Friday, April 08, 2011

UN Says "Work Harder" On Global Warming This Year

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Apr 8: As Republicans and Democrats in the United States appear to be on polar opposites, not only on regulating greenhouse gas (GHG), but on the underlying science of global warming; and climate change issues are in part responsible for a possible government-wide shutdown; the top UN climate change official is urging countries to work harder for further progress on combating global warming this year.
    Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), made the comments in Bangkok, Thailand, saying there were positive discussions on the Kyoto Protocol and on greenhouse gas emission reduction at this week's meeting [See WIMS 4/4/11]. The six-day Bangkok meeting was attended by an estimated 2,000 participants from 175 countries, including government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions.

    Figueres said, "Discussions in Bangkok under the Kyoto Protocol importantly included not only a focus on what should happen with regard to the future of the protocol but also how it will happen. It is significant that there is a strong desire to build on the Kyoto rules and a desire to find a political solution in 2011." The Kyoto Protocol is an addition to the UNFCCC that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire next year. Negotiations on the second commitment phase of the Protocol continue.

    Picking up on the climate change agreements reached in Cancún, Mexico last year, governments began organizing their work for 2011 in Bangkok, including activities under the long-term cooperative action negotiating track of the convention, which brings countries together to decide collective solutions to climate change. In a release, UNFCCC said the climate change talks in Cancún concluded with a package of decisions to help countries advance towards a low-emissions future. Dubbed the "Cancún Agreements," the decisions included formalizing climate change mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to protect the world's forests.

    Figueres said that while developed countries were mainly focused on addressing the implementation of the Cancún Agreements, developing countries wanted to ensure that those issues that were not resolved in Cancún yet are part of the comprehensive Bali Action Plan that governments agreed to in 2007 are dealt with in a balanced way. The Bangkok meeting is one of a series of meetings that will take place this year and culminate at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this year. The next meeting will take place in Bonn, Germany, beginning on June 6. Figueres said, "What is clear from this week is that in Durban, governments will address both the work to complete what was agreed in Cancún and the work which Cancún left unresolved."

    The Bangkok meetings included the sixteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), the fourteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), as well as workshops pursuant to the Cancun Agreements, are taking place in Bangkok, from April 3 through April 8.

    Figueres indicated that while Cancún was a "significant step, meeting the long-term challenge of climate change requires increasingly strong international agreements, backed by national policies that give incentives to all sides to take aggressive and collective action on a global scale." She said, "The UNFCCC is the place where governments have committed to act together on climate change. At home, under their different political systems, they need to back up collective action with strong domestic policies." Considering the current divided political climate in the United States, it seems that progress on regulating GHG emissions will be made at a slower, rather than a faster pace in this country.

    Jennifer Haverkamp, International Climate Director at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) commented on the meetings and said it was "a tough week of U.N. climate negotiations." She said, "The Bangkok meetings did manage to produce an agenda, but they also served as further proof that the process of getting a global climate agreement is going to take a long time. Countries are clearly in a marathon, not a sprint, toward Durban, and this week they could barely crawl past the starting line. At least now they're headed in the same direction, but they really need to pick up the pace if South Africa is to yield any real results. Meanwhile the major emitters must continue to address the problem through their own domestic actions, if we're to keep from falling even further behind in the race to save the planet. The significant, but incomplete, progress achieved in Cancun left large, overarching and very difficult political questions unanswered. In Bangkok, countries all too slowly picked up from where they left off last year. The good news is that by persevering and grappling their way toward a collective agreement on political priorities, they have re-upped their commitment to the process."

    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a release from UNFCCC (click here). Access a video of Figueres remarks concluding the Bangkok meetings (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access complete information and documents on the  AWG-KP16 meeting (click here); the AWG-LCA14 meeting (click here); and the pre-sessional workshops (click here). Access live and on-demand webcasts from the Bangkok meetings (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for more information (click here).

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