As we’ve been arguing here since March, the year that policymakers select as the deadline for global emissions must peak is the key short-term variable to watch at Copenhagen. So what is the deadline, assuming we want to limit global average warming to 2 degrees C?
Well, David and I would like to see policymakers agree that emissions should peak right now, given that emissions have fallen so much as a result of the credit crunch. The development NGOs who are most active on climate change – Oxfam, Christian Aid and Tearfund, as well as Avaaz – are a little more cautious than that, arguing that emissions should peak by 2015; but they’re still basically on the same page as the IPCC, which said in its last Assessment Report (pdf – see table at the foot of page 15) that to limit global average warming between 2.0 and 2.4 degrees Celsius, global emissions must peak between 2000 and 2015. Chair of the IPCC Rajendra Pachauri has also said that 2015 is the deadline.
Astonishingly, though, the main federation of environmental NGOs – the Climate Action Network – says that any time up to 2017 is fine. WWF International agree. TckTckTck used to say 2017 too (as I noted when they published their policy position); they’ve subsequently revised their target to 2015, but still have documents on their website using the old date. (Nothing like a consistent message, eh?)
Be very clear: this isn’t just hair-splitting. Once the peak date for emissions slides beyond 2015 and towards 2020, according to the IPCC, we’re heading for a world that’s not 2.0-2.4 degrees C warmer, but 2.4-2.8 degrees C. That is what the environmental NGOs are arguing for. Shortly before they spend a fortnight calling everyone else at the Copenhagen summit “fossil of the day“. It’s breathtaking.
So, if you can’t make it to the summit but still want a way to take action and make your voice heard ahead of Copenhagen, how about this. First thing on Monday, get in touch with any environmental NGOs you support. Ask them their position on the global peak emissions date. And if it’s any later than 2015, then cancel your subscription.
I’m not kidding. Policymakers aren’t the only ones at Copenhagen who need to be held to account. If the green NGOs can’t get their figures right on something this fundamental, this basic (even as the development NGOs manage it just fine) then they need to – what’s that phrase from the Bali summit? – “leave it to the rest of us; please, get out of the way“.
If you missed it earlier in the week, the FT’s Fiona Harvey has been given a preview of the next World Energy Outlook, which the International Energy Agency will publish in November. Findings:
The recession has resulted in an unparalleled fall in greenhouse gas emissions, providing a “unique opportunity” to move the world away from highcarbon growth, an International Energy Agency study has found.
In the first big study of the impact of the recession on climate change, the IEA found that CO 2 emissions from burning fossil fuels had undergone “a significant decline” this year – further than in any year in the past 40. The fall will exceed the drop in the 1981 recession that followed the oil crisis. Falling industrial output is largely responsible for the plunge in CO 2 , but other factors have played a role, including the shelving of plans for new coal-fired power stations owing to falling demand and lack of financing.
For the first time, government policies to cut emissions have also had a significant impact. The IEA estimates that about a quarter of the reduction is the result of regulation, an “unprecedented” proportion. Three initiatives had a particular effect: Europe’s target to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020; US car emission standards; and China’s energy efficiency policies.
All of which brings us back to David’s prescient suggestion back in March this year that civil society “should declare 2009 the year of peak emissions and challenge the world’s governments to develop a concrete plan to ensure they are never allowed to rise again”.
Given IEA’s data, it’s clear that’s exactly what NGOs should have done. In fact, though, the TckTckTck campaign’s policy position – their only policy position, in fact – is that emissions should peak in… 2017.
Er, thanks guys. Great agenda setting there. Don’t call us – we’ll call you.
Back in February, I figured that the pre-G20 “Jobs, Justice, Climate” NGO campaign was probably the “pointless NGO campaign of the year”, naively arguing that,
Yes, it’s only February, but it seems pretty unlikely that anything will top this for sheer pointlessness and banality.
Alas, would that it were so. With 121 days to go until December’s critical UN climate summit, it’s clear that Jobs, Justice, Climate was merely a prototype, a limbering up for the road to Copenhagen.
And so to “tcktcktck.org“, who profess themselves to be building “the world’s biggest mandate for change”. They’re determined to “show our leaders people are ready for bold climate action, now”. So you might suppose that with that end in mind, they’d have some kind of idea of what constitutes sufficiently “bold climate action, now”. But you’d be wrong. Here’s their full policy platform, in glorious technicolour:
“An ambitious, fair and binding climate change agreement.”
That’s it. I tweeted tcktcktck HQ to ask if there was any more than this, and the reply I got said “Bear with us” – this from a campaign whose entire brand is built on the “there’s not a second to lose” vibe.
Not that this lack of specificity has stopped tcktcktck from fanning out in pursuit of its fabulously vague objectives – oh no. Thus for example their “adopt a negotiator” platform:
…as we really want all of our countries to agree to a safe and fair Climate Change treaty in December, we decided to do something about it. That’s why we thought we would Adopt a Negotiator, and follow them through the many meetings, conference and events that they will take part in from now to December…
I asked an actual negotiator whether they had been adopted. The reply: “Oh yes, them! They seem very nice, but I’m not sure what they actually want.”
Sigh. Welcome to NGO campaigning in 2009 – where it doesn’t matter whether you have anything to say, as long as you’re getting the donations, attention, members and airtime.
Update (28 August) – TckTckTck have just emailed to say:
Thanks for your blog post looking at TckTckTck. We’d been waiting for our site to officially launch so that we could point you and your readers to a resource that specifically addresses your questions. The site launched earlier this week, and we’ve put this page together for that purpose: