for present action based on the supposition that future populations will be better off than we are and therefore better placed to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The likely severity of climate change casts doubt on the assumption that economic growth will continue at its current levels. Moellendorf’s clear appreciation of what the science portends contrasts with the bland assumption that economic growth will ensure later generations will be  up to the task of late mitigation.

An interesting chapter on the value of biodiversity explores not merely its economic importance but also the value of the “delight, wonder and awe at nature” which matter to human life. Moellendorf quotes a memorable statement of biologist E.O. Wilson with approval, and I can’t forbear to repeat it here: “This is the assembly of life that took a billion years to evolve. It has eaten the storms – folded them into its genes – and created the world that created us. It holds us steady.”

What results from Moellendorf’s painstaking discussions is entirely consonant with what many who are alarmed by the human impacts of climate change have felt for a number of years. Put through close philosophic scrutiny the concerns emerge as rational and humane responses to a grave threat to the human future.

But rationality and humanity have a rough time in the political world where negotiations towards a global solution (the only sort there is for our common atmosphere) are supposedly proceeding. One has only to think of the ranting of many Republican congress members in the US or, closer to home, of our own government’s policies mired in contradiction yet energetically defended by ministers. Moellendorf is not blind to this reality and faces it squarely in his final chapter on urgency – “the fierce urgency of now” as one of his headings describes it. Against the fossil fuel industry and its political allies he looks to civil society movements and political organisations to use their organising skills to mobilise support for climate change mitigation in states currently lacking mitigation ambition. It’s a big ask, but we might remember that the moral challenge has informed powerful movements of ordinary citizens in the past which have overcome entrenched interests. The abolition of the slave trade and the emancipation of slaves come to mind for me.

Moellendorf is ever mindful that climate change affects the lives and well-being of billions of people both now and in the future. Morality is to do with what we owe other people. The energy revolution we require to constrain climate change may be technological, but the motivation to demand it is profoundly moral. His patient exposition of this imperative is most welcome.

Welcome to the Carbon COP cindy Nov 18

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The Polish National Stadium

The first week here at the climate talks in Warsaw kicked off with the super typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in a terrible tragedy, brought into the meeting by the country’s lead negotiator Seb Yano, whose fast has been joined by many from civil society. The plight of his people has been a rallying call around the world as we all look at the aftermath of this storm with horror.  Is it a direct result of climate change? What we do know is that the sea surface temps were 1.5degC above normal, and that we can expect more intense cyclones as the earth’s temperature warms.  But  as NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth wrote:

“The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….”

As we’ve been all walking around in circles of the Polish National Stadium, trying to stay sane, looking at the images from the Philippines and the campaigning by their government to get a stronger outcome, it seems several governments have kept their eyes firmly OFF the ball, instead  taking the opportunity of the occasion to walk away from their commitments. Most notably, Japan.   After warning all year they’d do this, Japan announced their new target, sending it over a veritable climate cliff.  The change in target would increase the emissions gap outlined by UNEP just last week by 3-4%, according to calculations by the Climate Action Tracker (disclosure: I’m here in Warsaw working for Climate Analytics, who run this analysis with Ecofys and the Pik Potsdam Institute). Instead of reducing their emissions by 25% by 2020 on 1990 levels, Japan’s emissions will now increased by 3.1%. The general thinking is that Japan’s change in target is down to the fact that they’ve had to close all 54 of their nuclear power stations, so have had to switch to coal.  Not so.  The CAT calculated that if Japan’s nuclear industry didn’t re-open at all before 2020, they could still reach a target of 17-18%.

“The expected increase represents only 55% of the increase in emissions from the original Copenhagen pledge to the new 2020 target. The remaining 45% must therefore represent a change in Japan’s political will to reduce emissions.”

Not exactly an inspiration to other countries who have come here to negotiate a strong new 2015 climate agreement in good faith, and certainly not an inspiration to the people in the Philippines.  But perhaps this screenshot from Japan’s Ministry of Industry English website could explain it?

