Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen: Days 12-13

With heads of state in Copenhagen, President Obama brokered a political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord, after a multilateral meeting among U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma. Nongovernmental organization delegates were cut down to 300 inside the Bella Center, so our access to the process was extremely limited, and we relied on leaked text to find out what was happening throughout the day and night.

The Copenhagen Accord is potentially a breakthrough in the sense that the United States joined with parties that have never come to the table with reductions - China, India, and Australia - on a statement of “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius,” and that “deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science.”

However, many small Island states and African nations have called for a maximum of 1.5 degree Celsius increase to protect their peoples’ survival. The final paragraph calls for an assessment of the Copenhagen Accord by 2015, including reconsideration of strengthening to 1.5 degrees.  The goals to reduce emissions by 50% by 2050, and 80% reductions in developed countries by 2050 were removed from an earlier draft, but Michael Levi points out that 2 degrees is ultimately more stringent than a 50% reduction. 

There are some concrete financial goals for clean development, forest preservation, and adaptation investments, but these will not be commitments of financial assistance and emission-reduction actions until countries voluntarily sign-on to the agreement and insert their commitments into an appendix attached to the three-page statement. An early draft contained this information that was not included in the final draft.  Bottom line – this is a vehicle for the U.S. and other countries to step up, because the U.S. Senate has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. 

Hundreds of protestors immediately gathered outside the Bella Center, and Tuvalu formally intervened to object that “their future is not for sale.” Several other countries objected to the agreement. Andrew Revkin at the New York Times posted a blow-by-blow.  The heads of major environmental groups including Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and Environmental Defense Fund praised the deal, but some groups harshly criticized the lack of specific commitments. The New York Times has a chart on some of the key points. 

Still, the announcement seems to have carried well in the press as a political story, probably the most important big picture for getting meaningful climate legislation past the U.S. Senate. However, late Friday night, meeting through the morning and until mid-afternoon Saturday, the Parties on the plenary floor expressed uncertainty and concern with the legal implications of the Conference of the Parties issuing a decision “taking note” of the Copenhagen Accord.

Since India, China, and other countries have sometimes stated that COP decisions are legally binding (as a matter of international law), the COP even “taking note” of the Copenhagen Accord could raise legal questions. Given a message to the U.S. Senate at the time of UNFCCC ratification,though,  it is unlikely that a COP decision is binding as a matter of U.S. domestic law.  U.S. Deputy Special Envoy Pershing clarified that the Copenhagen Accord is a political statement of heads of state.  The President of the Conference, Environment Minister from Denmark, expressed optimism that Copenhagen has moved world nations closer to a legally binding agreement, and was followed with applause.

I hope so too. Ironically, this was the first day that I’ve seen the sun, after two weeks of clouds, rain, and heavy snow. Whether the Copenhagen Accord turns out to be a ray of light toward a real deal will depend on strong diplomacy between the U.S. and developing nations.  It will also depend on the grassroots environmental movement and President Obama building bridges with the labor and human rights movements to clearly communicate the science to the American people, the economic benefits of clean energy jobs, and the national security consequences of inaction so the U.S. can pass climate legislation in the Senate.

December 20, 2009

U.N. Climate Talks ‘Take Note’ of Accord Backed by U.S.

Friday, December 18, 2009

NYTimes: Urgency Grows as U.S. and China Try to End Stalemate

From The New York Times:

Urgency Grows as U.S. and China Try to End Stalemate

In a day of brinkmanship and seesawing expectations, President Obama
met with China's prime minister, but it was unclear if progress has
been made on the issues holding back a climate deal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Americans Support Climate Agreement in Copenhagen
Voters also say economy is a priority according to Gallup Poll

Take Action Today

Here are some actions I've been forwarded.   Generally, I think the best action we can take is raising national awareness, particularly in states where a Senator has not yet announced support for climate legislation, but we also need President Obama to lead the world to negotiate an agreement that is fair, ambitious, and binding. 


Act Now: 11th hour at Copenhagen:

Join the petition here:
Forward this email to everyone!

Right now world leaders are gathered in Copenhagen, Demnark for an unprecedented 60 hours of direct negotiations to save the global climate talks. Experts agree that without a tidal wave of public pressure for a deal, the summit will likely collapse and nothing will be done to stop catastrophic global warming.

The TckTckTck campaign is an unprecedented collaboration among over 250 environmental, poverty, human rights, global development, religious, and labour organizations from around the world. Click below to sign their global petition for a real deal in Copenhagen -- the campaign already has a staggering 12 million supporters - help us make it the largest petition in history!

If enough of us stand up, our leaders will listen. Every single name is actually being read out at the summit right now -- sign on at the link below and be part of history. 
Energy Action Coalition:
Yesterday, young people took a bold step to bring these voices to the negotiations as youth from 14 countries sat down in the Bella Center and refused to leave as they read the names of the 11 million people who had signed the petition for a fair, ambitious and binding agreement.
We need this level of action around the US. Between now and Saturday there are two things that you can do to help us step it up in the homestretch. 

Organize your own sit-in at your Senators office and read the names of people who have signed the petition for a real deal. You can find that list here.
Call President Obama before he leaves for Copenhagen and urge him to strengthen emissions reductions targets to what the science demands. To make that call and find some tips on what to say click here.

The negotiations remain in deadlock largely because the US has not stepped up to the plate with the ambition that young people are demanding and that science dictates. Thanks to the advocacy by you and hundreds of thousands of people around the world, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the US would join others in securing a $100 billion fund to help developing countries if an agreement can be reached on a "substantive political accord" that would include transparency in tracking emissions cuts by major developing countries. The announcement was a pleasant surprise and we're working hard to clarify the specifics of how it will be executed, but it is still less than what developing countries are rightfully calling for. Likewise, the emissions reductions targets that the Obama Administration has put on the table - at 17% of 2005 levels - are far behind the approximately 35% of 1990 levels that most of the rest of the world is pledging. We must call for more.

Call on President Obama to commit the U.S. to ambitious targets and climate financing for developing nations that will put us on the path to 350 ppm, to survival, and to a fair, ambitious and binding global deal: 

But will it be a real deal? leaked an internal UN document accounting emission reduction commitments and concluding that there is a substantial gap between the commitments (including voluntary commitments and the upper range of voluntary commitments) and what is needed to ensure that temperatures increase to no higher than 2 degrees C, the level some scientists see as the highest temperature to avoid risks of catasrophic effects such as sea level rise, crop failure, and heat deaths, though scientists also point to greater certainty of climate protection if temperature increase is limited to 1.5 degrees C.  The report concludes:

Even if the Parties agreed to deliver in accordance with the upper range of their pledge, this will still leave a gap of 1.9 to 4.2 Gt [Gigatons].  ...

Unless the remaining gap of around 1.9 to 4.2 Gt  is closed and Parties commit themselves to strong action proior and after 2020, global emissions will peak later than 2020 and remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal or above 550 ppm with the related temperature raise around 3 degrees C equal or above 550 ppm.  This in turn will reduce significantly the probability to stay within a temperature increase of 2 degrees C. 
The Guardian (U.K.) had this analysis:
A rise of 3C would mean up to 170 million more people suffering severe coastal floods and 550 million more at risk of hunger, according to the Stern economic review of climate change for the UK government – as well as leaving up to 50% of species facing extinction. Even a rise of 2C would lead to a sharp decline in tropical crop yields, more flooding and droughts.
SF Gate Thin Green Line on this issue.

BlueGreen Alliance Reception

 The labor-environmental partnership is made real with the ability to create jobs from clean energy and energy efficiency projects.  Members of Congress joined national leaders from labor unions and environmental organizations at a reception to call for a clean energy jobs bill. 

In the East Bay, this partnership is getting off the group with the Oakland Apollo Alliance, convened by the Ella Baker Center and IEWU, where I participate on the steering committee as a representative of Sierra Club and EBMUD.  We are working towards the Oakland City Council passing a Energy & Climate Action Plan that will focus clean energy, efficiency, and green jobs efforts. 

Dave Foster, head of the BlueGreen Alliance, calls for green jobs.

Speaker Pelosi, with Congressmembers Markey, Waxman, Miller, Rangel

Andy Katz with Congressman Waxman, co-author of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

Copenhagen: Day 11

Clinton helps talks get moving faster. 
"Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, called it 'truly a bombshell.'"

U.S. says it could help raise $100 billion to fight climate change 

The money would help the world's poorest countries and limit logging, Clinton says. But it's contingent on a broader agreement that is still uncertain.

By Jim Tankersley
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 17, 2009
4:52 a.m.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a press conference here that the unspecified American share of the money would come from public and private sources, would fund measures such as protecting carbon-heavy forests from logging and would be contingent upon nations reaching a broad agreement here that would lay the groundwork for a new treaty to combat global warming.

Echoing the most insistent American demand throughout the talks, she said that agreement must make clear that developing nations such as China and India will limit their greenhouse gas emissions as their economies grow, and that those limits must be subject to some form of outside verification.

