COP17 Durban Climate Conference Nov 7-11
18th November 2011,
2010 emissions up 6% | latest prospects for the Kyoto Protocol | World Energy Outlook 2011 warns that only 5 years remain for action | UNFCC draft on loss and damage
2:56pm GMT, 8 Nov update from Bill GunyonI've taken a closer look at those shocking figures on 2010 emissions released by the US Department of Energy last week. Just to remind you, global carbon dioxide emissions jumped by 6% over 2009, prompting gloomy media reflections that we are already ahead of worst-case IPCC projection scenarios.
Here's three observations about the figures to keep in mind:
1. The UN is the recognised body for collating stats on emissions, for which 2008 is the most recent year published. The US energy department has a tradition of offering "preliminary emissions estimates for two years more recent than the end of the UN energy data set." So even the 2009 figures are guesswork.
2. These emissions relate to burning fossil fuels and cement production. They don't take account of agriculture or change of land use such as deforestation.
3. Like all stats, you can present a quite different picture by starting with a different year. The specialist in feel-good global warming articles is Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. Obviously in possession of the same figures, he made a pre-emptive strike two days before publication with a headline "U.S. Carbon Emissions Down Seven Percent In Four Years." Using 2007 as the baseline, he was able to conclude triumphantly that:
the United States could become a world leader in cutting carbon emissions and stabilising climate
Mr Brown would be a good man to lurk in the corridors of the Durban conference.
3:19pm GMT, 8 Nov update from Adam GrovesAs the conference in Durban draws closer, a number of commentators are asking whether the UN Talks are the best way to solve the climate crisis. Is it time we gave up on the process and looked for another solution? Here is my take on the question.
10:59am GMT, 9 Nov update from Adam GrovesOne of the big issues to be negotiated in Durban is the future of the Kyoto Protocol – a pact agreed in 1997, which commits 37 richer countries to legally binding targets for their emissions cuts. The ‘first commitment period’ of targets ends this year and was due to be followed by a second series of tougher emissions commitments. The difficulty comes because some countries are refusing to agree fresh targets, unless new major polluters like China and India, as well as the US (which never ratified the pact), also join them. The following statements give a sense of the different positions on the Protocol - and show why it will be the subject of some tough negotiations:
Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General:
In Durban, I expect governments to find a way forward for the Kyoto Protocol so we can make a broader comprehensive climate agreement possible.
Alf Wills, chief negotiator for South Africa:
The fundamental reason we need to preserve [the Kyoto Protocol] going forward is because… we’ve spent the past 20 years negotiating this set of international rules. That’s 20 years of negotiation you don’t want to lose. We have the opportunity to improve that system.
Todd Stern, US Special Envoy for Climate Change:
Of the major players in the Kyoto Protocol, my sense is that the EU is the only one still considering signing up in some fashion to a second commitment period... Japan is clearly not, Russia is not, Canada is not and Australia appears unlikely.
Peter Kent, Canadian Environment Minister:
We've already declared that, however acute the international pressure, we will not agree to taking on a second commitment period target under the Kyoto Protocol... We are confident in our plan and will not be swayed — however stormy the weather at the upcoming (Durban negotiations) becomes.
Joint statement from Brazil, South Africa, India and China:
The Kyoto Protocol is the cornerstone of the climate regime and its second commitment period (of emissions reduction by developed countries) is the essential priority for the success of the Durban Conference
Kelly Rigg, Executive Director of tcktcktck, a coalition of more than 200 civil society groups:
If Kyoto's future dies in Durban, it may well be the death knell for an effective, comprehensive, internationally co-ordinated legal response to global climate change in this decade. We can't afford to let that happen.
All of this begs the question, with countries apparently at loggerheads over the the Kyoto Protocol, how can the negotiations move forward? Tim Gore, international climate change policy advisor at Oxfam, shines a light on the compromise that might emerge:
If we get an EU commitment to continue Kyoto, a signal from the rest of the world that they will undertake legal commitments in the future and delivery in the meantime ... then we'll be making progress toward a sophisticated global architecture for fighting climate change
12:04pm GMT, 9 Nov update from Bill GunyonLet's talk about energy intensity and why we might hear more about it in Durban than in previous UNFCCC conferences.
Last week Ban Ki-moon appointed members of his High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All. They have to come up with a plan to achieve three energy goals that global leaders will be asked to approve at the Rio+20 summit.
