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.

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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.

 


We Didn’t Start the Fire

Powerful images line the walls of the COP21 venue. They are meant to inspire delegates to reach an agreement on climate control. One such message reads: “Climate change is the single biggest thing that humans have ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it.”

FullSizeRender1There are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 around the globe. What many fail to realize is their power and duty when it comes to climate change. As the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported, “young people are about to inherit an enormous responsibility for resolving many long-standing complex problems.” Because young people will outlive their elders, they are more likely to confront the direct consequences of accelerating climate change and other environmental shifts.

The need for social resilience is likely to grow, and today’s young will need in their own adulthood to be the main agents of tomorrow’s resilience. Their resilience depends in part on whether they are healthy and educated, whether they have options and opportunities in life, and whether they are fully engaged citizens whose rights are upheld.

Young people have historically participated in the UNFCCC. With additional levels of involvement via international Youth Climate Movements (YouNGO) and the Youth Portal on the UNFCCC website, youth organizations have started to view climate negotiations as a new forum for young people.

COP21 hosted an event titled “Climate Innovators: Empowering a Global Generation of Young People” this afternoon, which featured the work of both budding and experienced innovators. This event contemplated the investments needed to ensure that the newest generation can contribute to a sustainable and resilient future.

Wanjira Mathai, Chair of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, distinguished this event as one of the most important sessions of all of COP21. The role of future generations remains an essential part of the climate change solution. She finds sobering the fact that Parties are talking about ambitious targets for the Paris Outcome, yet it will be the youth who takes forward the implementation of what Parties discuss today. For this reason, she says, young people must take center stage in the Paris debates.

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, thinks it is a mistake to say that the youth represent the future of humanity; he thinks instead that they represent the present. He sheds light on the basic issues of generational fairness and social justice. The youth are clearly not responsible for the climate crisis, but unfortunately, unless decisive action is taken urgently, they will carry this burden into the future.

Young people face problems that are not theirs, and have not been involved in the decision-making process. Do they not feel as if they have the strategies, skills, or power to effectively engage in negotiations? Are the later generations clinging to power? Do young people even understand the pressing nature of climate change? As the architects of prospective solutions, young people encompass the requisite spirit of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. Enabling the youth to respond to climate change requires effective policies in the fields of education, training, and skills building. Ultimately, young people need to be given the design to become leaders.

The panel pointed out that younger generations are notoriously reckless, and do not realize the effects of what they do “until the results are in front of them.” Those concerned with our future can organize their influence by becoming role models to fellow youth, and to show them a conviction and desire to embody the change the world needs.

Young people are catalysts for change. And while we might be the last generation with the power to address climate change, it is not yet the end.


UNFCCC Negotiations – Coordinating the Dance

NegCourtesy of Creative Commons (Bobbi Vie)otiations are an elaborate dance. Negotiators must coordinate the actions of many partners. Make a misstep and the coordination is lost. What could be an elaborate dance degrades into a chaotic scramble.

 

On Friday afternoon, the COP21 negotiations demonstrated how difficult they can be to coordinate. After a week of work in spin-off groups and informal informals, the negotiation focus returned to the ADP contact group. What resulted was a classic example of what happens without a coordination plan.

 

The Co-Chair Ahmed Djoghlaf started the afternoon session by jumping into the process and asking Parties in they had any issues with Article 2 and Article 2bis. Without waiting for the negotiators to catch up, he quickly accepted the Articles as presented and moved onto Article 3.

 

What erupted next was a 2 hour long discussion of the process of negotiating. Over and over again, Parties voiced their opposition to the plan and the Co-Chair’s tactics.  Over and over again, Parties used the precious remaining negotiation time to debate how to proceed with a review of the negotiating text.

 

The Co-Chair saw the end goal that he wanted. To get a slimmed down text to the COP. His choice of process was not the right choice. His steps were out of order. UNFCCC negotiations are a party-driven process where consensus decides the pathway. The Co-Chair chose to lead instead of coordinate.

