By Guy Edwards
Latin America’s evolving relationship with China is a central theme at this week’s Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Costa Rica. This follows the first China-CELAC Forum held in Beijing earlier this month which is regarded as a significant upgrade to their partnership.
By David Ciplet and Alison Kirsch
Subsidies to dirty and wealthy fossil fuel companies represent a paradoxical misalignment of priorities. Action to remove fossil fuel subsidies must be a centerpiece of international and national climate efforts.
The final embers of heated debate have fully fizzled out at the UN climate change negotiations in coal-friendly Poland. While the formal negotiations were plagued by inaction, one hopeful dialogue emerged in Warsaw among some of the most influential players in global politics.
In a series of panels, representatives of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, International Energy Agency and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development all argued the benefits of, and need for, fossil fuel subsidy reform.
As Rachel Kyte, vice president of Sustainable Development at the World Bank explained during a panel on the subject, "This is the ultimate test of policy coherence. We can try to raise $100 billion. We can, as multilateral development banks, invest $27 billion in climate mitigation and adaptation projects [as we did] last year alone. But we're wasting $500 billion in fossil fuel subsidies each year."
Data from the organization Oil Change International confirms that the wealthy world is subsidizing the extraction, processing, transportation and use of oil, coal and natural gas at a rate of more than five times that of what we are contributing to help countries affected by climate change to adapt.
This is a gross and paradoxical misalignment of priorities. Governments waste precious time and money maintaining an uneven playing field for the largest fossil polluters, providing $6 to carbon-intensive fuels for every $1 that goes to renewable sources. Meanwhile, poor countries continue to experience climate change impacts worst and first. Those in the least-developed countries experience deaths from climate-related disasters like typhoons, droughts and floods at a rate of nearly six times the global average.
Yet, the current dialogue and efforts among the large multilateral development organizations are incomplete. The World Bank, for example, despite progress on a new policy to limit loans to coal, continues to finance fossil fuel projects. According to Oil Change International, fossil fuel lending from the bank actually increased from 2012 to 2013, with $336 million of continuing support for fossil fuel exploration projects.
Steve Kretzmann at Oil Change International explained, "Without a doubt, we have to think about putting production subsidies, particularly subsidies for new exploration in the red [unfavorable] category, and that's because we have IEA [International Energy Agency] and IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] telling us we need to leave roughly two-thirds of the existing fossil fuels in the ground if we're going to meet our goals of staying under 2 degrees of climate change."
He continued, "Why in God's name are we spending billions more, incentivizing companies to find more of something that we can't burn? That makes absolutely no sense."
New research published in the journal Climatic Change revealed that just 90 companies produce two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions, with many of the biggest receiving large annual subsidies. In the United States alone, the top five investor-owned corporations on this major polluter list - Chevron, Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, Shell and ConocoPhillips - receive $2.4 billion of tax breaks from Congress annually, despite holding more than $71 billion of cash reserves.
The growing international attention on this issue is beginning to pay off. The UK and the United States recently committed to stop funding coal-fired power stations in developing countries. And this week, the ministers of 28 member states of the International Energy Agency committed to phase out "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies. They also encouraged countries to take subsidy reform into account as they prepare their commitments for a new international climate framework, to be agreed upon in 2015.
However, previous commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies made in 2009 by governments of the Group of 20 major economies have yet to be fulfilled. If we are to have any chance to prevent catastrophic climate change and redress the impacts of already-locked-in warming experienced by vulnerable peoples around the world, eliminating fossil fuel welfare to mega-polluters like Chevron and Exxon Mobil will need to become a centerpiece of the UN climate negotiations in 2014.
This will require civil society to ramp up efforts to challenge government handouts to big oil, gas and coal. These efforts already have broad public support. Fossil fuel subsidy reform means taking a firm stand against giveaways to the wealthiest and dirtiest corporations on the planet, while providing targeted support to the poor as we transition to sustainable energy.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
Were Those Cheers or Jeers? Warsaw Leaves Doubts on Support for Developing Countries to Address Climate Change
By Timmons Roberts
The shouting began just before 7 p.m. on what was supposed to be the last day of the COP19 (19th Conference of the Parties) negotiations inside the vast temporary metal and fabric plenary rooms constructed right on the soccer field in Warsaw, Poland’s national stadium. At first, the shouting from activists outside in the bleachers sounded like football cheers, but then they grew in volume.
Polish Environment Minister and COP19 President Marcin Korolec joked that “we are reminded that we are inside a football stadium.” Then it grew louder and more menacing: “Stop climate madness!” again and again. Delegates put on headphones to be able to hear the speakers, even though most did not need the simultaneous translation being produced by teams in seven separate soundproof cabins on a platform at the back of the room.
