Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What is Poznan? And why is it important?

Poznan is the location, in Poland, of UN-sponsored talks which commence today.

Following the rather limited success of the Kyoto Protocol, the UN hopes that the talks in Poznan will build on the start made at last year's conference in Bali and will, in turn, lay a good foundation for the talks planned for Copenhagen in December next year, which should conclude a new global treaty to replace the Kyoto Agreement. Yvo De Boer, the executive director of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), is reported to have said that what is going is “one of the most complicated negotiating processes the international community has ever seen.”

The UNFCCC will circulate at Poznan the first draft of a new global agreement, which will no doubt be argued over and modified in the coming year, before, one hopes, being submitted to the Copenhagen conference for finalisation. The general feeling is that rich nations are now willing to take on greater emissions cuts if developing countries that some on as well. The latter is more challenging at present than the former. In order to sweeten the pill, the UN is proposing a global adaptation fund to help poorer countries already feeling the impacts of climate change. The fund will draw revenues from a levy on the global emissions scheme, called the Clean Development Mechanism - and that will lead to no doubt acrimonious debate regarding how best to finance low-carbon development and facilitate the transfer of clean technologies. Other substantial issues on the table include reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. On the other hand, several contentious issues, such as that of how to make emissions reductions measurable, reportable and verifiable, will not be tackled until the Copenhagen meeting.

The EU has been the most vigorous and generous promoter of everything to do with emissions reduction. Under President Bush, the USA was the most recalcitrant, and it remains to be seen what positions the Obama administration will really take. China and India, the most important developing nations, have sometimes worked at cross purposes and sometimes together. What positions will they take, in view of the global economic crisis and its differential impact in these two giant countries? Apparently, China is looking for significant technological assistance as well as financial support as part of a new global deal, in which developed nations are expected to agree to contribute 1% of their GDP for transferring clean energy technologies to developing nations. However, as China already possesses most of the relevant technology and expertise, most observers feel that its calls for further assistance are a delaying tactic to dodge taking on radical commitment to emissions reductions. It is also a bit ridiculous for China to be looking for economic assistance when it has among the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world.

The most realistic statement of what is actually needed has come from UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, in a joint statement with the leaders of Indonesia, Poland and Denmark: “when it comes to two of the most serious (issues faced by the world) -- the financial crisis and climate change -- that answer is the green economy.” (parentheses mine)

Sadly, I greatly doubt that anything like the green economy is likely to emerge from Poznan. But if something like a global framework for emissions reductions does emerge, that could be a significant step in that direction. Sphere: Related Content

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