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The challenge at hand is to reduce the wrong incentives

Daniel Kammen's picture

The last few days at COP16 have, in a low-key way, accomplished more than I have seen at the COP meeting for some time (and I have been attending them for over a decade now).

 

For example, there have been a series of business-led discussions and proposals on how to develop energy-efficiency master plans at all levels—company, municipality and country. An exciting aspect has been the presence of so many innovative industry partners and governments that have not only developed, but started practicing important renewable energy and energy-efficiency solutions.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in an electric vehicle. photo by IISD

 

I had the pleasure of moderating a stimulating event that the World Economic Forum hosted Monday that really got into the nuts and bolts of energy efficiency. This event included small NGO representatives, the venture capital community, Fortune 500 technology companies, utility CEOs from developing nations, and Energy and Environment Ministers from four nations. There have been fruitful discussions on specific mechanisms—from feed-in tariffs, community aggregation of clean energy purchase plans, to very large-scale government procurement of clean energy services.

Agriculture, forests, climate change: Intersecting ambitions

Inger Andersen's picture

Everything about Cancun’s COP16 is very different from Copenhagen’s COP15. To start with, last year we were in the cavernous Bella Center with throngs of people, while a massive series of snow storms were bearing down on Copenhagen. Well, here we are in Cancun on a seemingly endless hotel strip. A tourism paradise, with silver beaches, turquoise waters, and a gentle breeze welcoming all COP16 delegates and beckoning everyone to leave meetings and laptops behind and run for the waves… photo courtesy: CIFOR

 

But just like COP15 delegates braved the cold and the snow, COP16 delegates are displaying will power and determination and heading for the “Moon Palace”, which is where the negotiations, plenary sessions, and official meetings are taking place.

 

The Bank team has been participating in a number of side events while here in Cancun. Saturday was “Agriculture Day” with nearly 1,000 participants registered. This demonstrated the great interest in charting a path that will ensure that climate change priorities are not treated in absence from agricultural priorities. I was honored to give the keynote speech at the opening of the day’s deliberations and we were pleased to note that our core messages appeared to have significant resonance. 

The buzz around blue carbon

Marea E. Hatziolos's picture

Photo credit: J. TamelanderThe delegates and observers at the COP16 in Cancun are getting an earful about Blue Carbon—shorthand for atmospheric carbon sequestered in the earth’s coastal and nearshore environments. Oceans Day at Cancun will feature a session on Blue Carbon, and briefs, and blogs by ocean advocates are circulating on the net and at side events. The reason for the buzz is that coastal wetlands, including tidal salt marshes, estuaries and river deltas, mangroves and sea grass beds are highly efficient at taking up CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into organic material—then storing it in the soil. In fact, the root systems and sediment layers which build up as this organic material is generated, broken down and deposited, are up to ten times more rich in carbon than the biomass above the surface.

 

This makes coastal wetlands even better at sequestering carbon than tropical forests. And, unlike their counterparts on land whose net growth peaks when the forest matures, wetland vegetation continues to grow and sequester carbon in the soil as long as sediments are deposited and the environment remains healthy. This is why Blue Carbon is being brought into the international dialogue on carbon emission offsets and the domain of REDD+ eligible activities. A statement, signed by 55 marine and environmental stakeholders from 19 countries has been presented to the COP for action.

¿En qué consistiría el éxito de Cancún?

Andrew Steer's picture

Esta tarde llegué a Cancún. El sol brilla. El mar es azul. El hotel Moon Palace –sede de las negociaciones– es un hermoso centro vacacional con playa propia de un kilómetro de extensión y arena blanca. Se insta a evitar el uso de chaqueta y corbata y muchos delegados visten las tradicionales guayaberas mexicanas. 

 

Los anfitriones han hecho un excelente trabajo de diplomacia y logística en la preparación de este evento. ¿Por qué parece, entonces, que los turistas lo están disfrutando más que los representantes de los países participantes?


Porque nadie sabe cuáles serán los resultados. Cada uno de los presentes cree que otra persona debería proponer algo más y algunos lo están expresando con mucho sentimiento. Se ha ido el entusiasmo por un posible acuerdo forjado en Copenhague el año pasado. No hay en el horizonte un jonrón, una clavada, ni un hoyo en uno a la vista. La analogía ahora pertenece al fútbol americano: se trata de hacer avanzar el balón con paciencia por el campo de juego con la esperanza de marcar un tanto el año próximo, el siguiente o dentro de cinco años. Sobre todo, no hay que dejar caer la pelota para no perder terreno rápidamente.   

