COP19 fails to reach agreement capable of limiting global warming05.12.2013
The Article in The Parliament: "In times of austerity we are forced to achieve more with fewer resources. Even the most optimistic among us admit that the conclusions will not be sufficient to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C by 2015." But if politicians and citizens work together to preserve the world's forests there is still hope for an agreement on climate change, says Romana Jordan.
I have been a consistent attendee at COP over the past six years. Always, I look for urgency, progress, innovation and, most of all, hope. In spite of a dramatic call from the typhoon-hit Philippines and hundreds of scientists showing evidence and consequences of climate change, negotiations in Warsaw followed a familiar snail-like pace. Even the most optimistic among us admit that the conclusions will not be sufficient to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C by 2015.
In 2011, delegates decided that a binding agreement on climate change would be adopted by 2015. In 2009, in Copenhagen, they confirmed that warnings from scientists to limit global warming to 2°C, would be followed. Above this limit natural ?processes will be irreversible. This year's conference was focused on three areas: emissions reduction, financing and the idea of "loss and damage".
Developing countries wish to negotiate a 'Kyoto-type' agreement where only developed countries make commitments. But how can any agreement be worthwhile without China - a developing country causing 25 per cent of world emissions? Despite this, joint responsibility was confirmed on the last day of negotiations - a principle already adopted in Durban. This was the only EU position included in this year's agreement. The EU wasn't successful in proposing that all countries inform how much they are prepared to strengthen their greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction commitments nor commit to start reducing them. Scientists estimate that the Earth's surface will warm up by over 2°C if we only carry out the current commitments proclaimed by 101 countries. Only countries that are able to do so will report this by 2015.
Overall the EU lost threefold as 'contribution' replaced 'commitment', GHG reduction aims were reported only by countries able to do so and GHG reduction commitments in 2014 slipped to 2015. Furthermore, there was no agreement on the format for reporting reductions, making comparison difficult. An agreement on maximum emissions levels is crucial, in my view, and the parties made almost no progress on that. Everything else was about relations between poor, developing and developed countries.
Developing countries claim that the quality of life in the developed world is based on our historic industrial development which had caused climate change - a fact supported by science. Therefore, developing countries expect financial aid to ease adaptation to climate change. This has already been met by establishing the Green climate fund to which the EU has already contributed in line with its first phase promises. But now this phase is coming to an end, and between 2014 and 2020 contributions must increase to €73.6bn by 2020. In Warsaw, the contributing countries reaffirmed their commitments without setting a detailed procedure to govern the acquisition of funds.
I have to admit that this did not surprise me. Negotiators can only accept a balanced trade-off between positions. Each representative needs ?to return home and show what they had achieved for their country in fighting for the global common good. Because countries were reluctant to adopt clear decisions on emissions reduction, so the financing part remained vague.
The third important topic being discussed in Warsaw was the pre-existing idea of "loss and damage". It is based on the responsibility of countries whose pollution has caused severe weather conditions that damage countries who did not contribute to the pollution of the planet. Climate change adaptation aims to mitigate the consequences of severe weather already in advance (e.g. more robust infrastructure, adaptation of agriculture to altered climate conditions). "Loss and damage" consists of those measures, which are needed after the damage such as flooding. In this aspect also, the delegates are still very far from defining the methodology for implementation of the principle agreement.
Despite all this, negotiators took a step forward. They agreed that developing countries that stop cutting down forests or start reforestation will receive financial aid from the REDD+ mechanism. The shrinking of forests currently contributes 20 per cent of global emissions. UK, Norway, Germany and USA have promised at COP19 some concrete financial contributions. The delegates from these countries agreed on technical details about the implementation. This agreement is an important success, which has been reached after almost a decade of talks. Therefore if politicians and citizens could be brought together to act to preserve forests, there is still hope that we will also achieve a global agreement on climate change by 2015.
Romana Jordan is a member of parliament's official delegation to COP19, Warsaw