A Long Way to Go

A Long Way to Go

Week 2 of the Copenhagen climate change summit has opened with strong indications of the distance between developed and developing nations and economies. The UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said:
‘We’re now getting close to midnight in this negotiation and we need to act like it. That means more urgency to solve problems and not just identify them, more willingness to shift from entrenched positions and more ambitious commitments’
The negotiating texts published at the end of week 1 highlight the distance yet to be covered. They are a carnival of square brackets, with tentative wording and alternative provisions covering key elements. Here are some examples from the text issued by the ad hoc working group on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol:
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
CDM projects are, along with Joint Initiative (JI), intended to feed the carbon markets by promoting private sector investment in projects designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to generate carbon credits. CDM project s must meet the criteria of ‘additionality’ and ‘verifiability’. They must reduce emissions that would not be addressed by other means, and they must be measurable, reportable and genuine. One of the key questions this week is whether projects involving carbon capture and storage are capable of meeting those tests, and should eligible as CDM projects.
The AWG-KP negotiating text includes diametrically opposed provisions. The first rejects carbon storage:
Option 1:
1. Decides that activities relating to carbon dioxide capture and storage shall not be eligible under the clean development mechanism in the second commitment period owing to unresolved concerns and issues at the international level, including:
(a) Non-permanence, including long-term permanence;
(b) Measurement, reporting and verification;
(c) Environmental impacts;
(d) The definition of project activity boundaries;
(e) Issues of international law;
(f) Issues of liability;
(g) The potential for the creation of perverse incentives for increased dependency on fossil
fuels;
(h) Safety;
(i) The absence of insurance coverage to provide compensation for damage to the environment and to the atmosphere resulting from storage site leakage;
Option 2:
2. Decides that activities relating to carbon dioxide capture and storage in geological formations
shall be eligible under the clean development mechanism in the second and subsequent commitment periods.
If Option 2 becomes the final outcome, then the text goes on to request the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to provide ‘modalities and procedures’ for including carbon capture and storage technologies and projects within the CDM. In effect, Option 2 accepts carbon storage and capture in principle, ensuring that it remains within the scope of projects that merit ongoing research, development and investment, but defers implementation until key technical and legal issues have been addressed. Option 1, by contrast, would effectively remove carbon capture and storage from CDM discussions for the foreseeable future, and would call into serious question the merits of further substantial investment.
Emissions trading
The text also provides alternative, and opposed, provisions in respect of emissions trading during a further commitment period under Kyoto. They are:
Option 1:
38. No decision to be made with respect to this issue
Option 2:
39. Decides to enable the trading of units generated from new market-based mechanisms;
40. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to recommend modalities and procedures for the trading of units referred to in paragraph 39 above, with a view to forwarding a draft decision on this matter to the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol for adoption at its seventh session.
Again, the alternatives might be characterized as ‘rejection’ and ‘deferral’. However, it would be unfair to characterize the approach as pusillanimous. The alternatives reflect genuine concerns over the current state of evidence. Throughout last week and into this week new data, and new interpretations of data are being presented at side events and at meetings outside the Bella Centre. Interest groups and NGOs continue to press for the inclusion of text to cover issues, such as ocean acidification, into the outcomes of the conference.
In his media briefing on 12 December Yvo de Boer noted that while many delegations have concerns over particular elements of the drafts, they have at least agreed to move on with negotiations based on those drafts. That, arguably, is a significant improvement on the fractious mood sparked early last week by the ‘Danish text’.

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