Thursday, October 14, 2010

Expectations Lowered For Cancun Climate Change Meeting

Oct 13: On October 9, Christiana Figueres, the top United Nations climate change official said on the final day of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Tianjin, China [See WIMS 10/4/10], that countries had made progress over the course of the week in defining what could be achieved at the negotiations upcoming major meeting in Cancún, Mexico, scheduled for November 29 to December 10. She said, "This week has got us closer to a structured set of decisions that can be agreed in Cancún. Governments addressed what is doable in Cancún, and what may have to be left to later." The meetings drew around 2,500 participants from more than 176 countries

    She said that governments had discussed each element of a package of decisions that they will need to finalize when they meet in Cancún. These include a long-term shared vision, adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, key operational elements of climate finance and capacity building, along with the future of the Kyoto Protocol. She reminded that under the Protocol, which has been ratified by 191 of the 194 parties to the Convention, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.

    The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. Figueres noted that action on climate change that could be agreed in Cancún and beyond was about turning "small climate keys to unlock very big doors" into a new level of climate action among rich and poor, business and consumers, governments and citizens. She said, "If climate financing and technology transfer make it possible to give thousands of villages efficient solar cookers and lights, not only do a nation's entire carbon emissions drop, but children grow healthier, women work easier and families can talk, read and write into the evening. In the end, this is about real people being given the opportunity to take control of their future stability, security and sustainability."

    While Executive Secretary Figueres attempted to put a positive spin on the meeting many observers cited significant differences between the U.S. and China, the two largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters. International Institute for Sustainable Development  (IISD) reported in its summary, "Under the AWG-KP [Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol], there appeared to be limited progress on the issue of the base year and length of commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period. . . The AWG-LCA [Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention] made mixed progress, according to many. For technology and REDD+, where substantial progress had been previously reported, many lamented that some parties had begun throwing up roadblocks and backtracking on previous agreements. As one REDD+ negotiator put it, 'this issue was almost ready for adoption in Copenhagen, but it appears now that some are trying to undo what we've achieved to date.'"

    IISD indicates that, "In terms of what this all means for Cancun, expectations have moved from achieving a legally-binding instrument, which was what most had hoped would come out of Copenhagen. Although the form of the final outcome is still unclear, many hope Cancun will at least provide a signal that the AWG-LCA is still working towards a legally-binding outcome. . . For many, this translates into a simple set of decisions outlining the contours of what will be further elaborated in 2011 and, possibly, beyond."

    On October 13, United Nations officials called on industrialized countries to live up to their multi-billion dollar pledges to help the developing world adapt to climate change at a week-long meeting of several hundred African experts at the Seventh African Development Forum. Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Abdoulie Janneh told the Forum, "At Copenhagen, the centrality of financing to underpin effective adaptation and mitigation action was recognized. Industrialized countries then pledged fast track funding of up to $30 billion between 2010 and 2012 and agreed to reach the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 for developing countries to implement balanced climate change adaptation and mitigation actions. It is therefore imperative that decisive actions are made to deliver commitments promised at Copenhagen. Such actions will send a strong signal that the industrialized countries are committed to implementing balanced adaptation and mitigation programs by Africa and other developing countries and to cultivating a strong spirit of trust, compromise and enhanced collective action."

    Access a UN release on Figueres closing comments (click here). Access a webcast of the closing comments and press Q&A (click here). Access an on-demand webcast from the Tianjin Climate Change Conference (click here). Access the detailed documents of the AWG-KP including draft proposal to be discussed in Cancun (click here). Access the detailed documents of the AWG-LCA draft proposal to be discussed in Cancun  (click here). Access an 18-page summary of the meeting from IISD (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to the upcoming Cancun meeting information (click here). Access a release on the ECA Forum (click here).