Thursday, May 28, 2009

Parties Still At Odds Over Midterm GHG Reduction Targets

May 27: With little reporting in the U.S., the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate meeting in Paris from May 25-26, produced little progress on agreement among the 17 parties on the subject of targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction related to 1990 levels. The 17 major economies including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States; met to continue negotiations from their meeting in the U.S. April 27-28 [See WIMS 4/29/09]. The preparatory meeting was held in advance of a "leaders' meeting" of the Major Economies scheduled for La Maddalena, Italy, in July 2009. Another preparatory meeting is scheduled for June 22-23 in Mexico City.

The issue of the so-called "midterm targets" was also a point of contention at the recent meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany [
See WIMS 4/9/09], which concluded with wide disparities and no agreement on interim targets for industrialized countries for the year 2020. Experts say the interim targets are critical to reversing the growth in emissions. The European Union has called for ambitious interim targets of 20-30% less than 1990 levels; Australia (minus 4-14%); Canada (+2%); Japan (+4% to – 25%); Russia (not available); and the Obama Administration has said it would reduce GHG levels to 1990 levels by 2020 or a 0% reduction from 1990 levels.

In part, the contentions come from the differences in the "base year" for measuring reductions. President Obama has called for a 14 percent cut from 2005 levels by 2020. The recent, Committee-approved Waxman-Markey ACES bills calls for a 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. European countries are pushing for the U.S. to increase its target levels with greater reductions from the 1990 base year. The 1990 base year was part of the so-called Bali Agreement and is used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

According to a CRIEnglish report, "French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, host of the two-day meeting, complained it was 'unimaginable' that the biggest power, the United States, with carbon emissions twice that of the EU, was doing less than the latter. . . He said that developed countries as bigger polluters, should deepen their cuts by 25 percent to 40 percent, especially the United States."

According to the CRIEnglish report, Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change told the media the U.S. was making progress, though it could not match the efforts of the EU. He said the Obama administration had included the development of clean energy and green technology its economic revival plan.

The negotiations will continue in Bonn, Germany at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Bonn Climate Change Talks from June 1-12, 2009. UNFCCC is hosting the thirtieth sessions of the UNFCCC Convention subsidiary bodies - SBSTA [Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice] and SBI [Subsidiary Body for Implementation], sixth session of the AWG-LCA [Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action] and the eighth session of the AWG-KP [Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol].

The second round of UN Climate Change Talks in 2009 in Bonn is expected to be attended by around 3,000 participants, including government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions. The Bonn meeting will be politically highly significant because for the first time, the full draft of the negotiating text of an effective and ambitious international climate change deal [
See WIMS 5/21/09], to be clinched in December in Copenhagen, will be on the table.

The May 26, 2009, edition of the Times of London included an opinion piece from U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu highlighting President Obama's commitment to improving America's energy policy and addressing the global climate crisis. Chu said, "This week, the St James's Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium is bringing together scientists and leaders to concentrate on solving the climate challenge. This effort is an example of the growing worldwide awareness of the severity of the threat to our very way of life from a changing climate. . .

"Under Mr. Obama, America is embracing a leadership role in addressing the world's energy and climate change problems. At home, we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions by more than 80 per cent by 2050, and a key committee in the US Congress passed a Bill last week to do just that. Abroad, the United States has pledged to do its part to ensure a successful outcome when the world meets in Copenhagen later this year. . .

"Only science can give us these breakthroughs, which is why this week's Nobel Laureate Symposium is so important. Scientists must step up and do our part in this great effort. With a serious commitment to energy efficiency, widespread deployment of the technologies we have, and an aggressive investment in science, we can dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and reinvigorate our economy at the same time. That is not only our opportunity - it is our responsibility to future generations. We can and must rise to meet this challenge, and I am convinced that we will."

Access the CRIEnglish report (click here). Access a report from EurActiv (click here). Access an article from France24 (click here).Access complete information on the upcoming UNFCCC Bonn meetings (click here). Access the complete opinion piece from Secretary Chu (click here).