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9 November 2015

Embattled UN climate publish complex draft
Following tense multilateral talks in Bonn, Germany on a universal emissions-cutting regime, which often saw familiar divisions between so-called “developed” and “developing” parties re-visited, negotiators agreed to forward a 51-page text for consideration at an annual climate meet due to start next month.

The document includes both a 35-page “agreement” followed by 16 pages of “decisions” designed to give effect to the former. Together, these would in theory cover all manner of details relevant to the functioning and operationalisation of the new climate regime, including its purpose, long-term goal, management of individual party climate efforts, and the general supportive architecture. A separate document on scaling up climate action before the end of the decade will also be sent for consideration at the next meet due to be held in Paris, France from 30 November-11 December. The deal should be capable of keeping planetary temperatures below a two degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial levels

EU ministers debate carbon market reforms
EU environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 26 October held their first policy debate on proposed reforms to the bloc’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), with many officials welcoming some of the suggested changes while raising concerns in other areas.

During the day-long European Council meet, ministers discussed the European Commission’s legislative proposal for strengthening the EU’s carbon market from 2020 onward, which was unveiled in July. The planned reforms, the EU executive says, would be a key component of the bloc’s strategy toward meeting its 2030 energy and climate goals.  

In Luxembourg, environment ministers cited concerns with regard to three key aspects of the proposed carbon market reforms, including the proposal’s level of ambition and the issue of climate finance; the rules for free allocation allowances and measures to address the risk of carbon leakage; and funding mechanisms for innovation.

World leaders strengthen call for carbon pricing
Six heads of state, two subnational leaders, and a host of major private sector heads came together on Monday 19 October to urge all countries and companies to speed up the transition to a global low-carbon economy by putting a price on carbon.

Convened by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director Christine Lagarde, with the support of Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The so-called “Carbon Pricing Panel” is geared towards providing political momentum for carbon pricing initiatives and acts as a complement to a Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, formed at the UN Climate Summit in September 2014, where some 74 countries and more than 1000 companies expressed support for carbon pricing. "There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in a press release.

US-Canada softwood lumber deal expires
The bilateral agreement between the US and Canada on softwood lumber expired on Tuesday 13 October, raising the prospect that a decades-long trade feud between the North American neighbours could soon be renewed. Prior to the entry into force of the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA), as the deal is known, the two sides had sparred for decades on whether Canadian lumber producers were benefitting from allegedly unfair government support.

Specifically, US softwood lumber producers had argued that stumpage fees – a tax on each harvested tree on state-owned land – were so low that they essentially amounted to a Canadian government subsidy. The US Department of Commerce then conducted a series of anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations into these allegedly unfair trade practices, leading to the imposition of hefty duties. The disagreement led to the filing of trade disputes both under the WTO (DS 257) as well as under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which brings together the two countries with Mexico.

Development banks boost climate finance pledges
A host of the world’s top development banks announced substantial increases in financing for developing countries to reduce climate-warming emissions and adapt to the consequences of climate change, as top finance and development officials met from 9-11 October in Lima, Peru. 

The World Bank Group has pledged to boost its climate finance offering from 21 percent up to 28 percent by 2020, with the support of its 188 member countries. This translates into a projected increase of direct funding from US$10.3 billion to US$16 billion by the end of the decade, according to the Bank’s press release.

The Bank also promised to continue current levels of leveraging co-financing for climate projects with governments and the private sector. This would provide an additional US$13 billion, bringing the total cumulative amount of climate-focused funding available from its multilateral coffers to US$29 billion a year by 2020.

In addition, the meet saw a doubling of finance commitments by other multilateral development banks and regional counterparts by 2020. 

UN climate pledges discussed in Morocco
A suite of national climate action plans, submitted as part of UN talks on a post-2020 climate regime, were reviewed during an informal international forum held in Rabat, Morocco on 13 October. Participants concluded that the submissions by some 150 countries signals broad engagement in the multilateral process, but many also voiced support for including a long term emissions-cutting goal and review mechanism in the new deal, according to an EU press release.

The national plans, also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in UN-speak, will form the building blocks of an agreement to be inked at a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet in Paris, France this December. While each plan includes at least a mitigation goal, the pledges differ considerably with regards to the type of emissions reductions, baselines, sectors covered, and implementation timelines.

“Countries have done serious work, approved at the highest political level, to design comprehensive climate strategies, many for the first time,” said EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias.

EU parliament rejects national bans for GMOs
Members of the European Parliament during a plenary session on Wednesday 28 October voted 577 to 75 against a proposed draft EU law that would allow the individual member states to restrict or prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) found in food or feed, even after these have been broadly approved for the bloc.  

“[The] vote gave a clear signal to the European Commission. This proposal could [reverse] what has been achieved with the single market and the customs union,” said Giovanni La Via, the parliamentarian charged with the dossier, in a press release. “I believe that this proposal could have negative consequences for agriculture in the EU, which is heavily dependent on protein supplies for GMO sources. It could also have indirect negative effects on imports. Finally, there are concerns over whether this proposal could even be implemented, because there are no border controls in the EU,” La Via continued. The outcome was nevertheless largely expected by observers of the process after the parliament’s environment committee squarely rejected the European Commission’s proposal earlier last month on similar grounds.

Chile oceans conference boosts marine protection
Some US$2.1 billion worth of commitments related to ocean conservation and sustainable use were unveiled during an international conference convened by the Chilean government from 5-6 October in the port city of Valparaíso.

The occasion saw both the US and Chile announce the creation of new marine reserves geared towards ocean conservation. The two new Chilean marine reserves will protect nearly one million square kilometres of ocean, prohibiting fishing within their parameters, with the exception of subsistence fishing practices. One of these marine protected areas (MPAs) will encircle the Island of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, home to iconic monumental archaeological statues on land and a rich marine environment under water. The US, meanwhile, signalled plans to create a national marine sanctuary in Maryland and another in Lake Michigan.

Other interventions by officials at the event – formally dubbed “The Second Our Ocean Conference – included an affirmation by Panama of the creation of two major MPAs. 

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