Archive for the 'carbon' Category

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!

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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 is Not Kyoto

By:  Ned Helme, Founder and President of the Center for Clean Air Policy

On the eve of the 1998 United Nations climate change conference in Buenos Aires, U.S. Senator Robert Byrd sent a letter to President Clinton urging him not to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Doing so, he said, would not “do more than plug the holes in one end of a leaky boat, while leaving the biggest emitters of the developing world free to drill more holes in the other end of the boat. The net result is the same — we all sink.”

Today we are in a different boat. Next month, ministers from 192 nations will gather in Copenhagen to lay the groundwork for an international climate treaty that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol. There will be a lot of commentary on what Copenhagen means and what it is: I want to tell you what it is not.

Copenhagen is not Kyoto. The most common and widespread criticism of the Kyoto Protocol was that it did not require major developing countries like China and India to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and the burden for reducing emissions fell largely on richer nations, like the United States and the European Union. It was one of the main reasons why the U.S. did not ratify Kyoto.

Those concerns will be alleviated in Copenhagen, where a high-level policy agreement is expected to ensure that developing countries take on more responsibility for cutting emissions and paying for programs to do so. That is unlike Kyoto where richer nations paid for developing country emissions reductions through offsets in order to help them lower the cost of their Kyoto Protocol obligations.

This added responsibility is necessary because the world has changed since the Protocol was adopted in 1997. Historically, industrialized nations have been responsible for the bulk of emissions in the atmosphere, but today developing country emissions are growing fast. Given their projected growth, we could not meet the international goal of cutting global emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 even if we zeroed out richer nations’ emissions by that date. The only way to avoid the worst effects of climate change is for developed and developing countries to share responsibility moving forward.

Many developing countries already are implementing major actions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. For example, China, Brazil and Mexico have put in place national laws that will collectively, if fully implemented, reduce their projected growth in emissions by more in 2010 than what current U.S. legislation is projected to achieve by 2015. They are willing to take on new actions that are measurable, reportable and verifiable in exchange for targeted financial and technological incentives from the developed world.

Take the case of China, which is doing more than many believe to reduce their growth in emissions and invest in clean energy technologies. China’s 2007 national climate plan sets an aggressive goal to reduce its energy intensity by 20 percent by 2010. The country has shut down over 54 gigawatts of small coal-fired power plants and it plans to close down another 31 gigawatts by 2011, which is equal to nearly ten percent of all their power plants. It led the world in renewables investment in 2007 with over $10.8 billion, and it is expected to surpass Germany as the world leader in 2010. At 36.7 mpg, its vehicle efficiency standards are years ahead of the U.S.

China has recognized, perhaps more quickly than we have, the economic benefits of expanded energy efficiency and also the global economic opportunity that exists to lead in these new markets. Capping emissions and placing a price on carbon will provide businesses with regulatory certainty and will jumpstart innovation and investments in energy efficiency, carbon efficiency and renewable energy across the global economy. As developing countries assume new emission reduction commitments, new markets for green technology will open up and the carbon playing field will begin to level, thereby alleviating concerns about jobs and emissions leaking from countries that have tough anti-pollution laws to countries that do not.

A major roadblock to realizing this new shared responsibility between developed and developing countries is U.S. action. Congress should approve legislation that includes a strong emissions reduction target, international financing and provisions to protect our competitive industries — such as iron, cement, steel and pulp and paper. That will give the U.S. negotiating team a stronger hand in designing the agreement in Copenhagen.

We no longer need to question whether others will act: they are in the boat and underway. It’s time for the U.S. to take the helm, throw its last line over and shove off, or we will fall behind in the clean energy race.

Ned Helme is the founder and President of the Center for Clean Air Policy, a nonprofit environmental think tank based in Washington, DC. He advises key ministers on the international climate treaty negotiations.


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