The head of the UN climate change secretariat, Yvo de Boer, held a press conference yesterday to mark the halfway point of the Bonn talks. The meetings in Bonn are meant to make progress on a final global climate change agreement due to be signed in Copenhagen in December.
de Boer summed up the four points of “clarity” that he thinks are prerequisites for a final agreement:
Clarity on individual greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for industrialized countries
Clarity on what large developing countries (like China and India) will do to minimize the growth of their emissions
Clarity on financial support for developing countries on adaptation and mitigation
A governance structure for adaptation and mitigation aid that gives developing countries a voice in how money is spent.
It’s hard to disagree with de Boer’s analysis. At this point there is little clarity on any of these points, but perhaps as the week progresses some broad contours will be revealed.
Following my post last night on New Jersey’s Highlands Act and the impact it is having on growth in northwest New Jersey, I came across a new report published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy entitled Smart Growth Policies: An Evaluation of of Programs and Outcomes.
I look forward to reading the entire book, but with Jersey on my mind, I skimmed through the chapter dedicated to the Garden State. The chapter’s focus is more on state-wide initiatives, but the authors did observe that recent years have seen higher rates of growth in the state’s northeastern core counties in comparison to the exurban Highlands region.
Whether this is due to state planning initiatives or to other forces (such as market demand) is not clear, but the trend towards infill–rather than greenfield–development is encouraging.
According to the Morris County New Jersey Daily Record, regional planning efforts in the northwest part of the state have resulted in “stopping sprawl.” The article cites the fact that no new large subdivisions were constructed in the county as evidence of sprawl’s demise.
While the economic downturn, depressed housing prices, and the credit crunch may also have had something to do with halting development, the article emphasizes the power of a 2004 state legislative initiative– The Highlands Act–as being the primary reason.
The Act was established to protect open space and water quality in northern New Jersey. My understanding is that the seven counties and over 80 municipalities that are located in the Highlands area have to insure that their plans are in compliance with the regional Highlands Plan. Additionally, the Plan is governed by a regional council that has veto power over large development decisions.
This type of regional decision making power is essential to minimize the negative consequences that accompany the typical fragmented land use decisions seen elsewhere in North America. If it seems like the Highlands Plan is really influencing the trajectory of development in northwestern New Jersey, it might be a useful model for other states to follow in order to bring some coherence to metropolitan development.
Normally, governors or state officials who recommend regional planning with teeth meet significant levels of resistance from legislatures and municipalities. The Highlands Act seems to have been an exception.
Tomorrow US State Department climate change negotiator Todd Stern will head to Bonn to join the UN-sponsored climate change talks. The Bonn meeting is seen as a key step towards the goal of coming to an international agreement at Copenhagen in December.
On Wednesday Stern gave an address at the Center for American Politics that focused on China and the US-China relationship on the issue of climate change. During the Bush administration, the US essentially maintained that no global climate change agreement would be possible without China agreeing to significant emissions cuts. This position has basically been a non-starter with China given the fact that industrialized countries are responsible for the highest percentage of cumulative emissions and their current per capita levels of emissions outweigh those of developing countries such as China.
How the Obama administration is going to address the China issue, therefore, has been a matter of interest.
From Stern’s talk it is clear that the US is not going to demand absolute cuts from China. However, he pretty forcefully said that China can’t hide behind its old arguments, arguing that it is not in China’s interest to pursue a high-carbon form of development.
He was asked by reporter to clarify specific actions the US might be looking for from China and responded that whatever it is, it must be substantive and verifiable. To me this suggests that maybe there is some commitment on the table whereby China would reduce energy intensity or hit an emissions target below business-as-usual projections.
We probably won’t get too much clarification in the short term, but it is likely that there will be significant behind the scenes discussions in Bonn between Stern and his Chinese counterparts about ways to move forward.
UN-sponsored climate change talks began on Monday in Bonn. The negotiations will last two weeks and represent a step on the path towards a successor to the Kyoto agreement scheduled to be completed by December.
While the negotiations are underway many NGOs are highlighting the domestic positions of various countries. Yesterday, the Climate Action Network held a press conference to discuss the impending decision on levels of greenhouse gas emission reductions in Japan.
Prime Minister Taro Aso indicated that he would announce Japan’s midterm (2020) reduction target sometime in the next couple of weeks. The graphic above illustrates the various targets being debated in Japan–everything ranging from a 4% increase from 1990 levels to a 25% decrease.
Japan’s decision will undoubtedly influence where other big emitters set their own targets–particularly the United States.
Today a major Japanese business group suggested that domestic industry could meet a 15% reduction. Last month, Aso said that a 25% reduction would be hard to sell politically in the country given the recession. During the CAN press conference, Masako Konishi of WWF-Japan, however, cited a recent public opinion poll that suggested there was strong public support for significant reduction targets.