Sunday, October 31, 2010

UN Accord, ex USA, Reached on Biodiversity Protections

After a week of hopes and tensions, international delegates to the UN agreed to a landmark treaty to protect global biodiversity. Key aspects of the agreement include:
  • Protection of 17% of land & inland waters globally, up from 13% currently
  • Protection of 10% of coastal & marine waters globally, up from 1% currently
  • Rules governing how countries share in benefits derived in forests & sea, e.g., drugs developed from genetic material found in Amazon rain forest.
  • The US declined to join the biodiversity convention and thus are not a party to this agreement.
  • Japan is contributing $2B over the next 3 years to developing countries to help them preserve ecosystems.
Despite those naysayers who argue this agreement falls short of necessary protection levels, the fact that 193 nations were able to agree on such important environmental issues provides a glimmer of hope on the carbon front. Although not obvious from press reports, it's possible that the biodiversity accord may have created common ground and frameworks to tackle the challenge of carbon interdependency. Nevertheless, the absence of the US, in Kyoto like fashion, may only further alienate the US from the international community.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Biodiversity, not Emissions, the Focus in Japan

International delegates gathered this week in Nagoya, Japan, to continue the dialog on global climate issues. The specific focus of this convention was not to debate emissions reductions, but rather to promote the urgency of biodiversity conservation. Because a significant percentage of GDP in poor nations is reliant upon fragile ecosystems such as fresh water, corral and forests, the UN group is discussing potential conservation targets.

In Japan, conservation groups also pleaded with UN representatives to cease geo-engineering projects as they are risky and counterproductive to the focus on emissions reductions and the spirit of conservation. Geo-engineering project proposals have included fertilizing the ocean to create CO2 consuming phytoplankton, injecting seawater into the atmosphere, placing solar reflectors in space, spurring artificial volcanoes and storing carbon dioxide underground (CCS).

This week as well in Japan, Prime Minister Kan restated his country’s opposition to extending the terms of the Kyoto Protocol in lieu of a global climate agreement, as China and allies support such an action.

Other carbon articles of note:

· Mexico’s Foreign Minister says conditions not met for a climate deal in Cancun later this year.

· Achieving carbon emission targets is stretching Mexico financial resources without the specter of international aid.

· Europe on track to meet Kyoto emissions targets, but emissions from imported goods up 40%. Highlights the environmental and moral hazard of regional carbon regimes.

· Czech president claims climate change is not a threat or result of man.

· Canadian provinces seriously concerned about outcome of California’s Prop 23 vote.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Memoirs from Tianjin - Are We Moving Backwards?

Climate negotiators reconvened in Tianjin, China this past week in the hopes of healing the growing divide between industrialized and developing nations leading up to Cancun in December. Secretary Figueres pleaded with nations to find common ground even for a non-exhaustive agreement, and the UNFCC claimed that progress was made by week’s end. However, this rosy view is mostly spin and hopeful language from the UN as 3 major challenges lurk as large as ever – Kyoto expiration, BASIC emissions trajectory and technology transfer.

Finger pointing in the aftermath seems to be reaching new heights. US Envoy Todd Stern directed harsh words toward China suggesting that the world’s largest emitter is treating the Copenhagen as purely informational and merely exemplary actions to take place. Contrarily, China is blaming the richest countries for not committing to drastic enough cuts and for attempting to renegotiate the terms of Kyoto. China does not plan to set an emissions peak any time soon, but it is claiming near victory on its 5-year goal to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20%.

Other carbon articles of interest:

· The US vocalizes ambitions for “logical” US-India climate & technology coalition as Chinese relations flounder.

· Obama suggests passage of energy reform may come in form of multiple pieces of legislation. A patchwork solution to patchwork regulation ...

· New deforestation framework may be one of few agreements to result from Cancun.

· UN’s Figueres calls for grassroots movement to force global treaty. (Recall 2 weeks ago she was asking business to sway their governments too.)

· Political wavering on Australia’s carbon tax plan.

· Island nations drowning from international gridlock on climate change.