Global Commons Project (GCP)

News from the UN Climate Change Conference 2008

The fourteenth conference of the parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change meets in Poznań, Poland from December 1-12, 2008. The COP is the main forum for negotiations toward an agreement on an international response to global warming.

The Global Commons Project will be reporting from COP 14 beginning on December 2. Check in regularly and let us know your thoughts.


Climate Talks 2007 to May 2008

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Global Commons Project Report on United Nations Climate Change Negotiations                                                                                   
The world community continues to progress toward a post-Kyoto climate change agreement with working sessions that will meet throughout 2008, the first of which was held last month in Bangkok. These meetings will develop the themes set by the “Bali Roadmap” last December. The nations that are members of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, including the United States, committed to reach a new international accord on four aspects of climate change: reducing greenhouse gas emissions (“mitigation”), responding to the impacts of climate change (“adaptation”), transferring technologies and transferring financial resources to developing countries to help them with both mitigation and adaptation. The negotiations are intended to conclude at the fifteenth conference of the parties, December 2009, in Copenhagen, Denmark.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Bangkok Session

Delegates to the April meeting in Bangkok agreed on a schedule to discuss key issues in 2008, with the emphasis on building a basis for agreement before the serious negotiations begin.  Significantly, it was decided that all four Bali action plan elements (mitigation, adaptation, technology and financial resources) will be addressed concurrently.  Possibly the most sensitive issue of all, discussion of “measurable, reportable and verifiable” mitigation actions by developed and developing countries, was deferred until next year.

While there was agreement on the process, there was less harmony on substantive issues.   For example, Japan joined the United States in supporting transnational emission reduction targets for particular industrial sectors, like the cement industry, rather than setting national targets.  But the developing countries and China expressed concern about the competitive disadvantage that sectoral policies pose to them.  Another example - while all agree that new funds must flow to support resilience and low-emission energy in developing countries, there was considerable conflict over support for various funding sources which include: the Climate Change Convention funding mandates, a Clean Technology Fund proposed by the World Bank, private investment, the Adaptation Fund (financed by a fee on CDM offset credits as part of the Kyoto Protocol), or self-funding by India, China and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States signed but then repudiated, will likely continue after its first commitment period ends in 2012.  That is the subject of parallel negotiations that meet at the same time as the meetings described above.  All indications are that the market mechanisms (“cap and trade”), which are the hallmark of the Protocol, will be continued.

Recent and Upcoming United Nations climate change meetings

Bonn Germany, June 2-12, 2008

Workshops will be held on advancing adaptation through finance and technology; investment and financial flows to address climate change; mechanisms and means for scaling up the development and transfer of technology; and ways to accelerate deployment, diffusion and transfer of affordable environmentally sound technologies.

Accra, Ghana, August 21-27, 2008

Workshops will be held on policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD); and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries; and cooperative sectoral approaches and sector-specific actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Poznan, Poland, December 1-12, 2008

Workshops will be held on: Risk management and risk reduction strategies, including risk sharing and transfer mechanisms such as insurance; cooperation on research and development of current, new and innovative technology; and a shared vision for long-term cooperative action.  This will also be the interim conference of the parties, halfway between the Bali Action Plan and the Copenhagen Protocol.

Cymie Payne
Director, Global Commons Project
Center for Law, Energy & the Environment
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
Berkeley, CA  94709



United Nations Climate Change Treaty - On the Bali Road

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The mood on the tropical island of Bali this December was chilly. Participating in the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the parallel official meeting for the parties to the Kyoto Protocol, I met with government delegates, advocates, and academics from all over the planet. While many I spoke with expressed the hope that this meeting would produce an international commitment to drastic reductions in greenhouse gases that are necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, it was clear at the outset that the intransigence of the United States and China would be a significant challenge.

The best advocates for progress could get from this meeting was a schedule to negotiate over the next two years, aiming at an agreement at the 2009 Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. On the other hand, although the official U.S. delegates were famously booed at key turning points, most of the people in attendance at Bali were acutely aware of California’s leadership. The impact of California’s breakthrough legislation, AB32 and the Pavley Bill, was widely appreciated among the roughly 10,000 in attendance. And the standing room only crowd at a panel of top Congressional aides, talking about the Lieberman-Warner bill, reflected interest in the rapidly evolving role of Congress, as it stands on the threshold of adopting firm emissions reduction targets and market mechanisms to achieve them.

A key question that remains after Bali is, do we need new models, or just better versions of the Kyoto Protocol approach to reducing emissions of climate-forcing gases. This put us in mind of the debates at the Center's “Cap and Trade” conference last February (presentations here), particularly concerning the Clean Development Mechanism. The CDM is moving forward, but hardly as the smooth symbiosis of economic development and environmental progress that was envisioned. Instead, we witnessed a tug of war between project developers arguing that the CDM approval process is too slow and rigorous, and other voices criticizing approved projects that are achieving neither GHG reductions nor technology transfer to developing countries.

Fresh approaches could include stronger compliance mechanisms, a greater variety of market and non-market policies to account for national capacity, and greater attention to co-benefits of preparing for adaptation while simultaneously reducing emissions. At the November Public Lands conference (presentations here), the use of wetlands to simultaneously sequester carbon, protect land vulnerable to sea level rise and contribute to biodiversity provided a striking example of the co-benefits approach.

Meanwhile, in Bali the initial experiences of the Kyoto Protocol’s market mechanisms were on full view for assessment. The European Union Emission Trading Scheme and the Clean Development Mechanism offsets program can now offer some practical experience about designing monitoring, compliance and enforcement to ensure that markets produce real GHG reductions. Anticipating that cap and trade will be part of state or federal policy, the Fall 2008 conference will consider what legal tools are needed to make these policies succeed, as well as explore alternative models.
While the jury is still out on the effectiveness of market mechanisms, there is a broader question of whether a multilateral treaty is the right model. We continue to believe that the United Nations is an important focus for the global collaboration that is essential to climate change response, while not eschewing other channels of discussion and agreement. It is absolutely clear that US leadership is indispensable – but if the feds won’t do it, the states will, with California in the vanguard. The “fossil of the day award” was regularly awarded to the United States (along with Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia – and sometimes to Australia for enthusiastically signing the Kyoto Protocol and then expressing much confusion about its role going forward) for contributing the worst input to the negotiations.

The increasing focus on adaptation in the Bali Action Plan is particularly relevant to the legal community. Adaption will require clear thinking on the legal framework for building resilience, and serious consideration of the climate justice issues invoked in Dan Farber’s current writing. CLEE (formerly CCELP) is exploring paths toward climate-resilient development through the Boalt in New Orleans program, our ongoing engagement with the consequences of Hurricane Katrina.

A friend joked that the Conference of the Parties scheduled for December 2008 in cold, dark Poznan, Poland will be the punishment for going to tropical Bali in 2007. The Polish meetings will have to produce a greater blaze of substance and inspiration to carry the world community toward serious, binding, commitments, or the goal of real action in Copenhagen at the 2009 conference will fail.
CLEE, its faculty, and its affiliates will be developing applied research and hosting convenings on these topics over the course of the next year. We welcome your reactions, ideas, participation and support.

Cymie Payne
Associate Director, CLEE
Director, Global Commons Project

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