The Dernogalizer

December 15, 2010

350.org: “We got in it to win”

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:36 am
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I think 350.org’s recent e-mail reflecting on the closure of the Cancun climate talks is spot on.  It’s reposted below

Dear friends,

It’s not something you hear often when it comes to climate negotiations: “progress has been made.”

At 4AM on Saturday morning in Cancun, delegates emerged from the UN negotiations, all of them sleep-deprived and most of them smiling. They had managed to agree on a foundation for future talks. The agreements that came out of Cancun won’t be enough to get the world back to 350–but they offer a glimpse at a path forward that just might.

The feeling of momentum emerging from Cancun was refreshing: countries rebuilt trust, and wrestled with difficult issues like deforestation and transparency. This trust was in serious doubt after last year’s failed negations in Copenhagen–and even in the final hours of negotiations in Cancun.

These countries will now have to negotiate with the world’s climate–and the physics and chemistry that govern the climate won’t negotiate. In the wake of the modest progress achieved in Cancun, it’s tempting to overlook the fact that delegates mostly avoided the real crux of the negotiations: exactly how much will countries reduce their planet-heating emissions?

In fact, the current pledges contained in the negotiating text are still grossly inadequate, leaving the planet on a crash course with at least 4 degrees Celcius of temperature rise–a terrifying prospect that would put us closer to 750ppm than 350ppm. That’s very far from where we must be, and that gap won’t be fixed by simply waiting until next year’s convention in Durban, South Africa.

To close the gap between scientific necessity and political possibility, we must fight the influence of big polluters on the political process.
At the end of last week, thousands of you spoke up in support of the most vulnerable countries, sending your messages of solidarity from all corners of the planet. Our team in Cancun delivered your messages directly to the delegates, and reminded them just how much the world is counting on them to stand up to big polluters.

By building a public movement around the climate solutions that science and justice demand, we’ve helped keep this process alive when major polluters tried to destroy it. We’ve made the science clear. And thanks to your messages of solidarity, we’ve strengthened the voices of vulnerable nations, who have pledged to keep the fight for bold climate action alive.

In the months and years to come, that will continue to be our fight as well. In the final hours of the talks in Cancun, members of the 350.org team were among a group of young people who stood peacefully at the entrance to the negotiating halls and slowly counted upwards towards 21,000, the number of deaths attributed to climate-related disasters in the first 9 months of this year.  After two weeks of abstract negotiations, this event was a poignant reminder of the stakes in this struggle–and of the strength of the bonds of this global network.

There will be those receiving this email who would wish us to condemn the agreements that came out of Cancun — as well as those who might like us to call it a hope-filled victory.

But we didn’t get involved in this movement to condemn or cheer: we got in it to win.

To do that, we’ll have to win our country’s capitols first, and to do that, we’ll have to organize in all the communities where we live. We’ve begun that work, but we still have much more work to do.

We will do it with hope, with passion, and with unwavering determination.  And above all, we will do it together.

Onwards,

May Boeve for the 350.org Team

P.S. To get real action from the UN process, its crucial to keep spreading what happens in these conferences out into the world. If this email resonates, please pass along this link to a photo-tour of our experience in Cancun via Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

December 11, 2010

A Hopeful Atmosphere from Cancun

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:28 pm
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Perhaps because expectations were so low, or because of the realization that cooperation between nations needed to occur for the UN climate negotiations to continue to exist, or because NASA announced the hottest November and likely 2010 on record, the media reports and commentary from nations and activists coming out of Cancun is much better than it was last year in Copenhagen.  Here is the text adopted by the UNFCCC.  My take upon reading the news reports and looking at the text is that the language purposefully leaves a lot of the details and specifics to be worked out in future summits, while using broad language to satisfy developed and developing countries to keep the process moving forward.  There is greater agreement than last year about what needs to be done, such as the establishment of a $100 billion Green Climate Fund by 2020, and the allocation of $30 billion between 2010-2012 for developing nations to use for mitigation and adaption.  Below is the closing COP 16 press release, along with some reactions from other countries, bloggers, and media outlets…

UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun delivers balanced package of
decisions, restores faith in multilateral process

(Cancun, 11 December 2010) The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, ended on Saturday with the adoption of a balanced package of decisions that set all governments more firmly on the path towards a ow-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world.

The package, dubbed the ‘Cancun Agreements’ was welcomed to repeated loud and prolonged applause and acclaim by Parties in the final plenary.

“Cancun has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. “Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause. They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all,” she said.

“Governments have given a clear signal that they are headed towards a low-emissions future together, they have agreed to be accountable to each other for the actions they take to get there, and they have set it out in a way which encourages countries to be more ambitious over time,” she said.

Nations launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the poor and the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures. And they agreed to launch concrete action to preserve forests in developing nations, which will increase going forward.

They also agreed that countries need to work to stay below a two degree temperature rise and they set a clear timetable for review, to ensure that global action is adequate to meet the emerging reality of climate change.

“This is not the end, but it is a new beginning. It is not what is ultimately required but it is the essential foundation on which to build greater, collective ambition,” said Ms Figueres.

Elements of the Cancun Agreements include:

  • Industrialised country targets are officially recognised under the multilateral process and these countries are to develop low-carbon development plans and strategies and assess how best to meet them, including through market mechanisms, and to report their inventories annually.
  • Developing country actions to reduce emissions are officially recognised under the multilateral process. A registry is to be set up to record and match developing country mitigation actions to finance and technology support from by industrialised countries. Developing countries are to publish progress reports every two years.
  • Parties meeting under the the Kyoto Protocol agree to continue negotiations with the aim of completing their work and ensuring there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the treaty.
  • The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanisms has been strengthened to drive more major investments and technology into environmentally sound and sustainable emission reduction projects in the developing world.
  • Parties launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures.
  • A total of US$30 billion in fast start finance from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the intention to raise US$100 billion in long-term funds by 2020 is included in the decisions.
  • In the field of climate finance, a process to design a Green Climate Fund under the Conference of the Parties, with a board with equal representation from developed and developing countries, is established.
  • A new “Cancun Adaptation Framework” is established to allow better planning and implementation of adaptation projects in developing countries through increased financial and technical support, including a clear process for continuing work on loss and damage.
  • Governments agree to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support.
  • Parties have established a technology mechanism with a Technology Executive Committee and Climate Technology Centre and Network to increase technology cooperation to support action on adaptation and mitigation.
  • The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011.

    US climate envoy Todd Stern’s reaction in the Washington Post: “U.S. special climate envoy Todd Stern, who had pushed hard for adoption of language outlining how China, India and other major emerging economies will subject their carbon cuts to international view, described the recent negotiations as “a challenging, tiring and intensive week.”

    In an early-morning press conference Saturday, Stern told reporters he thought the core achievement of this year’s talks was the fact that “ideas that were first of all, skeletal last year, and not approved, are now approved and elaborated.”

    And while he noted the current measure would not ensure the global temperature rise remains within 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of pre-industrial levels, “You just need to keep making good steady progress…We’re not there yet with respect to all the committed reductions it would take to get the world to the two-degree target people talk about. But we’re a lot closer than we were before.”

    “What we have now is a text that, while not perfect, is certainly a good basis for moving forward,” Stern said.”

    From Brad Johnson’s Wonk Room: “The first lesson of the Cancun talks is that the governments of the world can in fact work together on global warming, even though decoupling civilization from greenhouse pollution is a herculean task. However, the second lesson is that their leadership only gets humanity so far. Only the full mobilization of the present generation can overcome the institutional barriers to change and protect our fragile civilization from the raging climate system our pollution has created. The Cancun compact has restored hope around the world, but now the actual work has to begin.”

    And according to Brad’s Twitterfeed, some good reactions from nations as the talks closed…

    Mexican President Felipe Calderon: “We must ensure our fragile planet, Mother Earth, lasts forever. Cancun has brought us closer to that goal.”

