Feb 102011
 

CONNECTED_1_2011

Dear Readers,

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama set the national goal to generate 80 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035; the German government recently outlined its long-term energy concept which envisions full energy import independence and a 60 percent renewable energies share by 2050; the City of San Francisco launched an initiative aiming at a 100 percent renewables supply within just a decade; and under the motto “growth with foresight,“ Hamburg, this year Europe’s green capital, shows how urban development can be both economically beneficial and environmentally sustain-able. These are only a few examples illustrating that true leadership willing to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and energy security can be found on both sides of the Atlantic.

Content_CONNECTED1_2Welcome to the first edition of CONNECTED – a newsletter discussing climate and energy from a transatlantic perspective. With CONNECTED, partners adelphi and Worldwatch, headquartered in Berlin and Washington DC, will support the Transatlantic Climate Bridge, an initiative that since its inception in 2008 has promoted numerous activities by public authorities, the private sector, civil society, and academia in order to strengthen climate protection and energy security. CONNECTED aims to showcase and review policy and research initiatives that are aimed at low-emissions development. Opinion pieces, interviews, as well as reports on studies, dialogues and conferences will provide a regular update on the progress made toward building climate-compatible economies in Europe, the United States and beyond.

[I am co-editor of CONNECTED, together with Dennis Taenzler. Please find the full first issue of CONNECTED here]

Dec 212010
 

bridges vol. 28, December 2010 / Noteworthy Information

The challenge of addressing climate change inspires fierce, divisive debates, pitting science against politics, environmentalism against commerce, and the most powerful nations in the world against their less-developed neighbors. Roger Pielke, Jr. , professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado , bridges columnist, and a renowned expert on science and public policy, attempts to take on this challenge. In his new book, The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming , he seeks to propose a novel, alternative way of looking for solutions for the climatic changes the earth is experiencing.

ochspielkegoldston

The Office of Science and Technology at the Embassy of Austria chose the occasion of the publication of this book to invite Roger Pielke, Jr., and two more experts on the issue – David Goldston and Alexander Ochs – for a debate with the audience on global climate-change policy. David Goldston is the director of Government Affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council and previously served as chief of staff for the chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Science and Technology. Alexander Ochs works for Worldwatch Institute, directing its Climate and Energy Program. 

[Read the rest of the event report on the bridges website]

Nov 252010
 
Und jährlich grüßt das Murmeltier. Der nächste Klimagipfel steht an. Jedes Jahr Ende November trifft sich die Welt, um über das Schicksal ihres Planeten zu entscheiden. Die Chairs der unterschiedlichen Arbeitsgruppen legen ihre Vertragsentwürfe vor, im Plenum versichern sich die Staaten ihres guten Willens, die Umweltorganisationen stellen ihre Forderungen, und am Ende der zwei Wochen fliegen die Umweltminister für den finalen Showdown ein und entscheiden: wenig Konkretes.

Doch ganz so einfach ist es nicht. Es geht ja doch vorwärts, wichtige Einigungen sind erzielt worden, nur eben insgesamt viel zu langsam. Um dem Klimawandel tatsächlich Einhalt zu gebieten, da ist sich die Wissenschaft weitgehend einig, darf die globale Erwärmung zwei Grad Celsius in diesem Jahrhundert nicht übersteigen. Für die Industriestaaten heißt das: Reduzierung um bis zu 90 Prozent. Noch immer ist ein Inder für weniger als ein Sechstel der Emissionen eines Durchschnittseuropäers verantwortlich. Doch der Ausstoß steigt in fast allen Ländern weiter an.

[Weiter zu meinem Gastbeitrag in der Wiener Zeitung]

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
 
http://inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2010/07/Climate-Bill-Shelved-2.jpg

Kerry und Reid geben ihre Klimapolitik vorest auf

Erkennbar enttäuscht traten Harry Reid, Mehrheitsführer der Demokraten im US-Senat, und Parteikollege John Kerry, Senator aus Massachusetts und ehemaliger Präsidentschaftskandidat, vor die Kameras. Monatelang hatten sie für eine umfangreiches klima- und energiepolitisches Gesetzespaket gekämpft. Nun gaben sie kleinlaut bei. Man habe die notwendigen Stimmen nicht, um ein Emissionsziel für Treibhausgase festzulegen. 2001 aus dem Kyoto-Protokoll ausgestiegen, seit 20 Jahren der gewichtigste Bremser bei internationalen Klimaverhandlungen, zeichnet sich die nächste Schlappe für amerikanische Klimaschützer ab.

