Poznan sees unity behind future climate deal, fails to commit to CO2 target

(Foto: Tone Foss Aspevoll/Bellona)

Publish date: December 11, 2008

Written by: Tone Foss Aspevoll

Translated by: Maria Kaminskaya

POZNAN, Poland – Delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan have secured work plan to follow at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) talks to take place next year in Copenhagen. They have had less luck with the so-called “two-degree target” – stalling global warming at two degrees Celsius, says Norwegian envoy to the conference Hanne Bjurstrøm.

UN negotiators had reason to pat each other on the shoulder on Wednesday, December 10, after successfully wrapping up a series of goals they had been pushing forward as the blueprint for the new global climate change treaty, expected to be ratified at the Copenhagen UNFCCC conference in 2009.

“This is very good, this is one of the most important things to come from Poznan,” says Bjurstrøm of the work plan agreement.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, December 11, Poznan is greeting various ministers arriving from around 150 countries for two-day top-level talks to carry further the climate deal momentum.

The conference, however, failed to come to an agreement about setting the “two-degree-Celsius target” – a ceiling on global temperature rise that environmentalists say is a necessary step to curb global warming. According to the UN Climate Panel, achieving that will require reducing greenhouse gas emissions by between 25 and 40 percent.

“That we don’t have yet,” Bjurstrøm said.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer has been given a mandate to put together by March – when delegates meet in Bonn, Germany, for an extra session – a comprehensive document mapping out the goals arrived at under this agreement as well as points that are currently under contention.

New texts to settle those points of disagreement will also have to be prepared for another extra round of talks in Bonn next June – the final lesser-scale meeting that delegates hope will help finally resolve all differences before hammering out the new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen.

”I believe this was a very fragile compromise [to come] from G77 countries],” Bjurstrøm said, referring to what is known as Group 77 – a loose coalition of 77 developing nations, designed to promote its members’ collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the UN.

Dangerous changes call for urgent action
Global warming, if it progresses at a rate of more than two degrees Celsius, compared to 1990-levels, is now widely believed to threaten to cause such detrimental – and irreversible – consequences for the world’s environment as water shortages, sea level rise, and desert spread, which, in turn, is likely lead to international conflicts triggered by mass population displacement and migration.

Bjurstrøm was not surprised that conference delegates have not found enough support for the commitments proposed to make the two-degree target. The reason, she said, was that for the time being, negotiations on the new deal follow the tracks laid by the Kyoto treaty, to which one of the major international players, the United States, is not even a party.

The US, however, ratified the UNFCCC, and, together with other nations is expected to remain a party to the convention when the UNFCCC members gather together for the conference in Copenhagen.

According to Bjurstrøm, delegates show little enthusiasm to discuss greenhouse gas emissions without the US being on board. This issue will again be up for negotiations when the international community gathers in Bonn in June and then in Copenhagen in December to work out the new deal.

Those talks, as well as the March meeting, will also give negotiators a few more chances to review the issue of endorsing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as part of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction schemes codified by the Kyoto Protocol. Negotiations over CCS ran into an impasse earlier this week.

The UN point man on climate issues de Boer said at a press conference on Wednesday that by March, delegates are expected to be clear about whether additional sessions are required, in October and November, before the UNFCCC conference takes off in December.

“It is important that CCS be included into the [new] convention’s texts. This technology is important for achieving the two-degree target,” Norway’s Bjurstrøm said.

Poland talks set to go into top-level mode
On Thursday, December 11, Poznan welcomes high-ranking government envoys from around 150 nations, including Norway’s environment protection minister Erik Solheim, for a plenum session and a minister-level conference to sum up the summit’s collective vision for the future deal.

Norway, in particular, earlier suggested a new financial model for the implementation of the global climate treaty, which implies that part of the profits earned by the international community from the global cap and trade system will be earmarked for greenhouse gas emission technology transfer.

The proposal, which has already received positive feedback from the European Union, will be reviewed by minister delegates at their meeting this week.

Participants of the two-day high-level meetings will also include world-renowned environmentalists such as last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners Rajendra Pachauri and former US Vice President Al Gore, Norway’s former Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change Gro Harlem Brundtland, and Britain’s Lord Nicholas Stern, formerly the Head of the British Government Economic Service and World Bank Chief Economist, known for his ground-breaking report on the economics of climate change.

The American delegation also features the participation of former presidential candidate US Senator John Kerry.