Update: Dec 27, 2009: The beauty of being learning creatures is that with new information and knowledge I can refine and revise my assessment. New issue #8 is introduced below, breaks the tie, and tips the outcome of the negotiations in favor of China.
There’s been a bit of bickering between the Brits and Beijing (how’s that for alliteration!) following the finalization of the Copenhagen Accord and conclusion of COP15. I’m not interested in discussing that today. Instead, I’m more interested in how the details of the accord measures up to China negotiating stance going into COP15 and as they evolved as the proceedings unfolded. In other words, how did China fare?
No, I was not in the negotiating room, nor do I have any inside track to the minds of the Chinese government, but I have been following the public documents and statements pretty closely. We’ve discussed some of the details of the Copenhagen Accord in my previous post “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” As a reference of China’s negotiating stance, I use a collection of three posts: “Green Hops: BASIC Instinct…“; “Copenhagen Kickoff” and “China in Copenhagen Day 4: Back to BASICS!“. Additionally, a comprehensive set of positions articulated by Premier Wen Jiabao on December 17, the penultimate day of teh summit, serve as a useful marker of where China stood going into the final 36 hours of negotiations (see summary in People’s Daily, Chinese only, rough Google translation here). All quoted Chinese text below comes from this set of articulated positions which I will attribute to Premier Wen himself. Premier Wen’s speech on the morning of December 18 is also instructive.
Let’s take the issues in rough order as they appear in the text of the Copenhagen Accord, and just for fun, I will keep a score card, allocating points between China and the rest of the world, awarding a point for a “win” and a half point for a “draw’. I want to acknowledge at the outset that this assessment is made based on a limited number of public sources and may be prone to a bit of guess work, so I welcome hearing from those who might have different or additional perspectives in the comments section below.
1. Fate of the AWG-LTC. In the preamble of the Accord, the ongoing work of both the Ad hoc working group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), and the Ad hoc working group on Further Commitments of Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) are recognized. In the BASIC text previously dicussed, China (and the other BASIC countries of Brazil, South Africa and India) sought to see an end to conclusion of AWG-LCA by mid-2010 so as to protect the integrity of the Kyoto Protocol. We know by now why China is so clingy to the Kyoto Protocol – its very architecture, i.e. categorizing the world in terms of Annex I and non-Annex I countries, embodies the “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) principle that it is intent on preserving. At the end of the day, it is hard to think that China seriously believed it could get its way in plotting a quick end to the AWG-LTC. The United States has made crystal clear that it will not sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, thus necessitating the survival of the AWG-LTC. The AWG-LTC will be the pathway to reframe the worlds countries in terms of major emitters vs. rest of the world, or take a more differentiated approach to CBDR as I’ve argued for before (see previous post “Thinking Out of the Climate Box: Re-Examining Monolithic Approaches to the “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” Impasse“), against China’s wishes. World 1 China 0.
2. 2 degrees Celsius (and 1.5 too). The inclusion of the goal to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is seen as a win by the international community. It marks the first time the UNFCCC has adopted this shared goal, and builds on prior political commitments this year at the G8, Major Economies Forum and G20 to this very target. On the other hand, Read the full story
The Need to Mobilize Farmers to Fight Climate Change
This guest post is by Michael Davidson, a Fulbright Fellow with the BP-Tsinghua Clean Energy Research and Education Centre in Beijing in 2008-2009. His research interests took him from the very big (renewable energy policy) to the very small (household biogas systems) in the quest to understand China’s sustainable development. Michael majored in physics and Japanese at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Pictured right: The next climate defender standing over his biogas digester in rural Yunnan.
The agricultural powerhouse of China try as it might cannot escape its past: with 60% of its population living in rural areas and maintaining food self-sufficiency a well-established national directive, the “sea” of farming and pastoral land will not be overshadowed by the rapidly industrializing urban “islands” it surrounds in the foreseeable future. Indeed, given China’s majority rural demographics, it is no wonder the Central Government is taking land and water resource access in the impoverished West seriously – lest there be rioting farmers on top of everything else for the CCP to worry about. Because the coming climate crisis will disproportionately affect the rural economy, namely through its impact on land and water,
It is important to remind ourselves of the rural dimension of what is going on at Copenhagen.
