Post - 2012

Post - 2012

The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC was officially adopted in December 1997 after more than two years of international negotiations. The Protocol set the stage for a first 'commitment period' of five years beginning in 2008 and extending through to 2012. During the commitment period, developed countries (and countries with economies in transition) who are parties to the Protocol are required to limit their GREENHOUSE GAS emissions to specified amounts. It took more than a decade to firm up and put into force this first international agreement, but in 2012 this first commitment period comes to an end.

Here we look briefly at the two international meetings that have focussed almost exclusively on the creation of a post-2012 agreement. Following from these talks and global commentary, it is possible to speculate on what to expect from a post-2012 agreement.

The Bali Road Map
Formal discussions surrounding the second commitment period began in Bali in December 2007, at the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP), serving also as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The outcome of the meeting was a two-year plan paving the way to a final scheme design by end-2009. This plan has become known as the Bali Road Map.

The Bali Road Map continues the principle of the first commitment period—'common but differentiated responsibilities' of all countries in the face of climate change. This principle recognises that developed countries are responsible for most of the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations so far, even though developing countries currently account for a large and growing proportion of emissions. Furthermore, per capita emissions in developed countries are still much higher than those of the developing world. Poorer countries have a lower capacity than developed countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change, although they are more vulnerable to the impacts. Developed countries are therefore expected to take the lead in committing to mitigate their own emissions and to invest in and support technology transfer, mitigation activities and building resilience in developing countries.

The Bali Road Map does not outline new targets for the post-2012 period but it recognises the need to severely slash global emissions. For this it proposes sectoral approaches to greenhouse gas emission reduction (such as setting sector specific technology agreements or benchmarks for example), and supports incentives for reducing emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation.

The Bali Road Map also recognises the need to simplify the clean development mechanism (CDM), with the aim of streamlining administrative processes, expanding the reach across the developing world, and including a larger range of activities, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). In addition, it outlines the 'Adaptation Fund' concept, to be financed by a two per cent levy on CDM projects, in order to assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The ultimate purpose of the Bali Road Map is to set a timeline and provide some means for the development of a post-2012 climate change agreement by COP15 in Copenhagen (December 2009). For this, two working groups were established—the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). The purpose of the AWG-KP is to discuss future commitments for industrialised countries under the Kyoto Protocol. The AWG-LCA focuses on issues raised by the Bali Road Map, and other proposals included in submissions received from Parties.

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Poznan talks
In December 2008, the AWG-LCA presented a progress report and its 'work programme for 2009' at its fourth session and the fourteenth United Nations climate change conference (COP14) in Poznan, Poland. The report raised a number of issues, including the need for a strategic programme on technology transfer, the importance for adaptation programmes in developing countries, and means of securing additional funding. Real progress was made with the opening of the Adaptation Fund, which was first conceptualised at discussions in Morocco back in 2001, and then drew more attention from 2005 onwards. Also, serious consideration was given to schemes for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD).

Unfortunately, before the Poznan meeting, expectations of any solid results were marred by the deteriorating global economic climate. Australia's Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, was among the country leaders asserting that the financial crisis must not be given as a reason to delay progress because inaction will only increase costs.

Uncertainty existed also because of the impending change of government in the United States. Participants were unsure how the change of government might affect US environmental policies. Many argued that until the new US government had come to power (after inauguration on 20 January) and was able to take part in discussions, these would be futile, even counterproductive. Negotiations did however proceed.

At the meeting, Australia put forward a strong case in favour of REDD. A joint Australia–Indonesia submission was presented to the UNFCCC, outlining both Australia and Indonesia's commitment to the scheme and its inclusion in a post-2012 outcome. Australia and Indonesia are already cooperating on the Indonesia – Australia Forest Carbon Partnership, which is a prime example of international collaboration on REDD.

Australia was also amongst many industrialised countries calling for the inclusion of CCS as a valid carbon abatement project within the Kyoto Protocol's schemes. Most developing countries however were opposed to this idea, claiming that CCS might destabilise global carbon markets, and promote large projects to the detriment of smaller-scale ones.

The UNFCCC set firm deadlines for submissions on this and other issues, to allow the AWG-LCA time to produce a draft agreement by its fifth session in Bonn, Germany in March–April 2009. The draft was then to be sealed, signed and delivered at COP15 in Copenhagen.

What to expect in a post-2012 world
Although nothing was 'sealed, signed and delivered', the outcome of COP15 held in December 2009 was two-fold: the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol under the UNFCCC and a new Copenhagen Accord.

An amended Kyoto Protocol
It is expected that the Kyoto Protocol will continue into a second commitment period after 2012. Many of the details of the second commitment period were not confirmed at COP15. It remains to be decided what the length of this commitment period will be, the country targets and the base year against which they will be determined, how excess credits resulting from previous decisions would be dealt with, and much more.

Some decisions were made to improve the CDM especially with regard to the duties of the Executive Board and its general procedures. At COP15, the discussion on the need to improve the geographical distribution of CDM projects continued and concerns were also raised over a need for more transparency in the registration process. Nothing was concluded however.

There was also talk of amendments to the Joint Implementation (JI) (these are projects under the CDM, where developed countries undertake emission reduction projects in other developed countries) and the Adaptation Fund Board, but no firm decisions were made. Discussions were deferred until a later date leading up to COP16 in Mexico.

There was general agreement amongst Parties that REDD should be included in any future or ongoing agreements.Whether this would form part of the Kyoto Protocol in its second commitment period and/or the Copenhagen Accord is not clear.

The Copenhagen Accord
Without formally accepting it, the Conference of the Parties 'took note' of the Copenhagen Accord. It was drafted by some 20 or 30 countries at COP15. As there was no official information regarding which countries were or were not present for the drafting of the Accord, interested Parties were asked to register their association with the document by 31 January 2010. Some countries are branding the process as opaque and non-inclusive.

The Accord sets out some high-level goals and criteria that include:

• a temperature-rise ceiling of two degrees
• quantifiable emission reduction targets for developed countries
• intended ‘mitigation actions’ for developing countries (on a voluntary basis only for the least developed countries and small island states)
• a need for adaptation to the impacts of climate change
• a recognition of the impacts of response measures
• a need for ‘adequate, predictable and sustainable’ funding from developed to developing countries for technology, capacity-building and other activities, to the tune of US$30 billion before 2012 and US$100 billion by 2020, some via a newly-established Copenhagen Green Climate Fund
• the promotion of reduced emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the enhancement of existing forests (REDD-plus)
• acceleration of technology development and transfer, via a Technology Mechanism
• a review of the text by 2015, with the possibility of reducing the temperature-rise ceiling to 1.5 degrees

Further reading and sources:

G. Anderson, 'What happened in Bali?', Lawyers Weekly, 18 January 2008.

A. Kean, 'Post-Kyoto—Bali and the ICSE', EcoGeneration, no. 45, March–April 2008.

Senator P. Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water), Statements to Poznan climate change negotiations, Poznan, Poland, 2008.

 


15 July 2010

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