Monday, 16 December 2013

Outcomes of UNFCCC COP 19, Warsaw 2013

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has concluded its 19th Conference of the Parties on climate change in Warsaw during the early hours of 24th of November 2013. This year’s conference was supposed to lay the groundwork for the details of the long term agreement post-2020, which is to be signed in COP 21 in Paris 2015 and come into force in 2020 after the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol. The main outcomes this year have covered issues related to climate change damages, adaptation, forestry measures and future emissions reduction pledges. These outcomes however have fell short of resolving many details leaving little time for reaching a meaningful agreement in 2015.
First, in preparation for COP 21 in Paris 2015 on the post-2020 long-term agreement, the conference agreed on a specified timetable, under which nations are expected to submit their planned post-2020 emission reduction contributions by the first quarter of 2015. However, the agreement is far from reliable as the submission deadline is not binding and the submissions themselves are taking the form of contributions rather than firm commitments. Furthermore, the agreement fails to set mechanisms for assessing these contributions when submitted.
Second, the conference has established a new framework “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage” as a disaster relief framework for supporting countries at risk of damages and losses associated with climate change. However, the framework does not specify any financial commitments leaving little doubt that such measures cannot be operational in the foreseeable future. Second, a group of industrialised nations have pledged over $100 million for the Climate Adaptation Fund in order to support the adaptation efforts by developing and vulnerable nations to climate change impacts. Details on timeline for channelling these funds and their sources were also unclear. Finally, the conference has established a new framework for the mechanism of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) called “Warsaw Framework for REDD+” which supports developing countries in sustaining their forestry endowments that serve as carbon sinks. The framework includes financial pledges of $280 as well as monitoring guidelines, making this framework the most promising outcome of this conference. After 6 years of negotiating REDD+, this development perhaps is the key step that will enable the scheme to be operational and play an important role in COP 21 in Paris 2015.
One of the major unresolved issues during this negotiations round is the extent to which the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” in terms of emission reductions will still hold in a post-2020 agreement. On the one hand, emerging economies have advocated maintaining this clear distinction between developing and developed countries in any post-2020 agreement due to the historical emissions record by the developed nations. This view on the other hand was rejected by developed nations, given that by 2020 emissions generation from developing and emerging economies will overtake those by developed ones. Such disagreement, if not resolved by 2015, will put the post-2020 agreement in jeopardy. I believe that future long-term emission targets should adaptive to the projected economic development trajectories as well as historical responsibilities.
The outcomes of Warsaw COP 19 place high pressure on COP 20 in Lima 2014 for significant progress before COP 21 in Paris 2015. The next year and half will tell whether or not it is achievable to reach a meaningful post-2020 agreement that might (with a pinch of salt) maintain the warming levels below the 2C degrees target.