What do countries think about the Durban Platform for enhanced action?

by nathan thanki

Welcome to the first COP of the rest of your lives. Though Copenhagen will forever remain the most widely observed, undermined, devastated, ruinous UNFCCC meeting, it wasn’t until Durban that the sea change became official. US lead negotiator Todd Stern’s famous “if equity is in, we’re out” sneer epitomised the new paradigm that is being cemented in the climate negotiations. Justice, both inter- and intra-generational, is out the window. Decision 1/CP.17, which established the ad-hoc working group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), blew the negotiations wide open (as you will recall from my previous entry). While this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing—indeed we are all of course depressed that there hasn’t been a meaningful emissions reductions legal instrument—it depends on how the ADP approaches its work of creating a new legal outcome by 2015. Will it support and complement the Convention and its provisions and principles, or will it undermine them and undercut justice? As this is a country driven process, it is all up to the Parties to direct proceedings…so it is worthwhile to have a look at some of their thoughts regarding the ADP.

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USA v China

by nathan thanki

The USA wants to be treated the same as China when it comes to responsibility for tackling climate change. Many environmental NGOs, in the increasingly panicked calls for climate action now, are also prone to saying things like "well of course the emerged economies of Brazil, India and China must also be obliged to reduce emissions." This plays quite well into the rich country strategy of stalling their own ambition (both in terms of reducing their emissions and in terms of financing adaptation and mitigation in developing countries) and worsening the climate crisis, while at the same time setting up an international treaty to lock in China et al to reduce emissions. This ignores the fact that there is already a process for developed countries to reduce–the Kyoto protocol–and for developing countries (plus the USA which is still "developing" in terms of being globally responsible for anything other than blowing stuff up, planning coups and stealing oil) –the track for "long-term cooperative action" or AWG-LCA. This ignores too the hundreds of millions of people living in poverty in these countries for whom emissions reductions are laughable, as they emit next to nothing in the first place. But more than anything, it ignores the past. The graph below illustrates better than I can what that history shows us. 


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.

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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.