Archive for the 'Greenhouse gas emissions' 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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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.”

Climate Progress At Home And Around the World

By:  United States Senator John Kerry

There are two big questions that will determine the climate change debate in the United States and in the world: can China and the United States come to a meeting of the minds? And, can the United States bring policymakers together here at home to give meaning to America’s words about leading by example.

I believe the answer to both questions can be yes.

When Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, the distance traveled seemed greater than the 7,000 miles from Washington to Beijing. He was bridging the gap between two worlds that had been sealed off from one another for an entire generation.  Back then, a handshake between Nixon and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was enough to change the world. Today, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter and history’s biggest emitter, China and America, must change the world again – and nothing less than a transformation of the energy economy will suffice.  The question is, can we forge a partnership bold enough to prevent a climate catastrophe? With a preliminary political agreement on the agenda for December’s climate talks in Copenhagen looming, the US-China negotiations are an important test. Because other countries will take their cues from us, a successful global climate deal will depend on America and China signaling our seriousness now.

It is well known that China refuses to accept binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Less well known is that China is rapidly embracing clean energy solutions – in some cases outpacing the US. On my visit to China in May, I met with leaders who, until recently, had not been willing to entertain this discussion. Now they are unequivocal that China grasps the urgency and is ready to be a “positive, constructive” player in international climate change negotiations. President Obama’s announcement this November with the Chinese offers new promise for partnership.

Yes, we want more than promises from China – the world’s largest emitter must eventually accept binding reductions. But it would be a mistake to focus single-mindedly on what China has said it will not do. Even as we push China to go further, we must deepen our collaboration on what China can and will do now.

We are already cooperating on clean energy. An energy efficiency programme at two steel plants in Shandong, run in partnership with a US laboratory, grew into a China-wide programme covering a thousand enterprises. Stories such as this convinced the Chinese leadership to embrace a 10-year framework for US-China energy cooperation, and led to the agreement to build joint clean energy research centres, signed this month. Now we need to extend these partnerships to climate change.

And here at home in the United States? Yes, conventional wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly approaching zero. But South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and I  refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), we are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution. Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not months from now — with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.

First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change. We will minimize the impact on major emitters through a market-based system that will provide both flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs overseas.

Second, while we invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, we must also take advantage of nuclear power, our single largest contributor of emissions-free power. Nuclear power needs to be a core component of electricity generation if we are to meet our emission reduction targets. We need to jettison cumbersome regulations that have stalled the construction of nuclear plants in favor of a streamlined permit system that maintains vigorous safeguards while allowing utilities to secure financing for more plants. We must also do more to encourage serious investment in research and development to find solutions to our nuclear waste problem.

Third, climate change legislation is an opportunity to get serious about breaking our dependence on foreign oil. For too long, we have ignored potential energy sources off our coasts and underground. Even as we increase renewable electricity generation, we must recognize that for the foreseeable future we will continue to burn fossil fuels. To meet our environmental goals, we must do this as cleanly as possible. The United States should aim to become the Saudi Arabia of clean coal. For this reason, we need to provide new financial incentives for companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration technology.

In addition, we are committed to seeking compromise on additional onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration — work that was started by a bipartisan group in the Senate last Congress. Any exploration must be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner and protect the rights and interests of our coastal states.

Fourth, we cannot sacrifice another job to competitors overseas. China and India are among the many countries investing heavily in clean-energy technologies that will produce millions of jobs. There is no reason we should surrender our marketplace to countries that do not accept environmental standards. For this reason, we should consider a border tax on items produced in countries that avoid these standards. This is consistent with our obligations under the World Trade Organization and creates strong incentives for other countries to adopt tough environmental protections.

Finally, we will develop a mechanism to protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices. The central element is the establishment of a floor and a ceiling for the cost of emission allowances. This will also safeguard important industries while they make the investments necessary to join the clean-energy era. We recognize there will be short-term transition costs associated with any climate change legislation, costs that can be eased. But we also believe strongly that the long-term gain will be enormous.

Failure to act comes with another cost. If Congress does not pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration will use the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations. Imposed regulations are likely to be tougher and they certainly will not include the job protections and investment incentives we are proposing. The message to those who have stalled for years is clear: killing a Senate bill is not success; indeed, given the threat of agency regulation, those who have been content to make the legislative process grind to a halt would later come running to Congress in a panic to secure the kinds of incentives and investments we can pass today. Industry needs the certainty that comes with Congressional action.

We are confident that a legitimate bipartisan effort at home can put America back in the lead again and can empower our negotiators to sit down at the table in Copenhagen in December and insist that the rest of the world join us in producing a new international agreement on global warming. We believe China can join us. That way, we will pass on to future generations a strong economy, a clean environment and an energy-independent nation.

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.


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