Sunday, December 11, 2011

Durban Day 14:

Sierra Club statement on the Durban outcome

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa today agreed to keep the world moving forward on climate change. The conference approved a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and launched negotiations to adopt a new agreement with legal force covering all countries by 2015.  The Durban package was agreed by
all countries including the United States.

These are welcome steps, but Durban only opens the door. The Durban package is necessary, but it is still far from sufficient. We need urgent action to keep global temperature rise below 2o C and address the increasing risks posed by extreme weather and many other climate change impacts.

The climate crisis requires a swift transition beyond coal and oil to a clean energy economy. The outcome in Durban supports that transition with the establishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which will grow over time to become the primary means for financing the clean energy future globally.

Now the ball is squarely in the US court to step up and help conclude a fair, ambitious and binding global climate agreement, and to deliver on our promises in the coming decade to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and help the rest of the world. That will require much greater commitment to emissions reduction, protection of forests and other lands, as well as adaptation to a rapidly changing climate.

Even at its best, the international process is slow. Given the urgency of the climate crisis it is critical that aggressive action be taken now to move the US and the world beyond coal and oil and toward a new clean energy economy.

U.N. Climate Talks End With Deal for New Emissions Treaty

New York Times
Published: December 12, 2011

DURBAN, South Africa - Two weeks of contentious United Nations talks over climate change concluded Sunday morning with an agreement by more than 190 nations to work toward a future treaty that would require all countries to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.

The result, coming as the sun rose after nearly 72 hours of continuous wrangling, marked a tentative but important step toward the dismantling of a 20-year-old system that requires advanced industrialized nations to cut emissions while allowing developing countries - including the economic powerhouses China, India and Brazil - to escape binding commitments.

The deal on a future treaty was the most contested element of a package of agreements that emerged from the extended talks here. The delegates also agreed on the creation of a fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change, and to measures involving the preservation of tropical forests and the development of clean-energy technology.

The European Union had pushed hard for what it called a "road map" to a new, legally binding treaty against fierce resistance from China and India, whose delegates argued passionately against it. They said that mandatory cuts would slow their growth and condemn millions to poverty.

"Am I to write a blank check and sign away the livelihoods and sustainability of 1.2 billion Indians, without even knowing what the E.U. 'road map' contains?" asked India's environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan. "Please do not hold us hostage."

The deal renews the Kyoto Protocol, the fraying 1997 emissions agreement that sets different terms for advanced and developing countries, for several more years. But it also begins a process for replacing it with something that treats all nations equally. The expiration date of the protocol - 2017 or 2020 -- and the terms of any agreement that replaces it will be negotiated at future sessions of the governing body, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The United States never signed the Kyoto treaty because it did not accept its division of labor between developed and developing countries. Todd D. Stern, the chief American climate negotiator, said he was hopeful that negotiations in coming years would produce a more equitable arrangement.

The conclusion of the meeting was marked by exhaustion and explosions of temper, and the result was muddled and unsatisfying to many. Observers and delegates said that the actions taken at the meeting, while sufficient to keep the negotiating process alive, would not have a significant impact on climate change.

"While governments avoided disaster in Durban, they by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change," said Alden Meyer, director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed."

At U.N. climate talks, a last-minute deal

Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post
Saturday, Dec 10, 2011

Delegates to the U.N. climate talks adopted a significant agreement Sunday setting nations on a new path toward an international accord by 2015 to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The outcome of contentious negotiations taking place in Durban — punctuated by finger pointing among the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters and heckling by activists — reflected a fundamental shift in the geopolitics behind global environmental disputes.

Developing countries have long been a unified bloc, demanding that industrialized nations take most of the responsibility for cutting global greenhouse gas emissions. But faced with the fact that a handful of emerging economies — led by China and India — are helping drive carbon emissions to new heights, the world's smallest nations joined forces with the European Union to demand decisive action from their former allies as well as the United States.

The Durban agreement provides countries with the latitude to forge something that would apply to all nations, called an "agreed outcome with legal force," a last-minute compromise that creates a less stringent alternative to a traditional treaty. Several experts said such an agreement would be stronger than the voluntary accords reached last year in Cancun, Mexico.

