USA scores own goal by moving the goal posts

by nathan thanki

There was quite a stink created this week when US Special Envoy for Climate Change (the big-shot who shows up late to the UN climate talks and gets interrupted by his constituents for not truly speaking for them) made a "remark" to his old College, Dartmouth. There was widespread condemnation of the apparent u-turn on US climate policy, which had previously agreed (in 2009, 2010, 2011) to a target of keeping global temperatures below 2 degrees celsius. After all, more than 100 countries and large swathes of civil society actually call for 1.5 degrees celsius as a limit to the amount of warming. But today Mr. Stern has downplayed those concerns, saying that the US is not renaging on anything and that the "flexibility" he called for is about breaking stalemates rather than undermining this principle.

At the risk of boring everyone, including myself, let's take a look at Mr Stern's speech, available here, and read for ourselves. Comments in blue italics are mine.

Read more…

Has US given up on keeping warming below 2 degrees?

As we are now only 3 weeks away from crucial climate change negotiations in Bangkok (which will set the stage for this years 18th Conference of the Parties, in Doha), US Special Envoy on climate change – Todd Stern – has dropped a bit of a bomb during a speech at Dartmouth. Rather than stick to what the science demands, and limit global warming to 2 degrees celcius, Mr Stern is advocating for a DIY-style pledge and review system. Rather than honouring what had been agreed 20 years ago in the Climate Convention, and fleshed out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Mr Stern wants to treat China and India like first world nations. As Bob Marley said, "in this bright future, you can't forget your past." So let us not forget where the historical responsibility for climate change lays. 

The following is a cross post from the always excellent RTCC blog and the original can be seen here



"US says two degree guarantee should be dropped by global climate change deal"

by RTCC Staff

The 2°C guarantee should be dropped from the global climate change deal to allow for more flexibility and avoid deadlock, US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern has said.

Speaking at Dartmouth College he said removing the 2°C specification from the agreement would allow countries to get on with actions to limit climate change now while leaving it open for further ambition at a later date.

“It is more important to start now with a regime that can get us going in the right direction and that is built in a way maximally conducive to raising ambition, spurring innovation and building political will,” he said adding that insisting on an agreement that would guarantee the 2°C limit would only lead to deadlock.

The 2°C target, which all countries signed up to at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, follows from the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looking at the impacts of climate change which surpasses this limit.

In Durban last December, countries signed up to the UNFCCC, agreed to put together aglobal climate agreement by the end of 2015 to be effective in 2020.

The next meeting, taking place in Doha, Qatar this December will continue these talks.

A ‘flexible’ agreement should begin with countries submitting their own targets to the UNFCCC, said Stern, with an opportunity for public consultation after six months to help drive ambition further.

He said a ‘highly prescriptive’ climate agreement would be hard to agree to for all countries who could see this as a hindrance to growth and development, but that a new deal should be flexible enough to allow for modification as technological advancements make emissions reductions easier in the future.

“The key to making headway in this early conceptual phase of the new agreement is to be open to new ideas that can work in the real world and to keep our eyes on the prize of reducing emissions rather than insisting on old orthodoxies,” he said.

He told the crowd that the negotiations were at an ‘interesting juncture’ following the results in Durban – which saw all countries agree to be part of a future deal setting out climate change targets.

It would be impossible to set out a new legal target which didn’t include the developing world, alongside the developed world, he told the audience, adding that securing Senate support in the US is difficult enough but would be impossible if the likes of China were not included in the global agreement.

“You can not build a system that treats China like Chad, when China is the world’s second largest economy, largest emitter, second largest historic emitter, [and] will be twice the size of the US in emissions in a few years,” he said.

Over-rolled by Giants

~ Jane Nurse

The first week of the Intersessionals in Bonn has seen a ferocious fight over the agenda of the ADP and an even more hotheaded haggling over the chair and vice-chair positions of the ADP. India on behalf of the Asia-Pacific group has laid claim to the chair long after the deadline for nominee submissions and after WEOG as well as GruLAC submitted their candidates.

In this battle for power over shaping the process that will lead to another legal instrument by 2015, China and India have assumed the role of advocates for upholding the interest of developing countries. However, in reality we should not be fooled to believe that the big players comprised of developed and developing countries alike represent anything else but their own interests at the expense of the most vulnerable ones.

GruLAC banked on the support of the EU in attaining the chair of the ADP. Now it looks though as if the EU’s feeble support is waning in favor of countries that are perceived as more politically and strategically powerful, not only in the climate change negotiations but also in other UN realms as for instance the UN Security Council. What is happening is not the pressure of just requests taking hold but of the big players striking deals among themselves at the expense of the small developing countries.

