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The World Region

Cities get the call in Cancun

Dan Hoornweg's picture

If you closely read the 20-page draft decision on the Clean Development Mechanism prepared at COP16 in Cancun, you will see a tiny reference to the possibility of including ``city-wide programs’’.Those few words represent an enormous effort: mainly championed by Amman, Jordan, with support from the World Bank, the European Union, UN-HABITAT, C40 Cities, ICLEI, United Cities and Local Government(UCLG) and others.


There is reason to be excited. Cities are the every-day face of civilization, the rough and tumble, action oriented arm of government: The ones you call when you need to get things done. And in Cancun they got the call.


Making sense of the COP, the ‘Conference of the Parties’ (cities would call it a meeting, ‘fiesta’ if you added beer and a beach) is a full time job. Thousands of people jet across the planet arguing over commas and clauses while climate change waits for true political will. But that political will does not come from countries at a COP. No, first and foremost it needs to be understood, nurtured, and acted-upon in cities. Countries get their marching orders mainly from urban residents, not the other way round.

A carbon footprinting tool for a cool climate

Daniel Kammen's picture

More and more people are interested in carbon emissions analysis and management. You can see this in the growth of awareness-raising campaigns to promote lower-carbon lifestyle choices, as well as voluntary carbon offset programs and proliferating  online household carbon footprint calculators. 


Now that interest is being harnessed at the community and country level. At the World Bank, partnerships for low-carbon communities are underway with over a dozen cities, as well as several countries. These include efforts to analyze carbon emissions profiles. At the city level, it’s the first step to prioritizing action to not only reduce emissions, but also deliver better services to the poor.


Calculators and tools help people understand the greenhouse gas benefits of effective climate action, but not all tools are created equal. A good calculator should be comprehensive and sophisticated, but also transparent and user-friendly. The best ones not only calculate emissions, but help people manage them.


One example is the CoolClimate Calculator which was developed by a team of students under my direction at the University of California, Berkeley. Chris Jones, Mia Yamauchi, Joe Kentenbacher, and Gang He, among others, developed the tool at the University of California, Berkeley. It measures carbon impacts of specific transportation choices and of energy use, but also includes impacts of water, waste, food, goods and services for both households and businesses. These indirect sources of emissions account for more than 50% of the total carbon footprint of the typical U.S. household.



Cancun’s Christmas Present

Andrew Steer's picture

As Christmas tourists replace COP delegates in the Moon Palace, post-mortems abound. From the World Bank’s standpoint the important question is: what did this really do for the prospects of long term poverty reduction in developing countries?  The answer: potentially, a lot. Earlier this week, this subject was discussed at the Board of the World Bank.


Photo: Flags in front of Moon Palace



Going into Cancun we suggested some stretch-targets that would mark a strong outcome for Cancun for developing countries. Some of these were over-achieved (eg Carbon Markets), some under-achieved (eg agriculture)–but, overall , expectations were more than met. 

A world of action in Cancun: Don't listen to your grandma

Andrew Steer's picture

Negotiators have worked through the past three nights in search of agreements that all nations can sign up to (see my last blog).  At 3 am this morning they reached consensus on a package of decisions that represents progress in the journey towards a global deal.


But most of those in Cancun have more down-to-earth reasons for being here.  They’re here to initiate action – to share experiences, learn from best practice, forge new partnerships, and launch new programs.


Here’s a sample from the past 48 hours of some of the action that we’ve been moving forward, when many heads of state, ministers and global leaders such as Ban Ki Moon and Bob Zoellick were in town.


Developing Countries push the frontiers on Carbon Markets:

A new Partnership of Market Readiness was launched by the World Bank and by ministers from 15 countries  with the purpose of supporting innovation in developing nations on market based instruments. Countries like China, Chile, Columbia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Ukraine and many others – are introducing their own market based instruments. This new facility – now US$30 million but expected to rise to US$100 million – will provide technical support to these efforts, and seek to share practical lessons for others to follow.


This is part of a much bigger movement on carbon markets here in Cancun. The Clean Development Mechanism is in need of reform so that transactions costs are reduced and low income countries get better access to funds. [So far around US$25 billion has flowed to developing countries through carbon markets, but only 2% of this goes to Africa.] The High level Advisory Group on Finance  estimates that US$30-50 billion could flow annually to developing countries through the offset markets by 2020 with moderate progress in policies. The fact that so many leading developing countries are now creating their own internal markets could help hugely in driving down the cost of mitigation, bringing in new technology and, over time,  building a linked global market


Negotiators at Cancun. Photo by IISD


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.