Canadian Carbon Pricing System Moving Forward

As the world gears up for COP24, the Canadian government reaffirmed its intention, on October 23, 2018, to implement a federal carbon pricing system across Canada in 2019.

DcDre-xU0AAUhvwAs set out in its Nationally Determined Contribution (“NDC”) submitted to the UNFCCC under the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reduce GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. To that end, Canada proposed adopting various measures to transition to a low-carbon economy, including a federal carbon pricing system. In 2016, the government published the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change ,(“Pan-Canadian Framework“) which outlined a benchmark for pricing carbon pollution requiring all ten (10) Canadian provinces and three (3) Canadian territories to have a carbon pricing system in place by 2018, in their respecting jurisdiction (the “Benchmark“). Provinces and territories had the option to either implement i) an explicit price-based system (i.e. a carbon tax like in British Columbia or a carbon levy and performance-based emissions system like in Alberta) or ii) a cap-and-trade system like in Quebec.

Pursuant to the Pan-Canadian Framework, the federal government was to introduce an explicit price-based carbon pricing system in order to cover jurisdictions that will not have met the Benchmark requirements within that two year period.

In that regard, earlier this year, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (the “Act”) (the Federal Backstop), received Royal Assent on June 21, 2018. The Act outlines two compulsory mechanisms which will be applicable to jurisdictions that did not meet the Benchmark:

  1. a charge on fossil fuels that are consumed within a province (generally to be paid by fuel producers and distributors) which will start applying in April 2019; and
  2. an output-based pricing system, to be applicable to emission-intensive industrial facilities (i.e. facilities emitting 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent/year or more, etc.), to be applicable as of January 2019.

The majority of Canadian jurisdictions have either developed their own carbon pricing systems or elected to adopt the federal system:

The holdouts—Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick—having either failed to adopt measures that meet the federal Benchmark stringency requirements or declined to propose their own carbon-pollution pricing systems. They will be obligatorily subject to the federal carbon pricing system.

The main requirement of the federal system is to attribute a $20/tonne cost on emissions as of April 2019, which will rise by $10 each year, reaching $50/tonne in 2022. The federal government has committed to return direct proceeds collected under the federal carbon pricing backstop system to provinces.  This may happen via one of three methods: 1) providing individuals and families “Climate Action Incentive payments;” 2) providing support to schools, hospitals, small and medium-sized businesses, colleges and universities, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, and Indigenous communities; and 3) supporting reductions in GHG emissions in such provinces.

Chart_Pricing carbon in CanadaIt remains to be seen whether or not the Canadian carbon pricing plan will help Canada meet its NDC commitments and contribute to the overall long-term goal of the Paris Agreement of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and of pursuing efforts to limit that increase to below 1.5 degrees.

 


Show Us The Money!

 

Tension in the global climate finance community is mounting as the Katowice climate change conference approaches. The September effort to advance the Paris Agreement Work Program (PAWP) exposed deep historic divides on climate finance (reported here, here and here). And though the Green Climate Fund Board thankfully “righted its ship” a bit in October (see our close look here), the relief did not ease the larger systemic angst.

At its core, climate finance is a highly political issue. For the most part, rich societies are suffering far less from climate change impacts than poorer ones, and have far more resources with which to respond to those impacts. Poor countries need substantial help from the developed world to do the same. Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 5.38.49 PMYet, many developed countries are not inclined to make the enormous financial investments required to address global climate change for outcomes that won’t be realized until the distant future and that will mostly benefit other countries. We get a glimpse of this reality in Climate Scoreboard’s just released Global Report #8, on which we reported yesterday.

Since the adoption of the UNFCCC, developed countries have committed to and provided some, but not nearly enough, climate finance to help developing countries meet the costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Their collective target of $100 billion/year by 2020, established in the 2009 Copenhagen Accords and reiterated in the Paris Agreement decisiScreen Shot 2018-11-01 at 6.17.35 PMon (1/CP.21), falls hundreds of billions short of predicted needs for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. (Numbers are hard to come by, but the World Economic Forum projected a few years ago that $700 billion/year in climate investment will be required by 2020, while UNEP has estimated annual adaptation costs alone could reach $500 billion by 2050.) Additionally, many are questioning the likelihood that even the $100 billion/year by 2020 will be realized (see here, here and here).

All of this adds up to a lot at stake for climate finance in Katowice in December, where Parties have promised to bring the Paris Agreement implementation guidelines across the finish line.