Traditionally, arable land has been threatened by over-grazing, excessive fertilizer use and encroaching urban centers. Water resources have been polluted with industrial and agricultural run-off, diverted to cities and threatened by non-existent waste management services in villages. Add to this mix desertification, drought and unseasonable flooding due to climate changes, and the backbone of a robust farming state seems less able to withstand the stresses.
In response to this, China’s environmental protection has been beefed up by the addition of a new ministry and pro-active measures towards emissions intensity targets and handling conventional pollutants. These have not been followed, however, by an increase in funding and manpower for solving rural environmental issues – in a system not designed for distributed, low-level populations and pollution sources deficiencies abound (see this outline of rural pollution factors – Chinese only). A report earlier this year then made the important link between rural poverty and deteriorating environment in China. Read the full story
I’m a little late on this and should have definitely included this in our Copenhagen Kickoff post, but better late than never. Two weeks ago, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) released a 100-page progress report of its climate actions. Make no mistake, this is an important document, one that we’ll be referring back to time and time again (and I’m adding this to our key documents on the right panel).
While the main messages are familiar to reader of this blog, there are lots of interesting nuggets on specific actions that we have not covered in this blog, as well as important statements from various government entities and officials over the past half year that provide a good insight to where China was, is and will be on climate action.
Take it for what it is, however–this is, after all, coming from the Chinese government itself. I will try to unpack this document at a later date (maybe after Copenhagen), but I did not want to delay sharing this document. In the meantime, I have made a table of contents below.
Table of Contents
Part I: Policies and Actions to Mitigate Climate Change Read the full story
By Angel Hsu and Christopher Kieran, part of ‘Team China’ tracking the Chinese delegation a the Copenhagen climate negotiations.
Plenary sessions were closed off to observers today, which means that we unfortunately cannot beat the Earth Negotiations Bulletin with insights as to what went down on the negotiating floor. Nonetheless, we were able to get quotes from Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei (seated center; on his left is Yu Qingtai, a leading negotiator in the Chinese delegation) – the highest level Chinese government official that has spoken to date (Premier Wen Jiabao is expected next week). We also acquired the text of the big proposal that hit the COP today: “The Copenhagen Protocol” from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
1) Is “auditing, supervision, and assessment” (ASA) the new “measurable, reportable, verifiable” (MRV)?
On the question of “measurable, reportable, and verifiable” (MRV) actions for developing countries (He showed his climate policy prowess by referring to a reporter’s question on “verification” by saying, “You mean MRV-able? I think I just made up that word.”), Vice Minister He first referred back to the Bali Action Plan, which was agreed to by all Parties of the UNFCCC and does not require MRV for developing countries. While sticking to his guns regarding the Bali Action Plan, he said, “It doesn’t mean China would not do what it promises, we’re very serious about it [climate change mitigation actions].”
This is a re-post of my recent contribution to Climate Progress.
The media headlines are screaming “U.S. Won’t Pay China to Cut Emissions” and “US Rules Out Climate Aid to China.” Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change (pictured right), made clear in a press conference yesterday (Day 3 if you are counting!) in Copenhagen that the war chest for the initial fast track funds being considered now for climate change adaptation for developing countries would not be unlimited:
China, with a $2 trillion reserve and a revved-up economy, won’t be a recipient. “I don’t envision public funds, certainly not from the United States, going to China,” Stern said. “There’s inevitably a limited amount of money. The amount ought to be as high as it possibly can be, but it’s necessarily going to be limited. That’s just life in the real world.
Financing would instead be prioritized for the most vulnerable and least developed countries. While a price tag in the neighborhood of $100 billion per year is what the likes of British PM Gordon Brown and UNFCCC General Secretary Yves de Boer are proposing for the long term (some developing countries are seeking as much as $300 to 400 million a year), there is also an emerging consensus to reach agreement in Copenhagen for fast-start financing of $10 billion for the near term, i.e. 2010 to 2012. U.S. President Obama has already indicated that he is on board with this idea, agreeing to “mobilize $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.”
This guest post is by Angel Hsu and Christopher Kieran, both graduate students at Yale University reporting live from Copenhagen exclusively for The Green Leap Forward.
