In this week’s readers’ Q&A session, Yvo de Boer, the man who led the UN into the Copenhagen climate talks and is now an advisor to KPMG, answers your questions.
On the final day of the Cancun climate talks, Yvo discusses the progress made towards a comprehensive global climate treaty, the (lack of) future for a global carbon tax, and how crucial emissions trading schemes are.
Next in the hotseat is Peter Voser, the chief executive of Shell, who will be answering your questions on this site next Friday, December 17th. Send in your questions for consideration by the end of today – Friday, December 10th – to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But for now, over to Yvo:
Global climate talks
For the past years, there has been an enormous investment of resources, time and political capital into global climate negotiations with few tangible results. As the prospect of a comprehensive global treaty vanishes, is there a point to carrying on with global climate talks? Should we not rather focus on smaller and more focused agreements, like REDD, or regional carbon markets in places like Europe and some US States?
Till Stenzel, COO, Nur Energie
Firstly, I would disagree on the ‘few tangible results’. Bali saw the launch of a global action plan, and the Copenhagen Accord delivered broad agreement on a long-term goal. Secondly, the prospect of a comprehensive global treaty is not vanishing – on the contrary – countries have gathered in Cancun with renewed effort. But undeniably, the politics and economics of advancing are very complicated.
Finally, in a way, we are beginning to see regional approaches: Europe has an emissions trading scheme for example, and Norway has a partnership addressing deforestation. My hope is that these very good initiatives will find a home in a very good agreement.
How can the UN process be reformed to ensure an agreement to limit emissions emerges?
The process needs to distinguish much more clearly between issues of a technical, as opposed to political, nature. I also believe that the process would benefit from a much clearer understanding of what is supposed to be achieved at each individual meeting.
World leader support
What message does it send to the public at large if world leaders are not present at Cancun?
Jean Taillon, business development manager, Andritz-Carbona
The negotiations here in Cancun are of a much more technical nature and do not require Heads of States’ presence to have success
It’s good that world leaders were present in Copenhagen and succeeded in reaching some agreement there. The negotiations here in Cancun are of a much more technical nature and do not require Heads of States’ presence to have success.
Carbon intensity vs emissions
Do you believe that the “targets & timetables” kind of approach to emissions cuts could be considered one reason why the international negotiations failed? If you could go back, would you insist on this or would you change approach, for example by focusing on carbon intensity rather than carbon emissions?
Carlo Stagnaro, director, Istituto Bruno Leoni
Carbon intensity still means setting a target, but in relative rather than absolute terms. The disadvantage there is that a relative target does not give the same clarity on the result to be achieved.
Cap and trade
Do you still support cap & trade, or would you say a carbon tax would be a more effective way to curb emissions, either regionally or globally?
Personally I don’t see a global carbon tax ever being agreed
Personally I don’t see a global carbon tax ever being agreed, although one could argue that putting a price on carbon through national trading schemes amounts to pretty much the same thing. At the end of the day, to achieve comprehensive emission reduction goals, targets, taxation and standards will be needed for different parts of the economy.
We’ve heard from many experts in Cancun that we have the necessary technologies and private capital to reduce carbon pollution dramatically right away, yet most global investors are unwilling to put their money into these clean energy solutions at the scale that is needed. What can international institutions such as the United Nations do to help close this climate investment gap?
Christopher Fox, policy co-director at Ceres and the Investor Network on Climate Risk
What is critical is that the international financial institutes such as the World Bank develop effective finance models that blend public and private capital to greater effect. Often private sector investment is hampered by concerns over risk and the rate of return. Public-private partnerships can very effectively address barriers to investment.
Of all the options for innovative finance proposed by the Advisory Group on Finance – such as such as international aviation and shipping instruments and fossil fuel subsidy reform – which one has the most potential to deliver on long-term climate needs?
Jim Footner, head of Greenpeace’s climate and energy campaign
I believe that the most effective way to mobilise finance for international cooperation is through emissions trading schemes in industrialised countries, where a portion of the revenue generated is used to support developing countries.
Who are the parties who really don’t want a deal?
Fiona Harvey, FT environment correspondent