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Acuerdo inesperado en la Conferencia de Cancún

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Las semanas anteriores a la Conferencia del Cambio Climático celebrada en Cancún los comentarios eran mayoritariamente pesimistas sobre su resultado. Por eso hay que reconocer que el acuerdo alcanzado en la noche del 10 de diciembre por  193 representantes de las Partes en la Conferencia es una sorpresa muy agradable, un soplo de aire fresco en medio del ambiente pesimista que rodeaba las conversaciones previas sobre el cambio climático.

El primer resultado, y desde luego no pequeño, es el regreso de las negociaciones a la senda del multilateralismo. Desde 1992 la Convención del Cambio Climático se ha regido por la regla del consenso. Pero durante la última conferencia en Copenhague (diciembre 2009) se rompió con este modo de proceder. La desastrosa gestión de la Conferencia, en primer lugar cuando se prepararon textos alternativos para ser discutidos sin seguir los procedimientos de consulta que garantizan la trasparencia; y finalmente, cuando se permitió el lamentable espectáculo de líderes mundiales reunidos en salas improvisadas sin seguir ningún tipo de procedimiento, todo esto llevó a la ruptura de la confianza básica que es indispensable en este tipo de negociaciones. Esta vez la presidencia mejicana ha jugado un papel decisivo para alcanzar el éxito. Como la Secretaria Ejecutiva de la Convención, Christina Figueres, declaró: “Cancún ha cumplido su misión. Se ha reabierto la esperanza y se ha restaurado la confianza de que el  proceso multilateral para tratar el cambio climático puede dar resultados, las naciones han demostrado que pueden trabajar juntas bajo el mismo techo para llegar a consensos en una causa común. Han demostrado que el consenso, mediante un proceso transparente e inclusivo, puede generar oportunidades para todos”. Sólo Bolivia rechazó firmar el acuerdo, pero este rechazo se consideró, por parte de la asamblea, como una intención de veto inaceptable.

El segundo resultado es el mismo Acuerdo de Cancún, que comienza con una sección titulada: “Visión compartida para una acción conjunta a largo plazo”, que contiene los elementos esenciales de acuerdo sobre cambio climático: el principio de una responsabilidad común pero diferenciada, teniendo además en cuentas las capacidades y las diferentes circunstancias de los países. Se reconocen los pilares fundamentales sobre los que actuar conjuntamente: mitigación, adaptación, financiamiento, innovación y transferencia tecnológica, y capacitar a los agentes que intervienen, especialmente a los estados más pobres. Esta sección reconoce también el origen humano del aumento observado en la concentración de gases de efecto invernadero, tal y como ha documentado el IPCC, y la necesidad de lograr importantes reducciones en estas emisiones de gases para mantener el aumento global de la temperatura del planeta por debajo de los 20 C desde los niveles pre-industriales. Se afirma que este objetivo puede ser revisado para lograr incrementos menores a 1,50 C.

El Acuerdo establece un Comité para la Adaptación que promoverá la implementación coherente de las “acciones que se emprendan”. De esta manera la Convención se dota de un cuerpo técnico que reforzará su papel en futuras negociaciones. Sobre mitigación, el Acuerdo de Cancún, reconoce la responsabilidad diferenciada entre países desarrollados y en vías de desarrollo. Para los primeros, se pone el énfasis en el establecimiento de objetivos ambiciosos, transparencia e información; para los países en desarrollo la mitigación debe ser consistente con el desarrollo económico y la erradicación de la pobreza. También es muy importante que el Acuerdo haya decidido apoyar financieramente los esfuerzos para proteger las zonas forestales de los países en desarrollo, lo que se conoce como programa REDD+.

Cancún ha establecido un Fondo Verde para el Clima, con una financiación de partida de 30 mil millones de dólares entre el 2010 y el 2012, cifra que debería aumentar hasta los 100 mil millones en el 2020. El Fondo estará supervisado por un Consejo de 24 países elegidos con criterio de amplia representatividad, el Fondo será gestionado por el Banco Mundial por un periodo de tres años, y luego revisada esta gestión.

Todavía faltan muchas cosas para que este Acuerdo sea realmente obligatorio. La cuestión del futuro del Protocolo de Kioto se ha incorporado a las negociaciones al reclamar Japón que las principales economías, tales como los EUA, China o India, debieran incluirse entre los estados obligados para reducir emisiones, y no sólo los que están actualmente sometidos por el Anexo I del Protocolo de Kioto. La perspectiva de un único acuerdo obligatorio, aunque con compromisos diferenciados, sería la solución más justa. Obviamente esto requerirá que se garantice el suficiente crecimiento económico para los países en desarrollo como reconoce el mismo Acuerdo. De cualquier modo el futuro de la Convención del Cambio Climático debe conservar el multilateralismo como marco político para el diálogo, así como asegurar la ambición y la energía necesaria para afrontar las amenazas planetarias que afrontamos. Cancún ha traído un poco de esperanza a este proceso. Y en este tiempo de profunda crisis económica la esperanza es mucho más necesaria.

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Cancun Conference reaches unexpected agreement

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

During the weeks previous to the Cancun Conference on Climate Change, commentators were far from hopeful about the outcome. But it should be recognised that the agreement reached late on the night of 10th December by the representatives of the 193 Parties to the Conference is a pleasing surprise, a breath of fresh air in the midst of the previous pessimism about debates on climate change.

The first result, by no means minor, is the reversion of negotiations to the a multilateral track.  Since 1992 the Convention on Climate Change had been governed by the rule of consensus. Unfortunately the last Conference in Copenhagen (December, 2009) broke with this way of proceeding. The disastrous management of the Conference, first preparing alternative texts for discussion without a transparent consultation process, and  finally allowing the shameful spectacle of different leaders meeting in improvised accommodation seeking agreement outside any agreed procedural framework, lead to a painful break in the mutual trust that was needed. This time the Mexican presidency played a decisive role for the good. As Convention’s Executive Secretary Christina Figueres said: “Cancun has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored, nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause. They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all”. Only Bolivia refused to sign the agreement, but this refusal was seen by the assembly as an unacceptable veto.

The second result is the Cancun Agreement, which begins with a section entitled “A shared vision for long-term cooperative action”, containing the fundamental; climate change agreement on : the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, now taking account of the respective capabilities and the different circumstances of the Parties. There were also agreed the major pillars for cooperative action: mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building. This section recognizes the anthropogenic cause of the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations as assessed by the IPCC and the need to achieve deep cuts in these gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 20 C above pre-industrial levels. There is retained the possibility of revising this target to a global average temperature rise of 1,50 C.

The Agreement establishes an Adaptation Committee to promote the coherent implementation of ‘enhanced action’. Thus the Convention equips itself with technical bodies that will strengthen its future role. On mitigation, the Cancun Agreement recognizes the differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries. For the former, the emphasis is laid on ambitious targets, accountability and reporting; for developing countries, mitigation has to be consistent with economic development and poverty eradication. Very important, also, is the agreement to support, financially, the efforts to protect forests in the developing countries, a measure known as the ‘REDD+ Initiative’.

Cancun has established a Green Climate Fund, with a fast start-up finance of USD 30 billion for 2010 and 2012, a figure that should rise to 100 billion by 2020. The Fund will be supervised by a Board of 24 countries elected by criteria including breadth of representation; the Fund will be managed by the World Bank for a period of three years, and then reviewed.

Many things remain, especially if this Agreement is to become binding. The politics of the post-Kyoto period has been brought into when, for example, Japan claims that the major economies, namely USA, China, and India, should also be included among the states obliged to cut emissions, not only those states already included in the Annex I of the Kyoto Protocol. Probably the perspective of one single binding Agreement, though with differentiated commitments, is the fairest solution. Obviously this will require that the possibility of sufficient economic growth for the developing countries as stated in the Cancun Agreement must be guaranteed. In any case the future of the Climate Change Convention should preserve multilateralism as the political framework for discussion, so as to assure the ambition and energy to confront the many planetary threats facing us. Cancun has brought some hope to this continuing process. At this time of widespread economic crisis, hope is much needed.

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Close to ten million climate deaths by 2030, study warns

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

A comprehensive report about the climate-induced vulnerability of societies, released yesterday at COP 16 by the humanitarian research organisation DARA, throws more light on the economic and humanitarian consequences of global warming. According to the “Climate Vulnerabilty Monitor”, rising temperatures and its after effects (storm-tides, droughts, wildfires etc.) already cause up to 350,000 deaths per year. If action is not taken, this number might climb to 1 million deaths per year from 2030. Not all regions of the world would suffer in the same way: according to the study no less than 99 per cent of all mortality occurs in developing countries, and most of those affected will be children and women.

The report describes the estimated effects and chain reactions of global warming in 184 countries of the world, distinguishing health-related consequences, weather disasters, human habitat-loss and economic stresses. Every country is vulnerable, the authors say, and every region of the world will face climate insecurities and ecosystem damages of one kind or another. However, climate stresses on the economy (including lost value in the agricultural sector, forestry and fisheries) and losses to the human habitat through growing desertification and sea-level rise will be the most widespread effects. As a result, the total losses at today’s prices, to be caused by climate change, rise to 150 billion dollars.

With its 300 pages the study is not restricted to depicting negative scenarios. Corresponding to their findings and observations the authors deliver headline recommendations, and propose measures to be implemented by governments in order to avoid the worst impacts.

By Jesuit European Office, Brussels

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Japan’s position: a kic-off, not an end

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

“It does not make sense” to extend Kyoto beyond 2012, said Hideki Minamikawa, the deputy Japanese environment minister, at a press conference in Cancún on December 1, 2010. What seemed surprising to the summit observers and commentators, is on a closer look not new at all: Since long politicians and scientists plead for a entirely new approach in facing today’s environmental challenge (e.g. Prins/Rayner in Nature 499). Kyoto, they argue, might have been a helpful as a first step, but will not be appropriate to reduce greenhouse gasses in  the necessary degree on a long term perspective. What indeed is new in Minamikawa’s attitude, is is the harsh wording and the frank way in which the demand for a new approach are expressed.

The reasons for not extending „Kyoto“ beyond 2012 are indeed plausible: Only 27 per cent of the global greenhouse emissions are produced by those states which signed the Kyoto-Protocol. China and India emit together more than 40 per cent, whereas the world’s most polluting national economy, the United States, emit 19 per cent. All three countries never signed Kyoto, and particularly the offers with which the US negotiators travelled to Cancún are very modest. When the protocol was signed, its parties produced more than 50 per cent of the worldwide emissions. The situation has changed: whereas the EU member states and other industrial countries successfully reduced the emissions, those of China, India and the US increased. A succeeding treaty should therefore  cover all relevant emitters, and its rules must become more differentiate. The new model should also base on a different legal form than the Kyoto-Protocol and thereby gain more acceptance also by the main emitters.

Meanwhile however there is a general consensus on the estimation, that not only the Kyoto states, but the international community as a whole has to strengthen its efforts in climate policy. But still no consensus is reached in the question of how to control and to monitor the commitments and reduction targets. In the past, China clearly refused any international control of its own reduction efforts, despite its general efforts in reducing greenhouse gases are commonly approved by the international community.

In one essential point, the negotiations of Cancún might achieve success: Since financial resources are an essential aspect of the measures to combat climate change, diplomats discuss an international fund of 23 billion Euro for short term measures in developing and threshold countries. A second fund for long-term measures shall provide 23 billion Euro. The European Union has offered to contribute 7 billion of such a fund, but no agreement could be reached about the question, if these resources should be paid as a loan or not.

Finally, can the Kyoto Protocol be extended without Japan? „No“, says Brazil’s top climate negotiator Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, who shows few understanding for Japan’s statement: “If a country does not want to keep an agreement, it simply can retire from it. But if you do not pay the political price to get out of the agreement, you should not affect its operation”, Figueiredo commented yesterday in Globo. Japan’s position however might be a contribution to revitalize the climate talks. In the end, Japan stressed clearly that it does not want to leave the negotiations nor the treaty: it just wants a new treaty including the participation of all big parties. Japan’s position indeed is not the end, but a kick-off towards a frank discussion about the degree of liabaility of a new international climate regime.

By Jesuit European Office, Brussels

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EU sees itself as a leader and a model (one of its favourite self-images)

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Monday 29th: It was widely perceived that the EU was prominent in the organisation, and in the first days of COP15, the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last December, but that it was disorganised or disunited at the crunch, so as to be virtually bypassed in the final tense confrontations. The non-binding agreement brokered between the US, Brazil, China, India and South Africa, was not ‘negotiated’ with the EU but merely presented for its acceptance or rejection. Rejection would have labelled COP15 as a humiliating failure, so the EU put a brave face on accepting it. But given the size of its economy, the intense publicity given the conference by European governments and civil society in the run-up, and the sheer scale of the EU’s industrialisation and economic influence, humiliation was implicit anyway.

The EU Observer online news service reported, ‘The text, which only “recognises” the need to limit global temperatures to rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but does not require that this happen, was itself only “recognised” by the 193 countries attending the Copenhagen summit and not approved by them.’

Perhaps the expectations beforehand were exaggerated: not only on the part of the general public but also of many world leaders. In our blog from Copenhagen, Frances Orchard quoted the then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd:

When the history of this century comes to be written this conference will be viewed as a defining moment for this planet. Will the peoples of world have acted in concert, or were we so consumed with petty national interests that we turned against each other and failed to act together to save the planet? . . . When I go home I will need to face this question with the next generation: did I do everything in my power to bring about climate change? If not, we will have failed our children and our planet’s future. History will be our judge.

Given this embarrassing history, it is perhaps understandable that no one has troubled to cultivate similar hopes for COP16: nor will Barack Obama or Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao be present to stake their reputation on a ‘successful’ outcome.

Since December, 2009, the EU has restructured its representation to be better prepared. In February 2010 the Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, gained a colleague responsible for a new ‘Department of Climate Action’. In an ironical twist, the new Commissioner is Connie Hedegaard, who, as Danish Minister of Climate and Energy, was one of the hosts of COP15. Since plenty of criticisms last year were levelled at the Danish Government for a series of procedural bungles or provocations, including the virtual exclusion from key discussions of all but the biggest countries (and therefore the exclusion of countries most likely to suffer quickly from climate change), she has a considerable personal stake in maximising the EU’s contribution this time round.

In the new division of EU competence, Mr Potočnik’s Environment Department has the primary function of dealing with ‘global issues which affect us all – things like nature and biodiversity, water, waste, forests, air quality and noise, to name only a few’. It is the Department of Climate Action that will bear the weight of the EU’s efforts in Cancún.

The EU tried to make the best of COP15 by interpreting the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ as the ‘first step towards a legally binding global treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2013’. It pledged €7.2 billion over the period 2010-12 to help developing countries make a fast start on strengthening their capacities to tackle climate change. (One might unkindly compare this with the facility agreed for the Irish financial crisis in which €35 billion is set aside to rescue the banks alone.)

At this point, it retains the three internal targets it articulated in 2008, to be attained by 2020:

– cutting greenhouse gases by 20% (30% if international agreement is reached)
– reducing energy consumption by 20% through increased energy efficiency
– meeting 20% of our energy needs from renewable sources.

Clearly the EU sees itself as a leader and a model (one of its favourite self-images). This may be a little self-congratulatory, but is not shameful, since leadership is urgently needed.  On the other hand, the first of the three points listed above shows that it is not prepared to be a self-sacrificing leader. If EU officials took that stance, they would be fiercely rejected by those member states for which the economic crisis – with its supposed cure of consumer-led economic growth – is far more ‘real’ than the threat of climate change.

Nevertheless the EU has declared both its preferred next steps and its key long-term goals:

‘The average global temperature is already almost 0.8°C higher than in the pre-industrial era. There is a broad scientific and political consensus, recognised by the Copenhagen Accord, that warming must be kept below 2°C to avert dangerous levels of climate change. To stay within this temperature limit, worldwide emissions must stop rising before 2020, must be cut by at least half of their 1990 levels by 2050, and must continue to fall thereafter. The EU’s goal is to ensure that an ambitious and legally binding global treaty to achieve these objectives is agreed at the UN climate change conference in Mexico City in November 2010.’

