Guest post by Angel Hsu, doctoral student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. I’m blogging live from the Tianjin intersessional meetings of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the last stop on the way to the big Conference of Parties (COP-16) meeting in Cancun, Mexico this November. The mere fact that China is hosting this meeting is significant for several reasons. This is the first time China is playing host to the UNFCCC climate negotiations, signaling its commitment to the UNFCCC process and the issue of climate change itself. As the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China continues to demonstrate recognition of its role in the global problem of climate change, hosting the intercessional meetings during its national day holiday – a fitting time for China to demonstrate its nationalism and rising leadership in the climate debates. For many, as NRDC’s Jake Schmidt argues, attending the talks in Tianjin will allow first-hand experience of China’s clean-energy revolution and actions on climate change. The main charge of delegates here in Tianjin is to narrow down the set of options available on the table. As Jennifer Morgan, who heads the Climate Change and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute, said in a recent press conference, a key aim of this task is for delegates to “[reconnect] what leaders did and said in Copenhagen and to formalise that in the UNFCCC into a set of decisions, combined with a clear pathway in the form of a legal document.” Parties will produce “draft decisions” on issues such as adaptation, financing, REDD plus, accounting and verification, mitigation pledges, and technology transfer so that when heads of state meet in Cancun, they’ll be able to quickly move to identify points of common ground on these issues to carry enough momentum into South Africa for COP-17. What can’t be ignored this week in Tianjin is the current state of China-US relations. Recent headlines such as the complaint filed by the US steelworkers union against Chinese clean-energy subsidies and a bill currently being discussed in Congress that would penalise China for keeping its currency artificially low are evidence of the current tenuousness of Sino-American relations. It remains to be seen this week whether such a political backdrop will cloud the climate discussions in Tianjin between the two countries, particularly on issues such as financing, technology transfer and the Measurable, Reportable, and Verifiable (MRV) aspects of actions from developing countries and of commitments and support from developed countries. As you’ll remember from the COP-15 discussions in Copenhagen the United States came in demanding international verification of China’s domestic climate actions, a move that riled and split the Chinese delegation, although China in the end agreed to “international consultation and analysis”. However, according to Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, this agreement to “international consultation and analysis” was only made reluctantly and caused considerable dissension within the Chinese delegation, as it went beyond what the Chinese representatives had in their talking points coming into Copenhagen. Lieberthal contends that the Chinese were unhappy in particular about bringing in the MRV piece into a formal COP-approved process; instead, the Chinese are looking only to bring in elements from Copenhagen that prove useful and basing negotiations in the two-track process of the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan. I’ll be following the MRV issue closely over the next few days, as part of my dissertation research and the reason why I’m in Tianjin as an observer. To make matters worse, the United States also missed an opportunity to engage in high-level climate and energy discussions with the high-level Chinese officials, including NDRC Vice Minister Xie Zhenhua, who – as host of the negotiations – is undoubtedly present and available. While the US delegation is in the perfectly capable hands of Jonathan Pershing, deputy special envoy for climate change, the presence of his boss, Todd Stern, would have given tremendous mian zi (literally, “face;” or figuratively, “dignity or respect”) to the Chinese hosts. The talks would have been prime opportunity for the two climate behemoths to repair some of the ground lost over the last year. Despite the daunting challenges always on the plate at these UNFCCC meetings, I hope that delegates here heed the charge of executive secretary Cristiana Figueres during this morning’s welcome plenary session – “Now is the time to act”, else we threaten to forfeit the credibility of multilateralism in solving the global climate change challenge. More to come … follow me on Twitter at @ecoangelhsu for real-time updates from the Tianjin Meijiang Convention Center.
