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Mon Dieu!  Last week, the big shockwaves from Doha's COP18 were revelations about rapid-fire methane release due to the revved up  Arctic Meltdown and the threat our warming climate poses to the future of the the French truffle.

This week, in stark contrast, news out of Qatar is that several key negotiators are taking time off from the rigors of the conference and wandering down the road apiece to play some games designed to test a theory that bean trading might offer solutions for the grievously deadlocked UNFCCC process.

Development and Climate Days 2012 are a series of  trial games engaging researchers, game designers, NGOs and delegates in games which focus on "the tough investment decisions and harsh consequences that decision-makers, development agencies and everyday people face under various climate scenarios. By spiriting players on a journey through these decisions and outcomes, the games aim to jolt players into a new mindset."

Today, participants were assigned to play the fictional roles of provincial governors in a small country and each governor was allotted several beans.  At the start of each round of the game – meant to signify a growing season –  governors could either invest a bean in disaster preparedness or take a risk and simply keep all their beans. At every turn, the governors had to roll a die to determine the weather that season.

Every time they rolled a ‘6’, it signified heavy rains and flooding. If they had decided not to pay a bean up-front for disaster preparedness, then they were forced to surrender four beans for recovery costs – a heavy price. Every time they rolled a ‘1’ it signified drought, and this also cost heavily if they were not prepared. In the face of dwindling assets (beans) and uncertain information about the coming weather, participants had to calculate their odds of failure.

New elements of real life simulation were introduced when fictional aid donors arrived to dole out ‘relief’ beans. Then, the normal six-sided dice were swapped for eight-sided dice to demonstrate the increased odds of extreme weather in changing climate.

But as we prepare for the big guns to arrive in Doha this week, NASA's James Hansen is sanely paving the way for progress with some sumptuously significant information gleaned from his reflections following 2012's  extreme weather.  And pressure continues to mount for a shapeshift in US policy, one which could see the country emerge as a saviour forging a new way forward in the UNFCCC process.

First, from Mr. Hansen ...

In an article published in the Sunday Guardian, Climate change is happening now – a carbon price must follow, Hansen discusses  "taking out an insurance policy on the planet" by putting a price on carbon.

We must make the price of fossil fuels honest, reflecting their cost to society including the economic devastation wrought by storms like Sandy, the toll on farmland and ecosystems, as well as priceless human lives.

Whether that price takes the shape of a carbon tax, as some in Washington are now willing to discuss, or a carbon fee, as I have advocated, a price on carbon lets the market find the most effective ways to phase out our reliance on fossil fuels. It also moves us to a sustainable energy future where energy choices are made by individuals and communities, not by Washington mandates and lobbyists.

A carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, will increase consumer costs. So the money that is collected should be distributed to the public. As people try to minimise their energy costs to keep money for other things, their actions will stimulate the economy, drive innovations and transition us away from fossil fuels.

Now, to the Obama Opportunity ...

tcktcktck  published an extensive piece USCAN: What a ‘climate reset’ should look like for Obama administration, suggesting that President Obama could utilize the Doha talks to push forward an aggressive campaign to elevate climate change to a top priority in his second term and to decisively "reset"  the US position in the international climate negotiations.

They identify three key issues which could form the basis of the US aboutface: equity, a reduction in US GHG emissions, and climate finance.

The US, the article maintains, could play a powerful role in working on fairness as it relates to countries which are at different stages in development, working on the foundation of a policy which "Is more dynamic and respectful of different national circumstances"

If we have learned anything in the past year, it is that the equity debate cannot be silenced. The U.S. team needs to alter the perception that their goal is to shut down the conversations on equity and remove all references to CBDR from the Durban negotiating track. This perception is alienating other governments and civil society. Take the initiative by proposing an open and constructive way to discuss a new approach to equity in the 2015 agreement.
Climate Finance

The United States could lead the way in ensuring partcipants that it intends to follow through on its pledge in Copenhagen to contribute by 2020 $100 billion.

