Minnesota leadership in Paris

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Wednesday, December 16

Saturday, December 12

World leaders reach a global climate agreement (evening of Saturday December 12)

“Today in Paris, leaders of almost 200 nations agree to a landmark climate policy. We’re proud that actions in Minnesota over the past decade have demonstrated deep carbon reductions that grow jobs and generate economic opportunities; today’s agreement at the Paris Climate Summit was made possible by demonstrations of economic opportunities in Minnesota and other places around the world. Fresh Energy looks forward to working with businesses and elected officials in Minnesota to ensure that our state leads the nation in carbon reductions while moving us even faster into the clean energy economy.”

World’s leaders near landmark climate agreement (morning of Saturday December 12)

The current draft of the global climate agreement has a temperature goal of not allowing global warming to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, an objective of net zero greenhouse gas emissions, and a structure to steadily increase national carbon emissions reductions commitments – sending a strong market signal that investments in fossil fuels are highly risky. If approved, this agreement sends a very firm message from the world’s governments that they are in line with climate science. It will be up to us to ensure that our governments’ policies reflect the urgency of keeping future global warming to this limit. Achieving this science-based goal is both doable and economically feasible, as we have already begun to see the cost savings and pollution reductions that are achievable from the first states of clean energy deployment.

Growing public concern in Minnesota, the U.S., and the world about climate impacts and costs, coupled with the rapidly increasing availability of cost-effective efficiency and renewable energy solutions, together have given the world’s business and political leaders the will to stand up to fossil fuel polluters and put the world on a path to create the clean energy economy needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The proposed agreement is a significant stepping-stone toward a safer and more just future. I’ll have more updates as the negotiations near their conclusion.

Thursday, December 10

Entering the home stretch

The Paris talks are now less than 36 hours from their deadline, with negotiators from 195 countries working around the clock to resolve major issues. With so much at stake, the volume of media coverage has picked up, very evident as I walk through the packed media center here at the conference.

After 11 days of intense negotiations, a draft global climate agreement was released late Wednesday. It’s based on historic bottom-up carbon reduction commitments made by 186 countries representing 95 percent of the global economy. But the draft text does not yet include dozens of key details, most importantly how these emissions cuts will be made transparent and independently verified, and a method for ratcheting up carbon reductions at a pace that meets the need.

Needed in the next 36 hours

A new “High Ambition Coalition,” led by the US, Europe, and small island nations, has been pushing for provisions in the international agreement to require countries to obtain independent verification of their cuts, and to return to the table every five years—starting as soon as 2018—to update targets to meet the carbon reductions scientists say are necessary to cut climate risk. The fact is that clean energy technology is advancing more quickly than energy policy, and the international agreement needs to ensure that the world is ambitious about capturing all cost-effective clean energy. The draft agreement also doesn’t finalize responsibility of rich countries to poor countries for future damages cause by climate change. And negotiators from the many developing nations here in Paris need to get assurance that the developed countries will honor their 2009 commitment to deploy $100 billion annually to help poorer nations address climate change and adopt clean energy.

Climate science is clear that ensuring the globe stays below 1.5 degrees C of warming is critical to avoid the high risks to people and to nature from global warming. Many observers expect the final agreement will include language about this science-based target. I hear and feel plenty of optimism in the negotiating halls, and my international colleagues with decades of international negotiating experience say we’ve never been so close to a deal. Tune back here tomorrow to see what the hundreds of ministers have agreed to overnight. Will they reach a climate agreement that signals to world markets that clean energy is the investment path forward?

CV3Qu84W4AAZsvtHeadline speech by US Secretary of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry is leading negotiations for the US, and yesterday delivered a passionate speech detailing how energy policy is climate policy. In his address, Kerry put more money into the fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change. Secretary Kerry proposed to double the amount of grant aid to these countries, to $800 million by 2020.The issue of funding from rich countries to poor has been a point of contention in the climate talks.

The Secretary of State thanked the estimated 40,000 people from 200 countries at the climate negotiations, citizens of the world looking for their leaders to act. ”Americans want the US to take responsibility and get an ambitious, durable, and transparent climate agreement in Paris.”

Ï was struck by Kerry’s strong talk: ”The science has been screaming at us for decades—we are responsible to our kids to act on fact in the next 48 hours.” He stated that the Paris agreement will not be a ceiling for climate policy ambition, but instead should be a durable floor we build and continue to build together.

Kerry finished by asking, “What is the worst that could happen from cutting carbon?” His conclusion:  Millions of jobs, healthier children and a more stable world. “We must ratchet up reduction targets and go as low in carbon emissions as we can.”

