Saturday, December 29, 2012

Doha Kyoto 2 was not really a progress: a new paradigm is needed for a general agreement on GHG reduction by 2015-2020

Figure 1 : For Kiribati Island less than 2 m above sea level adaptation measures to global warming are a matter of survival (Credit: Rafeal Avila Coya/Creative Commons)

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a group of low-lying and coastal states such as Kiribati Island (See Figure 1 above) highly vulnerable to climate change. Adaptation for these countries could be difficult and many governments are already considering mass relocation.

AOSIS has a membership of around forty states from all oceans and regions of the world: Africa, Caribbean and in the Asian Pacific regions. They are mostly very small islands: Antigua and Barbuda,  Barbados, Comoros, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada,   Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands,  Nauru, Niue, Palau etc. But there are also large countries such as: Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominican Republic,Guinea-Bissau, Guyana,Haiti, Jamaica, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico,  Singapore etc.

The outcome of the Doha Kyoto 2 meeting is not really a progress

Most of the honest or openminded people would like to say that the glass of water is half full and not half empty. It is true that most of a possible better future engraved in the Kyoto Agreement has been protected and even some new principle on "Loss and Damage" accepted to be discussed.

But on the other hand the new period of the Kyoto protocol shows very low level of commitment , a reduction of the committed countries and no increase of effort to scale down carbon emissions. 

There are still blocking tactics from USA- in spite of President Obama promises- together with Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

  • While not party to the Kyoto protocol, US administration has been opposed to any other issues such as mitigation investment funding in developing countries and “Loss & Damage” new concept. Despite the devastation of super storm Sandy and US pools showing a strong support to a mitigation policy, President Obama legacy won't be any better than that of President Bush.

  • Canada and New Zealand have pursued their stance of supporting USA in continuously blocking any progress. New Zealand even proposed bluntly than Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) financing facility could be opened to country not party to the protocol.

  • Japan has refused to sign to a second commitment period and while being the second largest donor has even refused to pledge any money for the funding of mitigation Investments.  This is done in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the coming up of a more nationalist stance in the country.

  • Russian Federation - the fifth largest polluter with an economy based on oil and gas- was a party for the first period but has refused to commit to the second.  It seems that the "Hot Air" issue concerning the emissions rights accumulated during the first period and not used due to the collapse of Russian economy  in the 90's was the reason or pretext put forwards.

  • EU countries showed poor willingness to progress really on the Kyoto agenda without anymore commitment from other parties. They even decided to take the side of Poland on the "hot air" issue concerning its accumulated rights . Nevertheless they proposed to increase their GHG emissions from 20% to 30% but only on the condition that there were a general agreement. Furthermore some countries including Germany, France, UK, Denmark proposed to pledge money around 10 bil USD  for the finance mitigation mechanism.

  • Less developed countries were disappointed by the lack of outcome on finance but the “Loss & Damage” principle for them is a big achievement because it could provide an angle to further juridical actions against high fossil energy investments in the future. AOSIS countries fell short of what they have been asking; the outcome was the best they could attain due to US constant blocking of any kind of progress.

Collectively all committed parties on Kyoto 2 are targeting GHG emission reductions by 2020 to be lower than 18% on 1990 level. But this concerns only 15-20% of world emissions and is judged insufficient by  IPCC scientists who are proposing  a 30% reduction on 1990 to cope with the 2° C target increase for world average temperatures by 2050. The Kyoto agreement will be binding 90 days after 3/4 of the committed parties have formally approved it, and there is a risk that Belarus along with Ukraine and Kazakhstan finally decide to withdraw.

As discussed in my post dated 6 July, the parties have agreed in the "Durban Platform" to discuss targets in 2015 for a new general agreement to come into force by 2020. As such it makes sense to have a formal agreement until end of 2020 in order to prepare the outcome of a more ambitious agreement from 2020 onwards.

