Sunday, September 27, 2009

The State of Climate Change Negotiations

The Copenhagen Conference (COP 15) is now only a little more than two months away. There is precious little time to broker an international agreement on climate change. Although there were some important promises made at last week's G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, climate change negotiations are progressing at a dangerously slow pace.

Japan and China have indicated that they are prepared to make significant cuts to their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. China pledged to improve energy efficiency, and for the first time China pledged to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions in proportion to economic growth (carbon intensity) but failed to provide specific numbers.

The new Japanese Premier has offered a 25% reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2020. The climate change legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives in the spring agrees to a 17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020.

In the US there is growing scepticism that climate change legislation can get through the Senate this year. Despite the passage of the Waxman-Markey Bill in the House of Representatives there is a backlog of contentious legislation in the way. Health care and regulatory reform legislation must pass through both chambers before the Senate will vote on climate change.

Getting enough votes in the Senate is going to be difficult as the politics of climate change tends to divide legislators along regional as opposed to party lines. While Republican opposition is reflexive, many Democrats from coal and manufacturing states are also resistant to climate change legislation.

At the G20 in Pittsburgh, US President Barack Obama introduced the idea of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies over time, to help improve energy efficiency and "transition to a 21st-century clean energy economy."

The word currently spends $300 billion a year to subsidized fuel prices, this keeps prices low and boosts demand leading to more emissions. According to data from the International Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, it is estimated that eradicating such subsidies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2050.

"Overall, I still feel better than I did a week ago," said Kim Carstensen, head of the World Wildlife Fund's Global Climate Initiative. "We had 100 leaders in the U.N. in New York come together and they actually talked about climate change in a significantly committed way. We have the door open."

However the G20 did not advance discussions about the difficult question of financial aid for developing nations. This is the main climate question the G20 must resolve. Unless they can find a way to finance developing nations carbon emission reductions, there will be no global deal to combat climate change.

As Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and author who heads the climate advocacy group 350.org said,."Climate financing is going to be absolutely key if we're going to have a deal in Copenhagen."

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1 comment:

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