This week sees the start of the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, or COP18 for short, in Doha, Qatar. This should be a busy transitional COP, with much on the agenda to resolve and important steps forward being taken toward a long term international agreement. But procedural issues, agenda disagreements and fundamental sticking points could still dominate, leading to a two week impasse. Let’s hope not.
At the core of the process lie three work streams which have evolved over many years.
The oldest of these is the discussion on the Kyoto Protocol (KP), which has now been running in one form or another for most of the twenty year history of the UNFCCC. Discussion on a second commitment period (KP2) over the past years have embodied the toughest issues in the climate negotiations, such as the role of developing countries in reducing emissions, engagement with North America (neither Canada or the United States will participate going forward) and the need to put a robust price on CO2 emissions. I am a big fan of KP, despite its shortcomings. It was designed with carbon pricing as its central theme, allowed countries to trade to find lowest cost abatement pathways and through its architecture encouraged signatories to implement cap-and-trade based policy frameworks within their respective economies. The simple but clever ideas within it have not been matched since in terms of effectiveness and efficiency despite years of negotiations. Given sufficient willingness, there are clearly routes forward by which KP could evolve to become the much sought after “21st Century global agreement”, but instead it is reaching the end of its shelf life. There seems to be no resolution with North America under this banner, developing countries appear reluctant to let it be the approach to govern their much needed actions and even the country of its namesake city is unwilling to sign again on the dotted line. Australia and the EU remain as the KP bedrock, if for no other reason than to rescue the CDM and consummate their carbon market linkage with a common approach to accounting, offsets and single market currency (AAUs and CERs). The parties do need to agree on KP2, despite the lack of critical mass, and then roll forward its inherent carbon market architecture into the new grand design.
Next comes the discussion on long term cooperative action, or LCA, a workstream which appeared in 2007 at the Bali COP and is home to a broad range of developments from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), the much discussed New Market Mechanism (NMM) and more recently the Framework for Various Approaches (FVA). It was meant to deliver the grand deal at Copenhagen in 2009 but didn’t and now labours on with many loose ends and partially thought through ideas which have not been implemented or even fully negotiated. Nevertheless it has been a useful testing ground for new thinking, but has not yet delivered any real mitigation action. It needs to stop now, but difficult issues remain such as the funding of the Green Climate Fund and the modalities for actually spending any money that may arrive in its coffers. These spinoffs from the LCA will need to continue under one of the Subsidiary Bodies or within the ADP (see below) discussions, but the parent discussion should be put to rest in Doha.
Now comes “the new hope”, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. For some, the parties at COP17 simply kicked the can 9 years down the road knowing that little new progress would be made, but for many this represents a much needed and major reboot of the process after years of making almost no progress at all on the respective roles of developed, emerging and developing economies. As Harvard’s Rob Stavins noted in his blog of January 2012;
Now, the COP-17 decision for “Enhanced Action” completely eliminates the Annex I/non-Annex I (or industrialized/developing country) distinction. It focuses instead on the (admittedly non-binding) pledge to create a system of greenhouse gas reductions including all Parties (that is, all key countries) by 2015 that will come into force (after ratification) by 2020. Nowhere in the text of the decision will one find phrases such as “Annex I,” “common but differentiated responsibilities,” or “distributional equity,” which have – in recent years – become code words for targets for the richest countries and a blank check for all others.
We should not over-estimate the importance of a “non-binding agreement to reach a future agreement,” but this is a real departure from the past, and marks a significant advance along the treacherous, uphill path of climate negotiations.
Although there have been some opening salvos fired in the ADP (Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) in various inter-sessional meetings this year, the heavy lifting for this work stream needs to start at COP18. In recent months the IEA, the World Bank, PWC and others have all made it abundantly clear that unless some truly meaningful progress is made in the sort term, the 2 deg.C goal will pass us by (it may already have) and that before we know it we will be looking at a 4 deg.C outcome, along with all its consequences. Even the timetable for the ADP, which seeks to reach agreement by 2015 for implementation in 2020 is problematic in terms of the need for immediate action, but it is what it is.
