Poznan Climate Meeting Matched Low Expectations
Global climate talks held in Poznan in December made unexpected progress on a UN Adaptation Fund and marginal movement towards an agreement on technology transfer. Nevertheless, many observers criticised the meeting for yielding exactly what was expected: very little.
The 14th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP-14, was expected to provide delegates with a venue to reflect on 2008 and make solid commitments for the next 12 months leading up to COP-15 in Copenhagen next year. With a less-than-expected presence from US President-elect Barack Obama's delegation and global economic uncertainty casting a shadow over the negotiations, the significant progress that environmentalists had hoped for remained elusive.
Deal on Adaptation Fund
Delegates finally agreed to give the UN Adaptation Fund board the authority to grant developing countries access to funds earmarked for climate change adaptation. The fund is, essentially, an approximately US$80 million pot of money meant to protect developing countries against the potential impacts of climate change. The funds have been accumulated from voluntary contributions and a two-percent allocation from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) - a market mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol that allows industrialised countries to receive credit through investing in emissions reduction projects in developing countries.
According to the UN, adaptation to climate change in developing countries requires US$86 billion in funding each year. Further funding streams for adaptation are expected to be decided in Copenhagen in 2009.
Technology transfer, which was widely expected to monopolise the COP-14 agenda, saw some progress when parties endorsed the Global Environment Facility's Poznan Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer. The programme seeks to scale up the level of investment in technology transfer in order to help developing countries address their needs for environmentally sound technologies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Despite this progress, some green groups expressed concern that developed countries made no specific proposals detailing how much finance they would provide for technology transfer. A major coalition of developing countries - the G-77 and China - has called on the industrialised nations to divert as much as 1 percent of their gross national product to help finance emissions reducing technology projects in the developing world. Many observers say finding this still-elusive magic formula will be key to reaching consensus in Copenhagen.
On a related issue, long-standing divergence between developed and developing countries remained on issues related to intellectual property rights (IPRs). The contact group on ‘Delivering on Technology and Financing, Including Consideration of Institutional Arrangements' discussed the matter in depth, but failed to come to any meaningful convergence: developing countries stressed the need to depart from a business-as-usual approach in the treatment of IPRs in addressing the climate change emergency, while developed countries emphasised the importance of IPRs in promoting innovation for technology development and deployment.
Shared Vision Remains Elusive
Establishing a ‘shared vision' has been stressed as an essential foundation for moving toward consensus. A ministerial roundtable was convened in Poznan to address this topic, but despite an expression of commitment to advance the process by both developed and developing countries, there was little forward movement.
Developed countries stressed the importance of medium- and long-term targets for 2020 and 2050. Meanwhile, developing countries insisted on the need for developed countries to meet existing targets under the Kyoto Protocol and give a strong sense of future commitment by agreeing to reduce their emissions by a minimum of 40 percent by 2050. Referring to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, several developed countries called for developing countries to undertake a ‘substantial deviation from business as usual' in the path of their emissions growth. There now appears to be some convergence that developing countries' future mitigation efforts will be discussed in a way that recognises a substantial shift away from current practice, although probably not in terms of capping of their emissions.
Mitigation Agreement in Principle, Disappointment on Deforestation
Under the Kyoto Protocol's Ad Hoc Working Group on further commitments, parties agreed that industrialised countries' commitments post-2012 should principally take the form of quantified emissions limitations and reduction objectives, in line with the type of emissions reduction targets they have assumed for the first commitment period of the protocol.
Hopes that some movement would be made on deforestation issues, such as the UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Programme, were frustrated in Poznan as no agreement was reached on whether to include forests in a proposed carbon market scheme.
Although parties agreed to step up their efforts in 2009 to create the necessary momentum for consensus in Copenhagen, critics were concerned that the lack of progress seen in Poznan indicated a lack of commitment, particularly from developed countries. "The climate talks fizzled out with no progress on the big decisions," said Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth. "There's now a plan to make decisions in 2009, but a radical quickening in pace is urgently required."
In related news, European Union leaders meeting at a concurrent conference unanimously agreed a deal on tackling climate change (see page 19).