Important progress has been made during the latest round of United Nations-led climate change talks in Accra, Ghana, on key issues relating to a new international agreement to tackle global warming, the world body’s top official dealing with the issue said today.
The Accra meeting was the latest in a series of UN-sponsored talks in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. The aim of the negotiations is to create a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, with first-round commitments ending in 2012, on greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
“We’re still on track, the process has speeded up and governments are becoming very serious about negotiating a result in Copenhagen,” Yvo de Boer told reporters on the final day of the week-long session.
Mr. de Boer, who is the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the “absolute highlight” of the session had been the mandate given by governments to the Chair of the working group on long-term cooperative action to compile proposals made so far and to be made in the coming weeks.
The achievement of the Accra meeting had therefore been in “providing the basis for real negotiations to begin in Poznan,” he said, referring to the Polish city that will host this year’s UN Climate Change Conference from 1 to 12 December.
Highlighting the progress made during the past week, Mr. de Boer said there was an “encouraging and important” debate on the important topic of deforestation and forest conservation, which was crucial since deforestation accounts for about 20 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions for which humans are responsible.
“We cannot come to a meaningful solution on climate change without coming to grips with the question of deforestation,” he stated, adding that countries had made it clear in Accra that they want that issue to be part of a Copenhagen agreement.
Discussions also focused on ways of improving the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows industrialized countries to offset some of their own emissions by investing in cleaner energy projects in developing countries.
Insufficient investment in Africa was cited as one of the CDM’s shortcomings. “There is a real risk of Africa becoming the forgotten continent in the context of the fight against climate change unless we manage to design a regime going into the future that takes into account in a much more comprehensive way what Africa’s specific needs are not only on adaptation, but also on fuelling clean economic growth,” said Mr. de Boer.
The meeting also discussed “sectoral approaches” – through which countries can address emissions from a whole sector of their economy. Mr. de Boer said the debate made it clear that such approaches were not about imposing targets on developing countries, but rather about what governments may or may not choose to do on a voluntary basis at the national level.
Some 1,600 participants, including government delegates from 160 countries and representatives from environmental organizations, business and industry and research institutions, attended the Accra meeting – the third major UN-led negotiating session this year and the last before the Poznan conference in December.