UPDATE: India signals Oct. 2 ratification of Paris Agreement

thediplomat_2015-01-28_13-37-24-386x253Yesterday’s edition of the New Indian Express reported Prime Minister Modi’s announcement that India will ratify the Paris Agreement on October 2.

Not only is this ratification timed to celebrate the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, but it will come in ahead of the EU’s fast track ratification date of October 7.  While this newspaper says that India contributes 4.5% of global GHG emissions, this official UNFCCC list appended to the COP21 decision puts it at 4.1%. Regardless, with the current official Paris Agreement ratification tracker at 61 Parties and 47.79% of global GHGs, India’s ratification is not enough to reach the double threshold of 55 Parties and 55% of emissions. But at almost 52% of emissions with India’s ratification, there’s now a clear opening for another single country to step in before the EU between October 2 and 7.  Maybe Japan (3.79%) or the Russian Federation (7.53%) will claim the honor?

UPDATE: It’s a wrap! India deposited its instrument of ratification with the U.N. yesterday, making it the 62nd country to do so this year. Ratifying countries now represent 51.89% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, just a shade more than 3% shy of the 55% entry into force threshold.


Coal plant capacity decline worldwide

global coal plant trackerThe Global Coal Plan Tracker reports this week that the “coal plant pipeline” (defined as coal-fired generating capacity in pre-construction planning) dropped 14% during the first half of 2016. This 158 gigawatts (GW) reduction (from 1,090 GW in January 2016 to 932 GW in July) almost equals the EU’s total coal-fired generating capacity.  The report points out significant drops in Asia, with China leading the way at -114 GW followed by India at -40 GW.  Both countries made policy announcements to decrease coal usage in the past year. In addition, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines have made announcements or taken actions to reduce their use of coal.

Despite this trend, the report underscores that the amount of coal-fired energy capacity in planning and construction phases will nonetheless exceed the global carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C.  For more detailed analysis, including by geographical region, country, and types of plants, read here.


The Ying and the Yang of the Low Carbon Economy

 

Montgomery Cty DivisionThe call for a new low carbon economy is echoing through the halls of COP 21. In the opening ceremony, French President Francois Hollande, Prince Charles, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon all urged the world to transition to a new low carbon economy.

 

Making that transition requires action on multiple fronts. First, countries must address market distorting and environmentally destructive fossil fuel subsidies. Second, countries must power their economies with renewable energy.

 

Two separate events today indicated that countries and industry are starting to make that transition. Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform unveiled a communiqué calling on all countries to stop the subsidization of carbon intensive fossil fuels. Indian Prime Minister Modi and French President Hollande, launched the International Solar Alliance to help bring solar power to developing countries. Presented separately but connected by common goal, the two projects are cutting the path to a new clean energy economy.

 

Countries spend almost $500 billion/year on fossil fuel subsidies. They subsidize the consumption and production of fossil fuels. The subsidies unfairly tilt the market towards carbon intensive fossil by preventing clean energy technologies from competing on a level playing field. The FFFSR communiqué urged countries to take the money spent on fossil fuel subsidies and repurpose it to enhance education, health, and environmental programs. Countries have argued that subsidies are necessary to support the poor, who could not otherwise afford fuel. FFFSR research revealed that only 3 percent of subsidies are used to support the lowest income brackets.

 

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is multi-country partnership to bring solar power to developing nations. The ISA is focused on increasing solar power generation in the 120 countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Developing nations often have an abundance of solar potential but they lack the technology and finance to develop their resources. Germany, Italy, and Japan, the countries with the highest rates of solar penetration, are not rich in solar resources but are rich in technology and finance. The ISA will bring solar power to where it has the most economic and environmental potential.

 

The developing countries targeted by the ISA are areas where power usage is increasing. Adding renewable power to the grid in a developing country displaces high carbon emitting resources. For example, India is third largest consumer of coal in the world, it also has 300 million people who lack electricity. The type of electricity used to connect that group will have a huge impact on global climate change mitigation efforts. India is choosing the renewable energy pathway by setting a goal of 100 GW of installed solar power by 2020. India currently has 4 GW of installed solar power. To bridge this gap, India will need international financial and technology support.

