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Climate Change Conference: Doomed

by Nomad Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 05:46:45 AM EST

For those still optimistic about a solid replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, the Financial Times is serving some cold water:

FT.com - UN climate negotiator knocks full treaty hopes

The Copenhagen climate change conference will not produce a new international treaty, the top United Nations climate change official has said, but the meeting will set out the political framework for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“A fully fledged new international treaty under the [UN Framework] Convention [on Climate Change] – I do not think that is going to happen,” Yvo de Boer, charged with bringing December’s negotiations to a successful conclusion, said in an interview with the Financial Times. “If you look at the limited amount of time remaining to Copenhagen, it’s clear.”

Emphasis mine. Defeatism or realism - your choice.


Two of three important official pre Copenhagen negotiation meetings have been completed. One in Bonn was past June, and the one in Bangkok ended 9 October, less than two weeks ago. The next, and final, round of these pre Copenhagen negotiations will be held in Barcelona early November. As is wont in these international treaties, the preparation rounds are crucial in hammering out the foundations of the agreement - whereas the main event serves as polish and a good PR circus for generating headlines.

The fallout of the Bangkok meeting does not bode well, for either the Barcelona or Copenhagen negotiations. Not all is lost, according to De Boer:

Mr de Boer pointed out: “If you look at the limited amount of time that remains to Copenhagen, we have to focus on what can realistically be done and how that can realistically be framed.”

The need was to “concentrate on the political imperatives that make it clear how countries are committed [to tackling climate change] and engaging in cutting emissions, and what co-operative mechanisms they need to put in place”, he said.

“That means an overarching decision at Copenhagen that sets out individual targets for industrialised countries, that decides how major developing countries intend to engage [in curbing emissions by] 2020, and hopefully that puts that in the context of a long-term goal [of cutting global emissions by 2050].”

Ministers meeting in Copenhagen should also “decide a deadline by which that architecture can be negotiated into something comprehensive”, such as a legally binding international treaty, said Mr de Boer.

This optimism does not prevent the outlook from appearing grim. Failure in Copenhagen could bring the risk that the climate conferences take the same road as the WTO conferences: high-profile events with zero results, status quo, business as usual. While BAU is precisely what shouldn't happen.

For those interested in the nitty-gritty, the draft negotiating text that causes so much strife is available here (PDF). Special attention to the goals of global emission reduction:

12. The long-term global goal for emission reductions {shall}{should} be set

Option 1
as a stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at {400}{450 or lower}{not more than 450}{450} ppm carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) and a temperature increase limited to 2 oC above the pre-industrial level. For this purpose, the Parties {shall}{should} collectively reduce global emissions by at least 50 per cent {from 1990} levels by 2050.

Option 2
as a stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere well below 350 ppm CO2 eq and a temperature increase limited to below 1.5 oC above the pre-industrial level. For this purpose, the Parties {shall}{should} collectively reduce global emissions by {81–71}{more than 85} per centfrom 1990 levels by 2050.

Option 3
as a global temperature increase limited to 2 oC above the pre-industrial level.

Option 4
as a reduction in global average GHG emissions per capita to about 2 t CO2.

Option 5
on the basis of
Option 5.1
historical responsibility.
Option 5.2
emissions debt.
Option 5.3
per capita accumulative emission convergence.
Option 5.4
an equitable allocation of the global atmospheric resources.

and

17. Option 2 (in the case of a long-term global goal as defined in para. 12, option 3, above)
The long-term global goal for emission reductions {shall}{should} be updated to reflect progress in scientific knowledge. To allow for these updates, the 2 oC goal {shall}{should} be broken down into partial targets: initially, a 0.2 oC temperature increase per decade over 10 decades. Every 10 years, the partial target {shall}{should} be evaluated, with a view to possibly redefining it, taking into account advances in scientific knowledge and the reduction of uncertainties.

Let's see what's left standing of this when all is said and done.

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This was Frank's challenge:

The role of bloggers in all this, it was suggested, was to hold politicians accountable for the national targets they had adopted, and not to let them away with the usual evasion strategies which always seek to blame someone else for not doing enough to address the problem.

