Saturday, 30 May 2009

High-level OECD Conference for ICTs, The Environment and Climate Change: High demand for calculating CO2 savings from low carbon ICT solutions

Quite a number of interesting presentations during the High Level OECD conference for ICT, the Environment and Climate Change. But what was really great was that we were allowed to arrange a last-minute side event about how calculations to assess the savings from low carbon ICT solutions should look like. I expected 4-5 people to turn up but over 20 people came to discuss and most with concrete ides and projects. Will put together a short questionnaire and collect the different initiatives.

Just during the 20 minutes there was a number of interesting projects presented. On the more practical level I particularly liked the new Japanese initiative with “Eco-points”. This is an innovative approach that could be further developed to ensure that efficiency measures will result in low-carbon feedback (investment in efficient solutions that reduce GHG emissions result in further reductions) instead or high-carbon feedback (often called negative rebound effects).

That ICT companies are starting to get their acts together was demonstrated by NEC. Botaro Hirosaki, Senior Executive Vice President, NEC gave an interesting presentation and included a slide where he showed that they formulated a vision already in 2003 to contribute with as much savings in society as they emit themselves. I hope they will aim for climate positive beyond that. (See picture for NEC slide).

Beside that it was great to hear The OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría talk about the need for ICT to deliver a low carbon development. He was very clear about the key role of ICT as a transformative technology. In a similar way Esko Aho, Executive Vice President, Nokia; Former Prime Minister of Finland also gave a very good presentation (in stark contrast to his colleague representing Digital Europe at ICT4EE in Brussels, see earlier blog). He also noticed that ICT is often forgotten and made a reference to the latest paper from Stern that totally ignored ICT as part of the low carbon solution.

It is fantastic to see this high-level support that only a year ago was not really there, but it is obvious that it will difficult to get a solution agenda accepted before the COP15. As COP15 will be a failure and not deliver anything close to the kind of solutions we need (unless something very unexpected happens) it is even more important to prepare for the post COP15 discussions. A Climate Positive agenda will help to ensure that policy makers and the general public realize that a rapid transition to a low carbon economy is not only possible, but will be an exciting journey with companies that are see a sustainable future as an opportunity and create job opportunities (This is sharp contrast to most car and power utilities today do).

I really want to thank Graham Vickery from OECD and Henrik Kjaer from the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency, as they arranged for the small calculation event to get squeezed in the last minute into an already very tight schedule.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Copenhagen Call: A reactive outcome with light in the tunnel

Let’s hope that the call from the World Business Summit on Climate Change is not setting the standard for the outcome at COP15 in Copenhagen. The “Copenhagen Call” is a document that is vague and seem to adopt a lowest common denominator approach. Much better papers have been written by all the organizations that have been working in the process, except for 3C (WBCSD, WEF, The Climate Group all have much better and detailed proposals that could have helped to move the issue forward).

The one organization that is as bad as the outcome is 3C, but I hope it is not Swedish Vattenfall that is responsible for the poor outcome [UPDATE: Just saw that Vattenfall got this prize]. But with the single-minded focus on CCS and a global price on carbon it is not unlikely. Maybe it was Mondag Morgon, the small Danish consultant company that took on a bigger task than they could manage and maybe even was looking more for money than an outcome that would make a difference for one of the greatest challenges humanity faces. Most likely is probably that too many people was involved with the purpose of pushing a single issue and the result was a mix that did not make much sense. Again we see an example of what happens when leadership is lacking.

On the optimistic side it shows that those in denial that Climate Change is real are left behind. Now we need to focus on separating those that are serious from those that engage in green washing. We know that this vague statement stand against very detailed anti-climate lobbying. The conference itself was really bad prepared and the “call” that was presented was not even presented as a draft for those participating. That was very unfortunate as many of the companies participating at the summit could have contributed text. Text that it would have been very hard to resist if the process was transparent. And if good suggestions were killed it would be clear to everyone who the companies were that killed these ideas.

One clear example of how afraid the current companies are for a solution approach is the way reporting of emissions was dealt with. In the Copenhagen Call reporting about emissions was dealt with as a problem… The following was suggested by a number of solution driven companies but was ignored:
"Business, cities and states should be encouraged to report, not only their own emissions, but also their contribution to reductions in other parts of the economy. This would allow for climate positive reporting and catalyze action among companies that have solutions that can help reduce GHG emissions significantly, but are not big emitters (such as many IT biotech and renewable energy companies).”

