1.1. Tianjin Sends Out Signals of Climate Hope and Scepticism
9 October 2010, IDN
Though the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in China is far from satisfying, there are glimmers of hope for the year-end global gathering in Cancun, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, Friends of the Earth International and Oxfam. But there is also lingering scepticism.
As the six-day climate negotiations concluded in Tianjin on October 9, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that governments had made progress in defining what could be achieved at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun from November 29 to December 10, 2010.
"This week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancun. Governments addressed what is doable in Cancun, and what may have to be left to later," she said.
Figueres said that governments had discussed each element of a package of decisions, including a long-term shared vision, adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, key operational elements of climate finance and capacity building, along with the future of the Kyoto Protocol. Governments need to finalize these decisions in Cancun.
The UN’s top climate change official pointed out that action on climate change that could be agreed in Cancun and beyond was about turning "small climate keys to unlock very big doors" into a new level of climate action among rich and poor, business and consumers, governments and citizens.
"If climate financing and technology transfer make it possible to give thousands of villages efficient solar cookers and lights, not only do a nation’s entire carbon emissions drop, but children grow healthier, women work easier and families can talk, read and write into the evening, "she said.
"In the end, this is about real people being given the opportunity to take control of their future stability, security and sustainability," she added.
Addressing the media together with Figueres on the final day of the Tianjin meeting, Mexican Foreign Minister and President-designate of the Cancun UN Climate Change Conference Patricia Espinosa said that the Cancun meeting can and should be a significant step forward to benefit everybody, above all the most vulnerable and poor countries.
"In Mexico, we will show the world we are committed to take the next essential steps on climate change and that we are committed to the multilateral path as the only fair and effective route to resolve global problems," she said.
Espinosa also said that no country was stepping back from the emission reduction or limitation pledges it made at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. "Each country has recognized that it will do what it can. No country has reneged from its commitment," she said.
Contradicting this view, Meena Raman of Friends of the Earth International said: "Unfortunately, what we saw in Tianjin was backsliding on the commitments rich countries have already made not forward progress. Rich countries are still refusing to meet their obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide funds for developing countries to deal with climate change.
"Now, rather than honouring their existing legal commitments, they are immorally trying to shift the burden to developing countries and extract further concessions from them. A second period of pollution reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol is essential. We must progress toward this second period in Cancun, as the first one expires in 2012."
Friends of the Earth U.S.’s Karen Orenstein said: "While rich countries’ backtracking has been tremendously disappointing, there is at least one sign of hope to emerge from Tianjin. The establishment of a global climate fund under the authority of the UNFCCC appears within reach. The devil, though, is in the details. The fund must be designed entirely within the UNFCCC with no role for the World Bank. And the United States must stop holding the fund hostage to new demands on poorer countries. Rich countries’ legal as well as ethical obligation to provide financial resources to developing countries must not be treated as conditional."
Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland’s Asad Rehman said: "We saw in Tianjin a similar dynamic to what we saw in Copenhagen, with rich countries refusing to do their part to solve the problem. But something new is happening too. A growing international climate justice movement is taking to the streets and putting increasing pressure on political leaders. That movement will be crucial to our ability to achieve progress in Cancun."
International development agency Oxfam said the outline of an agreement on a set of decisions at the Cancun summit in December are beginning to appear, but governments will need to work with real urgency and the utmost determination to achieve real progress this year.
"Real progress can be made in Cancun. But all the talk of ‘balanced outcomes’ this week will mean absolutely nothing if governments don’t make key decisions to keep the flame of a fair, safe and binding global agreement alight," said Kelly Dent, Senior Climate Change Advisor for Oxfam. "Poor people around the world cannot afford for that light to be extinguished. It is a matter of survival."
Oxfam said that the establishment of a new Global Climate Fund that would assist developing countries to adapt to climate change impacts is a vital and achievable outcome for Cancun. Other key elements of a "balanced outcome" to ensure the talks to move forward, include a pathway to a binding agreement that will ensure more ambitious action on emissions reductions and the provision of long-term finance by rich countries.