What other kind of groundwork could be done?

by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 06:14:09 AM EST
Does anyone have an optimistic outlook on this conference? (Not me :(( )
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 06:16:34 AM EST
European Tribune - Climate Change Conference: Doomed
Failure in Copenhagen could bring the risk that the climate conferences take the same road as the WTO conferences: high-profile events with zero results, status quo, business as usual. While BAU is precisely what shouldn't happen.
You forgot to mention the G20 meetings... We're in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and BAO is what you get.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 06:25:27 AM EST
Obligatory Galbraith quote:
Men meet together for many reasons in the course of business. They need to instruct or persuade each other. They must agree on a course of action. They find thinking in public more productive or less painful than thinking in private. But there are at least as many reasons for meetings to transact no business. Meetings are held because men seek companionship or, at a minimum, wish to escape the tedium of solitary duties. They yearn for the prestige which accrues to the man who presides over meetings, and this leads them to convoke assemblages over which they can preside. Finally, there is the meeting which is called not because there is business to be done, but because it is necessary to create the impression that business is being done. Such meetings are more than a substitute for action. They are widely regarded as action.


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 06:29:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Haven't economists shown that during economic downturns you should be investing, and that those who do invest, perform better when the economic tide changes? I believe there was a recent PhD on that in the Netherlands, which did argue exactly this.
by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:02:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can 'bah' all you want, but BAO is all you get.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:18:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, De Boer is neither defeatist nor necessarily realistic. A good framework agreement to be finalised in the next year (or two) is what's been whispered more or less loudly in green circles for the past half year. It's looking more and more like an unlikely best case scenario.

Some related news:

EUobserver: Ministers fair to agree on climate financing

Discord reigned supreme at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (20 October), with the most notable failure in the area of climate financing.

The Swedish EU presidency had hoped to reach an agreement on individual member state contributions towards a EU pot of funding, destined to help developing countries tackle climate change.

"It is a disappointing outcome, that we weren't able to reach an agreement," said Swedish finance minister Anders Borg after the meeting.

Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken described the meeting as a "fiasco", adding that the likelihood of failing to secure a global deal in Copenhagen this December to replace the Kyoto protocol was now "very real."

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 06:32:46 AM EST
If it's neither realist or defeatist, then what's the appropriate label?

I wonder whether De Boer's interview is some sort of response to Gordon's recent dramatising:

Guardian: Copenhagen climate change talks are last chance, says Gordon Brown

by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 06:58:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Everyone can see by now that the Copenhagen talks are not likely to result in any kind of progress, in that context, saying that we're aiming for some framework agreement that could eventually be made into a global deal in the near future is an optimistic frame. It's aiming for the best we can currently hope for. More likely results are minor changes to the Bali roadmap (e.g. a continuation of negotiations on the same basis) which might sooner go in the direction of making the roadmap weaker, or a total breakdown.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 08:57:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gordon Brown didn't see that.

I didn't know that "aiming for the best we can currently hope for" is no longer considered realism these days... The world truly must be getting more cynical.

I'll stop splitting hairs now.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 09:08:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought that a big part of the joy of this blog was that we could split hairs endlessly ;-)

Of course I wouldn't want De Boer to throw his hands up in the air and say 'whatever'. It's his role to get the best possible result. So yeah, realistic is the way to put it, from his perspective.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 09:53:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Climate Change Conference: Doomed
The long-term global goal for emission reductions {shall}{should} be updated to reflect progress in scientific knowledge. To allow for these updates, the 2 oC goal {shall}{should} be broken down into partial targets: initially, a 0.2 oC temperature increase per decade over 10 decades. Every 10 years, the partial target {shall}{should} be evaluated, with a view to possibly redefining it, taking into account advances in scientific knowledge and the reduction of uncertainties.
I like this, but why does it apply only to option 2? A 50% reduction in emissions over 40 years means nothing. A 0.5% reduction in emissions year-on-year for 40 years would be more effective.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 06:33:11 AM EST
 0.5% reduction in emissions year-on-year for 40 years would be more effective

If each year there's 0.5% reduction for 40 years, don't you end up at a total of 20% reduction after 40 years?

Also, I can't say that I really like the idea that temperature should be the definitive guideline to reduction goals - the consequence is that we precisely know the coupling between GHG and (global) temperatures. There'll be no end to skeptical groups skewering data for flaws.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:11:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomad:
If each year there's 0.5% reduction for 40 years, don't you end up at a total of 20% reduction after 40 years?
And if you mandate a 50% reduction in 40 years, you end up with a 0% reduction after 36 years. Which is more effective?

Mandating a 0.5% reduction year-on-year will lead to changes in technology and "business as usual" so after 10 or 20 years the "path of least resistance" will be to reduce emissions further.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:17:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
a 0% reduction after 36 years
if not an increase...