Ned Helme, who heads the Washington-based Center for Clean Air Policy, said the provision means "it is enforceable and makes countries accountable. Of course, we know that international law is a lot less enforceable than domestic laws."

Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the agreement "important progress," adding, "this outcome brings large countries like China and India into the room to negotiate meaningful commitments to address the urgent need to cut global emissions."

This year's U.N. meeting took on greater significance because it comes as the world's only existing climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, is reaching the end of its first commitment period.

E.U. officials maintained that they would be willing to extend emission cuts under the Kyoto accord only if all the world's major emitters agreed to negotiate a new legally binding climate pact.

Connie Hedegaard, E.U. commissioner on climate action, who had characterized an earlier version of the package as too weak, said "an agreed outcome with legal force" is " a good and strong result."

Representatives of small nations, such as I.J. Karl Hood, Grenada's minister of foreign affairs, environment, foreign trade and export development, had endorsed the E.U.'s insistence on strong terms for the agreement. "We cannot allow countries to continue on the track which has brought us to this place," he said. ". . . While they develop, we die in the process. Madam Chair, why should we accept this? Why?"

Initially, India's minister for environment and forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, had fought for language to give developing countries such as hers more flexibility.

"This is not about India. This is about the world," she said. "Does climate change mean you give up equity? What is the problem with adding one more option? What is the problem?

But after saying she was unwilling to "sign away the rights of 1.2 billion people" for the sake of securing a global climate deal, Natarajan agreed to modify the provision.

While the United States had come under fierce criticism throughout the meeting because it objected to the idea of negotiating a legal treaty, by the end the Obama administration agreed to endorse a process aimed at securing a binding treaty or "legal instrument," a term slightly stronger than the actual final language.

Delegates to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were unanimous in calling for a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions before the end of the decade. But they remained divided until the very end on whether to stick with the historic framework — in which industrialized nations committed to binding cuts and financed voluntary actions by developing countries — or to forge a new one.

World events and new scientific and economic projection helped reshape nations' negotiating positions in Durban as delegates from the E.U. and the developing world alike said they could no longer afford delay.

Facing economic problems and unhappy voters at home, E.U. officials made it clear during the negotiations that they had no interest in accommodating the United States or China. Since 2009, the Obama administration has refused to make major concessions at the climate talks unless China accepts targets in an international treaty.

Though delegates did manage to sketch out details on how to administer money for poor countries affected by climate change and help transfer clean technology to developing nations, environmentalists said the Durban package still fell short of the ambitious cuts needed to avert dangerous warming.

New scientific findings have made it clear that any effort to curb emissions without meaningful cuts from major emerging economies will fail to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). -UNFCCC delegates have pledged to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, above which, scientists warn, there could be disastrous climate impacts.

Last month, the International Energy Agency projected the world was on a path to reach 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels by 2100. Last week, researchers from the Wilhelm Bjerknes Centre in Bergen, Norway, gave a presentation in Durban projecting that the Arctic will experience a 2-degree temperature increase within one to two decades. The only way to limit the global increase to 2 degrees, the researchers said, was to have global emissions peak by 2020 and fall between 40 percent and 50 percent between 2040 and 2050.

"That's the real missing element here," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "There's nothing that's going to get the world to lift its game and close that gap."

While some green groups were even harsher — Friends of the Earth International issued a release saying "the noise of corporate polluters has drowned out the voices of ordinary people in the ears of our leaders" — host country South Africa cheered the outcome. "We have indeed saved tomorrow today," said South Africa's foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Durban: Day 13: Time Running Out

I’ve actually left Durban, and the negotiations are continuing with meetings at the Ministerial level, and an open session stocktaking beginning now (webcast).  A new LCA text was released late morning, and the Parties are expected to convene later this afternoon or evening.  (LCA is the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Collaborative Action, the negotiating track that includes all Parties). 
Also, the Kyoto Protocol text hasn’t changed since last night – apparently it’s held until the LCA track is discussed, and conditions seem to be introduced that condition further ambition on developments in the LCA.   

