1.1. G8 2050 climate pledge fails to convince
10 July 2009, EurActiv
The G8’s "historic" agreement to halve greenhouse gas emisisons by 2050 in L’Aquila, Italy this week was immediately condemned by green groups as "vague" and insufficient to halt global warming in the absence of a decisive mid-term target.
For the first time, the world’s biggest eight industrialised economies recognised that the rise in average global temperature should be limited to 2°C. According to scientific consensus, this is the absolute upper limit if the world is to escape catastrophic climate change.
The G8 leaders consequently pledged to support a global target to cut emissions by 50% by 2050. Moreover, they supported an ambitious long-term target of 80% or more for industrialised countries.
But the base year for calculating emission reductions was left vague, as the declaration merely stated that the reductions should be "compared to 1990 or more recent years". The wording could herald a battle between nations not unlike the one that took place during the EU’s internal negotiations, when the EU 15 largely supported a 1990 reference point and many Eastern states argued for 2005.
"The G8 conclusions are the most progressive on the subject ever," a European Commission official stated. As setting a mid-term target was not on the agenda of the meeting, all expectations were met, apart from agreement on the base year, she said.
But environmentalists were far less convinced, arguing that the 2°C threshold would be exceeded without a collective agreement on a 2020 target.
"World leaders have come down to earth. We welcome them back here, but why have they failed to tell us how they want to achieve what they promise?," said Kim Carstensen, leader of the WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a prestigious scientific body, industrialised countries will need to cut their emissions by 25-40% by 2020 in order to avoid disastrous climate change.
Pledge to invest in green energy
The G8 leaders got a more positive evaluation for their focus on energy efficiency and green energies as a strategy for moving out of the depression.
"The G8 has recognised the need for greater investment in energy to expand employment and ensure resumption in economic growth, while also achieving reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and more secure energy supplies," said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
"At a time of widespread uncertainty, governments can and must lead the way through increased energy diversification and most importantly, improved energy efficiency, both of which can reduce oil market tightness and volatility," Tanaka said.
The G8 countries drew attention to the green dimension of their fiscal stimulus packages, including energy efficiency measures and support for renewable energy technologies and clean coal, and pledged continuous commitment.
They stressed that subsidies encouraging carbon-intensive energy consumption should be slashed, while simultaneously putting in place regulatory frameworks to support a transition to a low-carbon economy.
The meeting also acknowledged carbon markets as a central contributor to reducing emissions. G8 leaders said emissions trading is one of the most cost-effective means of boosting investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean technologies, complemented by other incentives such as fees and emission taxes.
The EU’s proposal for a sectoral crediting mechanism whereby developing countries could gain offset credits by exceeding emissions reduction targets in a particular sector was also reflected in the final summit document. It called for the reform of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is based on projects that have come under increasing criticism for failing to achieve their climate targets.
Promise to help emerging economies
After developing countries attending the 17-nation climate change talks refused to commit to specific goals to reduce their output of greenhouse gases, the world’s richest economies have pledged to help emerging economies meet the costs associated with reducing their industrial carbon emissions.
In a nod to the growing influence of India and China, US President Barack Obama has asked international finance ministers to put forward ideas for helping to pay for reform in emerging economies. They will report to a meeting of the G20 in Pittsburgh in September.
"Developing nations have real and understandable concerns about the role they will play in these efforts," Obama said.
"They want to make sure that they do not have to sacrifice their aspirations for development and higher living standards. Yet, with most of the growth in projected emissions coming from these countries, their active participation is a prerequisite for a solution."
From G8 to G14 or G20?
Obama’s words clearly indicate how the exclusive G8 club of elite economies is increasingly unable to solve problems alone and is forced to share influence with other countries to get things done.
Many of these G8 deliberations have included other groups in recent years. China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have been attending Group of Eight summits as guests since 2007. While their presence has become a given, the failure to grant them full membership has only widened divisions.
Yesterday’s meeting on climate change included all of the above, plus others like Australia, South Korea and Indonesia. And in the autumn, many of these nations, plus others, will get together for the G20.
Some national leaders want to replace the Group of Eight with the Group of 20, which includes such countries as Argentina and Saudi Arabia and collectively represents three quarters of the world’s population.
"I think the path will lead to the G20," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday.