"This week has shown us that substantive building blocks, like the climate fund, can be achieved in Cancun. It is crucial that rich countries don’t hold the climate fund hostage to progress in other areas of the negotiations. Treating the new fund as a bargaining chip will only result in deadlock and more suffering for vulnerable people in poor countries," she added.
Oxfam is calling for a new Global Climate Fund that is equitable, accountable, transparent and efficient. The fund must be accessible for poor countries, with at least half of the funding going to help vulnerable people adapt to a changing climate, especially women farmers who are responsible for producing over half the food in some poor countries.
U.S. AND CHINA
Much of the attention in Tianjin focused on the United States and China — while others countries slipped off the radar.
Striking a sceptical note, U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing said after the talks in the Chinese city of Tianjin: "We have made some very modest progress, but unfortunately it is very limited. . . .We did not get a balanced outcome yet." He added: "The lack of progress gives us concern for the prospects for Cancun.”
Chinese negotiator Su Wei said "some developed nations" were "trying to rewrite" the Kyoto Protocol on emissions controls, and "shun their emission cut obligations". Chinese state media quoted Su as saying: "That is a retreat from the past meeting. Any moves that aim to overthrow the Kyoto Protocol should be denounced."
Dent said: "The debate about tackling climate change shouldn’t be about just two countries — no matter how powerful — when the most savage impacts are felt by those least responsible for causing climate change. If effective solutions to the climate crisis are to be found, their views must be heard in the negotiations."
Dent said she is encouraged by the role played by Chinese civil society around the Tianjin talks. "The active participation of Chinese civil society, which has created important dialogue in the public domain, has been particularly impressive in Tianjin. It is yet another reflection of the growing global movement to tackle climate change," she added.
The Tianjin climate meeting was attended by about two and half thousand participants from more than 176 countries, including government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organisations and research institutions.
With 194 Parties, UNFCCC has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 191 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.
The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
1.2. Climate talks marred by bickering, progress on finance
9 October 2010, Reuters
China hit back on Saturday at U.S. claims it was shirking in the fight against climate change, likening the criticisms to a mythic pig preening itself.
Frustration between the world’s two top carbon polluters overshadowed week-long U.N. talks seeking progress on the shape of a new climate pact, with negotiators making some progress on financing but failing to dispel fears the process could end in deadlock.
Su Wei, a senior Chinese climate change negotiator, swiped at comments from top U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern as the climate change talks drew to a close in the north Chinese city of Tianjin.
Stern, in remarks at a U.S. university, said Beijing could not insist rich nations take on fixed targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions while China and other big emerging nations adopt only voluntary domestic goals.
Su countered that Stern’s claims were a diversion from the United States’ failure to make big cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases causing global warming.
Su likened the U.S. criticism to Zhubajie, a pig in a classic Chinese novel, which in a traditional saying preens itself in a mirror.
"It has no measures or actions to show for itself, and instead it criticises China, which is actively taking measures and actions," Su said of the United States.
The talks in Tianjin reached firmer agreement on funding for poor countries hit by global warming, green technology transfers, and other steps intended to build momentum for more high-level treaty talks in Cancun, Mexico, from the end of next month.
Cancun is meant to be the stepping stone to a legally binding deal next year that would lock in governments into reducing greenhouse gas pollution holding heat in the atmosphere and threatening to tip over into dangerous global warming.
Officials and activists in Tianjin said they were frustrated that more was not agreed in sessions that often dwelt on procedures. Talks on protecting carbon-absorbing rainforests languished.
NEED FOR SPEED
"We’re moving in the right direction, but we certainly need to put our foot on the accelerator," said Julie-Anne Richards of the Climate Action Network, which monitored the talks.
Progress this week should lead to some decisions in Cancun, said Wendel Trio, Greenpeace International climate policy director, but he pointed to the bickering that has dominated the Tianjin meeting. "At times it has been like watching children in a kindergarten," he said.