The basic elements of a deal are coming closer together, which include:
- A second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, to run from 2013-2017; this will be a two step-process with rules adopted now and pledges proposed in May 2012 and finalized in Doha, Quatar next December. 
- A "mandate" to negotiate a new "legally binding instrument,” to be completed by 2015. 

- Decisions to start the Green Climate Fund, the technology mechanism, the adaptation mechanism, and portions of the financial incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation (REDD), however actual funding pledges are unclear. 
Some impressions from this version:

Legal Form and Mandate – This text is silent on the mandate and timeline for further negotiation, which are being held in the Indaba process.  Indaba is a Zulu word, meaning a sort of “meeting of the elders,” and it’s been the forum for group consultations at the Ministerial level.  The divergent politics on which countries can agree to a mandate or road map that is or isn’t legally binding has the potential to stall the structural and programmatic progress that appears to have been made in the other areas.  Energy & Environment is reporting that the United States, India, and China are objecting to the stated goal of a binding agreement, but for different reasons.  According to the article, the U.S. has direction from the Congress that a legally binding treaty is off the table without “legal symmetry” from all parties.  On the other hand, India and China are inclined to defer the date that they could become bound by an agreement.  At least one article suggests that the deal is off for now, with the time running out, delegates leaving, and the facilities taking the coffee machines away.  The articles below, from Energy & Environment (E&E), reveals some of the politics. 

Shared vision – General statement, agrees to continue work toward peaking and reducing emissions. 

Mitigation – Reiterates 2 degree goal, and the need to consider in the first review strengthening to 1.5 degrees.  Includes reporting process that will include disclosure of assumptions by base year, global warming potential (conversion of value for potent gases), coverage of sectors, land use/forestry, carbon credits from market mechanisms, and conditions associated with pledges.  This could be a more robust annex compared to Copenhagen Accord/Cancun Agreements, because there will be more clarity when expressing reduction commitments. 

Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification – Includes a International Assessment and Review, detailing the content of reports, and the investigation process, but leaves open the compliance process. 

REDD/Deforestation Finance – Directs a process to consider finance for preventing emissions from deforestation, but no major substantive action inserted. 

Market Mechanism – “Defines” a market mechanism, rather than “establishes” one here, before more procedures have been discussed.  The mechanism as defined by the text operates under the guidance and authority of the COP, and also conditions the use of markets toward developed country targets or commitments, though this is to be elaborated.  A separate paragraph emphasizes that credits “must” deliver “real, permanent, additional and verified mitigation outcomes,” “avoid double counting of effort,” and “achieve a net decrease and/or avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Response Measures – Includes language on a just transition of the workforce and quality jobs.  Urges developed countries to assist in economic diversification in the context of sustainable development. 

Adaptation – Further structures the Adaptation Committee, including representation from a “small island developing state,” and a “least developed country.”  The Committee is requested to continue workshops and reports over the next year. 

Finance – Directs a work program for the Green Climate Fund Steering Committee to conduct, focused on developing a registry of projects and improved financial management for fast-start finance, options to mobilize resources for long-term finance, which include public and private, bilateral, and multilateral. 

Technology – Directs the Climate Technology Centre and Network to conduct research, development, and demonstration of new climate-friendly technologies, and begins a selection process to select the host country.  Funding to come from the financial mechanism, philanthropy, and the host country. 

Capacity-building – Establishes an annual “Durban Forum” for a review of efforts, and links back to the financial mechanism. 

Review – Confirms the first review starts in 2013, and should complete by 2015, to take into account the best available scientific information, and an assessment of actions taken by Parties, based on the forthcoming IPCC report and other sources. 

Durban talks -- 'a pressure cooker' -- go down to the wire
Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter
Friday, December 9, 2011

DURBAN, South Africa -- Nervous energy filled the halls here as midnight loomed on the final night of U.N. climate talks, where activists and diplomats alike awaited the release of new text outlining how countries intend to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

At issue here in the tense final hours of the negotiations are both the future of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and what countries might be willing to do after 2020 to rein in emissions.

An "indaba" -- a Zulu word that loosely translates to a meeting of elders that the South African conference presidency has been using to describe smaller high-level meetings -- broke up around 9 p.m. local time after impassioned pleas for survival from vulnerable countries directed at the United States, as well as the so-called BASIC countries of Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

"We're here waiting for text and for some people to calm down," said David Waskow, climate policy director at Oxfam America. "It was a pressure cooker, from everything we've heard."

