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December 2009

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.

Forgetting Copenhagen: poll results on the outcome of COP-15

Andrea Liverani's picture

This post was drafted around midnight, Dec 16, 2009. In 48 hours COP-15 will have delivered on its objectives, or perhaps not—by the time you read this, you should know. My message here is that the outcome of global negotiation should not be emphasized so as to divert attention from the core issue, i.e., the policies to be put in place, the resources to be raised, and the politics to be changed, domestically.

I have been blogging these past few days on what people (in our multicountry poll) think of different aspects of the climate change debate. Now I'm turning to what people believe regarding the negotiations. It turns out that most of our roughly 13,000 respondents are happy to see their countries limit GHGs in the context of a deal. This was somewhat expected, although the numbers are striking (and remember that respondents were told in a previous set of questions on 'willingness to pay'  that such limits would come at a cost.)

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. 

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

 

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.

Copenhagen: A long, long night

Inger Andersen's picture
   Photo © iStockPhoto.com

The weather here is absolutely freezing cold, dark and grey.  Although Denmark is my home country, I think my many years in Africa and the Middle East have inoculated me in such a way that my system cannot really take this dreary weather. But it is pretty. There are Christmas lights everywhere and a cheery mood throughout the cityeven on the packed Metro in the morning.

So what is this COP 15 all about?  And why is it so hard? Getting 192 countries to agree on something is inevitably going to be pretty complicated. And once this involves serious compromises, technology, big bucks, and equity and lifestyle issues, it gets all the more difficult.

“The Route of Smoke” from Brazil wins EJA’s Global Public Award in Copenhagen

Kavita Watsa's picture

Winners of the Global Public Award given on December 14th 2009 in Copenhagen: Andreia Fanzeres and Cristiane Prizibisczki for “The Route of Smoke”. Photo courtesy: Earth Journalism Awards web site.
For anyone who’s been following the Earth Journalism Awards, the much-awaited Global Public Award was announced yesterday in Copenhagen. Thousands of people from across the world voted online for this award, helping to pick the best story.

And the winner of the Global Public Award is…"The Route of Smoke," a multimedia report put together by two Brazilian journalists, Andreia Fanzeres and Cristiane Prizibisczki. They tell the story of how customary farming practices—such as setting fire to land before planting—that contribute to the country's emissions are clashing with new methods for responsible agriculture. This entry also won the Latin America regional award. 

Copenhagen: No Ordinary Conference

Inger Andersen's picture

Moving with the masses inside the cavernous Bella Center for the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an experience in itself: Buddhist monks in flowing orange robes, young people with more body piercings that one can imagine mingling with UN bureaucrats, and bicycle enthusiasts advocating for pedal power. The “Tck Tck Tck” campaign (get it?  the clock is ticking and time is running out) is the most amusing with cool cartoons and “mini-happenings” along the corridors. 

Shortly after my arrival, I noticed that many of the conference participants were sporting large canvas bags advocating a vegan lifestyle. This initially puzzled me; can it really be that there are so many vegans in the crowd?  Well, not really – the “Copenvegan" advocates do not have badges to the conference and are standing by the metro as participants enter the security zone handing out these very practical bags. Great advertising; their message is everywhere. Then there is the crowd sporting T-shirts and banners calling for “Hopenhagen;” they are also everywhere, on billboards in the Metro station, on posters on the street, and within the Bella Center.
 

Postcard from Copenhagen

Alan Miller's picture
Disappearing polar bear: climate change art work, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC

Having attended all but two of the 15 climate change conferences, I am pretty familiar with the atmosphere, processes, and even many of the attendees.  Nevertheless, much about the Copenhagen Conference has been surprising -- the sheer number and diversity of participants, the large street protests, the media attention, the impressive engagement from the people and city of Copenhagen.  The best comparison I can make is to imagine taking the United Nations, Times Square, and Greenwich Village and put them all together under one roof. 







At the core, at most a few hundred negotiators, often sitting behind closed doors, undertake the difficult task of attempting to reach an agreement.  It is no exaggeration to say that what they do -- or fail to do -- may determine the fate of us all. Swirling all around them are thousands of people from every imaginable (and unimaginable) perspective, traditional environmental groups, indigenous peoples, business organizations, religious and spiritual believers, the media (press interviews pop up randomly in the halls) and of course the international organizations. 

