China FlagAs the nations of the world wrapped up the most recent round of discussions on the key elements that will serve as the foundation for the final agreement to be adopted in Paris next year, many observers remained focused on China.  Simply put, the actions that China takes (or doesn’t take) in the next decade or so could very well determine whether humanity can successfully avoid a full-blown climate catastrophe.  Even though China is still technically considered a developing country under the UNFCCC, the world, and China’s position in it, has changed dramatically in the more than two decades since that document was negotiated.  China has been the world’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, it consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and its energy demand is expected to double by 2030.  According to an excellent recent Rolling Stone article on US-China climate discussions, China now emits 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which is expected to increase to over 15 billion tons by 2030.  The article quotes Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, expressing his opinion that if this happens, the world’s chances of avoiding catastrophic climate disturbance are “virtually zero.”

As such, some may become discouraged by the fact that China continues to insist that “developed” countries should bear the greatest responsibility for mitigating climate change based on their historical contributions to atmospheric greenhouse gases.  For example, with regard to ADP workstream 2, the ENB’s summary of ADP2-6 noted that a Conference Room Paper submitted by China on behalf of the LMDC’s called for “unconditional commitments by Annex I parties to reduce emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.” With regard to workstream 1, the closing statement submitted by the G77+China expressed concern that the ADP Co-Chairs’ draft text on information on INDC’s in the context of the 2015 agreement lacks “central elements” such as the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.  In short, China has been resistant to international pressure to commit to curbing its greenhouse gas emissions based on its belief that the current climate crisis is largely the industrialized West’s fault.  Developing nations such as China should not have to bear the burden of solving a problem they didn’t create.  While there is a lot of truth to this argument, it seems to fall short of the reality of the climate challenges the world faces today and into the future.

Nevertheless, recent domestic actions taken by China do offer hope that China’s leaders are taking the threats associated with climate change seriously and are doing something about it.  For one thing, China’s leaders fully recognize that the environmental degradation caused by its breakneck economic growth over the last several decades, most of which was supported by the burning of coal, is not sustainable.  This heavy reliance on coal has resulted in untold amounts of damage to the country’s air, surface and groundwater, and soils.  Public health has taken a heavy hit as well – a report published last year found that outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010.  Accordingly, earlier this year Premier Li Keqiang announced a “war on pollution.”  Among other things, this war will consist of shutting down outdated small coal-fired power plants and industrial plants, reforms in energy pricing to boost renewables, and increases in government spending on measures to address water and soil degradation.  China is outperforming the United States on renewable energy, which now makes up about 20% of China’s energy mix.  China produces more wind and solar power than any other country on the planet, and in 2013 over 50% of new generation was renewable.  There are also indications that China’s coal use may peak as early as this year.

China is also a step ahead of the United States with regards to regulating carbon emissions.  It has introduced pilot cap-and-trade programs in five cities and two provinces that are designed to be replicated and implemented at the national level sometime between 2016 and 2020.  According to a recent study by Resources for the Future, these pilot programs increase the coverage of global emissions by carbon markets from less than 8% to more than 11%.  While the study notes that the pilot cap-and-trade programs are not perfect and could use some improvements, they nevertheless indicate that addressing climate change is in fact high on China’s list of priorities.

China is therefore, somewhat paradoxically, the source of both hope and despair when it comes to confronting the challenges presented by climate change.  It will certainly be very interesting to see how this paradox plays out in the upcoming climate negotiations on Lima and in Paris.


Why do the LDCs seek mitigation-focused INDCs?

Mitigation

During the ADP 2-6 meetings in Bonn last week, the Party negotiating groups seemed to be fragmenting, or perhaps undergoing realignment. (See our October 27 reflections on the overall meeting.) An interesting example is what appears to be a difference between the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group and the rest of the developing country groups on the scope of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The INDCs are expected to be a fundamental component of the new international agreement the UNFCCC has committed to produce by the end of COP21 in December 2015. Contrary to other developing country groups, the LDCs stated in the opening plenary that, “INDC’s should primarily focus on mitigation,” with adaptation and means of implementation (MOI) (i.e., finance, technology transfer, and capacity building) addressed elsewhere in the 2015 Agreement. One might wonder why the LDCs took this position, which actually aligns with that of the industrialized countries.

The 48 couadaptation-mitigationntries that make up the LDCs are those “last among countries in terms of many indices of development, but [] first in terms of vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change.” Wouldn’t these countries want to make sure that adaptation (and loss and damage, for that matter) along with the means of implementation are equally embedded in those INDCs? What better way to ensure some degree of developed countries’ accountability for helping least developed countries reduce their vulnerability than make adaptation and its attendant elements part of what individual countries promise they’ll do on climate change?

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the March ADP 2-4 meeting noted that all-inclusive INDCs would “require targets for adaptation, finance and other elements to be subject to measurement, reporting and verification, and assessed within the context of the goal of maintaining a global temperature increase below 2°C.” It also reported that developing countries were strongly pushing for this broader approach. Apparently, though, the LDCs were not completely on board, though they insisted on adaptation and means of implementation becoming strong elements of the 2015 agreement.

In August, an email Q&A with LDC Chair Prakash Mathema conducted by Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) indicated again a clear choice for INDCs focused on mitigation, though he didn’t elaborate on why.prakash_mathema

[Prakash Mathema, Chair of the LDCs at the UN Climate Change Negotiations - © IISD]

 

On October 20, the LDCs offered a document containing elements it feels should form the basis of the legal agreement to be concluded at COP21, in which mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage are addressed in separate sections.

Then, in the October 23 session last week, an interesting wrinkle emerged. As reported by the Third World Network, the LDCs expressed seeming openness to adaptation being a part of INDCs, or to adaptation INDCs as a possible companion to mitigation INDCs, with the proviso that these be limited to “how Parties will contribute to help other countries meet their adaptation needs.” Is this a shift? Maybe, though not yet a clear alignment with other developing country groups.

There are perhaps three drivers for mitigation-focused INDCs:

1. Plain and simple – mitigation is the single path to limiting adaptation needs and loss and damage. So, remaining targeted, and not diluting that focus, might seem a “must” for countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts.MekongVietnam

2. Mitigation-focused INDCs can serve as an additional point of pressure, beyond the growing cacophony of voices insisting on serious efforts to enhance ambition in the pre-2020 period, and on ratification of the second period of the Kyoto Protocol (which includes further mitigation commitments on the part of developed country Parties) . Decision 1/CP.19 in Warsaw last December (COP19/CMP9) reiterated these goals.

3. There is quite enough to clarify and decide upon on the mitigation front alone for the INDCs between now and the close of COP20 in December, so why make that harder and possibly delay agreement? This would be especially true when considering the LDC’s quite comprehensive criteria for the INDCs:
• Type of commitment/contribution
• Base year or period
• Baseline emissions trajectory
• Peaking year
• Coverage in terms of GHGs and sectors
• Geographical boundaries
• Percentage of total or national emissions
• Expected emission reductions to be achieved
• Approach to accounting for the land-use sector
• Additional specific information depending on type of commitment/contribution,
• Indicators relating to fairness and ambition

Still, it is interesting that the LDCs seem to be the single developing country group sitting somewhat near the US and other industrialized countries on this matter. We’ll be watching this further at COP20 in Lima, and likely beyond. The ADP 2-6 meeting last week wrapped up with agreement to meet again in 2015 – twice!


Would you like a balcony seat for COP20?

William Ury, a recognized expert on negotiation and mediation, has the secret to negotiating difficult world conflicts. He calls it the “third side”. He reminds us that in most conflicts there are two sides angling against each other to determine who is right. But there may also be another angle to consider – a third side “balcony view” that can imbue a broader perspective. classic theatre balcony

The fundamental role of the third side is to remind parties of what is at stake and to move beyond positions, recognizing the underlying interests of the stakeholders, and in this way moving toward reconciliation for the greater good.

So is there a “third side” for ongoing global climate negotiations?

Perhaps. A recently created negotiating group known as the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), representing six countries – Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Guatemala and Panama – have come together and carved a niche that many believe may bridge the North-South gap in U.N. climate negotiations. Notably, AILAC has stepped away from the powerful Group of 77 + China, and is now pursuing its own ambitious interests for low-carbon development; it is setting an example by putting up its own money and financing projects that reduce GHG emissions domestically. 

By creating this space for ambition, AILAC is becoming a recognized leader in climate negotiations. AILAC logoTimmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies at Brown University, referenced AILAC’s approaches as “a third way in Latin America.” AILAC has bridged negotiating bloc divides and formed important alliances with the EU and developing nation groups, which in turn has helped catalyze movement toward a legally binding agreement in 2015.  

And at last week’s ADP2-6 meetings, while there was a recognized divergence in Party positioning about how to form the foundation, content and legal framework for a 2015 Agreement, AILAC referred to its own “ambitious yet pragmatic” approaches as “solution oriented and flexible”. The group specifically referred to itself as “bridge building engineers,” favoring a consensus approach, and urging bold actions in Lima that recognize top-down elements as necessary for delivery on objectives. Indeed, AILAC was recognized as a potential “bridge builder” through its more concrete proposal addressing short- and longer-term goals for finance.

Ury proposes that the “third side” perspective can help remind parties of what is at stake.

Ury TED

Last week AILAC provided its vision of this broader perspective for reaching a carbon neutral global economy, stating “We want a planet that is resilient to the impacts of climate change and where all investments are directed towards low carbon and climate resilient development. This will provide the required longer-term guidance that will support a global transformation.”  

Even while some Parties acknowledge disappointment at the outcome of last week’s meetings, and lament the significant work yet to be accomplished in Lima, AILAC asks that we “keep the focus” on defining a long-term system to operationalize an effective and meaningful 2015 agreement: one with a balanced outcome that reflects all the elements of the ADP and not just mitigation. Lastly, it urges that work under ADP Workstream 2 address the necessary pre-2020 enhanced mitigation ambition in the short term by all Parties.

Instead of traditional conflict negotiation regimes that aim at recognizing who is right, AILAC may provide a fresh perspective aimed at identifying interests with a view toward commitment, action and results. Currently, Parties are divided on what a new agreement will encompass. Perhaps AILAC can help bring some heightened perspective beyond labelling differences as the “one-size-fits-all”or “bifurcated” approaches.  

It will be interesting to see how bridges are engineered, and if AILAC can provide the third side balcony view. I will be up there watching.

Bonn ADP

 


Bridge building 101: ADP in Lima

IISD’s final wrap of ADP2-6 came out in yesterday’s ENB.  Summarizing the session’s progress on its three priorities – the content of INDCs, more development of the Paris agreement’s elements, and a decision on enhancing pre-2020 ambition – the reporting service also expressed concern about the slow pace of the meeting and its impact on December’s negotiations in Lima.  “Despite a generally cordial atmosphere, many were concerned that parties were clinging to long-held positions, or even walking back from understandings reached in Durban and Warsaw.”

ENB logoOn INDCs, disagreement persisted on the Warsaw mandate’s scope, namely whether to focus on mitigation only (most developed countries’ position) or also include adaptation and tech transfer and finance (the last two being means of implementation or MOI), the position adopted by most developing countries.

In addition to substantive disagreements, ENB underscored the impact of two process issues: the fragmentation of negotiating groups and the lack of accord on work methods.  On the first, “some long-term observers” point out that “traditional country groupings are finding it increasingly difficult to reach common positions” as COP21 approaches. Specific examples cited were individual country interventions by Palau, Timor-Leste, and Tanzania, developing countries that would normally rely on their negotiating blocs’ (e.g. AOSIS, LDC, Africa Group, G77+China) positions.  One delegate concluded “we were asked to build bridges at this conference, but, as it stands, we are constructing bridges from our own positions and it is hard to see how they will join up, and, if we are not careful we will just build bridges to nowhere.”

draft textThe second process disagreement revolved around whether to negotiate in Lima based on the Co-Chairs’ draft texts (specifically the non-paper and draft decisions provided, as well as post ADP2-6 updates), continue a more conceptual discussion, or enter into text-based negotiations in smaller groups.  (Read here for more detail on closing plenary statements on point.) ENB concluded that the lack of consensus on how to conduct the negotiations “left some parties talking past each other as some addressed the Co-Chairs’ non-paper and draft decisions, while others focused on conference room papers submitted by country groupings.”  ENB predicts that this fundamental process disagreement could “potentially delay substantive discussions” in the ADP’s opening in Lima.

This edition of the ENB began with Christiana Figueres’ exhortation to delegates to “build bridges and find a path forward you can all tread together” and a Jimmy Cliff lyric (“many rivers to cross but I can’t seem to find my way over”).  Likewise it ended on this theme of constructing common approaches and the perils for COP20 absent them:

“As the week drew to an end, the importance attached by different groups to eachbridge building of three Lima pillars made it evident that a successful outcome at COP 20 would require skillful bridge building and balancing of issues, and possibly a much-disliked ‘package.’ While Bonn did not succeed in fully building the necessary bridges, delegates did manage to lay the groundwork for the main pillars of the expected ADP outcome in Lima. With only a few weeks remaining, and a multitude of rivers to cross, delegates will need to do their utmost to explore creative ways to build these bridges together, or failing that, they may need to learn how to swim.”


The road from Bonn to Lima (by way of Copenhagen this week)

Looking back on last week’s ADP2-6 special session, it would be easy to echo the notes of pessimism that pervaded Saturday’s press reports.  RTCC (Responding to Climate Change) commented after last Thursday’s stocktaking session that ”much work remains” in the session’s last two daysIMG_4368 and noted the frustrated ADP Co-Chairs “offering government negotiators a stern reality check.”   Artur Runge-Metzger acknowledged that the “ambition to finalize the two decisions is no longer possible in Bonn” because State Parties had “not touched on many important things.”  Kishan Kumarsingh put it more bluntly, calling on delegates to “look yourselves in the eye; ask yourself if we are on track.”

adp in bonnSaturday’s Business Insider opened with these words:  “Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact. The six-day meeting of senior officials in the former West German capital was meant to lay the groundwork for the annual round of ministerial-level UN talks in Lima in December. In turn, the Lima forum must pave the way to a historic pact which nations have agreed must be signed in Paris next year, to curb planet-altering climate change. But some negotiators and observers expressed concern that the Bonn talks focused too much on restating well-known country positions on how responsibility for climate action must be shared.”  BI quotes David Waskow of the World Resources Institute (WRI) saying that while the ADP2-6 talks had been constructive, “there is nervousness that the pace is somewhat slow” and  Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) echoing this concern more pithily: “People are starting to panic a little.”

EU dealEven some good news from individual countries – foreshadowing their INDCs or intended nationally determined commitments/contributions, the content of which was under negotiation all week in Bonn – did not appear to hearten negotiators.  For example, the AFP (L’Agence France-Presse) announced on Thursday that “a European deal on curbing carbon emissions yielded a rare concrete input Friday to UN climate talks, but did little to ease frustration among negotiators demanding progress on a global pact in Bonn.”  The EU-28’s agreement to cut GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030 over 1990 levels (building on the EU’s current projected 20% decrease from 1990 to 2020), along with 27% renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, was hailed in Brussels but downplayed by some developing country negotiators in Bonn.

Claudia Salerno of Venezuela talking with a U.S. counterpart in a COP19 ADP huddle.Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead negotiator at the ADP (pictured at right facing the camera), spoke on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) negotiation bloc when she called the EU goals “too little and too late.”    Likewise Sweden’s pledge of $550 million to the Green Climate Fund barely took the edge off developing countries concern about the slow progress of all developed countries in meeting their COP15 pledge of mobilizing $100 billion per year of climate finance by 2020.  Even though the Swedish government’s press release announced that it is “now choosing to take greater responsibility for Sweden’s climate impact and is making a commitment ahead of Paris 2015 by increasing Green Climate Fund (GCF) financing by approximately USD 550 million (SEK 4 billion) and allocating an additional SEK 500 million to international climate action,” Bloomberg News led its Friday report on ADP2-6 with  “a dispute about how to link greenhouse-gas emissions cuts to a promise from the wealthiest nations for $100 billion a year in climate aid emerged as a major stumbling block at UN talks on global warming.”  As UCS’s Meyer observed, “there has to be some collective signal from the developed countries that the direction of climate finance will be upwards and not fall off a cliff. You need more clarity on post-2020 finance if you want to get an agreement in Paris.”