"If there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, that's kind of a deal-breaker for us," Clinton said.

The announcement came after Chinese officials warned other nations during overnight talks that China was doubtful that any broad agreement could be reached in Copenhagen, according to multiple sources close to the Chinese delegation.

Some of those sources said China was backing away from that rhetoric this morning, even before Clinton's funding announcement. In recent days, Chinese officials had cited a lack of long-term financing commitment from the United States and other wealthy nations as a major stumbling block to a deal.

Environmental groups and other nonprofits working closely with the negotiators here said the U.S. announcement --which follows major commitments from Japan, France and other developed nations -- could break what has been a nearly two-week deadlock on key issues.

Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, called it "truly a bombshell."

Andrew Deutz, director of international government relations for the Nature Conservancy, called it "a huge step forward toward common ground" and "the type of high-level political offer that we've been looking for world leaders to bring to Copenhagen to reach a global deal."

More strident groups said the money fell short.

"Climate change is already killing people in Africa, and this commitment is simply insufficient to tackle the climate crisis," Mithika Mwenda, coordinator of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, said in a press release.

Government officials and observers involved with the talks said in recent days that a major U.S. funding announcement could trigger a chain-reaction leading to a broad agreement.

The long-term money offer, those sources said, could win over African and island-nation delegates who have long complained that wealthy nations are not offering deep enough reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The African and island-nation delegates could then pressure China and India to compromise with the United States on transparency provisions, thereby clearing the two largest hurdles to an accord.

All sides in the negotiations acknowledge that time in running short, with heads of state beginning to arrive en masse today. President Obama lands here early Friday, the day the conference is scheduled to end.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

AP Wire
Chicago Times-Tribune on U.S. Policy Implications

Reporting from Copenhagen - Attempting to revive climate negotiations that appear dangerously close to flat-lining, the Obama administration announced today that it would join allies in raising $100 billion by 2020 to help the world's poorest countries adapt to climate change.

Chinese Reaction Moves Talks Forward

And three hours later, China opens up its position.  Days before, it had been 'no room for negotiation' on issues of monitoring, reporting, and verification. 

Associated Press: China is willing to detail emission efforts
Thursday, December 17, 2009
(12-17) 08:07 PST COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) --

China says it is willing to provide details about its actions to control carbon emissions, moving to meet a key U.S. demand for verification of China's promises to fight global warming.

Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said China is ready for "dialogue and cooperation that is not intrusive, that does not infringe on China's sovereignty."

His remarks Thursday came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. would join others in raising $100 billion a year to help developing countries fight climate change.

The financing of climate aid for poor nations and the verification of China's voluntary actions to reduce the growth of its emissions address two key issues blocking an agreement at the Copenhagen summit.

Some criticism on specificity:

Indo-Asian News Service, AFP: While Clinton’s announcement was welcomed by green NGOs, delegates from developing countries were more sceptical. A delegate from Bangladesh told IANS: “We would like to be assured that this is not a way to recount existing aid.
...Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace International Climate Policy Adviser, said: “For the first time the US has publicly stated support for a long-term global funding for developing world adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Citing a figure of $100 billion per year by 2020 Clinton has signalled that the US position on climate can be moved. “However, Clinton failed to provided specifics on how much the US would contribute to this fund.”

Meanwhile: Sit-In at the US State Department, Reading names of 11 Million Petition Signers

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Copenhagen: Day 10

Monitoring an Empty Plenary Room

I stayed in the Bella Center until 3:30am Wednesday morning to monitor the Kyoto Protocol and Long-term Collaborative Action Contact Group meetings and Closing Plenaries. As typical, the open plenaries were suspended while backroom negotiations likely continued. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 10pm, and did appear to be ready to start at midnight, but before the Chair called the meeting to order, the G77 called a closed meeting.

In past Conferences of the Parties, there were more iterations of open sessions and behind the scenes work. This way, the public could better assess how work was progressing, and offer informed responses to Parties. Many documents I've received have been under seal but were given to me by Parties, or other NGO delegates with contacts with certain Parties. By the time a document is officially released, it's often out of date, or advanced negotiations are in progress on certain points.

The reluctance to discuss the draft language in public also shows how intense the conflicting positions are. The Parties are still far apart on issues like legal form of the treaty, emissions targets and how to differentiate targets among countries, finance, and the list continues. The bottom line is that an observer can learn more about the general state of negotiations from casual hallway conversations with other NGO delegates, often State Party delegates, and sometimes even twitter than inside an open plenary.  The New York Times has covered the details of some of the specific disputes, but largely the media is focused on the broad call to action, which may be for the best in achieving Congressional action for climate protection.  Still, the in-depth reporting is critical to ensuring the real deal is fair and ambitious. 

