Copenhagen Recap

By: Lawrence Pacheco

Several questions remain about what really happened at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen last December and how the international climate negotiations and U.S. Senate debate on climate legislation will impact business. There is widespread belief that the conference was a fiasco and the Copenhagen Accord fell short of expectations, but President Obama called it a “breakthrough.”

While vague, the Copenhagen Accord, which will serve as the basis of a post-2012 international climate change treaty, addresses three key issues. First, the accord includes emissions reduction commitments by all the major emitters. Second, it includes $30 billion in “fast start” financing for developing countries by 2012 to reduce emissions, address deforestation and respond to climate change impacts; and a $100 billion pledge from richer nations to help finance similar efforts by 2020. And third, it includes transparency provisions to ensure all countries keep their promises. What is missing from the accord is any detail on how all of this will be implemented, as well as enforcement measures to ensure that big emitting countries like China and India are living up to what they said they would do to address carbon pollution.

It was clear at the conference that all eyes are on the U.S. and what it will do on climate policy. Whether the U.S. places a price on carbon and sets regulatory certainty for businesses, and becomes a part of a global response to climate change hinges on action in the U.S. Senate. Momentum exists for legislative action, but substantial barriers remain — and the task becomes more difficult in an election year. No one can guarantee when, or if, a bill might be passed, and the results in the Massachusetts Senate special election may be a game changer. If the U.S. Congress does not act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to regulate.

Late last year, the EPA released its long-awaited “endangerment finding,” which allows it to regulate greenhouse gas pollution because it is a danger to human health and welfare. It is unclear if this finding will prod Congress to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation, but it should. Why? Because the total expected reductions and costs associated with regulating GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act are highly uncertain. Furthermore, the Clean Air Act does not explicitly authorize trading or auctioning of allowances to support emissions reductions, which would jeopardize the revenue a cap-and-trade system could generate for investments in new clean energy technologies. The prospect of EPA regulation should give business leaders and Congress reason to act quickly.

What is clear is regulatory uncertainty will have far-reaching impacts on businesses and competitiveness, trade, energy security and investments in a clean energy technology sector.


Copenhagen Crossroads: Insight and Perspectives

by Lawrence Pacheco, Vice President, FD Public Affairs

The UN climate change conference is underway, and global leaders are descending upon Copenhagen to work on the building blocks of an international agreement to control greenhouse gases. As this meeting unfolds, debate is heating up around the globe.

Threatening to overshadow the UN meeting is a potential scandal over stolen emails from a climate research center at the University of East Anglia that were posted on the Internet. Climate change skeptics claim the emails prove that prominent scientists’ voices have been squelched in the debate over global warming. They hope this incident — dubbed ClimateGate — will raise doubt on the validity of climate science and derail the international negotiations.

Not so fast, say climate advocates. For years, thousands of scientists working at climate research centers throughout the world have carefully and rigorously reached a consensus on the extent of climate change, the urgency of the problem, and the role of human activity in causing it, they say, and a few distorted e-mail exchanges do not change that consensus.

Instead of following email trails, most experts say the real debate is over emissions reduction targets and money. At this point, all major countries have stepped forward and announced their reduction targets, and the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is poised to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act if Congress does not pass climate legislation. With these targets on the table, the Copenhagen talks will focus on whether the next global accord includes concrete funding commitments from industrialized nations to help developing countries respond to climate change impacts and deploy technology to reduce their carbon pollution. Follow the deliberations to see if negotiators make funding commitments for a fast start on mitigation actions before 2012 and if developing countries will agree to a monitoring and verification process to ensure billions of dollars are spent effectively.

The business community has a lot at stake in the debate. Outcomes from both the U.S. legislative action and the international treaty negotiations will have far-reaching impacts on competitiveness, trade and investment.

FD’s coverage of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP 15) continues with new posts from our distinguished contributors:

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for timely updates live from COP15.

Climate Change Mitigation: Action for a better future.

by Karl-Heinz Florenz, German MEP and member of the Environment Committee

It has been said many times through the years that the young are our hope. However, in the race to secure scarce resources and protect our climate, time has run out – we cannot wait for future generations to find solutions to today’s problems. Unless sustainable solutions are found (and put in practice) soon, our children may have no raw materials with which to heat their homes or produce goods – their hopes now rest firmly in our hands. This is a weighty responsibility; but also a unique opportunity for this generation of leaders to be the architects of the future.

Ensuring we make the right choices is a complex task which involves balancing many factors. Furthermore, there is only a small window of opportunity remaining to make sure that we get things right. Scientific consensus tells us that we must cut global carbon emissions substantially by 2050 if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A fundamental change needs to take place in our society; we need to evolve towards a “sustainable society”.

There is however cause for optimism. In Europe, we have already taken important steps towards meeting our ambitious carbon reduction targets and global powers like America and China have signaled their intention to engage in the challenge. Within this atmosphere of change, December’s Copenhagen summit will hopefully deliver a new international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Hopefully, the summit will also help to make clear that climate action is not only a necessity to ensure future development, but also an imperative to overcome the current economic and financial crisis.

