In 2012, the commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol came to an end.
The international climate community is working toward finding its replacement – a new regime that will determine the future basis upon which global cooperation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change impacts will take place.
While formal negotiations are taking place under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) numerous parallel initiatives lead by national governments and research institutes are shaping the nature of this discussion.
World leaders and delegates need to decide what to do on four large, thorny, and interconnected issues:
- Meaningful emission reduction targets for the developed countries
- Appropriate emission reduction targets for developing countries
- Technological and financial support
- Allowing developing countries to manage the money while avoiding corruption
Emission reduction targets for the developed countries
The developed countries need to commit to binding GHG emission reduction targets they’ll meet after 2012. The targets need to be even more ambitious than Kyoto and they need to be met. (Many of the Kyoto signatories haven’t met their current targets.)
However, the developed countries are afraid that if they are bound to reduce emissions and the rapidly-developing countries are not, the rapidly-developing countries will have an unfair competitive advantage.
Science dictates that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to peak before about 2025 at the latest, and then reduce to 50 – 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This has to happen at the same time as populations grow and global energy demand increases by 55% between 2005 and 2030. (1)
Emission reduction targets for developing countries
The delegates need to decide what emission reduction actions developing countries should undertake (especially the rapidly-developing countries) .
Up until now the rapidly-developing countries have been lumped in with the unlikely-to-develop-anytime-soon countries and have been excluded from emission targets. Meanwhile, China has become the world’s largest emitter (even though it’s still way behind the U.S. and Canada on a per capita basis). The rapidly-developing nations have an obligation to grow in a climate-responsible manner.
Europe and the USA are China and India’s biggest customers. It is common practice in business for customers to put constraints on supplier’s practices.
Technological and financial support
The developed countries need to provide financing and technology to help the developing countries supply their energy needs and to grow their economies in a sustainable fashion that reduces their greenhouse gas emissions. These countries also need to increase their adaptive capacity.
How much will this cost? Current estimates total about $250 billion per year in 2020. (2)
Rich nations have not been meeting their current foreign aid commitments. Beginning in 1970, members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) promised to provide 0.7% of their national incomes in aid each year. Instead, the amount of aid has been around 0.2 to 0.4%. This is a $100 billion annual shortfall. Moreover, development assistance is often of dubious quality. In many cases, aid is primarily designed to serve the interests of the donor countries or powerful domestic interest groups. (3) In some cases, the aid is in the form of loans which results in more debt.
Manage the money while avoiding corruption
A future deal must also deliver funding and technological assistance in a way that avoids corruption and treats the developing countries as equal partners in decision-making.
Much of the currently available funding has not reached developing countries in a way that is regarded as efficient or beneficial. This has been a reason for putting those self-serving conditions (see Technological and financial support above) on any aid that is currently delivered.
Copenhagen climate change conference (COP15)
From Dec 7 to Dec 18, 2009 more than 40,000 representatives of governments, non-governmental organizations, and media from 193 countries descended upon Copenhagen Denmark for an historic climate conference. The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) attempted to hammer out a comprehensive, fair, and ambitious treaty to replace the GHG emissions reduction mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol.
The delegates did not reach a binding agreement.
The conference underscored the differences between the developed and the developing nations. Also, the process excluded many Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and other citizen groups from participating in many of the detailed negotiations.
However, on the last day of the conference, after much discussion with the Chinese delgation, US President Barack Obama announced the Copenhagen Accord. This accord provides the following commitments:
- To reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.
- Developed countries will provide $30 billion to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation between 2010 and 2012. This will increase to $100 billion a year by 2020.
Negotiations have continued with an objective of reaching a binding agreement by 2015:
- COP16 – December 2010 in Mexico City
- COP17 – December 2011 in Durban, South Africa
- COP18 – December 2012 in Doha, Qatar
- COP19 – December 2013 in Warsaw, Poland
- COP20 – December 2014 in Lima, Peru