As the countdown to the Copenhagen climate change conference continues (currently 129 days and counting), the outline of how the final agreement might take shape continues to evolve.
In our last issue of Linkages Update, we reported that the G-8 Leaders’ Summit had, for the second year in a row, reached an agreement on long-term emission reduction targets. This year, they added that an “increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C.”
This issue of Linkages Update reports on an informal meeting of EU environment and energy ministers, which pointed to the G-8 agreement on global average temperature as a significant development that provides new momentum to the continuing negotiations. Perhaps more significantly for the Copenhagen talks, EU ministers also noted the need for the EU to take the lead in speeding up the negotiations.
Meanwhile, the US and China have taken a bilateral initiative to improve their cooperation, signified by their signing of a “U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Enhance Cooperation in Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment.” This MOU establishes a platform for further discussions and cooperation on a number of issues, including on international climate change negotiations, adaptation, and joint research, development, deployment, and transfer, as mutually agreed, of climate-friendly technologies. It remains to be seen how this and other bilateral arrangements and “confidence building” talks will affect the Copenhagen outcome.
On yet another front, parties to the Montreal Protocol have taken the initiative to consider amending the Montreal Protocol to include a phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a common hydrochlorofluorocarbon alternative. Although HFCs do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, they have high global warming potential and therefore pose a threat to the climate system. The proposal will be considered again during the 21st session of the meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol, scheduled to convene in Port Ghalib, Egypt, from 4-8 November 2009, one month before participants at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference will also discuss it as part of the basket of greenhouse gases under consideration in those talks.
And in another forum, the 59th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to circulate interim voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. This outcome will also be reported to parties participating in the Copenhagen negotiations.
In the coming month, the intersessional informal consultations of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention are set to convene from 10-14 August 2009, in Bonn, Germany. This latest round of discussions will provide the first chance to assess how the negotiations are influenced by these developments, from the agreement on the overall objective related to limiting a temperature increase, to the EU resolution to take the lead and speed up negotiations, to evolving bilateral cooperation and the treatment of climate change agenda items in other fora. Although the translation of these targets and agreements to the specific, short- and medium-term emission reduction targets that many are waiting for may not come until the negotiation end game in December, we will be watching all of the developments through our Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of the negotiations and our Linkages Update and Climate Change Policy & Practice coverage of news and events related to the climate change decision-making process, charting the road to Copenhagen.