The jabs between Beijing and Washington exposed a rift likely to keep dogging talks: to what extent China should be regarded in treaties as an emerging economy free of fixed greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.’s main weapon against climate change, ends in 2012 and what follows from 2013 is under contention.
The Protocol makes an either-or distinction between rich countries, which take on fixed targets to cut emissions, and developing countries, including China. The U.S. is not a party.
Nearly 200 governments failed to agree last year on a new legally binding deal. A meeting in Copenhagen last December ended in bitter exchanges between rich and developing countries and created a loose accord with many gaps.
Stern accused Beijing of sliding away from the Copenhagen Accord and said it established that China should be treated much like other big polluters.
China has said it will not accept such a change.
China also demands that advanced economies, responsible for most of the industrial pollution fuelling global warming, must commit to deep cuts in emissions, giving poorer societies more room to grow their economies and greenhouse gas output.
The top U.S. negotiator in Tianjin, Jonathan Pershing, demanded China and other big emerging nations expose their domestic emissions goals to tighter international scrutiny and put them in a new binding pact that succeeds Kyoto.
"These elements are at the heart of the deal and the lack of progress on them gives us concern," Pershing told reporters.
"The danger we face now is that the essential balance that allowed progress to be made is in jeopardy."
1.3. China accuses rich countries of intending to reshape Kyoto Protocol, blocking talks
9 October 2010, Xinhuanet
China‘s chief climate change negotiator said on Saturday that some developed nations were trying to rewrite the Kyoto Protocol to shun their emission cut obligations, which stymied the UN climate change talks.
Su Wei, also head of the climate change department of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the underlying purpose of them doing so was to avoid setting the emission cut target after 2012, a key issue of the ongoing talks.
Some wealthy countries want a substantial amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, he told reporters on the sidelines of the UN climate change talks held in north China’s Tianjin.
"That is a retreat from the past meeting. Any moves that aim to overthrow the Kyoto Protocol should be denounced," he said.
After three rounds of talks this year, about 3,100 delegates from 177 parties under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the Kyoto Protocol gathered in Tianjin to pave the way for "concrete outcomes" at the year-end Cancun summit in Mexico.
However, as the week-long meeting is due to end Saturday, disagreement remains wide as rich and poor nations are divided over a range of issues such as whether to include all the major greenhouse gas emitters into a new treaty or to extend the Kyoto Protocol.
In response to some rich countries’ accusations that China had failed to uphold its commitment made at last year’s Copenhagen meeting, Su said China’s support for the Copenhagen accord was "consistent" and "staunch."
"The Copenhagen accord reaffirms the principals of the Kyoto Protocol, the UNFCCC and the Bali Road Map. We have always been in support of turning agreements reached by leaders at Copenhagen into the negotiation text we are discussing currently," he said.
He also noted some rich countries were trying to create an impression that developing countries were blocking the negotiations.
2.1. EU worried about waning public image of renewables
6 October 2010, EurActiv
The European Commission is looking into mechanisms to boost public acceptance of renewable energy projects to meet its climate goals, but behavioural scientists warn that obvious solutions like individual compensation do not always work.
The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive requires each member state to produce a certain proportion of their energy from renewable sources to reach a common EU target of 20% in 2020.
But renewable projects often run into resistance from local communities, who have to live with the noise of wind turbines or the visual changes to their landscapes.
Mindful that developers of renewables projects often run into public resistance at the permitting stage, the European Commission’s energy department has launched a study investigating how to increase local acceptance.
"A lot of time this is an obstacle to economic operators when they want to develop a [wind] park or another renewable project," said Ron Van Erck, policy officer at the European Commission, at a conference in Brussels yesterday (5 October).
He said that the preliminary results of the study show that there are several mechanisms to improve the situation by sharing the benefits of the projects. These include compensation mechanisms such as community funds, where the project banks money for the local community to spend as it sees fit, local ownership, where the developer offers a share of the project to local citizens, and direct compensation.
