Poznań, Days 6 & 7: More Cash for Adaptation?

Amanda Chiu reports from the 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poznań, Poland.

Climate protesters"Contact groups" have been meeting since late last week, meaning that international climate negotiations have now gone behind closed doors. One of the key negotiations, and arguably the most important decision that might come out of Poznań, revolves around the Adaptation Fund and Article 9 of the Kyoto Protocol - the review and possible updating of the treaty.

Under Article 9, Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will, "periodically review this Protocol in the light of the best available scientific information and assessments on climate change and its impacts, as well as relevant technical, social and economic information.... Based on these reviews, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Protocol shall take appropriate action."

One of the areas under examination is funding for adaptation projects - efforts by countries to address and adapt to the wide-ranging impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels to worsening droughts. Currently, the Kyoto Protocol calls for a 2-percent levy on all funding used to support projects under the treaty's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a tool that allows emitters in wealthy countries to ‘offset' their own emissions by investing in emissions-reducing projects in the developing world. That 2 percent is automatically put into the Adaptation Fund, which supports adaptation projects in developing countries that are Parties to Kyoto. 

Negotiators are currently considering extending the 2 percent levy to the treaty's two other emissions-reduction "mechanisms": Joint Implementation (essentially, CDM projects for the former Soviet transition countries) and the emissions trading system. This could occur during either the first Kyoto commitment period (ending in 2012) or the second (beginning in 2013).

Aside from the 2 percent CDM levy, the Adaptation Fund currently has only one other funding source: voluntary contributions from individual countries. By extending the levy to all three Kyoto mechanisms, the cash flow to the Fund grows. The timing of implementation is also important, as it relates directly to the time-sensitive nature of adaptation. Already, many countries are seeing changes due to climate change and need help now. 

Environment ministers and other key government officials are now arriving at the conference, and high-level negotiations commence on Thursday. Because Party delegates have not been able to agree on an outcome for the Adaptation Fund discussion as of yet, negotiations on this topic are expected to make their way up to these tables.

On a different note, I attended an eye-opening "side event" on potential low-carbon pathways in India's energy future, sponsored by the Delhi-based NGO The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). (Side events are events put on by groups accredited with the UNFCCC and run concurrent to the official meetings.) Panelists included TERI Executive Director Leena Srivastava, R.K. Pachauri (TERI Director General and Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Nobuo Tanaka (Executive Director of the International Energy Agency), and Harlan Watson (Senior Climate Negotiator of the U.S. Delegation to Poznań). Pachauri is also a contributing author to the upcoming Worldwatch report State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World and will be attending the State of the World 2009 briefing in Washington in January.

Srivastava painted an interesting portrait of what India is and could be. The country has a population of more than 1.1 billion and an installed electricity generating capacity of around 150 gigawatts (GW), compared to the United States, with a population of just under 306 million and approximately 1,000 GW. Over half of India's rural population does not have access to electricity, and already this system is over-taxed. Oil reserves are extremely limited, a cohesive transport infrastructure for natural gas does not exist, and coal reserves are expected to last only another 40 years. 

Despite all of this, energy demand continues to grow with development. Given current rates of consumption, TERI projected that India would exhaust its domestic fossil fuel reserves by 2016 or 2017, pressing that it does not have the luxury of time to wait until after these dates to transform to a new energy-secure path. If India still relies on fossil fuels by then, it would have to depend almost solely on energy imports, a serious breach of energy security.

In TERI's most ambitious scenario for energy transformation, two-thirds of India's electricity sector, roughly 800 GW, could be served by solar energy (both photovoltaics and solar thermal) by 2031 or 2032. Large and small hydropower could produce almost 200 GW, followed by wind at slightly over 100 GW and nuclear at 100 GW. Other fuels could be used to a lesser extent. Fossil fuels would account for a much smaller portion of the pie. 

To reach this scenario, India would unwaveringly go beyond its "common but differentiated responsibilities" defined under the Kyoto Protocol, and bring its "equitable right" of 2 tons of emissions per capita down to a far more rigorous 1.3 tons per capita by 2031. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 would be about 75 percent lower than under the business-as-usual case, and total systems costs would be about 11 percent lower.                                                   

Amanda Chiu is the MAP Sustainable Energy Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute.