The upcoming Cop15 international climate negotiations in Copenhagen will have a massive affect on the developing greentech industry. How close countries get to agreeing on legally binding greenhouse gas emissions could determine the size of the various international greentech markets, be a lever for how much investment is pumped into the industries, and set out the time line for how fast or slow these markets develop. A significant number of greentech leaders will be attending the convention, and we’ll be bringing you reports on their viewpoints from the ground, but in the run-up to the event, here’s our greentech guide to Copenhagen:
What It Is: The 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit, or Cop15, runs Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen and is a follow-up meeting for the Kyoto Protocol. (Remember that document that the U.S. and then-President George Bush refused to ratify back in 2001?) Many world leaders will be attending the event and looking to come to an agreement on a variety of issues surrounding how the the world’s governments will tackle climate change and agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions in a way that is fair and will be successful. Here’s an online tracker of the treaty.
Why the Summit Is Important for the Greentech Industry: The event’s goal, getting close to binding emissions targets, is necessary to ensure that the greentech sector gets needed investments, says business groups like Combat Climate Change, which has members like BP, GE and Siemens. Without legislation and international agreements, the private sector will be hesitant to make aggressive investments, as the landscape and time line for greentech markets could shift.
Binding emissions targets, and cap and trade systems, also will help determine a price on carbon and create value for companies that lower their emissions. Countries that fail to move toward binding emissions targets will be areas of “carbon leakage,” as the Combat Climate Change group puts it, and collapse the market mechanisms that are being put in place (see CCC’s business score card).
In addition, important decisions could be made at the summit concerning how green technology will be transferred to developing countries that need it but can’t afford it. Developed nations, led by the U.S., are asking for close to traditional intellectual property laws that maintain incentives for innovation. Developing countries, on the other hand, are looking for lower-cost technology transfer options.
The U.S.: 189 parties signed the Kyoto Protocol, which was the first document that set out legally binding greenhouse emissions targets for developed nations. The U.S. was the only developed nation that didn’t sign it, and developing nations like China were left out of the agreement (a key factor why the U.S. didn’t ratify the agreement). Countries that signed the Kyoto protocol and the U.S. have two different international frameworks in mind at Copenhagen. While it previously looked like the U.S. was headed for a redo of 2001 for the upcoming summit, President Obama has now pledged to attend Copenhagen on Dec. 9, and the U.S. says it will set a provisional emissions target in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels. Those emissions targets are small compared with many more recent ones from developing countries — the UNFCCC suggests industrialized nations commit to 25 percent to 40 percent reductions below 1990 levels by 2020 — but it’s a step in the right direction.
The U.S. had been hoping to have passed its climate legislation, which included steps to create a cap and trade system, before the Copenhagen event, but the bill stalled in the Senate as Congress focused on the health care bill. The House passed the climate bill back in June. Without the consensus of Congress on the climate issue, the Obama administration’s hands have been tied — if the administration had set out too aggressive targets, they could end up being unobtainable via U.S. domestic legislation.
China: Beyond the U.S., China is the other country controlling the outcome of the Copenhagen talks. The country now emits the most carbon in volume, and its emissions are growing at a rapid rate. The G77/China group represents 130 countries with the negotiating point that rich countries need to accept their historical role in causing climate change and greatly reduce their emissions, while developing nations are able to continue to develop.
Poorest and First Affected: The African Group, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and the Least Developed Countries are all groups of countries that will be the first nations to be affected by rising temperatures and dwindling water resources. These are also the nations that don’t have the resources to protect themselves from global warming. As UN Climate Treaty chief Yves de Boer said last week, rich countries need to lay out how much and in what way will they provide funding for these developed nations. Rich countries need to give $10 billion per year, said de Boer, and the World Bank says that developing nations need $400 billion per year for mitigation and $100 billion per year for adaptation. Developed nations want the funds to go through existing channels like the World Bank, while developing nations want the UNFCCC to distribute the funds.
REDD: Cutting down forests is responsible for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Countries are proposing something called REDD — reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation — where countries could gain emissions credits for stopping deforestation. Issues awaiting attention in Copenhagen are: financing, rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, conservation of biological diversity and methods for protecting intact natural forests, according to the Ecosystems Climate Alliance.
A Common Language: Countries need to decide on a common language and a set of metrics for emissions reductions. Under discussion is whether to include both long-term (2050) and short-term (2015,2020) emissions reductions goals, whether to limit overall emissions based on temperature increases, total emissions, or atmospheric concentration. The grassroots campaign 350.org, led by Bill McKibben, is calling for 350 parts per million as an overall target.
Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property: One of the biggest issues specifically for the greentech industry is how the technology that is being created to fight global warming will be used by nations that can’t afford it but need it the most. How do developing nations that have the funds to invest in these industries transfer the technology to developing nations in a way that won’t stifle innovation and will award innovators?
Who’s Attending: At least 66 world leaders are expected, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Yuki Hatoyama of Japan, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, and U.S. President Barack Obama. One hundred eighty nations are supposed to be represented, 20,000 official delegates, and thousands of activists, journalists and NGOs. Check out Grist’s 15 people to watch at Cop-15, which includes Abdalla Salem El-Badri, secretary general of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, and The Yes Men.
OneClimate Channel: Plans to live video stream the entire Cop15 events.
Grassroots campaign that will have a big presence at Cop-15: 350.org
The UN teamed up with the International Advertising Association representing the global advertising industry to create this ad campaign for Copenhagen: Welcome to Hopehagen.
Business gets behind climate change: 3C.
Earth2Tech will be reporting from Cop15 and focusing specifically on how the summit will affect greentech entrepreneurs and innovators.