The stakes are high, but I have a high degree of hope that with Senator Kerry meeting today with Chinese lead negotiator Su Wei, with Secretary of State Clinton appearing Thursday, and President Obama on Friday, that negotiations will come together.

Copenhagen: Day 9

Young Elected Officials Call for Obama to Secure Clean Energy Economy

Young Americans in Copenhagen press for energy action now

COPENHAGEN – On the first day of the critical week of United Nations climate negotiations, young elected officials in Copenhagen and in the United States called on President Obama and Congress to secure a strong agreement that will grow clean energy jobs and address climate change.

Five young elected officials presented the statement (printed below) to the United States delegation in Copenhagen on Monday in advance of President Obama’s address all UN delegates on Friday, December 18. “Our message to President Obama and Congress is simple,” said Andy Katz, Director of the East Bay Municipal Utility District in California, and the Chair of Sierra Club California. “Revitalize our economy with clean energy jobs. Young Americans have the most at stake – and the highest price – if we fail to solve the climate and clean energy crisis.”

The statement attracted support from over 95 young elected city council members, mayors, and state representatives from 30 states. “While the rest of the economy is struggling, clean energy jobs are a real bright spot,” said Rep. Jeremy Kalin (North Branch, MN), chair of CLEAN, the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now working with the White House and the United States Senate.

“Action in Copenhagen and in Congress is critical to scale up the job opportunities.” “Our dependence on oil is a serious threat to America’s national security, which is why both young people and veterans have called on making America more secure by taking control of our energy future,” said Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx (Brunswick, ME), an Iraq war veteran in Copenhagen with the Truman National Security Project. “The world is looking to the United States to lead again on climate solutions,” said Representative Kate Knuth (New Brighton, MN), attending the conference as a policy mentor to a youth delegation from the Will Steger Foundation. “America cannot afford to be on the sidelines of the new, clean energy economy,” said Deputy Town Supervsior Dominic Frongillo (Caroline, NY). “Congress and President Obama can help regain our competitiveness and ensure the most advanced wind turbines, solar panels, and electric cars say ‘Made in America.’”

The statement presented to the United States delegation reads as follows:
We, young elected officials of the United States, believe freedom, independence, and self sufficiency are at the heart of America, and should be at the heart of our strategy for energy independence in the 21st Century. As elected representatives with a personal stake in our future, we believe it’s time for a bold, new vision for America’s future. We call on Congress to start investing in new, safe energy technologies like wind and solar power that will rebuild our manufacturing base, create jobs, and grow our economy. We need to put millions of Americans back to work refitting our homes and buildings for energy efficiency with jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. The United States can lead once again by forging a bold, binding, and just agreement in Copenhagen that will secure a safe and abundant world for future generations of Americans.
Alex Du Houx, 26, is a Maine State Representative and an Iraq war veteran
Dominic Frongillo, 26, is a Councilmember in the Town of Caroline, New York
Jeremy Kalin, 34, is a Minnesota State Representative
Andy Katz, 29, is a Director of the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, California
Kate Knuth, 26, is a Minnesota State Representative

You can see the 100 signers of the statement here. 

Local Government Leaders Urge Treaty Recognition of Local and Sub-National Governments

I joined Mayors from Des Moines, Iowa, Gainesville Florida, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and others to encourage the State Department to retain language proposed for the treaty recognizing the role of local and subnational governments.  Local governments are the leaders, and the implentors of climate action.  I testified about the role of local government in planning and land use, and EBMUD's food recycling to renewable energy program. 

Veterans for Climate Action

Generals, Captains, and military veterans held a press briefing on the national security risks of climate change. While most activists inside and outside of the Bella Center are discussing the severe temperature increases and likely consequences of increased heat death, drought, crop failure, and mass migration in South America and Africa as human rights issues, an important message for passing climate legislation in the U.S. Senate is to translate the severity of human impacts into how this will impact national security.

Monitoring Emissions Trading Contact Group

What's Supplemental, Anyway? - Earlier today in the Kyoto Protocol Emissions Trading contact group, delegates were debating the meaning of "supplementary" emissions reductions - an undefined term, widely interpreted to mean that countries can offset their emissions, but these offset reductions must be "supplemental" to the actual reductions of a country.  Several countries voiced concern about the current lack of a definition - whether this means 10% of the reductions in a compliance period, or 49%, as could be interpreted. 

