Archive for the 'emissions' Category

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.


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!

Copenhagen Must Produce a Strong Global Climate Agreement

By:  Artur Runge-Metzger, Director for Climate Change and Air, DG Environment, European Commission

As the Climate Conference in Copenhagen approaches, the EU is not lowering its ambition. We remain committed to a comprehensive agreement, and we want the conference to be a milestone that brokers a global deal. A legally binding treaty to follow the Kyoto Protocol, which we have worked towards for more than two years, remains our fundamental objective.

The EU has the legislation in place to show how such ambitions can work in practice, and has also set out a solid financial package to encourage the developing world to take the necessary steps. We are now waiting for others to follow our lead.

There is no doubting the need for a strong Copenhagen agreement. Deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are needed to prevent climate change from reaching potentially catastrophic proportions. To keep global warming below the danger threshold of 2°C, worldwide emissions must peak by 2020 at the latest and then be at least halved from 1990 levels by 2050.

On the ground this means emission cuts of 25 to 40% are needed from developed countries, while emissions growth in developing countries must be kept at 15 to 30% below business as usual levels by 2020.

Europe has legislation in place to cut emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and is committed to scaling up this reduction to 30% provided other major emitters agree to do their fair share too. No other region has such an ambitious target and the measures in place to achieve it. Instruments like the Emissions Trading System will cut emissions from heavy industry, and numerous other measures are now in place for Europe’s homes, offices and cars.

Our message to developed and developing countries alike is that shifting to a low-carbon economy is not just a challenge but also an opportunity. The Stern Review and other studies of the economics of climate change have made clear how early action will bring benefits in the longer term. It will also provide a vital boost to clean, new technologies, invigorating our economies and putting them on a path to sustainability.

Copenhagen might not deliver a full treaty, but it can deliver the necessary framework, with solid commitments and realistic deadlines for an ambitious, legally binding treaty to keep within the 2°C ceiling. The big players in the developed world are all on board, including the US, while the big emerging economies are developing climate and energy legislation at domestic level. The challenge now is to find a way to incorporate all these positive domestic developments into an international framework.

Climate change is already a painful reality in some of the world’s poorest countries. Funds are needed to start adapting immediately. The EU is committed to contributing its fair share both of ‘fast-start’ funding for the next three years and of the €22-50 billion in international public finance that we estimate developing countries will need annually by 2020.

This is one of many reasons the EU cannot leave Copenhagen without an ambitious deal. It’s too late to play a waiting game.

Perspective on Copenhagen

By:  Lavanya Rajamani, Professor of International Law, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

1. What do you expect will happen at the Copenhagen meeting?

At this point hopes for a legally binding treaty have receded. The most likely outcome at Copenhagen is a “politically binding” agreement which addresses itself to the pillars of the Bali Action Plan – shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology, and finances. Given the political nature of the expected outcome, the “shared vision” pillar is expected to be the central decision, pulling together progress on the other pillars.

A “shared vision” on climate change is expected to cover both qualitative (in terms of principles to guide burden sharing) and quantitative (in terms of a long term global goal, possibly to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees, and/or stabilize GHG emissions to 450 or lesser ppm) aspects. It will also likely cover aspirational/provisional/conditional mid-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for developed countries. The IPCC has recommended stabilization levels of 450ppm CO2 eq and a reduction target of 25-40% below 1990 by 2020 for industrialized (Annex I) countries. The mitigation pledges announced thus far by developed country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are expected to result in aggregate emissions reductions of 16-23% below 1990 by 2020. If the US Waxman-Markey target is included, the aggregate reductions fall to 10-23% in one estimate, and 11-18% in another. The current pledges fall below even the lower end of the IPCC suggested range. The political agreement at Copenhagen is expected to require more of developed countries than they have been willing to offer thus far. The agreement is also likely to include a listing of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) for developing countries, and to put in place a framework for registering these actions, and matching actions with available financial and technological support.

2. Is it important for the world to reach agreement on a climate change treaty in Copenhagen?

It is of crucial importance for the international community to reach an agreement, (whether legally binding or not and whether in Copenhagen or not) on climate change. The IPCC and Stern Review based on thousands of peer reviewed papers have predicted dire impacts if temperature increases beyond 2 degrees C. And, this is a classic global commons problem. No one country can prevent climate change by itself, and every country, to differing extents, is likely to suffer the consequences. The small island states and African dry regions are on the front lines in terms of impacts. Countries like Tuvalu have already negotiated a deal with New Zealand to move their populations when they sink, as they expect to. This issue is a test of humankind’s collective conscience to solve a problem of its own making.

3. Some criticized the Kyoto Protocol for not requiring developing nations like 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. Is that going to change with a Copenhagen agreement?

These criticisms of Kyoto are founded on self-serving and a historical renderings of the nature of the Kyoto deal. The Kyoto Protocol does not include GHG mitigation targets for developing countries, but this is in recognition of the historical responsibility that industrial countries bear for causing the climate change problem.  Historically 2/3 of cumulative carbon emissions come from the developed world. It is true that industrial countries degraded the environment in the absence of scientific knowledge establishing such degradation to be irreversible, and damaging to others across time, and in the absence of international rules prohibiting states from degrading the environment. However these countries and their current generations benefited and continue to benefit from the fruits of industrialization which caused climate change, and they must therefore assume leadership, and take responsibility. The Kyoto Protocol is based on this philosophy. The burden was expected to be borne, at least, initially by developed countries. And, developed countries recognized and accepted this historical responsibility, some more reluctantly than others. The Kyoto Protocol has 189 parties. It has almost universal participation. All accept the US. And, the emissions of the US, since it rejected the Kyoto Protocol, have increased by approximately 17% from 1990 levels. And, it is already responsible for 20% of the world’s GHG emissions (with only 4% of the world’s population).

This is not to suggest that developing countries bear no responsibility or never should. According to World Energy Outlook, if current policies continue unchecked, CO2 emissions will increase by 57% between 2005 and 2030, with the US, China, India and Russia contributing to 2/3rds of this increase. Clearly to ensure effectiveness developing countries must shift away from carbon-intensive growth patterns. The Copenhagen Agreed Outcome will seek to assist this shift away from current high-carbon growth patterns, by incentivizing listing, and supporting nationally appropriate mitigation actions for developing countries.

4. What should we expect India and other developing countries to commit to in a new international treaty? What should we expect from developed nations like the U.S. and nations in the European Union?

Developing countries will likely commit to scaling up nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs). They will agree to a system to register and match NAMAs with support. They will also likely agree to more frequent national reporting, and system for peer-review of NAMAs.

To expect targets similar in form, nature and content to those required of developed countries would be unrealistic and inequitable given development needs and priorities of developing countries. To place NAMAs from India, for instance, in context: India is placed 128th on the Human Development Index, 34.3 % of its population lives on less than 1US$ a day (80% on less than 2USD a day), and an estimated 44 % does not have access to electricity. Its energy use, now at a low per capita emissions rate of 1.2 metric tons annually, and a cumulative share of 4.6%, will grow if the energy needs of the 44% that does not have access to electricity are to be met. And, indeed it must.

We should expect developed nations to place credible and ambitious numbers on the table – numbers for mitigation targets and for financing. Without such pledges, the deal will not be struck.

A redistribution of the ecological space – such that industrial countries emissions, in absolute terms and as a proportion of global share, decrease, as emissions from developing countries increase (in a low-carbon, and energy efficient way) – is central to the burden sharing arrangement agreed to in the FCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. And, this concept will find its way in whatever altered form into the Copenhagen agreement.

5. How will a new global climate change agreement impact the world economy?

The world has been moving to a low carbon economy in leaps and bounds. If the agreement creates the right incentives, it will influence investments in various energy products, and impact prices. It will also dilute the uncertainty that has plagued the carbon market, and permit the carbon market, especially given the various domestic schemes that are in the process of being put in place, to flourish. The carbon market is currently valued at approx 100 billion USD.

6. Why should the business community follow the progress of the negotiations and the outcome of the conference?

In addition to the obvious and mundane profit motive inherent in the instrumental cooption of market forces in the battle against climate change, perhaps because some of them care about the world we live in – not just environmentally but also in terms of equitable sharing of common resources – and the world we leave to future generations?

Lavanya Rajamani, Professor (International Law), Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, is a legal consultant to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.

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Shifting the Climate Paradigm – Hydrogen and the COP15

By:  Mikael Sloth, H2 Logic, Denmark

Towards the commercial use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier

If you’re following the development of the COP15 negotiations ahead of the actual event, you will notice the focus given to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and even more to emission trading schemes (ETS). The reality however, is that concentrating the climate change debate on “dealing with” CO2 emissions only means concentrating on damage control.

Options such as CCS and ETS are useful as short-term solutions to a consequence, but do not tackle the root of the problem. The COP15 negotiations must go deeper than “a posteriori” solutions and face the more challenging and politically-difficult issue of our dependency on limited fossil fuels.

In this context, technologies such as fuel cells and hydrogen (FCH), which enable an increase usage of clean energy, will be key. For example, fuel cells improve the usage of renewable electricity to produce hydrogen that in its turn can act as a convenient, fossil-free and zero-emission fuel. Hydrogen can be used in the same way as gasoline and diesel and with the same end-user convenience.

The FCH industry is especially interested in being part of the COP15 solution-mix as they are at a critical stage in their road towards mass-market: the benefits are proven, the technology exists, but not financially attractive enough to become main-stream and make a significant dent in global carbon emissions. A clear support in Copenhagen will boost already-existing FCH governmental programmes and increase the market’s confidence in these technologies. It would also push FCH into the technical breakthrough and volume build-up needed to improve costs, performance, materials, reliability and durability.

In people’s minds, the world “hydrogen” is never far away from the word “future”, a future where the only thing coming out of an exhaust pipe is a crystalline drop of water. But in fact, there are already hydrogen cars on the road and as you read this, hydrogen buses are carrying commuters in dozens of cities around the world.

To pull conversations around FCH to the present tense and raise awareness among COP15 delegates, the industry decided to organise an H2 Parade in Copenhagen. On 30 November, a column of the latest hydrogen-powered vehicles from major car manufactures will cross the bridge between Sweden and Denmark driven by politicians and celebrities. Starting at a hydrogen refueling station in Malmö, the Parade will end at the Danish National Parliament where manufacturers and energy companies will give an update on the status of hydrogen for transport and their plans for mass commercialisation.

During the COP15, a fleet of H2 cars will also shuttle delegates around the city.

In last week’s FT, journalist John Reed wrote that “the greening of the world’s car fleet is a fact. The main question is which technology carmakers will use to get there.” We believe that FCH is the perfect solution for a world where freedom of movement without a carbon footprint can co-exist.

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