Posts tagged ‘U.N.’

U.N. Climate Chief Resigns

The sense of disarray in the global effort to address climate change deepened Thursday with the resignation of Yvo de Boer, the stolid Dutch bureaucrat who led the international climate change negotiations over four tumultuous years.

His departure, which takes effect on July 1, comes after a largely unsuccessful meeting in Copenhagen in December that was supposed to produce a binding international treaty but instead generated mostly acrimony and a series of unenforceable pledges by nations to reduce their global warming emissions.

Mr. de Boer did not directly link his decision to step down to the chaos at Copenhagen. But he was known to be frustrated and exhausted by the meeting’s failures. His resignation was seen by some as a further sign that the United Nations framework, which for almost two decades has been viewed as the best approach to tackling global warming, may have outlived its usefulness. And it raised questions about whether any significant progress toward a global treaty would be made by December, when the next United Nations climate talks are to be held in Cancún, Mexico.

“If Yvo de Boer thought that there would be a legally binding treaty at the end of this year, I suspect he would be sticking around to take some of the credit for it,” said Michael A. Levi, an expert on climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations. “He has put in a lot of time toward a very well-defined end.”

The international climate effort has been hampered by tensions between the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, the United States and China, over how to measure and report emissions. The United States, which had promised to lead global climate talks, appears nowhere near passing legislation to control its own climate-altering pollution, and China, now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, seems determined to go its own way.

At the same time, the scientific underpinnings of the global effort to address climate change have been under steady attack in recent months. Those who are skeptical of global warming science have been invigorated by a small number of errors in the landmark 2007 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The head of that panel, Rajendra K. Pachauri, is facing criticism for those mistakes as well as accusations of conflicts of interest for taking consulting fees from business interests. (Dr. Pachauri has said that he donates all such fees to the nonprofit research institute in New Delhi that he runs.)

“We have seen a situation where the politics of climate change are really, really difficult among a number of key actors, and nobody, not even Mr. de Boer, was able to cut through that,” said Kim Carstensen, the director of the Global Climate Initiative of the World Wildlife Fund.

Janos Pasztor, the top climate change adviser for the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said that Mr. de Boer called Mr. Ban two days ago to inform him of the decision. Mr. Pasztor rejected the idea that Mr. de Boer’s resignation was linked either to the lack of an outcome at Copenhagen or to the controversy over the intergovernmental panel. But others noted that, although the international system might have been at fault for Copenhagen’s failures, some rancor was inevitably directed at Mr. de Boer, as the United Nations’ central representative, and it probably speeded his departure.

“It is probably the right time to get a fresh face in. It has been a pretty grueling two years from Bali to Copenhagen,” said Mark Kenber, the policy director for the Climate Group, an international organization pushing for a climate change agreement. “A fresh face would respark the whole process.”

Some critics said that the United Nations should have moved faster to find areas where agreement among the more than 190 nations gathered at Copenhagen could be reached — rainforest preservation, for example — and designated a smaller, more manageable forum to negotiate more intractable issues blocking the talks. And Mr. de Boer, some said, was perceived as too confrontational by some nations, and some saw him as too enthusiastic in raising expectations for an international treaty, even after it became obvious that no such treaty would be forthcoming.

“His role as much as anything else was to be a cheerleader,” Mr. Kenber said. “It was probably the right thing to do; maybe he was too effusive.”

The renewed debate over the science may have also contributed to the pressures on Mr. de Boer, other critics noted.

In a statement announcing his departure, Mr. de Boer expressed disappointment about the Copenhagen talks and said that while governments could provide a framework for action on climate, the solutions must come from the businesses that produce and consume the fuels that add to global warming.

“Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming,” said Mr. de Boer, whose formal title is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Even before the Copenhagen meltdown — the American climate negotiator Todd Stern called it a “snarling, aggravated, chaotic event” — global leaders were exploring other avenues for addressing the climate problem.