China and India – the hope of the developing countries – seem to be treating their small and vulnerable developing country compatriots from the SIDS and LDCs with the same abrasive condescendence as the developed world would. While China wages a strategic battle against the adoption of the ADP agenda, India takes on the campaign on winning the chair of the ADP. Meanwhile, the EU flexes its financial muscle to beat everyone into submission on these ADP issues by threatening withdrawal of financial support. It is clear that this move, while not explicitly aimed at GruLAC, will affect most notably those countries with the smallest financial capacity. The current ADP struggle serves as another reminder that alliances are fickle bonds only alive as long as mutual interests are being served. In Durban the Alliance of small Island States (AOSIS) was useful to the EU but Bonn is no longer Durban. Thus while the developing world fractures over questions of regional representation it is the developed world that benefits. This once more cements the status quo of the wealthy and powerful countries triumphing in pitting developing countries against each other in the haggling over influence and power.

One might also wonder whether we should be fighting over which country chairs the ADP or actually fight for getting the best candidate possible. Ultimately the chair should not serve any particular country or region but facilitate the work in the most equitable, efficient, and transparent way possible. Yet nobody seems to care whether we are selecting the best-suited individual, who will mediate between the interest of developed and developing countries alike and ultimately serve the interest of all people in the world. We have the science and potentially even the economics to deal with the issues ahead, but the political will to use these tools is caught up in the process of politicking.

Statement on behalf of 60% of the world’s population in the Durban Platform

More analysis to come….this was delivered by Venezuela

Submission on the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Plataform (AWG-DP)

Bonn, 22nd of May

Thank you for giving me the floor.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has the honor to make a statement on behalf of Argentina, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, China, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, El Salvador, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The developing countries associated with this statement account for over 4 billion people on our planet or roughly 60% of the global population, with high incidence of vulnerability to climate change. We have a high stake not only in the ongoing negotiations but also in the important process that we launched at Durban as part of a balanced package.

We assure you of our keenness to expeditiously move forward with the substantive work of the AWG-DP. We wish to assure all our partners that we will spare no effort in reaching out to them and any other partner in finding a solution.

However, AWG-DP agenda is not a procedural discussion but one of substance and scope, both of which will have deep implication on our work. The agenda we adopt here will guide us in this process at least until the end of this year. We are confident that a frank discussion at this stage would enhance our collective understanding on the way forward. We would reiterate our openness to receive and discuss all proposals made by parties on the agenda in a spirit of constructively moving forward. At the same time, we hope that other parties would also take on board our ideas and concerns and that such issues would also receive the consideration they deserve.

We are constructively engaged in this important exercise of agreeing on an agenda that all parties feel ownership of, thereby ensuring the context, quality and momentum for our work. The discussion we had on Saturday was a useful one and it enriched our
understanding of the views held by parties in this debate.

It would be important to give due time and space to open-ended consultations, including in an informal setting. We would strongly encourage that all future consultations on this be held in an open-ended, transparent and inclusive manner rather than by invitation.

We express our willingness to substantively discuss the post 2020 mitigation framework going forward. At same time, we have no doubt that mitigation actions need to be enhanced during 2012-2020. However, at this stage, we foresee that a separate agenda item on enhancing mitigation ambition in the AWG-DP would render meaningless the ongoing discussions of both the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA. In addition, it would delay actions and decisions in those forums. We stress that the context for ambition is provided by the Kyoto Protocol where we are discussing the 2nd commitment period. In addition, for those parties who are not party to the Kyoto Protocol or would not abide by that treaty, also have a responsibility to ensure comparability of their targets and actions under the AWG-LCA. The AWG-LCA is a depository of several actions, not just mitigation actions. Disaggregating the discussion entirely from KP and LCA context would jeopardize the fundamental equity principle of differentiation between Annex-I and non-Annex-I countries under the Convention, aside from weakening the legally binding nature of commitments and converting it to a voluntary scheme of actions
for developed parties. It will impose an inequitable burden on developing countries in meeting the ambition gap.

With a view to ensure that mitigation ambition under the DP is closely linked to work of parties under the two other groups- namely LCA and KP, we would like to propose the inclusion of the following footnote in the agenda:
The implementation of Decision 1/CP.17 should be examined on the basis of its compliance with International Law, in accordance with the principle of pacta sunt servanda and, in particular, with the exception on non-performance related to the full respect and compliance with the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, for the Parties that are Parties of those instruments.


We note that the decision 1.CP/17 establishes the Durban Platform for ‘Enhanced Action’, and is not restricted to ‘Mitigation Action’ alone. We have no doubt that on the basis of science, urgent mitigation ambition is needed. However, mitigation alone will
not sufficient. Our collective ambition on other Bali Pillars namely Adaptation, Finance and Technology is also equally, if not more important to this process.

Let me conclude by saying that we fully support an inclusive agenda that captures, in a non-selective manner, all the elements of decision 1.CP/17 and so that it may provide an acceptable basis to start work immediately. The agenda needs to capture the mutual
assurances of all parties exchanged at Durban. It will be more positive if we keep it as comprehensive and broad based as possible and elaborate it in the light of inputs received from LCA and KP. In the meantime we should begin a discussion on developing our understanding on the scope of work under the Durban Platform.