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Barcelona Climate Talks Conclude: Little Progress Made but Hope for Copenhagen Remains for Some

arton1689The last negotiating session before the historic UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December concluded Friday, 6 November 2009 in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Speaking at a press conference in Barcelona, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer reiterated that Copenhagen must result in a strong international climate change deal.

“Copenhagen can and must be the turning point in the international fight against climate change – nothing has changed my confidence in that,” said de Boer.

“A powerful combination of commitment and compromise can and must make this happen,” he told a news conference in Barcelona, the site of the final round of talks ahead of the 7 to 18 December meeting in the Danish capital.

In Copenhagen, governments are expected to agree to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty – part of the overall UNFCCC – which has strong, legally binding measures committing 37 industrialized States to cutting emissions by an average of 5 per cent against 1990 levels over the period from 2008 to 2012.

Climate Justice for a Changing Planet

This December, NGLS will release Climate Justice for a Changing Planet: A Primer for Policy Makers and NGOs.

In an effort to further highlight the issue and to develop further understanding of the concept, NGLS has launched a series of guest articles and interviews with climate justice experts and advocates.

  1. Developing Nations Unite Around Justice in Barcelona talks: Nick Dearden and Tim Jones explain the notion of climate debt and its implications for developed and developing countries alike.
  2. Climate and Development Goals: Is there need for a post-Copenhagen Framework: Richard Sherman suggests that the Copenhagen agreement needs to be complemented and supported by an integrated global development framework, such as the option for a MDG-influenced set of climate and development goals
  3. Placing the Right to Development and Justice at the Heart of the Response to Climate Change: Natalia Cardona argues that the right to development must occupy a central place in any initiative or international agreement intended to address climate change. To do otherwise would lead to failure and injustice.

Over 4,500 participants from 181 countries participated in the five-day gathering, during which progress was made on the issues of adaptation, technology cooperation, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and mechanisms to disburse funds for developing countries.

Little progress was made, however, on mid-term emission reduction targets of developed countries and finance, according to a news release issued by the UNFCCC. These are two key issues that would allow developing countries to limit their emissions growth and adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change.

“Without these two pieces of the puzzle in place, we will not have a deal in Copenhagen,” said Mr. de Boer, adding that “leadership at the highest level is required to unlock the pieces.”

At the high-level climate change summit held in New York in September, heads of State and government pledged to achieve a deal in Copenhagen that spells out ambitious emission reduction targets of industrialized countries, as well as nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with the necessary support, and significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources.

“I look to industrialised countries to raise their ambitions to meet the scale of the challenge we face,” said Mr. de Boer. “And I look to industrialized nations for clarity on the amount of short- and long-term finance they will commit.”

Mr. de Boer said developed countries would need to provide at least $10 billion to enable developing countries to immediately develop low-emission growth and adaptation strategies and to build internal capacity.

At the same time, developed countries will need to indicate how they intend to raise predictable and sustainable long-term financing and what there longer-term commitments will be.

“Negotiators must deliver a final text at Copenhagen which presents a strong, functioning architecture to kick start rapid action in the developing world,” said the Executive Secretary.

“And between now and Copenhagen, governments must deliver the clarity required to help the negotiators complete their work,” he added.

The talks also saw a one-day walkout by African delegations as they demanded greater urgency in the talks and stronger commitments on emissions reduction targets by developed countries.

"Africa believes that the other groups are not taking talks seriously enough, not urgently enough," said Kabeya Tshikuku, of the Democratic Republic of Congo delegation.

Lowered Expectations

Several public officials have recently come forward to say that they don’t expect a ’legally binding’ deal, but rather a ’politically binding’ one that would define agreed principles and a more clearly defined framework for a future global treaty.

“The Secretary-General is confident that governments will reach agreement in Copenhagen on the fundamental issues that will form the substance of a legally binding international agreement which is the end goal for guiding action on climate change,” the Director of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Change Support Team, Janos Pasztor, told a news conference in New York.

Although in all likelihood it will not be possible to complete all the work needed for a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen, he said, the meeting should make clear what needs to be done in the three core fundamental issues that remain unresolved – ambitious mitigation targets in the developed countries, how to consider mitigation actions in developing countries, and financing.

“There is tremendous interest and while we’re not quite there yet, the willingness is there to make it happen, so it is not a question of whether or not we’re going to have a deal, it’s a question of how we’re going to make sure that we get a good deal in Copenhagen and the Secretary-General is convinced that it is possible and therefore it will happen,” he added.

In Washington D.C. on 10 November, Mr. Ban himself repeated the prediction that the Copenhagen Summit would not produce a final deal on a new international regime for severely reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

But he said he held out hope for a "robust" foundation being built in Copenhagen and said further progress by the U.S. Senate on domestic goals for reducing carbon dioxide pollution would send a "strong message" to the assembled 192 countries.

Civil Society Critical of Pace of Negotiations, Developed Countries

Following the Barcelona meeting, civil society organisations and NGOs expressed sharp criticism of governments for not making much progress on agreeing to what many from civil society have demanded: a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal as an outcome of Copenhagen.

“Politicians seem to be obsessed with expressing what they cannot achieve, rather than setting a high bar for how they will save the world from catastrophic temperature rises,” said Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF’s global climate initiative. “They are saying all the wrong things but they still have a chance to do all the right things.”

Many groups targeted their frustration at developing countries directly. In their view, developed countries - particularly the United States and European Union member states - have failed to show adequate leadership.

“We have seen rich countries continually seeking to ditch emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol. They are tearing down an existing, legally binding international framework, which has taken years of negotiation to establish, in an attempt to wriggle out of their responsibility to cut their emissions first and fastest," said Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland Executive Director Andy Atkins.

"This is a political struggle between rich countries’ short term commercial interests and the survival of hundreds of millions of people. From children who swim to school, women forced to give birth knee-deep in flood water, farmers facing crop failure year after year, it’s people that must be prioritised,” said Mukta Ziaul Hoque, of Oxfam.

“Barcelona didn’t achieve much that was spectacular, but it kept the pace of slow, steady progress. The key issue is not time, but political will and that can be shown in a matter of seconds,” Carstensen said. “While developed countries were trying to lower expectations, the world’s expectations were actually rising.”


 UNFCCC Executive Secretary: Governments can and must deliver strong Copenhagen deal

 Reuters: Africa boycott UN climate talks, demands CO2 cuts

 Press Conference by Director of Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team to Provide Update on Negotiations (9 November 2009)

 Reuters: Kerry, U.N.’s Ban upbeat on climate prospects

 WWF: Climate talks: Saying all the wrong things but chance remains to do the right things

 FOEI: Rich countries scheme to ditch Kyoto targets

 Oxfam: Rich countries must step out from US shadow and do the right thing for world’s poor

More coverage can also be found in the iisd Earth Negotiations Bulletin: http://www.iisd.ca/climate/rccwg7/

 

This article is available in Spanish.

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.

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