The United States last year assembled a group of 17 nations called the Major Economies Forum, which took up climate as one of its major issues and which will continue discussions in parallel to the United Nations process. The Group of 20 also put climate change on its agenda. France, Mexico, Norway and others are looking for ways to address discrete aspects of the issue, including financing for low-carbon development projects. And many nations, including the United States and China, are embarking on bilateral energy projects, wholly independent of the United Nations, with the goal of reducing emissions and developing nonpolluting alternatives.

“The U.N. system has significant weaknesses and it is probably important to develop ways to have dialogues in other, more narrow forums where we don’t have 180 people around the table at the same time,” Mr. Carstensen said.

No one was more frustrated with the Copenhagen talks than Mr. de Boer, who had traveled incessantly for four years trying to prod nations to produce a treaty on global warming by the end of 2009. In a statement, the United Nations said Mr. de Boer was joining KPMG, an international consulting group, as global adviser on climate and sustainability.

In an interview in Amsterdam on Thursday with The Associated Press, he said that the high point of his tenure at the United Nations was the agreement in Bali at the end of 2007 under which nations agreed to a December 2009 deadline to produce a worldwide treaty. That treaty was to have been signed at Copenhagen, which produced instead a much weaker political agreement after nearly two weeks of bitter and largely fruitless argument. Participants refused to ratify the three-page Copenhagen Accord that emerged from the meeting, agreeing only to “take note” of it.


February 19, 2010 at 11:31 AM Leave a comment

U.S. formalizes pledge on cutting greenhouse gases

The Obama administration pledged Thursday that the United States would cut its greenhouse gas emissions about 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 — a step that would bolster the global warming deal brokered at climate talks last month.

In a letter to United Nations climate officials, the administration formally “associated” itself with the Copenhagen Accord by making the pledge, which it said would be outlined in more detail once Congress passes a bill limiting emissions.

Most of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, which scientists blame for global warming, are expected to follow suit. Europe, Australia, Japan and other industrialized nations have said they will cut their emissions outright; fast-growing nations such as China and India say they will emit less as a share of their economies.

The Copenhagen deal gave countries until Jan. 31 to list targets and associate themselves with the accord, although U.N. officials said this month the date was flexible.

The accord is not legally binding, and it was not officially adopted by the 193 nations that gathered in Denmark in hopes of negotiating an agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. It includes measures to verify that nations are meeting their targets, but no penalties for countries that fall short.

Marshall Islands

Tiny Marshall Islands signed on to the deal Thursday, pledging to cut emissions 40% by 2020 — and calling on nations to immediately adopt a legally binding treaty.

“The Marshall Islands lies only two meters above sea level, and our narrow atoll islands have no high ground,” Foreign Minister John Silk said in a statement. “We have the most to lose from a deadlock — but we’ll also suffer if there’s a lowest-common-denominator agreement.”

In his letter to the U.N., U.S. special climate envoy Todd Stern called the accord “an important step forward by the global community to address climate change and mitigate its impacts.”

He said the 17%-range target, which Obama announced late last year, showed the president’s “continued commitment to meeting the climate change and clean energy challenge through robust domestic and international action that will strengthen our economy, enhance our national security and protect our environment.”

Stern did not say what would become of the pledge if Congress failed to pass climate legislation that includes an emissions cap. Such a bill passed the House in June, but its Senate prospects appear uncertain amid the fight over healthcare and Democrats’ increasing nervousness about November elections.

Article HERE

January 29, 2010 at 1:16 PM Leave a comment

Four nations outline “green fund” plan for U.N. deal

Four nations proposed guiding principles for “green funds” on Wednesday, hoping to end deadlock at U.N. talks on ways to manage billions of dollars to help the poor cope with global warming.

“Financing will need to be scaled up significantly and urgently, starting fast and rising over time,” Britain, Australia, Mexico and Norway said in a joint submission to the December 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen on a new U.N. climate pact.

They said that at least 50 percent of any public finance should go to helping developing countries adapt to warming such as droughts, floods or rising sea levels, along with funds to help curb rising emissions.

But a document by the four nations did not set any figure for total funds to help developing nations. The United Nations says that it wants $10 billion a year for 2010-12 to help kick-start a deal with far more cash toward 2020.

