As many as 9,000 participants are expected to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 14th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Poznan starting tomorrow, including an official US delegation led by Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Dr. Paula Dobriansky. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) will lead a Senate delegation. Members of President-elect Obama’s transition team are also expected to attend.
The climate change talks in Poznan mark the critical halfway point between the 2007 meeting in Bali in which a draft blueprint of a global action plan was set and next year’s COP meeting in Copenhagen, which is expected to result in the establishment of a global climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Kerry warned that although the US is now in a position to play a leading role in global climate change negotiations, Congress and the incoming Obama administration’s ability to offer greenhouse gas emission reduction incentives to rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India would be limited by the economic crisis. “The bottom line is we are not going to be in the position we were two years ago in the short term to do as much technology transfer or economic assistance in terms of transitional issues that might have led other countries to participate,” Kerry was quoted as saying in a news report.
UNFCCC executive director Yvo de Boer warns of the dangers of failure and urges participating countries to turn hardship into opportunity and, if anything, dedicate more effort and resources to mitigating and adapting to climate change in a video address released in advance of the climate change talks commencing (see video link in the body of this post).
COP-14 “is taking place in the broader context of the current global financial crisis and impending recession, but we cannot allow this to detract from the fight against climate change,” de Boer says.
“We must now focus on the opportunities for ‘green’ growth that can put the global economy on to a stable, sustainable path. The need for real progress on tackling climate change has never been more urgent. The effects of climate change that science has identified are already weighing heavily on those most vulnerable, and those who await the financial and technological resources they need to deal with these impacts.”
The UNFCCC has put out an advance agenda outlining the key issues and basis for negotiations in Poznan. Participants are expected to agree on a plan of action and programs of work for next year’s final negotiations and make significant progress on ongoing issues necessary to further implementation of Kyoto Protocol requirements.
These include enhancing the capacity of developing countries to carry actions out; reduce emissions from deforestation – the REDD framework; improve technology transfer and adaptation; advance understanding and commonly held views for a new climate change regime; and strengthen commitments to the process and timeline.
Time is of the essence, de Boer emphasized in his video address. “We have little more than a year to agree on strengthening action on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.”
Participants are presented with the challenge off realizing three essential aims by next year’s COP meeting in Copenhagen in order to “unleash ambitious, concerted action through a ratified, agreed outcome,” he continues: clarity on how to generate additional financial resources; clarity on an institutional framework for adaptation and mitigation; and clarity on the nature of commitments.
“Ministers will discuss their vision of long term cooperative action on climate change. They’ll have the opportunity to give a strong signal as to a shared vision on the types of mechanisms, the financial mechanisms, and the institutional structure that are needed to deliver results,” de Boer said.
Concrete progress needs to be made on several key issues during the Poznan talks and in the run-up to next year’s meeting in Copenhagen and the 2012 expiry of the Kyoto Protocol, particularly with regard to developing countries, according to de Boer. These include adaptation, financing, technology transfer and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Another major topic is improving the effectiveness of the Clean Development Mechanism and its geographical reach.
What will be required of developing countries when it comes to commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – even the definition of “developing countries”–are points that the US State Department’s delegation intends to zoom in on during the climate talks, Dobriansky said during a panel discussion in Washington DC earlier this month.
And while the US administration agrees on the appropriateness and value of “differentiation” when it comes to the emissions reductions commitments in specific economic, industrial and other sectors individual countries are willing and able to commit to, the US believes that more attention needs to be paid to what outcomes should be common across all countries.
A third key issue the US State Dept. delegation intends to address is encouraging and enabling countries to establish national mitigation action plans in a way that is “measurable, reportable, and internationally verifiable.”