Small island nations and least developed countries are pushing for a mandate from Durban to develop a legally binding treaty that forces all major emitters -- including the United States and China -- to reduce emissions and to enact tougher emission reduction targets before 2020.

For different reasons, both the United States and the major emerging economies have put up roadblocks to deciding here in Durban that they plan to work toward a legally binding agreement.

The United States does not want to do anything until it can be sure that China and other major emitters are bound by the same legal rules as developed nations.

China and India, however, have their own set of conditions before they are legally bound to cut carbon -- including ensuring that they remain part of a protected category in which efforts to cut emissions are strictly voluntary.

A document that the United States, China and some others offered as a consensus option this afternoon -- calling for a new "legal framework" -- was rejected by small island nations and called toothless.

"We hear expressions of concern, yet some countries say they will not do anything until 2020. We see that as irresponsible," said Ian Fry, Tuvalu's lead negotiator. "For us this is a security issue, and we would need to consider this in the context of the [U.N.] Security Council."

Jennifer Haverkamp, who leads the Environmental Defense Fund's international policy team, said that in order for a package to work, countries need to agree to put something in force by or before 2020 and find a way to boost the current pledges for cutting emissions -- pledges that several studies have said are not sufficient to avert the worst impacts of global warming.

"In this negotiation right now, the U.S. has the opportunity -- if it can show more flexibility and ambition on the legal binding agreement -- at the end of the road, they hold in their hands the opportunity to make this a good outcome," Haverkamp said.

U.S. will be responsible if climate talks break down, top E.U. negotiator asserts

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter

Published: Friday, December 9, 2011

DURBAN, South Africa -- If the U.N. Climate Conference ends today without an agreement -- throwing doubt on the future of climate negotiations -- the U.S. will be largely to blame, Europe's top climate change negotiator charged today.

"If there is no further movement from what I have seen until 4 o'clock this morning, then I must say I don't think there will be a deal in Durban," the European Union's commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard told reporters Friday morning, hours away from the end of the 17th Conference of the Parties.

"I think it's clear that the responsibility lies very, very heavily on the shoulders now of those few big ones who are still not giving in so much as for us to be able to agree what we need to agree," she continued.

The E.U. has spent the COP lobbying other countries to sign on to its so-called roadmap for action on emissions reduction, which would bind the E.U. and some other countries to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, while others, including the U.S. -- which is not covered by the protocol -- agree to negotiate a new, broader legally binding agreement for after 2020.

Europe has had some success. Yesterday a group of developing nations and small islands signed a joint statement with the E.U. declaring that they would be bound by the broader agreement.

"The price of buying time is rising. Durban must deliver," they concluded. "We urge others to join."

But others have not joined. China, India and the U.S. have remained in their entrenched positions.

Frustration builds during final hours

Hedegaard -- cutting the air with her arms as she spoke -- expressed frustration that major emitters had not softened their opposition to the roadmap despite numerous discussions over the past two weeks. The press has reported some movement from both China and the U.S. in the past week, but both have turned out to be misunderstandings.

The U.S. continues to demand that major developing emitters such as China and India agree to be bound by emissions targets before negotiations begin. Hedegaard noted that small developing nations, Brazil and South Africa have all said they will be bound by the broader treaty.

"We all know what the challenge in the United states is, but we also know that for many years it has been an American ask that we should all be equally legally bound," she said.

But Andrew Light, director of the international climate program for the Washington-based Center for American Progress, said that the E.U. delegation is actually divided on how much they need to see at Durban before the union can sign on to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.

He said that senior E.U. negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger has said in negotiations that beginning a discussion might be enough -- the U.S. and other countries may not need to spell out that they will accept binding targets after 2020 at the outset, he said.

'A lot of blame to go around'

"Connie seems to me to be pushing the strongest possible interpretation of the outcome they are looking for -- that whatever they can agree to on the roadmap, it must become legally binding," he said. "I couldn't say whether there is disagreement on the goal post among the E.U. negotiators but Artur's analogy for what they want makes this all seem more palatable."

