Current global emissions trends show that in the last few years the emission of greenhouse gases has clearly accelerated. Without a dramatic political correction we cannot expect that the peak of global emissions could be reached by 2020 and that a stark reduction will occur thereafter. In fact, no country is currently on the necessary emissions pathway. This is evidently shown in the Germanwatch's Climate Change Performance Index 2008 where the first 3 'less emittors' ranks remained blank.
2009 will be a crucial year for climate change, with a series of tense meetings leading up to a conference in Copenhagen in December which the UN has set as the deadline for forging an agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol, the main provisions of which expire in 2012.
In COP 15 in Copenhagen (December 2009), Parties will need to come to an agreement that avoids dangerous climate change and significantly increases action on adaptation pursuant to the Bali Action Plan. This requires first and foremost, that all developed countries take on ambitious, binding commitments to reduce their own emissions. But developed countries must also deliver the technical and financial means to help developing countries decarbonize their development and adapt to climate change.
What are the main elements to a new climate deal?
In Poznań, it became clear that central actors lack the political will to actually realize this kind of wide-reaching international agreement. Now the negotiations in Copenhagen will need to show progress on the five Building Blocks of the Bali Action Plan.
2 Degrees or 1.5 Degrees?
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that the global mean temperature increase provides an important common metric for analysis of many climate change impacts associated with global warming. In highly vulnerable countries in Africa and Asia, and in small island states in the Pacific and the Carribeans, serious regional impacts are already occurring.
Speaking at the International Association of Research Universities (IARU) Climate Congress in Copenhagen, the IPCC's Chairman Rajendra Pachauri argued that a 2°C limit might not be enough to avoid dangerous climate change. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report indeed indicates that up to 2050, substantial global emission reductions by at least 50% below 1990 levels are needed with additional global emission reductions beyond 2050 towards a zero carbon economy by the end of the century.
According to the IPCC, achieving the 2 ºC target will mean stabilising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at about 445 to 490 ppm CO2-equivalents. This includes a number of greenhouse gases (not only carbon dioxide), and corresponds to about 400 ppm CO2 alone. A stabilisation at 400 ppm CO2-equivalents corresponds to about 350 ppm CO2. The 2 degrees target is also supported by Norway, Iceland and Chile.
The EU is advocating for a reduction target consistent with a temperature of no more than 2 ºC by 2020. Countries of the Alliance of Small island States (AOSIS) are campaigning for a far more ambitious target of 1.5 ºC. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) who have until now been supporting a position of staying 'below two degrees', are also reflecting on their message and whether or not to demand a 1.5 degree limit.
The EU's global temperature target of 2 ºC above pre-industrial was first established in 1996 during preparations for the Kyoto negotiations, and has been reaffirmed subsequently in various Environment Council and European Council conclusions. This limit was deduced in 1996 from the evidence available at the time, mostly from impacts studies that were assessed in the Second Assessment Report of the IPCC. However, such studies tended to look only at the impact of doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels to 550 ppm. A further consideration in setting a limit was the concern that rates of change needed to be limited to less than 0.1°C per decade in order to allow ecosystems time to adapt. The European Commission communication ‘Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 degree Celsius’ provide further and improved scientific, technical and socio-economic analyses.
According to the NASA Chief Scientist James Hansen, in order to get to the 350 ppm CO2 target put forward by Dr Hansen, the total greenhouse gas concentration will need to fall to about 400 ppm CO2-equivalents. This is at the low end of a range of stabilisation concentration possibilities and is fully compatible with the EU 2-degrees-centigrade target.
Read James Hansen Report
450 ppm or 350 ppm?
For the first time during his speech at the UNFCCC Conference in Poznań, Al Gore publicly threw his support behind a 350ppm goal which would also aim towards limiting a temperature to approximately 1.5 degrees. And the global youth representatives presented on the last day of the conference a pledge signed by 80 countries, stating that the survival of every country is not negotiable, i.e. we must make our global climate targets ambitious enough to ensure the survival of all nations and all peoples.
