Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Institutional analysis—China and climate negotiations

While one of the goals of Institutional Analysis (IA) is to better predict the future, perhaps the best way to get good at it is to use it to explain the present.  Watching China, one of the perennial bad actors when it comes to climate issues, become the rock star at Durban is an occasion that almost demands a good IA.

Whether one believes that China's route to economic growth is a good idea (or is even "legal") the strategy of becoming the world's workshop is certain to cause a spike in energy use.  Because she has a lot of coal and coal-fired electrical generation is a known technology, China is building a lot of new plants.  For the folks who worry about such things, China's strategy is a route to certain climate catastrophe.

China's response has been basic.  She says "Look, we have suffered for a long time while the industrial West has burned up much of the supply of premium fuels.  If you really want to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, start with the countries that caused MOST of the problem."  But that angry third-world developing nation did not show up at Durban.  So the interesting question is why.  IA would answer:

  1. China is getting rich enough to begin worrying about environmental matters.
  2. One of China's old names was Zhongguo "The Middle Kingdom" the place where dwelt the god's most favored people—the center of the universe.  Folks who believe themselves to be the keepers of civilization itself hate like hell being the bad guys.
  3. Most importantly, China has emerged as a leading producer of green technologies like PV cells and wind power.  Now that she can actually build a much "greener" society, China cannot afford to be on the wrong side of the climate change movement.  A conference like Durban is an excellent place to push for international requirements to make people buy what China can now produce.
China Climate Plan Makes ‘Excited Buzz’ at Durban as U.S. Lags
By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman - Dec 5, 2011 
China has triggered an “excited buzz” at a global warming conference in South Africa by setting out the conditions under which it might limit its pollution, the United Nations diplomat leading the talks said. 
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change, said China is making and implementing laws to reduce fossil fuel fumes. Envoys from Beijing today detailed conditions under which it would sign up to a legally binding goal for reducing emissions. 
The comments indicate optimism among negotiators coordinating the talks in Durban, South Africa, that envoys may be able to bridge an impasse on when developing nations start curbing greenhouse gases. China wants new emissions cuts for industrial countries under the Kyoto Protocol in exchange for accepting a target. The European Union is demanding all nations work towards a deal as a prerequisite for its undertaking a second commitment under the protocol. 
“If China moves, we’ll be able to see the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, we’ll be able to get the rest of the world committed to a road map which gets us to a single legally binding overarching agreement, so China’s position is absolutely critical,” U.K. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate change said today in an interview in Durban. 
China’s Xie Zhenhua told reporters today that the nation has five conditions that must be met before it accepts legally- binding targets. They include a new round of Kyoto targets for industrialized countries, and advances on climate aid and low- carbon technology-sharing.

“China is beginning to answer the question of how do we sign up to the second commitment period,” South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is presiding the talks for the host nation, told reporters. “It is laying its cards on the table. Other negotiators will be laying the cards on the table and work then gets escalated. And that is what makes us hopeful we are moving in the right direction.” 
Todd Stern, the U.S. lead envoy on climate change, told reporters that all countries must be involved in a global deal that applies the “same legal force” to each country with “no trap doors” and “no conditionality.” He said he plans to discuss the Chinese remarks with Xie tomorrow. 
“China has not been willing to do the kind of legally binding agreement that I’m talking about” in the past, Stern said, adding that he hasn’t spoken to Xie yet in Durban. “In order for there to be a legally binding agreement that makes sense, all the major players are going to have to be in.” more
Of course, now that China has moved in a positive direction, it makes the USA position even more untenable.  And then there is the matter of India who has been using China's arguments for doing nothing for quite awhile.
Durban talks: China scorches rumours of rift with India
Nitin Sethi, TNN  Dec 5, 2011 
DURBAN: China scorched all rumours that it had moved away from India's position on Kyoto Protocol and a new global deal on Monday. 
"We accept a legally binding arrangement with five pre-conditions post-2020. As long as principles of common but differentiated responsibility and equity are ensured and individual capability is the basis of a new deal," Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China and head of Chinese delegation at Durban Xie Zhenhua said. He insisted a second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol starting 2012 was a precondition as well. 
He reiterated that discussions on a new deal should begin not at Durban this year but after 2015 when a review of the efficacy of actions under the existing UN convention has been completed. 
His statement came a day after developed countries had attempted to paint India as the bad boy of climate claiming it was the only impediment to talks on a new global deal in Durban and China had taken a more flexible stance. 
India had along with BASIC countries made the unconditional continuation of Kyoto Protocol central to Durban talks and demanded that talks for a new deal begin only after the developed countries have fulfilled their existing commitments under Kyoto Protocol. 
But on the weekend news reports originating from Durban suggested that China had diluted its stance on this and was willing to a new deal right away. more
And just to keep track of those countries that are making a significant effort to reduce their carbon emissions, we have this from Deutsche Welle.
Sweden, UK and Germany rank most active on climate
Sweden, the UK and Germany are doing the most to tackle global warming, according to this year's Climate Performance Index. Brazil has lost top honors and no nation is doing enough to avoid 'dangerous' warming.

No country is doing its share to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius this century, according to the publishers of the Climate Change Performance Index 2012. 
Presenting their report on the sidelines of climate talks in South Africa, the environmental organizations Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe) said the top three slots of this year's index were left blank to demonstrate a lack of leadership. 
Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany ranked four, five and six, to displace last year's leader Brazil for taking actions to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. 
Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Iran ranked worst.

"Sweden is performing relatively well because they have low emissions and an emissions trend that is going down," said CAN Europe Director Wendel Trio.

Christoph Bals, who helped assemble the index for Germanwatch, said Germany gained one notch thanks chiefly to a new energy policy introduced this year. 
"This improvement is due to Germany's 'energy transition', and the fact that there's more dynamism in the renewable sector," Bals said. 
"On the other hand, Germany is still not on a trajectory that agrees with a two-degree goal," he added. 
Though European countries tended to score well, Croatia, Poland and Turkey all fell in the rankings due to poor assessments of their national policies. 
The Netherlands displayed one of the biggest slips on the continent, dropping 12 places because of an increase in emissions. 
The report's authors would prefer to see European Union countries unconditionally raise the block's target to a 30 percent cut in emissions on 1990 levels. The current goal is 20 percent.

The index ranks the world's 58 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. Rankings are determined by a combination of total emissions, trends and an assessment of domestic actions. 
China and the United States, which account for 40 percent of the world's emissions between them, ranked 57 and 52 respectively. 
CAN Europe Director Wendel Trio described China, the world's biggest polluter, as a "special case" due to its combination of soaring emissions and high investment in renewable energy. 
"China is putting in place a number of very good policies…but at the same time we don't see these policies having an impact yet," Trio said of the decision to rank the country so low.

In contrast, Trio said there should be "no surprise" about the position of the world's number two polluter, the United States, due to its high per capita emissions and "no real federal policies in place to tackle" them.

Australia, another of the world's leading per capita emitters, jumped 10 places to rank 48 thanks largely to the introduction of legislation this year aimed at putting a price on carbon. more

1 comment:

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