CAN News

To negotiations and beyond

ECO has become increasingly concerned about the slow progress towards negotiations based on draft text for the elements of the 2015 agreement.

The Co-Chairs’ approach to this task reminds ECO a bit of the movie “Groundhog Day”, where the main character relives the same day over and over again. Sure, the workshop approach has yielded some interesting exchanges of views and even a few new ideas. But the exercise of Parties continually repeating their well-known positions has its limits. And it seems to ECO that this should really come to an end now so that real negotiations can begin.

Negotiators will notice there is strong asymmetry between the various texts, with actual draft decision text for the INDCs and for Workstream 2, but only a Co-Chair’s paper listing Parties’ ideas for elements for the 2015 agreement.

This delay in moving to text appears to be rooted in fears of being overwhelmed by a comprehensive text running to several hundred pages and polarisation of Party positions. The fear of a long text can be addressed by Parties agreeing on a proper mandate for the Co-Chairs. Yet, the fundamental differences in positions are real. ECO believes it could help to bring them out in the open so they can be confronted directly by ministers and leaders.
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The end of king coal?

As delegates prepare to leave these halls, many may be feeling that there’s only been a lot of talk. ECO turns its eyes back to the real world—and sees actions that offer a glimmer of hope. China’s “war against pollution” may be one of those, with Chinese President Xi urging an“Energy Revolution”. It’s signs that China’s transition away from dirty coal is gaining momentum. For the first three quarters in 2014, both production and consumption of coal in China have decreased by over 1% compared to last year, pushing down the price of coal to its lowest level in many years (due to a lack of demand). As a result, the coal industry, often referred to as “King Coal”, is suffering from huge profit loss and ominous future prospects.

China’s coal use was booming until 2012. Now, a potential coal peak is seen as possible in the coming years. Cement, iron and steel production could also peak by 2020. ECO hardly needs to point out how significant such a shift would be to the global effort to limit carbon emissions.

The main driver of these developments is China’s economic restructuring efforts. However, there have also been recent environmental and low-carbon policies that may lead to a sustained transition and enable a more appropriate and strong price signal to the market.
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Take-aways on finance

ECO would not want negotiators to leave Bonn with the feeling that no progress was made on finance–which is what will enable the implementation of any fair and ambitious agreement reached in Paris.

The good news first: ECO senses convergence on the view that future finance arrangements should build on the existing architecture. This includes the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, the Standing Committee, the Strategies and Approaches process (a work in progress, hopefully useful), the biennial ministerial engagement, and the MRV provisions (modest and with room for improvement). This fact should keep the developed countries happy, and allow negotiators to focus on the substance: how to get more money flowing to climate action.

But before money can get out, it will first have to get in–that is, into the Green Climate Fund. The Fund is waiting for pledges.This week the G77 and China called for an initial capitalisation of  at least US$15 billion. Thanks to the remarkable pledge by Sweden, we are inching closer. Will the US, the UK, Japan, Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Finland, Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Poland and others rise to the challenge?

ECO is pleased that climate-proofing of investments has gained a lot of attention and support here in Bonn, perhaps even enough to be expressed through  specific decisions to be made in Paris.
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The EU 2030 package: on time, yes, but where was the ambition?

ECO waited with bated breath for the European Council decision on the EU’s climate and energy package as news trickled through in the early hours of Friday morning.

Is this package, setting a reduction target of “at least” 40% by 2030, up to the challenge of preventing dangerous climate change and staying well below 2°C? The short answer is no. The longer answer is still no, unless other Parties are willing to make up the remainder of the EU’s fair share.

Either way, the package shows that the EU isn’t serious about the necessary transformation away from dirty fossil fuels towards 100% clean energy by mid-century.

Of course, the EU is first in the class to submit its homework (take note, fellow developed country Parties). But being the first does not mean being the best, and ECO sees a lot of room for improvement. The EU may want to review and improve its proposed 2030 target with the word ambition always in mind. There is at least an opening for such an outcome, as the two key words “at least” leave room to bring the reduction target (and the renewable energy and energy efficiency targets) more in line with the 2°C limit.
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Hungry but still walking in the Philippines


ECO wonders if delegates have noticed that a distinguished fellow negotiator from the Philippines, Yeb Saño, has been absent from this intersessional. Saño, alongside 12 other dedicated fellow walkers, is engaged in a 1000km #ClimateWalk from Manila to the “Ground Zero” of Tacloban city to mark the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda. Known outside the Philippines as Typhoon Haiyan, this superstorm has a semi-official death toll of 15,000, with many people still unaccounted for even a year later.

Along their mammoth journey, the climate walkers are visiting villages devastated by the typhoon, delivering disaster resilience kits and holding forums to discuss how communities can adapt to a changing climate. They will also join the global fast for the climate on November 1st, adding hunger to tiredness in solidarity with the many people whose lives are being affected adversely by climate change.

Delegates who would like to show their support are invited to send their support on social media using #fastfortheclimate and #climatewalk. The campaign continues after the walk concludes, where the first day of the COP in Lima will see many fasting. ECO invites all to participate to set the right tone for the start of COP20.

