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Towards a global climate agreement

Creating new momentum for a global climate deal” was the title of a lunchtime debate organised by Friends of Europe on 18 September 2013. The debate focused on the progress towards a new global climate agreement, which is to be adopted in 2015. The new agreement should be applicable to all countries, not just the industrialised ones. It should respect the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, which requires greater efforts from the richer countries.

Next milestone: COP19 in Warsaw

Towards a global climate agreement

© bluedesign / Fotolia

The next milestone in the negotiation process is the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the UN Framework Agreement on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will take place in Warsaw in November 2013.

As president of COP19, Polish environment minister Marcin Korolec plans to invite industry to express its opinion and ask mayors of big cities to share their experiences. He believes the new agreement will not take the form of a global emissions trading system, as developing countries may need other instruments. According to the minister, Poland managed to reduce its GHG emissions by a third while growing its GDP by 200%.

Energy, well-being and climate

Laura Cozzi, principal analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA), asked whether efforts to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would result in a reduction in well-being. She pointed out that the “built environment” – power plants, buildings, factories, cars, airplanes, etc – is responsible for two thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The IEA proposes four measures for reducing GHG emissions in the energy sector:

  1. improve energy efficiency (buildings, appliances, lighting)
  2. replace the worst coal-fired power plants with more efficient ones
  3. reduce methane leaks from shale gas production (fracking)
  4. phase out fossil fuel subsidies

She insisted that coal reserves should only be fully exploited if carbon emissions are captured and stored safely. She also considers that other processes besides the UNFCC are important to address climate change and highlighted China’s recent efforts in renewable energies.

Designing a meaningful agreement

Halldór Thorgeirsson from the UN Climate Change Secretariat sees land use and forests as important elements, in addition to energy.

He said that designing a meaningful agreement by 2015 requires

  • scale, commensurate to the size of the challenge,
  • speed, as agreed measures take time to implement and have effect, and
  • strategic focus on solutions.

Governments should not wait until 2015, but prepare and engage as soon as possible. He regards COP19 as an opportunity to build confidence and momentum, especially in the area of climate finance. In his view, the negotiations should not focus on numbers, as that would lead to a “zero-sum game”.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, climatologist and vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), expressed his deep frustration about the gap between the clarity of scientific evidence and the inadequacy of actions to tackle climate change. However, he remains optimistic and regards coordination, pricing of carbon emissions and dialogue with scientists as elements of a solution.

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