Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bonn Climate Talks Stall On GHG 2020 Reduction Targets

Apr 8: While many of the parties agree that greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for 2050 should be in the 70%-90% range over 1990 levels, the latest meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, working toward a revised Kyoto Protocol, concluded with wide disparities and no agreement on interim targets for industrialized countries for the year 2020, which the experts say is critical to reversing the growth in emissions.

To indicated the disparities between various developed countries, Greenpeace released a table on April 6, summarizing various countries announced or discussed GHG reduction targets over 1990 levels by the year 2020. According to the table some of the key targets are as follows: Australia (minus 4-14%); Canada (+2%); European Union (minus 20-30%); Japan (+4% to – 25%); Russia (not available); United States (0%) [See WIMS 4/7/09].

With just 241 days until the Copenhagen meeting in December, significant pressure is now on an upcoming UNFCCC meeting in June to begin narrowing the differences and refining the reduction targets. In addition, President Obama has invited the leaders of 17 "major economies" and the Secretary General of the United Nations to participate in a preparatory session at the Department of State on April 27-28 in Washington, DC [
See WIMS 3/30/09].

According to the official press release from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the talks captured "the essential elements of strengthened international climate change action to be reflected in first negotiating texts for the next round of talks in June." Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC said, "Countries have narrowed gaps in many practical areas, for example on how to strengthen action for adapting to the impacts of climate change. They now have the necessary clarity to move into intensified negotiations based on texts. The negotiating texts for the Climate Change Talks in June will further pinpoint the details of cooperative international climate change action, as well as focus work on the financial support needed to unleash action in developing countries. This is important progress given the very limited time negotiators have to get to an agreed outcome in Copenhagen in December this year."

Briefing journalists on the final day of the Bonn Talks, de Boer reported that solid progress had been made. He said the meeting had given important guidance on what a Copenhagen agreement must contain, and a first round of discussions had been held on what legal form an agreed outcome might take. However, he emphasized that with regard to emission targets for industrialized countries, the numbers discussed so far "fell well short" of the 25-40% reduction over 1990 levels by 2020 range recommended by the IPCC, and stressed the need for these countries to show "greater ambition." He pointed out that developing countries were willing to undertake mitigation actions if the promised financial and technical support were delivered, while some already had climate change strategies in place.

The Bonn Talks incorporated the 5th session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 5) and the 7th session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 7). Under the AWG-LCA, countries discussed how to strengthen international cooperation on reducing emissions, including from deforestation; adapting to climate change impacts; financing action and the governance of finances.

Michael Zammit Cutajar, Chair of the AWG-LCA, noted that, "These Climate Change Talks have been increasingly tactical in nature. There have been positive discussions on a range of issues, including on technology cooperation between industrialized and developing countries, as well as on the specificities of reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries." Preparing for what he called the "real negotiations" in June [June 1-12 in Bonn], Cutajar indicated that countries have the opportunity to provide input to the draft negotiating text and must provide their input to the climate change secretariat by April 24, 2009, so that their views can be incorporated.

Discussions under the Kyoto Protocol on emissions reductions to be achieved by industrialized countries after 2012 focused on issues such as the scale of the reductions, improvements to emissions trading and the project-based mechanisms, and on options for the treatment of land use, land-use change and forestry. UNFCCC said agreement was reached to provide the Chair of the group with a mandate to prepare negotiating texts on emission reductions to be achieved by industrialized countries after 2012, as well as on other issues such as improvements to the project-based mechanisms. Harald Dovland, Chair of the AWG-KP said, "I am extremely pleased that we have agreement to prepare these texts. Things are certainly moving forward. The June session will finalize these negotiating texts, which will be proposals for amendments to the Kyoto Protocol."

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) representing some 200 companies from 35 countries issued a report -- Towards a Low Carbon Economy -- on April 7, recommending among several other recommendations that, "A future framework must enable countries to collectively work towards a low-carbon economy with the urgency needed. This includes emissions reduction targets for developed countries and supporting infrastructure to enhance the financial and technology flows to developing countries to slow emissions growth and work towards net emission reductions in the longer term."

Carroll Muffett, Greenpeace USA deputy campaigns director said, “The diplomats and negotiators in Bonn have been treading water for two weeks, while back in the real world ice caps have continued to melt at alarming rates and flash floods have devastated parts of Australia. As it stands, this exact same meeting will be repeated in June. Heads of State must now inject leadership and direction into the talks in order to avert catastrophic climate change. . . the United States must come back to the process with solid proposals in June and the rest of the industrialized world must knuckle down and close the gap between what is on the table and what is needed." Greenpeace is calling on developed countries to agree to an aggregate emissions reduction target of 40 percent by 2020 and provide $140 billion annually to assist the developing world tackle climate change.

Keya Chatterjee, deputy director of the climate program at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), issued a statement saying “The urgency of a global response to climate change has never been greater. As negotiations have continued since Bali in December 2007 and Poznan last year, the Earth has continued to warm and the impacts of climate change -- from the South Pole to the North Pole -- have become more apparent. In just the last two weeks, a chunk of ice the size of Connecticut broke off of Antarctica [See WIMS 4/6/09] and NASA announced that this winter’s Arctic sea ice was thinner than at any point in recorded history [See WIMS 4/3/09].

"The good news is we are seeing positive movement. Energy legislation with a draft climate change section was released in the House last week by Chairmen Waxman and Markey [
See WIMS 3/31/09]. It is vital that Congress move quickly in passing a strengthened cap and trade bill that will stabilize our climate and enable a global climate deal while laying the foundation for a secure, sustainable and prosperous clean energy economy. . . Resolving these issues prior to the December meeting in Copenhagen will require strong and determined leadership. For the sake of future generations and vulnerable communities and ecosystems, I hope the U.S. is ready, willing and able to lead that charge.”

In concluding remarks at the Bonn meeting, U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing, said, "There is a wide range of views among Parties on basic issues, and it is our hope that June will be a time when views start to converge. But time is short, and we must reach agreement in Copenhagen. We must be pragmatic, because it does not seem clear that we will be able to manage these issues if we wait until Copenhagen to find areas of commonality. . .

"As our presentation in the mitigation workshop noted, the United States will be taking a whole range of actions to further the climate effort; at the core of our effort we seek an economy-wide cap-and-trade system that will establish a mandatory target through the year 2050, when emissions will be reduced by 80%. . ." Pershing did not discuss targets for 2020.

Access a release from UNFCCC (click here). Access the Bonn UNFCCC meeting website for complete information and documents (click here). Access a release from WBCSD and link to their latest report (click here). Access a release from Greenpeace (click here). Access a release from WWF (click here). Access the IISD daily reporting from the Bonn meeting with a final summary expected to be posted on April 11 (click here). Access the Greenpeace target table (click here). Access the concluding comments from Jonathan Pershing (click here). Access links to various media reports on the Bonn meetings (click here). [*Climate]