Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cancún: the return of the global capacity to act?

Surprising news from Cancún: contrary to what many expected, Cancún doesn't seems to end in a failure like Copenhagen.  Instead, the news report hopes for a common deal. Here the Guardian:
Hopes are growing for an new international deal to tackle global warming, with delegations at the UN climate summit in Cancún backing one of two key agreements.
 The draft documents state deeper cuts in carbon emissions are needed but do not establish a mechanism for achieving the pledges countries have made.
The agreement by 190 countries will establish a Green Climate Fund, intended to raise $100bn (£64bn) each year by 2020 to help developing nations tackle climate change; protect tropical forests by tackling deforestation; and share new clean energy technologies.
The talks are the latest attempt by the UN to keep global temperature rises to less than 2C, after rich and poor countries failed to agree on the best way to cut emissions at last year's summit in Copenhagen.
And even more optimistic, spiegel online in German language. They even announce the end of the global paralysis:

Die Staaten der Welt haben am Samstag ein schweres Trauma überwunden. Genau vor einem Jahr waren 120 Staats- und Regierungschefs mit einem globalen Plan gegen die Erderwärmung gescheitert: Der Streit darüber, wer in den kommenden Jahrzehnten weniger Kohle, Öl und Erdgas verbrennt, wer seine Wälder besser schützt und wer seine Rinderherden verkleinert, endete im Crash der Klimaverhandlungen.
Viele Beobachter folgerten, die Menschheit sei eben nicht fähig, kollektiv zusammenzuarbeiten. Sie erklärten den Multilateralismus, also das Zusammenwirken vieler Staaten, zum todkranken Patienten. Doch beim Endspurt des Klimagipfels von Cancún herrschte nun ein neuer und frischer Geist der Zusammenarbeit - ganz anders als damals in Kopenhagen.
Der Multilateralismus ist aus dem Koma erwacht. Nachdem Ende Oktober schon der Uno-Naturschutzgipfel mit einem Erfolg endete, ist es nun das zweite Lebenszeichen.
und hier noch die Dokumentation der Beschlüsse :,1518,734120,00.html


eduardo said...

Yes, they agreed to meet again to discuss the continuation of Kyoto, and everyone is happy.

Now, as many have said before, Kyoto was not effective in itself, it was just a symbolic treaty. Cancun then decided to keep the symbol alive. Fine.

P Gosselin said...

They wanted them to bring a bucket full of cherries back home. But no one really expected them to. Now they come home with just one or two cherries in the bucket and act like no one will have to go hungry.

Günter Heß said...

The capacity to act means we have technical solutions at our disposal to provide wealth for all people and reach a certain temperature target or absolute emission for the world at a affordable price.
Therefore, the Cancun compromise does not return the capacity to act, because it is not oriented towards technical solutions. Moreover, I don’t think ever provided the capacity to act either.
I can’t help my feelings reading and listening about the Cancun drama, but I think the negotiations take place with the wrong spirit in an awkward climate with the wrong people. I see people negotiating as if they seek indulgence. I see people negotiating as if they seek revenge. I see people negotiating as if they seek economic gain. I see people negotiating as if they seek the money of other people. I see people negotiating as if they are led by dogma. I see people who try to show off their righteousness (Rechtschaffenheit in German). All in all it shows very common human behavior.
However, what I rarely see are people to try to set smart goals and outline a technology roadmap with milestones. In my opinion, the whole process is not oriented towards a solution, but rather oriented towards individual motives of states, organizations or groups.
It is a misconstruction from the outset to focus on emission goals that are even relative rather than absolute.
Instead we need smart goal setting like this:
Coal power plants operating in 2040 have a degree of effectiveness above 50% and a energy price of 3 ct/kWh per example.
Or does anybody believe that China will not use coal in 2040.
Another goal: Photovoltaik modules reach a energy price of 8 ct/kWh by 2030 per example.
Or does anybody think the whole worlkd will copy the german EEG.
These are examples, please don’t take them literally. As I said in another post, we need a technology consortium led by industry that drive technology for these technology goals. The individual milestones about price and performance should be set by politics and teh nations of the world.
As long as we do not set price and efficiency targets for all the different technologies and choose affordable technologies with the lowest possible emissions as we move along. I do not think any document or compromise will provide the capacity to act as the title of the article states.
Best regards

Werner Krauss said...

Howdy, Eduardo, this is your anthropologist speaking. You said:
"Now, as many have said before, Kyoto (...) was just a symbolic treaty. Cancun then decided to keep the symbol alive. Fine."
No irony. We live by symbols as much as we do by bread & wine (which are very symbolic, by the way). There is no reality beyond symbols, there are only symbolic realities. In an old definition, the anthropologist Clifford Geertz stated that cultures are webs of meaning. If Cancún decides that the "world" still cares about climate change, this is indeed meaningful. It means, that "the world" as a political entity and a common 'culture' exists - which is not necessarily a given. It has to be created through symbols. Climate change is such a symbol for the creation of a "common world in a common climate envelope".
But I do agree: we can discuss the symbols, and even more the politics. They are the wrong ones, maybe. The opposite of a bad symbol is not no symbol at all but a better one. I am not sure if we really can forget about the "common world" stuff...

