A New Global Climate Change Treaty – Can Humanity Deliver

A New Global Climate Change
Treaty – Can Humanity Deliver?
Our Challenge after Durban for 2015
Jonathan Boston
School of Government
Victoria University of Wellington
Speech at the University of Otago
14 March 2012
Some Quotes
If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.
George W Bush
It isn’t pollution that’s harming the
environment. It’s the impurities in our air and
water that are doing it.
George W Bush
The Nature of the Problem
“Climate change, and what we do about it, will
define us, our era, and ultimately the global
legacy we leave for future generations”
Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, 2007
Some Quotes
Roger Revelle & Hans Suess:
“… human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical
experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past
nor be reproduced in the future. Within a few centuries we are
returning to the atmosphere and oceans the concentrated
organic carbon stored in sedimentary rocks over hundreds of
millions of years.”
Roger Revelle & Hans Suess, Tellus, 9, 18-27 (1957)
Rick Perry (Governor of Texas):
Climate science is a “contrived phony mess
that is falling apart under its own weight.”
Human-induced global warming is “a
scientific theory that hasn’t been proven.”
(August 2011 )
Durban Conference – COP 17
United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC) (1992)
– Conference of the Parties (COP)
– 17th COP in Durban, South Africa, late 2011
Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (DPEA)
– A new climate treaty – to be agreed by 2015 and
come into force by 2020
– Common rules for all
The Problem
“Climate change is a diabolical policy problem. It is
harder than any other issue of high importance …”
Professor Ross Garnaut (ANU)
… a ‘super-wicked’ problem:
Complex and controversial
All solutions are problematic
Delay is costly
Those most responsible have least incentive to solve it
Weak central control or enforcement mechanisms
Obstacles to an Effective New Treaty
Collective action problem
Powerful interests; big fossil-fuel sectors in key countries
Path dependence and long-lags
Geo-political constraints and tensions
US – an unwilling participant in international treaties
Climate scepticism
Divisive policy issues
Global financial crisis
The human condition
UN decision-making processes
What follows …
1. The science of climate change
2. The international policy framework
3. The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action
The long-term goal
Burden sharing and fairness
Policy instruments
Legal form and broad participation
4. The Way Ahead: Making Progress
5. Conclusion
Do we see the big picture?
Vitruvian man (Da Vinci) recreated on melting ice by artist John Quigley (from Chapman)
The Scientific Evidence
“The outsider to climate science has no rational choice but
to accept that, on the balance of probabilities, the
mainstream science is right ... We will delude ourselves if we
think that scientific uncertainties are cause for delay.
Delaying now will eliminate attractive lower-cost options …
To delay is to deliberately choose to avoid effective steps to
reduce the risks of climate change to acceptable levels”.
Ross Garnaut, Garnaut Climate Change Review (Australia)
(Draft Report, 2008, pp.1-2)
The Scientific Evidence
Summary from IPCC
1. The planet is warming
2. The most likely explanation is the large-scale
emission of GHGs by human beings
3. More warming is very likely
4. Warming will continue for more than an 1,000
years – given the long lags in the climate system
and the carbon cycle
5. Most of the consequences will be negative; they
will be of growing severity and duration; some will
be irreversible
The Scientific Evidence
Main ‘reasons for concern’:
Risks to unique and threaten systems
Risks of extreme weather events
Distribution of impacts and vulnerability
Aggregate impacts
Risk of large-scale singularities or discontinuities –
abrupt changes
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The International Policy
1. Phase 1: The United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change
– Key objective – to ‘prevent dangerous
anthropogenic interference with the climate
system’ … but what does this mean?
2. Phase 2: Kyoto Protocol negotiated under the
UNFCCC in 1997
– came into effect in 2005
– first commitment period (CP1): 2008-12
Kyoto Protocol - Strengths
1. Provided a spur for domestic action
2. Established the essential elements of an
effective mitigation framework, including:
Common accounting rules
Regular reporting and verification
Market mechanisms
Responsibility targets or quantified emission
limitation or reduction objectives (QELROs) for all
developed countries
Kyoto Protocol - Weaknesses
1. Based on an arbitrary division between
developed and developing countries, and
failed to recognize and anticipate huge
changes in the global economy
2. Lack of symmetry contributed to the US
deciding not to ratify Kyoto, thereby
undermining the Protocol’s credibility and
3. Only limited emissions reductions during CP1
Emissions Trajectories
Durban Conference
1. Transition to phase 3 of the international
climate policy regime
2. Positive outcomes of conference:
– Kyoto kept alive – there will be a CP2
– Agreement on new accounting rules, including
land use, land use change and forestry
– Launched the Green Climate Fund
– Launched negotiations for a new treaty
Developed Countries:
Unfinished Business
1. Duration of CP2
2. Translation of pledges into multi-year carbon
budgets or responsibility targets
3. Which developed countries will take on
targets under KP?
