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Pole positions

The latest round of UN climate talks kicked off in Poznan, Poland yesterday. Jeff Tollefson has a nice round-up over on The Great Beyond of how the first day of the conference went down – unsurprisingly, with world leaders calling for immediate action. [Update: All Poznan-related posts from Jeff T, who will be at the talks next week, can be found here].

As I mentioned here last week, it’s generally accepted that the current negotiations will not address the really crucial issues of a post-Kyoto climate deal, namely how far to reduce emissions and how to do so equitably. So much as for fighting the urge to postpone everything until Copenhagen.

But what can be expected to emerge from Poznan is greater clarity on how various players will position themselves for next year’s endgame, a point that I elaborate on in my latest editorial on Nature Reports Climate Change.

In short, in the past year we’ve seen the world’s emerging economies come together in calling for more stringent binding emissions targets from the industrialized world. And more recently, some 53 African countries signed the ‘Algiers declaration’, which effectively means they will operate as a bloc in the forthcoming talks, a move intended to give them more clout in the final treaty.

Not all of the shifts have been harmonious, however. Europe, on the contrary, long heralded as climate change champion, is starting to experience discontent among its ranks, with Poland recently demanding a compromise on the cost of CO2 emissions under the proposed expansion of the EU emissions trading scheme. It’s also worth remembering the lack of agreement on the baseline year that emerged between Europe and Japan at the July’s G8 summit in Hokkaido.

Unquestionably though, the most meaningful shift has been the election of Barack Obama as US president. But exactly how the Obama administration will position itself internationally on climate change remains to be seen, with President Bush still holding court during the current talks.

The solidifying stances of other nations should put increasing pressure on the US come January, but will this enough to secure a global deal in Copenhagen? Over on Climate Progress, Joe Romm argues that regardless of what comes out of the final round of UN climate talks on a Kyoto successor, Obama won’t be able to get the Senate to ratify.

Olive Heffernan


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