The China Information and Communication Center （中国新闻与交流中心） held an unpublicized press briefing featuring Su Wei (pictured center of panel), China’s lead negotiator and Director-General of the NDRC’s Department of Climate Change. While mainly consisting of reporters, the event was open to anyone – well, just about any one of 50 people with their ear to the ground who managed to squeeze in early before crowds more were turned away. We were two of the lucky few who successfully navigated to the quiet back corner of the Bella Center, near the Chinese delegation’s offices, where the briefing took place. The briefing also came after China and the G-77 delegations canceled their press conferences this afternoon, only to restage them later in the day, supposedly in response to some controversy over leaked Danish draft text. But more on this later.
Mr. Su was completely unabashed when it came to his comments regarding developed country commitments. Targeted amongst his criticisms were the European Union, Japan, and the United States.
- During the European Union’s briefing earlier today, representatives compared China’s carbon intensity target to commitments by the European Union, suggesting that China’s target isn’t strong enough. Mr. Su said that if the E.U. wants to make any comparisons, it should compare the E.U.’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol with their actual performance to date. Those are fighting words. He also said that China’s carbon intensity target is completely incomparable with total emissions reductions and that it’s foolish to compare China’s recently announced target with reductions required from developed countries. After citing numbers that made it appear that the E.U. was not substantively racheting up their emission reductions for the second Kyoto commitment period, Mr. Su asked the audience whether we thought their commitments were truly “ambitious, meaningful, and substantive,” allowing the translator to take a break and making his point clear in plain English.
- In response to a question about Japan’s commitments and whether they were doing enough in terms of financing, transfer of know-how and technology, Mr. Su lauded their promise to reduce emissions 25 percent by 2020 and the positive progress they’ve made thus far. However, even the Japanese shouldn’t feel self-satisfied, as the premise for their 25 percent reductions is based on the U.S. also making commitments in line with the Kyoto Protocol. And, as we all know, the prospect of the U.S. signing on to Kyoto is as likely as a sunny hot day in Copenhagen during December (God willing we all do our jobs at COP-15). Therefore, Mr. Su concluded that the Japanese proposal de facto has no meaning.
- Moving on to the United States, Mr. Su said that Obama’s recent announcement that the U.S. would commit to reducing emissions 17 percent by 2020 below 2005 levels was “not remarkable, not notable,” again using English to punctuate his statement. Mr. Su noted that U.S. emissions grew 16 percent between 1990 and 2005. He pointed out the obvious truth that the proposed 17 percent reduction (which is passing as slowly as chewing gum through the U.S. Senate’s backlogged intestinal tract) amounts to only a 1 percent reduction as far as the Kyoto Protocol is concerned.
As promised, for the nex two weeks, Angel Hsu (pictured right) and her colleagues from Yale University will be blogging live from Copenhagen. Angel Hsu is a Doctoral Student at Yale University, focusing on Chinese environmental performance measurement, policy and governance. Prior to Yale, she worked in the Climate Change and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think-tank. There, she managed the GHG Protocol’s projects in China, which focused on capacity-building on greenhouse gas accounting and reporting standards for Chinese government and businesses.
Greetings from Copenhagen! I, along with seventy Yale students, have descended upon Denmark’s capital to participate in the Fifteenth Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate talks that will hopefully result in a clearer picture of what a post-Kyoto agreement would be. This “China in Copenhagen” series of blog posts featured on The Green Leap Forward will follow China’s negotiating position during the next few weeks. We’ll shadow China’s negotiating team, speak with key experts, and report back to GLF on a daily basis.
While China has long established its negotiating position for Copenhagen, we’ve identified a set of major issues for the Chinese negotiating team at Copenhagen. A team of masters students and I (call us “Team China” if you will), have carefully reviewed the negotiating texts (non-papers in policy-speak) and developed a series of policy scenarios and strategic recommendations for how China can act as a leader in this talks to achieve an outcome that is optimal for both themselves and the global climate regime.
What are these issues?
- Legal structure: what are the options for the legal nature (or “bindingness”) of a post-Kyoto agreement and what would be most optimal for China?
- Financing: how will China ensure appropriate funding for its mitigation and adaptation actions? Read the full story
Follow the periodic tweeting on COP15 by The Green Leap Forward at @greenleapfwd!; follow webcasts of COP15 sessions here. A group of Yale University grad students, led by Angel Hsu, will be shadowing the Chinese negotiations team over the two weeks, and will be guest blogging on The Green Leap Forward, so watch for this, too! For now, here’s my curtain raiser:
Today marks the fist day of the event the world has been waiting for. Sort of.
