Author Archives: Alex Hanafi

How a Coalition of Carbon Markets Can Complement the Paris Agreement and Accelerate Deep Reductions in Climate Pollution


International cooperation is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of keeping warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. While the Paris Agreement provides several market- and transparency-related tools that can help spur international cooperation, countries must now create the coalitions needed to move forward with implementation. Image Source: Jorge Royan

As countries gather here in Bonn, Germany to begin the work of translating the historic Paris Agreement into action, there is widespread recognition that individual countries’ carbon-cutting pledges must be strengthened in the coming years to deliver the ambitious long term goal agreed in Paris: keep warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and achieve global net zero emissions before 2100.

The Paris Agreement provides several market- and transparency-related tools that can help spur the international cooperation necessary to achieve its long term goal, including provisions that facilitate high-integrity, “bottom-up” linkages of domestic carbon markets to cut carbon pollution. These linkages (described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement as “cooperative approaches”) promise to reduce costs, and unlock the finance needed to drive deeper global emissions reductions. The agreement on cooperative approaches in Paris reflects the widespread recognition among nations that carbon markets, accompanied by a clear, comprehensive transparency framework, will help drive the deep emissions reductions needed to prevent the most severe impacts of climate change.

With the urgency of climate action clear, the key challenge now becomes: how can we accelerate the international cooperation needed to solve the Paris equation?

One concrete step, drawing on the cooperative approaches provisions of the Paris Agreement, would be to establish a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions to catalyze the development and increase the ambition of domestic carbon markets.   Much as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) helped broaden participation and ambition in trade, a voluntary coalition of carbon market jurisdictions (CCM) could expand the scope and maximize the cost-effectiveness of ambitious climate action around the globe.

Why coordinate on carbon markets?

As carbon markets continue to expand, coordination among jurisdictions using or considering carbon markets – especially on the rules and standards needed to ensure environmental integrity and maximize cost-effectiveness – will give governments and the private sector the confidence to go faster and farther in reducing their climate-warming pollution.

A coalition of carbon markets can help deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and catalyze the deep global emissions reductions that climate science demands.

Although the Paris Agreement provides a framework for international cooperation on carbon markets, it is ultimately up to countries to work together to agree the detailed rules necessary for international carbon markets to drive emissions down and investment up.

The good news is that groups of countries can make substantial, early progress, ultimately informing and complementing the longer-term UNFCCC process.


“Minilateral” efforts can stimulate faster, deeper emissions cuts and strengthen international cooperation

Rapid and early emissions cuts are the single most important determinant of whether the global community is likely to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). And delaying necessary action to reduce global warming pollution dramatically increases costs to the global economy.

For both the climate and our economies, not all emissions reductions are the same:  the earlier, the better.

That’s why it is so important that Article 6 of the Paris Agreement affirmed that cooperative emissions trading between countries can continue and expand while multilateral accounting guidelines are developed. Transactions will need to be “consistent with” any multilateral guidance developed by Parties to the Paris Agreement over the coming years – particularly to ensure that the same emission reductions are not claimed toward more than one mitigation pledge (“double counted”).

A “minilateral” coalition of carbon markets could complement efforts under the UNFCCC by fostering agreement on detailed standards for the accounting, transparency, and environmental integrity of internationally transferred emissions units. These “nuts and bolts” standards, which will help avoid errors in tallying up total emissions and traded units, form the bedrock of high-integrity emissions trading. Early agreement would give countries the confidence to move forward quickly in implementing their Paris pledges and a basis for increasing their ambition over time.

Practically speaking, future UNFCCC guidance on cooperative approaches will likely be influenced by working examples of international emissions trading, making the success of a carbon markets coalition an important precedent for broader cooperation on markets in the UNFCCC. This process could mirror recent progress on standards for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+), where technical advances made by countries in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility contributed to greater progress in the UNFCCC.

What’s next?

In Paris, a diverse group of 18 developed and developing countries led by New Zealand announced that they will work quickly together to develop standards and guidelines to ensure the environmental integrity of international market mechanisms.

