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Global Climate Network Launches in Poznan

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer shares a word with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon during U.N. climate talks in Poznan, Poland, last week.

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Last Tuesday at the UN climate change meeting in Poznan, Poland, the Center for American Progress helped to roll out the first product of the Global Climate Network, or GCN. “Closing the Mitigation Gap” focuses on one of the fundamental challenges for the ongoing international negotiations on climate change. The problem, in the words of Tilman Santarius, of network partner the Wuppertal Institute in Germany, is “how to frame a shared vision to avoid climate change which is also equitable and fair.”

GCN is an alliance of seven think tanks from developed and developing countries dedicated to informed advocacy on the challenges and possibilities presented by the problem of global climate change. While the group had been inaugurated this past summer, the event in Poland was its first major public debut.

Andrew Pendleton, senior fellow at UK network member the Institute for Public Policy Research, summarized the findings of the paper. Even if all Annex I Kyoto partners (the industrialized countries who signed on to the Kyoto Protocol) were to reach even 25 percent of their intermediate 2020 goals in emissions cuts, there would still be a substantial gap in where the world’s emissions would need to be by 2050 to avoid the worst scenarios for climate change.

Network members considered three ways of dealing with this gap: (1) Annex I countries could try harder and enact more significant cuts; (2) non-Annex I developing countries could pick up the slack and close this gap by accepting mandatory cuts; or (3) we could all accept dangerous climate change as an inevitability. Members of the network from developing countries argued that option two is not on the table unless things change dramatically between now and the next UN climate meeting in Copenhagen. And no one wants to accept option three. The best option seems to be to focus on ways to direct domestic mechanisms toward common solutions, such as technology transfer from industrialized to developing countries, to make it possible to achieve a safer level of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Panelist Kit Batten, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, agreed that “current targets from developed countries will not allow us to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.” A core part of CAP’s strategy to help reduce emissions is to direct the next economic stimulus package toward a green recovery that takes on both problems at once. CAP’s analysis shows that a $100 billion investment in green infrastructure would create 2 million jobs in two years.

Irving Jackson of the Climate Institute in Australia offered that the precarious position of his country in the face of global warming had already provided persuasive evidence to his fellow citizens that the strongest possible emissions targets were in Australia’s national interest. The political challenge now is redefining what it means to reinvest in our own climate security and also help other countries—especially China—to reduce their emissions, he said.

And Ewah Eleri, of the International Center for Energy, Environment & Development in Nigeria, said that while it was important that Annex I countries set the tone and the right example for the rest of the world there were ambitious voluntary targets that developing countries could take right now. As an example he offered attempts in his home country to replace the pervasive use of wood for cooking fuel with cleaner-burning biofuels.

CAP and the GCN will next launch a sustained investigation into the hurdles, challenges, and possibilities for overcoming problems with technology transfer, which, many think, will be key to forging a new climate treaty. Each network member will conduct a series of interviews with government, business, and NGO leaders engaged in technology transfer in the first few months of 2009 to provide a synthesis report by April. Out of this we hope to identify clear and achievable directions for research that could make a contribution to the 2009 UN meeting in Copenhagen, and potential bilateral and multilateral agreements between the United States and other major global carbon emitters.

Vijai Sharma, India’s vice-minister of environment and forests, shared his thoughts at a high-level Ministerial Roundtable organized at Poznan to try to forge a “shared vision for the future” for these international climate change agreements and rescue some substantial results from the meeting. Sharma proclaimed that however we move forward, “equity must be the underpinning of the shared vision.” GCN’s first project, and our anticipated future work, is squarely within that understanding of a shared vision.

Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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