A parable for our time

Far back in the mists of time, Parties agreed on a Durban Platform. Concerned that the train of negotiations might leave the station and quickly gather speed, Parties proceeded to have a two-year “contemplation phase” in an effort to stay on track.

They then decided to go into a “workshop phase” where they were expected to express their basic desires to their benign and all-knowing spiritual guides. These guides would then translate these desires into suitable language for polite company before presenting them to the outside world. But some of the travellers began to complain that they preferred their own words, however unrefined and divergent.

The language of the much-anticipated central covenant of all the peoples was given special treatment, since agreement was not needed immediately. It was particularly elevated and deliberately vague, so that the travellers would not begin to bicker over the details. But some began to rebel against the ritualistic debates and increasingly frustrating attempts to discover exactly what others were talking about, and what they might be able to agree on once they had to make decisions.

More of them started putting forward their own versions of the covenant. Though the guides paid little attention to their crude efforts, they did generously offer the possibility of going into a side carriage on their own and return with more worthy offerings.
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Mail: from the UN Human Rights Council

Dear Negotiator,

We know you’ve been busy trying to hammer out the details of the Paris Agreement, but ECO would like to draw your attention to an important letter that has been addressed to YOU. This letter was sent, last week by 28 independent experts from the UN Human Rights Council.

Tasked to provide support to all countries with the promotion of human rights—like the right to clean drinking water to development–-these experts all came to the same conclusion: climate change threatens to undermine the protection of human rights. Let this sink in for a moment: it means that the UNFCCC has a crucial role in effectively protecting human rights for all. If you haven’t read the letter, please check your inboxes.

The open letter clearly states that “all of the State Parties to the UNFCCC have committed to respect and protect human rights.” Building on the Cancun Agreements, that makes reference to these obligations, the UN human rights experts urge Parties to:

recognise the adverse effects of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights, and to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures to prevent further harm. We call on the State Parties to include language in the 2015 climate agreement that provides that the Parties shall, in all climate change related actions, respect, protect, promote, and fulfil human rights for all.
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Beyond binary

ECO has always believed that the Convention, with its Annexes and principles, need not, and must not, be a straight jacket that restricts the ability of the UNFCCC to adapt to emerging realities. While some developed countries give the distinct impression that they would like to sweep the Annexes (and perhaps the whole Convention) aside and start over, there are now some developing countries showing how we can move forward by building on the current structure of the Convention.

Different proposals have been put forward that provide interesting ways to move past a binary world to cross the rigid firewall.

The LDCs proposed an interesting idea in this regard: Annex I Parties should adopt economy-wide targets, and non-Annex I Parties “in a position to do so” (the so-called “POTODOSO countries”) should do the same. Both of these groups – all parties with economy-wide commitments – would then inscribe these commitments in Annex A to the new agreement. This would be an elegant way of using the current Annexes to ensure no backsliding, while progressing beyond an exclusive reliance on these commitments. ECO could imagine other creative ways to do the same thing.

Another way of moving beyond a binary world is the route proposed by Brazil (yes, that Brazil!).
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Want concrete deliverables from WS2? Switch to RE and EE now!

In the TEMs followup meeting yesterday , ECO was reminded of the need to move beyond never-ending discussions into concrete action under Workstream 2. It also appears that the areas where Parties show the greatest interests are renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE). In their Technology Needs Assessments (TNAs), Parties have also expressed their priorities for mitigation technologies, and guess what? They begin with EE and RE. The science tells us that to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5°C, we need to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 and phase in 100% RE as quickly as possible. This means that in the pre-2020 period, we should be rapidly scaling up RE to at least 25% globally, along with doubling the rate of EE.

It just so happens that RE and EE are the two issues that have been most thoroughly analysed throughout the TEMs. Being armed with a good understanding of the policies that are needed for a rapid scaling-up of these approaches marks a potential turning point for transforming understanding into action.

In a Workstream 2 decision, Parties should explicitly call on the GCF and other international funding institutions to prioritise, within their mitigation windows, investments in tried and tested policies that promote sustainable renewable energy and energy efficiency.
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Turn Back Japan: Don’t Go From Nukes To Coal

The tragic Fukushima nuclear accident showed the world how dangerous and unsustainable nuclear technology is. As affected people continue to suffer, it’s clear that nuclear is not an option for the Japanese people any more. ECO was encouraged to see the rapid expansion of renewable energy since the disaster thanks to the feed-in-tariff introduced in 2012. The focus on energy efficiency by individuals and companies also proves that there is still plenty of potential for energy efficiency improvements in Japan. That’s why ECO is astounded by the news that there are now plans for the construction of 25 new coal-fired power plants (totalling 13,640MW) between 2016-2027. They would emit more than 82 Mt CO2 per year. Shockingly, most of these plans were conceived after the Fukushima accident, and it is expected that more plans will come.

Energy transition is an urgent need in all countries, and it is key to get the direction of the transition right, Japan! Hint: when we talk about energy transition we are talking about transitioning away from, not towards, high-carbon technology. Coal a the dirty fossil fuel. The IPCC warns that if we don’t shift investments away from high-carbon infrastructure, future emission reductions will be difficult.
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