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Onward & Upward on Global Warming Negotiations towards Copenhagen

Jake Schmidt

Posted June 12, 2009 in Solving Global Warming

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Countdown to Copenhagen

Two weeks of negotiations on the new international agreement to address global warming pollution are just wrapping up here in Bonn, Germany.  What has emerged this week clearly signals that the international negotiations need to move "onward" with progress on the negotiating text and "upward" to commitments on real actions by world leaders.

Before the meeting, countries were presented with a draft negotiating text (which I discussed in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).  And through two weeks of discussions on the negotiating text, it moves forward to subsequent sessions where the real negotiations on the text will occur. 

So what emerged from the negotiators effort to go through the draft negotiating text?

There has been some progress on the negotiating text, some "sticky" issues, and the thinking of some countries.

Laundry list has grown.  The text began at just over 50 pages and will leave here at over 200 pages.  That was the process that we needed to undertake here in Bonn -- everyone has to put forward their proposal before it can be whittled down to a document that reflects the key agreements.  Negotiators have their work cut out over the next 6 months to condense this text to the core options, but it can be done.

Some emerging ideas and consensus.  The one key benefit of having a negotiating text in front of negotiators is that it forces them to respond to specific ideas -- instead of abstract concepts.  And on a couple issues some small progress was made.  In particular, some new framing emerged on the complicated issues of "binding" commitments for developing countries incentives for addressing deforestation will be a part of the Copenhagen agreement, and developing countries will undertake action to reduce their emissions.  

And all of this was occurring with complete transparency, so everyone can keep an eye on what their country is saying.  More pressure will need to be brought on countries if they are going to move from their current opening positions, so a little "tracking" couldn't hurt.

Important things have to occur outside the formal negotiations.  A high-level US delegation went to China to continue efforts to see if the two key sides could come to agreement on some central issues that are standing in the way of getting a strong agreement in Copenhagen.  While the outcome of this trip didn't produce a new agreement, some hints came out of China that they are considering putting a limit on global warming pollution in their next national 5-year plan (the main Chinese government policy tool).  As my colleague Alex Wang and I discussed, this could provide a very positive "opening" in the debate with China about taking action to control global warming pollution.

And prior to this session, the American Clean Energy and Security act passed out of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee.  Key elements of this bill put the US in a strong position to help secure an international agreement in Copenhagen.  Of course more will need to be done, but having a strong signal from the US that it is really going to help drive clean energy and cap our global warming pollution this year will have a huge impact on these negotiations.  Progress on that front will spill into every key element that is currently having trouble seeing the light of day in these negotiations.

So what is needed to be in a position by December to secure a strong agreement to address global warming?

Let me answer that with a little reflection and call to action for world leaders.

How have true leaders and countries rallied around past challenges that confronted them?  After all, the German Marshall Fund to rebuild war-torn Europe in order to avoid future conflicts and the Montreal Protocol to address the hole in the ozone all found a way forward.  While these aren't perfect analogies to the challenge that confronts us today as each had a different set of issues, these challenges were resolved by rallying around a shared objective, discussing the needs of various interested parties, and by taking tough decisions.

That is what the world needs now to address global warming.  Rise above and solve this challenge as if the fate of humanity, the planet, and your country depends upon it...because it does! 

You've done it in the past and I know you can do it again.  We are counting on you!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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