Climate Change, energy, Environment, Multilateralism & Unilateralism

COP24: Return of King Coal

Dec 14 2018

By Aline Robert – / Distributed by Human Wrongs Watch

Poland is hosting lobbying for coal and fossil fuels of a scale that has rarely been seen during an annual UN conference on climate (COP). The EU is turning a blind eye to this new facet of its

It takes just one breath of air to understand that coal is omnipresent in Katowice. The acidic smell from the combustion of coal in a neighbouring thermal power station can be noticed even in the temporary buildings Poland has packed around the conference centre.

Even the slogan of COP24, “Katowice is changing the climate!”, which is displayed on buses, has a sense of black humour to it. The city’s emissions, which are being multiplied by the arrival of 20,000 people for two weeks, are actually contributing to the acceleration of global warming.

It is no accident that the conference is being held in a region that had around 15 coal mines operating 20 years ago and still has two active ones. In the third COP to be held in Poland, the country is focusing on CO2 emissions rather than the climate.

The country’s stand is covered with coal and displays products derived from coal, such as soaps and jewellery. On 4 December, at the opening press conference, Polish President Andrzej Duda highlighted the 200 years’ worth of coal reserves the country possesses on its own territory.

Fossil fuels in general have an open forum just about everywhere in the conference, whether it is gas or oil, as is the case at any energy fair. The Polish stand actively contributes to this by holding events on gas, steel and “clean” coal, which relies on carbon storage and capture.

“The main subject of COP24 is coal and fossil fuels in the future,” MEP Jerzy Buzek had no hesitation in saying at an event on coal at the European Union’s stand.

The president of the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee backed up his comments with the fact that the European Parliament recently supported an initiative to allocate a €5 billion budget from the future European budget (2021-2027) to fund the “just transition” of coal regions.

EU’s ‘just transition fund’ gesture muddies budget waters

Europe’s fossil fuel-dependent regions could benefit from an additional €5 billion under the next EU budget, thanks to a proposal endorsed by the European Parliament. But it could complicate already complex talks with the Council, which is eager to cut future spending.

This proposal is in line with the initiative to earmark 30% of the European budget for addressing global warming. However, it not clear how these funds will be used by the coal regions. While some genuinely want to accelerate the energy transition, others simply want to fund the status quo.

“We need support particularly to create new sources of energy production that do not pose a health risk,” emphasised Greek European Parliament member Maria Spyraki, highlighting the 1,200 premature deaths in Greece due to coal every year, according to Greenpeace.

“The decision on this fund hasn’t been made yet, but we’re not so supportive, we support a just transition, but not by transferring funds,” said Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe.

The Greens also believe that the idea is not the most appropriate one.

“The EU has already given billions to Poland under the carbon market, that’s enough,” objected Yannick Jadot, a French MEP who is part of the European Parliament’s delegation at COP24.

“We are very disappointed by the Polish government’s position, which is an obstacle to the Paris Agreement,” said Professor Zbigniew Karaczun, an expert of the Polish Climate Coalition. “Since the beginning of COP, the government has been discussing adaptation and CO2 capture and storage, but not decarbonisation. Whereas that’s what it’s all about!”

The EU unblinkingly supports this attitude, which is hardly compatible with the Paris Agreement and which the 28 EU member states are supposed to support in the negotiations.

When asked about the lack of leadership from the EU at COP24, the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete stalled. “We don’t want a medal, we want results,” he said.

Despite the strong lobbying for the most polluting of fossil fuels, Poland is not lacking in contradictions.

The Polish presidency of the COP attempted to move the boundaries by proposing new texts on Wednesday (12 December) in order to reach a result at the end of the week. This is because the country is not willing to carry the political burden of a failed conference.

Moreover, the Polish ministry of energy is aware of the need to turn the page, if only on economic grounds. Given the price increase for a tonne of CO2 to around €20 per tonne, even burning domestic coal is expensive, and it affects business competitiveness.

In the autumn, Poland therefore committed to reducing its energy dependence on coal, which is currently at 78%, to 50% in 2040. However, it has also committed to removing all onshore wind energy by this date.

Europe stuck on climate ambition at COP24

With the UK entangled in Brexit, France mired in the “Yellow Vest” movement, and Germany stuck in political quagmire, Europe is not ready to lead global climate talks as the decisive political phase of the UN climate conference opens on Tuesday (11 December).

COP24 diary – day #11

Over this special series on COP24, EURACTIV gives you a glimpse into the goings on of the UN climate conference in Katowice and what is driving the conversation there. In this edition: climate ambition at last, UN Secretary-General pounding on the table, Portugal getting carbon neutral, 630 brackets, and more.

The US, still in the Paris Agreement, is trying to decide its future

Despite Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement, the US is still very much in the accord and zealously setting the tone of international climate change negotiations. EURACTIV’s media partner, Climate Home News, reports.


