We had mixed feelings coming out of the Durban climate talks about the state of global climate policy. Some important steps were taken but there remains a significant gap between what the science tells us is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate impacts and the emissions reduction commitments that have been made. Additionally, although we now have an operational Green Climate Fund, it remains to be seen where the money will come from to build climate resilience in the poorest, most vulnerable communities in the world.
But news today coming out of Europe gives us hope that the world may be moving in the right direction. The Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Air Transport Association of America, American Airlines and United Continental that aviation can be included in the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS). The decision cannot be appealed.
The US Airline industry has been for years fighting a provision in the EU ETS to cap carbon pollution generated from flights to and from the EU countries. They even succeeded at passing legislation in the US House of Representatives calling on the airline industry to break another country’s law by prohibiting US airlines from complying with the EU regulations. And late last week, in yet another demonstration of the airline industry’s influence over Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood sent a letter to EU Ministers objecting to the law.
Ultimately, serious global solutions are necessary in the international aviation and shipping industries that both reduce emissions and generate climate finance for developing countries. This ruling, however, represents a critical first step in moving us towards that goal and beginning to reign in a powerful industry that has gone unregulated for far too long.
This blog was written by David Waskow, climate change program director.
I’ve been mulling the blog—“Climate deal leaves a blank page”—that I posted the other day following the UN climate conference in Durban. As I said, we turned an important page in Durban, and yet it’s still clearly the case that we are looking at a next page that’s blank. The basic question that we face now is what to do with that page.
We could look at in despair. Not helpful. Or, we could decide that it’s up to us to fill that page, and to get our political leaders to do so in the ways that are necessary.
Let them eat carbon. The food we all rely on is at risk in the face of a changing climate. Photo by Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam
We could be angry that the page was left blank, without clarity on where we’re headed on emissions cuts or climate finance. Or, we can be hopeful about the opportunity we have now to fill a new page. Either response is justifiable. But either way, we need to mobilize ourselves—in hope or in anger or both—to make sure that page is filled in the best way imaginable.
To do that, the legal agreement which countries (including the United States) have said they will negotiate must become a strong and fair one, while increased action to cut emissions must start sooner than 2020 as well. And the ledgers of the Green Climate Fund must be filled. That will require our energy—and alarm bells, as I said earlier this week—to press for serious cuts in emissions, to put equity at the center of climate policy, and to generate new sources of finance for those hardest hit by climate impacts.
Yesterday morning, the Sierra Club’s Fred Heutte commented on a listserv about the Durban outcome with a different, but still apt, analogy. “It is not a half full or half empty glass, it is the commitment to have a glass, and its shape, integrity, durability and whether it gets filled at all is what we now have to work on…”
This blog was written by David Waskow, climate change program director.
I’ve just returned from COP 17, the major UN climate conference in Durban. It was the longest COP ever, one that culminated in an all-night session Saturday into Sunday, with dramatic speeches in the final plenary and a huddle of negotiators in the middle of the plenary to work out the final details.
I’ve returned quite sober. With the outcome, an important page was turned in the climate talks, but the next page in the negotiations is still utterly blank.
On the one hand, there was agreement to start negotiations on a legal agreement to reduce the climate emissions of all major emitters, with a deal to be finished by 2015 for implementation starting in 2020. Until 2020, the Kyoto Protocol will continue as the foundation of global efforts to fight climate change, with the EU countries agreeing to a second phase, albeit without Japan, Russia, and Canada. And the Green Climate Fund was fully put into motion, with a fair framework adopted for how the Fund should operate to provide finance for developing countries to combat the causes and consequences of climate change.
But we’re now staring at the next blank page, and it’s rather terrifying how blank it is. There’s no clarity at all on how much emissions will be cut in the future agreement at a moment when the current likeliest trajectory is for temperatures to rise more than five degrees F above pre-industrial levels. Meanwhile, though there is a work program and a science review about needed emissions cuts, the Durban deal provided no assurances on getting stronger action on emissions in the years before 2020.
And there was no agreement on any specific sources of funding to fill the new Green Climate Fund (more on finance coming in a future blog post).
The United States played a familiar role in the talks, often bogging them down by fighting to resist any conditions that would push the US too far, sometimes in subtle but powerful ways. Most obviously, the US blocked any discussion of specific sources of climate finance and blocked detailed language on a ‘work program’ to examine how much emissions need to be cut.
When the EU and many vulnerable countries pressed for a serious legal agreement, the US insisted that all countries be on the same legal level; that left countries like India deeply concerned that they would be forced into overly stringent conditions. When the US finally went along with language for a ‘legal instrument’, the fight that broke out in the plenary was between the EU and India, while the US stood back and watched (in the final plenary, the chief US negotiator spoke for all of about 60 seconds).
And the final text of the agreement made no distinction at all between the relative effort required between the richest countries and those where millions of people still live in poverty and hunger.
Following Durban, there is now the proverbial ‘more work to be done’ (ironically even more fitting right now given the many so-called work programs that were begun at Durban on issues such as needed emissions cuts and sources of finance). For starters, with all major emitters part of a potential new deal, we have to press hard on what the fair share of emissions cuts should be based on differing levels of responsibility for emissions and differing levels of development.
But it’s far more than work that we need. We need alarm bells to ring in the next few years to put us on a path that will truly deal with the way in which a changing climate is creating increasingly severe storms and water scarcity. Hard-hit communities in developing countries deserve no less than a major outpouring of concern and upset over what will happen to them. We especially have to make sure the US wakes up to the situation since the US will continue to set the pace and tone for the global climate talks ahead.
For another Oxfam perspective, see Tim Gore’s blog here.
My colleague Tim Gore, climate change policy advisor at Oxfam International, wrote this bloglaying out what governments can achieve at UN Climate talks which are starting this week in Durban, South Africa. We’ve adapted the blog to the US context and are reposting it here.
It’s now two years since the frantic campaigning and manic diplomacy that led to the Copenhagen climate change conference, and the blame games that followed its inadequate result. As the next UN climate talks get under way this week in Durban, South Africa, we need a new script to explain what has been achieved since 2009 and what must come next in the fight to tackle climate change.
The good news is that the UN talks on climate change are not a re-run of the zombie negotiating process in the World Trade Organization. But the ten year anniversary of the launch of the ‘Doha development round’ should give us pause for thought about where we want the multilateral climate change regime to be ten years after Copenhagen, and whether we are on track to get there.
The agreements struck last year in Cancún did not deliver everything needed to address the perils of our warming world, but they are leading to action.
In no small part as a result, China is leading the race to invest in renewable energy, Brazil and Indonesia are serious about tackling deforestation, Australia has finally put a price on carbon, and the EU is planning for near complete decarbonization of its economy by 2050. Poor countries in all continents are starting to build the need for adaptation to climate change into their development plans, and facing up to the grave implications of doing so.
The problem is that none of this is going far enough nor happening fast enough. Global emissions are growing faster than ever, despite the economic crisis. The International Energy Agency recently warned we have five years left to change course before the lock-in effect of carbon-intensive infrastructure pushes out of reach the 2°C limit to global warming set by governments in Cancún. The gap between projected emissions in 2020 and the levels scientists say are needed to have a chance at staying within the 2°C target—let alone the 1.5°C needed—is actually widening.
Representatives from the World Bank and IMF presented their findings from a draft report on sources of climate finance to G20 finance and development ministers on Friday. The report responds to the request of G20 Finance Ministers in exploring scaled up finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries. Its recommendations significantly move the debate forward on innovative sources of climate finance and come weeks before Bill Gates is expected to deliver similar findings to the G20 leaders on sources of development finance.
The WB/IMF recommendations support the key findings of a report released by Oxfam and WWF earlier this month calling for a global carbon price in the international shipping sector. A global carbon price for shipping would raise billions of dollars for tackling climate change in developing countries. The sector transports 90 percent of world trade and contributes about three percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A global carbon price for shipping would raise billions of dollars for tackling climate change in developing countries. Photo by Luis Galdámez/Oxfam America.
