UNEP press release: Climate Talks End With Hope for a New More Comprehensive Legally-Binding Agreement

Durban, 11 December 2011 Several key and important steps forward were agreed at the UN climate convention meeting that closed today in Durban, including an agreement to negotiate a new and more inclusive treaty and the establishment of a Green Climate Fund.

But the outcome in the South African coastal city has left the world with some serious and urgent challenges if a global temperature rise is to be kept under 2° Celsius in the 21st century.

The ‘Bridging the Emissions Gap’ report, coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with climate modeling centres across the globe, underlined in the run-up to Durban that the best available science indicates that greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2020.

It also underlined that annual global emissions need to be around 44 Gt of C02 equivalent by around that date in order to have a running chance of achieving a trajectory that halves those emissions by 2050 below 2005 levels.

The report also concluded that bridging the divide is economically and technologically do-able if nations raise their emission reduction ambitions and adopt more stringent low-carbon policies across countries and sectors.

The key question of the Durban outcome is whether what has been decided will match the science and lead to a peaking of global emissions before 2020 to maintain the world on a path to keep a temperature increase below 2° Celsius.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The outcomes of Durban provide a welcome boost for global climate action. They reflect the growing, and in some quarters unexpected, determination of countries to act collectively. This provides a clear signal and predictability to economic planners, businesses and investors about the future of low-carbon economies. A number of specific commitments agreed in Durban also indicate that previous decisions on financing, technology and Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) are moving to implementation.”

“The big question many will ask is how this will translate into actual emission reductions and by when? Whatever answer will emerge in the coming months, Durban has kept the door open for the world to respond to climate change based on science and common sense rather than political expediency,” he added.

By some estimates the cost of cutting emissions will cost four times more beyond 2020 than they would cost today with the price rising over time.

By some estimates the current emissions trajectories, unless urgently reversed, could lead to a global temperature rise of 3.5° Celsius or more sometime by the end of the century.

“The Government of South Africa and the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change should be congratulated for what has been achieved, given the low expectations in the months and weeks before Durban,” added Mr. Steiner.

Today the European Union and several other countries agreed to continue the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 if other governments, including major emitters from developed and developing ones, agreed to negotiate a new legally binding treaty with deeper emission reductions by 2015 to come into force afterwards.

The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol during this new negotiation phase means the provisions of this existing emission reduction treaty, ranging from emissions trading to the Clean Development Mechanism, will also continue providing some benefit to the climate and the ambitions of developing economies over the near term.

Green Climate Fund, Adaptation and Technology

Durban also made progress on the decision at last year’s UN climate convention meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to establish a Green Climate Fund.

The operationalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a key step forward as is reconfirmation of the commitment of mobilizing US&dollar100 billion to support developing countries by 2020.

Readiness actions in developing countries will be a vital part of helping prepare for the investments that will eventually flow from the GCF. Other steps forward included operationalizing Cancun agreements on adaptation and technology.

In Durban governments agreed to establish an Adaptation Committee and a process that will lead to the establishment of a Climate Technology Centre and Network with likely funding from the Global Environment Facility.

“The movements forward on the Cancun agreements in respect to adaptation and climate technology institutions are welcome, as is the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund. But the core question of whether more than 190 nations can cooperate in order to peak and bring down emissions to the necessary level by 2020 remains open-it is a high risk strategy for the planet and its people,” said Mr. Steiner.

“Nationally many governments are acting as are companies, cities and individual citizens. In 2010, over US$210 billion was invested in renewable energy, for example. But this bottom-up approach needs a top to which it can aim-and a time line for building that top is narrowing ever year,” he added.

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COP 17 ends: Earth, and Africa, still headed for disaster

At around 5am this morning, the Durban COP approved various agreements to muted applause in a sleep-deprived, numbed plenary room.

These agreements still leave Earth on track for 3-4 degrees of warming or 5-6 degrees for Africa, by 2100, almost certainly disastrous.

