Dec 042012
 
Rosanne Skirble

December 04, 2012

High level officials from more than 200 countries are in Doha, Qatar, for talks that began last week on the next steps after the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. climate change treaty expires this year. The ministers arrive in the face of bad news for the planet. A spate of new scientific studies finds worldwide greenhouse gas emissions rising and ice sheets melting rapidly, and predicts a planetary warming of as much as five degrees Celsius by the end of this century unless nations act immediately to reduce their industrial emissions of CO2 and other climate-changing greenhouse gases.  (…)
While hopes are high that the U.S. will take the lead in Doha with new emission pledges, some experts doubt if the Obama Administration has the political support at home to significantly alter its climate policies.  Alexander Ochs, an energy and climate analyst with the World Watch Institute in Doha says the U.S. has its hands bound.
“On the one hand, having this high expectation here of other countries that the United States should be  in a leadership role and on the other hand not being able to move more ambitiously to fulfill those targets and those commitments because of domestic resistance.”
Find the full article [here] and on VOA Online.
You can find the full radio report [here].
Dec 032012
 

By Avery Fellow, Bloomberg Daily Environment Report, 3 December 2012

Developing countries are seeking increased pledges from wealthier countries for climate mitigation and adaptation financing at international climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar, observers of the talks said Nov. 30. The G77, or group of 77 developing countries within the United Nations, proposed at the 18th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-18) that developed countries raise $60 billion a year starting in 2013 for “medium-term” climate assistance as they scale up to offering $100 billion a year by 2020, observers said. (…)

Developed countries initially promised to direct at least 50 percent of pledged funds to climate adaptation, said Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute. (…)

Ochs said he did not expect a global deal on climate finance in Doha. “I do not think in this negotiation round we will see a full agreement on how to bridge the gap between 2012 and 2020,” he said. “I’m hoping that countries fill the current gap … [and] individual countries start putting money on the table for 2012 to 2020. But I do not expect a global deal on the issue.” (…)

You can find the whole article [here].

Oct 202010
 

Over the past few years, China has emerged as a global leader in clean energy, topping the world in production of compact fluorescent light bulbs, solar water heaters, solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, and wind turbines. The remarkable rise of China’s clean energy sector reflects a strong and growing commitment by the government to diversify its energy economy, reduce environmental problems, and stave off massive increases in energy imports. Around the world, governments and industries now find themselves struggling to keep pace with the new pacesetter in global clean energy development.

WW.report181

Chinese efforts to develop renewable energy technologies have accelerated in recent years as the government has recognized energy as a strategic sector. China has adopted a host of new policies and regulations aimed at encouraging energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy deployment. Taking lessons from its own experience as well as the experiences of countries around the world, China has built its clean energy sector in synergy with its unique economic system and institutions of governance. At a time when many countries still struggle with the aftermath of a devastating financial crisis, the Chinese government has used its strong financial position to direct tens of billions of dollars into clean energy— increasing the lead that Chinese companies have in many sectors.

Among other initiatives, the Chinese government has taken strong action to promote renewable energy, establish national energy conservation targets, and delegate energysaving responsibilities to regions. Key legislative actions include the national Renewable Energy Law, which entered into force in January 2006, the national Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy, launched in September 2007, and the Medium and Long-Term Energy Conservation Plan, launched in November 2004.

Although per capita energy use in China remains below the international average, it is growing very rapidly, spurred recently by the infrastructure-intensive government stimulus program launched in late 2008. Even with efficiency advances, demand for energy is expected to continue to rise in the coming decades. Chinese energy consumption is currently dominated by coal, and the major energy-consuming sector is industry. Improving the efficiency of energy use and enhancing energy conservation will be critical to ease energy supply constraints, boost energy security, reduce environmental pollution, “green” the economy, and tackle the climate challenge.