Doch nicht nur für die Umwelt ist die Nachricht eine Katastrophe. Dutzende Studien belegen die positiven Effekte, die die geplante Gesetzgebung auf die US-Wirtschaft, den Arbeitsmarkt, die Gesundheitskosten und die Sicherheitspolitik gehabt hätte. Ganz zu schweigen vom internationalen Renommee, das jetzt den nächsten Kratzer erhält. Die USA zeigen sich immer weniger in der Lage, auf die großen globalen Herausforderungen unserer Zeit tragfähige Antworten zu geben. Schuld daran ist nicht, dass „der Amerikaner“ eben nichts vom Umweltschutz hält. Das Problem ist differenzierter: [weiter zum vollstaendigen Artikel]

Jul 232010
 

Zwei Öl-Konzerne wollen Kaliforniens Klimaschutzgesetz kippen – das fortschrittlichste der USA. Sie gefährden das Prestige-Projekt von Gouverneur Schwarzenegger.

Marlies Uken, DIE ZEIT, 23 July 2010

http://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2010-07/kalifornien-klimaschutz

http://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2010-07/kalifornien-klimaschutz

[...]Im kommenden Jahr will Kalifornien sogar im Alleingang den Handel mit Verschmutzungsrechten starten. Mehr als 70 weitere gesetzliche Klima-und Umweltschutz-Initiativen hängen von dem Gesetz ab. “Das Klimagesetz ist für die Umweltbranche Kaliforniens, einem zentralen Wachstumsmotor, von enormer Wichtigkeit”, sagt Alexander Ochs, Leiter der Klima- und Energieabteilung des Worldwatch Institutes, einem Forschungsinstitut in Washington. “Es gibt den Herstellern erneuerbarer Energien, grüner Autos und sauberer Industrieanlagen die notwendige Planungssicherheit für Investitionen im Milliardenbereich.”

Dem Umwelttechnologie-Sektor am Pazifik hat AB 32 einen Wachstumsschub verschafft, so stark wie keinem anderen Bundesstaat der USA. Mehrere Studien, unter anderem der kalifornischen Arbeitsmarktagentur, zeigen, dass gerade die Green Tech-Branche überdurchschnittlich stark wächst und Arbeitsplätze schafft. Allein in den Jahren 2007 und 2008 schaffte die Branche nach Angaben der kalifornischen Initiative “Next10″ fünf Prozent mehr Jobs – während der Rest des Arbeitsmarkts im Schnitt nur um ein Prozent wuchs.

Gebannt schaut daher der Rest der USA – insbesondere Washington – auf die Entwicklungen in der Landeshauptstadt Sacramento. Denn der Zeitpunkt der Volksabstimmung ist brisant. Er fällt mit den bundesweiten midterm-elections, den Halbzeitwahlen zusammen, die klassischerweise ein Stimmungsbild für die Regierungsarbeit liefern. Präsident Obama hat nicht nur am Golf von Mexiko mit einer gigantischen Ölkatastrophe zu kämpfen, sondern will zudem sein Klimaschutzgesetz endlich durch den Senat bringen – was diesen Sommer wohl nicht mehr klappen wird. “AB 32 hat Vorbildcharakter für Washington”, sagt Ochs vom Worldwatch Institute. Würden die Kalifornier das Gesetz kippen, käme dies den Klimaschutz-Gegnern entgegen. “Die könnten sich die Hände reiben und sagen: Schaut her, selbst dort, wo die ganze grüne Industrie sitzt, wollen sie keinen Klimaschutz.” [...]

