COP14 Begins – What Can We Expect?

The two-week COP14 climate talks which start today in Poznan Poland, are the halfway mark in a two year negotiation effort by no less than 190 countries on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The new concept is way more ambitious than Kyoto which was signed by only 37 industrialized countries who committed to reducing carbon emissions to below 1990 levels by an average 5% by 2012. China, which had been hesitant about some of the issues on the table made a u-turn in its policy last December when it agreed to commit to a target in emissions reductions – on condition that it wouldn’t be bound to the same limits as industrial countries, and only if the rich world assists the poor countries in transitioning to cleaner production methods.
The Poznan conference will begin reviewing ideas on how to help poor nations in their efforts to combat climate change. A major part of this will be ideas as to how to finance the technological transfer that’s needed and what kind of targets are fair. Another focus point will be how to incentivize countries to successfully cut back on deforestation. Efforts will be made to agree to a time table for all these issues and achieve agreement by December next year.

“Poznan really marks the moment in which serious negotiations can begin to narrow down all of those ideas into what then needs to become an agreement in Copenhagen,” said Ivo de Boer in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “Finance is very much at the heart of the solution in Copenhagen.”
The U.N. climate change secretariat estimates that it will cost countries around the globe a total of $200 billion annually in order to get carbon emissions 25 percent below 2000 levels by 2030. The organization says this is money well spent because hundreds of billions more may be needed to deal with the effects of global warming — rising
seas, water scarcity and required shifts in farming.
The negotiations are expected to be troubled by the approach of two European countries; the host country Poland and Italy. These two countries broke ranks with other countries during a climate summit last October, threatening to veto the official EU climate policy. The plan was that European countries unanimously stick to a so-called 20-20-20 goals structure; a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels, a 20 percent reduction in overall energy consumption and an increase in renewable use to 20 percent of all energy sources by the year 2020.
Poland and Italy only tentatively agreed to this, demanding that a few key decisions be delayed until a future summit on Dec 11-12. The reason why Poland is against the target is that it relies to a greater extent on coal for its energy provision than any other European country.
The Italians say that it’s not fair that the EU should impose its carbon limiting targets as the emissions, when it does not pollute the environment nearly as much as the United States and the bloc of emerging nations called BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Meanwhile, observers are pointing out that the global economic crisis might actually bring China and the US closer to working together on resolving environment issues. The latest developments in the Chinese economy show that the global recession might actually speed up its transition to a service based economy. A central part of this is the
recently announced $586 billion stimulus package aimed at promoting economic restructuring and essential green infrastructure. The Chinese government launched this after three years of similar measures to kick start energy efficiency and renewable energy projects; something the effects of which are already noticeable.
In order to hold on to the healthy GDP growth, China will focus on continuing steering away from energy-intensive to knowledge-intensive jobs and be rewarded for doing so. Why? Because GDP growth in China’s service sector produces more jobs than does the industrial sector. Now that the global recession will have a knock on effect on China¬¥s GDP, the country¬¥s leaders will be forced to focus even more on the service industry to generate enough new jobs. Previously, the economy could depend to some extent on its industry, but now it¬¥s going to be looking at its economic investments to foot the bill.
And that is pretty much the deal in the US as well. “With both the U.S. and China looking to use clean energy investments to reinvigorate their economies – and with China’s slower emissions growth – we have a unique opportunity to make progress on our shared interests in resolving climate change and creating healthier, more sustainable economies”, according to a report in the Guardian recently.

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