03 November, 2010
UN talks in Cancún should focus on issues where some consensus already exists because agreement on binding emissions targets is unlikely before 2015, according to a UN negotiator.
When the talks end next month, negotiators will likely have finalised a set of mostly process decisions, but there is a chance of a few substantive decisions, particularly on issues such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), said Antonio La Viña, dean of the Ateneo School of Government in the Philippines and chair of the UN REDD negotiations.
Binding emissions targets are “ground zero” for the international negotiations and will probably have to wait until many other issues such as adaptation, financing and technology transfer are resolved, he told attendees of the Carbon Markets Insights Americas 2010 conference in New York this week.Predictions for an agreement on targets in 2015 are “probably just right on the money”, La Viña said. “Certainly, in Cancún that is beyond reach.”
The only way to move the climate negotiations forward is to abandon the comprehensive approach in favour of an incremental path where the parties focus on issues they can agree on now and kick the others into the future, he said.
For example, the Cancún negotiations can focus on advancing the REDD+ discussion – the ‘plus’ referring to conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The big climate players such as China, India and the US agree on REDD+ so the “baggage” that exists with other issues is not a factor, making it easier to secure the participation of the Europeans and other developing countries, La Viña said.
But the Copenhagen talks left several issues unresolved, including a push by the EU and others for the UN to adopt numerical goals to halt deforestation, which some parties have resisted because of uncertainty over the necessary steps to reach proposed targets, he said.
Sub-national reference levels are a potential stumbling block because there is resistance to permanent acceptance of them as a basis for emissions reductions, La Viña said. “Getting an agreement on that will be tough, but do-able even as early as Cancún,” he said.
Bolivia also raised an important issue last year about the potential commoditisation of forests and wanted an explicit statement that markets will not be a source of funding for REDD+. Trying to steamroll over Bolivia would be a mistake because one or two countries can stop an agreement under the UN process, he said.
“Each country has legitimate political interests and you have to understand that,” La Viña said. “When you actually do, you can come back and craft an agreement that gives something to everybody. That’s why it’s do-able to do something in REDD+ and you can then build trust.”
He expressed confidence that the Mexican hosts of the conference could do a better job at facilitating agreements than Danish officials, whose “bad chairing” of last year’s conference he blamed in part for the failure to resolve key issues.
*Original article can be accessed on the Carbon Finance’s website: http://www.carbon-financeonline.com/index.cfm?section=global&action=view&id=13297