Discussions

From the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2009 to now: What has happened so far?

From the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2009 to now: What has happened so far?

07 Apr 2010

Willemien Viljoen, tralac Researcher, discusses the progress made after the 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference.

Since the closing of the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen more than 110 countries have signed up to the Copenhagen Accord. The UNFCCC has also received national pledges from 75 developed and developing countries to cut or limit the emission of greenhouse gases by 2020. These countries account for more than 80 percent of the global emissions from energy use. Developed countries which have pledged economy-wide emission targets include Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the US while Brazil, China, India and South Africa are some of the developing countries which have pledged nationally appropriate mitigation actions.

On 1-2 March 2010 the 8th Informal Meeting on Further Action against Climate Change was held in Tokyo, Japan. According to Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, the aim of the meeting was to take stock of Copenhagen and to lay the foundation for further negotiations during 2010. Although the Copenhagen Accord did not result in a legally binding agreement, it raised climate change policy to the highest political level. However, the need now exists to focus on substantive issues to make long term climate change cooperation between countries possible.

The next round of formal UNFCCC negotiations will be held in Bonn, Germany from 9-11 April 2010 with preparatory regional group meetings taking place on 8 April. The aim of these negotiations is for members to agree on the methods of work for the organisation during 2010.

On 15 April developed country Parties to the Convention must submit an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries which are also Parties to the Kyoto Protocol must also submit their annual information to show their compliance with the Protocol, to be reviewed by experts later this year. In terms of the Kyoto Protocol 2010 is the first year which has mandatory reporting and review requirements, including on land use, land use change and forestry activities.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was held from 13-25 March 2010 in Doha, Qatar. The meeting did not result in new trade measures to protect marine species, but over 150 governments adopted decisions to strengthen wildlife management, combat illegal trafficking and update the trade rules for a range of plant and animal species.

The BASIC Group

The second meeting of the four BASIC Group countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) was held in India on 24 January 2010. The countries emphasised that funding, logistics and other procedural issues should not constrain the progress of satisfactory negotiations on climate change mitigation and adaptation. The US$10 billion pledged by developed countries for climate change action in 2010 must be focused on least developed countries, small island states and countries of Africa. The meeting reiterated the desire to enhance South-South cooperation on various issues including those relating to scientific cooperation and support for climate change adaptation for vulnerable countries. Although Indonesia is not a member of the BASIC Group it has been indicated that they will attend the next meeting to be held in Cape Town, South Africa later this month (April).

African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Union (EU)

One of the issues addressed during the Joint Parliamentary Assembly between the ACP countries and the EU, held in Spain from 29 March – 1 April 2010, was the impact of climate change on the ACP countries. The EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, proposed two areas for cooperation on climate change in the ACP-EU framework. The first is to increase cooperation through increasing the number of countries which benefit from the financial support given under the Global Climate Change Alliance in 2010. The financial support will be aimed at capacity building and investment in clean energy sources and water-efficient farming methods. The second is for increased policy dialogues among countries to understand each others’ needs and expectations regarding climate change policy through regional talks in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean. The Resolution on the financial and economic impact of climate change in ACP countries was also adopted by the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly on 1 April.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)

On 25 March the IMF released a note regarding a possible scheme for financing the response to climate change. The Green Fund identifies various ways in which funds can be mobilised to assist vulnerable economies to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. The idea is for developed countries to make an initial capital injection into the fund. The fund will then obtain resources from private and official investors through bonds. The funds received will then be given to developing and least developed countries as grants or cheap loans to address climate change.

South Africa

On 5 February South Africa and Australia signed a letter of intent for continued cooperation in responding to the issues related to climate change. They have agreed on identifying, developing and implementing further joint activities focussing on economic instruments to address climate change, the impacts and adaptation in agriculture, biodiversity and the reporting and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms BP Sonjica, took part in the State of the Nation address Debate on 15 February 2010. The Minister identified climate change as the biggest challenge in the 21st century; a challenge which can undermine the achievement of the millennium development goals. The extent to which South Africa and other developing countries can implement their national emission targets depend on the provision of financial resources, the transfer of technology and capacity building by developed countries. This requires the finalisation of an effective and binding multilateral agreement under the UNFCCC during December in Mexico.

At the 15th CITES Conference in Qatar the Secretariat announced that South Africa published National CITES Regulations on 5 March 2010 that will come into effect on 1 May. These regulations designate management and scientific authorities, put a permit system in place to facilitate trade and provide for penalties in the case of non-compliance on a national level, instead of provincial regulations.

South Africa’s new National Air Quality Act came into effect on 1 April and the new list of activities requiring Atmospheric Emissions Licenses to operate was also promulgated on the same date. This act repeals the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act of 1965. The Government has also indicated that they are set to issue a green paper on climate change in May this year which will cover mitigation and adaptation policies. It is expected to indicate how South Africa will reach the carbon-cutting pledge made under the Copenhagen Accord to cut emissions by 34 percent from a business-as-usual scenario by 2020 and by 42 percent by 2025. It is also the aim of the Government to produce a white paper on climate change before the end of 2010.

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Sources:

UNFCCC;

South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism;

IMF;

European Parliament;

Sustainability South Africa;

CITES.

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