The fact that a business conference ignores a simple suggestion that opens up the door for those with solutions is strange. My guess is that it is either depend on the old thinking among the organizers, or that utilities like Vattenfall don’t want policy makers know that there are much cheaper and smarter solutions that CCS that the world should focus on.

The contrast between the fact that good suggestion was not even discussed and the process almost total lack of transparency is especially interesting as lobbying was one of the few issues that triggered a really dynamic discussion. It was refreshing to hear the last panel engage in a heated debate about the destructive role of business lobbyist.

For governments a statement that don’t have actual companies signing under on the call is hard to use when companies are knocking on their door threatening to leave the country unless they are allowed to continue to pollute. As we move forward I hope we will se more concrete suggestions from companies with sustainable low carbon solutions.

The text it is not bad, just vague and shying away from the difficult questions that policy makers are wrestling with so if it was not meant to be an input to the COP15 it would not been so bad. Kunihiko Shimada was very clear and refreshing when he told the panel he was sitting in “I have not heard anything new here”. That energy efficiency is important, or that low carbon technology should be supported has been well known since before 1997.

A future "call" from business should include at least the following:
  • 100% CO2 reduction by 2050 is supported
  • 50% by 2020 from developed countries without any demand on developing countries until the rich world have demonstrated progress.
  • Climate Positive reporting from those with solutions and emission reporting from those with emissions (many companies would have both) would be mandatory from 2011.
  • Business could pay 50bn for adaptation and expect government to do at least the same.
  • A global fund for investment in 21st century infrastructure created and business (investors) will allocate 200bn per year to this fund
  • Global guidelines for public procurement that encourage a switch from products to services are supported (allowing new innovative low carbon ways to provide different services, (e.g. virtual meetings instead of flying and using laptops working outside the office instead of commuting by car.
  • Global guidelines for net producing buildings by 2020 is supported and if there are IPR challenges these will be dealt by through the 21st Century Infrastructure fund and new innovative compensation schemes.
  • Targets for solutions that help reduce emissions with 90% are necessary. These solutions should also be given preferential treatment in order to avoid many of the incremental improvements that are dominating the debate today
  • Multi-solutions must be given priority, so that solutions with the same potential for CO2 reducitons that also reduce poverty, water scarcity, etc are put in focus (so that integrated solar solutions that can provide energy and desalinate water also in poor countries are given priority over CCS).

It was encouraging that Tim Flannary, as he presented the Copenhagen Call highlighted that important issues had not been included and mentioned especially ICT. Although I think he said that “We don’t say enough about ICT”, but the truth is that nothing about ICT, biotech or renewables from a solution perspective was mentioned. Still there is an opportunity for a message that also see reduced emissions as an opportunity.

So Tim has given us second chance and the meeting brought together quite a number of CEO’s that policy makers could get really good suggestions from (these are only the companies that I heard presenting good ideas):

Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chief Executive Officer, Ericsson
Zhengrong Shi, Chief Executive Officer, Suntech Power
Steen Riisgaard, CEO, Novozymes
Girish S. Paranjpe, Joint-Chief Executive Officer, Wipro
Li Zhengmao, Executive Board Member, China Mobile
Walter B. Kielholz, Chairman, Swiss Re
Ditlev Engel, Chief Executive Officer, Vestas
Harish Hande, Co-founder and Managing Director, SELCO Solar Light
Shai Agassi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Better Place
David Blood, Managing Partner, Generation Investment Management
James Cameron, Vice Chairman, Climate Change Capital
Alan Salzman, Chief Executive officer, Vantage PointVenture Partners

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Can you spot the difference? The World Business Summit on Climate Change drops ICT as part of Thought Leadership Series

Take a close look at the two pictures and see if you can see any difference. In the middle of actual summit, all of a sudden and without explanation, the expected paper on ICT was removed from the page… A number of ICT companies are participating at the summit, all of them with material that could have contributed to a report, so the question is why this happens.

Hard to see? Try this (and look at 8):

1. Screen capture With ICT

2. Without ICT

The process around the WBSCC has been one of the least transparent I have experienced for a “World Summit”. When there is a clear agenda that does not matter very much as this helps you to follow the agenda. But now things have become really mysterious.

