Posts Tagged ‘IPCC’

The Shining Path to Lima

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

by Felix von Geyer

As the world’s climate negotiators pack their bags this week for darkest Peru where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will host its twentieth Convention of the Parties (COP 20), New Orator sheds light on what some of the key issues will be.

The Lima UN Climate Change Conference will aim to hammer out as much of the draft text required for next year’s Paris COP 21 as possible for the world’s governments to commit to a global climate treaty and framework ‘with legal force’ that is to be implemented by 2020.

This is what governments agreed to at the 2011 COP 17 in Durban where they agreed that any 2015 agreement would be informed by the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC was quite categorical in its report that fossil fuels needed to be phased out by the end of the 21st century.

More specifically, the International Energy Agency stated in its recent World Economic Outlook, that the IPCC’s global carbon budget is likely as much as 1000 gigatonnes of CO2 before global warming would exceed 2 degrees increase in average global temperatures and deliver serious climate change.

According to the IEA, the current state of the world’s global energy infrastructure means that carbon budget will be used up by 2040. Only in 2011 the IEA stated that to avoid exceeding 2 degrees, the world had until 2017 to avoid a 100 percent locking-in of the global energy infrastructure that would create serious climate change.

The IEA message remains clear. All parties to the framework should include a mitigation component that should address their country’s energy infrastructure and transition to a low-carbon future. Speaking on Thursday, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven outlined 5 pathways for negotiators and policy-makers to consider as climate talks reconvene in December:-

A downward bend of the global emissions curve by 2020 is necessary to create a pathway to reduce global emissions; a focus on decarbonisation of electricity; an immediate reshape to accelerate innovation in low-carbon technologies; a mobilisation of otherwise non-climate goals such as economic development, air quality improvement and liveable communities and achieving fiscal balance as goals best promoted through emissions reductions within the energy sector. Finally, strengthening the energy sector’s resilience to climate change.

Van der Hoeven was forthright that governments must get started immediately in addressing these fundamentalsand should reflect these pathways within their INDCs. Essential components of an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) should include policies and actions to unlock existing high emissions assets; the new landscape of emissions trading schemes; energy metrics to track decarbonisation progress and targets to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions.

To achieve this requires an agreement to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies and transfer that investment into renewable energies between 2014-2035 to achieve a so-called 450 Scenario – where emissions do not increase beyond 450 parts per million by volume, the level at which IPCC scientists believe serious climate change will be unleashed.

Yet the question remains, how will governments and the UN framework approach the whole issue of INDCs at the Lima climate talks?

The task ahead of Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s Minister of the Environment and President-Designate of COP 20 will be to create an ‘elements’ text that comprises elements of a draft negotiating text with the express view that it will become the negotiating text for Paris 2015. The starting point will be a ‘non-paper’ due from the Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action set up in 2011.

As Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice-President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES – formerly the Pew Center for Climate Change) think-tank said during a webinar on Thursday, there are three options. One is to have mitigation included with adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building. The second is to have differentiated mitigation levels for developed and developing countries following the line of thinking of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDRRC) that could also take the same approach as the Kyoto Protocol in partitioning emitters into Annex 1 countries – effectively developed nations who are historically responsible for the bulk of GHG emissions, and non-Annex 1 developing countries who may be allowed a higher emissions profile in their quest for economic development and poverty alleviation or eradication.

The final option is mitigation only.

However, the timeframe for mitigation and other national commitments might be contentious with 2025 and 2030 becoming likely competing timeframes. However, the recent US-China accord agreed between US President Obama and Chinese President Xi two weeks ago could create a spirit and intent akin to previous language of contraction and convergence, where developed countries supposedly act first to reduce emissions while develop countries converge mitigation efforts to meet developed countries’ efforts but at a later point, similar to the 2007 Montreal Protocol agreement to eliminate ozone depleting substances.