The ADP needs to define a work programme that embraces the five primary strands of action coming out of the KP and LCA, namely;
- National action defined through specific targets, goals and actions, but aligned with the overarching mitigation objective. This would also include REDD.
- An underlying carbon market infrastructure as currently embodied by the KP but adapted to the applicable framework for mitigation action. Without an evolving price on carbon in the international energy markets, mitigation action will stall. This work stream should also pick up the NMM discussion.
- A funding mechanism that can leverage private sector finance for kickstarting technologies and helping less developed economies invest in a low carbon pathway forward. This is the GCF.
- A continuation of the work of the TEC and CTCN to share knowledge and best practice arising from technology implementation.
- A robust approach to adaptation.
Recently the World Business Council for Sustainable Development resurfaced work that it undertook back at the start of the LCA, but which is highly relevant to the first of the two prospective work areas above. “Establishing a Global Carbon Market” looks at how the substance of the KP carbon market can be applied much more broadly to an evolving world of various approaches.
The above represents a tall order for two weeks work, but with some 10,000 people in tow there is certainly enough labour at hand to get this heavy lifting done. A refined single track approach will bring much needed focus back to the discussions which then paves the way for at least some hope that the 2015 goal for a new agreement can be met. In summary, the big asks for this COP are:
- Agreeing a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol through to 2020 and then politely ushering this Grand Dame of the UNFCCC off the stage with some reverence and applause.
- Bringing closure to the LCA work programme and shifting some key components (e.g. GCF, TEC) into the formulation of the ADP.
- Establishing a clear work programme for the ADP, which incorporates as a priority, the foundations for a continuing and evolving global carbon market.
Good luck and success to all the delegates.
It is a bad joke. We should be discussing the science. There are prophets, lobbyists, politicians and businessmen discussing how to make money from this artificial issue. Even company like Shell which is proud leader in technology and science is sending a man who can discuss regulations but is unable to comment on fundamental issues of climatology.
The science has been discussed endlessly and I have written about the fundamentals of the science several times. The problem is that you don’t like any commentary on the subject that isn’t aligned with your sceptical position.
“In recent months the IEA, the World Bank, PWC and others have all made it abundantly clear that unless some truly meaningful progress is made in the sort term, the 2 deg.C goal will pass us by (it may already have) and that before we know it we will be looking at a 4 deg.C outcome, along with all its consequences.”
The 2C is not a goal, it is only a wish. (“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”, Antoine de St. Exupery
I agree – I always get stuck on this wording. I certainly try to avoid the use of the word “target” in this context. The goal is apparently there in that nations seem to be aligned, but their actions in putting together any sort of coherent plan does put into question the credibility of their intent.
A specific level of temperature anomaly increase could not be a goal anyway, because it cannot be controlled to. There is supposedly some relationship between global atmospheric concentrations of GHGs and global average temperature anomaly. Some specific global GHG concentration could be controlled to, by adopting a plan to reduce global GHG emissions to some level at some rate which would stabilize the global atmospheric GHG concentrations at levels consistent with a durable 2C anomaly.
There appear to be several problems with this scenario:
1- lack of agreement (consensus?) regarding the atmospheric concentration levels of GHGs which would assure that the global average anomaly would not exceed 2C;
2- lack of agreement (consensus?) regarding the global annual emissions rates for GHGs which would be consistent with a stable 2C anomaly;
3- any single plan capable of achieving the required global emissions rate reductions; and,
4- any willingness on the part of those nations which are still increasing their annual emissions to halt the increase, no less begin decreasing their emissions.
