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After Bali: Setting out on the road to Copenhagen

By Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Executive Secretary

UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last year was historic. There  was  a great  desire of Parties to make progress, huge public awareness and  a sense of joint purpose and common ownership of the outcome. With regard to the future, the conference delivered what it was supposed to do: the launch of  negotiations to craft a new international climate change agreement by the end of 2009, whilst  setting a clear roadmap for these talks. The meeting delivered immediate results which were particularly important for developing countries, not least in the areas of adaptation funding, technology transfer and reducing emissions from deforestation. And the conference established a timetable for negotiations on the new emission targets for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol, along with defining the scope and content of the upcoming review of the Protocol.

With less than two years to go to craft an agreement on international action on climate change that measures up to what the international scientific community has told us is needed, we will need to pull out all the stops. The Copenhagen agreement will need to map-out emission limitation commitments, agree essential action to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change and mobilise the necessary financing and technological innovation to these ends - a tall order. The first meeting of the new subsidiary body to take this work forward, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AGLCA), will take place in early spring. This meeting will be critical to set out a detailed work plan for the next two years. What is required is an agenda that identifies the areas that need to be further clarified, the work that needs to be done and where external input is required.

The need for a global ‘Climate Change Marshall Plan’
The best way to move forward may be to focus the initial attention on what financial and technological arrangements can be put in place that link industrialized reduction commitments to developing countries action. One of the groundbreaking outcomes of Bali was that developing countries indicated that they are willing to implement stringent energy efficiency measures and adaptation policies. They also indicated that they need financial and technical assistance to do so. The more ambitious the commitments by rich countries, the more engagement can be expected from developing countries. And the more engagement developing countries are willing to sign up to, the more ambitious commitments we can expect from the industrialized world.

One of the key challenges over the next two years will be to develop a financial and technical architecture that forms the glue between developing country actions and industrialized country commitments.  What we need is a global ‘Climate Change Marshall Plan’, that will spur green, low carbon economic growth all around the world, particularly in developing countries with have an enormous hunger for energy. It would be good to use this first year of  the process to develop a sound understanding of the toolbox at the world’s disposal before the climate change process moves on to agreement on who does precisely what.  

The road to Copenhagen as an open process
The Bali Action Plan calls for the road to Copenhagen to be an open process - open to the private sector, international organisations and civil society. This offers opportunities for the business community, along with international financial institutions, to contribute. With private investments constituting 86% of investment and financial flows related to climate change, businesses are key to the solution. The business sector can for example, in the course of this year and the next, explain its view on technology transfer and what Copenhagen needs to include in that regard, along with contributing to the design of sectoral approaches to climate change and helping to write financial language into the final deal. 

Furthermore, multilateral organisations  can spur green, low carbon growth in developing countries by mainstreaming climate change into the development agenda. Here, UN organisations such as the World Bank and UNDP are called upon to provide input. Other UN agencies will for example need to say what is required in areas of disaster risk assessment and disaster strategy management. An important opportunity to further engage other organisations in the fight against climate change will be the  review of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals later this year.

Other crucial meetings this year
In addition to this, there will be other meetings of crucial relevance to the UN climate change process in the course of 2008. In July, Japan will host a G8 Summit in Hokkaido where climate change will be one of the major agenda items. In the run up to this Summit, three US-led Major Economies Meetings will take place. Both processes can provide important input to the UNFCCC process and help things move forward on the road to Copenhagen.

The G8 could focus on the commitments that industrialized countries are willing to take on, including the issue of intermediate targets. Last year August in Vienna, all Kyoto Parties agreed that the IPCC emission reduction target of minus 25 to minus 40% should be used as the range to guide further talks on further commitments by rich countries. The EU has already set itself an ambitious medium-term target and it would be appropriate if the Hokkaido G8 Summit would show a similar level of ambition. Businesses are looking for clarity to make the right investment decisions, especially when they have to decide on investments in capital stock that is going to be here for the next two to three decades. Clear medium term policy signals are therefore essential.  

No time to lose
It is clear that the international climate change process faces a huge challenge to get to the  international climate change deal in Copenhagen within the extremely tight deadline set at Bali. I am confident this is achievable, if we organise the process well and if we pull together. But we have no time to lose.