Climate Change Correspondent, Asia, Singapore
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Nov 11, 2009

Climate takes back seat at APEC, focus on trade

SINGAPORE, Nov 11 (Reuters) – With little prospect of any new climate change initiatives emerging at an APEC meeting in Singapore this weekend, the climate agenda might instead focus on liberalising trade in green goods and services.

Keeping the fragile global economic recovery on track will dominate the talks at the 21-member Pacific rim group meeting, but climate change is also expected to feature prominently with just weeks to go before a major U.N. climate gathering.

Analysts, however, say the leaders will offer no major initiatives to give the Copenhagen talks a much needed push.

The United Nations wants the Dec. 7-18 Copenhagen meeting to yield a broader, and tougher, legally binding agreement by all nations to fight climate change but negotiations have largely stalled, dimming hopes of success.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum gathering represents one of the final opportunities ahead of Copenhagen for world leaders to try to overcome differences on the shape of a broader climate pact to fight rising seas, more chaotic weather and threats to crops and livelihoods.

APEC, which ranges from economic giants the United States, Japan and China to oil-rich Brunei, accounts for more than 40 percent of world trade and over 60 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

"I wouldn’t really expect major progress. I think it’s going to be overwhelmed by trade, financing," said Changhua Wu, Greater China Director for think tank The Climate Group.

She pointed to the depressing mood that had settled over the Copenhagen talks process and the huge range of unresolved issues.

"I think we could see greater emphasis on macroeconomic stability in general this year," said Leong Wai Ho, senior regional economist at Barclays Capital in Singapore.

But he pointed to the region being prone to costly climate disasters such as typhoons and storm surges and the predicted greater intensity of such disasters as the planet warms.

Recent storms in Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines have killed hundreds, destroyed roads, bridges, farms and homes, lowered farm output and pushed up food prices.

"This link suggests that, despite the distraction from the global economic crisis, APEC leaders are widely expected to call for further cuts in energy consumption amongst themselves at the Singapore meeting," Leong told Reuters.

Wu and other analysts said APEC might try to boost regional trade in clean-energy products and services.

"Our argument would be if you want to push the economy into gear again a very good way to do that would be through green investments because they normally imply a lot of jobs," said Kim Carstensen, the head of conservation group WWF’s global climate initiative.

China, South Korea and Japan have large spending plans to boost the clean-energy sector and are keen to boost global market share. The United States is also pushing for greater market access for its green goods.

KEEPING FACTORIES HUMMING

In a draft leaders’ declaration obtained by Reuters, APEC backs limiting the global average temperature increase to within 2 degrees Celsius and for emissions to peak within the next few years and then fall by 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

The timeframe for the emissions peak would be longer in developing countries, the draft says. It reinforces an earlier goal of reducing energy intensity by at least 25 percent by 2030 and to try to boost trade in green goods and services.

Given the fragility of the global recovery and concerns over rising unemployment in the United States, bread-and-butter issues will dominate leaders’ discussions, said Song Seng Wun, senior economist at CIMB brokerage in Singapore.

"First things first is to get the factories humming again and Americans start spending again with their own money," he said.

The leaders’ final declaration needed to point to goals and benchmarks for success at Copenhagen, said Carstensen.

"I would look to them to produce some signals of ambition, referring to Copenhagen, referring to Copenhagen as a place where results need to be achieved," he said.

A key climate benchmark for APEC would be the final text retaining the goal to cut emissions by half by 2050.

"Normally it doesn’t survive in these kinds of circumstances," Carstensen said, referring to past objections from China and other big developing nations on adopting a 2050 emissions target unless rich nations adopt a 2020 target as well. The draft doesn’t mention a 2020 target.

Some analysts also pointed to the growing threat of protectionism and U.S. and French references to slapping so-called "carbon tariffs" on goods from big developing nations.

"Rather than looking for positive ways to win-win, we are turning to win-lose," said Simon Tay, Schwartz Fellow of the U.S.-based Asia Society. (Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)





Nov 9, 2009

As nations haggle over CO2 cuts, measurement is tough

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Targets and trust. These are at the heart of a tougher new global climate pact possibly just weeks away.

The bigger the pledged emissions cuts or reductions in growth in carbon dioxide pollution, the greater the need to prove nations meet those targets and curb the pace of climate change.

Nov 4, 2009

Investors warm to scaled-up U.N. offset scheme

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A U.N. scheme initially shunned by investors as too risky is now pulling them in to help achieve dramatic cuts in carbon emissions in developing countries and improve the livelihoods of millions of people.

The scheme is designed to spread simple technologies such as solar latterns, more efficient cooking stoves and solar water heaters across villages, towns and districts, cutting emissions.

Oct 30, 2009

Mass-market U.N. carbon scheme finds favor in India

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A new type of U.N. scheme is spreading clean energy technology to millions of people in India, promising to cut carbon emissions and help investors earn valuable carbon credits.

Two leading carbon offset project developers in India say the scheme offers the promise of improving livelihoods and greatly expanding the reach and potential investment returns of the U.N.’s existing Clean Development Mechanism.

Oct 20, 2009

Standard Bank poised to launch $230 mln forest fund

SINGAPORE, Oct 20 (Reuters) – South Africa’s Standard Bank <SBKJ.J> is close to launching a A$250 million ($230 million) forestry fund in Australia, aimed at selling carbon offsets to companies, in what is believed to be the largest fund of its kind so far.

It will focus on companies that will need to meet emissions reduction targets under carbon trading laws awaiting approval by the Australian Senate, said Singapore-based William Pazos, global head of origination and finance at Standard Bank.

"The fund is targeted at compliance buyers that don’t want to get involved in management of forests but are really interested in the underlying credits that are going to be generated by the forests," Pazos told Reuters.

The fund is still in the planning stages but is expected to be formally launched in the next few weeks, he added.

The fund is believed to be the largest and most ambitious to be launched so far covering the fledgling carbon forestry sector in Australia, said Sean Lucy, head of environmental finance solutions at National Australia Bank.

The fund will cover the planting and management of 50,000 ha (125,000 acres). Perth-based agribusiness investment firm Rewards Group Ltd would plant and manage the forests, Pazos said.

Forests soak up planet-warming carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. Managed forests that meet government or U.N. guidelines can yield saleable offsets, with one offset representing a tonne of CO2 locked away by trees as they grow.

Companies can buy offsets to meet greenhouse emissions reduction targets set by governments.

Australia’s planned carbon-trading scheme, if passed, would oblige about 1,000 of the nation’s most polluting firms to meet increasingly tougher emissions targets.

TIMING, PRICE

The emissions from those firms, called compliance buyers, covers about 75 percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The government will re-introduce the emissions bills in the lower house of parliament later this week and expects a final vote in the Senate, which rejected the laws earlier this year, in the last week of November.

If the legislation is passed, forestry would be the first sector to operate under the scheme from July 2010, followed by a fixed A$10 per tonne carbon price for a year from July 2011 for other sectors except agriculture.

While the fund was ambitious, investors needed to ask if the timing was right and whether there would be sufficient appetite for offsets, given the legislative uncertainty, Lucy said.

Another issue was price.

"It is all going to come down to price as these things are going to have to compete with CERs and the like," said Gary Cox, vice president, commodities, energy, Newedge Australia.

He was referring to U.N.-backed carbon offsets called certified emissions reductions, which Australian firms will also be able to buy to meet their emissions targets.

In July, Origin Energy <ORG.AX>, Australia’s second-largest power retailer, signed a deal to fund a mass planting of trees as a hedge for its own carbon-emission liabilities.

If the deal was fully implemented, contingent on the national scheme being enacted, the carbon forest-sink development programme could be worth up to A$169 million over 15 years, Origin said. ($1=92.7 Australian cents) (Additional reporting by Bruce Hextall in Sydney; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)





Oct 16, 2009

SCENARIOS: What “Plan B” for Copenhagen might look like

By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia

(Reuters) – Negotiators are already talking about “plan B” for the Copenhagen climate talks in December, with uncertainty growing that nations will be able to agree in time on a tougher and broader U.N. climate pact.

While that might sound bad, some analysts say that none of the major players is talking about “no deal,” just a deal that will take a little longer to agree on.

Oct 16, 2009

What "Plan B" for Copenhagen might look like

Oct 16 (Reuters) – Negotiators are already talking about "plan B" for the Copenhagen climate talks in December, with uncertainty growing that nations will be able to agree in time on a tougher and broader U.N. climate pact.

While that might sound bad, some analysts say that none of the major players is talking about "no deal", just a deal that will take a little longer to agree on.

(For related analysis, click on [ID:nLF559015]

Following are possible scenarios for the Dec 7-18 Copenhagen talks.

PLAN A: BROADER CLIMATE PACT

The U.S. Senate passes its climate bill before Copenhagen, allowing Washington to offer a 2020 emissions reduction target and substantial funding for poorer nations for climate change adaptation and green energy technology.

Developing nations agree to formally include their emissions reduction actions into a new climate deal. They also agree to report regularly on how these efforts lead to a substantial reduction in the growth of their emissions and to open up such efforts to independent scrutiny.

With these steps, other rich nations toughen their 2020 emissions reduction targets, pledge near-term climate financing and agree on the need for substantial longer-term financing, how that money will be raised and how it will be managed.

PLAN B: SEAL THE DEAL IN 2010

In reality, the U.S. Senate might pass the climate bill in the first part of 2010, allowing PResident Barack Obama’s administration to bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table during a major U.N. climate meeting in Bonn in June.

At worst, nations would have to wait until annual U.N. climate talks in Dec 2010.

In addition, developing nations say they have concerns about the legal nature of a broad climate pact, particularly over efforts to set aside or radically overhaul the Kyoto Protocol.

Copenhagen might instead yield an agreement deciding on the political essentials and add conditional offers by China, India and other big developing nations based on what the United States was prepared to do once the legislation passed.