Such a declaration is a gamble, once again raising previously disappointed expectations. We shall follow with interest the EU’s contribution to the negotiations.

Frank Turner
Jesuit European Office-OCIPE
Brussels

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U.S. leadership addressing global warming seriously undermined

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Take a moment to study this chart.  It is drawn from a Washington Post – ABC News poll taken by the Pew Research Center in mid-October.

As you look down it, remember that the Republicans made very large gains in Congress in the November 2nd election this year and took control of one of the chambers of the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives.

Now you have the context for understanding how the U.S. delegation to Cancun this week will be approaching the negotiations!

The Obama Administration does not have sufficient support in Congress to make any major commitments in Cancun.  It can only offer what the Administration can deliver without Congressional approval:

  • A pledge to reduce U.S. emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020,
  • Help in mobilizing $100 million a year for the poorest nations to deal with the effects of climate change,
  • A call for major developing nations to cut their emissions and agree to having their cuts monitored and verified.

Todd Stern, the special U.S. climate change envoy to the talks, added this week that the U.S. would not endorse any agreement in Cancun that did not embody the Copenhagen Accord that emerged from negotiations among the U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa and was imposed upon the rest of the UN nation-state delegates last year.  If those nations resist this time, threats are beginning to appear in the form of suggestions that perhaps these global problems will need to be dealt with in other international settings – such as the G-20 or through a series of bi-lateral agreements.

Faith-based NGOs in the U.S. are continuing to educate their constituencies and are pressing the Obama Administration to show greater leadership and flexibility in the Cancun negotiations.  But most people across the country are not paying attention to Cancun.  They are more focused on the impact of the recession, their deeply felt economic insecurity, and the need for jobs, jobs, jobs.

At this point, the possibility of leadership from the U.S. in addressing global warming is being seriously undermined by the chill of the political climate change gripping the country.

James E. Hug, S.J.
Center of Concern
Washington, D.C.

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Two days to the Cancún Conference

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear friends, this Monday, November 29th, there begins the 16th meeting of member states of the Convention for Climate Change, sponsored by the United Nations, which bearing the acronym COP16, and which meets in the Mexican city of Cancún. After the high expectations placed on the conference in Copenhagen in December last year, and its disappointing results,there is widespread doubt this year about the ability of Cancún to revive a set of international commitments around climate change – both in terms of mitigation and of adaptation.

What is reasonably expected of Cancún is that it should leave a way open to the 2011 conference in South Africa, so that there can be reached there a shared commitment that is just, sufficiently ambitious, and binding on all parties. That would mean acknowledging a shared responsibility, though with specific engagements that were differentiated as between developed and developing countries. The obstacles are by no means small, and clearly the current economic crisis will weigh heavily, and negatively on the negotiating states. Besides, there is no clarity about what kind of  agreement should emerge from these conferences, both as regards the degree to which commitments are binding, and as to what precise elements will be subject to formal regulation. There is a general opinion in favour of the establishment of a fund to finance efforts to combat climate change, and studies are being carried out to design new types of funding mechanisms: but there is no agreement on who should manage such fund. It is not surprising that in many places, there is currently a degree of distrust of the international financial institutions.

One of the most controversial issues for this conference concerns the measurement, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions by developing countries. Measurement and verification procedures clearly bear on questions of national sovereignty: but they need still to be carried out, in order to ensure the credibility of all states who are members of the Convention.

The Ignatian Advocacy Network on Ecology intends to follow this Cancún conference, as we did last year in Copenhagen. Jesuits, collaborators and colleagues, and partner organisations from various parts of the world will help us to follow events, so as better to understand the content of the negotiations, and to reflect from a perspective of faith about a phenomenon of unique importance for our societies and the planet. Members of the Ignatian family present in Cancun will offer a close-range account of the negotiations.

Climate change is without doubt the most profound threat to our future: equally, though, it offers a great opportunity to promote societies that are more equitable and mutually accountable. Our blog will be active throughout the conference, and is open to your comments and suggestions.

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