26 October 2009

Climate Action: India Looks Inwards and East

By: Kaavya Nag

While multilateral agreements such as the ones through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are the ideal solutions for global action on climate change, a ‘Grand Unification Theory’ on climate action that all countries agree to, is a hard ask for now.
While it is becoming increasingly clear that 192 counties are finding it rather difficult to come to a common consensus (political or legal) on climate change, there can be no excuses for inaction ‘until such time. ..’.
While India is committed to engaging ‘fully and meaningfully’ in the multilateral process, this ‘emergent’ has been stretching its wings on internal action, bilateral deals and regional cooperation – all in the short span of one month.
 India has also played host to a high-level conference on technology development and transfer – in an attempt to provide some serious international impetus to technology transfer to developing countries. This was Part 2 of the Beijing high-level conference on technology and climate change held last year.
Andar Ki Baath: Action at home awaits the release of the much talked about solar mission  - 14th November 2009  – it will provide massive impetus to installed solar capacity, nearly 20 massive gigawatts of it by 2020. To ramp up internal knowledge and information on climate change, India launched the National Network of Climate Change Assessment (INNCCA), along the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the pipeline is climate monitoring though ISRO and talk of implicit mitigation targets and a renewable energy law.
Bhai-Bhai: On bilateral deals India has signed an MoU with Norway, largely focusing on boosting Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) contracts in India. A US-India meet is coming up in November, with PM Singh expected to discuss climate change mitigation among a range of bilateral and multilateral issues.  
Nevertheless, one major MoU on which several details are out is the one between India and China. The two sides have agreed to a five-year India-China Partnership on Combating Climate Change. Among other things, the agreement establishes the need to strengthen and exchange views and cooperation on policy action for adaptation and mitigation, technology development, demonstration projects for emission reductions, and cooperation on capacity building.

Regional Cooperation:
Just over is the ASEAN leaders meeting, with a joint statement on climate change emphasizing common concerns on the impact on the economy and the environment, and the need to work together and with other partners closely for a successful Copenhagen climate conference.

Zooming into the sub-continent, we have the recently concluded SAARC environment ministers’ summit, with climate change and forest conservation as key focus areas. Here, ministers underlined the crucial importance of close cooperation in the run-up to COP15, and specific cooperation on adaptation, disaster rapid response measures and regional cooperation and south-south support.
This hotbed of activity undoubtedly points to the fact that the pressure to act on climate change is mounting, and that heads of state are feeling the heat on climate change. If not, why would they be so keen to move on regional and bilateral agreements when the big multilateral agreement was showing little promise or progress? In short, the pressure has worked – maybe not to the full and desired level, but certainly enough for some action.
On another note, what does all this south-south and regional cooperation do to change global geopolitics?

22 October 2009

EU Climate Finance Still At Zero Cents

By: Kaavya Nag
While civil society expectations from Copenhagen might officially be sky-high, even the executive secretary of the UNFCCC thinks a ‘fully fledged new international treaty” is not on the cards this December.

The signs are there to read and no adept Magus is needed to make us see that for now, the path may only show a slight deviation from Business As Usual (BAU). Another round of conferencing of the Major Economies Forum (MEF) in London, with UK ‘throwing everything in’ to meet the climate challenge, fell flat. The US is still not ready with an internal policy that can make domestic actions compatible with international expectations, and unless the President (or a global climate deal with the US on board) has Congressional support, the agreement will only result in positioning minus action.

With the US taking some time for internal policies to mesh with external expectations, the baton is in the European Union’s hands. EU Finance ministers met just a day ago to agree on a EU climate finance offer for Copenhagen. While murmurs indicate that no real outcome was expected here but rather at the EU Council meeting a day from now, this development in itself is reflective of a larger problem.

No negotiators, bureaucrats or even ministers seem to have the power to decide on the key sticky issues (which remain finance, targets and mitigation actions). The EU finance ministers meeting was hoping to get the EU to accept a figure of 100 billion euros starting from 2012 to help meet developing country needs. However, a number of countries including Poland wanted fast-start financing (for up to 2012) to be on a voluntary basis, and to contribute less to the EU share over time – a position that was unacceptable to the majority of EU member states. The decision on finance has now been left to heads of state at the EU Council meeting later this week.

This meeting will effectively be the last big meeting for a major block of industrialized countries to agree on a climate finance proposal. After this, the case rests with all Heads of State who will make a trip to Copenhagen in December.

Push your key ministers and Head of State to attend the Copenhagen climate negotiations. Also push them to find ambition and drive before they reach, and remember to put it on the table!

15 October 2009

Waiting for Inspiration

By: Kaavya Nag

Copenhagen-minus-two round of climate negotiations came to a close last week, on 9th October. Complicated as multilateral negotiations are, this one was particularly successful in spreading some serious despondency. This was particularly so because many big hopes had been reserved for the Bangkok talks.

As far as the negotiation process, it was hoped that a massive negotiating text would be seriously edited in the eleven days (and nights) of negotiations. As far as ambition and political will go, it was hoped that the highest level lobbying by Ban ki-Moon at the UN Secretary General’s climate summit would push political leaders to scale up their ambition, put finance on the table, and some targets to reduce industrialized country emissions for a post 2012 agreement. But also that these political statements would be converted into negotiating text.

Within a few days of the negotiations commencing, it was clear that negotiators did not have a mandate from political up-aboves to move on any of the big stumbling blocks. There was still a massive silence on the scale of finance that industrialized countries would put on the table, on the nature of the financial architecture, on their emission reduction targets up to 2012. Therefore, they did not have the mandate to cut down any text. Progress on substance was minimal, all text is still bracketed (and that means it is still to be edited) – an estimated 2500 brackets (possibly more) are said to be in the current text.

To make the waters murkier, new proposals and text continue to be put forward, when realistically speaking there is little time even to whittle down what text is already in hand. However, the nature of this process is that it is Party-driven. So Parties are allowed to make it as messy as they want to, or as neat as they prefer. New ideas on the nature of a post 2012 agreement are also on the table. Some Parties have suggested that the Kyoto Protocol be done away with (the only legally binding agreement to ensure that industrialized countries meet their commitments), and that the architecture and legal framework of Kyoto be taken into a new Copenhagen outcome. Opposing this is most developing country Parties that categorically do not want the Kyoto to die, and do not want a watered down deal in Copenhagen that does away with international legal commitments and brings down the level of ambition.

What Copenhagen holds, only December knows. Will we get a Greenwash, Failed or an Above-Expectations ambitious deal? Will there be a political declaration or a legal framework? Will the United States come on board? Will the scale of finance be announced? Will developed country Parties agree to deep cuts in emissions by 2050, without heavy dependence on offsets? Will key developing country Parties agree to ‘significant deviation from business as usual’ by 2050? Will technology transfer and capacity building be made accessible and affordable?

Should individual Parties stall domestic action until a multilateral deal gets done? If history is any precedent, countries must not wait to action their domestic plans. International finance may take many years to come, by which time enough damage will have been done to deplete state coffers significantly.