Climate Dilemma will be on hiatus for approximately six months, due to work commitments.

If you wish to read more about climate change, mathematics, and stuff, below are some publications:

  • Wood, P. J. 2004. Wavelets and Hilbert Modules. Journal of Fourier Analysis and Applications 10 (6). pp. 593-598
  • Robins, V., Wood, P.J., and Sheppard, A. P. 2010. Theory and algorithms for constructing discrete Morse complexes from grayscale digital images. Accepted January 2010 in IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence.
  • Wood, P. J., and Jotzo, F. 2011. Price floors for emissions trading. Energy Policy 39 (3). pp. 1746-1753.
  • Wood, P. J. 2011. Climate Change and Game Theory. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1219. pp. 153-170

This post first appeared on East Asia Forum.

The negotiators at Cancún are currently trying to negotiate a ‘balanced package’ – also known as a ‘six-pack’ – that combines progress on mitigation, transparency (measurement, reporting and verification – or MRV), adaptation, finance, technology, and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). The Mexicans are extremely determined to get some sort of outcome from the conference – both for the climate and for multilateral negotiations. They so far seem to have been quite confident in the way that they have facilitated the negotiations, and there seems to be much more trust in the Mexicans from Parties than there was for the Danes last year.

What is uncertain is how ‘good’ the decisions will be – in terms of criteria such as ambition (including capacity to ramp up ambition later), efficiency and equity; how detailed the decisions would be; and whether there is sufficient consensus to get a package of decisions at all. Different Parties are interested in progress on different elements of the six-pack, so the total level of progress will be determined by whatever element has the least progress. For example, the United States requires progress on mitigation and transparency in order to support progress on adaptation, finance, technology and REDD+.

There are two tracks to the negotiations: one track is focused on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol for ‘Annex I parties’ (which consists of developing countries, but does not include many countries that could be considered ‘developed’ such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore); the other track is focused on implementing the Bali Action Plan – that covers the six-pack described above. Developing countries (including China) have stated that for an agreement, they require progress on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. There could be progress on ‘technical’ aspects of the Kyoto Protocol – such as new gases, surplus emission allocations, and accounting for forest management. But Japan has now stated clearly what many have already known – that they do not intend to inscribe their target into the second commitment period. If this issue is not resolved, it could cause a potential deal to unravel.

Below is a summary of where things are at in the six-pack:

  • On mitigation, key questions are how to anchor pledges that were part of the Copenhagen accord, and what could be done later to increase ambition. Points of contention include how developed country commitments relate to the Kyoto Protocol and the nature of developing country commitments. China has said that it would submit its emission reductions as a binding UN resolution – but this is conditional on progress on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol. Todd Stern has described China’s announcement as nothing new.
  • There is some information on transparency in the negotiating text, but the United States want more detail. The Indian Environment Minister Jayram Ramesh has put forward a proposal, but it is uncertain how much support there is for it from major developing countries.
  • On adaptation, there is relatively clean text. But some countries (including Saudi Arabia) want adaptation to be linked to ‘response measures’, which essentially means that as well as assisting countries with adapting to the effects of climate change, oil exporting countries would somehow be compensated for lost fossil fuel revenue.
  • On finance, a major point of debate has been the establishment of a fund, that was called for as part of the Copenhagen Accord. Some countries wanted it established at Cancún, but others argue that time will be needed to set it up and that it should instead be set up in the period between Cancún and the negotiations next year in Durban, South Africa. Areas of discussion include the transitional committee to set it up, the operating entity of the fund, and its relationship to the World Bank. Australia’s Minister Combet has been involved with consultations on finance.
  • On technology, there is clean text, but the United States is likely to block progress if they do not see progress on other issues.
  • The text on REDD+ is largely complete, with most of the remaining areas of disagreement (mainly on the role of market mechanisms) expressed as clear options.