How well did Kyoto fare?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:20:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kyoto Protocol - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Below is a list of the change in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2004 for some countries that are part of the Climate Change Convention as reported by the United Nations.[94]

Country Change in greenhouse gas
Emissions (1990-2004)
excluding LULUCF Change in greenhouse gas
Emissions (1990-2004)
including LULUCF EU Assigned Objective
for 2012 Treaty Obligation 2008-2012
Denmark -19% -22.2% -20% -11%
Germany -17% -18.2% -21% -8%
Canada +27% +26.6% n/a -6%
Australia +25% +5.2% n/a +8%
Spain +49% +50.4% +15% -8%
Norway +10% -18.7% n/a +1%
New Zealand +21% +17.9% n/a 0%
France -0.8% -6.1% 0% -8%
Greece +27% +25.3% +25% -8%
Ireland +23% +22.7% +13% -8%
Japan +6.5% +5.2% n/a -6%
United Kingdom -14% -58.8% -12.5% -8%
Portugal +41% +28.9% +27% -8%
EU-15 -0.8% -2.6% n/a -8%

Below is a table of the changes in greenhouse gas emissions of some countries.[95]

Country Change in greenhouse gas
Emissions (1992-2007)
India +103%
China +150%
United States +20%
Russian Federation -20%
Japan +11%
Worldwide Total +38%

Comparing

Excuse the formatting disaster...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 08:45:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The numbers for Denmark in that table are not accurate.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 08:50:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a wiki, you know what you have to do :)

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 08:55:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The most recent accurate data for Denmark can be found on the site of the EEA. One of the thinkaboutit bloggers had a nice post up recently showing a cool graph with the path to target achievement. Denmark (along with Spain) is one of the European countries quite desperately far off target, ctsy of Fogh Rasmussen.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 09:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain's is not going to get any better given ZP's stance on coal. But reportedly his Industry minister is not happy and has not added any of ZP's promises ot the coal miners in the action agenda for the Spanish presidency of the EU in the first half of 2010.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 10:01:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If this is the source, which the Wiki cites, I can't make heads or tails of it.
by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 09:02:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if you mandate a 50% reduction in 40 years, you end up with a 0% reduction after 36 years.

Probably more like a -15% reduction...

by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:28:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So 0.5% year-on-year is still more effective?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 08:28:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What policymakers fundamentally need to realise is that we don't need consensus on climate change. We need China and Europe, and preferably one of the three other great powers (US, India and Russia) as well.

But if you have China and the EU, then we can enforce import quotas on any other country. That leaves us with the net fossil fuel exporters, but their per capita consumption is not for the most part outrageously out of line, so it should be possible to come to an agreement with them. And if you don't have China and the EU in a deal, it's not worth the paper it's written on anyway.

So if we were actually serious about zero net emissions by 2050, we would be making bilateral talks with China. If other countries want to join those talks, they should be told to sign off on zero net emissions by 2050, before they are invited to the table. Then we can have a serious discussion about how that's achieved.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:15:34 AM EST
In other words: who needs Obama or the USA.

But as long as the EU can't get its act together (see nanne's post) this option doesn't look too feasible either...

by Nomad on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:28:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU has already cut it's emission so much it's hardly noticeable, so we are meaningless in this debate...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 02:12:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, our cuts are hardly noticeable. And that does put us at risk of irrelevance in the debate.

But I was outlining the minimal necessary coalition to enforce a treaty, not the most plausible actual coalition.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Oct 22nd, 2009 at 05:53:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My guess is that China will be first, because of having a government consisting mostly of trained engineers. Who are stubborn and slow to recognize change, but who can come up with practical solutions when they do recognize it, and then--under Chinese political system--enforce the solutions.

Second will be India, as soon as they realize that a big chunk of their population is going to die of thirst due to pumpdown of the aquifer and the loss of Himalayan water.

Third will be the U.S., because we're the thought leaders. <rolls eyes>

Fourth through thirtieth will be "Europe."

by asdf on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 07:49:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Has a recent piece which set a useful frame for what we're seeing in the climate arena.

Guardian: Obama isn't helping. At least the world argued with Bush

Now Europe and the US are officially reunited, it seems appropriate to consider whether this is necessarily a good thing. The Nobel committee, which awarded the prize for Obama's embrace of "multilateral diplomacy", is evidently convinced that US engagement on the world stage is a triumph for peace and justice. I'm not so sure. After nine months in office, Obama has a clear track record as a global player. Again and again, US negotiators have chosen not to strengthen international laws and protocols but to weaken them, often leading other rich countries in a race to the bottom.

She took a few shortcuts writing the argument, but the frame sticks, I think.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 09:09:18 AM EST
Good post thank you Nomad.

I will be going to my local 350.org event on Saturday 24 October, the International Day of Climate Action.  I hope other EuroTribbers will, too.

by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Wed Oct 21st, 2009 at 09:33:10 AM EST


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