 

The Parties took a break, regrouped, and returned with a new proposal for coordinating Party input.  Malaysia, the European Union, the United States, and Norway, brought forward a Party-driven sequence for commenting on the proposed negotiating text. A pattern emerged. The Co-Chair reverted back to managing the order and sequence of Party comments. The Parties focused on identifying the key elements that they wanted in the text and making suggestions on what text could be inserted or should be deleted. Each Party suggestion was to be recorded but not debated.

 

While the first two hours of the negotiation bogged down with discussions of procedure, the second two hours took on a pattern of Party submissions detailing desired key elements. Party after Party presented their key elements. Some Parties submitted no proposals; some Parties made multiple proposals; some Parties made minor proposals; some Parties made extensive proposals. At the end of the meeting, all of the proposals were recorded to be assembled into a reflective note.

 

The day started off as a chaotic scramble before evolving into a coordinated pattern of Party submissions. What looked like a lost day ended up with the ADP taking a few more steps towards completing its work.

 

 


The road from Bonn to Lima (by way of Copenhagen this week)

Looking back on last week’s ADP2-6 special session, it would be easy to echo the notes of pessimism that pervaded Saturday’s press reports.  RTCC (Responding to Climate Change) commented after last Thursday’s stocktaking session that “much work remains” in the session’s last two daysIMG_4368 and noted the frustrated ADP Co-Chairs “offering government negotiators a stern reality check.”   Artur Runge-Metzger acknowledged that the “ambition to finalize the two decisions is no longer possible in Bonn” because State Parties had “not touched on many important things.”  Kishan Kumarsingh put it more bluntly, calling on delegates to “look yourselves in the eye; ask yourself if we are on track.”

adp in bonnSaturday’s Business Insider opened with these words:  “Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact. The six-day meeting of senior officials in the former West German capital was meant to lay the groundwork for the annual round of ministerial-level UN talks in Lima in December. In turn, the Lima forum must pave the way to a historic pact which nations have agreed must be signed in Paris next year, to curb planet-altering climate change. But some negotiators and observers expressed concern that the Bonn talks focused too much on restating well-known country positions on how responsibility for climate action must be shared.”  BI quotes David Waskow of the World Resources Institute (WRI) saying that while the ADP2-6 talks had been constructive, “there is nervousness that the pace is somewhat slow” and  Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) echoing this concern more pithily: “People are starting to panic a little.”

EU dealEven some good news from individual countries – foreshadowing their INDCs or intended nationally determined commitments/contributions, the content of which was under negotiation all week in Bonn – did not appear to hearten negotiators.  For example, the AFP (L’Agence France-Presse) announced on Thursday that “a European deal on curbing carbon emissions yielded a rare concrete input Friday to UN climate talks, but did little to ease frustration among negotiators demanding progress on a global pact in Bonn.”  The EU-28’s agreement to cut GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030 over 1990 levels (building on the EU’s current projected 20% decrease from 1990 to 2020), along with 27% renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, was hailed in Brussels but downplayed by some developing country negotiators in Bonn.

Claudia Salerno of Venezuela talking with a U.S. counterpart in a COP19 ADP huddle.Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead negotiator at the ADP (pictured at right facing the camera), spoke on behalf of the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) negotiation bloc when she called the EU goals “too little and too late.”    Likewise Sweden’s pledge of $550 million to the Green Climate Fund barely took the edge off developing countries concern about the slow progress of all developed countries in meeting their COP15 pledge of mobilizing $100 billion per year of climate finance by 2020.  Even though the Swedish government’s press release announced that it is “now choosing to take greater responsibility for Sweden’s climate impact and is making a commitment ahead of Paris 2015 by increasing Green Climate Fund (GCF) financing by approximately USD 550 million (SEK 4 billion) and allocating an additional SEK 500 million to international climate action,” Bloomberg News led its Friday report on ADP2-6 with  “a dispute about how to link greenhouse-gas emissions cuts to a promise from the wealthiest nations for $100 billion a year in climate aid emerged as a major stumbling block at UN talks on global warming.”  As UCS’s Meyer observed, “there has to be some collective signal from the developed countries that the direction of climate finance will be upwards and not fall off a cliff. You need more clarity on post-2020 finance if you want to get an agreement in Paris.”