It has now been known for months that the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, also known as the Conference of the Parties 15, or COP-15, will not deliver a full legally binding international agreement on climate change action that we’ve all hoped for. But COP15 is now viewed as the first step fo a two-step process on the way to a legally binding agreement, that is expected to be concluded in the next six to 12 months. In the fine tradition of Chinese phraseology, this has been dubbed as the “One Agreement, Two Steps” approach.
The U.S. Climate Action Network has put together a great 90-page Copenhagen briefing book.
The Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, largely responsible for resusitating the hopes for some measure of success out of Copenhagen when all seem lost just a month ago, has described his vision for a Copenhagen agreement that is “political by nature, yet precise on specific commitments and binding on countries committing to reach certain targets and to undertake certain actions or provide agreed finance.” According to the COP15 briefing book:
It would include “political text framing the agreement, say five to eight pages. Not a political declaration with niceties, but precise language of a comprehensive political agreement covering all aspects of the Bali mandates. Beneath that we will have underlying annexes outlining the specific commitments of individual countries. These will be negotiated and they will be subject to a transparent system of measurement, reporting and verification.” The agreement would also mandate continued legal negotiations and set a deadline for final conclusion
Another good primer of all the full range of issues that governments will have to rally around over the next six to 12 months is provided by Read the full story
More perspectives on the announcements coming out of Beijing, this time focusing on the implications on Copenhagen. Co-written with my colleague Andrew Light and originally published here.
The United States and China announced on Tuesday a package of cooperative agreements on clean energy and climate change that are remarkable in both breadth and ambition (see previous post “Obama and Hu announce comprehensive strategy for clean energy and climate change collaboration“). The cluster of seven initiatives, partnerships, action plans, and research centers covers a range of low-carbon energy strategies from electric cars to energy efficiency technologies.
These agreements follow on the heels of last Sunday’s announcement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting that the United States has embraced the Danish proposal for finalizing an interim international climate agreement in Copenhagen in December. The U.S.-China summit help further signal a positive shift in expectations for Copenhagen between the two countries responsible for 40 percent of the planet’s anthropogenic carbon emissions.
Perhaps the most important, and most overlooked, achievement at this week’s summit was the commitment to promote greater transparency on efforts to reduce emissions. This should increase confidence for the prospects of creating a robust international agreement on climate change.
Transparency, accountability, and verification
It is now clear that China is signaling its increasing willingness to meet the standards of transparency, accountability, and verification that will Read the full story
A follow-up to my previous post (“China’s softens climate rhetoric-commits to emissions peak (again), shows flexibility on Western reductions“) on the day that the Climate Group released an important report on China’s low-carbon opportunity. This post was originally published here.
China’s climate change envoy, Yu Qingtai, made headlines when he declared in a news conference earlier this month that “there is no one in the world who is more keen than us to see China reach its emissions peak as early as possible.”
Now all eyes are focused on the United States and China—the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters—with just four months to go to the U.N. summit on climate change in Copenhagen, where nations will negotiate a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Attendees at the most recent round of U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany may have left the meetings with a pessimistic sense that we’re a long way off from a global agreement. But interesting developments are unfolding in China outside of these U.N. meetings that bring a more hopeful message.
China already committed in a declaration last month with 15 other large emitting countries at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Italy to peak global and national emissions “as soon as possible.” That provision lacks a precise timetable and is laden with the caveat that of the “overriding priorities of developing countries,” but it is the statement of intent that the Chinese are clearly taking seriously.
Then just last week, a panel of climate policy experts from various Chinese government think tanks, published an extensive 900-page report that has gained notable attention in both the Chinese and Western press for advocating the notion that China can feasibly aim to peak its carbon emissions by 2030. The report is advisory in nature and by no means represents official policy, but it is the latest in a series of overtures by prominent Chinese academicians to set emissions peaking pathways. Hu Angang, a public policy professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a prominent policy adviser for the Chinese government, has also advocated for China to aim for peaking carbon emissions in 2030. He Jiankun, deputy head of the State Council’s Expert Panel on Climate Change Policy, has projected that China’s emissions are more likely to peak at 2035. Additionally, a different report released earlier this year by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, another prominent government think tank, called for peaking between Read the full story