Germany


Sounds frustrating? It is, indeed.

The third and last intercessional in Bonn has finished on Friday, August 14th and again leaves loads of unfinished business behind. I don’t want to repeat what has been said before a million times, but just wrap up what the results mean for us, using the statements of those who should know best, including a short summary of my chat with Nicole Wilke, our German Lead Negotiator.

Yvo de Boer (the guy who is the boss of this whole thing: executive secretary of the UNFCCC):

For any hope of a deal, he said, “the speed of the negotiations must be considerably accelerated at the [next] meeting in Bangkok.” And: “If we continue at this rate, we are NOT going to make it.

Well – speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, US’ lead climate negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, added to the warnings:

“If we don’t have more movement and more consensus than we saw here, we won’t have an agreement.

Dessima Williams, the permanent representative of Grenada to the UN and chairwoman of the Alliance of Small Island States, translated, what this means for us. (more…)

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Climate Calculator by WWF

Climate Calculator by WWF

Although I am the only tracker actually born and based in Germany, I won’t be able to attend the third round of negotiations in Bonn.

Nonetheless, we have our Swedish tracker Jonathan on the ground and it’s more than important to take a closer look: What’s happening on the ground, what can be expected and what can you and me reasonably push for?

This time, delegates enter a rather informal meeting (there won’t be any plenary sessions) with two hundred pages of “untidy and repetetive legal text” as ECO, the daily onepager in Bonn, calls it. In the focus of these negotiations: The mid-term mitigation targets (how much will developed countries cut down their emissions till 2020?) and the question: Who’s going to pay for it? (more…)

Klima Kanzler

Klima Kanzler

Berlin n’est pas une ville comme les autres. Elle est à l’heure actuelle l’un des centres névralgiques des questions internationales liées au climat. En effet, l’Allemagne, pays pivot de l’Union Européenne, membre majeur du G8 et FEM (Forum des Economies Majeures – MEF en anglais) va voter dans quelques mois pour élire son nouveau chancelier.
Lorsque l’on connaît les positions de la chancelière actuelle Angela Merkel et du candidat de l’opposition Franck Walter Steinmeier sur le climat, on comprend alors aisément l’importance que revêt de telles élections, tant au niveau national qu’au niveau international. (more…)

Look at the f***ing science we need. 350ppm. Bundestag, Berlin

Bundestag, Berlin

Cet après-midi, se terminait la réunion du European Youth Climate Movement (EYCM). Pour célébrer la bonne tenue des travaux de ce dernier week-end de travail avant la rentrée, une “action” a été menée en lien avec la grande recherche que mène actuellement le Guardian. Cette recherche a pour objectif de récolter un maximum de messages concernant le climat en prévision de la conférence de Copenhague.

Ainsi, aujourd’hui, les membres du EYCM et de l’Avaaz Action Factory se sont rassemblés sur les marches du Bundestag avec le message suivant :

“Look at the f***ing science we need.

350 ppm”

Pour voir toutes les photos : http://www.flickr.com/groups/amessagetocopenhagen/pool/

As the clock towards the Climate Change showdown in Copenhagen keeps ticking, our mostly market-based global financial structure results in yet another bizarre confrontation: Negotiators are arguing whether developing nations should be allowed to break or modify foreign-held patents on emissions-reducing technologies. This would obviously help to lower prices to levels at which poorer countries could afford to go green, but on the other hand clearly lessen the income of those innovative companies that once invented those technologies.

Clean-tech: Shouldnt it be spread as quickly as possible?

Clean-tech: Shouldn't it be spread as quickly as possible?

Developing and emerging economies led by Brazil and India demand concessions on clean technology that would be similar to the world agreement on AIDS and malaria drugs reached in 2001. That agreement, reached only after bitter international controversy, loosened patent rights on drugs owned by U.S. and European companies to create a system of “compulsory licensing,” or generic production of patented pharmaceuticals. A similar system for clean tech could adopt many forms, including generic production of patented products such as windmills, thin-film solar panels and advanced coal-power generators.