One of the most contentious climate finance issues we have been tracking is whether Article 9.5 will be fully operationalized. It stipulates that developed country Parties, and others as they can, “shall” communicate, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, financial resources they intend to provide to developing country Parties (ex ante support). However, decision 1/CP.21 calls only for identifying the information Parties will report, and not the modalities to be used in accounting of those resources.

Some feel this was an oversight in the rush to adopt the Paris Agreement back in December 2015, since it is unusual for a COP to decide what Parties are to report without also deciding how the information will be reported and used. For instance, for Article 9.7, decision 1/CP.21 sets in motion identifying both the what and how Parties will report on financial resources they have provided and mobilized through public intervention (ex post support).

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.01.22 PMDeveloped country Parties contend that Article 9.5 is sufficiently clear and that no action is required. They want to use the existing general guidelines from 3/CP.19 for the biennial submissions they were requested to make on “scaling up climate finance from 2014-2020.” Notably, only 7 Parties and the EU made such submissions.

Developing country Parties assert that predictability and transparency are at the heart of Article 9.5 and that it must be fully operationalized by also specifying accounting modalities. In particular, Parties should decide how the information will be compiled, made publicly available, transmitted to the global stocktake, and be subject to technical review, none of which is addressed by the earlier general guidance on reporting ex ante support.

Currently, the battle for and against establishing modalities for Article 9.5 is being played out under agenda item 8a of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA).Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 6.48.57 PM

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Stay tuned for more posts on climate finance issues for COP 24/CMA 1-3. And, may all Parties show up rich in political will.

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A bottom up look at climate finance

climate scorecardAmanda’s post on the outcomes of the recent Green Climate Fund board meeting gives us a constructively critical top-down take on climate finance in the run up to COP24, which will take place in Katowice, Poland fro December 2 – 14, 2018.  This week’s Global Report #8 by Climate Scoreboard provides another.  Innocuously titled “The Status of Climate Finance in Leading Greenhouse Gas Emitting Countries,” it is a crowd-sourced, bottom up, and critical account of where cli fi is and isn’t coming from that provides context for the GCF’s report on its own activities.

Climate Scorecard describes itself as “a participatory, transparent, and open data effort to engage all concerned citizens to support The Paris Agreement.” Its Global Reports are part of a “Spotlight Project” focused “on pressing the top 20+ greenhouse-gas emitting countries to meet the pledges they made in the Paris Agreement.” This campaign seeks to raise public awareness of these countries’ action and inaction on their pledges, to build national political will in each one that compels increased pledges before the Paris Agreement begins in 2020. Climate Scorecard is a collaboration of The Global Citizens’ Initiative (TGCI) and EarthAction, two non-profit organizations working on environmental protection and citizen engagement.

climate scorecard 2Here are a few highlights from Climate Scorecard’s report that counter balance the GCF Board report:

  • Brazil’s new forestry sector policies are putting its international cli fi at-risk (and this was BEFORE the country elected a new president yesterday who is a climate skeptic!).
  • China needs to find funds in its national budget to make good on its pledges to help other developing countries.
  • France and the UK, both large cli fi donors, have experienced a decrease in assistance.
  • Japan’s accredited global climate finance institutions do not adequately to disclose their fossil fuel industry ties.
  • Mexico needs better monitoring and accounting of cli fi received, while Thailand needs to devise a better plan to attract it.
  • Russia has provided support to former Soviet Union countries, but can do much more.

For more specifics, check out the detailed country reports.


As COP24 Approaches, Negotiators Attempt to Narrow Their Focus

GST at UNIn the months leading up to the COP, Parties are in constant discussion. On September 27th, the incoming COP24 Presidency organized an informal consultation in New York, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. The COP23 Presidency, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, and presiding officers all attended, along with thirty-three member states. The Parties’ lead negotiators met to discuss four elements of the potential COP24 outcome in Katowice, Poland: the NDCs process, adaptation, finance, and transparency. As the report of this meeting indicates, one of the issues addressed was “How do we manage the transition from the current transparency system to a future one, while ensuring flexibility for the countries in light of their capabilities?”

In Article 13 of the Paris Agreement, all Parties agreed to an enhanced transparency framework for action and support. This framework has built-in flexibility that accounts for Parties’ different capabilities and circumstances. Article 13.1 announces explicitly that “in order to build mutual trust and confidence and to promote effective implementation, an enhanced transparency framework for action and support, with built-in flexibility which takes into account Parties’ different capacities and builds upon collective experience is hereby established.”  Article 13.2 adds that “the transparency framework shall provide flexibility in the implementation of the provisions of this Article to those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities. The modalities, procedures and guidelines referred to in paragraph 13 of this Article shall reflect such flexibility.” The Parties have been negotiating the exact content of these modalities, procedures, and guidelines (MPGs) since 2015 and have designated COP24 as the deadline for agreeing on them.

A key part of these negotiations is recognizing that some Parties require additional funding toCBIT achieve their reporting and transparency goals. To this end, the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) was established. CBIT’s goal is to strengthen the institutional and technical capabilities of developing countries for collecting and reporting data on progress made on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  This data will then be used to inform the global stocktake (GST), which is a collective assessment of all Parties’ progress on their NDCs toward the Paris Agreement’s Article 2 objective of keeping atmospheric warming to “well below” 2C. The Paris Agreement requested that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) support the establishment of CBIT through voluntary contributions and build donor support. As of December 2017, $61 million had been pledged to the CBIT Trust Fund and $53 million of it had been dedicated to the first 41 projects in 39 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.  Through this support, CBIT has established a Global Coordination Platform that helps and encourages Parties to engage in multilateral and bilateral capacity building initiatives. Parties agree that CBIT is necessary for ensuring a smooth transition to a new transparency system. However, not all Parties agreed on what form the new system should take.

While discussing the scope a new transparency system at the September 27th meeting, Parties suggested that all Parties have the same the submission date for the first biennial transparency report (BTR). Others proposed to have different submission dates for developed and developing Parties. This would reflect the timing each Party required under their CBDRRC. Additionally, while building flexibility into the system, the Parties split into two camps. One side suggested that flexibility be general in nature and by each Party’s national circumstances and capacities, while the other maintained that they be specific and limited to a small number of issues.

preCOPThe next discussion is on October 24th in Krakow at the close of the “pre-COP” meeting hosted by the COP24 Presidency. The suggestions made in New York will be explored and expanded upon by the Parties continuously until the COP. The enhanced transparency network covering mitigation, adaptation, and support is paramount within the PA to informing the GST and allowing parties to aggregate their efforts towards our global goal.


Energy Justice: Mitigation, Adaptation, AND Sustainable Development Goals in the IPCC Special Report

Cooking in MyanmarOver three billion people rely on wood, charcoal or dung for cooking, with primarily women spending 15-30 hours per week collecting these resources. Household Air Pollution (HAP) results in over 4 million deaths a year. The second most impactful climate change pollutant is black carbon and HAP contributes 25% of black carbon. Clearly, we can integrate mitigation, adaptation, AND sustainable development.

The first sentence of the Global Warming of 1.5°C IPCC Special Report references the Paris Agreement’s enhanced objective “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” (Article 2) The IPCC report references and builds on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved and adopted by national leaders in September 2015. The SDGs consist of 17 goals and 169 targetsSustainable Goals developed as a sustainability framework. Top goals include the elimination of poverty and hunger; an increase in health, education, and gender equality; and access to clean water, sanitation and affordable energy. Additional goals address economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and responsible consumption, life below water and on land, climate action, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.29.54 PMThe IPCC report highlights one of the largest differences between 1.5°C and 2°C as the disproportionate impact on poor and vulnerable populations, furthering inequities. However, addressing these inequities through sustainable development can also become a positive. One bright spot in an otherwise dire report is the potential for significant synergies between sustainable development with mitigation and adaptation strategies. But ONLY IF we think about the issues holistically and find mechanisms to cooperate internationally. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement recognizes “the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches” and mentions supporting and promoting sustainable development in Paragraphs 1,2,4, and 9. A failure to consider mitigation and adaptation strategies in the context of sustainable development and the SDGScreen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.28.58 PMs could result in the opposite effect of creating long term negative impacts on the health and survival of those populations that contributed the least to the problem and have extremely limited resources to weather the consequences.

Let’s strengthen our sustainable development goals through enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and provide some accountability with some teeth in Katowice.


IPCC special report leaves the world in dire straits

In response to an invitation from the Parties of the Paris Agreement (PA), and pursuant to the Article 2 efforts to limit temperature increases well below 2°C, the IPCC prepared a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), released Monday, 8 October, 2018.

