Ireland helping break logjam in climate talks


iIRELAND IS centrally involved in a potentially significant initiative – outside the current process of UN negotiations – aimed at breaking the logjam over how the world should deal with climate change, it has emerged.

Details of the initiative, which also involves the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), were revealed at a “side event” here while delegates representing 193 countries struggled to find some areas of agreement.

Essentially, it would involve taking a new approach running in parallel with the endless round of talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in which a continuation of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is one of the most contentious issues.

One of the principal tasks facing Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa, chairwoman of the Cancún conference, is how to “finesse” Kyoto to bridge the gap between developing countries, which regard its renewal as essential, and many developed countries, which don’t.

Feargal Duff, a UNEP official for many years, approached its director, Achim Steiner, with the idea that alternatives based on a “whole world” rather than a country-by-country perspective should be analysed with a view to advancing the prospects of agreement. UNEP needed to be asked to do so by a UN member state, so Feasta (the Irish Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability) approached Minister for the Environment John Gormley, who wrote to Mr Steiner asking UNEP to become involved.Noel Casserly, assistant principal officer in the Department of the Environment’s climate change policy unit, said: “There are heavy hitters involved now and we expect the project to be finished in six months.”

The side event was chaired by UNEP’s climate policy co-ordinator Kaveh Zahedi, whose boss told Mr Gormley the initiative fitted its role as an “honest broker” in the climate negotiations and UNEP would also welcome the involvement of other countries in supporting it.

The likely outcome could involve making proposals for a global deal, that would fall short of an international treaty, while providing mechanisms for measuring, reporting and verifying (MRV) pledges by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

WRI, a Washington-based environmental think-tank, is working on it. “We’re in a strange limbo,” programme director Jake Werksman said of the current state of play. “We recognise [the] need for something legally binding, but the politics are a problem, so what can we get?” Even under last year’s, non-binding Copenhagen accord, specific pledges to cut emissions had been made. Mr Werksman could see an emerging consensus to “move forward on MRV”.

Dr T Jayaraman, of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in India, said equity was the priority: “It’s not simply what developed countries alone should do. Limiting the rise in temperatures to 2 degrees means the world has to live within a strict carbon budget.” It is expected that the findings of the study will be presented at a UNFCCC meeting in Bonn in June.