ONE STEP FORWARD: On the initial draft for the full agenda there was no ICT companies in any of the plenary sessions. That was strange and after discussions with the organizers the panel was expanded and there was a whole table with ICT companies in the end [see earlier blog].

ONE STEP BACK: During the actual conference the page with the thought leadership papers was “downgraded”. All of a sudden there is no ICT paper among the papers. The aim of these papers is to:

“elucidating and creating awareness of the key elements in the business and policy response to the climate problem. The rationale for a Thought Leadership Series on Climate Change includes:

-A change in focus from stating we have a problem to communicating the solutions to the problem.

- The potential and opportunities inherent in tackling climate change."

Few other areas fit that description better than ICT and innovative solutions. B4E had it as a special theme, the European commission just issued a communication and from tomorrow OECD will host a high level meeting with focus on ICT.

That a climate summit 2009, that is meant to represent the business voice, is dropping ICT is both strange and worrying. The ICT sector and low carbon ICT solutions are one of the best examples of how new innovative thinking can turn reduced emissions into an opportunity. I really hope that it is not due to lobbying from companies in sectors that do not want to change.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the actual outcome of the summit.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Climate Positive message from China Mobile and Ericsson at the World Business Summit on Climate Change

Ericsson and China Mobile sent a strong "Climate Positive" message during the World Business Summit on Climate Change. At the panel "Shaping the new green economy" both companies discussed and gave concrete examples on how they already are helping society reduce emissions (not only reducing their own internal emissions) and the need for a "21st century infrastructure".

A few weeks a ago B4E took place in Paris where Suzlon and Suntech was on stage together. Here in Copenhagen China Mobile, Wipro and Ericsson was on stage together delivering the most innovative business messages during the first day of the conference. Interesting to see that many of the most innovative ideas are now emerging from China and India (or companies like Ericsson that include these companies in their strategy for smart solutions).

Will be interesting to see how much of this positive message that the final recommendations from the Summit wil include.

On what might become a photo of a historic event, from left to right:
Girish S. Paranjpe, Joint-Chief Executive Officer, Wipro
Li Zhengmao, Executive Board Member, China Mobile
Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chief Executive Officer, Ericsson

Wipro focused more on ICT's capacity to track emissions in real time and hopefully they will add the climate positive contributions later.

During the first day of the event Ericsson also sent out the below press release.

In support of the UN Global Compact Caring for Climate initiative, Ericsson's CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg addressed UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon at an official meeting in Copenhagen. Mr. Svanberg said a new 21st century infrastructure is required to significantly contribute to the creation of a carbon-lean economy. "We must move away from dealing with emissions after they have already occurred, and focus instead on moving ideas, not people, with broadband being society's new highways.

"A large scale offsetting of CO2 emissions will require new ways of conducting business and new ways of living, and will also require large scale investments in Information and Communication technology (ICT). This sector could offset societal CO2 emissions by as much as 15 percent by 2020, and with an innovation-driven climate agenda, Ericsson estimates that this figure could be even higher. Ericsson's contribution is to provide the foundation for low-carbon services and solutions, through mass deployment of mobile and fixed broadband networks. Thus, leadership for Ericsson means growing the business while reducing carbon-related impacts", said Carl-Henric Svanberg.

Mr. Svanberg also spoke at the first plenary session of the World Business Summit on Climate Change, addressing industry and government leaders. The message to the global business community is that companies can turn the climate challenge into profitable opportunity and make a significant contribution to combatting climate change. To governments and regulators around the world, the message is that effective legislative and regulatory frameworks should make markets work for the climate. The results of the World Business Summit on Climate Change will be presented to the Danish government, host of COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009, and to world leaders negotiating the terms of the next international climate treaty.

"Today investments to reduce CO2 emissions of ten only result in marginal improvements, or even increased emissions, due to an overall unsustainable development. In contrast, low carbon communi cation solutions which instead can be seen as "21st century infrastructure" can contribute to direct emissions reductions and also pave the way for further reductions by supporting a long-term sustainable development, Mr. Svanberg concluded.

Sunday, 24 May 2009


Now it is official, during a coffee break at the World Business Summit on Climate Change we launched the innovation initiative.









