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Climate Change - Who's Got the Score?

Climate Change - Who's Got the Score?29-06-2011 13:37
In my last blog on the future of carbon emissions targets , I discussed the latest report on global greenhouse gas emissions and Christiana Figueres' view on progress towards a low carbon economy. The headline metric – that global greenhouse gas emissions were the highest on record in 2010 set a rather gloomy scene. The score-card on market-based solutions to GHG emissions wasn't all that healthy (stagnant), and of course we know that progress towards an international agreement is going backwards. But despite that, the prevailing mood was coloured with optimism -- and a commitment to build on sound foundations which have endured through difficult economic times and to draw more deeply on innovations which can break through the many barriers to progress.

Figueres, the present head of the United Nation's Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) has committed herself to forging effective partnerships between public and private finance – and that's a great start. Yvo de Boer, the previous head of the UNFCCC, bruised, battered but still standing after his gruelling experience of trying to get ~190 countries to agree an effective framework to address global climate change, is using his new-found freedom to champion the role of NAMAs as a pragmatic approach to coordinating national efforts for international progress.

NAMA stands for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions. What it really means is that each nation is free to design and implement its own plans to deliver emissions reductions based on its own particular circumstances. A small group of us was discussing this over tapas in Barcelona – musing on whether NAMAs could be the silver bullet. One of our party likened it to an orchestra, where every individual player makes a contribution which adds up to a symphony (indulge me with this analogy for a moment). We all got the individual players bit, and as we looked around the world, we could see some strong and gifted players tuning up their instruments and taking their seats in the orchestra pit, including...

*China with its next 5 year plan including energy efficiency targets and carbon trading
*Korea, Thailand, Chile developing national cap and trade platforms
*South Africa with its proposed carbon tax and renewable energy feed-in tariffs
*The UK with its new-found focus on energy efficiency, clean coal, and nuclear power
*The EU and New Zealand with their emission trading schemes
And, we noted that while the US hasn't exactly joined the orchestra yet, it is practising in the background with its Clean Energy Standard, and letting California jam away with market-based approaches.

This set me thinking about a rather remarkable recording of the song "Stand By Me" which you should watch now here at . You see what's going on here? A song originally written and performed years ago by Ben E. King now with over 400 recordings including versions by John Lennon, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and Elton John, is the score. The musicians are scattered all over the world, play in isolation, but are brought together through the technical artistry and orchestration of the insignificant guy in the black Nike baseball cap. Together they create one of the most moving renditions of the song I have heard. I think that's a workable demonstration of what the NAMA approach could deliver.

So, back to our discussion on the power of NAMAs – we soon got to asking the really important questions: Is the score written? Who's conducting?

The UNFCCC is conducting – but it hasn't been able to get the musicians to make any music yet. Is it up to the task? Does it have a good score to work from? The scientific community has an early draft, but it's rather a dark piece and hasn't really inspired our individual and collective creativity.

The thing is though, that hasn't stopped the individual musicians – governments, businesses and individuals -- from warming up in expectation.

Jonathan Shopley – The CarbonNeutral Company

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