4. Carry over of excess units from CP1
5. Ratification process
Developing Countries
1. Nationally appropriate mitigation actions
2. Biennial reporting
3. International consultation and analysis
4. But no agreement yet on new common
accounting rules
The Gap Between What is Needed
and What is on Offer
1. No agreed date for peaking or a global
emissions-reduction target for 2050
2. Not a top-down process; rather bottom-up
pledge and review
3. Current pledges fall far short of what is
required to meet the 2°C warming cap, by at
least 5 gigatonnes CO2e in 2020
Emission Paths to Stabilization
(from Stern Review)
The Ideal Model
1. Universal coverage
2. Explicit long-term goals, including a fixed carbon
(or emissions) budget
3. A burden-sharing arrangement; most countries
would eventually have responsibility targets
4. Right to trade emission units
5. Common accounting rules
6. Periodic review
Towards a New Climate Treaty
The long-term goal
1. The case for a 2°C warming cap
2. The case for an even lower cap
3. But how to stay within even 2°C?
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Burden Sharing and Fairness
1. UNFCCC principles: equity; common but
differentiated responsibilities and respective
capabilities; comparability of effort …
2. Various principles of distributive justice:
Polluter pays (historic responsibility)
Ability to pay (or capability)
Equal right to pollute; equal per capita share of the
Equal marginal cost
Other principles and considerations
3. Only rough justice possible
Estimated Per Capita GHG Emissions - 2012
Source: Garnaut -10 scenario
Legal Form and Symmetry
1. ‘… an agreed outcome with legal force’
– Consistent with differentiation both in terms of
substance and legal bindingness, but
– Legal parity or equivalence necessary politically
for all major emitters
2. How to accommodate the US?
3. Without the US, any new treaty is unlikely;
delays seem inevitable
4. Risk of overshooting 2°C cap
The Way Ahead: Making Progress
1. Need progress domestically in many countries if
international negotiations are to succeed
2. Need pioneers, leadership and action at multiple
levels – governmental, business, civil society, etc.
Research and development
Extending and linking emissions trading schemes
Reducing fossil fuel subsidies
3. Need to mobilize and galvanize global public
New Zealand’s Role
1. Take on a responsibility target under Kyoto
for CP2 – 20% reduction by 2020 on 1990
2. Incorporate agriculture into the emissions
trading scheme (ETS), and improve the ETS
3. Invest in R&D
4. A range of complementary measures
1. Tough road ahead
2. But Durban highlights the potential for
3. Some positive developments –
decarbonisation gathering pace globally
4. We are all in this together – we all have
Mr President, the evidence is there. The damage is being
done. … We need a realistic programme of action and an
equally realistic timetable. Each country has to contribute,
and those countries who are industrialised must contribute
more to help those who are not. The work ahead will be
long and exacting. We should embark on it hopeful of
success, not fearful of failure. … We are not the lords, we
are the Lord's creatures, the trustees of this planet, charged
today with preserving life itself—preserving life with all its
mystery and all its wonder. May we all be equal to that task.
Margaret Thatcher, UN speech, 1989
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
The Stern Review (2006)
The Garnaut Review (2008)
Dr James Hansen (NASA)
Professor Peter Gluckman (AU)
Professor Martin Manning (VUW)
Associate Professor Ralph Chapman (VUW)
Some References
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth
Assessment Report (Summaries for Policy Makers from
WG1, WG2 and WG3) (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Nicholas Stern, The Economics of Climate Change
(Cambridge University Press, 2007)
The Garnaut Climate Change Review (Canberra, 2008)
Jonathan Boston (ed) Towards a New Global Climate Treaty:
Looking Beyond 2012 (Wellington, Institute of Policy
Studies, 2007)
UNFCCC Reports and Decisions of COP 17
Assessing the Costs and Benefits of Mitigating
Climate Change
Estimates of economic activity per person with and without policy to stabilise
emissions at 450 parts per million carbon dioxide, 1950–2100
World gross domestic product per person (historical)
No emissions reductions
With deep cuts in emission – low estimate
With deep cuts in emission – high estimate
Gross world product per person
With deep cuts in emission – central estimate
Key Players