CO2 spikes, remedial action slumps

The question about addressing climate change is becoming increasingly warped as the gap between what should be done and what countries actually are doing grows. This was vividly demonstrated at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Talks, which ended last Friday in Bonn, Germany.

The level of awareness on this topic is growing throughout the world, as is the perception of its connection to the increasing number and magnitude of extreme climate events1 .

These perceptions are specifically supported by an accumulation of scientific evidence2, including the confirmed rise of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Only a few days ago, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its official data related to 2011 CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion: it recorded a new high, exceeding the 2010 level by 3,2%. In 2011, the global emission of CO2 from fossil fuel was 31,6 Gt (billion tons), 1 Gt more than in 2010. In order to have even a 50% chance of limiting the increase of the average global temperature to 2°C, which is the “450 Scenario” of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2011, CO2 emissions would have to peak at 32,6 Gt before 2017. Considering the increase recorded between 2010 and 2011, it is likely that this threshold will already be reached next year.

There is a sliver of hope despite the dire outlook: with proper action, the world could still achieve the CO2 emission level recommended by scientists.

At the UN General Assembly in New York last February, Felix Finkbeiner, a 13-year- old boy, shared his personal qualms about climate change with the international audience: “The adults know exactly what challenges we face and they know the solutions to these challenges, but we don’t understand why there is so little action.” Everyone applauded the young man’s statement, but nobody had a satisfactory reply to it.

Only recently, another report, “Bridging the Emission Gap,” published by UNEP, indicated that a short-term CO2 emissions reduction, needed to keep the increase in global temperatures below 2°C, is still achievable. Achim Steiner, the UNEP Executive Director, declared that the necessary emissions reduction would be “possible by 2020, even without any significant technical or financial breakthroughs.” But this would require strong and rapid action, propelled by unified international political will.

And what was the outcome of the latest UNFCCC Climate Talks just concluded in Bonn?

After two weeks of negotiations among delegates from every part of the world on the new ADP (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action), they only managed to agree on the work agenda, and this not until the the very last day, following heated debates that people outside the conference would have trouble understanding.

Obviously, the issue is not straightforward, as it concerns the interests and roles of developed countries and major emerging economies on the path to CO2 reduction. Still, it would be difficult to explain to little Felix the applause at the end of the Bonn Conference, when in reality, instead of addressing substantial concerns, conference attendees whittled away the time discussing terminolgy and protocol.

Artur Runge Metzer, the Director of International and Climate Strategy of the European Commission, conceded that “we spent too much time on procedures,” and he pointed to a small group of countries that were hindering the process. He didn’t refer directly to any specific nation, but a senior delegate mentioned the US as part of this group, in particular Washington’s attempt to consistently block discussion on certain issues, for example, the request to organize a workshop on research, proposed by CfRN (Coalition for Rainforest Nations). But during a press conference, Jonathan Pershing, the USA Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, deflected the blame, declaring that he was “disappointed and frustrated that the discussion of this meeting focused largely on procedural issues.”

The UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, also conceded that the weeks of negotiating had been “boring”. PlanetNext pointed out to her the lack of progress in the ongoing process, only 6 months away from the conclusion of the present Kyoto Protocol (KP) commitment period and the expiration of LCA (the ad hoc working group including countries not part of the KP).

After 6 years of negotiations on the KP, it has still not been decided if the second commitment period will be 5 or 8 years. The KP was never underwritten by the US, and Canada left it just last year. Now it looks probable that other important countries such as Japan and Russia will follow suit, meaning that after 2012 the KP will consist of countries collectively responsible for only 15% of global CO2 emissions. The voluntary commitment so far expressed by countries at the Copenhagen Accord and later covers around 50% of scientists’ CO2 reduction request by 2020. After 20 years of negotiations, rich countries have committed to economically help developing countries, but the money is not yet on the table.

Following the debacle in Bonn, is it even reasonable to expect the next COP in Doha to achieve positive results or to awaken the necessary political will? Figueres was not fazed by the lack of ambition of the process and simply stated that Doha will be an important COP.