Climate scientists sounded the alarm yet again, painting a dire picture of the future without immediate and drastic mitigation and adaptation measures worldwide.  High confidence statements made by the panel include:

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  • Human activities have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels
  • Current global warming trends reach at least 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Staying below the 1.5°C threshold will require a 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050
  • Pathways to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot will require removal of an additional 100-1000 GtCO2

Pathways of current nationally stated mitigation ambitions submitted under the PA will not limit global warming to 1.5°C.  Current pathways put us on target for 3°C by 2100, with continued warming afterwards.

The ENB Report summarizing SR15 was able to shine a light on the good that can come from responses to this special report (not to mention upholding the ambition intended with the PA).  SR15 shows that most of the 1.5°C pathways to avoid overshoot also help to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in critical areas like human health or energy access. Ambitious emission reductions can also prevent meeting critical ecosystem thresholds, such as the projected loss of 70-90% of warmer water coral reefs associated with 2°C.

Groups like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are intensifying their adaptive scientific support through a “fully-integrated, ‘seamless’ Earth-system approach to weather, climate, and water domains,” says Professor Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the WMO.  This “seamless” approach allows leading climate scientists to use their advanced data assimilation and observation capabilities to deliver knowledge in support of human adaptations to regional environmental changes.  By addressing extreme climate and weather events through a holistic Earth-system approach, predictive tools will help enhance early warning systems and promote well being by giving the global community a greater chance to adapt to the inevitable hazardous events related to climate change.

WRI Graph

Success ultimately depends on international cooperation, which will hopefully be encouraged by the IPCC’s grim report and the looming PA Global Stocktake (GST) in 2023.  In the wake of devastating hurricanes, typhoons, and the SR15, it’s hard to ignore both the climate and leading climate scientists urging us to take deliberate, collective action to help create a more equitable and livable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

In Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20 decides to convene a “facilitative dialogue” among the Parties in 2018, to take stock in relation to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4 of the PA.  Later renamed the Talanoa Dialogue, these talks have set preparations into motion and are helping Parties gear up for the formal GST, with the aim of answering three key questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

Discussion about the implications of SR15 will be held at COP24, where round table discussions in the political phase of the dialogue will address the question, “how do we get there?”

It won’t be by continuing business as usual.

 


US sinks to new low in climate change ambition

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 10.09.47 PMIn 2015, the United States submitted an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) that committed the country to doing its fair share to keep the global temperature from increasing beyond “well below 2C.” In it, the US specifically promised that it “intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.” This INDC became a binding international treaty commitment on November 4, 2016, when the Paris Agreement entered into force.  Under Article 4.2, the US agreed that it “shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.” 177 of the 181 Paris Agreement Parties that have submitted their own NDCs relied on the United States’ promise when preparing, communicating, and maintaining their nationally determined contributions.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries like the US agreed, in Article 4.9, that “[e]ach Party shall communicate a nationally determined contribution every five years in accordance with decision. In addition, under Article 4.3, each Party’s successive nationally determined contribution “will represent a progression beyond the Party’s then current nationally determined contribution and reflect its highest possible ambition.” Article 4.11 highlights that a Party “may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition.” Yet no Paris Agreement article permits NDC adjustments of lower ambition.

The Trump Administration’s efforts not to maintain adequate national laws and policies to achieve the current US NDC hit an new low last week. That’s when the Washington Post broke the story of a “startling assumption” located “deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement”: “On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century.” According to the IPCC, this kind of warming is beyond human history records and would imperil food security and drinking water sources, and lead to sea level rise that wipe out most coastal cities.

tailpipeWhile this admission is scary enough, the Washington Post noted that how the Trump Administration was using it was even scarier.  “[T]he administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.”  Essentially the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) drew this conclusion to justify the decision to freeze Obama-era federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. The logic is that global temperature will increase nearly 3.5C above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years – so why bother?

No ambition at all.

 


RE100 Businesses Pave the Way for Transitioning to Renewable Energy

images Ambition, pace, scale—these are the themes in shifting to an economy recognizing climate change. Companies pioneering this economic shift incorporated climate change as an significant factor in conducting business.

One of the leading organizations spearheading this movement is RE100. RE100 is a collaborative movement uniting over 150 well recognized companies across the world to commit to using 100% renewable energy. What is even more impressive is that these companies have acted on their own in addressing climate change, ahead of government direction. Remarkably, these corporations were able to shift to 100% renewable electricity, which garnered a competitive advantage enabling them to financially outpace their competitors.

A study by RE100 and Capgemini compared RE100 companies to non-RE100 companies by sector. It concluded that RE100 companies earn an average profit of 7.7% more than their competitors. Admittedly, the report’s analysis in no way suggests that switching to 100% renewable electricity is the sole cause of the profit difference. However, it is compelling that all RE100 companies have consistently outperformed the competition in their respective industries. Thus, it would suggest a strong correlation between switching to renewable electricity and above-average financial performance.

