Climate experts’ forum: Are NGOs in danger of sabotaging the talks?

10.2011

Below, you will find Graciela Chichilnisky's response to the following question:

Non-government organisations (NGOs) have been sounding the alarm over details of a possible agreement at Copenhagen, and attacking some of the mechanisms for tackling climate change, such as carbon trading. Are they in danger of sabotaging the talks?

NGOs do not always understand clearly how technical things work. For example they sometimes fear that carbon markets will not help reduce emissions – when if fact the market only functions with firm emissions limits nation by nation and is thus a stricter agreement on world emissions than carbon taxes, which NGOs sometimes prefer.

On the other hand, carbon markets are agreements – only new cleaner technology that carbon markets helps create can physically deliver carbon reductions.

Copenhagen is only about agreements – the actual physical work is not done here.

However NGOs play an important role. They are the voice of reason and often destil public opinion They serve to represent the public – so if there is a misunderstanding we must work harder to clarify it.

So far all drafts circulated in Copenhagen support widely the carbon market for the reasons just explained, and also for its flexibility. There seems to be wide consensus in this respect so far.

Copenhagen must respond to the public opinion – the people of the world NGOs are a voice for global consciousness and they are most welcome as such.

Graciela Chichilnisky is the architect of the carbon market of the Kyoto Protocol and the co-author of Saving Kyoto.

To view all responses, please visit the original article on Financial Times.

Two Competitors Get Into The Ring

09.2011

Original Article on Copenhagen Insider

Two competing draft agreements were leaked Tuesday in Copenhagen, and are circulating among delegations and advocacy groups.  One was prepared by Brazil, South Africa India and China, the second by Denmark, apparently to suit US requirements. The general view is that the former is more balanced vision of the deal than the Danish text.

The Danish draft predictably involves substantially weaker commitments than the former about emissions cuts from the wealthy nations -- who are the main emitters. It also involves a relatively small allocation of funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as technology. All this caused harsh words and the threat of a walk - away from the negotiations from G77 nations and Small Island States.

The major differences revolve around firm limits on emissions nation by nation within the OECD - this was a positive trademark of the Kyoto Protocol that was supported by scientists around the world -- and also about funding for adaptation and mitigation from climate change damages, and technologies to assist developing nations achieve a cleaner form of development in the future

From my viewpoint as architect of the carbon market of the Kyoto Protocol, I find an important development: that the carbon market was generally supported by both sides -- albeit with substantial differences. The carbon market is now trading $120 bn each year, and is expected to become the largest commodity market in the world. It has to be considered a success from the financial view point - and also because it achieved serious reductions in emissions, while changing the prices of goods and services in the world economy - everything that uses energy. The carbon market has helped achieve 20% cut in of EU emissions in just 3 years since it became international law.

Therefore an immediate question is: how do the two competing drafts differ from the Kyoto Protocol that is international law since 2005? Given the difficulties of reaching a new agreement involving more than 190 nations, this is a very practical question. Do we need to reinvent the wheel or - worse yet - do we need to do what could be tantamount to rearranging the chairs in the Titanic?

The climate negotiation is now somewhat strained - and the possibility of a walk - away from poor developing nations who suffer the consequences but have very little in terms of emissions - Africa emits only 3% of the global emissions and Latin America emits about 5% -- a walk away similar to what happened in Barcelona -- lingers in the air.

I believe that what is missing is bold, new positive win - win solutions. This is all negative positioning so far. Win - win solutions are definitely possible. I have proposed a $200 bn CDM related Fund that is underwritten by OECD nations and uses the Kyoto Protocol CDM structure - or a similar track within the Bali agreements to make it easier on the US-- but is based in great measure on private funding. Such a fund could implement substantial win - win solutions involving the expected transformation of the $50 trillion energy infrastructure around the world. There are great investment opportunities in the clean energy field to be had, and there is innovation that can benefit all. This proposed Fund would go a long way to overcome the patent disappointment - or worse - about the US$10 bn per year offer advanced by the Commonwealth ten days ago in Trinidad and Tobago, with PM Gordon Brown at the helm.

There is spade work to be done. We need positive suggestions. We need to update the existing mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol and in the Convention so they can be used for technologies that are "carbon negative" --  that actually cut carbon content of the atmosphere below today's levels rather than reducing emissions. Scientists believe that only this could avert climate change now -- because we have procrastinated too long.

