Friday, November 06, 2009

Barcelona UNFCCC Climate Change Talks Breakdown

Nov. 6: The last negotiating session before the historic UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in December concluded Friday in Barcelona, Spain. More than 4,500 participants, including delegates from 181 countries, took part in the Barcelona UN Climate Change Talks. The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will take place from December 7 to 18.

Based on contentious discussion in Barcelona and what appears to be a deepening of division between developing and developed countries; it now seems impossible that any legally binding agreement will be reached in Copenhagen. If that is the case, then the question turns to whether some alternative process to resolve major differences can be agreed to; or whether the differences, trust, goodwill and confidence of the parties may be so broken that even an agreement to proceed will be difficult.

Speaking at a press conference in Barcelona, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer reiterated that Copenhagen must result in a strong international climate change deal. He said, “Copenhagen can and must be the turning point in the international fight against climate change -- nothing has changed my confidence in that. A powerful combination of commitment and compromise can and must make this happen."

De Boer said in terms of specific he cited, progress on adaptation, technology cooperation, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and mechanisms to disburse funds for developing countries was made in Barcelona. He said, “It is essential that practical action is swiftly implemented after Copenhagen to assist developing countries in their fight against climate change.”

However, de Boer indicated little progress was made on the two key issues of mid-term emission reduction targets of developed countries and finance that would allow developing countries to limit their emissions growth and adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change. He said, “Without these two pieces of the puzzle in place, we will not have a deal in Copenhagen. So leadership at the highest level is required to unlock the pieces."

He reminded that at a summit in New York earlier this year, heads of state and government pledged to clinch a deal in Copenhagen that provides clarity on: ambitious emission reduction targets of industrialized countries; nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with the necessary support; significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources and an equitable governance structure for these resources. De Boer said, “I look to industrialized countries to raise their ambitions to meet the scale of the challenge we face. And I look to industrialized nations for clarity on the amount of short and long-term finance they will commit.”

According to de Boer, developed countries would need to provide fast-track funding on the order of at least $10 billion USD to enable developing countries to immediately develop low emission growth and adaptation strategies and to build internal capacity.
At the same time, developed countries will need to indicate how they intend to raise predictable and sustainable long-term financing and what there longer-term commitments will be.

De Boer also reminded that according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an aggregate emission reduction by industrialized countries of between minus 25% and 40% over 1990 levels would be required by 2020 in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change, with global emissions falling by at least 50% by 2050. Even under this scenario, there would be an only a 50% chance of avoiding the most catastrophic consequences. He concluded, “Negotiators must deliver a final text at Copenhagen which presents a strong, functioning architecture to kick start rapid action in the developing world. And between now and Copenhagen, governments must deliver the clarity required to help the negotiators complete their work.”

The U.S. appeared to take a much stronger position as evidenced by the press conference of Jonathan Pershing , Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the conclusion of the Barcelona meetings. Pershing reiterated that the U.S. interested in "strongest possible agreement." However, indicated frustration with developing countries who he said want the U.S. to agree to a fixed dollar amount of assistance and fixed emission reduction targets; yet, they (developing countries) do not want to make reasonable commitments on their part.

Pershing said, "We are looking for parallelism not imbalance;" meaning the U.S. expects similar commitments from all countries based upon their individual abilities or capacities to achieve such commitments. For example, he said, "we expect more from Brazil" than of very poor African or South American countries. He said he was "somewhat disappointed" that the U.S. is having such a hard time getting agreement on what seems like a straight forward concept.

However, just as the U.S. and other developed countries are frustrated -- so are large blocks of developing countries. Those countries are saying that the developed countries want to "abandon the Kyoto Protocol and seek a new agreement which they are opposed to. They also point out what they call as the "low level of ambition" from developed countries, i.e. their commitments to mid-term greenhouse reduction targets which they say are inadequate and unacceptable. They also say that the developed countries are attempting to "shift responsibility to developing countries" by requiring them make specific commitments.

Developing countries are also raising question about developed countries using new undefined terms like "advanced developing countries" which have not been agreed to. Also, they say that developed country commitments on financing "were not adequate or forthcoming." They say there is a need for at least commitments of $400 billion per year. Finally, they say there is no central body to deal with technology transfer, and their are many loose ends dealing with research and development, models, intellectual property concerns, etc.

Access a release from Yvo de Boer (
click here). Access the Pershing press briefing (click here). Access the South Centre press briefing representing 51 developing countries (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to press briefings and documents (click here). Access various media reports on the Barcelona meetings (click here).