Here are a few key points made in Oxfam/WWF’s report that are generally supported in the WB/IMF recommendations to G20 leaders:
• There is a double-dividend from carbon pricing international transport – reducing emissions and raising finance. A $25/ton price on carbon will raise approximately $25 billion from shipping, reducing emissions 5-10% from the sector.
• The overall impact of a carbon price for shipping will be small. A moderate carbon price for shipping means that import costs are likely to rise by approximately 0.2-0.3%. A surcharge at that level would add 0.2% to shipping costs, or $2 on every $1,000 traded.
• Developing countries should be compensated from the revenues generated by the carbon price and revenues should support adaptation and mitigation actions. Because shipping emissions cannot practically be attributed to individual countries, a carbon price for ships must be universal. But to ensure that a scheme does not unfairly penalize developing countries, it must guarantee that there are no net costs for developing countries. Of the $25bn raised from the scheme, Oxfam/WWF recommends that approximately 40% of the revenue is used to compensate developing countries for their losses; remaining funds should finance adaptation and mitigation actions through the Green Climate Fund.
A global price on shipping emissions is technically and economically feasible and is gaining political momentum. G20 finance ministers should reach a political agreement that substantial climate finance be raised through a carbon price for international shipping, with no net costs for developing countries. This should happen in advance of the G20 summit in Cannes, France at the beginning of November and COP17 in Durban, South Africa in November/December 2011.
The canvas for the new global Green Climate Fund has a few outlines on it – now comes the time to start really filling it in. The first meeting of the Transitional Committee to design the policies and operating guidelines for the Fund is being held this week (April 28-29) in Mexico City.
Since my last blog post on the Committee, its 40 members have finally been agreed: a process that lasted nearly three months longer than the UNFCCC deadline and that forced postponement of the first Committee meeting. It remains to be seen how this delay will impact the Committee’s timeline and workplan in the coming months before it is due to report back to COP 17 in December 2011. Oxfam believes it is still feasible – and urgent – for the Committee to reach agreement on key operating guidelines for the Fund so that it can be made fully operational by the end of the fast-start finance period in 2012.
Here are some themes that we are particularly focused on heading into this first Committee meeting:
Civil Society Participation in the Transitional Committee process: This is a central issue to address as the rules of engagement for civil society have not yet been agreed. Active civil society participation in the design process is essential to the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Fund. Civil society should be enabled to participate as active observers in the Committee – including the right for a certain number of representatives to regularly take the floor in meetings, propose agenda items, and participate in all drafting groups and full sessions.
Timing and organization of work: It is essential that the Committee agree and communicate a clear timeline for its work, including substantive political decisions on the Fund to be made at COP 17 in Durban. The workplan must specify that the Fund be designed and operationalized in time for first disbursements of finance to start no later than January 1, 2013 (when the current climate finance period, referred to as “fast start finance”, ends). This will ensure that poor, vulnerable communities have no gap in the support they need to respond to and prepare for climate change impacts.
Level of Ambition: By COP 17, the Committee must begin to address some of the key design principles of the Fund. The workplan agreed at this first meeting should seek to reach agreement by Durban on a vision for how the Fund will manage and disburse large sums of climate finance in a representative, equitable, accessible, accountable, transparent, and efficient manner. The new Fund should become a central locus for global management of funding for climate adaptation and mitigation and should allocate at least 50% of public finance towards adaptation in developing countries. Country ownership by developing countries should be central to this – putting developing countries in the driver’s seat and ensuring participation and accountability for civil society and communities in those countries.
Overall, this first meeting provides an opportunity for the Committee to lay out an efficient, yet ambitious, workplan that aims to design a new global Green Climate Fund that will fund adaptation and mitigation effectively and at scale, so protecting and improving the lives of millions of poor people.
Oxfam America is a member of Oxfam, an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in 94 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.
Oxfam America is a 501(c)(3) organization. Gifts are tax-deductible to the full extent allowable under the law.