Tag Archives: Climate negotiations

New hope for the climate with US/China agreement?

For immediate release The agreement by China to phase out one of the most potent greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has led to hopes that progress to combat climate change might finally be made. LONDON June 12 – One of the great stumbling blocks of climate talks in the last 15 years has been that America refuses to move to cut emissions of greenhouse gases until China does – but at the weekend leaders of the world’s two great polluters reached agreement to phase out one of the most potent of them hydrofluorocarbons (HCFs). It was heralded as a great breakthrough, and if it works it will seriously improve the chances of the world avoiding dangerous climate change. But curiously the phasing out of HCFs will be carried out under the Montreal Protocol and not the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Montreal Protocol was set up before the climate change convention to deal with a completely different threat, the hole in the ozone layer. It has always been a more successful international forum for agreement. This is because the chemicals that were causing the problem with the ozone layer were made in a relatively few countries and by large manufacturers. As a result governments were able to control emissions quickly and directly by regulating the industry and creating deadlines to find non-harmful substitutes. Optimism The problem was that in solving one problem by producing substitute chemicals that did not hurt the ozone layer, another was made worse. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, 1,000 times more so than carbon dioxide. So the agreement to phase them out taken at the week-end, instigated by President Barack Obama and agreed by President Xi Jinping of China, will save the equivalent of two years worth of current global warming emissions. Very important is the fact that while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for at least 100 years HFCs fall out of the atmosphere in a few years staving off rapid warming. So phasing them out is extremely good news for the environment. The big question is whether this will translate into action on other greenhouse gases, particularly since this needs to be done under the Climate Change Convention and not the Montreal Protocol. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), was optimistic. The announcement, Mr. Steiner said  “could signal a new and perhaps transformational chapter in international cooperation on climate change. “Along with a variety of recent signals from several key countries including China and the United States, this one on HFCs by these two key economies is welcome as the world moves towards a universal UN treaty on climate change by 2015.” “It is widely recognized that securing a meaningful treaty and keeping an average global temperature rise under 2 degrees C this century will require all hands on deck—what, however, must not be overlooked or sidelined is the urgency to also tackle the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as part of negotiations underway under the UN Climate Convention.” Six million die This last of Mr Steiner’s points appears to be the problem. By comparison with carbon dioxide HFCs are an easier problem to solve. Even before the US/China agreement 112 countries had urged phasing them out and a group called the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of several hundred retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders from over 70 countries had agreed to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants beginning in 2015. But governments may also be able to reach agreement on other short-lived greenhouse gases, according to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. Of these the principle culprits are methane, low-level ozone, which also damages health and crops, and black carbon soot, which kills an estimated six million people a year. Methane can be captured and used as a fuel and cutting out the other two has important economic incentives as well as saving lives. Perhaps the biggest single factor is the attitude of the new Chinese government. Despite the lack of democracy the Chinese are under pressure from the population because of the horrific effect of pollution on daily life, particularly the health of children. Unlike most of the American population the Chinese also realize that climate change is a threat to their economy as well as their health. Come the next round of climate talks in Warsaw in November it may be China trying to persuade the Americans and reluctant parties like Brazil and India that action on carbon dioxide is needed too. – Climate News Network

