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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Status of the Copenhagen Climate Change Negotiations

The United States and almost 200 other countries are negotiating under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to address climate change cooperatively beyond the year 2012. Parties agreed to complete the negotiations by the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) from December 7-18, 2009, in Copenhagen. However, some nations’ leaders have indicated that the Copenhagen outcome is likely to be a political agreement providing a mandate for a later legally binding, comprehensive agreement.

The negotiations are intended to decide the next steps toward meeting the objective of the UNFCCC, to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would
prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Most Parties conclude the objective requires avoiding a 2 degrees Celsius increase of global mean temperature from pre-industrial values and reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2050 from 1990 levels, with industrialized countries’ share to be an 80-95% reduction. The UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibilities among Parties permeates debate about obligations of different forms, levels of effort, and verifiability. Key disagreements remain among Parties:

• GHG mitigation: Some countries, including the United States, seek GHG actions by all Parties; many developing countries argue that differentiation should exclude them from quantified and verifiable GHG limitations. Many vulnerable countries are alarmed that GHG targets proposed by wealthy countries are inadequate to avoid 2 degrees C of temperature increase and associated serious risks.

• Adaptation to climate change: Many countries, including the United States, wish to use bilateral and existing international institutions, with incremental financial assistance, targeted at the most vulnerable populations; many developing countries seek a fully financed, systemic, and country-determined effort to avoid damages of climate change, to which they have contributed little.

• Financial assistance to developing countries: Many wealthy countries, including the United States, propose private sector mechanisms, such as GHG trading, along with investment-friendly economies, as the main sources of financing, with a minor share from public funds; many developing countries argue for predictable flows of unconditioned public monies, with direct access to an international fund under the authority of the Conference of the Parties.

• Technology: Many countries, including the United States, maintain that private sector mechanisms are most effective at developing and deploying the needed advanced technologies, enabled by balanced trade and intellectual property protection; some countries seek new institutional arrangements and creative mechanisms to share technologies to facilitate more effective technology transfer.

Negotiators face a complex array of proposals. Many delegations, including the United States, approach Copenhagen with unresolved climate agendas at home. President Obama has announced an intention to offer a “provisional” GHG target for the United States in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, ultimately to be brought “in line” with energy and climate legislation. The U.S. delegation negotiates without clear signals as to what the Congress would support. U.S. influence in the negotiations may also be impaired by having signed but not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and by being almost $170 million in arrears in contributions to the multilateral Global Environment Facility.

Date of Report: December 9, 2009
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: R40910
Price: $29.95
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