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Christiana Figueres : The Elusive Saucepan

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has just held its regular half yearly conference to further the working parties of the Kyoto Protocol :-

A number of Press commentators have been critical of proceedings, indicating that there has not been much progress at Bonn, and in fact the conference could show some ground having been lost :-

“Hopes of early global warming deal cool : By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent : Published: August 6 2010 : Hopes that international climate change negotiations would produce a deal this year have been dashed as progress made at last year’s Copenhagen summit appeared to be reversed in the latest talks. Negotiations on a global warming treaty ended on Friday night amid acrimony and accusations of backsliding. Jonathan Pershing, US deputy special envoy for climate change, told reporters: “I came to Bonn hopeful of a deal in Cancún [where governments will hold a meeting in December], but at this point I am very concerned, as I have seen some countries walking back from progress made in Copenhagen.” Other people involved in the talks also spoke of their frustration that principles established at the Copenhagen summit – which failed to produce a full agreement but resulted in a partial accord accepted by the vast majority of governments – were reneged upon. The Copenhagen Accord marked the first time that both developed and big developing countries agreed to place limits on their greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries committed themselves to absolute reductions by 2020, while developing nations including China, India and Brazil agreed to slow the rate of growth of their emissions. At the weeklong Bonn talks, some developing countries wanted to water down this agreement, by making industrialised countries’ obligations binding while the commitments of developing countries would be voluntary. That arrangement is not acceptable to many rich nations, which point out that the world’s main emerging economies are responsible for nearly 40 per cent of global emissions. China is the world’s biggest emitter, while India is rising up the table fast…”,cancun-deal-no-closer.html

“Third round of climate change talks brings Cancun deal no closer : Posted : Fri, 06 Aug 2010 : By : dpa : Bonn – A third round of climate change talks in Bonn has brought little prospect of reaching a new deal at a UN summit in Mexico later this year, as a week of discussions ended on Friday without progress. The UN’s new climate change chief, Christiana Figueres, urged governments to “agree to further compromises” in the coming months in order to “deliver clear and unmistakeable progress” in the city of Cancun…Delegates in Bonn worked on new proposals for partial agreements to be reached in Cancun, but made no progress on binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, or on the shape of a future deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires 2012. “It’s hard to cook a meal without a pot, and governments are much closer now to actually making the pot,” Figueres said optimistically. “However governments also need to decide what exactly they are going to cook in the pot,” Figueres added. “To receive the desired outcome in Cancun they must radically narrow down the choices that are now on the table.” Individual agreements reached in Cancun could include issues such as forest protection, financial aid to help developing nations adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change as well as the delivery of low-carbon technologies to such countries. However, an overarching agreement would still be necessary to implement any decisions reached in Cancun. Such a deal is looking unlikely to emerge before the 2012 UN climate change summit in South Africa. Developing countries said a lack of transparency regarding the disbursement of emergency funds by rich countries, as agreed in Copenhagen, made it hard for them compromise on any future deals. US climate change legislation has stalled in the Senate, where it has met with fierce opposition, making it unclear to other states to what extent they can expect the US to cooperate on any new pledges…”

“Climate talks appear to slip backward : By ARTHUR MAX : 6 August 2010 : BONN, Germany -Global climate talks appeared to have slipped backward after five days of negotiations in Bonn, with rich and poor countries exchanging charges of reneging on agreements they made last year to contain greenhouse gases. Delegates complained that reversals in the talks put negotiations back by a year, even before minimal gains were scored at the Copenhagen summit last December. “It’s a little bit like a broken record,” said European Union negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger. “It’s like a flashback,” agreed Raman Mehta, of the Action Aid environment group. “The discourse is the same level” as before Copenhagen. The sharp divide between rich and poor nations over how best to fight climate change — a clash that crippled the Copenhagen summit — remains, and bodes ill for any deal at the next climate convention in Cancun, Mexico, which begins in November…Dessima Williams of Granada, who speaks for island states, charged that rich countries were “backsliding” on pledges of help to the poorest countries. Devastating floods in Pakistan, deadly fires and drought in Russia, a food crisis in West Africa — and reports that the first decade of this century was the hottest on record — provided a stark backdrop to the talks. “The situation in all of our countries is worsening,” Williams said. In Bonn, negotiating text doubled in length over the last week as countries put forward claims that had been deleted last year and delegations jockeyed for last-minute advantage before heading into the final stage of negotiations before Cancun…”

You have to remember that items “deleted” in Copenhagen were not agreed by all States. The so-called “Copenhagen Accord” which was only negotiated and “accorded to” by a small number of countries did not fully represent the Copenhagen 2009 conference positions of all the parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

The seesaw politicking between industrialised and developing countries will continue unless they can agree a “no regrets” shape of the “cooking pot” that Christiana Figueres metaphors.

