Saturday, 29 December 2007

In the Zone

I wrote this last week. Now I have a cold.

With half a bottle of Rioja in me, and the Beastie Boys "Ill Communication" on the stereo thinks are going swimmingly.

Happy New Year, and that sort of thing.

Well, apparently this blog has been going for an entire year now, though I can't claim the volume or quality of posts is of particular note. Got engaged, got promoted, went to Geneva, Bangkok, Bonn, up to Mosel, across to Forth and around Suffolk. Oh, and to Bali.

But what does it all mean? What does the fact that I've written more about the political situation in Pakistan than about my fiancée?

Things are pretty much as they were a year ago, engagement aside. Kate and I are still living in Battersea with Win, although our view of the Thames is becoming gradually more obscured as new flats are constructed. We still have a tiny sliver of water, visible above the helipad.

We still don't own a bed, which is a slight concern. I'll consider I've made it when I own a bed. And a fridge. And washing-machine. I have got a nice tailcoat, however.

Wedding planning is going ahead. Venues are booked, we are looking into buses (not literally) and Kate is having some sort of dress-thing made. I'm not going to spoil the surprise by looking at it before the ceremony. Of course, there's the possibility it might clash with my lilac dress suit and green waistcoat, but I'll take the risk.


Despite my posturing, I have no real qualifications to talk about foreign (or indeed domestic) affairs. The murder of Benazir Bhutto has totally unmasked me. I can't comment. I can't offer analysis. I have nothing intelligent to say. Sadly, I have yet to come across a journalist who can say otherwise.

If that counts as sarcastic cultural criticism, I. Don't. Care.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Post-Kyoto negotiations : The Bali Roadmap

So excited am I that Juliet chose to make a comment on the blog (the first in goodness knows how long) I've decided to celebrate by presenting two postings in one day. Another good reason for doing this is that I then don't have to justify, over and over, my ridiculous trip to a beachy paradise in the name of climate change.

So, what is the Bali Roadmap (I think it's now called the Bali Action Plan, to be precise)? Well, this is the Bali Action Plan.

Fine. What does that mean?

Historically this is a slow process. COP 1* met in Berlin in 1995. The Convention had already been signed by many countries but this COP recognised that, as it stood, the Convention alone could not solve the problem of Climate Change. It dealt with general principles rather than specific actions. "The Berlin Mandate" called for parties (i.e. countries) to find a way to deliver something under the Convention to solve (or at least start to solve) the problem.

2 years later, at Kyoto, the Kyoto Protocol was came into being. The Protocol set up a number of principles include specific targets for emissions reductions during the period 2008 - 2012. The Protocol was not designed to expire after this date but it did not specify what action would occur after this date. It is a commonly held misconception (spread by some, but by no means all, Americans, and by many others) that China and India do not have obligations under this Protocol. The do not have an emissions reduction target for 2008 - 2012. However they do have obligations to continue to do what they signed up for under the Convention (see Article 10 of the Protocol). Furthermore, since the Protocol only commits parties to quantified emissions reductions until the end of 2012, a second phase of Kyoto (i.e. action "post-2012") could include either more parties joining Annex I (the parties that take hard cuts) or additional/new/different commitments by non-Annex I parties.

It is my personal opinion that, had the US joined Kyoto, they would now be in a far stronger position to negotiate with non-Annex I countries, particularly big emitters like China, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. I shall ignore India for the time being, because although are a large country, their per capita emissions are so low that it seems unlikely they will take an hard cuts any time soon.

Enough of personal opinion (for the time being).

The drafting of the Kyoto Protocol was not, in itself, significant. It required ratification by the parties. At COP 6, in 2000, in The Hague, negotiations on ratification broke down. By COP 6 bis
the following year President Bush had already indicated that he wasn't going to support US ratification (though to be fair, even if he had supported ratification it would likely have been impossible to persuade the US Senate to follow suit). The EU and Japan, as well as others, did ratify, but the Protocol could not come into force until sufficient numbers of parties, including a significant proportion on Annex I parties, ratified. In effect this meant that until Russia ratified, the Protocol was stalled.

Russia finally ratified in 2005 and the Protocol was then, for all intents and purposes, alive. So it only took 10 years from the text of the Berlin Mandate, to actually getting an emissions reductions treaty up and going. In that 10 years emissions globally increased significantly, and the world's largest emitter of GHGs decided not to join in.

That brings us, via 4 rather technical COPs, to Montreal in 2005. In Montreal the UK played a particularly significant role, in the role of President of both the EU and the G8. In essence Montreal started a discussion that could lead to a negotiation that could lead to future commitments. At Montreal parties eventually committed to looking not just at what Annex I (i.e. developed) parties can do, but also what all parties can do to enhance the Convention (code for talking about what non-Annex I (developing) countries can do.

Two years after Montreal (slow process, right) Bali gives us a mandate to negotiate over the next 2 years (!) in order to deliver a new, long-term goal for emissions reductions that will require contributions from both Annex I and non-Annex I countries. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is still enshrined in the text of this Action Plan, which means that non-Annex I countries will not (in the first instance, by which I mean 2013) have emissions reductions targets. What precisely this all means is up for negotiation. As I've written elsewhere

... in the short term what we are going to see is a growth in Chinese and Indian emissions, and hopefully a decrease in Annex I emissions.

The plan would be that

i) Annex I takes deep cuts from 2013 onwards.

ii) India and China (and all other developing countries, or at least significant ones) do more to improve energy efficiency, so that their emissions growth is significantly lower than predicted

iii) Annex I contribute to ii) with technical and financial support

iv) Eventually China, then later India, enter into full emissions reductions commitments

The devil is in the detail, of course, which is why the negotiations over the next two years are so important.

What level of cuts do we take in i)? And how is that cut divided up? What level of reductions will Japan sign up to, vs. US, vs. EU?

What will China and India (and Mexico, Korea, Brazil etc.) do in ii)? And how do we monitor it? And how do we hold them to doing it?

How do we support ii) through iii)? To what level? What level of support in iii) is tied to ii)? i.e. will we end up in a stupid argument where we say they aren't doing ii) and they say that's because we didn't give enough support under iii)?

On iv), when?

Don't forget that the average Chinese emits about 1/5th of what the average American emits. But also don't forget that there are 1.3 billion of them.

A lot of these issues would be easier to deal with had the USA stuck with Kyoto. Having made cuts it would now be in a stronger negotiating position. As it is, China (and particularly India, who have very low per capita emissions) are saying to the US "You caused this problem. You move first. Once we see you move we will consider moving"

So that's the reality.

There is a potential way forward, which is sectoral agreements. We could look at particular sectors, like manufacturing in China and India, and include them in a global reduction agreement, while letting the electricity consumption for, say, domestic purposes, increase. Sectoral agreements are complex, and I'm no expert, but I expect to see this sort of thing being talked about over the next two years.

Does that help?

* Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

I wish to complain

Using one's blog to whine about the inequities of your life, especially when the inequities in question are so minor as the ones facing me, must be considered the amongst worst forms of self-indulgence. However I am going to do so, because I can. Mwhahahaaa! The power is intoxicating.

So today I am absolutely flabbergasted and moreover intimidated by the sheer volume of stuff that needs doing this week. The volume of stuff is only a surprise to me because I'm been putting off doing it for months and have erased it from my concious mind in an monumental programme of procrastination. I mean, if procrastination could make money, or be used to generate energy or some other useful product I'd be a multinational with annual turnover greater than the GDP of most African countries.

So, to summarise the drivel, there is a lot to do, and it's all my own fault. No sympathy expected.

Here are the things I'm now concious of. Feel free to remind me of other things and send me into a screaming panic.

  • Back from two weeks in Bali. So that's a huge pile of washing, drying and ironing, for a start
  • Back from two weeks in Bali. So that's about 700 e-mails to process and umpteen new tasks to add to my work 'to-do list', which is already out of control. Once your 'to-do list' is longer than a side of A4 paper you are utterly, utterly fucked beyond redemption. I fear I have now reached this stage.
  • The house needs cleaning. This, at least, I can share with Kate and Win*
  • Christmas cards. Bugger.
  • Christmas shopping. Double bugger.
  • New Year. No one has arranged anything. Why do I have to be the ideas man?
  • Fixing the liquidiser
  • Finding a bus to take guests from the wedding to the reception
  • Thinking about food for the wedding
  • Designing, proofing, printing, addressing and posting wedding invites
  • Booking a honeymoon
  • Write/e-mail/facebook/phone about 100 people to remind them that I still consider them to be friends and by the way, what have you been up to in the last six weeks/months/years?
  • Work out what the hell I'm spending all my money on, and stop it
  • Fill in a claim form for two weeks worth of expenses and a second claim for for a month's worth of overtime in a convincing a manner as possible
  • Unpack the suitcase and find a proper place to store all the random stuff like a deck of cards, a money-belt, a hotel sewing-kit, mosquito repellent, travel plugs etc.
  • Box and distribute 11 Swedish Kronë (don't ask)
I think the most important thing to do at this point is surf the internet for 5 hours.

* I can't recall if I explained the domestic situation. I moved in with Win in a spacious flat with squeaky flooring and a splendid view** over the Thames, about two years ago. Win was kind enough to allow Kate to come and share this wonderful place with us in July 2006 and since then we have all been avoiding doing the hoovering.

** This view is slowly being replaced with a less splendid view of a new block of flats. There will, so long as the Battersea Helipad remains functioning, be a bit of Thames still on view.

Friday, 14 December 2007

In Plenary : Again

Blimey! I haven't blogged for two months! Sorry about that.

In Bali (for the last two weeks, not two months) at the COP. It's 07:54 and plenary is beginning to fill up, for one last time (we hope). Have the USA compromised? Will the developing world do their part? Can the EU inject bland, meaningless language into the final text? I don't know but apparently in the next 30 minutes all will become clear.