He added that assigning the U.S. blame in advance if the process fails to yield an agreement tonight is unproductive. It is equally true to say that the E.U. caused that failure, because it, too, entered the talks with preconditions.

"It would be causally true that the meeting might fail because the E.U. refuses to extend the [Kyoto Protocol] because China, India and other parties refused to agree to the mandate they have asked by way of a 2020 mandate," he said.

"If the meeting fails -- which would mean that parties withhold their consent on all the other non-KP parts of the deal because the KP does not continue -- then the trigger won't be pulled by the U.S. or the E.U. but by developing countries who insist that the KP must continue," he said. " So, if the meeting fails then there will be a lot of blame to go around. "

The African delegation has made the preservation of the Kyoto Protocol the top priority for this COP, but its top negotiator took a somewhat more forgiving tone toward the big holdouts then Hedegaard did.

Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, the outgoing chairman of the African group of negotiators, said that countries who are able to make commitments should do so now, leaving open the door for others to follow in the future.

"We should encourage people to do what they can do," he said.

"I think we can come up with a comprehensive instrument that will take on board most of us," he said.

He called on the E.U. to "show virtuous leadership as they have in the past" and sign on to a second commitment period under Kyoto no matter what other major emitters do. But Hedegaard all but ruled that out during her press conference.

"If we are discussing options where people are telling us to ratify and rather today than tomorrow, but then in return we would get is that we start some kind of process to end no later then 2020, then I think everyone could see, that is not exactly a good deal," she said.

"It's not a balanced deal, but it is also a really, really poor deal from a climate perspective," she added.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Durban Day 12: As the Clock Ticks, Will There Be Progress? 
Thursday night, options for a big picture plan forward emerged, with a summary posted on the UNFCCC website, accompanied by a chart of the options and the outcome for the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period.  Reuters reported earlier that support is growing for an EU plan to have a “road map” toward a new “climate change regime” by 2015, but the latest news is that this is being resisted by developing countries, favoring language such as a “binding instrument.”

This seems to be consistent with Options 2a, 2b, and 2c from the Ministerial talks last night.   Also released at 4pm today was an 8am time-stamped document with text on the legal form of the roadmap.  The draft text, among other nuances:

- Recognizes the need to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees, and includes language to consider strengthening the goal to 1.5 degrees. 
- Notes the Kyoto Protocol and Cancun Agreements, and Decides to complete the outcome called for by the Bali Action Plan.
- Decides to launch a process to develop a legal framework that would apply to all under the UNFCCC through a new negotiating track.
- Sets a timeline ending no later than 2015 to complete the work.
- Decides that the process shall encourage increased ambition, and refers to a 2013-2015 review. 
- A paragraph recognizing the challenge of implementation implies that the outcome might come into force after 2020. 

The negotiations closed late tonight after the agenda was approved, to reconvene tomorrow morning.  Looks like they’ll be going into overtime. 

Update: The President released new draft text on negotiating timeline and road map/mandate, Green Climate Fund, and Kyoto Protocol

The new road map text expands the mandate to either a new "protocol or another legal instrument."  It also drops the language about "after 2020," and is silent on when an outcome would come into force. 

Meetings may reconvene after 10am on Saturday. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Youth Videos

The United States Youth put together a video with the message that it's too late to wait -

For the third year, since Copenhagen, youth organizations from the United States and China have also collaborated on a dialogue about our climate future.  The debrief is here:

Durban Day 11:

I’ve posted mostly on mitigation, including market mechanisms, and legal form.

