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July 23 2012


Browsing in Copenhagen's 'Bicycle Library'

The idea is that if people can test different types of bikes to see what works for them, it may be easier for them to commit to investing in one.

June 03 2011


UNFCCC Chief Says Two Degrees is Not Enough

UNFCCC chief warns that 2 degree target is not enough, especially for the most vulnerable nations and regions of the worldUNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres said yesterday that the generally accepted 2 degree Celsius target for limiting global warming is not enough.

“Two degrees is not enough – we should be thinking of 1.5C. If we are not headed to 1.5C we are in big, big trouble,” Figueres said at the International Trading Association’s annual Carbon Expo conference.

The statement comes on the heels of recent estimates from the International Energy Agency’s announcement that carbon emissions spiked to historic levels in 2010, casting even the 2 degree C target into serious doubt.

Figueres’ call for a tougher target comes as a surprise to some officials, fearing such a move will threaten the already fragile state of negotiations since the controversial end to the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009. The conference ended with the Copenhagen Accord, generally considered a disappointment and leaving much to be accomplished for the international community in grappling with emissions targets among nations.

Negotiations at COP15 came to a standstill on several occasions throughout the two-week conference when the Alliance of Small Island Nations forced debate on the target, insisting that a 1.5 degree C target was essential to prevent the disappearance of their island nations in the face of rising seas. The experience at COP15 widened the rift between developed and developing nations.

“I’m not saying this is going to be easy,” Figueres said. “The argument I am making is not about feasibility but an argument of social justice. We can’t have as our goal something that we already know does not guarantee the survival of low-lying states and sub-Saharan Africa.

If we already know that, in my book there is no way we can stick to the goal we know is completely unacceptable to the most exposed [countries].”

Source and further reading:

Image credit: article.wn.com

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May 15 2011


Change Is the Order of the Day in the Arctic

ScienceDaily (May 12, 2011) — Climate change in the Arctic is occurring at a faster and more drastic rate than previously assumed, according to experts attending the AMAP conference in Copenhagen. The latest scientific data show that developments in the Arctic’s climate are closely related to developments in the rest of the world. “The order [...]

February 16 2011


Skiing Your Way to 'Hedonistic Sustainability'

An urban ski park will cover a plant that incinerates waste to generate heat and electricity for 140,000 homes in Copenhagen

January 14 2011


Media Loses Interest In Climate Change

Updated research from Max Boykoff and Maria Mansfield suggests that the world's media have lost interest in climate change, regardless that the evidence of potential catastrophe becomes more clear by the day - and that last year was tied as the hottest on record.

World news coverage spiked in late 2009, corresponding with the intense interest among politicians, bureaucrats and activists in the Copenhagen conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This study, however, is quantitative rather than qualitative. Boykoff and Mansfield have scoured the electronic sources and found how many stories appear in prominent global newspapers. But this graph doesn't answer whether what was being published was stupid or wrong. And previous Boykoff studies - beginning with the landmark 2004 study that he conducted with his brother Jules - have demonstrated that a stunning amount of media coverage was presenting an imagined version of reality that was not reflected in actual climate science.<!--break-->

That tendency - for example, to report a controversy that does not exist among the overwhelming majority of climate scientists - may account for the dminishing media and public interest in 2010. One of the biggest stories that captured world media attention around the time of the spike was related not to climate science, but to the wholly overblown "Climategate" controversy. Reporters covered trump-up accusations that climate science was somehow corrupt, but when those accusations were comprehensively disproved, those same reporters were less enthusiastic about following up with the corrections. Now, apparently, they just don't want to talk about it.

One side note on an apparent sampling bias in the Boykoff/Mansfield figure: It appears from this graph that the geographic region least interested in climate change is Africa - which is arguably the continent that has already been affected the worst. A review of the papers in the B/M search shows that the only African source was the South African Paper, Business Day. Having no direct knowledge about that paper's editorial bias, it's probably best left to others to speculate about its enduring disinterest in the biggest environmental story humankind has ever faced.

December 01 2010


Canada Already on Track to be Fossil of the Year in Cancun; Cleans up on Day One of the Talks

Canada is off to an impressive start at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, if what you're measuring is climate inaction and environmental embarrassment. 

