April 6, 2010

UN Seeking Way Forward With Climate Change

Countries are gathering this week to restore faith in the U.N. process for combating climate change after the bitter memories of the Copenhagen summit.

Negotiators plan to meet in Bonn from Friday to Sunday for the first official talks under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since the Copenhagen summit.

Their first task will be to see what place climate change now has on the world political agenda.

Disappointment or disillusion swept many capitals when 120 heads of state and government returned from the last summit making no progress.

Sebastien Genest, vice president of France Nature Environment, told the AFP news agency that over the past three months, political interest in climate change has ebbed.

"The summit prompted a widespread sense of failure and a kind of gloom," said Genest.

Skeptics and pragmatists are moving to fill the vacuum.

Negotiators will discuss in Bonn how to breathe life into the summit's Copenhagen Accord.

The heads of 28 countries drafted the document during the December 7-19 summit.

It sets the goal of limiting warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by joining rich and poor countries in action against carbon pollution.

The document also promises $30 billion for climate-vulnerable poor countries by 2012, and as much as $100 billion annually by 2020.

The deal falls way short of the treaty that was expected to emerge from the two-year haggle, which climaxed in Copenhagen.

Many critics say it has no deadline or roadmap for reaching the warming target and its pledges are only voluntary.

It was not even endorsed at a UNFCCC plenary because the raucous reception it got from left-leaning countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Less than two-thirds of the UNFCCC parties have signed up for it.

However, the Accord also has powerful supporters that say it is the first to include advanced and emerging economies in specified emissions curbs.

It could provide the key to resolving climate financing, which is one of the thorniest problems in a post-2012 pact.

One question in Bonn will be how to dovetail the Copenhagen Accord with the UNFCCC, which would allow money to be distributed.

However, negotiators will be unable to duck what went wrong at Copenhagen.

"The meeting... is going to be very important to rebuild confidence in the process, to rebuild confidence that the way forward will be open and transparent on the one hand, and efficient on the other," UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer told AFP.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is amongst many voices that are arguing for changes to the UNFCCC's labyrinthine, two-track negotiating process.

They say the final hours at Copenhagen showed how quickly things could move when handled by a small grope, as opposed to gaining unanimity of all 194 parties in one go.

According to this argument, the way forward could lie with a representative group that could advance on major issues and consult the full assembly to vote on an outcome.

Some are looking closely at the G20, which accounts for rich and emerging economies that account for 80 percent of global emissions.

Lord Nicholas Stern, a British economist, told AFP that the G20 has gained clout and credibility thanks to the financial crisis.

"We've essentially marginalized the G8 and replaced it with the G20," Stern said in an interview in Paris.


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