Based on the above, I believe Doha will be another very expensive party, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
No, I don’t like unscientific alarmism. As long as any claim is based on solid scientific ground or observation there is nothing to unlike. However, your claims about drown polar bears, acceleration in temperature or sea level rise, extreme weather etc. have little to do with science. Many so called IPCC scientists are doing their research not on the real climate but on the climate models. I have nothing against that as long as they don’t mix up their results with the real world. Climate models have only limited skill in predicting or hindcasting the real climate and we should keep that in mind. Even observing the climate is tricky as we can see in troubles with measuring global temperature, seal level or OHC trends.
You can’t really be serious to claim that global temperature can rise 2, 3 or even 4 degrees C over the next century. This is not based on the science and reality. This is a pure baseless alarmism. Have you ever tried to find basic facts for yourself? Go into the basic math, investigate assumptions and check the numbers.
You are scientifc advisor so I guess you are supposed to do that.
Ed, I might offer my view on your points:
1- The non agreement is even between IPCC models. There is also element of natural variability as 2C oscillations of global climate is quite normal and natural as we have seen over the last 8000 years. 200 years we were at the rock bottom with temperature in the last 8000 years. We haven’t exceeded amplitude of natural variability yet. Once it will be possible to grow crops in Greenland and reindeers reoccupy Arctic we’ll reach the top range of natural variability. We are not there yet. The warming even nearly stopped in the last decade. It might obviously begin to rise again.
2- The effect of CO2 is not the main driver for the climate warming. It is climate feedback which is supposed to fry us. Unfortunately, this feedback is close to impossible to predict. However, there are numerous indications that IPCC is on top of the range what is physically posible and quite a few NGO, lobbyists and activists are even beyond.
3- The plan pushed by quite a few alarmists is simple – destroy economy and reduce population.
4- It is no surprise that there will be people resisting plans to destroy economy and reduce population. Especially when you want to destroy their own economy and reduce their own population.
Based on the above, *** I HOPE *** that Doha will be another very expensive party, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. The funny part is that IPCC wasn’t invited to Doha. It looks that even the politised and alarmist science is not welcomed at these parties.
But, if the alarmists are right and increasing CO2 concentrations will continue to warm the climate then it brings not only negatives but positives too. For example, we know that the warming is fastes in the high altitude of north hemisphere. It means that big parts of Canada and Siberia might become more hospitable for life. Some shore locations might have troubles to fight high seas but it depends entirely on their economics how successful they are. As we can see in Netherlands the population can fight back for centuries. Increased concentrations of CO2 might marginally decreased basidity of the oceans but most creatures are easily able to cope with anything likely for next centuries. On the other side the plants will clearly benefit when more plant food become available.
I might be wrong but we will see more in 50 or 100 years. The global temperature is rising steadily for last 150 years without any acceleration. If we don’t see any acceleration in next 50 years there is clearly little to be worried about. And the technology in 50years might be quite different from the current one. I’m sure that climate science will be substantially different.
I too am a skeptic. I know that the CAGW concern is based on data that isn’t and models that don’t. I am appalled that the “creators” of the global surface temperature “records” believe they are the “real world” Rumpelstiltskin, capable of “spinning” bad data into an accurate temperature “record”. I am further appalled that they believe their talents exceed those of Rumpelstiltskin, in that they believe they can “spin” missing data into an accurate temperature “record”. I believe the status of current climate science is “Grimm”.
I am amazed that there is serious consideration of completely revising the global economic and energy systems, requiring an estimated investment of ~$150 trillion globally, based on the poor quality of the temperature data currently available and the massive uncertainty of the multiple models which currently function as the “prophets of doom”.
I view the CAGW issue as a four-legged stool:
Leg 1 – zero anthropogenic carbon emissions;
Leg 2 – zero animal husbandry;
Leg 3 – population controls;
Leg 4 – income and wealth redistribution; and,
Seat – global governance, obviously by the “smartest people in the room”, most of whom would be happy to self-identify, upon request.
I believe the ultimate end point is a global vegan commune. I expect that there might be a sign on the sign of the commune headquarters reading: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” (I suspect that George Orwell would be horrified to learn that supposedly intelligent humans had adopted Animal Farm as a “script”, rather than a warning.