COP14—Poznań Climate Conference

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  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Created Thursday, January 01, 2009

This print version has been auto-generated from http://www.globalissues.org/article/771/cop14-poznan-climate-conference

Poznań, Poland was the venue for the 14th United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP 14, between December 1 – December 12, 2008.

Drawing over 11,500 participants, this conference continued from where the previous COP 13, the Bali Conference1, left off; to discuss a post-Kyoto international agreement on climate change to take effect in 2013.

This conference will be followed up by a Copenhagen conference in 2009 to finalize the agreement for 2013, so it was important for Poznań to be a productive conference.

Conference outcome

Depending on who you read, or how it was put, the conference outcome was described as anything from a success to a failure.

As summarized by the BBC, the main outcomes from the Poznań2 seem to be the following:

  • Management of a UN Adaptation Fund to help developing countries (who will worst hit by the effects of climate change) agreed
  • Funds can now be disbursed using a 2% levy on carbon trading under the UN Clean Development Mechanism
  • Progress on how environment-friendly technology can be transferred to developing countries
  • Agreement that deforestation needs to be reduced
  • Recognition that the situation is quite urgent

The United nations tried to put a positive spin on it:

Poznan press briefing on the final day of the Conference3, December 12, 2008

Some developing countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) however, were not as pleased with the outcome, feeling that they were somewhat shut out:

Last Day Report from UNFCCC Poznan Climate Conference4, OneClimate.net, December 12, 2008

Some emerging and developing economies described the outcome of the meeting as having a “vision gap” and even accusing industrialized nations of “callousness” and contributing to a “collapse” of the talks. A sore issue was the Adaptation Fund:

When the … Adaptation Fund … came up for discussion at the Poznan conference on Dec. 11, delegates of several countries representing diverse groupings at the UN argued that the special levy of 2 percent on CERs should be increased to 3 percent.

This would provide additional money for the current 60 million dollar fund that helps poor countries protect themselves against floods, drought and storms. While the industrial nations admitted that billions of dollars are needed for the challenging task, they did not agree to increase from two to three the percentage of levy from the carbon market.

This brought the talks to an inevitable collapse. A source present at the meeting said the opponents of the scheme were led by the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia and Russia.

The collapse became evident about three hours into the start of the final plenary session of the UN conference.

Ramesh Jaura, Climate Change: Poznan Produces a “Vision Gap”5, Inter Press Service, December 13, 2008

The problems were apparently brought to light by Prodipto Ghosh, a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. Ghosh apparently said that “In the 12 COPs I have been privileged to attend so far, this is one of the saddest moments I have witnessed.”

Ghosh also added that talk of increase of the levy from two to three percent, “fell apart for one, and one reason only; that is the refusal of some parties (countries) to experience the least loss of profits from trading in carbon.”

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Parallel EU meeting in Brussels

A two-day summit in Brussels, ended on the same day as the COP14 conference ended. The EU summit outcome was a bit surprising given EU’s generally positive step to addressing climate change in the past. As summarized by Inter Press Service, the summit saw a drastic amendment to the way energy-intensive firms pay for their emissions of greenhouse gases6.

Following pressure from Germany, Italy, Poland, BusinessEurope (an umbrella group for multinational companies) and a few others, the previous agreements whereby EU firms would have to buy permits to pollute from 2013 onwards was changed to give the manufacturing sector generous exemptions from having to pay.

Needless to say that environment and anti-poverty groups were furious at this (which the previous Inter Press Service article details).

Some groups claimed the EU had watered down the initial proposals7. Germany, for example, was accused of wanting to protect its large manufacturing sector during its recession, while Poland and Hungary for example, depend a lot on coal.

The EU did agree, however, to a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, compared with 1990 level. But this too seems less than ideal as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that 25-40% reduction is needed by then.

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Progress on tackling climate change is spotty at best

This all comes soon after the UNFCCC reported (November 17, 2008) that although industrialized nations have reduced emissions between 1990 and 2006, in recent years, between 2000 and 2006, greenhouse gas emissions have generally increased by 2.3% 8.

Side Note

The above data excludes emissions/reductions from what is known as Land Use, Land Use Change, or Forestry sources (LULUCF). LULUCF uses can act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide (e.g. preserving or preventing deforestation), or can be a source of carbon emissions (e.g. deforestation, forest fires, clearing land, agricultural activities, etc).

If LULUCF emissions/reductions are factored in, the UNFCCC finds that greenhouse emissions from industrialized nations increased by 1%, less than the increase when excluding LULUCF.

However, as the UNFCCC also notes LULUCF emission reductions are not reliable9 or a good indicator for our purposes here: “the main drawback of LULUCF activities is their potential reversibility and non-permanence of carbon stocks as a result of human activities, (with the release of GHG into the atmosphere), disturbances (e.g. forest fires or disease), or environmental change, including climate change.”

This is despite an overall decrease of 4.7% since 1990. However, the more recent period suggests the rich country emission reductions are not sustainable. Furthermore, it looks worse considering a large part of this decrease is because of the collapse of the Soviet Union. As transition economies started to recover around 2000, emissions have started to rise.

Some nations with large reductions are also seeing limits10, for example:

  • UK (15.1% reduction) benefited by switching from coal to natural gas but that switch is largely in place now.
  • Germany (18.2% reduction) has certainly invested in greenhouse gas emission reductions, but has been helped in large part because of reunification (East Germany, like much of eastern Europe and former Soviet states had economic problems, hence less emissions at the time).
  • Other reductions have come in part from relocating manufacturing to other places such as China, which now claims at least one third of its emissions are because of production for others 11.

The Inter Press Service noted some additional interesting trends with other nations on tackling climate change12:

  • China is dedicating one-fourth of its sizable economic stimulus plan to scale up renewable fuels, environmental protection and energy conservation.
  • Denmark (that will host next year’s landmark conference) is investing in green growth. Since 1980, it has grown its gross domestic produce (GDP) by 78 percent with only minimal increases in energy use.
  • Brazil has built one of the greenest economies in the world, creating millions of new jobs in the process.
  • India has launched a comprehensive National Climate Change Action Plan that lays out the path for shifting to greater reliance on sustainable sources of energy, particularly solar power. India is also fourth in the world in terms of new wind capacity.
  • UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer added, “Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia have new climate change strategies, he said. India, China and Egypt have climate change plans and programs. Nigeria, Angola and Pakistan are developing theirs. ‘All these parties and more have identified additional mitigation actions that can be implemented with measurable, reportable and verifiable support.’”

Democracy Now! reported that several key developing countries have agreed to set goals for cutting emissions of greenhouse gas13. This included Mexico agreeing to a date of 2050 to cut carbon emissions 50 percent below 2002 levels, and Brazil to reduce emissions by up to 45 percent by cutting its annual deforestation rate by 70 percent.

Many are hoping that Barack Obama becoming President of the US will make a crucial different. For example, he promised to engage “vigorously” on climate change. During his election campaign he had even talked of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Australia recently announced a plan to combat climate change by aiming to reduce emissions by between 5% and 15% by 2020 from 2000 levels and introducing a carbon trading scheme in 2010. Many environmentalists and others have reacted very negatively to this saying more needs to be done14. The UN’s specialist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that 25-40% reduction by 2020 is needed, for example.

Australian climate change minister, Penny Wong defended the plan by saying the scheme seeks to “strike the right balance” between the needs of the environment and Australia’s economy.

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Climate change and the global financial crisis

Australia’s concern, above, is typical of many nations, fearing that addressing climate change will affect their economies, many of which are now facing serious problems in the global financial crisis15.

It is possible that if the global financial crisis gets worse, emissions reductions will reduce as a result. Although some may view this as a blessing in disguise, this is an unfortunate way to reduce emissions, because governments will rightly be trying to get out of the crisis. Instead, there may be a deeper issue that the predominant economic ideologies may not be compatible with emission reductions.

This is not a given, either, to be fair, because the current financial crisis is so severe that alternative economic systems or minor adjustments are being considered that could have a significant knock-on effect in terms of the environment.

In addition, as reported by Inter Press Service, UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon also noted a potentially positive relationship between the tackling the global financial crisis and tackling climate change16, noting that, “Managing the global financial crisis requires massive global stimulus. A big part of that spending should be an investment … in a green future … that fights climate change, creates millions of green jobs and spurs green growth.”

The lack of serious political will to invest in environmentally-friendly alternatives—an option that could have been pursued any time in the last two or more decades when much about the effects of climate change was well-established—makes the potential costs of not doing anything even higher. But it also raises the cost of investment needed when left later, which is why some nations seem afraid of committing too much.

Yet, as each wasted year passes, the situation gets worse. Climate scientists are now fearing that climate change is happening far faster and is having much larger impacts than they ever imagined17.

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More information

  • Confronting Climate Change18 coverage of climate change issues from around the world, from Inter Press Service
  • Coverage from OneClimate.net19, a project of OneWorld.net

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Where next?

Online Sources:

(Note that listed here are only those hyperlinks to other articles from other web sites or elsewhere on this web site. Other sources such as journal, books and magazines, are mentioned above in the original text. Please also note that links to external sites are beyond my control. They might become unavailable temporarily or permanently since you read this, depending on the policies of those sites, which I cannot unfortunately do anything about.)

  1. Global Issues: “COP13—Bali Climate Conference”, Created: Tuesday, January 01, 2008, http://www.globalissues.org/article/751/cop13-bali-climate-conference
  2. Richard Black, 'Mood mixed as climate summit ends', BBC, December 13, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7781022.stm
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoV5ku9VBAE
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI3eqv2TGYk
  5. http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45103
  6. David Cronin, 'EU Gives Polluters a Christmas Gift', Inter Press Service, December 12, 2008, http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45095
  7. 'Andrew Grice, 'EU accused of subsidising climate change after “watered-down” deal', The Independent, December 13, 2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/eu-accused-of-subsidising-climate-change-after-watere
    ddown-deal-1064470.html
  8. 'National greenhouse gas inventory data for the period 1990–2006', UNFCCC, November 17, 2008 (Document FCCC/SBI/2008/12), http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2008/sbi/eng/12.pdf
  9. 'Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry', UNFCCC, Last Accessed December 31, 2008, http://unfccc.int/methods_and_science/lulucf/items/4122.php
  10. 'A joke on the world', Down To Earth Magazine, Centre for Science and Environment, December 15, 2007, http://www.downtoearth.org.in/cover.asp?foldername=20071215&filename=news&sid=24&page=3&sec_id=9&p=1
  11. Weber, Peters, Guan and Hubacek, 'The contribution of Chinese exports to climate change', Energy Policy, July 21, 2008, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2008.06.009
  12. Ramesh Jaura, 'Climate Change: And Now a New Green Deal?', Inter Press Service, December 12, 2008, http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45082
  13. http://www.democracynow.org/2008/12/12/headlines#9
  14. 'Australians condemn climate plan', BBC, December 16, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7785229.stm
  15. Global Issues: “Global Financial Crisis”, Last updated: Sunday, March 24, 2013, http://www.globalissues.org/article/768/global-financial-crisis
  16. Ramesh Jaura, 'Climate Change: And Now a New Green Deal?', Inter Press Service, December 12, 2008, http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45082
  17. Stephen Leahy, 'Climate Change: Chasm Widens Between Science and Policy', Inter Press Service, December 15, 2008, http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45121
  18. http://ipsnews.net/climate_change/
  19. http://www.oneclimate.net/poznan

Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Thursday, January 01, 2009

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This print version has been auto-generated from http://www.globalissues.org/article/771/cop14-poznan-climate-conference