Thursday, December 10, 2009

UN Hopes For Best But Backstage Rumblings At Copenhagen

Dec 9: While the United Nations continues to put a positive spin on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, behind the scenes there is considerable controversy over several issues including the hacked emails and the underpinnings of climate science; the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments from major developed nations, particularly the United States; calls for binding agreements and funding assistance from the most vulnerable island nations; the lack of binding commitments from major developing countries like China and India; and general tensions between developed and developing nations.

The UN reports that the negotiations have entered the drafting phase towards reaching a final agreement. The two-week summit in the Danish capital entered its fourth day, and negotiators have only a few days to wrap up their work before the start of the high-level segments next week, which will draw government ministers and heads of State. UNFCCC says it has noted an "eagerness among the parties to the talks to sit down and complete as much work as possible before the arrival of high-level government officials next week."

Yvo de Boer, the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, underscored that the issue of finance must be resolved, both in the short- and longer-term. He said, “I hope indeed that this conference can even decide what mechanism will be put in place, first of all, to mobilize those financial resources, and secondly to spend them once they’ve been mobilized in a way that countries see as being equitable.”

Over 34,000 people -- mostly from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- have registered to attend the conference, but the Bella Centre in which it is taking place can only hold 15,000. The UN said this is “clearly a testimony to the great interest generated” by the summit. A system has been set up to allow NGO delegates into the building based on a quota system. Additionally, 7,000 kilometres of cables, long enough to stretch from Copenhagen to Prague, have been laid at the Bella Centre.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that the outcome of Copenhagen gathering will have "reverberations for the future of humanity and the planet." Speaking to reporters in New York he said, “We’ve come a long way in just two years’ time, but what we do now over the next two weeks [in Copenhagen] will determine how we fare." He expressed optimism that an immediately effective “robust” agreement -- which will include specific recommendations on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology -- will be reached. He said, “Copenhagen can and must be a turning point in the world’s efforts to prevent runaway climate change."

In the wake of the release of the hacked emails now referred by climate skeptics as "Climategate" [
See WIMS 12/4/09], the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Ecofys, Climate Analytics, the Sustainability Institute, the European Climate Foundation and ClimateWorks issued a joint statement regarding the underlying climate science.

The statement indicates that, "Recent independent analyses of current mitigation proposals on the table in Copenhagen by Nicholas Stern, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Ecofys, Climate Analytics, the Sustainability Institute (C-ROADS), the European Climate Foundation and ClimateWorks (Project Catalyst) all point to the same conclusion: the negotiations must deliver the high-end of current proposals, and stretch beyond them, if the world is to have a reasonable chance of containing warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, or the 1.5°C goal of many developing nations."

A release from UNEP indicates that, "There is a narrow window of opportunity to have the possibility of achieving the global political and scientific consensus of avoiding a global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels or the 1.5°C goal of 100 developing nations. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing everyday and, without significant reductions in emissions, will soon reach levels at which the consequent changes in the Earth's climate will have very serious, and potentially disastrous and irreversible, impacts. Research papers and analysis released in the past few days by several of the leading independent authorities on the question have looked at the impact of the current proposals made by countries at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. While there are differences in the details of the findings, the overall messages from these studies are clear. . .

"A deal that puts us on the path to having a good chance of avoiding warming of 2 degrees, is possible -- but the proposals on the table are not quite there. We need to capture the high-end of those proposals and more in Copenhagen, and then continue to ratchet-up commitments over time. We have a historic opportunity in Copenhagen to increase climate security and economic security for the world for generations to come."

Access a release from the UN (
click here). Access a release from the UNEP with the joint statement and climate science summary (click here). Access links to daily reporting and Copenhagen update previously reported by WIMS on 12/7/09 (click here). Access the Danish Government Copenhagen website for report on some of the recent climate change controversy (click here).