But then the shouting died down, and Karolec’s gaveling began in earnest. Agenda item after item was gaveled through:
“Hearing no objections, it is so decided.”
That was the easy stuff. The main text on climate finance, sweated over for two weeks by a group of delegates from nations around the world, met an objection from Nicaragua, speaking for the Group of 77 and China bloc, actually 134 developing nations representing nearly six-sevenths of the world’s population. The issue for this negotiating group was how two promises made at the contested Copenhagen negotiations in 2009 would be kept.
At Copenhagen, wealthy nations agreed to provide $30 billion over the three years (2010-2012), in an effort to provide financial assistance quickly to show their seriousness about helping the developing world. The funding was to be “balanced” between support for reducing fossil fuel use in their growing economies (mitigation), and to help them prepare for the expected increase in climate-related disasters (adaptation). This was the first promise, for so-called “Fast-start Finance,” and whether that promise was kept is sharply disputed.
The second promise was that the average of $10 billion a year over those three years would “scale up” to an amount approaching $100 billion annually by 2020. Being the first year after the “Fast-start” period meant that Warsaw was an important place to explain how we’d do that “scaling up.” Many activists called the meeting “The Finance COP,” in expectation that the topic would dominate the discussions.
In the end, that was not really to be the case. A new mechanism on “loss and damage” and a finalized agreement on avoiding deforestation were two major outcomes. Meanwhile, the “Long-term Finance” text debated for two weeks behind closed doors by the negotiating group was sharply divided.
After submissions of proposed text to the UNFCCC Secretariat, two weeks of negotiations, and a ministerial-level meeting on finance, a slim one-and-a-half page decision on a “Work Programme on Long-term Finance” was presented to the world’s nations on the last day at Warsaw. It included 13 brief numbered paragraphs, largely urging and reminding Parties to report on what they were doing on finance, to do their best and to continue their discussions.
On scaling up from $10 billion to $100 billion, just one key paragraph had any significant action, and that was modified by the weak verb, “urges.” The Work Programme states that the Conference of the Parties:
7. Urges developed country Parties to maintain continuity of mobilization of public climate finance at increasing levels from the fast-start finance period in line with their joint commitment to the goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency of implementation.
Some Parties believed this wording implied a straight line from $10 billion in 2012 to $100 billion in 2020. When the text got its turn in the big final plenary session where the protestors were chanting outside the metal rooms on the soccer stadium’s field, Nicaragua spoke for the G77 and China group of developing countries in favor of specifying a mid-term target along the way, saying: “On Long-term Finance, we would like to add the text ‘with at least $70 billion by 2016.’”
Bolivia chimed in: “We are very much disappointed about the text we have in hand. This was expected to be the COP of financial and technological support. We were supposed to emerge with a roadmap to get us to 2020, instead we have unclear language.”
Speaking for the 48 Least Developed Countries group, Nepal said “My group came to Warsaw with great expectations. We called for pathways on finance, pre-2020 ambition, and called for a “loss and damage” mechanism separate from adaptation. We have compromised on many issues, but there is a limit to compromise, from the most vulnerable countries in the world.”
The U.S.’s negotiator Todd Stern responded calmly that the Long-term Finance text was a significant compromise for them, and that if it was reopened, that the U.S. would bring up more issues of its own.
Later, COP President Korolec instructed negotiators to join a huddle to work out their differences on this and other core issues remaining at the end of the negotiations. Quietly, the mid-term target demand for $70 billion by 2016 disappeared entirely from the list of demands for the text, and it passed to applause in the giant hall.
“Hearing no objections, it is so decided.”
For years now we’ve heard how promises not kept erode the trust so badly needed to make these critical negotiations a success. Without mid-term targets that create urgency to get us to that substantial 2020 target, it is hard to see how trust can be built. It also makes sense that one does not arrive expecting to win a 90-minute soccer match having only trained for 10 minutes at a time. Annual mid-term targets escalating by about $11 billion a year would get the finance team into shape for 2020 and build confidence that developed countries are good for their word.
So when 2015 comes, will we hear cheering from the stands, or jeers? Delegates from China and the Philippines expressed feelings of frustration common among developing countries. The Philippines stated, “Finance is the big disappointment of this COP. We engaged sincerely in these negotiations and we received in return nothing except a very unbalanced text.” China said, “The Long-term finance text has no balance in it. We need to see a timeframe, some milestones.” The Chinese representative added: “We are not asking too much—the current text does not meet the minimum requirements of developing countries.”
Beyond some small contributions to the Adaptation Fund and for a forests initiative, Warsaw should be seen as a lost opportunity to build trust and fulfill our commitment to create predictable and adequate funding for developing countries to green as they develop, and survive the storm ahead.
This article was originally published here.
By Alexis Durand
Photo: Push Europe
Activists lay down in the halls of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland last week, forming the letters “W.T.F.” with their bodies. The letters stood for “Where’s The Finance?,” and their message was clear - the failure to revamp the funding to help developing countries green their economies and prepare for climate change impacts had turned the conference into a deep disappointment.
The frustration expressed in the action reflected the sentiments that defined the recent international climate negotiations, the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19). COP19 was expected by many to be ‘the finance COP,’ and some hoped that this round of negotiations would produce a fair agreement on the future of climate finance and pave the way for further finance negotiations in Paris in 2015, when the global climate deal is supposed to be struck.
Most nations agree that developing countries need pledges of financial assistance from wealthier nations to contribute to domestic efforts to reduce their emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change. The World Bank estimates that developing countries’ needs will increase to hundreds of billions of dollars a year by 2020. However, developed and developing countries have vastly different ideas of the form this support should take. Because of these tensions, COP19 has failed to produce a meaningful pathway towards equitable climate finance. Should we be surprised? An autopsy of climate finance and the political tensions surrounding it reveals that the possibility of a powerful and just climate finance deal for 2013 was truly dead on arrival.
In Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries collectively pledged US$30 billion per year to support mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. Parties pledged to scale-up the yearly sum to US$100 billion after this ‘fast start’ finance period ended in 2012. Although countries indicated that they have successfully delivered the agreed-upon sum during the fast-start period, the outlook for long-term funding is grim. It seems that mobilized finance has plateaued after the fast-start finance period, and the Overseas Development Institute notes that pledges to UN climate funds have dropped 71% in 2013.
The issue of increasing the overall quantity and effectiveness of funds was advanced only fractionally during the Warsaw negotiations - transparency remains low, recent pledges are modest, and effective and just delivery of funds is still not assured.
The political climate at the negotiations made progress towards an improved new period of scaled-up climate finance impossible. At COP19, the climate finance conversation remained split sharply along the divide between the global North and South. Many of the 48 Least Developed Countries continued to push for quantifiable pathways for developing countries’ efforts to scale up climate finance, arguing that predictability is critical for them to plan their actions. Additionally, they want the newest multilateral UN finance channel, the Green Climate Fund, to be well funded and to finally begin operations.
But none of the developed countries have yet committed to a scaling-up pathway. Indeed, the UK is the only developed country to declare that countries should commit to roadmaps to scaling up public finance. This adverse political climate, spurred by North-South tensions and conflicting ideologies, made the creation of an equitable and just climate finance scale-up system unlikely.
Certainly, progress has been made at COP19. Several developed countries have publicly pledged funds to UN climate finance channels. The Adaptation Fund reached its modest US$100 million fundraising goal during the COP, and the Green Climate Fund announced that it is completing the final steps that will enable it to begin operations.
Nevertheless, new pledges fall far short of the agreed-upon value and developing countries’ needs. Additionally, transparency remains dubious, and no further action was taken at the COP to ensure that the finance is “new and additional” (as promised), or that it is distributed as grants rather than loans. Pathways to scale up climate finance to the agreed-upon US$100 billion by 2020 were not established; even proposals to create an intermediate target (US$70 billion by 2016) were not accepted. Developing countries left COP19 without a predictable source of funding.
In light of the results of the fast start finance period and the political climate at COP19, it is not surprising that negotiators failed to justly resolve the issue of climate finance. After all of the negotiations and dialogues, trust between developed and developing countries was lower than ever, and developing countries had no confidence that developed countries will scale up finance adequately.
This raises the question: Is the demise of the possibility for a just climate finance deal symptomatic of a greater disease? For decades, conflicting ideologies have created a climate stalemate, preventing the creation of a robust international climate action plan. Compromise is a difficult pill to swallow, and sometimes developed countries must be willing to reach an agreement on developing countries’ terms. As we approach the milestone COP21 in Paris, nations need to act collectively to protect mutual interests, prioritizing finance delivery to promote global climate justice. A paradigm shift is necessary to resuscitate the possibility of just climate finance and an effective climate regime.
This article was originally published here.
By Timmons Roberts and Claire Langley
The winter skies were a dim grey as the second and final week began at the United Nations climate change negotiations in Warsaw, Poland. Sadly, the hopes for an ambitious global effort to address the grave risks of a destabilized climate look similarly dim.
The drumbeat of negativity is drowning out those who would put a brave face on the hopes for a strong global effort on climate. Typhoon Haiyan has brought on a desperate response from some developing countries and NGOs, as it is being seen as a reflection of the urgency with which to address climate change.
