Monday, December 07, 2009

COP15 Copenhagen Climate Change Kick-Off & Links

Dec 7: It's finally here. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) and the fifth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 5). The 2-week meeting will take place from December 7 to 18 2009 in the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Conference marks the culmination of a two-year negotiating process in an attempt to follow-up on the "Bali Roadmap," adopted by COP 13 in December 2007. The Copenhagen meeting follows a series of recent contentious international negotiating sessions including: The G-8 and "Major Economies Forum (MEF) in L’Aquila, Italy in July [
See WIMS 7/13/09]; UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany in August [See WIMS 8/14/09]; the UN Climate Change Summit in New York City [See WIMS 9/24/09]; UNFCCC meeting in Bangkok (September 28 to October 9) [See WIMS 10/09/09]; UNFCCC meeting in Barcelona, Spain in November [See WIMS 11/6/09]. Most of the meetings ended in intense disagreement between developed and developing countries over the setting of appropriate mid-term target emission reductions for developed countries and the establishment of an international monetary fund to provide assistance to developing countries.

As the Copenhagen Conference begins, the latest expectation appears to be obtaining a "political" agreement with an appropriate level of detail, followed by an commitment to translate and finalize the agreement into a legally binding treaty within the first six months of 2010. Late Friday, the White House announced that President Obama who was originally scheduled to go to Copenhagen on December 9, will now be attending during the important closing sessions when other world leaders will be in attendance on December 18.

According to a release from UNFCCC, "The highly anticipated conference marks an historic turning point on how the world confronts climate change, an issue with profound implications for the health and prosperity of all people." Danish Prime Minister Lars L√łkke Rasmussen announced that 110 heads of state and government will attend the conference at its conclusion. The meeting brings together the 193 Parties to the UNFCCC and the 189 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. More than 15,000 participants, including government delegates and representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions, are attending the gathering.

The Danish Prime Minister pointed to the fact that climate change knows no borders saying, "It does not discriminate, it affects us all. And we are here today because we are all committed to take action. That is our common point of departure. The magnitude of the challenge before us is to translate this political will into a strong political approach."

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said there was unprecedented political momentum for a deal. "World leaders are calling for an agreement that offers serious emission limitation goals and that captures the provision of significant financial and technological support to developing countries. At the same time, Copenhagen will only be a success if it delivers significant and immediate action that begins the day the conference ends." UNFCCC indicated that negotiators must focus on solid and practical proposals that will unleash prompt action on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and capacity-building.

De Boer outlined three layers of action that governments must agree to by the end of the conference: (1) fast and effective implementation of immediate action on climate change; (2) ambitious commitments to cut and limit emissions, including start-up funding and a long-term funding commitment; and (3) a long-term shared vision on a low-emissions future for all. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that 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. If total global emissions can be reduced by at least 50% by 2050, there would be only a 50% chance of avoiding the most catastrophic consequences.

The UNFCCC working groups starting Monday will have six days to conclude negotiations before the Ministerial High Level Segment starts December 16. Ministers will then in turn have two days to take any unresolved issues forward before the more than 100 world leaders that begin arriving the evening of December 17. This means a total of eight negotiating days to prepare a workable package that consists of both immediate and long-term components which leaders can endorse on December 18.

In a related important development, as the COP15 conference begins and while climate skeptics are claiming the international scientific community has falsified climate change science [See WIMS 12/4/09], the U.S. EPA announced that "after a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments it has determined that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat."

EPA indicated in a release that President Obama and Administrator Jackson have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that EPA fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. EPA issued the proposed findings in April 2009 [See WIMS 4/27/09] and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which it said were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of the final findings.

The following are some important links to follow the 2-weeks of what will likely be intense negotiations:

UNFCCC Website - Complete information and documents including all COP15 events live and on demand (
click here).

IISD Daily Reporting - The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) providing daily coverage from Copenhagen with The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) daily reports and online high-resolution digital photos from inside the negotiations and ENB on the Side (ENBOTS) daily reports featuring coverage of selected side events (
click here).

BNA World Climate Change Report - BNA is providing complimentary, real-time reporting and analysis of the landmark COP15 event. BNA will offer open access to its World Climate Change Report(R), which contains expert climate change analysis as well as live coverage of COP15, December 4-21, 2009 [registration required] (
click here).

U.S State Department COP15 Website - The U.S. Department of State has established a special website to follow the U.S. activities in Copenhagen. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern will lead the U.S. delegation during the two-week conference. Other U.S. departments and agencies will join the Department of State on the delegation, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Transportation, and Treasury; the U.S. Agency for International Development; U.S. EPA; the U.S. Trade Representative; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. delegation will also include officials from the National Security Council and the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Members of Congress (click here).

Copenhagen, Denmark COP 15 Website - The website of Denmark and the city of Copenhagen hosting the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) taking place at Bella Center in Copenhagen from the 7th to the 18th of December, 2009 (
click here).

WIMS Climate Change Issue Website - Waste Information & Management Services, Inc. (WIMS), EcoBizPort, Climate Change issue website for extensive links to important climate change information and resources (
click here).

Access a release from UNFCCC (
click here). Access a video press briefing from Yvo de Boer (click here). Access links to UNFCCC webcasts, live and on demand (click here). Access a release from EPA (click here). Access EPA's Endangerment website for complete information and background (click here).