But Bali was “an important COP” too, as were Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban. The question is not whether a COP is deemed to be important or not, but rather whether this negotiation process is actually able to produce results at the level required by science–or admit that it has failed.

At the moment, it is not known if an additional conference will be held in Bangkok next September, to better prepare for Doha, due to a lack of funding which, according to Christiana Figueres, runs at around 4,8 million €. Word has it that developed countries (such as the EU) would offer the necessary financial support, on the condition that developing countries accepted the policy of reaching an agreement on the election of the ADP chairs by consensus, as has been the case in the past, in order to avoid a vote by majority, which is very unusual for this process. But the real concern is that the next meeting in September could again become stuck on secondary issues, failing to address and solve the most critical and important items.

Wael Hmaidan, Director of CAN, the international umbrella of NGOs on climate change, blames the problem world-wide on a political class unwilling to address the real interests of its citizens, who are however directly affected by climate change. According to Hmaidan, politicians take a short-term view in order to protect their own interests and maintain the political consensus needed to guarantee re-election.

Looking at what the international climate change negotiations have produced until now, it is difficult to refute Hmaidan’s argument. The UNFCCC process urgently needs to shift gears and to show that it is capable of producing concrete results. Maybe, then, the international political establishment will prove Hmaidan wrong.

In the meantime the level of CO2 is continuously rising in the atmosphere, while the time for effective action is drastically shrinking. Christiana Figueres is completely right when she says that Doha will be an important COP. In particular if it can show a change in the participants’ attitudes.

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First climate data of 2011 confirming worrying global warming trend

UraganoAccording to the June 2011 consolidated information from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), as reported by The Guardian, the last 300 months have all had above-average temperatures and the 13 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997.

The first data for 2011 from NOAA, reported by http://www.climalteranti.it, indicate an increase of the average global temperature of 0,40 °C for the year in comparison to the average recorded in the period 1961-1990. The more significant rise is recorded in the northern hemisphere, examplified by a warm December in Montreal and an unusual winter with rain, instead of snow, in Trondheim (Norway). Levels of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere are by now close to 400 ppm (parts per million), a value never reached before.
The list could continue with a mass of other data, but all would confirm the same conclusion: the Earth’s temperature is rising. And this is happening at an ever faster rate.
A counteracting global action is not only an option, it is becoming absolutely necessary. This is the task that former Senator Ted Kaufman is urging Congress to tackle in 2012. The USA is still one of the most critical countries whose contribution is needed in order to achieve a global deal and what happens in this country is crucial for the future of the planet.
A few years ago, Ian Fry, the representative of Tuvalu at the UNFCCC negotiation, lamented that a handful of US senators were substantially deciding the destiny of almost 7 billion people.
A change is necessary and urgent, but, scientific evidence notwithstanding, it may be difficult to achieve in a country where some politicians insist in denying Darwin’s theory of evolution and where climate-sceptic lobbies provide generous support to the election campaigns of their favorite congresspersons.
In his recent book ‘Fools Rule‘, William Marsden puts at around US$725,000 the total contribution given by oil and gas companies and by the Kock Industries to three candidates during the midterm Senate races in 2010: Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio and Tom Coburn. “There isn’t any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the earth,” Roy Blunt has repeatedly stated. If a sufficient number of Blunt’s colleagues takes the same approach, it is very unlikely that in 2012 Congress will listen to Ted Kaufman’s urgent appeal.
And yet, with the evidence of a rapidly approaching disaster mounting daily, it is becoming harder to sit by and wait for political change to occur. It is therefore no surprise that activists are trying to mobilize a grass-roots movement to put pressure on Congress. The task is difficult but not impossible. Indeed, this is exactly what happened in Australia in 2007, when Kevin Rudd replaced John Howard, one of the most vocal opponents to any action to fight climate change, and in less than a couple of weeks ratified the Kyoto Protocol. That change occurred because Australia was in the grips of the worst drought of the last 100 years and the public’s priorities were immediately affected, pushing climate change to the top of the political agenda. And when Kevin Rudd was unable to follow up with strong legislation on climate change, he was quickly booted out of office and substituted by Julia Gillard. Now, despite strong opposition from the coal sector, Australia is one of the first countries to have introduced a carbon tax (A$23/t CO2) and is planning to introduce a cap and trade system similar to that which exists in the EU.
Looking back to the serious climate events recorded in the US in 2011, it seems possible that a public outcry on climate change might put pressure on Congress, as happened in Australia in 2007.
For NOAA spokesman Christopher Vaccaro, as reported by The Guardian, “In many ways, 2011 rewrote the record books. From crippling snowstorms to the second deadliest tornado year on record to epic floods, drought and heat, and the third busiest hurricane season on record, we’ve witnessed the extreme of nearly every weather category.” It is no surprise that 2011 is being called the “year of the tornado.” The damage from weather-related disasters has been enormous, with more than 14 disasters, each costing over $1bn and total estimated financial losses over $50bn.
For scientists and US policy makers this may not come as a big shock, considering that, at the COP 16 in Cancun, during the presentation of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010, the United State was highlighted with several large red dots in the document, showing that the country was destined to pay a high tribute for strong weather events caused by climate change.
But this report was probably not common reading among the overall population so that what happened during the last year may still have come as a surprise and facilitate a change in people’s priorities.
For this reason, all the world is now looking with particular attention to the US primary election season, well aware that once again the winners of this process will hold in their hands the future of the world.
The positions of the candidates on this issue are not harbingers of good news. The front-runner, Mitt Romney, has been defined byLisa Hymas in Grist as one of the more sane Republicans when it comes to climate change. But his views have changed over time. In 2004, when he was governor of Massachusetts, he unveiled a Climate Protection Plan that aimed to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and then about 10 percent more by 2020.