The switch to renewable electricity is done using multiple mechanisms simultaneously. Companies utilize a combination of energy power purchase agreements (PPA) and self-generated renewable electricity technology. Moreover, RE100 companies have developed new management structures, such as silo model, centralized model, and global model, to coordinate renewable electricity sourcing and efficient use infrastructure. The benefits of transitioning are significant.

For example, General Motors harnessed renewable energy sources from landfill gas, solar arrays, and wind farms. This combination has lowered operation costs by $80 million. The cost savings result largely from improved, cost-effective renewable technologies and government incentives. Landfill gas allows companies to lock into long-term prices that are cheaper and more stable than fluctuating natural gas prices. GM strategically built their own solar arrays and benefited from government feed-in-tariff programs. Finally, GM built wind projects in Mexico and Texas that generate over 34 MW, enough to power five manufacturing facilities.

Anheuser-Busch, another RE100 company, has procured PPAs for onshore wind projects to offset its dependence on traditional energy sources. Anheuser-Busch is in line to become the largest purchaser of renewable electricity and one of the forerunners in advertising renewable energy. The beer manufacturer uses its brand influence in its renewable electricity symbol campaign, where every pack of Budweiser will carry the symbol to celebrate its commitment to brew with 100% renewable energy.

The trend toward renewable energy is now gaining traction, and signals a tipping point to mass renewable. Since RE100’s inception, companies partnered through renewable energy purchase agreements have created 100% renewable energy demand of more than 184.6 TWh—enough energy to power Poland. Moreover, RE100 company surveys yielded that renewable energy costs have reduced significantly where it has been cost competitive against fossil fuels. Therefore the RE100 momentum would suggest that this trend is welcomed with open arms and significantly contributing to how other companies shape their tactics to address climate change.


China’s Effort to Limit GHGs

china-five-year-plan-infographicChina produces more carbon dioxide than any other country in the world: 10.357 million metric tons per year. To limit their impact on climate change, China includes environmental protection in their Five Year Plan (FYP). The FYP is the country’s blueprint that outlines the policy framework, priorities, economic, and social development goals for the 2016-2020 period.

In 2016, China released the 13th FYP which includes lofty goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase green manufacturing. Innovation is the crux of this FYP. Innovation builds on improving manufacturing and emphasizing a cleaner, green economy. A State Council executive meeting in 2015 discussed implementing an Internet Plus Circulation program. The program expands broadband connection to more rural areas so there is more efficiency in transporting items, like new agricultural products and equipment. The program will also allow rural populations to access health care. Air pollution is a key target for the FYP. Chapter 38, Section 4, ensures that the concentration of fine particulate matter is reduced by at least 25%. The current status of smog and air pollution affects public health. China is increasing regulations for coal-fired plants while requiring low-emission technologies and eliminating outdated industrial equipment and processes.

The carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets in the FYP contribute to China’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) 2030 target. The 13th FYP even put a first nation-wide total energy cap on all energy sources: it is set at less than the equivalent of five billion tons of coal over the next five years. These goals are reflected in the INDC filed on June 30, 2015. Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, provides that “[e]ach Party shall prepare…nationally determined contributions…with the aim of achieving the objectives…” of reaching a global peak of GHG emissions as soon as possible. During COP24 in December, China may include details about innovation and policy from the 13th FYP into the NDC because it is on track to meet the 2020.

China is fully embracing their 2020 goals by implementing green community projects. On September 28, 2018, Green Climate Fund announced that the board will consider projects, including China’s Green Cities program,targeting Central Asia and Eastern Europe. This project is among 20 other proposals totaling $1.1 billion to be heard during the next board meeting this month. It will be interesting to see how these project proposals will factor into each countries’ NDC during COP24.


The Paris Agreement and the Green Economy

imagesThe adverse impacts of climate change are no secret. We are constantly reminded of the gloomy consequences that will arise at our continued rate of consumption without significant intervention. It is predicted that growing wage gaps combined with climate change will cause over 100 million people to fall into poverty. Moreover, this alarming statistic could impact the well being of children in Africa and Asia, causing 120 million to suffer from malnourishment by 2030. Current projections indicate that our urban footprint will likely triple, demand for food will increase by 35%, and the world’s water needs are expected to rise by 40%.The adverse effects of climate change are not exclusive to impoverished and marginalized communities. By 2030 global economic loss is expected to reach 3.2%, indicating that even the private sector is not immune.

