Back to News
|Environment Ministers from about 190
nations gather in the Danish capital at the end of the year to try
to agree a broader global pact to fight climate change.
The aim is to build on the existing Kyoto Protocol by ensuring rich
nations sign up to deeper emissions cuts while offering greater
assistance to developing countries to help them curb greenhouse gas
pollution as well.
Following are key points about the U.N.-led negotiations.
WHAT IS KYOTO?
Only 37 relatively developed countries have agreed to targets for
2008-12 under a principle that richer countries are most to blame.
They range from an 8 percent cut for the European Union from 1990
levels to a 10 percent rise for Iceland.
The United States, long the world's biggest source of emissions but
which has been surpassed by China, came out against the pact in
2001. While the Obama administration is too late to sign up to
Kyoto, the government has already set a target to cut emissions back
to 1990 levels by 2020.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Four more rounds of formal negotiations are scheduled before the Dec
7-18 talks in Copenhagen. These are June 1-12 in Bonn, Germany; Aug
10-14 in Bonn; Sept 28 to Oct 9 in Bangkok; and Nov 2-6, at a venue
yet to be decided.
In addition, heads of state and government will gather in September
at a U.N. climate change summit in New York and President Obama will
host a major economies forum on the sidelines of the G8 in Italy in
July. Two other meetings convened by the United States will take
place, one probably 26-27 May in Paris and another in June.
Under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
there is a legal requirement to have a draft text on a new climate
pact on the table six months before a formal gathering of all
members of the convention. Likewise, any new amendments to the Kyoto
Protocol must be submitted six months in advance.
These texts will be discussed at the next meeting in Bonn.
WHAT WILL THAT TEXT LOOK LIKE?
While the bare bones of an agreement need to be assembled two weeks
before the start of the next Bonn session, the text will still have
lots of options and some blanks. Over the next six months, in Bonn
and at the following three sessions, negotiators will try to agree
on the options and fill in the blanks.
WHAT'S IN THE TEXT?
There are two main working groups, each of which will consider draft
text for discussion in Bonn in June.
The first group has a clear mandate to negotiate industrialized
nations' mid-term targets (to 2020), and how to reach those targets,
such as through carbon trading.
The second group, held under the parent UNFCCC pact to allow the
United States to fully take part, deals with nations' actions to
fight climate change to 2050. These include funding for climate
change adaptation, mitigation, financing and transfer of
clean-energy technology to developing nations, along with the issue
The two draft texts may come together in Copenhagen, with one final
document emerging on a new climate pact.
But there are other options, for example, two distinct sets of
agreements (one under the Protocol and the other under the UNFCCC),
or a set of decisions that could take effect by 2013.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN A COPENHAGEN AGREEMENT?
Deeper emissions cuts by rich nations by 2020 than under the current
Also expect improved funding mechanisms to pay for climate change
adaptation and mitigation in poor nations, more effective transfer
of affordable clean-energy technology and formal support for a
scheme to pay developing nations to preserve rainforests in return
for carbon credits or other incentives.
Don't expect developing nations to agree to legally binding
emissions curbs. Instead, China, India and others are expected to
agree on a range of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs),
that can be supported with finance and technology.
There are strong expectations that developing nations must pledge to
take such steps in any Copenhagen text, thereby making the agreed
outcome more effective than the Kyoto Protocol.
Developing nations such as China and India are already taking action
to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions but also want much
stronger action by rich nations over the next decade, both in terms
of mid-term emission reductions and financial and technological
WHY DO WE CARE?
Mankind has added enough greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to raise
temperatures to a dangerous level and emissions are set to keep
rising, particularly from poorer nations for at least the short
We're already committed to what scientists believe will be serious
impacts from rising temperatures such as more floods, droughts,
heatwaves and rising seas. The purpose of a post-Kyoto deal is to
avoid catastrophic climate change.
Scientists agree that by 2050, the world must have at least halved
its emissions to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
(Source: UNFCCC, The Climate Group)
(Writing by David Fogarty; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)