Rhein on Energy and Climate

After its agreement on December 12, the EU might wish to sit back and say: mission accomplished. That would be a fatal error.

The real mission only starts now. The EU has to motivate the rest of the world to also engage in the battle against climate change.

The preparatory meetings for the decisive international climate conference in Copenhagen (December 2009) have not given rise to much optimism about humanity being ready to act effectively. Nothing but speeches, but no leadership for an ambitious treaty.

Time is running out fast! The international community has to complete treaty negotiations before the end of 2009, with a draft text to be submitted by the UN Climate Secretariat by June. That leaves less than five months for the real negotiations among almost 200 sovereign countries, none which willing to make “sacrifices”.

So, what should the EU do from now on to help enabling the international community reaching a consensus on effective measures in a year from now? Without a success in Copenhagen, the EU climate package will become irrelevant, considering its low impact on global emissions.

It must engage in a well-prepared campaign of climate diplomacy. To that end a high-level team of EU climate and energy policy makers should make extensive visits to the key capitals, from Washington to Cape Town, and woe national leaders for their support of an effective global strategy.
It is not so much a matter of “selling” the EU package but to listen and explain how the EU has been able to overcome its formidable internal obstacles.

In view of the urgency, the EU will need to compose more than one team going different to places and addressing different topics as of January 2009.
These missions should also help the EU formulating its inputs to the international climate treaty before the end of March.

The top priority of these missions should be to reach a common line with the US Administration and to convince all OECD countries of the need to fix ambitious targets, going beyond the 20 percent reduction of green house gases aimed at by the EU. The European Council has expressly repeated its offer to reach out for higher objectives.

On substance, the five key issues to be addressed in the climate treaty are: targets, tools, forest preservation, methane emissions and monitoring.

• Targets for individual countries should be mandatory. They should be fixed in terms of maximum future emission volumes rather than reductions related to historic dates, e.g. 1990.
In addition, the international community should establish long term targets for strategic guidance. There is a basic consensus on reducing global GHGs by at least 80 percent in 2050.
• Individual countries should be able to pick their tools according to their specific situations. Carbon trading might not be the preferred or optimal tool for countries like China or Brazil. For them mandatory standards, combined with specific subsidies for renewable energies and the cutting of all subsidies on fossil energy might be more effective.
• Deforestation contributes about one fifth to global green house gas emissions. The Copenhagen deal should therefore encompass an international agreement helping assure the preservation of forests. This is under way. The EU has proposed a more restrictive import regime making sure that only “certified timber” may be imported.
• Methane emissions have so far not been addressed. They are too important to be left out, especially in the big cattle, sheep and pig countries. Humanity will have to reduce its global stock of animals. This issue might be too hard to agree on considering the little of preparation. To overcome that hurdle the conference might decide to negotiate a separate agreement before the end of 2010.
• Each country with a per capita C02 emission exceeding say 2 ton has to submit its draft climate strategy to a the UN Climate Agency for peer review and monitoring implementation The UN must be given strong powers of policing and fining persistently con-compliant countries. This will hard to swallow by the international community. But it is indispensable for a successful implementation.

The key to a successful outcome of the Copenhagen Conference will be focus on the key issues, excellent preparation and disciplined chairing.

It will be also essential to settle many minor issues ahead of the final conference in the course of 2009, in good EU tradition. Adjustment funding is one of these issues. The international community is not able to help Bangladesh or small Pacific islands by whatever amounts of funding to brace against rising sea levels. It will need to combat the causes and not the effects!

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