Tuesday, February 9, 2016

COP21 The Budget is Zero

The video above, "A Climate Revolution for All: COP21 – An Inside View" Is the first-hand experience of a Canadian writer/librarian who attended the COP21 summit as a citizen observer (45 min). It's a clear presentation of the overviews of the COP21 process, and a dialogue about the carbon emissions driving climate change.

A conclusion resulting from the global agreement at COP21 has been outlined by the World Bank:

It has become immediately and bleakly obvious to global leadership and citizens that we have lost the opportunity to mitigate let alone prevent drastic climate change. Scientific observation of climate events has overridden even the most pessimistic assumptions made in scenarios contained in the AR5 documents. Carbon feedbacks unaccounted for in these models have rendered them basically irrelevant. So now what?

The World Bank then goes on to outline five ways to reduce climate drivers – very succinct and fundamental shifts that we must undertake immediately. Put a price on carbon, end fossil fuel subsidies, build low-carbon, resilient cities, increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy, and Implement climate-smart agriculture and nurture forest landscapes. The World Bank has already begun an initiative to end wasteful energy subsidies.

The very, very simplest way for countries across the globe to rapidly reduce fossil fuel use is for the UN to pass a resolution that these global government fossil fuel subsidies are to be completely phased out by 2020. This relieves governments from contractual obligations in these subsidies and frees up money which can go to reforestation, protection of the great forests like the Amazon, and development of carbon sink areas in rural and suburban areas (native plantings and water absorption swales). James Hansen's calculations assume a 100 GtC carbon sink INCREASE that is unfunded in his fee-and-dividend scenario, but is absolutely necessary to achieve the required reduction numbers. We have no time to waste, and the money HAS to go towards restoration of the ecosphere. At a local Sierra Club meeting in Pasadena, California on January 6 of this year, climatologist Bill Patzert stood up in response to a summary of the COP21 resolutions and very simply stated that we must plant far more trees.

This approach is vastly simpler than trying to impose a global carbon tax in the immediate future. Since subsidies are the exact inverse of carbon taxes, it doesn't require a complex regulatory infrastructure, it simply ceases feeding the problem in the very immediate short term. It's a first step to the carbon tax regulatory structure.

There are organizations attempting to formalize this as global policy and implement its necessary criteria. The Global Subsidies Initiative reviews an agreement currently in place. For decades, fossil-fuel subsidies have encouraged wasteful spending and harmful emissions.  In September 2009, the G-20 agreed to phase them out. GSI research uncovers the characteristics of fossil-fuel subsidies and lessons for reform. The GSI has developed a broad range of case studies of fossil-fuel subsidy reform. This includes a review of subsidies and reform attempts across APEC economies and case studies on Brazil, France, Ghana, North Sudan, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Poland and Senegal. Set up in June 2010, Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (the “Friends”) is an informal group of non-G20 countries aiming to build political consensus on the importance of fossil fuel subsidy reform. Current members of the Friends group are Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

From the Subsidy Watch Blog on COP21:

Fossil fuel subsidies, which are costing governments around US$600 billion every year, and driving the world towards high carbon development, will require greater attention and resources to deliver pre-2020 or early action on the ground. The broader decision from COP21 does include reference to "domestic policies and carbon pricing" in relation to non-party stakeholders (rather than governments) but this falls outside of the Paris Agreement itself. Specific inclusion of the issue of fossil fuel subsidy reform within the agreement was a missed opportunity.

Update 2/10/16: IFC and the World Bank Group:  What’s next for the private sector?

Update 2/14/16: The Door is Closing Fast - Dr. Katharine Hayhoe

Update 3/22/16: World Bank - Negotiations to Action

Update 3/28/16:  The largest impacts go almost unmentioned - On Hansen Et Al 

Update 4/5/16: A Guide to COP21 Purpose and Structure

Update 4/13/16: RCP scenario budgets fail to constrain temperature rise

Update 5/5/16: What Happens Now and the CAIT Paris Agreement Tracker