Some notes and links to resources and information from news and different perspectives on some other issues that are important to the negotiations:

2nd Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol –

Green Climate Fund
International Business Times – Ban Ki-mood Demands Action on GreenClimate Fund

Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) – Insights from the World Resources Institute



Technology Transfer – China Daily - Technology mechanism discussionhopeful to be completed

Capacity BuildingUN Documents

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Durban Day 10: Picking Up the Pace
My blog post from today also ran in Sierra Club’s Compass blog:

The UN climate negotiations are winding up, with foreign ministers arriving.  The negotiating tracks on the wide range of issues from mitigation, finance and the green climate fund, adaptation, and other issues are producing language that could result in an outcome in Durban that helps facilitate international collaboration on combating climate change, but the progress so far is slow and incomplete compared to the needed reductions to avert the catastrophic impacts of global climate change. 
At the center of the debate is the commitments to reduce emissions, and how the Parties interpret the UN Framework Convention’slanguage of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” a principle that recognizes that developed countries such as the United States should bear a greater reduction responsibility than developing countries.  Meanwhile, the United States bargaining position calls for “legal symmetry,” or an equivalent legal form of commitments, for agreement. 
Sierra Club’s efforts to advocate for standards on clean cars and fuel, greenhouse gas standards from power plants, and other measures under EPA authority are likely enough to achieve the 14-17% if the Obama Administration can implement them, but we have to push beyond that, moving beyond coal and toward renewable energy.  The science indicatesthat current pledges under the Cancun Agreements amount to global emissions of 55 billion tons of CO2 in 2020, which is 11 billion tons above meeting the 2 degree target.  This level of emissions leaves us headed toward a temperature rise of 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees F) which will lead to extreme storms and heat events, damaged water and agricultural systems, sea level rise, and air quality and public health impacts. 
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern arrived for the second week of the climate talks, and briefed the environmental community Tuesday evening, acknowledging that there are no plans to expand the ambition of the current U.S. target of 14-17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020, but expressing optimism that the outcome will include agreements on adaptation, technology transfer, and launch of the green climate fund.  Although Sierra Club members and advocates from other organizations have repeatedly questioned the U.S. delegation on how the U.S. will work toward negotiating a pathway toward limiting climate change to 2 degrees Celsius, the commitments from the Administration seem held in place under the current Congress.  While we need the U.S. and international community will come to an agreement in Durban on a pathway to stabilize the climate, we also need to double-down on our climate protection campaigns at home in the U.S.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Durban Day 9: The Planet Warming, Pressure Building

Hand Puppet Hilarity: After a week of stalled negotiations, some humor is in order.  This video using hand puppets does a pretty good job of capturing in a nutshell the state of play right now:

Environmental Organization CEO’s Letter to Secretary Clinton
Leaders of 16 environmental groups sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with some tough words on the administration’s negotiating stance on the international climate talks now taking place in Durban, South Africa. “America risks being viewed not as a global leader on climate change, but as a major obstacle to progress,” they wrote. “U.S. positions on two major issues – the mandate for future negotiations and climate finance – threaten to impede in Durban the global cooperation so desperately needed to address the threat of climate change.”
Washington Post Story
Senators Write to Clinton

Kerry, Colleagues on Durban International Climate Conference
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and long-time advocate for energy independence, today called for an “ambitious outcome” from the international climate negotiations currently convened in Durban, South Africa.
“With the impacts of climate change occurring more quickly than previously predicted, we are committed to doing our part to transition to a clean energy economy that decreases carbon pollution, creates jobs, and builds resilience in vulnerable communities both at home and abroad,” Kerry and 14 of his colleagues wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“COP 17 is an important opportunity for the global community to continue to make progress in implementing the Cancun Agreements reached last year in Mexico. There, for the first time, all major greenhouse gas emitting nations, agreed to anchor their commitments to reduce carbon pollution in an international agreement. Building on this, we look forward to an outcome in Durban that provides guidelines for how these actions are measured, reported and verified,” the members added.
During his time in the Senate, Kerry has traveled to seven international climate negotiations, including the first summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, followed by conferences in Kyoto, Buenos Aires, the Hague, Bali, Poznan, and most recently Copenhagen in 2009.

The full text of the letter is below:
December 5, 2011

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

We are writing to show our strong support for an ambitious outcome from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in Durban, South Africa.

As host to this year’s 17th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 17), South Africa plays an important role, not only as a principal forum for discussions on climate change, but also because it represents a region extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Globally, climate change is projected to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like droughts. The consequences of these projected impacts can be seen in especially stark terms today in the Horn of Africa, where a major drought has left nearly thirteen million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

A changing climate will affect all aspects of our lives. The many weather-related disasters that occurred in 2011 also underscore the seriousness of climate science projections of increasingly severe floods, droughts, and other disasters. We are vulnerable in the United States, where a record fourteen disasters with greater than $1 billion in damages have occurred this year. But communities living in poverty that have done the least to cause the problem, like many in Africa, are particularly vulnerable and are least able to adapt to these changes without external assistance.

