COP 14, Day 4: 4th December 2008
Before I report on an interesting day’s events, I must report that the International Trades Union groups here have been very vocal. Their acronym is TUNGO, but would today have been more appropriately TONGUE-GO. They see the economic crisis as a rare opportunity to drive the case for a new green deal – investing in economic and technology shifts which would create huge employment opportunities. One spokesperson referred twice to their goal: to create a new generation of ‘green and decent’ jobs. The implication was that people increasingly want to be employed in jobs which deliver social and environmental benefit rather than harm. An interesting development and closely aligned with our own business case for corporate responsibility. They are, of course, alarmed by the massive job losses emanating from the economic crisis; and naturally see that the choices being made around climate mitigation could replace a huge proportion of those job losses.
The day began with an average review and briefing of Wednesday’s events. The only significant highlights were that the US has publicly endorsed a 50% cut by 2050 for the first time; that a debate is developing on whether the forward targets need to reflect progress in the first commitment period to 2012, including the possibility of carrying forward shortfalls into the second period; and that the BINGO (Business NGO group ) meeting with the COP President had shown his interest in how the economic crisis is playing out and whether it could actually help in addressing climate change.
I left the meeting early to change hats: today it was the turn of the RINGO (Research and Independent NGOs) group to send a delegation to meet with the COP 14 President who (as is the custom) is also the Environment Minister in Poland. I offered to join and to pose one of the questions which I had submitted in advance. Maciej Nowicki proved to be very engaged and open to positive help in his task (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii_fsElpFDU for a pre-Poznan video). My question was roughly: ‘Governments accept scientists assessment of the climate problem, but do not appear to adopt and pursue the climate solutions which scientists and researchers have assessed both environmentally and economically – this is of real concern and does he think the scientific and research communities could or should be doing more on this aspect of the debate?’ I cited the IPCC’s reference to improvements in energy efficiency (as in an earlier blog) as evidence. He became very engaged and treated me as a world expert on the topic. I was rapidly wishing that my Environmental Change Institute colleague Brenda Boardman (for whom, unknown to her, I was pursuing the issue) had been at my side. The real learning for me was that there is no value in asking questions in this sort of forum unless you can offer practical and realistic options to help those able to influence the debate and the process. I did not score well on that.
Shortly after the meeting ended, we had a RINGO’s meeting. I was delighted to find familiar Oxford faces in the meeting (the last week of Oxford’s academic term is just closing and a major contingent is heading for Poznan). I would have to say that the RINGOs have none of the resources or commercial motivation of the BINGO and are struggling to find a clear role and position. This presents a problem in agreeing the strategy for – let alone the content of – the official two-minute statement they can make to the plenary conference next week. I volunteered to help draft it even though I return to the UK on Sunday.
I moved to the adjacent conference room for briefing on Cap & Trade in the US. Another inspiring side event. Jonathan Pershing of World Resources Institute gave a brilliant exposition of the latest status and outlook for emissions trading in the US. It reinforced my general view that we need a post-Kyoto protocol for the frameworks, mechanisms and common methodologies necessary for co-ordinated action, but that unilateral actions by cities, states, regions will set higher hurdles that we can get agreement for at the global level. Jonathan’s conclusions slide is included below:
The European Union’s Head of Unit ‘Climate, Ozone and Energy’, Artur Runge-Metzger, offered insights into the status of and issues relating to emissions trading in Europe. The probability of interlinked trading to include OECD countries seems quite high. Overall, surprisingly optimistic.
Straight on to an NGO briefing with Yvo de Boer. It ran for 90 minutes and, as in Bali, de Boer was disarmingly open and undiplomatic. He offers a very simple and honest assessment of progress, blocks as well as his personal perspectives and frustrations.
Yvo de Boer (second from right) on the panel with the RINGO, BINGO and TUNGO organisers
It was heated at times with de Boer turning on the business community when the plea was made for increased certainty to enable the necessary investments to be made. I’d like to share his views in more detail, but he did ask at the end that we observe Chatham House rules. My question to him turned out to be less contentious. ‘What impact,’ I asked, ‘was the economic crisis having on the COP talks?’ The essence of his answer was that in the current negotiations which are focused on the frameworks and methodologies, he saw no direct connection or impact. 2009 is likely to be another story, however, as finance ministers weigh up the financial implications of Copenhagen’s commitments.
Tomorrow? Coffee with this man (see back of head below). In that brain are years and years of COP experience and climate strategy planning.