In addition, more indirect and softer mechanisms, like new local employment, and indirect social benefits, such as prestige to the area and eco-tourism, seem to be "quite effective" in creating local acceptance, Van Erck said.
"It appears also that when you go for individual compensation – just pay off one or two persons who may have problems with the project – it should be done with caution, since it tends to create problems," he added.
"It’s good that we dig into these behavioural things," said EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.
Her native Denmark, which pioneered wind power development in the 1970s and 80s, requires developers to offer a share of the project to local citizens to give them co-ownership, Hedegaard pointed out. "That in itself already helps a lot," she said, as locals will not have to put up with the inconvenience of having a wind turbine in their backyard without also seeing some of the money.
Hedegaard agreed that individual compensation remains "one of the more tricky points," but said it could be helpful if a local citizen had proof that their real estate had diminished in value as a result of a renewables project.
Nick Pidgeon, professor of environmental psychology at Cardiff University, said that compensation does not always work if the people in question are not seeking compensation but reject the project for other reasons. It also raises questions of fairness, he added.
"You’ve got to know the community to understand what type of process to put in place," Pidgeon stressed. He said that some people might get irritated when offered money, when in fact they object to the reliability of wind energy or the lack of local democracy in the permitting process.
Public acceptance poses a problem to the Commission, as it is essentially the responsibility of member states but can stand in the way of common EU energy goals. The EU executive will also attempt to tackle delays in permitting for energy infrastructure projects via simplified procedures for projects of European interest, a leaked energy infrastructure plan showed.
2.2. Greenpeace takes radioactive waste to the European Parliament
7 October 2010, Greenpeace
Greenpeace delivered radioactive waste to the door of the European Parliament today to remind MEPs in their last plenary session before considering a new nuclear waste law that there is no solution to nuclear waste.
Two qualified Greenpeace radiation specialists delivered four radioactive samples in two concrete and lead-lined containers to Parliament’s twin entrances on Rue Wiertz. Dozens of trained Greenpeace volunteers zoned off areas with tape before handcuffing themselves in rings around the containers to ensure their safety. MEPs and staff looked on as Greenpeace climbers scaled 16 nearby flagpoles to hold out banners reading ‘Nuclear waste, no solution’ below the flags of those countries with nuclear energy programmes producing the largest amounts of nuclear waste.
Four samples of radioactive waste were collected from unsecured public locations: Sellafield beach in the UK; the seabed at la Hague in France; the banks of the Molse Nete River in Belgium; and from the uranium mining village of Akokan in Niger. Despite their danger, the materials are not classified as radioactive waste when discharged or left in the open environment as they stem from so-called ‘authorised emissions’ or from uranium mining. Yet, when collected and put in a container, the samples are classified as radioactive waste that needs to be guarded for centuries until decayed. Other nuclear waste, such as that waste from decommissioning and spent nuclear fuel, is even more dangerous and must be stored for hundreds of thousands of years. There is no way of securing this waste over such long time periods with guaranteed safety, and it continues to pile up all over the world.
Parliament will consider a nuclear waste law for Europe next month. But early drafts exclude the type of radioactive waste Greenpeace delivered and paper over the fears of scientists who say that disposing of highly radioactive waste deep underground could be disastrous.
Greenpeace EU nuclear policy advisor Jan Haverkamp said: “It is a scandal that the waste Greenpeace delivered today is being pumped into our seas, rivers and left to accumulate near where people live. The nuclear sector has no idea what to do with this waste, let alone the far more dangerous and long-lived waste that also continues to pile up. As the vast majority comes from the power sector, the only logical step is to phase out nuclear power. The EU has phase-out clauses for other no-go substances such as mercury. MEPs must ensure that radioactive waste is treated no less severely. As it stands, the proposed directive is little more than a PR exercise to smooth the way for new nuclear power stations.”
Immediately upon arrival, Greenpeace made contact with Parliamentary security services to notify them of its action and the waste it was delivering. It also informed the Belgian national waste authority, which is responsible for containing such waste.
