Poznan negotiators drop the ball on CCS agreement

frontpageingressimage_091208-Poznan-Stern-small.jpg Photo: Foto: Tone Foss Aspevoll/Bellona

Talks cantered on endorsing CCS as part of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the carbon emission reduction schemes codified by the Kyoto Protocol, have run aground as the proposed CCS stipulations failed to gain enough support among delegates.

The climate summit in Poland is the last big effort by the international community to agree on ways to reform the Kyoto Protocol’s policies before a new international treaty is worked out at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, next year.

The disappointing news was announced on Tuesday evening, December 9, at a meeting between negotiators charged with working out the CCS language to be included into the CDM and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are following closely the talks in progress at the Poznan summit.

Bellona, which is one of the NGOs participating in the conference, has been among those championing the inclusion of CCS as an absolutely necessary part of the new international climate agreement. Bellona points out the technology is capable of reducing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by as much as 40 to 50 percent.

“CCS is the weapon we didn’t have as we were working out the Kyoto agreement,” says Bellona President Frederic Hauge, adding that the need for the world to finally embrace the technology has become that much more pressing after reports showed global warming has been progressing at a faster pace than earlier estimated.

Since first suggested, it was expected that CCS would find a place in the upgraded CDM policies. Support for the proposal has come from many influential environmentalists, including Britain’s economist and climate change expert Lord Nicholas Stern, who was the driving force behind the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, a ground-breaking research on the economic challenges of the climate crisis and ways to solve it.

“CCS is such an essential technology that it should absolutely be included into the CDM,” Lord Stern told Bellona Web at a conference he is participating in on the sidelines of the UN talks in Poznan.

In the Stern Review, Lord Stern, who is formerly the Head of the British Government Economic Service and World Bank Chief Economist, showed that efforts to prevent the worst effects of climate change would only cost the world one percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), while not doing anything would lead to much more serious economic losses. Since climate change is now exacerbating faster than was anticipated at the time when the report was issued, updated cost figures now stand at two percent of global GDP.

There is still hope, however, that CCS, a vital instrument available to the world to combat climate change can still find its way into the new CDM agreement. The next step will be for governments to seize the initiative and see it through to conclusion at a meeting this Thursday, December 11, which is slated to be part of the top-level talks involving participation of environment ministers from 150 world nations scheduled for December 11 and 12. 

One of the concerns still complicating the progress of CCS negotiations is the argument put forward by certain delegates that CCS lacks sufficient scientific knowledge to back it up as part of the CDM.

The reason that countries such as Brazil and also certain island states have voiced resistance to the CCS initiative can be the fear that financing and other economic incentives would be diverted from other carbon emission reduction projects – such as a Norwegian forestation project under way in Brazil – to support CCS development. 

Island states, though among the most vulnerable in terms of being the first to face the anticipated sea level rise and coral reef degradation, have until now had little means at their disposal to be able to adjust to climate change effects – something that may lie at the core of their opposition to the CCS proposal. Those nations that are the most economically disadvantaged may well be using the impasse that the CCS negotiations have for now come at as a way to ensure that rich countries assume the better part of the burden.