You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Blog Post’ category.
Yes, You’re On The Road to Paris
Let’s take the second question first. How did you find yourself on the road to Paris? Well, that’s because you’re a human being sharing in the planet’s oxygen, foodstuffs and other resources, and because you, like your other human planetary co-habitants, have ceded some of your autonomy to governments since the dawn of civilization. From that view, the 2015 Road to Paris is the effort being undertaken by all the nations in the world to take their first meaningful step together toward averting the risk of planetary environmental destabilization. It’s encouraging that this first big step looks likely to happen in 2015, because the nations of the world have been talking about the step, without taking it, since 1995.
What is this step? Essentially, it’s the world all signing on together to a insurance plan at the global level. The insurance plan hedges against the increasingly clear and present danger of climate change tipping us into a non-sustainable (for humans and most mammals, that is) future.
Before describing the Paris destination in December 2015 (and detailing the circuitous route we have been traveling since 1995 to arrive in Paris), let’s dispatch one canard forthwith: there is no certainty. The climate change discourse is all-too-often framed in the media and our daily conversations as a dialogue of the deaf between passionate proponents and equally passionate deniers. For most, the weight of scientific data — as well as their intuitive, non-scientific “felt experience” — has been clearly elevating the possibility, if not the probability, that self-reinforcing cycles of warming are being triggered as a result of the post-industrial patterns of carbon and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (see the Introductory chapter of The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans for a clear-headed discussion of our risks of overstepping nine particular boundaries that are required for maintaining human-friendly planetary balance).
Here’s the point: None of us should be talking about certainty. No environmentalist, no matter how committed, can say with certainty that we are headed toward human-triggered environmental disaster. No skeptic of climate change can say, at least not with credence, that there is zero risk. The focus needs to be on the twins facts that (a) there is clearly some risk and that (b) the consequences of inattention to, or mismanagement of, this risk are so high as to be unaffordable at every level . No general fighting for military survival can wait until all of the pertinent facts of the battlefield are known before engaging in battle. Choices have to be made, and actions taken, in the absence of perfect knowledge. I submit that we all should be able to agree — or, at least, enough of us for an effective consensus — to taking steps at the local, national and global level to mitigate this imperfectly understood risk while there is still time to do so.
So What Is ‘The Road To Paris’ in 2015 (and how did we get here)?
The ‘Road to Paris’ refers to this year’s leg of the global journey we have been on since 1995. This somewhat quixotic journey has been to try to address, as a community of nations, the risks of climate change. Since this is, by definition, a supra-national effort, this journey has been undertaken under United Nations auspices (since the United States and the other leading Allied nations coming out of World War II set up the United Nations precisely as the forum to deal with this type of supra-national, global challenge).
This being the U.N., there is some mind-numbing nomenclature and an alphabet soup of acronyms to deal with. There is also the inherent frustration embedded in dealing with the world (where, if you’re a non-diplomatically inclined person, it’s frustrating to find that people don’t latch on to what you think is the right way of doing things right away). As to the nomenclature and acronyms, I’ll just cover the three most important ones for present purposes: The framework which has governed this process since it got going in 1995 with “The Berlin Mandate” is known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or UNFCCC). The framework is carried forward through yearly conferences, sometimes at the head of state level and sometimes at the ministerial level, which are called Conference of Party meetings (or COP). Finally, the groundwork for the UNFCCC & COP meetings was originally prepared, and continues to be scientfically led, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( or IPCC). Established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organizaiton in 1988, the IPCC acts as the leading international body for the scientific assessment of climate change to guide the poltiical work of the UNFCCC and its COP meetings.
Got that? Good. It gets easier to follow the roadmap from here on in.
As mentioned, The Berlin Mandate in 1995 was the starting point for the global effort to come up with some form of global response to the emerging global threat of climate change. That led after two years of talking to high hopes at Kyoto that the world community would agree to an action plan (the so-called Kyoto Protocol). An action plan did in fact take shape but left unresolved key issues between the industrialized countries (who were being asked to underwrite most of the cost for the various action mechanisms) and developing countries (who were being asked to implement these mechanisms at possible risk to their economic growth prospects). As a result of these tensions, the U.S. Congress refused to ratify the treaty after President Clinton signed it and the Bush Administration subsequently repudiated the treaty explicitly.
Without U.S. participation, the UNFCCC bus careened around various COP destinations (Buenos Aires, Bonn, Marrakech, New Delhi, Milan, Montreal, Nairobi, Bali, Poznan, Copenhagen, Cancun Durban, Doha and Warsaw — with repeat forays to some) for the next 17 years without any fundamental resolution to the “who pays” question and without any real semblance of full global consensus emerging.
