Last year China announced that it was taking preliminary steps towards implementing a nation-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cap-and-trade scheme. As trial projects begin in seven cities and provinces, it seems the world’s largest emitter of GHGs may soon join the EU as the second global actor to implement cap-and-trade. Following in the EU’s steps has given China the benefit of hindsight, and the nation is under no illusions as to the volatility and complexity of carbon trading. Such schemes require firm control and robust monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV), as the EU discovered when the value of their carbon credits plummeted to a four-year low in January. Is the current Chinese MRV infrastructure up to the task?
Short-lived pollutants such as black carbon do not typically enjoy the same attention given to greenhouse gases in multilateral climate change negotiations, despite making a significant contribution to global warming. But recent news suggests that when nations focus on these pollutants, they can agree to powerful mitigation measures in a relatively short time. With financial support from a small number of nations, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will soon implement a programme aimed at tackling these pollutants at their source; the inefficient burning of fuels. According to UNEP, if implemented widely enough this programme alone could halve the global temperature rise projected for 2050. Despite this potential, all financial support for this ‘second front in the fight against global warming’ has come from outside the dominant multilateral climate change negotiating forum. Is there a way to monitor the global levels of black carbon, and if there is how might it widen and improve the support for this new front?Read More
As of 1 January 2012 aircraft operators with flights originating or terminating at airports within the European Community must participate in the European Greenhouse Gas Emission Allowance Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The EU ETS has been in place for energy intensive industrial installations since 2005, and is now the first market-based trading scheme to include emissions from aviation activities. As the expansion covers all incoming and outgoing flights, non-EU states have begun questioning its international legitimacy. Do the monitoring, reporting and verification procedures for the expanded emissions trading scheme shed any light on their concerns?Read More
After an intense two weeks of negotiations in Durban, the seventeenth UN climate change conference came to a dramatic close on the 11th of December. The quantity of decisions and reports produced is a clear indication of the intimidating workload which kept delegates negotiating in to the final moments of a two-day extension. With the conference outcomes in hand, the final blog post of 2011 will wrap up this year’s coverage of climate change negotiations by reflecting on issues raised by previous posts.Read More
Although negotiations at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) are still underway, indicators of progress have already emerged. In particular, a draft decision circulated by a technical working group contains a number of interesting provisions for the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of forest-protection activities. As the Conference of Parties nears its end, what does this draft tell us about the development of forest protection verification?Read More
Earlier this month China announced the opening of a Beijing-based air quality monitoring centre to the public, and the adoption of stricter air quality monitoring standards. This announcement comes on the back of a social media campaign launched by high-profile figures within Chinese society. These recent changes raise questions of the transparency of China’s environmental monitoring system.Read More
As noted last week, a frenzy of submissions and proposals has emerged in the run up to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A particular talking point in the conference, which is to be held in Durban (November 28 – 9 December 2011), will relate to India’s recent submission to the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA). This submission suggests some interesting adjustments to common verification practices under the Convention.Read More
The 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban is fast approaching. After meeting in Panama for the last time before Durban, delegates from two fundamental negotiating strands produced texts to facilitate negotiations. With less than five weeks remaining, the resulting texts will give the Conference of Parties a lot to discuss. However, it seems they will be unable to promote the outcome which many developing states hope for; realising a second commitment period (CP2) under the Kyoto Protocol (KP).Read More
Before the introduction of satellites, measuring the extent of Arctic sea ice was an arduous task. Historical studies using shipping logs, exhibitions and diaries give a rough indication of the spread of Arctic ice over hundreds of years. Today, a network of satellites monitor the scope of the ice while on-ice and underwater observations determine changes to the depth. The information provided by these techniques paint a dramatic picture of the future of the Arctic region. It is therefore important that they are understood, appreciated, and improved.
At the end of November, South Africa will host representatives from up to 194 states for the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC). The first Kyoto Protocol (KP) commitment period will expire next year. There is now significant pressure from developing states for a second commitment period to extend this, the only legally-binding set of emission reductions. However if South Africa hope to realise the conference motto of ‘Working Together, Saving Tomorrow’, they must respond to this pressure with great subtlety.Read More
On 20 July 2011, the UN Security Council again held a debate on whether climate change is a threat to international peace and security. If it found so, the Council would be free to use its powers under the UN Charter to address it. The first such meeting in four years revealed new issues and cast a different light on the more familiar ones. What was the outcome of these discussions, and how did the Council see its role?Read More
On 1 August 2011, new amendments to the MARPOL 73/78 convention under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) came into force. The new amendments which were signed on the 26 March 2010 affect both annexes I and VI of the MARPOL 73/78 convention, whose name is shorthand for the ‘International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 as modified by the Protocol of 1978’. The amended annexes regulate maritime activities with the aim of preventing crude oil pollution and reducing air pollution.Read More
One of the most significant elements of the ‘Cancun Agreements’ was the creation of a ‘Green Climate Fund’ (GCF). On 28-29 April this year, the delegates chosen to design the fund gathered for their first meeting. There, they emphasised the importance of ‘clear accountability’ and ‘good governance’. But how are parties progressing towards these goals and what difficulties are likely to arise?Read More
A recent article, making use of Google Earth imagery, on the environmental website Mongabay, has called attention to the damaged forests of Sarawak (a state in Malaysian Borneo), comparing their poor health with the apparently pristine forests just across the border in Indonesian and Bruneian territory.
If a global agreement on climate change is to succeed, parties need to be able to trust that the others are keeping to their part of the bargain. Indispensable for this is the timely provision of reliable data. Recently, however, some have highlighted that a lack of resources and know-how in developing countries on forest carbon monitoring is leading to great errors in their reporting. In the long run, such errors could mean that the credibility of the monitoring regime could be undermined. However, how serious is that risk?Read More