Daily Archives: February 22, 2016

COP21 is still on track as countries drop their more unfeasible ambitions

Robert Stavins

The first week of the COP21 Paris climate conference has drawn to a close, and the delegates have taken some brief and well-deserved time off before returning to the negotiations today. They are moving towards a final agreement by the scheduled adjournment on Friday – or more likely, by an extended adjournment on Saturday (or even Sunday).

The first week of the COP21 Paris climate conference has drawn to a close, and the delegates have taken some brief and well-deserved time off before returning to the negotiations today. They are moving towards a final agreement by the scheduled adjournment on Friday – or more likely, by an extended adjournment on Saturday (or even Sunday).

Delegates might have to work late at COP21, but we can be confident a deal will be delivered by the weekend. Reuters/Stephane Mahe

The draft text of what will become the Paris Agreement is now 48 pages long, with abundant bracketed insertions of suggested text. The eventual agreed text will likely be about half to two-thirds this length.

Progress is being made. In terms of my scorecard previously posted on this blog, here is where things stand in regard to my five criteria of success for the Paris talks.

Criterion 1: Include at least 90% of global emissions in the set of climate pledges (called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs) that are submitted and part of the Paris Agreement (compared with 14% in the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol).

This has been achieved, with today’s total number of submitted INDCs reaching 157, reflecting 184 countries (including the European Union member states), and covering about 94% of global emissions and 97% of the global population. An additional 3% of global emissions will be covered by separate international aviation and maritime transport regimes.

Criterion 2: Establish credible reporting and transparency requirements. For many years, what Europe and the United States saw as the necessity for transparency regarding emissions and emissions reduction efforts was seen by China and some of the other large emerging economies as a threat to national sovereignty. But China, in various statements, has gradually moved closer to recognising the importance of transparency for monitoring, reporting, and verification.

Criterion 3: Begin to set up a system to finance climate adaptation (and mitigation) — the famous US$100 billion commitment. A key question has been whether the accounting of these funds would include private-sector finance, in addition to public-sector finance (that is, foreign aid). It appears very likely that leveraged private-sector finance (that is, foreign direct investment) will be counted as part of the total, which is good news. Now, a key question is whether the final text will also include some reference to the US$100 billion being only a floor – a view favored by developing countries.

These finance issues could still upset the talks, but that appears unlikely. One way or another, agreement should be reached by the weekend.

Criterion 4: Agree to return to negotiations periodically, such as every 5 years, to revisit the ambition and structure of the INDCs.

There is emerging agreement of the importance of providing for periodic review and revisiting of INDCs, but the exact timing is still up in the air. Anything less than 5 years is not feasible, and anything longer than 10 years looks problematic. I expect that the delegates will converge on text that specifies something within that range.

Criterion 5: Put aside unproductive disagreements, such as on so-called “loss and damage”, which looks to rich countries like unlimited liability for bad weather events in developing countries, and the insistence by some parties that the INDCs themselves be binding under international law.

The loss and damage issue is difficult, because the interests of the wealthy countries, at one extreme, and the most vulnerable countries, such as the small island states, at the other, are so divergent that negotiations can become polarised. But it is highly unlikely that even the most aggressive of the most vulnerable countries would want to bring down the whole house of cards just for the sake of this issue.

There has been more progress on discussions in the corridors, if not in the negotiations, regarding the eventual legal status of the agreement. The French have now recognised publicly that their previous position arguing that the entire agreement, including the numerical contributions in the INDCs, be binding under international law is simply not feasible. Among other things, it would mean that the Paris Agreement would require Senate ratification in the United States, which means that the United States would not be a party to the agreement. No one wants to repeat the Kyoto Protocol experience.

Finally, there is more and more talk about stating in the agreement some aspirational target that is more ambitious than the frequently discussed 2℃ limit for temperature increase this century (relative to the average pre-industrial temperature). Despite the passion with which many countries, particularly the most vulnerable ones, have spoken on this, the final text is unlikely to enshrine a new global objective, given how difficult it was to reach agreement on the current one.

So my fundamental prediction for Paris continues to be – according to my specified criteria – eventual success when the talks adjourn. Again, for those of you who would like to keep up on the work of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, here is a web page describing our activities in Paris and related to the Paris climate talks here.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Trade Talks Can Follow Path of Paris Climate Change Agreement | Robert Stavins


An Economic Perspective

Op-Ed, The Environmental Forum, volume 33, issue 2, page 15

March/April 2016

Author: Robert N. Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government; Member of the Board; Director, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

While I was in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, I reflected on the process that had led to the then-emerging Paris Agreement (about which I will write in a future column). My Harvard colleague Robert Lawrence, a leading international trade economist, was back in Cambridge. He and I concluded that international trade negotiators could benefit by observing the progress that had been made in Paris. This led to an op-ed that appeared in the Boston Globe on December 7.

For many years, climate negotiators have looked longingly at how the World Trade Organization was able to negotiate effective international agreements. But ironically, the Paris climate talks and the WTO negotiations, which took place the following week in Nairobi, led to the opposite conclusion. Trade negotiators can emulate the progress made in the climate change agreements by moving away from a simplistic division between developed and developing countries.

