UMN at COP 22 Blog

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State-level climate action: The untapped resource in fighting climate change in the United States

posted Nov 17, 2016, 3:26 PM by halu0003 University of Minnesota

Donald Trump’s election victory left many Americans shocked – including people who are committed to taking action on climate.  It seemed too horrible to imagine that a man who denies climate change could be elected to the highest office in any country, much less the richest and most powerful nation in the world.  The United States is uniquely positioned to be an effective world leader on climate action due to its abundant natural, financial and technological resources.

Being at COP22 with University of Minnesota students in the wake of the U.S. election has been thought-provoking.  So many people are looking for things to be hopeful about in the climate action arena.

When Donald Trump won the election, many surmised that this would mark a quick death of the Paris Agreement.  It is unfortunate that he probably will make good on his threat to pull the United States out of the Agreement (despite the profoundly negative effects for the U.S. geopolitically), and three years from now, the United States will no longer be a party.  But that will mark neither the death of the Paris Agreement nor an end to climate action in the United States.  State policymakers are still taking action that is reshaping not only the carbon intensity of the U.S. GDP, but also energy markets in the U.S.  It is important to realize that state policy on renewables – combined with aggressive renewable energy policies in Europe over the past decade – have driven the price of renewables down to market parity with fossil fuels.  Better, they carry none of the baggage of negative health impacts carried by fossil fuels.  Like they do about cigarette smoking, people widely know and understand the negative health impacts and associated health care expenses that come from emissions-heavy energy. 

While state-level policy already has accomplished so much, it has just touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of actions states can take.  Going into 2017, state policymakers should focus on enacting the climate action policies that save consumers the most money.  Three actions states could take that will save consumers the most money and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions are: (1) adopting efficient car standards, (2) adopting more efficient building codes, and (3) adopting more aggressive appliance efficiency standards. 

There are very efficient vehicles which are cheaper to operate that consumers can find only in states that have adopted efficiency standards at the state level.  Residents from the rest of the country are stuck with more inefficient choices.  Why should hard-working Americans pay more to drive than they need to?

Same goes for home electricity bills – with more efficient homes and appliances, people could spend more money on movies and groceries and less on electricity.  It’s a no-brainer to vote for policies that save people money.

In Minnesota we call it “silver buckshot” as opposed to a “silver bullet” when a lot of small actions get the job done rather than one big sweeping act.  It’s a nod to our state’s strong game hunting community.  It’s time to look across the country and find the climate action policies that amount to silver buckshot and enact those policies into law.

When the Kyoto Protocol went into effect in 2005, and the U.S. government failed to lead, our nation’s city leaders kicked into high gear.  Mayors of several large cities made a statement and pledged to meet the targets set forth in the Kyoto Protocol.  They got to work reducing carbon emissions and improving the standard of living for their cities’ residents.  Our nation’s mayors provided leadership on climate action which was sorely lacking at the federal level.

Fellow state leaders, it is our turn.  If the U.S. government again fails to lead by rejecting the Paris Agreement, we should form a High Ambition Coalition of States and meet the obligations in the Paris Agreement through state policy.

On the verge of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the French President spoke to the diplomats gathered for the climate talks.  He said, “It is rare to have the opportunity to change the world.  You have that opportunity.”  As state lawmakers, we have the opportunity to change the world.  Let’s get going.

Melissa Hortman

Adjunct Professor, University of Minnesota

Minority Leader, Minnesota House of Representatives

Secretary of State John Kerry Addresses COP22

posted Nov 17, 2016, 2:46 AM by Katherine Barry   [ updated Nov 18, 2016, 3:44 AM ]


COP22 has been a whirlwind this week. I spend much of my time trying to figure out which meetings I should attend, where they’re located, and how late I’ll be to them. Some of the high level events aren’t open to everyone, and the schedule of events can be a moving target. Perhaps due to complicated schedules or for security reasons, most of us just found out this morning that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would address the COP at 1:00 this afternoon. Keeping with my tradition of finding out about everything about 20 minutes late, I managed to get in line for his talk but didn’t get in (the person in front of me was the last person let into the room). I did manage to get a photo as he walked past, and then hurried to the overflow room to watch his speech.