However, the level of ambition remains essentially contested as does the concept of a binding agreement ‘with legal force’ as agreed at the Durban climate talks during the infamous huddle in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Diringer for one cannot see how a Paris Agreement next year could be any more legally binding than the Kyoto Protocol – from which Canada, the world’s leading rogue nation on climate change, withdrew during the final year of the first period without penalty despite failing to reduce any of its greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. Instead Canada’s own emissions projections for 2035 will likely be 35 percent beyond 1990 levels. This emissions profile will exceed 2005 levels by around 15 percent compromising Canada’s pledge at the Copenhagen 2009 talks to reduce its emissions in line with the US to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Consequently Diringer stated that a binding commitment will not actually guarantee countries will meet their commitments. However, he did offer the caveat that any substantive agreement might be slow, as is often the case until the last moment at climate talks. But where van der Hoeven’s first request is for countries to seek to a downward bend on the global emissions curve by 2020, Diringer cannot see that initial INDCs will put the world onto a 2 degree or 450 ppm pathway.

For Lima to prove a success and provide any shining path on the way to Paris will require having all the elements in place for an agreement that can be seamlessly scalable to increase all future levels of ambition for mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance without the need to renegotiate the framework agreement itself.

Aviation breakthrough in combatting climate change

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Governments unanimously approve market-based mechanism for aviation to combat climate change by Felix von Geyer in Montreal
A major breakthrough in an agreement to tackle greenhouse gas emissions was made in Montreal on Friday as the member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization unanimously agreed a Decision to Develop a market-based mechanism (MBM) to regulate and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from aviation at ICAO’s 38th General Assembly.
The proposals will be put to ICAO by 2016 when a Decision to Implement for 2020 will be agreed.
“The devil as always will be in the detail” said ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin who, acknowledging the unheralded unanimity among members on the issue of climate change, declared to much laughter: “The devil  has taken a vacation.”
Indeed, the agreement represents a major step in agreeing a global framework to addressing climate and is the first time that all governments have embraced a decision to develop a market-based mechanism and is also the first time that a sectoral approach to addressing climate change has been taken on a global scale.
ICAO has to report its proposed action to address the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this year under a decision agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban in 2011.
Going into the Assembly that started last Tuesday, the options for regulating emissions were to introduce carbon offset; offsets with revenues or a full-out market-based mechanism such as a cap and trade similar to the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme that looked to include all aviaiton emissions into its EU ETS for phase III starting in 2013.
Aviation emissions account for approximately 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions but the specifics of aviation emissions means that their emissions actually contribute an estimated 5% of climate forcing. Until recently, it was thought that aviation could only reduce its emissions through better navigation and more direct flights. However, in the past five years the advent of biofuels have shown they can provide a safe alternative to traditional kerosene-based jetfuel while other technologies such as Gas-to-Liquids as developed by Shell in Qatar are available and possible microalgae developments that could arguably provide a carbon-neutral jetfuel are possible.
How ICAO will develop the various proposals is the “Devil in the detail” that Benjamin mentioned. Consensus is that ICAO will need to cap the carbon content of fuel against the energy content of fuel as it comes to market, which in the case of civil aviation the market would be an ICAO bunker near the airports. This in effect would look to increase the energy density of fuel against the carbon emissions and would require an assessment of what the biofuel and alternative fuel possibilities are and whether these could be made globally available while also needing to address infrastructure issues such as pipelines and so forth.
The importance of Friday’s agreement cannot however be undermined when climate polictics have divided nations, as witnessed at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 that was meant to usher in a comprehensive global agreement that is now deferred to 2015 as again agreed in Durban.
A total of seventy-two reservations were raised by countries, many reservations revolving around familiar dividing lines such as Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR). Saudi Arabia, traditionally the world’s largest oil producer and highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions stating that they did not want to be burdened by costs at the expense of their society and economy. India, traditionally an obstacle in the path of climate consensus due to its need to alleviate poverty and its dependence on fossil fuels, also expressed its concerns over CBDR, mutual consent and how market-based mechanisms need to pass through the test of feasibility.
Canada expressed its reservation on the inclusion of CBDR as it was incompatible with international aviation activities.
Last week’s release by the International Panel on Climate Change indicated the rate and pace of climate change has surpassed scientists’ original expectations. What the IPCC Working Group 1 report did not say, however is: “You know you can commodify carbon emissions; but you can never commodify time.”