Selected category: UN negotiations

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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Brazil's climate pledge is significant, but falls short on curbing deforestation

Amazon rainforest. Credit: Adrian Cowell, used by EDF with permission.

This post was co-authored by Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and Steve Schwartzman of EDF.

Brazil did the UN climate change negotiations – and hopefully, the planet – some good Sunday when President Dilma Rousseff announced emissions reductions targets in the UN General Assembly. However, it missed an opportunity do itself and the planet much more good.

President Rousseff deserves credit above all for announcing an absolute, economy-wide, emissions reductions target, rather than reductions below a business-as-usual projection, or a “carbon intensity” target. The goal is a 37% reduction by 2025 and 43% by 2030, both in relation to 2005. She also spoke promisingly of “decarbonizing” Brazil’s economy.

Brazil’s announcement is an important contribution to a successful agreement in the UN climate talks in Paris

Brazil has thus aligned itself with other major emitters, such as the U.S., China and the European Union, which have committed to becoming part of the solution to climate change. And the decision by one of the world’s most important emerging economies to take on an absolute emissions reduction target provides yet another signal that the world has moved on from the Kyoto Protocol approach of dividing the world sharply into “developed” and “developing” countries — a division that has helped lead to deadlock in the negotiations. For both reasons, Brazil’s announcement represents an important contribution to a successful agreement in the UN climate talks in Paris this December.

While the announcement did not go into detail, it is clear that these targets can only be met if Brazil sustains the 80% reduction in Amazon deforestation by 2020 in its National Climate Change Policy, passed by Congress in 2009.

Beyond this, the devil-in-the-details starts to show his face. Read More »

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Ensuring ambition in the land-use sector through the Paris climate agreement

Representatives from countries around the globe met in Bonn, Germany this month to work on what could be the world’s most grueling but important group project: consolidating 90 pages of text into a global climate agreement to be finalized in Paris this December.

Governments and civil society organizations have more work to do before Paris, including ensuring land use is treated in a simple, flexible and ambitious way in the global agreement.

One sector that could play a fundamental role in the agreement is the land-use sector, which includes agriculture, forestry, wetland management, and other land management practices.

The land-use sector contributes about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it also has great potential to reduce emissions, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, improve rural livelihoods, and promote countries’ ability to adapt to a changing climate. The land use sector could also be an important part of countries’ emission reduction targets after 2020, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Read More »

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New climate commitments from subnational governments set strong example for Paris


Twelve states and provinces representing 100 million people from seven countries have committed to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) hosted the May 19 event in Sacramento commemorating the official signing of the agreement by so-called "subnational" state and provincial governments.

The Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding is part of a growing momentum on climate action in the lead-up to the UN climate talks that will be taking place in Paris at the end of the year.

The founding signatories of the agreement are from three continents and have a combined GDP of $4.5 trillion, which would constitute the fourth largest economic entity in the world; they are:

Acre, Brazil*
Baden-Württemberg, Germany*
Baja California, Mexico*
British Columbia, Canada
California, United States*
Catalonia, Spain*
Jalisco, Mexico*
Ontario, Canada*
Oregon, United States
Vermont, United States
Wales, United Kingdom
Washington, United States





(* indicates the jurisdiction attended the May 19 signing ceremony)

The signers committed that by 2050 they would cut total emissions 80-95% percent below 1990 levels or achieve a per capita emissions target of below two metric tons.

The agreement is being referred to as the “Under 2 MOU,” a play both on this per capita target of two metric tons, and the goal of limiting global temperature rise to under 2 degrees, which Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists say is needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Read More »

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Lima climate talks: What really happened.


At the Lima climate negotiations, negotiators reached a narrow outcome that provided a little more clarity on the path to reaching a new international climate agreement in Paris in 2015. Source: Flickr (UNEP)

In the wee hours of last Sunday morning, negotiators at the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, finally concluded this year’s talks with a narrow outcome that provided a little more clarity on the path to reaching a new international climate agreement during the December 2015 talks in Paris.

Although the talks have been characterized as the “first time” all countries have agreed to cut emissions, that’s actually not the case.

Although the talks have been characterized as the “first time” that all countries have agreed to cut emissions, that’s actually not the case. That key development came in South Africa in 2011, where the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action established a process to develop a new agreement “applicable to all Parties” (the same accord that will be finalized in Paris).

And Durban itself built on the progress made in 2009 in the Copenhagen Accord, which included pledges by developing as well as developed countries to undertake mitigation actions. That put a crack in the so-called “firewall” that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol had raised between developed countries (which took on binding emissions reductions) and developing countries (which did not).

Nonetheless, the Lima Call for Climate Action did take an important step forward in reaffirming this trend.

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Lima climate talks showcase another path to global climate action: through states, provinces and cities

Kevin de Leon Peru COP

California state Senate President Kevin de León arrives at the conference center for the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru. Image used with permission from Senator de León.

The chattering classes of the climate policy world are abuzz with their customary post-mortems following the latest breathless two-week session of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change 20th Conference of Parties (also known simply as COP 20), held in Lima, Peru.

Consensus is forming around a “slightly better than nothing” assessment of the Lima Call for Climate Action, which was adopted in the wee hours of Sunday amidst the usual skirmishes over money, monitoring, and mandates.

Lima clarified some of the expected content of the national pledges (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” INDCs in COP shorthand) to be presented by all countries next year.

Notwithstanding the softness engendered by the word “intended,” at least we aren’t firmly stuck in the “old world order” where only developed countries are taking on mitigation actions.

Subnational cooperation and pathways to climate progress outside UN process

While nations squabbled about intentions, another story was playing out on the sidelines of the COP, showcasing real, groundbreaking and consequential progress at the subnational level – within states, provinces, and cities.

After spending the vast majority of my time in Lima with innovative and dynamic subnational leaders, I came away with an unbridled sense of optimism and renewed hope that there are pathways to climate progress, even if many of them go around rather than through the formal UN process.

Read More »

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