Read the full article [here]

Dec 242009
 

The Copenhagen UN climate conference ended last Saturday with a weak agreement, not the groundbreaking treaty many had hoped for. With more than 100 heads of governments and many more parliamentarians and dignitaries, COP-15 became the largest assembly of world leaders in diplomatic history. The Copenhagen conference had been planned out for two years in many small informal and large official meetings, following the 2007 Bali Action Plan in which nations had agreed to finalize a binding agreement this December. The outcome falls far short of this original goal. Delegates only “noted” an accord (“the Copenhagen Accord”) struck by the United States, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa that has two key components: first, it sets a target of limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times; second, it proposes $100 billion in annual aid for developing nations starting in 2020 to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.

2 degrees Celsius is seen by mainstream science as a threshold for dangerous climatic changes including sea-level rise and accelerated glacier melt, as well as more intense floods, droughts, and storms. Many scientists also believe that a majority of worldwide ecosystems will struggle to adapt to a warming above that mark, and more recently have set the threshold even lower, at 1.5 degrees Celsius. The accord, however, lacks any information on how this goal of preventing “dangerous” climate change, which had already been set by the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention, would be achieved. It is generally assumed that in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees, worldwide emissions have to Continue reading »

Nov 042009
 
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

As a former Minister of the Environment turned Chancellor, Angela Merkel had already proven those wrong who surmised that environment positions are a dead end to high-rising political aspirations; now she became only the second German politician (after Konrad Adenauer, the first head of a German government after the Second World War, in 1957) who received the honor to address the U.S. Congress; and as a widely respected leader on environmental issues who is, at the same time, the leader of a conservative party, she would be well positioned to appeal to cautious Republicans when talking about climate change and energy reformation—at least I had hoped so in a recent interview with Reuters.

Angela Merkel in her speech on Capitol Hill yesterday, just weeks after her reelection for a second term (this time as a leader of a center-right coalition) was moved by the honor and the standing ovations she received from U.S. lawmakers even before she had started her speech. Following up on her promises, she spent a good portion of her talk on climate change, urging Congress and the Obama administration to take bold steps to address the issue, in her view one of the “great tests” of the 21st century. “We all know we have no time to lose,” she said.

Read the rest of the story on Dateline: Copenhagen.

Jan 132009
 

from Germany.info, Jan 9, 2009

When Frank Loy, former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and climate advisor to Barack Obama during the presidential campaign, was asked to address the question of how the United States can contribute to international climate policy negotiations, he chose to quote Al Gore. “Nature doesn’t do bail outs….we have to do the bail out,” he said, explaining the reality of what’s needed to fight climate change. Loy was speaking at a dinner discussion held at the German Embassy in Washington DC on Thursday, January 8. The event was part of a two day “EU and US Dialogue on Climate Change” organized by the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP). It gave delegates the chance to share new ideas on policy approaches and aimed to increase the exchange between policymakers in the EU and US. Frank Loy’s audience was an international group of climate experts. They know how challenging it will be to achieve an international climate agreement. They also know that, despite the global excitement and expectations of President-elect Obama’s presidency, there are limits to what one leader can accomplish. (…)

Alexander Ochs, Director of International Policy at the Center for Clean Air Policy, says that what is achieved in the next 10 months may prove to be crucial for the climate in decades to come. “With an ambitious incoming US administration and the EU’s urgent need for a strong partner in its leadership efforts, one can’t overestimate the importance of transatlantic communication and cooperation. So stakeholder meetings like this US-EU dialogue create crucial stepping stones towards this goal.” Full text

Aug 212008
 

In: Carbon & Climate Law Review 2/2008, pp. 219-21

You have worked on transatlantic climate relations for several years, both as a researcher and as a policy adviser. In a report written in 2006, you suggested that there is “little that cannot be done if Americans and Europeans agree – but very little that can be done if they do not”, expressing concern that climate change might become an issue dividing the transatlantic partners further apart. Has this assessment changed since you first wrote this, and if so, in what ways?