On the Environment
Graham's plan for clean energy bill could drain RES support
California licenses 2 new power plants
China moving heaven and earth to bring water to Beijing
Emanuel's Departure is set; replacement is longtime aide
US issues new rules on drilling
Developing Nations to Get Clean Burning Stoves
UN asks for action on nature loss, citing poverty
RES bill stands alone or dies, sponsors vow
White House meeting yields environmental justice pledges
Well is sealed, tale isn't over
According to the report “Business Cleaning Sustainability Study,” conducted on behalf of Procter & Gamble Professional, businesses lack, or have a perceived lack of, credible data to meet sustainability goals. This is a longstanding problem, and one that the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy identified some time ago. For instance, in Professor Esty’s piece published by Oxford University Press in 2002, he states: “The data and analyses needed – by governments, companies, and individuals – for thoughtful and systematic action to minimize pollution harms and to optimize the use of natural resources are often unavailable or seem to costly to obtain. As a result, choices are made on the basis of generalized observations and best guesses, or worse yet, rhetoric and emotion. We stand, however, on the verge of an opportunity to transform our approach to pollution control and natural resource management through deployment of digital technologies in support of a more careful, quantitative, empirically grounded, and systematic environmentalism.” That old problems still linger means we need to redouble our efforts to advance sustainability measurements in all sectors of society, but especially in the corporate world. Along those lines, please stay tuned for Professor Esty’s new book, “Green to Gold Playbook: A Guide to Implementing Sustainable Business Practices,” co-authored with P.J. Simmons, which will be on shelves this spring.
Soul searching for enviro groups -- and desperate RES push -- in wake of Senate defeat
Senate to skip carbon caps, renewable energy standards – report
Oil giants pledge $1B for 'rapid response' on spills
U.S. green revolution knocks, but few answer in South Bronx
China surpasses U.S. as largest power consumer, IEA says
Few improvements to oil spill cleanup since Exxon Valdez
Before rig explosion, scant difference between BP, other drillers on safety
Methane in Gulf "astonishingly high"
First Asian carp found in waterway near Great Lakes
Nature’s Path: A Quirkily Beautiful Shift Towards Sustainable Branding
Greening Our Capital Cities
A lucky few manage to profit from disaster
Carbon dioxide choking marine ecosystems – study
Members overseeing Gulf spill had millions in oil investments
Will bacterial plague follow crude along Gulf Coast?
Senate Dems want BP to set aside $20B for damages
Relief wells planned with little oversight
U.S. continues to lag in solar adoption
Solar Power Has Its Day
EPA withdraws rule excluding certain fuels from RCRA regulations
See how countries would fare in the 2010 Green World Cup
With cap in place, BP begins capturing crude
BP puts containment cap on gushing Gulf well pipe
Power companies lie back as push begins for Senate bill
Oil begins hitting Alabama's Dauphin Island
Key Countries Partner to Reduce Deforestation Emissions
U.S. to halt 33 exploration rigs in deepwater review
Ruptured BP well tops Valdez as worst U.S. spill
The Deepwater Oil Release Impact on Marine Life
BP reduces estimate of how much oil it is capturing
Most large companies plan to increase spending on climate
National Academy of Sciences urges swift U.S. action to curb emissions Obama to set up oil spill panel Oil spill could be among worst ever House Republicans offer bill to keep climate out of NEPA reviews Arctic team reports unusual conditions near Pole
The big question: How much CO2 can the Earth hold?
'Green city' builders facing technological, financial hurdles
Troubled Senate emissions bill to undergo EPA analysis
Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico ‘could be worse than Exxon Valdez disaster’
Russia and Norway strike Arctic sea border deal
This video looks back at Earth Day April 22, 1970 and the environmental successes and challenges that Connecticut faces. Over the past 40 years, Connecticut has made great progress in cleaning up our air, waters and lands, preserving open space, protecting fish and wildlife, and protecting the public health. Watch here.
Global climate deal best option, but road rough-UN
China-led bloc to consider Kyoto climate pact future
Feel free to doubt climate change: just don’t deny it
Poll finds strong support for energy overhaul 'cap and refund'
Greenhouse gas regs won't affect small businesses