Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Copenhagen Poker Game, a Climate Ethic?

Last night I attended the Carnegie Council-sponsored Japan Society panel "Copenhagen & Beyond" on the upcoming climate change negotiations in December with experts Masayoshi Arai (METI), Elliot Diringer (Pew Center), Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhenmin Liu, and Takao Shibata (the former chairman of the Kyoto Protocol working group).

As moderator, Jim Efstanthiou of Bloomberg began by noting that no binding climate change deal is expected in Copenhagen this December since rich countries seem to be holding back their cards in a game of climate poker. The panelists basically agreed that the most we can expect in December is a political agreement or declaration since governments simply are not ready to make a deal. Diringer predicted the low end outcome would be a political declaration with "some money on the table." A higher achievement in Copenhagen would spell out the legal and institutional architecture to pave the way for a binding agreement. He said that would represent a success. Even in the Bali meeting, the Dec. 2009 deadline for Copenhagen was seen as "too soon" for agreement on legal commitments. Shibata hoped that the world would avoid the mistake made in Kyoto--producing an agreement that is "unratifiable" in the U.S. Congress. Liu strongly stressed the importance of finding some agreement in Copenhagen; otherwise it would be "a tragedy" for humanity--politicians who said there will be progress will look like liars.

A major theme of the discussion was the ethical principles of the climate change negotiations. Shibata remarked that the Hatoyama Administration's 25 percent greenhouse gas reduction target is contingent upon having a fair and effective global framework for negotiation in place. (By the way, showing how dramatic that goal is, Arai said, Japan's 25 percent target would represent the equivalent of eliminating the greenhouse gases emitted from the entire transport, electricity, or industrial sector in Japan. I have also heard that the Hatoyama goal was sprung on industry and the bureaucracy without consultations and companies are now waiting to see any action taken.)

Fortunately, a fair framework is in place: The overarching global goal is to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference. The intention in the Kyoto Protocol was to include commitments from developing countries but it proved impossible since the commitments from rich countries were incomplete.

In any case, toward achieving this goal, the basic principles from the Kyoto Protocol, which shouldn't be thrown away according to Liu include: 1. global cooperation; 2. common but differentiated responsibility; 3. all states have obligations. Liu advocated for specific quantitative commitments from Annex One (rich) countries while poorer countries should be simply required to "do more," including technology transfer, innovation, and government-to-government cooperation. In other words, Liu said that inter-governmental actions for mutual benefit need to be considered--not just market mechanisms. Efstathiou wondered if we were headed toward "carbon cap equivalents." This description below is from a Center for American Progress article:
With this carbon cap equivalents approach the better measure of what each country is doing is derived by adding up the full range of supplemental and complementary proposals to each country’s carbon cap and converting this into one comparable figure of what these emissions reductions would effectively amount to if they had been the result of a carbon cap alone. The modeling will be complex, but we should open up the language of the hoped-for Copenhagen treaty so that signatory nations can demonstrate their acceptance of the treaty goals through such equivalents—representing the full range of their policy profile to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—above and beyond their formal cap.

Diringer predicted that developing countries will be asked to describe their climate change policies consistent with their development goals but will not be asked to impose economy-wide caps. The framework for developing countries will be flexible but binding so that there will be a stronger collective impact through mutual commitments. As Liu said, it would be unfair to ask developing countries to forgo the benefits of industrialization. Coincidentally, a couple of people questioned the very meaning of the Annexes since economic growth is concentrated in emerging economies.

For rich countries like the United States, the risk is not in adopting climate change mitigation mechanisms or their impact on industrial competitiveness. The idea that climate change mitigation is inconsistent with industrial competitiveness is outdated. Instead, Diringer said, the risk is that the United States will fail to create the incentives to adopt future technologies, like China is trying to do.

The gorilla in the room was enforcement. Fortunately, the final question from the audience was direct: How will states' commitments be enforced? The panel agreed that enforcement mechanisms can't be punitive but rather should be facilitative. Commitments must be clear but not onerous. In that way, countries that fail to meet their commitments will be "named and shamed."

1 comment:

fatem said...

While Copenhage negotiations are one step closer to finding solutions, it is evident that it will lack strong enforcement mechanisms. Besides the fact that developing countries will not benefit from these deals at Copenhagen, but worst, if negotiations have to be a succes, developing countries will fall under the dictate of richer countries and will have to do more work. That is unfair in many respects. The language of these deals, which I am convinced will follow the discourse of dominant countries such as those of North America and Western Europe, will be one in which richer countries will be able to, either go around it or will not ratify just like the Kyoto Protocol.