|Economic growth and rapid urbanization threaten to accelerate global warming.
International negotiations on how to mitigate this threat are not proceeding
smoothly. Participants of the fourth session reviewed the progress made
in emerging and developed countries and discussed the possibilities of
better cooperation on the issue in the future.
The first speaker of the session, Dr. Shuzo Nishioka, Senior Visiting Researcher, National Institute for Environmental Studies, presented on the possibilities of Asian nations leapfrogging Western nations in terms of low carbon development. Over the next 50 years, the populations of Asia will begin to age and shrink. Urbanization will continue, and the region's megacities will grow to unprecedented sizes. Alongside all of this, it does not seem that climate change will be put to a halt anytime soon. It is important that policymakers begin to think about what sort of effect demographic change will have on the environment.
The time is ripe to think about the proper way to encourage development in Asia. Governments around the region are now beginning to consider the creation of low-carbon societies. Asia is in a good position to make a contribution to the fight against climate change. Furthermore, the way in which the region responds to the depletion of resources, increasing energy prices, and demographic change could potentially create opportunities for economic growth.
The creation of a low-carbon society opens doors toward rapid growth investment and high technology. An analysis of how much energy it takes for a nation to create its GDP over the past few decades shows that Japan went from a highenergy- usage/low-profit society to a low-energyusage/ high-profit society in the 1970s. It is possible for emerging economies to follow a similar path and catch up with the developed economies of the world.
A study was done supposing that China had in its possession a sufficient amount of the most modern technology available, and it was shown that the economy would be able to be just as green as any other advanced economies producing as much wealth as it does now. The only question is, who would pay for this technology? This remains to be answered. In India, the country's highly educated labor force presents a good opportunity to move immediately toward becoming a low-carbon society. Singapore as well is in a good position for an instantaneous change.
A major factor in whether or not a country will be able to create a low-carbon society is the automobile culture it fosters in its cities. Emerging megacities are faced with a choice of whether to become nearly car-free like Tokyo or entirely cardependent like Los Angeles.
The global frameworks being discussed after Copenhagen may benefit emerging nations by giving them the opportunity to receive greater assistance for environmental measures. The world needs developing nations. Climate change cannot be halted without their cooperation.
Dr. Eric Zusman, Policy Researcher, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, gave a presentation on US environmental policy and the drivers of work on the issue at the international and domestic levels.
A good way to analyze the lack of progress on the international scene regarding climate change is to think of the issue in terms of realist theory. One of the beliefs of this theory is that international relations are anarchic-there is a lack of order, and states are simply trying to maximize their own personal gain. Many realists would attribute this to international relations being a prisoner's dilemma. Although each actor might benefit by cooperating, the risk of cooperation is too great for parties to choose anything else than what seems immediately beneficial to themselves.
Cooperative and regional institutions can mitigate this risk, allowing states to consider more concretely what they stand to gain through cooperation. Some might say that this is why the United States and China have both been reluctant to implement climate policy domestically but have offered up concessions at international meetings. Then again, there is ongoing debate on how such concessions would even be measured, so perhaps these concessions are not actual risks.
Dr. Zusman posited that this is why the Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system of the Bali Action Plan is so important. He continued that if there were a credible set of institutions that could enforce an MRV system for advanced nations, many of the prisoner's dilemmatype risks of international climate change measures could be avoided and nations could move toward cooperate-cooperate agreements.
In terms of the US policy response to climate change, Dr. Zusman explained that, when President Barack Obama assumed power, many thought that he would change US policy dramatically. However, his administration has focused far more on health care. In Congress, there has been significant action toward implementing stronger regulations relating to climate change, but this does not seem to have gone as far as most advocates would hope. Many hoped the Waxman-Markey bill would implement real change, but it died in the Senate. Dr. Zusman noted that just before the meeting, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had the power to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act recently, which demonstrates some progress.
The third speaker of the session, Dr. Hardiv Harris Situmeang, Advisor to the National Development Planning Agency and Indonesian National Council on Climate Change, presented on progress regarding the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) of developing countries, and Indonesia's progress in particular.
Indonesia has integrated a climate change program into its national development plan. The country has proactively set up funding schemes for unilateral, supported, and credited NAMAs.
There are two scenarios for climate change in Indonesia. If current trends persist, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels will increase to multiple times what they are now. Indonesia is implementing a multi-sector approach to make sure this does not happen, and that a rise is in fact mitigated to a point where emissions are less than what they are now.
|Many different policies are being implemented for this. A national baseline
has been established and mitigation action plans have been identified for
each sector. In 2005, emissions stemming from the power, transportation,
and industrial sectors increased 170 megatons. The country is combating
such increases by encouraging tree planting through the forestry sector
and peat land management.
