Copenhagen Climate Conference

On January 28th 2009, the EU Commission has presented its proposals for the Copenhagen climate Conference, due to finalise a comprehensive international strategy for tackling humanity’s most pressing problem in the 21st century.

These are the main points:
• Developed countries reduce their green house gas by 30 percent below 1990 levels until 2020;
• Emerging countries slow their further increase of emissions below the trend line by 15-30 percent until 2020;
• International financial support will be made available for the investments in energy efficiency and renewable sources;
• A common carbon market among OECD and emerging countries should be the target for 2020;
• Aviation and shipping should be included in the international climate strategy;
• Deforestation should be halved by 2020 and stopped by 2030.
• All major emission countries should elaborate mitigation strategies under UN monitoring;
• All countries should elaborate adjustment strategies.

The Commission paper builds on the “blocks”, which had been debated during the last two years in the appropriate UN climate forums (Bali, Poznan etc.) and transforms these into a coherent global approach.
That is its principal merit. If the international community were able to agree on the Commission paper, humanity could feel reassured about the earth’s climate during the coming 50-100 years.

Unfortunately, the chances for arriving at a global consensus on that basis are extremely slim.

• The developed countries are unlikely to subscribe to the 30 percent reduction – below 1990 levels – within a decade. That would require super- human political efforts by all of them, including the EU. For the USA it would imply a reduction of 45 percent as¸ unlike the EU its emissions have kept growing by 25 percent since 1990.The same goes for countries like Canada and Australia.

• If the developed countries fail to reduce their emissions by 30 percent until 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050, emerging countries are unlikely to refuse even minor commitments.

• The Commission dwells too much on financing mechanisms by which developed countries should support emerging countries` investment efforts in new energy technologies. It is true this has been a major issue in Poznan. But in fact, humanity has invested some $ 150 annually since 2006 without any international mechanism. Why is it necessary to create a new mechanism? The World Bank and the Regional Development Banks could easily finance $ 100-200 billion annually. Their governors simply have to give the necessary instructions, raise the additional capital and replenish the energy facility.

• The Commission overestimates the virtue of an international carbon market as an instrument for reducing GHGs. its effectiveness depends more on the CO2 price than on the size of the market. The present low C02 price of € 8/ton in the EU indicates that governments have imposed too generous caps. It is the caps that matter; the trading only facilitate.
It would, of course, be helpful to have OECD-wide carbon market. But the 2015 seems not very realistic. Nor is its extension to major emerging countries by 2020.

• Including aviation and shipping into the future international climate strategy is of vital importance considering the rising share in global emissions of these two sectors. But it is up to the EU and the USA to take the necessary initiatives within ICAO and IMO and overcome their entrenched opposition.

• Stopping deforestation, especially in developing countries is crucial for the success of any mitigation efforts, as its accounts for more than 20 percent of C02 emissions. But can humanity afford to wait until 2030 before stabilising the areas covered with forests? By that time illegal cutting and droughts may have wrought irreparable damage. It would be preferable to negotiate bilateral deals between the major forest countries and the major importers of wood.

• The Commission is absolutely right insisting on the need for all major emitting countries to draw up climate strategies, which need to be duly scrutinised and monitored. But these should focus on mitigating rather than on adjustment.

In conclusion, the Commission proposal contains a lot of wishful thinking. But it has the merit of being on the table and having been presented by the first group of countries that has adopted a coherent and hopefully effective climate strategy until 2020.

We should wish the Commission and the Presidency success in their ongoing efforts to convince the major emitter countries of the need for adopting effective measures at Copenhagen. This will at some stage have to involve meetings at the highest political level.

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  1. You’ve highlighted many of the challenges and obstacles facing the EU, international organisations, particular sectors and the common global citizen.

    The spotlight on climate change is as keenly felt in the private sector as in the domain of public affairs.

    The McKinsey report released last month, addressed many of the myths surrounding climate change policy, including the impact on competitiveness.
    (See: )

    Global business groups from all the major countries, developed and developing, joined together this week in Copenhagen to pledge their support for a global framework that equally addresses mitigation, adaptation and deforestation, and involves ministers of finance in the discussions.
    (See: )

    Thank you Mr Rhein, for once more focusing our attention on the challenges of climate change mitigation on the European and global scale.

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