Comparability of Effort and Chances of Survival

Parties should welcome the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the nations of Kazakhstan, Turkey and Zimbabwe. Their action affirms Kyoto’s continued value and demonstrates a commitment to sparing humanity from catastrophic climate change.

A Copenhagen agreement that does not aim for a high probability of ensuring the survival and sustainable development of all nations, and the welfare of the most vulnerable, is not acceptable. The targets currently tabled by developed countries fall well short of guaranteeing these core objectives. Those targets put us on a trajectory to wipe sovereign nations off the map, add to development challenges and increase human suffering.

There is a very narrow envelope of possible emissions pathways to 2050 that have an acceptably high probability of avoiding the worst impacts of dangerous climate change. These pathways require peaking global emissions within the next 5-year commitment period and achieving reductions of at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Developed nation commitments must be based on a science-driven approach. A weak, bottom-up approach to reduction targets combined with loopholes and offsets creates a race to the bottom and a crash course on the harsh reality of catastrophic climate change.

Carbon markets should play a role in a post-2012 agreement only if the currently tabled developed country reduction targets are increased dramatically. In addition, the hazard of surplus AAUs must be addressed. The rules on LULUCF, offsetting and AAU banking must be consistent with keeping temperatures well below 2oC.

There is no avoiding the fact that deep and real emissions reductions are needed now. There simply is no atmospheric space for evasion of responsibility. For this reason, agreements in the KP track must be consistent with agreements in the LCA track in order to avoid double-counting, promote consistency, avoid loopholes and ensure the environmental integrity and fairness of the overall Copenhagen agreement.

The Kyoto Protocol provides a clear framework for industrialized country action. Rapidly evolving scientific evidence on the growing impacts of global warming does not allow for any more time to be wasted in renegotiating its architecture. Copenhagen must deliver robust, quantifiable, legally binding emissions reduction targets for all developed countries consistent with our world’s shrinking carbon budget.

The existing monitoring, reporting and verification systems are essential to help ensure environmental integrity. The compliance system must be strengthened and expanded to include an early warning system to correct projected shortfalls as well as stronger consequences for non-compliance if early warning does not lead to a remedy. The system of 5-year commitment periods is vital to allow for reviews based on new science, particularly the 5th IPCC assessment report due in 2014.

Developed countries are deliberately blurring discussions by taking different rather than common approaches to negotiating their targets. Agreement must be reached here in Bangkok on a more than 40% aggregate reduction target by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, 5-year commitment periods, and an agreement on supplementarity. Only when these elements are fixed can fair, effective national targets be negotiated and the “comparability of effort” be evaluated, and our chances of survival be elevated.

[Article published in Climate Action Network's Eco Newspaper, Oct. 2, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiations - full PDF version here]