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Warsaw Climate Change Conference underway


Warsaw Climate Change Conference underway

Willemien Viljoen, tralac Researcher, discusses the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently underway in Warsaw, Poland

Early in October, a Pre-COP high level informal consultation was held among Ministers and their Representatives; high level officials from the UNFCCC Secretariat; the co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and representatives of the business sector in preparation for the Warsaw climate change negotiations which opened on Monday 11 November in Warsaw, Poland. The aim of the consultation was to identify and discuss some of the important issues to be addressed in Warsaw:

  • The business sector highlighted the need for a simple and stable negotiations framework for a new climate change agreement to limit investment risk and to provide clear long-term perspective to investment and initiatives. The business sector also stressed the need for a new agreement that will address the issue of carbon leakage in the context of global competitiveness between business entities.

  • The negotiations must focus on resolving the issues regarding climate change finance by ensuring the swift capitalisation and operationalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

  • All parties have agreed that a new climate change agreement must consist of simple core text accompanied by further implementation decisions. The key success factor of any new agreement lies in the need for global participation in an agreement where mitigation, adaptation and implementation are all addressed in a balanced way.

This week the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 9) opened with statements from Ms Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary; His Excellency Mr Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the President of COP 18/CMP 8; and His Excellency Mr Marcin Korolec, the incoming President of COP 19/CMP 9 with the aim of resolving any remaining issues that could hamper the conclusion of a new binding climate change deal by the end of 2015. Currently the Conference is being attended by government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media and will come to an end on 22 November after the high-level segment of the meeting, which will be attended by more than 100 Heads of State, Government officials and Ministers, and will begin on 19 November.

The ADP will be the primary negotiating track for the Conference after the closure of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperation Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) which were the focal points for previous negotiations under the UNFCCC. In her opening address, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC stated that COP 19/CMP 9 takes place in the context of the fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I, which provides the scientific proof of climate change over recent decades:

  • Each of the last three decades have been warmer at the earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850;

  • Between 1901 and 2010 the global mean sea level rose by 19 centimetres;

  • Approximately 75 percent of the global mean sea level rise can be explained by glacier mass loss and ocean thermal expansion from warming since the early 1970s; and

  • CO2 concentrations have increased by 40 percent since pre-industrial times from fossil fuel emissions and net land use emissions

In light of these findings, the Warsaw climate change negotiations need to prepare the ground for the new agreement to be tabled in Lima, Peru at the end of 2014 for adoption in Paris, France at the end of 2015. In order to meet this deadline, Christiana Figueres identified three main issues that need to be resolved by the negotiators in Warsaw:

  • Clarification on the issue of mobilising climate change finance for low carbon development in developing countries between now and 2020.

  • The launch and construction of the Loss and Damage Mechanism to support developing countries with loss and damage suffered due to climate change.

  • Progressive clarification of the elements to be included in the new binding climate change deal to be tabled at the end of 2014.

During the two-week negotiations some of the issues that will be up for discussion and of great importance to developing economies include:

  • The failure of developed countries to fulfil finance commitments made at Copenhagen: In Copenhagen the industrialised economies committed to providing adaptation funding of US$ 10 billion per year in the form of fast-track financing for the period 2010-2012 and long-term funding of US$100 billion for reductions in GHG emissions and adaptation through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) by 2020. However, as of 30 June 2013 only US$ 7.55 billion has been contributed to the GCF.

  • Technology transfer and intellectual property rights: Addressing the impact of climate change is not just about financing adaptation projects, but also about having access to clean technology. The African Group has identified key issues to be resolved in Warsaw as those dealing with technology transfer and intellectual property rights, including the identification and removal of barriers hampering the transfer of climate-related and climate-friendly technology from developed to developing economies and the removal of patents on climate-related technologies for non-Annex I Parties.

  • The Conference of the Parties will also review the work done by the Forum on the Impact of the Implementation of Response Measures and consider whether the Forum has fulfilled its mandate and should be closed or whether the Forum’s activities and mandate should be extended.

  • Although it is not part of the formal negotiations, issues pertaining to agriculture and climate change have been incorporated into the work programme. A workshop on the technical and scientific aspects related to climate change and adaptation in agriculture has been organised within the framework of the UNFCCC for COP 19/CMP 9.

Some ambitious targets have been set for negotiators to be achieved at the conclusion of the Warsaw climate change conference in pursuit of reaching the overall goal of adopting a new global binding climate change agreement at the end of 2015. However, one of the main issues that can hamper progress at the Warsaw negotiations and derail any achievable progress on a legally binding agreement is the fact that key developed countries, including the US will not agree to a new climate change agreement unless all countries, including China and India have made binding commitments to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), while many developing countries will not sign a new binding climate change deal unless funding is made available by developed countries to enable developing nations to make the required commitments to reduce GHGs. Thus the question remains – how will we truly measure the success of the Warsaw conference? At the conclusion of the conference, what will be the deciding factors in determining whether countries are on track to reach their overarching goal in 2015? Will the lack of significant progress on financing; increased ambitions on GHG emission reductions and substantial clarification on structures, sequencing and content of the 2015 agreement signal countries’ wavering commitment to adopt a legally binding global agreement in Paris at the end of 2015?



UNFCCC (http://unfccc.int), ICTSD (www.ictsd.org)


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