2009 has witnessed significant progress in the global approach to climate change. The Obama administration has introduced a new era in climate change policy in the US and, as a result, a global deal in Copenhagen this December appears more likely. China, so integral to the success of Copenhagen, is set to meet ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency targets and hosts some of the world's largest renewable energy companies.
The key areas for the international negotiations can be summarised as follows:
Measures for developed countries: industrialised nations will need to show leadership in taking on new, binding, carbon commitments. Under Kyoto and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), countries have adopted individual targets which together form an aggregate level of emissions reduction (such as the 5% target under Kyoto or 8% under the EU-ETS). Developed countries have suggested reductions in the range of 25-40% by 2020 as an appropriate level of ambition. A crucial factor, however, will be the extent to which emission reductions need to be achieved "at home" as opposed to through the purchase of carbon credits from developing economies.
Measures for developing countries: effective participation of developing countries is crucial if real action on climate change is to occur. Whilst binding targets are not on the agenda, some form of agreed action plans supported by collaborative initiatives (financial and technology transfer) and access to global carbon markets are likely to emerge. There is recognition, however, that developing countries are not a homogenous group and debate is likely around the appropriate differentiation within the group - and when the transition occurs from "developing" to "developed".
Technology and finance for sustainable development: the role of technology is critical in achieving any carbon targets and there is a need for complementary policies and cooperation to support technology development and diffusion. In part, a sufficiently long horizon for the price of carbon should provide a stimulus, but the Copenhagen discussions will also consider the extent to which multilateral co-operation can be effective in transferring technology (especially in the areas of energy efficiency and cleaner power generation) to developing countries and how this should link with other areas such as foreign assistance programmes and trade policy.
Sectoral approaches: to date, the international discussion around carbon targets has very much been focused on actions taken by sovereign states. Other variants are clearly possible, however, and one option that is receiving increased attention is international sector agreements, although this is considered controversial. Advocates argue that agreeing targets at a sector level would ensure comparability of effort between developed and developing countries and level the playing field for certain industries that are exposed to high levels of global competition.
Role of forestry: forests are important, since they lock-up carbon.
There is a need to both establish incentives to stop deforestation and to
promote reforestation of degraded lands. Approaches for the inclusion of
forestry in any global carbon deal vary and may include eligibility for carbon
credits and/or greater capacity building in-country with funding programs to
support reforestation and improved forest management.
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