The COP15 meetings in Copenhagen left many of us discouraged, as I wrote here. But some smart people are taking a closer look at the Copenhagen Accord and finding reason for optimism. One is Roger Ballentine, the president of Green Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm who is today’s guest blogger. Roger’s a longtime expert on the climate issue—he served in the Clinton White House, as chairman of the White House Climate Change Task Force, and he remains a player in Washington environmental politics, as well as a Harvard-educated lawyer and clean tech investor. Roger will be among the speakers this year at FORTUNE’s Brainstorm Green conference on business and the environment. This is an edited version of post-COP15 memo that he shared with his clients and friends.
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The Copenhagen Accord’s approach to emissions reductions asks nations to propose and pledge to fulfill their own emissions commitments. This approach was proposed by Australia last spring and has been a favorite of American diplomats (going back to the Bush administration) who sometimes refer to it as a “bottom-up process.” It’s unlike the Kyoto Protocol, in which emissions reduction commitments were negotiated internationally.
Under the Accord, developed nations are expected to submit by January 31, 2010 quantified economy-wide emission targets for 2020 using whatever base year they wish. In another break from Kyoto Protocol, the Accord also invites developing countries to submit their “nationally appropriate mitigation activities” by January 31. While the copy of the Accord released by the UN [PDF]does not yet list any national commitments, most nations have already said what their emission reductions or mitigation actions will likely be. For example, in November, President Obama pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by about of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (consistent with the House-passed climate bill), and China agreed to reduce its “carbon intensity” (i.e. the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of GDP) by 40 to 45% by 2020.
The Accord also includes two important financial commitments designed to address the needs of developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Collectively, developed countries pledged $30 billion in new and additional sources to the developing world for the period 2010-2012. The developed countries also agreed to provide up to $100 billion annually to the developing countries by 2020. The $100 billion is to come from public and private sources and be delivered both bilaterally and multilaterally. A “significant portion” of such funding is expected to flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, which the Accord establishes as a financial mechanism operating under the UNFCCC to support adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and forestry programs and policies.
Most importantly from the U.S. political perspective, the Copenhagen Accord requires transparency in the reporting of mitigation actions by developing countries. China had resisted international verification, but compromised in the final deal. As a result, mitigation actions taken by developing countries with financial support from the developed world will be subject to an international verification process.
Here are my key take-aways from Copenhagen: [click to continue…]