A long way to go for emission reductions
[* Source: Renewable Watch, Volume 1, No.3, January 2011]
Cancun, a scenic beach side holiday destination in Mexico., saw 194 nations come together for the United nations Climate Change Conference to discuss and negotiate actions that countries need to take to prevent human activity from interfering with the global climate system.
The meeting � referred to as the Sixteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16) and the Sixth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 6) � started on November 29, 2010 and concluded on December 11, 2010 with the Cancun agreement.
The agreement has been successful in weaving together the myriad unilateral and voluntary reduction actions within a multilateral framework. It provides for a comparable and transparent system to measure actual reductions, creates a mechanism for funding developing countries mitigation and adaptation actions, and sets a roadmap for technology development. However, it has failed to agree to an emissions reduction commitment. Renewable Watch brings a summary of the decisions of the agreement that are relevant to the Indian renewable energy community.
Ambitious long-term goal: The agreement has set a goal of limiting the average global warming to below 20C above the pre-industrial levels and seeks periodic reviews to further strengthen this long-term goal. It has stated that the first review of this goal will begin in 2013 and conclude by 2015. It has further set a goal of setting a time frame for the peaking of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a global emissions goal for 2050 by the next meeting of parties.
Emissions reduction targets within multilateral framework with no binding commitment, at least for now: The most contentious issue going into the negotiations was a decision regarding an emissions reduction target. While the European Union had proposed an ambitious reduction target of 20-30 percent below the 1990 levels by 2020, they would not undertake any further targets unless the US did too. The US, on the other hand, was unwilling to be part of any agreement that did not include commitments of reduction by the larger developing countries (or emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa). The developing economies argued that their priorities were poverty and development and the financial burden of shifting to lower carbon technologies should be borne by the developed countries that were responsible for a large portion of the historical GHG emissions.
The Cancun negotiations have helped bring realism in this high�pitched and often emotional debate, which for years had left very little room for a common outcome. The agreement has brought under the multilateral framework the unilateral actions (or voluntary �pledges�) proposed by both developed and developing countries. However, given the various assumptions and qualifications to those pledges, it has sought to hold �workshops� to provide clarity on these aspects.
For the developed countries, the agreement notes their �economy-wide emissions reduction� targets but urges them to set forth more ambitious reduction targets for the future in keeping with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change.
For the developing countries, the agreement notes their �nationally appropriate mitigation actions� and proposes to establish a �registry� to match the support available or provided by the developed countries. It also proposes a second registry where all the developing country actions could be listed � those that have already been proposed or may be proposed in the future.
The agreement seeks all countries � both developed and developing � to formulate national plans for a low-carbon economy but provides no details or mechanisms for its achievement.
The other track of the negotiations was under the Kyoto Protocol, which saw the participation of 37 highly industrialized countries and those transitioning to a market economy. The decision here was to continue discussions regarding legal options based on proposals submitted by various parties as early as possible so that there were no gaps between the first and second commitment periods.
The agreement, though, leaves the door open for a �legally binding outcome in the future�. In terms of the base year, it reiterates that for any future commitment period, 1990 would continue to serve as the base year but allows parties to express their targets against an alternative reference year. It also allows emissions trading and project based mechanisms under the protocol to be used by parties for meeting their emission reduction targets.
Green Climate Fund to operate under the Interim trusteeship of the World Bank
The Cancun Agreement includes a decision regarding financial commitment of the developed countries to provide $30 billion in �fast start finance� for developing countries in 2010-12 for mitigation as well as adaptation projects. For the long term, the developed countries will mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private finance by 2020, to support �meaningful� mitigation actions.
A Green Climate Fund has been proposed to be se set up under the guidance of the COP to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities of developing countries. The fund would be governed by a 24 member board with equal representation from developing and developed countries. The World Bank has been designated as its interim trustee, subject to review three years after it begins operations. A 40 member transitional committee, with representation from both developed and developing countries would oversee the design of this fund and has been given up till the next COP meeting in December 2011 to submit its recommendations.
Climate technology centre and network to identify technology needs and promote public-private collaboration in technology development
The agreement includes a decision to establish a Climate Technology Centre and Network to help developing countries identify their technology needs and facilitate their implementation, facilitate capacity building and training, support, identify, deploy, operate and maintain environmentally sound technologies and facilitate partnerships between public institutions, the private sector and academic and research institutes for the development of existing and emerging technologies. It would also help create a network of institutions, internationally and nationally, for technology development and transfer needs.
A 20 member Technology Expert Committee will help and advise developing countries to identify their technology needs. The parties agreed to a work programme to make the technology mechanism operational by 2012.
Monitoring, reporting and verification protocol to be strengthened and its ambit expanded
The agreement reiterates the requirement for developed countries to report their actual emissions annually, but seeks that they also publish a biennial report of their progress towards meeting their targets. The developed countries would also report on their provision of financial, technical and capacity building support to developing countries.
For the internationally supported mitigation actions of developing countries, these will be monitored, reported and verified domestically, and also be subject to international measurements.
In addition, the decision establishes a new process of �international assessments� for developed countries and of �international consultations and analysis� for developing countries. For developing countries, the process will respect national sovereignty while being �non-intrusive� and �non-punitive�, and will include an analysis by technical experts. The results will be published in a summary report.
Impact of Cancun Agreement on India
Many in India have argued that the country has �lost� in the negotiations by diluting its position on taking any voluntary action that is subject to international monitoring and verification. That argument holds, given that India has not received any financial assistance or technologies from the developed countries for any of its voluntary action. However, the agreement has set no timeline for this new and �inclusive� international monitoring, reporting and verification. This provides India�s national interlocutors more room for negotiation in the future.
On a pragmatic note from an industry perspective, Cancun is good news for India. With greater international focus on �voluntary actions� through a transparent and comparable process, the high political risks associated with government programmes under the National Action Plan on Climate Change is somewhat reduced. Often, in the past, national missions were launched with fanfare but got relegated to the margins owing to lack of political or budgetary support. The international reporting of projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National solar Mission (and others) would reduce the political and governance risks associated with this and other mission projects. This, in turn, should mitigate some of the risks of financing such projects.
The Green Climate Fund also provides greater comfort for the renewable energy community in India, which continues to struggle with lack of low-cost and long tenor funds. In addition, the decision regarding equal representation from developing and developed countries on the governing board of the fun, and seven members from Asia on its transitional committee, is also good for India. Given the respect the country enjoys internationally and the leadership that India has shown among the developing countries in climate negotiations gives the country a greater say on decisions regarding funding and its utilization.
However, Cancun has also left a lot to be done, the major task being emissions reduction commitments, its timeline and methodology to accomplish it. In the days leading to November 28, 2011, when the next COP meeting is scheduled to be held in Durban, South Africa, the parties will meet several times to iron out the intricacies of the next round of negotiations. In India, the debate so far has remained limited to the government, a few academic and research institutions, and some interest groups. Given that the outcome of these negotiations have a major impact on the renewable energy industry, it is time the Indian renewable energy community becomes an active participant in shaping the country�s position.