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Why does Poznan matter?

UN-led climate-change talks in Poland this week are a key step in one of the most important – and complex – negotiations the world has ever seen. Tan Copsey explains.

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What is happening in Poznan?

United Nations-led talks in Poznan, Poland – which start today – will mark the half-way stage of negotiations to form a new global agreement to prevent dangerous climate change. The process began last year at a conference in Bali, Indonesia and will end in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. The agreement will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Yvo De Boer, executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), called it “one of the most complicated negotiating processes the international community has ever seen.” It is also one of the most important.

Like last year's meeting in Bali, Poznan will play host to a vast array of national representatives, as well as intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental groups and the world’s media. chinadialogue will be there to bring you coverage, as part of our “Bali to Copenhagen” project.

Why does it matter?

The conference will be an opportunity to push forward a difficult negotiating process: after a year of exploration and consideration of new ideas, the UNFCCC will circulate at Poznan the first draft of a new global agreement. This text will be considered, argued over and redrafted in the coming year, before, hopefully, being finalised at the Copenhagen conference.

However, with global economic conditions in a state of flux, there is also the fear that negotiations could lose crucial momentum. It doesn’t help, either, that Poznan will mark the last gasp of the uncooperative Bush administration of the United States, or that the conference will be hosted by Poland, a country unsure if its interests are compatible with significant reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions. Poznan may only be a step along the way to Copenhagen, but if things go badly it could be a serious roadblock, ruining chances of any serious agreement being reached next year.

What issues are on the table?

The key to any new agreement will be the level of commitment taken on by developed countries. They, in turn, will need firmer commitments from the largest developing countries. Poznan will see some discussion of the form these commitments could take: it is generally accepted that rich nations will take on deeper emissions cuts in exchange for voluntary reductions from their developing counterparts. Crucial to any new agreement will be how to make emissions reductions measurable, reportable and verifiable. This issue, however, is likely to be deferred until the Copenhagen meeting.

A lot can be achieved at Poznan if things go smoothly. The conference is not only about the next global agreement, but also what can be done now to improve the Kyoto Protocol until it expires. The UN will also be putting some firm measures in place, including a global adaptation fund to help poorer countries already feeling the impacts of climate change. The fund will draw revenues from a levy on the global emissions scheme, the Clean Development Mechanism.

There will be serious discussion of how to effectively finance low-carbon development and how to facilitate the transfer of clean technologies. Other issues on the table include reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and reform of the Clean Development Mechanism.

Who are the major players?

The European Union and the US are the crucial players in the developed world. China and India are the most important developing nations. As well as being major emitters, together they hold the key to forming a new agreement.

Will the US change its position?

There will only be one US delegation at the conference and it will be led by representatives of the Bush administration. This means significant changes to the American position are unlikely at Poznan. However, many nations are already beginning to informally seek the opinion of president-elect Barack Obama and his transition team, and members of Congress attending the conference will report back to Obama, who has sent a strong signal by promising that when he becomes president “the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.”

What about China?

China is now seeking significant technological assistance and financial support as part of a new global deal. Tang Xuepeng writes on chinadialogue that the Chinese government supports a proposal for developed nations to contribute 1% of their GDP to aid the transfer of clean energy technologies to developing nations. Some experts argue that China already possesses most of the relevant technology and expertise, and that calls for further assistance are a delaying tactic to stave off calls, from the EU and others, that China take on emissions reductions signficantly below business-as-usual levels as part of a global deal.

Who else should I watch?

Observers will also be following Canada and Japan closely. Both countries have had significant problems meeting their Kyoto targets and could alter long-held positions: though neither is likely to opt out of the process entirely, they are unlikely to push for stringent reduction targets. There are also dissenting voices within Europe. For instance, Italy has been voicing concerns about far-reaching EU targets.

What about the hosts?

Despite its membership of the EU, Polish concerns are closer to those of economies in transition, such as Russia, and advanced developing countries like China. Many in Poland are concerned about the country’s ability to meet its EU-mandated targets while continuing to grow and rebuild its industry. Poland has a power sector dominated by carbon-intensive coal-fired power plants, and large coal reserves. At the Kyoto conference in 1997, host nation Japan took on considerable emissions reduction commitments as a means of securing a global agreement. In contrast, Poland is unlikely to seek to promote far-reaching commitments that might negatively impact its economy.

How will the global financial crisis affect the talks?

