In The Field

Poznan: Let’s make a deal

Climate negotiators will take an official break today as global environmental ministers sit down for a high-level session in an effort to hammer out a broader agreement on where to go from here. The United Nation’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, says the goal is to establish a “shared vision” to underpin discussions in 2009.

Early reports indicated little evidence of a major breakthrough, but there might yet be room for surprises – or at least an interesting debate. The Guardian is reporting that the European Union has upped its ante with a pledge to cut emissions by 80-95 percent below 1990 levels – if developing countries will in turn agree to curb the growth in their emissions 15-30 percent over the next decade.

Perhaps the message being delivered by Martin Parry and others is getting through. Unfortunately, this kind of horse-trading might be a bit premature given that the United States remains in limbo until January. For their part, countries like China have adamantly opposed signing up to numeric targets, which isn’t to say that they are unwilling to commit to anything.

China has already implemented a policy to boost energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2010, compared to 2005 levels, and if that works out it plans go much further. Earlier this month, Brazil released a formal climate plan laying out, among other things, how it plans to reduce deforestation by 70 percent by 2017. The plan doesn’t quite deliver on previous promises to halt deforestation by 2015, but Bloomberg reported Environment Minister Carlos Minc saying it also involves massive reforestation efforts as well, suggesting that net deforestation could be attained by that date.

(As it happens, I asked Paulo Adario, Amazon Campaign Director for Greenpeace, about the issue this week in Poznan. He says the plan is based on some funny numbers and logic – including the baseline used for measuring the reductions and an implicit assumption that new plantations in one part of the country make up for slash-and-burn in the Amazon – but nonetheless represents “a step forward”.)

All of this is to say that there is evidence that some of the biggest emitters in the developing world are already taking climate seriously, even if they don’t want to bind themselves to specific commitments. It’s a point that UN climate chief Yvo de Boer drove home again yesterday, highlighting climate plans that have already been put in place by China and Brazil as well as Mexico, India, South Africa and others.

“One of the things that has constrained this process in the past is the impression that developing countries are doing anything,” he said. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”


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