Finally, a Greenpeace report  noted by the GCCA (Global Call for Climate Action) last week that China — now the world’s largest GHG emitter — had decreased its coal usage this year gained little traction in the Bonn talks.  Because China burns almost china factorshalf of the coal used worldwide each year, the fact that it decreased its coal consumption by about 2% while also growing its economy 7.4% and increasing its energy consumption by 4% indicates that the country is on track to meet the mitigation goals it announced at last month’s UN Climate Summit.  This change looks to have resulted from a combination of several “bottom up” initiatives within China, including its National Energy Agency’s proposals to limit coal consumption growth to 2% (by more than doubling wind power capacity and increasing solar capacity fivefold between 2013 and 2020) and regional pledges in 12 of China’s 44 provinces (representing 44% of national coal usage) to limit their coal consumption and the launch of 8 regional carbon markets that prepares China to meet its national emissions trading scheme targeted for 2016.

At the ADP’s closing plenary, State Party delegates spoke out about the road from Bonn to Lima, ignoring the Co-Chairs’ request to end ADP2-6 without individual country interventions.  A general theme was G77 birthdaysounded by Bolivia speaking on behalf of the G77+China that was echoed by most parties: feeling the political pressure from civil society and wanting to avoid a ”take it or leave it” situation in COP20′s final moments, the G77 urged the co-chairs to reorient the ADP’s work in Lima by starting with a clear working text and formal groups that focus negotiation on all core elements of agreement.  Ecuador, representing the LMDCs, drew a very clear picture of what it wanted to avoid:  “We represent sovereign states.  We expect to negotiate with dignity,” not in huddles resulting from a mismanaged process.  South Africa, concluding that “the latest version does not reflect the bridges that we’ve built,” additionally called for appointing facilitators to lead these focused groups and working specifically from an updated and reorganized version of the current non-paper.  While directing her remarks to the Co-Chairs, the SA lead ADP negotiator reminded everyone in the room – State Party delegates, UNFCCC staff, civil society organizations -  that “time is not on our side.” Picking up on this last point, the Swiss ADP lead negotiator, speaking for the EIG (Environmental Integrity Group, the only UNFCCC negotiating bloc to include both developing and developed country members), redirected negotiators’ frustration from the ADP leadership to its membership:  “Slow motion this week due to speed limits imposed by parties on themselves, not by co-chairs.”  He observed that the week’s focused work on mitigation commitments had been productive, permitting the parties to delve into more detail and nuance, and commended the Co-Chairs for “creating this space.”

Next stop on the road to Lima is this week’s 40th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-40), which began meeting this morning at the Tivoli Conference Center in Copenhagen, AR5Denmark.  Its goal: to consider and finalize the IPCC’s Synthesis Report (SYR), which integrates and synthesizes the findings from the three Working Group (WG) reports already published. Taken together, the three WG reports and the SYR will make up the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) that the 196 UNFCCC parties will rely on in Lima. From today until the final gavel on Friday, the IPCC will approve, line by line, the SYR’s Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and adopt the draft SYR – no mean feat, given that more than 800 authors and review editors from 85 countries have had a hand in preparing AR5 during the past six years.  Maybe the IPCC’s process could suggest some conflict resolution techniques for the UNFCCC parties?


Carbon Capture Use and Storage: Still Deep in Controversy

At the ADP’s Technical Expert Meeting: Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCS), a panel of State Party and industry representatives discussed CCS challenges and ccs imageopportunities, focusing on financing and technology. CCS is the process for separating and then capturing CO2 from industrial and energy-related sources, then injecting it deeply into porous rock reservoirs. Though growing, there are currently a limited number of CCS projects worldwide. While addressing some of the some of the barriers to wide implementation, the panel on Tuesday presented an optimistic future for CCS in deceiving climate change mitigation targets.

Industry experts on implementation asserted that CCS is safe and that its main challenges come from lack of stable government regulation and financing, not inadequate technology. To demonstrate CCS technology’s safety, Norwegian Olav Skalmerås said his offshore natural gas processing plant had not seen any “surprises” since the project started in 1996. However, describing a regulatory barrier, Scott McDonalds, a biofuels development director from the US, said a developer must spend $10-15 million–just for permitting. Finances were mentioned in each presentation and the experts explained how current CCS projects depended on public financial incentives (or disincentives). For example, Shell’s David Hone said Canadian projects relied on $865 million in support from the Canadian government. Similarly, the US government has given subsidies for CCS projects. However, in contrast to projects depending on government aid, Norway’s high carbon tax served to precipitate CCS projects there.

Despite these hurdles, the panel envisioned a bright future for CCS. State party representative Matthew Bilson said that CCS is the cheapest way to fight climate change and is an absolute necessity for the UK, since it is a “small island” with little room for nuclear energy options. Though developing CCS infrastructure is currenlty hugely expensive, Bilson hopes that by the mid-to-late 2020′s CCS projects will be fully commercial, receiving “virtually no government support.” To increase implementation of CCS, the panel advocated greater collaboration between nations in transferring technology, regulatory models, and finances.

But, while these panelists painted a positive picture of CCS’s future, others would prefer to see a future with little or no reliance on CCS for climate mitigation. The concerns with CCS are numerous and come from sources as varied as AOSIS, Greenpeace, and Stanford. And even the panelist, when stressed during questions, admitted some other areas of concern, such as leaks or spills during transportation or blowouts in pre-injection processes.

Concerned with the injection itself, a group of Stanford researchers argue CCS, like other forms of geological injections, is likely to cause earthquakes. These researchers state, “Because of the critically stressed nature of the crust, fluid injection in deep wells can trigger earthquakes when the injection increases pore pressure in the vicinity of preexisting potentially active faults.” Brittle crusts, or potentially active faults, exist nearly everywhere on earth. Even if seismic activities are not strong enough to endanger people, they could compromise storage seals, causing leaks of stored CO2. Earthquakes from natural causes in the vicinity could similarly compromise CCS storage. Both resulting in negating the benefits of CCS. These researchers noted that highly porous, permeable, and weakly cemented geological formations may provide the safest storage locations, but limiting CCS to these areas makes it improbable or impossible as a method for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenpeace attacks CCS on a number of fronts, including those mentioned above, like the high financial costs and potential for leaks. But adds the additional concern that CCS “uses between 10 and 40% of the energy produced by a power station,” so a power station must make more energy just to support its CCS process. Thus plants using CCS must increases their environmental impact. Greenpeace argues adopting CCS on a wide scale would “increase resource consumption by one third.” Accordingly, Greenpeace does not see CCS as a viable climate mitigation strategy.

In 2011 submission, the Aliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) expressed concerns with CCS and part of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol. Though the Kyoto Protocol and its CDM may not be the vehicle driving future climate mitigation, AOSIS’s concerns are still relevant to future international climate discussions. AOSIS acknowledges the potential problems discussed above, involving leaks, impermanence, and negative environmental impacts, but still recognizes CCS as a valuable technology. AOSIS’s main issue with CCS is not its use generally, but its use as an offset mechanism. “Offset mechanisms do not contribute to global emission reductions,” so nations implementing CCS should not view those projects as a means of shirking emission reduction targets.  ADM-Plant_2

At the heart of the CCS debate is an issue of principles: CCS enables people to continue burning fossil fuels. This has its benefits: it has strong industry support and doesn’t threaten changing day-to-day lifestyles. But it also has its drawbacks. CCS encourages business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, but to stay below the IPCC’s target (raise global temps by no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels), we may need a much bigger shift in the way we live and work.

The question is whether CCS should be one part of this shift or if it is antithetical to the goal. CCS requires huge monetary and resource investments that could perhaps be more fruitfully spent in other sectors. However, the industries with the means have the most interest in CCS, so why not let them finance it? (Here we can see the implications from different approaches: Norway’s high carbon tax strategy incentivized CCS without taking public funds away from other investments. The same can not be said where the US and Canada directly funded projects.)

Whether people should invest in CCS, they certainly are. As the first commercial scale CCS facilities are switched on, these benefits or banes will soon manifest. And as technology continues developing new techniques, concern and praise may have to adjust accordingly.  For example, a Texas company recently launched a project that not only captures the CO2 but recycles it by creating sodium bicarbonate and other products for sale. In a few decades, these efforts may surpass current expectations and leave us with a different world of CCS discussion.


What a difference a day makes: Day 5 of ADP 2-6

Here are ENB’s concluding observations on Day 5 of this week’s special session of the ADP:

“The agreement reached the previous night by the EU Council on a binding target to reduce GHG emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels blew fresh air into the corridors of the conferencefresh air center in Bonn. While the announcement put a spring in the step of many European negotiators, others welcomed the clarity provided by the informal consultations on adaptation. “The process is really allowing us to delve into parties’ proposals,” said one delegate, who added “we can start to make real progress now we know exactly what is on the table.”

Others worried that the decision to postpone discussions on mitigation until the last day of the meeting meant this important issue would be left without enough time for consideration. Frustration also bubbled on INDCs, with one delegate concerned that some parties’ “demanding impossible things” threatens to derail the process. The ambivalent tone of the day deepened as some noted that, although informal consultations on finance had also been established, frank conversations about many issues had yet to commence.”

Posted in ADP

Hallway remarks gathered by ENB on Day 4

Here are ENB’s concluding observations on Day 4 of this week’s special session of the ADP:

“As the halfway mark of ADP 2-6 passed, delegates’ thoughts turned into progress achieved so far: whether areas of convergence had emerged and if discussions were progressing fast enough. Although some underscored the usefulness of discussions, the long list of issues still waiting to be addressed by Saturday night left many wondering, as ADP Co-Chair Kumarsingh questioned, if parties “know what they are doing” and “what they want to achieve.”

One area where divergence clearly emerged was that of INDCs. Whereas most delegates agreed the world has changed since the adoption of the Convention, interpretations of what this means were situated on a long spectrum, between what some labelled as the “one-size-fits-all” and “bifurcated” approaches.

autumn eveningAt the same time, a number of parties made explicit efforts to bring the opposite sides closer to each other. A suggestion by Brazil on a “concentric” differentiation created a small buzz, with many interested in exploring how to operationalize it. The briefing on cooperative activities to build capacity for preparing INDCs was also welcomed by many as a useful space for sharing information.

All in all, with the long, autumn shades accompanying delegates on their way to evening coordination meetings, even the festival of light, Diwali, celebrated on Thursday as noted by Co-Chair Kumarsingh, was unable to fully lighten the mood, and some were already looking forward to the Lima spring to “illuminate their thinking.”

Posted in ADP

ENB’s hallway observations of ADP’s day 3

Here are ENB’s concluding observations on Day 3 of this week’s special session of the ADP:

“As the ADP train slowly moved on, the interactive approach promoted by the Co-Chairs produced intermittent progress in the contact group discussions on finance. While a number of delegates stuck to reiterating familiar positions, some expressed appreciation to the US for their “surprisingly progressive” position and Norway’s proposal on readiness support.trains

Others, however, wondered how far parties had in fact moved since Durban, especially as some characterized the start of INDC discussions as “demoralizing.” Positions on INDCs were highly polarized, and while one optimistic delegate noted that “at least they are considering text,” another pondered whether there was any hope to see the INDCs process through.

A sense of déjà vu also characterized the TEM on non-CO2 gases, where an old dilemma on whether to address the phase out of HFCs under the UNFCCC or the Montreal Protocol resurfaced, alongside more technical and action-oriented presentations, a reminder of how the UNFCCC process and action on the ground often seem to be moving on two different tracks.”

Posted in ADP

ENB “in the corridors” of ADP2-6

Here are ENB’s concluding observations on Day 2 of this week’s special session of the ADP: 

“After what many had qualified as a “slow start,” the second day of ADP 2-6 opened with a call to switch gears. As discussions on adaptation began, however, a stream of lengthy statements unfolded, and even the Co-Chairs’ initiative to allow mixed seating did little to speed up the pace.

ENB logoWhile delegates recognized that a constructive dialogue did take place, some lamented that a lot of time was lost in “repeating the obvious,” with accumulating delays in addressing items on the ADP’s busy agenda.

With negotiations sliding back to familiar patterns, many remarked that it was clear that more negotiating time would be needed to meet the April 2015 deadline announced by the Co-Chairs.

The contact group on ADP item 3 took the lion’s share of delegates’ attention, with the full-day TEM on CCUS attracting limited participation. Some delegates lamented that, while the TEM format is useful for awareness raising, it allows little time for in-depth discussions. Many noted however, that this was a golden opportunity to make an entry point for CCS in the 2015 agreement.”

Posted in ADP