Cool COP Morning: Running on Empty Edition

Written by David Connell on . Posted in Learn, The Wonk Room

Last night as I was posting Frank Lowenstein’s great blog on Cancun as a symbol of climate change, I popped open a #cop16 search on Twitter and it looked like total Armageddon down there. The mood on twitter was, shall we say, somber and frustrated. Today’s news stateside offers little in the way of hope for an agreement coming out of Cancun, so let’s just get down to it, shall we?

We’ll start with a rundown from the AP on last night’s action, which saw late-night negotiations and very little movement. Negotiators seem to be deadlocked, for one, on emissions pledges and verifications. Even an agreement on stemming deforestation seems to be at risk now, with negotiators at odds on how to safeguard the rights of indigenous people. (The Boston Globe/AP)

Juliet Eilperin and William Booth have an interesting analysis of ad hoc and sub-national efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stem climate change in today’s Washington Post. These efforts come in the wake of  international failure in Copenhagen and an unambitious agenda in Cancun. The reporters highlight several efforts between countries, states and businesses to create deals on greenhouse gas reductions. For example, a new climate change provision from California that will allow businesses there to offset greenhouse gas emissions by funding tropical forest projects in California and Brazil. Despite these efforts, the question remains: “Will a bottom-up network of ad hoc arrangements and bilateral deals be enough to avert dangerous climate change?” Leaders of the poorest nations have their doubts. (Washington Post)

Continuation of The Kyoto Protocol took another major hit yesterday as Russia said in rather stark terms that it would not participate in a second round of commitments under Kyoto as long as the U.S. and China are left out of the treaty. Alexander Bedritsky, Russia’s special envoy for climate, told negotiators, “The adoption of commitments for the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, as it stands now, would be neither scientifically, economically nor politically effective … Russia will not participate in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.” However, Russia did say it hoped the mechanisms of Kyoto could be used in a subsequent agreement and that it would stick to the pledges it made in Copenhagen. So, there’s that … (Mother Jones)

While Japan, Russia, and, to some degree, the United States have been painted as the villains in Cancun, China — the big boogeyman of Copenhagen — has had an extreme makeover of sorts and is now viewed as a team player at this year’s climate talks, AFP reports. China has engaged in a way that seeks compromise at the negotiating table and touts innovation through public diplomacy, highlighting the real advances the country has made in rolling out clean energy technology. Our own Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy, offers the following excellent analysis on China’s new position:

“I think China is sensitive to the criticism that they got, whether that criticism is justified or not. I also think, however, that they are acting from a position of greater confidence. China is doing a lot in terms of domestic action to control greenhouse gas emissions and they know they are a world leader in many of their initiatives.” (AFP)

One thing that’s not falling apart here in Cancun is climate science. Last year, the bogus “climategate” and the presence of lots of climate skeptics led to an all out — and drawn out — attack on climate science. Andy Revkin reports that the science community is being extra vigilant this year, pouring over texts and correcting any misstatements about the science of climate change. “Moving forward, scientists and their institutions have a responsibility both to be as accurate as possible, and as responsive as possible when a mistake is identified,” Revkin notes. “But they also would do well to track how their language is conveyed by others, contacting media when a mistake is made, and definitely when the language forms the basis for potential treaties.” (New York Times/Dot Earth)

Speaking of science, we’ll end on a serious downer today: According to a new report, carbon dioxide from man-made sources are causing the acidity in the oceans to rise at the fastest rate in quite awhile – roughly 65 million years. The accelerated rise is leading to a change in the ocean’s chemistry and threatening coral reefs and global fisheries that serve as an essential food source for billions of people. (New York Times)

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