Are 1990 Levels by 2020 a Sufficient Cut?

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 25 Jan 2008 17:47:00 GMT

The Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191), which Sen. Boxer said may come to the floor before June, sets a cap of 15% below 2005 emissions levels by 2020 for covered sectors, reducing allowed emissions to the amount last seen in 1990.

Is that near-term target sufficient, in terms of the science?

As Holmes Hummel points out, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) paints a much different picture.

At Bali, all of the Annex I signatories to the Kyoto Protocol (every industrialized country other than the US and Turkey) agreed to this roadmap, which states in convoluted language that the Annex I countries “noted” that the AR4 indicates that global emissions “need to peak in the next 10-15 years” and be reduced “well below half of levels in 2000” by 2050 “in order to stabilize their concentrations in the atmosphere at the lowest levels assessed by the IPCC to date in its scenarios.” The countries also “recognized” that the AR4 indicates that to achieve those levels “would require Annex I Parties as a group to reduce emissions in a range of 25–40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”

25-40% below 1990 levels is dramatically below the Lieberman-Warner target. From AR4, these “lowest levels” of concentrations are 350-400ppm CO2.

What’s the value of achieving concentrations “at the lowest levels”? The report says that using the “best estimate” for climate sensitivity (the temperature response to greenhouse gas concentrations), reaching a stable concentration of 350-400ppm CO2 leads to 2.0-2.4 degrees C warming above pre-industrial levels. But Hummel notes that the “best estimate” is just one for which half the estimates are higher and half are lower.


To have a 50% chance of making the 2°C stabilization target, global emissions need to peak by 2015 and Annex I countries need to be 25-40% below 1990 by 2020.

As AAAS president John Holdren argued in his speech Meeting the Climate Challenge (at 38:29; see also the slide presentation):
The chance of a tipping point into truly catastrophic change grows rapidly for increases in the global average surface temperature more than about 2°C above the pre-industrial level, and again we’re already committed basically to one and a half. For a better than even chance of not exceeding 2°C above the pre-industrial level, CO2 emissions must peak globally no later than 2025 and they need to be falling steadily after that. That is a great task.
From the UN Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, an international panel of 18 top scientists (including John Holdren):
In our judgment and that of a growing number of other analysts and groups, however, increases beyond 2°C to 2.5°C above the 1750 level will entail sharply rising risks of crossing a climate “tipping point” that could lead to intolerable impacts on human well-being, in spite of all feasible attempts at adaptation.

International Climate Change Negotiation: Bali and the Path Toward a Post-2012 Climate Treaty

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 24 Jan 2008 19:30:00 GMT

Sen. Menendez presiding.


Panel 1
  • James L. Connaughton, Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President
Panel 2
  • Jim Lyons, Vice President for Policy and Communication, Oxfam America
  • Elliot Diringer, Director of International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
  • Glen Prickett, Senior Vice President, Business and U.S. Government Relations, Conservation International
  • John J. Castellani, President, Business Roundtable

Administration Perspectives on United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 17 Jan 2008 15:00:00 GMT

The House begins a new round of global warming hearings this year.

  • James Connaughton, chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality

E&E Coverage:

CLIMATE: Key Republican deals blow to House Dems’ emissions plans (01/17/2008)

Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter

The top Republican on a key House subcommittee signaled today he won’t support a global warming bill that puts mandatory limits on heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

“While I feel strongly that addressing climate change is certainly important, I believe we must address this through a global, voluntary framework that focuses on innovations in technology rather than a pure government mandate,” said Michigan’s Fred Upton, the new ranking member of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee.

Upton replaced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois this year as the senior Republican on the panel that is tasked with writing climate legislation. During last year’s global warming debate, Hastert’s efforts and comments raised some Democrats’ hopes that he would support a bipartisan agreement on curbing U.S. emissions.

But Hastert resigned from Congress late last year, leaving an opening for Upton, an 11-term lawmaker from Michigan’s southwestern corner.

In his opening statement at the subcommittee’s first hearing this year, Upton poured cold water on the prospect that Democrats will get help from the top of the Republican roster.

“At the end of the day, we’ll need to demonstrate that the price paid in both jobs and dollars equates to some tangible environmental benefits to the American people,” Upton said. “In my view, spending trillions of dollars and losing a countless number of jobs, to maybe alter temperatures by a tenth of a degree, while China and India continue to spew emissions is not the option that we’re looking for.”

Democratic leaders of the House subcommittee and full committee did not outline a specific schedule for crafting a climate bill. But they did promise they would make an effort early this year to write and pass legislation establishing a cap-and-trade program that limits U.S. emissions.