Screenshot of Japanese Industry Ministry's english website.

Screenshot of Japanese Industry Ministry’s english website.

Next up, Australia.  As we all settled into the second day of the talks, Australia’s new government was busily dismantling its climate legislation, an exercise that will cost them more than $7billion. This may take a while, not least because the current Labour/Greens dominated Senate won’t change until after July. But the CAT has calculated that this move, if successful, and combined with Tony Abbott’s so-called “Direct Action” policy to replace it,  they are very unlikely to meet their (already totally inadequate) pledge of 5% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. It’ll begin a recarbonisation of Australia’s electricity sector, just at the time when the new legislation was beginning to make a difference. Australia’s not even sending a Minister here for the High Level segment of the talks, for the first time in 16 years.  One gets the impression that this government really doesn’t give a flying (Castlemaine) XXXX about climate change, an extraordinary move given the rolling 12-month heat record set in August, September and October.  I think it’s clear who Tony’s listening to.  Certainly not Yeb Sano. Meanwhile the Polish Government is going ahead with hosting the World Coal Summit over the next two days.   More on that in my next post.  

Poland or Coaland? Climate talks about to begin in Warsaw cindy Nov 10

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Will the sun rise over progress at the climate talks (is that a coal fired power station in the distance?)

Will the sun rise over progress at the climate talks (is that a coal fired power station in the distance?)

Another year, another round of climate talks.  It’s the 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention and we’re back in Poland, the scene of an almost complete non-event in 2008, the year before Copenhagen.

It’s Eastern Europe’s turn to host another meeting, and nobody else was prepared to put their hand up, so we’re back in the land of coal, in the country that has rallied their biggest coal companies to sponsor the conference, and which is dragging the whole of the EU down to their level as they refuse to accept stronger targets.  I suspect #coaland will be a well-used hashtag by the end of this.

Usually when you come to a meeting like this, the town is full of banners and signs that a climate meeting is being hosted, but there’s not much sign of it here in Warsaw, except this rather confusing industry advertisement at the airport.

Next weekend there’s a World Coal Association conference in town, being addressed by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christian Figueres, who turned down a talk to youth at the Powershift conference in favour of talking with Big Coal.  She’s assured them it’s because she wants to “talk frankly” – let’s hope she does.

Last month the Polish hosts were caught posting a news piece heralding the melting of the Arctic as a new opportunity to explore for yet more fossil fuels.  While The YesMen (in a specacular own-goal, in my opinion) tried to claim the piece as their own, it was indeed the Polish Government’s own work. Given this government is chairing the talks, it’s not looking terribly hopeful.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, Cyclone Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, has caused a terrible loss of life that’s still being counted – and major damage.  With winds at 195mph as it made landfall, it beat the 1969 record,  according to Jeff Masters’ blog.  Sea surface temperatures were up to 1.5degC above normal.

What role will the science have in these talks?  Will the IPCC’s recent working group 1 conclusions make a difference?  Figueres has already confirmed the IPCC’s carbon budget figures will not be on the agenda.

Finance for the poorest

This meeting is supposed to be the “Finance meeting” where governments are expected to make progress on committing money to the Green Climate Fund. They’ve promised $100bn a year by 2020 to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change and shift to renewable energy, but so far there’s little to show for it in the fund.

And a programme to get to 2015

Governments agreed last year that this year would be when they set up the roadmap to get to a global agreement on climate to be agreed in Paris, 2015.  This should include a timetable for when they all put their increased targets on the table (early next year would be good) and that they will have a full draft negotiating text sorted out by next year, to be finalised by 2015.   But of course that 2015 agreement, even if it does get finished on time, wouldn’t come into force until 2020.  If the world does nothing except the Copenhagen pledges between now and 2020, it’s not going to be pretty. So there’s a strong call from many quarters for better 2020 targets to be put on the table as soon as possible.

