Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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Friday 10 July - 14:00-15:30 UNESCO Fontenoy - ROOM IV

4409 (b) - Climate Governance: Driving Societal Transformations

Parallel Session

Chair(s): D. Compagnon (Sciences Po Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France)

Lead Convener(s): A. Jordan (Tyndall Centre, Norwich, United Kingdom)


Paris and beyond: strengthening the research-policy interface

A. Sagar (Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Delhi, India)

Abstract details
Paris and beyond: strengthening the research-policy interface

A. Sagar (1)
(1) Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Humanities and Social sciences, Delhi, India

Abstract content

While there has been some progress in the climate negotiations as well as in the broader climate arena, this still is not commensurate with the magnitude and urgency of the climate challenge.  Therefore identifying the key issues underlying major roadblocks in the climate policy arena and then exploring way of realistically overcoming such roadblocks could be of great help.  The Global Climate Policy Conference, which will be held in Delhi in April-May 2015 aims to provide an opportunity to research scholars from around the world, selected through a competitive, rigorous evaluation process, to present their ideas on how to overcome roadblocks in the climate policy arena and also bring together a set of leading international experts to discuss specific key policy issues where research and analysis could contribute to improved climate policy-making.  This session will present the best ideas discussed at the conference, along with their anticipated impact on climate policy-making at Paris and beyond.


Transparency and Accountability in Global Climate Governance

A. Gupta (Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands)

Abstract details
Transparency and Accountability in Global Climate Governance

A. Gupta (1)
(1) Wageningen University, Environmental policy group, Wageningen, Netherlands

Abstract content

In this paper, we review recent scholarship and the state of the art on the nature and consequences of a transparency turn in global climate governance. Transparency, as information disclosure, is being embraced by public and private climate governance arrangements, including, inter alia, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Carbon Disclosure Project, as a way to monitor and/or reward various actors’ climate mitigation actions and performance. Such “governance by disclosure” is intended to further a variety of goals, including empowering recipients to exercise informed choice or hold disclosers to account for their (non-)performance, and improving sustainability performance. Our review assesses these posited relationships between transparency, accountability and sustainability in climate governance. We conclude by deploying our own “critical transparency studies’ perspective, one that views information itself as fundamentally contested political terrain, to assess the transformative potential of transparency and informational governance in the climate realm.


The Legal Nature of the Paris Agreement: Much Ado About Nothing?

S. Maljean-Dubois (CNRS/Ceric, Paris, France), A. S. Tabeau (Professeur Université de la Réunion, La Réunion, France), F. Sindico (Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, Glasgow G1 1XQ. Scotland, United Kingdom)

Abstract details
The Legal Nature of the Paris Agreement: Much Ado About Nothing?

F. Sindico (1)
(1) Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, 16 richmond street, Glasgow G1 1XQ. Scotland, United Kingdom

Abstract content

In 2009 at the Copenhagen UNFCCC Conference of the Parties protesters had banners stating “We will not leave until we have a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement”. Ever since Copenhagen the international climate change legal regime has experienced a metamorphosis from a top down to a bottom up approach, that does not rely (or does not have to rely) on a legally binding agreement. Nevertheless, the ADP is currently negotiating a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. Against the backdrop of the increasing debate between legally binding and non-legally binding climate change policy avenues, this presentation will discuss each one of these three options and its relevance post Paris. 

In the first part of the presentation the status of the current negotiations will be addressed in order to determine whether a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties has received more traction. Taking as a starting point that the level of ambition embedded in any of the three outcomes will most likely need to be upgraded if the Paris Agreement is to meaningfully deal with climate change in the long term, the second part of the presentation will seek to explain why some countries are still advocating for a legally binding outcome, despite the turn towards a bottom up approach. In the third and last part of the presentation the options that may not fall neatly under the rubric of legally binding will be explored. The rationale and their effectiveness will be presented.

In conclusion, it would not be a surprise if banners appear once again in Paris seeking for a fair and ambitious outcome. Whether or not those banners will also ask for a legally binding agreement is more dubious. The three do not necessarily go hand in hand, and a legally binding agreement can also be unfair and not very ambitious. So, is the debate about the legal form of the Paris outcome much ado about nothing, or will the legal nature determine (at least partly) not only the success of the outcome, but also its Post-Paris effectiveness? 


