In search of missing text

At the end of last week I was in Bonn, where another round of UNFCCC negotiations was taking place in the lead-up to Copenhagen. I happened to catch the Greenpeace show, which involved the sounding of an incredibly loud air-raid type siren from within a locked steel cage on the back of a truck. The German police didn’t take kindly to this and proceeded to cut them out.


But the point made by Greenpeace isn’t without merit. My own “alarm moment” comes from looking at the text which the negotiators are deliberating over. Although much was apparently added during the Bonn talks, the starting point (the AWG-LCA text) says little about how to actually address this problem, but rather presents fifty three pages of arcane language about process. It talks of “appropriate action”, but doesen’t define what this might actually entail, other than in the loosest terms. Take a technology such as carbon capture and geological storage – it doesn’t even get a mention. The word “renewable” appears once, “nuclear” doesn’t appear at all and “energy efficiency” twice. Even the notion of a carbon market to drive large scale deployment is barely touched upon.

Short of a document which clearly spells out a forward emissons profile for every country, perhaps it is time to replace abstraction with clarity and focus. There are five, and only five things we can do to address the mitigation side of climate change. We have to do all of them, we have to do them at huge scale and we have to do them very quickly. They are;

  • Using energy much more efficiently;
  • Increasing the use of renewable and nuclear sources of energy;
  • Rapidly commercialising and deploying carbon dioxide capture and geological storage in tandem with the use of fossil fuels [or with the chemical conversion of fossil derived materials for the provision of various manufactured products];
  • Containment, destruction and reduced usage of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide;
  • Reducing emissions through land use, land use change and forestry, including reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.

At the very least, the text should be driving these specific solutions forward, for example through properly funded large scale demonstration programmes and targeted mechanisms to hasten deployment. Carbon capture and storage provides a good example. Three policy initiatives are required to support this technology;

  • An underlying price for CO2 must be in place;
  • A clear recognition of the demonstration nature of the technology, which means funding, objectives, timelines and focus on delivery of projects;
  • A robust approach to CO2 storage certification (and MRV) based on 2006 IPCC GHG Inventory Guidelines.

The EU has nearly reached this point, but it has taken eight years to do so. Whilst this represents a landmark in policy creation, the rate at which it has happened is hardly commensurate with the gravity of the issue that we are trying to address. We need to focus our efforts on bringing this technology to developing countries, particulalry those with large coal reserves. A policy framework similar to that in place now in the EU is needed, but on an international scale. First and foremost, this means recognising CCS within the an international project mechanism. We will also need to underpin this with an internationally recognised CO2 storage certification, again based on the 2006 IPCC GHG Inventory Guidelines. Finally, we need a mechanism within which large clusters of projects can be identified, funded and implemented against defined deadlines. Most importantly, we need all this now, in Copehagen, with a view to starting implementation in 2010.