In his own opening statement, House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) affirmed his goal of getting GOP backing as he led the writing of a climate bill.

“This will require bipartisan cooperation, and I hope that my friends on the other side will come to the task with an open mind,” Dingell said.

While committee leaders are seeking bipartisanship agreement on the controversial bill, it wouldn’t necessarily be required to pass the measure out of the full Energy and Commerce panel where Democrats have a five-seat majority.

In an interview, Dingell said he didn’t want to comment on Upton’s remarks at the start of the hearing.

Upton wasn’t the only Republicans on the House panel who raised concerns about a cap-and-trade bill. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the full committee’s ranking member, questioned the underlying science linking humans’ emissions to climate change. CEQ chief testifies

Also during the hearing, Dingell nudged President Bush’s top environmental adviser, Jim Connaughton, who submitted a one-page opening statement for the hearing, plus a month-old slide show and past statements by President Bush.

Passing a climate bill “will require as well the active engagement of the administration, which remains to be seen,” Dingell said. “Judging from the rather thin testimony presented to the subcommittee by our witness today, however, I am less than optimistic.”

Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told lawmakers his brief written remarks shouldn’t leave the impression the administration was making light of the climate issue.

He testified the U.N. agreement reached last month in Bali – which commits developed and developing nations to reaching a deal by 2009 that succeeds the Kyoto Protocol – is now Bush administration climate policy.

Taking Responsibility

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 28 Dec 2007 20:53:00 GMT

The National Environmental Trust released a report earlier this month in conjunction with the Bali Conference entitled Taking Responsibility: Why the United States Must Lead the World in Reducing Global Warming Pollution.

The report puts into graphic terms the U.S. share of global warming pollution: 42 states individually emit more C02 than 100 developing countries. Even Wyoming, the most sparsely populated state in the U.S., with only 510,000 people, emits more carbon dioxide than 69 developing countries that are home to 357 million. The report includes profiles for every state and the District of Columbia.

After Bali – the UN Conference and the Impact on International Climate Change Policy

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Dec 2007 17:00:00 GMT

Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing next week on the international climate negotiations now wrapping up in Bali, Indonesia.

Chairman Markey and other members of the Select Committee will host climate experts returning from Bali to discuss the climate conference and suggest an effective path forward on global warming for the United States and the international community.

  • Philip Clapp, President, National Environmental Trust
  • Myron Ebell, Director, Energy and Global Warming Policy, Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Ned Helme, President, Center for Clean Air Policy
  • Christiana Figueres, Former Official Negotiator, U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, Costa Rica

The Road from Bali

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Dec 2007 15:00:00 GMT

Featured Speaker:
  • Senator John Kerry (D – MA)
Introduction by:
  • Melody Barnes, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress Action Fund

After years of denial, delay, distraction and distortion, climate change is changing the political climate. Australia’s John Howard recently became the first national leader voted out of office in large measure because of his failure to respond to citizens’ concerns about global warming. Newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made global warming his first priority in office. Australia’s awakening is not an isolated example. Eighty-three percent of Chinese support action on climate change. Between 2006 and 2010 China plans to improve energy efficiency by 20 percent. The dialogue in the United States is also shifting, albeit too slowly. Fifty-nine percent of Americans now endorse taking major steps soon to combat global warming, and 33 percent more think we need modest steps. Unfortunately this 92 percent of the American public is still looking to President Bush for action on this key issue.

Just last week representatives of more than 180 nations met in Bali to chart a course toward a new global agreement to control climate change that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Together – in spite of American obstruction – they produced a roadmap for the new climate negotiations that set a target date of 2009 for the next treaty. How do we avoid the missteps that plagued the Kyoto Treaty? How do we create a framework that includes industrialized nations as well as the developing world? Sen. Kerry – who attended the Bali conference and led the U.S. Senate delegation – will lay out a strategy to follow the Bali roadmap and expand the existing emissions trading market, promote an efficient and effective technology development and implementation program, launch an aggressive effort to protect the world’s remaining forests, and embrace technology transfer. This will require innovative financing and investment – and, if properly implemented, will create major new opportunities for American industry to create the jobs of the future.

Center for American Progress Action Fund
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005


Gore, Congress, Europe Assail U.S. Stance in Bali

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 13 Dec 2007 20:02:00 GMT

The United States delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali has led Japan, Canada, and Russia in rejecting the nonbinding EU proposed roadmap of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by wealthy countries 25 to 40 per cent by 2020. (By way of comparison, Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191) proposes a four percent cut from 1990 emissions levels by 2020.) The U.S. team is also opposing including references to the IPCC’s conclusions on the emissions reductions needed to avoid dangerous global warming.

In a speech today at the conference, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore said “My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali . . . One year and 40 days from today, there will be a new inauguration in the United States. I must tell you candidly that I cannot promise that the person who is elected will have the position I expect they will have, but I can tell you I believe it is quite likely.”

In a letter to the President, 52 members of Congress, including a handful of Republicans, criticized the U.S. negotiating stance:
The clear implication is that the United States will refuse to agree to any language putting the United States on an established path toward scientifically-based emission limits. . . We write to express our strong disagreement with these positions and to urge you to direct the U.S. negotiating team to work together with other countries to complete a roadmap with a clear objective sufficient to combat global warming. The United States must adopt negotiating positions at the Bali Conference of the Parties that are designed to propel further progress – not fuel additional delay.
E&E News reports on EU threats to boycott a U.S.-led climate meeting:
Upset with the U.S.-led stance, senior officials from the European Union, France and Germany have threatened to boycott Bush’s plans to hold climate talks Jan. 30-31 in Honolulu.

“Without a roadmap and without a destination, it would be senseless,” said Stavros Dimas, the top environmental official for the European Commission. Dimas told reporters he made the same statement earlier today to Paula Dobrianksy, the lead U.S. negotiator at the climate meetings on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Karsten Sach of Germany’s environmental department and French negotiator Brice Lalonde both confirmed their countries also would stay away from Bush’s “Major Economies Meeting” if there is no agreement in Bali.

White House spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer didn’t take well to the E.U. threats. “Such comments are not very constructive when we are working so hard to find common ground on a way forward,” she said.

Global Day of Action

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 08 Dec 2007 05:00:00 GMT

The Global Climate Campaign intends synchronised demonstrations around the world on Saturday December 8th 2007 – in as many places as possible – to call on world leaders to take urgent action on climate change.

The ‘Call to Action’ for these demonstrations and related events that will take place on December 8th 2007 is as follows :

“We demand that world leaders take the urgent and resolute action that is needed to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate, so that the entire world can move as rapidly as possible to a stronger emissions reductions treaty which is both equitable and effective in preventing dangerous climate change.

We also demand that the long-industrialised countries that have emitted most greenhouse gases up to now take most of the responsibility for the adaptive measures that have to be taken, especially by low-emitting countries with limited economic resources.”

We feel that there is an overwhelming need to create a groundswell of global opinion to push for the urgent and radical action on climate change, without which we risk a global catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.

Bali: Australia Ratifies Kyoto Protocol

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 03 Dec 2007 17:05:00 GMT

On the first day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Kevin Rudd, the new prime minister of Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the United States and Kazakhstan the only signatories who have failed to ratify.

Rudd’s statement begins:

Today I have signed the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. This is the first official act of the new Australian Government, demonstrating my Government’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol was considered and approved by the first Executive Council meeting of the Government this morning. The Governor-General has granted his approval for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol at my request.

Under United Nations guidelines, ratification of the Kyoto Protocol enters into force 90 days after the Instrument of Ratification is received by the United Nations. Australia will become a full member of the Kyoto Protocol before the end of March 2008.

United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 03 Dec 2007 05:00:00 GMT

The UNFCCC will convene at Bali to set the post-Kyoto roadmap in five interrelated meetings: COP-13, CMP-3, SBSTA-27, SBI-27, and Resumed AWG-4.

Overall agenda

An international agreement needs to be found to follow the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period, which ends in 2012. In order to avoid a gap between then and the entry into force of a new framework, the aim is to conclude a new deal by 2009 to allow enough time for ratification.

The “Bali roadmap” would establish the process to work on the key building blocks of a future climate change regime, including adaptation, mitigation, technology cooperation and financing the response to climate change. But it would also need to set out the methodology and detailed calendar of work for this process.

A major step forward was taken at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in June, where the G8 leaders agreed to negotiate a post-2012 deal within the United Nations framework, with the goal to have an agreement in place by 2009. Significantly, this was supported by the Group of 5 countries with emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

In September, the United Nations Secretary-General hosted an unprecedented high-level event on climate change in New York, attended by over 80 heads of state or government. This was an expression of the political will of world leaders at the highest level to tackle climate change through concerted action, and they gave a clear call for a breakthrough at the conference in Bali. It was followed by the Major Economies Meeting on Climate Change and Energy Security in Washington on 27 and 28 September, where the United States government clearly voiced its desire to contribute to the UNFCCC process.

The abbreviations refer to:
  • Conference of the Parties (COP), Thirteenth session.
  • Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), Third session.
  • Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Twenty-seventh session.
  • Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), Twenty-seventh session.
  • Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG), Fourth session (resumed from August Vienna session)

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