First week of the Bonn meetings have drawn to a close – it sure was been a busy week!! Here’s a snapshot of why we’re here and what has happened in the first week, with a focus on the Australian delegation.
1. MID TERM TARGETS – emission reduction targets by the year 2020
In short: there is a pretty wide gap between what rich countries are prepared to do on emissions reductions and what science and developing countries demand. At the UNFCCC meeting held in Bonn in April of this year, the G77 plus China (which is the name of a grouping of countries that represents the majority of developing countries) unified their position to call on developed countries to reduce their emissions reductions by at least 40% by 2020 on 1990 levels. The grouping of Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – I think their names are pretty self explanatory! – have unified their position to call for developed countries to cut emissions by at least 45% by 2020.
Australia’s position: On the first day of the talks, in the opening plenary Australian delegation called for a “strong outcome on mitigation”, they recognised that “a spectrum of mitigation efforts is needed and that the least developed countries should be fully supported in their efforts.” Clearly calling for a strong outcome on mitigation is a good thing, however, let’s unpack a bit further what Australia means by “a spectrum of mitigation efforts.”
Under the present rules of the Kyoto Protocol, only developed countries (also known as Annex I countries) have to undertake binding and quantified emission reduction commitments. In the current negotiating text, Australia has called for a differentiation of mitigation actions among developing countries. To achieve this, Australia has sought to create a new category of developing countries to be included under the Kyoto Protocol rules. Other developed countries have a similar strategy but use different lexicons, the US refers to these as “advanced developing countries”, and Japan as “countries with significant emissions profiles.” Basically, what Australia, and others, are proposing is that developing countries included within the proposed categories would have to undertake additional binding commitments to reduce their emissions.
Why has Australia proposed this? The Kyoto Protocol divided the world between rich industrialized nations that were given emissions targets (Annex 1 countries) and the rest. But the world has changed since Kyoto was first signed. Some non-Annex 1 countries have become newly industrialised, and are now richer than some Annex 1 countries such as Romania and Ukraine.
To this, developing countries respond that while nobody on the planet – rich or poor – can afford for their economies to follow the same “business-as-usual” development path, the Annex 1 countries who have a greater historical responsibility and greater economic capacity to respond to climate change should take the deepest emissions cuts, and support developing countries, who have not historically contributed to the problem to continue on a clean development pathway.
In the first week, Annex 1 Parties argued that the “numbers” discussion should be directly linked to other issues such as the flexible mechanisms (that earn them offsets from non-domestic sources) and land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). To this developing countries stress the strong scientific impetus and historical responsibility of developed countries for deep cuts by Annex 1 Parties.
My prediction for week 2: the number crunch will continue.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that money talks, and that statement is as true as ever here. Agreement on the level of money which will be made available to assist poor countries adapt to a changing climate and cut their emissions in crucial for building trust between countries and moving negotiations forward. Analysts have suggested that if the talks stall, it will most likely be over money.
Developing countries, backed by the UN, argue that they will need hundreds of billions of dollars a year to adapt themselves to climate-related disasters, loss of crops and water supplies, which they are already experiencing as temperatures around the world rise. Yet so far, rich countries have pledged only a few billion dollars and have provided only a few hundred million.
Developing countries are calling for clear commitments from rich countries on the scale of finance that will be available to support them to mitigate and adapt to climate change, before they make commitments about how much they will be able to reduce their emissions by. While Australia acknowledges that developing countries (in particular the least developed countries) will need significant financial contributions to support them to mitigate and adapt to climate change, they have not come forward to say what scale of funding they would generate nor under what mechanisms it should be channelled. Louise Hand, Ambassador for Climate Change, has stated her position that funding should be generated through both the public and private sector. This is very worrying. While the private sector may be may be able to provide some important financial contributions to a mitigation and adaptation fund, there is no way that it could generate the scale of money that is required in the short time frame that is required. The public sector must generate the majority of financing.
During the first week of the talks in Bonn, we heard two proposals put forward on financing, one from Mexico and one from Norway. The Mexican proposal calls for countries to pay amounts into an international fund according to a formula reflecting the size of their economy, their greenhouse gas emissions and the country’s population. This would ensure that rich countries, which have the longest history of using of fossil fuels, pay the most to the fund. However, the fund is proposed to operate on a pledge approach, rather than a binding contribution. This would be problematic, as it is likely that the funds would be committed but not delivered, as we have seen in the past. The Norwegian proposal calls for an auction or selling of emissions allowances as a way to generate the huge sum of money needed to finance mitigation and adaptation activities. The benefit of the Norwegian proposal is that it raises large amounts of revenue automatically.
My prediction for week 2: the bills for fighting climate change will be large, but the bills for letting climate change go out of control will be much larger.
More on adaptation, forestry and land use to follow soon.
Looking forward to constructive talks in week 2 (yes my glass is half full!)
PS. For those of you wanting to learn more about what is being discussed at these talks, check out these two news bulletins that are produced daily: Earth Negotiations Bulletin , Third World Network and for the die hard fans, there is always the live web cast straight from the meetings.