For years, global climate change policy was hobbled by this division. In the Kyoto Protocol, only developed countries committed to emissions reductions. Developing countries had no obligations. The stark demarcation made meaningful progress impossible, partly because the growth in emissions since the protocol came into force in 2005 has entirely been in the large developing countries. Even if developed countries were to eliminate their CO2 emissions completely, the world cannot reduce the pace of climate change unless countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia take meaningful action.

The WTO negotiations, launched in 2001 in Doha, have remained at an impasse because of similar problems. They are tied up because nearly all the obligations assumed by WTO members depend upon whether they claim to be developed or developing. And since countries are allowed to self-designate, countries such as Singapore, South Korea, and the Persian Gulf oil states seek to be treated the same as Ghana, Zambia, and Pakistan.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Thanks to Paris, we have a foundation for meaningful climate progress

Laurent Fabius has brought the gavel down on a successful deal. Reuters/Stephane Mahe
December 17, 2015 10.38am EST

Robert Stavins

The Paris Agreement is a truly landmark climate accord, and checks all the boxes in my five-point scorecard for a potentially effective deal. It provides a broad foundation for meaningful progress on climate change, and represents a dramatic departure from the Kyoto Protocol and the past 20 years of climate negotiations.

In Paris, representatives of 195 countries (plus the European Union) adopted a new hybrid international climate policy architecture that includes: bottom-up elements in the form of “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs), which are national targets and actions that arise from national policies; and top-down elements for oversight, guidance, and coordination. Now, all countries will be involved in taking actions to reduce emissions.

Remarkably, 186 of the 196 parties to the agreement submitted INDCs by the end of the Paris talks, representing some 96% of global emissions. This broad scope of participation under the new agreement is a necessary condition for meaningful action – but, of course, it is not a sufficient condition.

Also required is adequate ambition of the individual contributions. But this is only the first step with this new approach. The INDCs will be assessed and revised every five years, with their collective ambition ratcheted up over time.

That said, even this initial set of contributions could cut anticipated temperature increases this century to about 3.5℃ – more than the frequently discussed aspiration of limiting temperature increases to 2℃ (or now, under the Paris deal, potentially to 1.5℃), but much less than the 5-6℃ increase that would be expected without this action. (An amendment to the Montreal Protocol to address hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is likely to shave off a further 0.5℃ of warming.)

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Sachamama Center for BioCultural Regeneration (SCBR)

Sachamama Center for BioCultural Regeneration (SCBR) is a non-profit organization in the Peruvian High Amazon with a field station in the town of Lamas, Department of San Martin, Peru and a directorate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dedicated to the biocultural regeneration of the region in collaboration with the indigenous Kichwa-Lamistas, the descendants of pre-Columbian inhabitants, as well as with the local Education Board of the province of Lamas (Sp. acronym UGEL). SCBR was founded in 2009 by the anthropologist Frédérique Apffel-Marglin. SCBR shares a worldview in which the human, the non-human, as well as the community of spirits, are all kin to each other, treating nature as a Thou rather than an it. By ‘biocultural regeneration’ we mean to honor this integration of all life as well as the cyclicity of its rhythms. It is also meant to obviate the backward/advanced implications of more linear formulations.

SCBR is bringing together an expanding collective of scholars, activists, and students that cross the North-South divide. The Center’s mission is to integrate politics and spirituality, activism and scholarship, biocultural regeneration and fair economic practices, with the goal of nurturing intercultural dialogue. SCBR’s mission is to strengthen the ancestral legacies and other practices of the Kichwa-Lamistas in dialogue with them as well as to regenerate the pre-Colombian Amazonian Black Earth of millenial fertility, collaborating with the local Education Board of Lamas to teach this heritage of the pre-Colombian ancestors to the new generation in order to slow deforestation, improve the local agriculture and help solve the climate crisis.

….(read more).

And view:

Amazonian Dark Earth in a Center in the Peruvian High Amazon

Karina Takahashi

Published on Sep 13, 2015

In the past two decades or so archaeologists have discovered a type of soil throughout the Amazon Basin, known as Amazonian Dark Earth. This soil is 8,500 years old and still fertile today; it is considered to be the most sustainable soil in the world. It gave rise to a complex and populous Amazonian civilization, the first in the Americas. With the demographic collapse that happened with the coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century that saw 99% of Amerindians die, the knowledge of this soil has been lost.

Amazonian Dark Earth can at once address deforestation and food sovereignty as well as mitigate the climate crisis thanks to the biochar that it contains. It is full of ceramic shards which come from offerings to Earth Beings, providing us with an alternative to relating to the earth as an inert mechanism to be exploited for the sole benefits of humans.

A documentary about re-creating Amazonian Dark Earth in a Center in the Peruvian High Amazon founded by anthropologist Frédérique Apffel-Marglin.

as well as:

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Harvard Conference April 30, 2016 | Biodiversity for a Livable Climate

The Power and Promise
of Biodiversity: Visions of
Restoring Land, Sea and Climate

Saturday, April 30, 2016
A conference at Harvard University
Geological Lecture Hall
24 Oxford Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Biodiversity is the foundation of a healthy ecosystem. Biodiversity varies from habitat to habi-tat, but an abundance of different species in any habitat provides the resilience and strength necessary for a system as a whole to survive and to thrive despite the inevitable changes Mother Nature casts its way.

For videos of sessions see:



Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

EV & N – 206 – CCTV | Grassroots~Global Visionary: Naomi Klein + Student Organizers at Harvard




Click here for Slides from Student Event20 February 2016, 2:00-4:00pm