Canada: Drivers Needed: Mapping The Road To Global Climate Change Consensus

Last Updated: February 18 2008

Article by Selina Lee-Andersen, © 2008, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Originally published in Blakes Bulletin on Environmental Law, February 2008

Seeking Global Consensus

From December 3 to 15, 2007, much of the world's attention was focused on Bali, Indonesia as the international community sought to hammer out a roadmap for a climate agreement that would replace the Kyoto Protocol as of 2012. The Bali meeting was the 13th conference of the parties (COP 13) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the third Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 3).

While the main negotiations centered around the future of the international climate regime in the post-2012 period, there were additional sessions held by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG). This update provides an overview of the major decisions adopted by COP 13 and COP/MOP 3.

Mapping The Post-2012 Strategy

After lengthy, and at times difficult, negotiations, the Bali conference ended on a high note with the establishment of a framework for negotiations to create an agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. While the final agreement reached by the international community falls short of a concrete commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 25-40% by 2020 as proposed by the European Union, the negotiations are widely viewed as a success because it heralds the return of the U.S. to the international climate bargaining table for the first time since it withdrew from the Kyoto process in March 2001.

The Bali Action Plan was adopted by COP 13 and is accompanied by a series of COP/MOP 3 decisions. The Bali Action Plan establishes a two-track process (under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol) to identify the elements of a post-2012 global climate regime for adoption at the COP 15 and COP/MOP 5 in Copenhagen in 2009. Work under the UNFCCC track will be carried out by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action and work under the Kyoto Protocol track relating to new commitments for Annex 1 parties will be continued by the AWG.

While the Bali Action Plan did not introduce binding commitments to reduce GHG emissions, it does include a proposal for developed countries to facilitate the transfer of technology to developing countries in order to enhance access to environmentally sound technologies and support the global community's mitigation and adaptation strategy. In addition, the Bali Action Plan includes commitments to enhance co-operation for technology development and access to financial resources in respect of mitigation and adaptation efforts.

In addition, the following issues were addressed:

Adaptation Fund. COP/MOP 3 adopted a decision on the operational aspects of the Adaptation Fund, which is designed to support adaptation projects in developing countries. The Adaptation Fund will be initially managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and will be reviewed in three years' time.

Technology Transfer. COP 13 adopted two decisions on the transfer of technology to developing countries. The first decision reconstituted the Export Group on Technology Transfer and identified a series of actions directed at improving the financing of environmental technology development in developing countries. The second decision requested the preparation of a strategic program by GEF to foster financial investments in technology transfer and set forth a series of performance indicators to monitor progress and developments in this area.

Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries (REDD). COP 13 agreed on the need to take action on this matter as the fight against deforestation in developing countries was not addressed in the Kyoto Protocol. The SBSTA was urged to develop a work plan in relation to the estimation of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, as well as conservation and the sustainable management of forests.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). COP/MOP 3 provided further specifications on the implementation of CDM projects, covering governance issues, methodologies, regional participation and resources under the CDM.

Joint Implementation (JI). COP/MOP 3 discussed a number of measures designed to improve the attractiveness of JI projects.

In the area of emissions trading, there are indications that following the Bali conference, participants in the carbon market are feeling more confident that the global trading of emissions reductions will thrive after 2012. This is due to the increased certainty provided by the Bali Action Plan and broad agreement at the Bali conference that there should be mandatory caps once the Kyoto Protocol expires.

As part of the consensus, Canada has committed to engaging with the international community to negotiate a new global climate change treaty by 2009. The federal government continues to favour non-binding targets over a lengthy time horizon. What that time horizon is remains uncertain; however, any suggestion for binding reductions before 2020 were strongly rebuffed by Canada.

With opposition against binding targets from countries including Canada, the U.S., Japan and New Zealand, the road to achieving meaningful cuts in global emissions will be a difficult one. Adding to the uncertainty is the lingering prospect of a federal election, which could fundamentally alter Canada's approach to climate change with the election of a new government. Whatever happens on Canada's political scene, the global community will continue to forge ahead with a new post-Kyoto agreement and Canada will need to continue making progress towards its international commitments. No doubt, Canada's eye will be on its U.S. neighbour to gauge the extent and scope of U.S. emission reduction policies, particularly with a change of U.S. administration around the corner.

For the first time in years, there is optimism among climate-challenged nations for the prospect of a binding international commitment involving the U.S. However, the international community appears more fractured than ever between the developed and developing countries, and those countries that seek ambitious binding targets versus those that would prefer non-binding commitments and vague action. As a result, future negotiations will need to reconcile a host of concerns, from technology transfer and climate adaptation to the scope and level of binding commitments.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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