 

What would success look like in Cancun?

Andrew Steer's picture

I just flew in to Cancun this afternoon.  The sun’s shining. The sea is blue. The Moon Palace – the site of the negotiations – is a beautiful resort with its own one-kilometer white sandy beach. Jackets and ties are discouraged, and many delegates are wearing the traditional Mexican guayaberas. 

 

The Mexican hosts have done an outstanding job –in diplomacy and logistics – in preparing for this event. So why do the tourists look like they’re having a better time than the delegates?

 

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres speaking at the opening ceremony. Photo by IISDBecause nobody knows how this will turn out. Everybody feels that somebody else should be putting more on the table, and some are expressing this with great emotion. The excitement of a possible deal last year in Copenhagen is gone. There is no home run, slam dunk or hole in one in the offing. The analogy is now from American Football: It’s about moving the ball patiently down the field with the hope of an eventual touchdown next year, the one after, or five years from now. Above all, don’t drop the ball, or we could lose ground fast.   

 

But this cautious view short-changes what Cancun should achieve. The package of decisions that is being negotiated is highly consequential, and could significantly improve the prospects of a pro-poor climate-friendly future.

 

So, what would success look like at the end of this 12 day marathon? By the end of this meeting we could have the following:

 

1.       Forests: The first globally agreed REDD+ partnership providing sufficient funding for investments, performance-based payments, and readiness for future carbon market inclusion – thus ensuring that forests are more valued alive than dead.  

 

2.       Adaptation:  A framework for ensuring the fair and adequate allocation of resources for climate resilient growth, with special attention to the most vulnerable countries, and a process for ensuring lesson learning and technical assistance on this urgent agenda.

Time is running out on climate change, says a new report

Michael Levitsky's picture

For those of us who analyze the energy sector, the publication of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Annual Energy Outlook is a much anticipated event. It is the gold standard for the assessment and forecasting of the world energy system, albeit from the perspective of the High-Income OECD countries.   For the past two years it has focused on the energy policies needed to curb climate change. This year I find its message very alarming.

 

In its 2009 Energy Outlook, the IEA developed a scenario that shows how the world’s energy system could evolve to the year 2035 so as to keep carbon dioxide (CO2)concentrations from exceeding 450 parts per million CO2 (equivalent).   This is the plateau level consistent with an increase in global temperatures of at most 20 C.   Last year this novel analysis showed that such a “450 Scenario” would require a massive shift in energy policies and investments. It gave me pause for thought. A year later, as the IEA develops its assessment, I am very worried.  

 

Between the lines of its careful appraisal of the global energy situation, the IEA all but says that achieving the changes needed to hold global average temperature to a 20 C increase is almost impossible in the current global context. The IEA states that such a goal is still not “completely out of reach.” But, in a sentence that should be chilling to anyone familiar with the inflexibility of the world’s energy system, the IEA says: “the speed of the energy transformation that would need to occur after 2020 is such as to raise serious misgivings about the practical achievability of cutting emissions sufficiently to meet the 20 C goal.” In other words, unless global energy policies and investments undergo a huge and unprecedented change over the next few years, our energy system may be too far gone to allow us to curb climate change to levels that are generally agreed to be manageable.  

Adaptation through the eyes of the most vulnerable

Robin Mearns's picture

What would support for climate change adaptation look like if it were designed to meet the needs of those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change?

 

It might, for example, offer guaranteed wage employment to the rural poor in India or Ethiopia, in return for their labor in creating check dams, and water-harvesting structures – precisely the kinds of public works that can also help to increase landscape-wide resilience to climate change, improve the livelihoods of those dependent on rainfed agriculture, and even contribute to retaining soil carbon. Or it might provide a social protection floor for nomadic herders in Mongolia for when livestock losses during periodic bouts of harsh winter/spring weather conditions known as dzud exceed the level that can be covered under a commercial livestock insurance program.

 

Last Tuesday Andrew Steer blogged from the opening of the “Down2Earth”conference in The Hague, where he held out to 1000 participants from 100 countries the tantalizing yet fully achievable promise of a ‘golden triple win’ on agriculture, food security and climate change. 