The Indonesian government believes that implementing bottom-up models together with the development of technology innovation is the best way to respond to climate change. In addition, the government is attempting to promote a broader energy portfolio. Investments are being made into wind power and other renewable energies in line with available local resources.
Studies have been implemented on the feasibility of using existing energy generation resources for carbon capture and storage (CCS) activities. It was found that there are several promising locations where this could be carried out, and so initiatives for this will move forward.
The fourth speaker, Dr. Soogil Young, Chair, KOPEC / Chairman, Presidential Committee on Green Growth, the Republic of Korea, addressed the meeting on international progress toward an effective post-2012 climate regime.
There are 192 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and all are currently in the midst of negotiation on how each country should share the burden of reducing global emissions. All signatories are obligated to take action, and will do so in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. The UNFCCC requires developed countries to take the lead and assist developing countries along the way.
The Kyoto Protocol was the first tangible product of the UNFCCC. The protocols cover the actions that countries should take to reduce emissions between 2008 and 2012. After the Kyoto Protocol the Bali Road Map was created in 2007 to concretely define how developing and developed countries would work together to tackle climate change. It suggested a two-track mitigation process, with a separate roadmap for developed countries and NAMAs for developing countries.
At COP 15, countries attempted to develop a plan for the post-2012 climate change regime but failed. A "Friends of the Chair" group consisting of 28 countries and the European Union (EU) attempted to develop a Copenhagen Accord which could gain the acceptance of all 192 UNFCCC signatories, but this plan was rejected by six countries (Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Tuvalu). However, 138 countries representing 86.76% of global emissions have come out in support of the Accord.
The Copenhagen Accord introduced many innovations, among them the idea that global warming must be kept within two degrees Celsius. Within the Accord are pledges to curb omissions. Developing countries are asked to report progress on NAMAs every two years.
If countries follow through with their pledges, studies suggest that it will be possible to keep global emissions under two degrees Celsius. However, the Copenhagen Accord is not legally binding. It does not give a clear message to industry to let enterprises know that now is the time to invest in green growth either. Accordingly, there is a good chance the negotiation process will continue beyond Cancun.
Most of the major emitters of the world are located in APEC. Among them, the United States and China constitute a "G-2" group in terms of climate change. There needs to be a whole range of efforts in the economies of APEC and these two economies especially to promote green growth and the shift toward renewable energy.
The last speaker of the session, Prof. Zhao Xiusheng, Professor / Research fellow, Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET), Tsinghua University, presented on China's actions on climate change.
From 1979 to 2009, the average growth rate in China was 9.9%. Over this period of time, China achieved significant socioeconomic progress. The government has announced that by 2020 it intends to quadruple the economy's per capita GDP against year 2000 levels while reducing energy consumption.
|If this is to happen, the economy will need to reevaluate its energy mix.
The current most used energy source is coal, at about 67% of the primary
mix. China's per capita energy consumption is low compared to Kyoto Protocol
Annex I countries. With the economy growing, energy use is likely to increase
and, unless something is done to change the energy mix, the consequences
could be heavy. Carbon dioxide emissions are likely to increase over the
coming two decades.
The Chinese government has taken some actions to mitigate the effect the economy's growth is likely to have on climate change. Specific targets to reduce energy intensity (by 20%) and major pollutants (by 10%) have been set. The government intends to promote the greater use of nuclear power. Hydro-, wind, and solar power are also being promoted.
As the largest emitter among emerging countries, China faces enormous challenges. The government will work to uphold the Kyoto Protocol and UNFCCC and make a difference on climate change.
A participant asked about the relationship between green growth and international carbon markets. Dr. Young responded that it was in the best interest of those engaged in green growth to support carbon markets because that meant more opportunities for their business, so it was likely that the carbon market would expand in the future.
The meeting discussed the realistic possibility of any progress being made on climate change in Cancun. Each panel member responded negatively to the prospect of an achievement coming out of the meeting. Dr. Young suggested that climate change issues might be furthered through other international cooperation initiatives such as the G-20 as well.
A meeting participant inquired why green growth was not on the G-20 agenda. Dr. Young answered that the summit meeting's schedule had been filled with other matters, but that it was his hope that visiting delegations, such as the one from Mexico, would raise the issue in the course of discussion.