Global conservation group WWF says the essentials would include: a clear indication of the sources and methods of funding and to ensure the money comes from predictable revenue streams; clarity on the bodies managing the money and the level of developing country representation; and immediate funding.

Failure to at least agree on this could lead to just a broad political statement at the end of Copenhagen on what the structure of a new agreement should be.

(For a related factbox on roadblocks in the talks, click on [ID:nSP354799])

PLAN C: U.S. SENATE SAYS NO

The U.S. Senate votes against the climate bill, but other nations reluctantly go ahead with many measures to fight climate change anyway hoping the United States will formally join the global effort at some point.

In the worst-case scenario, negotiations start to resemble failed trade talks that repeatedly stall. Nations instead work on bilateral clean-energy and carbon offset deals that fail to achieve major reductions in the growth of emissions. (Sources, WWF, The Nature Conservancy, E3G) (Additional reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Ron Popeski)





Oct 9, 2009

U.N. urges leaders to take charge in climate talks

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The shape of a broader climate pact is clearer after marathon talks in the Thai capital, the United Nations said on Friday, as rich nations were urged not to ditch the Kyoto Protocol or dodge tough emissions cuts.

Speaking near the end of two-week U.N. talks on ways to draw all nations into the fight against climate change, the world body said leaders had little time left to show more ambition on a deal to brake the rapid growth of planet-warming carbon emissions.

Oct 9, 2009

UN urges world leaders to take charge in climate talks

BANGKOK, Oct 9 (Reuters) – The shape of a broader and tougher climate pact is clearer after marathon talks in the Thai capital but nations need to put aside self interest to seal a deal by December, the United Nations said on Friday.

Speaking near the end of two-week U.N. talks on ways to draw in all nations into the fight against climate change, the world body said leaders had just weeks to show more ambition in a deal to curb the growth of planet-warming carbon emissions.

"All the ingredients for success are on the table and what we must do now is step back from self interest and let common interest prevail," Yvo de Boer, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told reporters.

"It’s urgent that governments bridge the disconnects and raise ambition."

The Bangkok talks are the last major negotiating session before a Dec. 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen meant to agree on a broader framework to expand or replace the Kyoto Protocol.

A tougher pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions would give global investment in clean energy and carbon markets a major boost, leading to a shift in the way energy is consumed and produced, thereby transforming economies.

"I think the end-game is in sight," a senior developed country delegate told Reuters on the sidelines of the talks.

He said it was possible to get a very substantial result in Copenhagen but only if the level of political momentum was maintained.

"Countries that move early will be the ones that do best, certainly that’s how an increasing number of countries see it," the delegate said, requesting anonymity.

Delegates from about 180 nations spent the past two weeks trying to clarify the wording and options in a draft text that will form the basis of a new agreement.

The talks made progress on ways to help poorer nations adapt to the impacts of climate change, transfer of clean-energy technology to help poorer nations green their economies and mechanisms to collect and share climate funds.

DEADLOCK

But deadlock remained on the amount of climate cash available to poorer nations and the size of rich nations’ commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, two key areas that the U.N. and developing nations say are halting progress.

"The ball immediately is in the developed country court, to make it clearer what is it they are looking for out of the agreement (in Copenhagen)," said Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs a key U.N. negotiating group.

"At the same time there will not be a deal unless it is clear what the developing countries are prepared to contribute in terms of mitigation action subject to availability of support," he told reporters.

Kyoto only obliges 37 industrialised countries, but not the United States, to meet binding economy-wide emissions targets between 2008-12.

Negotiators are trying to find ways to bring in the United States and for big developing nations to commit to their own steps to curb emissions from 2013 after Kyoto’s first phase ends.

"Out of Bangkok there has been reasonable progress in the talks here but it’s very clear if we’re really going to achieve success at Copenhagen there requires breakthroughs that can only be achieved by the world’s leaders," said Duncan Marsh, The Nature Conservancy’s director of international climate policy.

Greens also called for action by leaders.

"After this session the text is shorter, but not much sweeter," said Kim Carstensen, leader of conservation group WWF’s global climate initiative.

"It is absolutely necessary that negotiators bring new and clear political instructions with them when they meet next month in Barcelona," he said, refering to the final one-week negotiation round before Copenhagen. (Editing by Nick Macfie)





Oct 8, 2009

India hits out at attempt to cast Kyoto aside

BANGKOK (Reuters) – India expressed alarm on Thursday over the lack of progress and direction of U.N. climate talks and condemned moves by rich nations to try to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol with a weaker agreement.

Shyam Saran, India’s special envoy for climate change, said developed nations were trying to craft a pact that contained none of Kyoto’s steps to enforce hard emissions reduction targets for rich countries.

    • About David

      "I report on climate policy, climate science and the carbon market (CDM, emissions trading) in Asia. I'm based in Singapore. It's a great story in a fast-growing and fast-changing region. I've been writing about climate change since university in Canberra, where I did a life sciences degree, with a communications major on the side. I started writing science articles for newspapers and, soon after completing my studies, joined as a cadet on The Canberra Times. After a few years there, it was off to London and then Hong Kong."
      Joined Reuters:
      1994
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