nature Vol.456 837-1008 Issue no.7224 18/25 December 2008
News p.846 / Climate talks defer major challenges / Jeff Tollefson

Climate talks defer major challenges

Minor progress in Poland on adaptation and deforestation sets the stage for Copenhagen in 2009.


International climate negotiators left Poland last week with a roadmap for completing work on a grobal-warming treaty in 2009 - a small yet critical step in the face of the global economic meltdown.

With the US delegation in a state of postelection limbo and Europe locked in a battle over its new climate initiative (see page 847) , developing nations captured the limelight in Poznan by ramping up their own commitments and calling for industrialized nations to do the same.

The talks - the 14th UN Conference of the Parties(COP), held on 1-12 December - also saw the launch of a fund to help countries cope with a warmer world.

And negotiators made some progress on ways on ways to include deforestation in the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

But delegates largely spent the two weeks positioning hemselves for the formal negotiations process leading up to Copenhagen, where the talks are scheduled to conclude in Desember 2009. They adopted what is being called the "Pozan package", which lays out a necessarily aggressive - and perhaps optimistic - agenda, but remains silent on the most vexing questions,
including how to divvy up responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases.

"The best thing you can say about this COP is that we didn't lose ground", says Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "But that is saying something, especially in this period of financial crisis." And Knobloch thinks that new proposals from emergoing economies could open the door to a deal in 2009. "I don't think
it will be easy, but we will have squandered an opportunity of historic proportions if we don't get this done," he says.



I see^^

In Pozan, Mexico announced that it will commit to reducing emissions to 50% below 2002 levels by mid-century. South Africa said it would halt the growth in its emmissions by 2020-25 and begin reducins them by 2030.

China is aggressively pursuing alternative energy, and Brazil showed up with a climate plan that would, among othings, curb Amazon deforestation by 70% within nine years. (The plan back-pedals on an earlier pledge to halt
deforestation by 2015, althouh brazil says that by then it will be planting as many trees as it cuts down.)

"Everybody is waiting for everybody else to make a move," Brazil's environment minister, Carlos Minc, told reporters in Poznan. Rather than wait for the UN process to play out, Brazil unilaterally launched an international fund earlier this year to protect the Amazon rainforest, and called for US$21 billion to help pay for its plan. Norway has pledged $1 billion towards it, and Minc says he is now in talks with Germany and the United Kingdom. "We are showing that daveloping countries can do their part," Minc said.

Brazil is to a certin extent isolated, however, in its opposition to a market-based approach. Enbironmentalists accused the country of trying to block progress in Poznan by raising what they called disingenuous questions about the current methodologies for tracking and assessing deforestation emissions.

Papua New Guinea and other members of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations are leadeing the charge for a market-based approach, which would allow developed nations to offset their emissions by paying for forest conservation in the daveloping world. Such an approach would in theory provide more reliable access to private capotal, thereby eliminationg the need to seek mobey from wealthy nations. In the end. Brazil withdrew its opposition, and delegates on a technical committee produced a decision reiterating that existing science, technology and methodologies are sufficient.

But delegaters left the basic questions about how to structure the deforestation deal for next year. Frances Saymour, who heads the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor Barat, Indonesia, says the architecture will have to be flexible : a marlet-based approach might breed corruption in countries with poor governance and weak institutions, but could do well where the problem is one of resources. "This is the biggest thing that has happened in forest conservation in 15 years," she says. "But it also has the potential to crash and burn if we get it wrong."

On the subject of facilitating adaptation to climate change, negotiators finally settled their differences over the launch of a fund to help poor countries cope with global warming. Developing countries prevailed in theur
efforts to get direct access to the money through a board established under the UN convention, a move that bypasses institutions such as the World Bank.
The agreement on the fund is "one small piece of good news", says Keya Chatterjee, deputy director of the climate-change programme of the conservation group WWF in Washington DC. "Now we just need to get money into it."







The conference ended without a decision on how to incerase revebues for the fund, currently valued at about $200 milion - far from the tens to hunderds of bikkiobs of dollars annually that many think will be needed to help countries adapt their agricultural systems, cope with freshwater shortages and address rising sea levels. The sole revenue source at present is a 2% levy on projects that industrialized nations fund in emerging ekonomies to offset their own emissions.

Moving forward, perhaps the biggest question us how high to aim in Copenhagen. Last week, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer lashed out at those suggesting that delegates might have to settle for some kind of agreement on principles rather than a complete and ratifiable treaty. But many experts say will be extraordinarily difficult for US President-elect Barack Obama to get a greengouse-capping bill through Congress and negotiate a complex international treaty, all in 11 months. And without the United States, there is no deal.

"We shouldn't expect too much from Copenhagen," says Ottmar Edebhofer, who oversees work on mitigation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edenhofer would like to see an overrarching agreement on a global emissions trajectory that stabilizes emissions by 2015 and halves them by mid-crbtury. ----[out]

The United States could then move forward with its cap-and-trade system, and link it to the European scheme, while various bilateral and multilateral negotiations continue.

"I'm a moderate optimist," Edenhofer says. "There is no need for us to do everyting in one treaty. We can go stap by stap" --- [out]
[bioTec - moderate miss]
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