For immediate release The agreement by China to phase out one of the most potent greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has led to hopes that progress to combat climate change might finally be made. LONDON June 12 – One of the great stumbling blocks of climate talks in the last 15 years has been that America refuses to move to cut emissions of greenhouse gases until China does – but at the weekend leaders of the world’s two great polluters reached agreement to phase out one of the most potent of them hydrofluorocarbons (HCFs). It was heralded as a great breakthrough, and if it works it will seriously improve the chances of the world avoiding dangerous climate change. But curiously the phasing out of HCFs will be carried out under the Montreal Protocol and not the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Montreal Protocol was set up before the climate change convention to deal with a completely different threat, the hole in the ozone layer. It has always been a more successful international forum for agreement. This is because the chemicals that were causing the problem with the ozone layer were made in a relatively few countries and by large manufacturers. As a result governments were able to control emissions quickly and directly by regulating the industry and creating deadlines to find non-harmful substitutes. Optimism The problem was that in solving one problem by producing substitute chemicals that did not hurt the ozone layer, another was made worse. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, 1,000 times more so than carbon dioxide. So the agreement to phase them out taken at the week-end, instigated by President Barack Obama and agreed by President Xi Jinping of China, will save the equivalent of two years worth of current global warming emissions. Very important is the fact that while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for at least 100 years HFCs fall out of the atmosphere in a few years staving off rapid warming. So phasing them out is extremely good news for the environment. The big question is whether this will translate into action on other greenhouse gases, particularly since this needs to be done under the Climate Change Convention and not the Montreal Protocol. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), was optimistic. The announcement, Mr. Steiner said  “could signal a new and perhaps transformational chapter in international cooperation on climate change. “Along with a variety of recent signals from several key countries including China and the United States, this one on HFCs by these two key economies is welcome as the world moves towards a universal UN treaty on climate change by 2015.” “It is widely recognized that securing a meaningful treaty and keeping an average global temperature rise under 2 degrees C this century will require all hands on deck—what, however, must not be overlooked or sidelined is the urgency to also tackle the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as part of negotiations underway under the UN Climate Convention.” Six million die This last of Mr Steiner’s points appears to be the problem. By comparison with carbon dioxide HFCs are an easier problem to solve. Even before the US/China agreement 112 countries had urged phasing them out and a group called the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of several hundred retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders from over 70 countries had agreed to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants beginning in 2015. But governments may also be able to reach agreement on other short-lived greenhouse gases, according to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. Of these the principle culprits are methane, low-level ozone, which also damages health and crops, and black carbon soot, which kills an estimated six million people a year. Methane can be captured and used as a fuel and cutting out the other two has important economic incentives as well as saving lives. Perhaps the biggest single factor is the attitude of the new Chinese government. Despite the lack of democracy the Chinese are under pressure from the population because of the horrific effect of pollution on daily life, particularly the health of children. Unlike most of the American population the Chinese also realize that climate change is a threat to their economy as well as their health. Come the next round of climate talks in Warsaw in November it may be China trying to persuade the Americans and reluctant parties like Brazil and India that action on carbon dioxide is needed too. – Climate News Network

British lawyers aid climate teams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE British lawyers are giving a week of their time and expertise to equip colleagues from the developing world to play an effective part in the complex UN climate negotiations. LONDON, 1 April – To help poor countries to play an effective part in the UN’s global climate negotiations, a group of UK lawyers are spending this week sharing their expertise with colleagues from across the developing world. Seven lawyers who are members of their countries’ national negotiation teams at the climate talks are meeting at a City of London law firm, Simmons & Simmons, which is providing help in kind, for five days of legal training by leading UK practitioners and academics. The training programme has been organised by the Legal Response Initiative (LRI). Its chairman Nick Flynn, an environmental lawyer, says: “The international climate negotiations are amongst the most complicated and complex multilateral law processes ever. “Meetings are often characterised by technical jargon, conflicting interpretations of legal obligations and the use of procedural rules.” The week will include sessions on the international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the labyrinthine workings of its annual meeting, the Conference of the Parties. The international community has agreed to reach a new climate deal by 2015. Before then developing countries will be able to put their concerns and needs on the table. But to make compelling arguments, draft sound legal texts and forge compromises they need a good understanding of public international law and the international legal framework on climate. Richard Dyton, a partner at Simmons & Simmons, says: “In order to give least developed and other particularly vulnerable countries that have hardly contributed to the problem and are already seriously affected by climate change a fair deal, we cannot allow their delegations to be regularly ‘outgunned’ by the legal teams of industrialised nations and emerging economies.” The training participants are from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Papua-New Guinea, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. After they return from London, some of them will hold further training workshops for colleagues back home. The training programme is sponsored and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and the Dutch Government through the Climate Development Knowledge Network. Ironically, an eighth would-be participant – a lawyer from Ethiopia – was refused a visa to enter Britain by another branch of the UK Government.