The agreement of a "Loss and Damage" principe- if there is a final resolution on this issue- might open the risk that new investments on fossil fuel may become stranded  if some group of countries such as AOSIS place a juridical action.

So in our view the Doha agreement on a second period of commitment for the reduction of GHG under the Kyoto agreement may help but is not really a progress to permit a general agrement contemplated under the Durban Platform: some innovative thinking is necessary if we want to agree on a new general agreement by 2015-2020.

Is a new paradigm possible to distribute fairly GHG 's reduction efforts between South and North countries ?

Maybe there is a need to change a little bit the format of discussion. At the core of the opposition we find two problems:

  • Some countries such as Canada, Russian Federation might feel that maybe for them global warming by opening up to human life new territories is more an opportunity than a disaster; maybe it is normal that they try to stay outside of the general agreement, but then it is necessary to organize such "opt out" provision. 

  • Non EU industrialized countries such as USA, Canada or Japan want to share the burden of GHG's reduction equally with less developed countries; but China, Indian or Brazil disagree taking argument from the huge fossil energy past consumptions. They claim that GHG stocks contained in forests are not evenly distributed due to variation in the past of manmade “land use and land-use change and forest” (LULUCF) in conjunction with past development or the most advance countries .

To solve this issue we propose the following rationale:

First: each country has the right to freely use its own biocapacity such as forests, ground and water areas located on its own territory in order  to absorb or recycle part of its GHG outputs: only net GHG output after recycling in the country own territory  should be considered as its atmospheric "GHG waste".

Second:  if we are able to foresee the atmospheric world emissions of GHG in the future then we are able to do the same for the past periods; we have the history of GHG accumulated in the atmosphere from the ice's sample core drilled in the poles, we have the historical record of population, GHG emissions including LULUCF  by country: then for the past we  should be able to attribute each mil ton of accumulated atmospheric GHG waste to each  countries.

Third: it is not necessary to compute the past period further backward  before the Industrial revolution around 1900 when the worldwide population  was only 1600 mil persons on which 400 in Europe, 900 in Asia, 150 in Africa and 150 in all America and Oceania.

Forth: then  applying  the "polluter pays " principle each country or eco- zone grouping of countries should have an obligation to  take care of its own atmospheric GHG waste from the past periods; this means that Asian-Pacific countries which available biocapacities are stressed by the hight level of population should take their share of the necessary reduction.  

 Cumulative CO2 emissions 1990-2004 in mil ton CO2

The following Figure 2 is an aggregation between the CO2 emissions on 1900-2004 provided by the World Resources Institute (187 countries) and the figures on 2005-2011 established by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Trends in global CO2 emissions; 2012 Report) and concerning only the countries in annex I and II of the Kyoto protocol. Furthermore the Figure 2 refers only to the biggest polluter among the Kyoto protocol’s annex I and II parties, which are around 80% of the total of annex I and II countries.

Figure 2: Cumulative CO2 Emissions since 1900 (111 years)

On the 1900-2011 period of 111 years, the four biggest CO2 polluters are USA, EU 27, China and Russia respectively: 354, 301, 143 and 102 bil tons. But the variation of each zone bocapacity - bigger in Northa America and Russia, weaker in Europe and Asia- should be taken into account and permit to modutale proportinally each zone reduction efforts.

In the following Figure 3 (Trends in global CO2 emissions; 2012 Report) we can see the variation of CO2 emissions located in main countries during the first period of the Kyoto protocol. The huge amount of Chinese CO2 emissions from 1990 to 2011- almost multiplied by 4 - is in relation with China becoming the "power house" of the world.

Figure 3: Variation of main countries’ CO2 emissions by 1900-2005-2010-2011

CO2 pollution figures above are based on emissions located in each country - and not final consumption- and this is what we must do if we want to compare with the country’s biocapacity. Emissions therefore include what is contained in final consumption, investment and net export balance (export-import), which heavily weight on a country like China, whose development model is export-oriented and each year invest heavily on equipment and infrastructure.