[Please find more on this Worldwatch report 181 which I co-authored with a group of Chinese and US experts, here]

Aug 102010
 

By Haibing Ma and Alexander Ochs

Recently, a China Daily news report caught Uncle Sam’s attention, presumably at an inconvenient time: just when the U.S. Senate finally admitted to abandoning its plan of issuing a federal climate bill by the end of this year, top Chinese officials were discussing how to launch carbon trading programs under their country’s next Five-Year Plan (2011–15). Serving as China’s overarching social and economic guidance, Five-Year Plans consistently lay out the most crucial development strategies for this giant emerging economy. Once included in the plan, carbon trading will be viewed as part of China’s national goals and will be domestically binding. This occurred most recently with the country’s 2010 energy intensity target, which called for a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels and was disaggregated into provincial and local targets, with local officials held accountable for achieving them. In short, China seems to be accelerating full-throttle toward a low-carbon economy.

Chinese policymakers have been eyeing a domestic emission-trading scheme for a while. Last August, Xie Zhenhua, Deputy Director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), announced that China will launch a pilot carbon trading program in selected regions and/or sectors—basically the same message conveyed in the recent China Daily story. On one hand, this reiteration demonstrates that the Chinese government is seriously considering such a market-based mitigation mechanism; on the other hand, the fact that the program’s status is still in discussion a year later shows that putting cap-and-trade into action might be not be that easy in China either. [Read more on Worldwatch's ReVolt blog]

Aug 052010
 

On this edition of CrossTalk on RT (Russia Television’s International Broadcast), Peter Lavelle asks his guests about the on-going heat wave: freak weather or evidence of global warming? I was one of them.

Jun 082010
 

 Co-author: Shakuntala Makhijani

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard

 The European Environment Agency (EEA) yesterday released its greenhouse gas inventory for 2008, showing a two-percent fall from 2007 levels across EU-27 countries and an 11.3-percent reduction from 1990 levels. The new data also show that the EU-15 (the 15 only EU members in 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated) have reduced emissions by 6.9 percent since 1990, putting those countries on track to meet their Kyoto Protocol commitment of reducing 2008-2012 emissions by an average of 8-percent below 1990 levels. The European Commission points out that the EU-15 emission reduction—a 1.9-percent drop from 2007 to 2008—came as the region’s economy grew 0.6 percent, suggesting that economic growth and emissions cuts can be compatible.

Just last month, the European Commission had announced that emissions covered under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) fell even more rapidly: verified emissions from covered installations were 11.6-percent lower last year than in 2008. EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard cautioned that these reductions are largely due to the economic crisis, as opposed to ambitious actions by covered industry. The crisis has also weakened price signals in the trading scheme and slowed business investment in emissions-reducing innovations.

Earlier this year, the European Commission began arguing that the Union should commit to deeper cuts than a 20-percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, calling instead for a 30-percent decrease. It released figures showing that, largely due to the economic crisis, the annual costs for cutting emissions will be lower than originally estimated by 2020. In 2008, the EU estimated that €70 billion per year would be necessary to meet the 20-percent target, but this cost estimate has now fallen to just €48 billion. For a 30-percent target during the same timeframe, the new projected annual cost is €81 billion—only €11 billion more than what EU countries have already accepted under the 20-percent target.

[Please read the rest of the blog on ReVolt]

Sep 212009
 

Two major global challenges – the financial crisis and climate change – make it urgent to rally the world behind the idea of a “green new deal” or a “global green recovery.” The financial crisis puts renewable energy projects and business at particular risk. The recession has caused a drop in energy and carbon prices that reduces the market competitiveness of clean technologies. In addition, the tightening credit markets mean that cleantech initiatives, which frequently face high capital costs and higher risk premiums, are struggling to find the necessary funding.

The risk of stagnation is especially disruptive to the cleantech industry as it comes on the heels of a rapid growth period prior to the financial crisis. In Germany, the cleantech sector grew 27% between 2005 and 2007, employed almost 1.8 million people, and now accounts for more than 5% of industrial production. From 2002 to 2007, global new investment in sustainable energy grew nearly 16-fold, from an annual US$7.1 billion to US$112.6 billion. The financial crisis created a severe investment shock in the cleantech sector, with new-investment levels in the first quarter of 2009 just under half what they were one year earlier.

