Archive for December, 2008

Curtains, conclusions and Copenhagen

Sunday, December 14th, 2008 by

First things first; was Poznan a success?

There are two sides to the ZÅ‚oty. On near-term emissions reductions the talks were stuttered, often evasive of the issue, and at worst drenched in denial (it is amazing to see politicians take the floor and dodge the question outright). In terms of recognising the plight of those already suffering from climate change, the talks were positive. Adaptation is right up on the agenda now and some key decisions have been made to help those in affected countries.

So, how to weigh this up? As the old saying goes: ‘prevention is better than cure’. Along these lines, effective mitigation reduces the demands for adaptation. That Poznan created more success in the latter stream could be seen as buying a bigger bandage, but not removing the knife.

Having said that, adaptation demands are current and urgent. Projects helping vulnerable communities have been ongoing for some time outside the UN process and now the 38 countries that compiled adaptation plans will be able to access funds much more quickly. It’s also worth remembering that Poznan wasn’t billed as the table for headline grabbing emission targets. There have been some long-term reductions announcements, most notably from Mexico and the EU, but the hesitant countries have another 12 months until serious 2020 targets have to be declared.

Which brings us to the small task of making 2009 as big as possible. This time next year we need a treaty that combines powerful emission reduction targets and a systematic scheme for funding and implementing adaptation. Having seen the wriggles and screams of politicians here in Poznan, the run up to Copenhagen needs full-blown political pressure from start to finish. We have to make 2009 the year of the climate deal.

Continuing the conversation about the role of new technologies in development

Thursday, December 11th, 2008 by

New science-led technologies present some specific challenges, including the perceptions of high cost, high risk, high complexity and the lack of knowledge about what technologies are available. Yet new technologies present new opportunities. Older technologies are inevitably entrenched in existing systems of patents, production, and markets. There is an opportunity with new technologies to do things differently.

Today I have posted a white paper about the role and potential of new technologies in international development on the research challenges page of the web site.   I would welcome comments

Whistle away the emissions

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 by

This morning I walked through the conference centre to the tune of ‘Time to say good-bye’, originally sung by Andrea Bocelli, but now being whistled by the man in front of me. What had spurred his operatic outburst? The Poznan conference doesn’t finish until Saturday; surely he couldn’t be embarking on the road to Copenhagen just yet? Perhaps he was just sad to leave the plenary, or, perhaps he had a more pragmatic reason.

There is a small chance he was reflecting on the continued loss caused by climate change if countries such as Canada, Japan, Australia, and Russia don’t commit to emissions reduction targets anytime soon. These countries don’t seem to want to say goodbye their carbon but are happy to see Kenya lose its fertile land, Peru lose its water supplies, and Bangladesh lose homes and livelihoods every time a flood hits.

Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN’s climate change convention, stated today at a press conference that precise and adequate figures for near-term reductions are essential requirements from developed countries next year in Copenhagen. But if these countries could give an indication as to their intentions here in Poznan it would go a long way to building trust with the less developed countries that are already complying with what is required of them. The path to Copenhagen will be much smoother for this.

It shouldn’t have to take a catastrophic loss to jolt the non-committal countries to deviate from their emissions paths, but if Australia needs inspiration it should look to the three-year water drought it is only just recovering from that sent food prices across the world sky high. To avoid this, these countries could just check the recent science compiled by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This states that we need reductions in the range of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

But if these countries still find it hard to let go then perhaps they should reflect that soon the communities they are turning their back on will start running out of time to say goodbye. Perhaps I will follow the same chap in Copenhagen whistling ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word’.

A bit on the side

Friday, December 5th, 2008 by

As the talks are now well underway, the wealth of extra-curricular events at this year’s conference deserves a mention. From low carbon technologies to high sea level predictions, the side events dotted around the site cover the spectrum of climate-related topics in a gruelling schedule running from nine in the morning to nine at night. To go to them all would make you a climate expert, albeit one with a migraine.

Probably best I just select a few highlights then. On Tuesday evening, Practical Action and Tearfund held their side event, ‘From Vulnerability to Resistance’, for a capacity crowd of nearly one hundred. The room was crammed to hear Gehendra Gurung from Practical Action Nepal speak about how our projects incorporate disaster risk reduction into community-based adaptation. This prompted a constructive debate in which an official from the UN Secretariat asked a question regarding our work.

Fittingly, there are a lot of side events preparing us for the year leading up to a deal in Copenhagen and, from the ones I have attended, there is a real sense that 2009’s campaign will roll straight out of Poznan. The next twelve months will require massive participation, which is why it was inspiring to visit an International Youth Delegation presentation. A lot of suggestions at this side event were met with whoops and cheers, but none more than for a Kenyan man who announced that he was planning to organise a youth delegation for the only continent not represented by the scheme – Africa.

What is evident is that from now on climate change will not be a side event – it will be the event. In the short term it will be about pushing forward for a strong Copenhagen deal, but from now, and way beyond this, it is about scaling up our efforts in making sure those vulnerable people already dealing with climate change have the capability to tackle the dangers they face.

And they’re off!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 by

And they’re off! The 2008 UN climate talks started yesterday in Poznan, Poland. We have now embarked on a fortnight of discussions towards a post-Kyoto deal . The question is: what sort of deal will be?

These talks are the springboard for the final year of discussions. We need to reach agreement on a final work plan for 2009 so that the run up to Copenhagen can be spent hammering out the intricacies, not the master plan. Poznan is, therefore, more about aiding than clinching final deals but, nevertheless, weak agreements here will weaken our post-2012 deal.

It should not be underestimated what the consequences of an inadequate deal next year will mean for the world, and in particular those who are already struggling with climate change – the vulnerable communities in countries ill-equipped to deal with the impacts. For these people a deal should have been made years ago, 2008-9 really is the last deadline.

Today, and during the preparations prior to the conference, it has been encouraging to see that developing countries are increasingly finding a voice in the debates and are organising collectively to enhance their position. Much of this new assertiveness has been driven by NGOs working within these countries – our team in Poznan is blessed with Gehendra Gurung from Practical Action Nepal who has been awarded a place on his government’s delegation. On the other hand, it’s disheartening to hear the distance from the conference that many Southern participants are having to stay due to the expense of hotels anywhere near Poznan. Couple this with the fact that there is no Polish embassy in the whole of Africa, and you risk having the makings of a COP totally dominated by rich, Northern countries.

These points do not bode well for the host nation to whom all eyes are peeled. To their credit, the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, made a stirring opening speech calling for a collective will to tackle climate change and stating that the global economic crisis is not an excuse to hold back. However, it doesn’t take an expert to see the contradictions in Tusk’s address and, for their efforts in blocking the EU Climate and Energy Package whilst also trying to weaken mitigation commitments, Poland received the Fossil of the Day Award on the opening day.

But this is just the first day of talks and there will be many twists and turns over the next thirteen days. What matters is that by December 13th we will have a good idea what will be the core components of the post-Kyoto deal. Developing countries need to be right at the top of this agenda. They have overcome major obstacles to be here and they have done so for a reason – they are experiencing climate change now. The Poznan conference needs to recognise this as those involved set us on a course for a climate deal at Copenhagen.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP14

Monday, December 1st, 2008 by

Practical Action will be attending the fourteenth conference of parties (COP 14) in Poznań year from 1- 12 December this year. After the slow but significant progress at COP 13 in Bali we are hoping that climate change adaptation will be firmly at the heart of discussions and that some momentum will be built towards mapping out a post-Kyoto deal that takes account of the need of developing countries for support and finance to cope with climate change, and to enable them to develop along a low-carbon path. The Poznan Climate Change Conference needs to move from discussion to negotiation mode in order to complete a new international agreement in Copenhagen in 2009.

Our team in Poznań will consist of representatives from Peru, Nepal, and Bangladesh as well as the UK. They will be monitoring the discussions and pressing the urgency of formulating a coherent plan for tackling climate change in the post-Kyoto era. You will be able to follow progress here, with regular updates and blogs.

Practical Action’s Ben Murphy with the latest news from PoznaÅ„.