He wrote in his 2010 book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness: “I believe that climate change is occurring, the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to factors out of our control.”
During a forum in Pennsylvania, in October 2011, he retreated even further on the issue: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

No doubts on climate change for Rick Santorum: “There is no such thing as global warming,” he stated on Fox News in June 2011. He actually seems to regard it as a liberal conspiracy: “It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life and I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative,” as quoted by The Guardian. And Ron Paul simply regards climate change as a big hoax.

While Americans vote, the rest of the world watches, aware that the same oil lobbies mentioned above are still working to deny the existence of climate change and to obstruct any legislative initiative against it.

People concerned about climate change can only hope that citizens in the US will follow the same path as those in Australia. After all, as Marsden reminds us, at the end of 2010 California voted 61,4% against Proposition 23, strongly supported by oil companies. Its aim was to undermine the Global Warming Solutions Act, which was enacted in 2006 and which could provide a basis for a nationwide law for effective CO2 emission reduction in the US. In 2010 the oil lobby lost an important fight, but it remains to be seen if that was an isolated case or the first step towards real change in the US policy on global warming. Observers are now watching to see how many people during the caucus, and the other primary election meetings, will raise their hands and ask the candidate “What’s your strategy to fight global warming?”

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Durban: some progress, vastly outpaced by global warming

COP 17 concluded its work in Durban one week ago and observers of the UNFCCC negotiation meeting are divided between those who see the glass half empty and those focused on the part half full.