 

Commit to maintain at least the current levels of U.S. public climate finance in the near term and set a clear trajectory for ramping up U.S. finance between now and 2020 for bilateral and multilateral programs, including efforts to create an effective Green Climate Fund;

Support innovative approaches to generate new and additional public finance to help developing countries confront the climate crisis, such as mechanisms in the shipping and aviation sectors, a financial transaction tax, and other measures;

As the Yale Climate Project's Dr. Leiserowitz ‏reports this morning, US public has given 'permission' for global #climate treaty, but not yet 'pressure.' Need stronger movement:" -

Equity, The Climate Cliff AND CDMs

Equity Defined by UNFCCC Principles

 

In their actions to achieve the objective of the Convention and to implement its provisions, the Parties shall be guided, INTER ALIA, by the following:

1. The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.

2. The specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and of those Parties, especially developing country Parties, that would have to bear a disproportionate or abnormal burden under the Convention, should be given full consideration.

3. The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost. To achieve this, such policies and measures should take into account different socio-economic contexts, be comprehensive, cover all relevant sources, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and adaptation, and comprise all economic sectors. Efforts to address climate change may be carried out cooperatively by interested Parties.(continue reading)

As week one began, Climate Action Network's inaugural ECO newsletter focusesd exclusively on the importance of equity. The article, A Pathway to Ambition, was a shorter version of a piece  written by Tom Athanasiou of Earth Island Institute's EcoEquity. And,  once again,  urged President Obama to grab the proverbial bull by the horns and use Doha to fast track a radical shift in US global positioning on climate change.

Athanasiou's article maintains:

Todd Stern, still the head of the US delegation, has rejected the Annexes as “anachronistic,” and has gone on to call for “the differentiation of a continuum, with each country expected to act vigorously in accordance with its evolving circumstances, capabilities and responsibilities.”  It’s a good idea, though alas it suffers by its association with the US’s aggressive – and often abrasive – drive to destroy 1997’s Kyoto Protocol.  Coming into Doha, ECO can only wonder if this unfortunate picture is about to change.  With Mr. Obama’s re-election, there’s a chance to reset Washington’s international strategy.  There won’t be many more.

Meanwhile, the position is obvious.  The ambitious, global, principle-based regime that we need can only come by way of an creative elaboration of the Convention’s principles, CBDR/RCfirst among them.  So, yes Mr. Stern, we need a dynamic approach, one that takes the evolving realities of this mad and dangerous world into full and adequate account.  But we’re not going to get it without equity.  Which is to say that we’re not going to get it without an approach to dynamism that is widely accepted as both procedurally and substantively fair.

Where does this leave us?  With a desperate situation in which all wealthy countries must quickly do their part to close the short-terms emissions gap.  This, fortunately, is a goal that can be met within the bounds of the existing accords and treaties, if only they’re approached in good faith.  In particular, existing commitments – to mitigate and to support the mitigation and adaptation of others – must be met.  Beyond the short-term, a new accord will be needed, a more challenging accord that we’re not going to get without a believable commitment to make “equitable access to sustainable development” into something real.  This, in turn, will demand a robust negotiation on creative, principle-based approaches to sharing the long-term global costs of mitigation and adaptation.  Which, finally, is the bottom line in all this, one that will not be forever denied.

One of the highlights of last week, was SEJ's weAdapt platform. Using Google Earth, the concept works by speeding up access to climate adaption tools and provide stories which can serve as easy suggestions which relate most directly to similar situations. Some of the key discussion issues are Small Islands and Climate Change, Urban adaptation to climate change, Integrating Adaptation into National Development Planning, Social learning, stakeholder engagement and participatory processes, the Economics of climate adaptation, Ecosystem-based Adaptation, and Enhancing ecosystem services to support climate adaptation.

Yesterday, hundreds of protestors participated in Qatar's first ever legal protect, after spending seven months bargaining with the government for permission.Historic Doha march heaps pressure on Qatar to make carbon cut pledge

Richard Cason also reports this morning that Calls for fossil fuel subsidies to be addressed at UN climate summit

In Greening of Capitalism: The Climate Cliff, Truthdig last month, soon after  digesting  the World Bank's earth shattering  report s of a world surviving a 4 degree temp rise pleaded with international groups and coporations to collaborate    

To get the American public to understand that it must give up large gas-guzzling automobiles, downsize housing, learn to wear appropriate clothing so that homes and offices can be kept cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer, subsidize public transit and give up on making long trips by car, stop buying useless junk, and accept the need to help other less fortunate and less wealthy countries of the world also adapt, will require a responsible media to tell people the unvarnished truth.

