Sierra Club staged an event featuring 350.org founder Bill McKibben to pull the world’s heads from the sand. I’m glad to say this image carried in dozens of media outlets at the end of the first week of the conference.
The Road from Copenhagen
The Copenhagen Accord, while not the binding global climate deal hoped for, achieved several political agreements. It:
* Set a long-term goal of limiting global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees C
* Set forth a process for States to report their greenhouse gas reduction targets of both developed and developing countries
* Included financing plans including "fast start" money for 2010-2012 "approaching" 30 billion, and a goal of $100 billion per year by 2020.
* Provided for developed country monitoring, reporting, and verification, and developing countries to monitor emissions and report through national communications, with "international consultation and analysis."
However, the Copenhagen Accord didn't accomplish:
- A long term emissions reduction target. Early drafts included the 50 percent global reduction by 2050 (including 80 percent from developed countries) agreed to by the G-8.
- Pledges that add up to a path to the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees C. Rather, they may add up to a 3-4 degree rise in temperatures, requiring more ambitious pledges.
- Mitigation pledges that are legally binding, since the Copenhagen Accord is a political agreement, and the Conference of the Parties (COP) merely "took note of" it and did not "adopt" it as a decision.
urging a fair, ambitious, and binding deal, including (1) stronger developed country emision reductions, (2) clear monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) and compliance system for developed country emissions, (3) agreeing to minimize loopholes that may remain in land use and forestry rules, and preventing double-counting in market mechanisms, (4) nationally appropriate mitigation actions for developing countries including MRV, (5) a Climate Fund to finance clean energy efforts, capacity building, technology development, and adaptation for the most vulnerable countries, and (6) clarity on the legal framework and path forward.
talks are progressing and a draft agreement moves many of these issues forward, the ambitious goal of binding targets from developed countries on the order of 25-40% is unlikely until the United States is ready to take action. The head of the U.S. delegation, Jonathan Pershing, has explained to environmental organizations that ratification by the U.S. Senate, and passage of climate and energy legislation are constraints of what the U.S. can agree to.
State and Local Actions Critical
may stay alive for an additional year, but they were nearly removed. California is developing clean energy and energy efficiency programs that will reduce air pollution, protect public health, and create half a million jobs. California is developing new standards for cars and fuel that are key to the United States meeting its 17% by 2020 reduction target.
California voters strongly support climate protection, defeating Proposition 23 by 63% in the November 2010 election, and electing Governor-elect Jerry Brown, running on a clean energy jobs platform to get California working again.
Obama EPA Taking Action
The clean cars standards first adopted in California set an average emissions level of 250 grams of CO2 per mile in model year 2016, equivalent to 35.5 mpg, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 950 million tons. A second phase to be proposed in Fall 2011 is evaluating more than 30 technologies to further reduce emissions during 2017-2025 to the equivalent of 47-62 mpg. The renewable fuel standard sets a goal of increasing renewable, low-carbon fuel to 36 billion gallons by 2022, reducing 138 million tons of CO2, replacing about 7 percent of expected annual gasoline. Additionally, new or modified stationary sources and power plants will need to adopt the most efficient technologies available to minimize emissions. This can help reduce unhealthy emissions from coal-fired power plants throughout the United States, preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths.
The Obama Administration's EPA actions are promosing, but cannot be taken for granted. Sierra Club's Bruce Niles wrote earlier this year about the importance of stopping the Murkowski Amendment, which would have eliminated the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and rejected the science supporting the EPA's endangerment finding that greenhouse gases endanger our health. Defending the EPA must remain a priority in addition to pushing for stronger action at the state and federal levels.
National Security Risks of Climate Change