Accepting reality: we need new post-Paris governance for effective long term climate transformation

G. Huppes (Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands), P. Drummond (University College London, London, United Kingdom)

Abstract details
Accepting reality: we need new post-Paris governance for effective long term climate transformation

G. Huppes (1) ; P. Drummond (2)
(1) Leiden University, CML, Industrial Ecology, Leiden, Netherlands; (2) University College London, Institute for Sustainable Resources, London, United Kingdom

Abstract content

Using the Grubb framework for analyzing climate policy, it seems that current negotiations center around short-term policy approaches in his Domain 1 and 2, while our common future depends on deep long-term transformations, in Domain 3. Also, the Domain 1 UN discussions assume some central authority to ultimately regulate behavior on this globe, with a Binding Agreement on yearly allowable emission capped per country. This seems not feasible for basic reasons. First, risks are uncertain and are very different for different countries. Next, there is no agreed-upon equity principle, with deeply conflicting justice concepts. Also, under a binding agreement, countries growing faster than expected would have to buy permits from lower growth countries. Next, effective implementation is not feasible politically and administratively in many if not most countries. And economically, if a binding cap were implemented through tradable permits, the inherent price instability of a fixed cap could hardly guide long term technology development and implementation. Most basically, the Binding Agreement would not really be binding because there is no global enforcement agency. With only partially applied cap-and-trade systems at the national level those getting around the many corners - politically and administratively or through corruption - will earn substantial amounts of money. It seems quite unrealistic to expect such an interventionist type of policy to drive deep societal transformations.

The current move in discussions towards more bottom-up governance mechanisms is an essential step, as it is at that decentralized level that creativity resides. However, bottom-up governance can hardly counter strong market forces in a globalized capitalist system. Cheap coal, oil and gas are available way beyond the 2, 4, and even 6 degrees climate target. Incentive structures will have to be changed in the core institutions of our global capitalist society for the deep transformations required. 

For climate effectiveness generic, encompassing emissions pricing therefore is a sine qua non. Expectations on long term cost for non-fossil energy are to be made lower than for fossil energy. When fossils start to get pressed out of the market, their prices can be very low, for a very long time. Coal, always cheap, is joined by cheap oil and gas. At $40 per barrel of oil equivalent, the extreme CO2 emission reductions required for climate stabilization just will not happen, how good intentions may be.  Renewables will lose the uphill battle, even if winning some niche fights. So generic table carbon pricing is a must, replacing partially applicable and volatile cap-and-trade systems like the EU-ETS.

The administrative implementation of carbon pricing, through Duties & Excises, is relatively simple. Most countries have hundreds of years of experience. A post-Paris agreement can be based on an equal level of national emission taxes, administered upstream as an excise on primary fossils production and imports, with a refund upon export and CCS, similar to taxing alcoholic drinks. A CO2 emission tax would result.

The post-Paris agreement would have at its core an equal level of the emission tax between Parties, slowly but steadily rising to relevant levels, in the order of maybe $300 per ton of CO2 in 2050. With that level, natural gas would press out oil and coal, unless CCS would become cheap enough. Relative to intermittent renewables natural gas might remain competitive, but then only in large scale applications combined with CCS. The proceeds of the tax would correspond to actual national emissions, also in EU member states. Nobody will pay more than what is due, and tax authorities don’t go for less. Such opposed interests are essential for effective implementation.

The agreement does not need to be a global one to start with. Major powers, like China, EU and US, could start as the Climate Block, open to all others to join on equal conditions. Those not joining would be confronted with an excise on their fossil energy products upon export to the Block. This is not an import tax but an upstream emission tax, treating imports the same as national production. Border Tax Adjustments might also be introduced, on imported products with high emissions abroad, not yet taxed there. Joining the group of emission taxing countries would be attractive. This simple international climate agreement seems most feasible politically, administratively and economically. This institutionalist approach seems a most realistic post-Paris option.