Saturday, December 19, 2009

Final Post From the UN Climate Change Conference: Dr. Anita Halvorssen Assesses What Was and Was Not Accomplished

All week Dr. Anita Halvorssen has been reporting from the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Here is today's final report:

At the final, tumultuous Plenary meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC at their 15th session (COP15), the Parties agreed to "take note" of the Climate Accord, the deal brokered by President Obama together with leaders from India, Brazil, South Africa, and China last night. Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Sudan objected to the "note." The accord still needs to be formally approved by the Parties.

Highlights from the Climate Accord include the limit of a two degree Celcius increase in global temperature rise, the 30 billion dollars for developing countries for adaptation between 2010 and 2012, 100 billion dollars starting 2020 to be mobilized for developing countries to be used for mitigation and adaptation, and the establishment of the Reduction of Deforestation and Forest Degredation (REDD plus) mechanism and a technology mechanism.

Many participants at COP-15 were not thrilled with the new Climate Accord, since it is not a binding agreement and there are no binding emission reduction cuts for developed countries or mitigation action for developing countries. The small island states in the Pacific are not happy with the two degree limit on the temperature rise because they may well become submerged as a result, but compared to walking out empty-handed, I think COP-15 has taken us one step closer to the goal of the UNFCCC which is to stabilize the greenhouse gases (GHGs) to a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human caused) interference with the climate system.

It is just two years ago since the IPCC in its fourth assessment report (AR4) determined the 2 degree limit was where we needed to be, now the international community has accepted the limit - that has to be progress. The fact that 119 world leaders came to Copenhagen shows that the international community understands the seriousness of climate change. I think we are headed in the right direction, slowly, but surely.

The next meetings will take place in Bonn in June of 2010, and COP-16 will be in Mexico the second week of November in 2010.

Dr. Halvorssen, who teaches at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, has attended the proceedings for the Prof. Ved Nanda Center for the Study of International Law. Her participation was accredited by the American Society of International Law.

Danish family member and Dr. Anita Halvorssen walking on Strøget - the world´s oldest pedestrian street.

Rosenborg - 1630s.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Today's Report From the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

Dr. Anita Halvorssen reports from today's proceedings at the the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen:

We all woke up quite hopeful when we heard the news that a high-level meeting of 26 heads of state and others negotiated until 2am this morning at the Bella Center. They had agreed on a draft text, the Copenhagen Accords, that still had to be accepted by other Parties. There was agreement on limiting the increase in global temperatures to two degree Celsius from the pre-industrial levels. Developed countries agreed to "support the goal of mobilizing" $100 billion for helping developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. The text still not been made publicly available.

At noon there was an Informal High Level Meeting. The Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, upon opening the meeting, stated that the Parties have to look beyond Copenhagen. China’s Premier, Wen Jiabao, said China would cut its emissions intensity by 40-45% by 2020, from 2005 levels. The Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said Brazil would reduce its emission intensity by 36.1% to 38.9% by 2020 and reduce destruction of Amazon rainforest by 80% by 2020, costing Brazil $166 billion. Common but differentiated responsibility should be the guiding principle, Lula said. Countries contributing funds, have a right to demand transparency and compliance, but need to be careful of not intervening in developing countries. Lula said Brazil was willing to sacrifice even more to help other countries. Brazil is willing to participate in the financing piece if there is an agreement, Lula said.

The United States President, Barak Obama, said we must act together, agree to certain steps, and hold each other accountable. He said that all major economies need to put forward targets. The US will reduce its emissions by 17% by 2020. Furthermore, Obama said we must have mechanism to review that the reductions are actually carried out, not intrusive, but ensuring that the accord is credible. Finally, Obama said that regarding financing to help developing countries adapt to climate change, the US will contribute $10billion until 2012 and $100 billion by 2020.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, said that Japan is willing to contribute $15 billion up to 2012 , $11 billion of it in public funds. He said we have to rise above our diverse national interests to save the planet and our children.

A new round of negotiations, a High Level Meeting began at 4:30pm, with Parties from 26 countries participating. As of 10:30pm there were no conclusions to the negotiations.

The one point the Parties seem to have agreed upon on is the 2 degree limit on the temperature rise. It is being called the Copenhagen Outcome. The most contentious issue is whether China will agree to transparency in fulfilling its commitments, which the US insists upon. There is also disagreement over the timing and extent of emissions cuts, but 80% by 2050 is the goal that has long been mentioned. The plan of adopting a legally binding treaty on climate change next year has been abandoned.

To be continued tomorrow!

Dr. Halvorssen, who teaches at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, is attending the proceedings for the Prof. Ved Nanda Center for the Study of International Law and accredited by the American Society of International Law.

The NGO Forum at the Climate Change conference.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Observations from the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

This week Dr. Anita Halvorssen has been reporting from the UN Climate Change Conference in Denmark. Today's posting and pictures follow:

Due to capacity problems at the Bella Center, a new venue, the Forum, was reserved for the NGOs that do not have access to the Bella Center. As I did not win the lottery for access cards to get into the COP-15 venue, the Forum (see picture below) is my new meeting place for the last two days of the conference.

