Monday, December 15, 2008

Climate Conference Ends With New Commitments Despite Economy

Dec 12: According to a release from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) and the 4th Meeting of the Parties (CMP 4) in Poznań, Poland ended with "a clear commitment from governments to shift into full negotiating mode next year" in order to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. UNFCCC indicated that progress was made in the area of technology with the endorsement of the Global Environment Facility’s “Poznań Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer”. The aim of that program is to scale up the level of investment by levering private investments that developing countries require for both mitigation and adaptation technologies.

The President of the conference, Polish Minister of the Environment Maciej Nowicki said, “We will now move to the next level of negotiations, which involves crafting a concrete negotiating text for the agreed outcome. Parties agreed that a first draft of the text would be available at a UNFCCC gathering in Bonn in June of 2009. In addition to having agreed [on] the work programme for next year, we have cleared the decks of many technical issues. Poznań is the place where the partnership between the developing and developed world to fight climate change has shifted beyond rhetoric and turned into real action. In that spirit, at Poznań, the finishing touches were put to the Kyoto Protocol’s adaptation fund, thereby enabling the fund to receive projects in the course of 2009. Parties agreed that the fund (Clean Development Mechanism, CDM), fed by a share of proceeds from the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism and voluntary contributions, would have a legal capacity granting developing countries direct access."

However, the release indicates that the Parties were unable to reach consensus on scaling up funding for adaptation by agreeing to put a levy on the other two Kyoto mechanisms, Joint Implementation and Emissions Trading. Together with decisions aimed at streamlining and speeding up the CDM, Parties asked the CDM Executive Board to explore procedures and methodologies that would enhance regional and sub-regional distribution of projects. Parties also asked the Board to assess the implications of including carbon capture and storage projects and extending the eligibility criteria for afforestation and reforestation projects.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC indicated that a key event at the conference was a ministerial round table on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action on climate change. He said, “Governments have sent a strong political signal that despite the financial and economic crisis, significant funds can be mobilized for both mitigation and adaptation in developing countries with the help of a clever financial architecture and the institutions to deliver the financial support. We now have a much clearer sense of where we need to go in designing an outcome which will spell out the commitments of developed countries, the financial support required and the institutions that will deliver that support as part of the Copenhagen outcome."

The release states that countries meeting in Poznań made progress on a number of issues that are important in the short run - up to 2012 - particularly for developing countries, including adaptation, finance, technology and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. In addition , the conference discussed in detail the issue of disaster management, risk assessment and insurance, essential to help developing countries cope with the inevitable effects of climate change.

Governments meeting under the Kyoto Protocol agreed that commitments of industrialized countries post-2012 should principally take the form of quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives, in line with the type of emission reduction targets they have assumed for the first commitment period of the protocol. In addition to the major COP/CMP meeting in Copenhagen (December 7-18, 2009), at least four other significant UNFCCC meetings will take place next year -- the first two in Bonn, Germany (March 29-April 08, and June 1-12 ) and a third in August/September.

In the listing of 13 specific items from the ministerial round table meeting, item 13 indicates, "Participants at the round table voiced their resounding commitment to and optimism for achieving an agreed outcome at COP 15 that can be ratified by all. The round table provided the opportunity to lay the foundations for further work on the components of an agreed outcome. Further, it sent a clear message regarding the need to continue to build momentum on the many points of convergence among all nations. The current financial and economic crisis should not weaken the determination to undertake decisive action."

On December 11, Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs and Head of the U.S. Delegation; James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Harlan Watson, Alternate Head of the U.S. Delegation; and Daniel Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainable Development held a press briefing. Dobriansky said, "We are working to ensure an efficient and effective handoff of responsibilities to the incoming administration in the United States, and part of that has involved making sure that many of our talented career officials -- who will remain in their positions -- are front and center here in Poznan. And that’s why I’m very delighted that we’re joined here by Dan Reifsnyder, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainable Development, a real veteran of climate change negotiations from the late ‘80s to the present time. . . we’ve laid a solid foundation here in Poznan and, most importantly, it looks like we’re on track to agree to a comprehensive and flexible work plan going forward, including a transition to intensive negotiations in 2009."

Reifsnyder said briefly about his role in carrying on with the new Obama Administration, "I think I’m the bridge to the future, and I’m also the bridge to the past, having been here on this issue since 1989. I was thinking today that this will be my ninth transition in working for the federal government, and my fifth transition working on the climate issue. So I’ve seen a lot over the years. It’s been very interesting. I would characterize this transition so far as very smooth, collegial, and cooperative. "

Access a release from UNFCCC (
click here). Access links to documents of decisions adopted by COP 14 and CMP 4 (click here). Access a report on the informal ministerial round table on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action -- revised summary by the chair (click here). Access the link to the important background paper (FCCC/CP/2008/6) prepared with the objective of facilitating an optimal outcome of the ministerial round table, the first ministerial debate on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to related information (click here). Access the U.S. State Department website on the COP14 meeting (click here). Access the transcript from the U.S. December 11 press briefing (click here). Access complete detailed day-by-day coverage and a 20-page summary from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) (click here). [*Climate]