But apparently, those concessions seem to be unthinkable in Washington and especially at the US Chamber of Commerce. On June 10, the House of Representatives voted 432-0 to oppose any weakening of intellectual property rights in a new climate treaty, thus drawing a deep line in the sand for U.S. negotiators. Meanwhile, in a recent interview with the Green Patent Blog, Caroline Joiner, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, described the upcoming Climate Change talks as representing “the IP battle of the year.”

Some cleantech entrepreneurs see a hefty stake in the matter, too. Scott Faris, CEO of Planar Energy Devices, a battery developer said:

“There’s a direct correlation between IP protection and the flow of capital, particularly for smaller companies. If we’re doing cutting edge stuff, we have to carve out a defendable stake with enough time to build up. That’s what investors look at — how defendable is your position?”

Intellectual Property: Its mine!

Intellectual Property: It's mine!

So far, little research has been carried out on how price affects intellectual property rights on green technologies, or the complex effects of patent ownership on emissions-reduction investments. Surprisingly enough, it’s hardly obvious that emerging markets such as China indeed need help in that particular form: China’s solar cell industry has quickly become the world’s largest exporter, its wind turbine manufacturing industry is expected to be the world’s largest by the end of this year, and Chinese firm BYD has become the first automaker worldwide to put a plug-in hybrid auto on the market.

However, China remains to be only one outstanding example of big developing or rather emerging countries that can hardly be compared to those often even more affected by Climate Change – be it in Africa, Asia or Latin America. The politcal and humanitarian consequences of a treaty that fails to prioritize the quick spreading of urgently needed technology and knowhow, but rather protects property and profits in the already well-off economies would be devestating.

Besides, the finger-pointing would probably be similar to the public-relations scandal that emerged during the controversy over AIDS drugs a decade ago, when pharamaceutical companies were labeled hypocritical profiteers in face of an unfolding humanitarian emergency.

But in spite of those frustrating news, there still seems to be some reasonable ground for optimism:  This month, former co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics and US-Energy Secretary Stephen Chu took a valuable step forward, signing an agreement in Beijing to set up U.S.-China research institutes in clean technologies.

The clean-tech innovations and patents resulting from this joint-venture are expected to be jointly held, offering a valuable example for the private sector. Before that, Chu had already caused some discussion, when he clearly stated that the international community should take a “very collaborative” approach to improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Here’s the larger context for Chu’s comment, as reported by the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog (he’s not calling for an all-out attack on IP protections):

“You don’t build a power plant, put it in a boat and ship it overseas, similar to with buildings. So developing technologies for much more efficient buildings is something that can be shared in each country. If countries actively helped each other, they would also reap the home benefits of using less energy. So any area like that I think is where we should work very hard in a very collaborative way — by very collaborative I mean share all intellectual property as much as possible.”

It’s – from my point of view – comprehensible that small innovative companies would not want to share their knowledge and inventions for free, but want to be paid for what they have invested in, often in times nobody believed their ideas would ever be that relevant. On the other hand, products such as the computer operating system Linux, the webbrowser Firefox or the platform Wikipedia show that inventions and products can be built in a way that is based on both the “open source”-mindset and a sustainable business model.

Last, but not least, there is one thing that all those companies and diplomats involved should not forget: There is no market on a death planet.

Ist dem G8-Gipfel der Durchbruch gelungen?

G8: Was it a breakthrough?

Watching the decision makers that pretend to save our planet often reminds me of my own successful self-betrayal regarding the planning of my Master’s thesis: As long as the goal lies far ahead in our future, it is often much easier to verbally commit to it – or, as a start, accept its necessity.

To acknowledge every single step that it might take on the way to implement those lofty goals is often much more difficult, as planning those steps takes away the fuzziness and makes it easier for others – and ourselves – to hold us accountable.

