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Climate Change

Last Post from Copenhagen

Inger Andersen's picture

Friday morning, I braved the snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures and hopped on the train around 7.30 a.m. to avoid what was billed as "extensive delays" as the 119 heads of state would be making their way to the Bella Center. 

The main questions on the train were "when does he touch down?", "has he arrived?", and "will he be able to help seal the deal?" And just after 9 a.m., Barack Obama's Air Force One touched down at Copenhagen Airport. 

Meanwhile, delegates had been hard at work for much of the night. We understood that 26 ministers met the night between Thursday and Friday, preparing the core document for the leaders.

On Friday we spent a lot of time waiting. First we waited for the Heads of State to take their seats.  Word in the corridors had it that they had agreed to 2 degrees, which would imply serious emission reductions, as well as to the provision of long term finance. The issue of whether any agreement on emissions reduction is "MRV-able", i.e. whether emission reductions are monitorable, reportable and verifiable, has been key when it comes to reductions from the economies in transition such as India, China, Brazil, and others. These countries can only accept MRV on the condition that the developed countries make an ambitious and legally binding target for emission reductions.  The developed countries, meanwhile, have put serious cash on the table, on the condition that the big emerging economies will commit to MRV. Further, the governance and financial architecture of the resources, should they be realized, remained unclear. The G-77 has pushed direct access to the financial mechanism, as well as for giving the COP the power to appoint the Board for the mechanism, while other countries have been more comfortable drawing on existing financial institutions and mechanisms.

DM2009 Finalists Rank Far Down as CO2 Emitters

Tom Grubisich's picture

The 44 developing countries represented among the hundred DM2009 finalists produce very modest amounts of carbon dioxide (the major man-made source of global warming) on a per-capita basis.  The World Bank data visualization (above) divides the 44 countries into low income (green balls), lower-middle income (orange), and upper-middle income (blue).  For comparison, the high-income U.S. is represented by the purple ball in the upper-right-hand corner.

The vertical axis shows emissions per capita in metric tons among finalist countries.  A group of Sub-Saharan African nations -- represented by the green balls at the far left -- produce the lowest per-capita emissions -- as low as a fractional .10 metric tons.  Russia --  the highest blue ball -- has the highest CO2 emission rate among finalist countries -- 10.5 tons.  The U.S. rate is 19.5 tons.  Per-capita emissions by India -- the largest orange ball -- are among the finalists' lowest rates, although the South Asian county is a major emitter overall because it is so populous.

Climate change's adverse affects, including drought, flooding, and rising sea levels, will hit developing countries the hardest, and that includes their economies as well as people (particularly the poor and other vulnerable) and natural resources.  The effects are already being felt.  The horizontal axis of the chart shows gross domestic product per capita in finalist countries.  Many countries' per-capita GDP is already precariously low -- below $500 -- and some others, including India's, aren't much higher.

The DM2009 finalist projects' triple objectives are to protect people at the community level -- particularly the most vulnerable -- and the natural resources on which they depend, and energize generally faltering rural economies.

Want to Share Your Views About Climate Change and Win $2,500?

Joe Qian's picture

If you would like to showcase and share your views on Climate Change in Asia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting a video contest judged by a number of award winning directors and critics around the globe. 

Winners of "My View: The Asia-Pacific Climate Change Video Contest." will be eligible for $10,000 in prizes in three contest categories:

Forests: One of the few bright spots in Copenhagen

Benoît Bosquet's picture
  Photo © iStockPhoto.com

With only about 36 hours left before the curtain falls on the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, forests have so far been one of the few bright spots. The Parties to the UNFCCC agree on the basic premise that the forests of developing nations ought to play a significant role in a future climate change regime. The activities that would be implemented, monitored and incentivized in a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol are referred to as 'REDD+', which includes reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserving forests, sustainably managing forests and enhancing forest carbon stocks (code for things like re-vegetation and reforestation).

The three-page framework text on REDD+ likely to be agreed upon in Copenhagen is good. It covers aspects such as the scope of activities, reporting and safeguards. The need to respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples is included, which is a marked improvement from Poznan last year when the U.S. received the Fossil of the Day award from Climate Action Network for opposing this inclusion, or Bali two years ago when the launch of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility triggered a protest by some civil society groups. Some sticky points remain, including the details of how to link subnational monitoring and implementation with that at the national level. But, as of Thursday mid-day, the number of brackets in the REDD+ text was significantly lower than in the general text on climate finance. 

A Graphic View of the Wide Split in Copenhagen

Tom Grubisich's picture

This World Bank data visualization shows how the lowest-income countries compare with the highest-income ones on carbon-dioxide emissions (the main man-made contributor to global warming) and energy use.   The lowest-income countries -- blue, purple, and pink balls -- are clustered at the low end of both axes.  CO2 emissions per capita are visualised horizontally and energy use, vertically.  The highest-income countries -- orange -- are at the higher end of both axes. 

The big purple ball in the lower-left-hand corner is Bangladesh, the most populous of the 49 Least Developed Countries.  It's per-capita CO2 emissions are .030 metric tons and its energy use per capita is the equivalent of 160.5 kilograms of oil.  By comparison, the U.S. -- the biggest orange ball toward the upper-right-hand corner -- produces 19.50 tons of CO2 per capita --- 65 times Bangladesh's - and its energy use is the equivalent of 7,760 kilograms of oil -- 48 times Bangladesh's.

The size of each ball reflects the population of the country it represents.

The visualization also includes the fast-growing middle-ncome countries of China (the biggest pink ball),  India (the biggest purple ball southwest of China), Brazil (the green ball to the left of China), and the Russian Federation (the blue ball in the middle of all the smaller orange balls).  All those countries are becoming major emitters of CO2.