In the big picture, a plan was put forward two years ago in Durban to reach a new agreement on climate change by 2015, which would then enter into force in 2020. This agreement may take the form of either a "protocol, [a] legal instrument or [an] agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties."
It is still unclear at this point which outcome is most likely or how meaningful the agreement might be. Debate continues around a number of issues: the character of nations’ commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the nature and extent of differentiation of commitments between rich and poor countries, and a process to assess and consider commitments and how to change them if they are too weak.
Another issue under discussion is whether countries should have pledges in hand by September, 2014, when Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for a high level meeting of the United Nations in New York, and what to do if those pledges are too weak to address the problem. But even having them in hand in time for this deadline seems increasingly unlikely.
These yearly Conference of the Parties (COP) negotiations often hit a nadir about this time in the two-week cycle, but this year is worse than usual. Japan and Australia have emerged as the villains this year. The new Australian government has repeatedly been voted the “Fossil of the Day” by the international NGO Climate Action Network due to its refusal to send a minister to Warsaw and for undermining discussions on climate finance. And Japan sharply walked back its pledge to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by 25 percent, instead seeking a 3.8 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. A large network of African NGOs has asked the African negotiating group to simply walk out.
Finance is seen as the main issue at Warsaw that has the potential to clear some roadblocks on the path to a 2015 agreement, but progress here has stalled also. There was a groundbreaking commitment made in Copenhagen and implemented in Cancun to scale up financing from about $10 billion a year to $100 billion a year by 2020, but several elements are still unclear: how much of the funds should come from public or private sources; how much should go toward helping countries adapt to climate change; and how to measure and track the funds. Adding to the lack of progress on this long term goal is the absence of concrete commitments for midterm financing to fill the gap through 2020. The least developed countries proposed early this week a midterm target of $60 billion by 2016, while the Africa Group has called for $70 billion by 2016.
Now, the co-chairs of the ADP track (the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) have produced a new text from which to negotiate the 2015 agreement. Yet even this text is basic and reads like a “to do” list. It does not set a date for when parties should put forward their pledges for emissions reductions or for scaled up finance commitments. The new text also does not define the scope for new finance commitments, which alternatively could be addressed by Ministers releasing statements on this in the high level segment of negotiations beginning Wednesday.
The United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Germany are reported to have pledges forthcoming on finance for the protection of standing forests under the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) program, while Australia leads another group in arguing that the lion’s share of climate finance will need to come from the private sector and that there are many emerging economies that are wealthy enough to make their own pledges. Given the recession and need for economic growth, they say, obligations or mandatory obligations from developed countries are not realistic and therefore not acceptable.
Discussions on a 2015 agreement are not progressing and are being put in jeopardy by a lack of movement on finance. The G77+China group of 134 developing countries is pushing hard for finance pledges, saying that funding needs to be scaled up in line with what was promised through 2020 during negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun, and that progress on this long term finance goal must be demonstrated before discussions on 2015 emission reduction commitments are allowed to continue.
In anticipation of weak financial pledges, the Climate Action Network staged a protest in the enormous national stadium in Warsaw on Tuesday, spelling out a giant “WTF?” to ask “Where’s the Finance?” The exasperation of environmental NGOs at this point, however, is expressed in both meanings of the acronym.
Another hot topic in Warsaw concerns an interesting but difficult proposal by Brazil has been put on the table for calculating emission reduction pledges, using historical emissions based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) data. This is based on the principles of equity and historical responsibility, central words in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Some countries (mainly in the European Union) feel that focusing on the one indicator of historical emissions is too narrow—there are concerns that this type of mechanism could politicize the IPCC’s work. There are also fears that developing a new approach could delay agreement until after 2015, so Brazil’s proposal has been pushed to some sub-negotiating tracks and is currently still under discussion.
One of the most acute areas of disagreement is over a new issue under negotiation called “loss and damage.” This issue is concerned with how developing countries are compensated for harm done by climate change that cannot be adapted to. The issue was originally raised by the Alliance of Small Island States way back in 1989. The issue came to the attention of the 48 least developed countries a few years ago, and they have pushed hard for it to be taken up in its own mechanism separate from the “adaptation” agenda— adversely complicating these efforts, several prominent developed countries (e.g. the European Union and United States) have indicated they would prefer loss and damage to be covered under existing adaptation mechanisms and institutions.
So in Warsaw we wait for the skies to clear—for a ray of sunshine and hope to shine into a darkly polarized world. Even winter days can be brilliantly sunny; it remains to be seen if any of that sun can break through to the meeting rooms of the Warsaw stadium. The question is who has a cloud busting machine that powerful.
