U.N. climate talks more advanced second time around, says former head
Author: Ben Garside
Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, attends a news conference at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December 19, 2009.
Photo: Ints Kalnins
U.N. climate negotiations have made greater progress towards agreeing a 2015 deal to bind all nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions than the lead-up to the previous attempt in 2009, former U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told Reuters.
Envoys from almost 200 nations are aiming to agree this year on the main elements of a text to be signed by their leaders in Paris in late 2015 to tackle the emissions from 2020 that U.N.-backed scientists say are causing more severe droughts, flooding and a rise in sea levels.
"The process is definitely further advanced a year before Paris than it was a year before Copenhagen (in 2009)," de Boer said in an interview in London on Tuesday.
The Dutch diplomat was the public face of the negotiations from 2006 but stepped down shortly after the Copenhagen talks almost broke down despite the attendance of more than 130 world leaders late into the final night.
Late on Monday, the U.N. published several documents on its website meant to help guide negotiators towards agreed wording for the Paris deal, including on what countries need to include in their individual contributions and how richer nations will make good on a commitment to mobilise $100 billion a year to help poorer states.
"There is now greater clarity on the way forward on many of the substantive areas," one document said.
For de Boer, who has led the Global Green Growth Institute advising developing countries since March, December's summit in Lima, Peru, will indicate whether the world will be able to come together on the issue.
"For me, Peru will be the litmus test. Having a clear negotiating text on the table ... will give everyone a much clearer understanding of what the definition of success or failure is.
"One of the major handicaps of Copenhagen was that so many people had so many different definitions of success," he said, adding that in the lead-up to the conference it was clear that a fully-fledged treaty would not be struck.
"Small island states and the European Union were negotiating towards an international legally binding treaty that would contain obligations for pretty much everyone... whereas others, notably the United States and China, were just looking for a political agreement."
Ahead of Paris, nations have agreed that all countries should contribute, but it remains unclear what legal weight any pact will carry, or which should make the strictest contributions.
De Boer said a meaningful Paris deal would require every country to convert their contributions into national law, both to ensure they are met and to help companies raise investment in cleaner technologies.
Rather than the aim of some in Copenhagen to lock in adequate targets from the outset, countries will need to review their initial contributions, including cash from richer nations, every three years or so.
This would ensure they are in line with their previously agreed goal of limiting global temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
"I do not expect Paris in one fell swoop to take us to 2C. More steps will be needed," he said.
The U.N. negotiations resume for a week in October in Bonn, Germany before the two-week Lima session in December.
(Editing by Louise Heavens)