Monday, February 2, 2009

From Rio to Copenhagen

A few days ago (Jan 28th), the European Commission published a basis for the document presenting the European position for the conference on climate change to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009. This conference is very important, as it is supposed to take over the Kyoto protocol which will expire in 2012. As my contribution to the blog this week, and in preparation for all the expected negotiations in 2009, let me recap a brief history of international mobilization to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions.
  • 1992: The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was the first international response to climate change. It resulted in 5 documents, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC merely encouraged the signatories to stabilize their GHG emissions. It did not set any mandatory limit, but allowed for future additions to the text: the so-called “protocols”. It was ratified by 192 countries (including China and the US).
  • 1997: The Kyoto protocol was added to the UNFCCC. This protocol is a legally-binding document that commits the signatories to cut their aggregate GHG emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. Under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, the parties recognized that developed countries are principally responsible for GHG emissions. Therefore, only the “industrialized” countries (i.e., the countries mentioned in Annex I of the UNFCCC) committed to reduce their GHG emissions. As of 14 January 2009, 183 countries have ratified the Kyoto protocol. The US has not. China has, but is not included in the Annex I list of countries.
  • 2007: Conference in Bali.Its objective was to find a framework to negotiate a new treaty to replace the Kyoto protocol when it expires.
  • 2008: Conference in Poznan. More than 190 countries met again in Poznan to work on the new guidelines to follow up with the Kyoto protocol. Conflict arose between industrialized and emerging countries, as the latter ones blamed the former ones for not providing them with enough funding to fight global warming.
  • 2009: The conference in Copenhagen will be the 15th conference of parties (COP) of the UNFCCC (COP15). Its aim is to find an agreement on a document to replace the Kyoto protocol when it expires. The discussions will run all year long to prepare for the Copenhagen conference in December.

Key items to consider for this conference include:
  • New (tougher) targets to reduce the GHG emissions from industrialized countries
  • Reduction targets for developing countries such as China
  • Agreement on how the industrialized countries will finance the emerging countries for them to take measures against climate change
  • US position: with the new American administration, the US will most likely be back in the negotiations, but will probably defend its interests fiercely, given the current economic situation and the fact that China is now the #1 GHG emitter (although far behind the US in emissions per capita).

Interactive map of carbon emissions (The Guardian, Tuesday 9 December, 2008)

All parties will now successively present their views regarding what the “new Kyoto” should entail. 2009 will be intense in negotiations until a political agreement can (hopefully) be found.

You can contribute to the Copenhagen negotiations on the Road to Copenhagen website.

Sources and references:
UNFCCC website
UNFCCC full text (Rio 1992)
Kyoto protocol full text
COP15 website
Copenhagen Climate Council Council
Interactive map of carbon emissions (The Guardian, Tuesday 9 December, 2008)
UN Climate Conference: The countdown to Copenhagen (The Independent, Friday 9 January, 2009)
Road to Copenhagen

1 comment:

andrés said...

I found the interactive map to be quite insighful. Despite the obviousness of, for example, a very poor Africa and a very rich Europe it is very revealing. This map made me think about the long road ahead of us in order to bring down CO2 emissions. Individual efforts seem useless unless the big emitters fully commit to cut down its emissions. In such a competitive world there will always be a big incentive to not reduce emissions. China is in a race to get to the top of the world, and seems to care little about possible environmental dangers. We are low per capita emitters they would say, or we need to achive certain standards before we can afford cutting down our growth rate. Excuses. Western countries should really adopt a strong policy that becomes an incentive to other countries to adopt a more environmental approach.