January 21, 2010

After Copenhagen: What Role for Transportation in Global Climate Policy?

by Michael Replogle, ITDP

The science remains unequivocal. Humans need to take rapid action to slow global warming that is caused by our burning of fossil fuels, or face a climate catastrophe.

Although disappointing and lacking in global scope, the accord from the December Copenhagen climate meeting laid a foundation for future progress on comprehensive binding limits for post-2012 greenhouse gas emissions. The four largest developing country carbon emitters—China, India, Brazil, and South Africa—agreed for the first time to list voluntary carbon limits, with third-parties verifying that agreed upon cuts are being made. The U.S. joined many other developed countries in agreeing to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to help poor countries cope with global warming.

That accord makes it more likely President Obama can win U.S. adoption of cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. Proposed House and Senate climate bills would cut emissions and foster new domestic and global low-carbon economic development while spurring more climate-friendly U.S. transportation plans.

The next accord must do far more to ensure transportation is a core part of climate change policy. Less than one percent of climate-related funding under the Kyoto Protocol has gone to transportation, although the sector is the fastest growing source of emissions and accounts for 23 percent of global energy-related CO2 pollution.

Negotiations over coming months will be crucial to success at the next global climate summit in Mexico City in late 2010. Key issues include verification and crediting of emission reductions, appropriate emission limits, technology transfer, and financial support for climate adaptation and mitigation by developing countries. Climate Works and other Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) partners will remain fully engaged.

At the Copenhagen meeting, ITDP and its partners organized several meetings where delegation leaders from Costa Rica, France, and Korea, among others, voiced concern that effective action will require explicit recognition of transportation’s large and growing role in climate change, just as agriculture and forestry have recently gained special attention in the climate negotiations.

Ko Sakamoto and Holger Dalkman of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) reported on ITDP-sponsored research on the relationship between transportation and carbon finance and ways of ensuring global climate agreements support sustainable transportation. Michael Replogle spoke on work that ITDP is doing for the Asian Development Bank and UN Environment Program to evaluate climate impacts of transportation initiatives, and on sustainable transport strategies for low-carbon development.

To advance its climate policy agenda in the coming year, ITDP will continue to work closely with the “Partnership for Sustainable Low Carbon Transport” (SLoCaT), which has over 45 members, including the Asian, African, and Inter-American Development Banks and several UN agencies. ITDP will also work with TRL, the International Union of Public Transport Authorities (UITP), the Agency for German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Viola Transport, and International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) as part of the “Bridging the Gap,” campaign focused on recognizing transportation in climate policy.

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