Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

CFR experts examine the science and foreign policy surrounding climate change, energy, and nuclear security.

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Showing posts for "Diplomacy"

A Sticking Point for Climate Diplomacy

by Michael Levi

President Obama’s big climate change speech in late June has spurred a lot of optimistic talk about the possibility of concluding an international deal in 2015, the deadline set last year for a new climate agreement. By pursuing new regulations under existing authority, the United States could deliver on its Copenhagen promise of cutting its emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, presumably strengthening its bargaining hand. The draft 2014 U.S. Climate Change Report, released late last month, admirably reinforces the message, modeling a range of plausible policy shifts that could deliver on the 2020 goal. Read more »

Should You Pay Attention to the UN Climate Talks?

by Michael Levi

The annual United Nations (UN) climate talks are rarely a pretty sight. The typical script is fairly reliable. Negotiators typically arrive at each summit with mostly realistic goals. But diplomats and those who seek to influence them spend the first week or so ratcheting up demands and accusations, in part for leverage, but at least as much in order to make themselves look good and their adversaries appear villainous. Members of the media (if they’re paying attention) report that the talks appear set for disaster. Meanwhile, away from the spotlight, negotiators quietly hash through the substantive tasks at hand. Eventually, in the middle of the second week, higher level officials arrive. Occasionally, important differences prove impractical to resolve, and the summit collapses. Far more often, the parties cobble something modest together, apparently snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Read more »

Some Thoughts on the Doha Climate Talks

by Michael Levi

The annual United Nations climate talks got underway in Doha, Qatar on Monday.

In a piece for the CFR website, I walk through the issues on the table, and offer some thoughts on U.S. strategy. The title of the piece – “A Transitional Climate Summit in Doha” – is a pretty good summary.  After three years of high tension and high stakes summits, Doha will almost certainly be more mellow, though no climate conference would be complete without a few fireworks toward the end. Read the whole piece for more. Read more »

New Study: Lessons Learned from the 2011 Strategic Petroleum Reserve Release

by Blake Clayton

As anyone who follows the oil market knows, speculation is rife that the White House may soon decide to tap the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). Whether they will remains to be seen. But before officials in the United States and other International Energy Agency (IEA) member countries take any action, it’s crucial they weigh the lessons of last summer’s release of national oil stockpiles. Read more »

The IEA on Sudan and South Sudan

by Blake Clayton

In today’s monthly Oil Market Report (OMR), the International Energy Agency (IEA) weighed in on how it sees the recent hostilities and pipeline tariff deal between Sudan and South Sudan affecting oil production there through 2013. This is hardly an academic question. The loss of South Sudan’s oil has been one force putting upward pressure on global prices this year, and oil is critical to the economy and stability of both countries.  The IEA’s bottom line? Don’t hold your breath for things to get much better, at least in terms of oil production, despite last weekend’s encouraging developments. And plenty can still go wrong. Read more »

The Clean Energy Ministerial: What I Learned about Solar PV and Global Governance

by Michael Levi

On April 25 and 26, I had the good fortune to participate in parts of the third annual Clean Energy Ministerial (known informally as the CEM), a forum launched by U.S. Energy Secretary Steve Chu in 2010. The initiative brings together energy ministers from most G20 countries, along with a handful of others, to learn lessons from each others’ clean energy efforts, and, critically, to identify places where intergovernmental initiatives could boost the odds of success. One thing that distinguishes the forum from other international initiatives is the integral role that the private sector has played from day one. The first afternoon of the CEM was spent in a series of small public-private dialogues that brought together ministers, regulators, operators, investors, and experts in science and technology to discuss areas ranging from smart financing tools to support energy efficiency investment to integration of variable renewable sources in the grid. Read more »

From Tehran with Love

by Daniel P. Ahn

As the Iranian oil embargo begins to bite, the widespread assumption is that this should hurt Iran’s oil revenues and government budgets, hopefully inflicting enough economic pain to bring them to the bargaining table. But rather counterintuitively, some basic economics suggest Iran may have cause to thank the United States, European Union, and embargo participants for helping raise their total oil revenue! Read more »

Another Perspective on the Durban Climate Talks

by Michael Levi

I argued earlier this week that many were overreacting to the outcome from the Durban climate talks. Trevor Houser, partner at RHG and visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute, posted his own thoughtful take on the talks on the PIIE website. I’m reprinting the last part, which is in part a direct response to my earlier post, with his permission. We’re planning to follow this up with a discussion soon. Read more »

Is It Time to Move Beyond the UN Climate Talks?

by Michael Levi

It has become a tradition after the annual United Nations climate negotiations for analysts to lament the dysfunctional nature of the process, and to argue that we’d be better off cutting the talks down to the few countries that really matter. After all, the world’s twenty top greenhouse gas emitters account for north of eighty percent of global emissions. Why bother with all the extra complexity entailed in the UN talks? Read more »