IMG_3973.JPG

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives to address COP22.

Secretary Kerry’s presence and address here matter a lot to the conference participants. There is sadness and uncertainty about the United States’ potentially changing role in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement moving forward. The worry is mostly expressed, it seems, among us Americans, but the rest of the world definitely wants to know what is going to happen with the new administration. Our group all noticed the “Trump issue” is often the first question asked in Q&A sessions, and some speakers have addressed the election directly. The US panelists have spoken about the momentum of the work by businesses, NGOs, states and cities on clean energy and other climate change initiatives, but they haven’t said much at all about the federal government’s role in climate for the next four years. It was important for all of us here at the conference and for the world to hear the message from Kerry, speaking on behalf of our nation, about how we move ahead to tackle this critical and global challenge of climate change.

Secretary Kerry began by reiterating the message we’ve heard many times this week: renewable solar and wind energy is growing rapidly worldwide. He specifically described clean energy growth in the United States, China, and India – three of the world’s largest contributors to carbon emissions. He also delivered the momentum message, noting that innovation and investment by the business sector, nonprofit organizations, states and cities is driving clean energy growth in the U.S. which will not be interrupted by a transition of the federal government.

The growth is encouraging, but it is not nearly fast enough to avoid the adverse effects of climate change we are already beginning to experience. Secretary Kerry described his recent trips to meet with scientists in Greenland and Antarctica, and was unequivocal in the message that we are at a point of crisis with melting arctic ice. Rising sea levels driven by a warmer climate are a reality and a threat which can only be mitigated by a transition from fossil fuel energy to non-carbon energy sources. He acknowledged the cost of transition, particularly for nations which are developing and working toward access to electricity for their poorest citizens. But he also pointed out that the downstream costs of inaction are far greater, citing agriculture losses from drought, healthcare expenses due to air pollution-caused asthma and other adverse health effects, and costs to rebuild infrastructure after flooding and other extreme weather events.


At one point in his speech Kerry appeared to be speaking directly to the president-elect and the incoming administration. He noted that some issues, like climate change, look different once a leader is in office compared to the campaign trail. Kerry stressed that climate change should not be a partisan issue. Climate change is an economic issue, a defense issue, and a human rights issue. It is a threat to every sector of our society which requires governments, the private sector, and civil society at the table to work together. He said “above all, consult with the scientists who have dedicated their entire lives to our understanding of this challenge.”


Kerry recounted signing the Paris Agreement on Earth Day this year while holding his young granddaughter. He became emotional (as did many watching the speech in the overflow room) as he talked about our responsibility to future generations to not leave them a planet in disaster. He noted that, as we can all see here at COP22, people all over the world are working hard to prevent the worst effects of climate change and to advocate for those who are most affected by the consequences we are already seeing. But there is much more work to do, particularly summoning the collective will to act now on climate change. And his message is clear:  “If we fall short, it will be the single greatest instance in modern history of a generation in a time of crisis abdicating responsibility for the future.”


Secretary Kerry left us with a charge to act now on this urgent crisis of climate change with a quote from Winston Churchill: “It’s not always enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what is required.” The time is now to do what is required to prevent the most devastating and irreversible effects of climate change. Secretary Kerry’s speech was a direct charge to all of us to act, not just those of us working in this field, but all people, all nations, and sectors of society.


This COP is being referred to as the COP of Action, the time to put in the work to implement the historic Paris Agreement and plan ahead to ratchet up ambition moving forward. Action on climate change means continuing to innovate and share technology in clean energy, mobilizing financial resources for nations to develop sustainably, and conserving forests, oceans and biodiversity. Action on climate requires global cooperation. The U.S. election last week put a lot of worry and uncertainty about our ability to succeed in the minds of many of us here. Kerry’s presence here and his call to action, along with leaders, delegates and other conference participants from around the world, set the tone that our charge has not changed, and our mission is clear: it is time to act.  

Climate Action as a Tool for Justice?

posted Nov 16, 2016, 9:12 AM by Peder Garnaas-Halvorson

            Yesterday morning, I went to a great master class on access to climate finance through a gender lens. One of the speakers was Liane Schalatek of Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, a think tank on climate change and finance. Her organization has a great website in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), which tracks global climate change finance flows. Schalatek spoke specifically on the barriers to accessing climate finance faced by women. An overview of this topic can be found here. She spoke of differentiated impacts of climate change on women saying that, “climate change is not gender neutral”. This differentiation is in part caused by the denial to women of land ownership, financing, legal rights, and other tools that could grant them more autonomy and resilience in many countries. Globally, women work almost twice as much as men, but earn only 10% of global income. Additionally, in Africa, only 15% of landowners are women. Schalatek argued that In this context it is imperative that climate financing work toward improving the economic conditions of women around the world while adapting to and mitigating climate change. However low levels of financing for micro and small enterprises, the laws and gender norms of certain countries, and the general trend in climate finance to favor mitigation over adaptation are obstacles to delivering climate finance to women. Schalatek said these issues must be addressed because, “climate finance is not taking place in a normative vacuum”. A copy of the info-packed PowerPoint from her presentation can be found here.

               Later in the day I went to a meeting sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of REDD+ financing for the protection of the vast forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) is a program that acts to prevent deforestation as a means to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A large portion of annual GHG emissions are attributable to the loss of carbon sinks do to deforestation. As a result, densely forested countries have the potential to provide large mitigation contributions through the protection of their forests. Most of the panel discussion was from representatives of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), Green Climate Fund (GCF), World Bank, and French Development Ministry talking about the possibilities and strategies for the DRC to leverage more international financing to meet its forest protection ambitions. The more interesting (in my opinion) part of the conversation was brought up by Issa Tiapele, a representative of the Congolese Civil Society. A part of the process for REDD+ project decision making in the DRC is the mandatory inclusion of civil society representatives from affected communities. Tiapele is responsible for the coordination of local representatives for effective engagement in this decision making process. I spoke with Tiapele after the presentation and we discussed the importance of his role in ensuring accountability for governmental decisions, equity in how those decisions are made, and use of the expertise of local knowledge. By requiring the inclusion of civil society in REDD+ processes, these projects have the possibility to not only improve their climate impact, but also have the co-benefit of strengthening legal, representational, governmental, and social institutions.

               As I reflect on the messages from these two presentations, I think about the idea of climate justice—in the sense of equitably distributing benefits and managing risk of mitigation and adaptation finance—but also about how actions to address climate change can be tools for increasing justice in contexts outside of climate change. The norms and processes established by climate action implementation or finance can directly give a voice to marginalized groups or incentivize national governments to give these groups a seat at the table. Giving space and power to these groups has the potential to not only rectify injustices, but also lead to more effective implementation and finance practice. However, the extension of climate action as a tool to solve all of the world’s ills can also be a dangerous proposition. Gender-oriented, justice-oriented, or other-issue-oriented climate action can bring resources and attention to neglected justice issues, but in the absence of financial constraints would overlapping these issues really be the most effective way to resolve them? Might the integration of climate issues and other justice issues also represent mission drift that prevents effective action on either issue? There are definitely areas in which important synergies exist between climate and other justice issues, but they should be pursued on the basis of real co-benefits, not access to finance. 

Many topics of interest today

posted Nov 16, 2016, 8:52 AM by Halston Sleets

I feel slightly overwhelmed with the amount of information I've had access to this week. I am unsure what I want to focus on today because I feel that all the sessions I attended today have given me a great deal of energy and all deserve equal attention and acknowledgement in my post. I'll briefly state some take-always that can definitely be explored in greater detail in a later blog post. 

Intersectionality 
Climate justice has been amplified in majority of the sessions I attended. Moreover, these sessions have effectively addressed at the present intersectionality between economic and climate justice. Many developing nations stressed the need for economic justice to be the heart of development. This is important because economic markets that have existed for centuries were built upon structural and systemic oppression of certain groups of people. Once economic injustice is adequately addressed and nations are able to act, then we may be closer to solving the climate justice crisis, but for now these injustices are coupled and must addressed in duality.