 

Just before the closing plenary session in The Hague, I chaired a side event hosted by the World Food Programme on the role of social protection and safety nets in helping to foster both food security and pro-poor adaptation to climate change. We heard about the above examples from Ethiopia, India and Mongolia, among others, and came away convinced that while there are promising programs already under way, there is much more to be done to scale up such approaches in practice, perhaps through harnessing new sources of climate finance.

À la recherche d’un triple dividende pour les agriculteurs, et pour nous tous

Andrew Steer's picture

Imaginez que vous vivez dans un village en Afrique… au Niger, par exemple. Depuis des générations, votre famille cultive la même parcelle de terre. Certes, la vie n’a jamais été facile. Mais vous avez remarqué que, ces derniers temps, c’est encore plus dur qu’avant. Le temps est devenu plus variable, les pluies sont imprévisibles, les récoltes de plus en plus incertaines et les prix toujours plus volatils.

 

Projetez-vous à présent dans une, deux, trois ou cinq décennies. Que sera devenu votre village ?

 

Il se peut que les conditions aient empiré : les sécheresses sont plus fréquentes, les inondations plus dévastatrices, les rendements et les revenus en chute libre. Peut-être même que votre village n’a pas réussi à survivre à ces changements.

 

Mais il se pourrait aussi que la situation se soit améliorée : les sols sont devenus plus riches, les rendements meilleurs, les récoltes plus faciles à prévoir, les cultures plus variées et nutritives, et chaque année vous recevez même une prime pour fixer plus de carbone sur vos terres.

Pre-Cancun, AOSIS swims with giants in Grenada

Angus Friday's picture

If life is all a stage, as Shakespeare asserts, then for many, a journey home can be an intermission; a time to reflect upon preceding scenes and to contemplate the next Act. This week, returning home to the Caribbean island of Grenada with its picturesque backdrop provided such a Kodak moment for me. Similarly, for fellow travelers from 43 nations of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) journeying to Grenada this week, the meeting provided a snapshot of the organization’s achievements as it celebrates its 20th Anniversary.  It was also a moment to contemplate and plan for the challenges that lay ahead in Cancun.

 

The presence of Minister Xie, China’s chief climate negotiator and Todd Stern, his US counterpart at this AOSIS meeting, co-hosted by Mexico signaled that AOSIS had indeed come a long way. Having campaigned for the AOSIS chairmanship to go to Grenada when I served as its UN Ambassador, I must confess some personal pride. My successor and good friend, Ambassador Dessima Williams and her team had done us proud by going much further. AOSIS was also joined by senior climate officials from India, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Belgium and other countries; testimony to the intense international interest, the role of AOSIS and perhaps an indicator of further complexities to come. 

 

The island states, aka  “the conscience of the convention” are calling upon the international community to limit greenhouse gases to well below 350 parts per million, to limit temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to enter into a legally binding agreement in order to achieve these targets. The impacts of climate change, they assert, are already being felt and therefore even a two degree target is too high. “One point five, to stay alive” their slogan goes.  

In search of the triple win for farmers and the rest of us

Andrew Steer's picture

Imagine that you live in a village in Africa, say Niger. Your family has been farming the same plot for generations. It’s never been easy. But recently it seems to have become even more difficult. The weather seems more variable, the rainfall less predictable, yields more uncertain, prices more volatile.

 

Now imagine one, two, three or five decades from now. How goes farming in your village? 

 

It could be much worsemore droughts, worse floods, lower yields, lower incomes. Quite possibly the village hasn’t been able to survive. 

 

Or it could be much better. Stronger soils, better yields, more predictable harvests, more varied and nutritious crops, and cash flows each year to the farmer for sequestering more carbon on his land.

Which of these happens is a choice.

 

It depends on our decisions on two things: whether the world as a whole decides to lower carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050. And what we all do to support that farmer and the system of farming around the world.

 

As I write this there are 1000 people from 100 countries spending a week in The Hague in the Netherlands discussing this second issue. The Dutch Government and the World Bank have organized a conference─called “Down2Earthjust four weeks prior to Cancun in order to give momentum to a subject that has been often neglected in the climate debate. Farmers are under the greatest threat from climate change, but they could also play a major role in addressing it. Agriculture accounts for nearly 15% of global carbon emissions, with deforestation and forest degradation accounting for as much again. 

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