COP-17 Major Issues

6 December 2011 --- Summary of the major issues: Basically the industrial countries that have caused the problem do not experience so much adverse effects from climate change now, and what they do experience they have the resources to address, so they do not feel so much urgency. In contrast, developing countries that did not cause the problem are experiencing serious adverse effects and do not have the resources to adapt, so they feel a great urgency for action. The major issues involve the question of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which ends at the end of 2012, goals for emissions reductions, carbon offsets, and financing of developing country needs.

Major Issues

Second Commitment Period for the Kyoto Protocol

There is a range of options being discussed ranging from these two extremes: Developing countries want a second KP legally binding commitment period with no gap, beginning in 2013, versus the other extreme of voluntary emission pledges to be negotiated by 2020.
Another issue is the structure of the second commitment period, a continuation of the same KP structure versus a new structure, which will take longer to develop, causing further delays. And when decisions are made by consensus of 193 countries, any decision is tedious!

Ambition of Goals

The issues of CO2 equivalent concentrations and temperature increases also have a range of proposals, which is based on the current scientific consensus. Now the most vulnerable countries are saying the goal should be 300 ppm, which is a change from the previous consensus of 350 ppm, and the developed countries want 450 ppm.
Developing countries want global carbon emission reductions by the industrialized countries of40% during 2013-2017 and 95% by 2050. Developed countries have a less ambitious goal of 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.Developing countries are willing to reduce their emissions and many have made much progress in converting their economies to low carbon. The total reduction in emissions by developing countries over the past year or so was actually more than that of the developed countries.

Peak Year

One goal is to establish a peak year after which global CO2 levels will decline, but this will happen as a result of the level of ambition in the goals above.

Carbon Offsets

There are several issues around offsets that can be used in determining the carbon emissions of a particular country. The developed countries want these to be maximized so they do not have to reduce actual emissions from power plants and such. They are generally referred to as “loopholes” and are among the most contentious issues because developing countries are mostly exploited by these programs, which include:
REDDReducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. In the initial formulation projects qualified for REDD funding where major companies were buying large tracts of tropical forest, cutting it down and planting trees for timber. REDD+ added provisions in an attempt to prevent such obviously counter-productive projects, but the indigenous and other forest stakeholders were not convinced. Many groups were holding “NO REDD” signs in the Global Day of Action march on Saturday.
LULUCFLand use, land-use change and forestry program is to define projects eligible for REDD+ funding.
Agriculture (Soil carbon) Developed countries are trying to get offsets for soil carbon and carbon sequestration in crops. The Climate Justice Now coalition is very concerned about this, saying “Agriculture is the new REDD.”

Carbon Markets

With all financing, market-based or public finance is the question. The Climate Justice Now group is having a Press Conference today and plans an action to celebrate the death of the carbon trading market.

Financing Developing Countries

Adaptation Fund I have already written about. I didn’t realize until a couple of days ago that it was created in 2001. I thought it was new at Cancun, butit was just not operationalized until this year, as a result of language included in the Cancun agreement.
Green Climate Fund was a new entity in the Cancun agreement, so a Transition Committee was assigned to operationalize it during the intervening year. At the last meeting a plan was finalized for adoption here at COP-17, but the U.S. and Saudi Arabia blocked it from being submitted as agreed. The question of whether to reopen the negotiation of that text has been one of the most contentious and time-consuming issues here. The compromise was to add Annexes to the text. U.S. is said to be open to approving it finally and Saudi Arabia agrees if their concerns are in the Annex. The issues are around the form of oversight and the terms of reference for the host of the administration of the fund.
Least Developed Country Fund was not so contentious and agreement was easily reached.




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