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Why Action in Copenhagen is Urgently Required?
The conferences on global negotiations to reduce emissions reductions dating back from 1995 in Berlin to the one upcoming in Copenhagen come December 2009 are seeking to commit individual nations to collectively meet the scale and urgency of the global challenge, in particular to 17 Gt of emissions reductions versus BAU by 2020, or to contain the rise of temperature with 2oC by year 2020.
Let us follow briefly the chronological developments on negotiations to have a better understanding of the challenges facing each round of negotiation to get this much sought after climate agreement.
COP1 – COP14
|The Bali Conference in 2007 was marked with certain degree of decisiveness, following the IPCC AR4 on climate change. The conclusions on climate change made in this report were less ambiguous, pointing with a 90% certainty anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions as the primary cause of global warming, impacts such as further rises in temperature, rises in the sea level, heatwaves, droughts, flooding, destruction of ecosystems and the lack of drinking water. ( Pic: Festive celebration in Bali )|
This ascertains a firm ground for the COP13 conference to reach a detailed conclusions of action known as the Bali Action Plan – also called the Bali Road Map. It calls for quicker action to reduce emissions, and adopts an ambitious plan to reach a global long-term agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012, to be signed at the CO15 conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.
During COP13 in Bali, the US was
persuaded to join global action to address
Papua New Guinea told the US not to block the way if they are
not interested to join in the global action!
USA, Australia, Japan and Canada have been repeatedly wanting major developing countries to make commitments on reduction. On the other hand, China, India and Brazil are arguing that the extent to which they could mitigate climate change will be dependent on the availability of financial resources and technology transfer.
COP14/CMP4 Poznan 2008
At this conference in Poznan, the work towards a new global climate agreement in Copenhagen continued, was marked by anticipated commitments by new US government.
Progress was made on a number of important issues, including the legal aspects and access of Adaptation Fund by developing countries, finance; technology; reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD); and disaster management.
Meanwhile, Fervent Negotiations are On
Developing nations at two-week U.N. talks in Bonn June 2009 outlined emissions cuts of 25% -40% required of developed nations below 1990 levels by 2020. The target cuts have become vital for a deal due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the European Union will urge the world to accept a goal to restrict global warming to 2oC (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). There are signs that the U.S. is moving toward accepting the temperature goal, which it previously refused to do under the administration of former President G. Bush.
|The overriding message
from the meeting in Copenhagen is expected to be that
urgent action is needed. Scientists and politicians
agree that a temperature rise of above 2oC by
2100 must be avoided to void the world of climate
catastrophe. But with the rapid rise in carbon
emissions, it looks like a mission impossible.
The US, under G. Bush administration, did not ratified the Kyoto treaty, in part because the pact demanded no emissions reductions from rapidly developing economies like China, India and Brazil.
Together, China and the US accounts for about 40% - 50% of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gases. As China continues to grow, it could potentially out-pollute the entire world unless it can build its economy around clean energy alternatives, with the much needed help or transfer of technology from the developed nations. It is worth noting that though China’s annual aggregate emissions have now surpassed those of the U.S., China’s energy-related per capita emissions are still 4.5 times less than the U.S. average. While China contributes 8%, the U.S. has contributed a whopping 29% of the world’s carbon past. These figures are clear indicators as to dictate who are the significant GHG emitters.
in a paper released by the National Development and Reform
Commission at the end of May 2009, urged developed countries to take
responsibility for their historical cumulative emissions and current
high per capita emissions, to change their unsustainable way of life
and to substantially reduce their emissions. "Developed countries
should continue to lead efforts to lower emissions after 2012,
transfer finance and technology resources to developing countries and promote sustainable
development in developing countries."
"Developing countries' historical greenhouse gas emissions have been low, and they are the emissions for survival and development." Therefore China adheres to the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" in striking a global agreement on each nation's emissions reduction; in the course of its endeavor to strike a strategic balance between climate change and national development.
"Common but differentiated responsibilities." as stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol recognizes the wide range in countries' historic contributions to climate change, and in their capacities to address it.
Several other developing countries also stressed the historical responsibility of the developed countries in causing climate change and called for the payment of the historical debt owed to developing countries due to their overuse of the carbon space in the atmosphere during their development.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, before leaving for the G8 summit climate change talks in L’Aquila, Italy in July 2009, said that India, which has more than 800 million people living on less than $2 a day, will reject any new treaty to limit its greenhouse-gas emissions because that will undermine its energy consumption, transportation and food security. “India will not accept any emission-reduction target -- period,” “This is a non-negotiable stand.”