The economic downturn will have implications for these talks. Considering the state of the markets, it is “fortunate that a deal does not have to be done in Poznan” De Boer remarked recently. However, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has argued that the global financial meltdown can actually provide an opportunity to address global warming. In a joint statement with the leaders of Indonesia, Poland and Denmark he asserted that nations need to find “common solutions to the grave challenges facing us. And when it comes to two of the most serious -- the financial crisis and climate change -- that answer is the green economy.”

Poznan may be marked by difficult, complex negotiations, but it is an important step on the road to Copenhagen and a new global deal that will determine our common futures.

Tan Copsey is operations and development manager at chinadialogue.

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous









China's position cannot be blamed

China's position cannot be blamed. The main reasons are as follows: 1, The current problems are caused by developed countries; 2, Developing countries have the same right to develop their economy and to improve people's livelihood; 3, Developed countries buy products from developing countries, which are usually carbon-intensive products, and therefore they ought to pay; 4, Developed countries shift their highly polluting industries to developing countries, so they should assume responsibility. 5, China's position is not the position of one country alone. China represents the position of many developing countries. As the largest developing country, China best represents the interests and demands of these vast developing countries. Faced in this situation, we should count in the emission in history too. The first ones to compromise should be developed countries. We shouldn't allow the big ones to bully the small and the rich suppress the poor, the strong bully the weak. Although, that said, I myself am definitely not optimistic......Amen!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


回应一楼的评论,中国必须准备好让步,理由如下:1. 当前的问题是由发达国家引起,但将来的难题将由发展中国家造成。中国是世界上人均排放最大的国家之一。(见http://www.chinadialogue.net/blog/show/single/en/2600-China-pledges-climate-cooperation) 2. 发展中国家有相同的权利发展其经济,但也有同样的责任保护世界环境。如果允许中国在不减排的状态下发展,其他国家的合作将被滥用。3. 发达国家确实从发展中国家购买了碳密集产品,但也把清洁技术带入了后者。发达国家应更认真地研判其进口产品,我同意这一点,但不应把对碳密集产品的责备全加之于它们身上。

本评论由Ming Li翻译

China needs to make compromises too, part 1

In response to comment 1, China must be prepared to make compromises for the following reasons:
1. Current problems are caused by developed countries, but future problems will be caused by developing countries. China is one of the largest per capita emitters in the world. (see http://www.chinadialogue.net/blog/show/single/en/2600-China-pledges-climate-cooperation)
2. Even though developing countries have the same right to develop their economies, they have the same duty to protect the world’s environment. If China is allowed to develop without reducing emissions, it will abuse the cooperation of other nations.
3. Developed countries do buy carbon-intensive products from developing countries, but they also bring clean technologies to developing countries. I agree that developed countries should consider their imports more carefully, but they do not deserve all the blame for carbon-intensive products.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


4. 再说一遍,发达国家把清洁技术带入发展中国家。中国不能只是称其为'污染避风港”,因为中国也在整顿其行业中获得了支持。(见Han Shi 与 Lei Zhang所著《快速工业化中的中国环境整治》) 5. 正因为中国代表了其他许多国家,故需要其树个好榜样并在碳减排上进行合作。要是中国不合作,达成全球协定就不大可能。中国恰恰不是“弱国”,受强国欺凌,而是她有着相当分量的影响力,她需要明智地使用这个影响力。 --美国Crystal

本评论由Ming Li翻译

China needs to make compromises too, part 2

4. Again, developed countries bring cleaner technologies to developing countries. China cannot just claim that it is a “pollution haven” because it also gets support to clean up its industries.
(See Han Shi and Lei Zhang, “China’s environmental governance of rapid industrialization.”)
5. Precisely because China represents many other countries, China needs to set a good example and cooperate in reducing carbon emissions. If China does not cooperate, it may be impossible to create a global agreement. China is not just a “weak country” being bullied by strong countries. It has a considerable amount of influence and it needs to use this influence wisely!
-Crystal, US

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


Translated by Jiayun Li


Thanks for the comments Crystal and commenter 1. To Crystal's points I would add that at current rates of emissions growth China will also eventually overtake developed countries in terms of cumulative emissions. So there is a need to partake in negotiations now and to set a good example for other developed countries. It is also worth considering that China is now a lot more developed than the least developed countries, and perhaps owes something to them. Participation in the talks and agreement to some form of non-binding target which is monitorable, reportable and verifiable, would be very useful. But commenter 1 is also right in suggesting that developed countries have to act now. Either way we must move beyond blame towards a practical and implementable agreement.