The first quote is actually an assessment made by Jessica Tuchman Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment, concerning global issues in general. Certainly, climate change has gained infamous prominence over the course of the last two decades as a topic dividing the two traditional partners Europe and the United States. It often heads lists of transatlantic disagreements. Transatlantic dispute over climate change well precedes the current U.S. administration. Ever since the topic of climate change has appeared on the international agenda, the United States has been made responsible for the slow progress in the negotiation of an international climate regime. But the dispute escalated when the Bush ‘43 government unilaterally declared the Kyoto protocol “dead”. Subsequently, Bush also broke his 2000 presidential campaign pledge to set mandatory reduction targets for CO2 emissions from… Read the whole interview here: C&CLR.Interview.pdf

Jun 252008
 

Josh Busby & Alexander Ochs

We examine the sources of the transatlantic climate divide between the US and Europe. First, we take up the proposition that differences in the material conditions of the US and Europe are responsible for the dustup over global warming. We argue that relative power positions do not determine a nation’s choice of broad climate policy approaches. Moreover, we emphasize that mitigating climate change will ultimately require wrenching policy adjustments for both the US and Europe. While there may be short-run differences in cost profiles, these should not pose such a hindrance that careful policy design cannot overcome them. Next, we evaluate the claim that a difference in values or culture is responsible for the rift. A highly oversimplified version of the argument holds that Europeans just care about climate change more than the Americans. We find evidence for this to be mixed. We suggest that differences between the US and Europe derive not so much from material interests or cultural values but from different political systems that shape the interests and values that have influence on policy. America’s political system permits certain interests—namely climate skeptics and business interests—to exercise veto power over external environmental commitments. European decision makers, by contrast, face environmental movements more capable of exercising influence over electoral politics. The interaction of the two systems internationally has hobbled global climate policy cooperation. Negotiations are complicated by inadequate sensitivity to each other’s internal political conditions. Better understanding of each other’s domestic politics and more careful institutional design of climate change policies may yet overcome these obstacles. 2005 SAIS-BROOKINGS BOOK CHAPTER

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
 

President George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol (KP) brought transatlantic differences over climate change to the front pages. Climate change since then has become the symbol of an underlying transatlantic rift with respect to a wider range of global challenges. The disagreement on climate between the traditional partners has been difficult to understand ever since negotiations on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started. It carries dangerous implications for both sides and the globe as a whole. What is needed now is true leadership on both sides of the Atlantic to overcome the divide. Could this momentum be generated, it might set free a positive impetus for other fields of global governance.

Book Chapter, in: Alex Riechel/Aldo Venturelli, Building a Foundation for Transatlantic Climate Policy, Loveno 2005, p. 51-62 (PDF)

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)

Apr 082008
 


A transatlantic policy divide has occurred during the last one and a half decades since the Berlin wall came down, the Cold War ended, and there was hope for the pay-off of what was has been called a peace dividend. This hope included widespread optimism that the global society would now be able to focus on new, pressing, non-security challenges which were increasingly global and badly needed worldwide solutions. Seen from today, this hope has not been satisfied. The topic of my presentation here today is “global governance and transatlantic relations in the issue area of climate change”. It is divided in four major blocks: First I will talk about what makes climate change a global governance issue and an issue with great importance for the transatlantic relationship. Then I will briefly explore on where the Atlantic partners lost their joint path and around what the transatlantic differences in the field of climate policy revolve. Thirdly, I will come up with a few theses about why that might have happened, i.e. why the US and Europe have taken different approaches and still hold different views. Finally, I will come up with a few suggestions for how we might be able to renew the Atlantic partnership in this important field.

BOOK CHAPTER in: René Gradwohl & Christoph Pohlmann, Renaissance of Transatlantic Relations – Perspectives of a New Partnership, Berlin 2004: p. 13-21 (PDF)

Feb 012008
 

The picture drawn by the media of the main protagonists at the UN conference on climate change in Bali was reminiscent of Sergio Leone’s famous spaghetti western. In one corner of the stand-off, a tenacious and uppity Europe, convinced that she will succeed. Then there was America, with her presumptuous plan to either get her own say or obstruct everyone else’s. And finally, China. Recently declared the world’s number one greenhouse gas emitter, she insisted on her right to pollute even more in the future. It was a boring picture, one we have seen all too often in the past. Until the very last day, the Bali summit was only the newest episode in a showdown habitually played out at yearly climate conferences: The European Union tries to provide leadership but cannot do it on its own, while the United States and China remain stuck in their regular gridlock ritual, both unwilling to take responsibility for their share of the problem. This year’s climate conference, however, took a dramatic turn: the script was changed so that, at least this season, the perennial tragedy ended on a positive note. FACET Commentary No. 6