It estimates that the total bill for fighting global warming may reach $300 billion a year in the long run, such as shifting away from fossil fuels toward green energies such as wind or solar power.

“We need predictable long-term funding,” said Hanne Bjursrom, a Norwegian cabinet minister who heads the Norwegian delegation. “But this isn’t a document that says ‘this and this is how it should be done’.”

She said the paper marked progress because it was proposed by three developed nations with Mexico, one of the richest nations among developing nations.


Disputes over who should pay the costs are one of the main causes of friction at the U.N. talks, along with splits about how far developed nations should cut emissions by 2020. Poor nations want much deeper cuts than those on offer.

The document noted that Mexico has in the past suggested that all countries should pay into a fund that would be raised based on factors including gross domestic product, population, and use of carbon dioxide.

The document also mentioned a Norwegian proposal that some carbon emission allowances could be auctioned off to raise cash.

It said that there was an “emerging consensus” that any funds should be overseen by a high-level board with equal representation of poor and rich nations.

Developing countries accuse the rich of seeking to tie too many strings onto handouts. Rich nations want to ensure they have good oversight of donor funds.

December 10, 2009 at 10:23 AM Leave a comment

IEA puts $500bn a year cost on Copenhagen failure

Each year of delay in cementing a global post-2012 climate deal will add $500 billion to the cost of the low-carbon energy revolution, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

As international negotiators seek to manage expectations that the UN climate talks this December will result in a finalised Copenhagen protocol or treaty, the IEA said in its World Energy Outlook 2009 that the $10.5 trillion energy investment needed between 2010 and 2030 will increase by $500 billion for each year of delay “before moving to a more sustainable emissions path”.

A delay of “just a few years” would make it impossible to reach the IEA’s scenario for stabilising carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million. Keeping greenhouse gas concentrations at this level will produce a 50% chance the global temperature rise can be kept below the crucial 2°C threshold.

Speakers at the Environment 09 conference in London on Monday were doubtful a comprehensive legally-binding deal would be reached in the Danish capital, however. Japan’s head negotiator Kuni Shimada said that the “most probable” outcome now is that Copenhagen will “agree on the elements for key issues which must be within the outcome. We can still negotiate the nitty gritty details next year.” A final protocol or treaty could be hashed out in 2010 or even 2011, he added.

“[Copenhagen] won’t solve all the issues,” agreed Chris Smith, chairman of the UK’s Environment Agency. “Some of the most significant emitting countries aren’t yet ready to conclude a deal – not least the US, where the Senate won’t have made its decisions until the New Year.”

“What we have to aim for, though, is a number of clear ‘in principle’ decisions, agreed by the participating nations, with a commitment to agree actions arising from those principles in the course of the following nine months,” he added.

But José Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, told delegates: “I’m absolutely certain we can still achieve a high quality agreement at Copenhagen.”

“If we can’t get the [key] elements by the end of this year, we can’t get these kind of elements ever,” Shimada said.

Article from

November 12, 2009 at 12:16 PM Leave a comment

Denmark Invites 191 Leaders to U.N. Climate Summit

Denmark has formally invited the leaders of United Nations member countries to the U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December that will try to clinch a new global climate deal, the government said on Thursday.


The invitations are sent by letter from Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen to the heads of state and government of the other 191 U.N. member states.

The Copenhagen talks were originally meant for environment and climate ministers but the United Nations said last week that about 40 leaders have indicated plans to attend, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leaders of nations in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

November 12, 2009 at 10:23 AM 1 comment

BIOFUELS: U.N. panel finds environmental assessments lacking

A U.N. panel said today that biofuels’ effects on air and water have not been sufficiently explored despite growing global production. The U.N. Environment Programme’s report concludes that so-called lifecycle assessments must go beyond calculating greenhouse gas emissions and consider how agricultural production of feedstocks affect the acidification and nutrient loading of waterways. “The available knowledge from life-cycle-assessments … seems limited, despite the fact that for those issues many biofuels cause higher environmental pressures than fossil fuels,” the report says.

October 16, 2009 at 10:31 PM Leave a comment

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