With the impacts of climate change occurring more quickly than previously predicted, we are committed to doing our part to transition to a clean energy economy that decreases carbon pollution, creates jobs, and builds resilience in vulnerable communities both at home and abroad.

In addition to taking action in the United States, we support a strong, coordinated international effort to advance these goals. COP 17 is an important opportunity for the global community to continue to make progress in implementing the Cancun Agreements reached last year in Mexico. There, for the first time, all major greenhouse gas emitting nations, agreed to anchor their commitments to reduce carbon pollution in an international agreement. Building on this, we look forward to an outcome in Durban that provides guidelines for how these actions are measured, reported and verified.

We also encourage the Administration to support innovative approaches to generate additional public and private sources of climate financing. To this end, we support an outcome in Durban that makes progress on contributions from other sources, including international transportation sectors and market mechanisms, and a process for determining how these sectors contribute to the long-term financing target. We also support establishing guidelines for the operation of the Green Climate Fund designed to maximize impact, effectiveness, and efficiency. The Fund should be transparent and accountable and ensure the meaningful participation of affected communities and civil society, while contributing to sustainable, vibrant local economies in developing countries through projects with environmental and social safeguards.

Finally, we look forward to an outcome that includes further discussions on the actions to ensure global temperatures do not rise beyond the two degrees Celsius target, with a review of its adequacy; progress on increasing the resilience of vulnerable developing countries; and strengthened efforts to increase forest conservation and reduce emissions from deforestation. We look forward to working with you to advance a strong and ambitious package of outcomes from Durban to address the global climate crisis. As the costs and effects of climate change continue to mount, it is critical that the U.S. be an active part of an effective global response.

John Kerry                              Patrick Leahy                          Jeff Bingaman
United States Senator             United States Senator             United States Senator

Joe Lieberman                         Barbara Boxer                         Dick Durbin
United States Senator             United States Senator             United States Senator

Jack Reed                                Tom Carper                             Frank Lautenberg
United States Senator             United States Senator             United States Senator

Bernard Sanders                     Sheldon Whitehouse               Tom Udall
United States Senator             United States Senator             United States Senator

Chris Coons                            Ben Cardin                              Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator             United States Senator             United States Senator
Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Monday, December 05, 2011

Durban Day 8: To the (Real, Verified, Additional, Permanent) Market
In one of the areas that I’m tracking, called “various approaches, including the use of markets,” the document considers the establishment of a market mechanism to enhance greenhouse gas mitigation activities.  The consensus-building process often starts at the lowest common denominator – the UNFCCC does not have an approved voting procedure, which means there must be consensus to proceed, although this doesn’t mean unanimity. 

Parties raised concerns from all angles – Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, mostly developing countries), expressing frustration that the text didn’t unequivocally establish a market mechanism this year.  Japan and India were concerned that establishing common standards on integrity at the UN level could restrict their access to credits and projects, Australia calling for environmental integrity in the system, but supportive of carbon markets overall, and Grenada insisting on safeguards for integrity, and that any trading be supplemental to domestic reductions.  The U.S., while supporting the principle of credits being real, additional, permanent, and verifiable, prefers a work program to study these principles, so the Parties can consider establishing a framework next year. 

In my discussions with environmental organizations, the U.S. negotiator for this issue, and officials at the California Air Resources Board, it’s apparent that California will have an important role to play in implementing a carbon market in a way that achieves a real decrease in emissions.  With California as the first American carbon market aiming to link internationally, an important facet of California’s program is that most of the reductions, nearly 80 percent, come from direct regulations that clean up our cars, fuels, and energy generation, with cap-and-trade more as a “backstop.”  Neither the climate nor the sustainability of an emissions trading system wins if there are credits that amount to double-counting, or that can’t be verified as a net decrease in emissions.  However, a key challenge to is determining whether there is a “net decrease” without quantification of an emissions inventory where the clean development projects are taking place.