This is absolutely the wrong time for a lull in cleantech investment. The International Energy Agency estimates that about 540 billion US dollars must be invested annually in renewable energy and energy efficiency if climate change is to be maintained at or below a 2°C increase in global average temperature. A significant expansion in investment will be required to reach these levels, with about 80% of the investment needed in just three key sectors: electrical power, transportation and buildings.

Several proven policies for expanding cleantech investment already exist, including feed-in tariffs, risk-mitigation policies, green-procurement policies, and government R&D spending, to name just a few. The key challenge for policy makers in trying to support the establishment of clean-technology markets is how to accelerate the implementation of these measures by obtaining the necessary funding and spending public monies wisely in a way that leverages the private sectors’ capability to shoulder the bulk of the needed investment.

To help G20 nations overcome these challenges, the German Federal Foreign Office asked Atlantic Initiative – a think tank on international politics and globalization based in Berlin and Washington, DC – to develop specific and actionable policy recommendations on how to provide effective international support to green technology markets and push the issue in the G20 framework. It was suggested that Germany, the UK and the US should be the main targets of these recommendations as they are well positioned to take a joint leadership role in setting the right incentives for a global green recovery and future growth path building on the idea of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge and taking into account London’s role as the G20 host. I was a co-author of the report. Please find it here.

Jun 262009
 

cop15_logo_imgHalf a year before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, negotiators are far from agreeing on key components of a global climate deal. As envisioned in the 2007 Bali Climate Action Plan (or “Bali Roadmap”), the summit in December is supposed to deliver a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which expires at the end of 2012.

Ever since Bali, however, progress in the negotiations has been slow. Only recently have the delegations entered full negotiation mode—which is necessary right now, the most pivotal year since the 1992 UNFCCC. From June 1 to 12, more than 4,600 participants—including government delegates from 183 countries as well as business, industry, environmental organizations and research institutions—met in Bonn, Germany, to discuss key negotiating texts that will serve as the basis for an agreed Copenhagen outcome. The gathering in Germany was the second in a series of five major U.N. negotiating sessions this year leading up to the Copenhagen summit in December (…).

Please find the full article in Grist Magazine here.

Jun 222009
 

More than 80 participants followed the invitation of the NABU and the Heinrich Böll Foundation on 15 June 2009 in Berlin to discuss with American and German experts key contributions on both sides of the Atlantic to tackle the global climate crisis. Another key point of interest was an assessment of the current state of negotiations of a new global climate pact on which the international community wants to agree at the UN climate conference in the end of this year in Copenhagen.

In the discussion, I emphasized the central Importance of new U.S. energy and climate legislation, the so-called Waxman-Markey Bill, which has already passed important hurdles in the House of Representatives and will be discussed in the Senate later this year – hopefully to be be adopted. Since 1990, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have risen by about 16 percent. For the US to reduce its emissions by 20 percent compared to 2005 in 2020, as W-M envisions, will be a very remarkable challenge and an effort compatible to the cuurent evrsion of the EU climate and energy package. Critics often suggest that the absolute reductions in WM amount to only 4% compared to 1990. I pointed out, however, that these 4% only include the emission reductions in the  sectors covered by a future emissions trading scheme. Some estimates believe that the entire reduction effort in the US (including non-ETS-covered sectors and offsets) could amount to about -17% in 2020 compared to 1990. Accordingly, the U.S. would reduce its emissions by more than one third compared to total emissions expected in a business as-usual-scenario. Europe aims at reducing emissions by 20% compared to 1990 and has offered a -30% target if other parties commit to a similar level of ambition.

I also pointed to the fact that the American climate debate much more than the one in Europe is fixated on China, because of competitiveness concerns for the U.S. economy. In many cases, these concerns are distorting important facts and are therefore exaggerated. Only recently it has been noted that China already has very ambitious policies inplace to increase energy efficiency and the expansion of renewable energies despite no binding reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. I also discussed sectoral approaches as a way to provide additional incentives to abate emissions in energy-intensive industries. Panel guests: Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs, Research Center for Comparative Environmental Policy, Free University Berlin; Alexander Ochs, director of international climate policy, Center for Clean Air Policy, Washington DC; Dr. Karsten Sach, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation, Federal Ministry of Environment; Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy, The Nature Conservancy; Carsten Wachholz, secretary for energy policy and climate protection, NABU.

You can find a German summary of the event here.

Jun 112009
 

On 8 June 2009 at the UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn, my friend Heleen de Connick asked me to jump in for another colleague as respondent on an ECN panel  on “Confluence or convolution of mechanisms, technology and finance: how can streams meet in Copenhagen?”. In my response to Stefan Bakker’s presentation on “The Future CDM”, I pointed out, among other things, that:

- CDM projects in developing countries and Annex I action alone will not be enough to halve global emissions by 2050 and reach a global peak of emissions before 2020 – both important thresholds to keep a worldwide temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, as science suggests
- sectoral approaches in rapidly developing countries are an innovative step forward fitting into the concept of low-carbon development strategies including three types of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs): unilateral action, conditional action and participation in the carbon market (crediting)
- CDMs should not be abandonned but continue to play a role in sectors not covered by sectoral approaches and in least developing countries
- the CDM can be improved; one particularly valuable suggestion is to go from project-based approval to a positive list of actions (or programmatic CDM) in order to speed up the process and make it more transparent

You can find an On-Demand webcast of the side event here

Jun 032009
 

US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern just spoke at the Center for American Progress on “China and the Global Climate Challenge”. The most important news first: Stern (with Holdren, Sandalow, and others from Treasury, EPA etc.) will leave for Beijing this Saturday in order to continue talks on forging a US-CHN climate and energy partnership. started by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year. 

Here are my notes from the talk and a one-line comment.

Apr 052009
 

On April 3, 2009 I joined Nigel Purvis, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans, environment and science and current President of Climate Advisers, at and American Law Institute and American Bar Association conference on “Climate and the Law” in Washington DC . In my presentation on “International Climate Negotiations: The Road to Copenhagen and beyond”, I outlined key elements of a global climate deal and a roadmap for what results have to be reached by the UN conference in Copenhagen in December, and what details of the global climate deal could be negotiated in 2010 and 2011.

In particular, I discussed potential avenues for solution regarding four most contentious issues: Contractual matters (most importantly, the question of whether agreement should take the form of a new protocol or an amendment to the Framework Convention), criteria and outlook for reaching comparable action amongst industrialized countries, the ambition of developing countries’ NAMAs versus the level of funding from industrialized countries, as well as the subject of the future financing architecture and governance.

[Please check back; presentation will be online soon]

Apr 022009
 

from CCAP Newsletter 

On March 18, 2009, Alexander Ochs, CCAP’s director of international policy, discussed “Views on Carbon Offsetting in the United States” at Point Carbon’s Carbon Market Insights Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.“International offsets like the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and domestic offsets will likely play an important role in any future U.S. cap and trade program,” Ochs told delegates from around the world. “However, it is important to understand that offsets are only one mechanism that U.S. lawmakers are currently considering in their effort to contain the cost of a federal carbon market. There is also a certain contradiction in the debate between lowering the cost of mitigating emissions on the one hand, and not wanting to send money oversees to make our competitors’ economies more efficient.”Ochs agreed with co-panelist Peter Zapfel from the European Commission that the CDM alone is not sufficient for reducing rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions in the developing world. “Major emitters like the developing countries China and Mexico must contribute more to the solution than simply offsetting reduction commitments made elsewhere — and they are willing to do so,” Ochs said. “Sectoral commitments for energy-intense industries are the next important step on the staircase to a full integration of these countries into the global carbon market.”

