An update on UN climate negotiations in Poznan

We’ve reached the halfway point of this year’s UN climate negotiations in Poznan, which conclude this Friday. This conference’s discussions are supposed to lay the groundwork for a 2009 climate pact in Copenhagen, a deal which will take effect once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Environmentalists hope that the new Copenhagen deal will result in drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from developed and some developing nations.

And now for some bad news: Some delegates in Poznan are now saying that due to recession and the change of US administration, it’s unlikely that the world will meet its 2009 deadline for a new climate treaty.

The 2009 deadline is meant to give countries enough time to ratify a new climate treaty before Kyoto expires in 2012. If that deadline isn’t met, the world could see Kyoto continue for another couple of years. Environmentalists already think Kyoto’s goals are way too soft—keeping its wishy-washy carbon emissions obligations in place could be catastrophic for a planet in peril.

But Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat who is running the show in Poznan, thinks that sticking to a 2009 deadline is not only possible—it’s imperative.

From Reuters:

Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, insisted that rich nations should agree in 2009 to cuts in emissions until 2020. But he also said any deal should be “ratifiable,” leaving much of the fine print for later.


De Boer said suggestions last week by a US think-tank, the Pew Center, that 2009 was too early for President-elect Barack Obama to sign up for formal targets in Copenhagen was “unhelpful and incorrect.”


“Countries launched a negotiation in Bali a year ago and agreed to complete it in a year’s time in Copenhagen,” he told Reuters. “To begin to wobble on that resolve halfway through that process is not helpful.”

In other news from Poznan, one area that’s been getting a lot of attention from UN delegates is deforestation, particularly in the tropics. Brazil announced last week that it would reduce rainforest deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade to combat climate change, but would not accept carbon offset cash from developed nations to achieve this goal. Brazil reasoned that letting developed nations purchase their carbon offsets would deter those countries from actually reducing their own emissions—logic that definitely makes sense seeing how some developed nations (cough cough, US) have treated carbon reductions so far.

The concept of “forest offsetting”—letting countries and companies offset their own carbon emissions by investing in tropical forest conservation in developing nations—has seen a lot of discussion in Poznan. But Brazil’s forest offsetting refusal may stall talks of implementing this approach in other countries like Indonesia, Mexico, and India, meaning that other strategies to conserve forest in these areas may need to be taken.

From Reuters:

Brazil supported instead a public funding approach, building for example on a $1 billion pledge from Norway this year to a new Amazon Fund, aimed at improving conservation and the enforcement of laws against deforestation.


A delegate from Equatorial New Guinea said the two approaches could be combined. “It should be open both for those who want to raise public money and for those who want to go to the (carbon) market. But it has to have a market aspect,” Deogracias Ikaka Nzamino told Reuters.

But however the job gets done, it’s clear that conservation plans need to be put in place ASAP: Cutting down trees accounts for 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the planet loses an area greater than the size of Greece every year to deforestation.

It’s too early to predict how the climate negotiations will shake out this week—there are still five days of talks so anything could happen. We’re hoping that UN delegates and world leaders can put aside their naysaying and penny-pinching to come up with a sturdy groundwork for implementing big carbon cuts in 2009.