|Sustainable Energy News - No. 19 - Climate Change - Theme - Local Co-generation (INFORSE, 1997, 20 p.)|
Climate change is probably the biggest environmental challenge that we now face. Representatives of notional governments spend hundreds of hours sitting in jet planes and negotiating in different parts of the world within the Framework Convention on Climate Change on how to stop global warming.
Global warming is a particularly ominous example of the insatiable human appetite for natural resources, in this case fossil fuels. It is obvious that sustainable energy is the answer to climate change and that NGOs have to say so.
Several NGOs have the opportunity to follow the UN negotiations. The (global) Climate Action Network, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and others believe that the present commitments calling for stabilisation of emissions are inadequate. They support the so-called Toronto target, which calls for reduction of C02 emissions of industrialised countries by 20%. This target is included in a protocol proposed by the Alliance of 36 Small Island States (AOSIS), which is most threatened by the climate change. One third of OECD countries have this or a comparable target as their national goals. The problem is that, in general, OECD countries will probably meet neither the Toronto target nor the stabilisation target.
A special situation has arisen in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. This is the only region in which GHG emissions have decreased considerably since 1990. These economies, recovering without struggling for energy efficiency or for development of renewables, now are seeing increased energy consumption, bad news for climate in the future.
The situation in other developed countries is not much better. NGOs have frequently criticised the position of the EU, which is that it does not play a leadership role in negotiations on AOSIS protocol. It is still struggling with internal problems, but has finally proposed 15% reductions by 2010. The US position presents another problem. The Clinton administration recently promised movement towards stabilisation of GHG emissions but with a requirement that the developing countries will do something similar.
Another new topic arose with the climate negotiations: Joint Implementation (JI), or Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ), were a richer country can pay for emission reductions in a poorer country and make less reductions at home. Most NGOs considers JI as another ploy of industrialised countries to avoid having to do these reductions at home.
Not only JI, but many other problems negotiated on UN ground are attracting attention. Some of them sound a little bit "funny", like the proposal for compensations. This proposal comes from oil-producing countries, which argue that any developing country that is a major fossil-fuel producer should be compensated for losses in trade resulting from future UN convention commitments.
Other nations are also trying to come up with more flexible approaches. This flexibility includes not only JI but also emission trading and borrowing against the future, by which higher emissions would be allowed now, provided that the country promised to reduce levels in the more distant future. In the last preparatory meeting in October it was also proposed to allow a country that had reduced emissions since 1990 to sell emissions to other countries. To most environmental NGOs, all of this "flexibility" sounds a bit corruptible.
It is hard to predict the outcomes of the upcoming COP 3 to be held in Kyoto, Japan in December, but it may be the last attempt to save the negotiation process - the year 2000 (presently the only agreed target year) is very close, and a global commitment is urgently needed.
INFORSE Europe Coordinator