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Hints from Panama and Beyond: We Can Climate Change Negotiations Accomplish at COP17 in Durban, South Africa?

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NRDC's Jake Schmidt discusses expectation for climate change negotiations at the upcoming COP17 conference in Durban, South AfricaThe following article is reposted from Jake’s NRDC blog “Switchboard.”
This is part of a three-part series on the state of the global warming negotiations in the lead-in to the Ministerial meeting in Durban, South Africa this December.  This post—Part 3— covers “what really matters” – actions on the ground.  Part 1 outlined the state of negotiations on the key political issues that will dominate the overall narrative in Durban – the “fate of the Kyoto Protocol” and “where are we headed”.  Part 2 outlines the state of play on the implementation of the Cancun Agreements.

Developed and developing countries that account for over 80% of the world’s global warming pollution have made international commitments to reduce their emissions.  So we are done right?  Think again.  After all, what really matters is whether countries follow through with those commitments by implementing new laws, policies, and incentives to significantly reduce their emissions.  While most of the commitments from Copenhagen and Cancun are to be met in 2020, we are already seeing some signs of action by key countries (and some emerging questions).  No one is waiting for “the final global agreement” before they act.  Here are some examples.

The United States committed to reduce its emissions to 17% below 2005 levels in 2020 and has continued to stand behind that commitment.  To help reduce emissions the Obama Administration has begun implementing new policies and is required by law to implement additional policies which will shape the trajectory of US emissions. For example:

Will these actions and others get the U.S. to 17% below 2005 levels in 2020?  The general conclusion from recent analysis finds that: emissions will be below 2005 levels for the next 15 years and could be reduced even further if the Administration implemented EPA and other rules in a strong fashion.  But important decisions on power plants and tar sands in the next couple of months will shape the answer to this question.

China committed to reduce its greenhouse gas intensity by 40-45% below 2005 levels in 2020.  The Government has continued to move forward with actions to meet this objective and build a more low carbon economy.  For example:

A recent analysis concluded that China is on track to meet or exceed its target in 2020 if these measures are fully implemented.  All signs show that China will continue to implement measures to shift its economy towards lower carbon sources of economic growth but continued regulations, incentives, and political commitment are critical to helping deliver on these commitments.  Will these and other measures help to address China’s growing coal use and emissions?    

European Union has committed to reduce its emissions by 20-30% below 1990 levels in 2020.  At this stage they have domestic laws and policies to reduce their emissions to 20% below 1990 levels in 2020.  For example:

In the EU there is an intense debate about whether, and under what conditions, the EU should strengthen its target to 30% below 1990 levels.  Signs are emerging that this debate could be finalized early next year as a number of countries and business officials are urging the EU to strengthen its target.  Will the EU make the move?

Brazil has a commitment to reduce emissions growth by 36-39% below business-as-usual levels by 2020—to below 2000 levels.  In December 2010 that target was translated into national law.  In addition, Brazil committed to cut deforestation by 80% by 2020.  Brazil has made significant progress in reducing its deforestation over the past few years.  Over the past 5 years the deforestation rate has been cut by 67% putting it on a strong track to meet its deforestation reduction commitment.  Unfortunately there has been a recent uptick in deforestation rates from the previous years.  And an effort to undermine the Forest Law has raised strong concerns about the ability of Brazil to continue reducing its deforestation rates.  Will Brazil avoid undermining the Forest Law and continue the downward trend of its deforestation rates?  With the country hosting the next Earth Summit in June 2012, it is even more critical that Brazil put its best foot forward and avoid undermining its efforts to combat deforestation.

By Durban, other countries like Australia and South Korea could be much farther along in enshrining significant domestic laws to curb their global warming pollution.  Both are poised to pass new laws by Durban which would further enshrine their actions.  Will other countries – such as Japan and South Africa have new actions by then?

Other signs of hope have emerged, but much more needs to be done.  Since 2004, new investments in renewable energy throughout the world increased by 539%.  As a result, non-fossil electricity accounted for more than 50% of the new capacity added in 2010.  Similar positive trends have emerged in global deforestation where the rate has declined by 39% since 2000.

But we know that these individual actions and global trends aren’t sufficient to addressing global warming.  Much more will have to be done over the coming months and years.  Countries will have to continue to implement changes to their laws, policies, and incentives in order to reduce their global warming pollution.  And we’ll need to create new financial and political incentives for countries to take the next steps and deepen their actions.

The meeting in Durban is about creating global institutions to help address the challenge (see Part 1 and Part 2).  But what happens in Durban isn’t sufficient as the real test will be what actions are taken on the ground.  After all, the atmosphere doesn’t respect pledges and promises – only actions will do.

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Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter). And help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

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  1. I would like to explain what people refer to as “The Gospel” or “Good News”. In this explanation, I will discuss God’s grace, which unfortunately so many people do not understand or have never been clearly explained.

    Unfortunately, many people attend a Christian church regularly (or attended one in the past) but have never been clearly taught what the Bible stresses as the most important decision that one could ever make. It is only in making this decision that one actually becomes one of God’s children and is “saved” from His eternal judgment. This decision deals with what is referred to as “The Gospel”. If you have never heard “The Gospel” before, here it is. Around 33 AD, Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, paid the price for every single person’s sin in history by dying the death of crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. He willingly died for every person’s sin that has ever lived and every will live. That includes both you and me. He willing died a death that we deserve for our moral failures in life. Jesus was brutally beaten, whipped, mocked, spit upon, nailed to a wooden cross, and then died. Three days later, He rose from the dead, as He foretold His disciples (group of followers). Jesus then ascended into heaven forty days later. He currently lives with God, His father, in heaven today. During Old Testament times (times prior to the birth of Jesus Christ – B.C.), people had a keen awareness of their moral guilt, as any honest person still does today. I know that I have wronged many people and have felt a deep-seated guilt within many areas of my life. Many people during Old Testament times sacrificed animals to God as a form of limited atonement for their immoral actions. God often accepted these sacrifices, but only in a temporary and limited way. Over time, God changed this extremely limited form of atonement, as He had planned from the very beginning of time. Moreover, God sent His one and only son Jesus Christ down to the Earth. Since Jesus was both sinless and blameless, He willingly died on the cross as an unlimited atonement. It was in God’s will for His son to die in this way. This unlimited atonement is available to any person who whole-heartedly repents of their sins (moral failures) and then asks God to personally apply Jesus’ undeserved death and resurrection as a payment for their sins. It is imperative here that one believes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was ultimately an act of God’s grace. God did not have to offer an escape from our moral guilt and eternal punishment. However, God is gracious. He has a compassion and love for people that is indescribable. God wants to “wipe the slate” clean for us, in regards to our moral failures. Through this action, we could then enter a personal relationship with His son Jesus Christ and escape his eternal judgment. The Bible refers to moral failures as ‘sin’, or missing the mark of God’s perfect standard of morality. “Sin” is an ancient archery term for an arrow that missed the target. God is loving in the purest sense of the word and would like to grant us victory over the sins that still haunt us from our past. All we have to do is accept this gift of grace from Him. It is free.

    God promises us a way to become morally blameless and gain entrance into heaven after living our physical live here on Earth. Here is what we must willingly do on our part. First off, we must truly believe that God is gracious and extended His grace by allowing His one and only son to die as a ransom for our sins on the cross. We must admit to God that we have failed morally during our lifetime and that Jesus Christ’s brutal death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could ever forgive our sins. After making this decision (accepting God’s grace), we are immediately forgiven of all past, present, and future sins. In addition, we would be guaranteed entrance into heaven after our physical death here on Earth. We would then live with both God and His son Jesus forever. We would be guaranteed to see all of our loved ones who had made this decision during his or her physical lives on Earth.

    You could make this decision today. Please do not wait for the “perfect time”. You could ask God for eternal forgiveness through applying the death and resurrection of Jesus to your life within the quietness of your bedroom tonight. This is the most important decision that you will ever make.

    So you might be asking, “Where in the Bible does it explain what has just been summarized?” Here are some passages clearly stating that Jesus seeks a personal relationship with us:

    “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
    – Romans 10:9-10

    “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; “
    – Acts 3:19

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
    – John 3:16

    As long as you repent of your past sins (moral failures) from the heart, confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and apply Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross as a payment for your sins, you are guaranteed eternal life with God in heaven. You can make this decision at any time, anywhere. You can make this decision alone with God or within a group setting.

    Please know that one cannot sit the fence on making this decision of accepting God’s gift of grace. If one chooses not to decide, he or she has still made a choice. This would be like receiving a check (hearing “The Gospel”) but never endorsing and cashing it in at the bank (personally applying Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection towards one’s sins).

    “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
    – John 3:18

    The result of not choosing to accept Gods gift of grace, which offers eternal life with both Him and Jesus in heaven is clear. You will live the remainder of your life here on Earth apart from Jesus Christ and His empowerment. You will then follow your life plan and not His plan for you. After you physically die, you will then be brought to a dark place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. It is a place of eternal regret. Here, you will remember this very letter and how you were told the truth but chose not to repent and begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. You could be diagnosed with a terminal illness tomorrow or be the recipient of a head-on collision while returning home on that all too familiar, two-lane highway this Friday night. If you are considering starting your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, please do not wait to make this decision. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

    The following passage outlines the only requirements Jesus Christ has set to both gain eternal life and begin a personal relationship with Him while you are still alive here on Earth. He makes it crystal-clear in the Bible what is required…

    “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
    – Romans 10:9-10

    God has a plan for your life. You can watch this plan unfold once you accept His gift of grace. This great plan involves your life experience while here on Earth and continues after your physical death on into heaven.

    “For I know the plans that I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
    – Jeremiah 29:11-13

    Please consider what I have said here. I am not sure if you have ever made this decision before, but I needed to make sure that you had the facts. If you should decide that you want to learn more about the life of Jesus and gain a better understanding of authentic Christianity, I strongly recommend reading the book of John within the Bible (NASB or NIV translation).

    In closing, here is a verse that someone once shared with me that finally brought me into a relationship with God during an extremely low point physically and emotionally. The understanding of Jesus’ desire to know me personally changed my life forever. Here it is:

    “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
    – Revelation 3:20

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