Through determined action in this field, we will not only protect the climate and the environment and help to strengthen our economy, but also ensure a better and fairer future for all citizens.

The European Union must lead by example on this issue – having set the benchmark for others to follow with the 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions by 20% (and 30% within the framework of an international agreement). We cannot be seen to waver if we want to progress towards this future, however, action needs to be concerted and far-seeing. “Snapshot-policies” carry with them the risk to disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged communities amongst us.

It is important that all stakeholders work hard and considerately to avoid this occurring. While it is not the role or purpose of mitigation policy to address social inequality, good governance of the issue can provide many opportunities. It has the ability to create new jobs, reinvigorate economies and, in collaboration with other policy areas, lead the way to a better future that is less driven by inequalities. Creating long term gains, however, will require short term focus and right decisions now!

Path to Copenhagen Begins at Home

by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee

This week marks the beginning of the international climate conference in Copenhagen and the next phase in our efforts – both domestic and international – to address one of the greatest challenges facing our world: climate change.

We have much to accomplish in Copenhagen. Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. One country or region cannot solve it alone. While the U.S. and other developed countries – which, historically, have accounted for the overwhelming majority of carbon emissions – have significant emission reduction responsibilities in the near term, it is important that all countries take responsibility for their contribution to global carbon pollution, and act accordingly. The specific targets that China and India recently announced are certainly a good step, and I hope to see more commitment, especially in terms of measurement, reporting and verification at Copenhagen.

It is important to emphasize that any commitments we make in Copenhagen should not force our hand on domestic climate legislation. Rather, climate legislation should work in concert with an international agreement and emissions reduction goals stated in it. This approach will help us pass climate legislation in the Senate, and help get Senate support for a global agreement. Likewise, other countries’ policies should contribute to the solution by challenging themselves to address the problem by means that work best for them. We have learned many lessons from the Kyoto protocol, and the challenge facing us will require more solid footing to achieve the results necessary to ensure a secure future for all generations.

The path to Copenhagen begins here at home, with our innovations and strength leading the way. Whatever the U.S. policy ends up being, it is clear that there are actions that we can take right now that will start us down the path of combating climate change. It begins with the deployment of a broad range of new clean energy technologies. This includes renewable energy, nuclear, natural gas and coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, and an increase in the overall efficiency of our energy use.

I have been a long-time supporter of a federal renewable electricity standard (RES), which would require that a certain percentage of our electricity come from renewable energy resources. Wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources have great potential, but we – especially in the U.S. – are not fully utilizing their potential. The investments that we have long made researching these technologies are poised to pay off, and we need to develop the policies to assist in their rapid deployment.

We also need to invest in other, more mature clean energy technologies, like nuclear power and natural gas. Let me be clear – we will need an all-of-the-above approach to combat this challenge. There is no silver bullet, rather we need silver buckshot.

The case that human-induced climate change is real has been made, and it remains strong and compelling. Now it is upon us to decide what to do about it. Ultimately, we need climate policy that is right for the United States whether or not all of the scientific questions have been answered. Diversifying our energy sources, investing in energy efficiency and lowering our greenhouse gas pollution all make sense for reasons other than climate change. We need to produce more of our energy needs at home and lessen our dependence on oil from unstable regions of the world. We need to join in the rapidly growing clean energy economy that will put Americans back to work. We need to develop the cutting edge energy technologies and be the ones selling them to other countries. We need to ensure American families and businesses are getting the most bang for their energy buck – an energy efficient economy is a stronger economy. And we should be combating air pollution of all types, especially as we learn more about the dangers to public health and our environment.

Leadership in addressing climate change will translate into leadership in the clean energy economy, leading to new jobs and entirely new industries. I believe that you can be green and make green. Many other countries, including emerging economies like China, have recognized that the world is addressing the challenges of climate change with carbon-free energy development, and their economies are responding by taking the lead in the manufacture and deployment of those technologies.

The U.S. should be at the front of this charge, reinvigorating our economy, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and creating jobs.

We have an opportunity and obligation that is more important now than any previous generation. We have identified a vast global problem, but we also have the solution at hand. And this solution will help create jobs and reduce poverty across the globe if we use the climate challenge as an opportunity to lead the development of a new clean energy economy.

What we need is the collective political will to make this solution a reality. The resolve to address the climate challenge has been steadily increasing, and I believe the meeting in Copenhagen offers a great opportunity to take the next step in a global agreement. This is why I look forward to participating in the process in Copenhagen and to help arrive at a solution that works for all of us, both the global community and the United States.

Senator Mark Udall
December 7, 2009

Change the system, not the climate.

by Antje von Broock

The world’s climate is changing – faster and with more severe impacts than ever projected by climate science. Everywhere glaciers are melting quickly and ice shields in the Antarctic that were breaking away this year were bigger than ever seen.

