The Obama Administration recently issued its statement of a good faith commitment to reduce US carbon emissions "in the range of 17%" by 2020 as compared to 2005 levels. The pessimistic can say this is far below the IPCC suggested necessary cuts of 25% - 40% cuts by 2020 for developed countries. The optimist can say that a ~17% reduction is all but to be ratified by Congress and additional cuts may still be negotiated. The statement also included expected 2025, 2030 and 2050 milestones (30%, 42% and 83%), the list of the "host of Cabinet secretaries and other top officials" now planning to attend Copenhagen and the litany of current and future US climate initiatives.
Denmark recently floated a climate treaty framework in these last days before Copenhagen, which called for 50% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2050 with 80% reductions to be achieved by developed countries. The Danish proposal was met with immediate opposition by China and India given the implications on their emissions and economic development as well as the proposal's lack of short-term binding reduction targets for developed countries.
Climate Financial Aid - today contributions are in hot debate, but for tomorrow this "blogger" asks are these funds for proven emissions mitigation and/or climate change adaptation projects or global/in-country technological innovation (venture = risky) investment. The climate slush fund will be a boon for many, but who? In-country employment, in-country contractors, multinationals, global technology licensors? Once cash is allocated to a country, will money be allowed to flow back out to international private industry or will protectionism prevail?
India envoy on climate change voices his complaints and fears about current direction of climate negotiations in an op-ed.
The Obama administration is working hard to position a scaled-back agreement at Copenhagen as a success while keeping ensuring the US's role in the process is perceived in a positive light. The key components of an interim agreement are thought to include non-binding political commitments for emissions reductions by developed nations as well as a legitimate pledge on an international aid program for climate change combat and adaptation.
The last global negotiations before December in Copenhagen came to a close in Barcelona with a flurry of drama but without brightening the hopes of a comprehensive accord next month. The African delegation boycotted and successfully halted the meetings on Tuesday, insisting that the 37 developed countries, addressed in the Kyoto Protocol, schedule concrete and more drastic emissions reductions targets following the Protocol's expiration in 2012. While (as of Thursday) emissions reductions were not agreed, Africa managed to win 60% of meeting time committed to discuss this over others issues such as emissions regime governance. African leaders point to their continents likely perils in the face of climate change, including migration leading to strife and unrest.
Adversaries in climate negotiations are diametrically opposed over whether to maintain the division of emissions treatment for developed & developing nations under Kyoto or draft a new blanket agreement to encompass most all nations. Kyoto obligations seem to be a weak bargaining chip for those countries led by China & India. Expiring in 2012, likely less than 24 months after a international accord will reasonably be struck, Kyoto is increasingly a weak agreement, with unambitious emissions cuts, a governance framework yet to be perfected and a major participant void, the US. While China is making huge commitments in low carbon development, the US is probably reluctant to just trust the world's fastest growing and largest emitter to adhere to voluntary emissions reduction targets.
With Copenhagen in only a month and significant hurdles still to overcome, U.N. climate officials now acknowledge that a ratifiable deal is unattainable. Rather, delegates will be encouraged to establish common ground on four key areas - emissions cuts for developed nations, developing countries commitments, climate financial aid and a governance framework. This week in Barcelona, the final round of traveling negotiations commences; participants hope to mend the divide between industrialized and developing nations so some progress on emissions commitments and international aid can be made at the summit. With the US Congress seen as one of the major hold-up in 2009, the prognosis for 2010 ("The Road to Mexico") may not be brighter as one-third of the Senate focuses on their re-election campaign reputations and efforts. Climate negotiations in the coming weeks and year will be America's opportunity to reclaim its position as the global catalyst for economic prosperity and social justice or to continue its descent from the economic, political and moral highground.
Government representatives from major global economies meeting in London this week suggested a Copenhagen accord is still expected and possible, but even some London participants, voiced by the Dutch diplomat, believe that there is not sufficient time before the crucial December meetings to reach concrete, binding agreements on all key issues. The lack of a US congressional agreement is cited as the major barrier to successful negotiations. In lieu of a comprehensive agreement, there is hope that an international carbon monitoring system, technology sharing framework and country emissions reductions and disclosure commitments will emerge from Copenhagen as building blocks for a 2010 agreement.
Following comments from the United States' lead negotiator for Copenhagen that it would be "extraordinarily difficult" for US to commit to carbon reductions before an agreement in Congress, Senator Boxer (D-CA) is suggesting that Obama's representatives could agree to emissions targets in December without a Congressional accord. This exchange is further evidence that strong messages from global government leaders are not being borne out yet in the negotiations room. (could delete this last sentence)
The debate over emerging countries "right to develop" will be a topic watch as world leaders continue to jockey for the high ground of public opinion and for negotiations. The likes of China and India have assumed roles as speakers for the developing world, which developed countries will be unjustly inhibiting economic development and the improvement of living standards by limiting emissions. Industrialized nations would benefit in the discourse by separating BRIC countries from other developing nations. To this point,terminology such as "economically more advanced developing countries" and "rapidly developing and increasingly wealthy polluters / countries" is creeping into media vernacular.
The World Bank recently published current estimates of required financial support from industrialized to developing nations to combat climate change at $75B to $100B annually until 2050. Even if the US and others concede, these nations want allocations to be controlled by the first-world funded World Bank rather than the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.This all presents a real risk to other international aid as some dollar shifting seems inevitable.
Developed countries are eschewing the Kyoto model, which did not focus on emissions of 130 developing nations such as China and India, but rather are proposing self-established and self-regulated reduction commitments. However, some global coordination and regulation would seem essential if reduction targets are to be achieved.
A last glimmer of hope for a Copenhagen agreement exists in the Nobel Laureate's visit to China in November. If Obama can hash out the differences between the primary two super-powers / super-emitters then most other nations of consequence will have little choice but to follow in line.
The Obama administration concedesthat US climate change legislation will not be enacted before Copenhagen, setting the stage for a US commitment to global conditions, side-stepping Congress in the process. Ingenious tactic or failure of bureaucracy? Meanwhile, the US and EU have teamed up in an attempt to disband the Kyoto Protocol and initiate a new regime through the Copenhagen negotiations, which would hold developing nations, led by India, to the same binding emissions reductions targets as industrialized nations, and without financial or technical assistance. With both camps firmly establishing disparate and extreme bargaining positions, compromise does not seem inevitable.
International representatives at NYC summit avoided serious negotiations and tough questions, such as tackling emissions in recession hard-hit countries. However, China committed to "notable" emissions cuts by 2020 based on the metric of CO2 per GDP. China certainly isn't committing to curb GDP growth, but it has set a precedent. How will the US respond to China seizing the morale high"er"ground and how will calls for hard reductions be reconciled with China's initial compromise?.
• co-Published research paper on Credit Risk Implications within Commercial Solar Financing
• Analyzed and developed several solar system performance-related services, guarantees and contracts at SunPower Corp.
• Participant in UC Berkeley's Cleantech-to-Market course and project team member for OpenADR, an open standards-based communications protocol for demand response signaling.
• Participant of UC Berkeley's Int'l Business Development and project team member for SOUL Foundation / WET-Africa's Green Market Stock Exchange, a market-based investment platform for funding environmental restoration projects.