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WW200910, Brussels in brief

UN climate negotiations need to step up a gear

09.10.2009

It sometimes seems that most of the world is counting down the days (now less than 60) until the UN Climate Change Conference begins in Copenhagen on 7 December, yet the outcome of August’s pre-Copenhagen negotiating session in Bonn can be described at best as mixed.

“Overall the mood was a bit cheerier than at the last meeting in June, but despite some small positive signs, no discernable progress was made towards consensus on any major issues”, said EWEA’s Regulatory Affairs Advisor Rémi Gruet, who attended the sessions.

Amongst the positive signs were New Zealand’s announcement of its 10-20% reduction target compared to 1990 levels by 2020, and the Russian Federation saying it would aim for a 10-15% reduction compared with 1990 by 2020. The recent change of government in Japan precipitated a change in climate policy with a pledge for 25% reduction by 2020 and China recently announced its intention to limit emissions as well, though it didn’t mention by how much. Moreover, the need to keep global temperature rises to 2° above pre-industrial levels – a position long-held by the EU - seems now to be widely accepted.

“While these latest announcement bode well for an agreement in Copenhagen, they are no way enough to avoid a 2° increase”, pointed out Gruet. “The bottom line is that the negotiators do not have instructions to start negotiating these reduction targets, and are waiting for clear messages from political level.”

There is certainly still hope that such clear messages will come. The conclusions of September’s G20 meeting in Pittsburgh emphasised heads of states’ commitment to reaching an agreement in Copenhagen, along with a pledge to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term and to increase and stimulate investment in clean and renewable energy supplies.

With all these positive signs in mind, it is possible that the negotiating session in Bangkok - which at the time of writing was just about to finish on 9 October - will reveal the negotiators to have new instructions. Traditionally, the second week of negotiations brings about the most progress – which would certainly be a good thing, because the first week started slowly. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer warned in Bonn: “If they continue like this they’re not going to make it”.

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