    Brazil: We will go away from Cancun with a firm commitment. Considerable progress has been made.

    Zambia: Thank you for lifting our spirits from the depression of Copenhagen. You have restored our hopes in multilateralism

    India: I believe we are launched on a process in which the trust deficit has been significantly bridged

    Japan: We wholeheartedly support the efforts being made by the presidency. We’d like to express our deep support to draft text.

    China: Though there are shortcomings, we are basically satisfied.  The government of China will act in a fully responsible manner to the people of China and the people of the world.

    South Korea: We were warned, if we cannot achieve a balanced outcome, we’d be blamed by our children. I believe we have risen to the challenge.

    So all in all, it’s good to see this positive will between counties that lacked last year in Copenhagen.  The agreement on the table needs a lot of work, it isn’t strong or forceful enough to achieve what needs to be done, but it avoids a collapse of the UN climate talks, and keeps the negotiating process moving forward to what will hopefully be concrete action.

    November 27, 2010

    Looking for Climate Solutions in Cancun

    Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:45 pm
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    The next round of international climate negotiations through the UN are going to begin soon in Cancun, Mexico.  It’s no secret last year’s summit in Copenhagen was a major disappointment to environmental groups and climate activists, and there aren’t very high expectations for Cancun to correct course.  However, we should obviously be looking to move forward wherever we can in the short-term while continuing to press for a long-term framework.  The NY Times has published an editorial with a couple of suggests for how this progress can take place.  I’m republishing parts below…

    “But carbon dioxide is not the only kind of pollution that contributes to global warming. Other potent warming agents include three short-lived gases — methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles. The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes. The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place.

    Take methane, for example, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing warming. It is emitted by coal mines, landfills, rice paddies and livestock. And because it is the main ingredient in natural gas, it leaks from many older natural-gas pipelines. With relatively minor changes — for example, replacing old gas pipelines, better managing the water used in rice cultivation (so that less of the rice rots) and collecting the methane emitted by landfills — it would be possible to lower methane emissions by 40 percent. Since saved methane is a valuable fuel, some of this effort could pay for itself.”

    “Ozone, which is formed in the lower atmosphere from carbon monoxide, methane and other gases emitted by human activity, is a particularly hazardous component of urban smog. And every year it causes tens of billions of dollars in damage to crops worldwide. So pollution restrictions that reduce ozone levels, especially in the rapidly growing polluted cities of Asia, could both clear the air and slow warming.”

    “Soot likewise offers an opportunity to marry local interests with the global good. A leading cause of respiratory diseases, soot is responsible for some 1.9 million deaths a year. It also melts ice and snow packs. Thus, sooty emissions from Asia, Europe and North America are helping to thin the Arctic ice. And soot from India, China and a few other countries threatens water supplies fed by the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers.”

    “Credibility is especially important for the United States. It can already offer the world much of the technology and regulatory expertise that will be needed to reduce short-lived pollutants, particularly ozone and soot. Some American efforts are under way to share these technologies, including a program to help provide better cookstoves for people in developing countries. By making such programs more visible and demonstrating that they deliver tangible results, and by establishing a realistic plan for cutting its own emissions at home, the United States could show that it is serious about addressing climate change.”

    November 13, 2010

    Weekly Mulch: For Cancun Climate Summit, Activists Consider the Long View

    Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 6:53 pm
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    The following is a cross-post from the Weekly Mulch on the Cancun Climate Summit, and Coal

    Weekly Mulch: For Cancun Climate Summit, Activists Consider the Long View

    by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

    A year ago, it seemed possible—likely, even—that President Barack Obama would sweep into the international negotiations on climate change at Copenhagen and make serious progress on the tangle of issues at stake. The reality was quite different. This year, the expectations for the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun are less wild.