The US corporate media, unfortunately, are not good at telling the unvarnished truth.

One hope may be that if the World Bank, an agency that acts on behalf of the interests of the global corporatocracy, is publishing a document this alarming in its analysis of the climate change crisis, perhaps the corporate elite is starting to get the picture. In that case, maybe the corporate media here in the US will before long start reporting more honestly about it too, and on the front page instead of in the business section.

Oxfam: Climate ‘fiscal cliff’ looms for developing countries if leaders come to Doha with no new money

In a special report last week,Oxfam International investigated the current status of the pledges made by developing countries to support the needs of the most vulnerable regions which are in most need of financing for immediate adaption to severe climate crises.

The report found that only 33% of Fast Track pledges are, in fact, new money, but rather reflect money offered prior to the Copenhagen Accord. In fact, the report finds, most of the funds have been allocated as grants as opposed to just 21 specified for adaptation projects.

“Developing countries are heading towards a climate ‘fiscal cliff’ without any certainty about how they will be supported to adapt to climate change after 2012 draws to a close,” Oxfam International Climate Change Policy Advisor Tim Gore  said, urging that developed countries have a moral obligation to discover new innovative funding mechanisms to meet their requirements.

Part of the solution, now part of the problem, is that the Fund is supported by carbon markets: 2% of sales of certified emissions reductions (CERs) under the clean development mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol go into the Fund. The CDM is a “flexibility mechanism” of the Protocol – a way for Parties to avoid failing to meet their [un-ambitious] commitments by paying for projects in developing countries that reduce emissions (it’s very debatable if this is actually the case) which the Party can then use to offset their own emissions. In theory this would keep the Fund full. Reality, however, has a way of intervening and inconveniencing. The price floor has fallen out of the carbon market. Now lolling in the doldrums at a mere 80 cents per tonne, the low price of carbon in the CDM means that the mechanism is failing. The real crime is that we are seeing an [ultimately futile] effort to ensure its survival by taking the Adaptation Fund hostage. New Zealand and Australia have listened to developing country concerns, and in response, they have replied: the solution to this problem lies in our being able to access carbon markets ....  “The Adaptation Fund depends on vibrant carbon markets since it get a share of the credits flowing from the CDM.” In one fell swoop, the provision of resources to adapt to climate change has been made solely dependent on market mechanisms, when in fact what is needed is a fulfillment of the legal obligations of the Convention by rich nations providing the funds.
Along the same vein, Earth in Brackets, is also reporting that the funds promised for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are actually "redirected aid money, "usually in the form of loans, and usually for projects that the donor nations prioritized (read: creating “enabling” conditions for carbon markets). It has not been subject to agreed measuring, reporting, or verifying, and has largely been done bilaterally with no clear rules for eligibility and access."  And that the countries who have not commited the second Kyoto Committment - New Zealand, Australia, Japan - are clamoring to be eligible for the Clean Developlment Mecanism (CDM)

From the UNFCCC:

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), defined in Article 12 of the Protocol, allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.

The mechanism is seen by many as a trailblazer. It is the first global, environmental investment and credit scheme of its kind, providing a standardized emissions offset instrument, CERs.

A CDM project activity might involve, for example, a rural electrification project using solar panels or the installation of more energy-efficient boilers.

The mechanism stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions, while giving industrialized countries some flexibility in how they meet their emission reduction or limitation targets.

Meanwhile, the truffle isn't the only food whose future is in serious jeopardy. In Impacts on Food Security, CGIAR reports. Reporting on runaway climate change impacts on the global food supply, temperature changes coupled with weather abnormalities and drought  will devastate crop yields leading to substantial rises in food prices, poverty and undernutrition.
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