The Parties to the UNFCCC seem to be in agreement on the financing side of the COP-15 negotiations. Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, on behalf of the African countries, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, among others, have all announced that the developed countries will contribute $100 billion to help developing countries address mitigation and adaptation issues starting 2020. This was one of the biggest sticking points of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention.

Side Event: The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) arranged a panel entitled Fair Climate: US Constituencies’ Perspectives. It was hosted by Bellona, a Norwegian NGO. Gloria Reuben, from ‘ER’, an Emmy nominated actress and climate change activist talked about the negative ramifications of mountain top removal coal mining in Virginia. Jerome Ringo, President of Apollo Alliance, stated that climate change is much more than the COP-15 Conference, it is about tomorrow, it is about humanity. Jerome said “Ten to twenty years from now, what will we say to our children and grandchildren when they ask, 'You were at Copenhagen. What did you do?'”

John Grant, NWF Board member, CEO of 100 Black Men of Atlanta, emphasized the right to have a healthy, sustainable environment. Look to, not just the near term, but a hundred years from now, what can we do to enable human sustainability a thousand years from now. Alabama had a terrible drought, the governor prayed for rain. In Africa, women walk all day to find water. Ask yourselves every day, he said: “What am I going to do today to create a healthier planet?” The goods we buy and vehicles we drive need to be carbon neutral. “We need to hold each other individually accountable,” he stated.

Jackie Patterson, NAACP Climate Justice Initiative Director, spoke of heightened vulnerability of women. Regarding climate change, gender studies show that women are more impacted than men by environmental disasters. Women who are more likely to be poor, will be more exposed to displacement due to climate change.

The final speaker, Bob Gruenig, National Tribal Environment Council stated that you can tell the character of a country’s leaders by the way they treat their indigenous peoples. Many of these people are being affected by climate change. Southwest of the US, the native American tribes are seeing their water sources drying up due to climate change. In Kivalina, Alaska, the village has to move due to the ice off the coast having melted, enabling the ocean to erode the coastline. It will cost $100-400 million to relocate the people.

Addressing a question from the audience on how to deal with the climate skeptics in the US, the panelist said this was a big problem, but that most Americans wanted action on climate change. The message needs to be simple, that it’s an investment in the future, yes there will be costs, but there are bigger costs of inaction.

Dr. Halvorssen, who teaches at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, is attending the proceedings for the Prof. Ved Nanda Center for the Study of International Law and accredited by the American Society of International Law.

From outside the conference: A little snow does not keep the Danes from bicycling.

Hiring News: LLM Graduate Andy Lubner Begins Work for the U.S. National Park Service

Andy Lubner, 2009 DU LLM graduate, is employed as a junior contract specialist with the U.S. National Park Service. Here's a recent note from Andy: "I am currently in the Utilities Division working with renewable energy. The National Park Service has a plethora of distributed generation solar projects going on and I am working to execute net metering/interconnection agreements between the NPS and the utilities."

He goes to to describe the projects as "very cool" and notes that what he learned at DU "has been really useful with constant application of my specialized knowledge." Andy is based in Lakewood, Colorado.

Best wishes from all of us at DU to Andy, one of our proud graduates and an individual who will without question make significant contributions in his chosen field.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dr. Anita Halvorssen Reports From the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

Dr. Anita Halvorssen, an adjunct professor at the Sturm College of Law, is reporting from Copenhagen about the proceedings at the UN Climate Change Conference for the Prof. Ved Nanda Center for the Study of International law and accredited by the American Society of International Law. Dr. Halvorssen's third report from the conference follows:

Just one hour wait in the cold today, to get into the Bella Center, getting in the queue by 6:45am. Not just NGOs, but even nations states' delegates, from Indonesia and Russia, among others, have been turned away in the last couple of days because the Bella Center has been packed to capacity.

Attending one of the many Side Events, I went to one that covered energy access and poverty alleviation focusing on reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience. One of the slides in the presentation showed projections for Africa and Asia having the largest mortality rates as a result of climate change – quite disturbing. Down one of the hallway there was a commotion. It was the indigenous peoples protesting that their needs have to be taken into account in the climate change negotiation. They were headed for the exit.

For lunch I was joined by two of Tanzania’s delegates. We were discussing the news regarding the finance for developing countries mitigation and especially adaptation that is being discussed at the high level meetings. The EU had mentioned over seven billion Euro’s, whereas Africa has stated that five hundred billion dollars is what is needed. We talked about the situation in Tanzania. They get a lot of their energy from hydro power and the water levels in the reservoirs are sinking due to drought.

