Canada: Between Fear and Hope: Recession, Obama And The Future Of The Kyoto Protocol

The future of a global climate treaty is still up in the air a few weeks after the end of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UNFCC") held in Poznan, Poland1 in December 2008. This new treaty would replace the Kyoto Protocol, but a successful conclusion is far from certain, as fears about the effects of a global recession are mixed with hopeful signals of a renewed commitment by the new U.S. administration under President Barack Obama. While little measurable progress was achieved in Poznan, the essential building blocks remain in place to finish the negotiation process at the next conference in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the meantime, a series of preliminary meetings in Bonn, Germany from March to June 2009 will likely provide some clues as to whether a new spirit of co-operation prevails or whether obstacles such as the word-wide economic downturn will stymie meaningful progress. The following is a discussion of the issues at stake.

The Poznan Conference

The Kyoto Protocol, the first global treaty to contain binding carbon dioxide ("CO2") emissions reduction goals for the participating nations, expires in 2012. The Poznan conference, which took place from December 1 to December 12, 2008, was the fourth meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol ("CMP 4"). It was viewed as a crucial midway point in the process of developing a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which started at the last meeting in December 2007 in Bali ("CMP 3") and is expected to be finalized at the next meeting in December 2009 in Copenhagen ("CMP 5").

The Poznan conference was hampered from the outset because the official U.S. delegation, which was sent by the outgoing administration of President Bush, was not perceived as being representative of the position the Obama administration is expected to take on issues of climate change and CO2 reduction.2 To nobody's surprise, the Poznan conference did not achieve meaningful progress in a number of key areas, and in particular, in defining concrete reduction targets, and it is widely agreed that the "heavy lifting" in negotiations was left for the year 2009.3

Two areas where the Poznan conference did make progress were the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation ("REDD") and the Kyoto Protocol's Climate Change Adaptation Fund.4 Under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism ("CDM"), countries can achieve their CO2 emission reduction goals by investing in projects that create certified emissions reduction credits ("CERs"). The CDM Executive Board grants CERs to projects where it has verified that real and sustainable reductions of CO2 emissions have been achieved.5 Through this system, the CDM has already provided the necessary financing for numerous projects, mostly in developing countries, but it has so far excluded projects where emission reductions are achieved by projects that curb deforestation and forest degradation. This is mostly because of the difficulties associated with measuring the success of such projects. The joint ministerial declaration on REDD issued at the Poznan conference paves the way for the inclusion of REDD projects in the CDM program under the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, by committing a number of developed countries and key tropical developing countries to early action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and by advancing the framework under which such projects can be captured in a future CDM system.

The Climate Change Adaptation Fund is designed to allow developing countries access to funds that finance measures necessary to adapt to the negative consequences of global warming. At the Poznan conference, key obstacles were removed to allow the fund to begin operating, including the decision to finance the fund through a 2 percent levy on the CDM program. While opening up access to the fund for developing countries was welcomed by many participants, others pointed out that the money currently available, about $60 million, is woefully inadequate to tackle a problem that was estimated by the UNFCCC itself to require between $28 and $67 billion a year by the year 2030.6

The Road to Copenhagen

At present, there is still enough time for negotiations to clear a path for a successful conclusion of a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol at the Copenhagen conference planned for December, 2009. It is crucial to finalize the text of such a treaty as early as possible to allow the signatory countries to ratify it before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. A series of talks on climate change in Bonn, Germany (March 29 – April 8 and June 1 – 12, 2009) as well as another two-week meeting to be held in September or October are planned as the next major steps in this process.

Much hope has been placed in the fact that the Obama administration is expected to reinvigorate the process by fully engaging in the next round of negotiations (the U.S. did not ratify the Kyoto Treaty). Indeed, President Obama has sent out a number of hopeful signals that have been heralded as a "New Day on Climate Change".7 Not long ago, President Obama pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by 80 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2050.8 In a major speech on January 26, 2009, President Obama declared that the U.S. is "ready to lead" on the issue of climate change.9 At the same time, he announced that he had ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider a decision it had taken under the Bush administration to block the state of California's efforts to set stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards on automobiles. At least a dozen other states are expected to follow in California's footsteps by setting tougher standards, once California has received the necessary permission. These concrete measures have reinforced the belief that the new U.S. administration intends to seriously follow up on repeated promises to actively to pursue a new global climate treaty.

The U.S. endorsement, however, does not come without qualifications. In his January 26 speech, President Obama reiterated the position that any meaningful global treaty must include some form of emissions restrictions for the world's leading developing economies, China and India, which have joined the ranks of the world's leading CO2 polluters.10 China and particularly India, for their part, have always maintained that the goals of catching up economically with the developed world and reducing poverty remain priorities that right now trump the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and that the main responsibility to achieve reductions lies with the developed world.11 China's and India's willingness to accept binding greenhouse gas limits remains questionable, and there is a danger that, as has happened in the past, the U.S. will use their reluctance as an excuse to pull out of climate treaty negotiations.

Another untimely development that threatens to derail the negotiation process is the prolonged global economic downturn. Recent polls suggest that the importance of environmental issues, including global warming, have taken a backseat to economic concerns in the public's perception.12 If industrial output continues to suffer and unemployment continues to rise throughout 2009, both in developed and in developing countries, the willingness of these countries to agree to significant CO2 emissions reductions will be severely tested. Whether old and new obstacles or revived hopes will ultimately predominate on the path to Copenhagen remains to be seen, but the year 2009 will likely be remembered as a crucial junction in the struggle to curb global warming and climate change.

Footnotes

1 "The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, 1-12 December 2008" United Nations

Framework Convention on Climate Change, online: http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_14/items/448.php .

2 "Interim Climate Pact Approved" Washington Post (December 12, 2008), online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/12/13/ST2008121300007html ; "Global climate change decisions on hold for Obama administration" The Guardian (December 12, 2008), online: Guardian Unlimited http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/12/poznanclimatechange .

3 "Poznan climate talks leave 'heavy lifting' for 2009" EurActiv.com (December 15, 2008), online: http://www.euractiv.com/en/climate-change/poznan-climate-talks-leave-heavy-lifting-2009/article-178051?Ref=RSS .

4 All decisions adopted at the Poznan conference can be found on the UNFCC homepage, online: http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_14/items/448.php .

5 For details on the CDM program see UNFFC, "About CDM", online: http://cdm.unfccc.int/about/index.html .

6 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, "Impacts Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries" (2007) at p. 5, online: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/publications/impacts.pdf .

7 "New Day on Climate Change" New York Times (January 27, 2009), online: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/opinion/27tue.html .

8 "Obama jumps in on climate" Los Angeles Times (November 19, 2008), online: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/nov/19/nation/naclimate19 .

9 "US 'ready to lead' on climate change" Financial Times (January 27, 2009), online: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/23b9f8b6-ebda-11dd-8838-0000779fd2ac.html .

10 Ibid.

11 "Melting Asia: China, India and climate change" The Economist (June 5th, 2008), online: http://www.economist.com/displaystorycfm?story_id=11488548 .

12 The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. "Economy, Jobs Trump All Other Policy Priorities In 2009", (January 22, 2009), online: http://people-press.org/report/485/economy-top-policypriority ; "Interest in global warming cooling off" Vancouver Sun (January 15, 2009).

The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.

© Copyright 2009 McMillan LLP

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions