Flat lining of GHG emissions in 2014: trend or one off?

smokestacksThe International Energy IEA recently released data showing that the global CO2 emissions associated with the energy sector remained stable in 2014, not increasing from the 2013 output even though the world economy grew.  E&E reported that “researchers said the early numbers showing that CO2 emissions remained steady at 32.3 billion metric tons in 2014 mark[s] the first time in 40 years that a dip in energy-sector emissions has not been linked to an economic downturn.”

IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said that “this gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today.  It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”  Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, noted that if this data is correct, “you can actually start to see the climate policies as they start to work. At the global level, this is very exciting.”  For more specifics about why (including China’s impact on the 2014 data), read here.

2 steps forward, 1 step backward?

IMG_6375It would be easy to characterize the last 1.5 days of ADP negotiations as a setback.  The tune,“What a  difference a day makes”, ran through my mind while sitting in Room XIX.  The bounce felt by all from the productive sessions on Sunday and Monday and the first half of Tuesday dissipated quickly as Parties and ADP Co-Chairs struggled to agree on the next steps in the negotiation process.

It’s important, however, not to overstate what happened.  The Co-Chairs were looking for a way to move the Parties from the relatively simple process of amending the Lima draft elements text to the more fraught, collective work of streamlining it.  The product of the halcyon early days of this week in Geneva now weighs in at more than 100 pages.  Everyone agrees that while it is “owned” by the parties, it is unwieldy – and hard to present outside Room XIX as a way to keep planetary warming in check.

Yet there was a time lag between the Parties making their amendments and the Secretariat being able to produce a revised text.  That lag is further compounded by a need for Parties to review it for accuracy and then analyze it, in whole and its individual parts – and then consult with their negotiation groups about how to streamline it.

So, as a practical solution, the Co-Chairs proposed discussing how to streamline the Lima text (“the text as it started”), as an exercise for doing theIMG_6374 same with the Geneva text, as it’s come to be called, when it was out and ready for the limelight.  These ideas would be captured in a separate document (from the draft agreement negotiating text) that Parties could “reflect on” between now and Bonn, when text negotiations are to begin in earnest.  Co-Chair Reifsnyder assured Parties that this was the “beginning of discussion, not end” and said bluntly that “there’s no way we’ll take a 300-page text to Paris.”

That’s when the Parties suggested, with increasing vehemence, that this approach was moving backward, not forward. You can read yesterday’s ENB for more detail. After about 2.5 hours of back and forth and round and round, several practical suggestions emerged:  wait for the Secretariat to finish the last updates (which are all now available here); ask the Co-Chairs and Secretariat to do the “technical” work by creating a table of similar/overlapping provisions (which will also help Parties see divergences) and even empowering Co-Chairs to remove duplications or very similar language; and give the Parties and their negotiating groups more time to consult with one another. In the end, the Co-Chairs acknowledged their desire to move ahead with the new text, and so adjourned early (with the admonishment to use the extra time for group consultations), called for a 10am start today with an open discussion on what the new agreement structure could look like, then spend the afternoon working on streamlining.

IMG_6370But the Co-Chairs didn’t have the last word.  Several parties spoke up, urging each other not to waste time.  “If we want to be ready for Paris, we need to get to work as soon as possible,” said Mexico, adding pragmatically that despite the growth of the Geneva text, there is “nothing new under the sun. If we keep on giving one more day, at the end we’ll have no more days left, let’s get back to the text as soon as possible.”  Brazil phrased it more philosophically, in terms of negotiation dynamics.  “The point is that we’re engaged in a collective exercise, to build mutual trust, and it’s important that every Party can see themselves in this revised text.  But we can’t keep adding.  We must engage in the negotiating process to build bridges.  We needed a comprehensive document as the basis.  Now we have a document that includes those elements that weren’t there when we left Lima.” So it is time to switch gears, from working individually to working collectively.

When the Parties reconvened very close to 10am this morning, they had a robust discussion about the architecture of the new agreement.  Their comments hewed closely to the specific questions posed by Co-Chair Reifsnyder, which included:

  1. How will the new agreement advance what we have in the Convention?
  2. Is this a one-time agreement or is it meant to endure through multiple periods?
  3. Mindful of the new institutional frameworks created since Copenhagen (e.g.  Adaptation Committee, Standing Committee on Finance, Technology Executive Committee, Center for Technology CN, Green Climate Fund), should they be included in the new agreement?
  4. Now that adaptation and mitigation are “seen as on par,” does that mean equal obligations? Does this logic also apply to means of implementation (MoI) like finance, technology, and capacity building?
  5. What should be in the new agreement versus COP decisions?

The Co-Chair stressed that this was an open-ended conversation not leading to a specific outcome, but rather helping to navigate the route to Paris.  He emphasized that the Parties had created this open space created “by working with such diligence and in a disciplined manner.”IMG_6371

The ensuing discussion produced plenty of disagreement. But this time, it was about substance, some of which had already been offered in submitted papers.  Again, I think that ENB captured it well in today’s edition, so I won’t repeat.

But when this conversation ended and Co-Chair Djoghlaf sought to restart the streamlining discussion, process disagreements came to the fore again.  Chile, who was poised to offer a few suggestions on behalf of AILAC, was interrupted several times by points of order.  Several delegations, including the LDCs and LMDCs, said that they simply needed more time to review the Geneva text before they could speak intelligently about streamlining. Egypt asked for the text to be put on the screen (which happened immediately). South Africa, on behalf of the G77+China, said that the first task is to get agreement on a  party-owned text – one that is “accurate” – before leaving Geneva, and also agree on the organization of work both in the two remaining days of ADP2-8, as well as at ADP 2-9 in Bonn in June.  Agreeing with South Africa, Brazil and Mexico again offered concrete steps for reviewing the Geneva text and making it more “accurate” and less redundant – one version of streamlining, perhaps.  The Marshall Islands suggested breaking into informal groups around specific provisions and Ecuador encouraged hearing from all parties the reasoning behind their proposals.  Iran asked for an attributed text that showed which countries had proposed which new language. This sparked a strong reaction, with Venezuela and Colombia making the point that once proposals are in the text, they belong to everyone.  If so, then perhaps the Parties had already started the transition urged earlier by Brazil to move from individualistic proposals to collective engagement?

We’ll see tomorrow.  When Co-Chair Djoghlaf gaveled the meeting closed, few questions had been resolved.

Posted in ADP

ADP2-8: Avoiding BAU?

IMG_6372“No one will say that this text is not your text.”

With that comment, new ADP Co-Chair Ahmed Djoghlaf of Algeria closed this morning’s session of the ADP.  On time.  Having completed the planned review of the entire draft text of the 2015 agreement one day ahead of schedule. Djoghlaf and his Co-Chair, Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States, celebrated the parties’ hard work and discipline, and previewed the work to start this afternoon.  This feat in and of itself is one form of avoiding business-as-usual or BAU.  For the ADP has chronically fallen behind in its work and then raced to produce tepid work product at the last moment.

So what has changed in the ADP’s negotiation process (some of which you can watch here)?  Most obviously is the style of these new co-chairs, who were elected to their positions at the end of COP20 in Lima.  Both of them are seasoned in multilateral environmental agreements, but are relatively new to the UNFCCC negotiations. They bring a fresh perspective, experience in other complex treaIMG_6373ties, and little baggage (think Copenhagen).  In their approach to leading the ADP discussions, simple things matter.  Since Sunday morning, the clear rules of engagement have included starting on time, reminding parties to stay on topic, and not brooking delay tactics. The goal of the last 2.5 days has been to hear new additions to the Lima text, both orally in session before all 196 parties and via written submission emailed to the Secretariat for scribing ease. Because of both, revisions of the new agreement’s draft provisions have appeared on the UNFCCC site later the day of negotiation or early the next. Parties – and, importantly, all of civil society, including you! – may read how the text is changing from that adopted in Lima.  Co-Chair Djoghlaf annouced this morning that the draft agreement had grown from 36 to 83 pages, with now more than 300 paragraphs (up from 103). Of course, adding text is different from resolving disagreement about it.  That’s on the docket for this afternoon.  Stay tuned.

I’ll come back with more substantive comments on what I see – for example in the language of differentiation being used throughout the provisions, calls for treating loss and damage separately from adaptation, inclusion of a human rights and gender focus. In the meantime, IISD’s daily ENBs have captured the WS 1 conversations very well.  Here also are TWN’s views, and well as CAN’s daily take in the ECO.