French President Nicolas Sarkoxy, who last year called the Group of Eight format "obsolete," said that the club needed to expand. But he suggested that 20 members might be too unwieldy and is opting for a G14, he said yesterday in a press conference.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that developed countries have a "special responsibility" to lead in emissions reduction. "But this is not going to be enough. The emerging economies, for example, where growth in emissions is surging, must also join in the effort. We must all do our part, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," he added.
Co-president of European Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament Rebecca Harms argued that the summit had fallen short of expectations on advancing the UN talks. "A vague declaration on distant targets is no substitute for the urgently-needed action. Ill-defined, non-binding emissions reduction goals set 41 years into the future simply fall short of what is needed at this stage," she said.
WWF welcomed the commitment to reduce emissions from developed countris by 80% in the long term, but argued that at least a 40% target is needed for 2020. "Without setting the path to reduce emissions, the actual obligations of countries will be watered down, and staying below 2 degrees will be impossible," said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.
William Ramsay, director of the energy programme at French research institute Ifri, argued that energy and climate challenges will remain the same even after the economic crisis.
The year 2009 could be a turning point in our collective effort as the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol reaches its conclusion and we gather in Copenhagen to chart the way forward. Summiteers again have the opportunity to communicate the message to their citizens that the only way to meet the challenges is to build on the interdependence of every player in world energy markets and on their growing sense of intervulnerability," he argued.
1.2. G8 makes scant progress to Copenhagen climate pact
10 July 2009, Reuters
L’AQUILA, Italy (Reuters) – A G8 summit made scant progress toward a new U.N. climate treaty due to be agreed in December with some nations back-pedalling on promises of new action even before the end of a meeting in Italy.
"This hasn’t given me a huge rush of adrenalin," said Yvo de Boer, the U.N.’s top climate change official, of climate decisions by the G8 summit and a 17-member climate forum of major emitters including China and India.
"Generally this is careful but useful step forward toward Copenhagen…I’m still confident that the deal can be done," he said of the U.N. pact due to be agreed in mid-December.
Among disappointments, the G8 failed to persuade China and India and other developing nations to sign up for a goal of halving world emissions by 2050.
Among progress, rich and poor nations acknowledged that temperature rises should be limited to 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) — a goal that would force deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions if followed through. And G8 nations set a new goal of cutting their overall emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
"Enough was not achieved…but a new guidance post was inserted," said Jennifer Morgan of the London-based E3G think-tank, referring to the 2 Celsius target.
She said the 2 Celsius goal implied a need for a shift to "action rather than just dithering and avoiding decisions."
But the focus of talks on a new U.N. deal is on 2020 cuts in emissions by developed nations and ways to raise tens of billions of dollars in new funds to help poor nations combat droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels.
De Boer said he understood a refusal by developing nations to sign up for the G8 goal to halve world emissions by 2050.
Asking for action before the rich came up with funding plans and set goals for their own 2020 emissions cuts "was like jumping out of a plane and being assured that you are going to get a parachute on the way down," he said.
And cracks appeared even in the G8 deal to seek cuts of 80 percent by developed nations by 2050. A Russian official said the 80 percent goal was unachievable for Russia. And Canada’s Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the goal was aspirational and fit Canada’s target of cutting emissions by 60 to 70 percent below 2006 levels by 2080.
The arrival of President Barack Obama at the White House, promising more action than President George W. Bush, has helped the atmosphere.
"We made a good start, but I am the first one to acknowledge that progress on this issue will not be easy," Obama said, adding that recession was a complicating factor.
"And I think that one of the things we’re going to have to do is fight the temptation toward cynicism, to feel that the problem is so immense that somehow we cannot make significant strides," he said.
"This is an important step," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said of the 2 Celsius goal. She added: "We still have a lot to do."
In Washington, Obama’s push for quick action by Congress on climate change legislation suffered a setback on Thursday when the U.S. Senate committee leading the drive delayed work on the bill until September.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer said, however, that the delay from a previous self-imposed deadline of early August for finishing writing a bill did not mean that legislation would not be possible in 2009.
Environmentalists expressed concern that time was running out for a Copenhagen deal.
"I’m worried that we have negotiations that are very complex — it will be difficult to reach the final agreement before Copenhagen. But I think we do have time," said Kim Carstensen of WWF International.