This group – or another similar coalition – could “set the bar” for market-based climate action by developing robust accounting and transparency standards for environmental and market integrity. Coordinated leadership by forward-looking jurisdictions would help ensure that the growth of international emissions trading is accompanied by enhanced ambition and real, permanent, additional, and verifiable emissions reductions.

Over a longer period, these same guidelines could support the establishment of a common trading framework among a coalition of carbon market jurisdictions. A framework might include mutual recognition of emission units, harmonized approaches to verifying emissions reductions and generating offset credits, and a shared trading infrastructure, which together could ensure environmental integrity and encourage more countries, states, and provinces to cap and price carbon.

Paris began a new, more ambitious chapter in the history of climate action, but much of the chapter is yet to be written. We’re in the race of our lives to finish the work of protecting future generations and building prosperous low-carbon economies. A coalition of carbon markets can help deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and catalyze the deep global emissions reductions that climate science demands.

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7 reasons the Paris Agreement signing actually matters


United States and more than 160 other countries set to formally sign the Paris Agreement on Earth Day 2016. Photo: Secretary Kerry Sits With UN Secretary-General Ban Before a Bilateral Meeting at COP21 in Paris.
Image Source: U.S. Department of State

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has invited countries to sign the Paris Agreement at the UN headquarters in New York on April 22, the first day the Agreement is open for signature. Here are seven reasons why the Earth Day ceremony is important.

1) The April 22 signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement is expected to shatter the record for the most countries to formally sign an international agreement in a single day.

Representatives from more than 160 countries (and counting – see the latest at the UN site), including sixty heads of state, will be in New York to signal their commitment to the Agreement struck in Paris last December. This would surpass the previous record of 119 signatures, set by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982.

The Paris Agreement aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. This record-breaking signing ceremony demonstrates the political momentum behind the Agreement’s global plan to tackle climate change.

2) Signing is the next step for countries to join the agreement, but is not the end of the story.

Signing the Agreement in New York sends a strong and early signal of a country’s intention to launch its domestic processes necessary to join the Agreement. Once those processes are concluded, Governments will formally deposit with the United Nations Secretary-General, who is the depositary of the Paris Agreement, their “instrument of ratification, approval, acceptance or accession,” by which they formally join – and consent to be bound by – the Agreement.

Some nations will sign and join the Agreement on the same day, since they have already completed the necessary domestic procedures back home. States that don’t sign on April 22 still retain the ability to join the Agreement later.

3) The content and structure of the Paris Agreement means the U.S. can join quickly.

Like the vast majority of international agreements that the U.S. joins, the Paris Agreement does not require Senate action. Presidents from Washington onward — including Ronald Reagan, who did it 14 times in his second term — concluded agreements like this as “executive agreements,” based on existing executive authorities.

These executive agreements have the same binding force domestically as any other international treaty or agreement the U.S. joins. As long as the U.S. president has authority under existing U.S. law to implement the Paris Agreement’s provisions, the pathway to U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement is open, and does not need to include a stop in the Senate.

As it did with the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the U.S. can join the Agreement by simply depositing a brief formal document (called an “instrument of acceptance”) with the UN.

4) Early implementation of the Paris Agreement is now more likely.

Language in the draft agreement preventing it from taking effect until 2020 was dropped during the final stages of negotiations in Paris, so the Agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions join.

Together with important statements from the U.S. and China (which together represent almost 38% of the world’s emissions) indicating they will sign the Agreement on April 22, and formally join the Agreement this year, the record-breaking signing ceremony means that many countries are on the path to joining the Agreement soon.

The Paris Agreement is likely to enter into force well before 2020, and possibly by 2017, making the provisions of the Agreement legally binding on those countries that have joined. Early entry into force offers the opportunity to accelerate a global transition to the prosperous, carbon-neutral economies of the future, and better address the needs of those communities in the U.S. and abroad that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

5) Momentum is building for markets to play a central role in meeting the ambitious climate goals agreed in Paris, and called for by science.

The groundswell of international support for the Paris Agreement contributes to confidence that countries can achieve the Paris Agreement’s vision of international cooperation on carbon markets to reduce emissions. Only by harnessing the ingenuity and creativity of business, entrepreneurs, and innovators will we be able to drive down emissions fast enough and far enough to achieve the reductions that the science demands. An April 14 report by EDF and the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) found countries can surpass their Paris pledges by pricing carbon through carbon markets.

By affirming a role for carbon markets, the Paris Agreement recognizes the realities already on the ground, where emission trading systems are at work in over 50 jurisdictions home to nearly 1 billion people. When China adopts a national carbon trading system, beginning in 2017, that number will rise to 2 billion – almost a third of the world’s population.

The Paris Agreement provides a framework for cooperation among jurisdictions, but nations still must step up with effective and transparent domestic carbon markets. Almost half of all countries have already either stated their intention to use international carbon markets to cut their carbon pollution, or are already employing them domestically, at the national or subnational level.

6) Accelerated action on forest protection is a key to global and national efforts to reduce emissions.

Many of the countries participating in the New York signing ceremony are taking important steps to protect their forests, under an agreed international framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Forests are the only sector specifically mentioned in the Paris Agreement, signaling political recognition of the urgent need for better protections as well as financial incentives that confirm that forests are more valuable alive than dead. Outside of the climate negotiations, Germany, Norway and the UK confirmed their support by pledging $5 billion in REDD+ funding between 2015-2020, while developing countries presented their progress on creating and implementing REDD+ programs.

7) Clear and growing momentum to implement the Paris Agreement shines a spotlight on the next big climate win the world needs: adoption of a global market-based measure in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

International aviation wasn’t covered in the Paris Agreement, due in part to these emissions falling outside national emissions accounts. However, the UN’s aviation arm is working on a deal this fall that would limit emissions from this rapidly growing sector. ICAO is developing a proposal for airlines to offset all emissions above 2020 levels through high-quality, rigorously verified emissions reductions in other sectors – such as through reductions in emissions from deforestation, achieved under the UNFCCC's "REDD+ Framework". A cap on aviation at 2020 levels could achieve 8 billion tons of emissions reductions in the next two decades – reductions that would otherwise not be obtained under the Paris Agreement.

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Solving the “Paris equation”: The role of carbon markets in meeting the Paris Agreement’s ambitious goals

Source: UN,

Source: Flickr, UN Photo/Mark Garten

As nations around the world consider the results of the historic climate agreement reached at the 21st annual climate talks in Paris last December, one thing is clear: the Paris Agreement is contributing to – and a sign of – growing momentum around the world to address climate change. For the first time in history, nearly all the countries of the world have put forward concrete pledges to cut pollution and address the impacts of climate change on local communities.

Two significant outcomes of the Paris Agreement reflect that momentum:

  1. A more ambitious global goal, in which nations agreed to hold warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and “pursue efforts” to limit warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. A requirement that nations come back to the table every five years to strengthen their individual pledges, in order to achieve their collective goal over time.

While the pathway necessary to limit warming to 2.7 or even 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit is not specified by the Paris Agreement, nations did agree that they would achieve a “balance” between anthropogenic (i.e., human-caused) emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and anthropogenic removals by so-called carbon sinks, such as via reforestation or afforestation, “in the second half of this century.” That translates to the following simple equation, which nations agreed to solve no later than 2100:

(anthropogenic emissions of GHGs) – (anthropogenic removal of GHGs by forests and other sinks) = 0

Notably, nations also provided several market- and transparency-related tools that could help solve this “Paris equation”:

  • Provisions that facilitate high-integrity, “bottom-up” linkages of domestic carbon markets to cut carbon pollution. These linkages (described in the Agreement as “cooperative approaches”) promise to reduce costs, and unlock the finance needed to drive deeper global emissions reductions;
  • A new, centralized market mechanism, governed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to reduce GHG emissions and contribute to sustainable development; and
  • An enhanced transparency framework, requiring regular reporting and review of all nations’ climate efforts.

These three elements of the Paris Agreement reflect the widespread recognition among nations that carbon markets accompanied by a clear, comprehensive transparency framework will help drive the deep emissions reductions called for by science.


