In the last night of climate talks in Cancun, parties to the UNFCCC decided to set up workshops over the course of 2011 to better appreciate the implementation of the Convention. One of those workshops, under the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) track, focused on mitigation targets of the developed countries and took place today.
As defined in 1992, the objective of the UNFCCC is to find an agreement that could limit the dangerous impacts of climate change on humankind. Limiting this risk means reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases responsible of this change. In the UNFCCC process, it is called “mitigation”.
This morning’s workshop focused on the mitigation efforts of the developed countries, and I was able to catch presentations by Canada, the European Union (EU), Switzerland and the Alliance of the Small Island States (AOSIS).
Canada came first, explaining their total committment to limiting the dangerous impacts of climate change, notably by investing 6 billions of dollars at the federal level in ‘carbon capture and storage’ and biofuels. Unfortunately, those two technologies have not proved their environmental efficiency. Canada then recalled their commitment to reduce emissions 17% by 2020, (with 2005 as a reference year). With climate change worsening by every month without action, this commitment is actually less ambitious than their original Kyoto commitment from 1997. In terms of efforts… they can – for sure – make it much better!
After Canada, the European Union presented their mitigation plans. They look like the best in class – unfortunately it’s a class of dunces. The EU’s efforts could be improved in ambition (notably by committing to 30% by 2020 instead of 20%, which they’ve indicated is possible). At the moment, even not doing as much as they’ve signalled they could, the EU’s commitment as a block makes them a leader among developed country’s in mitigation.
Then Switzerland talked. They have the same mitigation objective as the EU, -20% by 2020. In the talks, their position usually follows the European Union one. But instead of making the efforts at the national level by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels (for heating, transportation, industry and others) they decided to off-set 80% of this reduction. In other words, their efforts will be extremely low and weak compared to what they could have done if they had decided to actually reduce their emissions domestically. For a country that sees itself as a leader, the details are disappointing.
The last presenter was the Federated States of Micronesia on behalf of the Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS). Her presentation had a number of slides, but it was a powerful visualization in her first slide held my attention. She showed a graph comparing global emissions to sea level rise. Over the last twenty years, the upward-curving line plotting emissions data is matched with an upward-curving line plotting sea level rise.
We know that several island States like Micronesia have large populations on deltas and coastal zones, living in extremely low-lying areas. I can’t help but wonder if some developed countries, by their lack of seriousness and political will, are not playing with the number of people who will have to flee in the next decades.
About the authorFlorent Baarsch
Writing on adaptation to climate change. Sometimes blogger @lemondefr following #UNFCCC #climate negotiations.