Today, at the first set of the Fossil of the Day awards, Canada took home not one, or two, but all three of the awards.  The dubious Fossil of the Day honour is voted on by an international coalition of than 400 leading international environmental organizations, including Greenpeace,  that performs the worst during the past day’s negotiations.  Turns out if you are really committed to climate inaction, fail to have any plan to meet already weak targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, defeat a climate change bill that was already passed in your House of Commons by holding a snap vote by an unelected Senate after no debate, and are complicit in trying to weaken climate policy outside of your own national borders, you can win all three of the humiliating prizes. 

The gentleman accepting the shameful awards on behalf of Canada hopped from podium step to podium step, barely able to juggle his armful of awards.  Looks like Canada can clean up humiliating awards, but can't clean up its act.

In the next two weeks, we'll see if Canada will take home the Fossil of the Year for the forth year in a row.  We might as well preemptively cue the Jurassic Park theme music. 


November 27 2010


There are black days ahead for the carbon industry

As delegates arrive in Cancun for the UN climate conference, the carbon trading lobby is desperate for an accord, says Christopher Booker.

November 13 2010


The climate change scare is dying, but do our MPs notice?

The collapse of the warmist position on climate change has not impinged on politicians in Britain or Brussels, says Christopher Booker.

October 10 2010


Global warming summit heads for failure amid snub by world leaders

World leaders have snubbed the next round of international climate change negotiations in Mexico next month amid fears the talks will collapse.

October 08 2010


September 22 2010


September 14 2010


Key steps on global warming need to be agreed in Mexico later this year

This December, 194 countries will be in Cancun, Mexico to continue negotiations on international efforts to address climate change.  My colleagues and I are in Mexico City this week for a series of discussions with key government officials, NGOs, businesses, and members of the media so we’ve been reflecting on Cancun. The Cancun climate negotiation session (COP16) must serve three critical functions to ensure the continued progress on international climate change efforts and to rebuild some of the trust lost during and after Copenhagen.    

First, at Cancun, the international community needs to prove to countries and the world public that it can work together to address climate change.  It is essential that countries make some progress in Cancun and show that the international system can work.  This is paramount, as a perceived failure will make it even more difficult to build political momentum within the UN system and may lead the public and countries to disengage.

Second, Cancun needs to produce agreement on aspects of the key implementing activities to be delivered by the international agreement –e.g., clean energy technology deployment, deforestation reductions, improving the resilience of countries to the impacts of climate change, etc.  While it is unlikely that every aspect of these issues will be resolved in Cancun, it is possible to make significant progress on each of these issues at Cancun.  The notion of “nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed” must be set aside in favor of re-establishing confidence by progressively building the agreement component by component.

Third, COP16 needs to produce momentum and enough progress that COP17 (in South Africa) and the Rio 2012 Earth Summit can finalize additional commitments and implementation steps.

So what are a couple of tangible steps that countries can agree in Cancun to achieve these three aims?

1. Commitments for “Actions” and “Support”.  The meeting in Cancun needs to create the expectation that this and future meetings will focus strong political and public attention on what actions countries are taking to reduce their emissions and on what support they are offering to help deploy clean energy, reduce deforestation emissions, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Action, Action, Action.  Countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions have now committed to specific actions that undertake at home to reduce their global warming pollution.  Much of the political posturing, focus of the general public and the media, and dynamics of the international negotiations is focused on what “the agreement” (or the negotiating text) has to say.  Much less attention is focused on what actions countries commit to take, what concrete steps they are taking at home to reduce their emissions, and how they could be assisted in the move to a low carbon economy.    The meeting in Cancun needs to reaffirm the expectation that countries are to implement specific actions at home and report those efforts with the international community at every subsequent meeting.  Over time this reporting should become more formal, but countries should be expected to informally report on their actions at Cancun.  Countries should have to say: “we have done nothing” or “we have taken such and such step, but need to go further”.  It is critical that we immediately create the expectation that the world is paying attention to the actions of countries, not just their words.

