At COP 19, ambitions lowered, not increased

Warsaw, 16 November 2013 — The first week of the Warsaw climate conference has produced a lot of talk, but little action. No country has announced an increase emission cuts and two countries are reneging from their earlier targets and policies. Policy-makers must show leadership, because currently the process is simply drifting [1].

Martin Kaiser, Head of the Greenpeace Delegation said:

“After one week, the world governments continue to disappoint their citizens who are fighting against catastrophic climate change and its devastating impacts. Instead of stopping new investments into coal mining and oil drilling and investing in renewable energies, Japan and Australia reneged on their voluntary pledges from 2010. Next week ministers need to stop the downward spiral of the UN climate talks and commit to bold mitigation targets and climate finance pledges which will help everyone and the transition towards renewable energies.”

Ambitions lowered, not increased – real game starts next week

Greenpeace briefing. Wrapping up the 1st week of COP19

The first week of the Warsaw climate conference has produced a lot of talk but little action. No country has announced to increase its emission cuts, but two countries have announced serious backtracking from their earlier targets and policies. Brazil announced that its deforestation rates increased by 23% last year and Europe is divided on future climate action and renewable energy due to the ongoing pressure from coal and nuclear industries. As ministers arrive next week, they will have to deliver on expectations for finance, loss and damage and increased short term emission cuts, and announce 2014 as the year of pledging new targets. First and foremost, major polluters need to show leadership, as currently the process is simply drifting.
Emotional start with reality and science

The week opened with strong emotions, when the Philippines’ lead negotiator, whose country had been hit by the monster typhoon Haiyan, gave a touching speech that ended in tears. A feeling of urgency remained for the first days, when the IPCC scientists were presenting their latest findings in several sessions, and the World Meteorological Organisation issued an alarming statement on the state of climate.

It is great to see science injected back to the negotiations, and the IPCC message was clear: to reach the agreed goal of staying below 2 degrees C (or even 1.5C but with less certainty), emissions will have to peak and start declining soon towards zero emissions in the coming decades. However some countries don’t seem to be getting the message.

Incredible backtracking by some rich countries

Japan announced a massive downgrading of their 2020 target this Friday, from -25% below 1990 levels to +3%, which is way worse than Japan’s Kyoto target for 2008-2012 and suggests that Japan plans to do nothing on climate in the next 7 years. Down under, the Australian government put forward legislation on Wednesday to repeal their carbon price, remove renewable energy support and undo support for a long term target of reducing carbon pollution by 80% by 2050. In the wrong kind of solidarity, Canada’s Prime Minister was quick to congratulate Australia on their efforts. Meanwhile, though the EU talks a good game about the importance of increasing pre-2020 ambition, it sticks to its own weak 2020 target. Clearly, the process is lacking political leadership.

Convening a finance COP – but where’s the finance?

The key theme in this year’s COP is finance, and the first week has made clear why that is: developed countries promised in Cancun 2010 to mobilise USD$100 bln climate finance annually to developing countries by 2020, but the how is still completely open, along with the finance between now and 2020. This is stalling progress on forest protection, adaptation, clean technology and emission cuts. Developing countries are not keen to discuss post-2020 arrangements, before the pre-2020 commitments are on track. They are stressing a COP decision on long-term finance as one of the most important outcomes from this COP, which indicates intense negotiations next week on the high-level section.

Cleaning up the agenda for the second week

The first week focused largely on technical issues related to the different bodies of the protocol (such as the financial mechanisms, adaptation committee, technology mechanism and expert groups) and on guidelines for measuring, reporting and verifying of emissions. The aim has been to clean up agenda, so that the second week can focus on truly political issues. By and large, these decisions will be procedural, with no real breakthroughs.

Loss and damage and equity as outstanding issues

As the two subsidiary bodies (SBI & SBSTA) are scheduled to conclude tonight (Saturday), two key issues stand out from their agenda, requiring substantial further discussion. They will very likely be kicked to ministerial level:

●     Institutional arrangements to address Loss and Damage.

●     The Brazilian proposal on developing methodology to define countries’ historical responsibility, that could guide target-setting in the post-2020 agreement. It has received cold shower from developed countries, but increasing support among other developing countries – most of whom underline though that besides historical responsibility, other equity indicators must be elaborated too. Unfortunately, developed countries haven’t taken this opportunity to present their counterproposals on how to define indicators for fair effort sharing.

Week two needs to solve substantial issues on the Paris Roadmap

Next week, as ministers start arriving, the real game starts. Parties will move on to the major sticking points on:

– Developing the work schedule for the 2015 treaty negotiations. Here it is crucial that countries agree on 2014 deadline for emission reduction offers, so that during 2015 the targets can be reviewed for adequacy and fairness, before final targets are adopted in 2015. To guide target setting, governments here must agree on key equity indicators (to define one’s fair contribution) and on key parameters, like timeline. Greenpeace believes that the targets should be set for 2025, because 2030 targets – if unambitious – would lock in high-carbon infrastructure for long time, at a crucial period.

– Agreeing on ways to increase ambition in the short-term. Increasing 2020 targets would be the most obvious way to close the gap between what’s needed by 2020 and where we are heading. Among additional ideas, the proposal by AOSIS on increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency measures is the most serious one.

–  Financial commitments. Here the main question is simple: where’s the money? As countries will continue discussing how to pay for the protection of the world’s remaining forests, they need to remember one thing: Forests protection cannot replace or offset fossil fuel emission reductions. To stay below 2 degrees warming, both are needed.

– A mechanism for Loss and Damage. In Doha last year countries decided that here in Warsaw they would establish institutional arrangements to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Now they need to deliver.

In addition to the regular sessions, ministerial roundtables will be held on finance and the Durban Platform issues (increasing short-term action & agreeing on a roadmap for the 2015 treaty).

China, US & EU needed on board to make 2014 the year of ambition

The Copenhagen climate summit taught us a lesson: if countries are left to pledge what ever want in emission reductions, the targets won’t add up to what’s needed, nor will they be fair. This time it needs to be different, and that’s why the 2014 deadline for emission reduction offers is crucial. The EU supports this, but US and China still need to come openly on board too.

The good news is that the EU is already planning to decide on its own domestic 2030 emission target next year. The bad news is that the numbers the commission and German leaders are currently contemplating (40% for emission cuts by 2030) are too low. Greenpeace expects the ambitious members of the EU to speak up next week for higher ambition.