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EU pushes for ambitious Copenhagen agreement
The EU is seeking a comprehensive international agreement – including commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gases and financing of low-carbon development – at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen, aimed at ensuring global warming does not go above 2°C. EU officials hope that the conference will be a significant step towards a comprehensive, ambitious, fair, science-based and legally binding international treaty to combat climate change.
The Copenhagen talks, which will be held in the Bella Centre in Copenhagen from December 7 for two weeks, are the latest in an annual series of UN meetings that trace their origins to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and are intended to co-ordinate international action on global warming. In Copenhagen, Environment ministers and world leaders are aiming to agree on a new deal to succeed the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.
The EU has already set binding mechanisms for a unilateral 20% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020 compared to 1990 levels and is prepared to increase this to 30% if other developed countries commit themselves to comparable reductions, and if economically more advanced developing countries also make commitments consistent with expected rates of growth. For the EU an effective deal in Copenhagen would include:
• Ambitious cuts by all developed countries, with many increasing their current pledges, and appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries, especially those that are economically more advanced;
• A financial package for developing countries including a deal on “fast start” financing. Fast start finance is the key to helping developing countries take early action on adaptation and mitigation;
• Agreement both on the need for a legally binding outcome of the negotations in the form of a single treaty, and on the process and a deadline for finalising it by mid-2010.
According to the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the United Nations network of more than 2,000 scientists that reports the consensus view of peer-reviewed science – greenhouse gas emissions must peak some time between 2015 to 2020. By 2050, global emissions must be cut by a half compared with 1990 levels if we are to have a fair chance of limiting global warming to a 2°C average rise above the pre-industrial level. This danger limit of two degrees Celsius was endorsed by the Major Economies Forum (MEF), which includes key developing countries, and the G8 at the L'Aquila summit in July 2009.
The EU’s reduction target is within the 25-40% range that the IPCC says is needed is to prevent global warming from rising above that limit. Recent scientific studies have suggested that greater reduction targets may required, and the EU is arguing that any agreement in Copenhagen should be subject to regular review to take account of increasing scientific knowledge.
According to EU officials, the EU will “assess the adequacy of other developed countries' emission commitments against a balanced set of criteria such as: ability to pay for domestic emission reductions and buy emission credits from developing countries; domestic emissions reduction potential; domestic early action taken to cut emissions; and domestic population trends and total emissions”. The EU supports the objective of a collective 80-95% emission reduction by developed countries below 1990 levels by 2050.
Further EU targets
The EU would also like to see the issue of unused Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) from the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol addressed at Copenhagen “in a way that does not harm the environmental integrity of the post-2012 agreement”. The Copenhagen deal will be considerably weakened unless a solution is found for this problem of "hot air" – the huge stockpile of emissions permits issued under the Kyoto protocol to countries that were once part of the Eastern bloc. When industries collapsed after the fall of Communism, the countries in question still retained the permits, which had been allocated on the basis of historical emissions. If such permits are simply banked for the next commitment period, any country that overshoots its emissions target could simply buy the permits from another country's stockpile, with no real reduction in emissions. It is estimated that at up to 10 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent AAUs remain from the first commitment period (2008-2012). A solution that compensates the permit holders and maintains the environmental integrity of the deal is therefore vital.
Finally, the EU would like the post-2012 agreement to include an enhanced system for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of emission mitigation commitments and actions by all countries to chart progress in tackling global emissions and to build mutual trust. “The current system of reporting annual emission inventories, subject to independent expert review, and sending regular national communications to the UNFCCC forms a good basis on which to build MRV of developed countries' emissions mitigation targets,” according to the EU.
Reductions in greenhouse gases will have a significant economic impact, and some environment campaigners argue that industrialised countries have a responsibility to compensate poorer nations. Earlier this year, the Commission estimated that climate funding in the region of €100 billion a year would be needed by developing countries by 2020.
Copenhagen talks will also cover the extent of the obligations of developing countries. For example, China, which recently overtook the US as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), argues that it has a right to develop and expand its economy. Moreover, its emission levels were long below those of the States and its emissions per capita are still around a quarter of those of the US.
Another potential source of dispute is the ‘outsourcing’ of carbon emissions to developing nations. Countries such as China, which have large carbon-intensive manufacturing industries, argue that the consumer countries that buy their goods – namely the West – should take responsibility for the carbon emissions.
COP15 is the official name of the Copenhagen climate change summit, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP is the highest body of the UNFCCC and consists of environment ministers who meet once a year to discuss developments in the convention. The convention aims to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
The aim is to agree a new climate treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. According to the Bali Road Map, a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012 is to be agreed at Copenhagen. The road map was established at the 2007 UN climate change conference in Bali and includes an action plan for a new negotiating process to tackling climate change.
UNFCCC secretary Yvo de Boer says that a deal in Copenhagen must answer the following questions:
• How much are the industrialised countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?
• How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?
• How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?
• How is that money going to be managed?
The stakes are high. Connie Hedegaard, Danish minister for climate and energy and incoming COP15 president, says that the upcoming talks are an opportunity to be seized and that it could take years to rebuild the momentum should the chance be wasted. “If the whole world comes to Copenhagen and leaves without making the needed political agreement, then I think it’s a failure that is not just about climate. Then it’s the whole global democratic system not being able to deliver results in one of the defining challenges of our century. And that is and should not be a possibility. It’s not an option,” Hedegaard told cop15.dk in an interview.
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