Slow Progress in Poznan While Climate Threats Mount

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Environmental News Servivce (ENS)

Slow Progress in Poznan While Climate Threats Mount

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon listens to Polish President Lech Kacynski (Photo courtesy ENB)

POZNAN, Poland - The annual UN climate
change conference ended shortly before 3:00 am today in Poznan with a
commitment from governments to shift into full negotiating mode next
year in order to shape a effective international response to climate
change, to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

Negotiators agreed that the board of the Kyoto Protocol's
Adaptation Fund would have the legal capacity to grant developing
countries direct access to about $60 million to help them adapt to the
effects of global warming.

Until now, the Adaptation Fund board could not operate because it was not allowed to approve and sign such contracts.

The Adaptation Fund is fed by voluntary contributions and a two
percent share of proceeds from the protocol's Clean Development
Mechanism. The CDM allows the industrial nations governed by the
protocol to receive credit towards their emissions limits by investing
in green projects in developing countries.

But governments were unable to reach consensus on scaling up funding
for adaptation by agreeing to put a levy on the other two Kyoto
Protocol mechanisms, Joint Implementation and Emissions Trading.

Progress was made in the area of technology with the
endorsement of the Global Environment Facility's "Poznan Strategic
Programme on Technology Transfer."

The aim of this program is to scale up the level of investment by
leveraging private investments that developing countries need for
climate mitigation and adaptation technologies.

"We will now move to the next level of negotiations, which
involves crafting a concrete negotiating text for the agreed outcome,"
said the president of the conference, Polish Environment Minister
Maciej Nowicki.

Parties agreed that a first draft of the negotiating text would be
available at a gathering of Parties to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change in Bonn in June 2009.

"In addition to having agreed the work program for next year,
we have cleared the decks of many technical issues," Nowicki said.
"Poznan is the place where the partnership between the developing and
developed world to fight climate change has shifted beyond rhetoric and
turned into real action," he said.

Polish President Lech Kacynski emphasized the need to alleviate poverty
and address climate change, and highlighted the EU's leading role in
combating climate change as one of the best expressions of solidarity.

Governments meeting under the Kyoto Protocol agreed that
commitments of industrialized countries after 2012 should take the form
of quantified emission limitation and reduction targets, similar to the
type of targets they have undertaken during first five-year commitment
period 2008 - 2012.

"Governments have sent a strong political signal that despite
the financial and economic crisis, significant funds can be mobilized
for both mitigation and adaptation in developing countries with the
help of a clever financial architecture and the institutions to deliver
the financial support," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the
UNFCCC.

"We now have a much clearer sense of where we need to go in
designing an outcome which will spell out the commitments of developed
countries, the financial support required and the institutions that
will deliver that support as part of the Copenhagen outcome," he said.

Addressing the ministers on Thursday, de Boer warned that there are already "clear signs of urgency."

"Mauritania is already in the grip of a triple stranglehold: a
growing desert, encroaching ocean and worsening floods," he said. "The
Maldives are saving up for exodus because of rising seas."

De Boer pointed with hope to commitments that have been made on
a national level to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions driving global
warming.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

"President-elect [Barack] Obama wants to return to 1990 levels
by 2020. The EU is assuring us that it will stick to minus 20 percent
by 2020. And there is more. By 2020, Norway intends to be at minus 30
percent, the United Kingdom has committed to minus 26 percent and
Sweden is discussing a target of minus 35 percent," he said.

Regardless of a financial crisis or an economic down-turn,
climate change will not slow down, said de Boer. "And when the world
has recovered from the economic recession, it will not have recovered
from climate change."

De Boer suggests that governments should aim for, "A
self-financing climate compact, using resources created through climate
regulations, for example through levies on emissions trading or
auctioning of emissions permits can further push that green growth."

A joint ministerial declaration was launched in Poznan today to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. The statement
commits a number of developed and key tropical developing countries to
take early action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation, a process known as REDD, in the developing world.

Drawn up at the initiative of the United Kingdom, the
declaration sets out what both rainforest countries and the
international community should be working towards in order to protect
tropical forests.

"Tropical deforestation is a major source of the greenhouse gas
emissions that are causing global warming, so action on this is
essential under the global climate agreement which the international
community must conclude at the end of next year," said European
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas who endorsed the declaration.

"The European Commission has proposed the creation of an
international financial mechanism to reward developing countries for
their efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation," Dimas said.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who shared last year's Nobel Peace
Prize for raising awareness of climate change, urged the conference to
stay focused on reducing the global carbon emissions that have already
begun to change the conditions of life on Earth.

Gore warned the ministers to strengthen their carbon emission
reduction targets to take account of growing evidence that global
warming will strike harder and sooner than scientists had previously
thought.

He called for a new global goal of limiting carbon dioxide
levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm) - current
levels are already over 380ppm, up from 280ppm before the Industrial
Revolution.

"I call on the people of the world to speak up more
forcefully," Gore said. "We need to focus clearly and unblinkingly on
this crisis rather than spending so much time on OJ Simpson, Paris
Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith."

This challenge "affects the survival of human civilization," Gore said.

"We cannot negotiate with the facts, we cannot negotiate with
the truth about our situation, we cannot negotiate with the
consequences of unrestrained dumping of 70 million tons of global
warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our
planet every 24 hours," he said.

While he was not in Poznan, the election of Barack Obama as
president of the United States brought hope that the U.S. position of
denial and delay over the past eight years of the Bush administraton
would soon give way to greater cooperation from the world's second
largest greenhouse gas emitter.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, "My
representatives in Poland tell me that there is a new commitment to
address the challenge of global warming after the U.S. election. This
is very positive for the future of the planet and an opportunity to
spur economic recovery with the investment in clean energy and green
jobs."

Addressing the ministers gathered for the start of the high-level
session on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for
renewed global solidarity to tackle the twin challenges of climate
change and the financial crisis.

The world cannot afford to let economic woes hinder progress on
"the defining challenge of our era," said Ban. "The world is watching
us. The next generation is counting on us. We must not fail."

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