What the UN Must Achieve to Remain Relevant

Even with expectations set low, COP16 must still deliver on a set of action items to retain its relevance, according to World Resources Institute’s director of climate policy, Jennifer Morgan.

If Cancun does not bring progress, much of the energy around an international agreement will likely move from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to other fora. Therefore, this is a key juncture for the UN process to remain at the center of an international climate agreement…

In addition to finding a way forward under the Kyoto Protocol, the goal for the COP is to conclude with a “balanced package of decisions” that will move negotiations forward on a number of key issues. This so-called “balanced package” includes a range of issues [see below] which hold different importance to countries. Negotiators must find balance both within each issue and amongst the issues. They must also complete the decisions that were nearly finalized in Copenhagen, take note of the Copenhagen Accord which referenced most of the issues, and launch a number of new mechanisms and possibly decide to create the so-called Copenhagen Green Fund. This process includes decisions to:


Though a binding agreement may not be the goal, it will still be a challenge to achieve these goals, according to Ms. Morgan.

On transparency, developed countries want to know that they can adequately compare each others’ targets. In order to do so, negotiators need to agree to common metrics for accounting of developed country emissions targets. Currently, robust rules exist for reporting and comparing targets under the Kyoto Protocol, but no such metrics exist for Copenhagen Accord pledges.

On finance, developed countries need to be more transparent on who is funding what and where. This could be done through a decision to create guidelines for a common reporting framework and a process to fill in the details.

Transparency around developing countries actions to reduce emissions is also important. Negotiators will need to decide on a measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) process for developing country actions. Issues around transparency should be linked in the balanced package.

Countries also need to decide what to do with the emissions and actions pledges included in the Copenhagen Accord. There are several options to formalize these pledges in the UNFCCC. As it is clear that these pledges are not enough to avoid what scientists tell us is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, negotiators will need to note the inadequacy, provide an opportunity for countries to strengthen the pledges, and decide that a robust scientific review should occur no later than 2015.

Read the full piece here.


About karstenbarde
Tuck MBA, co-chair of 2011 Business & Society Conference, officer of Dartmouth Energy Collaborative, and blogger for COP16 delegation.

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