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COP 14: On track for Copenhagen? Or still beached at Bali? Geoff Lye reflects on Poznan talks

by Geoff Lye 18 December 2008

COP 14 was half-way on the timeline between COP 13 in Bali and COP 15 in Copenhagen. But has real progress been made? And are we on track to deliver a new treaty to take us into the post 2012 period?

Perhaps answering the key questions posed in my blog when I arrived in Poznan may give some clues.

Q1. How will the issues of respective and equitable obligations of developed and developing economies play out?

There was plenty of rhetoric in support of the Bali consensus on ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (reflecting differences on development levels, historical responsibilities and current per capita emissions of various countries). But the polarisation continued and, if anything, hardened between the developed and the developing countries. The developed continue to focus on current and forecast emissions as the key to inclusion in mandated reductions while the developing economies demanded – even more vocally in Poznan – that cumulative historic emissions per capita should be the primary reference for determining ‘equitable’ outcomes. Brinkmanship rather than equity is likely to prevail in Copenhagen.

Q2. Will the issues of REDD (including avoided de-forestation and re-forestation in the post Kyoto treaty) show real advance or get bogged down in further complexity?

The simple answer is ‘bogged down’. There appeared to me to be a growing movement against ’privatisation (of forests) and dispossession (of indigenous peoples)’ as the Climate Justice Network describe REDD proposals. No substantive progress was made and it is hard to see how agreement can be reached by COP 15. Ominously, Yvo de Boer was introducing the notion, in the later days of COP 14, that Copenhagen will establish the overall agreement but that details would probably have to ‘fleshed out’ in 2010. REDD looks likely to be a key component without detailed agreement in 2009.

Q3. Will the polarised views on CCS (Carbon Capture & Storage) be reconciled?

Again, no serious progress was made. “If the Carbon Capture Storage and Nuclear technology transfer will be eligible (in CDM projects) is not clear. Will that change? If it will be allowed in full or allowed in part is hard to say at this point of time,” said de Boer. I think the most powerful players (countries and businesses) are committed to both CCS and nuclear playing a significant role in any post 2012 agreement, but there will be serious roadblocks along the way.

Q4. How will the US delegation behave – ‘lame ducks’ or ‘last chance saloon’?

To be fair to the US delegation, neither would be appropriate. The delegation’s declared brief was to keep all options open for the incoming administration. That could, of course, be read as blocking options which might in any way not serve America’s best interest. As far as I could tell, however, the US held a broadly neutral line; and, like the rest of the conference parties, suspended serious negotiation until Obama is in office. Furthermore, they did publicly commit to the broad goal of 50% emissions reductions by 2050. And some of the younger members of the delegation diplomatically expressed relief that a fundamental shift in the US position was imminent.

In the immediate aftermath of Poznan, it is generally felt that insufficient progress was made for the Copenhagen COP to deliver a robust, consensus-based and effective treaty: the serious negotiations will start on the inauguration of the new US presidency. COP 15 is, frankly, unlikely to provide the global commitments necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. The real action – and our only serious hope – is, therefore, likely to rest with the unilateral commitments being made by countries, cities, businesses and (yes!) individuals. But agreeing the frameworks, methodologies and rules for managing the critical components of mitigation and adaptation activities and investments is still absolutely vital. Even limited success and an imperfect treaty warrant every effort over the coming 12 months. Book your Copenhagen hotel now!

More Gore

Given this somewhat depressing assessment, I’d encourage any reader to watch the webcast of Al Gore on the final day of COP 14. Inspiring!

@volansjohn:We are oscillating between worlds of possibility and collapse. Psychic strain immense - and getting worse. But I vi… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
@volansjohn:Didn’t know that, Gil - record duly corrected! twitter.com/gfriend/status…
@VolansRich:@RichardCRoberti I appreciate the commitment to this joke 👏🏻

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