Hopenhagen: central square filled with climate change activities, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC

Those of us from IFC (three or four this week) are a small part of the World Bank Group delegation, which numbers more than fifty; the World Bank is in turn only one of many international organizations. World Bank President Zoellick arrives today -- it will be interesting to see his role and impact.

As the senior political level officials enter this week, the process seems to be reaching a breaking point with four days still to go. The registration lines are slowing to a crawl and observer organizations have been told to reduce their numbers by half or more due to the capacity limits of the building (actually, multiple buildings several of which are temporary). Every day the few members of our delegation actually observing the negotiations report little or no progress. Yesterday they were told to leave when the meetings entered the sensitive "informal" stage. 

President  Robert Zoellick (World Bank) with President Mohamed Nasheed (Maldives). Photo ©Alan Miller/IFC


The ultimate hope for a positive outcome remains pending the arrival of an expected 110 plus heads of state.  As the Convention Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer told us in a briefing last week, "they come to celebrate, not to commiserate."  As of today it's difficult to believe that heads of state can do in two days what their ministers and staff have been unable to do in months of meetings. 

We'll all know soon.

  

Africa and climate change: enhancing resilience, seizing opportunities

Raffaello Cervigni's picture

A new page on the World Bank’s web site emphasizes that addressing climate change is first and foremost a development priority for Africa. Even if emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases stopped today, there is wide agreement among scientists that global temperature will increase by 2 degrees Celsius by mid-century. If no action is taken to adapt to climate change, it threatens to dissipate the gains made by many African countries in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction over the past ten years.

  Photo © World Bank 
A major reason is that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severityof droughts and floods. This will have serious consequences for vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, which now contributes some 30percent of GDP and employs 70 percent of the population in Africa. Climate change is also likely to spread malaria (already the biggest killer in the region) to areas currently less affected by it, particularly those at higher elevations. 

Live webcast today: Earth Journalism Awards Ceremony

Kavita Watsa's picture

The Earth Journalism Awards, which I blogged about earlier with a call to cast your vote for thebest story for Copenhagen, are being given out tonight to honor the world’s best climate change reporting.

The awards ceremony (you can watch the live webcast) will take place at 7 p.m. Copenhagen time, today, December 14th (1 p.m. New York). The ceremony will feature Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC Chair and Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC.
About 450 submissions were received from professional and citizen journalists from more than 100 countries. The list is now down to 15 finalists from 10 countries, so stay tuned for the ceremony!

Embracing climate gate

Andrea Liverani's picture

Thoughts on poll results regarding perceptions of the scientific consensus on climate change across countries. 

As with good jokes, timing is key to good scandals. The recent one engulfing a group of climate scientists within and around the University of East Anglia, who have been accused of tweaking data and distorting scientific debate, is no exception. Surfacing a few days ahead of Copenhagen, it allowed for intense and sustained media coverage and delivered a heavy political blow. At any rate, my intention here is not to discuss whether or not the timing of “climate gate” was accidental or whether there is any real substance to the accusations. Rather, this blog post looks at the impact of climate gate, asking whether it might indeed have some positive consequences and improve our chances of getting our act together.

Our recent multi-country poll questioned respondents on their belief in the scientific consensus on climate change. All participants were asked whether they thought that a) “most scientists think climate change is an urgent problem and enough is known to take action”; or b) “most think the problem is not urgent, and not enough is known to take action”; or c) “views are pretty evenly divided”.  At first glance the results might seem positive (see chart). 

Multicountry climate poll: Don’t wait until tomorrow

Andrea Liverani's picture

So how long do we have to wait to see climate impacts? We know that scientists, economists, and politicians confront this question routinely, giving rise to much debate. Our recent multicountry poll shows that people around the world already have their own answer. Particularly in developing countries, ordinary people believe that climate change is damaging them—now.

 
Urgency: how soon will the effects of climate change be felt?

In 8 of the 15 countries, a majority of the public thinks climate change is substantially harming their fellow citizens now. Some of the largest majorities on this question appeared among people in the low-income countries: in Kenya 88 percent think people in their country are being harmed now, in Vietnam 86 percent, and in Senegal 75 percent. In both China (71 percent) and India (59 percent) large majorities believe that impacts are being felt now.

On the other hand, in five countries, less than half the public thinks that climate change is affecting their country negatively now: Russia (27 percent), the US (34 percent), Indonesia (39 percent), Iran (42 percent), and France (47 percent).