Momentum builds ahead of the Copenhagen climate deadline

by | Sep 9, 2009

There have been many blips along the road in the nineteen months since the Bali Roadmap was launched, but with less than a hundred days to go before D-day – and less than 20 negotiating days – the last few weeks have seen a steady crescendo on all sides of the negotiating table. Over the past week alone there have been three significant developments: (i) African countries agreed a common negotiating stand at Copenhagen; (ii) Japan announced its ambitious plan to cut emissions by 25% (from 1990 levels); (iii) the scene was set for a US-China bilateral deal on climate change.

1) Africa emerges as a unified and purposeful participant in the upcoming negotiations

Last week, ten African Heads of State and assorted ministers met in Addis Ababa to agree a common stand for Africa ahead of the Copenhagen conference. This meeting also decided that Africa would be represented by one delegation, to be headed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. I have already delved into the outcomes and significance of this meeting in my previous post.

2) The US and China to sign a bilateral deal on climate change?

A recent visit to Beijing by US Senator Maria Cantwell reportedly set the ground for a wide-ranging bilateral agreement between China and the US on climate change. This deal is to be sealed on the occasion of President Obama’s scheduled trip to China in November, a month ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference. Reuters reports that:

The United States and China are likely to sign a new bilateral agreement to combat climate change during President Barack Obama’s visit to Beijing in November, Washington senator Maria Cantwell said on Friday. Cantwell, who is in Beijing to discuss clean energy and intellectual property issues with Chinese officials, said a deal between the world’s two biggest CO2 polluters would also help build global confidence in the efforts to curb global warming.

This is extremely significant when you consider that the combined emissions of the US and China account for 40% of the global total. Such a deal could send a strong signal and boost confidence ahead of the Copenhagen Climate conference.

3) Japan announces ambitious plans to curb emissions

Japan’s PM-elect, Yukio Hatoyama, reaffirmed his party’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter by 2020 from 1990 levels, amidst strong opposition from industry. This is a highly ambitious commitment: it would require Japan – which is already leading the world in terms of its efficiency in energy use – to reduce emissions by a third from current levels in just 11 years. Mr. Taro Aso had previously only committed to reducing emissions by 8% from 1990 levels.

As the world’s second largest economy and fifth largest emitter, Japan’s move would increase pressure on other main players ahead of the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference.


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    Leo currently serves as Director for International Cooperation at the World Resources Institute (WRI). Prior to that he had worked in UNDP, the World Bank and DfID. He worked for six years in China where, from 2006-2009 he led a pioneering cross-governmental partnership between the UK and China on sustainable development, initiated by Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Wen Jiabao, and involving 17 government ministries/agencies. In parallel, he co-founded the China Carbon Forum and led it to become a thriving professional association serving as the key interface between the business community and senior Chinese government decision-makers on climate policy reform issues. Leo writes here in a personal capacity and his views do not necessarily reflect those of WRI.

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