It appears that the possibility of a positive result coming out of Copenhagen isn’t as dead as most people thought. The turns of events is still a little confusing, but the news for myself came at about 6:30 yesterday when I came across a brand new Washington Post article, which talked about an agreement between the U.S. and China that had not gotten out during the remarks at APEC about the delayed deal at Copenhagen. I guess that potential US-China deal I mentioned over the summer finally came to life. Scientific American calls this more important than Copenhagen.
“Buried in the text of Tuesday’s joint declaration between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao was a hopeful clause about climate talks: The Obama administration is likely to offer emission-reduction targets at next month’s climate summit, as long as the Chinese offer a proposal of their own.”
“U.S. reluctance to set a short-term emissions goal has been a sticking point in the U.N.-sponsored talks for nearly a year. Almost all industrialized nations, and many developing countries, have announced plans to curb their greenhouse-gas output by 2020. Neither the United States nor China — which is not obligated to do so under the U.N. framework, even though it ranks as the world’s biggest emitter — has done so, thereby hampering the prospects of an agreement.”
Woah! So despite the fact that domestic legislation is still pending, the US(and China) are going to put out some concrete numbers regarding reductions. This could help clear one of the major obstacles, if not the largest, which was the lack of concrete commitments. Of course, the quality of the targets the US and China set will matter a whole lot too.
So what happened????
Well, I guess more of us should’ve listened to David Turnbull sooner, the Director of Climate Action Network International who was stating on Grist(and even sooner in private conversation) that the media had gotten the story wrong. Apparently, the was no actual agreement to what the media said happened. It was just the Danish Prime Minister speaking to some dazed heads of state.
“The real story occurred at a hastily arranged APEC breakfast. Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen made a last-minute visit and surprised the room with a speech that was only vetted by a few of the so-called “leaders.” One can only imagine a room full of bleary-eyed Heads of State sitting around a big table sipping their coffee and politely nodding at Rasmussen’s climate change speech without really understanding how their nods would be translated by the media.”
“Rasmussen began his speech by saying:
…I would like to share with you how I believe a Copenhagen Agreement could be constructed to serve the dual purpose of providing for continued negotiations on a legal agreement and for immediate action…
And later towards the end of the speech he says:
Some of you might have wished for a different format or for a different legal structure. Still, I believe you will agree with me on one fundamental point: What matters at the end of the day is the ability of the Copenhagen Agreement to capture and reinforce global commitment to real actions.
Doesn’t sound like consensus to me; it sounds like a man trying to convince an audience to go along with him. It’s not entirely clear who actually did agree with the Prime Minister, but what is clear is that there is nowhere near consensus on such a delay approach; in fact, dozens of countries oppose it and are still wishing—and fighting—for more.”
“Luckily, there’s still time to push for more. The Alliance of Small Island States, the African Group of nations, and other vulnerable and least developed countries will surely be pushing back on this plan during the prep meetings in Copenhagen this week. In fact, 11 Pacific Island States already have. Some European nations are also likely to stand up to this plan.
The planet and its people need a fair, ambitious, and binding outcome from this process. Countries should be working on such a document in Copenhagen and they can and should finish it there. After all, it’s what they committed to in Bali just two years ago.
Beyond just this revelation, the fact is that Obama’s APEC trip resulted in the new commitment to short term targets, as I stated above. I think the defining statement of the US-China agreement is this..
“In this context both sides believe that, while striving for final legal agreement, an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. The outcome should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries, promote technology development, dissemination and transfer, pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, promote steps to preserve and enhance forests, and provide for full transparency with respect to the implementation of mitigation measures and provision of financial, technology and capacity building support.”
More information on the nature of the U.S.-China agreement can be found here, and the Department of Energy has a list of announcements regarding cooperations that both nations are taking, which I’m posting below.
U.S.-China Clean Energy Announcements
Beijing, China – Today, President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao announced a far-reaching package of measures to strengthen cooperation between the United States and China on clean energy. Please see the attached fact sheets for additional details on each of the U.S-China clean energy announcements.
