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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.

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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