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Poland Braces For UN Climate Conference

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By Anna Rutkowski | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

WARSAW (IDN) - “We need to be prepared for nine billion people on this planet, as we all deserve a decent and secure life. By being creative, the world can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs, promoting economic growth and ensuring better living standards. Where there is a will, there is a way!” says Marcin Korolec, the Polish Minister of the Environment, who will chair a landmark UN climate change conference from November 11 to 22, 2013 in Warsaw.

A lawyer, career civil servant and negotiator, Korolec wants the global conference to agree on a balance between the needs of the environment and the economy, "in order to seamlessly unite environmental protection and economic growth". Environmental protection, he says, is an interdisciplinary field that directly influences many other policy areas and is strongly influenced by international arrangements and standards.

Poland will be hosting a UN climate change conference for the second time. The fourteenth Conference of the Parties (COP14) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), along with the fourth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP4) took place in December 2008 in Poznań.

It was Europe’s biggest political summit ever organised in Poland and in Eastern Europe on the whole – for that reason Poland feels a sense of pride. "The incoming Polish Presidency is committed to strengthening the multilateral global climate process in accordance with the principles of transparency, inclusiveness and full participation of all Parties, respecting legal procedures and acknowledging variety of interests and opinions represented by the Parties to the Convention," states a post on the COP19/CMP9 website.

With this in view, the government of Poland wants the forthcoming conference to result in effective implementation of the previous COP decisions and build up confidence in the UNFCCC process – giving Parties and other stakeholders a sense that negotiations are delivering and moving in the right direction with all on board.

COP19 hosts also desire to make progress on the way to the new global climate agreement in 2015, replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – and this in concert with the Presidencies of upcoming COP20 in Lima, Peru and COP21 in Paris, France.

"Global solutions will only be effective if stemming from the process supported and legitimized by all States and only when all Parties, in solidarity, implement actions leading to solving the climate problem," asserts the official COP19 website.

An official source said, the incoming Polish Presidency of COP 19 will "spare no effort to facilitate the process and encourage Parties towards reaching a good outcome in a Party driven process," in particular with respect to setting the right pace for the negotiations under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), emerging from the 2011 Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa.

In Durban, UNFCCC Parties essentially agreed to negotiate a legally binding framework until 2015, including emissions mitigation obligations for all countries from 2020 onwards. In addition, they agreed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C and to close the ambition gap before 2020.

The Krakow meeting

The tone for Polish Presidency's ambitions was set at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), which held a meeting in Krakow, Poland, on July 18, 2013. The Forum was launched on March 28, 2009 with a view to facilitating "a candid dialogue among major developed and developing economies, help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome at the annual UN climate negotiations and advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions".

It was attended by ministers and officials from the 17 major economies – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States – as well as the United Nations, with New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore also participating in the session. Barbados and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were also invited.

According to the Polish hosts, participants broadly supported the concept of a MEF Action Agenda, which would consist of concrete efforts on a voluntary, cooperative basis to accelerate the transition to low-carbon economies. Participants also generally agreed that a MEF Action initiative could focus on improving the performance and energy efficiency of buildings. The discussions built on advances made over two previous MEF Ministers meetings and two Working Group meetings.

Buildings are the largest single source of energy demand and account for approximately 40 percent of the global total of CO2 emissions. MEF participants discussed how an initiative could best capture this opportunity. Many participants noted that efforts will not be "one size fits all;" that countries have differences in existing energy services and building stock; and that, in many countries, a variety of building issues are administered at the sub-national level.

The participants also discussed the options for legal force regarding mitigation provisions of the 2015 agreement in particular and other provisions as well. Regarding mitigation, they noted that there will be several different types of provisions and that their treatment in terms of legal force does not need to be uniform. Options for legal force were evaluated in light of their ability to promote ambition, as well as inclusiveness in terms of countries' participation.

Expectations

Concerning the negotiations under the UNFCCC, participants discussed their respective expectations concerning the Paris Conference of the Parties. In particular, they discussed whether mitigation commitments would be finalized at that point after a process for consulting on/analyzing them or whether Paris would launch such a process.

Some considered that it would not be feasible to complete the process by 2015, because countries need to reach agreement on ground rules and on relevant text before putting down their nationally determined mitigation commitments. Others considered that it would be feasible, as well as important, to include such commitments in the 2015 outcome.

But there was broad support for putting forward commitments which make sense in the near future as well. There was also discussion about how to address the potential situation where aggregate commitments fall far short of the necessary ambition, with different views on whether there should be a second step of a “top down” nature. With an eye on ambition and inclusiveness, they also considered whether there should be any “bounds” on the flexibility accorded to countries to come up with their nationally-determined commitments, such as with respect to timeframe, quantification, transparency, among others.

MEF participants were also reported to have had a good exchange on expectations for Warsaw and Lima. They agreed that these conferences are critical steps for progress on pre-2020 ambition and toward a successful agreement in 2015. A number of countries highlighted the importance of fostering a constructive transition to a more focused set of work in 2014.

MEF countries agreed to follow up these discussions at their next meeting, to be convened in September 2013 on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York. [IDN-InDepthNews – August 24, 2013]

Photo: Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec | Credit: COP19 official website

2013 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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