Finally, a Greenpeace report  noted by the GCCA (Global Call for Climate Action) last week that China — now the world’s largest GHG emitter — had decreased its coal usage this year gained little traction in the Bonn talks.  Because China burns almost china factorshalf of the coal used worldwide each year, the fact that it decreased its coal consumption by about 2% while also growing its economy 7.4% and increasing its energy consumption by 4% indicates that the country is on track to meet the mitigation goals it announced at last month’s UN Climate Summit.  This change looks to have resulted from a combination of several “bottom up” initiatives within China, including its National Energy Agency’s proposals to limit coal consumption growth to 2% (by more than doubling wind power capacity and increasing solar capacity fivefold between 2013 and 2020) and regional pledges in 12 of China’s 44 provinces (representing 44% of national coal usage) to limit their coal consumption and the launch of 8 regional carbon markets that prepares China to meet its national emissions trading scheme targeted for 2016.

At the ADP’s closing plenary, State Party delegates spoke out about the road from Bonn to Lima, ignoring the Co-Chairs’ request to end ADP2-6 without individual country interventions.  A general theme was G77 birthdaysounded by Bolivia speaking on behalf of the G77+China that was echoed by most parties: feeling the political pressure from civil society and wanting to avoid a “take it or leave it” situation in COP20’s final moments, the G77 urged the co-chairs to reorient the ADP’s work in Lima by starting with a clear working text and formal groups that focus negotiation on all core elements of agreement.  Ecuador, representing the LMDCs, drew a very clear picture of what it wanted to avoid:  “We represent sovereign states.  We expect to negotiate with dignity,” not in huddles resulting from a mismanaged process.  South Africa, concluding that “the latest version does not reflect the bridges that we’ve built,” additionally called for appointing facilitators to lead these focused groups and working specifically from an updated and reorganized version of the current non-paper.  While directing her remarks to the Co-Chairs, the SA lead ADP negotiator reminded everyone in the room – State Party delegates, UNFCCC staff, civil society organizations –  that “time is not on our side.” Picking up on this last point, the Swiss ADP lead negotiator, speaking for the EIG (Environmental Integrity Group, the only UNFCCC negotiating bloc to include both developing and developed country members), redirected negotiators’ frustration from the ADP leadership to its membership:  “Slow motion this week due to speed limits imposed by parties on themselves, not by co-chairs.”  He observed that the week’s focused work on mitigation commitments had been productive, permitting the parties to delve into more detail and nuance, and commended the Co-Chairs for “creating this space.”

Next stop on the road to Lima is this week’s 40th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-40), which began meeting this morning at the Tivoli Conference Center in Copenhagen, AR5Denmark.  Its goal: to consider and finalize the IPCC’s Synthesis Report (SYR), which integrates and synthesizes the findings from the three Working Group (WG) reports already published. Taken together, the three WG reports and the SYR will make up the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) that the 196 UNFCCC parties will rely on in Lima. From today until the final gavel on Friday, the IPCC will approve, line by line, the SYR’s Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and adopt the draft SYR – no mean feat, given that more than 800 authors and review editors from 85 countries have had a hand in preparing AR5 during the past six years.  Maybe the IPCC’s process could suggest some conflict resolution techniques for the UNFCCC parties?


Can social media offer a voice and a virtual seat at the climate change table?

It is estimated that one in four people worldwide use some form of social media. While this statistic may cause concern among some populations, should climate change advocates around the world rejoice in this? According to news about Instagram , the International Center of Photography  is working hard to bring climate change front and center for every social media user. This eight-year project aims to showcase beauty of untouched areas of the world and appeal to the senses of ‘what could be lost.’ Some of the photographs highlight climate catastrophes such as deforestation in Borneo and melting glacial fields. This is not, however, an overt cry for change.  The idea is to expose Instagram users to these images and spark conversation which would not happen when one walks solo through the ICP’s Midtown Manhattan gallery.  The onsite exhibition coordinator, Pauline Vermare, explains, “It’s not about art, it’s about changing the society.”

