The Work Ahead towards the Copenhagen Agreement: Round One

The international global warming negotiations in Bonn, Germany are just wrapping up.  They began with a loud applause that the US is back and are ending with the reality of the work that needs to be done over the next 8 months to ensure a strong agreement in Copenhagen.  There is a lot to be done, but there are hints that with strong leadership the pieces can fall into place.

Little progress was made in the formal negotiations as a number of dynamics are playing out at this meeting that limit the ability to "break open" key stalemates at this point in the process.  But there are some emerging proposals on the four key elements essential to getting a strong agreement:

  • Strong leadership from developed countries with firm and aggressive emissions reduction caps.
  • Willingness of developing countries to undertake significant emissions reductions on their own and the structure and size of performance-based incentives from developed countries to encourage even greater developing country emissions reductions.
  • Reversing the rate of deforestation.
  • Supporting adaptation to the impacts of climate change in the most vulnerable countries.

Implications of the emerging international elements in the US climate legislation.  I spent a fair amount of time discussing with delegates the emerging US climate debate, with a particular focus on the elements in the Waxman-Markey discussion draft.  This draft outlined a number of tools to get a strong international climate agreement in Copenhagen later this year:

  • Driving energy and global warming solutions to reduce US global warming pollution;
  • Creating "tools" for US negotiators to secure strong global warming commitments from all countries;
  • Providing the right mix of incentives for addressing deforestation emissions; and
  • Supporting the most vulnerable developing countries in adapting to the impacts of global warming.

Helping to deliver these pieces in a meaningful way in US climate legislation will be central to securing a strong agreement in Copenhagen.  So how these provisions play out in the US debate (and other capitals around the world) will be a preview of what can be agreed in Copenhagen.

Developing country action and relation to incentives.  While there are still a number of proposals by countries for the "developing country emissions reduction package", there was a lot frank conversation about the development of "low carbon strategies" by developing countries.  Countries are also discussing the nature of the emissions reductions that they propose to achieve those low carbon strategies and how the incentives for helping achieve those actions occurs.  Of course this will be at the heart of the negotiations, but there has been a significant discussion around developing countries proposing their actions to an "international registry" which would significantly improve the transparency of their actions.  

Under these strategies developing countries could commit to reduce emissions in key sectors of the economy and receive incentives for further action through the carbon market and technology agreements.  This would mean evolving from "offsets" to sectoral approaches for developing countries.

It is essential to include deforestation reduction efforts in the Copenhagen agreement.  While deforestation reductions weren't central to the negotiations in Bonn, Germany there was a surprising moment where a large number of countries signaled quite forcefully that they want deforestation reductions included in the Copenhagen agreement.  This is a strong sign that we might finally help create the tools to reducing the deforestation emissions that account for about 20% of global emissions.  

Addressing the drivers of deforestation?  While most of the deforestation debate has been focused on providing incentives to reduce deforestation emissions, the US hinted at its interest in also discussing the drivers of deforestation (e.g., domestic agriculture demand in tropical countries and international demand for these commodities) and forest governance in a more central way.  As I've discussed, addressing illegal logging can be one powerful tool in helping developing countries start to get a handle on their deforestation emissions.

Closing the gap over the coming months.  There a number of promising ideas that are beginning to emerge in the formal discussions and the informal exchanges.

Over the next month or so, developing a strong international response to global warming will focus on the discussions occurring in the Major Economies Forum and back here in Bonn, Germany in June. 

All paths will inevitably lead through the U.S. as countries are waiting for U.S. leadership to act.