The Mexican Foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, stated on Wednesday December 8 that an ambitious and broad package of decisions is within reach but we no not have it in our grasp. We are now in the final stage of negotiations, where the final political issues need to be resolved, and negotiators may not get much sleep. If nearly 200 countries can come up with an ambitious and broad package of decisions, it will be a major success in diplomacy that could rejuvenate the UN process.

According to Google Trends. I guess it might have something to do with COP 15.

Amount of searches involving 'climate change'

Here is a summary of what happened at the December 9 meeting of the contact group on Annex I Parties’ emission reductions (aggregate/individual). Of particular interest was the discussion of the nature of Russia’s possible increased commitment, complaints from developing countries about conditional commitments having conditions related to the rest of the negotiation process, and a presentation from the EU on how a 30% aggregate reduction from Annex I countries could work, but how this would be undermined by permits being carried over from the first Kyoto commitment period, or a perverse LULUCF outcome.

There is coverage of the Contact Group on ‘numbers’ in the Earth Negotiation Bulletin. The particular bulletin covering this meeting is here.

At the same time as this meeting was happening, the COP Plenary was having a lively discussion on a proposal from Tuvalu for a strong legally binding treaty. The establishment of a contact group to discuss this proposal was blocked by Saudi Arabia, India, China, and some other oil exporting countries.


Climate Dilemma is in Copenhagen, and there will be updates on the progress of the UNFCCC negotiations on this website. With more bikes than cars, and none of the cyclists being in a hurry, Copenhagen is a quite civilised city. There is quite a bit of interest in the upcoming negotiations, and today there were many children demonstrating in the streets – an important reminder of the significance of climate change for future negotiations.

The Children of Copenhagen Demonstrating about Climate Change

Today I gave a talk at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, on Climate Change and Game Theory. The slides are here.

Spaghetti Code

Over dinner I was contemplating the similarities between software architecture and legal architecture. After all — reading something like the Waxman-Markey Bill or the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation is very much like reading source code. Then it dawned on me — in the field of software development, there is a way of describing the climate architecture that is being discussed in the UNFCCC negotiations. It is called a big ball of mud. Wikipedia describes it as follows:

In computer programming, a big ball of mud is a system or computer program that appears to have no distinguishable architecture. It usually features other anti-patterns.

Here is a definition:

A Big Ball of Mud is a haphazardly structured, sprawling, sloppy, duct-tape-and-baling-wire, spaghetti-code jungle. These systems show unmistakable signs of unregulated growth, and repeated, expedient repair. Information is shared promiscuously among distant elements of the system, often to the point where nearly all the important information becomes global or duplicated. The overall structure of the system may never have been well defined. If it was, it may have eroded beyond recognition. Programmers with a shred of architectural sensibility shun these quagmires. Only those who are unconcerned about architecture, and, perhaps, are comfortable with the inertia of the day-to-day chore of patching the holes in these failing dikes, are content to work on such systems.

A big ball of mud is the architecture you get when there is no architecture. This is why the legal architecture of a post-2012 framework is so important.

My submission to the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy is here. Here is the abstract:

This submission is on the Australian Government’s Exposure Draft Legislation for the implementation the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), and Australia’s climate policy in general.

This submission is primarily concerned with two issues. Firstly we shall look at the issue of achieving international cooperation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We shall examine how this relates to the targets in the CPRS, and the approach for choosing targets, based on “scheme caps and gateways”. This relates to items (1) (c) and (1) (d) of the terms of reference.

Secondly we examine the issue of what is the best instrument for a carbon price signal. We conclude that an emission trading scheme with a “price floor” is the most appropriate policy for Australia. This relates to items (1) (a) and (1) (d) of the terms of reference.

Summary of Recommendations

We have two key recommendations.

  1. To not set a lower bound for Australia’s emissions after 2015. We therefore recommend the removal of paragraphs 2(b) and 3(b) from Section 15 of the Exposure Draft Legislation.
  2. To introduce a floor in the carbon price. The price floor could be implemented by either altering Section 129 of the Exposure Draft Legislation, or by altering Section 103 of the Exposure Draft Legislation.

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