Werner Krauss said...

@Günther Heß

Great comment, beautifully written! Confronting human self-interest, envy and greed with smart goals is a wonderful rhetorical "trick". I do agree in many respects, but I have difficulties to share your vision of a pure technology consortium. Will this consortium be immune to the sins of self-interest? Anyway, I do agree absolutely that there is no solution without the focus on technology.

As stated above in my Eduardo comment, I think technology is not the opposite of "only symbolic". Even technology has to be embedded in webs of meaning - of evermore interwoven global, national, regional and local cultures.

Seen from this perspective, the German EEG is a specific CULTURAL product with a CULTURAL history. The EEG is the result of a specific mixture of German angst, rise of an environmental movement and a Green party, and a democracy based in strong municipalities and a unique system of regional planning etc. This is indeed very specific.

Thus, each and every region has to find its unique mixture of how to change energy consumption patterns. Even smart grids have to be embedded in specific environments, or else they won't be effective.

Günter Heß said...

@Werner Krauss
You asked:
“Will this consortium be immune to the sins of self-interest?”
Absolutely not! The trick is to outline the scope and task of the consortium in a way that the individual companies participate because of “self interest”. Moreover, the goals and the steering of the consortium needs to be done in a way that “self interest” of companies drives the individual technologies to cost effective carbon reduction. As I said in another post one can use SEMATECH and the ITRS-Roadmap as a role model. In that all major players in the semiconductor industry participate because of “self interest”.
Best regards

Reiner Grundmann said...

Cancun has achieved something symbolically, but the real test is yet to come. This was an exercise in damage limitation and expectation management. My hunch is that the fault lines will not disappear any time soon and thus hopes for Kyoto II or globally binding targets are misplaced. I sense that the delegates realized this and there might be more movement in the direction of bottom up and sectoral approaches which lead to "a capacity to act".

Here is a comment from the Financial Times:

"... there was no major progress on how to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges almost 40 rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The failure to resolve the central problem of emissions dismayed environmental groups. It was also unclear how the $100bn a year for the Green Climate Fund will be raised.

The first round of Kyoto expires in 2012, it does not include China and the US -- the world’s two biggest emitters -- and there is no consensus over whether developing countries should have binding targets to cut emissions or whether rich countries have more to do first.

The main success in Cancun after two weeks of talks was simply preventing the collapse of climate change negotiations, promoting support for a shift to low carbon economies and rebuilding trust between rich and poor countries on the challenges of global warming.

Major players were relieved there was no repeat of the acrimonious failure seen at the Copenhagen summit last year, but they warned there was still a long way to go. The Cancun accord builds on a non-binding deal by 140 nations in Copenhagen."

Hans von Storch said...

Werner, EEG specific cultural, German. I was told that something similar is adopted for Canada. Maybe a misunderstanding. Is that so? Are there other countries, where a similar process is implemented?

Hans von Storch said...

Werner, if everything is symbolic, then why using this attribute? I guess what Eduardo was contrasting with "symbols" was a real reduction of (growths of) emissions. (This would be symbolic for something, but) it would also set in motion a dynamics which leads to less observable warming (which again may be symbolic for something else). But real in terms of weather statistics (climate).

Obviously this comment is also symbolic, in a sense. In particular this caveat.

Hans von Storch said...

Günther 3 / Indeed listing a number of agreements such as your examples

* Coal power plants operating in 2040 have a degree of effectiveness above 50% and a energy price of 3 ct/kWh per example.
* Photovoltaik modules reach a energy price of 8 ct/kWh by 2030 per example

would make a lot of sense. And the will for action with an effective impact believable. When I heard a presentation by a Chinese ambassador a while ago, it sounded much more like these examples. (Not with such concrete numbers, though.)

Could you extend your list?

- Hans

eduardo said...


When I used the term 'symbol', I referred to one of the justifications of the Kyoto protocol: in itself it would not advance very much the mitigation of climate change since its effects are minimal, but the KP would galvanize the international community to achieve grander goals in this direction. It was considered an initial step. Now, Cancun has apparently agreed on keeping these symbolic goals alive. In an allegory of a board game, it means to me that we would be on the initial cell, and we had decided to continue the game, instead of giving up. But we continue in the starting cell.

However, this process can be damaging, because it steadies our nerves on a path that is possible leading to nowhere. It distracts from the quest of more effective and realistic paths.

Declaring with solemnity that the Earth should not warm by more that 2 degrees reminds me of the old Spanish Constitution issued in 1812, in which one of its first paragraphs was: "Spaniards shall be nice and generous".

We live, however in 2010,not in 1812.

Günter Heß said...

