The climate talks in Poznan were never going to be a dazzling success – but, away from the nitty gritty of text, three big things need to happen for a reasonable result to be achieved.
First, the Europeans have to set out their stall (again) – but this time show that they can match aspirational targets with domestic delivery. Second, the Americans need to be begin the process of re-engaging: some sense has to emerge of what the post-Bush era should look like. And finally, we desperately need the emerging economies to begin to talk openly about where they think they fit into climate control. What does a good deal look like for them – not just between now and 2020, but over the next generation or two?
Unfortunately, the news doesn’t look good on any of these fronts. The Europeans – staggeringly, unbelievably – have allowed squabbles over their own climate package to spill over into the broader international negotiation. How’s this for showing united leadership to the rest of the world?
French President Nicolas Sarkozy failed to end deadlock with ex-communist European Union states on an EU climate package on Saturday but predicted a deal would be reached by a December 11-12 summit.
“Things are moving in a good way … I am convinced we will arrive at a positive conclusion,” Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said after meeting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and eight other east European leaders.
Poland, which relies on high-polluting coal for more than 90 percent of its electricity, has threatened to veto an EU plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 unless Warsaw wins fossil fuel concessions.
“There is still a lot of work ahead of us” before the summit, Tusk said after the talks in the Polish port of Gdansk.
Poland argues it needs until 2020 to curb carbon emissions, for example by using more efficient boilers and carbon-scrubbing equipment and possibly building its first nuclear plant.
Tusk said Sarkozy and the EU Commission agreed to extend a period limiting mandatory purchases of greenhouse gas emissions permits for east European coal plants, in an offer which would need the backing of all EU leaders.
And Tusk hinted at a willingness to compromise at the summit. “At the very end, maybe at the very last minute, we may decide this is a solution we may accept,” Tusk said.
As I’m sure the Obama Administration transition team is aware, Poznan, Poland is currently hosting a very important UN-sponsored climate change conference. At stake is nothing less than the next round of emissions reduction commitments (a Kyoto successor) — which Barack Obama has said he wants the U.S. to participate in.
If they haven’t already, the Obama folks need to make contact with the U.S. delegation in Poznan immediately. One would think that the U.S. Del. would take the initiative itself, but I’m getting word that they feel that the ball is in Obama’s court.
Apparently, current U.S. delegation members — mostly career people with honorable intentions and a willingness to continue to serve (with some notable exceptions) — are waiting for the call. This is no time to fight about protocol, or who is supposed to call who. It’s time to start turning the ship around.
Things are going to slow down for the weekend and then pick up again on Tuesday. The framework that comes out of this week can still be quite ambitious and, at the same time, workable in the U.S. and in the Senate. The Obama people have from now until Tuesday to make their goals for Poznan clear, but the sooner, the better.
Finally, as I posted a few days ago, developing countries seem resistant to even talking about the long-term – even though they have the most to lose through lots of itsy bitsy short term deals…
What’s striking about the climate talks in Poznan is that (some) developed countries want a long-term goal, while (most) developing countries are only prepared to talk about the next few years. Here’s Xinhua:
The developed countries are seeking to set up a shared vision on long-term goal for emission cuts, saying that such a goal will set the direction for future actions.
Some industrialized countries believe that a 50-percent cut of emissions against the 1990 level by 2050 is necessary for the goal of preventing rising temperatures.
The developing nations, however, rejected such a global goal at this stage, arguing that such a vision is not feasible since there are no concrete plans for providing finance and technology required by the developing countries.
But really, it should be the other way round. Given that:
- A limited emissions ‘cake’ is available between now and, say, 2050 (assuming an eventual attempt to stablize atmospheric GHG concentrations).
- And that rich countries are consuming disportionate shares of that cake on every year.
- Then poor countries are likely to receive a smaller slice the longer it takes to start negotiating a comprehensive allocation.
Short term deals (Kyoto, Kyoto 2, Kyoto 3 etc) suit developed countries. A full-term deal would allow developing countries to understand then try and protect their long-term interests…
Today, the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change will release a 500-page report telling us all we need to slash our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and that switching to cleaner cars is crucial if the target is to be achieved. Last week, however, the same UK Government, in its pre-budget report, scrapped plans to raise vehicle excise duty by £90 for high polluting cars and delayed a £15 tax break for drivers of greener cars. In the Sunday Times, Frank Sangster of KPMG argued: “The Chancellor has effectively decided to prioritise fiscal sustainability over environmental sustainability. Drivers of gasguzzling 4x4s are thus getting off lightly.”
So much for joined-up government.