Tan Copsey

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


首先,我想点明,Crystal评论中的第一条所提供的信息是错误的,你在他提供的链接上找不到“中国是世界上人均排放最大的国家之一”。正相反,说到人均数字,中国还处在一个相当低的水平。中国现在确实是个更为发达的发展中国家,而这正说明中国做了很大的努力来划控排放上限。在这个广袤又发展不平衡的国度,也还存有问题,尽管问题可能出乎你的构想之外。我毫无保留完全同意应对气候变化当趁早不赶晚。因为发达国家更有能力,而不只是因为其更为负责,他们应当现在就采取行动。我也同意中国、印度与巴西应带头引导发展中国家迈向绿色经济。不管怎么说,没有让步,达不成任何协定,“同中存异的职责"这一原则指明了在努力达成新的全球协定中应当作出让步的地方。进而,如多人所指出,投资于绿色技术也是向更可持续性增长转变的一大机会。 一楼楼主

本评论由Ming Li翻译

in response to comments by Crystal and Tan

First, I'd like to point out that point 1 by Crystal represents a wrong information: "China is one of the largest per capita emitters in the world". You can't find it by the link he provided. On the contrary, when it comes to per capita numbers, China is still at a very low level.

It is true that China is now a more developed developing country. And that is why China has done a great deal to cap emissions. But there are also problems - which might be out of your conception - in this large and unevenly developed country.

I agree without any reservation that climate change has to be tackled sooner that later. And the developed countries should act now because they are more capable, not just that they are more responsible. I also agree that China, India and Brazil should take the lead in the developing countries to evolve into a greener economy.

Anyway, any deal cannot be reached without concessions, and the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" indicates where you should make compromises in the efforts to a new global deal. Moreover, as many point out, investment in green technologies is also a great chance to shift to a more sustainable growth.
commenter 1

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Simultaneous challenges and development

China is undeniably the largest developing country, and it bears the expectations of the whole world, notably as regards reducing carbon emissions. However, since China is still a developing country, even though it’s the biggest one, it still belongs with undeveloped countries.
Developed countries are not in a position to criticize China. Criticizing China does not accomplish anything. Those who do not understand China’s present conditions should not criticize China.
China has laid out all kinds of legal restrictions. Even the five departments in the National Development and Reform Commission have announced that in 2010 all government agencies will have to reduce energy consumption by 20%. Developed countries also can’t deny that developing countries have more scope to save energy and to lower energy costs than developed countries. If someone can think of a better way to accelerate the global carbon market then it should be put into place.
Wouldn’t it be reasonable for developed countries to bring energy saving technology and investment to us, the developing countries, as well as the least developed countries? They need to assume the responsibilities of developed countries, and we will act with them, and in the process of this cooperation, why wouldn’t we strive hard? We only give developed countries the goal of enforcing emissions reductions to stimulate their investment in green technology. If we work this way then we would not have to limit the development of developing countries and we would not have to deny developed countries their options, wouldn’t that work well?Translated by Michelle Deeter

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Translated by Jiayun Li

It's simple...China has to do more

If China does not do more, then everyone else's efforts will fail. Right now, China is hiding behind poorer countries and asking for indulgences, but poorer and more vulnerable countries will soon begin to blame China if China does not commit to reducing emissions. If China's emissions continue to grow then whatever anybody else does we will get to dangerous climate change by 2060 -- even if you remove all the historic emissions and current emissions by developed countries. Its a matter of the sheer size of China. There's no escaping this.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



本评论由Ming Li翻译

challenges and development

China does have a carbon reduction programme, but what technologies does it need and how does it want to acquire them? Most of the low carbon technologies are already available, many under license. What's wrong with that? and China has had a huge amount of finance under CDM to install clean energy, much of it in projects that China could have implemented without external finance. Why can't China be criticised for this? Why can't any country be criticised for its failings as well as praised for its achievements? It is through criticism that we learn and improve -- unless of course you think that China is so perfect it has no room for improvement?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



由Ming Li翻译

Please be fair

While many of the critics criticize China for its failure to take its due part in reducing emission, few of them criticize the developed countries, led by the United States, who are responsible for the accumulative existence of CO2 surrounding the globe. They consume much more energy and emit much more CO2 in the per capita terms. Why not criticize them? China has always fallen victim to the corrupt power of western politicians and media, which has successfully influenced the mindset of the critics, although those critics, I bet, all believe they have independent thinking.