You can find my presentation here: ochs-futureofoffsetsinus_carbonmarketinsights2009.pdf

Mar 302009
 

By Mathew Carr, March 19 2009 (Bloomberg) — Mexico will likely propose emissions-trading programs for its oil and electricity industries when it completes a climate-protection plan next month, the Washington-based Center for Clean Air Policy said.

Emissions trading may start in Mexico in 2011 and expand to cement and metals, Alexander Ochs, director of international policy at the center, said yesterday on the sidelines of the Carbon Market Insights conference in Copenhagen.

“They have committed political leadership that understands emerging countries have to make a contribution to a global climate pact,” Ochs said. “They want to demonstrate they are progressive.” The center, an emissions-trading think tank, is advising Mexico and China in their climate plans, he said.  Full article: Bloomberg_Mex

Mar 292009
 

On March 25, at a workshop in Santiago, Chile, I presented our research teams’ results on Mexico and Brazil as part of CCAP’s Developing Country Project. We held the workshop at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (also a co-host of the event). Officials from seven South American nations attended the workshop, gathering to discuss the status of the international climate change negotiations and to hear about the climate-related research CCAP teams in Mexico and Brazil had conducted. The topics of discussion included:

• Nationally appropriate mitigation actions, a key feature of the Bali Roadmap;
• Analysis of GHG mitigation options in Brazil’s forestry sector;
• The GHG and other implications of expanding the production of biofuels, both ethanol and biodiesel, in Brazil; and
• Lessons learned from a first attempt to propose sectoral goals for GHG emissions in Mexico’s cement and oil refining industries.
The participants expressed a strong interest in seeing this work continue and for the project to expand into other countries, such as Chile and Argentina. The CCAP Developing Country Project is funded by the UK Department for Foreign Investment and Development (UK DFID), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Tinker Foundation.

Please find my introduction here: ochs-chiledfidworkshopintro_090325.pdf
and my presentation on NAMAs and the Global Deal on Climate Change here: ochs-chilenamatheglobaldealoncc_090525.pdf

Mar 242009
 
GHG Mitigation Opportunities in Brazil and Mexico
ECLAC, Santiago, Chile
March 25, 2009

Presentation given at ECLAC, Santiago, Chile on March 25, 2009

INTRODUCTION TO WORKSHOP

- Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
- Assisting Developing Country Climate Negotiators through Analysis & Dialogue
- Workshop overview: GHG Mitigation Opportunities in Brazil and Mexico

NAMAS AND THE GLOBAL DEAL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
- Overarching goals and status quo
- Emissions
- Overview of International Climate Negotiations
- Developing countries are already doing more than many believe
- International Policy Context
- NAMA Requirements
- How financing could work
- Technology Finance
- Technology Finance Assistance to Encourage Stronger Actions
- Sources for Technology Finance
- China
- Mexico
- South Africa & South Korea
- Chile
- Brazil
- Sectoral Approach
- NAMAs and Sectoral
- Conclusions

[Please find presentation here on ECLAC website]

Sep 012008
 

 

When the Olympic fire was set alight during the Games’ opening ceremony, there was a giant wave of smog hanging over Beijing. Like any other day of the year, the air pollution was several times above what the World Health Organization considers safe. Many competitors were so concerned about their personal wellbeing that they restricted their visit to the Ancient City to the days on which they compete, thus missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to inhale the legendary Olympic spirit for the duration of the games. Overpopulation was not amongst the problems the athlete village faced. And however clean, colorful, and crystal-clear the opening ceremonies were – when the cameras conveyed the first images of spectators with masks over their mouths, the hosts’ delight soured rather suddenly. Most of us, however, were not surprised. After all, this is the China we imagine. A political apparatus so keen to receive world recognition and a population so eager to catch up with the wealthy elsewhere have unleashed such a thriving economy that there is no room for environmental concerns, least of all protective regulation.