Focus on “Prompt Start Funding”.  In Copenhagen, developed countries committed to provide $30 billion in financing from 2010-2012 to aid developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation emissions, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  To build trust it is critical that developed countries show in tangible ways how their pledges to “prompt start” funding are turning into real money.  But it is also important to focus on tangible actions that are occurring on-the-ground with the money.  This dual focus will establish the expectations both that real money is generated and that tangible actions are being delivered with the money.  The recent Dutch initiative to create a website where countries report on their contribution is a good step in this direction, as is the REDD+ Partnership’s efforts to create a database where deforestation efforts are transparently reported.

2. Decisions to Show Progress on Key Issues.  It is important that countries agree in Cancun to make tangible progress by reaching agreement on some of the key aspects of the international response to climate change.  Without some tangible outcomes, countries, the general public, and key policymakers will disengage from the international negotiations.  These include the following (as I discussed here).  

MRV and Finance are Linchpins.  Resolving some aspects of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) and finance are critical to a successful outcome in Cancun.  Without forward progress on developing country MRV, developed countries are unlikely to agree to let other issues move forward–such as REDD, adaptation, and technology.  At the same time, without progress on finance, developing countries are unlikely to allow progress on MRV.  These two issues are intertwined in the negotiations. 

Critical Implementing Actions Can be Agreed – Making progress on REDD, Technology, and Adaptation.  In Copenhagen, countries were very close to agreeing on elements of the international approach to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), clean energy deployment, and adaptation.  While there are aspects of these that are still controversial, it is possible to agree in Cancun on key elements that enable tangible action to materialize on these three critical issues.  Progress on these fronts is essential to prove to countries and the general public that the UNFCCC can move forward on tangible actions which make a real difference in the efforts to address global warming.


Countries will come to Tianjin, China next month for the next climate negotiations.  At this meeting, countries will have a choice: do they want to see progress in Cancun that moves the world forward or do they want to throw up roadblocks to progress. 

Officials in Mexico seemed cautiously optimistic, but they clearly see the uncertain path to Cancun.  The Mexican team is extremely capable as it combines Ministries and individuals with strong diplomatic skills and extensive knowledge of the key issues.  That gives me hope that they can help move the 194 countries towards some specific outcomes which move the world forward.  I’m leaving Mexico with the same cautious optimism that we sensed from the Mexican officials.


Follow me on twitter and help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

August 04 2010


Pessimism Clouds Climate Meeting

Even the few areas of agreement that were hailed as great accomplishments in the Copenhagen Accord seem to be back on the negotiating table.

July 21 2010


Kyoto’s plan B – or a world at different speeds

U.N. lists Kyoto plan B options if no climate deal | Reuters.

It looks like the UNFCC has come to the conclusion that the process of agreeing on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol will take longer than expected – and has, in accordance, produced a draft of possible ways around the problem. A second best approach, to avoid the worst of two evils:

Countries which are party to the Kyoto Protocol in June asked the U.N. climate secretariat to report on legal options to avoid a political vacuum or gap.

The document is here. It details 3 basic strategies:

1. Amendments to parts of the existing protocol

2. Provisional application of an amendment to the entire protocol

3. Extending the commitment period.

The UN goes on to warn that failure to avoid the legal vacuum could lead to collapse of carbon markets worldwide

Despite this, the EU is pressing ahead with its carbon market, having just agreed on the rules for the upcoming period, starting in the crucial year of 2013. There’s some good news and some bad news. Start with the good:

The rules also cover the aviation sector, which will have to buy 15 percent of their permits at auction when it joins the EU scheme from 2012.

Less freebies for aviation – that’s good. 85% of their permits will still be giveaways, but it’s a start.

The less good news is that European countries want to keep control of their auctions:

The draft rules will see the creation of a central platform to sell the majority of EU carbon permits from 2013, but also allows countries to opt out and hold their own auctions.

“I am satisfied to see that member states have found a compromise that will provide a basis for a solid common auction platform and that member states can opt out of this common platform provided they meet certain criteria that ensure the proper functioning of auctions and the carbon market.”

Britain and Germany, which currently auction a portion of their permits to industry, were among at least four nations calling for the opt-out clause.