Some of the best minds in business and in the climate field will be gathered in Copenhagen. We want to make sure that we take the opportunity to gather the best ideas for an innovation agenda.

History is being written and you are a part of it. As the global climate discussion moves from problems to opportunities, and the need for actions that deliver deep reductions is well understood, it is time to create space for those with the solutions.

Join us for a cup of coffee and an inspiring break. We want to hear your ideas and feedback as we present an outline for a solution based agenda for a low carbon economy –an agenda that goes beyond incremental change.

We will present ideas on how businesses can be serious and concrete in building a new industrial paradigm in order to secure deep emission cuts while simultaneously creating jobs and growth. This event will focus on how states, cities and companies can support and accelerate the use of innovative solutions.

Most of the plenary discussions and side events at this summit and every summit leading up to Copenhagen in December focus on the size of emission cuts for conventional companies and countries. The discussion often focuses on incremental change of existing systems. This is obviously important, but we believe that it is essential to go beyond that. It is not possible to “reduce” our way to the 80 % or even 90 % reductions of GHG emissions by 2050. To achieve this, new paradigms and a new industrial infrastructure are required: we need to address not only what we must do less of, but also what we need to do more of.

Several companies and sectors are already providing low carbon solutions, which create transformational solutions that encourage further and deeper emission reductions. The ICT- Biotech- Smart Building- and Renewable Energy Generation industries are all good examples of such sectors. Given the right conditions these sectors can help lead us towards a low carbon economy without incurring unnecessary costs.

From the 24th May we will start to collect input and ideas for what messages need to be sent to COP 15 from an innovation perspective that support this paradigm shift.

What do you think about them and what other messages should be sent?

"Governments must make sure that the current focus on improvements also includes solutions based transformative technologies that have a huge potential in terms of mitigating climate changes when they are used."

"Business, cities and states should be encouraged to report, not only their own emissions, but also their contribution to reductions in other parts of the economy. This would allow for climate positive reporting and catalyze action among companies that have solutions that can help reduce GHG emissions significantly, but are not big emitters (such as many IT and biotech companies)."

"Governments should shift from a product to a services perspective, applying life cycle approaches that support cradle-to-cradle strategies in business along all value chains and using ecosystem services sustainably. An effective global climate treaty must support the creation of an intelligent and bio-based 21st century low carbon infrastructure. "

Text us, email us or provide us with your blog or twitter address, and we will collect them and update the suggestions on the blog:

Innovation hotline for text messages:

tel: + 46 707 26 72 32


Friday, 22 May 2009

Apa Sherpa carries Climate Change message on his record 19th ascent to Everest

Sometime people ask me what they can do for the planet… I think people should focus on what they are passionate about… There are many ways, one quite amazing and spectacular that I got today is Apa… I think we all can use what he’s done as inspiration. For all those who work with solutions it is also good to be reminded about the consequences of climate change. Taking the lead in saving the climate is not a 9 to 5 job....

See press release from WWF Nepal below…
Kathmandu, Nepal – The WWF message – "Stop Climate Change, Let the Himalayas Live!" was carried to the top of the world by Apa Sherpa on his record 19th summit to the peak, reminding the world of its responsibility towards preserving this global heritage.

Apa Sherpa is one of the best persons to deliver this message to the world, having witnessed firsthand the changing landscape of the Himalayas in the wake of climate change during his decades of mountaineering experience, and having been a victim personally of its disastrous consequences.

At the summit, Apa also installed a Bumpa (sacred vase) personally blessed by the Venerable Rinpoche of Tengboche (Buddhist spiritual leader), containing 400 different sacred ingredients intended to restore the sanctity of the Himalayan beyul (sacred valleys) against negative impacts of rapid environmental changes.

Congratulating WWF and Apa on their efforts, Mr. Ganesh Sah, Nepal's Minister for Environment, Science and Technology said, "The well being of Himalayas is crucial for economic development of Nepal." "It's only by coming together we can deliver this message emphatically to the world."

Apa carried the WWF Banner during the Eco Everest Expedition. The expedition is led by two-time Everest Summiteer Dawa Steven Sherpa, a passionate advocate of climate change issues and also a WWF Climate Witness.

