In the UNFCCC international climate negotiations, “ambition” refers to countries’ collective will to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions enough to keep global average temperature increase below 2°C. While most countries have made international pledges to limit GHG emissions, these pledges are not “ambitious” enough to add up to the GHG cuts needed to meet the 2°C temperature goal. That’s why many groups are calling on parties in Doha to step up their commitments. Equally important, though, is ensuring that countries are effective in implementing domestic policies that meet – or exceed – the international commitments they have made already.
What Makes for an Effective Domestic Climate Policy?
The “implementation deficit” – a difference between the expected and actual amount of emissions reductions of an enacted policy—stems from a lack of complete implementation of a climate policy. This kind of “deficit” is well documented in a number of policy sectors, with significant implications for the countries’ abilities to meet GHG-reduction targets. Conversely, when climate policies are effectively implemented, they demonstrate that mitigation actions can work, in turn encouraging other countries to adopt similar policies and actions.
This piece was co-authored with Smita Nakhooda of the Overseas Development Institute, with inputs from Noriko Shimizu (IGES) and Sven Harmeling (Germanwatch).
Developed countries self-report that they have delivered more than $33 billion in fast-start climate finance between 2010 and 2012, exceeding the pledges they made at COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009. But how much of this finance is new and additional? Developing countries and other observers have raised questions about the nature of this support, as well as where and how it is spent. Independent scrutiny of country contributions can shed light on the extent to which fast-start finance (FSF) has truly served as a mechanism to scale-up climate finance. Our organizations have analyzed the FSF contributions of the United Kingdom, United States, and Japan, and analysis of Germany’s effort is forthcoming.
Our analysis revealed four key insights into the FSF experience:
1) Developed Countries Have Ramped Up Climate Support
The FSF period has been a difficult one: Developed countries pledged their climate finance support at the advent of unprecedented economic difficulty brought on by the 2008 financial crisis. Nonetheless, developed countries have sustained support for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, despite fiscal austerity measures that have substantially cut back public spending. Indeed, all of the countries we reviewed appear to have significantly increased their international climate spending since 2010.
In many cases, data limitations impede a direct or accurate comparison of fast-start spending to related expenditures before 2010. But the UK appears to have increased its climate finance four-fold relative to environment-related spending before the FSF period. Germany has nearly doubled climate-related finance. Japan previously mobilized $2 billion per year in climate finance through the Cool Earth Partnership; under FSF, it reports average spending of more than $5 billion per year. Finally, through its Global Climate Change Initiative, the United States has increased core climate funding from $316 million in FY09 to an average of $886 million per year in FY10 to FY12.
The global renewable energy industry has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. Renewable energy capacity (excluding hydropower) has more than doubled since 2005. In 2011, new clean energy investments reached a record $257 billion (a six-fold increase from 2004), and approximately half of the world’s new electric capacity came from renewable sources. These gains came despite the tumultuous backdrop of a global financial crisis and a rapidly changing clean energy technology industry - one that’s experiencing increased global competition, rapidly falling industry prices, and oversupply in the solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind sectors.
However, the benefits of the clean energy industry have not been shared evenly around the world. WRI’s new working paper, Delivering on the Clean Energy Economy, shows that countries have varied widely in their success of growing renewable energy industries that achieve both global competitiveness and domestic benefits. The main reason for this variation lies in the types of national policies the countries have in place.
According to our new research, countries who have been successful with their clean energy development have:
Taken a Comprehensive Approach: Policies are integrated at the national level
Sustained Policy in a Predictable Manner: Policies have an established lifetime of at least three-to-four years to enhance industry certainty
Implemented Targeted Policies: Policies address the needs of different technologies and target the needs of the entire value chain
How can policymakers deliver low-carbon development, particularly clean energy, at affordable costs? What strategies have countries used to attain the economic benefits of building a clean energy industry while keeping the burden to consumers low —and who is succeeding, and why? These are just a few of the questions that policymakers grapple with when tackling the challenges associated with transitioning to a green economy, one of the key themes of the Rio+20 conference. They’re also questions that WRI seeks to answer through our upcoming, cross-country analysis of clean energy industry development.
How much fast-start climate finance is actually flowing, and where is it being spent?[^1] This question has come up repeatedly alongside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate talks in Bonn this week.
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), developed countries have pledged to provide “fast-start” finance approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010-2012. Now, in the final year of the fast-start period, these countries are under pressure to demonstrate that they are meeting this pledge. But divergent viewpoints on what constitutes fast-start finance – coupled with unharmonized approaches to delivering and reporting on it – complicate such an assessment.
Starting in May 2012, the Open Climate Network (OCN) will release a series of reports that aims to shed light on these discussions by clarifying how developed countries are defining, delivering, and reporting their fast-start finance.
For too long, the United States has lacked a clear, national energy policy. Today, Senator Bingaman took a step in that direction by introducing the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 (CESA), which would create certainty for clean energy investments, diversify the U.S. power mix, and yield meaningful carbon emissions reductions.
Part 3: Methodologies and Analytical Tools for Low-carbon City Planning
This piece was written in collaboration with Cui Xueqin, Fu Sha, and Zou Ji.
In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presented low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 explored some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 presents different tools to address these challenges.
The Program of Energy and Climate Economics (PECE) at Renmin University of China has developed a toolkit for low carbon city planning based on its experience working at the city level. These analytical tools have been employed in the Asian Development Bank Qingdao Low Carbon City Project (mentioned in part 2 of this series), and are described below.
In the recent UN climate negotiations (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa, the issue of transparency of climate finance appeared in a variety of contexts in the final agreement on long-term cooperative action. From the sections on reporting and review for developed and developing countries, to the Standing Committee, to the registry, and to fast-start finance, making sense of this multitude of provisions on climate finance transparency is a challenge.
However, what's clear is that the moderate progress made in Durban fell short of what is needed to achieve a transparent and effective climate finance regime. This post aims to summarize where we stand on this issue following the Durban COP.
The European Commission has announced the adoption of its Energy Roadmap 2050, which explores the challenges of decarbonising the European Union while ensuring security of energy supply and economic competitiveness.
The roadmap’s analysis concludes that decarbonisation of the energy system is "technically and economically feasible" and that energy efficiency and renewables are a critical part of the mix. Its analysis is based on scenarios created by combining, in different ways, the four main decarbonisation routes – namely, energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage (CCS).