Two press releases from civil society organisations below:

COP17 succumbs to Climate Apartheid

Antidote is Cochabamba Peoples’ Agreement

http://www.climate-justice-now.org

Durban, S. Africa –Decisions resulting from the UN COP17 climate summit in Durban constitute a crime against humanity, according to Climate Justice Now! a broad coalition of social movements and civil society. Here in South Africa, where the world was inspired by the liberation struggle of the country’s black majority, the richest nations have cynically created a new regime of climate apartheid

“Delaying real action until 2020 is a crime of global proportions,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International. “An increase in global temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, Small Island States, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid, whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”

According to Pablo Solón, former lead negotiator for the Plurinational State of Bolivia, “It is false to say that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has been adopted in Durban. The actual decision has merely been postponed to the next COP, with no commitments for emission reductions from rich countries. This means that the Kyoto Protocol will be on life support until it is replaced by a new agreement that will be even weaker.”

The world’s polluters have blocked real action and have once again chosen to bail out investors and banks by expanding the now-crashing carbon markets – which like all financial market activities these days, appear to mainly enrich a select few.

“What some see as inaction is in fact a demonstration of the palpable failure of our current economic system to address economic, social or environmental crises,” said Janet Redman, of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies. “Banks that caused the financial crisis are now making bonanza profits speculating on our planet’s future. The financial sector, driven into a corner, is seeking a way out by developing ever newer commodities to prop up a failing system.”

Despite talk of a “roadmap” offered up by the EU, the failure in Durban shows that this is a cul-de-sac, a road to nowhere. Spokespeople for Climate Justice Now! call on the world community to remember that a real climate program, based on planetary needs identified by scientists as well as by a mandate of popular movements, emerged at the World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth in Bolivia in 2010. The Cochabamba People’s Agreement, brought before the UN but erased from the negotiating text, offers a just and effective way forward that is desperately needed.

For more information, contact:

Mike Dorsey – mkdorsey@professordorsey.com, or call+27 (0)79 863 8756 or +1-734-945-6424Nick Buxton – nick@tni.org or call +27(0)81 589 8564 or +1 530 902 3772

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

http://www.climate-justice-now.org

On technology

“The technology discussions have been hijacked by industrialized countries speaking on behalf of their transnational corporations,” said Silvia Ribeiro from the international organization ETC Group.

Critique of monopoly patents on technologies, and the environmental, social and cultural evaluation of technologies have been taken out of the Durban outcome. Without addressing these fundamental concerns, the new technology mechanism will merely be a global marketing arm to increase the profit of transnational corporations by selling dangerous technologies to countries of the South, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology or geoengineering technologies.”

On agriculture

“The only way forward for agriculture is to support agro-ecological solutions, and to keep agriculture out of the carbon market,” said Alberto Gomez, North American Coordinator for La Via Campesina, the world’s largest movement of peasant farmers.

“Corporate Agribusiness, through its social, economic, and cultural model of production, is one of the principal causes of climate change and increased hunger. We therefore reject Free Trade Agreements, Association Agreements, and all forms of the application of Intellectual Property Rights to life, current technological packages (agrochemicals, genetic modification) and those that offer false solutions (biofuels, nanotechnology, and climate smart agriculture) that only exacerbate the current crisis.”

On REDD + and forest carbon projects

“REDD+ threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities. Mounting evidence shows that Indigenous Peoples are being subjected to violations of their rights as a result of the implementation of REDD+-type programs and policies,” declared The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life.

Their statement, released during the first week of COP17, declares that “REDD+ and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) promote the privatization and commodification of forests, trees and air through carbon markets and offsets from forests, soils, agriculture and could even include the oceans. We denounce carbon markets as a hypocrisy that will not stop global warming.”

On the World Bank and the Global Climate Fund

“The World Bank is a villain of the failed neoliberal economy,” says Teresa Almaguer of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance in the U.S.

“We need a climate fund managed by participatory governance, not by an anti-democratic institution that is responsible for much of the climate disruption and poverty in the world.” “The Green Climate Fund has been turned into the Greedy Corporate Fund,” said Lidy Nacpil, of Jubilee South. “The fund has been hijacked by the rich countries, on their terms, and set up to provide more profits to the private sector”

On the Green Economy

“We need a climate fund that provides finance for peoples of developing countries that is fully independent from undemocratic institutions like the World Bank. The Bank has a long track record of financing projects that exacerbate climate disruption and poverty” said Lidy Nacpil, of Jubilee South. “The fund is being hijacked by the rich countries, setting up the World Bank as interim trustee and providing direct access to money meant for developing countries to the private sector. It should be called the Greedy Corporate Fund!”

Climate policy is making a radical shift towards the so-called “green economy,” dangerously reducing ethical commitments and historical responsibility to an economic calculation on cost-effectiveness, trade and investment opportunities. Mitigation and adaption should not be treated as a business nor have its financing conditioned by private sector and profit-oriented logic. Life is not for sale.

On climate debt

“Industrialized northern countries are morally and legally obligated to repay their climate debt,” said Janet Redman, Co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies. “Developed countries grew rich at the expense of the planet and the future all people by exploiting cheap coal and oil. They must pay for the resulting loss and damages, dramatically reduce emissions now, and financially support developing countries to shift to clean energy pathways.”

Developed countries, in assuming their historical responsibility, must honor their climate debt in all its dimensions as the basis for a just, effective, and scientific solution. The focus must not be only on financial compensation, but also on restorative justice, understood as the restitution of integrity to our Mother Earth and all its beings. We call on developed countries to commit themselves to action. Only this could perhaps rebuild the trust that has been broken and enable the process to move forward.

On real solutions

“The only real solution to climate change is to leave the oil in the soil, coal in the hole and tar sands in the land. “ Ivonne Yanez, Acción Ecologica, Ecuador

Climate Analytics Press Release from earlier today

Durban Agreements a step towards a global agreement, but risk of exceeding 3°C-warming remains – scientists.
Durban—11 December 2011– As the climatetalks in Durban concluded tonight with a groundbreaking (?!) establishment of theDurban Platform to negotiate a new global agreement by 2015, scientists stated that the worldcontinues on a pathway of over 3°C warming with likely extremely severe impacts, the Climate ActionTracker said today.
Theagreement in Durban to establish a new body to negotiate a global agreement (AdHoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) by 2015represents a major step forward. The Climate Action Tracker scientists stated,however, that the agreement will not immediately affect the emissions outlookfor 2020 and has postponed decisions on further emission reductions. Theywarned that catching up on this postponed action will be increasingly costly.
TheClimate Action Tracker estimates that global mean warming would reach about3.5°C by 2100 with the current reduction proposals on the table. They are definitelyinsufficient to limit temperature increase to 2°C.
A warming over 3°Ccould bring the world close to several potential global-scale tipping points,such as: o Possible dieback of theAmazon rainforest

o Corals reefs beingirreversibly replaced by algae and sea grass

o Irreversible loss of theGreenland ice sheets of many centuries to thousands of years

o Risk of release ofmethane hydrates in ocean floor sediments further adding to the warming

o Permafrost thawing due tofast rising arctic temperatures

A depiction of the types of impacts likelyfrom 1.5°C of warming, through 2°C and 3-4°C has been posted on the ClimateAction Tracker website today.
The costs for adaptation and the residualdamages from climate change will increase rapidly with warming. Approximateestimates indicate that the most extreme costs will be felt in West Africa andSouth Asia, with residual damage of 3.5% of regional GDP for 2°C warming and5-6% for 3°C warming. With a 2°C warming, adaptation costs would be half thoseassociated with a 3°C temperature rise.
The Climate Action Tracker today released aninfographic to show the range of impacts that the world risks on a pathway towell over 3°C and beyond.
“What is positive in Durban is thatgovernments have reopened the door to a legally binding global agreementinvolving the world’s major emitters, a door which many thought had been shutat the Copenhagen Conference in 2009,” said Bill Hare, Director of ClimateAnalytics.
“What remains to be done is to take moreambitious actions to reduced emissions, and until this is done we are stillheaded to over 3oC warming. There are still no new pledges on the table and theprocess agreed in Durban towards raising the ambition and increasing emissionreductions is uncertain it its outcome.”
“There are still options available to closethe gap between current globally planned mitigation and what is needed to holdwarming below 1.5 or 2°C – if action takes place fast,” said Niklas Höhne,Director Energy and Climate Policy at Ecofys. “Emission reduction options arerapidly diminishing.”
A full briefing paper is available on
http://www.climateactiontracker.org.

CONTACTSIN DURBAN: apologies, but the team are all on planes today, heading to Europe. Please contact: Dr.Niklas Höhne

+49 (0) 162101 3420OrCindy Baxter
+64 21 772 661
TheClimate Action Tracker is an independent science-based assessment, which tracksthe emission commitments and actions of countries. The website provides anup-to-date assessment of individual national pledges to reduce their greenhousegas emissions Climate Analytics

Climate Analytics is a non-profitorganization based in Potsdam, Germany. It has been established to synthesizeclimate science and policy research that is relevant for international climatepolicy negotiations. It aims to provide scientific, policy and analyticalsupport for Small Island States (SIDS) and the least developed country group(LDCs) negotiators, as well as non-governmental organisations and otherstakeholders in the ‘post-2012’ negotiations. Furthermore, it assists inbuilding in-house capacity within SIDS and LDCs.

http://www.climateanalytics.orgAbout Ecofys – Expertsin Energy

Established in 1984 with the vision of achieving“sustainable energy for everyone”, Ecofys has become the leading expert inrenewable energy, energy & carbon efficiency, energy systems & marketsas well as energy & climate policies. The unique synergy between thoseareas of expertise is the key to its success. Ecofys creates smart, effective,practical and sustainable solutions for and with public and corporate clientsall over the world. With offices in the Netherlands, Germany, the UnitedKingdom, China and the US, Ecofys employs over 250 experts dedicated to solvingenergy and climate challenges.

http://www.ecofys.comPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

The PIK conducts research into global climatechange and issues of sustainable development. Set up in 1992, the Institute isregarded as a pioneer in interdisciplinary research and as one of the world’sleading establishments in this field. Scientists, economists and socialscientists work together, investigating how the earth is changing as a system,studying the ecological, economic and social consequences of climate change,and assessing which strategies are appropriate for sustainable development.

http://www.pik-potsdam.de

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a ‘huddle’ to save planet?

‘Huddle’ to save the planet at COP 17 at 3pm in the morning – delegates ostensibly trying to find a rabbit to pull out of the hat on coming up with a legally binding form for an agreement – normally UN security would keep us observers out of the front of the hall but boundaries seem to have dissolved — there are a lot of very unhappy delegates from developing countries here — long-standing principles seem to be breaking down — the rich countries of course are mostly happy with what is on the table — I have no idea what will happen.

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NY Times: climate change too big for current architecture

Key observation: This is issue too big to be negotiated by environment ministers, and perhaps can only be done at regional and city level.

Bigger Toolkit Needed to Manage Climate Change

By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: December 11, 2011

DURBAN, South Africa – For 17 years, officials from nearly 200 countries have gathered under the auspices of the United Nations to try to deal with one of the most vexing questions of our era – how to slow the heating of the planet.

Every year they leave a trail of disillusion and discontent, particularly among the poorest nations and those most vulnerable to rising seas and spreading deserts. Every year they fail to significantly advance their own stated goal of keeping the average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

There is no denying the dedication and stamina of the environment ministers and climate diplomats who conduct these talks. But maybe the task is too tall. The issues on the table are far broader than atmospheric carbon levels or forestry practices or how to devise a fund to compensate those most affected by global warming.

What really is at play here are politics on the broadest scale, the relations among Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan and three rapidly rising economic powers, China, India and Brazil. Those international relations, in turn, are driven by each country’s domestic politics and the strains the global financial crisis has put on all of them. And the question of “climate equity” – the obligations of rich nations to help poor countries cope with a problem they had no part in creating – is more than an “environmental” issue.

Effectively addressing climate change will require over the coming decades a fundamental remaking of energy production, transportation and agriculture around the world – the sinews of modern life. It is simply too big a job for the men and women who have gathered for these talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 1992 treaty that began this grinding process.

“There is a fundamental disconnect in having environment ministers negotiating geopolitics and macroeconomics,” said Nick Robins, an energy and climate change analyst at HSBC, the London-based global bank. Mr. Robins noted that the 20-year-old framework convention and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that amended it enshrined a two-tiered system in which so-called developed and developing countries are treated differently. China still is classified as a developing country and is thus exempt from any emissions limits, but it has a vastly larger economy than it had in 1992 and recently surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

“They are working from a 20th-century agreement,” Mr. Robins said. “We’re now in another century.”

The United States is determined to sweep away those distinctions and work toward a system where all countries are bound by the same rules. The conference here in Durban kept the tiered system alive for another few years, but it is fading. And by the time the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2020, a good many leaders hope that it will be gone for good.

Among the modest achievements of the conference, which was nearing an end on Saturday, was progress toward the creation of a Green Climate Fund, which is to help mobilize a promised $100 billion a year in public and private funds by 2020 to assist developing nations in adapting to climate change and converting to clean energy sources.

Negotiators left for another day the precise sources of the money and how and by whom it would be disbursed. But in discussing this question last week, Todd D. Stern, the chief American climate negotiator, revealed his own qualms about the inability of the United Nations climate bureaucracy to deal with the broad political and financial questions posed by climate change.

“We want to see a green fund that is going to draw in a lot of capital from countries all over the world, including the United States,” Mr. Stern said at a briefing. “And although I love climate negotiators and spend much of my time with them, they are not necessarily the most qualified people to run a multibillion-dollar fund.”

So who is qualified to tackle these tasks? Two years ago, more than 100 heads of state and leaders of governments, including President Obama, joined the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen hoping to write a new, legally binding treaty covering all parties. That assignment proved too much even for the leaders, and the meeting collapsed in acrimony and finger-pointing. Few top leaders have shown up at the two subsequent meetings, in Cancún, Mexico, in 2010 and in Durban this year. The agenda has narrowed and expectations have shrunk, yet the ship sails grimly on. Mr. Stern has made no secret of his frustration and has said that a smaller group of nations operating under a less intense spotlight could accomplish more.

Others think that real progress will not emerge from any global forum but from action at the ground level, by states and municipalities and private entities unencumbered by the United Nations climate process and its rules demanding consensus.

Mary D. Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, which arguably has done more to reduce carbon pollution in the United States than any other body, was in Durban as an observer. Ms. Nichols said that given the inability of the international bureaucracy or the United States Congress to move decisively on global warming, the job would increasingly fall to the states and local governments.

“Instead of waiting for them to negotiate some grand bargain, we have to keep working on the ground,” she said. “Progress is going to come from the bottom up, not the top down. That’s just reality.”

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Closing plenaries?

The closing session of discussing the Kyoto Protocol and a second commitment period to emissions cuts: the text on the table seems to be for 2013 to 2017.

Parties are complaining they do not have the text under discussion. They are not drafting text here, but chair is getting reactions to the current draft text.

Discussions amongst ministers have been ‘transparent’ which means that all ministers were as far as possible in the same room overnight and today.

Switzerland now has text.

There doesn’t seem to be a text in any language other than English, a huge disadvantage for many, many negotiators.

Bolivia saying numbers on reductions are not clear enough, and saying that certain parties do not seem to have offered commitments.

‘They’re referencing a different text. That’s what’s causing confusion .’

‘I think management of SA was not the best. But at the same time, they’ve had to deal with outstanding issues from many years.’

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‘The Daily Tck: 10 December 2011 at 2pm’

One day into overtime at COP17, and no-one at the ICC seems to be very clear about what’s happening. But if the delays mean that vulnerable states are digging in their heels when confronted by proposals from rich countries that spell certain disaster, then deadlock is in fact progress. Because what the world cannot afford is further pretense that current actions are sufficient.

More detailed insights below, from the Global Climate Change Alliance:

Daily Tck: 2pm on Saturday, 10 December
When Ministers started arriving in Durban a few days ago many NGOs reminded them “it is all to play for”. Yet negotiations are now well into overtime and there are so many issues still at play that is hard to see an outcome that can be celebrated.
If there was one word to describe what is going on as the Durban climate talks drag on into midday Saturday – ‘chaos’ certainly comes to mind.
Yesterday’s Daily Tck referenced the ‘dreadful’ Chair’s proposed text on the Big Picture and it was almost universally panned particularly by the LDCs and AOSIS who pleaded for a much more ambitious outcome that gives them a chance a survival. Continue reading

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Waiting

Activists waiting outside the ministerial indaba at the Durban exhibition centre, as everyone waits for news.

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