Mr. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative, WWF Nepal said, " WWF salutes the efforts of Apa and Dawa for taking the climate change message to the top of the world and being ambassadors for WWF's Climate for Life campaign." "Now, the time has come for the world to redirect its attention towards the Himalayas."

Monday, 18 May 2009

Will these individuals send the signal the world needs regarding the role of business and Climate Change?

Here is the list [download the PDF list here (use Adobe to read it)] of the participants that will meet next week in Copenhagen for "The World Business Summit on Climate Change". Right now it looks like things can happen and I’m optimistic…

The latest programme can be downloaded here

Keep you eyes open for cop15innovation also…

Friday, 15 May 2009




爱立信可持续发展与企业责任副总裁Elaine Weidman表示:“我们的社会正面临着一个巨大的挑战,到2050年,我们必须大幅度减少二氧化碳的排放,而与此同时,世界经济也将增长至现在的三倍。爱立信的一个愿景就是创建一个低碳社会,我们希望看到下半年在哥本哈根举行的全球气候谈判大会上,ICT和电信能作为帮助决策者和政府部门实现其减排目标的可行方法被提上议事日程。通过宽带来实现经济的非物质化、提高经济效率的机会数不胜数。”




WWF瑞典分会全球政策顾问Dennis Pamlin指出:“这种合作伙伴关系很好地反映了21世纪创新工作环境的模式。与爱立信一起,我们可以将减排的需求转化为市场机遇,将快速减排的迫切需求转化为推动创新和谋求经济效益的动力。在当前经济危机的背景下,当众多资源正投入基础设施建设时,上述这一点尤为重要。在今后的几个月中,我们将继续开发和推动创新低碳解决方案的应用,帮助企业、各个行业以及政府部门降低碳排放,构建低碳经济。”


智能交通和通信系统可以很好地体现如何通过建立一个由人、道路和车辆所构成的网络实现减排,该系统可以支持远程办公和非物质化,并传送道路情况和交通信息,提供向导服务。爱立信开展的研究表明,引入电子远程医疗应用可以使到医院就诊的人流量最高可减少50%。爱立信的智能网格(Smart Grid)解决方案可帮助公共事业部门和家庭更好地管理能源利用的情况,而由爱立信开发的数字家庭(Connected Home)解决方案则可以对能源消耗和照明进行监控,并实现自动化管理。





Thursday, 14 May 2009

Ericsson Leaflet: Communication Solutions for Low Carbon Cities

Click here to download the leaflet [2.5 meg] for the project that was announced today. It is a very interesting innovation based project that I think brings new energy into the climate discussion. Hopefully this project can also help to move the low carbon IT discussion forward (and if we are lucky make sure that the focus on 98% is what we will see from policy makers and IT users, not forgetting the 2% obviously, but I don’t see that happening as enough traditional thinking is out there… ;))

If the style looks familiar this might be for a reason, please have a look at the Novozymes launch… Together these two projects are really interesting… ICT and biotech… Time for a solution agenda.


There is a story behind this that is very interesting, hope to write about this soon. Until then just enjoy a 21st Century initiative. There will be more in a not too distant future...

May 14, 2009, 09:30 (CET)

Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Sweden today announced a partnership aimed to encourage the smart use of telecom solutions across industries to reduce global CO2 emissions. To achieve this, they will work together to promote climate-smart telecom solutions, and introduce the concept of being "climate-positive" to solution-driven companies in the ICT sector.

The partnership covers three key areas: a methodology for calculating CO2 savings from emission avoidance; the integration of low-carbon telecommunication solutions in climate strategies for cities; and a support platform for partnerships that promote a low-carbon economy.

Elaine Weidman, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson, says: "Society faces a huge challenge to drastically reduce CO2 emissions by 2050, while the world economy will as much as triple. Ericsson has a vision of using telecommunications to foster a more carbon-lean society, and we would like to see ICT and telecom on the agenda for the global climate negotiations in Copenhagen later this year, as a viable means of helping policy makers and governments when it comes to reaching their carbon emission targets. The opportunities for broadband to dematerialize and streamline the economy are almost unlimited."

While the information and communications technology (ICT) industry is responsible for approximately 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, Ericsson and WWF Sweden believe it has the potential to help reduce more than 15 percent of the remaining 98 percent emitted by non-ICT industries and the public. The partnership aims to encourage other sectors, such as transport, buildings and energy, to better utilize ICT infrastructure and thereby reduce overall CO2 emissions.

