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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Europe and the climate

Recycling: mining the waste resource
Our present rate of waste production is unsustainable and thus we urgently need effective waste management aimed at mining this resource, argues Pater Calliafas in a recent analysis on Environmental Research Web.
Self-sufficient resource management has two main benefits for consumers as well as policy makers, according to the author:
Consumers benefit from lower prices for raw materials because the supply will be secured on a long-term basis; and;
Governments can "minimise the risk impact of being wholly reliant on one or two key suppliers" and set their energy supply on a broader basis.
For recycling to work effectively, the loop between the "end of the pipe", the consumer, and the "start of the pipe", industry, needs to be closed, the author argues.
"Waste is merely another form or resource to be mined as any other" and "recycling can be viewed as a manufacturing process in all but name," the paper states.
"We need to create the equivalent of an 'environmental clunk-click campaign' similar to the successful promotion that encouraged seat belt wearing among car users in the 1970s," according to the author.source:EuroAktiv
The accountability challenge for climate diplomacy

The current climate change summit in Bali could be "a milestone towards real progress on climate change" and therefore needs to identify ways to "link the emission reductions to incentives for cleaner, alternative paths for growth", argues Alejandro Litovsky in an Open Democracy commentary.
From 2008 onwards, the UN climate system then needs to achieve the following three outcomes, according to Litovsky:

  • Gain support from trade rules and the WTO for the climate agenda as the Kyoto dispute settlement mechanisms do not adequately consider trade-related disputes.

  • Continue to build on existing initiatives from the private financial sector such as the UNEP "finance initiative", the "HSBC climate partnership" or the "investor network" on climate risk, with the objective of developing an coordinated approach in which stronger commitments from private investors to finance renewable energy can strengthen "country commitments" to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Achieve stronger commitments from multilateral agencies to address emission reductions. Multilaterals should help decrease the dependency of developing countries on carbon-based technologies, not lock them into a technology-path dependency.

Much depends on government policies: from lowering investor risks to new regulation, such as feed-in tariffs. "But individual governments can achieve little if the international patterns of investment in energy infrastructure, trade rules, and energy policy benchmarks" do not correspond with this goal, Litovsky says. "Here the climate diplomacy can make a distinctive difference," according to the analysis. source:EuroAktiv
EU-US 'green' trade plan comes under fire at Bali

A joint EU and US proposal to remove all tariffs on a select list of 43 goods deemed to be environmentally friendly, such as solar panels and wind turbines, were criticised at Bali over the weekend by developing countries who say the plans are incomplete and biased towards developed countries.

On 30 November, the EU and the US announced what they termed "a ground-breaking proposal" for a WTO-wide deal on the full elimination of tariffs on 43 products identified by the World Bank as environmentally friendly. The deal would come under the current "Doha" negotiations on trade liberalisation.
The notion of a special tariff regime for 'green' goods is part of a wider discussion on the use of taxation and customs policy to facilitate the transition towards a low-carbon economy by simultaneously promoting green goods while protecting more traditional energy intensive industries (see EurActiv 07/12/07).
Within the EU, there have been calls both for higher duties on industrial goods from countries with less stringent environmental regulations and tax breaks on environmentally friendly goods and services in the EU.
On Sunday (9 December), trade ministers met in the sidelines of the Bali UN Climate Change Conference to discuss a range of climate change-related trade issues.
North-South divide?
Celso Luiz Nunez Amorim, Brazil's minister of foreign relations, questioned the EU-US proposal, saying the list of 43 goods is 'incomplete' and that the plan is not an effective measure against climate change.
Brazil is concerned that the list of goods does not include biofuels, in particular ethanol made from sugar cane, a key export for Brazil.
Amorim also said the plan was a distraction and questioned whether it is in line with free trade principles. "What are we [in Bali] for? Are we here to make three things mutually supportive - development, trade and climate change - or are we here to discuss protectionist ways to slow down the process?", he said.
Pakistan also questioned the proposals, saying their real intention was to give an advantage to technology exporters in rich countries. "This is obviously against us, because we have not the capacity to produce goods in an environmentally friendly way," said Ali Baz, Pakistan's Ambassador to Indonesia.
The trade-climate change link
But Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said that some developing countries were leaders in green technologies and could benefit from the plans, adding that a special tariff reduction scheme could be made more equitable by being included in a wider global climate change regime.
"The relationship between international trade and indeed the WTO and climate change would be best defined by a consensual, international agreement on climate change that successfully embraces all major polluters," he said.
It is unclear if special tariffs on green goods could be agreed as part of a wider deal involving rich country technology transfers to poor countries as an alternative to a legally-binding international agreement to reduce CO2 emissions (see EurActiv 06/12/07).
EU seeks global roadmap at Bali climate talks
Under the Kyoto Protocol, EU-15 member states must reduce CO2 emissions by 8% by 2012, with individual targets agreed for 10 further member states (Cyprus and Malta have no targets).
The successes and failures of Kyoto will be a main item for discussion during the 3 to 14 December UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia (COP 13). Rather than a final deal on climate change, such as binding emissions reductions, world leaders are expected to agree on a negotiating framework and 'roadmap' at Bali.
This roadmap will guide the negotiations towards an eventual global climate change deal for beyond the expiry date of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. If all goes according to schedule, such a deal would be finalised at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 (COP 15).

