The Week Ahead: U.N. Climate Summit in Qatar Draws to a Close


U.N. climate negotiators from more than 190 countries are expected to wrap up talks Dec. 7 in Doha, Qatar, without agreeing to binding commitments for a 2015 global climate deal.

Rather, absent pledges by the United States, China, and other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, progress at the 18th Conference of Parties (COP) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change likely will focus on actions by individual countries.

As detailed in Nov. 28 World Climate Change Report article, last year's talks in Durban, South Africa, resulted in the adoption of a goal to reach a global deal by 2015 and allow a five-year window for countries to ratify the measure. Whether a 2015 deal would be a legal treaty or some other form of agreement is unknown.

Observers say countries are likely to adopt a "weak" agreement in 2015 in which they set their own emissions reduction targets and then afterward pledge to do something internationally.

Meanwhile, a subset of countries is aiming to formally agree on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol after the first commitment period expires Dec. 31. The United States withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, and Canada, Japan, Russia, and New Zealand have rejected a second commitment period, leaving mostly European nations and Australia to reach a post-2012 commitment agreement.

The Doha negotiations are also expected to advance other issues such as money for a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change; the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows developed countries to earn emissions reduction credits by investing in low-carbon projects in developing countries; the development and transfer of clean technology; and whether a 2009 agreement reached in Copenhagen to limit the rise in the mean global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels is sufficient to ward off the consequences of a warming planet.

Carbon Tax in Congress

Resolutions are expected to be introduced in the House and Senate by Republican lawmakers the week of Dec. 3 stating that a carbon tax is not in the economic interest of the United States. According to a Nov. 29 article, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said such a resolution will not get a vote in the Senate. Obama administration officials have said they do not plan to propose a carbon tax.

U.S. Delegation to Japan

The International Trade Administration will lead a delegation of U.S. companies to Tokyo Dec. 3 to participate in a Renewable Energy Policy Business Roundtable as part of a U.S.-Japan Energy Policy Dialogue. The roundtable is intended to help U.S. companies with potential business opportunities in renewables following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station caused by an earthquake and tsunami. The catastrophe led the country to consider phasing out nuclear power by 2030. A Sept. 20 article covers the phaseout that was adopted by the government's Energy and Environment Council but deferred by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Cabinet because of uncertainties about future global energy supplies.

RGGI Auction

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will hold its quarterly auction of greenhouse gas emission allowances Dec. 5. During its most recent auction, 24.5 million carbon dioxide emission allowances were sold, raising $47.4 million. The allowances sold for $1.93 each, which was the minimum reserve price. RGGI, which covers greenhouse gas emissions from large power plants, includes the six New England states plus New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. 

California Agencies to Meet

Implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act (A.B. 32), including results of the first auction of greenhouse gas emission allowances held in November and updates to the scoping plan for 2013, will be discussed during a Dec. 6 California Air Resources Board meeting in Diamond Bar. A Nov. 19 article provides details of the auction, during which all 23.1 million allowances offered sold for $10.09 a ton, just over the state’s $10 per ton floor price.

California's Climate Action Team will hold a public workshopDec. 5 in Sacramento to discuss extreme heat adaptation interim guidance under review, state and regional adaptation strategies, and a state grant program on Building Resilience Against Climate Change Effects.

On Dec. 4, the California Energy Commission will hold an advisory committee meeting and public workshop on a draft 2013-2014 Investment Plan Update for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. For fiscal year 2012-2013, the commission allocated $100 million under the program to encourage development and use of biofuels, hydrogen cell fueling stations, electric charging stations, and other technologies to boost the use of alternative vehicles and fuels.

EPA Webinar

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a webinar Dec. 7 on "Global Warming's Six Americas: Understanding and Communicating with a Diverse Public." Edward Maibach, professor and director of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication, will cover results of two studies, Climate Change in the American Mind and Global Warming's Six Americas, and recent increases in public engagement in climate change, perceptions about extreme weather and its relationship to climate change, and public policy. 

Rep. Markey to Speak on Climate

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) will be a featured speaker Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C., at an event sponsored by the Climate Desk on "The Next Four Years: What Congress and Obama Can Do on Climate Change." Other speakers include Eric Pooley, senior vice president for the Environmental Defense Fund; Vicki Arroyo, director of the Georgetown Climate Center; and Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.