Barcelona Climate Talks Inch Forward, Copenhagen Next Stop

BARCELONA, Spain, November 6, 2009 (ENS) – The last negotiating session before the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ended today in Barcelona, with some progress made towards a legally-binding global deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions but with two key issues still unresolved.

Little progress was made on firm emission reduction targets for developed countries, nor was progress made on financing that would allow developing countries to limit their emissions growth and adapt to the climate change impacts that are already inevitable.

At a press conference in Barcelona, the UN’s top climate official expressed confidence that when the chips are down at Copenhagen, governments will seal the deal.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary UNFCCC, briefs reporters. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the international treaty under which the deal is being negotiated, said a strong climate deal is still possible.

“Copenhagen can and must be the turning point in the international fight against climate change – nothing has changed my confidence in that,” said de Boer. “A powerful combination of commitment and compromise can and must make this happen.”

But failure is also a possibility, de Boer admitted, if developed countries fail to commit to steep greenhouse gas emissions cuts in the medium term or if they fail to fund assistance for developing countries.

“Without these two pieces of the puzzle in place, we will not have a deal in Copenhagen,” de Boer told reporters. “So leadership at the highest level is required to unlock the pieces,” he added.

In Barcelona, despite frustration by African nations and others that stalled discussions, de Boer said progress was made on adaptation, technology cooperation, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, and mechanisms to disburse funds for developing countries.

Delegates at the climate talks in Barcelona (Photo courtesy ENB)

More than 4,500 participants, including delegates from 181 countries, took part in the Barcelona climate change talks.

“I look to industrialized countries to raise their ambitions to meet the scale of the challenge we face,” said de Boer. “And I look to industrialized nations for clarity on the amount of short and long-term finance they will commit.”

Developed countries must provide fast-track funding of at least US$10 billion to enable developing countries to immediately develop low emission growth and adaptation strategies and to build internal capacity, de Boer said.

Thousands of scientists participating in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have said in a 2007 report that industrialized countries as a group must cut greenhouse gas emissions between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avert the worst effects of climate change.

By 2050, global emissions must fall by at least 50 percent by 2050, the scientists said.

Even under this scenario, the scientists warned there would be an only a 50 percent chance of avoiding the most catastrophic consequences of climate change – rising seas, extreme weather events, droughts, heat waves, species extinctions and the migration of millions of climate refugees.

Senior climate negotiators in Barcelona. (Photo courtesy ENB)

There is still a lack of information about the level of commitment developed countries will make to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the near term. Japan highlighted the recent increase of its target to a 25 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 and said it would not be in a position to increase that level of ambition. The European Union said they could only increase their target from 20 to a 30 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 if other countries take on similar targets.

The Gambia, for the African Group, underscored the need for data from developed countries governed by the Kyoto Protocol to better understand the gap between their pledges and science.

From December 7-18, Denmark will host the UN climate conference, known as COP15 for the 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard said, ”Next stop is Copenhagen. Here we are at the last round; there is no more time to tread water for in a month, world leaders shall show that they dare deliver a binding and ambitious global deal.”

Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard (Photo courtesy ENB)

Next month, she will chair COP15 in Copenhagen.

“Barcelona showed that countries know very well that next time we meet, it will be a moment of truth,” Hedegaard said in a statement. “The African blockade at the start of the negotiations stressed that the countries are very worried about the consequences of global warming and expect the developed countries to perform in Copenhagen.”

“Although the blockade slowed down negotiations, it is encouraging that Africa speaks with one voice,” Hedegaard said. “It sends a clear signal to the countries that there should be numbers on the table in Copenhagen – regarding reduction targets as well as financing.”

In the corridors of the Barcelona conference center some delegates “were contemplating the increasingly clear high-level messages that a legally-binding agreement at COP 15 will not be possible,” the Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports, adding, “Some observers were visibly disappointed, while others tried to stay positive as they speculated about prospects for a legally-binding instrument sometime in 2010.”

The global conservation group WWF expressed hope that an “ambitious” climate treaty can still be achieved in Copenhagen despite most policy makers’ focus on what they cannot achieve rather than what they can do to prevent the worst consequences of runaway climate change.

Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF’s global climate initiative, said the Danish Presidency has been an active participant in playing down expectations for a legally binding and enforceable outcome. “This needs to stop,” he said. “The Danish Presidency must create a level of ambition that corresponds with climate crisis and the will of the major part of the world. Trying to please the U.S. and other developed countries with vague language will not give us the climate deal the world needs.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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