*SOURCE: EURACTIV. . Go to ORIGINAL. Translated from french by Rob Kirby. Sent to Other News by the editor of Human Wrongs Watch, on 14, Dec 2018



Decoding Article 6 of the COP24 Climate Negotiations

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi

KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS) – It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the agreement, which focuses on the country plans for climate action.

While the world has been having climate conferences since 1992, the tide turned with the Paris Agreement when all countries agreed to play their part to undertake climate action.

“Developing countries now have a strong political will to contribute to the greenhouse gas reduction,” said Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General at the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international organisation that promotes balancing economic growth without harming the environment. This political will was manifested in Paris with countries voluntarily submitting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for reducing carbon emissions and building climate resilience, taking into account their respective circumstances.

“But at the same time, they need support to affectively implement their NDCs,” Kim said, at a side event at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which was organised by GGGI and focused on transparency and NDC implementation.

In order to get support from outside, Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of a country’s carbon emissions reduction is almost a precondition as many donor agencies and even private sector organisations want to know how much greenhouse gases a developing country is emitting before they make a decision to support it.

“MRV is key for developing countries to get access to financial, technical and capacity building support, and that’s why we are supporting developing countries to set up more proper and internationally acceptable MRV scheme,” Kim said.

GGGI’s interventions in this area include preparing a low emissions development strategy for Fiji, Colombia’s national green growth strategy and Mongolia’s national energy efficiency plan. The organisation is also working on building capacity to implement MRVs in various countries around the globe, including, Mozambique, Senegal, Nepal and Laos.

“We will continue to support our members and partners in their efforts of effectively implementing NDCs with robust MRVs, so they can access more finance,” Kim said.

“We are committed to reminding countries that green growth can happen.”

One of the speakers at the panel was Ariyaratne Hewage, Special Envoy of the President on Climate Change, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, in Sri Lanka, which is on track to become a member of the GGGI. He said Sri Lanka anticipates extensive support from GGGI in the years to come for its preparation of various project proposals to fight climate change.

“The present situation in Sri Lanka is severe droughts in one part of the country and heavy floods in another,” Hewage said. During a 2016 survey conducted by the Bonn-based NGO Germanwatch, Sri Lanka was awarded the fourth place in terms of climate vulnerability.

“We are severely affected by climate change, so we are very keen in developing climate change programs to ensure these problems are properly addressed,” Hewage said.

The proposed emission reduction i.e. mitigation targets of Sri Lanka’s NDCs include 30 percent reduction in the energy sector and 10 percent reduction in transport, industry and waste by 2030.

“For energy and transport sector we already have developed MRV systems, but for the other sectors – industry, waste, agriculture, livestock, forestry – we need help,” he added.

The need for support was also stressed by Ziaul Haque who leads the Bangladesh delegation’s COP24 negotiations on Article 6.

“Our main issue is lack of capacity to address this enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement at both the institutional level and the individual level,” said Haque, highlighting the need for accurate data.

“We need to bring data on green house gas emissions from different institutions and whether they are collecting and archiving the data in the right manner is an issue that needs to be looked at. In this regard our institutional arrangement is not very strong at the national level,” he said, stating that strengthening the capacity of institutions and individuals who will be dealing with the transparency issue is crucial.

Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and former Special Secretary of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said at the side event that one of the fundamental issues to deciding a transparency framework is that of flexibility.

“Developing countries should be able to make gradual progression on the quality of data,” he said. “We have so far not been able to agree in the discussions on this level of flexibility.”

Moreover, whether the same guidelines regarding MRV of greenhouse gases should be applied to all countries is also an issue of contention at COP24, he added.

Jae Jung, Deputy Director of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Center (GIR), another panelist at the side event, said having common metrics and structured summary is crucial.

“At this moment we don’t have the final text of the Paris rulebook, but we do have a very clean text of the common metric with no bracket, so there might be agreement on that,” Jung said.

“In terms of global stock take of emissions we don’t have to have a common metric in our inventory. But when we do the global stock take every five years there has to be someone doing the conversion applying the same common metric to all countries’ inventories,” he added.

He also stressed the importance of “structured summary” – a form of presentation of aggregated presentation of data that makes it possible to see the level of carbon emissions of one country – stating that helps to avoid double counting issue.

“There is opposition to structured summary because some parties want to use qualitative indicators and narrative descriptions of their NDCs,” he said, “But how does it make sense logically to have qualitative results when you have a quantitative target?”

One way to address the multifaceted challenges to NDC implementation would be through engagement of the private sector, according to experts.

“Many people think Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is about the market itself, but it is about increasing cooperation,” said Dr. Suh-Young Chung, Director of Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP).

“If you look at the Paris landscape to meet the 2-degree Celsius temperature target, you realise it is not enough and you need to bring in private sector investment. And countries need to work together on this,” he said, adding that Article 6 eventually needs to promote cooperation with the private sector, via incentive mechanism to engage businesses and addressing the risks they face.

“Article 6 is about bringing more opportunities for developing countries, but to do so, you need MRVs first,” he said.

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