Tuesday, December 01, 2015
COP-21 Paris Climate Conference
The COP-21 is drawing about 10,000 government representatives to the Le Bourget conference center in a northeastern Parisian suburb, plus 7,000 observers per week and 3,000 journalists. French President Francois Hollande and President Obama made kick off speeches.
Key Points On the COP-21 Agenda
1) Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – The Paris agreement is anticipated to be a bottom-up treaty, with each country setting goals based on their unique national circumstances. These Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, will form the basis of the country-specific commitments under the new UN climate treaty. It is also expected that periodic review of these commitments will be instituted along with measuring, reporting, and verification to ensure the integrity and ambition of the commitments. While may seem to be making INDCs, there are many questions as to whether countries will live up to these commitments. Even the US commitment is being questions by experts as not adding up to the 26-28% reduction.
2) Green Climate Fund – Financing issues are among the most controversial in Paris, and they could easily derail any agreement. Many developing country INDCs are conditioned on financial support and technology transfer. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was proposed at COP-15 in Copenhagen in 2009, refined in subsequent meetings, and became operational in 2014. GCF aims to provide support to developing country efforts to reduce their GHG emissions and to adapt climate change. However, this breaks down, it is clear that a significant portion of the expected funds—certainly tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars over many years—would be coming from public sources and would have to be appropriated by Congress.
3) Intellectual property – Developing countries have used this provision deftly to justify their attempts to weaken intellectual property rights (IPR) protections, ostensibly to remove the supposed “barriers” to technology transfer raised by IPR. Compulsory licensing and a fund supported by developed countries to buy down IP are two of many proposals being bruited. IPR serve as a fundamental catalyst of innovation, and study after study has shown that it is not a barrier to technology transfer. A weakened IPR regime such as that being proposed above would provide precious little incentive for companies to invest in advanced technologies if after years of research and development and millions or even billions of dollars invested, their inventions could be expropriated outright by companies in developing countries and manufactured and sold around the world at reduced cost. Under such a circumstance, some of the most innovative companies in the developed world would simply abandon the development of advanced energy technologies.
4) Technology Transfer – Tied to INDCs and the Green Fund, Technology Transfer is one fundamental issue that could bridge the gap. It frankly is a better way to move toward a positive goal transforming our energy economy: engage developing countries with advanced technology transfer to help them grow their economies more efficiently and cleanly.
5) Verification – An issue that does not receive the attention it deserves is measuring, reporting, and verification of climate policies. As things stand now, the system of MRV that is likely to come out of Paris will focus not on whether a country meets its emissions goal, but on whether it implements the policies and measures designed to meet its goal. In other words, MRV is more about process than results. MRV will be especially challenging in developing countries. Transparency is a key to open markets and planning, and businesses will be reticent to invest in developing economies without assurances that its investments in emission reduction and offset projects are real and that government activities in support of INDCs have integrity.
6) Binding Legal Commitments Or Non-binding Political Agreement – The Paris Agreement will not be a treaty. The Paris Agreement will be a multilateral international agreement that will include almost every country in the world. Yet some believe that If the outcome of the Paris Conference is to make promises to reduce emissions legally binding, then the Paris Agreement must be submitted to the Senate for approval as a treaty under Article II. This will continue to be a contentious point of negotiating among parties and one that US Senators will be watching closely.
( (Frank Maisano)