Annex I mitigation commitments and non-Annex I mitigation actions are different in nature. In the first case, developed countries must reduce their emissions to comply with their quantified targets. In the second case, developing countries, implementing nationally appropriate mitigation actions in the context of sustainable development, will seek to reduce the rate of emissions growth. Different types of mitigation actions are appropriate for different developing countries; respecting the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and equity, and acknowledging different national circumstances. Binding Measurable Reportable and Verifiable (MRV) mitigation support from developed countries is essential.
Developed countries have great scope for substantial emissions reductions, replacing dependence on fossil fuels with energy generated from clean and sustainable sources. Demande of energy can also be dramatically be curbed by increasing the efficiency with which it is used.
The EU itself describes its mitigation potential as 'large'. Although the EU's energy intensity per unit GDP is lower than the OECD average and is considerably lower than that of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Canada and the USA, there is huge scope to improve efficiency economy-wide and to introduce renewable energy on a large scale. The EU's energy demand continues to grow, 4% overall from 1990-2005. The greatest investments in new capacity has been in natural gas. Public electricity and heat production has increased 6% from 1990-2005. Road transport is the biggest contributor, accounting for the greatest growth.
Non Annex-I Countries
The leading role of ever more developing countries in pushing for a very strong global target shows their frustration at, firstly, the deny tactics of industrialized countries, but secondly also at the reserved behaviour of the large emerging economies (particularly India, in part China) regarding the setting of their own mitigation commitments.
Brazil proposed that the AWG-LCA establishes criteria to define and ensure comparability regarding mitigation efforts of Kyoto Annex I Parties and non-Kyoto Annex I Parties in order to set clear boundaries to position Annex I countries within an institutional framework that is adequate to their level of development and their capacity to cope with climate change.
It says developed countries have their infrastructure in place and the essential needs of their societies fully satisfied while developing countries do not and therefore face the challenge and extra burden of combining economic growth and mitigation actions.
In Brazil's view, what must be measured, reported and verified, in the case of Annex I countries, is the extent to which emission limitation and reduction complies with a quantified emission limitation and reduction objective. On the other hand, what will be measured, reported and verified, in the case of non-Annex I countries, is implementation of sustainable development actions that reduce the rate of emissions growth.
More pronounced climate change impacts on most sectors of the economy and on natural resources are projected to occur even if emissions of GHG are reduced dramatically. Adaptation strategies are therefore requires, in addition to mitigation strategies. Adaptation means policies, practices and projects which can either moderate environmental damage and/or, in some specific cases, exploit opportunities associated with climate change.
At the EU level, the need to prepare for and adapt to the consequences of inevitable climate change impacts has been highlighted in the Environment Council of 2005. Because of the complex nature of the issue, the second phase of the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP II) includes a work programme on adaptation. Many countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany or Switzerland have already taken measures to prevent natural hazard and manage their resources sustainably. Many of these measures concern the reduction of the risk of desertification and salinisation, or improving the efficiency of irrigation systems in their agriculture.
Funding to climate change activities is available through conventional channels such as bilateral, regional and multilateral channels.
Climate change has an impact that varies enormously worldwide. The financial needs to cope with its consequences thus also need to be proportional to the needs.
The Convention and the Protocol therefore foresee financial assistance from Parties with more resources to those less endowed and more vulnerable. Developed country Parties (Annex II Parties) shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties implement the Convention. To facilitate this, the Convention established a financial mechanism to provide funds to developing country Parties.
The Parties to the Convention assigned operation of the financial mechanism to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) on an on-going basis, subject to review every four years. The financial mechanism is accountable to the COP, which decides on its climate change policies, programme priorities and eligibility criteria for funding, based on advice from the SBI.
The Kyoto Protocol also recognizes, under its Article 11, the need for the financial mechanism to fund activities by developing country Parties.
In addition to providing guidance to the GEF, Parties have established three special funds:
||the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF)
||Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), under the Convention;
||and the Adaptation Fund (AF), under the Kyoto Protocol.
