Monday, October 24, 2011

UNEP/WRI Report On Options In Reaching Climate Change Goals

Oct 24: A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) warns that  international efforts to mitigate climate change are insufficient to meet the goal of keeping global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The report is being released just a month in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Durban, South Africa (COP17/CMP7).
    The report -- Building the Climate Change Regime: Survey and Analysis of Approaches -- outlines a list of options to achieve the target, including more cuts in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from additional sectors, stronger accounting rules both within the UNFCCC and through other multilateral and domestic strategies, sharing mitigation efforts based on countries' capacities or contributions to the problem, and legally binding commitments. The report reviews more than 130 proposals put forward by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics to design a climate regime capable of delivering adequate mitigation. At the upcoming climate meeting in Durban, November 28 to December 9, 2011, countries will have the opportunity to turn these ideas into action and start to bridge the ambition gap needed to truly have an impact [See WIMS 10/19/11].

    The report and warning from is the latest in a long series of UN warnings that world is falling behind in the battle against global warming. Just last month, at a Leaders' Dialogue on Climate Change on the eve of the high-level session of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments to show greater commitment. Scientists say that keeping to the 2-degrees Celsius limit over the course of the 21st century is crucial to avert widespread disasters, from the disappearances of low-lying island nations under rising seas and searing droughts, famines, extreme storms and flooding, to the extinction of species.

    UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "The analysis provided in this new report offers many options that can happen either in the formal negotiations or as complementary measures elsewhere, options that can assist the more than 190 United Nations Member States move quickly to harvest the opportunities of a transition to a climate resilient, low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy." The report highlights the need to mobilize a range of public and private sector groups at the international, national and sub-national levels, who can contribute to climate governance, emission reductions and adaptation investment.

    The report stressed that the issue of legally binding commitments is central to debates ahead of Durban and noted that it is possible to build upon existing UNFCCC processes to strengthen the climate regime and raise the overall level of ambition to reach the target. UNEP indicated that "While a number of studies have demonstrated that the level of climate mitigation pledged to date is insufficient to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, this paper clearly demonstrates that there are a range of good ideas and options available that could help correct the course and move toward a safer and more stable climate." The report breaks down proposals into five key issues that have been major points of debate:

  1. Options under the UNFCCC to Increase Ambition: Within the UNFCCC, new approaches could involve reducing the emissions of additional greenhouse gases, including additional sectors, and strengthening accounting rules for emissions and emission reductions. Utilizing tools within the UNFCCC can be beneficial because they minimize duplication and implementation costs while facilitating trust-building. However, other complementary options should also be considered.
  2. Options outside the UNFCCC to Increase Ambition: Beyond the UNFCCC process, approaches include multilateral, plurilateral, bilateral and domestic strategies. These approaches offer prospects to mobilize actors around shared interests like development, trade, human rights, energy or food security. While these new strategies can generate greater ambition, one disadvantage of following approaches outside the UNFCCC is a risk of undermining existing processes and creating inefficiencies.
  3. Means for Sharing the Mitigation Effort Under the UNFCCC: Various proposals could be used to allocate responsibility to bridge the gap between the current level of effort and scientific recommendations. Possible approaches include dividing mitigation efforts based on countries' capacity or based on countries' contribution to the problem. Setting a global carbon budget would help ensure that the climate regime meets the adequacy standard, but it could be difficult to implement new allocations for emission obligations.
  4. The Role of Various Actors in Tracking Country Performance on Mitigation: Harmonized global accounting, reporting and verification standards are fundamental to progress. Two options are to use tools within the UNFCCC or outside the UNFCCC. Both options are discussed in detail.
  5. The Legal Form of a Future Climate Agreement: The issue of legally binding commitments is central to the debates ahead of Durban. The paper presents multiple options for climate negotiators: to proceed without new, legally-binding commitments; to commit to achieving new legally-binding commitments immediately; or to strengthen the components of legal character over time to achieve new, legally-binding commitments as soon as possible.
    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a more detailed release from UNEP (click here). Access a release from WRI with links to the complete report, background and related information (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for more information and details on the upcoming COP17/CMP7 meeting (click here). [#Climate]

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