1. U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center. The two Presidents announced the establishment of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center. The Center will facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by teams of scientists and engineers from the United States and China, as well as serve as a clearinghouse to help researchers in each country. The Center will be supported by public and private funding of at least $150 million over five years, split evenly between the two countries. Initial research priorities will be building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles. The Protocol formally establishing the Center was signed in Beijing by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang, and Chinese National Energy Agency Acting Administrator Zhang Guobao.
U.S.-China Fact Sheet on Clean Energy Research Center
2. U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative. The two Presidents announced the launch of the U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative. Building on the first-ever US-China Electric Vehicle Forum in September 2009, the initiative will include joint standards development, demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, technical roadmapping and public education projects. The two leaders emphasized their countries’ strong shared interest in accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles in order to reduce oil dependence, cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic growth.
U.S.-China Fact Sheet on Electric Vehicles Initiative
3. U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan. The two Presidents announced the launch of a new U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan. Under the new plan, the two countries will work together to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, industrial facilities, and consumer appliances. U.S. and Chinese officials will work together and with the private sector to develop energy efficient building codes and rating systems, benchmark industrial energy efficiency, train building inspectors and energy efficiency auditors for industrial facilities, harmonize test procedures and performance metrics for energy efficient consumer products, exchange best practices in energy efficient labeling systems, and convene a new U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Forum to be held annually, rotating between the two countries.
U.S.-China Fact Sheet on Energy Efficiency Action Plan
4. U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership. The two Presidents announced the launch of a new U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership. Under the Partnership, the two countries will develop roadmaps for wide-spread renewable energy deployment in both countries. The Partnership will also provide technical and analytical resources to states and regions in both countries to support renewable energy deployment and will facilitate state-to-state and region-to-region partnerships to share experience and best practices. A new Advanced Grid Working Group will bring together U.S. and Chinese policymakers, regulators, industry leaders, and civil society to develop strategies for grid modernization in both countries. A new U.S.-China Renewable Energy Forum will be held annually, rotating between the two countries.
U.S.-China Fact Sheet on Renewable Energy Partnership
5. 21st Century Coal. The two Presidents pledged to promote cooperation on cleaner uses of coal, including large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects. Through the new U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, the two countries are launching a program of technical cooperation to bring teams of U.S. and Chinese scientists and engineers together in developing clean coal and CCS technologies. The two governments are also actively engaging industry, academia, and civil society in advancing clean coal and CCS solutions. The Presidents welcomed: (i) a grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to the China Power Engineering and Consulting Group Corporation to support a feasibility study for an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant in China using American technology, (ii) an agreement by Missouri-based Peabody Energy to participate in GreenGen, a project of several major Chinese energy companies to develop a near-zero emissions coal-fired power plant, (iii) an agreement between GE and Shenhua Corporation to collaborate on the development and deployment of IGCC and other clean coal technologies; and (iv) an agreement between AES and Songzao Coal and Electric Company to use methane captured from a coal mine in Chongqing, China, to generate electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S.-China Fact Sheet on 21st Century Coal
6. Shale Gas Initiative. The two Presidents announced the launch of a new U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative. Under the Initiative, the U.S. and China will use experience gained in the United States to assess China’s shale gas potential, promote environmentally-sustainable development of shale gas resources, conduct joint technical studies to accelerate development of shale gas resources in China, and promote shale gas investment in China through the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, study tours, and workshops.
U.S.-China Fact Sheet on Shale Gas Initiative
7. U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program. The two Presidents announced the establishment of the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program. The program will leverage private sector resources for project development work in China across a broad array of clean energy projects, to the benefit of both nations. More than 22 companies are founding members of the program. The ECP will include collaborative projects on renewable energy, smart grid, clean transportation, green building, clean coal, combined heat and power, and energy efficiency.