Global warming: Inching ahead at Bonn climate talks

‘Science is telling us on a repeated basis … that current mitigation efforts are not sufficient’

NASA’s monthly mapping tool shows temperature anomalies in April 2012.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Two weeks of climate talks in Bonn following up on the last year’s Durban summit didn’t yield much progress in some critical areas, although the delegates did take some steps toward finding a way to extend the Kyoto Protocol and on finding ways to help the most poor and vulnerable countries deal with global warming impacts.

The next round of climate talks is set for Doha, Qatar in November, when delegates are to decide on how long the extension of the Kyoto agreement should be, as an interim step before adopting a legally binding climate treaty in 2015.

The Doha meeting is also aimed at defining the precise emission reduction commitments of industrialized countries that have obligations under the Kyoto agreement.

United Nations climate officials tried to paint the Bonn talks in the best possible light, emphasizing the baby steps toward progress, while downplaying the fact that key players, particularly India and China, are balking.

“Work at this session has been productive. Countries can now press on to ensure elements are in place to adopt the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “I am pleased to say that the Bonn meeting produced more clarity on the Protocol’s technical and legal details and options to enable a smooth transition between the two commitment periods of the protocol,” she said, referring to the fact that the Kyoto Protocol (the first significant international climate agreement) will expire this year.

Meanwhile, China and India were doing all they could to stall progress toward a legally binding climate treaty, concerned that limits on emissions could stifle their rapidly growing economies.

While UN officials remained hopeful and diplomatic, EU delegates expressed frustration.

“The world cannot afford that a few want to backtrack from what was agreed in Durban only five months ago. Durban was – and is – a delicately balanced package where all elements must be delivered at the same pace,” EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard said in a statement. “It is not a pick and choose menu. It is very worrisome that attempts to backtrack have been so obvious and time-consuming in the Bonn talks over the last two weeks.”

The Bonn meeting did help outline agreements  technology, finance and capacity-building aimed at building climate equity between developing and developed countries. Those deals are set to be ratified at the Doha meeting.

On another track, delegates at Bonn also tried to hash out how to speed up actions to reduce emissions even before a global treaty takes effect — but that’s where the talks ran into serious roadblocks.

“The agenda guarantees that attention is given both to the 2015 agreement, as well as to efforts to raise ambition to curb greenhouse gases up to 2020. This is a very important component of the Durban Platform and a response to what science is telling us on a repeated basis, namely that current mitigation efforts are not sufficient,” Figueres said.

By most calculations, the opportunity to limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius is nearly gone, and more urgent action is needed. Most recently, the International Energy Agency said greenhouse gas emissions have reached a record high and would need to peak no later than 2017 for the world to have half a chance of staying below the 2 degrees Celsius benchmark.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change outlined key areas where progress was made on implementation in a press release:

Climate Technology Centre
Governments confirmed the ranking of three shortlisted hosts for the Climate Technology Center (CTC), with a UNEP-led consortium leading. The Climate Technology Centre, along with its associated Network, is the implementing arm of the UNFCCCís Technology Mechanism established by the Cancun Agreements in 2010. This means that the UN Climate Change Secretariat can start work immediately to help establish the CTC.

Green Climate Fund
Progress was also made on the Green Climate Fund, envisioned as a major global channel for long-term financial support to help developing countries in the urgent task of building their own sustainable and climate-resilient futures. During the Bonn meeting, most nominations to the Board of the Green Climate Fund were received and those outstanding are expected soon. Governments say they want a first Board meeting to go ahead at end June/beginning July, which would allow for the Fund to become operational in 2013.

Long-Term Finance
Regarding long-term Finance, there was strong endorsement of confidence in the Co-Chairs in Bonn and support to go ahead with a work programme that will deliver a clear report to governments meeting in Doha on the sources of finance that need to ramp up to $100 billion by 2020.

In the field of adaptation, a draft decision text for Doha was agreed on ways to implement National Adaptation Plans for least developed countries, including linking funding and other support. In addition, governments submitted nominations for the members of the Adaptation Committee. This paves the way for the first meeting of this important committee, which is tasked with better coordinating international adaptation efforts. In the area of loss and damage, governments agreed to recognize the impact of slow onset events, such as sea level rise and ocean acidification, and acknowledged the importance of local communities.

The UN Climate Change Secretariat presented the prototype of a registry that matches information on developing country actions to curb emissions with industrialized country support. The prototype was well-received, and the secretariat will now finalize a working prototype ready for Doha at the end of the year.

About the UNFCCC
With 195 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 193 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
UNFCCC on Twitter: @UN_ClimateTalks

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres on Twitter: @CFigueres UNFCCC

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