Climate change is a women's issue
The focus of these conversations have been on the individuals most impacted by climate change: women in the developing world. Over 50% of the world's population are women, and yet there is very little representation and attention given to women in climate change matters. Women must be at the forefront of climate issues in order to successfully explore and implement solutions. 

Technology implementation: Do no more harm
Earth should not be treated as a commodity. The message echoed from developing nations is that they need more than just technology transfers that have been proven successful in the developed nations. The current imbalance of food, energy, and climate cannot be addressed using the same tools that created the crisis in the first place. Technofixes must  be rejected by developing nations; geo- engineering, ocean fertilization, GMOs, carbon markets: these all have been clear examples of efforts that deliver inadequate solutions. This is supported by the various experiences and narratives of vulnerable/developing peoples who are facing these challenges daily. Ex: Having land privatized to implement climate change solutions only creates a larger division in obtaining economic and climate justice, thus exaggerating the crisis. This idea of technology implementation in developing countries needs to be discussed and challenged at the COP22 by all stakeholders. 

Messaging and organizing
These discussions have also addressed the need to shift the messages around climate chnage that are being shared. Developing nations must resign from the "doom and gloom" narrative and acknowledge this as a reality. We are warming, there is conflict and solutions seem unattainable, however, at this particular moment in time we all must be utilize it wisely to create the kind of justice that is envisioned for the entire world. 

Small grassroots organizations seem to be a solution to getting rid of companies and industries that negatively impact vulnerable communities/peoples. Many speakers have stressed the importance of taking action at all levels- grassroot, city, state, national, and internationally, however, there has been an emphasis on the local level actions and the effectiveness it in combatting climate change. The message of movement bldg and organizing should be amplified at this conference in order to see direct and tangible solutions to fighting against capitalism and climate change. 

November 16- Secretary of State John Kerry

posted Nov 16, 2016, 8:30 AM by Brianna Denk   [ updated Nov 16, 2016, 8:31 AM ]

This afternoon at the COP Secretary of State John Kerry addressed attendees with a very strong, positive message of the future of our natural world. This may be the last time he will speak formally to the UNFCCC and certainly the last time we will hear from him at a COP as Secretary of State. He did not disappoint. It was an overwhelmingly positive and codifying speech focused on the progress that has been made over the past decade, specifically post-Paris, as well as mechanisms we have in place to meet the increasing challenges of the future. Kerry has been part of the climate change discussion from before the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which is apparently where he met his wife, and has vowed to continue this fight “as many years as I am able”.

Kerry highlighted shifts in climate action around the world outside of the Paris Agreement including the ICAO, International Civil Aviation Organization, addressing international airline emissions for the first time and the expansion of the Montreal Protocol signed in October. He stressed that these and other advancements made by the private sector are due to the strong international signal sent by the Paris Agreement on future climate responsibility. Along with the changes in the private sector he stressed that to achieve rapid and widespread change requires establishing carbon pricing. I agree with the Secretary that this should be an issue in the forefront of climate policy on local and national climate discussions going forward. Creating a stable carbon market is essential to ensure the private investment required to limit warming to an acceptable level. 

Besides the discussion of carbon pricing one of the most interesting things about the address for me was the decision to use language that was significantly stronger than what we have heard from Mr. Pershing and other U.S delegates throughout the week. Kerry suggested that nations who do not take a leadership role in addressing climate change cannot be viewed as leaders at all. He also said that not moving forward would not only be a policy failure but a moral one. At multiple points during the address Kerry encouraged nations to apply strong international pressure to one another when they feel one country is not doing its part or threatens noncompliance with the Paris Agreement. I view this as very strong language as the incoming administration has made their views on participating in international negotiations around climate change quite clear.