View of the junction of the Colorado and the Little Colorado from the Navajo territory. The Grand Canyon National Park begins after this junction. Click the image to enlarge. Copyright Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images

View of the junction of the Colorado and the Little Colorado from the Navajo territory. The Grand Canyon National Park begins after this junction.  This is one of the ICP images.
Click the image to enlarge. Copyright Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images

Using social media to raise climate change awareness is not novel: three years ago, Al Gore started “The Climate Reality Project,” created a FaceBook page and asked the public to commit to hosting view-parties for online climate change events. Today, this page has almost 321,000 ‘likes’ and still acts as a news source for climate-savvy FaceBookers. Others add climate change inspired ‘hashtags’ that cross social media boundaries from FaceBook to Twitter and Instagram. This was evident during People’s Climate march as over 400,000 participants gathered in the streets of New York City – most uploading photos with #peoplesclimatemarch.

While these social media campaigns may subconsciously expose us to issues or overtly alert us to climate news, do they really make a difference to the leaders on the road to Lima and Paris for upcoming UNFCCC and Kyoto negotiations? It seems as though, while a good way to stay informed, there is little evidence that party leaders actually take social media into account when devising negotiating plans. This doesn’t mean social media has no influence on policy; it may just mean that this is one channel for negotiators to monitor the thoughts of citizens and for constituencies to keep tabs on issues.  Since 2008, the UNFCCC secretariat and Information Services Coordinator have stated that virtual participation in convention sessions is a priority. Growing numbers of Convention delegates, lack of funding for some Parties/organizations to send delegates and a new host city each year make virtual participation a timely choice.  With increased virtual participation via social media, an active FaceBook page for UNFCCC and a plethora of citizen groups pushing climate change awareness, WE MAY ALL HAVE A VOICE and a front row seat (at least, in front of a laptop) at Paris COP21.  As for Lima, have confidence that the blogging, hashtagging and tweeting will keep the masses informed.


Adding fuel to the fire

Media coverage of the international climate change negotiations is picking up speed as U.N. SG Ban Ki-moon’s September 23 Climate Summit draws near.  Today my local paper, the Valley News (warmly referred to as the Valley Snooze locally), implicitly covered the Summit in two ways.  A headline in the lower half of the front page shouts Report:  Big Surge in Carbon Gases and a letter to the editor on the Forum page is entitled Creating a Climate of Hope.

WMO logoThe front page story focuses on data from the most recent issue of the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin from the WMO (World Meteorological Organization, co-founder along with UNEP, the U.N. Environmental Programme, of the IPCC or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  This data comes from observations from WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) network of 125 monitoring stations worldwide.  Fresh off the press today, the Bulletin highlights that:

  • between 1990 and 2013, radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – increased 34%because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.
  • concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2013 was 142% of the pre-industrial era (1750), and of methane and nitrous oxide, 253% and 121% respectively.
  • CO2 levels increased more between 2012 and 2013 than during any other year since 1984. Preliminary data indicates that this was possibly related to reduced CO2 uptake by the earth’s biosphere in addition to the steadily increasing CO2 emissions. (Oceans absorb about a quarter of total emissions and another quarter is taken up by the biosphere, thereby reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.)

In other words, not only are we continuing to increase our CO2 emissions, but those already sent into the atmosphere in years passed have clogged the earth’s – meaning the ocean’s  and plants’ – capacity to store it in a way that doesn’t drive up the atmosphere’s temperature.

mussleAnd not only does it look like the ocean is maxing out its absorption capacity, but in getting to this point, the uptake process is resulting in sea level rise and ocean acidification.  The Bulletin reports that the current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented in the last 300 million years.  (Read this Daily Climate story on how ocean acidification affects mussels, their ecosystems, and the commerical fishing industry built around both.)