One of the goals is to speed up the rate of improvement in global use of energy to 2.5% per annum, double the rate in recent history. This is all about decoupling economic growth from emissions.
I'm curious how this initiative relates to the UNFCCC process. Is Mr.Ban's intensity target a helpful prop for Durban or a sign that he's looking to new pastures to fight climate change?
Then there's doubts about the adequacy of his target. A gloomy PwC report published on Monday said that we need to reduce energy intensity by 4.8% per annum, almost double the UN ambition.
The World Energy Outlook 2011 published this morning reaches a similar conclusion. In assessing the impact of doubling the historic improvement in energy efficiency, it warns: "we need to achieve an even higher pace of change," if we are to keep the CO2e atmospheric concentration down to 450.
This is the punishment for inaction on global warming - the solutions rapidly enter the crazy zone
7:26pm GMT, 9 Nov update from Adam GrovesFollowing the release of a Harry Potter-themed campaigning poster last week, activists have again sought to capture the drama of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. It's Saving Private Ryan that gets the photoshop treatment this time around, as the pressure builds on Europe to sign a second commitment period - thereby keeping the treaty alive.
1:12pm GMT, 10 Nov update from Bill GunyonThere's extensive media coverage of the World Energy Outlook 2011 that was published yesterday. Most of the articles seized on the statement that we are almost in the frame for global warming of 3.5°C, an intolerable prospect.
Few of the reports mentioned the section on "Energy for All" which gets to grips with the issue of 1.3 billion people who have no electricity and 2.6 billion whose cooking stoves are damaging their health as well as the planet.
This injustice may get a better airing in Durban than is customary. This is after all the first UNFCCC "conference of the parties" to be held in sub-Saharan Africa, where energy poverty is most acute.
How do you set about providing electricity for so many people at the same time as challenging the rest of the world to cut back its energy consumption? Is energy poverty a problem for mitigation or adaptation?
I've made a first attempt at answering these questions in this article. And we were fortunate to have access to an early release of the Energy for All chapter in preparing our new Energy Poverty Guide.
10:29pm GMT, 10 Nov update from Adam GrovesIn a speech delivered in Brussels yesterday, Christiana Figueres outlined how the talks might overcome the impasse on the future of the Kyoto Protocol. To keep all sides happy, she said, Durban needs to deliver promises of further emissions cuts from developed countries under the Protocol, while also working on a new broader agreement that includes targets for major emerging polluters like India and China.
This new broader agreement "is in fact evolving" but needs more time before it can be operational. Figueres is pinning her hopes on the EU to act as a "political bridge" by signing up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, thereby keeping the treaty alive while a broader agreement is finalised. "This political balance will be at the very core of the Durban discussions."
You can watch the relevant part of her speech below - though it might be worth familiarising yourself with some UN climate jargon first.
2:12pm GMT, 11 Nov update from Bill GunyonOn Wednesday the UN climate team released a paper for discussion in Durban on the important subject of loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in vulnerable developing countries.
Under the terms of the 2010 Cancun Agreements, the UN working group was allowed two years to come up with recommendations for the 2012 talks.
Which is just as well because this discussion paper doesn't get far beyond earnest references to workshops, technical papers and "modalities". This is a shame because lots of good work has been done recently on disaster risk management, led by ideas on climate insurance.
There are signs of understandable impatience amongst the countries most at risk. The draft Dhaka Declaration to be discussed at the Climate Vulnerable Forum starting on Sunday includes a demand that funds should be available to compensate for severe weather events.
The richer countries should wake up to this concern because we're only a small step away from the alternative of legal action for reparations for climate damages.
Legal principles are being explored in an interesting series of grassroots Gender and Climate Justice Tribunals organised in 15 countries by the Feminist Task Force and the Global Call to Action against Poverty in memory of Wangari Maathai. IPS News is covering many of them, including yesterday's report on the tribunal in Bangladesh.
4:27pm GMT, 11 Nov update from Bill GunyonA caravan of young African faith group activists is rumbling its way across Africa collecting signatures for a climate change petition to the Durban conference.
Having started in Kenya, they've just announced that nearly 15,000 signatures were added in Tanzania. They are due to arrive in Malawi today.
It all ends up with an big interfaith rally in Durban on 27th November. Christiana Figueres and Bishop Desmond Tutu should be there, along with hosts of musicians.
The petition has an excellent text and you can sign up online here. I guess this photo is from Tanzania: