Poznan COP-14: Faltering progress but still on track for a deal in Copenhagen

17 December 2008

The Climate Group's Policy Director Mark Kenber reflects on the outcomes of Poznan

In common with many "in-between" climate summits - this one marking the halfway point on the road from last year's Bali conference to what many hope will be agreement on a comprehensive new international treaty to cut global emissions in Copenhagen next December - the recently concluded 14th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Climate Convention was characterized by low expectations and few concrete outcomes.

With countries waiting to see what the new US administration will bring to the table and concerns over the deepening economic crisis, the primary objective in Poznan was to maintain momentum, whilst shifting from the discussions of ideas that had dominated 2008 to real negotiations in 2009.

In this context, Poznan can be declared a moderate success.

Ministers agreed to have in place a single negotiating text by June, while Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and China, amongst others, tabled concrete proposals on how to move forward. There seems to be increasing acceptance that industrialized countries will have to take on much deeper absolute emission reductions and that the more advanced developing countries will need to take action to shift their emissions well below their business-as-usual trajectories.

A few important decisions should also help progress next year. Countries agreed to make the Adaptation Fund - financed through a levy on CDM projects - fully operational in 2009. They also adopted the Poznan Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer which should scale up technology investments (though the thorny issue of intellectual property rights remains unresolved). Whilst small steps, these decisions are important parts of the deal to be put together in Copenhagen.

At the same time, it is clear that negotiations will have to speed up soon if an ambitious new treaty, commensurate with the level of action demanded by the science, is to be achieved next year. This is all the more needed now, with growing concerns that climate change is accelerating faster than many scientists expected and perhaps beyond the threshold of current political will.

News of the EU Council's agreement on the Climate and Energy Package, as well as reaffirmations from President-elect Obama and his close advisers of their intent to re-engage fully in the international process, add to the momentum heading into 2009.

The coming year will see a wealth of meetings, which will include at least four UN negotiating sessions, the G8 in July, a group of heads of government convened by the UN Secretary-General and possibly a new Major Economies process. What is most needed, however, is a shift in thinking. The focus must not be about what is politically possible for individual countries. It must be about where the science tells us we need to be and how this - a prosperous low carbon development path - can be achieved through collaboration, trust and shared ambition.

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