31 July 2012

An ambitious new objective for the international negotiations

Our conversations started in December at the Ministry of Environment of Colombia and they finished in mid of July at the Ministry of Environment of Finland! In Bogota, Helsinki, New Delhi or Nouméa in New Caledonia, the observation is the same : climate change is a reality.

Mitigation of the climate change is mandatory. In that matter the action of the citizens of this planet is not sufficient : political and social organization is crucial to trigger an effective mitigation of climate change. Anyway the climate protection is not one of the first preoccupations of the citizens. Due to the financial crisis of these last years for instance.

What is the status of the international negotiations concerning climate protection?

The United Nations meeting every year on climate change

We met Merja Turunen and Sirkka Haunia at the Ministry of Environment in Helsinki. Merja is the Director of the Climate Change group within the Ministry ; Sirkka is chief negociator for Finland.

Since 1995, and every year, the United Nations organizes a conference on Climate Change (called Conference of the Parties, COP) to progress on climate change negotiations. One of the most important COPs that was held so far took place in Kyoto in 1997, where the Kyoto Protocol was approved.
Merja Turunen, Sirkka Haunia and Frédéric - July the 9th
Scientists and environmental associations have complained about the lack of decisions in the last COPs. However some results have been obtained.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, the result was a political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord. Many supported its adoption as a step towards a better future agreement. However, some countries opposed it. The COP “took note” of the Accord. For the first time, China and other major developing countries were leading discussions.

The logo of the United Nations
climate change conferences
In Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, the need to cut global emissions to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C was recognized. Governments agreed to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support (called REDD+ program). Financial achievements were reached such as the Green Climate Fund : a fast start finance of 30 billion USD from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world, up to 2012, and the intention to raise 100 billion USD in long-term funds by 2020. Also the Cancun Adaptation Framework was created to increase financial and technical support for adaptation projects in developing countries.

Durban and the new involvement of the developing countries

“Last year in Durban, South Africa, Parties decided to aim for the second commit period (which means that the Kyoto mechanisms would be continued) of the Kyoto Protocol”, Sirkka says.

A message at the entrance
of the Finnish Ministry.

“It was also decided to start negotiations for a new agreement (the Durban Plarform) in which all Parties have legal commitments to reduce emissions”. The participants agreed on a new way of acting: not only the developed countries will be concerned with cutting emissions. For the future agreements, the objectives will be based on every country’s potential to reduce emissions.

Sirkka explains : “The new agreement should be ready by 2015 and enter into force by 2020, when the second commitment period Kyoto Protocol is over, whereafter there would be only the new agreement. It is a big change, a big challenge!”

The next COP will take place in Doha, Qatar, at the end of the year. Many decisions need to be made, including the length of the  second commitment period. Also issues related to long term financing are urgent, because the fast start financing period ends 2012, Sirkka says. “The political commitment of major carbon emitting countries will also be closely followed. European Union is ready to commit on more ambitious objectives if other countries show positive signs.”


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