I will try though, since it is a good idea, but it takes time.
I was using my examples to explain my thoughts about smart goals, not so much as real goals.
In order to expand my list I would need to do some educated research and assessment, which should be done by an industry consortium according to my arguments above. However, one can find good ideas in David JC McKays Book: Sustainable energy without the hot air. I do think he does provide a free online pdf. But I encourage everybody to buy his book. It’s a good resource.
“Smart” by the way is an acronym used in project management about goal setting. Smart goals need to be specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely.
So I would say that we need roadmaps and goals for every conceivable technology solution. And the industry sets technology and economic milestones for each technology based on capacity and feasibility. It would be the goaöl of politics toprovide a framework and additional resources in terms of funding in order to speed up the development process. The roadmap should be revised on a yearly base.
If a technology reaches its goals at the milestones it gets or can be implemented and validation starts. If the technology does not reach its goals or fails validation it gets postponed or kicked off the roadmap. Why waste resources?
Best regards

Werner Krauss said...

to Hans 8

No, it's not a misunderstanding. The EEG is for sure a product for export and a model for other national energy policies. But in each case it has to be implemented in specific regions with their own understandings of their natural, cultural and political environment. There is no ready-made concept how to do that. Renewable energies are space consuming; in Texas and for sure in many areas in Canada nobody will care about it. That's different in Germany or Cape Cod, where people protest against wind energy in the name of nature, the view or whatever.
This might be rue for every technological solution. One thing is technology, the other one is acceptance.

Georg Hoffmann said...

From "big steps" to "small steps" to "symbolic steps" to "no steps" at all.
We are between "small" and "symbolic".

Werner, because some journalists past a couple of days enclosed in a oliday resort and were happy to go home to see their families I wouldnt take these articles you cite as a proof that something has been achieved in these negotioations.
We have a conf on CO2 emissions without any agreement on emissions which gives the world a tranquilizer called a "green budget" of 100 billion Dollars. However even there they couldnt agree how will pay the 100 Billion.
Someone has put some mescalin in the Tequilas of the jurnalist so that they start writing about a success.

Werner Krauss said...

@Eduardo #11

Hey, it's important to remind you folks from time to time of these basic rules. It's still true that
""Spaniards shall be nice and generous!"

Werner Krauss said...

@Georg #14
Small & symbolic", that's true. Parts of klimazwiebel folks are against the politics of emission targets at all, others ask for higher targets, and good old skeptics want nothing at all. And me? I still believe in the process and (mostly) don't want to be a cynic. But I am tired of arguing. Climate is one of those discussions where you never gain ground. Maybe I need some mescal in my tequila, too.

P Gosselin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hans von Storch said...

P Gosselin/17 - I have deleted your comment as it consisted only of a web-link. Please let us know what it is about and why it may be of interest for readers here - Hans

Anonymous said...

In the meantime, with regard to some comments above (cf. "symbol"):

Is it possible that most news coverages want us make believe, the public should applaud globally to the rather scientific but political/symbolical goal of this seemingly infirm "2°C limitation", which was a "baby/brainchild" among others from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (aka PIK), also published by the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group as Nature cover story of the 30th April 2009? Sure, for many years the IPCC and certain organizations (as well as institutes (see above), banks, insurance companies and so on), or -- as it looks like -- some of their influential "cadre" and authors, want(ed) to "act". In what direction? Where there any major changes so far after Copenhagen?

Some wide generalizations on symbols together with roughly, unsorted thoughts of mine:

•     (At first, often:) It starts with a (recognition of a) sign.

•      Once a recurrent sign gets (over time(s)) a certain meaning awarded it may itinitiate a signal effect and/or become a symbol.

•      Sometimes a symbol grow_into/will_be_handed_down_in rites or/and even cults.

Besides the IPCC/UNFCC itself, respectively this undersigned Cancún "agreement", what is/can_be/could_become the symbol of a 2°C limit (for agreements cf. also "Bolivia effect(s)")?

I whisper and admit that a principally/especially from time to time recurring sign will be more easily predestined to become a symbol (heavy with meaning).

My read is we can argue in the following way: No more like any number of indices amounts to (unequivocal/clean) proof than any number of (relapsing) signs amounts to symbol(ism).

Rites can be seen as contrary to taboos; for "non-..." it is regularly a taboo to influence the writings of the scientific community (cult) (cf. for "taboo/rite" here).

For instance, online(-IPCC)-scriptures, like that fragmented AR4 (Fourth Assessment Report) document on the swiss server, are unfortunately for those who cannot allow themselves computer access, a taboo.

Of course, nobody is able to determine exactly what the *symbol(ism)* shall be as a whole in our case. Even more difficult to answer: Is there an approximately universally valid symbolism for (most(?) of) us?


Anonymous said...

As is often the case, my comment is nearly two days in waiting queue, again.


eduardo said...

@ namenlos,

there is no comment in the queue.

Werner Krauss said...

@Hans #9

"when everything is symbolic, then why using this attribute?"

It took some time, but now I know the answer: because focusing on symbols implies changing methods: it's not enough to only count, to model and to calculate in climate sciences, but we also have to interpret and to analyze the (social) networks and contexts. Climate is both a symbol and a fact. This is no contradiction, it is its very nature. It only does not fit our disciplinary world. So let's change the definition of climate sciences.