2.3. Brussels finalising EU energy infrastructure plan
4 October 2010, EurActiv
The European Commission is planning to introduce a fast-track procedure for permitting energy infrastructure projects of European interest, according to a draft proposal seen by EurActiv.
The draft communication on energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and 2030 identifies nine priority projects of European interest to deliver Europe’s energy and climate objectives.
It points to missing links, insufficient market integration and the need to adapt the EU’s energy infrastructures to manage an increasing share of intermittent renewable energy.
Europe‘s energy demand is set to be increasingly met with electricity, while in 2020, 16% of overall electricity generation will come from variable energy sources like solar and wind power, the paper states. The EU’s climate and renewable energy targets will therefore require "extensive changes to the power grids" to integrate both distributed renewable sources and centralised power generation into the grid, the paper states.
The Commission estimates that 50,000km of electricity transmission lines will either have to be built or upgraded in the next decade to meet EU objectives on security of supply, renewables integration and market development.
Moreover, the paper foresees the building of a European "super grid" of very high-voltage lines that will be capable of transporting electricity across the continent to balance intermittent power generation – wind in the North and sun in the South.
"It will have to be woven into the existing alternating current high-voltage grid while allowing the same levels of system reliability and security," the paper says. In the longer run it could also equip Europe with more robust connections to neighbouring countries, it adds.
To put the infrastructure in place, the paper identifies the need to reduce delays in issues permits, which are crippling infrastructure projects. It points out that permit delays for building energy transmission infrastructure are now longer in many member states than delays in building the power plants to feed the lines.
European priority projects should be given preferential treatment to speed up their implementation, either by applying the fastest possible procedure at member-state level or by a new harmonised procedure, the paper says. The "preferred option" would be a "declaration of European interest" regime, which would trigger a simplified permitting procedure and maximum timeframes for each step in the process, it states.
Moreover, member states involved in cross-border projects should be required to enhance coordination, preferably providing a "one-stop shop" for permit application. In case of persistent conflicts and delays, the Commission or another authority could be given power to make decisions.
The Commission intends to table proposals on permitting for projects of EU interest next year.
"Permitting should be streamlined, but it should not be top-down. The market should have a place," commented Susanne Nies, head of energy policy and generation at Eurelectric, the association representing the electricity industry in Europe. She pointed out that it currently takes ten years to get an electricity line up and running, which is "totally incompatible with today’s requests for more renewables".
CO2 transportation included
The draft plan also seeks to put CO2 transportation pipelines on Europe’s priority list to prepare for the commercial-scale application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
"Whilst storage capacity in Europe is plentiful, it is not evenly distributed geographically and in some cases distant from significant emissions sources," the paper reads. "Moreover, some EU member states that account for a significant proportion of Europe’s CO2 emissions [e.g. Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic] have no more than 15 years of potential storage within their state boundaries," it adds.
CO2 pipelines installed between 2014 and 2020 will be associated with specific demonstration projects and unconnected, the draft says. But including CO2 transport infrastructure is necessary to accommodate a global rollout of CCS around 2025, it argues.
More EU funds for energy infrastructure?
The paper notes that not all of the "substantial investment" required to update Europe’s energy transportation capacities in the next two decades will be provided by the market.
The document gives a tentative figure of up to €15bn of public support for the identified priority projects. It also mentions the financial perspectives 2014-2020, hinting that the Commission could be seeking money for energy infrastructure from the next EU budget.
The communication, scheduled for presentation in November, will be followed by a proposal for a new financial instrument to replace the Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E).
