Environmentalists disappointed more was not achieved


UN MEMBER states are to move into full negotiating mode in 2009 with a view to reaching an agreement aimed at avoiding dangerous climate change in Copenhagen next December.

The UN climate change conference in Poznan, which concluded in the early hours of Saturday morning, gave a mandate to its secretariat to produce a draft text for the negotiations, to be considered at a meeting in Bonn next March.

A second meeting in Bonn, headquarters of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will be held in June and it is likely to be followed by a further preparatory meeting - at a location yet to be decided - in the autumn.

The Poznan conference, marking the half-way point between Bali and Copenhagen, also agreed to inaugurate an adaptation fund to help poorer countries cope with the impacts of global warming, with an initial allocation of $80 million.

Other tentative agreements were reached on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, technology transfer to developing countries and streamlining the Kyoto Protocol's clean development mechanism.

Environmental activists were generally disappointed, even angered, that more was not achieved here. Friends of the Earth policy officer Molly Walsh said lack of leadership from the EU had meant that "these talks in Poznan went nowhere".

Kim Carstensen, of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said rich countries had "preached sermons about the importance of climate protection in the Poznan plenary while lacking or attacking policies to make it happen at home - a serious sign of climate hypocrisy".

But politicians were more positive about the outcome. "In addition to having agreed the work programme for next year, we have cleared the decks of many technical issues," said the conference president, Polish environment minister Maciej Nowicki.

"We will now move to the next level of negotiations, which involves crafting a concrete negotiating text for the agreed outcome," he added. This is to be prepared by an expert group headed by Michael Zammit Cutajar, former head of the UNFCCC.

A Maltese veteran of the UN system, he played a leading role in framing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Indeed, the process that led to its adoption in Japan's old imperial capital is being mirrored by the run-up to Copenhagen.

Yvo de Boer, the UNFCCC's executive secretary, praised governments represented in Poznan for sending a strong political signal that despite the economic downturn, significant funds could be mobilised for both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

"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," he said.

But environmental groups remain sceptical, particularly in the wake of the European Council's compromise deal last Friday on the EU climate change and energy package, fearing that this demonstrated weakness on the part of a one-time leader in the UN process.