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CLIMATE CHANGE: Poznan Produces a ‘Vision Gap’

Analysis by Ramesh Jaura

POZNAN, Dec 13 2008 (IPS) - The United Nations climate change conference ended on a bitter note in the early hours of Saturday.

The developing and emerging economies accused the industrialised nations of “callousness” and a “vision gap” that were reflected in their rejection of a key deal that would enable the poor states to cope with global warming.

The deal at issue is a special fund established to finance concrete projects and programmes aimed at adapting to climate change in developing countries.

The Fund is to be fed essentially with a share of proceeds from clean development mechanism (CDM) project activities. The share of proceeds amounts to 2 percent of certified emission reductions (CERs) issued for a CDM project activity.

The CDM allows an industrial country committed to reduce or limit emissions under the Kyoto Protocol to implement one or more projects in a developing country that would help reduce its emissions.

Such projects can earn saleable CER credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting an industrial country’s Kyoto targets.

The mechanism is seen by many as a trailblazer. CER is the first environmental investment and credit scheme of its kind, providing a standardised emissions offset instrument.

A CDM project activity might involve a rural electrification project using solar panels or the installation of more energy-efficient boilers.

The mechanism thus stimulates sustainable development and emission reductions, while giving industrialised countries some flexibility in how they meet their emission reduction or limitation targets.

When the special financing facility called the Adaptation Fund aimed at helping developing countries take to adaptation measures came up for discussion at the Poznan conference on Dec. 11, delegates of several countries representing diverse groupings at the UN argued that the special levy of 2 percent on CERs should be increased to 3 percent.

This would provide additional money for the current 60 million dollar fund that helps poor countries protect themselves against floods, drought and storms. While the industrial nations admitted that billions of dollars are needed for the challenging task, they did not agree to increase from two to three the percentage of levy from the carbon market.

This brought the talks to an inevitable collapse. A source present at the meeting said the opponents of the scheme were led by the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia and Russia.

The collapse became evident about three hours into the start of the final plenary session of the UN conference.

Before that, Poland’s environment minister Maciej Nowicki, president of the Poznan conference of parties (COP), as such gatherings are called in UN jargon, had announced that an Adaptation Fund that would provide money to least developed countries (LDC) to cope with climate change effects had become operational at the Poznan summit.

“It was India which brought the collapse out into the open, through Prodipto Ghosh, member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change,” said Joydeep Gupta, an Indian journalist covering the Poznan meeting.

Ghosh is reported to have said at the meeting: “In the 12 COPs I have been privileged to attend so far, this is one of the saddest moments I have witnessed.”

Ghosh said the Article 9 review, which was looking at the increase of the levy from two to three percent, “fell apart for one, and one reason only; that is the refusal of some parties (countries) to experience the least loss of profits from trading in carbon.

“Let us look at why this refusal is tragic and painful,” Ghosh told those of the over 3,000 delegates from 186 countries who were still left in the final plenary session.

“Even now, millions of poor people in developing countries are losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives from impacts of climate change. Most live in extreme privation at the best of times; climate change takes away their pitiable homes, hearths and bread.”

In responding to this situation, Ghosh said: “What did we hear from the parties who could not bear to be parted from a small share of their carbon profits? That we need to agree on the overall architecture before they can provide any money.

“In the face of the unbearable human tragedy that we in developing countries see unfolding every day, we see callousness, strategising and obfuscation. We can all of us, now see clearly what lies ahead at Copenhagen.”

“We’re going to have to put much more energy into bridging the growing gap between the two sides,” the Ghanaian delegation told the meeting. “It’s the vision gap and that is not a good sign for the future.”

The two-week long discussions in the western Polish city of Poznan also brought little progress on the most contentious issues – notably, cuts in emissions blamed for global warming.

But sources at the secretariat of the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) said the Poznan gathering – 14th in the series of COPs since the global treaty entered into force in March 1994 – was “a milestone on the road to success for the processes which were launched under the Bali road map” in December 2007.

The meeting came midway between COP 13 in Bali, which saw the launch of negotiations on strengthened international action on climate change, and COP 15 next year in Copenhagen, the Danish capital, at which the negotiations are set to conclude.

Over 11,000 participants attended the Poznan conference, which “both advanced international cooperation on a future climate change regime and ensured progress on key issues,” a source at the UNFCCC secretariat said.

While playing down the significance of the North-South showdown between the industrialised and developing or emerging countries, conference president Nowicki said the conference had concluded with “a clear commitment from governments to shift into full negotiating mode next year in order to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.”

Progress was made in the area of technology with the endorsement of the Global Environment Facility’s Poznan Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer. The aim of this programme is to scale up the level of investment by levering private investments that developing countries require both for mitigation and adaptation technologies, he said.

“We will now move to the next level of negotiations, which involves crafting a concrete negotiating text for the agreed outcome,” said Nowicki. Parties agreed that a first draft of the text would be available at a UNFCCC gathering in Bonn in June 2009.

“In addition to having agreed the work programme for next year, we have cleared the decks of many technical issues,” Nowicki said. “Poznan is the place where the partnership between the developing and developed world to fight climate change has shifted beyond rhetoric and turned into real action,” he said.

The success of the conference was also stressed by the UNFCCC secretariat. It said a key event at the conference was a ministerial round table on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action on climate change.

“Governments have sent a strong political signal that despite the financial and economic crisis, significant funds can be mobilised for both mitigation and adaptation in developing countries with the help of a clever financial architecture and the institutions to deliver the financial support,” said Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC executive secretary in a statement available to IPS.

“We now have a much clearer sense of where we need to go in designing an outcome which will spell out the commitments of developed countries, the financial support required and the institutions that will deliver that support as part of the Copenhagen outcome,” he added.

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