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24 June 2008

Climate Forecast


By Richard Sherman and Peter Doran, IISDRS

While the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process is the official ‘home’ for climate policy negotiations, the road to Copenhagen will increasingly witness the acceleration of initiatives across the United Nations system and the intergovernmental sphere. System-wide initiatives on climate change reflect a commitment across the UN family to support the UN Secretary-General’s commitment to play a leadership role in supporting the international community’s current efforts to address climate change, using the Bali Action Plan and Roadmap, and to ensure that all parts of the UN contribute to a solution.

Under the Bali Action Plan, parties to the UNFCCC agreed that the climate ‘process’ should be informed by, inter alia, outputs from other relevant intergovernmental processes and insights from the business and research communities and civil society. Speaking at the recently concluded Subsidiary Bodies meeting held in Bonn, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer reiterated this commitment, stressing that cooperation among international organizations, UN bodies, multilateral environmental agreements and the scientific community is critical for the success of the international response to climate change.

However, taking stock and responding to the myriad of intergovernmental processes now dealing with the climate problem remains a daunting challenge not only for the Convention and Protocol processes, but for the entire multilateral system. Discussions under the UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Technological Advice have yet to fully grasp the diversity of intergovernmental climate activities; taking advantage of this diversity on the road to Copenhagen can create an additional building block that forms part of the comprehensive agreement beyond 2012.

IISD Reporting Services has responded to the consolidation and integration of climate change responses across the UN by launching CLIMATE-L.ORG to track climate policy developments at the intergovernmental level. A team of fifteen of our experts now tracks and reports in real time on all climate change-related activities at the UN. This review article for the inaugural CLIMATE-L.ORG Bulletin provides an overview of recent activities and decisions regarding climate change across the UN and intergovernmental system, attempting to ‘connect the dots’ across the multilateral and intergovernmental landscape. It seeks to provide insight into UN system coherence on climate change by highlighting milestone events over the May-June period.

Climate change is being rapidly integrated into the normative and operational activities of the UN system, reflecting the urgency and broad-based approach with which the intergovernmental system is responding to the current discussions under the UNFCCC on strengthening international climate cooperation beyond 2012. Recent decisions adopted under the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) illustrate the scope of the system’s support to the Convention and Protocol processes by, on the one hand, linking health and adaptation, and, on the other hand, propping up support to both information- and education-based responses.

In late May, the World Health Assembly adopted a decision on climate change and health providing a normative framework of action for national governments, but also articulating an unambiguous role for the Organization in addressing these important issue linkages. The resolution calls on the health sector to scale up adaptation projects that would limit the impacts of climate change on health; raise global awareness of the impacts of health from climate change at national and international levels; and boost political attention and action. Of importance to the UNFCCC and its Nairobi Work Programme on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change, WHO member States called on the Director-General to engage actively in the UNFCCC Nairobi Work Programme to ensure its relevance to the health sector. Member States further requested the Director-General to work with the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Meteorological Organization, UN Development Programme, UN Environment Programme, the UNFCCC Secretariat, and other appropriate organizations of the UN, and with national and international agencies, to ensure that these health impacts and their resource implications are understood and can be taken into account in further developing national and international responses to climate change.

In April, UNESCO’s Executive Board adopted a decision approving, in principle, the overall terms of the Organization’s strategy for action on climate change, and emphasizing that it should be aimed at helping member States to build and maintain the requisite knowledge base, and to adopt measures for adapting to the impacts of climate change, contributing to the mitigation of its causes, and strengthening sustainable development. The Executive Board further emphasized that UNESCO’s core contributions to addressing climate change would rest on two principal pillars, namely: the sound and unbiased generation, dissemination and use of data, information and research concerning climate change (the knowledge base), in close partnership with member States, other competent organizations of the UN country teams, and other relevant stakeholders, such as bilateral development partners, NGOs and civil society; and the application of holistic and integrated approaches in the use of educational tools, specific sectoral measures, and public awareness activities.

Additional developments have taken place more recently. In early June, the UN General Assembly considered the role of private investment in mitigating climate change and how climate change, in turn, influences private investment decisions, during this body’s first follow-up to its February 2008 thematic debate on climate change. Panelists at the 9 June 2008 meeting outlined the scope of environmental concerns that affect the market, and offered examples where specific local regulations had spurred investment and technological innovation. They agreed on the need to adopt stable regulations to provide incentives for private sector action.

Another significant development came with regard to the financing of climate change activities, with discussions on the World Bank’s financing proposal concluding in agreement to create two international investment funds that will provide innovative financing for developing countries to pursue cleaner development paths and protect themselves from the impacts of climate change. The G8 Finance ministers’ statement on climate investment funds, adopted on 14 June, welcomed and supported the launch of the new Climate Investment Funds, which are expected to be formally created by the World Bank Board of Directors next month. In other developments, the UN Industrial Development Organization’s Director-General announced a request from the Global Environment Facility to formulate an energy programme for the UN system, valued at almost US$50 million.