Cities tackle climate change adaptation

Including subnational governments like cities in the UNFCCC discussions has been on the front burner since COP19 in Warsaw.  While only sovereign countries may enter treaties, State Parties recognize that achieving Article 2’s goal of climate stabilization will take effort from other governmental jurisdictions, as well as civil society and private businesses.

st kjeld beforeAnd so this article about the first climate change-adapted neighorhood stood out.  Not only is the engineering and landscape design feat recently unveiled in St.Kjeld intriguing, it is striking that this neighborhood is in Copenhagen, Denmark, site of the 2009 COP15, which launched the idea of nationally determined contributions that now forms the backbone of negotiation for the new Paris Agreement at COP21.

“Climate change is a reality and we have to be prepared for floods, storms and rising sea levels,” says René Sommer Lindsay, the city official in charge of St. Kjeld’s transformation. “The [2011] cloudburst was really a wake-up call. We said, ‘Instead of doing pinpoint projects, let’s develop a rainwater master plan.’ Rainwater is only a problem if it goes where you don’t want it to go.”

City planners tore up neighborhood squares and replaced the asphalt with a hilly, grassy carpet interspersed with walking paths. When the next big storm hits, these mini-parks will become water basins, able to collect run-off water from surrounding buildings’ roofs as well. Streets with raised sidewalks will become “cloudburst boulevards,” serving as canals that channel rainwater away from the city to the harbor.  In the meantime, the new greenery cools the air as summer temperatures rise in northern Europe.  “Climate change is a huge opportunity to build greener cities,” Flemming Rafn Thomsen of Tredje Natur, the Danish architecture firm chosen for the project, explains. “We should stop pushing nature away and stop pretending that we can push the weather away. It’s a whole new paradigm.”

Noting that a city like Mumbai, which the World Bank ranks as the world’s fifth most exposed to floods, may not be able to afford Copenhagen’s climate-change adaptation strategies, this article points out how many cities actually can. Seven of the 10 most exposed cities, including New York and Tampa, Florida, are located in developed countries. New York, which has committed $20 billion to climate-change adaptation, is opting for floodwalls, while the Dutch delta city of Rotterdam has gone even further, designing a plan for floating neighborhoods. Several others are experimenting with mini-parks, which Morten Kabell, Copenhagen’s deputy mayor in charge of environment and technology, credits to people liking “blue and green, not gray. Countries talk,” he adds, “but cities know they have to act.”

New poll results indicate U.S. political will on climate change

CC voterThe New York Times, Stanford University, and the non-governmental organization Resources for the Future released poll results today that show “an overwhelming majority of the American public” (2/3) supports government action to curb global warming. This includes 48% of Republican voters, who replied that they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change.  Professor Jon A. Krosnick of Stanford University, one of the survey’s authors, views this last result as “the most powerful finding.”

Beyond voter behavior, this new poll also indicates that a growing number of people in the U.S. believe that climate change is caused by human behavior.  A 2011 Stanford poll showed that 72% of respondents thought that climate change was caused at least in part by human activities. Today’s poll results show that number has grown to 81% (88% of Democrats, 83% of independents, and 71% of Republicans).  These trend lines comport with recent poll data published by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications.

One independent voter polled summed up the basis for his reply: “If someone feels it’s a hoax they are denying the evidence out there. Many arguments can be made on both sides of the fence. But to just ignore it completely indicates a close-minded individual, and I don’t want a close-minded individual in a seat of political power.”

For more analysis of these poll results and their potential impacts on the 2016 presidential campaign, view these graphics here.

Climate diplomacy

thediplomat_2015-01-28_13-37-24-386x253Scott Moore, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, published a thoughtful op-ed on current U.S. climate diplomacy in yesterday’s Diplomat.  On the heels of the recent mission to India, and last November’s US-China bilateral announcement on GHG emission reductions, he asserts that “[b]y reclaiming the leadership role that it effectively surrendered by refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol some fifteen years ago, the United States has a rare opportunity to simultaneously cement its relationships with emerging powers, address a critical threat to stability in fragile states, and position itself at the center of the low-carbon economy that can and will power prosperity for the rest of the twenty-first century.” Read more about his suggested “three basic pillars” of a U.S. climate diplomacy.

This piece also briefly points out that “[t]he U.S. should also coordinate this activity with its European allies, many of which have significant experience in climate diplomacy.”  Exhibit A:  This “diplomatic offensive” approved by the EU last week to send “90,000 diplomats in over 3,000 missions lobbying to win new pledges on carbon cuts from countries ahead of a crunch UN climate summit in Paris this December.”

A new climate change narrative

To provide perspective on the quotidien of the climate change debate regularly chronicled in this blog, watch this Ted Talk by Naomi Klein, read her latest book, This Changes Everything, and consider these recent quotes:

“There are no non-radical options left …  If we stay on the road we are on, then our leading scientists as well as some of our most conservative institutions like The World Bank, the International Energy Agency, PriceWaterhouseCooper tell us that we are headed directly towards four to six degrees Celsius of warming from pre-industrial levels – and at that level, all bets are off … “

Naomi Klein“The idea was there was only one way to run the world – free markets, free trade, privatisation, deregulation, low taxes, investor rights, the cult of consumerism, the cheapest possible everything. But tackling climate change demands the reverse – collective solutions, more regulation, restrained consumption, carbon taxes, and so on.”

“Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. A belief system that vilifies collective action and declares war on all corporate regulation simply cannot be reconciled with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that are largely responsible for creating and deepening the crisis.”

“Over 400,000 people came together to march for climate in New York under a banner of ‘Change everything – we need everyone’. Only a broad-based movement can take on the fossil fuel lobby and win. Our problem is that we have been treating this as a carbon problem when the truth is, it’s a capitalism problem.”

“I wrote my book on the premise that what we are doing is failing – and a broad, justice-based agenda represents our best way of winning. A good chance? I don’t know. But we have a chance. What matters to me is that there is any kind of chance, however slight.”

“Well, I’m not a scientist either, but . . .”

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama picked up climate change deniers’ well-used “I’m not a scientist, but” phrase, and turned it on its head.

obama 2015 SoU“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

The President’s nod to U.S. scientific bodies like NASA and NOAA is well timed.  In addition to their recent announcements about 2014’s record setting heat, a trove of academic studies have appeared in Nature and Science in just the last two weeks.  For example:

  • This paper in Nature reconciles gaps between models and observations of ocean levels since the 1990s and concludes that sea level rise is happening even more rapidly than thought. 
  • This paper in Science chronicles how global warming, ocean acidification, aquaculture, and miningNAS “pose extreme threats to ocean life,” and proposes creating ocean reserves and managing unprotected spaces akin to land conservation.
  • This paper in Science reports that climate change and species extinctions indicate the the planet is entering a “danger zone,” with human activity degrading the environment “at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years.”
  • This briefing in the Proceedings of the Institute for Civil Engineering (ICE) warns that the West Antarctica ice sheet collapse will cause over 11 feet of sea level rise that will disproportionately affect North America.
  • The U.S. Global Change Research Program reports in this National Climate Assessment on the direct human health impacts of climate change, including increased disease and food insecurity.

In the non-academic realm,the World Economic Forum’s 2015 edition of its Global Risks Report ranks extreme weather, water crises, natural catastrophes, the failure to adapt to climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem collapse among the Top 10 risks to human security.

With this data in hand, our non-scientist-in-chief stated last night:

“That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and us-climate-change-300x225waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action. In Beijing, we made an historic announcement — the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.”

UPDATE: On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, the U.S. Senate voted 98-1 on a Keystone XL bill amendment declaring that climate change is real and not a hoax.  That’s the good news on congressional understanding of the climate change science.  The bad news?  The failure of a second amendment acknowledging the human causes of it – specifically, that “climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change” – because the causation language of “significantly” troubled many Republicans.  Despite the good work of “a lot of really good scientists” at NOAA, NASA, and the inhofeIPCC (and despite the five Republicans, Lindsay Graham,Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Mark Kirk, and Lamar Alexander, who voted for it).  Oh, and one more tally in the two-steps-backward column: Sen. James Inhofe signed on as a co-sponsor to that first amendment, saying for the record that “climate has always changed” and that it’s “arrogant” to think humankind can change climate. Sigh. Nonetheless Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders called the climate change votes “a step forward” for Republicans: “I think what is exciting is that today we saw for the first time – a number, a minority – but some Republicans going onboard and saying that climate change is real and it’s caused by human activity.” For more, read here.


Inside out: U.S. domestic political will and bilateral negotiation with India

Bill Clinton was famous for saying during his 1992 presidential campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  In the realm of international climate change negotiations from Lima to Paris, it’s fair to say “it’s the nationally determined contributions, mon ami.”  Deliberately intended to connect the UNFCCC goal (of keeping global warming below 2 or 1.5 Celsius) more concretely with national political and economic agendas, the inclusion of NDCs in the upcoming Paris agreement necessarily puts national climate change policy and politics in the spotlight.

Hence these two articles jumped out at me this morning.

The first one, out of Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communication, reports a split among U.S. Republican voters’ views on climate change, Yale Republican pollfinding “a more complex – and divided – Republican electorate.” The Center concludes that “solid majorities of self-identified moderate and liberal Republicans – who comprise 30% of the party – think global warming is happening (62% and 68% respectively). By contrast, 38% of conservative Republicans think global warming is happening. At the extreme, Tea Party Republicans (17% of the party) are the most dismissive – only 29% think global warming is happening.” For analysis of Republican voter reactions to specific questions about EPA climate change regulation, read more here.  It’s thought provoking to read this new research in light of the poll data we blogged about last week (that found more than two-thirds of likely 2016 voters support the EPA’s power plant rule, including 87% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans).  Likewise, the recent news that Tom Steyer – a “billionaire environmentalist” and creator of the NextGen Climate superPAC – is strongly considering a run for retiring Barbara Boxer’s California Senate seat.  It makes one bullish about the potential for U.S. domestic political discussion on climate change to move closer to the front burner. Put together, they signal bonnes nouvelles for the national political will needed for ambitious U.S. NDCs, due to be communicated internationally as the UNFCCC negotiations reprise in Geneva in less than a month.

The second article looks outside the U.S. to India’s current role in the international climate change negotiations and its domestic preparation for NDCs.  The Guardian reports on President Obama’s upcoming visit to India and trips that Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. senior officials plan to make with an intention to woo India as a strategic partner in the climate change negotiations.  Sound familiar?  As we blogged last week on the back story of the U.S.-China climate change announcement made in November, the U.S. appears to be taking a page from this playbook. We look forward to hearing more news from Delhi by the end of January, well before the U.S. and EU are due to report their NDCs to the UNFCCC Secretariat.

January 13 updateScientific American reports that “when Obama and Modi meet in India on Jan. 26, few are expecting the type of landmark bilateral agreement of the type the United States struck in Beijing last year.  . . . India, like any other country, doesn’t want to look like it’s simply playing catch-up with what the U.S. and China did. They would want to make it their own, not a U.S.-China redux,” said Peter Ogden, a senior energy fellow at the Center for American Progress.  SA also points out that Kerry’s trip last weekend focused on solar development deals, given India’s ambitious clean energy goals. This focus is reinforced in the India press as well, here and here.  Also, keep an eye on the Center for American Progress’s India 2020 Initiative for timely info and analysis of  its “dream that in 2020 the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States. If that occurs, the world will be a safer place.”

For the climate change record book

According to a variety of news sources, several important records were broken in 2014.

2014 hottest year graphHottest year on record.  The Japan Meteorological Association (JMA) reports that 2014 was 0.27°C warmer than the average from 1981 to 2010, and 0.63°C warmer than the 20th century average. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US, and the UK Met Office, also keep track of these climate stats and confirm the JMA’s conclusion.  NOAA just reported that 2014 was 0.5°F above normal, making it the 34th-warmest year for the continental U.S.  As Climate Central titled this news, “the U.S. hot streak is now officially old enough to vote for president as 2014 makes it 18 years of temperatures above the 20th century average.”

As the NYT described it: “Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped. Extreme heat blanketed Alaska and much of the western United States last year. Records were set across large areas of every inhabited continent. And the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except near Antarctica, the scientists said, providing the energy that fueled damaging Pacific storms.In the annals of climatology, 2014 surpassed 2010 as the warmest year.”

Wind energy increases. Britain’s wind turbines generated enough electricity to power more than 25% of its homes, up 15% from 2013 (comprising 9.3% of the total grid). Germany’s wind power generated more in December than in any previous month.

solar recordsNew solar energy too.  Globally, utility-scale solar installations increased for a fifth, consecutive year. Solar markets in South America and Africa had notable growth, but the largest shares remained in Asia and North America.

Coal demand in China declines.  Chinese coal consumption dropped by around 2.3% in the first eleven months of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013 (and 9% average annual growth between 2000 and 2010). Notably, electricity growth in China has slowed to around half the pace of its economic growth, indicating success at energy efficiency and a transition to less electricity-intensive industrial sectors.