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Cancun Blog Series:Q&A 1: Cancun Outcomes & Impacts
Mark Bonner, Principal Manager – Policy, Regulatory and Legal of the Global CCS Institute, led the Institute’s effort in Cancun and more broadly leads the Institute’s initiatives into the climate change space. Working through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process is a key part of his role.
I’ve interviewed him on his views on outcomes from Cancun, what happens in the 12 months between Conference of Parties (COP)s, especially in the CCS space, and what we might expect out of Durban. I’ll post the Q&A session over the course of the next few weeks, focusing loosely on the following four areas outlined below. To make it more interactive, I’ve tried to ask him in each session a substantial question, as well as one that requires more of his personal views.
Today we’ll talk about outcomes from Cancun and impacts on climate change policy. Later this week we’ll explore what is happening with the discussions of CCS in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) between Cancun and Durban, what organisations are involved and in what roles. Next week we’ll start by looking at addressing criticisms of CCS in the CDM, and finish with a broader discussion about the role of CCS in developing countries – what we’re seeing at the moment and what we might start seeing if the process of making CCS eligible under the CDM completes in Durban.
Q: Can you tell us about the history of the issue of CCS under CDM?
The issue has been on the table since COP10 in 2004. Based on informal discussions in COP16 in Cancun, many related decisions over this period appeared to have stalled due to a few negotiating parties obstructing progress (noting that the UNFCCC decision making is premised on a consensus or ‘all in’ basis) on a false belief that CCS:
- will yield perverse climate outcomes by encouraging an increase in fossil fuel use;
- projects in developing countries allows developed countries to avoid domestic action;
- technology risks are immitigable;
- derived credits could flood the CDM market and dampen the price of credits; and
- long-term liabilities, ie post-site closure, shouldn’t be borne by host developing countries.
Of course, the concerns outlined above have been successfully counter-argued by the majority of negotiating parties. This was demonstrated by the recent COP16 decisions. Taking the first point as one example, the critical issue for climate change is not whether there is an increase in the use of fossil fuels, but rather whether there is an increase in the amount of emissions being released to atmosphere.
Indeed, an important declaration at COP16 was the explicit acceptance of CCS as a relevant technology for the attainment of the UNFCCC’s goals (to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations) – a very symbolic recognition of CCS’ singular scope for providing large scale mitigation outcomes. I guess I remain mildly optimistic that countries (and there’s really only a handful) that previously obstructed progress on CCS, resist the temptation to again barter with, and/or slow the pace of post-COP16 decisions on CCS.
Q: You just alluded to what I was going to ask, which is around the outcomes for CCS at COP16 in Cancun. What was achieved?
COP16 was certainly interesting for CCS. Going into the conference, I think even the most optimistic of us did not necessary expect much progress on getting CCS acknowledged as an eligible activity under the CDM. Yet at the end of the first week, in an afternoon weekend session, delegates in fact agreed to finalise a decision on whether it can or cannot be an eligible activity under the CDM by the end of COP16.
This meant that the second week was an incredibly exciting period for those of us in the CCS space. The buzz was loud – conversations were suddenly much more meaningful, delegates that were previously tough to pin down were appearing on their own. Much credit should be given to the Mexican delegation for boldly initiating high level bilateral discussions among delegations, which clearly helped pave the way for the final decision.
So indeed the final decision – made in the wee hours of the closing day of discussions – was that CCS could be eligible under the CDM.
But there is still much work to be done by the CCS community to ensure that the implementation of CCS under the CDM is both environmentally effective and commercially attractive. To operationalise CCS under the CDM, remedies still need to be proposed on a limited number CCS issues and subsequently adopted at COP17 by UNFCCC decision making bodies. These issues cover:
- site selection criteria (and permanence);
- monitoring plans;
- role of modelling;
- project boundaries, especially around transboundary projects;
- account for emissions;
- risk and safety assessment; and
Q: What does this outcome mean?
This decision will ultimately see a framework established that could provide for the institutional arrangements of CCS under any future UNFCCC mechanism and/or adopted within national government policy settings.
It’s a big step forward for CCS and I’d like to think that the Institute has contributed in a way, through the informative events we hosted and substantial meetings with delegates.
It’s significant recognition of the critical role that CCS can play – right along with other measures such as energy efficiency and renewable – in reducing the world’s emissions to the required level by 2050.
With CCS being an eligible activity under the CDM, we take a step forward towards ensuring that a good number of the 3,400 CCS projects that we need to be up and running by 2050 are in fact in developing countries.
Q: You mentioned that much work has to go into operationalising CCS under the CDM and that the UNFCCC has a busy year around CCS issues in the lead up to COP17. Could you lay out for us what the process looks like and what organisations are involved?
There are three key UNFCCC organisations embedded in this process: the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA); the Conference of the Parties (COP) serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP); and the UNFCCC Secretariat. Basically, the Secretariat has been tasked by the CMP to prepare - on the basis of an extensive consultation process - a set of draft modalities and procedures on the issues raised above. This will ultimately be given to SBSTA for its consideration, complementing its own formal exploration of the issues. SBSTA will then submit a final set of recommendations to the CMP for decision at COP17, which I’ll come back to a bit later.
There is no guarantee however even at this time, and after an extensive and transparent prosecution of the issues, that the CMP will have a propensity to formally adopt the recommendations – and may choose to further task SBSTA to provide additional counsel.
In terms of non-UNFCCC organisations, a tremendous amount of work has already been done by many organisations – private and scientific – to address the issues identified by the UNFCCC, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (refer to Volume 2, Chapter 5 of its 2006 Inventory Guidelines, as well as its Special Report on CCS), civil society (NGOs such as the Institute), and others.
Finally, there are the Parties to the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol who not only formally negotiate the drafting of the legal text contained in such recommendations to CMP; but also the CMPs subsequent decisions.
In short, the tasks before the UNFCCC Secretariat now entail:
- Coordination of a formal submission process for Parties and organisations to express their views on a limited number of “modality and procedure” issues (referred to in paragraph 3 of Decision CMP -/.6). The deadline for this process is very near -- 21 February.
- Preparation of a ‘synthesis’ report based on the submissions.
- Hosting of a technical workshop after a SBSTA meeting in June.
- Preparation of draft modalities and procedure for consideration by SBSTA at its next session in December.
SBSTA will elaborate further on the issues raised by the CMP decision -/6 as well as consider the UNFCCC Secretariat’s draft modalities and procedures, with a view to putting recommendations to the CMP at CMP7. It will be up to the CMP to decide at COP17 whether to adopt SBSTA’s recommendations.