(Photo credit: Arnaud Boulssou – MEDDE/SG COP21)

Tuesday, December 8

Tracking the key elements needed for an historic climate agreement

CVtensDW4AAY89MLead US negotiator Todd Stern announced yesterday that “we’re getting down to business” and he’s right—the work toward building a climate agreement for the period starting in 2020 has reached a feverish pitch here at the UN summit. Separate from the mostly private negotiations by ministers, there are thirty or more presentations or press conferences going on simultaneously here, and a crowd of at least 20,000 people working toward climate action. Just today, celebrities present at the conference site included Al Gore and Alec Baldwin, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy gave a talk at the US Center on our nation’s biggest step to date to fight global warming: the Clean Power Plan that is now law and will cut carbon emissions 32 percent by 2030 from coal-burning power plants. McCarthy described that the Clean Power Plan follows current energy market trends that are leaving coal in the dust; the law is built on the 45-year-old success of the Clean Air Act, and it will stand the test of time.

But our focus has been on the inside track of negotiating the agreement. Fresh Energy wants to see an international agreement that is ambitious,  durable,  inclusive, and  transparent, and we know the world’s nations must recognize here that incremental change in emissions will not get the job done.


On our first goal (deep, ambitious carbon reductions), the agreement must set out a clear and operational long-term goal that is in line with science. To that point, I’m relieved to see leaders from the US, Canada, China, and the European Union all declaring they are on board to adopt a goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees C. The UN has pegged 2 degrees C as the danger threshold for global warming, but more than half the countries want a Paris agreement to aim for a tougher 1.5 degree limit. Scientists warn that the risk of drought, flooding, and sea level rise, and the human suffering the accompany those disasters, increase with every degree of temperature rise. Indeed, many country representatives here in Paris have stated that their nations would be on the brink of survival even at 1.5 degrees C of increase.

Durable and inclusive

Also key to an inclusive agreement is adaptive finance for countries suffering now, but negotiators have reached no agreement yet on the key elements of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people, or helping poorer nations adopt clean energy.

The world will need to establish a review mechanism for countries to come together periodically—no less frequently than every five years—to examine progress made and to accelerate collective and country efforts as needed to ensure the world is on track to minimize climate danger.


Finally, we’re concerned that the agreement have great transparency, including a solid legal foundation for reporting and review of how countries are doing in meeting national commitments. We can’t have effective compliance without information on what countries are actually achieving in carbon reduction. One critical piece: we’ll need to see rules against double-counting of emissions reductions. Basic agreement on transparent bookkeeping rules to prevent double-counting has not yet been reached, and we’ll need those rules to ensure environmental integrity in the agreement.

Only days remain in the climate summit, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned the negotiators that without a strong agreement, “the clock is ticking toward a climate catastrophe.”

Monday, December 7, 2015

AMinnesota Leadership

Senator Al Franken on December 5 was the sole Midwestern leader in a delegation of 10 U.S. Senators who met with leaders and citizens in Paris to champion the climate talks. The Senate delegation fanned out across the vast conference site, meeting with individuals and with leaders to demonstrate the United States’ solid support for continued US leadership.

Senator Franken pointed out that as the world’s #1 economy, the U.S. needs to show climate leadership. Indeed, that very day, the Senator and Cargill CEO David MacLennan had an excellent commentary published in the Star Tribune. The previous day, three Minnesota elected officials – Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsille, and Mayor Dave Kleis of Saint Cloud – joined more than c150_233_banner_1maclennan.jpg700 mayors from around the globe in a meeting to develop greater commitments to carbon reductions at the city level.

Leadership still needed for an ambitious climate agreement

The climate negotiators are farther along than at any other point in the 21-year history of annual climate negotiations. On Saturday, negotiators sent refined texts to each nation’s ministers, the decision makers who will write the final climate agreement. Ministers from most of the 195 countries, including John Kerry from the U.S., are now on site at the negotiations. But we need to be sure that the final climate agreement allows the world a fighting chance to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. That will be the only way we can say to kids growing up today, in Paris, the world’s leaders did everything they could to fight global warming, and it worked.

The final climate agreement will lack teeth if it does not include ambitious review, transparency, and accounting mechanisms. Nations should agree on a provision to enable to regularly strengthen carbon reduction targets. We know the world needs to accelerate carbon reductions, and clean technology advances are making more reductions feasible every year, and so the climate agreement should establish a means of ratcheting up commitments at least every 5 years to keep pace with clean technology advancements, beginning before 2020.

Thursday, December 3

Green-Baby-Dinosaur-Clip-Art-Image copyDigging up the’ Fossil of the Day’

You may want to know that just yesterday, such parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change including Norway, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, India, Switzerland, and the US each took actions that would slow or derail strong climate action. Climate Action Network’s Fossil of the Day awards are the highlight of each day’s end of negotiations, and posted in the ECO nongovernmental newsletter the following morning.

The daily ECO newsletter is a great read for all us policy geeks and those interested in the latest news on which countries are causing obstructions, and which delegations have shined rays of hope in the past 24 hours. ECO is published daily by nongovernmental environmental groups at major international conferences running all the way back to the Stockholm Environmental Conference in 1972. It’s produced cooperatively by the Climate Action Network at the Paris Climate Summit, written overnight. Warning: It’s written for insiders, with plenty of jargon. But no worries: At the end of the UN process, on December 16, I’ll host a free webinar to help you make sense of the end results and what they mean for us in Minnesota.

Wednesday, December 2

The Paris Climate Summit’s early tone has been remarkably optimistic, largely because of the friendly negotiating relationship between China and the US, the world’s #1 and #2 carbon polluters. Climate change has become one of the rare political issues on which they agree.

20151202_150946Under one roof

There were never more global leaders under one roof than were here Monday, with all of them talking about climate leadership and fixing the problem. Many took very strong positions, including French President Francois Hollande who called coal, oil, and natural gas the energies of the past.

As Time magazine phrased it: “The fact that most countries are promising to transition toward clean energy and reduced fossil fuel consumption is rather significant, especially if you are a fossil fuel company worried about your long-term business prospects.”

The hard work beings

In the last 24 hours, the climate talks have entered a stage of substantive negotiations. Bilateral and multilateral discussions among delegates from different countries are underway, in advance of next week’s arrival of most of the ministers—these are the decision makers who will conduct the final negotiation. In advance of that, the French Foreign Minister has told diplomats they have only until Saturday, December 5, to present the first draft text of the agreement. I’ll provide details once we see that working draft.

20151202_141318The 5 major conflicts to be settled:

1 – Emissions reductions goals and how quickly to beef up emissions targets that nations have proposed.
2 – Finance: How much funding rich countries will give to poor nations
3 – Which portions of the international agreement will be legally binding
4 – Whether fossil fuels will be phased out this century
5 – Loss and damage global warming is wreaking on heavily impacted people and nations

Not done yet

And stay tuned: India’s hunger for electricity is a threat to an international climate accord, as India is currently refusing to accept any limit on its emissions.

Remember to join me for Fresh Energy’s December 16 webinar to hear all about the Climate Summit results and what they mean for Minnesota and our nation. Until then, follow along on the blog or on Twitter (@JDrakeHamilton) for more live updates.

Monday, November 30:

First let me say, I so appreciate the many Minnesotans and allies around the world who have sent me supportive messages. For live policy updates and some cool photos from the Climate Summit, you can follow me on Twitter (@JDrakeHamilton). Throughout the trip I’ll also be posting regular blog posts to cover all the things that can’t quite fit into the 140 character limit of a tweet!

Climate Action at #COP21

I’m accredited by the United Nations to participate as an official observer to the Climate Summit, and with those credentials I have two weeks of access to some of the diplomats and national officials from around the globe. I’m part of the US Climate Action Network (USCAN) delegation, the US node of Climate Action Network (CAN). CAN in turn is the world’s largest network of civil society organizations, comprised of over 950 member organizations from 110 countries on every inhabited continent. I participated in a 6-hour strategy session with CAN, the Saturday before the Climate Summit began. Here’s a taste of CAN: Imagine the power of over 400 individuals, many straight from all-night travel, working collaboratively and with great thoughtfulness and savvy, discussing each major nation’s pre-summit stance on climate targets, and together identifying ways to move their decision makers to more ambitious and binding carbon reductions.

obamaKicking things off

Today about 150 Heads of State—reportedly, the largest such gathering ever to occur, and in the emergency zone that is Paris, no less—gathered at the Paris Climate Summit. President Barack Obama’s address to the Summit focused on his Clean Power Plan, the biggest action any nation has ever taken to fight global warming. He ended with “Let’s get to work,” reminding the nearly 200 nations present that the world expects big, sustained carbon reductions to come from the Summit. President Obama next is meeting here in Paris with China’s President Xi Jinping and with leaders of the Island Nations, and intends to stay engaged the entire two weeks of the Climate Summit, including engaging with other leaders by phone.

full panel tallMinnesota weighs in

This afternoon I joined colleagues from the NAACP, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and 350.org in a press conference from the Paris conference site—together, we analyzed today’s climate speech by President Obama. I described Minnesota’s experience with economic opportunities from wind and peak solar energy that is undercutting the price of fossil fuels. For Minnesota-based Xcel Energy and for Minnesota, decisions made to replace old coal-fired power plants with cheaper, cleaner energy and to grow clean energy jobs opportunities, are cheaper than business as usual. We Midwesterners know about driving economic growth as we decarbonize our electricity system, and now the rest of the world is learning from our success stories.

In the news

For more background on the trip, you can also check out Fred Melo’s great article that ran in the Pioneer Press and the Grand Forks Herald.

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