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Brokering a global deal on climate change

Written by Leo Peskett, Natasha Grist


By Natasha Grist and Leo Peskett

In last Monday’s ODI event on the implications of climate change for poverty reduction and DFID’s efforts on climate change, Douglas Alexander, UK Secretary of State for International Development, gave his opinion on the most important challenges for the post 2012 climate agreement in the run up to the UN’s climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. These included:

  • Getting a long term deal with interim targets;
  • Making sure that emissions allowances are fairly and equitably allocated;
  • Reforming the carbon market to support poor people ;
  • Supporting the expansion  of low carbon technologies; and
  • Providing finance to the most vulnerable to develop resilience to climate change.

A tall order for a deal that is now less than 11 months away.

So how can we actually broker a global deal? This is the question that Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, and Joan Ruddock MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the newly-formed Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), will address at the next ODI event this Monday 26 January, at the Palace of Westminster.

We’d be interested to hear your views on three of the key issues that they will  consider:

1. How does domestic politics affect leadership in negotiating a global deal on climate change?
During December’s climate change meeting at Poznan, Ed Miliband highlighted the strength of the UK’s leadership on climate change: a recent agreement to adopt an 80% emissions reduction target on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and support for the European deal on 20% reduction in emissions targets on 1990 levels by 2020; with the possibility of 30% reductions on the cards at Copenhagen.

These are impressive commitments, but how sure are we that we can deliver on them? And what are the implications if developed countries don’t show leadership?

In the recent climate change negotiations in Poznan, internal politics within the EU threatened to bring the international climate change negotiations to a halt. At the last moment a compromise agreement was reached between European Member States. But this may have weakened confidence in the EU as a global leader on climate change and slowed down a negotiations process that is frequently criticized for moving too slowly.

2. What should Obama’s advisory team prioritise as they take on climate change in 2009?
A blog by a colleague in the ODI Climate Change team suggests that the biggest hole for the new presidency to fill is in sorting out financing for adaptation, where the US has made little effort to date. As the UN Human Development Report on climate change pointed out that, so far, the world’s efforts to produce funds for adaptation fall far short of the projected needs.  Douglas Alexander believes that the US will focus mainly on low carbon, high technology, globally competitive inputs solutions to the problem of climate change. But what do you think? What might the new administration mean for a Copenhagen agreement and what implications will this have for developing countries? And what should they focus on first?

3. Finally, with all the focus on an agreement at Copenhagen, are we neglecting to look towards the future? What issues should we be considering now for the period beyond 2009? After all, the December 2009 UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen is only a date; a new global deal on climate change is only one part of the efforts required to address the challenges of climate change; and climate change is only one of a broad set of interlinked global challenges set to rise up the agenda over the next decade and beyond.

If a deal is reached, countries can start to move forwards on putting in place an effective set of measures to address climate change. But what else will need to happen to ensure that the target of stabilizing temperature increases at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and adapting adequately to the impacts of climate change? And, if no deal is reached, then do we need to think again about the whole process of international climate change governance?