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12/09/2008 01:39 PM     print story email story  

U.N. Climate Change Conference - Week 2 News

Progress appears to have slowed at the United Nations-led Climate Change negotiations underway in Poznan, Poland.

U.N. Climate Change Secretariat Yvo de Boer warned against setting ambitions too high for the Copenhagen meeting in 2009, which is the target deadline for achieving an agreement on a new international treaty to pick up where the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.

"We should be careful not to reach too far and achieve nothing," he said in his press conference today. But he asserted that negotiations would be a failure if they did not set targets for rich nations to cut emissions by 2020. This, he said, is the key to prompting further commitments by developing nations.

De Boer said the other piece of negotiations that must be accomplished is clarity on aid for poor nations to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions through cleaner technology.

Stumbling Blocks

As to emissions goals, some environmentalists say Japan and Canada are responsible for blocking midterm, 2020 proposals that would call for targets of 25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Climate experts have said cuts of 80% below 1990 levels are needed, if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

It is also uncertain whether or not the U.S. under incoming president Barack Obama could make such cuts. Not having participated in the Kyoto Protocol, U.S. emissions levels are currently at 14% above 1990 levels. Obama has said he would set a goal for the U.S. of returning to 1990 levels by 2020, but it is unclear whether or not Obama could set that goal or a goal for deeper cuts without Congressional approval, which could throw a major obstacle into the U.N. talks.

As to funding for poor nations, that too doesn't look good. The U.N.'s Adaptation Fund is so short of cash it may not be able to hold meetings next year, the head of its board said on Saturday.

This is the U.N.'s main fund set aside for assisting poor nations, but it reportedly needs a quick infusion of millions of dollars just to continue work. Worse yet, the fund has not distributed any funds yet, as it is still working out legal and technical issues.

The main source of financing for the fund is meant to be a 2% levy on Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. But this would raise only an estimated $900 million by 2012.

The United Nations has said $86 billion per year will be needed by 2015 for poor countries to adapt to global warming.

Brazil Rules Out Forest Offsets

Brazilian delegates announced during negotiations last week that it would not allow rich nations to offset their carbon emissions by funding the conservation of Brazilian rain forests. Brazil instead wants rich nations to contribute to rain forest preservation funds, such as the one set up by Brazil several weeks ago.

This announcement by Brazil, was a major disappointment to smaller tropical nations like Indonesia, who were in favor of preserving their forest in exchange for carbon credits that would be sold to rich nations. At the heart of this issue is the question of who would benefit from these funds. Would it be a limited few with government influence, or would the wealth be spread to local communities?

Link to continuing coverage.

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