Nations Stake Positions in Advance of Warsaw Climate Conference

One of the outcomes of last year’s UN climate conference in Doha was to ramp up negotiations this year in anticipation of a new legal climate agreement to be signed in 2015.

In an effort to avoid the debacle of Copenhagen, when the proposed treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol  failed to materialize and the international climate negotiations nearly ground to a halt, the parties developed a new negotiation track in 2011 dubbed the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action [ADP].  The group has been conducting workshops this year designed to be a more informal and transparent vehicle for fostering conversation between parties.

National Stadium, Warsaw – Site of COP 19 – photo: PolandMFA

In advance of this year’s major meeting in Warsaw, parties have been submitting documents stating their visions for a 2015 agreement.  Although the negotiations over an actual text won’t commence until next year, the stands being taken now are illustrative of the potential viability of any treaty that may emerge in 2015.

A couple of points are interesting.  From the United States, we see a rather tepid statement which envisions “a mix of provisions that are legally binding and non-legally binding” and continues to rely on voluntary emissions targets from countries.  Glaringly omitted is any mention of the need to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees by 2050–which was a key feature of the Copenhagen Accord.

Given the fact that there have been several analyses written since Copenhagen analyzing the gap between voluntary pledges and what the science tells us is necessary to address the 2 degree target, the US position is a bit troubling.  Essentially the US is sticking to its position in Copenhagen and ignoring the reality of science-based risk assessments agreed upon in subsequent negotiating sessions.

On the other hand, the European Union’s latest series of statements puts the 2 degree target at the forefront.  They offer a timetable to get us to a legally-binding agreement by 2015.  One of the features of this timetable is that all countries present specific reduction targets in 2014 that they will be legally bound to in a final agreement.

From the large developing country perspective, India emphasizes the need to maintain the distinction between developing and developed countries that was enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol and situates finance coming from the developed countries as a requirement for developing country emissions reduction targets.

None of these positions are really new.  Aside from the EU–which has the clearest articulation for a scientifically-oriented agreement–the others seem to be treading water making it unclear if 2015 will be a breakthrough or simply Copenhagen redux.