Lots of people, companies, cities, and nations have started to calculate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since you can only change what you can measure. These measurements are starting to highlight some very interesting trends and show how complex the global results of our lifestyle are.
In Copenhagen, donor countries pledged to raise US$30 billion in “fast start funds” and an additional US$100 billion a year by 2020 to invest in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Though the commitments are clear, the delivery is uncertain. By the June UNFCCC meetings in Bonn, countries will need to start drafting a set of decisions on the financial architecture to manage and distribute these climate funds.
By embarking on several climate change initiatives, including an assessment of progress in implementing the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change (SFDCC) and the revision of its Energy Strategy, the World Bank has positioned itself to play a role in the management of new climate funds. The Bank already hosts several climate related trust funds, including the Climate Investment Funds. It is the trustee of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and its largest implementing agency. The question is whether the Bank should be entrusted with an even larger role in the future of climate finance. If it is going to gain the political support necessary to make this happen, the World Bank must systematically address issues of environmental and social sustainability in its mainstream investments.
Access to energy services and energy efficiency are the two key messages of the report released in New York April 28 by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon and his Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. “Energy for a Sustainable Future” calls on countries—rich, poor and middle-income—to transform their national energy systems to ensure universal access to modern energy services, and reduce global energy intensity by 2030.
These are ambitious goals, the report says. It notes that access, in particular, “requires overcoming complex challenges in some of the poorest and most remote locations on the globe.” Although ambitious, the goals are certainly attainable. Achieving both of them will require political will, money, ingenuity and cooperation, not only among governments, but must also include the private sector and civil society.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the `Transformational Priorities for Africa in a Changing Climate’ as part of the World Bank Group Spring meetings in Washington DC. In my remarks, I spoke on how Africa is often perceived as a place which offers only adaptation opportunities. I argued that the continent offers mitigation opportunities too – especially in the area of deforestation.
We all know that deforestation and forest degradation cause 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By using Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanisms to save half of this, we could reduce global emissions by at least 10%. This translates into a huge potential for Africa.
Climate change in the news (Apr 2 - Apr 9, 2010)
|Futuristic water design that would provide water for food in the desert, featured in The Guardian in 2008. Photograph: Exploration Architecture.|
“What are the new developments in water? Are there new technologies that developing countries could use to bypass expensive and cumbersome systems? What’s the next big thing that could solve the water crisis?” Politicians and the media often ask experts for new ideas to make water “interesting”. Yet, on the whole, water systems constructed today use much of the same technology they did 100 years ago.
The perceived communications fiasco of the last few months about what is known and not known about the science of climate change led one of my students, Andy Lubershane, to try a different approach—animation. His effort is meant to communicate in a clear, humorous, memorable way the reasons why we need to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.
Andy is one of 160 Master’s students using the World Development Report 2010 as a textbook on Environmental Assessment at the University of Michigan.
"Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like..."
Earlier today, I was stuck in a herd of slow-moving, smoke-belching traffic (also known as the Beltway in Washington D.C.), when I heard an uplifting feature about electric bikes on the radio. Electric bikes are apparently all the rage at this year’s ongoing bike show in Taipei.
The WDR 2010 described in its chapter on innovation how the electric bike market took off in China over the last 10 years as a result of “technological improvements, faster urbanization, higher gasoline prices, and increases in purchasing power.” Not surprising, in the Kingdom of the Bicycle. But will e-bikes sway car addicts elsewhere?
On today’s “Science Friday” radio show, callers shared their enthusiasm for Do-It-Yourself mitigation. There are now dozens of kits out there to help retrofit ordinary bicycles -- so you can chug up a hill without a sweat. A brother and sister team, 59 and 61, are setting off on Earth Day on an electric bike tour of the United States to show that older people are never too old to pedal.
Climate change in the news (Mar 13- 18, 2010)
Green growth has been in the news lately with much talk about greening the fiscal stimulus for a triple bottom line. Yet there are worries and the question remains as to whether green growth means slower growth with resources diverted to cleaning up the growth process. And what would happen to countries who unilaterally decide to impose domestic environmental regulations and/or a carbon price?. Will this lead to jobs moving abroad—to poorer or less-green countries that would become pollution havens?
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
Unfortunately much of the green growth discussion has been of the proselytizing or the scare-mongering kind, with not enough analysis of the potential trade-offs between greening and growing, and not enough thought devoted to ways of minimizing these trade-offs.
In this context, a new paper by Philippe Aghion, Daron Acemoglu and two Harvard graduate students, on “The Environment and Directed Technical Change” (pdf) is a much needed contribution. It also makes for a fascinating read: do not let the large number of equations scare you off! As in all of Aghion’s work, the key insights of the papers are fully captured in crisp writing in the first few pages of the paper.
In his presentation at the World Bank on March 8, Aghion explained the motivation of the paper: most economic models looking at the trade-offs between acting aggressively or not on climate change assume technical change is exogenous—i.e., does not respond to changes in energy prices (for example through a carbon tax) nor to environmental regulation (like a cap on emissions). This results in green growth being slower than dirty growth, at least if the negative impacts of climate change are small, and/or results in the need for permanent subsidies.