Offsets for Nuclear and Sequestration? - What was not debated - but an important question that still remains uncertain - whether offsets can be earned through nuclear and carbon sequestration projects.  No country raised this issue, but the document listed several directions the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol could go.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Copenhagen: Day 8

This morning, despite that plenary sessions were scheduled, sessions were cancelled. Delegates were told that the African union walked out.  While many G77 and China countries have staked out a position to support the continued force of the Kyoto Protocol, and to add a parallel track for the Long Term Cooperative Action, developed countries have expressed support for options such as a new treaty that would replace the Kyoto Protocol. Finance commitments from developed countries to developing and least-developed nations are also unclear.

The Compounds with a Bite - Some technical meetings continued in the afternoon. I observed a meeting on methodological issues, focusing on high global warming potential (GWP) compounds. For example, many chemicals such as refrigerants can cause tens of thousands of times more damage than carbon dioxide. For example there's Sulfur hexafluoride, with a GWP of 23,900.  Mitigating High GWP compounds is considered very cost effective because of alternative technologies and the relatively fewer molecules emitted.  However, the Kyoto Protocol only addresses a handful of the dozens of known compounds.  An effective treaty needs to allow scientific panels to include compounds based on the best available science. 

Although methane is more associated with agriculture and waste industries, the methane collected from EBMUD’s anaerobic digester would cause 20 – 60 times more damage to the climate if the digesters didn’t convert the methane into carbon dioxide and renewable energy. 

Childrens' Climate Art - I also presented climate art from elementary students in Los Angeles to staff for Congressman Henry Waxman, the author of the House Climate legislation.  I delivered 1,000 pieces of childrens' artwork to the United States delegation to demonstrate the concerns felt by the generation after me.  The kids came from diverse backgrounds all over the Los Angeles area. The art in the picture below is an Earth with a fever and thermometer, captioned, "I'm Sick." 

Other work constrasted an Earth without the devastating effects of global warming, with images of other planets, space, Earth as a melting ice cream cone, removal of places to symbolize sea level rise, and even several pieces with a scratched out Earth. When kids learn about climate change, I have no doubt that it often sparks feelings of loss and despair. 

Copenhagen: Day 7

Local Government Briefing - The Bella Center was closed today – I attended a briefing by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held by the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). Local officials from around the United States heard about the latest climate science, and discussed the goal of including in the resulting treaty text a preamble or Shared Vision reference to local and sub-national efforts to mitigate climate change. From knowing how strong a model California’s forward-reaching policies can be, I hope this reference is included so that ongoing efforts are encouraged.

Some examples: 1) California tailpipe emission standards, now extended nationally by President Obama, 2) California 20% Renewable Energy Standard by 2010 and stepping up to 33% by 2020, 3) local land use, smart growth, and public transit efforts, and 4) EBMUD moving to recycle food waste into renewable energy.

I later joined a meeting of U.S. Youth organizing for the U.S. Congress to act. I am continually impressed with the enthusiasm of my generation to lead on climate action.

Copenhagen: Day 6

The Conference of the Parties (COP) re-convened on Saturday after suspension for several days. Tuvalu gave an emotional and powerful statement to the States that are Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, emphasizing that this is about survival for his country and other small island states. Many countries in the G77 and China expressed support for a “two-track” process, keeping the Kyoto Protocol in effect, but creating a new Protocol, the Long Term Cooperative Action (LCA) to run in parallel. This language allows countries without emission reduction commitments to add commitments that would become binding, and creates a program for action toward 2050 emission reductions.

However, some industrialized countries, including Japan, called attention to the problem that the Kyoto Protocol represents 33% of global emissions, and the need to include industrialized countries. Though this argument has been debated, the point is clear that an agreement needs to be binding, ambitious, and should include the United States.  Developed nations argue that in setting very low or no reduction targets for some developing countries, that the Bali Action Plan also included language that targets should be differentiated by a State’s “respective capacity”.

From hallway conversations I had immediately after, it seemed that many of the implementation issues such as monitoring, reporting, and verification, to ensure compliance, are in dispute for what may be (1) reasons of sovereignty, and perhaps (2) capacity in developing areas.  I hope that through the negotiations these issues can be addressed. In some ways the GATT Agreement, which established the World Trade Organization (WTO), impacts national sovereignty far more than allowing international verification of reductions, but it all comes down to the details.  From experience working on Climate Action Plans and greenhouse gas inventory methods in California, there are strong models for developing inventories of carbon emissions, so these technical issues can be resolved.  Still, addressing these issues will be critical for securing U.S. Senate support for climate legislation, so it’s important that the negotiating Parties come together on implementation issues for a binding agreement.