Un climate conference in madrid: co2 trading is complicated

How can emissions be traded worldwide in the future? Above all, licensing deals between states, cities and companies pose a hurdle.

This industrial smog disturbs even the bird Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa

The climate diplomats at COP25 will have peace only in the first week. Then the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is still sailing to Spain. When she arrives in Madrid – probably around the weekend of December 7-8 – the pressure and noise level at the UN climate summit will rise. Then the protests of the traditional environmental groups and the relatively new Fridays for Future activists will meet delegates who are stressed anyway.

For they are faced with extremely complex factual issues, the effects of climate change, which are being felt ever more quickly, are increasing the pressure – and then the conferees also have to come to terms with a renewed split among the UN states over the climate.

Perhaps the 25th UN Climate Change Conference (COP for Conference of the Parties) will celebrate its greatest success, however, when it opens on December 2: It will take place.

Because when Chile canceled the COP for Santiago at the end of October because of social unrest in the country, it was questionable whether there would even be a meeting in 2019. Spain’s government saved the conference by inviting the roughly 25,000 participants to Madrid. Still, COP25 will be led by Chile. "We will not allow the Trumps and Bolsonaros of this world to enjoy derailing the Paris Agreement," said the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Donald Trump is working on exactly that. Just three days after the conference’s chaotic change of venue, the U.S. president used the first possible date to launch the exit of the historically biggest CO2 polluter from the Paris Agreement: on November 4, 2020, one day after the election, the U.S. will withdraw from the agreement under the rules. However, a new president could rejoin within 30 days.

Brazil needs attention

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro may have put on hold for now his plans to leave the agreement as well. But in exchange, he has positioned himself as the new bad boy of climate policy for COP25. Bolsonaro is responsible for record destruction of the rainforest after his first year in office; in August, the huge fires even occupied the G7 meeting. The trouble over the venue also started in Brazil, which originally offered to host the conference but withdrew a year ago. Last but not least, Brazil is taking issue with the most important question of COP25: How can CO2 emissions be traded globally in the future?

The Madrid summit will be decided by a solution to this dispute. At issue is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This basically stipulates that states or other actors (companies, cities, federal states) can trade CO2 licenses with other states: If Turkey blows less CO2 into the air than planned, or if a wind farm is built in Morocco instead of a coal-fired power plant, states could sell these avoided emissions to states or companies that can’t or won’t mitigate their own CO2 debt.

The issues here are complex: How is this calculated? Who controls the standards? How to avoid double counting of emissions, by the buyer and the seller? How are the mistakes of the predecessor model, the "Clean Development Mechanism," to be avoided? Can countries like Brazil credit CO2 licenses from this old system in the new one – and make billions of dollars?

Article 6 is the sticking point

They’re on strike: Temperatures are rising. So are sea levels. "Fridays for Future" is calling for a climate strike on Nov. 29. On Saturday, "Ende Gelande" protests against lignite mining. And on Dec. 2, the UN climate conference begins.

We write: Reason enough for the taz to report more intensively on the climate crisis, protests and possible solutions. All texts at https://onlinemobsoft.ru/climatechange.

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The rules and the international situation are so complicated that they almost caused last year’s COP in Katowice, Poland, to fail. Practically the entire "rule book" for the Paris Agreement was drawn up, leaving only Article 6, the carbon markets, open. Now time is running out: if a regulation is not in place by the end of 2020, the "climate protection regime" for international aviation, which is aimed at precisely such trading from 2021, will not be able to enter into force in time. Countries like Germany or the EU, which also rely on "international market mechanisms," have a strong interest in reaching an agreement. However, not at any price either: Rules that "destroy the regime in the long run, we do not go along with," they say from Brussels.

For this, there is great applause from environmental organizations. "We need robust rules for Article 6 for more climate protection," says Rixa Schwarz, team leader of the environmental organization Germanwatch. But in addition to these controversial "market mechanisms," the groups are also pushing for a scheme to help poor countries deal with climate damage. Since 2013, negotiators have been talking under the heading "loss and damage" about how countries can be reliably helped when climate change destroys their crops, devastates their cities or requires expensive dikes and new crops.

After taking stock of this "Warsaw Mechanism," a regular fund for such payments is now needed, demands Sabine Minninger of the aid organization Brot fur die Welt: "We estimate that 50 billion dollars will be needed every year from 2020 to counter loss and damage." That would be on top of the sum that the industrialized countries have promised annually from 2020: 100 billion dollars, but so far only for reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.

Challenge for Europe

The third major topic in Madrid will be an increase in global ambitions for climate protection. In 2020, countries will have to present new and improved climate plans. So far, there has been little sign of this. It is true that 66 countries announced improved plans at the Climate Action Summit in New York in September – but these are almost exclusively countries that are insignificant in terms of emissions. None of the major polluters – the USA, China, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil or South Africa – has yet made a move.

Only Europe is prepared to do more: The new head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU from minus 40 to minus 50 or 55 percent by 2030. Her team will still be fresh in office in Madrid, and the Commissioner responsible, Frans Timmermans, does not have an easy job: making the COPs a success on European soil (Glasgow is next in 2020), keeping recalcitrant Eastern Europeans in line – and at the same time tinkering behind the scenes with China to create a new axis of climate protection. The COP in Madrid will show whether there is a chance of this happening.

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