Copenhagen Ends with Minimum Consensus, not Binding Treaty

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Dec 242009

The Copenhagen UN climate conference ended last Saturday with a weak agreement, not the groundbreaking treaty many had hoped for. With more than 100 heads of governments and many more parliamentarians and dignitaries, COP-15 became the largest assembly of world leaders in diplomatic history. The Copenhagen conference had been planned out for two years in many small informal and large official meetings, following the 2007 Bali Action Plan in which nations had agreed to finalize a binding agreement this December. The outcome falls far short of this original goal. Delegates only “noted” an accord (“the Copenhagen Accord”) struck by the United States, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa that has two key components: first, it sets a target of limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times; second, it proposes $100 billion in annual aid for developing nations starting in 2020 to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.

2 degrees Celsius is seen by mainstream science as a threshold for dangerous climatic changes including sea-level rise and accelerated glacier melt, as well as more intense floods, droughts, and storms. Many scientists also believe that a majority of worldwide ecosystems will struggle to adapt to a warming above that mark, and more recently have set the threshold even lower, at 1.5 degrees Celsius. The accord, however, lacks any information on how this goal of preventing “dangerous” climate change, which had already been set by the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention, would be achieved. It is generally assumed that in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees, worldwide emissions have to Continue reading »

On the road to Copenhagen, hope springs eternal

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Jun 262009

cop15_logo_imgHalf a year before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, negotiators are far from agreeing on key components of a global climate deal. As envisioned in the 2007 Bali Climate Action Plan (or “Bali Roadmap”), the summit in December is supposed to deliver a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which expires at the end of 2012.

Ever since Bali, however, progress in the negotiations has been slow. Only recently have the delegations entered full negotiation mode—which is necessary right now, the most pivotal year since the 1992 UNFCCC. From June 1 to 12, more than 4,600 participants—including government delegates from 183 countries as well as business, industry, environmental organizations and research institutions—met in Bonn, Germany, to discuss key negotiating texts that will serve as the basis for an agreed Copenhagen outcome. The gathering in Germany was the second in a series of five major U.N. negotiating sessions this year leading up to the Copenhagen summit in December (…).

Please find the full article in Grist Magazine here.

The future of the CDM

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Jun 112009

On 8 June 2009 at the UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn, my friend Heleen de Connick asked me to jump in for another colleague as respondent on an ECN panel  on “Confluence or convolution of mechanisms, technology and finance: how can streams meet in Copenhagen?”. In my response to Stefan Bakker’s presentation on “The Future CDM”, I pointed out, among other things, that:

– CDM projects in developing countries and Annex I action alone will not be enough to halve global emissions by 2050 and reach a global peak of emissions before 2020 – both important thresholds to keep a worldwide temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, as science suggests
– sectoral approaches in rapidly developing countries are an innovative step forward fitting into the concept of low-carbon development strategies including three types of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs): unilateral action, conditional action and participation in the carbon market (crediting)
– CDMs should not be abandonned but continue to play a role in sectors not covered by sectoral approaches and in least developing countries
– the CDM can be improved; one particularly valuable suggestion is to go from project-based approval to a positive list of actions (or programmatic CDM) in order to speed up the process and make it more transparent

You can find an On-Demand webcast of the side event here

International Climate Negotiations: The Road to Copenhagen and beyond

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Apr 052009

On April 3, 2009 I joined Nigel Purvis, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans, environment and science and current President of Climate Advisers, at and American Law Institute and American Bar Association conference on “Climate and the Law” in Washington DC . In my presentation on “International Climate Negotiations: The Road to Copenhagen and beyond”, I outlined key elements of a global climate deal and a roadmap for what results have to be reached by the UN conference in Copenhagen in December, and what details of the global climate deal could be negotiated in 2010 and 2011.

In particular, I discussed potential avenues for solution regarding four most contentious issues: Contractual matters (most importantly, the question of whether agreement should take the form of a new protocol or an amendment to the Framework Convention), criteria and outlook for reaching comparable action amongst industrialized countries, the ambition of developing countries’ NAMAs versus the level of funding from industrialized countries, as well as the subject of the future financing architecture and governance.

[Please check back; presentation will be online soon]

Key Findings from our Developing Country Project presented at Latin American Regional Workshop

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Mar 292009

On March 25, at a workshop in Santiago, Chile, I presented our research teams’ results on Mexico and Brazil as part of CCAP’s Developing Country Project. We held the workshop at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (also a co-host of the event). Officials from seven South American nations attended the workshop, gathering to discuss the status of the international climate change negotiations and to hear about the climate-related research CCAP teams in Mexico and Brazil had conducted. The topics of discussion included:

• Nationally appropriate mitigation actions, a key feature of the Bali Roadmap;
• Analysis of GHG mitigation options in Brazil’s forestry sector;
• The GHG and other implications of expanding the production of biofuels, both ethanol and biodiesel, in Brazil; and
• Lessons learned from a first attempt to propose sectoral goals for GHG emissions in Mexico’s cement and oil refining industries.
The participants expressed a strong interest in seeing this work continue and for the project to expand into other countries, such as Chile and Argentina. The CCAP Developing Country Project is funded by the UK Department for Foreign Investment and Development (UK DFID), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Tinker Foundation.

Please find my introduction here: ochs-chiledfidworkshopintro_090325.pdf
and my presentation on NAMAs and the Global Deal on Climate Change here: ochs-chilenamatheglobaldealoncc_090525.pdf

GHG Mitigation Opportunities in Brazil and Mexico, NAMAs and the Global Deal on Climate Change

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Mar 242009
GHG Mitigation Opportunities in Brazil and Mexico
ECLAC, Santiago, Chile
March 25, 2009

Presentation given at ECLAC, Santiago, Chile on March 25, 2009


– Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
– Assisting Developing Country Climate Negotiators through Analysis & Dialogue
– Workshop overview: GHG Mitigation Opportunities in Brazil and Mexico

– Overarching goals and status quo
– Emissions
– Overview of International Climate Negotiations
– Developing countries are already doing more than many believe
– International Policy Context
– NAMA Requirements
– How financing could work
– Technology Finance
– Technology Finance Assistance to Encourage Stronger Actions
– Sources for Technology Finance
– China
– Mexico
– South Africa & South Korea
– Chile
– Brazil
– Sectoral Approach
– NAMAs and Sectoral
– Conclusions

[Please find presentation here on ECLAC website]