The biggest events planned are two summits in September — one at U.N. headquarters in New York and a G20 summit in Pittsburgh. Obama said that finance ministers would look into climate financing and report back to Pittsburgh. "Obama’s announcement (of a report by finance ministers)….is quite significant," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
And apart from summits, there are three rounds of U.N. negotiations among senior officials before Copenhagen — in Bonn in August, Bangkok in late September and Barcelona in November.
2.1. Ambassador: China to expand nuclear power capacity
7 July 2009, EurActiv
Nuclear power will play an increasingly important role in China’s energy policy as the world’s most populous nation seeks to tackle climate change, the country’s EU Ambassador Zhe Song said in a detailed and wide-ranging interview with EurActiv.
An expansion of nuclear power capacity will see the contribution of atomic energy to China’s energy production double by 2020, although it will still represent just 4% of the country’s total energy supply.
Ambassador Song, who heads the Chinese Mission to the EU, said nuclear power occupies an important position in Beijing’s current energy strategy and this is expected to grow significantly.
"The Chinese government has established an energy supply strategy which is coal-based and diversified. In this strategy, nuclear power occupies an important position."
"In the future, we will actively promote the construction of nuclear power capacity and gradually increase its share in the total supply of primary energy. Nuclear power will become a key component of the national energy strategy," he said.
The ambassador said China’s policy on nuclear power has evolved from "moderate development" to "active development", and then on to "vigorous development".
"In the 21st century, China will be one of the world’s fastest-growing nuclear energy producers with the biggest installed capacity. In China’s National Nuclear Energy Development Plan (2005-2020), it is stated that, in order to meet the demand of active nuclear development, China’s installed capacity of nuclear power is expected to reach 40 million kilowatts in 2020, and its share in total power generation capacity will grow to 4% from less than 2% currently," he said.
China has worked to improve energy efficiency by phasing out ageing power-generation units, according to Ambassador Song, and is investing heavily in green industries. "China is the biggest user of solar panels in the world. Both nuclear energy and methane consumption in the countryside have developed substantially," he added.
Ambassador Song said China is hoping for a successful outcome of the Copenhagen Conference on climate change later this year, but the Chinese will continue to push the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," which implies that developed countries should bear the greater burden for cutting emissions given that developing countries have not yet done as much damage to the environment.
He also said EU-China relations are now back on track following the postponement of a high-level summit in late 2008, and he revealed that the two sides had agreed to set up an SME Centre in China which will help small European firms to access the Chinese market.
3.1. EU warned over carbon capture fund misuse
10 July 2009, EurActiv
European Union funding to support new technology to trap and bury climate-warming gases could be wasted as member states fight for the biggest cut, an EU lawmaker warned on Thursday (9 July).
Plans to build up to 12 demonstration plants in Europe by 2015 are at risk of being undermined by "self-centred competition" between member states, warned Chris Davies, a British Liberal MEP.
The European Investment Bank should be put in charge of the funds to avert that risk, he added.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS), a process of burying harmful gases, is seen by some as a potential silver bullet to curb coal-fired power plants’ emissions, which are multiplying rapidly and threaten to heat the atmosphere to dangerous levels.
The EU wants 12 pilot projects in operation by 2015, and British MEP Chris Davies last year pushed through several billions of euros of funding to support that goal (EurActiv 12/12/08).
The funding has been provided as 300 million carbon emissions permits under the EU’s emissions trading scheme, which means that their value will alter depending on the price of carbon permits when they are cashed in.
Davies warned EU leaders on Thursday of the risk the permits may be cashed in too soon, with carbon markets at relatively low levels.
"Premature auctioning of allowances by individual member states would reduce the total amount of financial support that could be secured," he said, adding the European Investment Bank is "best placed to manage the allowances".
"We must not permit short-sighted rivalry between member states to detract from realisation of the bold objective," he wrote in a letterPdf to EU leaders and finance ministers.
"The highest possible value must be secured from the use of the 300 million allowances," he added. The EIB, Davies said, "should be able to provide upfront finance for projects while ensuring that allowances are retained for auction at a time when the carbon market offers the best price".
4.1. Resumed ninth session of the AWG-KP and resumed seventh session of the AWG-LCA
2-6 November 2009, Barcelona Convention Centre
FIRA GRAN VIA, Carrer del Foc 47
08038 Barcelona, Spain
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