Global Climate Change Treaty a 'Daunting' Challenge

BONN, Germany, June 13, 2008 (ENS) – More than 2,000 participants from 170 countries are packing their bags and heading home this evening after winding up the latest round of UN-sponsored global climate change talks in Bonn with little substantive progress towards a seccessor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. The protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

The pressure is on to negotiate a strengthened and more effective international climate change deal before a meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“We now have a clearer understanding among governments on what countries would ultimately like to see written into a long-term agreement to address climate change,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer at the closing news conference today. “But with a little more than a year to go to Copenhagen, the challenge to come to that agreement remains daunting.”

The meeting in Bonn, from June 2 – 13, was the second major negotiating session this year. Three workshops on climate change adaptation, finance and technology took place, designed to deepen the understanding of the issues related to the building blocks of the Copenhagen agreement.

Luiz Figueiredo Machado, left, chairs
the Ad Hoc Working Group on
Long-term Cooperative Action.
Yvo de Boer is executive secretary
of the UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change. (Photo courtesy
Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

“Parties have made the all-important transition from discussions and are entering the negotiating phase – this is important to move the negotiating process forward,” said Luiz Figueiredo Machado, who chairs the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC.

“But what is required are more targeted proposals in the next sessions,” he said.

Climate change is viewed as one of the most serious threats to the global environment and to sustainable development. Adverse impacts on human health, food security, infrastructure, economic activity, biological diversity and natural resources are expected.

For instance, Vietnam will be one of the countries most affected by climate change, according to participants in a high level discussion on climate change with Vietnamese lawmakers held on May 25 and facilitated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. A sea-level rise of only one meter could inundate over six percent of the total area of the country and displace over 10 million people, the participants heard.

Most of the world’s scientists agree that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere emitted by human activities are leading to changes in the climate.

The most recent assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, completed in November 2007, finds with more than 90 percent certainty that human actions since the Industrial Revolution have contributed to the warming climate.

It is to limit the emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – that governments gathered in Bonn.

In Bonn, talks on further commitments for the 37 governments bound by the Kyoto Protocol, known as Annex I Parties, continued in an effort to clarify tools and identify options available to reach their emission reduction targets.

Countries considered the possibility of expanding the group of six greenhouse gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol to include more gases such as perfluoropolyethers, a class of liquid lubricants has been used for spacecraft applications for 20 years.

Harald Dovland (Photo courtesy

“We have made some good progress under the Kyoto Protocol negotiations here in Bonn,” said Harald Dovland, chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol.

“But the pace was slow and difficult,” said Dovland.

“I do feel we need a completely new spirit of cooperation from here, because if we continue in this mode of work, I fear we will not succeed in achieving the goals set in the work program,” he warned.

Participating governments did agree that practical technology transfer efforts will be scaled up for Africa, small island independent states and least developed countries. This will include collaborative research and development of technologies and technology needs assessments.

Parties also agreed to develop performance indicators to monitor and evaluate progress on work on technology transfer.

With regard to adaptation, Parties agreed on activities that can be started immediately, including streamlined access to funding.

Delegates during a break in the plenary
hall (Photo courtesy ENB)

“This is good news for adaptation agenda, which is really moving forward,” said de Boer. “And this is critical for developing countries, which urgently need assistance to cope with increasing climate change impacts.”

“But what is ultimately required is a clever financial architecture to generate the money developing countries will need to green their economies and adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change,” he said.

In Bonn discussions, U.S. negotiator Ambassador Harlan Watson, who represents the outgoing Bush administration which did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, said a long-term goal for a future climate deal should be global, realistic, consistent with recent changes in economic development, based on science and aspirational.

Business and industry representatives underscored sectoral and market-based approaches and technological cooperation, emphasizing protection of intellectual property rights and removal of trade barriers.

Environmental nongovernmental organizations stressed the need to avoid climate change above 2ºC and meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals agreed by all governments in 2002.

Trade unions called for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050, underscored the social impacts and opportunities of technology transfer, and stressed the need for transparency of financial mechanisms.

The European Union, Japan, Australia and others underscored the need to accelerate the process.

Two further rounds of UN-sponsored global climate change talks will take place this year – the first in Accra, Ghana from August 21 through 27, and the second at the annual UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland December 1 through 12.

A further series of major UNFCCC negotiating sessions are planned for 2009, culminating at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

With 192 Parties, the UNFCCC has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has to date 182 member Parties.

The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

{Earth Negotiations Bulletin [] contributed information to this report.}

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