These may not sound overly positive but it was a real rallying call to increase action by civil society members, industry, and local governments. Secretary Kerry quoted Winston Churchill twice during the address saying “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.” His words were encouraging and his commitment inspiring. I left feeling more hopeful and patriotic than I have for quite a while. The Trump administration may do their best to undermine progressive action at the national level but we, as invested actors, need to be right there voicing our opposition. Attending this COP has really encouraged me to get more involved and be more active in the issues that really matter. I can only hope that in some way our commentary will encourage readers to do the same. 

The COP of action and uncertainty

posted Nov 15, 2016, 8:35 AM by Halston Sleets

COP22 is the "COP of action"-this message was echoed in nearly every program session I attended today. Countries like Mali and the Congo presented a roadmap to combatting climate change impacts through various adaptation methods. I witnessed nations that have been historically neglected in climate negotiations present strategic plans and goals for sustainable development that were very thoughtful and promising. This truly illustrated the impact and influence that the Paris Agreement has had on engagement, partnership and unity. 

Unfortunately, the wonderful work that was presented was followed by messages of uncertainty. There were many questions regarding the securing of adaptation funds from the US. Many people expressed tension regrading the commitments made to LDCs by the US and little has been done, or said to affirm whether or not the funding to make their plans a reality will be acquired. 

A specific example that troubled me was the need to increase adaptation funding from billions to trillions. One session that I attended examined the true cost of adaptation and exposed that this sector is severely underfunded for the work that it is expected to deliver, and the possibility that even more of this funding will be unattainable if the next US administration backs out of the Paris Agreement will only continue to exasperate the problem. 

However, many panelist that responded to questions regrading Trump and securing funds were unexpectedly optimistic. Nations that are relying on adaptation resources are extending a welcome to work with the new administration and are granting Trump the opportunity to take action on the commitments made by the previous administration. There is a glimpse of hope that Trump and the incoming administration will "do the right thing" and understand what an impact staying or leaving will have on the entire world. The day was difficult for me when envisioning what a Trump decision could look like and the hinderance it potentially could cause, but i remain hopeful that this uncertainty is remains just that. There has been such a significant amount or mobilization between LDCs and DCs in reaching this agreement that I do not believe that the US backing out will destroy the progress that has been made nearly a year ago. 

The Moral Argument for Climate Action

posted Nov 15, 2016, 2:59 AM by Peder Garnaas-Halvorson

        Leading up to the COP, I have been working on writing a paper about adaptation to climate change, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am especially interested in how international financing for adaptation in least developed countries can be used to further those countries’ development goals while building their resilience to climate change. My first day in the Blue Zone of the COP22 was filled with information and networking on exactly these topics.
In the morning I went to a session led by experts from the World Bank Group on their new publication on building resilience in poor communities. One of the main themes of their study was idea that development is adaptation and adaptation is development. One fact that underlined this relationship was that if all natural disasters could be prevented for 1 year, 26 million people would be able to pull themselves out of poverty. Otherwise stated, vulnerability to natural disasters keeps 26 million people in poverty every year. The experts suggested that one of the best ways to increase resilience in these vulnerable communities is to give them access to financial tools such as mobile banking, insurance, and social safety nets so they can have access to resources even if a disaster takes everything they own and recover more quickly.
In the evening, I attended a side event on the potential for renewable energy production in Africa. The event was organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and hosted a panel from countries across Africa, a representative of the United Arab Emirates, and the head of Power Africa, an initiative created by the Obama administration. The key finding from their group was that Africa has the potential for 310 gigawatts of renewable energy production above and beyond renewable energy goals set by the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of African countries under the Paris Agreement. They projected that tapping into this renewable energy potential would cost USD 70 billion per year from 2015-2030. As the various country and organizational representatives talked about these findings, the common theme was that countries have to start building the institutional and governmental capacity for engaging in renewable projects whether or not the international community has provided funding. The representative from the UAE asked why people focus so much on numbers like 70 billion and how to raise it instead of starting by focusing on developing institutions. The head of Power Africa made the very simple argument that the projects are there and the financing is there, but countries in Africa need to invest in the providing the market and governmental stability for these resources to be unlocked.
Compared to the market focused solutions proffered in the presentations discussed above, the first meeting I went to on the role of faith communities in addressing climate change had a distinct tone of moral obligation and the need for an ethical examination of climate change. A large part of the conversation was on the fact that the poor will and are the most affected by climate change, yet they bear the least responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. Representatives of the World Council of Churches, the Quaker United Nations Organization, and other faith leaders acknowledged the imperative of the faith community to bring underrepresented voices to climate forums such as the COP, especially the voices of the poor. There was also talk of the need for faith communities to increase pressure on national governments to ramp up their mitigation and adaptation initiatives on the moral grounds of a shared belief in the value of life.
In juxtaposing what I heard across these three meetings, I was struck by the dichotomy between climate change action as an economic strategy and climate change action as a moral imperative. In these first meetings that I attended, the two sides of this dichotomy did not seem to mix very much, advocates and representatives made either moral or economic arguments for action. This was especially apparent in the first two presentations, which made it seem as if most necessary action on climate change could be achieved through market mechanisms and smart investments. The statistics presented di make a convincing argument of the power of economic forces to address climate change, but I doubt that these forces will fill all of the gaps, and they certainly do not address issues of equity and justice in the face of climate change. I think that we must be smart and creative in using market tools to address climate change, but there needs to be space to talk about the moral implications and responsibilities of these actions. The faith community is not the only voice that has authority on these moral issues, but I think they and others have a responsibility to keep the ethics of climate change at the center of negotiations so that those most impacted, but with the fewest resources to adapt, can have advocates at the table.

