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Leaders criticised for 2020 global plan - but aren't they just being pragmatic?

hdrury@eef.org.uk by hdrury@eef.org.uk 23. November 2011 15:57

Today developed nations have been accused of giving up on international climate change negotiations as world leaders admit that a future legally binding agreement will not likely be implemented until 2020, following a proposed 2016 agreement.  Whilst groups such as the Alliance of Small Island States have decried this as shutting the door on abating dangerous climate change, it must not be forgotten that in December 2012, the Kyoto Protocol will not completely die away and any progress made at international talks will have been in vain.

Yes, we may still be a long way off agreeing an international legally binding commitment on reducing GHG emissions, but so many nations do have national targets for reducing their emissions.  Indeed this was the main outcome of the talks in Copenhagen in 2009, where even the United States signed up to the ‘pledge and review’ system they put forward.  In addition the mechanisms put in place through the Kyoto Protocol will remain in place.

These leaders should not be criticised for being transparent about the state of the talks, it would be naïve to continue to believe that Durban will deliver this much needed agreement.  Instead this honesty might help to break some of the deadlock by setting out a clear roadmap (that Europe is calling for) to ensure that a fair and equitable agreement is implemented in the medium term.

In the short term, those who have already signed up to reducing their emissions will continue to do so, while negotiators should focus on agreeing something that all take part in.  This should look at a range of policy levers to reduce carbon emissions, such as carbon intensity targets, rather than the traditional cap and trade.  Carbon intensity targets have the potential to overcome the current impasse on a global agreement by not restricting growth, as many nations feel an absolute cap does.  Other potential policy levers, such as global sector agreements for certain sectors, such as steel or cement, could also deliver significant emissions reductions.

It might not the ambitious dialogue that we have heard in previous talks, but at least this is pragmatic and realistic.

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Preparing for Durban: the continuing role of manufacturing

hdrury@eef.org.uk by hdrury@eef.org.uk 4. July 2011 11:00

I attended an event at Chatham House to discuss the implications for climate change negotiations and multilateral diplomacy.  HE Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican Secretary for Foreign Affairs spoke to delegates about the challenges for the next round of international climate negotiations later this year in Durban, expressing the integral role of innovative technology and low carbon economies to enable sustainable growth. 

EEF welcome this support for the role of low carbon technologies.  Manufacturing has a crucial role to play in enabling this transition to a low carbon economy and helping the UK Coalition Government to become the ‘greenest Government ever’. 

This includes not just ‘industries of the future’ but the ‘industries of the past’ Chris Huhne seems to think are on their way out.  These are the companies that supply the building blocks for low carbon technologies: such as the steel that is used in offshore wind turbines and high-speed rail tracks and the chemicals that are produced for use in insulation and energy efficient lighting.  EEF research in our 2010 report ‘Changing the Climate for Manufacturing’ shows that for every unit of greenhouse gases emitted by the global chemical industry during its operations, it has helped other to save double that amount through the products and technologies it produces.

We need to move to the low carbon economy in a cost effective manner, this means not just burdening energy intensive industries with extra costs to the point where they are uncompetitive.  This is where Ms Espinosa’s call for resurgence in multilateralism rang true to me – but in the sense that we need to think about reducing carbon emissions globally.  If the US and China and developing countries do not impose the restrictions we have in Europe, we will simply continue to outsource our production – and therefore carbon emissions – to these cheaper to produce in countries. 

In Europe we may pat ourselves on the back for our carbon reduction strategies, but until this is tackled in the round, we are simply moving the problem, and unfortunately UK innovation and jobs with it.

EEF will be keenly following the lead up to Durban and developing our position to ensure that the role manufacturing plays in enabling the move to a low carbon economy is given due credit.

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