Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Live from Copenhagen

Next week, I will be in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. I will post updates from the second week of the conference where delegates from over 190 countries are negotiating a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. Check in to find out the latest developments from the negotiations, as well as activities happening outside of the conference.

In the run-up to Copenhagen, expectations have been lowered. Major players have acknowledged that it is very unlikely that a binding treaty can be agreed upon by the end of the conference. Instead, political commitments for reduction targets are expected, as well as efforts to agree on a level of funding that will be provided by developed countries to help developing countries address climate change. The head of the U.N. Climate Conference said last week that he hopes a binding agreement could be reached by June. Even that timeline may prove to be too ambitious.

The roadblock on the way to Copenhagen is the same one that has existed since the Kyoto Treaty: establishing different commitments for developed and developing countries. In the last two weeks, the Obama Administration pledged to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020, which is the target established in legislation passed by the House of Representatives last June. That announcement was followed up by a pledge from China to reduce its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 and India which said it would reduce its carbon intensity by 20 to 25 percent by the same year. All three countries would use 2005 emissions as the baseline year.

By reducing carbon intensity, China and India will become more energy efficient (something that is happening already), but their overall emissions will still grow. With the U.S. pledging an absolute reduction, the risk of “carbon leakage”, or the migration of emissions from developed to developing countries, is still very real. The result: lost jobs in countries like the U.S. and increased global greenhouse gas emissions.

While Copenhagen may not produce a binding treaty as many had expected only a few months ago, there will undoubtedly be many interesting developments. Check back next week to find out what is happening in Copenhagen.

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