On 27 November, the Commission presented its expectations for the Bali negotiation roadmap along with the results of the EU's progress towards the Kyoto targets, which, according to EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, illustrate that the EU has broken the link between economic growth and CO2 emissions.
The Commission's announcement of a strong EU perfomance under Kyoto has been widely interpreted as a way to boost the bloc's environmental credentials in advance of the Bali talks.
Kyoto report card
Dimas' claim is largely based on figures for the year 2005, which show that despite 35% economic growth between 1995 and 2005, EU-15 CO2 emissions were 2% below levels recorded at the base year (1990 for most member states). For EU-25, CO2 emissions were down 11% during the same period.
Despite the positive results for 2005, at current trends the EU is still not on track to meet its Kyoto targets by 2012. But the Commission argues that all the EU can reach and even surpass the Kyoto targets - projecting a total potential reduction in CO2 emissions of 11.4% by 2010 - as long as "additional policies and measures under discussion at EU level" are undertaken.
Most of these additional measures will be set out by the Commission in its climate and energy 'package', expected on 23 January 2008, which will include proposals on mandatory increases in renewable energy use and a revision of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) for beyond 2012. The Commission is confident that the tighter caps set on emissions for the 2008-2012 EU ETS trading period will significantly reduce EU CO2 output.
Also included in the list of further measures is the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS, cleaner transport fuels and a cut in vehicle CO2 emissions, as well as the use of carbon 'sinks' through afforestation and reforestation.
Bali wish list
On 30 October, EU environment ministers set out eight 'building blocks' or negotiating tracks for Bali:

  • A commitment to limit global average temperatures to 2° Celcius above pre-industrial levels;

  • emissions reductions by developed countries in the order of 30% by 2020 and 60-80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels;

  • 'fair and effective contributions' by developing countries;

  • expansion of global carbon markets, including through link-ups with EU ETS;

  • more R&D and research cooperation;

  • increased efforts to adapt to climate change;

  • inclusion of aviation and maritime emissions; and;

  • a reduction of CO2 emissions from deforestation.

EU red lines
The EU will not be able to claim success at the talks unless its two main red lines - a commitment by developed countries to cut emissions and more efforts by developing countries - are included in the Bali roadmap, an official in the Council close to the negotiations told EurActiv.
And the EU's main challenge will be to get leaders to agree on a negotiating framework that is firm yet flexible enough to accomodate an evolution in the position of parties, the official said.
With US elections coming up in 2008 and a new administration expected to take office in the middle of 2009, there is some hope of a late shift in the stance of the US, which did not ratify Kyoto and which has been traditionally opposed to any binding international commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.
But an obstinate US administration is not the only concern on the minds of EU delegations as they head to Bali. India in particular has expressed its opposition to significant emissions reduction commitments on the grounds that these would undermine the growth of its fledgling economy. And there is some concern that the US may 'hide' behind India in order to block any global CO2 deal.source:EuroAktiv

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