This changed on November 11, 2014 when Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping made surprise joint announcements on U.S.-China Cooperation on Climate Change and Clean Energy. This breakthrough — involving the world’s two largest economies, two largest carbon-emitters, and de-facto leaders of the two contending blocs within the UNFCCC process — was then further consolidated at the next scheduled COP meeting, scarcely a month later, in Lima, Peru (COP 20).
As a result of the November 11th breakthrough between the U.S. and China and the further COP20 institutionalization of this breakthrough on a global basis, the world community is finally on the threshold of a full consensus of action steps to take following the December 2015 heads of state COP meeting in Paris. Currently, all the countries in the world are committed to preparing their voluntary plans (based on loosely-shared parameters and metrics). Those plans are expected to be delivered in the spring of 2015 for discussion, review and fine-tuning during the remainder of the 2015 calendar year. In December, the heads of state of the world community will convene to formally agree and commit to this set of national action-plans representing the entire world community.
Conclusion (and Teaser for Next Installment)
It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. As someone who rowed crew, I’m a believer in everybody pulling their oar in the same direction even if the level of output varies. At the global level, the United Nations is far from perfect but it’s all we got (and we in the United States need to recognize that we had a disproportionate voice in making it what it is).
President Obama’s State of the Union address today will lay out some of the roadmap — past and future — which I’ve more minutely and ponderously described here. He will do so because the risk of de-stabilizing climate change perennially jostles with global terrorism at the very top of the country’s national security threat-list. He’ll do so for other reasons, though — reasons that go beyond U.S. national security interest. At the individual level of morality, we each need to think about the impact of our decisions and our actions for those we live with and for those who will follow later. At the species level (where morality does not really play a part but evolutionary survival does), it would be nice to emerge a winner — a species that figures out how to survive and, in doing so, recognizes its interdependence with the rest of the planet, sentient and non-sentient.
Having tried to do the big picture here, I’ll be back soon to focus on the U.S.-China element of this global equation. That’s the part of this formula that I have been working with since 2006. I hope that my broad brushstrokes in this piece help bring focus to understanding how important the U.S.-China piece of this global puzzle really is. Later on, I’ll get into the fine brushwork of how well Philadelphia is positioned on the global stage to play a leading role in the U.S.-China clean energy story and, by extension, the bigger global climate change story.
Philadelphia was selected today to join an economic development network created by the Global Cities Initiative (GCI) , a five-year joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase. Philadelphia’s application to, and participation in, the Global Cities Initiative is being co-led by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia.
Launched in 2012, the Global Cities Initiative helps business and civic leaders grow their metropolitan economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness. GCI activities include producing data and research to guide decisions, fostering practice and policy innovations, and facilitating a peer learning network. This network, the Global Cities Initiative’s Exchange, assists metropolitan areas as they develop plans to achieve sustainable growth through increased exports and foreign direct investment.
Philadelphia is one of eight metro areas accepted to the GCI Exchange’s 2015 group, the final cohort of the full 28-metro-area network. The Brookings Institution selected metro areas for the Exchange through a competitive process based on their readiness and commitment to pursue the Exchange’s global competitiveness principles.
In addition to Philadelphia, the other 7 members of the new and final cohort include Baltimore; Fresno, Calif.; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Salt Lake City; Seattle; and St. Louis.
The 2015 cohort joins participating municipal regions selected during the three previous years – 4 in 2012; 8 in 2013; and 8 in 2014. Those previous participating municipal regions include: Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa;Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Los Angeles; Louisville-Lexington, Ky.; Minneapolis-Saint Paul; Milwaukee;Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Diego; Syracuse, N.Y.; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Upstate S.C. representing the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson CSA; and Wichita, Kansas.
For more information on the Global Cities Initiative please visit:
The summer’s over and the new work-year has begun. No better way to kick it off than with a reprise of our summer’s big news — China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia were recognized at the annual high-level U.S.-China talks in Beijing this summer with one of six new U.S.-China EcoPartnerships. Our partner is the Tianjin Economic-technological Development Area or TEDA. Our PHL-TEDA EcoPartnership focuses on funded projects in Tianjin for smartgrid online monitoring systems (OMS), wetlands urban water management (WUWM), and green building energy efficiency (GBEE).
Front row (from right to left) China’s State Councilor Jiechi Yang , Sec of State Kerry, Amb. Baucus & Counselor to the President, John Podesta
In other posts to follow, I’ll share some more background on what the five-year old U.S.-China EcoPartnership program is (and why it matters), give thumbnails on the other five EcoPartnership awardees in 2014, and provide a listing of the twenty-four active EcoPartners since the inauguration of the program in 2014.
In the meanwhile, here are links publicizing our new three-year PHL-TEDA EcoPartnership:
Secretary Kerry remarks at July 10th EcoPartnership signing ceremony
City of Philadelphia Press Release (on City’s blog)
City of Philadelphia Press Release (on City Facebook page)
Happy Year of the Snake!
I have some major catching up to do so let me begin here with a link to my book which the Wilson Center launched on September 24, 2012. (Note: if you want to download the PDF of the book, just right-click and use the Save As option).
More 2012/3 updates to follow in rapid sequence.
Thanks for hanging in there,
This is the first of regular weekly Cooketop News blog posts (scheduled to appear each Monday).
By reviewing the previous week’s top stories involving — broadly speaking — China clean energy, the idea is to identify and comment on a particular emerging trend/issue which points forward and can help illuminate news-in-the-making for the week(s) ahead.
By radio analogy, the commentary is meant to cut through static in the general coverage of whatever’s the issue at hand and present a clear frequency and better ‘signal-processing’ for helping to tune in on an enduring news issue.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
THIS WEEK’S COMMENTARY — HUNTSMAN, REPUBLICANS & CHINA
Last week was the Iowa caucus and Tuesday of this week the New Hampshire primary. The related questions which these contests have raised are what have Jon Huntsman’s China connections and qualifications done for his campaign effort and what are the implications for China given the current crop of Republican candidates.
Let’s start with the second question. Liz Economy from the Council of Foreign Relations has done a better job than anyone at assessing the remaining field of candidates through the lens of their public positions on China. To borrow liberally from her analysis, here’s what we’re looking at:
Mitt Romney says it’s all about the economy, stupid: Mitt Romney’s China policy is all about trade measures —keeping counterfeits out, protecting intellectual property, levying sanctions against unfair trade practices, pressing China on its currency, etc. The question for an anti-“Big Government” candidate is who does all this work if not the government.
Ron Paul wants to make love, not war: Ron Paul appears to want to “go along to get along” with China: stop intrusive surveillance, reconsider the Taiwan Relations Act, drop the idea of import tariffs in retaliation for Beijing’s currency manipulation, and mute protestations over human rights issues. As Economy has put it, there’s little doubt that “candidate Paul …would be Beijing’s pick for top dog.”
Jon Huntsman is long on experience but short on traction: No surprise that the expertise in China policy is with former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. Huntsman has all his facts in line. You can agree or disagree with his specific positions — opposing a China currency bill or engaging to promote political change in China—but you have to admit he knows his stuff.
Newt Gingrich jettisons balance to keep ship afloat: Gingrich’s initial positions in the campaign were balanced and reasonable, calling on the U.S. to do the right thing and take action on the home front in order to be more competitive. As his electoral options have narrowed though, his positions appear to be veering in a more extreme direction. Stay tuned for his advertising campaign in South Carolina to see if he starts demonizing China.
With Rick Santorum, the question is ‘Where’s the beef?': Despite having a lengthy book and a Senatorial career in the public record, there’s almost nothing to go on to explain how Santorum would approach China if elected President. He did make a quote about going “to war with China” to “make America the most attractive place in the world to do business.” Huh?.
Rick Perry talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk: “Communist China is destined for the ash heap of history because they are not a country of virtues. When you have 35,000 forced abortions a day…, when you have the cyber security that the PLA has been involved with, those are great major issues both morally and security-wise that we’ve got to deal with now.” His actions? Courting Huawei, a problematic company, to invest in Texas.
So, on to the related question, what has Jon Huntsman’s Mandarin-speaking ability and Ambassadorial command of the issues meant for his election prospects? The answer, like a Rorschach, depends entirely on who you talk to. His proponents invariably cite it as a positive (see NY Times article) and his detractors cite it as a liability (see story from last Thursday below). Where’s the traction? Answer: there’s maybe some but not much.
Fault-lines have been exposed in the body politic over these questions. There’s no question that one of Ron Paul’s supporters went way, way over the line by insinuating Huntsman was questionably ‘American’ because he and his wife keep their adoptive children from China and India exposed to cultural traditions from those two civilizations, but nonetheless ideological conservatives generally seem to view his competence with China as itself a cause for suspicion.
The first generation of Mandarin competent statesmen drew heavily from the offspring of Christian missionaries who grew up in China, people like the late Ambassador James Lilley. Huntsman represents a second wave of high-level U.S. government officials who have Mandarin-competence through their two years of Mormon service abroad. (Tim Stratford, a former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China, is another example of this group of experts). The third wave will come from younger Americans who, in step with China’s opening to the world, have been able to burrow deeper into language and cultural expertise. They are making their way up the ladder of the U.S. government. I can only hope that the American electorate — and the Republican Party — can find a way to value the knowledge they bring to public service. The top rank of challenges which the U.S. faces will simply not be solved without constructive and effective engagement with China — and that requires people who understand, respect, and can operate in the sphere of Chinese language, culture and values.
(Disclosure: I have worked at various points in my career for Jim Lilley, Jon Huntsman, and Tim Stratford.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
LAST WEEK’S COOKETOP NEWS
Here’s a listing of some of the top stories covered in Cooketop News for Week 1 of 2012 (with hyperlinks):
Monday, January 2, 2012
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
‘Culture Campaign’ Dents Programming
Green Cars & Clean Energy: The China Angle
Cleaner Technology in Global Arctic Oil Race
Chinese Philanthropists Join to Protect Nature
China’s IPOs Top World’s Exchanges Despite Slump
Thursday, January 5, 2011
Air Pollution Hazardous for China’s Economic Health
Drought Drying out Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province
Rustbelt Cities Go Green to Strengthen Economies
China’s Corporate Debt Issuance Soars in 2011
Huntsman’s China Cred No Boost to his Prospects
Econ Ties to China Key Issue in Taiwan Election
Friday, January 6, 2011
10 Emerging Sustainable Cities to Watch
Solar Turbine Makers Turn to India & China
U.S. Manufacturers of Steel Wind Towers Cite China
LDK Solar Snags $64mm from PRC for U.S. Projects
China Announces Plan to Levy Carbon Tax by 2015
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
That’s it for this week. I hope you find this of some value to your own pursuits. Give me a holler — either by leaving a comment below or by email — to let me know what you think, positive or negative. For anyone with a driving passion to get each day’s edition of Cooketop News (minus the summary listing and commentary that I provide in this weekly post), you can subscribe by going to the Cooketop News site at http://paper.li/mterrycooke/1324752421 and clicking on the upper-right Subscribe button. There is also an Archive feature on the site (upper-center) which allows you to look up any previous edition.
Oh, before signing off, I owe you an answer to the question in the title. Jon Huntsman’s name in Chinese? 洪博培. (And by the way, if you try searching for the name on China’s Twitter clone — Weibo — when you’re in China, you’ll likely find the name has been blocked).
In the spirit of sharing news while it’s fresh, I’m copying verbatim a report on the gold nugget in the pile of dross that has passed for this year’s national budget process.
For those of you who took in (in person or digitally) the Philadelphia’s 21st Century Energy Opportunity event I convened with the Academy of Natural Sciences and the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies on October 11th, the win is obvious — for the City and the region, for the national effort for cleaner energy jobs and investment, and for our global engagement. For U.S./China clean energy cooperation, this budget victory also solidifies the framework of U.S./China Clean Energy Research Centers CERC) in building energy efficiency (Lawrence Berkeley Lab), electric vehicles (University of Michigan) and clean coal (University of West Virginia).
Kudos to Mark Muro and Bruce Katz for their success in keeping this ball moving down the field. Here’s the report from late yesterday afternoon.
Notwithstanding the bleak outlook surrounding federal clean energy policy detailed in our recent report “Sizing the Clean Economy,” the FY 2012 omnibus spending compromise hammered out last week actually contains several reassuring affirmations of the value of recent institutional experiments.
One winner is the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, perhaps the Department of Energy’s most popular program.
Although the program is funded at just $275 million–about half the level President Obama had requested–many will probably be relieved that the program has now survived, which hasn’t always seemed a certainty. Moreover, the deal improved on earlier bills that have circulated, suggesting that the cause of the government fomenting disruptive innovation using “outside-the-box” investments in venturesome technology ideas may be gaining traction. That’s good news.
So is another happy surprise in the deal: the authorization of two new DOE Energy Innovation Hubs, one specializing in rare earths and energy-critical materials and one for energy storage technologies. To be sure, the Obama administration had originally asked for eight of these hubs, and settled for three before this year requesting funds for three more in 2012. However, congressional appropriators weren’t convinced that there was a need for a hub focused on smart grid technologies, as reported Darius Dixon in Politico, and so the nation now has two more of them, for a total of five of these special purpose-driven, multidisciplinary centers for accelerated collaboration between corporations, universities, and government labs.
Yet we’ll take it. Having long argued that the nation has been making do with an obsolete energy research paradigm excessively oriented toward individual academic investigators, on the one hand, and the siloed and bureaucratic efforts of the DOE’s energy laboratories, on the other, it is gratifying to watch the slow but continuing rollout of a true network of well-funded, multi-sector regional innovation centers. Congress is doing the right thing by creating–hub by hub–a set of sizable new institutes charged with “winning the future” in energy technology.