Negative carbon technologies are available and becoming more efficient all the time. They would allow flow of CDM funding to go to poor nations in Africa, Latin America and Small Island States - for example, to build power plants that suck carbon from air. These nations obtain at present little funding compared to China and India who are much larger emitters. Sucking carbon from air was recommended last week by Dr. Pachauri, head of the IPCC. The author is involved in one of three completely separate initiatives in this direction, with a number of scientists and large government and commercial institutions supporting the efforts. This approach can benefit the US in terms of export expansion and the creation of new technology jobs. It is a win - win solution for the global economy - for wealthy and for poor nations - and more of these solutions are need right now in the climate negotiations.

By Graciela Chichilnisky

Director, Columbia Consortium for Risk Management, and Professor of Economics and Statistics, Columbia University

Climate experts’ forum: Should climate sceptics have a greater voice at Copenhagen?

09.2011

Graciela Chichilnisky's response to the question "Should sceptics be given a greater voice at the Copenhagen conference, given that recent polls, particularly in the US, show widespread doubts that climate change is manmade?"  

Yes, sceptics should be given a greater voice in Copenhagen because they are right – nobody can be absolutely sure about climate change – the science is new and uncertain – but at the same time we need to make clear that the issue here in Copenhagen is not about scientific certainty – the issue is the management of a catastrophic risk.

This is what Copenhagen is all about. We buy expensive insurance to protect against the risk of our homes burning – with much less certainty that the house will burn. Closing one’s eyes and crossing the street may not lead to a sure death – but it is the wrong thing to do. In my new book Saving Kyoto we present data showing that the worlwide cost of insuring catastrophes – typhoons, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes – is roughly 2.5 per cent of the value of the asset. We are at Copenhagen becuase we have a global catastrophic risk – whether or not it will happen is not known yet as nobody knows the future. What we are talking about here in Copenhagen is done everyday in the world – manage a catastrophic risk. The largest global catastrophic risk we we ever aware of. Scientific certainty about what will occur is not the issue.

Graciela Chichilnisky is the architect of the carbon market of the Kyoto Protocol and the co-author of Saving Kyoto.

Additional responses are in the original article on Financial Times

Copenhagen Expectations: Climate Experts’ Forum

09.2011

Graciela Chichilnisky in response to FT Energy Source's Question: "What outcomes would you like to see from Copenhagen? And what do you expect will actually happen?"

I would like to see two outcomes.  The first is a unifying solution – one that helps overcome the divide between the wealthy nations that are the major carbon emitters, and the developing nations who face the most daunting risks from climate change. In particular, I would like to see firm commitments from the US and China who are the two largest emitters in the world. This can be obtained with a modest addition I propose, a financial mechanism that is an interpretation of Article 4 of the Convention and allows both nations to each achieve what they want, cutting emissions and achieving acceptable compensation at the same time. The proposal is a modest extension of the carbon market that I designed and drafted into the Kyoto Protocol – but it can also be part of the long term co-operative agreements that were achieved in Bali and incorporate the US.

The second outcome I seek is to integrate negative carbon technologies into the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol in order to allow significant flows of CDM funding to low emission regions such as small island states, Latin America and Africa that had little CDM funding so far.  The purpose is to build power plants that suck carbon from air, using fossil or better yet renewable sources of energy, supporting development to eradicate poverty while averting climate change. My proposal includes the creation of a $200bn a year fund that uses private funding but is underwritten by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations for this purpose. This could spear head win-win solutions for Africa, Latin America, small island states and the OECD nations who would benefit from increased exports and new jobs in the energy industry.

Copenhagen can at most achieve an agreement in principle, with the precise details to be worked out during next year. Along with the negative signals and widespread fears, I perceive a positive undercurrent and expect significant achievements if we keep an open mind and work on ambitious but feasible and practical solutions. This is what I am seeking with the two proposals listed above, which are  relatively modest and eminently feasible – and favour all nations.

If the two outcomes listed above are achieved in principle, this one-two punch can unleash powerful forces for change in the world economy. They can propel us to achieve a resolution of the climate change risks, and of the intractable twin problem of global poverty and the divide between nations. This would be a monumental step forward and could create a very positive momentum, since many people around the world are looking for such solutions.

Graciela Chichilnisky is the architect of the carbon market of the Kyoto Protocol, author of ‘Saving Kyoto’ and a professor of economics at Columbia University.

Visit ft.com to view responses from the other guest panelists: Robert Stavins, Jeremy Leggett, Lord Browne,  and David Jones.