 

India is investing $30 M USD in a new National Institute of Solar Technology with the goal of reducing regulatory hurdles, developing common standards to speed up production, developing innovative finance mechanisms, and supporting technology improvements. Estimates of the total investment needed to realize the solar potential of developing countries reach $1000 billion; a number that could be easily reached by re-tasking fossil fuel subsidies.

 

Developing nations have an untapped resource shining down on them. The ISA aims to spur transformative action in this field. Today, Prime Minister Modi started his announcement by stating that many Indians begin their day with a prayer to the sun. He ended his presentation by proclaiming that the ISA represents a “sunrise of new hope.” A sunset on fossil fuels would help the sun rise on a new low carbon economy future.


COP21 Begins in 24 Hours: Will a Paris Agreement [Decrease] [Solve] [Do Nothing On] Climate Change?

imagesIf all politics are local, but greenhouse gases find their way into the atmosphere’s international space, how can the global community act collectively on climate change? In 1992, the solution was to adopt an international treaty. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) declared climate change a “common concern of mankind,” and committed 166 countries to tackling it. Most UNFCCC parties were developing countries, who had contributed relatively few emissions given their pre-industrial poverty but were nonetheless already experiencing the irreversible, negative effects of climate change. Under the convention’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities” (CBDRRC), developed countries and top greenhouse gas emitters like the European Union and the United States agreed to take the lead.

Yet, progress has been slow. In 2007, this leadership took the form of the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which placed clear greenhouse gas emission limits on developed countries while imposing none on developing countries. When the United States refused to ratify, its emissions, along with those of rapidly industrializing developing countries like China, India, and Brazil, escaped international regulation. Consequently, when negotiations for continuing the protocol beyond its first 2008-2012 period faltered at COP15 in Copenhagen, a new approach to international limits on greenhouse gas emissions began to CO2take shape. It gained momentum at the two subsequent conferences of parties (COPs) held in Cancun and Durban. Now, almost six years on, there is emerging agreement that all parties—developed and developing countries—should make individual, international climate change mitigation pledges determined by each party’s national government.

At COP21 in December, the current 196 UNFCCC parties will decide if they can sign on to this new paradigm of international climate change regulation. The Durban Mandate requires the parties to “develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” by the end of 2015. In Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2015, the parties will have their last opportunity to shape the international climate change law that will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol when it ends in 2020.

copDuring four negotiation sessions this year, the parties drafted a “Paris Package” that consists of a core legal agreement based on a system of nationally determined contributions and several COP decisions addressing implementation and political issues. The current 31-page draft agreement outlines how parties’ individual contributions will be internationally measured, reviewed, and verified. These pledges no longer focus solely on mitigation. Consistent with appeals from the developing world, the draft agreement pays almost equal attention to adaptation and finance actions. Likewise, it sets out conditions for transparent international reporting. Under it, parties take responsibility for determining whether their national efforts collectively keep global temperature rise below the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recommended upper limit of 2 degrees Celsius.

This new system of national pledges that are internationally made and scrutinized for sufficiency had a World Resources Institutetrial run this year. By Oct. 1, 2015, 147 parties had submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), covering approximately 86 percent of total global emissions. While each INDC derives from national priorities, overall they tend to include substantive contributions on mitigation, adaptation, and finance, as well as important process pledges on reporting and verification, technology transfer, and capacity building. Developed countries have pledged absolute mitigation targets and resources for vulnerable developing countries. Higher-income developing countries like Brazil, China, and Mexico have made concrete greenhouse gas mitigation pledges. Other developing countries have described their mitigation and adaptation efforts and goals, but made them conditional on receiving financial assistance. Transparency in this pledging process has been prioritized: INDCs are publicly available at the UNFCCC website and have been reviewed closely by the UNFCCC secretariat, non-governmental organization (NGOs), and the press.

