UN Conference Agrees Long Term Actions to Control Global Warming

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, December 11, 2005 (ENS) - The United Nations Climate Change Conference closed Saturday with the adoption of more than 40 decisions that will strengthen global efforts to fight climate change.

"This has been one of the most productive UN Climate Change Conferences ever," said Richard Kinley, acting head of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat. "Our success in implementing the Kyoto Protocol, improving the Convention and Kyoto, and innovating for tomorrow led to an agreement on a variety of issues. This plan sets the course for future action on climate change."

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said, "Today marks a critical and important point with the world coming together in Montreal to collectively tackle climate change. I applaud the constructive engagement of all countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on their commitment to seek progress on an inclusive and productive way forward."

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Richard Kinley is acting head of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Under the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the UNFCCC, the process got underway towards defining future commitments beyond the first commitment period, ending in 2012. The delegates agreed to start urgent negotiations on a new round of emission reduction targets for the second commitment period, which runs from 2013 to 2017.

A new working group will start work in May 2006 to ensure that these negotiations are concluded as soon as possible. This is necessary to ensure the continuity of the newly established carbon markets that trade in greenhouse gas emissions, and to allow governments to put policies and measures in place to ensure that the new, deeper emission reduction targets are met.

Agreement was reached to start now to review and improve the Kyoto Protocol. Mandated under the existing treaty, this review will formally begin at next year’s UNFCCC meeting.

Environmental groups were pleased with the outcome. "The Kyoto Protocol is stronger today than it was two weeks ago," said Bill Hare, Greenpeace International Climate Policy Advisor in Montreal. "This historic first Meeting of the Parties has acknowledged the urgency of the threat that climate change poses to the world’s poorest people, and eventually, to all of us. The decisions made here have cleared the way for long term action."

The delegates agreed to a Five Year Plan of Action on Adaptation, to help least developed countries cope with the impacts of climate change. This program will begin to address the fact that climate change already impacts the world’s poorest, and that it will get much worse in the coming decades. It is the ethical, political, and legal responsibility of the industrialized countries to provide for this.

Under the UNFCCC, a dialogue on strategic approaches for long-term global cooperative action to address climate change was launched. A series of workshops is planned to develop the broad range of actions needed to respond to the climate change challenge.

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Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said it is time to take action to control climate change. (Photo courtesy ENB)
"The successful conclusion of the 11th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC and the 1st Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol gives new momentum to taking action on what is clearly a significant environmental challenge for all people of the world and for future generations," said Prime Minister Martin.

As Canada's Presidency of the UNFCCC continues through 2006, the Prime Minister said Canada is committed to continuing to strengthen the world's resolve in addressing climate change, while at home Canada will "aggressively push forward with its own initiatives to honor its Kyoto commitments."

Conference President Canadian Environment Minister Stéphane Dion said, "Key decisions have been made in several areas. The Kyoto Protocol has been switched on, a dialogue about the future action has begun, parties have moved forward work on adaptation and advanced the implementation of the regular work programme of the Convention and of the Protocol."

In view of the United States' obstructive disagreements since the conference began November 28, many participants were excited at the prospect of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit on Friday, and he did not disappoint.

In a well-received speech billed officially as a side event to the climate negotiations, Clinton said that President George W. Bush's main reason for not joining Kyoto - that it would damage the U.S. economy - was "flat wrong."

Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton presents a positive side to climate change adaptation during his speech in Montreal. (Photo courtesy ENB)
Clinton said that if the United States "had made a serious effort to apply clean energy and energy conservation technologies... we could meet and surpass the Kyoto targets in a way that would strengthen our economies."

Praising local efforts level to combat climate change, Clinton encouraged setting more separate targets on renewable energy and other measures, rather than relying on broad national targets.

During the conference, the Bush administration was out of touch with the vast majority of delegates, and the U.S. delegation's tactics, such as walking out of the room to demonstrate displeasure, were not effective.

The chief U.S. negotiator Harlan Watson walked out of talks on Friday after complaining over the wording of a draft statement calling for international co-operation on the issue. Watson said that the draft text amounted to a call for negotiations, which President George W. Bush opposes.

The U.S. delegation submitted its revised version of the statement text early on Saturday, but made only superficial changes, said European negotiators.

One senior British official told "The Guardian" newspaper that U.S. negotiators changed their position on the draft because the Bush administration was concerned by criticism of its stance in the U.S. press. "Washington is really feeling the heat on this," the official said.

During the first week of the conference, the rulebook of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol was adopted, the so-called Marrakesh accords. Kinley called this "an historic step," which set the framework for implementation of the Protocol.

"There is now certainty for a sustained and effective global carbon market," said Kinley. "One of the main successes was the strengthening of the Clean Development Mechanism. Under this unique mechanism, developed countries can invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries, helping the developing nations to improve the quality of life for their citizens while also allowing developed nations to earn emission allowances."

In Montreal, developed countries committed themselves to fund the operation of the Clean Development Mechanism with over US$13 million in 2006-2007. The process for methodologies under the Clean Development Mechanism was simplified and its governing body strengthened.

