Monthly Archives: December 2009

Clinton Says Lack of Transparency is a "Deal Breaker"

The big news from Copenhagen this morning: U.S. Secretary of  State Hillary Clinton's announcement that transparency is absolutely necessary for any U.S. participation in financing a global climate change treaty.

Saying the U.S. is "ready to do its part," Clinton pledged that the U.S. would raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries fight climate change — but ONLY if all countries agree to binding and verifiable emissions cuts.

Clinton made the condition crystal clear:

If there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, that is a kind of deal breaker for us… In the absence of an operational agreement that meets the requirements that I outlined, there will not be that kind of financial commitment, at least from the United States.

Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp applauded Clinton's speech for its "sharp focus" on the need for transparency in any international climate agreement:

Transparency — knowing whether countries are living up to their commitments — is the linchpin of an effective global effort. The details of how we measure progress and hold countries accountable to their commitments can be worked out over the coming months. The single most critical goal here in Copenhagen is a commitment by all nations to address transparency … The outlines of an agreement are taking shape. But they could be erased if transparency is blocked or diluted.

Assuming all countries do commit to transparency, Clinton says the $100 billion per year would come from a wide variety of sources, including the public and private sectors in the U.S. and other developed nations.

You can watch Clinton's entire news conference from Copenhagen.

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Ode to the Copenhagen conference center

EDF has been at the climate talks in Denmark for more than a week now.

We’ve learned a lot in that time – and not just about international climate policy. We’ve also learned a lot about the logistics and culture of the Bella Center – the conference center where the talks are taking place.

Main hall of the Bella Center, where the UN climate change conference is being held

Main hall of the Bella Center, where the UN climate change conference is being held

But the Bella Center is now off limits for many conference participants.  As of this morning, the UN is limiting entrance “for security reasons” to just 15,000 people, out of the 40,000+ people who signed up.

As many of us are now working offsite, in nearby apartments or cafes, we find ourselves reminiscing about the sprawling, confusing, but generally beautiful Bella Center.  Here are some of our insights:

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Most surprising sight

Beer, wine, and consumers of both: the food stands in the conference center serve alcohol all day long, and – surprising to us Americans – you pour your own beer from the tap.

Least surprising sight

Large crowds and VERY tight security – the combination of which led to six-hour-plus lines for admission and the eventual 15,000-person cap on entrance to the conference center.

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Best reminder we’re actually in the holiday season

The carolers dressed as elves, singing 12 Days of Christmas with climate-themed lyrics.

Worst reminder we’re actually in the holiday season

Temperatures hovering around freezing, sunrise at 8:30 am and sunset at 3:30 pm.

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Things that kept us going

  1. the FREE fair-trade dark chocolate squares: dangerously abundant and available at every food stand.
  2. Barista coffee stands: once we found them, we couldn’t go back to the automatic coffee machines. (Caffeine is utterly necessary in an environment where people are routinely working 15 or 16 hour days filled with tight deadlines.)
  3. Power strips: there’s brutal competition for places to plug in the computers, BlackBerries, cell phones, cameras, and other gadgets that are ubiquitous at the conference.  People often stake out a table with its own outlet and squat there all day. The lust for electric outlets might seem odd for a bunch of energy-saving environmentalists, but on the plus side, we’re saving a lot of paper.
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Two New Polls on Global Warming

Two new polls released today have some good news for the fight against climate change.

First, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll:

A solid majority of Americans support the idea of a global treaty that would require the United States to reduce significantly greenhouse gas emissions.

The poll found that:

  • 55 percent endorse a binding accord to limit greenhouse gases
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of young people ages 18 to 29 support an accord

USA Today says the results should provide some encouragement for President Obama as he gets ready for his trip to Copenhagen.

A separate Associated Press-Stanford University poll finds that most Americans think fighting climate change will be good for our economy.

  • 40 percent say U.S. action to slow global warming will create jobs
  • 46 percent say it would boost the economy.
  • Less than one third say it will hurt the economy or result in fewer jobs

AP calls it:

A sign the public is showing more faith in President Barack Obama's economic arguments for limiting heat-trapping gases than in Republican claims that the actions would kill jobs.

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Schwarzenegger Previews Regional Coalition to Fight Climate Change

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and regional leaders from around the world announced their plans to create of a new Club of 20 Regions (R20) last night in Copenhagen.

The coalition, which is scheduled to officially launch in September, will highlight the vital role that "subnational" governments, such as states and provinces, play in fighting climate change.

Schwarzenegger has been the pacesetter for the subnational movement since he signed the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) three years ago.  That groundbreaking legislation allowed the state of California to set a cap on global warming emissions – something that previously had only been talked about in terms of national policy.

