Saturday, 12 December 2009

Midpoint assessments

Today (Saturday) I am attending Agricultural Day at the University of Copenhagen. Its a relief after the crowds at Bella Center as there are only a couple of hundred people and there are some good just now listening to the distinguished Indian agronomist Swaminathan, Gordon Conway spoke earlier, and we expect the US secretary of agriculture (Tom Vilsack) over lunch.

But I started the day with the terrifying but exciting task of being interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (audience of millions! Can listen online at interview is at about 8.10am) about how the whole Copenhagen process is going. I chose to be relentlessly optimistic but was pleased to get the chance to defend the science - I was able to honestly say that I didnt think the attempt to undermine IPCC through the UEA emails had any significant effect on the negotiations at all. The draft texts are a strong reflection of IPCC and climate science (more on that below) and only a couple of delegations have paid attention to the media and climate deniers.

So what is happening in Copenhagen? Yesterday was exciting at the Bella Center. Late afternoon the chairs of the Kyoto Protocol track (the legally binding agreement that does not include the USA) and the Longterm Cooperative Action track (what may become the Copenhagen agreement including the US) released new drafts of texts that tried to bring everything together (you can read them on UNFCCC web site). There are still lots of gaps and brackets (things not yet agreed) and they are meeting today to try and iron some of them out before the ministers and heads of state start arriving.

So far as I can tell (and with lots of background insight from various alums and others) some of the key issues are:

Kyoto protocol will survive (and has to until they work out the details and mechanisms of Copenhagen agreement) and the major changes will include a new set of reduction committments for second phase (to 2017 or 2020) exact figures yet but maybe 30 to 40% from Annex 1, the inclusion of land use more broadly and especially deforestation within KP, some reforms to CDM (including easier access by poorer countries), aviation and shipping would be covered, and a larger adaptation fund (where they still need to figure out where the money will come from given that the big finance may be under Copenhagen agreement). The continuation of KP, so long as people sign off on committments, maintains carbon markets I suppose.

Copenhagen agreement could include a goal of 50 to 95% reduction in GHG by 2050 (80% likely), a target to stay below 2 deg C/450ppm (I dont think the AOSIS push for 1.5C will stay in) and some declared mitigation actions from both the US and the developing countries (who might promise to reduce rate of growth in emissions). Proposal might be for one big climate fund, looking like it might be hosted by World Bank, that would fund technology, forest protection, adaptation etc. The big question is how much money will be committed to this by the end of the week - at the moment the EU has made a good committment to short term (up to 2012) but the developing countries want to see long term promises. One of the most interesting options is the proposed levy on international banking. I think the amount of money on the table at the end of next week will be critical and the developing countries will have to see it as additional (i.e. not a diversion of existing foreign aid).

There are still many potential loopholes and things may fall apart still but if I take the long view - say from 1987 when the idea of a climate convention was a twinkle in the eye of scientists at the Villach workshop - its amazing to see how far things have come (yes, its too late and still not enough but still....). The drafts are full of text that refers to the latest research, includes (at the moment) a lot of references to vulnerability, adaptation, rights and equity. I think lots of things may not be figured out this week and will be deferred to UNFCCC meetings during 2010 including the next COP in Mexico.

Today (Saturday) is the first big day of demonstrations starting about now. I hope they are peaceful ...and keep the pressure up for strong action.


1 comment:

  1. I woke up on Saturday morning to hear Diana being relentlessly optimistic on the Today Programme - well done and well spoken. Part of the pathway to achieving a workable deal at Copenhagen is making sure people still think a workable deal is a possible outcome - so it's useful messaging.

    Half of E3G are in Copenhagen but as part of the "home team" I'm remaining in London to monitor developments from afar. It's probably easier to watch the press conferences and some of the side events if you're not actually there. I'm sad to miss seeing you all, but not so sad to miss the queues and the chaos. Good luck with it all.

    Jonathan Gaventa
    (ECM 2007/8)