Archive for the 'United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen – COP 15' 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!

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

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:

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.

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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