November 9, 2006
Negotiations on further commitments for industrialised countries began yesterday, and things went quite well. There was constructive talk about developing a work plan, assessing the potential of countries to reduce emissions, and establishing long term goals.
The European Union’s official position is that 2 degrees of warming must be avoided. The 2 degree limit is considered to be the “tipping point” which would cause catastrophic climate change.
However, even if the world is able to keep world emissions sufficiently low so as to avoid 2 degrees, this limit still implies significant levels of warming. Therefore, while 2 degrees is a good target, it is also important to note that the coalition of low-lying island states, also know as AOSES finds that 2 degrees is actually too high.
In a less encouraging development, it seems that there are a range of positions on article 9, which mandates a review of the protocol and possible options for developing countries to limit their emissions.
During a plenary session yesterday, South Africa said a review should be postponed for two to three years. Korea said three years, China was proposing three to four years, and finally the Saudis proposed four to five years.
Canada, on behalf on several other countries was more positive in that it suggested the launch of a process at this meeting which would conduct a review; however, in their intervention it did not specify an end date which is problematic since the review could go on indefinitely. However, all is not lost, and it is still possible that countries could come to some sort of agreement.
On Monday the high-level component of the conference begins, where Ministers of the Environment, and perhaps even heads of state, show up.
It is rare that heads of state attend these conferences, but last year in COP-11, Prime Minister Paul Martin urged countries to move forward and former President Bill Clinton also addressed the conference, reminding delegates that reducing greenhouse gas emissions through diverse methods could also be beneficial for national economies.
Next week will certainly get more intense as Ministers arrive and make various elements of the negotiations move or stall. It could go both ways.
Let’s hope the global community doesn’t disappoint.
Emilie Moorhouse is Sierra Club of Canada's Atmosphere and Energy