Talks at Bonn
Justin Van Der Horn
As precursors to the upcoming Copenhagen conference in December, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has scheduled four climate change talks. The first two talks were held in March and June in Bonn, Germany and the remaining two will be held in Bangkok in September and Barcelona in November.
The first Bonn round in late March launched the negotiations, and during the most recent round, draft papers were reviewed and debated. The papers were presented by the Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) as well as by member parties to the meeting. Little progress was made on the draft texts, which may or may not form the basis of a future Copenhagen Protocol, a highly contested possibility [i]. The two draft ‘non-papers’ presented by the chair of the AWG-KP focused on individual and aggregate commitments of Annex I parties beyond the Kyoto Protocol, but the main conclusion was that a document should be redrafted based on the Bonn discussions for the next AWG-KP meeting [ii]. In other words, the drafts were effectively rejected.
The AWG-LCA chair’s draft legal document was divided into three parts. It addressed amendments to the Kyoto protocol, related climate issues, and the implementation of the Bali Action Plan: a 2007 UN agreement that calls for long-term cooperative action on climate change mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology, and established the two-year negotiation path that will climax in Copenhagen this December [iii, iv].
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC secretariat, highlighted four negotiating points critical to the progress and success of AWG-LCA talks:
The few targets that industrialized countries have announced relative to the first point fall far below the necessary 25-40% reductions under 1990-levels by 2020 that the IPCC deems necessary to prevent “potentially disastrous effects of climate change.” [vi]
Japan announced a commitment to a 15% reduction below 2005 levels. In real terms, this equates to an 8-9% reduction under 1990-levels by 2020. Since Japan has already pledged to reduce emissions 6% by 2012 under Kyoto, this additional promise only amounts to a 2% cut between 2012 and 2020 [vii]. At the beginning of the negotiations, Japan was expected to set an example with its emissions cuts considering its role as host of the 1997 Kyoto negotiations. Instead, Japan emerged as the prime example of weak promises made by rich nations at Bonn.
The US has not yet announced a reduction commitment, reminiscent of its failure to act under Kyoto. However, climate legislation has recently passed through the House of Representatives. If the American Clean Energy and Security Act becomes law, it could amount to emissions roughly 3% below 1990-levels by 2020 according to WRI estimates.
The EU also falls short of the IPCC recommendations despite committing to the largest cuts: 20% below 1990-levels and provisionally 30% if other developed nations commit to similar cutbacks [viii].
Little progress was made on the other critical negotiating points, as underlying divisions between industrialized and developing nations on climate change mitigation remained an issue. For instance, China announced that it will not agree to a mandatory cap on emissions, citing the primary importance of raising its citizens out of poverty [ix]. China’s decision presents a considerable challenge as it is one of the largest contributors to global emissions and is viewed as a leader by developing nations in the negotiations.
Characteristic of other developing nations, China continues to press rich nations to share green technology, provide financing, and make the largest emissions reductions [x]. Nevertheless, industrialized nations still fall far short of the demands for 40-45% reductions made by many developing countries, including a majority of the G-77, small island developing states (SIDS), and Latin American and African nations [xi].
Since negotiators have been unable to reach consensus on viable solutions to the divide between industrialized and developing nations or the method and management of financing, the Bonn talks underscored these issues as road blocks to success in Copenhagen.
To provide fresh and ‘fair’ solutions to those road blocks, a consortium of NGOs presented an alternative blueprint for a legally binding Copenhagen agreement [xii]. Its treaty tackles the issue of financing by planning a system of grants, insurance, and compensation packages for those countries most vulnerable to climate change. Negotiators from 192 states received the 160 page benchmark document with treaty-ready solutions for avoiding unacceptable risk levels identified by international scientists [xiii].
The consortium (including the WWF, Greenpeace, and other international organizations) suggests a “Copenhagen Climate Treaty” with three parts. The first part updates the Kyoto Protocol by strengthening Annex-1 (industrialized country) obligations. The second outlines a “Copenhagen Protocol” that expands on Kyoto by legally binding the US and by forming a low-carbon development path for developing nations which would be supported by wealthier nations. Finally, it lays the groundwork for the next 3 years in advance of the Kyoto Protocol’s expiration [xiv].
As talks continue in advance of Copenhagen, greater insight will be gained into what the official treaty will contain and which countries will play leading roles in mitigating climate change. Advancements in discussions can be followed via the UNFCCC, environmental NGO organizations, and the mainstream media.
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