I’m not entirely sure what the outcome of this “go it alone” clause may be. Perhaps it’s just a question of preferring to keep an activity seen as revenue-generating (providing the exchange platform for auctioning) inside borders. It may be a useless move if companies are allowed to go shop for cheaper permits outside their country, and we may see some of the scattered exchanges merging or disappearing altogether.

Punchline: Kyoto, Copenhagen or Cancun – if there’s perceived returns to be had, the incentives are for the progress of market mechanisms to deal with Climate Change.

June 15 2010


The Choice to Move Forward on International Efforts to Address Global Warming

Every day a huge amount of oil is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico in the US.  This is symbolic of the energy choices that we have made to date.  And it shows the dramatic implications of that energy choice.  But those energy choices are also having devastating impacts which are less visual but more damaging.  Rampant global warming is impacting countries around the world as a result of our energy and development choices.  The oil catastrophe is a wake-up call for the United States and should be a wake-up call for the world. 

We have a choice between a clean energy future or a dirty energy past.  As countries end the most recent round of negotiations on an international effort to address global warming, they face the same choice.  Do they choose to agree to implement a clean energy future or do they choose to have the same old stale debates hold us back.  I hope that they choose the clean energy choice.

A Spirit of Cooperation.  Here in Bonn, Germany countries signaled a clear willingness to work together in a spirit of cooperation to address this critical challenge.  While the key stumbling blocks for a strong outcome in Cancun, Mexico weren’t resolved, there were constructive movements on a number of the key elements of international efforts.  For example, countries narrowed the differences around how best to guide the needed global finance to help developing countries deploy clean energy, reduce deforestation, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  A number of countries both recognized the critical need for strong transparency and accountability provisions in the international agreement, and showed a willingness to find a reasonable path forward. 

Much work remains to be done on these and other issues, but countries showed a willingness to roll-up their sleeves and find a path forward.  I hope that spirit continues as we go into Cancun, Mexico.  The Chair of the session released a text which can help countries focus on those choices and create the conditions for them to cooperate on a path forward.

The Path Ahead is Clear.  Now countries need to go home and create the political conditions for action both at home and internationally.  All countries need to move forward on actions to reduce their emissions, mobilize the necessary resources to aid developing countries in moving to a low carbon economy and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  Both need to be done in a transparent and accountable manner so that we can ensure that we are really moving on the path that countries committed to undertake.   These are elements that they committed to in Copenhagen and they must deliver upon them.

The US must pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill this year. 

They need to come back to Bonn, Germany in August ready to tackle the key outstanding issues and begin to agree on the elements of a strong path forward in Cancun, Mexico later this year.

Much work remains and time is unfortunately not on our side, but it can and must be done.  We have no choice.

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter). And help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

June 13 2010


Sea Levels May Rise by as Much as One Meter Before the End of This Century

ScienceDaily (June 10, 2010) — Sea levels may rise by as much as one metre before the end of this century, according to new predictions. Melting glaciers may contribute more to the rise in sea levels than scientists have previously realised. 150 million people will be affected Sea levels can be expected to rise by between 0.5 [...]

June 08 2010


Yvo de Boer: The "Danish Text" Sunk COP15

Despite the flourishing rhetoric at the outset of the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen last December, by the time the conference got underway it was already apparent that the degree of tension and mistrust between the developed and developing world would likely hobble efforts to negotiate a "fair and binding" agreement to deal with climate change at an international level.

By the time the conference had ended, the entire UN process of climate negotiations was called into question as unwieldy and ineffective; many accused the UNFCCC as a body past its prime. The outcome seemed to bear that out as the disappointing Copenhagen Accord put forth "aspirational goals" settled upon by closed-door negotiations amongst a small group of nations.

But it was the "Danish text" written by Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen that set the tone for suspicion and back room dealings pitting rich against poor, developed against developing nations. So says UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer in a letter (pdf) written to his colleagues only days after the conclusion of the conference, and just released in a book by Danish journalist Per Meilstrup. In the letter, de Boer lays much of that failure and mistrust at the feet of the draft text from Rasmussen:

[It] destroyed two years of effort in one fell swoop," de Boer wrote to colleagues. "All our attempts to prevent the paper happening failed. The meeting at which it was presented was unannOne ounced and the paper [was] unbalanced."