Do you think it costs the earth? Willingness to pay for climate policies—results from our multi-country poll

Andrea Liverani's picture

According to some media reports, Copenhagen is turning into the ultimate ‘numbers game’. Negotiators are scrambling over the pieces of text that remain in parenthesis because they have not yet been agreed upon. Most of these are numbers—medium-term targets for cutting GHG emissions (17%, 20% or 40%), target dates (2020 or 2030), baselines (1990 or 2005) and, of course, money.

Now, the climate change debate has long been about money. A whole body of literature blossomed by trying to assign a cost to mitigation and adaptation actions, usually coming up with guesstimates often expressed in percent of global GDP. For instance, in his Review on the Economics of Climate Change, Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, estimated that the requirement for additional annual investments equals 2 percent of GDP.

There’s a lot less work, though, on how much we are willing to pay. This gap is striking, given that the consumers and tax payers are those that will ultimately bear the cost of climate mitigation. Climate policy (and climate agreements) will be decided on the basis of what is needed in terms of investments and what is available, which at least in part depends on what the public is willing to contribute. To fill this gap we decided to go ahead and ask people directly, and here are the results.

Reflections on my final day in Copenhagen

Alan Miller's picture
  • The number and diversity of countries participating in the convention process may simply be unmanageable. 
     
  • The increasing focus on climate change may have come at the expense of other important concerns. A commonly heard statement is that climate change is “sucking the air” out of everything else. Thus the amazing range of interest groups attempting to label themselves as climate victims or solutions, from groups based on gender, religion, diet, geography, etc.
     
  • The media was incredibly frustrated by the complexity of the issues and lack of transparency in the meetings. The process does not lend itself to simple headlines. Consequently the focus on good visual events – especially demonstrations and police activity – seemed totally disproportionate to anything observed.
     
  • No matter how many times I’ve done climate meetings, I always forget how exhausting they become and how good it feels to be going home!
Polar Bear spokesman delivers climate message, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC Media frenzy when police move student demonstrators inside Bella Center. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC

 

What does a video about a desert region of China have to do with Niger?

Tony Whitten's picture

A YouTube map that shows where people are when they view the videos. That the video might be of interest to a dry country like Niger – where herding of goats and other livestock is so important – is not so surprising.

A colleague of mine recently sent a link to a group of us showing some photos taken in Inner Mongolia, China, showing the land degradation being suffered there and its impacts.  One of the photos (#16) shows a twisted and broken tree trunk surrounded by sand on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert. The caption says that the trees were “killed by the moving sands.” I have a different take on it.

The picture shows what is probably a Euphrates Poplar, and I would suggest that the trees were probably killed by its surface roots becoming roasted after herds of goats and other livestock ate the trees' fallen leaves. These leaves would normally act as a natural insulation layer and mulch, and over time quite a number of plants grow in the shade and protection.  With the trees steadily roasted, so the whole area degrades and the sand blows in.  You can see one of the World Bank’s senior agriculturalists, Rick Chisholm, explaining this in the first of my two YouTube videos on Lake Aibi in northwest, Xinjiang, China.  (Go straight to 8m 30s on the time line to see the specific segment).

Missing the point? Not so bad after all...

Marianne Fay's picture

Andrea Liverani has blogged about the fact that in only 8 of 14 countries polled is there a majority of people believing in a scientific consensus around climate change. Yet it turns out that this is a lot less worrisome than those hoping for action on climate change might fear. 

In fact, what the poll teaches us is that many people believe that climate change is a serious issue even as they don't believe in a scientific consensus. See the graph below on the left: some 20 to 65 percent believe in the consensus, but in no country do less than 70 percent of those polled think that climate change is serious.  Why?  I suppose they just see the evidence in their daily lives. 

And perhaps even more interesting, in most countries people polled thought their government should do more to combat climate changeeven when they did not believe in the scientific consensus. See the graph below on the right: in all but three countries, more than 55 percent of those polled thought their government should do more to combat climate change.

National Governments and NGOs: The Friction Point

Tom Grubisich's picture

Ann Kendall represents the Cusichaca Trust's winning entry in DM2009 that would use pre-Hispanic water-management systems to respond to the adverse affects of climate change in an Andean community of 2,350 families in Peru. In this mini-interview she has some very interesting things to say about the competition and how it could better help finalists, winners and non-winners alike.

Q. What impressed you most about DM2009?

A. The variety of levels of knowledge, experience, issues focussed, and the finalists' desire to contribute. Plus the effort and thought the World Bank staff had put into creating a program to encompass this range.

Q. What improvements would you like to see?

A. This year’s agenda and the series of sessions were very intensive and had all the strains of a crash course in order to communicate/educate at all levels of experience. It provided lots of opportunity but was perhaps too intense for some, so that there was less space for taking initiatives and advantage for more specific choices of dialogue developed with individuals and concerning more project specific interests, which could have included a deeper exploration of connections between fellow finalists objectives and appreciating the points of value of their issues and presentations and how these might interact with their own objectives. In 2006 I remember there was more collegial, general interaction with World Bank staff who took the time to visit and take a relaxed interest in the stands. Their conversations and reactions to the finalists about their specific presentations were most useful, as were their own matured interests and concerns, sharing their World Bank experiences and views. The interaction in 2009 with the World Bank managerial staff...was excellent and greatly appreciated. It would have been good to have had a couple of free hours one afternoon and some info on book shops in Washington for acquiring/reviewing available published materials. Maybe this was available on the Friday and the winners missed out on it!

Q. Should there be a bigger money pool to produce more winners or to extend winning projects beyond the early-stage period?


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