“The climate talks are not a fair and equitable decision-making process”

The Legal Response Initiative works through a network of 160 lawyer associates in 15 countries or territories who provide free legal advice to developing countries and civil society observer organisations in connection with the climate talks. It also provides on-the-spot advice when the talks are in session. Christoph Schwarte, LRI’s executive director, says this is the first time it has tried to build the capacity of lawyers from the South. “There’s a massive gap”, he says. “Rather than us constantly giving advice, it should be lawyers in the countries themselves who give the advice, and we’re trying to build more of a southern network. “I try to be realistic, and I don’t think we’ll ever level the playing field. The climate talks are not a fair and equitable decision-making process. These guys run around like mad participating in the negotiations, but they have so much else on their plates as well – they’re working on human rights, trade, protecting the natural world. “Lawyers are quite keen to be involved in LRI. They have a good sense of justice, and they appreciate the opportunity to make a contribution to global justice through the Initiative.” In Durban in 2011, governments agreed to work towards a new international agreement on climate, to be completed by 2015 and to enter into force from 2020. During 2012 the negotiations were often bogged down by procedural issues. They will continue in Germany from 29 April to 3 May. The Climate Development Knowledge Network works to support decision-makers in designing and delivering climate-compatible development, with British and Dutch Government funding. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE British lawyers are giving a week of their time and expertise to equip colleagues from the developing world to play an effective part in the complex UN climate negotiations. LONDON, 1 April – To help poor countries to play an effective part in the UN’s global climate negotiations, a group of UK lawyers are spending this week sharing their expertise with colleagues from across the developing world. Seven lawyers who are members of their countries’ national negotiation teams at the climate talks are meeting at a City of London law firm, Simmons & Simmons, which is providing help in kind, for five days of legal training by leading UK practitioners and academics. The training programme has been organised by the Legal Response Initiative (LRI). Its chairman Nick Flynn, an environmental lawyer, says: “The international climate negotiations are amongst the most complicated and complex multilateral law processes ever. “Meetings are often characterised by technical jargon, conflicting interpretations of legal obligations and the use of procedural rules.” The week will include sessions on the international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the labyrinthine workings of its annual meeting, the Conference of the Parties. The international community has agreed to reach a new climate deal by 2015. Before then developing countries will be able to put their concerns and needs on the table. But to make compelling arguments, draft sound legal texts and forge compromises they need a good understanding of public international law and the international legal framework on climate. Richard Dyton, a partner at Simmons & Simmons, says: “In order to give least developed and other particularly vulnerable countries that have hardly contributed to the problem and are already seriously affected by climate change a fair deal, we cannot allow their delegations to be regularly ‘outgunned’ by the legal teams of industrialised nations and emerging economies.” The training participants are from Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Papua-New Guinea, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. After they return from London, some of them will hold further training workshops for colleagues back home. The training programme is sponsored and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and the Dutch Government through the Climate Development Knowledge Network. Ironically, an eighth would-be participant – a lawyer from Ethiopia – was refused a visa to enter Britain by another branch of the UK Government.

“The climate talks are not a fair and equitable decision-making process”

The Legal Response Initiative works through a network of 160 lawyer associates in 15 countries or territories who provide free legal advice to developing countries and civil society observer organisations in connection with the climate talks. It also provides on-the-spot advice when the talks are in session. Christoph Schwarte, LRI’s executive director, says this is the first time it has tried to build the capacity of lawyers from the South. “There’s a massive gap”, he says. “Rather than us constantly giving advice, it should be lawyers in the countries themselves who give the advice, and we’re trying to build more of a southern network. “I try to be realistic, and I don’t think we’ll ever level the playing field. The climate talks are not a fair and equitable decision-making process. These guys run around like mad participating in the negotiations, but they have so much else on their plates as well – they’re working on human rights, trade, protecting the natural world. “Lawyers are quite keen to be involved in LRI. They have a good sense of justice, and they appreciate the opportunity to make a contribution to global justice through the Initiative.” In Durban in 2011, governments agreed to work towards a new international agreement on climate, to be completed by 2015 and to enter into force from 2020. During 2012 the negotiations were often bogged down by procedural issues. They will continue in Germany from 29 April to 3 May. The Climate Development Knowledge Network works to support decision-makers in designing and delivering climate-compatible development, with British and Dutch Government funding. – Climate News Network