Anda di halaman 1dari 8

CLIMATE CHANGE : THE CANCUN SUMMIT

By Jean Faullimmel

Background After the Copenhagen conference on Climate Change held in December 2009, the follow-up summit was held in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2010 under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change. 193 countries participated to discuss and negotiate what measures to take to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to reduce their impact on global warming and subsequently on the climate. A lot was expected at the Copenhagen Summit, but the results were disappointing. A study concluded that the carbon pledges made in Copenhagen are unlikely to meet the average global warming temperature increase of 2C, since the beginning of the industrial revolution . The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set the maximum atmospheric CO2 concentration at 450 ppm (parts per million). This concentration corresponds to a 2C increase, to prevent man made interference with the climate system. The current CO2 concentration is 387 ppm. The graphs below illustrate the challenges ahead. It shows where the current policies on GHG emissions lead to, and two other possible scenarios and their targets. The curves show that if the world wants to keep the global warming temperature below 2C, deep emission cuts will be required. It also indicates that the world must act quickly, the longer we wait to act, the more drastic actions will be necessary in the future and at a greater cost.

The Economics November 27, 2010

So what progress was made in Cancun? For the participants it was a good opportunity to learn to work together and to develop a better understanding of the key issues each 1

country is confronted with, and where the planet is heading to if no serious agreement is obtained. Tackling climate change is a multilateral process concerning every country, economy, and citizen. The topics that were discussed focused on the different ways to reduce GHG emissions to ensure that the average global temperature will not exceed 2C by 2050: GHG reduction pledges; deforestation; measurements, reporting and verification; the carbon trade market and the carbon tax; the transfer of technology; the polluter-pays principle; and the Green Climate fund to honor the carbon reduction pled ges.

Inadequate carbon pledges: The Giga -tonne gap

Carbon reduction pledges were made by the developed and developing economies during the Copenhagen summit. Since then these pledges were analyzed to see whether they are adequate to limit global warming. With the pledges made, scientists estimated that the emissions of GHG CO 2 equivalent for 2020 to range between 50 to 52 Gt (giga-tonne). However, in order to meet the 2C limit rise, emissions in 2020 need to be between 40 Gt and 49 Gt, (and probably even less as shown in the graph above by the International Energy Agency forecast.) The difference in CO2 eq between what is expected and what is needed is the giga-tonne gap.
The IPCC calculated that, worldwide, the average GHG emission per inhabitant/year is currently 4 MT (metric tonne). In order to stay below 2C the average emissions per inhabitants should be 2 MT/year, that is, the current emissions have to be divided by two. In other words, deeper carbon cuts are necessary. If this is not done, the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy to mitigate climate change is postponed even further into the future. Top climate scientists think that global warming is happening much faster than the IPCC predicted in its latest 2007 report. Some even think that the rise in temperature of 2C is too high, and that the target temperature rise should be put at 1.5 C instead. The IPCC climate models failed to take into account the rapid summer melting of the polar ice caps and Greenland s ice sheets and glaciers, that consequently gives off additional CO2. Using a more realistic climate model and key data from the history of the earth, indicates that the carbon target of 450 ppm is too high. The current 387 ppm atmospheric CO2 eq. level should even be as low as 350 ppm, or else the Earth faces irreversible catastrophic effects. It is not too late to reach such a goal. All it takes is to stop burning fossil fuels in order to bring 387 ppm back down to 350 pp m within the next decades. As 387 ppm is already in the danger zone, the planet cannot afford to let it remain there for too long, otherwise it will reach the point of no return. That is why the global community needs to commit itself to truly green energies as a matter of urgency and accelerate clean technology development.

Protection of rainforests (REDD) Rainforests are vital for the survival of our planet. They regulate our climate, they absorb the carbon dioxide we produce, they give off the oxygen we breathe, they regulate water

flow, they prevent soil erosion, they are the habitat of a biodiversity of over 30 million plants and animals, and their plants provide more than 25 % of modern medicine. Deforestation is the cause of a fifth of global GHG emissions. Protecting forests has thus become a key issue in mitigating global warming. To do so a Green Climate Fund was established for urgent climate actions to reduce emissions through the protection of rainforests. The dramatic extent of deforestation on the island of Borneo between 1950 and 2010 is illustrated below. It is mainly the result of replacing rainforests by palm oil plantations, of illegal logging, slash-and burn clearing for agriculture, and the lack of adequate legislation to limit deforestation. At the same time it seriously reduced the natural habitat of the forest s biodiversity:

