I had not expected participants to conclude a final agreement in Copenhagen, but I have been surprised by the reported lack of progress. The issues to be tackled are fiendishly complex, but this does not explain how the drafts available at the start of the conference seem to have been dropped after two weeks of talks and replaced on the last day by the non-binding Copenhagen Accord. Whether this is simply a reflection of the fact that a lot more countries and vested interests are now involved in the process of negotiation, I cannot say but I do think the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) team will need to demonstrate some real progress over the next few months, or a new Kyoto Protocol or a successor agreement may not happen.
- Kyoto Protocol covered proposals for a second commitment period running to either 2017 or 2020. Included new targets for Annex 1 countries (+ the USA), additional greenhouse gases, rules to cover change of land use and forestry, as well as amendments to emissions trading and project based mechanisms (Clean Development Mechanism and JI). One of the discussion documents also indicated that global targets to reduce emissions from aircraft and shipping were under consideration, but these appear to have been dropped from the text of the working group's final accord. Additionally, no decisions were made in respect to the use of market based mechanisms to regulate emissions.
- AWG-LCA. Details are presented in the following document and addenda covering:
a) Adaptation (to climate change)
b) Provision of financial resources and investment
c) Technology development and transfer
e) Mitigation actions by developing country
f) Policy approaches and incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation
g) Enhanced national/international action to mitigate the effects of climate change
h) Approaches to enhance the cost-effectiveness of mitigation actions
i) Cooperative approaches and sector-specific actions in agriculture
I was also surprised to learn about the difficulties representatives (both governmental and civilian) had in accessing the Bella Center where the conference was held. Some commentary about this is presented in a climate experts forum posted on the FT’s energy blog.
If participants cannot make progress on the negotiating front, I feel it would be best to pursue short term targets a) that would build confidence between nations and b) help educate the public as to the nature of the problem that we are facing. In this regard I still think it important that we see progress on the following fronts:
- A serious initiative to monitor emissions worldwide. This requires developing countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Indonesia, etc. to show they are prepared to collect and publish their emissions data as freely as Europe and the USA have been.
- Development of corporate reporting standards.
- Balanced and level headed engagement by the media.
Most significantly, the public needs to buy into the idea that climate change is a real issue - but as things stand I still see little sign of consumers, motorists or colleagues in the office taking any real interest in the subject. In this respect, I think the greatest failure of Copenhagen was the opportunity missed to show that the various nations could make good progress. Instead 'Joe Public' remains sceptical, disappointed and probably totally confused by an outcome that he had been led to believe was vitally important for the future well-being of the planet and mankind.
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