How will New Zealand stack up?  During the course of the next two weeks, expect information to come out that will make it clear what New Zealand’s “fair share” of climate action actually is.  Given our walking away from Kyoto and the Ministry for the Environment’s recent admission that our emissions are set to soar, I don’t hold out much hope.

The Australians have made a spectacular start, announcing that for the first time in 16 years, no Minister will make it to the conference. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, recently famous for declaring there was no evidence of a link between climate change and bush fires (using the solid source of Wikipedia) is instead staying at home to dismantle the Australian climate legislation.  That’s a Fossil of the Day right there.

Then of course there’s the Russians.  What will they do?  Will they continue to throw their toys out of the cot about decisions being made in Doha without their agreement?  Will they actually start negotiating and be good global citizens?  (hint: releasing the 30 Greenpeace activists from the Murmansk prison would be a good start).

More to come, as it happens.   From both myself and from David Tong with the Adopt A Negotiator team.

100% useless: NZ government announces pathetic 5% emissions target Gareth Renowden Aug 16

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Climate change minister Tim Groser has finally got around to announcing that New Zealand’s emissions reduction target for 2020 will be a 5 percent reduction on 1990 levels — a significant step back from NZ’s previous conditional commitment to make cuts in the 10 to 20 percent range. Since the Key government refused to join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol last year, this target is being adopted under the wider UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and therefore has no penalties (or incentives) attached. Groser’s announcement claims:

The target is affordable and demonstrates that New Zealand is doing its fair share to address global climate change. In deciding this target, the Government has carefully balanced the cost to New Zealand households and businesses against taking ambitious action to tackle climate change.

This is an unconditional target to take responsibility for our emissions, and gives certainty to domestic stakeholders.

Groser also claims that the new target “compares favourably with our traditional partners’ actions” — but fails to note that it’s way out of line with UK and EU commitments to cuts of 30% and 20% over the same period.

The announcement will come as little surprise in the context of recent government actions — in particular Groser’s reckless mismanagement of the emissions trading scheme, which is now leading to huge and expensive dislocation in the forestry sector.

Further context for Groser’s approach to climate policy came in a reply to a series of questions from Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham at Question Time on August 8th. Asked to reconcile sanctioning a new West Coast coal mine with climate action, Groser made himself completely clear:

We will not sacrifice everything to the altar of climate change.

Failing to take climate change seriously — by failing to cut emissions and doing nothing to encourage prudent adaptation — will sacrifice the entire country to the effects of climate change. By refusing to bite the bullet, Groser and his cabinet colleagues put easy money now ahead of our future wellbeing. Or, perhaps, any future worth having.

Lost and damaged cindy Dec 08

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New Zealand Youth Delegate Simon Tapp with our golden prize: a Colossal Fossil, shared with Canada.

At the end of every UNFCCC meeting, on the last day, there’s a grand prize: the Colossal Fossil. So proud:  New Zealand took top prize for the first time, shared with Canada.

For a country whose emissions are similar in scale to the Canadian tar sands, New Zealand has demonstrated exceptional blindness to scientific and political realities. Surprising many and disappointing all, New Zealand has fought hard to unseat 5-time Colossal Fossil winner, Canada, in a campaign of extreme selfishness and irresponsibility.

While New Zealand may have helped drown the talks for another year, New Zealand’s small and vulnerable Pacific neighbours should take heart that they have not been forgotten – New Zealand intends to drown them too.

I don’t think I can add much to this, except to say that for a small country, we sure manage to punch above our weight at these talks, upsetting more governments and people than is warranted for our small size.   Sam from the Youth Delegation has summed it up nicely over on the youth blog. It’s all about trust.

I was going to write a light-hearted blog today, poking fun at Lord Christopher Monckton’s appearance in Doha, in his Arabic dress and antics in the plenary. But I thought about it overnight and woke this morning more angry about it than amused.Monckton turned up on Wednesday dressed in full Arab regalia –  the long, white kheffiyeh that the majority of Qatari men wear every day.   He held a press conference the next day with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and a Texan tea party group, with Republican Senator James Inhofe joining by video.