Source: UNEP/Grid-Arendal

Also, in view of the increasing GHG emission trend and the vital role forests play, the United Nations implemented a program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The aim of this program is to give forests a monetary value based on their capacity to store carbon, and thus to reduce their carbon footprint. It gives forests a greater value by being protected rather than being destroyed. This favors sustainable management of forests that would benefit developing countries and their indigenous people. This program gives incentives for conservation, otherwise slash-and-burn and illegal logging practices will continue. In order to stop the deforestation trend, the Cancun summit agreed that REDD will help poor nations through financial incentives. It is estimated that investing $20 billion to $30 billion in REDD projects could cut worldwide deforestation by 25 per cent by 2015. For example, in Brazil a REDD project in the Amazon region, gives each indigenous family US$28 per month to stop cutting trees. It is one way of tipping the economic balance from deforestation to the protection of rainforests and its biodiversity. Tree planting is another way to offset deforestation and carbon emissions as trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. It has proven to be a valid approach and

can play a supporting role to tackle climate change. An average tree can absorb up to 800 kg of carbon over its lifetime, and a mature tree can absorb up to 22 kg of CO 2 a year; in return it adds more oxygen to sustain life.

Measurement, reporting and verification An agreement by the developed and developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10, 20 % or more by 2020, means nothing unless such an agreement can be verified by scientific analytical means, regular follow-ups and even audits. Without a credible scientific analytical database, or an inventory of each country s GHG emissions, it is difficult to set an objective on how to reduce such emissions in the years to come. Transfer of technology from developed to developing countries, or investing in g reen technology requires that we know how much GHG we produce and by how much we want to reduce these emissions and over which period of time. The picture below taken in 2008 in the Province of Jiangxi, China, illustrates the importance of having a good analytical database of GHG emissions (and even other harmful pollutants) to be able to set objectives to invest in green technology.

Photo: Jean Faullimmel

Honest reporting of analytical data is a requirement. Without a proper inventory of emissions no objective can be defined and no target can be set. The resulting analyses are only as good as the data used for the calculation. Falsification of data or hiding the facts runs counter to good environmental management practices. It will only postpone the implementation of low carbon projects.

Transfer of technology In China the greatest air polluters are old factories, old coal-burning power plants, and old vehicules (cars, trucks and tractors.) The black fumes coming out of cement, ceramic and chemicals factories are in tens of thousands all over the country. Modernization programs of these factories and more severe environmental legislation should significantly influence the transfer of technology. This promotes the sharing of knowledge, research and

development in finding more efficient manufacturing and treatment processes, and also promotes the use of green energies. Green energies means environmentally friendly, safe, non-polluting, renewable, and sustainable. Such energy is obtained from natural processes that do not involve the consumption of fossil fuels and uranium used in power and nuclear plants. For a syst em to be sustainable is must use an economic cycle where the damaged natural environment inflicted by human activities, has time to recover and regenerate. It is the capacity to use natural resources responsibly and equitably, to meet the needs of the world population, but not at the expense of nature. If the world cannot develop a renewable economy, the survival of our planet is seriously at risk. Renewable energy is inexhaustible energy: Wind power alone can supply the world s electricity needs. An enormous potential also exists for solar energy; tidal power (the use of sea motion to generate power); transforming waste into energy by incineration; and biogas made from anaerobic digestion of agricultural, animal and food waste. Manufacturing processes should take into account environmental sustainability principles. Adequate air pollution legislation and compliance should also force industry to switch to greater environmental performance. The greater such performance, the less waste is generated and subsequently the less impact it has on the ecosystem. In other words, a company operating with technological efficiency manufactures a certain amount of products using the lowest amount of raw materials, energy and water. It means that resources are not wasted in the manufacturing process. On the other hand, technical inefficiency results in greater operating costs, more waste and a greater impact on the environment. The transfer of technology and expertise should first result in technological efficiency to obtain economic efficiency, and eventually greater environmental performance. It shows the interdependence of all human activities. Scientists, economists, engineers, ecologists, must all work together to find new solutions and innovations to confront climate change. As developed countries have been the greatest GHG producers since the beginning of the industrial revolution, they also have a responsibility to help developing countries in sharing their know-how and financial burden. Of course, the transfer of technology should be done within the rule o f law. It starts with research and development, cooperation between technology developers and technology seekers, intellectual property rights, cooperative agreements, licensing, and finally, the transfer of knowledge, technical know-how and equipment