When trying to re-immerse myself in the current negotiations and the most recent G8-summit in L’Aquila, I just realized how quickly time passes and how much has already happened since Bonn without me noticing. To me, it’s another evidence of how difficult it must be for every single citizen of our respective countries to follow the negotiations, let alone the assumed consequences of those decisions made.

Anyway: To get back in the game, I gave Christoph Bals, political director of the German Climate-NGO “Germanwatch” a call and asked him for a personal assessment of the current state of affairs. I had met Christoph in Bonn and knew that he was not only very competent and experienced, but also more than willing to help us “trackers stay on track” and get those diplomatic statements right.

“Well, Christoph”, I said, “what shall I think about L’Aquila? Is it a breakthrough – as many called it – or is it just another window-dressing?”

To give you some idea: At the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the political leaders of the “Group of Eight” came together to – among other issues – address Climate Change and send a strong politcal message in view of the UNFCC Conference in Copenhagen in December. The big hopes and expectations lay especially on the new US-Administration, as Barack Obama had articulately announced that he would push forward a new approach to the challenges ahead.

And indeed: The outcome of this years’ G8 summit saw all the industralised and emerging market economies, including the US, Russia, Japan, Australia, Canada, but also China, India and Brazil recognise the scientific view on the need to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

More than that, they have even agreed on a global long-term goal of reducing global emissions by at least 50% by 2050 and, as part of this, on an 80% or more reduction goal for developed countries by 2050. Interestingly enough, it is the term “or more” that is, according to my sources, the outcome of a shift in US politics. What might look like two tiny words gives leeway to further negotiations in case, 80% should turn out not to be enough.

Believe it or not: Having witnessed two UN General Debates myself, I am pretty sure that the use of those fuzzy terms is well-planned and by no means coincidental.

However, the G8 and MEF (Major Economies Forum) also agreed on another very unclear goal: On the need for significant mid-term targets consistent with the long term goals and for global emissions to reach their peak “as soon as possible”.

According to Germanwatch, this peak needs to be reached between 2013 and 2017 in order to have a realistic chance to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius – in case the G8 and MEF leaders are unable or unwilling to agree upon a mid-term goal for these years, everything else remains paying lip service.

Regarding the financing of adaptation and mitigation, there have been no concrete proposals on the table. However, Obama stressed that the next G20 summit in Pittsburgh this year (24-25th September 2009) shall focus on how to finance the steps agreed upon in L’Aquila and hopefully Copenhagen.

Well, as I said at the outset of this post: To agree on the necessity of something and to plan a long-term goal can be a first step on the way you need to take to actually get there. To be honest: It is more than I expected bearing in mind the destructive atmosphere in Heiligendamm 2008.

Well,.. back to work. I think, I should write my thesis as soon as possible.

You can find the German version of this blogpost on my blog www.climateblogger.org

While following our blog during the last two weeks, you might have got used to “Wake-Up Calls”, BUT, once again, I’ve got the feeling that one thing has not yet become clear enough to many of us: Climate Change is not about them (the so-called “third world”), it’s about US (not the United States, but US, the human race) and our existence.

Have you guys out there realized that nature doesn’t really care about us? It will survive us, one way or the other. To save the planet and “do good” to our environment therefore means nothing but nurturing our own livelihoods, the basis that we depend on.

In case we kill ourselves, in case we let this known, but somehow ignored way of slowly happening homicide happen… Nature will still be there, our planet will still be there, BUT we WON’T. If we democratically decide that we do not want to survive (like those dinosaurs back then didn’t really do anything to prevent the next ice age from coming), it’s fine to me.

But the thing that matters here is that we do NOT democratically decide this. It’s a bunch of politicians that decides whether we are going to exist 200 years from now or not. It is some guys sitting at a green table in Japan and elsewhere that set targets that will contribute to killing thousands and thousands of people in Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, Darfur and – last, but not least: Australia.

(more…)

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