News Articles | Kelly Cryderman | The Calgary Herald | December 11, 2009
On Thursday, on the other end of the Copenhagen’s Bella Centre, there was a different type of discussion on an issue where Canada actually earns faint praise ‚Äî or at the very least, is ignored: carbon capture and storage (CCS).
At a discussion sponsored by the U.S. delegation, major federal and Alberta commitments totalling $3.3 billion were mentioned in a presentation by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as one of the highest of any nation. The Cenovus project in Weyburn, Sask., which sees C02 from a coal-gasification plant in Beulah, N.D. transported and pumped underground, was pictured in a slide show.
However, the bulk of the discussions focused on projects in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Canada was also grouped in with countries that have a “piecemeal framework” for CCS as opposed to an overarching national plan.
CCS refers to the capture of CO2 emissions from industrial sources, such as coal-fired power plants, and the storage of these emissions in stable underground reservoirs. The IEA predicts that one fifth of world greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2050 might come from CCS.
At the same time, Stefanie Held of the IEA said she has been “surprised at the negative image that CCS has” at the meetings in Copenhagen.
“What many apparently do not know is how key CCS is going to be as a critical mitigation technology,” said Held, who heads the technology network unit at the agency.
CCS isn’t popular among many international environmentalists in Copenhagen who argue that Canada and European countries are relying too heavily on the technology to meet emissions reduction targets.
In Canada, politicians treat CCS like a silver bullet to climate change, said Graham Saul, executive director of the Canadian arm of the Climate Action Network ‚Äî the umbrella group that distributes the Fossils.
“It’s clearly not,” Saul said.
There’s not necessarily a problem with CCS, Saul added, but “we should be subsiding clean energy alternatives rather than subsidizing the coal or oil industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”
The first four days of the conference have seen Canada blasted by environmental groups for the country’s climate change policies, including not meeting Kyoto Protocol targets, the increasing oilsands emissions, and not committing as much as other countries to support renewable power sources such as wind and solar.
On Thursday, another debate that could have massive ramifications for Canada flared when UN climate chief Yvo de Boer reiterated his belief that the Kyoto Protocol must live on into the future.
“One of the reasons is that it generally takes a bit of time for a new legal instrument to be ratified and enter into force,” de Boer said.
“Kyoto provides market-based mechanisms, allows for the carbon market to function.”
He added, “the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding instrument that we have to act on climate change and there is no good reason at this moment to abandon it.”
That position doesn’t sit well with Canada, which will not meet its Kyoto targets.
The talks in Copenhagen are meant to set a new international climate change plan following the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, in 2012.
But the legal architecture for that future plan is a singularly divisive issue. Poorer nations say developed countries have made their fortunes burning fossil fuels and owe a debt to the developing economies. They prefer two tracks for a future agreement ‚Äî a continuation of Kyoto with deep emissions cuts for the rich and a new, less-binding accord for the poor.
However, rich countries such as Canada and the U.S. don’t want Kyoto to continue, preferring a single United Nations pact to succeed Kyoto.
“It’s an important question and we’re going to need to spend some time on it here, as well as in the future,” Canada’s chief negotiator, Michael Martin, said Thursday.
The Kyoto Protocol ‚Äî ratified by Canada but not the U.S. ‚Äî set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Around the world, these amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period, 2008-2012.
Canada has seen one of the biggest increases in emissions (26 per cent between 1990 and 2007) in a group of industrialized countries will fail to meet their Kyoto targets. Each of those countries could face international reprimand and tens of billions in fines if targets are not met in 2012.
That’s why the stakes are so high for Canada. Martin, a veteran Canadian diplomat always careful with his words, said Thursday evening he is hopeful there will be “consensus.”
Speaking to reporters, Martin added he had run into billionaire George Soros, but didn’t have a chance to talk to him about his inventive proposal that was the other major newsmaker in Copenhagen Thursday.
Soros suggested that rich nations to put $100 billion of foreign-exchange reserves towards the financing of emission-reducing projects in less wealthy countries.
“I’ve found a way for someone else to pay . . . to mobilize reserves that are lying idle,” Soros told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, which runs until Dec 18.
Hungarian-born Soros said green loans to poor nations backed by International Monetary Fund gold reserves could total $100 billion.
“This $100-billion fund I think could just turn this conference from failure to success,” he said, admitting there were several legal and practical hurdles to unlocking the cash.
Poor nations want rich countries to spend one per cent or more of their national wealth on emissions cuts in the developing world, or at least $300 billion annually, and about double the highest estimates by industrialized countries.
The European Commission cautioned against easy sounding solutions. “Money must come from somewhere, not just from a printing machine,” Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the Commission delegation, said when asked about Soros’ proposal.
Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the G77 ‚Äî a group made up of developing countries ‚Äî also called for up to $200 billion to be poured into climate change prevention to avoid drastic temperature swings and “certain death to Africa.”
Part of the UN talks were suspended for a second day after Tuvalu, which fears being washed off the map by rising seas, insisted the conference must consider its proposal for a legally binding treaty for deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Tuvalu’s stance exposed rifts between developing nations, many of which would be required to do far more under its proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels. Nations including India and China spoke out against Tuvalu’s plan.