Climate change in the news (Sep 3 – Sep 10)
Climate change in the news (Sep 3 – Sep 10)
In less than 10 years, firms in China, India and South Korea progressed from no wind turbine manufacturing experience to state-of-the-art wind turbine systems. Consider this: Goldwind from China installed 2,727 MW in 2009, a 140% increase on 2008 that saw its international market share rise to 7.2%. The Indian company Suzlon owns 9% of the global market share. What policies led to such robust domestic wind power development?
Last month, the International Finance Corporation's (IFC's) Cleantech Investment Program hosted Dr. Joanna Lewis, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, to share research on the strategies used by wind power technology companies in China, India and South Korea to develop wind turbine technology. Lewis is working on a paper that details case studies of the current industry leaders in these three countries, including Suzlon (India), Goldwind (China), and Hyundai, Doosan and Daewoo (South Korea).
A policy-maker in Ethiopia, managing a predominantly agricultural economy, and one that is likely to greatly affected by climate change, would probably like to know the impact of climate change as well as what it will cost to adapt to the impacts. Given the potential for more droughts and floods, what are the strategies and costs for adaptation? Like Ethiopia, other developing countries are grappling with the same question. It is an important one, but has not been widely addressed until recently.
This matter was given sudden prominence in 2006 when the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) asked how much financial need developing countries will require to both reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. The COP’s request created an overnight cottage industry estimating the total costs of adaptation by developing countries. Reports were published by the World Bank (2007), Oxfam (2007), the UNFCCC Secretariat (2009), Parry et al. (2009), and others. Most of these studies relied on expert judgment to develop adaptation cost estimates. The UNFCCC, however, applied some “top-down” rules in some sectors to rapidly estimate costs.
The latest and clearly most detailed estimate of the potential costs of adaptation in developing countries was just released in the UNFCCC conference in Bonn by the World Bank titled Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change (EACC). This report was a culmination of years of effort by the Bank to develop global and country level estimates of adaptation costs. The EACC is the most detailed estimate that has been developed to date because one, it addresses more sectors than prior estimates, two, it does so in a more systematic manner than its predecessors, and three, it estimates global and national level costs. The EACC study estimated global costs for infrastructure, coastal zones, water resources, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, human health, and extreme weather. Each sector’s cost estimate was developed by applying rules to analyze impacts and costs as a result of climate change.
When Stephen Schneider died on July 19th at the age of 65, the world lost a giant in climate change science. Stephen was one of the first prominent scientists to highlight the importance of human caused climate change. He was one of the early pioneers of computer modeling of the global climate system that helped understand future scenarios. He became the editor of an important journal, Climatic Change, and an influential member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as advisor to a number of U.S. presidents.
For me the loss was more personal …I lost an old friend and inspiration. I first met Stephen at American Association for Advancement of Science meetings in the early 80swhere he was making a name for himself as the great explainer of ‘global warming’ as we all called it at that time. I was then the executive producer of the flagship science program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Stephen was the kind of interviewee you could only dream of. He was passionate, articulate, funny and smart and had a lot to say. He was a producer’s joy, one of those great communicators that spoke to ‘everyman’ …and he talked so fast that we always thought we got double the value in every interview we did with him. And boy did he make sense. The nay sayers of climate change were out in force in those days too, but Stephen cut a swath through them with his logic and clarity.
The past week saw the final demise of proposals for U.S. legislation to address climate change, and a sense of gloom pervades discussion about prospects for a similar effort by the new Congress next year. Among major corporations, however, one can still find many examples of impressive environmental initiatives and investments. The same week, for example, General Motors (GM) announced two costly steps predicated on consumer demand or regulatory pressure for environmental performance. The more highly publicized news was that GM would begin accepting orders for its long awaited hybrid electric car, the Volt. The Company attracted less fanfare for another product with more immediate environmental benefits, the introduction of a new climate friendly refrigerant for auto air conditioning – replacing a chemical with a global warming potential (GWP) of 1400 with one that has a GWP of 4, a 99.7% improvement over current emissions. (It is worth noting that auto air conditioning has become so popular that its one of the only features available as an add-on to the Nano in India).
In June, General Electric announced that the performance of its “eco-imagination” initiative, a commitment to develop and market a growing range of green products, was meeting revenue targets and outperforming revenue growth in the company as a whole. Consequently, the company plans to double its investment in the initiative over the next five years.
I come from a country that generates 70% of its electricity by burning imported diesel─creating a serious imbalance in Honduras’ economy. There is no reason why we cannot emulate our neighbor Costa Rica that generates 90% of its energy needs using hydroelectricity. As President of Honduran Renewable Energy Association for Small Scale Projects (AHPPER), representing 66 Honduran companies dedicated to the development of small scale renewable projects, I believe that barriers which local entrepreneurs must overcome are the lack of funds for pre-investment activities, equity consolidation and institutional delays.
This week we are in Guyana, talking about people, forests and carbon finance. The 6th meeting of the Participants Committee of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) is taking place in Georgetown, Guyana, bringing government representatives, international organizations, indigenous peoples representatives and private sector to the northern coast of South America. The Facility is a partnership of countries with tropical and sub-tropical forests with the World Bank as a trustee for the Readiness Fund and the Carbon Fund. The meeting is discussing innovative ways to prepare countries for programs that will provide them with payments for emission reductions through, for example, avoided deforestation.
Last week, I helped put together and participated in a workshop hosted by the World Bank on GHG accounting and analysis. To me, it was a very valuable opportunity to take stock of the progress the World Bank and other institutions are making on GHG analysis, focusing on new tools and methodologies in specific sectors – namely transport, energy and urban.
While determining the impact of project related GHG emissions is not new, understanding which approaches to take given the variety of projects, sectors and countries we work in is becoming increasingly important. As there are costs associated with implementing GHG accounting across large variety of sectors, a good dose of pragmatism is required to ensure that scarce resources are devoted to activities where emissions reductions can have a potentially higher long-term impact on the global challenge of low carbon growth. This of course is no small feat.
In my previous blog, I had highlighted a general lack of urgency in focusing on technology development, diffusion and transfer to deal with climate change.
Many of the public policies needed to achieve low carbon growth in countries over the medium term are already in place, including feed-in tariff regimes, mandatory renewable energy targets and tax incentives. But more such policies may be necessary or existing policy distortions removed if one were to envision massive scale-up in such investments. It becomes both important and interesting to track progress globally as the policies and strategies shift and evolve toward promoting sustainable and low carbon growth paths.
The Copenhagen Accord commits developed countries to collectively “provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching US$ 30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012”. This fast-start finance is critical to building trust among countries in the global climate regime and to lay the groundwork for the post-2012 climate finance architecture. In the six months since the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, a number of developed countries have publicly announced their individual pledges to help meet this target. The World Resources Institute (WRI) tracks and monitors these so-called fast-start pledges.
According to our research, pledges put forward so far total US$ 31.32 billion. However, many questions remain regarding the nature of the pledged funds. Some of the funds have yet to go through national budget appropriations processes.