Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary

On Course to Copenhagen?


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Gunnar Boye Olesen Gunnar Boye Olesen discusses issues facing participants in the climate negotiations in Poznań, Poland, December 2008.
The author is co-coordinator of the International Network for Sustainable Energy.

In spite of the increasing evidence of harmful climate change, negotiations are progressing only slowly toward an international agreement on post-2012 climate policies.

If a meaningful international climate agreement is to be in place by 2012, it is crucial that progress be made at the next round of the negotiations in Poznań, Poland, to be held during the first two weeks of December 2008. The agreement at the 2007 meeting in Bali of a reduction of carbon emissions from 1990 levels of up to 40 per cent by the year 2020 in industrialized countries is only adequate to prevent harmful climate change if the target is a firm 40 per cent; anything less will keep emissions too high.

The task facing negotiators in Poznań must be to translate the conclusions from Bali into agreements among all countries willing to take climate change seriously. The agreements must lead to real, substantial reductions in emissions, not just more trading of hot air. Further, they must be based on reductions of emissions of energy use and industries, not mixing them with land-use change or other sinks.

The strong greenhouse gases must have their own reduction agreement, not allowing reduction projects of these gases to get windfall profits from participating in the same mechanisms as other projects. Agreements to reduce emissions from energy and industry must be followed by an agreement addressing land-use change and deforestation. The net emissions from deforestation and changing land use not only have to be stopped, they also have to be reversed, such that land use globally very quickly becomes a sink and not a source of greenhouse gas emissions.

There are several positive proposals in the recent official negotiations in Bonn and Accra. For example, South Africa has proposed a vision for the reduction and subsequent reversal of global emissions within a decade and, later, reductions in South Africa's contribution. Also positive is Norway’s proposal to address global shipping by allocating emissions to the owners of the ships. The European Union countries have shown significant initiative in their stated willingness to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 as part of an international agreement. These are some of the proposals that could build up success at the negotiations in Poznań and in 2009 in Copenhagen.

Unfortunately, there are many attempts to water down the potential outcome of the negotiations in Poland from all parts of the world, including Poland itself. There are proposals to introduce hot air of various kinds, to let uncertain sinks replace emissions, directly or via various trading systems, to let nuclear power replace more sustainable projects in the Clean Development Mechanism, and many others.

In the middle of December we will know whether Poznań was a positive step towards the negotiations in Copenhagen or simply two weeks wasted on toothless international negotiations.


This comment was first published in Issue 62 (October 2008) of Sustainable Energy News, the newsletter of the International Network for Sustainable Energy, and is reproduced here with permission.

Further information

Gunnar Boye Olesen, International Network for Sustainable Energy (InforSE), Gl. Kirkevej 82, DK-8530 Hjortshøj, Denmark. Fax: +45-86-227096. Email: ove@inforse.org. Web: www.inforse.org.

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