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The negotiations

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In less than three months – in December 2009 – officials from 192 countries will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to conclude an agreement that would enter into force after the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The meeting will be the culmination of a process that began in 2007, when Governments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, launched the Bali Road Map, a two-year negotiating process to design an ambitious and effective international climate change deal to follow on the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

That process includes two negotiating tracks to set commitments post-2012: (1) negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), based on the Bali Action Plan; and (2), negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol, which does not include the United States, a major greenhouse gas
emitter, as it did not ratify the Protocol. Countries agreed they would conclude negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Adding momentum to the debate were findings in several scientific reports – notably the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – that confirmed the earth’s average temperature is warming, primarily due to human activities.

An accelerated negotiating process was instituted in 2008. A stock-taking Climate Change Conference took place in Poznan, Poland, in December of that year. In 2009, three rounds of negotiations under the Bali Action Plan took place in Bonn, Germany (29 March-8 April, 1-12 June and 10-14 August). Two further sessions will be held prior to
Copenhagen: in Bangkok, Thailand (28 September – 9 October) and in Barcelona, Spain (2-6 November).

Key Issues

The Bali Action Plan is centered on four key issues — mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing – and includes discussion of a “shared vision” for long-term cooperative action and a long-term global goal for emission reductions.

Mitigation: ”Mitigation” in the context of international climate change negotiations means reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Questions have focused on how much mitigation needs to happen globally, which countries need to do it and how much it will cost. Agreeing to actions that are “measurable, reportable and verifiable” is a key

feature in the Bali Action Plan. For industrialised countries, discussion has centered on commitments for legally binding emission reductions. For developing nations, emphasis has been on determining “nationally appropriate mitigation plans” and establishing a process to register and support national actions.

Emissions trends*:

  • Between 1970 and 2004, emissions of greenhouse gases increased by 70 per cent and CO2, by far the largest source (77 per cent of total GHG emissions), has grown by about 80 per cent.
  • Without additional policies, global GHG emissions are projected to increase by 25-90 per cent by 2030, relative to 2000.
  • CO2 emissions from energy use are likely to grow by 40-110 per cent over that period.
  • Mitigation costs in 2030 would not exceed 3 per cent of global GDP.

*source: IPCC

Adaptation: The term “Adaptation” as used in the context of the international negotiations refers to supporting poor countries adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. However, it is also understood that all countries will need to adapt to climate change. Climate change has the potential to push developing countries back into the poverty trap and undo achievements to date in reaching the Millennium Development Goals. There is an urgent need for an integrated policy response to be formed in the context of national and international sustainable development priorities. Broad questions needing guidance include how to ensure immediate assistance to vulnerable nations to cope with climate change impacts, and how to raise commitment levels to ensure that adaptation receives the attention it requires in light of the scientific urgency.

Other questions have focused on the provision of “new and additional” funds – beyond voluntary contributions – to support developing countries adapt and matching national adaptation efforts with technological and financing support. There is also discussion about whether existing institutions, such as the Adaptation Fund, created under the Kyoto Protocol, should be enhanced, and whether to create an internationally funded insurance facility to help vulnerable countries deal with catastrophic climate risk.

Technology: Enhanced action on technology development and deployment, as called for in the Bali Action Plan, has figured prominently in negotiations for a post-2012 climate agreement. Issues under discussion include how to create incentives for designing low-carbon technologies and speeding diffusion of existing technologies
to developing countries; whether to create a new technology body or fund and how to resolve intellectual property rights considerations. There has been growing consensus on types of technologies needed to achieve low-cost mitigation, for example energy efficiency measures, renewable sources of energy such wind and solar energy and carbon capture and storage.

Financing: An essential part of reaching a deal in Copenhagen will involve identifying how to generate new, additional and predictable financial resources, as well as how to deploy and transfer technologies to where they are needed most. Public and private financing will be needed, with public funding especially important for those sectors in developing countries that depend on Government investment and financial flows. Discussion of an effectively regulated global carbon market also has gained traction as way to channel significant resources to developing nations.

There are many estimates of the amount of money that will be required over the coming decades to support developing countries adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change and to mitigate. Overall needs may be as high as $250 billion per annum by 2020. But starting to plug the hole right now is more important than determining its exact future size. It is quite clear that costs for both adaptation and mitigation will increase over time, and that public money will have to kick start action and lead the way. It is essential that mechanisms are put in place to allow public and private sector finance to be significantly scaled up over time so that funding for climate action in the developing world does not have to be renegotiated every year.

More information:
Published by the UN Department of Public Information – DPI/2543C – September 2009

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Read more:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The COP15 meeting in Copenhagen 7-18 December

Copyright, United Nations, UNRIC, 2009. All rights reserved.