With the Paris Agreement, the paradigm shifted to place international focus on the transition from a traditional economy to a green economy ̶ meaning one that recognizes the relationship between environmental sustainability, economic development, and climate change. Under the Paris Agreement, countries must submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to mitigating global climate change while operating within their national environmental and economic objectives. These NDCs set national targets by utilizing mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. Cumulatively, the commitments established by each country aim to meet the Paris Agreement’s objective of holding the increase in global temperature to “well below 2⁰C.” The implementation of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms require funding and corporate involvement to perform the work. In this manner, the Paris Agreement has propelled the green economy forward. As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently stated, “Those that will be betting on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, on the green economy, will be the ones that have a leading role in the economy of the 21st century.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) announced in its annual report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs, that 24 million new “green” jobs will be created globally by 2030. Likewise, within the same timeframe, the green economy is anticipated to offset predicted economic losses in traditional industries. The drastic advancements in renewable energy technology and innovation also support this assertion.  For instance, more development in solar and hydroelectric energy technology reduced the demand for coal-based energy in many countries. In addition to this, industry leaders such as Microsoft and Amazon developed cloud-based computing services that enable small companies to reduce 90% of their CO2 footprint. What is even more impressive is that the green economy’s net-worth now exceeds that of the fossil fuel sector (6% of the global stock market), according to a report by FTSE Russel. All of which lends credence to the words of ILO Deputy Director-General, Deborah Greenfield, who insisted that the green economy “can enable millions more people to overcome poverty and deliver improved livelihoods.”

Without a doubt, the green economy’s momentum shows no signs of stopping and has grown to exceed $1 trillion USD. However, this raises the question of how well-prepared are countries to handle the transition to a low-carbon economy. It is important to note even the green economy must be properly guided with the right policies.  The aggregate collaboration from countries committed to the Paris Agreement is promising, and could provide the impetus for such guidance and direction for a sustainable economic shift. Only time will tell.


Lets get on the same page

Capacity Building Initiative on TransparencyThe Paris Agreement, ratified by 170 Parties, at last count, has a clear goal for the world: Hold the rise in average global temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. While the goal is clear, the solutions are complex and challenging. This is especially true for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). LDCs lack the capacity and technical expertise to tackle these problems.  The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognized the disparity between developed and LDCs in article 4.9 and implemented mechanisms to assist LDCs build capacity.

One of the recent mechanisms to be implemented as a part of the Paris Agreement is the Capacity Building Initiative on Transparency (CBIT). The goal of this initiative is to “strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of developing countries to meet the enhanced transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement.” In this context, transparency is more than access to information; it also refers to accuracy and standardization. Transparency allows all Parties to measure and compare the collective progress made by each country’s pledged climate change actions.

CBIT calls for transparency on two fronts: the first is transparency of actions and the second is transparency of support:

  • Transparency of actions is completed through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as called for by the convention in Article 4.1(f). Simply, NDCs are a set of measures taken by a country to limit GHG emissions. But this task is a more complex process than it seems. In order to meet the requirements of the PA Article 13.5, NDCs need to be backed by scientific data that can be Measured, Reviewed, and Verified (MRV). LDCs need to develop expertise in the methodologies used for collecting data. As an example, the first NDC submitted by Papua New Guinea (PNG) presented data with “considerable uncertainty”. To address that gap, PNG received financial assistance through CBIT to hire the expertise needed to collect the data needed to MRV its pledged actions. As the NDCs are evaluated collectively, they are compared to the ultimate goal of the PA. In turn, as delegates meet annually, they can evaluate climate change actions against the goal more effectively.
  • The PA in Article 13.6 requires “transparency of support.” The PA tasked the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with administering fund distribution. In order to facilitate that, the GEF publishes a report that details the support given under the CBIT fund. In its recent report of early November, 2017, $17,389,995 in CBIT funds was distributed to fourteen countries for transparency capacity building. This report also lists funding from other sources, including almost $19 million in co-financing for these projects.

In terms of spending on climate change actions, the CBIT fund doesn’t readily draw attention. However, it is an important part of combating climate change. By providing these practical measures, in addition to the climate change policies, the COP and its entities provide more holistic solutions. CBIT can be seen as one brick in giant wall of solution options. I would like to think of it as a corner stone that supports this wall far beyond its size would indicate.


Who is representing the US at COP23?

COP 23You are on your way to COP23, the place to be for everything climate change. You walk through the doors and find yourself among hundreds of people from all over the world, running from one session to the other, with a quick stop perhaps for a cup of coffee. You attend negotiations and presentations, and develop an understanding of what is important to a country or a block of countries as they attempt to reverse the alarming rise in the planet’s temperature.

After a day or two, the chaos becomes normal and all the different languages you overhear start having a familiar tone. You begin to appreciate the setting: located by the Rhine and intersected by a city park, dotted with ponds where ducks, geese, and swans keep residence. It is beautiful. Then, as you are waiting for an electric car/bus to take you between the Bula and Bonn Zones, you notice a white dome shaped building to the side. Curious, you head there and find a sign for the U.S. Climate Action Center.  Peppered throughout the place is the hash tag #wearestillin.

You feel surprised because the U.S. declared its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But a list of this Center’s events shows these presenters: Al Gore, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, Governor Jerry Brown of California, Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington.  In other words, a collection of American environmental rock stars and members of the U.S. Climate Alliance fill the place.

But then you notice that the U.S. delegation is hosting a “side event” titled The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation. Unlike events held at the U.S. Climate Action Center, which attracted many attendees, this event drew protests. So who is representing the United States?

A closer look at the U.S. Climate Action Center shows that it as an effort by California Governor Jerry Brown that is funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It has attracted a collection of states, counties and municipalities; colleges and universities; businesses; non-profit organizations; faith organizations; and ordinary citizens. All told, the U.S. Climate Action Center spans all fifty states, 127 million Americans, and $6.2 trillion, all intent on honoring continued U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement. A delegation called the People’s Delegation at COP23 pledged to the UNFCCC that “we are still in.”

The U.S. delegation, with representatives from the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the delegation of record.  It, and only it, has the authority to negotiate on behalf of the U.S. (at least till the U.S. projected exit in 2020). But I believe the delegation that can effectuate the goals of the Paris Agreement has the upper hand. If “we are still in” manages to reduce GHG emissions in the U.S., then they are the delegation of record!


Issues Developed, Developing, and Small Island Nations Highlighted in the High Level Segment

The question is what is developing and developed nations are bringing to the world discussion on what needs to happen under the Paris Agreement. The high-level segment of the COP23 started yesterday. In the high-level segment, country heads of government have the opportunity to address the COP for three minutes. With such a short amount of time, the parties have to prioritize what message they want to get across to the COP and make their speeches more pointed.

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Developed nations emphasized their ongoing efforts to mitigate climate change both domestically and internationally. A lot of developed countries emphasized their domestic activities and goals for mitigating the effects of climate change. States like France, Luxembourg, and Germany went into detail about; their current and future domestic policies and their investments in industries to mitigate climate change. France and Germany also highlighted joint EU Goals in addressing climate change across the European continent.

Developing nations emphasized finance and their vulnerability to the effects of climate change. A lot of developing nations noted the need for finances for a variety of similar reasons. The developing countries emphasized this demand for funds by articulating in what ways they were vulnerable to climate change and the current and future effects of climate change on their nations and economies. Guinea and Gabon both articulated the need and urgency for funds to mitigate the ongoing effects of climate change.

With Fiji as the president and host country of the COP, small island developing states (SIDS) have a spotlight this year. Small Island Developing states emphasized the need for Finance and  Loss and Damage. SIDS made a point to emphasize the direct link between climate change and the ocean when they highlighted their vulnerabilities to climate change effects. SIDS also stressed the time-sensitivity of their issues because of their geographic vulnerability. All the SIDS who spoke emphasized the need for Loss and Damage. Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati highlighted the need to provide resources to the Warsaw International Mechanism to support Loss and Damage efforts. Palau and Nauru specifically stressed the recent hurricanes and typhoons in Asia and the Americas. Almost all SIDS emphasized the importance of climate finance in combatting the realized effects of climate change on their nations.

The answer to the question of what developing and developed nations are bringing to the world discussion on what needs to happen under the Paris Agreement is dependent on their national needs. Developing nations and SIDS emphasized a need for finances and highlighted their specific vulnerabilities to effects of climate change. Developed Nations stressed their continued support to developing nations while highlighting their own domestic policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The main point is that countries emphasize their individual domestic needs when addressing the COP.


Two Approaches for realizing the Transparency Framework.

The question presented is which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. Articles 13, 14 and 15 prescribe the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement. This blog post will focus on Article 13. Article 13 compiles reports of actions taken under other Articles and aims to provide clarity in steps taken to achieve a Party’s NDC under Article 4 and a Party’s adaptation actions under Article 7. Article 13 identifies two separate frameworks for ensuring transparency: a framework for the transparency of actions taken under Articles 4 and 7, and a framework for transparency in providing and receiving support for climate change actions under Article 4, 7, 9, 10, and 11. The APA was tasked with developing the “modalities, guidelines, and procedures” (MGPs) of the transparency framework in the COP 21 decision. Overall, the transparency framework works as an accountability instrument for parties that have ratified the Paris Agreement.

There are many approaches to realizing the transparency framework. This post will focus on two of those approaches. The first approach is the general party approach to focus on the objective of the transparency framework and build from that focus. A discussion paper published by the Institute for Global and Environmental Strategies (IGES) proposes a second approach. This discussion paper proposes four objectives for broadening the goal of the Transparency Framework to include other climate change goals. “The 4 objectives are: (1) achieve comparability to strengthen transparency, (2) build the capacity of government officials through their use of the means to enhance their self-understanding, (3) trigger domestic actions to introduce a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)-cycle with GHG MRV to improve performance, and (4) share lessons learned among the Parties. ”

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The party approach tries to increase transparency through working with the original objectives articulated in the Paris Agreement. Those initial goals focus on just reporting for the actions taken under articles 4 and 7 and support given and received for articles 4,7,10,11. In the current COP negotiations, parties are trying to clarify the details of the MGPs of the transparency framework. Therefore, the current approach to the transparency framework only focuses on the reporting guidelines and a consistent picture of how parties are achieving their climate change goals.

The broadened approach tries to integrate other elements into the transparency framework, such as mitigation and capacity building. The expanded approach does this by focusing on “self-analysis.” These self-analyses are where parties try to understand their progress and failures when trying to implement their NDCs domestically. The self-analysis is intended to be the evaluation of whether parties realize their goals in the other sectors. Under this new approach of emphasizing self-evaluation, the transparency framework would take a more instrumental approach in achieving all the targets in the Paris Agreement.

The answer to the initial question of which approach is the better for realizing the transparency framework of the Paris Agreement is variable. I think finalizing the MPG will best answer this question, when there is further clarity on what/ how much is to be reported under the Transparency Framework. Further, I believe the second (broadened) approach is ahead of its time.


Handmade Solar Cookers: Mitigation Starts at Home

A solar cooker is “a device which uses the energy of sunlight to heat food or drink to cook it or sterilize it.”  Solar Cookers International (SCK) was founded in 1987 in the Central Valley of California. SCK started by pooling its knowledge to produce “solar cooking manuals to help others build and use simple solar box cookers similar to those developed in the mi-1970s by Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole.” solar-cooking-1

Solar cooking can improve health by preventing dirty cooking, which produces air pollution causing major health problems like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, and respiratory tract infections.

In Tanzania, a group of women who used solar cooking for 10 months saw their health problems from smoke decrease from 77% down to 13%. Equally important, it can also reduce cooking expenses. “The sun is free”, so as soon as a person, family or enterprise has access to solar technology, they are saving what they are supposed to invest in cooking with fossil fuel.

In addition, SCK has training sessions that promotes and provides training in use and construction of solar cookers, which can reduce cooking expenses even more. It can also prevent deforestation by reducing demand for charcoal made from wood.

SCK uses the acronym “CARES” to describe the solar cooking process.“C” is the collection of the energy through reflectors on a solar a cooker. “A” stands for absorbing solar energy through black cookware. “R” means retaining the heat to use it for cooking, rather than losing it tothe ambient air. “E” means efficient and easy, while “S” indicates safety. There are three types of solar cooking that use this process: (1) reflective panel cooker (2) solar box ovens and (3) parabolic reflector.

SCK expressed that the principal reason for attending COP23 is to make more people aware about the environmental and health benefits of solar cooking. Only a quarter of the Parties include cooking in their climate change plans and only two mentioned solar cooking as a mechanism to achieve the target of their NDCs. The challenge is to help Parties realize that solar cooking and clean cooking are mechanisms for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.01b549f334a66d8601e0468ce0334fc6_f728

So, can solar cooking improve the Paris Agreement implementation? The answer is yes. Encouraging the use of solar cooking in homes, business establishments, and schools would: (1) reduce environmental harms like deforestation, (2) improve health reducing smoking effects, and (3) reduce fossil fuel investments.