India said that presentations and interventions by developed country are biased: they ignore their historical responsibility; make unsubstantiated projections of likely future emissions from the developing world; create new categories such as ' more advanced developing countries'; require that developing countries deliver low-carbon pathways without enabling financial, technological and capacity-building support, and draw unsubstantiated marginal abatement cost curves for even the 'lower developing countries'.
President Lula of Brazil said Brazil was open to adopting targets for greenhouse gas emissions if rich countries did more to curb climate change. "Rich countries, which are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, must do their part," "What we can't accept is people who already have their car, a third television, a third house telling Brazilians to remain poor."
Beijing demanded that developed countries not only commit to a 1% of their annual economic worth to developing countries in climate change mitigation, but also cut their own greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.
India is talking to countries such as Brazil, China and South Africa on taking a common stand in international negotiations that richer countries like the U.S. and Britain must reduce their emissions 45% by the year 2020 from 1990 levels.
The U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern called the target unrealistic, and the "Clean Energy and Security Act" recently passed in US Congress under B. Obama's administration, commits only a 17% cut. Latest commitment as implied in the Bonn meeting indicates a down sized 4%! The bill also allows US companies to pay developing countries’ companies to reduce their emissions, instead of doing it themselves.
Japan set a 2020 target of just 8% below 1990 levels.
The European Union who has been more committal all along, meanwhile, has agreed to slash only 20%, half the target requested by China, and is ready to widen the reduction to 30%, with the condition that the 20% is also agreed upon by other developed countries. It is not likely that the US will agree to that.
Developing countries also insist transfer of funds and technology from the developed countries to facilitate their effort of mitigation and adaptation, only to be met by cold shoulders of developed countries.
The common apprehension of every government is that over commitment could compromise economic development, leading to unemployment and socio-economic issues.
COP15 Conference in Copenhagen December 2009
– the upcoming Crucial Conference
The objective of the Copenhagen Climate Conference is to further enhance the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol and to reach positive outcome, focusing on making concrete arrangements for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financial support related to climate change.
More than 190 nations have been, on many summits and conferences, negotiating a global climate treaty to reduce gas emissions to replace the expiring 1997 Kyoto Protocol limits. Countries plan to wrap up negotiations and sign the new treaty in Copenhagen by late December 2009.
According to IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, current state of climate is primarily the outcome of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the developed nations during their industrialization and uncontrolled deforestations.
|Emissions reduction should not be targeted at the expense of national developments of late comers like China and other fast growing economies like India and Brazil. Why should they be asked to slow down developments because of excessive emissions previously emitted by developed nations. Why should late comers/developers be deprived of their right to speedy development.|
|Can the emissions be reduced without retarding development? Will Copenhagen succeed?|
China, India and Brazil should not be singled out to
over-bear the heavy responsibility of GHG reductions.
ALL parties, including the EU, ( not only US or China), should make a mutually agreeable commitments, fair and justifiable, in the climate change negotiations. Without such considerations of due fairness, the Copenhagen summit is not going to succeed, and global warming is not going to be arrested!
Since climate change is a global concern that requires a global solution, an ideal post-2012 international climate framework must establish fair and binding commitments for all developed and major developing economies, including absolute economy-wide GHG emission reduction targets for developed countries. It is also the ambition of the Danish government who will host the COP15 conference in Copenhagen in Dec 2009, to reach such an agreement.
Presently, parties are divided, emphasis and views are widely divergent over new numbers and new focus. All these, as India put it, are diminishing the thin ice of trust among Parties on the road to Copenhagen. Foreseeably, challenges are numerous and obstacles are near insurmountable.
To Be Continued: The Copenhagen Sea-Saw
References and related news:
COP1 - COP 14: En.cop15.dk
COP 15 - the Crucial Conference: Cop15.dk
The Challenge of Copenhagen: Bridging the US- China Divide: e360.yale
India Says Developed Nations are Responsible for Climate Change: Bloomberg July 07, 2009
The Copenhagen COP 15 - Change Climate Change
COP 15 - Frequently Asked Questions
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