As we head into the traditionally slower period of the Northern summer, recent high-level events have produced plenty of material to contemplate regarding climate change politics. The latest political declarations and decisions on climate change targets and actions will play an important role in shaping negotiators’ expectations in the Bali Roadmap talks leading to Copenhagen in 2009. Such declarations also provide strong clues as to the focus that related projects will pursue in the interim.
The High-level Segment of the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) substantive session, which gathered ministers from 30 June to 3 July 2008, developed a ministerial declaration in which participants reaffirmed their commitment to the objective in Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” In relation to a timetable for achieving this objective, they indicated that “Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”
The more closely-watched G8 Summit in Japan, which brought together the leaders of the leading industrialized countries from 7-9 July 2008, was more specific about the target. The Chair’s summary from this meeting indicates the participants shared a vision of cutting emissions by at least 50% by 2050. How this will be done was not clearly specified in the summary, which indicates that G8 countries will implement “ambitious economy-wide mid-term goals in order to achieve absolute emissions reductions and, where applicable, first stop the growth of emissions as soon as possible, reflecting comparable efforts among all developed economies, taking into account differences in their national circumstances.”
This target reflects the suggestion offered to the G8 by Tony Blair in his Climate Group’s “Breaking the Climate Deadlock: A Global Deal for Our Low Carbon Future,” as a step to signal to the world, particularly the private sector, the direction that policy will take. The executives from 100 of the world’s largest multinational corporations also had recommended, following discussions supported by the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, that the G8 Summit agree to the target of at least halving emissions by 2050. Whether these inputs influenced the G8 discussions or whether other sources also played a role, the focal point for emissions reduction targets that the G8 leaders converged on resulted in a target that non-governmental organizations criticized for not including medium-term goals. On the other hand, some highlighted that it represented the first time the US had agreed to emissions reduction targets.
Two additional events from the past two weeks focused not on targets, but on the actions to be taken to reduce emissions. The G8 statement was followed by the leaders’ declaration of the Major Economies Meeting on the sidelines of the G8 Summit. While the declaration recognizes the need for goals, it puts off naming them until 2009: “Achieving our long-term global goal requires respective mid-term goals, commitments and actions, to be reflected in the agreed outcome of the Bali Action Plan.” This lack of targets from the larger group of 16 major developed and developing countries suggests that the governments of large emerging economies such as China and India are not yet willing to agree to specific targets, even in the long-term. These major developing countries have argued that the industrialized world needs to show greater leadership and stronger commitments before the South would consider such proposals. Rather than targets, then, the leaders at the Major Economies Meeting committed to a number of actions before 2012, including working on mitigation-related technology cooperation strategies; directing trade officials responsible for World Trade Organization issues to advance their discussions on issues relevant to promoting our cooperation on climate change; accelerating action on technology development, transfer, financing, and capacity building to support mitigation and adaptation efforts; improving energy efficiency; and continuing to promote actions under the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer for the benefit of the global climate system.
Meanwhile, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved, on 1 July 2008, two Climate Investment Funds designed by the World Bank to complement existing bilateral and multilateral efforts, until a post-2012 framework under the UNFCCC is implemented. While some non-governmental organizations have objected to the use of coal power plants in these Funds and to the potential use of loans (which must be repaid) rather than grants, the objective of getting projects and funding in place remains constructive in the countdown to the end of the Bali Roadmap, Copenhagen in 2009.
How these July 2008 commitments, vague or specific, far-off or near-term, will feed into the negotiation dynamics remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that countries are thinking very hard about what they can and cannot agree to, that the political landscape is in a state of change (with some countries gradually shifting stance), and that many options and possibilities can now be envisaged for a future Copenhagen agreement. With our coverage in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Linkages Update, Climate-L Bulletin and our other publications and resources, IISD Reporting Services will be bringing the latest news, updates and analysis of this process at every step over the coming 18 months.