Schwarzenegger says:

Action is needed at the national and international levels to reduce the effects of global warming, but California has shown that state and regional governments can also institute policies on their own that will see real environmental improvements and grow green jobs … R20 will help pave the way in the transition to a green economy.

Schwarzenegger says the R20 will:

  • Develop a shared vision for global security and prosperity
  • Pursue adaptation strategies to address current and future climate change
  • Mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
  • Support public-private partnerships and the use of finance mechanisms to address global warming
  • Promote technology transfer and capacity building agreements

State and regional governments are laboratories for clean energy and sustainability solutions that play an important role in fighting global warming.  California continues to be a key proving ground and has helped advance the critical issue of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) by partnering with Brazilian and Indonesian states in the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF). 

At a jam-packed event last night, moderated by EDF's own Steve Schwartzman, several Brazilian Governors highlighted their state’s REDD plans and talked about the value of subnational collaboration in deploying innovative solutions to preserve forests. 

EDF thinks subnational actions make great environmental and economic sense, and help build momentum for national and international action. We look forward to watching R20 take off.

Read more about the announcement in China Daily's article.

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Brazil Commitment to Climate on Display

With the world’s largest tropical forest and a mostly hydro-powered economy, Brazil has been very busy with efforts to curb deforestation and use the resulting avoided emissions to fight climate change.

In Copenhagen, with a modest bit of help from EDF, several top Brazilian officials put their commitment to forest protection and green growth on display.

At the Mogens Dahl Center, just up the road from the Bella Center where UN climate talks are taking place, last night's Amazon Governor's Forum featured six state governors and Brazil's Environment Minister speaking about REDD. (That's the UN acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, a policy approach to curbing deforestation.)

Brazil has become a global leader in curbing deforestation, developing mapping and monitoring systems to track forest cover, and creating legal systems to protect it. With a tropical forest half the size of the continental United States, officials know they need to be active players in climate talks -and most likely in emissions trading – to tap the resources they'll need.

Minister Carlos Minc told an audience of 250 people, two TV networks and a crowd of other journalists that Brazil will need public funds but also can't snub market financing for REDD.

While the governors were busy at the Mogens Dahl Center, three of the leading potential contenders for Brazil's presidency swept into the Bella Center – putting to rest any doubts about whether a national commitment to reducing deforestation will outlast 2010 presidential elections.

One possible presidential contender, Marina Silva, a rubber tapper from Brazil's far west state of Acre and a former environment minster, has the other candidates striving mightily to establish their green credentials. Her approach seems to be working for the environment; industrial powerhouse Sao Paolo state has passed an emissions reduction law, and Brazil's congress is looking at the possibility of an ambitious national emissions law.

The Washington Post published a Q and A with Ms. Silva following her recent visit to Capitol Hill.

The other likely presidential contender is Jose Serra, the governor of Sao Paulo. He's expected to be the leading opposition candidate in Brazil’s 2010 presidential race.

The third likely presidential candidate who's here in Copenhagen is Dilma Rousseff of Brazil’s incumbent Workers’ Party. President Lula himself will arrive in Copenhagen later this week.

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Out in the Cold for Global Warming

Thousands of climate advocates from around the world flocked to Copenhagen over the weekend to attend the second week of the UN’s international summit on climate change.

They got a chilly reception.

EDF President Fred Krupp and Media Director Tony Kreindler brave the long lines to get into the conference center for the UN’s climate change

EDF President Fred Krupp and Media Director Tony Kreindler brave the long lines to get into the conference center for the UN’s climate change conference

The summit was so overbooked that the UN and/or Danish security couldn't handle registration (each side was blaming the other for the confusion).  The problem, according to the UN, is that the number of people who registered is more than three times the number permitted in the conference center.

Conference participants – including half-a-dozen EDF staff – were stuck outside in the cold and snow flurries for six hours or more; some registered observers never got in at all.

Our compassionate co-workers brought us food, hot tea, and warm socks from inside the conference center, and passed them to us over the security gates and through the crowd.  Fortunately our stubbornness paid off,  and most of us eventually got inside.

On a positive note, we did get to talk with other stranded environmental leaders like Frances Beinecke of NRDC, and make new friends in the crowd of those stuck out in the cold — a crowd that included print reporters and crews for BBC, CNN and Australian TV.

The situation didn't sit so well with reporters. Check out these stories from Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Science News.

In spite of the difficulties, we’re glad the fight against climate change has become so popular.  We’re even more pleased to be thawing out inside the conference center, and to be getting back to work toward a productive outcome.

But by the end of the week, we may be looking back at today fondly, because at least we got inside the conference center.  Starting tomorrow, the UN will begin imposing its own "declining cap" on NGO observers. As the heads of state arrive, available slots will decline from tens of thousands today, to seven thousand tomorrow, to 90 on Friday.   Stay tuned; we'll let you know how it goes.

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