Thursday, 22 November 2007

As all eyes turn to Bali for the December 2007 Climate Change Conference, it is useful to look back at the events that have made 2007 the year of climate change.

Several events of the past fortnight were timed to come right before the Bali meeting, for maximum impact. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded its 27th session on 17 November 2007 after finalizing its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which establishes the “unequivocal” warming of the climate system and the “very likely” impact of anthropogenic emissions, and outlines a range of adaptation and mitigation options. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Antarctica and the Amazon rainforest, among other stops, to highlight the impacts of climate change. At the same time, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held their third Summit, prior to which UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer addressed a high-level OPEC seminar and stated that OPEC is “part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem,” in his untiring efforts to generate the political will to take a decision in 2007 on a process to negotiate post-2012 commitments.
Lynn Wagner, Ph.D.
Editor, Linkages Update
and MEA Bulletin

Other events, within and outside the UNFCCC framework, have also sought to affect the direction of discussions in the lead up to Bali. The announcement that the Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to the IPCC and Al Gore to recognize their efforts “to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change” perhaps received the most media attention, but many other discussions and activities have been organized with the future of the climate change agreements and action to address it in mind.

Many high-level events convened in an effort to generate political will and direction from the highest levels. The G-8 Summit, which took place in June in Heiligendamm, Germany, resulted in a communiqué that called on all parties to “actively and constructively participate in the UN Climate Change Conference in Indonesia in December 2007 with a view to achieving a comprehensive post 2012-agreement (post Kyoto-agreement) that should include all major emitters.” An informal meeting of environment ministers and high-level representatives in Riksgränsen, Sweden, in June discussed the need for the Bali conference to establish a “Road Map” with a timetable and concrete steps for the negotiations with a view to reach an agreement by 2009. In September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon organized the largest-ever meeting of global political leaders on climate change at UN headquarters, while US President Bush convened a“Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change.” Environment ministers convened again in Bogor, Indonesia, in October, during which they discussed the building blocks of a post-2012 framework: mitigation, adaptation, technology, and investment and finance.

Actors’ at the international level took steps to address climate change through alternative fora, reinforcing the priority nature of the issue. Emissions from airlines were considered based on an EU proposal at the 36th session of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in September,while Norway hosted a technical workshop on emissions from aviation and maritime transport in early October. Many hailed the decision of the nineteenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer regarding an accelerated phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), a greenhouse gas,as possibly leading to five times the reductions under the Kyoto Protocol in its first commitment period. The 29th Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention) and second meeting of Contracting Parties to the 1996 Protocol thereto (London Protocol) in November considered, but ultimately rejected, large-scale fertilization of the oceans using micro-nutrients to sequester carbon dioxide, based on the insufficiency of knowledge about the effectiveness and potential environmental impacts of such activities.

New actors and approaches to the issue entered the discussion throughout the year. The UN Security Council discussed climate change for the first time in April, focusing on the impact of climate change on peace and security. Private sector actors, including the second UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in July, expressed their preference for an established and predictable regulatory environment, and local authorities weighed in with their desire for action on several occasions, from meetings of mayors to parliamentarians calling for agreement in Bali. Although it was released in October 2006, an additional key influence on the debates in 2007 came from the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, which reflects the attempt to calculate the costs of inaction. While critiqued for the assumptions used in the calculation of costs, this report helped broaden the discussion of costs from one focused primarily on abatement costs. 

The stage is certainly set for diplomats in Bali, and we will be watching to see how all of these influences play out in their negotiations and decisions.
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