U.N. delegates were greeted this week at the Tianjin climate talks with an unusual site — a polar bear doing tai chi. The polar bear came down to join a class of Chinese youth practicing the “art of balance.” The action by TckTckTck campaigners was a response to U.N. negotiators who some say are hiding behind a vague new catch phrase, “the balanced package,” in lieu of making real progress on preparations for a global climate treaty to be negotiated in Cancun this December.

The tai chi class caught the attention of news reporters, and TckTckTck’s campaign director and chief polar bear Paul Horsman was interviewed after the class by Xinhua, China’s largest TV news network. Horsman pointed out that we have reached a crucial tipping point in our society. The balance of nature has been thrown off, and if we are not able to make drastic reductions in the amount of CO2 emitted by the world’s biggest economies, the imbalance could become permanent with devastating affects on all of humanity.

Unfortunately at the Tianjin climate negotiations, melting glaciers may be moving faster than the negotiations as "institutional arrangements,” lengthy procedural motions, have been consuming precious time with negotiators going in circles, particularly those from the U.S. and China. China says it won’t move until the U.S. puts forth a hard target to which it will be legally bound. And the U.S. says it won’t move until China agrees to a legal framework for measurement and verification. Yesterday CAN — the Climate Action Network — held a news conference to clarify what should be in a "balanced" package:

1. Agreement on what at least can be agreed at Cancun

2. Agreement on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol
3. Agreement on key building blocks for a new legally binding treaty which includes:

  • Shared vision to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C
  • Adaptation framework to deal with the impacts of climate change
  • Technology cooperation agreement at Cancun with a dedicated committee
  • Capacity building program rolled out quickly
  • Climate fund with governance structure over fast-start money
  • Mandate in finance area – year to work out scale, sources, governance
  • Setting objectives on REDD+ so that deforestation effectively ends in 2020, based on sufficient funding to achieve this goal
  • Minimizing loopholes that are the result of flawed accounting rules for land use and forestry, double counting of carbon credits and “hot air” (surplus credits)
  • Zero Carbon Action Plans for developed countries and Low Carbon Action Plans for developing countries, to manage the transformation of their economies
Last but not least, in the area of mitigation (emissions reductions) there needs to be a sum total of 40 percent reduction from developed nations by 2020 (below 1990 levels). If developed nations cannot agree to this (highly unlikely they would) they need to acknowledge the multiple “gigaton gap” between current pledged reductions and science-based targets, and agree to a process to close this gap as they’re going forward.

If you want to see how the global rise in temperature is affected by different carbon reduction scenarios, check out the Guardian’s interactive simulator. For people who are looking for deep data on the current state of global greenhouse gas emissions, visit CAIT 7.0, a tool by WRI that models the climate commitments for each country and predicts whether they will actually keep the planet under a 2 degree C temperature rise. The UNFCC also has a nifty Google map that sorts carbon emissions by country.

NOTE: Karl is currently working with the TckTckTck campaign on the ground in China.

Polar bear does tai chi for the climate
At the UN climate talks this week in Tianjin, polar bear leads a class in Tai Chi to teach negotiators about what "balance" really means.