Informal Talks Help Ministers Shape New Climate Regime

RIKSGRANSEN, Sweden, June 15, 2007 (ENS) - "We came further in our discussions and achieved much more than I imagined that we would," Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said Thursday after a four day informal meeting on climate change attended by officials from 30 countries at the invitation of the Swedish government.

This meeting builds on the outcomes of the G8 Summit and the outreach session with the heads of state and government from South Africa, Brazil, India, China and Mexico in Germany last week. The gathering was limited to a small number of countries of central importance in the global climate change negotiations.

Helicopter in front of the only hotel in Riksgransen, site of the informal climate talks this week. (Photo courtesy
The officials gathered in the 100 year old ski resort of Riksgransen set in the expanse of northern Sweden's glacial wilderness, 625 miles north of Stockholm, known as the Land of the Midnight Sun. Their talks centered on preventing global warming that could drastically change this landscape.

Carlgren said the discussions enabled the ministers and other high level officials to have a clear picture of the positions of different countries in advance of the important forthcoming UN climate change conference at Bali, Indonesia in December.

Negotiations at the Indonesia conference are expected to lay the groundwork for a global climate agreement that will set limits on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

"We made important progress in the preparations for Bali, establishing a platform for negotiations, containing elements related to the process and the contents of a future regime," said Carlgren.

Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren convened the informal ministerial talks. (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
"There was a broad consensus that the Bali conference should establish a Roadmap with a timetable and concrete steps for the negotiations with a view to reach an agreement by 2009," he said.

Going into the Swedish talks, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the climate agreement achieved at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm as a basis for further talks this year.

"First, the heads of state and government have laid the foundation for a long-term goal - reducing global greenhouse gas emission by at least 50 percent by 2050," he said. "Second, they have agreed on a roadmap to achieve this goal - negotiations on a new UN climate protection agreement are to be concluded by the end of 2009."

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel (Photo courtesy )
"Heiligendamm gets us two large steps forward on our road to a global environmental protection agreement," Gabriel said. Participants at the Riksgransen talks said they were convinced by recently published reports, such as the Stern Review and three this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that it is possible to achieve the necessary emission reductions without compromising the prospects for economic and social development.

All participants underlined the urgency of action. "We all share the same fundamental goal - the climate system has to be protected for the benefit of present and future generations," Carlgren said.

In Riksgransen, South African Environment Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said, "I am encouraged by the strong political signal on the urgency of action and the need for intensified negotiations from the G8 Summit last week."

Van Schalkwyk
South African Environment Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
"Progress will depend on a package deal that is capable of gaining broad political consensus, that balances the key interests and concerns of all countries, and that does not present a one-size-fits-all solution," said Van Schalkwyk.

"New initiatives and agreements that complement the multilateral regime - such as those recently proposed by the USA - are welcome, as long as they feed into the multilateral system and are not aimed at displacing it," he said.

The South African minister called upon the United States and Australia to "engage in the full multi-lateral process."

In Riksgransen, the ministers discussed a package that would include:

Quantitative commitments by the industrialized countries would continue to be an essential element of the new regime.

The informal talks are aimed at preserving ice and snow that makes places like Ricksgransen a paradise for skiers. (Photo courtesy FreeRadjy)
Developing countries would not be expected to take on such binding quantitative reduction commitments now, but there should be incentives for them to take measurable, reportable, and verifiable measures of different kinds, such as intensity goals or sectoral benchmarks, the participants agreed.

Ministers also recognized the vast potential of new and existing low carbon technologies. They said technology cooperation, mobilization of financial resources, as well as development and strengthening of carbon markets are of primary importance in a future regime.

"This is our Roadmap for Bali," said Van Schalkwyk. "We must turn talk into action; discussions into negotiations. Should this fail, we will place an unmanageable burden on future generations."

Participant countries included - Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, Switzerland, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The meeting in Riksgransen was the third of its kind. The first meeting was held in Greenland in 2005 and the second in South Africa in 2006.

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