What are the key issues ?

1. Poorer countries want richer countries to finance their Adaptation to Climate Change. Adaptation will include assistance with improving defences against rising instances of Climate Change-aggravated natural disasters such as floods and droughts. They don’t want aid. They want trade. They want the richer countries to accept their historic responsiblity for Climate Change, and pay their ecological debts.

2. Poorer countries want richer countries to finance their Mitigation strategy. Mitigation will include transfer of Green Energy, Renewable Energy technologies so that poorer countries can skirt High Carbon development paths, avoiding the history of High Emissions of richer countries. They don’t want aid. They want trade. They want the richer countries to accept that the poorer countries have spare, unused Carbon Rights that can be sold to the richer countries to offset the richer countries’ high emissions.

3. Poorer countries want richer countries to permit the poorer countries to continue Economic Development. They want such things as the clean water, electric light, good health services, education, industrial production and transportation that richer countries take for granted. They don’t want aid. They want trade. The poorer countries want the richer countries to fairly open up their markets to poorer country products – but currently the poorer country exports to richer countries are undervalued, for a variety of reasons.

4. Poorer countries want richer countries to make firm commitments to reducing richer country Greenhouse Gas Emissions. They don’t want aid. They want trade, but it won’t be physically possible to grow enough new or replacement forest in the poorer countries to permit the richer countries to carry on burning at such high rates.

Currently, the UNFCCC has passed around the hat for “donations” – pledges from the richer countries to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The sum of the collected reductions pledged does not add up to what the Science demonstrates is needed.

Under the policy of “I won’t if you won’t”, China is not prepared to commit to a legally binding emissions reduction trajectory if the United States of America does to commit to a legally binding emissions reduction trajectory. Token gestures will be offered, but no firm progress can be made.

The missing saucepan is Contraction and Convergence, the proposal from Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute. If the world could agree to move towards equal per person Greenhouse Gas Emissions rights under a Global Carbon Budget as determined by the Science, in an agreed period of Convergence, then the responsibilities of each country, richer or poorer, could become clear.

Under the Contraction and Convergence framework, everybody would have to do some work, but nobody would risk losing out, have to skim billions from their own Economy to send abroad in the form of Adaptation Aid, or re-assign billions in their domestic budgets to pay for Carbon Credits.

Moving money around, as currently proposed in the multi-billion dollar Mitigation and Adaptation Fund plans, would not necessarily solve any problems. We have numerous examples of money becoming worse than useless in this way – just look back over the history of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Some milestones are inevitable. The world has to spend a large amount of money in the next few decades on re-vitalising energy, regardless of any emissions commitments. It would take similar sums of money to revive the energy sector in a Low Carbon form, creating new opportunities for companies, community projects and engineers.

The world has to increase its “Carbon Sinks” rapidly over the next few decades – principally by stopping deforestation and forest degradation – and conversely reforesting and afforesting new areas. This will take monetary investment, but also reap wide economic paybacks, just like the Green Energy sector.

In order to shore up the global economy, and protect numerous sources of cheap raw resources, money needs to be spent on avoiding devastation from increasingly violent and frequent natural disasters associated with extreme weather. People who cannot farm cannot trade and cannot eat. People who are forced to migrate cannot farm reliably. People who lose crops due to wild weather cannot farm reliably. People in stressed environments cannot afford agrochemicals, so will need to farm organically, and harvest rainwater more efficiently.

Decarbonisation is urgent, and the High Emissions countries have to commit to it, deliberately and effectively. Carbon Trading cannot provide the richer countries with sufficient leeway in “offsets” to carry on emitting at the same rates as today.

If the richer countries start major decarbonisation now, it won’t cost them as much as it will do in a decade’s time.

It’s time to stop haggling and horsetrading over economic development and Carbon Finance, and who is a “developing country” and who isn’t, and get on with emissions reductions in the countries of major emissions origin – the industrialised/industrialising nations – the “major emitters” :-

“The 17 countries participating in the forum account for approximately 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

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