CAT_thermometer_20141207That’s the good news. The bad news is that, at least in the short term, these intended contributions do not add up to keeping atmospheric warming below the 2-degree Celsius goal. A Nov. 1, 2015, UNFCCC report concluded that while the INDC pledges—if fulfilled—would slow down the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions, they will not maintain the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. Likewise NGOs like Climate Action Tracker (CAT) and Climate Interactive reach the same conclusion. CAT calculates that achieving the unconditional INDC pledges would still likely lead to a 2.7-degree Celsius increase. Climate Interactive’s math adds up to a predicted 3.5-degree Celsius increase.

So how could COP21’s Paris Package address this shortfall and result in a new international agreement that leads parties to bend the global emissions curve to a 2-degree Celsius or lower pathway?

  • First, it would use these INDCs as a starting point only and include provisions in the new agreement that require all parties to increase their contributions in regular, transparent cycles. In this way, COP21 serves as “a way station in this fight, not a terminus,” as Bill McKibben recently wrote.
  • Second, it would emphasize the need for all parties to adapt to changes already locked in by historical emissions, and recognize the permanent loss and damage experienced by the most vulnerable developing countries.
  • Third, to achieve these first two, it would show agreement on the amount and kind of financing available for developing countries to achieve their pledges. COP15’s promise of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation activities is still on the table. A recent OECD report indicates that climate finance reached $62 billion in 2014. But many note that mobilizing private finance is not the same as pledging public funds, and call for developed country governments to do more.
  • Fourth, it would include a COP decision that ramps up the INDC pledges before the new agreement takes effect in 2020. From now until then, non-state actors like cities, states, and provinces, as well as businesses and consumer groups, have focused their subnational powers on renewable energy and energy efficiency actions intended to narrow the emissions gap.
  • Fifth, it would reflect a new understanding of CBDRRC. While this core principle no longer translates into developing countries getting a bye on greenhouse gas emissions limits, it also does not exempt developed countries from their historical responsibility for climate change and their capacity to provide finance and technology for low- or no-carbon development. The deep tension over how to fairly bring all parties into a common framework that recognizes different starting points permeates the draft text through heavily [bracketed] language.

The UNFCCC requires consensus to lift these brackets. The negotiations thus far have produced little of it. Instead, despite its fractured international politics, the G77+China has flexed its negotiation muscle IMG_0920through disciplined coordination of member countries that otherwise align with the diverse agendas of the Africa Group, Arab Group, and Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs). AOSIS, which represents low-lying countries whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise, works with the least developed countries group (LDCs) to press for strong adaptation and loss and damage provisions. The E.U. and U.S. are committed to market mechanisms for achieving mitigation reductions and private climate financing along with government contributions. Two negotiating groups, the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG) and AILAC, seek to find common ground. The EIG is the only group that includes both developed and developing countries. AILAC’s members are middle-income Central and South American countries that are growing rapidly yet can still reorient toward low-carbon pathways. But these national negotiators can go only so far: While they are masters of the technical details and crafting precise legal language, it appears that the true power to compromise resides in their national capitals.

Leading up to COP21, weekly meetings of heads of state and their environmental, foreign affairs, and finance ministers have taken place. In this way, local politics are actively engaged on the international problem of climate change. All parties preparing for Paris have said clearly what they want to avoid—no repeat of COP15, no “ghosts of Copenhagen” haunting COP21. It will be a day-by-day proposition with some bumpy rides along the way. Follow the journey here till its finish!

 


ADP Co-Chairs Briskly Move Forward to Paris @UNFCCC #ADP2 #ConspiracyTheory

ICo-Chairsf the U.N. climate negotiations are like middle school, then Twitter is where the hallway gossip happens.

As the first day of the ADP 2-11 session wrapped up Monday, whispers of an alleged “U.S. conspiracy to sink Paris” began trending on Twitter.  The buzz made its way to the CAN International press briefing room when a ClimateWire reporter asked the panel to comment on a rumor that ADP Co-Chair Daniel Reifsnyder of the United States is sabotaging the upcoming COP 21 negotiations by butchering the draft Paris Agreement.