While international climate effort has so far focused predominantly on mitigation, i.e. on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent dangerous climate change, much effort, if not more, is nedded to deal with adaptation, i.e. coping with those impacts that cannot be avoided.
The Adaptation Fund
Poznań saw some improvements in the area of adaptation. The Adaptation Fund was made ready for implementation and although it is only provided with relatively little money at this stage, it is expected to pave the way to a much larger financial architecture in the Copenhagen Agreement. An agreement was also made on the legal form of the fund. Its modalities have been subject to many suggestions - among which those of the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative -, which will be taken into account in the future negotiation texts, as they appear in the Assembly Text drafted by Chairs.
How to progress on this issue?
It is identified that much effort needs to be done on the technology side of the negotiations in order to help developing countries face their mitigation potential. In Chapter 34 of Agenda 21 of the Rio Declaration, the principle of technology transfer is identified as not just the transfer or sale of equipment but must include accompanying transfer of skills and know-how, information and data, and financing, so as to enable the recipient to use, adapt and reproduce technologies for both the domestic and export markets. Under Article 4.5 of the Convention, the developed country Parties and other developed Parties included in Annex II shall take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly to developing countries to enable them to implement the provisions of the Convention.
In that sense, the needs are expressed in terms of transfer of resources to developing countries, and creation of conditions to see clean technologies flourish in the developing world.
Many issues are at stake, in the technology transfer debate, such as:
||The establishment of a dedicated Technology Cooperation Mechanism under the authority of the UNFCCC COP
||The establishment of a dedicated technology Fund or Window, appointed by, and under the authority of the UNFCCC COP
||The establishment of a mechanism or process, under the technology cooperation mechanism for managing patents and related intellectual property to ensure both innovation and access.
The G77 + China proposal
The most ambitious proposal that has been made to improve technology transfers between developed and developing countries so far is the so-called 'G77 plus China proposal'. It concerns a technology mechanism in principle, and particularly the new technology mechanism under the UNFCCC and technology fund or window under the UNFCCC.
The EU has not shown much willingness in Poznań to engage in discussing the G77 plus China proposal, and it has not put a better alternative on the table. The main thrust of the EU submission has been the scale-up of bilateral and voluntary cooperation.
In the mandate of the Bali Action Plan of 2007, the scale of climate protection measures in the emerging economies and developing countries was made contingent upon the scale of this cooperation. The difficult negotiations on financing cast their first shadows on the future process. The developing countries did not succeed in pushing through negotiations on additional financing for the adaptation fund for the period up to 2012. Likewise, they failed to anchor in the closing statement 'a willingness to negotiate' on a large-scale finance mechanism for the period after 2012.
Indeed, many industrialized countries remain unwilling to seriously negotiate on the reduction of their emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020, compared to 1990. Positive exceptions in this regard were the European Union, Norway and Switzerland.
Some non-Annex I countries negotiators expressed their disappointment very strongly. Prodipto Ghosh, negotiator for India for 12 years, said "I must say this is one of the saddest moments I have witnessed in all these years". He further claimed: "In the face of the unbearable human tragedy that we in the developing countries see unfolding every day this is nothing but callousness". Some observers however note that the the strategic approach of developing countries was extremely weak, and some even suspected that this strategy was deliberately aimed at failure in order to be able to raise the pressure on this issue before Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen have a chance to set up an international regime aiming at dramatically reducing emissions in both developed and developing countries, in particular China and India. The USA, the EU, Australia and others also need to find the way towards a new green deal, i.e. a decarbonization of their economies. Investing in energy efficiency, renewable energies and public infrastructures could bring about much progress. It could spur the economy, hence creating new green jobs and sustainable development. In times of energy crisis, this could enhance energy security, and hence contribute to appeasing some tensions with the world more ressourced countries.
The limiting of global temperature increase to as far below 2°C as possible would become thereby practically unachievable.
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Souces: UNFCCC Website, Europa, Reports, Germanwatch Report ' Between Poznań and Copenhagen: the climate train in the 'Valley of Death'