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud states in today’s press release that “We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.  The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years. We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board.  We are running out of time.”

Mr Jarraud ends with “Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable.”

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A negotiating “huddle” at COP19’s closing plenary.

Which leads to the Forum letter encouraging people to join the People’s Climate March scheduled to take place just before the UN Climate Summit.  While the laws of physics are not negotiable, international treaties on climate change are.

The Summit is intended to put world leaders, who will gather in New York for the annual General Assembly meeting, on the spot:  to shine a light on what countries are and are not doing under their existing obligations in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, as well as in the negotiation of new ones.  (For more on the summit, read this interview with Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who is now serving as one of Ban Ki-moon’s three special envoys on climate change [along with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former president of Ghana John Kufuor]).  Given the shift to bottom-up, nationally determined mitigation and adaptation commitments in the ADP negotiations, March organizers like 350.org want U.S. officials (and those of other countries) to see physically the political support for agreeing to further emissions limits.


EU Debating Internally Its Carbon Emission Pledges

This article in Bloomberg News explores the divide among EU member countries when setting the bloc’s overall commitments under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as those it will agree to in the KP’s successor agreement due to be signed in Paris in 2015.  A draft plan due to be released tomorrow by the European Commission (EC) seeks to commit the EU’s 28 member countries to reducing carbon emissions by 35 – 40% by 2030.  (Currently the EU has pledged a 21% cut by 2020 over 2005 levels.)

Polish coal fired utilityThis plan’s ambitions pose internal political challenges.  Retail power prices have spiked 65% from 2004 to 2011,while natural gas prices have risen by 42%.  In comparison, inflation has been 18% during that same time period.  Some EU members, like Germany, France, Italy, and the U.K., support the 40% target while countries like Poland, which derives almost all of its electricity from coal, opposes it.  Likewise, there is disagreement on how to balance the policy goals of overall reduction targets with renewable energy targets.  Four years ago, when making the 2020 pledge, the EU also aimed to have 20% of energy consumption by 2020 come from renewables. Germany, France, Ireland, Denmark, and Belgium continue to support having a separate renewables target, while the U.K. opposes it.  Internal politics is key to the EU’s next climate policy steps:  the European Parliament is due for elections in May and the EC, in October.

In the larger picture also looms external political concerns.  “What we must do is to keep climate policy, but we have to put at the same level cost competitiveness for energy and security of supply,” said the president of BusinessEurope, a Brussels-based group that represents companies from 35 European countries. “If we go for 40 percent unilaterally this would be absolutely against industrial competitiveness of Europe. The goal has to be realistic.”danish wind turbine

Reconciling the internal and external political concerns is not only key to the EU setting its internal climate policy, but also critical for the UNFCCC negotiations: the EU has the biggest emissions trading system (covering some 12,000 utilities and manufacturers) and the most advanced limits on carbon emissions (covering industrial sectors outside the ETS).  Consequently it is a leader both in setting ambition and devising the mechanisms for achieving sustainable development for developed countries.


“A foundation COP” of nuts and bolts

A presidential stocktaking during COP19's final days.

A presidential stocktaking during COP19’s final days.

“Stocktaking” is a now a new word in my vocabulary.  While I regularly do it, I don’t normally make the time to name it as such.  In the polyglot system of the United Nations, awkwardly-formal-but-descriptive terms like this one (and “functions and modalities,” “institutional mechanisms,”  “work programmes”) are essential to the process of moving a group forward to action.

So now, speaking of “moving forward” (a common phrase at COP19), let’s take stock of how the media is portraying the outcome of COP19.

