The Strategist

UN is looking for motivation to reduce carbon emissions

11/21/2017 - 04:43

A regular session of the UN climate talks ended in Bonn on the night of Friday to Saturday. The summit’s topics included statements by countries and investors on the plans to exit the coal energy sector, the development of new market mechanisms for the Paris Agreement, as well as attempts to persuade the states to increase the level of emission reduction commitments - amid news that in 2017 global CO2 emissions can start to grow again after a three-year pause.

Dirk Duckhorn via flickr
Dirk Duckhorn via flickr
The formal agenda of the UN climate conference in Bonn was centered around development of the rules of the Paris Agreement (PA) - primarily around the formats and reporting procedures for reducing emissions, adaptation and international climate finance. The set of rules for the implementation of the PA should be approved at the next UN climate talks in Katowice in December 2018. Before that, several more intermediate sessions will take place during the year.

The most heated talks were devoted to formats and principles of the work of the three new economic mechanisms of the PA. The most important task for the negotiators was "to combine incompatible": quota trading and the implementation of joint projects for countries that have both absolute (as a percentage of a certain year) and relative (reducing the carbon intensity per unit of GDP or total emissions per capita). Yet another issue was engagement of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is also gradually planning to introduce emission controls for airlines.

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement implies that countries themselves provide national emission reduction targets. Thus, the main motivation for participating in future market projects comes primarily from the possibility of promoting their technology and business, as well as achieving emission targets for international companies. A number of events in Bonn were devoted to national or regional carbon markets. Thus, at the end of the first week of the climate summit, representatives of the European Parliament and the EU countries agreed on the reform of the EU emissions trading system (ETS), where emission permits for the largest issuers of the EU are traded. It is assumed that the gradual "withdrawal" of unnecessary quotas from the market, reduction in the volume of issuing new emission quotas and other measures will lead to an increase in the price per ton of CO2 (now it amounts to about € 7-8, and the prices have fallen by 70% over the last nine years).

Subnational players, such as cities, regions, companies, were also active in the UN climate talks. The main drivers were American "provincial" regions and companies. They built their own pavilion in the immediate vicinity of the UN conference site to demonstrate low-carbon development in the country even in the conditions of curtailing green initiatives by the administration of Donald Trump. Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown presented the Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Patricia Espinosa with a report on all the "non-federal" climate actions in the country - including initiatives from more than 20 states, 100 cities and almost 1500 companies. The World Resources Institute (Washington) calculate that the total amount of climate commitments of these players can be compared to a country, whose economy ($ 10 trillion) is second only to the US and China. The US official delegation also participated in the negotiations, and even held a series of events to promote nuclear and "clean" coal energy as a solution to the climate problem (activists reacted to this with protests).

In addition, 25 countries and regions announced a moratorium on new coal plants and a gradual decline in coal generation (without carbon capture technology) - among them the United Kingdom, Denmark, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Ethiopia, Chile, Mexico, the North American states of Washington and Oregon, as well as the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Vancouver and Ontario. Germany did not join the alliance, while not announcing plans and deadlines for withdrawing from coal energy. Despite the rapid development of renewable energy in the country, by 2040 the share of RES in power generation in Germany could reach 79%, while the country's goal is 40-45% of RES in electricity production by 2025. This also caused serious criticism of German and international environmentalists.

However, the announced targets are still not enough to limit the increase in world temperature by two degrees Celsius, as required by the Paris Agreement. Moreover, the data of researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project, presented in Bonn, show that greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 can again grow by 2% compared to 2016 (the last three years, despite the growth of global GDP, they were stably at the same level). This is mainly due to the expected growth in the use of coal in China (where emissions also increase) and the US, as well as slowing the rate of emission reductions in the EU.

In this connection, the most vulnerable countries (including the formal chairman of the conference - Fiji) with the support of the EU launched a new negotiating dialogue in order to persuade countries to raise their climate commitments. The so-called rapidly developing countries, including China and India, are yet to be convinced, since they declare that they are not ready to take on big obligations and continue to demand more ambitious actions from developed countries.


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