While the public is expecting UN delegations to reach an ambitious agreement to halt global warming our politicians argue whether they aim for a political or a legally binding outcome. Yet President Obama and Prime Minister Rasmussen who are pushing for a less binding solution are fooling themselves and the international community by assuming a global emergency plan will be achieved with voluntary pledges. We need action that will lead to global emission cuts in the range of 50-85% by 2050 meaning industrialized countries reducing their CO2-output by 45% until 2020 AND additionally assisting developing countries to take a more sustainable development path.

Reading the figures it gets obvious that we can’t afford any longer to offset our emissions elsewhere and keep the current way of life. By buying rights to pollute from poorer countries, we allow our industry to follow old patterns. We do need cuts everywhere and therefore can’t protect our national utilities and industries from making a change. We have to invest into a complete change of energy supply aiming for 100% renewable resources. Further we have to cut our energy need dramatically both by being more efficient and by using less energy. A change like this comes along with challenges and opportunities. We expect more than 100 000 new jobs in the renewable energy sector in Germany but we are also aware that industries which do not adapt to a zero carbon society will have to close down.

As all humans tend to stick to the well known and watch changes suspiciously these changes will hurt in the first place. We therefore need strong international commitments so that all industrialized countries are acting in the same frame and some do not benefit from the actions of others.

Antje von Broock (born 1976) studied Political Science, Communicational and Media Science and Linguistic in Germany (Göttingen, Potsdam and Berlin) and France (Rennes).  From 2003 to 2006 she ran the German office of Elisabeth Schroedter, MdEP and followed the deployment of projects under the EU structural funds in Eastern Germany.  Since December 2006 she is Head of International Environmental Policy at BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany and responsible for international networks and international climate policy.

Copenhagen: Chronicle of a failure.

by Carlos Martínez-Orgado, Presidente del Instituto para la Sostenibilidad de los Recursos (ISR)

In the coming days it will be held in the Danish capital, the thousand-times-announced Climate Summit. However, the main actors are carefully saying, “urbi et orbi”, there will be no meaningful results.

Indeed, we are currently witnessing the beginning of a cosmetic race for “making up the dead”, ensuring that no-one looks bad in the pictures from the Summit. Decision-makers are working to find a more meaningless agreement that avoids the absurdity of bringing thousands of people together to produce nothing.

Although the official experts have developed an accepted discourse around what is at stake and what needs to be done, in truth it is a simplistic and politically-correct version of the real situation. It is unlikely that it is even believed by those leaders who decide the fate of the world. Only this can explain the lack of interest in agreeing on measures that are defined as exceptionally urgent.

World citizens have accepted this discourse. But in the end, they do not believe it either, because obviously there is no pressure emerging from society demanding results. Politicians do not believe that the results of the Summit will in any way affect their electoral prospects. Moreover, the misinformation causes people to confuse a long-term process such as climate change with the vicissitudes of daily weather. Citizens believe that they can personally observe the effects of climate change and thus tries to explain that this week the weather is colder, warmer, wetter or drier than the previous week.

Thus, the European Union presents itself to the world as the leader in the fight against climate change. But its whole strategy is very shy and always looking askance at the other regions, so as not to endanger its short-term competitiveness.

Meanwhile, emerging countries do not want to pay the bill for what the rich countries have broken. This is the case in China and India, whose demographic weight is so important. Brazil seems to be the leader in setting a new path for these countries.

The United States and Russia, the two leading architects of the current situation, are a special case. Nothing was expected from the latter, but great expectations accompanied the election of Obama. The balloon has been deflated within ten months. Unfortunately the closest thing to a Republican President is a Democratic President. It seems that not even Obama is taking the issue seriously.

In these conditions, frustration reigns. We have been reduced to discussing changes in the proposition through improved efficiency.

Even so, it should still be possible to go slightly beyond Kyoto. Yet not even on this point is there agreement. But the great challenge of the future is to create a shift in demand, a complete paradigm shift, and re-engineer society.

But still, we must not lose sight of the paramount importance of securing the future. But it is also clear that the great pandemic that plagues the world is hunger, followed by lack of education and life prospects. Governments fall into the hysteria of the H1N1 virus but ignore these stubborn realities.

In short, to paraphrase Hemingway, after Copenhagen, “Do not ask for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for you.”

Copenhagen Crossroads: Insight and Perspectives

Leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP 15), FD is launching Copenhagen Crossroads: Insight and Perspectives, a blog featuring a compilation of viewpoints from global business leaders, NGOs and government officials focusing on the key issues of the UN talks and their impact on business.

Below are the most recent posts:


FD SHIFT is a global forum for public policy and public affairs perspectives.

FD SHIFT provides policymakers, industry leaders and stakeholders with a forum to share their analysis of the critical policy issues facing business and government across the globe. FD, one of the world’s most highly regarded consultancies in the communications industry, wants to help build substance and foster thought leadership in public policy debate.

To contribute your point of view, contact us at

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