This article was originally published here.
CDL in the News
17 Jul 2017 - Roberts mentioned in NPR's story on the US having a say in UN climate spending
15 Jul 2017 - Roberts calls for solid climate policies in RI
5 Jul 2017 - Roberts demands swifter action on CO2 release
5 Jul 2017 - Roberts demands RI Governor Raimondo to take climate action
30 Jun 2017 - Roberts gives advice on owning and using electric cars
23 Jun 2017 - Roberts comments on how voters are persuaded by the terms 'climate change' and 'global warming'
20 Jun 2017 - Roberts' involvement in local climate group is helping to fight fossil fuel development
3 Jun 2017 - WPRO Radio's Steve Klamkin interviews Roberts on the Paris Agreement
2 Jun 2017 - Roberts comments on US involvement in the Green Climate Fund
2 Jun 2017 - BBC Radio 5's Faye Rusco interviews Roberts on Trump's withdrawal from Paris
2 Jun 2017 - Roberts discusses the role of mayors and private sector companies post US pull-out of Paris
1 Jun 2017 - Roberts gives more details about the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement
1 Jun 2017 - Roberts organizes emergency protest in RI
1 Jun 2017 - Roberts comments on the implications of US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement
1 Jun 20117 - Roberts share his views on the US exit from the Paris Accord
31 May 2017 - Roberts cited on the far-reaching implications of US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement
31 May 2017 - RI left vulnerable if US pulls out of Paris Accord, says Roberts
24 May 2017 - Roberts chimes in on Trump's proposed EPA budget
30 Apr 2017 - Roberts helps to 'fact check' Trump's first 100 days in office
25 Apr 2017 - Roberts lobbies for people's march in RI to mark Trump's first 100 days in office
23 Apr 2017 - Roberts cautions against threats to science at march for science in Rhode Island
7 Apr 2017 - White House Chronicle's Llewelyn King interviews Roberts on Trump’s executive order and climate policy directions
10 Mar 2017 - Roberts quoted in Providence Business News about new proposed fossil fuel infrastructure in Rhode Island
6 Feb 2017 - Devex article on climate finance under the new administration quotes Roberts
18 Jan 2017 - Roberts featured in NPR Marketplace segment on Obama's $500m donation to the Green Climate Fund
29 Dec 2016 - Roberts quoted in Common Dreams article about the state of environmental justice in 2016
19 Nov 2016 - EcoRI profiles Roberts and the new Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island
14 Nov 2016 - Roberts featured in Rhode Island Public Radio segment on Trump and the Paris Agreement
12 Nov 2016 - Roberts quoted in Climate Home article on Republican plans to defund climate change programs
10 Nov 2016 - Roberts quote appears in EcoRI article about Trump and the environment
9 Nov 2016 - Roberts quoted in InsideClimate News article on COP22 reaction to Trump's election
9 Nov 2016 - Science Daily discusses new CDL article on paying for loss and damage
9 Nov 2016 - Roberts quoted in Climate Home article on COP22 reaction to Trump's election
8 Nov 2016 - Roberts' paper on paying for loss and damage discussed and quoted in Phys.Org
7 Nov 2016 - Roberts' paper on paying for loss and damage discussed and quoted in Futurity article
21 Sep 2016 - Roberts quoted in a Breitbart News article about Clinton's support following shift in climate change language
20 Sep 2016 - Roberts quoted in a Climate Home article on Clinton's language around climate change after Sanders' endorsement
5 May 2016 – Climate Home quotes Edwards on the announcement that Patricia Espinosa will lead the UNFCCC from this July
5 May 2016 - Dialogo Chino quotes Edwards following announcement that Patricia Espinosa will replace Christiana Figueres as head of the UNFCCC
24 Apr 2016 - Deutsche Welle quotes Edwards on how ratifying Paris Agreement can boost prosperity in Latin America
23 Mar 2016 – Edwards provides extended quote to Dialogo Chino on Obama’s trip to Cuba and Argentina
25 Dec 2015 - ConexiónCOP conversó con Guy Edwards sobre el nuevo acuerdo climático y America Latina
14 Dec 2015 - Rhode Island Public Radio quotes Roberts on how Paris Climate Pact should steer New England toward clean energy
11 Dec 2015 - Associated Press quotes Romain Weikmans on “Wild West” account on climate finance
10 Dec 2015 - Climate Home talks to Roberts about the lack of an independent system on climate finance
The pieces featured in the blog are authored by CDL members and a diverse group of partners from around the world. The opinions expressed in these articles are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not reflect those of Brown University.