Good progress was achieved in the implementation of the Green Climate Fund, the transfer of technology and in the fight against deforestation through the REDD+ (Reduction Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).
World-wide attention is however dedicated to the topic of mitigation. Which country needs to reduce its national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, by how much and when: these are the crucial questions still unresolved.
But even on this issue Durban produced very important results.
Ahead of the COP 17 very few experts thought that the Kyoto Protocol (KP), the only existing international legally binding agreement on climate change, would survive beyond, when its first commitment period runs out.
The EU decided to commit to a second period no matter what other developed countries, such as Japan and Russia, will decide for the period after 2012.
Canada’s opposition to the KP was the most clear-cut, having announced its intention to abandon even the KP’s first commitment period. This is only the latest step of Prime Minister Steven Harper’s strategy to renounce any commitment on climate change in exchange for the support of the oil lobby, based mainly in the Alberta Province. Harper’s weakness and lack of political will erode in the long term his predecessor’s reduction commitment of -6%, as defined in the previous KP accord, and the actual national GHG emission level of +30% (data UNFCCC, 2009).
The EU’s willingness to extend its participation for the second commitment period created a bridge between Europe and the majority of developing countries, including the African Group, the Alliance of Small Islands States and the Less Developed Countries: they were all crucial in drafting one of the most important achievements of the COP 17, i.e., the Durban Platform (DP). The DP is a three-year track aimed at defining mandatory emission targets for all major GHG emitters, including the US and China. The new commitment will be part of a new mandatory agreement, whose legal form has not yet been defined, but should be in place by 2020.
From this perspective, the COP17′s results point undoubtedly to a “glass half full,” but any elation is mitigated by the bad news arriving from climate science. A recent study published in the magazine Nature shows a continuous decline in the arctic ice extension in the last decades.
IEA (International Energy Agency) data show that 2010, with global emissions in the atmosphere at 30,6 billion tonnes of CO2, topped all previous records.
Further, data on temperature will almost certainly indicate that 2011 was one of the warmest years since the beginning of physical record-keeping.
But what is probably even more worrying to climate scientists is the status of the permafrost in the Arctic area. This is one of the most important tipping points, a situation where change does not move in a linear way, but rather resembles a switch where, within in a short time, the position can pass from “off” to “on.” If the permafrost, a land area constantly frozen throughout the year and which extends also into the coastal seabed, melts, all the gases trapped therein will be quickly released into the atmosphere. A Russian study presented a few days ago at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco indicated the existence of huge amounts of methane gas bubbling to the surface of the ocean, a phenomenon never registered in the previous 20 years of research in the area.
A study presented in 2010 by the same group estimated an amount of methane emissions from this area of about 8 million tonnes a year, but now it seems clear that the emissions are underestimated. The situation is particularly critical if we take into consideration that methane is 25 times more damaging for climate change than CO2 and this figure is higher than the entire emission of a country like the Netherlands.
Rethinking the outcome of Durban after these latest news, it becomes clear that the glass is always completely empty when we compare the speed of progress in the political process with the rate of change of climate conditions.

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Decision time in Durban, outcome as yet unclear

The 9th of December will be remembered as an historical date for the fight against climate change–either for the better or for the worse. The choice lies fully in the hands of ministers and heads of state involved today, and probably tonight, in the final plenary of the COP 17 in Durban and in the decision whether to save the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and the rest of the UN multilateral process or to simply let the KP expire.

Less than 24 hours before the end of the Durban Conference, it would appear that a large majority of countries is in favour of the II Commitment period of the KP and of a further legally binding commitment meant to involve a larger number of countries and emissions controls than the KP. But it is as yet unclear if this can be turned into a consensus-based decision valid for all.
Annie Petsonk, the representative of the NGO Environmental Defence Fund, identifies three possible options for the legal form a new commitment might take.
– The first one, very similar to the EU proposal, is a new Protocol with negotiations starting next year and to be adopted by COP 20 (2014) or by COP 21 (2015).
– The second one is a legally binding instrument, less stringent than the Protocol, without any timetable to conclude the work: this proposal is close to the US position.
– The last one, and the weakest, would involve simply a decision about the next steps: this option appears as the least likely, as it would signify the failure of the multilateral process.

Negotiations continued during the night of 8 December and from the delegates there is positive feedback for an agreement and even rumours of new margins for Russia and Japan to be part of the II Commitment period of the KP.
Karl Hodd, Grenada’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chair of AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States), reminded everyone of the reason for this meeting during his Thursday speech in the High Level section. “We must lift our sights and not let national interest overtake global interests. I want to challenge you today to demonstrate to the world over the next few days that we have that political will.” He also warned participants to behave in an honourable way: “Let us not speak one thing outside the negotiating room and another inside the room.” Another AOSIS country, Fiji, asked all parties to support a stronger commitment. Samuela Saumatua, Minister for local government, urban development, housing and environment of the island, remarked that “Durban presents a unique chance to renew faith in the multilateral process.”
Hodd used less diplomatic language during the AOSIS press conference, underlining that “there is not enough seriousness in this negotiation,” adding: “if we believe there is a problem on the planet, why don’t we address it?”
This is a feeling shared by many participants. During the same press conference, Saumatua said that in Fiji “we have to relocate people due to costal erosion. It is not a fairy tale, it is reality.” References to the very real consequences of climate change come from several other countries, including the Maldives, Tuvalu, Iceland, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea and Iraq. Most of the speeches in the High Level section sent a clear message: stop the talking and start acting. Soon.
Hood pointed out that scientists are asking for decisive action before 2017 and that there is no point in postponing pledges until after 2020: “We totally reject the hypothesis of 2020. Waiting is a disaster.”
Venezuela used its time to link global warming to capitalist economies. “The market is the problem, not the solution,” said Claudia Salerno Caldera, the special envoy for Climate Change. She repeated what Hugo Chavez said in Copenhagen two years ago. “If climate change had been a bank it would already have been saved…; it is not possible to have money to save the banks and pay for wars but not for climate change and for life”, she said, receiving a loud round of applause.
The urgent plight of some countries was summarized thus by Amberoti Nikora, the Minister of the Environment of Kiribati, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean: “I hope you’ll have the opportunity to visit my country and to see our children before it is too late.”

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EU praised for its effort to save Kyoto

Planetnext“I have to congratulate the EU for the leadership shown here.” It is rare to hear such praise during speeches in the High Level segment of a COP. But the words uttered yesterday by Mohamed Aslam, the Maldives’ Minister of Housing and Environment, are something more than a simple recognition of the effort made by the EU for a II commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP). For all developing countries it is fundamental to save the only legally binding climate instrument, the KP, in order to preserve the hope for a further international deal against climate change. But for Small Island States the EU represents the only real life-vest for their future, considering that water levels in the oceans are already increasing by circa 1 cm every 3 years.

For several years the EU has been showing a strong commitment in the fight against climate change, but now in Durban it has the opportunity to strongly lead the process. And it appears unwilling to accept a secondary role, as had happened in Copenhagen where the main decisions were thrashed out mostly by the US and the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China).
As Connie Hedegard, the EU Commissioner for climate change, underlined in last Monday’s press conference, the EU has been working for the past 14 years within the framework of the KP. “All our legislation is based on the KP principle and you cannot find another country in the world where this happens.” There is thus no desire to go backwards, as many measures are in place and fully operational. The EU CO2 market connected with the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) will probably continue to be implemented in the future regardless of what the Durban Conference will decide for the KP, because it is something already fully integrated in the European market.
Theoretically the EU could adhere to the II commitment of KP without any further political and technical measures, simply by introducing the -20% target by 2020, which has been enshrined in European legislation since 2008. This strengthens significantly the EU position in the negotiations. For this reason a new “Durban Road Map” appears more likely every day and this time the new three-year negotiation process needs to have all major emitters onboard, including the USA and China.
It is possible that China’s new willingness to discuss changes in its approach is the result of internal shifts within the G77 + China group, faced with the need to address new scenarios for the future. Already in 2007, during the Barcelona climate talks, the African countries started to speak with a single voice in order to better defend the interests of a continent strongly affected by climate change and with an economy lightyears behind that of China. Later in Copenhagen and Cancun it was the turn of the Less Developed Countries to ask for more financial assistance than the rest of the emerging economies. Now in Durban the insistent request for change comes from the small oceanic islands.
Tuvalu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour, Apisai Ielemia, remarked during his High Level speech that his islands are suffering not only for the rising sea levels, but also by the worst drought in memory. “We have to act now. Not in 2015 and definitely not in 2020. We have no time to wait!” But Ielemia spent a good part of his three minutes of time, normally dedicated to sound the alarm for the climate change affecting his islands, to ask for the participation of Taiwan in the UNFCCC.
This has to be interpreted as a clear message to China to begin acting as a major contributor to the reduction of the global CO2 emissions. Minister Mohamed Aslam was more blunt: “Not all developing countries are in the same basket. We are different in terms of emissions and we need to differentiate our commitments.
A possible signal of inside movement in the BASIC group comes from Tuesday’s press conference, where the Head of the Chinese Delegation, Minister Xie Zhenhua, decided to open his remarks by denying rumours of internal division within the BASIC countries.
Once more, Durban confirms that the real problem is, as always, that climate change progresses at a much faster pace than political decisions.
For Mohamed Aslam, “to postpone action until after 2020 is not acceptable for us” and probably for this reason he decided to thank the EU more than the G77 + China.