2016 Emission Rate Estimates- COP22

posted Nov 14, 2016, 3:48 PM by Brianna Denk   [ updated Nov 16, 2016, 8:31 AM ]

Our first day at COP22 is officially in the books and it was incredible. We met a diverse group of official state negotiators, NGO leaders, and top researchers speaking on topics that were equally diverse. From environmental justice to carbon pricing true innovators were everywhere. 

To know where we are truly headed we need to know where we are which is why I was very interested in the organizations discussing the latest 2016 emissions data. World Meteorological Organization, WMO, and the Global Carbon Project both held press briefings to present their estimations and calculations around 2016 emissions. Some of the data was cause for concern, but it was nothing we have not heard before. By the end of 2016 the WMO anticipates that temperature will be 0.88°C over pre-industrial levels, not breaking news, but another step in the wrong direction. We are also not on target to keep warming under 2°C by 2030. In fact, according to estimates from MCC-Berlin as part of the Global Carbon Project to meet 2°C we will need net negative emissions. Which is concerning due to the current ambition levels.

Don’t lose hope yet, the news was not all doom and gloom. There was, for the third consecutive year, flat overall emissions from fossil fuels. While external factors may be at least partially responsible for this recent trend it is still a positive sign that three of the top four emitters did not increase fossil fuel emissions this year.  

Keeping this momentum over the next few years is crucial and may be difficult given the changing political climate. That’s right, I went there. How bad will Donald Trump be climate change progress? I am not the only one asking this question either. It was a recurring theme throughout the day. Even on panels with no US representatives and no US journalists in attendance. The world is concerned, and rightfully so but I think Glen Peters from CICERO said it best when he reminded everyone that the US represents 15% of global emissions, which is not insignificant, but still leaves 85% controlled by other countries. Many in the climate community are convinced that inaction on the part of the US will not stop the rest of the parties from increasing ambition and acting in the best interest of their own people. It was great to hear this kind of optimism repeated throughout the day to help clear some of those dark post-election clouds that have lingered during this week. 

Questions from before our first day

posted Nov 14, 2016, 2:13 PM by Jen Kader

(Technical difficulties delayed the ability to post this at this time last night, before our first day attending meetings and side events at COP22.)

It’s amazing, the difference a few days can make.

 

Leading up to this week, preparations for the COP22 trip focused on reviewing what took place in Paris a year ago and trying to identify what may happen this year in Marrakech. How will finance and technology transfer be clarified? What changes to ambition will be pursued? How will tensions between the responsibilities of developed and developing nations be resolved? These, and many other questions, were all laid out on the table.

 

As I do my final preparations for our first day at COP22 tomorrow, the questions are much different. How will the election of Donald Trump, a climate skeptic who has vowed to remove the US from the Paris Agreement, have altered the tone and conversation of the negotiations? What sort of vacuum might be created, and how might it be filled? How will lack of involvement from the US alter global ambitions?

 

A week ago, I was cautiously optimistic that negotiations would lead to the reduction of emissions enough to keep the planet from warming 1.5 degrees ("1.5 to stay alive"). Today, my optimism is severely checked—but not completely gone.

 

Non-climate change drivers of mitigation and adaptation exist. These include consumer interest in addressing climate change, the attractiveness of the return on investment of wind and solar for utilities, the cross-sector push to address air pollution, and so much more. My hope is that the national and international momentum built up in recent years will be sustained despite this upset.

 

Nationally, the path to climate action will require more coordination and leadership at local, state, and regional levels, as federal leadership is highly unlikely. Local action will be even more difficult if the EPA is in fact dissolved (as well as a number of other things in Trump’s plan for the first hundred days that may come to pass). But cities and states have provided leadership on climate change action before, and can continue to do so again—especially if the community pushes for and supports these local efforts, and local electeds are willing to be climate leaders.

 

Internationally, the involvement of the US has been critically important for the legitimacy of past negotiations and in the development of the Paris Agreement. While many countries have signed on to the Paris Agreement and it has entered into force, the US pulling out can lead to increased emissions from the US, a decrease in the funds available to developing nations, and a reduction of motivation from other parties. Even though countries write their own plans and there is international recognition outside the US of the importance of addressing climate change, participation and ambition both seem to be threatened.

 

My hope is that the election of Trump does not undermine the progress made so far or disrupt domestic and international momentum. The question on my mind at the end of the night, though, is will domestic, decentralized efforts combined with continued international action be enough?

International Cooperative R&D for Mitigation

posted Nov 9, 2016, 7:08 PM by Gabriel Chan   [ updated Nov 9, 2016, 8:07 PM ]

The last few years has seen the discussion of the role of technology cooperation in international climate policy broaden from unidirectional technology transfer toward a model of deeper cooperation to drive innovation. We've also seen countries get much more serious about innovation in the climate negotiations, perhaps best represented by the COP21 Mission Innovation pledges. This shift has a lot of potential to make the global innovation system for climate change mitigation more effective and more fair. Innovation that is collaborative is more likely to develop appropriate technologies that are also accessible to the collaborating partners (rather than individually owned by a country doing technology transfer). Collaboration can also enable larger R&D projects that capitalize on economies of scale and can coordinate strategic choice of R&D project selection to maximize global learning. 

This semester at the Humphrey School, I've been working with two master's students (Jill Rook and Ashfaqul Chowdhury) in the Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy to put together a set of design principles for cooperative R&D arrangements for climate mitigation. We argue that effective cooperation should build on the comparative advantage of participant countries, which can include advantages in innovative capacity, market potential, and specific technological expertise. We also make the case for collaborative efforts to engage the private sector, follow key design principles of cooperation (e.g. frequent face-to-face interactions and progress monitoring), and give more decision-making authority for R&D project selection to scientists. We think that our approach will work best applied in the context of bilateral R&D efforts, such as the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center or the U.S.-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center

Accelerating innovation is going to be critical to the feasibility of achieving the 2-degree target of the Paris Agreement. Facilitating the necessary innovation in cooperative arrangements may be an essential tool in closing our "innovation deficit." Cooperative arrangements are also a critical tool for broadening participation and increasing ambition in the broader climate regime. Offers to collaborate in innovation provide a very rare opportunity to deploy politically feasible "carrots" (positive incentives) in a regime dominated by a fixation on costs.

Jill and I will be taking our briefing document on this topic with us to COP22 in Morocco and hope to get feedback on our thoughts from key decision makers and stakeholders. Our team is working on a longer report on this set of issues (just as we are with the Sustainable Development Mechanism). We would welcome any of your thoughts on this topic.


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