Via Jake Schmidt at NRDC, the declaration [.pdf] from the G-8 meeting has been released.
Significantly, the G-8 leaders (US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan) agree that the global average temperature should not exceed 2° from pre-industrial levels and that there should be a 50% global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Furthermore, developed countries should reduce their emissions “in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 compared to 1990 or more recent years.” The G8 countries also pledge to “undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions, taking into account that baselines may vary.”
On the one hand, it is good to see that a 2° warming limit should be achieved. However, without explicit mid-term (2020) reduction targets, it is unclear how exactly the world will get to that level. The science tells us that immediate action needs to be taken on reductions to stabilize the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and the economics tells us that it will be cheaper to take these actions in the near term.
The fact that there was such wiggle room in the base year for measuring reductions is troubling. The US and Japan have been obfuscating the extent of their commitment by using more recent years as their base–as opposed to the 1990 levels that are the base years for the Kyoto Protocol. Thus, the Waxman-Markey Bill promises a “17% reduction” in emissions by 2020 using 2005 as the base year. In reality, the reduction only gets the US to 4% of the 1990 levels–lower than our negotiated obligations under Kyoto.
Tomorrow the G-8 leaders will be joined by representatives of the “Major Economies”–most notably developing countries such as China, Mexico, India, and South Africa. As I posted earlier, these countries are not likely to embrace the current G-8 language without developed country mid-term targets.
The New York Times is reporting that the Major Economies leaders will not endorse a proposal that would commit developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels (presumably) by 2050 in an effort to have a global reduction of 50%.
It appears the sticking point is that developing countries–in particular, China–are pushing for strong mid-term (2020) targets, something that Japan, Canada, Russia and the US don’t appear able to embrace.
A final declaration on climate coming from the leaders should be issued tomorrow.
Last week the New York Times had an article on a relatively new trend in suburban housing. Instead of a housing subdivision displacing agricultural land, there are efforts throughout the United States to integrate small-scale agriculture into the planned residential environment.
These small farms are thought of by developers as a marketable amenity–much like the traditional golf courses or recreational areas used to provide added value to residential development. They tend to be organic farms and speak to the growing consumer interest in healthy food choices.
Here in the Chicago area, Prairie Crossing, is an early example of the genre. Calling itself a “conservation community,” the subdivision is about 10 years old and contains 350 single family homes and a smattering of condos. The neighborhoods are surrounded by a restored prairie ecosystem and the community has an organic farm on its outskirts which hosts a weekly farmer’s market and a CSA.
For me, the trend is interesting since it speaks to the emergence of a popular sensibility that embraces an environmental ethic. How these places integrate into larger economic and regional planning systems is another story. The New York Times article is not clear about the actual siting of these new farming subdivisions, but they are likely built on undeveloped land with little integration into regional networks of commuting and commerce.
Prairie Crossing is one of the few communities of this sort that has public transportation access–although the stations are not wholly integrated into the subdivision’s residential districts. Others likely contribute to exurban sprawl since the new residents will likely have to drive significant distances for work and shopping opportunities.
An organic farm as an amenity may be a better alternative than a golf course, but it won’t necessarily support sustainable metropolitan development in the absence of regional planning.
For more information on Prairie Crossing, take a look at the illustrated google maps mashup I put together last year:
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.
Beginning on Monday in Bonn, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is holding a new round of negotiations. The goal is to get more clarity on an international agreement prior to the year-end talks in Copenhagen.
A couple weeks ago I posted on the document that is being discussed relating to possible changes in obligations from developed countries. The topic of this post is the document being discussed by the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action.
This document is laying the groundwork for what the long-term limits should be for greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere as well as how mitigation and adaptation should be financed and verified in various contexts.
There are several propositions in the document for long term limit goals. The options under discussion range from stabilizing GHG concentration in the atmosphere at 450 ppm all the way to 350 ppm. Each number would be a significant goal. The current concentration is around 388 ppm and scientific models suggest that the number could more than double in the absence of a significant global mitigation effort.
On the issue of mitigation the document has a wide range of time lines and emissions reduction numbers. One provision asks developed countries to decrease GHG emissions between 20-45 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and by anywhere from 75-90 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.
As a point of comparison: Obama has pledged to reduce US emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 and then hit the 80% target by 2050. The Waxman-Markey bill is even weaker, calling for an 83% reduction from 2005 levels by 2050.
Also included in the document were targets for developing countries, including a reduction from “business as usual” between 15-30% by 2020 and an eventual 20% reduction from 2000 levels by 2050. Large developing countries like China have shown signs in recent days a willingness to deviate from business as usual; but any net emissions reduction obligations will likely be a non-starter.
It will be interesting to see how the various disparities get hashed out over the next two weeks in Bonn. This is really the first time we are starting to see actual numbers in the negotiation documents. Optimism is relatively high given the change in US administrations and the opening of a China-US dialog on the subject in recent months. How delegates from various countries react to the actual numbers in Bonn could give a sense of whether this optimism is nothing more than a chimera.
US President Barack Obama’s announcement yesterday that he plans to increase the fuel efficiency standard for automobiles and regulate their tailpipe emissions is quite significant.
After eight years of federal government inaction, Obama was able to get state goverenments, the auto industry, and environmentalists to agree on a plan that will limit greenhouse gas emissions, (perhaps) enhance the competitiveness of the beleaguered US auto industry, and reduce petrol consumption.
One of the things I found remarkable was the swiftness with which the auto makers abandoned their long-standing opposition to increasing the fuel efficiency standard. Ever since California requested from the Bush administration a waiver to establish their own emissions standards under the Clean Air Act, the auto industry balked at how difficult it would be to follow a “patchwork” of different state standards. They never had a reasonable response to the retort that they should simply adopt the more stringent, California standards on a nationwide basis.
Yesterday, however, the major auto executives stood behind Obama and praised the new regulations. Whether this is a result of the industry coming to terms with the prospects of a dismal future or an example of Obama’s power of persuasion is uncertain. Regardless, this is a significant development.