The draft text was meant to be revealed when the talks met in deadlock – a sure thing to happen – but the problem, de Boer implies in his letter, was that the draft text was clearly advantageous to the United States and the west, steamrolling the poorer developing nations. The text was leaked to the press after it was presented to a few countries a week prior to the start of COP15. Not surprisingly, the approximately 157 countries that did not get to see the draft before it was leaked were offended and outraged, and the talks faltered from the start.

In his book, however, Meilstrup characterizes the Danish text as the "jewel in the crown of the presidency's strategy," saying that in fact the draft was "quite fair and balanced" and stood a chance of success if it had been presented in a more diplomatic fashion. Had it been so, a "much stronger outcome" would have resulted from the two-week climate summit.

All those heads of state a "mistake"

In his letter, Yvo de Boer also commented that in the end, inviting all the heads of state (120 in all) to the conference turned out as a serious mistake:

Inviting heads of state seemed like a good idea. But it seriously backfired. Their early arrival did not have the catalytic effect that was hoped for. The process became paralysed. Rumour and intrigue took over", de Boer wrote in his letter.

Sources and further reading:
Copenhagen Post

May 25 2010


UNFCC Executive Secretary Talks of Expectations for Bonn Climate Talks

Current UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer addressed the press this morning (see video below) in advance of the first UN climate negotiations next week in Bonn. Soon to be succeeded by incoming Executive Secretary designate Christiana Figueres, de Boer may harbor some relief in not charged with shepherding the next major climate conference, COP16, later this year in Cancún, Mexico.

I couldn't help but notice a slight resignation in de Boer's voice as he spoke of "a way forward in Cancún" at the outset of his message. He's been there before – we all have. Just replace "Copenhagen" with "Cancún." But my, perhaps unwarranted, cynicism  notwithstanding, de Boer emphasized that the two-week negotiating session in Bonn should focus on a "common way forward towards a concrete, realistic goal and Cancún, referring specifically to a "full, operational architecture to implement effective, collective climate action."

The Bonn talks are also an opportunity to adopt provisions of the Copenhagen Accord into a new text to be presented by the Chair of the AWG-LCA (Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention).

It is disappointing for all involved – I'd guess most especially to Yvo de Boer – to see how little progress has been made in the past year, when hopes rode high on the promise of Copenhagen. But press on we must, and de Boer continues to cajole and persuade, in his somewhat understated manner, hoping to help point the way forward.

In fact, Copenhagen was a step forward, just much more of a halting baby-step than was hoped. There is a sense that with each passing opportunity crucial time is lost for any successful solution. And so I trade cynicism for hope.

The Road to Cancún begins.

April 19 2010


Environmental News Wrap-Up: April 11-19

GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

April 12 2010


Growing consensus – or growing disenchantment?

Globalisation and the Environment: Global climate deal hopes melt away.

Marginal Damage has been reflecting that the fight against Climate Change could be helped by less ambitious goals and that overarching commitments aren’t to be expected anytime soon (and are probably overrated anyway). It seems others, such as Rob Elliott in Globalisation and the Environment, are going down the same route:

… total and utter failure [of the Copenhagen process] may lead to some benefits……

Of course a “shift to a less amitious goal might help”. Why was this no pursued in the first place given the inevitable failure of the more ambitious goals?

The only real solution in my opinion is for the big six or even the big two (US and China) to sign their own bilateral deal. This is the only real way to make any progress on CO2 emissions in the short term.

Have the big boys alone decide on the outcome does not sound especially democratic, but it has the advantage of giving China, the US (am I being unfair towards both of them here?) and remaining laggards nowhere to hide.

Have them declare beforehand the very minimum they will cut CO2 emissions, close them in a room, and see what comes out – it’s a Prisoners’ Dilemma matrix with a much smaller number of players. I have a feeling that, somehow, most of them wouldn’t like it.

Punchline: in case of failure, go for second-best policy and whistle always look on the bright side of life.

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