The last month saw an important range of decisions being adopted across a number of multilateral treaty bodies, with particular emphasis on biodiversity, forests and oceans. Speaking on World Environment Day celebrations in Montreal, Canada, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, stressed that biodiversity is “part and parcel of any viable long-term response to addressing the climate-change challenges facing mankind,” and that the effective and coordinated implementation of the three Rio conventions is the new multilateral response for achieving lasting peace, shared prosperity and a sustainable future. The ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity concluded lengthy deliberations on issues related to ocean fertilization and biodiversity, climate change and biofuels, and adopted a decision on biodiversity and climate change regarding the integration of climate change considerations into each programme of work. On forests and biodiversity, expert recommendations provided new guidance on the role of the International Tropical Timber Organization in addressing climate change through sustainable management of tropical forests, which may provide timely and complementary support to the UNFCCC’s discussions on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

In addition to the recently concluded UNFCCC Subsidiary Body meeting, at the political level a number of recent intergovernmental events have pronounced on the emerging elements of the international climate regime beyond 2012, most notably the recent decisions of African Environment Ministers, the G8 Finance ministers and the OECD Ministerial meeting. Of particular interest are the recent climate decisions adopted by African Environment Ministers meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 7-12 June, in which Africa forged important steps forward in negotiating an outcome of the international climate regime beyond 2012. Meeting under the framework of the twelfth African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN-12), climate change discussions highlighted the urgency for Africa to articulate a common, coherent position defining “Africa’s climate Roadmap; from Johannesburg through Africa to Copenhagen.” The AMCEN President’s Summary articulates the importance of the Bali Action Plan and Roadmap as an opportunity to build consensus on the complex issues of climate change and sustainable development, to the benefit of the continent, and stresses that Africa must speak with one voice in advancing the continent’s climate interests. Importantly, the Summary also prompts the beginnings of Africa’s Common Position by proposing that Africa should seek agreement on a future global emissions reduction regime with targets for all developed countries to reduce their emissions, by 2020, towards the upper end of the 25–40% range for emissions reductions below 1990 levels, and, by 2050, by between 80-95% below those levels, to achieve the concentration of 450 ppm of CO2 equivalent in the atmosphere. African Ministers further agreed to support South Africa’s bid to host UNFCCC COP 17 and COP/MOP 7 of the Kyoto Protocol in 2011, and called for the modification of the Clean Development Mechanism.

Looking forward to the UNFCCC Session in Accra, Ghana, a number of climate issues will be addressed across the multilateral sphere that will have feedback implications for the Convention and Protocol processes. Some of the most notable events will include:

The forty-eighth session of the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Committee for Programme and Coordination, which is convening at UN headquarters in New York, from 9 June to 3 July 2008. The Committee is expected to address UNEP’s new progamme of work and budget for 2009-2010, which includes provision for the implementation of UNEP’s new priorities identified in the Medium-Term Strategic Plan (MTS). The MTS identifies a role for UNEP in strengthening the ability of countries to integrate climate change responses into national development processes.

The sixtieth session of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Executive Council (18-27 June 2008) is currently discussing climate-related issues under several agenda items. Council members will be invited to express their views on the work plan for the designation process for WMO Regional Climate Centres and on the establishment of a mechanism to facilitate development of climate prediction services for adaptation in developing countries. WMO activities on socio-economic assessments and application of weather and climate services to the health, energy and tourism sectors and urbanization, as well as climate risk management, will also be addressed by the Council.

The First Intersessional Meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships is currently taking place in Oslo, Norway (23-27 June, 2008). The week-long session is tasked with developing the technical basis for the reduction mechanisms that may form part of a future IMO regime to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, and a draft of the actual reduction mechanisms themselves, for further consideration by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). The MEPC will meet in London, UK, later this year (6-10 October 2008).

The forty-first session of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Executive Council is currently underway in Paris, France (24 June-1 July 2008). The Executive Council is expected to adopt a decision regarding: the contribution of IOC programmes to achieving the objectives of the UNFCCC; whether there is any need to modify the present arrangements; and the IOC’s intention to continue its close cooperation with the UNFCCC Secretariat.

The UNFCCC workshop on Methodological Issues relating to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries takes place from 25-27 June 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. The workshop is part of a programme of work on methodological issues related to a range of policy approaches and positive incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries undertaken by the SBSTA.

The Substantive Session of the UN Economic and Social Council starts on 30 June and continues until 24 July 2008 at UN headquarters in New York, US. The session will include a High-Level Segment (30 June-3 July), which will involve the Development Cooperation Forum and Annual Ministerial Review; the Dialogue with Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions (7 July); the Coordination Segment (7-9 July); the Operational Activities Segment (10-14 July); the Humanitarian Affairs Segment (15-17 July); and the General Segment (18-24 July).

The twenty-eighth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol takes place from 7-11 July 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand. The Working Group will address new requests for essential-use exemptions for chlorofluorocarbons and alternatives to hydrochlorofluorocarbons in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sectors.

The President of the UN General Assembly will convene a follow-up meeting focusing on Climate Change and Most Vulnerable Countries-The Imperative to Act on 8 July 2008. The meeting will provide a forum for UN member states to exchange views on adaptation, including technology and financing, and disaster reduction as it relates to most vulnerable countries.

The third session of the Consultation on the Eighth Replenishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) takes place from 8-9 July 2008, in Rome, Italy. The consultation is expected to discuss the role of agriculture and rural development in the global development agenda, in the context of climate change and high food and commodity prices. [Climate-L Bulletin]

Richard Sherman is Climate-l.org Project Manager and Content Editor; and Peter Doran, Ph.D. Climate-l.org Writer.


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