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UN conference leaders applaud and embrace at the close of a successful gathering. (Photo courtesy ENB)
In addition, the governing body for the second Kyoto mechanism - Joint Implementation - was established. Joint Implementation allows developed countries to invest in other developed countries, in particular central and eastern European transition economies, and thereby earn carbon allowances, which they can use to meet their own emission reduction commitments.

A major breakthrough was the agreement on the compliance regime for the Kyoto Protocol. The compliance committee with its enforcement and facilitative branches was elected. This decision will ensure that the Parties to the Protocol have a clear accountability regime in meeting their emission reductions targets.

Adaptation to the impacts of climate change was also a key focus of the conference, which adopted a five year work program that paves the way for concrete steps to identify impacts and measures to adapt to climate change.

The conference also agreed on a one year process to define how the Adaptation Fund will be managed and operated. This unique fund will draw on proceeds generated by the Clean Development Mechanism and will support concrete adaptation activities in developing countries.

Technology was at the center of discussion on efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts. Countries agreed on further steps on promoting the development and transfer of technologies.

One technology of interest is carbon capture and storage - a technology that involves storing carbon underground. It is estimated to have the potential of reducing the costs of climate change mitigation by up to 30 percent. The discussion was based on a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Parties agreed to move forward with deeper analysis of this technology.

In the final plenary on Friday, representatives from nongovernmental groups delivered their messages to delegates.

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay read the Declaration signed by 190 Mayors from around the world, the result of the 4th Municipal Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change. "The time for achieving results is now. We are calling for international solidarity among cities of the world. Let us work together now. This is the message I bring to you from the cities of the world."

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Senior Vice President of Alcan Daniel Gagnier (Photo courtesy ENB)
Representing business and industry organizations, Senior Vice President of Alcan Daniel Gagnier said, "Business all over the world recognizes the risk of climate change. Businesses need coherent, long-term and consistent enabling policy frameworks in which to innovate, invest and operation."

Steven Guilbeault of Climate Action Network-Canada spoke on behalf of Climate Action Network International and described the opportunities for further action on climate change, saying, "All Parties without exception want to avoid dangerous climate change. We should reinforce the Kyoto Protocol. It can serve as the basis for future action. It is sufficiently flexible to do so."

Five youth representatives from the International Youth Summit took turns reading their Declaration, "Our Climate, Our Challenge, Our Future." Toward the end their voices were joined by those of other youth supporters in the audience who stood and chanted in unison, "Look into my eyes and stand with me for my future."

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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton meets with youth representatives in Montreal. (Photo courtesy ENB)
"We, youth, comprise one half of the global population; but this is our first and only opportunity to address the plenary. We have laid out our demands for action in the International Youth Declaration. We call on you to create a permanent, fully funded youth constituency to be included in the international climate change negotiation process within one year. It is our future you are negotiating; we need a seat at the table."

The President of the Conference, Stephane Dion, replied, "You may represent the most important constituency at this Conference."

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, Joy Kennedy and Frances Namoumou spoke of the lighting of a candle not made from fossil fuel, a symbol of safety, warmth, community and hope, saying, "We pray for spiritual support in responding to the call of the Earth."

Success in addressing climate change requires putting climate actions in a broad agenda that promotes economic growth and energy security, reduces poverty and pollution and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions, said Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, who headed the U.S. delegation to the UNFCCC conference.

She reiterated the Bush administration stance that partnerships focusing on diversified approaches are the best way forward. "We value our 15 bilateral partnerships with both developed and developing countries," she said.

Dobrianski

Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky addresses delegates at Montreal. (Photo courtesy ENB)
For example, Dobriansky said, "we are cooperating with India to capture carbon dioxide; collaborating with Uganda to clean indoor air; exploring hydrogen technologies with Brazil; developing next-generation nuclear energy with the United Kingdom; exploring renewables with China; and teaming up with Mexico to capture methane."

Such partnerships, Dobriansky said, represent a "constructive and effective means of working together. And we are pleased that they contribute to our efforts under the goals of the Framework Convention."

But others saw the U.S. negotiators as isolated from American public opinion. "Australia and the U.S. are isolated as never before," said Greenpeace climate campaigner Steve Sawyer, "and the overwhelming presence of U.S. state governments, cities, trade unions, businesses, churches, youth and many other parts of civil society gave the rest of the world confidence that Americans do care about climate change, and that the Bush administration's intransigence will sooner rather than later be remembered as an unfortunate historical footnote."

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called Montreal "a watershed in the fight against climate change."

"Many developed countries, including the European Union, will take on new commitments when the current emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012," said Dimas. "This is giving the Protocol a future. It reassures developing countries that the transfer of clean technologies will continue. It also reassures business that investment in clean technologies will remain worthwhile, and it gives researchers a sense that the demand for new low-carbon technologies will continue to rise."

"Developing countries will actively participate in the search for means to combat climate change," Dimas said. "The EU will support them, never forgetting that the fight against climate change must also address poverty and development. Building these bridges is key to the EU’s efforts."