Follow up to Kyoto "within reach", says UNFCC chief

12th November 2013

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Governments are "on board" with the need to set long-term greenhouse-gas targets to limit global warming, says head of UNFCCC at start of Warsaw talks

Opening the latest round of UN climate negotiations, COP19, yesterday (11 November) Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said that “the world is ready” to tackle global warming.

She argued that there was not only public support, but political appetite for reducing humanity’s impact on the environment, saying that there has been a “groundswell in climate action” in recent years, as organisations and governments have started to appreciate the economic, security and energy-supply risks posed by a changing climate.

“Our collective climate-friendly capacity has increased as the risks of inaction materialise and the rewards of action magnify and multiply,” she told politicians and scientists gathered in Poland for the talks, which run until 22 November.

“A new universal climate agreement is within our reach. Agencies development banks, investors and subnational governments are on board,” she claimed.

At COP18 in Doha last year, representatives from the EU among others, agreed to extend the requirements of the Kyoto protocol to 2020. But with the agreement covering only 15% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, there is an urgent need for a successor. Negotiations for a new treaty begin at COP19 with the aim that agreement is reached in 2015.

Figueres said it was important that COP19 delivered tangible steps towards universal reductions in carbon emissions. “COP19 must deliver on several key areas,” she said. “We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development. We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to response to the unanticipated effects of climate change. [And] we must develop further clarity for the new agreement that will shape the post-2020 global climate, economic and development agendas.”

However, many commentators do not believe that the talks in Warsaw will reach any firm outcomes, particularly as the deadline for a new global agreement is still two years away.

“Science calls for urgent action on climate change, but urgency is not a trademark of the climate talks,” commented Dr Celine Herweijer, partner at PwC sustainability and climate change. “A global deal by 2015 will be extremely difficult, given the complexity of so many nations, each with different priorities, agreeing a common way forward.

“There are signs that a new approach is emerging. One in which each country brings forward a national offer rooted in their local context into an international agreement that has legal force. Warsaw will be about testing out this new shape for a global climate deal, one that will hopefully mean that by Paris 2015 countries can reach an agreement and finalise commitments.”

Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for climate action, commented: “The Warsaw climate conference will not conclude the negotiations on the 2015 global climate deal, but it will be a very important meeting to make progress and set the stage for Paris 2015.

“In Warsaw, we must agree to prepare strong pledges for the 2015 deal and to step up emission cuts over the rest of this decade. All countries must be ready to present bold pledges before the UN summit of world leaders on climate change next September.”

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