Ericsson and WWF Sweden estimate that smart use of broadband-enabled services can reduce CO2 emissions by a factor of 10-100, i.e. the use of a telecom service that emits 1kg of CO2 may enable a reduction of 10-100kg of CO2. Fixed and mobile broadband can play a leading role in improving basic services while reducing CO2 emissions - both by replacing physical products with services and by helping society to use resources more efficiently - and can accelerate the shift from physical to virtual infrastructure and services.

Ericsson and WWF Sweden will explore how to measure how an ICT company can help reduce significant amounts of CO2 in society with low carbon ICT solutions, thereby becoming "climate positive", i.e. the use of a company's solutions are promoted and used in a way that result in much greater CO2 reductions than the company's internal emissions.

Dennis Pamlin, Global Policy Advisor at WWF Sweden, says: "This partnership is an example of how innovative climate work in the 21st century can look. Together with Ericsson, we can approach the need for reduced emissions as an opportunity, and the urgency for rapid reductions as a driver for innovation and profit. This is especially important in this economic crisis when significant resources are being allocated into infrastructure investments. During the coming months we will explore and promote the use of innovative carbon-lean solutions which can help businesses, industries and governments reduce their carbon emissions and shape a low-carbon economy."

Rapid urbanization and related investments mean that cities can turn the need to reduce CO2 emissions into a driver for smart and carbon lean development. The 21st century infrastructure that ICT has created opens up opportunities for investments in smart solutions that can deliver basic services, such as transport, heating, cooling and lighting in resource efficient ways that contribute to sustainable development for the world's population.

Intelligent transport and communication systems are an example of how emissions can be reduced through a linked network of people, roads and vehicles, which support teleworking, dematerialization and, communicate road descriptions, guides and traffic information. Research conducted by Ericsson shows that introducing telemedicine applications can reduce travel for hospital consultations by up to 50 percent. Ericsson's Smart Grid solutions help utilities and households to better regulate energy use, and Ericson's Connected Home allows for monitoring and automating energy consumption, lighting and surveillance.

This partnership builds on seven years of interaction between WWF Sweden and Ericsson. Over the next six months, the partnership will focus on intensified effort to get ICT on the global policy agenda for the upcoming climate negotiations in Copenhagen later this year.

Notes to editors:
Background information on energy efficient solutions:
Ericsson's multimedia content is available at the broadcast room:

Ericsson is the world's leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. The market leader in 2G and 3G mobile technologies, Ericsson supplies communications services and manages networks that serve more than 250 million subscribers. The company's portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, and broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and developers. The Sony Ericsson joint venture provides consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices.

Ericsson is advancing its vision of 'communication for all' through innovation, technology, and sustainable business solutions. Working in 175 countries, more than 70,000 employees generated revenue of USD 27 billion (SEK 209 billion) in 2008. Founded in 1876 and headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Ericsson is listed on OMX Nordic Exchange Stockholm and NASDAQ.

For more information, visit or


Ericsson Corporate Public & Media Relations
Phone: +46 10 719 69 92

WWF Sweden
Barbara Evaeus, Manager Climate Communications
Phone: +46 70 393 9030

About WWF Sweden

WWF Sweden a national office for one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
More about WWFs work with ICT:

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Op-ed China Daily: China, US can use differences to support innovative solutions

This is an op-ed from today’s China Daily that i wrote with Stefan Henningsson and input from WWF US and WWF China. It is shorter than the original version. These complex issues are difficult to capture in just a few paragraphs.

China, US can use differences to support innovative solutions
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-05-04 07:46

The difference between emissions in China and the US is much greater than most people realize and requires very different strategies.

Scientific principles and the ability to differentiate between bad and good emissions could help deliver a climate deal that is ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change and support innovation, but is equitable, argues Dennis Pamlin a global policy advisor for World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

China and the US are the two largest emitters and users of coal power in the world today and are seen by many as the most important countries for a climate agreement, but from a climate perspective it is important to remember that there are probably more differences than similarities between the two countries.

Per capita emissions
China's population is for example four times larger so per capita emissions are just a quarter of the emissions in the US. This makes China's emissions effectively lesser, when compared to the US.

Let's start with the commitment to action against climate change in the last decade.

For those of us who were in Kyoto in 1997 for the climate negotiations, it was interesting to see that the US delegation did not play a very constructive role there and contributed to many of the loopholes that the world still struggles with. When George W. Bush became president in 2001, one of his first acts after taking office was to declare that he would not seek Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. In contrast, China formally signed the Kyoto protocol in 2002 and has since implemented many policies; some of these are among the most ambitious on the planet, to increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.

Today, as it stands, the US has lost a decade and developed a history of undermining global negotiations, but with the speed at which Obama is working could be made up for quite fast. America can begin by demonstrating its commitment to an energy plan based on sound science, a plan that puts the US on the path toward more vigorous cuts in pollution over the next decade, and a plan that ramps up investment in technologies needed to get there.

If we look even further back in time, it is clear that the US, together with most Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, over the last century have created wealth by filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gas.

The current emissions are just one part of the puzzle. Simplistic ideas about a global cap and trade system or a global carbon tax are, at best, naive and, at worst an attempt to move away from a system based on equity, capacity to act and historic responsibility.

The historic emissions and capacity to reduce emissions were two main reasons why the Kyoto protocol only included absolute reduction targets for the rich countries.

'Equity perspective'

As we look ahead a question that needs to be discussed more is why different countries still increase their emissions. This can be seen from an "equity perspective".

As President Hu Jintao rightfully pointed out at a G8 meeting last year, "a significant share of China's total emissions fall in the category of subsistence emissions necessary to meet people's basic needs". As China continues to grow, it is important to differentiate these kinds of emissions from other emissions, such as those related to inefficient industrial production and consumption among a growing rich urban population.

The increase over the last decade in the US and the projected increase for the coming years are very different. Emissions in the US are mostly related to investments in inefficient transmission systems, very large building space with low efficiency and consumption of luxury goods and fast food, large cars.

It would be good if the US and China could develop a tool that indicated how much of the emissions from different countries are related to being necessary for the basic needs of their people and how much is for other reasons. It would also help to identify areas where different low carbon solutions are needed.

Why the emissions take place can also be seen from a "global economy" perspective. A large proportion of the emission that are emitted in China are embedded in goods that are exported. So even if the emissions take place in China it is people in OECD that benefit from these emissions. Estimations show that up to a third of China's emissions are embedded in export, making China's real emissions much lower than the official numbers. For the US the situation is the reverse and the emissions in the US would be about 15 percent higher if the carbon embedded in import and export was included.

Countries need to begin to measure the systemic consequences of their export of different goods and services. Countries that export SUV's and inefficient appliances are contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions in other countries, while export of renewable energy, low carbon IT, smart buildings help reduce emissions.

Looking forward towards Copenhagen it is clear that a global climate deal should build on the principles of fairness and equity, drawing on the criteria of historic responsibility and capacity to act. Each country should follow a low carbon development path within the global carbon budget. In this context, it is clear that after decades of inaction, the new US administration must join a strong new international agreement in Copenhagen.

This includes adopting an economy-wide quantified emission reduction commitment that is comparable, in nature, intensity and compliance requirements to the commitments taken by other industrialized countries. In order to address the concerns for effectiveness and equity in the new agreement, the US should also commit to steeper reductions after 2020, with distinct milestones that lead towards a 2050 target.

Low carbon economy
As we now move closer to Copenhagen, China and the US should also begin to identify companies and technological areas that can become winners in a low carbon economy, including whole sectors such as IT and Biotech as well as efficiency in the building sector, smart grid and solar energy.

By encouraging and scaling up international collaboration these and other solution-oriented companies could deliver transformative solutions that help the rich world reduce their excess consumption and emissions at the same time as they support sustainable poverty reduction.

This will however also require collaboration around using and, in some cases, creating policies so that these solutions are taken up faster in both US and China and elsewhere.

The last decade of climate negotiations focused on the problems with reduced emissions and how companies with major emissions can reduce their own emissions. The next decade should focus on opportunities and how companies with low emissions can provide innovative low carbon solutions for high emission sectors to give us what we need.

If China and the US take the first steps the world will follow.

Dennis Pamlin is Global Policy Advisor, WWF and Stefan Henningsson is Global Innovation expert, WWF. The views expressed in the article are their own