Tag: Copenhagen

Fiona Harvey

Against expectations, the Cancun climate change conference came up with a deal. Not a full, comprehensive deal. Not a legally binding treaty. Not a perfect deal. But a compromise that represents real progress compared with the entrenched positions that negotiators have held for more than a decade.

Some of the hardest decisions have been put off until next year. The future of the Kyoto protocol is a totemic issue for developing countries, and it was put aside as too hard to sort out this year. The question of what legal form any new agreement should take has also been left hanging. And while a “green fund” was ushered in with much fanfare, there is still no agreement on how exactly the $100bn a year it will require should be raised.

But those who leapt to attack the Cancun deal as soon as the chairman’s gavel had been brought down should be ignored. They would have said that anyway – they always do. By the yardstick of those perfectionists who work in NGOs, all climate change talks, like all political careers, end in failure.

Kiran Stacey

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 energysource@ft.com.

But for now, over to Yvo:

Kiran Stacey

Yvo de BoerMany thanks for all your questions for Ditlev Engel, the CEO of Vestas. His answers will appear on this site on Friday.

Next week, the person in the hotseat will be Yvo de Boer, the man who tried, and failed, to lead the UN to a binding climate change agreement in Copenhagen. He is now an advisor to KPMG, and on the final day of the Cancun summit, he will be on hand to talk about all things climate change.

Send in your questions on anything from why Copenhagen failed to whether the US will walk away from Cancun, or what role business has to play in any agreement.

Email all your questions to energysource@ft.com by the end of Monday, December 6th.

Fiona Harvey

Compromise, compromise, compromise – that is the watchword for the climate talks now going on in Cancun, according to the United Nations’ top climate change official, Christiana Figueres (pictured).

Her insistence was a clear reminder that the first objective of this year’s conference is to avoid scenes of the kind that marred the final days of last year’s summit in Copenhagen – when the debate degenerated into name-calling on the part of some countries, to the deep offence of many others.

It was impossible to predict yesterday whether her call for a constructive spirit would be heeded – on the first day, it’s easy for all the negotiators to wear winning smiles and to clap the anodyne speeches.

Fiona Harvey

So what is happening at Cancun?

Environment ministers and government officials from around the world are gathering in Mexico to talk about climate change, and how to tackle the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Didn’t they do that last year?

Last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen produced a deal by which both developed and developing countries for the first time agreed to curbs on their greenhouse gas emissions, but that was not a full treaty.

Will a treaty be signed this year?

No – the Cancun meeting is a staging post on the way to a bigger meeting in South Africa next year, at which the United Nations is hoping a new pact will be signed.

Kiran Stacey

As ministers, negotiators, NGOs and reporters prepare to jet off to Cancun for the annual UN climate talks,  five prominent delegates outline what they want to see from the next two weeks of talks.

Keep your eye on Energy Source throughout the Cancun summit for Fiona’s regular posts, plus thoughts from other delegates around the summit.

Are you going to Cancun? Comment below on what you want to see happen. And if you want to post for the FT on your experiences while there, let us know at energysource@ft.com.

Kate Mackenzie

The IPCC has apparently told scientists who will contribute to its next assessment report (AR5) to be wary of media queries and to contact the secretariat’s media team if approached. One scientist who will be contributing to the next IPCC report, Edward Carr, was not impressed, saying: “This “bunker mentality” will do nothing for the public image of the IPCC.”

Andrew Revkin at the New York Times’ DotEarth blog emailed IPCC chairman Rajenda Pachauri about the letter; Pachauri’s reply appears to confirm that it is the prospect of contributing scientists speaking on behalf of the IPCC that he is concerned about. Other comments about their work, it seems, are less of an issue.

Carr and Revkin are both of the view that the letter was a somewhat misguided effort, rather than a nefarious attempt to hide from the media. Both make the point that openness is the only way to rebuke the criticisms of the IPCC’s processes.

One can appreciate the difficult line the IPCC is trying to walk, however.

Fiona Harvey

This week’s second report on the infamous “climategate” controversy came out with a bang on Wednesday afternoon.

The £200,000 review, headed by ex-civil servant Sir Muir Russell, was into the emails hacked last November from the University of East Anglia, and which purported to show that climate scientists at the university were conspiring to distort conclusions, conceal data and subvert the peer review process.

Except that they didn’t, according to the Russell review. His committee found: “On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of [UEA] Climatic Research Unit scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.”

Further, “we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments”.

CRU scientists were also accused of withholding crucial temperature data. This they did not, said Sir Muir.

Fiona Harvey

As we reported earlier, a claim that the IPCC was wrong on the effects of rainfall on the Amazon has been retracted.

What happened was, in brief, this: in its landmark 2007 report on climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that an estimated 40 per cent of the Amazon forest could be at risk from the sorts of reductions in rainfall expected from climate change.

Unfortunately, the source for this finding in the IPCC was not properly given. It was confused with a separate claim, based on a Nature paper, that was mainly about other factors that destroy the Amazon, such as logging, ranching and forest fire.

This confusion in the sourcing allowed climate change sceptics to claim that this was another example of the IPCC making things up.

It wasn’t. In fact, the 40 per cent finding had a highly credible source: the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).

But the sceptics either did not know this, or ignored it.

Now, the spotlight has been thrown on this debacle once more because the UK’s press watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, has ruled in favour of a scientist, Simon Lewis, who was misquoted in the report on the Amazonian claim run by the Sunday Times in January this year.

Dr Lewis told Energy Source he had been trying to point out that the Amazonian finding was correct, but should have been attributed to two separate sources.

So now it is clear that the original finding was correct. Some sceptics, however, have been scoffing still, saying that the science behind the finding was out of date and that the 2005 droughts in the Amazon showed that the rainforest was resilient to a lack of rainfall.

But Dr Lewis pointed out to us that he was co-author of another recent Science paper that backed up the original finding, by showing that the Amazon could under conditions of reduced rainfall – and even in the case of a reduction in rainfall that is smaller than the reductions the IPCC is forecasting – be extremely vulnerable.

The debacle shows how in the heat of the “Climategate” affair, claims were made about the IPCC’s findings and practices that have not all been borne out. The IPCC admits to one error, of claiming that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. But the handful of other complaints that have been brought – the Amazonian finding, which has been much discussed all over the blogosphere; a finding that parts of North Africa could see crop yields decline drastically (which the IPCC concedes was “poorly worded”); complaints concerning its use of “grey literature” that had not been peer-reviewed – it stands over.

An inquiry convened by the IPCC into the claims is not expected to report until the autumn.

That the IPCC has been vindicated in the case of this alleged error is unlikely to make much impression on jubilant sceptics. Nor is the story likely to gain the prominence that the original allegation did. Unfortunately, mud – Amazonian mud, in this case – sticks.

Sheila McNulty

When word came that President Barack Obama was going to use the oil spill in the Gulf to push the clean energy agenda on which he came to office, those who support such a future grew excited. Anyone who believes that carbon dioxide emissions are not only polluting but adding to the problem of global warming began contemplating the action the president might take.

Forcing government vehicle fleets onto hybrid vehicles or natural gas, ensuring all new government structures are energy efficient, and so on, were all floated as potential plans. But there were warnings that none of this might come to pass.

Amy Myers Jaffe, energy expert at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy, said former President George W Bush missed a similar opportunity to move toward alternate sources of energy and promote energy efficiencies following the September 11 attacks, when he very easily could have done so under the guise of promoting energy security.

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