News on COP23
The recently held COP23 negotiations in Bonn was one of the biggest gatherings ever done in the Western part of Germany.
The COP23 fundamentally aims to “hash out details of how to implement the accord, “which was signed by nearly 200 countries in Paris in December 2015 to curb greenhouse gas emissions and contain global warming to at least 2 degrees centigrade.
Secondly, the COP23 was organized to establish a “rule book,” which is the product of negotiations among relevant parties of the conference. The book will be adopted as a set of decisions containing the rules, procedures, and guidelines to the provisions of the agreement. It is expected to be adopted in December 2018 during the COP24 in Poland.
France and the United Kingdom
France and the UK have been working harder to make up for Trump’s eventual withdrawal of climate change funding. The US would begin withdrawal procedures soon, and if uninterrupted it would be out from the Paris Agreement by November 2020.
The French president says France aims to close phase out all coal-fired power plants by the year 2021 to support the agreement.
The UK says it would help the IPCC (UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) financially, and announced it would double its funding through the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).[i]
Although some environmental groups welcome the talks from the representatives of these countries, many of them are still feeling disappointed by Merkel for not having set a date for phasing out coal use saying that the Pacific people and around the globe are suffering mainly due to the impacts of coal gas.
Macron and Merkel praised Europe’s climate leadership but acknowledge shortcomings
The German Chancellor, Merkel, said that the European Union legislators had agreed during the COP event week to reform their Emissions Trading System (ETS) – the primary tool initiated by EU and implemented with the aim of reducing gas emissions. They also agreed that the systems did not work as expected as many companies are not motivated enough to reduce their gas emissions.
Commentators said that although Germany is one of the leaders in climate change negotiations, it is undeniable that there is this ‘elephant down the road.’ The German power sector is currently relying around 45% of its power source on coal. The reason behind being that Germany is phasing out its nuclear power source, and this brings Germany now “far off track for meeting its 2020 emissions reduction target”.
President Macron on the other hand address that Europe is not only leading the path in the fight for climate change activities but that it can also make up for the eventual withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement.
EU will meet its 2020 targets, as a whole, under the Kyoto Protocol, however, to the EU’s 2030 targets under the Paris Agreement (based on Climate Change Performance Index). EU is seen not to reach its emissions reduction goal by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 given the current policies implemented.
Some countries pledged to phase out coal and call themselves as ‘new alliance.’ These nations are committed to phasing out coal which is the leading cause of air pollution that kills around 800 thousand people a year. They mentioned that they would increase the use of wood and other plant matter from sustainable sources only. The United Kingdom aims to phase out coal use by 2025. Their use of coal has fallen from 40% to 2% since 2012. It is still quite a challenging situation for Australia as the Australian power is around 75% from coal and so it refused to join the alliance.
Nick Mabey of E3G thinktank said that “The launch of this alliance is a political watershed moment. Governments have now grasped the reality that coal use can end, and fast, the only way for coal is down.”
Nick’s points are one of those responses on the US administration’s only event in Bonn – to promote coal saying that “fossil fuel was vital to reducing poverty around the world and to saving jobs in the US.”[ii]
Michael Bloomberg says that “Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.” Also, Benson Kibiti at Kenya Climate WG emphasized that “more coal will entrench poverty.”
The UN talks greener and more climate-savvy agriculture
During the negotiations at COP23, there was a stalemate on agriculture. That is due to the fact that agriculture, including forestry and change in land use together, contributes 21% of global GHGs (FAO). In fact, the agriculture discussions have been blocked for several years based on the concerns in obligations for developing countries to curb emissions from farming sector, and for wealthy nations to pay for more impoverished farmers to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Globally, agriculture suffers around a quarter of losses due to climate-related disasters. According to the UN agency, losses and damages reach to over 80% especially when droughts hit places.
To make agriculture more adaptive to climate change, it could play specific roles and can help farmers sustain their produce. Such activities include: using crop varieties better suited to drought or heavy rains, cutting down the use of plows in fields, installing solar-powered irrigation pumps, and buyers purchasing drought-hit livestock from herders before their animals die due to starvation or sickness.[iii]
Developing countries win concessions
Early on at the UN talks, a developing country group of negotiators requested to discuss the promises by developed countries formally but was turned down. Instead, the party representatives agreed on some measures that will be used to scrutinize developed countries’ actions.
The measures include calling on Antonio Gutierres (UN Secretary General) to question why the majority of parties refuse to ratify the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol. Second, establishing a process to track and report on progress to meeting pre-2020. Moreover, third, assessing the rich countries finance being provided to support developing countries cope with climate change.[iv]
Aside from the European Union, who pioneered the carbon market system, other countries including China have designed their own carbon market. Indeed, EU has been the model for such endeavors to fight gas emissions.
The carbon market has been the spine of the EU’s climate policy which involves thirty-two countries. Non-EU countries have also joined in the ETS including the Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland.
The European Council, Parliament, and Commission strike a deal to reform the present ETS after 2020. The decision made is based on criticisms that the quotas should be set encouraging the price to rise by cutting quotas at a faster rate.
The California carbon market aims to cut 40% emissions by 2030. The market started in 2011. In Europe, the ETS has produced 25billion Euro in 2015 and 22billion in 2016, most of which was invested in clean energy projects.
However, still, most non-governmental organizations believe that carbon markets are failing to fulfill their promise due to low prices capped on carbon emissions – that is, 7 Euro per tonne of GHG only! EU ETS hopes to increase its revenue from 2020 by raising the carbon price: between 20 and 30 Euro per tonne.
Polluters to pay ‘climate damages tax’
The global civil society organizations are calling for a tax on fossil fuel products. The purpose is to fund support to victims of the impacts of climate change. They are pushing that polluters should pay for the homes and livelihoods of victims destroyed by extreme weather conditions brought about my global warming.
Groups and individuals are disappointed with the slow progress being made in the negotiations on “loss and damage.” Essential parts of formal negotiations are the loss and damage finance and a climate damages tax which could provide a new source of finance.
Julie-Anne Richards at Climate Justice Programme stated that “a climate damages tax on the fossil fuel industry is one way to reverse the injustice of climate change, and ensure the fossil fuel industry pays for its damage – not poor people.”[v]
Thanks for reading.
Prepared by: Abe Sumalinog