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CLIMATE CHANGE: Four Tough Nuts To Crack

Ramesh Jaura

BONN, Jun 1 2009 (IPS) - The world is on track towards negotiating a solid deal in Copenhagen at the end of this year, Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate change official, told reporters at the opening of a 12-day conference in Bonn Monday.

“The political moment is right to reach an agreement,” said De Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC). “There is no doubt in my mind that the Copenhagen climate conference in December is going to lead to a result.”

If the world has learnt anything from the financial crisis, he said, “it is that global issues require a global response.” He added, however that “there are some tough nuts to crack” and that success in Copenhagen requires “delivery on four political essentials.”

The four essentials, as he termed them, are: clarity on how much industrialised countries would reduce their emissions up to 2020; clarity on what developing countries would do to limit the growth of their emissions; stable finance from industrialised nations for the developing world to mitigate climate change and adapt; and a “governance regime”.

The significance of Yvo de Boer’s remarks is underlined by the fact that in a new document posted on the website of China’s economic policy-making National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China is asking industrial countries to slash their greenhouse gas emissions by no less than 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

China is also calling upon the rich countries to provide at least 0.5 to 1 percent of their annual gross domestic product to help developing countries grapple with climate change.

China considers these two objectives significant for implementing the Roadmap emerging from the climate change conference 2007 in Bali. That roadmap includes a number of forward-looking decisions that represent various tracks essential to reaching a secure climate future.

De Boer said developing countries wanted to be “adequately represented” on bodies fighting global warming. Their commitments to act on climate change were “encouraging”. They had made clear, he said, that they needed to know “about the kind of financial support that is going to be available.”

De Boer’s remarks were in tune with the statements issued by the climate change secretariat ahead of the second Bonn conference since the global gathering last December in the Polish city Poznan.

In a media advisory May 20, De Boer said the world was “not standing still on climate change.” There had been “encouraging developments” in negotiations over the previous 100 days, he said.

“We have an almost complete list of industrialised nations’ pledges to cut emissions after 2012, so governments can see now more clearly where they are in comparison to each other, and can build a higher ambition on that basis,” he said.

The U.S. had committed itself to a Copenhagen agreement and a clean energy future, he said. Industrialised countries were giving developing nations due credit for the climate change strategies they already have in place, he added.

The statement said: “In response to the financial crisis, many national stimulus packages have been launched that include green economic objectives. With only 200 days before Copenhagen, time gets tighter but the world is not standing still on climate change.”

Announcing that the central text to be negotiated under the UNFCCC, which will form the basis of an ambitious and effective international response to climate change to be agreed in Copenhagen in December, had been posted on the UNFCCC website, De Boer said: “This document marks an important point on our road.”

“It’s the first time a real negotiating text will be on the table which can serve as a basis for governments to start drafting a Copenhagen agreed outcome,” he added. The 53-page text covers the issues of a shared vision for long- term cooperative action, along with enhanced action on adaptation, mitigation and finance, technology and capacity building, he said.

However, as is the case with all negotiating texts, the draft text of a post- Kyoto protocol (that expires 2012) is far from being a final draft.

“The text is a starting point, and now is the time for parties to take position and enrich it,” former UNFCCC executive secretary Michael Zammit Cutajar under whose stewardship the UN Convention gained ground and the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, said Monday.

The salient feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These amount to a five percent reduction against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, Dec. 11, 1997 and entered into force Feb. 16, 2005. In all 184 parties of the Convention have ratified it to date. Detailed rules for implementation of the protocol were adopted at the seventh conference of parties to the UNFCCC (COP 7) in Marrakesh in 2001, and are referred to as the ‘Marrakesh Accords’.

The current session that kicked off Monday is the second round of UN climate change talks in Bonn. The gathering that ends Jun. 12 is being attended by more than 4,000 participants, including government delegates from 182 countries, and representatives from business and industry, environmental organisations and research institutions.

The next meeting ahead of the Copenhagen conference Dec. 7-18 will take place Aug. 10-14 in Bonn, to be followed by a gathering in Bangkok from Sep. 28 to Oct. 9 and another meeting Nov. 2-16 in Barcelona.

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