What the Paris Agreement means for carbon markets

By affirming a role for carbon markets in international climate cooperation, the Paris Agreement recognizes the realities already on the ground, where emission trading systems are at work in over 50 jurisdictions home to nearly 1 billion people. When China adopts a national carbon trading system, beginning in 2017, that number will rise to 2 billion – almost a third of the world’s population.

Figure 1:  Existing, Emerging, and Potential Carbon Pricing Jurisdictions

And more than half of the world’s countries are using, or plan to use, carbon markets to stimulate the innovation and investment needed to meet their Paris climate pledges.

With the UN now blessing the growing use of bottom-up cooperation between jurisdictions to link their markets and spur greater efficiency, as California and Quebec have done, the challenge now becomes how to accelerate the transparent, high-integrity international cooperation needed to solve the Paris equation.  That cooperation – needed both inside and outside the UNFCCC – is the subject of my next post.

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How carbon markets are driving deeper, faster pollution cuts in Paris climate pledges

Among the 170+ countries that have submitted their carbon-cutting plans — known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or “INDCs” — more than half have either stated their intention to use international carbon markets to tackle carbon pollution, or are already employing them domestically. Image source: cropped INDC map from IETA's INDC Tracker

With only a few days before nations meet in Paris to negotiate an inclusive post-2020 structure for global climate cooperation under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we already know that the world will be entering a new paradigm of climate action, in which all nations play a role in the collective fight against climate change.

We also know that while the emissions reductions pledged for 2025 or 2030 by over 170 countries over the course of this year are significant, aggressive additional action well beyond 2030 will be necessary to meet the internationally agreed goal of limiting global average atmospheric warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That goal is the upper limit agreed by the international community, at a level that scientists believe would likely avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Because the Paris pledges mark only the beginning of a new era of climate cooperation, it is imperative that an effective international climate agreement promotes greater and greater ambition as it matures. A successful Paris agreement can thus set the stage for the world to turn the corner on global emissions.

Even before they arrive in Paris, countries have started identifying effective tools that can be used to accelerate ambition over time, so that the UNFCCC’s objective – to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” – can be met.

Read More »

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Why recent climate pledges show we're in a new paradigm of climate action

More than 150 countries, in blue, have submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The pledges account for approximately 90% of greenhouse gas emissions. Source: WRI CAIT Climate Data Explorer as of Nov. 3, 2015.

With urgent action needed to limit the carbon pollution that is already affecting the lives of millions around the world, the global community has been watching closely the post-2020 emissions targets (known as “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” or INDCs) that countries are announcing over the course of this year.

The informal deadline for submission of these INDCs was October 1, and as of now, more than 150 countries have stepped forward to publish their INDCs and allow public review. These include the world’s biggest carbon polluters by absolute quantity: China, the United States, the EU, and India.

All told, we now know the post-2020 emissions pledges of countries accounting for approximately 90% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

These INDCs will form an important part of a new, global climate agreement that 195 countries aim to complete in Paris this December. INDCs provide an opportunity to take a sneak peek not only into our post-2020 emissions future, but also at the tools and policies countries believe can help drive the deep reductions in carbon pollution needed to avert the worst effects of climate change. Read More »

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Advancing transnational governance of geoengineering research

This post was co-authored by Alex Hanafi and Andy Parker, and originally appeared on The Washington Geoengineering Consortium.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its last report in a three-part series  assessing the latest data and research on climate change.  The new report discusses actions we can take to limit the magnitude and rate of climate change, while previous reports focused on the scientific basis for climate change, and on potential ways to reduce vulnerability to the risks presented by our rapidly changing climate.

The morning sun reflects on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean as seen from the Apollo 7 spacecraft during its 134th revolution of the Earth on Oct. 20, 1968. Image Credit: NASA

The morning sun reflects on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean as seen from the Apollo 7 spacecraft during its 134th revolution of the Earth on Oct. 20, 1968. Image Credit: NASA

For the first time, these IPCC reports also include significant attention to the topic of “solar radiation management” or SRM.  Also known as “solar geoengineering,” SRM describes a controversial set of theoretical proposals for cooling the Earth, and thereby potentially counteracting the temperature-related impacts of climate change, by reflecting a small amount of inbound solar energy back into space.