    The conference will be held from Nov 29 to Dec 10 and the same issues from 2009 are up for debate. Countries like the United States, Britain, and Germany are still contributing an outsize share of carbon to the atmosphere. Countries like India and China are still rapidly increasing their own carbon output. And countries like Bangladesh, Tuvalu, and Bolivia are still bearing an unfair share of the environmental impacts brought on by climate change.

    A very different set of expectations are building in the climate movement this year. If last year was about moving forward as fast as possible, this year, climate activists seem resigned to the idea that politicians just aren’t getting it. Change, when it comes, will have to be be built on a popular movement, not a political negotiation.

    Climate change from the bottom up

    Last year, climate activists put their faith in international leaders to make progress. This year, they believe that it’s up to them, as outside actors, to marshal a grassroots movement and pressure their leaders towards decreased carbon emissions.

    “There’s a recognition that the insider strategy to push from inside the Beltway to impact what will happen in DC, or what will happen in Cancun has really not succeeded,” Rose Braz, climate campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Making Contact’s Andrew Stelzer. “What we’re doing in conjunction with a number of groups across the country and across the world is really build the type of movement that will change what happens in Cancun, what changes what happens in DC from the bottom up.” (This entire episode of Making Contact is dedicated to new approaches to climate change, at Cancun and beyond, and is worth a listen.)

    Fighting the indolence of capitalists

    Here’s one example of this new strategy. As Zachary Shahan writes at Change.org, La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement, is coordinating a march that will begin in San Luis Potosi, Guadalajara, Acapulco, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, then converge on Cancun. The march will include “thousands of farmers, indigenous people, rural villagers, urbanites, and more,” Shahan reports.

    After they arrive in Cancun, the organizers are planning an “Alternative Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice” for the final days of the negotiations, which they say will be a mass mobilisation of peasants, indigenous and social movements. The action extends far beyond Cancun, though. Actually, they are organizing thousands of Cancuns around the world on this day to denounce what they see as false climate solutions.

    These actions echo the strategy that environmentalist and author Bill McKibben and other climate leaders are promoting to push for climate change policies in the U.S. All this talk about building momentum from the bottom up, from populations, means that anyone looking for change is now looking years into the future.

    The U.S. is not leading the way

    Of course, ultimately, politicians will need to agree on a couple of standards. In particular, how much carbon each country should be emitting and how fast each country should power down its current emission levels. The U.S. is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to agreement on these questions, especially due to the recent mid-term elections. As Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead climate change negotiator wrote at AlterNet:

    Unlike what many suggest, China is not the problem. China, along with India and others, have made considerable commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are already working to realize them. Other developing countries have done the same, although we only generate a virtual drop in the bucket of global carbon emissions. The key player missing here is the U.S.

    China, the U.S. and Clean Coal

    The most interesting collaborations on clean energy, however, aren’t happening around the negotiating table. This week, The Atlantic‘s James Fallows wrote a long piece about the work that the U.S. and China are doing together on clean coal technology, the magic cure-all to the world’s energy ills.

    In the piece, Fallows recognizes what environmentalists have long argued: coal is bad for the environment and for coal-mining communities. But, unlike clean energy advocates who want to phase coal out of the energy equation, Fallows argues that coal must play a part in the world’s energy future. Therefore, we must find a way to burn it without releasing clouds of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s where clean coal technology comes in. So far, however, researchers have had little luck minimizing coal’s carbon output.

    A few progressive writers weighed in on Fallows’ piece: Grist’s David Roberts thought Fallows was too hard on the anti-coal camp, while Campus Progress’ Sara Rubin argued that the piece did a good job of grappling with the reality of clean energy economics. And Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum had one very clear criticism—that the piece skated over the question of progress on carbon capture, the one real way to dramatically reduce carbon pollution from coal. He wrote:

    All the collaboration sounds wonderful, and even a 20% or 30% improvement in coal technology would be welcome. But that said, sequestration is the holy grail and I still don’t know if the Chinese are doing anything more on that front than the rest of us.

    On every front, then, the view on climate change is now a long one.

    This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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