International Climate Negotiations: Next Stop Ghana

Some people think that those of us engaged in the negotiations on the international response to global warming pollution are merely enjoying going to “beautiful” and “exotic” international places.  Lounging, while the world burns—so to speak!  Well unbeknownst to many people: the negotiations are happening, are heated, and are serious.  Or at least as serious as they can be while everyone waits for leadership from the US (see my commentary here from the G8 meeting for a recent example of countries waiting for this leadership).

So while the “dog days of summer” are settling and vacations are wrapping up (at least in the northern hemisphere), many of us are getting prepared for the next stop on the “negotiation road to Copenhagen” (December 2009)—where the world has agreed to reach the next international commitments to address global warming.  Next week my colleague—David Doniger—and I will be headed to Accra, Ghana for the next round of negotiations.     


What is on the table in Ghana…you might ask?  The main issues are:

  • “Sectoral approaches”.  There has been a growing interest in sectoral approaches as a mechanism for developing countries to undertake emissions reductions in a handful of key sectors—such as electricity, iron & steel, and cement—in the next round (e.g., as detailed here and is being tested here).  In Accra, there will be proposals from countries on sectoral approaches where specific ideas will be put forward and countries will begin to frame their positions.
  • Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (you might have heard of this called REDD).  The world is now focused on providing incentives to developing countries that reduce their deforestation emissions.  The main question now is what mechanism will be utilized to provide those incentives—the carbon market (e.g., here), non-carbon market approaches (e.g., here), or hybrids (e.g., here).  At this meeting there will be proposals from countries on which incentives they want in the agreement and how they want those incentives designed.
  • Future of the “market mechanisms”.  Developed countries can now purchase emissions reductions from developing countries to help in meeting their targets—the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  This session will continue to debate the future of this mechanism—reformed, modified, for which countries, etc.
  • Forestry in developed countries.  There are some very complex, distorting, etc. rules under the Kyoto Protocol for forests in developed countries.  I won’t attempt to do it justice here, but check out here for a detailed but good summary of the main issues.
  • Looking towards Copenhagen.  The next negotiation session in Posnan, Poland (December 2008) will be an important “check point” as it will be mid-way between the agreement in Bali (December 2007) and when the final agreement is set to be struck in Copenhagen.  And, it is just after the US elections.  While Accra will be too early to know what can be achieved in Posnan and beyond, there will be a lot of conversations looking to the future when a new US administration will be sitting at the table.  Negotiators will be “reading the tea leaves” on what they can expect from the US in 2009 and what (if anything) can be agreed to in Poland.

Will this meeting in Ghana resolve these difficult issues?  No.  Will anything be accomplished?  No major agreements are expected, but each negotiating session is a crucial moment to put forward specific proposals and for countries to begin to stake out positions.  It begins to signal what issues are:

  • non-starters (it is unlikely that we will get progress on this issue anytime soon or we need a different tact);
  • in general agreement (and don’t require a lot more detailed discussion); or
  • in need of new or modified proposals but when push comes to shove there is room for agreement (current proposals aren’t good enough or have strong opposition from key players…but the door is open).

Find out how these issues progress, what are the sticking points, and where the agreement in Copenhagen is heading as David and I will be providing updates on our blogs.