CCAP's Helme previews Durban negotiations

With the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change's Durban, South Africa, meeting beginning today, will the negotiations address a new set of greenhouse gas emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol? During today's OnPoint, Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy, previews the discussions and the United States' more limited role.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy. Ned, it's great to have you here again.

Ned Helme: Great to be here again.

Monica Trauzzi: So, Ned, we're heading into the next round of international climate discussions in Durban, South Africa, and the meeting begins today. Again, we're seeing the bar set pretty low. What are your primary expectations going into the conference?

Ned Helme: Well, I think the key, Monica, is really do we make some more progress on the finance? Do we make progress on the transparency? Those sorts of issues. But I think the subtext now is that Kyoto has spawned all this activity on the ground, whether it's in developing countries or in the big Annex 1 countries, and you're really seeing huge investment in these opportunities. You're beginning to see win-win opportunities in Latin America, in Asia and so on, and that's the real story. And the fact that you see big investments by European countries, Norway, Germany, others stepping up with new commitments for financing of this joint effort with developing countries. And, you know, Kyoto has grown a huge opportunity in terms of solving the climate problem.

Monica Trauzzi: So, in terms of Kyoto, there's a lot of discussion about whether or not we're going to see a new set of reductions relating to the Kyoto Protocol. Could that happen?

Ned Helme: I think not. I mean, I think basically we've got the pledges, you know? We have the things that the Annex 1 countries agreed to, the developed nations agreed to in Cancun and before that in Copenhagen. And we've got, you know, 85 percent of developing countries have made similar pledges, and that's moving. And so, yes, it would be nice to enshrine those in the Kyoto Protocol. I don't think that will happen now. I think we need a couple of years to sort of restructure the protocol a bit. I mean, the world has changed a lot since 20 years ago, and clearly, there's a lot of differentiation among developing countries, and that needs to be reflected. So I wouldn't expect to see a big move on that front, but I think you'll see a lot of the positive stories about how people are actually taking these targets seriously and moving on them.

Monica Trauzzi: China's role in these discussions has really shifted in the last few years, and they just issued a white paper laying out their successes on carbon reductions. And they say that they've cut emissions by 20 percent between 2005 and 2010. Are those numbers true? Have they made those reductions, and are they sort of trying to step up their game a bit ahead of these discussions?

Ned Helme: I think, you know, it's hard to say where they got 20 percent, because you're talking about a country where the emissions are growing rapidly. And so depending on what you believe the emissions would have been, did they cut from there 20 percent, or is it 25, or is it 15? I think, step back from that, the real question is are they stepping up their game like you asked me, and the answer is yes, I mean, substantially. We've seen them; they had those energy efficiency targets from 2005 and 2010. They basically met them as a 20 percent reduction, so that's a rough equivalent to a 20 percent reduction in emissions. They've jumped in renewables. They wanted to get to 30,000 megawatts of wind by 2012. They're going to be well above that, and they've stepped up their target, so they're saying they're going to build 100,000 megawatts. That's a hundred 1,000-megawatt plants, a big plant in your area, it's probably a 1,000-megawatt plant. That's how much wind they're going to deliver by 2020. It dwarfs what anybody else in the world is doing. It's amazing.

Monica Trauzzi: How would you qualify the U.S.'s role heading into these discussions?

Ned Helme: Well, I think the U.S. -- you know, in one sense the U.S. has, you know, a constructive role to play. We clearly aren't going to ratify. We're not going to play in the treaty in that sense, but we are trying to say the world has changed a bit and we need to restructure. And I think that's useful. But having said that, I think the U.S. needs to be a bit more humble. I mean, we are the laggards. We're doing the least. I mean, yes, the president deserves credit on the car efficiency standards, a huge success, 56 miles to the gallon by 2030, a huge breakthrough. But in a lot of other things, you know where we sit. We're in total deadlock in the Congress. Nothing is going to happen for a year and so my advice would be, yes, you're right to push for some rethinking of how this is structured in 2015, but let's not play hardball. We need to be a little more humble. We've not -- you know, we're the one country to point to who's not doing its part in terms of meeting its targets because of our deadlock. And so I think it's time for little more humility. Yes, push for a good program, but take it a little easy here.

Monica Trauzzi: What do you think the reaction could be to the set of EPA rollbacks that we've seen here in the U.S.?

Ned Helme: I don't think it's too positive. I mean, countries have been watching for those regulations. We in the environmental community have been saying this is our big ace in the hole and, obviously, I think the administration is right. We delay these things until after the election. We're going to have a big election. We're going to decide the direction of this country on a lot of things, not just on climate by any means. And once that's settled, then it's time to move forward. So I think it makes sense to put them on the side track for the year that's left to go until we get to the election, but, yes, countries know about it, but it's not changing their behavior. I mean, you see these developing countries really pushing. You know, you had the Bali agreement, which was a real breakthrough several years back where we said developing countries will take nationally appropriate actions and measure them, show transparency of what did they achieve, in return for financial support. And that was the deal that was crafted, and it's coming true, and we're seeing it from the Europeans and others putting money into that, and I think that's the path we want to follow. You know, we're going to do this bottom-up. We're not going to do it from a Durban, here's the answer and driven down. We've moved beyond that. You know, Kyoto started this good process. It's time to look more of what's happening on the ground.

Monica Trauzzi: Which countries are you expecting will take the lead in these negotiations?

Ned Helme: Well, there's a whole set of countries called the Cartagena Group, the Cartagena Dialogue Group, and it's Colombia and Chile and Peru and Mexico and some of the progressives in Asia, Vietnam, Malaysia, those kinds of countries. Same way in Africa, you've got a few of those that are -- and that set of countries is a different voice than the G-77, which represents all the developing countries and often is dominated by the Saudis and by the Chinese and by the Indians in this case. The Chinese, as you noted, are much more of a positive voice at this point. The Indians have shifted the other way from a very progressive voice a year ago; they have a different minister and they're back in a different place -- even though India is doing great stuff at home, great stuff in this area, but in terms of the international negotiations, they want common but differentiated responsibilities, don't make us do anything, all the developing countries in one camp, all the Annex 1 in the other camp. That's unfortunate, you know, but I think that set of progressive voices is growing in terms of its influence. I think watch them carefully in these two weeks. I think they're going to play an important role.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks. Thanks for coming on the show. I know you're heading there in a couple of days.

Ned Helme: My pleasure, thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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