From 7th to 18th December 2009, the United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen. The Conference included the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the fifth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP5). In general terms, the purpose of the meeting was to establish a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012.
The outcome of the meetings was the Copenhagen Accord, which is not a legally binding treaty and does not contain specific legally binding commitments for reducing CO2 emissions. However, the UN Secretary General Banki Moon described the accord as an “essential beginning” which, he was reported as saying, must be transformed into a legally binding agreement in 2010.
Key points of note in the Copenhagen Accord are:
- Recognition of the scientific view that there is a need to limit global temperatures rising to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, though this is not a formal target.
- By 31 January 2010, Annex I Parties (developed countries) are asked to submit to the secretariat, their quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020. The accord does not specify penalties for Parties that fail to meet their pledges.
- Delivery of emissions reductions and financing by developed countries will be measured, reported and verified in accordance with existing and any further guidelines, which will ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent.
- By 31 January 2010, non-Annex I parties (developing countries) shall submit to the secretariat, planned nationally appropriate mitigation actions.
- Developing countries shall submit national reports on their emissions pledges under clear guidelines "that will ensure that national sovereignty is respected".
- Scaled up, new and additional funding for developing countries to enable and support enhanced action on mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer and capacity building to assist developing countries in responding to the challenges of climate change. For the period 2010-2012, this will involve a collective commitment by developed countries of around USD 30 billion.
- Developed countries will mobilise jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to assist developing countries in addressing the challenges of climate change. It is envisaged that this funding will come from a variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral.
- The Copenhagen Green Climate Fund shall be established to support projects, programme, policies and other activities in developing countries related to mitigation.
The sixteenth conference of the parties and the sixth COP/MOP for the Kyoto Protocol was held in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to 10 December 2010. The conference led to the adoption of the Cancun Agreements, which was seen as a key step forward in the international negotiating process, with national mitigation plans from all major emitters formally captured under the UNFCCC. The agreement includes the development of a registry where developing countries will submit their voluntary plans for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The Agreements also included the most comprehensive package for assistance to developing nations, including:
- Green Climate Fund – a fund by which developed countries pool funds to help developing countries facilitate mitigation and adaptation of climate change.
- Technology Mechanism –expected to facilitate the implementation of enhanced action on technology development and transfer, which will support mitigation and adaptation for climate change.
- Cancun Adaptation Framework –a framework that facilitates international cooperation in reacting to and enhancing action on adaptation. More specifically, it will deal with issues like agriculture, food security, and water, and will take into account the urgent and immediate needs of those developing countries that are most vulnerable.
- Fast Start Finance –additional funds/resources that developed countries have pledged to mobilize through international institutions to help mitigation and adaptation for those most vulnerable countries, particularly with adaptation mechanisms. Australia’s May 2011 update report on fast-start finance can be found here.
- Forest Management Reference Levels –a requirement by the COP/MOP in relation to land use, land-use change and forestry for each Annex I party to submit to the secretariat information on forest management reference levels. The COP/MOP also decided to submit each submission to a technical assessment and the outcomes will be discussed at the seventh session of the CMP.
The next annual Climate Change Conference is due to be held on 28 November to 9 December 2011 in Durban, South Africa.