Liz Gallagher, leader of the climate diplomacy program at E3G, deftly fielded the question by defending the Co-Chairs’ work and pointing out that everyone is having a “love/hate” relationship with the draft—“it’s not just a North-South thing.” While her answer may not have quashed talk of a U.S. conspiracy to upset Paris, the exchange raises interesting questions about how parties are reacting to the Co-Chairs’ “non-paper” and the recent influx of INDCs.

As we’ve seen, many parties are not taking the sizable cuts to the 90-page Geneva Negotiating Text well.  Developing countries argue that the slimmer, 9-page draft ignores adaptation and finance, while developed countries find the draft’s mitigation goals too vague.  Dr. Saleemul Huq of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development told the same press briefing room Monday that the draft was “all hat and no trousers.”  Some believe the Co-Chairs’ aggressive edits to the draft text were “a deliberate attempt to temporarily ‘take some heat’ while ultimately putting pressure on the Group of 77.”

The “U.S. text” conspiracy theory was sparked in part by an article published by Business Standard, India’s leading business daily, entitled “Developed world’s climate change targets less than fair.”  The article references a report finding that the U.S. has committed to only a fifth of its “fair share” in its INDC while “almost all developing countries, including India and China, have taken on more than their fair share of the burden” through their INDCs.

While not suggesting that the U.S. is intentionally monkey wrenching Bonn, yesterday’s buzz-worthy report, “Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs,” supports India’s position that developed countries like the United States should do more to close the emission ambition gap.  The report finds that Japan, Russia, the EU, and the United States have the starkest gaps between their climate ambitions and their fair shares.

As evidenced by press room activity this week, ADP 2-11 news is moving quickly from hallways to headlines as parties’ reactions and positions are captured by the nearest smart phone user, posted to social media, and filtered through media outlets within hours.  While this process keeps negotiations transparent and informs the public – without carefully tracking the draft text, the Fair Shares report, INDCs, and other party communications – it’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually happening on the ground in Bonn.

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 11.53.41 PM


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.”


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.”


Spotlight on India at COP20

“We have forgotten to live with nature,”  India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, told a group of school india modikids in September.  Urging them to conserve electricity by switching off fans and lights when not in use and turning off tap water when brushing teeth, he connected energy use with climate change impacts.  Modi wrote a 2011 e-book, Convenient Action (a play on words on Gore’s more well known An Inconvenient Truth), which chronicled his climate change mitigation work as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.

As the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S., India’s approach to the climate change negotiations that will start next Monday at COP20/CMP10  is under a particularly glaring spotlight after the US-China climate change announcement two weeks ago.  In India, coal use is rising,India nationa-emissions-and-projected leading to a carbon dioxide emissions increase last year (5.1%) that surpassed China’s (4.2%) and the United States’ (2.9%).

Yet India has a very large number of poor people, with national income levels several times lower than those of China.  According to World Bank, 25% of India’s population lived at the poverty level of $1.25 a day or less in 2011, compared to 6% of China’s population.  Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Modi faces huge pressure to develop economically; he already promised on the campaign trail to provide around-the-clock electricity for all citizens by 2022, given the current prevalence of power blackouts.

Modi’s approach domestically is called “Development Without Destruction,” with an emphasis on windIndia RE energy (doubling capacity over the next five years) and energy efficiency of cars, appliances, and buildings. His government has also recently called for a fivefold increase in solar power usage, targeting total renewable energy use at 100 gigawatts by 2022.  This internal stance is in line with its voluntary pledge at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 to cut the “intensity” of its carbon emissions and thereby reducing CO2 emissions from economic output by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020.  Nonetheless, coal now accounts for 59% of India’s electric capacity and the country seeks to lower coal imports and double domestic production to one billion tons during the next five years.

According to Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow and India expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, “India’s willing to make commitments to its own people” but not to the world. “I would not expect any big shift in India’s climate policy in the next year or two … It’s not ready to make binding international commitments.”

Perhaps India’s growing miindia killer airddle class, suffering under the same degree of illness-inducing air pollution as its Chinese peers, will provide a new internal push for clean energy production and energy efficiency? The  World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 13 of the top 20 cities worldwide with the dirtiest air are in India – not China, as many believe.