Today’s NYT focuses on the ADP and L&M final deals, explaining more IMG_4323about the latter than the former.  It led off with the idea that COP19 is “keeping alive the hope” of globally dealing with climate change, but ends on a bummer note: “Treaty members remain far from any serious, concerted action to cut emissions. And developing nations complained that promises of financial help remain unmet.”  Both valid points, and the second is a true accounting of what I witnessed in the ADP sessions.  But the first one misses the mark on this “foundation COP’s” mission, which the co-chairs stressed during the wee hours of Friday/Saturday’s marathon negotiation session: the ADP’s mandate for COP19 was to establish the elements and timetable for making the legal agreement that will bind countries to emissions reductions, not negotiating the agreement itself.

The NYT also chronicled how the U.S. called out China’s intransigence on future GHG emissions being “applicable to all” and how developed countries recognized their historical responsibility for creating global warming even though they resist being held “liable” for it.

IMG_4316China’s Xinhua news service focused on the glass half full, leading with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s positive view of COP19:  “The decisions adopted in Warsaw serve as an important stepping stone toward a universal legal agreement in 2015.”  Using the carefully negotiated language of “contributions” (rather than commitments), the article closed by observing that the ADP agreement “was seen as a key step paving the way for all countries to reach an ambitious global climate pact in 2015, and a sign of their desire to avert a breakdown of the climate talks.” It also gave a nod to a next stepping stone, the climate summit hosted by Ban Ki-Moon in September 2014 (on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly meeting):  “He has asked world leaders, as well as leaders from business, finance, local government and civil society, to bring bold announcements and actions that will lead to significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and strengthened adaptation and resilience efforts.”

The head Chinese negotiator for ADP, center background.

The head Chinese negotiator for ADP, center background.

Continuing with the stepping stone “path” metaphor for summing up the Warsaw meeting, but offering more “real politick” talk in a separate (but linked) news article, the Chinese delegation noted its disappointments. “There are many issues that we are not actually satisfied with but we can accept,” Xie Zhenhua, head of China’s COP19 delegation and also deputy chief of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.  According to him, “to make the meeting a success and the multi-lateral mechanism effective, China has shown the biggest flexibility and made concessions on some issues.”

Interestingly, BusinessGreen provides the more detailed and accurate accounting of COP19 specifics (as I witnessed them), as well as the most nuanced analysis. (I am not familiar with the publication but the comments indicate a very different readership than my regular reading list!)  It directly reports that “the eventual agreement resulted in a draft text that requires countries ‘who are ready’ to make ‘contributions, without prejudice to the legal nature,’ ideally by early 2015 at the latest” and acknowledges that this wording represents “significant watering down” of the penultimate draft’s use of “for those in a position” to deliver a climate “commitment” by early 2015.IMG_4282Nonetheless, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey views this as a sufficient outcome for “all nations have now agreed to start their homework to prepare for a global climate change deal in 2015” (reprising the homework theme of his HLM opening plenary remarks). “While the long negotiations in Poland showed there are many tough talks ahead of us, the determined diplomacy of the UK and EU achieved our aims, building alliances with our friends across the world.”

Jonathan Grant, Director at PwC’s sustainability and climate change IMG_4357team, joins the chorus using sports analogies to characterize the outcome achieved yesterday inside the National Stadium. “By taking us to the brink of collapse, looking over the edge and then pulling back, we come away feeling delighted that any progress has been made at all,” he said. “A victory was always expected, but like the England football team, the COP made this a lot more dramatic than it needed to be. The ‘talks about talks’ phase is now over, as countries agreed to the agenda for the negotiations and the timeline for coming up with some numbers.”

BusinessGreen closes with Nicholas Stern’s dose of reality therapy.  The author of the famous Stern Report, who now chairs an institute at the London School of Economics, views COP19’s output as IMG_4152“simply inadequate” compared to the scale and urgency of the risks of climate change: “If the world is to have a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming, which it is generally agreed would occur if there is a rise in global average temperature by more than two centigrade degrees compared with the late 19th century, annual emissions of greenhouse gases will need to be cut at a much faster rate than is currently planned by countries.”

That, folks, reminds the process-oriented “policy” types that their nuts and bolts are still out of step with the science types’ brass tacks.