An essential beginning

01 Jan 2010

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Leaving some parties frustrated, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ended with an agreement by countries to overcome the global temperature rise by committing to emission reductions and to raise funds to accelerate action to deal with climate change in the developing world.

New Horizons - At the meeting, world leaders agreed to the Copenhagen Accord, a political declaration on climate change, covering most of the major areas that have been under negotiation in UNFCCC sessions since 2005. The Accord provides political guidance and direction to the negotiations under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, and contains some operational elements that are effective immediately.

According to the Copenhagen Accord, industrialised countries will commit to submit 2020 targets for quantified economy-wide emissions by 31 January 2010. To ensure transparency in figures, a number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions every two years, also listing their voluntary pledges before the 31 January 2010 deadline.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the climate change deal and said "The Copenhagen Accord may not be everything that everyone hoped for, but this decision of the Conference of Parties is a beginning, an essential beginning." He said results have been made on all four of the benchmarks for success that he laid out during the special leaders' summit on climate change held in New York in September.

According to Ban Ki-moon "All countries have agreed to work towards a common long-term goal to limit the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius; many governments have made important commitments to reduce or limit emissions; countries have achieved significant progress on preserving forests; and have agreed to provide comprehensive support to the most vulnerable to cope with climate change."

The Secretary-General said these commitments have been backed up by $30 billion of pledges for short-term adaptation and mitigation measures for poorer countries, and further commitments to raise $100 billion by 2020 to achieve those goals.

The deal also provides a mechanism for drawing the many nationally announced climate goals into an international deal. Through an annex, developed countries would choose to list their greenhouse gas reduction targets and financing offers, and developing countries would register mitigation and adaptation projects that could be monitored or reviewed.

Ban Ki-moon also acknowledged that progress needs to be made in turning the Copenhagen Accord into a legally binding treaty, and said he would work closely with world leaders to make that happen.

The Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, aimed at helping poor countries adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, will be launched as soon as possible so it can start providing assistance to those in need and kick-start clean energy projects.

There is still work to be done

Current mitigation commitments offered by countries fail to meet scientific targets. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that industrialized countries must cut emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, and global emissions must be halved by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

"We still face serious consequences. So while I am satisfied we have a deal here in Copenhagen, I am aware that it is just the beginning. It will take more than this to definitively tackle climate change, but it is a step in the right direction" the Secretary General said.

The actual negotiations involved the active participation of 28 heads of State representing key countries or groups of countries. The Accord was recognized by consensus and creates a procedure for individual countries to associate with the agreement.

UN Assistant Secretary-General Robert Orr explained that while some delegates consider that the Accord has many flaws, countries overwhelmingly believed that it would advance the climate change negotiations.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said the deal was perhaps not the big breakthrough some had hoped for, but neither was it a breakdown, which at times seemed a possibility. "The litmus test of developed countries' ambitions will, in a sense, come immediately. If the funds promised in the Accord start flowing swiftly and to the levels announced, then a new international climate change policy may have been born."

Steiner stressed that the final deal represented a compromise of differing national and economic interests among States large and small, rich and poor. “Trying to take over 190 countries through the same door towards a more cooperative global warming policy has proved challenging but ultimately possible and do-able. Time will be the true judge as to whether 19 December 2009 was indeed an historic date for accelerating a response to combating dangerous climate change and for more sustainable management of economically important ecosystems, such as forests.”

In order to step up action on the development and transfer of technology, governments intend to establish a new technology mechanism to accelerate development and transfer in support of action on adaptation and mitigation.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer remarked “We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action, however, we need to be clear that it is a letter of intent and is not precise about what needs to be done in legal terms. So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable."

The next annual UN Climate Change Conference will take place towards the end of 2010 in Mexico City, preceded by a major two week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, scheduled 31 May to 11 June.

Turkey at Copenhagen

During the COP 15, a side event was organized by the Turkish Government to introduce the draft National Climate Change Strategy of Turkey on 14 December 2009.

The side event hosted a presentation by project representatives from the UNDP Turkey Office titled “Joint efforts of Turkish Government and UNDP for combating Climate Change”. Joint presentations were also made by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Automotive Manufacturers Association, as well as from the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD), the UK-Turkish Environment Society and the Turkish Business Council of Sustainable Development joint presentations. A representative from the national carbon project developers further shared their views on the carbon asset project development potentials and capabilities of Turkey.

The joint efforts of the Turkish government and UNDP concerning mitigation and adaptation to climate change were shared with an audience consisting of representatives from national environmental NGOs, the Youth for Climate Initiative, business representatives, international agencies and institutions.

In the scope of draft National Climate Change Strategy of Turkey, mitigation in the fields of energy, transportation, industry, waste, land-use, agriculture and forestry, along with adaptation in the areas of technology development, technology transfer, finance, education, capacity development and institutional infrastructure were among the short, medium and long term objectives that were discussed.

Speaking at the Joint High-level segment to present Turkey’s national statement, President Abdullah Gül explained that Turkey’s location in the eastern Mediterranean region makes it likely that the country will be affected by the adverse impacts of climate change. Gül said “Turkey is a case in point which must receive technology and financial support to realize its national mitigation and adaptation objectives. In addition, we’ve taken various important measures with a view to combating climate change. We’ve promoted renewable energy and energy efficiency including enacting the necessary legislations. Our aims are to make full use of hydro, wind, solar, geothermal powers of Turkey.”

For more about the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, please visit COP 15's official website, the UN News Centre, or www.unfccc.int.