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Political progress registered, but China and US may be undermining EU goals

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“The USA is blocking, blocking, blocking!” The assessment of Tim Gore, the Oxfam representative, during yesterday’s NGO press conference is quite clear. His request that the EU and the developing countries move forward in any case, even if the US do not, resembles events at the COP 15 in Bali. In 2007 it was Al Gore who put forward a similar demand, echoed during the final plenary session by Kevin Conrad, the Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment & Climate Change of Papua New Guinea. The roar of approval in the assembly forced the US to accept the Bali Road Map.

It now seems possible that the same script will play out next Friday night in order to launch the 3-year Durban Road Map proposed by the EU.

The first target in Durban is undoubtedly the need to assure a future to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) through the II commitment period, beyond 2012. But the second goal seems to be the need to find a way to involve the US, which in political terms stands on tenuous ground. Everyone knows that it is very difficult to negotiate with a government that seems unable to impose to its own Senate the ratification of any agreement.

Yesterday there was a bilateral meeting between China and the US, probably crucial for the development of the COP 17. No official statement was issued.

But the previous day, Minister Xie Zhenhua, the Head of the Chinese Delegation, had sent an indirect message, almost certainly meant for US negotiators: “It is time to see who is acting in a responsible way to solve a common challenge for the human race.”

Rumours circulated by Greenpeace suggest an agreement between China and the US to postpone the deadline of a new global deal until after 2015, the date on which the EU is instead insisting as a condition for it to subscribe to a second KP commitment period. The situation is further complicated by China’s announcement to be ready for a legally binding agreement, without clearly specifying whether this means Beijing’s acceptance of the year 2020 as a deadline for the introduction of its own absolute mitigation target.

At the same time, the uncertainty and the shifting of political positions might be interpreted as a positive sign, showing that negotiations are having an effect on the original positions of the parties involved.

In the meanwhile, progress is being reported on financing issues as the idea to collect funds for developing countries from taxation of international aviation and shipping is gaining ground and could be one of the Durban conference’s positive results.

Growing attention is also being given to Mexico’s and Papua New Guinea’s proposal for the introduction of a threefourths majority voting for the COP decisions. What could be seen as a simple procedural aspect may became one of the most interesting outcomes of the COP and facilitate the future of the Durban Road Map.

Decisions needed as leaders arrive in Durban for COP’s second week

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The Conference of the Parties (COP) 17 enters its the last week of negotiations with the High Level session starting tomorrow afternoon and might be  useful to identify which are the most important topics under discussion.

 

Some positive results are expected  regarding technology transfer, a crucial issue in facilitating a more sustainable development path for developing countries.

 

Copenhagen and Cancun had outlined a financing mechanism, the Green Climate Fund, capable of supporting adaptation and mitigation to help in particular the less developed countries. It foresaw a three-year period (2010-2012) of fast tracking  $10 billion per year, to be increased up to $100 billion by 2020.

 

Christiana Figueres,  the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, underlined last Friday during a press conference that  there has so far been no decision on how that figure will be reached. She also pointed out that already last year the High Level financing panel set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had highlighted the need for “a combination of traditional and innovative sources of finances.”

 

Financing is needed as well to support the REDD mechanism (Reduction Emission from Deforestation and Degradation). In this field some problems have been raised by Brazil, which does not appear willing to accept a regime of international reporting of how safeguards in REDD will be addressed and respected.

 

But mitigation remains the main point for which a political solution must be found by the 12 Chiefs of State and 130 Ministers starting to arrive in Durban already this afternoon..

 

It is no longer possible to postpone a decision about the future of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) because its first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. Linked with the destiny of the KP is the decision on how to forge a new broader international pact, to include the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of all major emitters actually under discussion in the Long Cooperative Action (LCA).

 

The most concrete proposal submitted up to  now is the one prepared by the EU. With the public refusal on the part of Japan, Russia and Canada to be part of the II commitment period, the EU becomes the main mover in favour of the KP survival.

 

This allows the EU to lay down its own conditions to save the only existing, legally binding accord, i.e., the KP, still crucial for all developing countries. Figueres is aware that the EU will accept to support the KP’s renewal “only under certain conditions,” spelled out last Friday by Thomasz Chrusczow, representing the Polish EU Presidency: “it is necessary that the new pact include 100% of the global emissions.”

 

He asked for a kind of “Durban Road map,” a three-year negotiating process in order to finalize a full and global agreement by 2015 which should then become operative before 2020. Chrusczow’s request to base this new process on the same principles as the Bali Road map and the Cancun agreement indirectly confirms the failure of the COP 15 in Copenhagen and the entirely unsuccessful Rasmussen COP 15 Presidency. The evidence is that it is now necessary to restart the process for a new legally binding agreement.

 

But the international situation has radically changed from that prevailing at the time of the 2007 Bali conference and even more with respect to 1992, when the UNFCCC was signed. For Artur Runge Metzer, of the EU Commission, it is therefore no longer possible to base a future agreement only on historical responsibility. “We are aware of our historical responsibility, but this is not enough. If we shut down the EU tomorrow or next Saturday as result of the COP 17, we don’t save the climate. Others have to come on board”.

 

The message is clearly directed at the USA, increasingly absent from the negotiation process, as shown by the vague answer of the Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change,

 

Jonathan Pershing, during last week’s press conference and by the US attempt to postpone the new negotiation process until after 2020. The indirect answer comes from Keya Chatterjee, representative of WWF US. She urged her national delegation to keep  in mind this year’s  climatic events in the U.S., where for the first time 47 States had to declare a state of emergency because of  weather-related disasters.

 

But the EU message is meant also for the emerging economies, considering their increasing contribution to total GHG emissions. Chrusczow did however specify that it is necessary to differentiate between various national conditions because China, the main global emitter, has a value per habitant of 6 tons of CO2, while India’s is well below 2.

 

Srinivas Krishnaswamy, of the NGO CAN South Asia, is asking for a more leading role of the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China). They are already part of the G77+China group, but Krishnaswamy notes that they are increasingly behaving as an official negotiating group. This could be interpreted as a natural evolution of the developing countries’ block characterized by growing differences among them in terms of interest in the oil economy, level of development and direct hardship due to climate change-related consequences. To the group belong countries as different as Saudi Arabia, China, Tuvalu and Bangladesh.

 

There is finally another important point that may be on the discussion table in the days to come. It is the proposal presented by Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Mexico at the beginning of last week and already introduced in a less strong way by PNG at the Copenhagen conference. The proposal is to move the current consensus-based decision-making process towards a qualified majority approach. According to informal rumors, there is growing sympathy for this proposal, despite the opposition of some important parties. If nothing else this would force clarification of the meaning of “consensus,” often left to the interpretation of the COP Presidency, and speed up the decision process, considering that climate change will not wait for the conclusion of the long political debate.