Another side event I attended was a presentation about the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD Programme) with a case study from Guatemala. The government is establishing the legal framework for a REDD program, which include the Rainforest Alliance and other NGOs. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is also involved, focusing on conservation and improved forest management. One of the problems for Guatemala is that in the biosphere areas there is still deforestation going on.

Many of the press conferences and speeches by the heads of state are streamed live over the ‘’ website. U.S. Senator John Kerry, Democrat-Massachusett, for instance, stated in a press conference at the Bella Center that carbon pricing is inevitable if we are to tackle climate change, whether it be in the form of a tax or carbon trading. Many NGO participants have not gotten tickets, me included, for the plenary meetings, so they watch them on big and small screens all over the Bella Center. The small island states, in their speeches at the plenary meeting are one after the other practically begging for funding.

Pictures from Copenhagen:

Youth protesting in the atrium

Participants watching live coverage of plenary meeting

Tanzanian delegates

Plenary Room II: Meeting of COP15

Season's Greetings and Best Wishes for 2010! Feliz Navidad y un Próspero Año Nuevo Desde Denver!

Lucy and I send our very best wishes to all of you as we approach the holidays and the end of 2009.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dr. Anita Halvorssen Reports From Copenhagen on the UN Climate Change Conference

Dr. Anita Halvorssen, who teaches the "Law of Sustainable Development and Trade" and "Global Climate Change Law and Policy" at the Sturm College of Law, is in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week as part of the University of Denver's Ved Nanda Center for the Study of International Law (and accredited by the American Society of International Law) coverage of the UN Climate Change Conference, which runs from Dec. 7-18, 2009.

The following is her second post from the meeting:
Arriving at the the NGO accreditation queue at 6:40am, I finally got into the Bella Center building at 8:40am and two and a half hours later I had my badge and secondary card which you need to access the events at the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-15).

There are lots of events going on at the same time at COP-15. First, I attended the Contact Group for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA). The latest draft text of AWG-LCA was presented by the Chairman of the Contact Group and was commented on by delegates of nation states only. The text has been whittled down from 188 pages to 7 pages. The draft text will not be a clean text by the end of the day (meaning it will have some of the disputed text in brackets) but will be presented to the COP-15.

I spent some time on a presentation by some scientists from Norway that have published a report on the melting of snow and ice in the polar regions due to climate change and its impacts on the regions - the forecast is not promising. The sub-national groups tackling climate change in the US and Canada - twenty-three states and provinces in all - gave a good presentation of how they have taken action without waiting for their respective governments to act.
Sub groups in the US and Canada giving their presentations.

Dr. Halvorssen, second from left, and members of NGOs from Germany, Norway, South Korea, Spain, and the United States.

Photo of attrium where conference participants eat and relax.

South American participants.

The Economist Magazine Reports on "Nuclear's Next Generation"

There is considerable interest stretching from China to the United Kingdom and nearly everywhere in between about new nuclear power plants. A special report in this week's Economist magazine ("Nuclear's Next Generation," Dec. 12, 2009) provides an excellent overview of six new concepts for building nuclear power stations. In addition to describing the new concepts the report also compares how the new concepts differ from today's typical nuclear reactors.

There are, of course, positives and negatives that have to be weighed in the decision about whether to build almost any type of energy generating system. Nuclear, to be sure, has its own range of positives and negatives. But to the extent that the world embraces a carbon constrained economy (and it's still too early to know for sure), nuclear is going to play a role. For example, just ask left of center U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown who recently has enthusiastically embraced nuclear power.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dr. Anita Halvorssen Reports From Copenhagen

Dr. Anita Halvorssen, who teaches "Global Climate Change Law and Policy" and "Sustainable Development and Trade" at the Sturm College of Law, is in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week as part of the University of Denver's Ved Nanda Center for the Study of International Law (and accredited by the American Society of International Law) coverage of the UN Climate Change Conference, which runs from Dec. 7-18, 2009.

Here is Dr. Halvorssen's report on her first day at the conference:
The first day, was disappointing. I waited seven and a half hours in the freezing cold, but still didn't get into the conference venue because they stopped letting people in due to the organizers having underestimated the number of people that would show up. 30.000 people have gotten invitations, but there is only room for 15.000 people at the Bella Conference Center. Did meet a lot of interesting people; A high school student from Wales, a woman journalist from Greece, a Portuguese man working for the European Energy Council, and some of the delegates from Suriname.
Stay tuned for more reports during the week.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Open Energy Information Website Launched by U.S. Department of Energy

A new open-source web platform that will allow free access to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) resources as well as allow the energy community to upload additional data was launched last week. Over time, the DOE expects that the website will also include technical expert networks and on-line training.

Open Energy Information includes data and tools that will be used by project developers, the private sector, government officials, the international community and others. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is part of the DOE, the website's information will "help deploy clean energy technologies across the country and around the world."

Among other information, the website "currently houses more than 60 clean energy resources and data sets, including maps of worldwide solar and wind potential, information on climate zones, and best practices," NREL said.