2.4. MEPs vote to cut 2011 spending on ITER nuclear fusion project
5 October 2010, Platts
Members of the European Parliament’s budget committee on Monday night voted to cut planned funding for the ITER experimental nuclear fusion project in 2011, the Green group in the European Parliament said Tuesday. The budget committee adopted an amendment to cut the ITER budget by Eur57 million to Eur304.76 million ($419.77 million) in 2011 in a revision to the EU’s research budget. Last week, the parliament’s rapporteur on the budget, Polish center-right MEP, Sidonia Jedrzejewska, said it was difficult to find cuts in the research budget because of very tight limits in the long-term budget and the need for proposed increasse in areas like entrepreneurship and innovation and other energy-related projects "I am aware that in the times of economic crisis we have to make cuts and concessions, but we cannot forget that our future economic growth will depend on today’s investments, especially in the area of education, research and innovation", Jedrzejewska said. MEPs agreed to compensate for increases in expenditure in these areas by making equivalent cuts in the ITER budget, based on the assumption that the fusion project, which is running behind schedule, would not need all the funds allocated to it in 2011. But this did not go far enough for the Green group, which wants the ITER program scrapped. "The Greens welcome the decision by MEPs to reduce the amount of EU funds going to the ITER nuclear fusion project in 2011 but believe the most logical solution is not to spend one further cent on this white elephant. That the European taxpayer should be expected to foot the bill for the ballooning ITER budget is simply wrong, particularly at a time of budgetary constraint across Europe," said German Green MEP Helga Trupel. "The least costly option would be to abandon the project now before the main construction has started at all. All the more so, given the massive doubts as to the commercial viability of nuclear fusion, which even optimistic analysts agree will not be commercially functional before 2050… We are deeply concerned that the Council is planning to throw an additional Eur1.4 billion into the black hole that is the ITER budget in 2012 and 2013," she said. The ITER nuclear fusion project is being developed by an international consortium in Caderache, southern France, after the EU won an international contest to host the project, beating a rival bid from Japan. ITER aims to generate energy using nuclear fusion, replicating the nuclear reaction that produces energy in the sun.
3.1. Aviation sector calls for global plan to ‘green’ flights
4 October 2010, EurActiv
All aviation stakeholders, including manufacturers, airlines, airports and navigation service providers, have issued a joint call for governments to agree a global plan to address aviation emissions at December’s United Nations climate summit in Cancún.
The call from the international aerospace industry comes as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is holding its general assembly in Montreal.
Industry worries that a fragmented worldwide regulatory system would raise compliance costs for the sector and hurt the global industry.
The industry believes that ICAO, a specialised UN agency which codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation, is the right forum to draw up an appropriate global framework and implement it.
Just months before the UN climate conference opens in Cancún, "the ICAO Assembly must rise to the challenge and adopt a global plan for addressing aviation emissions," said François Gayet, secretary-general of European aerospace industry association ASD.
Message to Cancún
Last month, the global aviation industry gathered in Geneva for the fifth Aviation & Environment Summit, urging governments at the ICAO to "make decisive progress" and agree on a global framework to address aviation emissions.
The summit communiqué of 17 September urged the states involved in the UN climate negotiations "to summon the political will to endorse the industry targets for reducing emissions and establish the necessary global framework to deliver them".
The same message was sent to governments ahead of the December 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, after talks on a ‘global sectoral approach for addressing aviation emissions’ in October 2009.
While the industry is committed to improving its fuel efficiency, as well as stopping and then halving its net carbon emissions, it stresses that these goals are "subject to governments incentivising technological research and development for airframes and engines and the commercial development of alternative low-carbon fuels while also providing modern airport and airspace infrastructure".
The communiqué notes that the most effective current means of lowering CO2 emissions is to invest in new aircraft, but that the industry’s ability to do so "is threatened by increasing and costly regulatory burdens, including taxes, charges and economic measures".
Therefore, the sector calls for policy responses that are "cost-effective, equitable and globally coordinated through ICAO, providing open access to carbon markets".
4.1. Grounded: Aviation, Climate Change and ICAO
As the global aviation community meets for the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s triennial assembly in Montreal, find out how ICAO has failed to address the sector’s climate impact, and what should happen next.
More at: http://www.transportenvironment.org/Publications/prep_hand_out/lid/606
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