Ph t

F u i

The poll er pays pri ciple I 1987 th Bru report on ur Common Future introdu ed a new concept called Sustainable Development It stated that it should meet the needs of the present without compromising the abilit of future generations to meet their own needs This concept has to balance three principal requirements (1) the efficient management of natural resources (the economic management); (2) the need to reduce the pollution load on the ecos stem in order to maintain the natural basis for life (the environmental objective); and (3) the need for all levels of societ to have a decent living and to address economic inequalities (the social objective). For sustainabilit to work requires actions at all levels of societ governments businesses manufacturers educational institutions organi ations and ordinary people around the world. Included in this concept is the Polluter-pays principle that since the early 1970s has been a dominant concept in environmental laws. This principle, however, has so far found little respect in developing countries as GDP is used as the indicator of the well-being of society. Unfortunately GDP neglects the negative impacts on the environment and human health. In the 20th century, the priority of economic growth was the most important idea. That is, the economists did not take into account nature and its finite resources. Infinite economic growth with finite resources is an impossible goal. In view of the great environmental damage done during the past century, a new type of economy has emerged: Ecological Economics. It includes the cost of the damage caused by pollution on the ecosystem. The severe water, soil and air pollution in China is a good example of what happens when the environmental aspect is neglected or when investment in economic development is much greater than in environmental development. The difference leads to pollution and damage of ecosystem.

How can the contamination of the air we breathe, the water we drink and food we eat, be stopped? Much environmental harm is caused by producers who externalize their waste management activities such as transfer of toxic waste from developed to developing countries or simply dumping their toxic solid waste anywhere on land and even in the sea. And factories emitting unfiltered and untreated fumes into the atmosphere or discharging untreated wastewater into rivers. They pay little damage or nothing at all for the harm they inflict on nature. This situation is very common in developing countries ; their environmental legislation is not severe enough and is not reinforced. This is when the polluter-pays principle makes a lot of sense. The polluter-pays principle states that polluters must bear the cost of environmental damage done by the pollution they generate. An example of this principle is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. A drilling rig leased by the oil company BP set off a blaze and sank about 80 km off the coast of Louisiana. Crude oil began streaming out of a broken pipe. The leak lasted for several weeks at a rate of around 800 m 3/day. According to the polluter-pays principle, whatever the cause of the leak, BP will have to bear the cost for the cleanup, and for the environmental and economic damage done along the coast of Louisiana. The picture below illustrates the consequence of the oil leak.

Photo Google: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Any decision on a new industrial development project should be based on a life-cycle assessments analysis. Included is environmental risk and management. There is also the need for a carbon tax high enough to encourage companies to invest in green technology. On the other hand, although it has some merit, trading in carbon emission permits opens the doors to abuse by the worst polluters buying additional permits to continue polluting. As long as a company is not paying for the environmental damage it causes, contamination of water, land and the atmosphere will continue, and will give the ecosystem less time to recover.

A new beginning The Cancun Summit has, indeed, made progress to mitigate climate change. The future will tell whether the agreements reached can be carried out. There is always a big gap between 7

what is said and what is done. The credibility of the summit will depend on concrete results. The challenge the participating countries have to tackle first is how to share the financial burden between developed and developing nations. A common effort and a compromise are required to respect the agreements. We know that no agreement is perfect or complete, and therefore it needs to be revised regularly in view of new scientific evidence and better statistical models. The recent great floods in Pakistan, Brazil and Australia, should make every citizen realize that something unusual is happening to our planet. Without the rule of law and transparency of what is and not of what should be no significant progress can be made in the fight against climate change. Without doubt a strong carbon tax is necessary to invest more in research and development on how to prevent global warming, to save the forests, and to build a low carbon economy. Better environmental legislation and its reinforcement is also necessity to curb GHG emissions. Looking at human nature, however, I wonder whether there is enough political will to take the necessary measures to keep the world rising temperature below the 2C limit. We live on a turbulent planet where money has become god. The developing countries want to have the same standard of living as the West. This is understandable as each responsible person tries to improve the living condition for his/her family. But the excesses of the West in terms of standard of living and waste, is not a reference to developing countries. And the West is not yet ready to live on less. What we buy today, within six months, 94% of it goes to waste. This indicates that we don t always need what we buy, or what we buy is of poor quality. Habits are difficult to change whether or not it has a negative impact on the ecosystem. To save our planet must be a goal of each citizen. Today all environmental indicators show that the world population lives above its means. Because of a market economy, consumerism, and the greed of human nature for more and more, Planet Earth lives an unsustainable life style. It lives on the capital of its natural resources, rather than on its interests. For how long can this trend continue with a growing world population and a planet with finite resources? Let s hope that a better understanding between nations on climate issues will lead to progress and greater environmental awareness. It should be a new beginning.

Photo: Jean Faullimmel

JF/03/02/2011