Targets Agreed for Greenhouse Emissions in Post-Kyoto Era

VIENNA, Austria, August 31, 2007 (ENS) - Delegates to a United Nations climate conference from 158 nations have reached broad agreement on a range of targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts in an effort to lower the risk of global warming. The target would apply after the current global framework for managing climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012.

The Vienna Climate Change Talks ended in agreement. (Photos all courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
A group of industrialized countries bound by the protocol agreed that emissions should be reduced by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change - such as frequent and severe droughts and water shortages in large parts of the world.

At the conclusion of the week-long conference, UN climate officials said the target would guide talks at the major international climate summit to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia.

"This is a first step that has laid the groundwork for the Bali Conference," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC. "It shows that Parties have the necessary level of ambition to move this work forward."

The government negotiators officially recognized the finding by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global emissions of greenhouse gases need to peak in the next 10 to 15 years and then be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by mid-century, if the climate is to be safely stabilized.

Yvo de Boer heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
"The scale of the climate change problem is clear, the technology is available, and solutions are financially affordable," said de Boer at a concluding news conference.

De Boer said delegates reached consensus "that the response needs to be global, with the involvement of all countries, and that it needs to give equal importance to adaptation and mitigation."

Environmentalists were generally supportive of the proposed target. WWF International said the agreement is a "safe range for emission reductions," if it meets with agreement of the wider group of greenhouse gas emitting countries. "In Bali, they will have to formally adopt this," WWF said in a statement.

The world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters are not yet part of the agreement. The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and while has China ratified the protocol, as a developing country it is not bound by any emissions targets.

U.S. Senior Climate Negotiator Dr. Harlan Watson
Leader of the U.S. delegation, Harlan Watson, said the United States would "come forward with what we believe is our contribution," in September when President George W. Bush hosts the first of a series of climate meetings with "major economies" in Washington.

The first five year commitment period for the 36 industrialized nations that are legally bound by the Kyoto Protocol opens January 1, 2008.

On that date, a carbon trading market will open that allows countries that cut emissions below treaty targets to sell their surplus allowances to others who overshoot the mark.

Yesterday, de Boer said that reviews conducted by UNFCCC teams show that Austria, Japan and Switzerland now are ready to begin trading in the a newly-created carbon market.

"Kyoto requires that countries prove that they can track progress towards their emission targets and these reviews show that governments are passing the test," said de Boer said. "Austria, Japan and Switzerland are just the first reviews to be finished and we are expecting another 30 or so before the end of the year."

A European Union carbon trading market is already open, and European carbon emitters are trading allowances within their own countries and across borders.

Phase I of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme began on January 1, 2005 and will run until December 31, 2007. Phase II will run from 2008-2012 to coincide with the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period.

Germany is winning the approval of environmentalists for its policy of reducing carbon dioxide emissions while not reversing its phase out of nuclear power plants.

At last year's major UN climate change conference in Nairobi, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced that Germany will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2020 as compared to 1990 levels.

Angela Anderson of the Climate Action Network
The Climate Action Network, a coalition of environmental groups, wrote today in "ECO," its daily newsletter in Vienna, "Rummaging through Gabrielís new toolbox, ECO was happy to find 29 different mitigation measures, dealing with all relevant sectors without touching the nuclear phase out."

"At present, the plan is projected to achieve up to 36 percent reduction; the gap could be filled by the EU Emissions Trading System, and as NGOs have pointed out, better measures in the transport sector," wrote the Climate Action Network.

Germany has enacted a law to cut its carbon allowances for the upcoming Phase II of the carbon market eight percent below those allowed in the first phase of trading.

On August 11, announcing entry into force of the law setting Phase II allowances, Gabriel said, "With this Act we have made emissions trading in Germany a powerful tool for climate protection. In particular for the energy sector there are now very strong incentives to modernize and replace old installations with new, highly efficient ones."

"Allocating allowances to energy installations will be switched to a benchmarking system that rewards efficient installations and burdens outdated technologies," he said. "This significantly accelerates the modernisation process in the German energy sector."

"Policymakers have done their work," said Gabriel, "now companies need to make their contribution to climate protection."

To date, the European Commission has approved all but three of the national plans for allocating carbon dioxide emission allowances for the 2008-2012 trading period.

Most European countries are keeping their Phase II emissions close to their Phase I allowances - except for the UK, Spain, France and The Netherlands, which all have been approved for higher emissions allowances.

In Vienna, delegates debated how to open ways for financing to flow to climate-friendly and climate-proof investments.

James Cameron of Climate Change Capital said constructing a new legal framework within which capital will flow to address climate change, and aligning public, moral and private interests and purposes is a major challenge. He said poor countries that have done little to create the problem but will suffer the effects of a warming climate should benefit from investments in greenhouse gas reductions.

The debate was based on a report presented to the conference by the UNFCCC Secretariat.

"The report clearly shows that energy efficiency can achieve real emission reductions at low cost," said de Boer. "It also shows that many cost-effective opportunities for reducing emissions are in developing countries, but also that industrialized countries need aggressive emission reduction strategies."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.