It is this dusky image of China that has to a large extent shaped our diplomatic attitude towards this rapidly industrializing giant. Nowhere more so than in the United States, the continuous finger-pointing at China has been used as an excuse for not taking more vigorous action on global environmental problems at home. READ THIS EXCLUSIVE OP-ED FOR WWW.ALEXANDEROCHS.COM

May 092008
 


Die wissenschaftliche Beweislage zum Klimawandel ist erdrückend. Erste Auswirkungen sind weltweit spürbar. Dass der Mensch die Hauptschuld an der Klimaveränderung trägt, steht dabei außer Frage. Die Verbrennung fossiler Energien, die Abholzung großer Waldgebiete sowie bestimmte landwirtschaftliche und industrielle Verfahren setzen Emissionen frei, die den natürlichen Treibhauseffekt der Erde immer weiter verstärken. Gelingt es nicht, die großen Volkswirtschaften zu reformieren – und dazu ist in den Worten des Bundesumweltministers nicht weniger nötig als eine „dritte industrielle Revolution“ – drohen im besten Fall unwirtlichere Lebensbedingungen, im schlimmsten eine Katastrophe kaum mehr kontrollierbaren Ausmaßes. Für die Problembekämpfung wird neben den Großemittenten des Nordens das Verhalten einiger zentraler Akteure der südlichen Erdhalbkugel maßgeblich sein: Bekommen China, Indien und Mexiko ihre explosionsartig steigenden Emissionen in den Griff? Wird der Waldschutz in Brasilien und Indonesien seinen notwendigen Beitrag zum globalen Klimaschutz leisten? Können Südafrika und Südkorea ihre fast vollständig auf fossilen Trägern basierende Energiegewinnung reformieren? Und wird die Blockademacht Australien künftig den ihr angemessenen Verantwortungsteil leisten? Die Bundesrepublik hat sich in den letzten Jahren als Lokomotive der internationalen Klimadiplomatie etabliert. Ein klimapolitischer Dialog Deutschlands mit wirtschaftlich und politisch aufstrebenden Staaten des Südens wäre einer Fortsetzung dieser Führungsrolle in einem immer wichtiger werdenden Politikfeld und damit der Profilbildung als Weltordnungspolitik mitgestaltende Mittelmacht äußerst dienlich. Im Erfolgsfall – wenn es also gelingt, neue Nord-Süd-Koalitionen im Klimabereich zu schmieden – könnte ein lang ersehnter Durchbruch in der globalen Klimagovernance gelingen.

BUCHKAPITEL in Günther Maihold/Stefan Mair (Hg.), Kooperation Deutschlands mit Führungsmächten des Südens, SWP/Nomos: September 2008

VORVERSION ALS SWP DISKUSSIONSPAPIER

Apr 092008
 

Alexander Ochs & Aldo Venturelli (Eds.)

 

With contributions from Fabrizio D’Adda, Kevin Baumert, Corrado Clini, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, Michael Grubb, Benito Müller, Friedemann Müller, Alexander Ochs, Michael Oppenheimer, Nigel Purvis, Arthur Runge-Metzger, Richard Stewart, Laurence Tubiana, Harlan Watson, Anders Wijkman et al. Loveno, May 2004, 127 pages

Complete text (PDF)

Mar 202008
 

I delivered this presentation on 12 March 2008 at the German Embassy, Washington DC, on invitation of Egon Kochanke, Minister and Head of the Economic Department. The talkcovered a wide array of issues. I started with outlining the twin challenges of climate change and energy security. To compare the costs of non-action versus those of action, I then outlined and compared two scenarios, a three degree Celsius warmer world and one that has seen a third industrial revolution to prevent scenario one. I decline these scenarios along key dimensions of the challenge: the ecological problem and consequences for humanity; ethical and security dimensions; the political problem; as well as the economic dimension and the technological challenge.

I.a., my discussion included a climate policy snap shot, a focus on transatlantic disunity, a focus on power shifts in international (climate) relations, the question whether there is a new transatlantic climate looming, and an outlook of the challenges for future climate and energy policy in the search of a post-Kyoto framework.  Please find the presentation here.