But this week saw a massive typhoon in the Philippines that has so far killed more than 500 people – and counting. The southernmost super-typhoon ever seen in the country.  It nearly wiped out Palau altogether.

The Philippine delegate, in tears, appealed to the meeting to take action, to get agreement:  “If not us, then who; if not now, then when; if not here then where?”

Later, Monckton later took the floor in the plenary, posing as a delegate for Burma, who don’t have a delegation here, and told the meeting that there had been no warming in 16 years.   The whole plenary booed him.   He had his badge taken off him, and was ejected (he was leaving anyway). The Guardian Liveblog covered it here, if you feel you must watch (another rant from me there too).

I got an email from the UN telling me: “Lord Monckton has been permanently barred from the UNFCCC process.”

So that’s it.  Never again will I see the Viscount of Brenchley, Lord Christopher Monckton at a climate talks.  Good riddance.   He’s already trying to spin that he was thrown out because he was talking about no warming for 16 years, when in fact he was rightfully thrown out for  speaking on the floor as Burma when he wasn’t entitled to do that.

Midnight oil

Right now, it’s after 2 am and I’ve left the negotiations to get some sleep.  There’s big deadlocks around a lot of the detail, with much focus on an incredibly weak Kyoto Protocol text. Who’s in, who’s out?  Our government has been right in there, weakening rules around trading to the point that they’re actually weaker than they were in the early 1990’s.

Then there’s the issue of “loss and damage,” new to the discussions from last year. The key sticking point is over whether there is an international mechanism set up to help distribute money for the poorest countries to pay for the loss and damage from climate impacts.  It’s about the industrialized world paying for the damage it’s now wreaking on the poorest.

As Seychelles Ambassador Ronny Jumeau told a press conference earlier this week:

“If we had had more [emissions cuts], we would not have to ask for so much for adapatation.  If there had been more money for adaptation, we would not be looking for money for loss and damge. What’s next? The loss of our islands?”

This isn’t going to finish any time soon.  What we’ll get tomorrow is up in the air, but what we do know is  that air will continue to be filled with increasing amounts of C02 – and nothing that’s happening here is going to slow it any time soon.

I’ll know more in the morning, but bets are on that it’s going to last through to late Saturday.

 

 

 

Dear Negotiators… cindy Nov 30

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Guest Post by Sam Sharp, a member of the NZ Youth Delegation in Doha 

This morning I stood with 40 other youth from all around the world to represent the voices of 1.5 billion youth who are not directly represented here at the climate change negotiations in Doha.

We stood for one and a half hours, while thousands of negotiators and NGO’s passed us on their way to the negotiations. The response was pretty overwhelming.

Between us in NZYD, we were interviewed by eight different international journalists. Youth that I had never met in my life came and stood next to me to hold up the boards with our message

”Dear Negotiators, 1.5 billion youth are not directly represented here at COP18. Your decisions must reflect their demands”.  

The Irish ex-president and nobel peace prize winner , Mary Robinson, shook our hands. Thousands of photos were taken, iPhones and cameras left right and centre.

But to me, this international media attention was not what made this experience so special.

What blew me away, was the exchanges of smiles from a select few negotiators and this huge sense of pride I felt from standing with youth from all over the world  who are fighting for action on climate change.

Negotiators who looked us in the eye, acknowledging our message and saying “We are with you” have given me this new sense of hope among  this place full of cold stares and pressed business suits. In particular, it was the negotiators from the developing countries that really stopped to acknowledge what we were doing, as many of their youth are un-represented here at COP.

I have learnt this morning, that as youth we can give such a powerful message to the world, simply by standing together to show that regardless of our nationalities, we are all here for the same reason.

We are here to be heard, and we are here to show that we already doing what we can to make sure that our generations actions make a positive, lasting change. Regardless of the amount of negotiators that gave us a smile, it is us – today’s youth – that have shown that we have the strength in numbers and unity to actually make change.

Check out the NZYD Doha Blog 

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