With the impacts of rising temperatures already being felt and the IPCC drawing into sharper focus the range of impacts expected in the coming decades, SRM is attracting increasing attention as a potential cheap, fast-acting, albeit temporary response to some of the dangers of climate change.

SRM’s potential effects are only poorly understood, however.  And most discussions to date on SRM research governance, as well as most research activities, have taken place in developed countries.  Yet people in developing countries are often most vulnerable both to climate change, and any potential efforts to respond to it.  The scientific, ethical, political, and social implications of SRM research are necessarily global. Discussions about governance of SRM research should be as well.

Recognizing these needs, in 2010 the Royal SocietyEnvironmental Defense Fund (EDF), and TWAS (The World Academy of Sciences) launched the SRM Governance Initiative (SRMGI), an international NGO-driven initiative, to explore how SRM research could be governed. SRMGI’s activities are founded on a simple idea: that early and sustained dialogue among diverse stakeholders around the world, informed by the best available science, will increase the chances of SRM research being managed responsibly, transparently, and cooperatively.

SRMGI is neither for nor against SRM. Instead, it aims to foster inclusive, interdisciplinary, and international discussion on SRM research and governance.

Much of the work of SRMGI concentrates on bringing in new voices and perspectives, particularly from the developing world. For example, in late 2013, SRMGI and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) published a report on a series of SRM research governance workshops held around Africa in 2012 and 2013.  These workshops were made possible by funding from the IAP (the global network of science academies) and UNESCO. The workshops took place in Senegal, South Africa, and Ethiopia in 2012 and early 2013, bringing in over 100 participants from 21 different African countries.

The workshops followed the same approach developed by SRMGI at previous meetings held in China, India, Pakistan and the UK, with three factors perhaps most important to their success:

First, local partnerships have been crucial. As with previous local SRMGI partners (such as the Sustainable Development Policy Institutein Pakistan, or the Council on Energy, Environment and Water in India), AAS’s convening power, networks of experts, and reputation were invaluable assets.

Second, participant interaction is prioritized over expert lectures.  After introductory talks on the science of SRM and the range of socio-political concerns it raises, discussion turns to local participants drawn from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. Quickly breaking down into small groups, they are encouraged to explore and express their own concerns, hopes and ideas regarding SRM research and governance.

A third important element of SRMGI’s success has been the decision to avoid identifying preferred or consensus options among different governance arrangements. Instead, SRMGI aims to ‘open up’ discussions of SRM governance by exploring and recording the different perspectives and options that participants express—from no special governance to complete prohibition of research activities.  Knowing that there is no meeting statement to sway, and that opinions will simply be discussed and recorded, often leads to a broad and thoughtful exchange. This decision to avoid “picking winners” has been seen among both developed and developing country stakeholders as a key component in establishing trust and encouraging participation in SRMGI activities.

To build the capacity for an informed global dialogue on geoengineering governance, a critical mass of well-informed individuals throughout the world must be developed, and they must talk to each other, as well as to their own networks. An expanding spiral of distinct, but linked outreach processes could help build the cooperative bridges needed to manage potential international conflicts, and will help ensure that if SRM technologies develop, they do so cooperatively and transparently, not unilaterally.

With SRM research in its infancy, but interest in the topic growing, the IPCC’s inclusion of SRM in its report is a reminder of the importance of establishing governance mechanisms to ensure that where SRM research does proceed, it is safe, ethical, and subject to appropriate public oversight and independent evaluation. Well-informed voices from civil society and other stakeholders can play an important role in guiding these evolving international discussions.

No one can predict how SRM research will develop or whether these strategies for managing the short-term implications of climate change will be helpful or harmful.  But early cooperation and transnational, interdisciplinary dialogue on geoengineering research governance will make it more likely that the global community can make informed decisions about research into SRM and other emerging geoengineering technologies.


Alex Hanafi is Senior Manager of Multilateral Climate Strategy at EDF, where he coordinates a range of research and advocacy programs designed to promote effective policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the globe.




Andrew Parker

Andy Parker is a Research Fellow in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  His research focuses on the politics and governance of solar geoengineering.




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