A Synopsis of the Current State of Global Climate Change Negotiations
This document provides an update on the status of the global climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as of June 2012.
Climate change is caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere . This build-up causes temperatures to increase and weather patterns to change. This results in increases in sea levels, increase in extreme events, and consequential impacts (mostly negative) throughout the world on food security, health, water availability, inter alia.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND CHILDREN
The scientific literature on climate change has identified children as being among those most vulnerable to climate change. The vulnerability is highlighted in the Summary for Policy Makers from the Report of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, which states that:
“Projected climate change-related exposures are likely to affect the health status of millions of people, particularly those with low adaptive capacity, through:
- increases in malnutrition and consequent disorders, with implications for child growth and development.”
This is further emphasised in the Summary for Policy Makers of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report which states that “some people (such as the poor, young children and the elderly) can be particularly at risk” from climate change .
This high level of vulnerability results inter alia from the projected negative impacts of climate change on health, nutrition, and food security in developing countries, and the general retardation of child growth that will result. Children are also very vulnerable to many of the other projected impacts of climate change, including increased extreme events, which may result in disasters and emergencies.
Responding to climate change and its projected impacts should therefore receive priority attention by agencies programming for children. This attention should focus on two areas of intervention:
- strengthening the ability of children to adapt to the impacts of climate change on their lives;
- making current institutional programming more resilient to climate change.
INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE NEGOTIATIONS
Evolution of International Negotiations
The international community has been engaged in negotiations on responding to climate change since 1990 when the UN General Assembly established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) and mandated it to commence negotiations towards “a meaningful legal act” on climate change.
These negotiations have sought to promote international cooperation on climate change in a wide range of areas, including emissions reduction targets and other mitigation actions, adaptation, technology transfer, financing, capacity building, and information exchange.
The negotiations have sought to respond to the scientific findings reported by the IPCC and the rest of the global scientific community which have highlighted the threats posed by climate change. These findings have highlighted the need for urgent global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the rising temperatures and other consequential impacts that result.
Key milestones along the way have been the negotiation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992 Earth Summit) and its subsequent entry into force in 1994 and the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and its subsequent entry into force in 2005.
Under these instruments, agreements have been reached in a number of areas, the most significant of which have been:
- Mitigation – This refers to action taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol contains legally binding commitments for the developed countries to reduce emissions collectively by an average of 5.2% below 1990 levels during the 2008 – 2012 period. This period was called the First Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol and was expected to be followed by a post-2012 Second Commitment Period with new targets for developed countries.
However, the Kyoto Protocol does not include the largest emitters of carbon dioxide – the United States and China. In an effort to get all major emitters on board, the 2010 Cancun negotiations, agreed that all countries could submit voluntary emissions reductions pledges, which they would strive to implement. These pledges would be implemented alongside the legal-binding targets for those countries that had adopted targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
The Cancun negotiations also agreed that the global community would strive to limit long term temperature increases to under 20C above pre-industrial levels.
To date, the pledges that countries have submitted fall far short of the level of effort that will be required to keep global temperature increases to the under 20C target that was agreed to by the global community.
Agreement was reached at the most recent negotiating session in December 2011 in Durban, South Africa, that there will be a Second Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol, but a number of developed countries – Canada, Japan, Russia – have indicated that they will not be taking any new commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. The Durban negotiations also agreed to negotiate a new agreement that would be binding on all countries to be completed by 2015 and to enter into force after 2020.
- Adaptation – This refers to action taken to minimise and/or cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
Until very recently, adaptation has not been treated by the developed countries as an issue requiring global attention. It has been addressed in a very fragmented manner in the negotiating process. This has begun to change and the Cancun 2011 negotiations agreed on the establishment of an Adaptation Committee which has been charged with the responsibility to bring coherence to adaptation efforts at all levels. The Durban negotiations agreed upon the modalities for operationalising the Adaptation Committee.
- Technology – This refers to access by developing countries to relevant technologies for mitigation and adaptation.
This has been a divisive issue between developed and developing countries for the entire duration of the negotiating process. This has been influenced in part by differences between these countries related to the costs of accessing technologies and the treatment of intellectual property rights. The Durban negotiations finalised modalities for a global Technology Executive Committee and a Climate Technology Network, aimed at bringing global coherence to efforts to increase accessibility to the technologies required to fight climate change.
- Finance – This refers to access by developing countries to sufficient, affordable and predictable finance for mitigation and adaptation.
The provision of finance to assist developing countries to combat climate change has been one of the divisive issues in the climate negotiations and continues to be. The Convention was adopted with provisions for developed countries to provide finances to assist developing countries, and with a financial mechanism to manage these funds. The institution that was selected was the Global Environment Fund (GEF).
Developing countries have never been happy with the operations of the GEF and in the 2010 negotiations in Cancun, it was agreed to establish a much larger fund – the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – to address the financing of climate change initiatives. The Durban Conference agreed on the modalities for operationalising the fund, but there are still a number of unresolved issues, including the sources and quantum of financing that the GCF will administer.
Current Status of International Negotiations
The negotiations, in 2012, are at a stage where a number of processes and institutions have been agreed upon. However, the details of most of these – the negotiations on the new global agreement, the targets for emissions reduction, the working of the Adaptation Committee, the Climate Technology Network and the Green Climate Fund – are still in the process of being finalised.
The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012, endorsed the UNFCCC processes as the forum for negotiating on climate change.
The 2012 negotiations are therefore very important in that they will determine the eventual shape of the future international regime to combat climate change. These decisions, together with a decision on the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol, will be on the agenda of the upcoming Conference of Parties, scheduled to be held in Doha, Qatar, from November 26 to December 07, 2012.
Implications for Children’s Programming
No specific visibility is given to children in either of the outcome texts from Cancun and Durban. The texts do not specify any vulnerable grouping and the Cancun text references vulnerable groups in general as follows:
“Affirms that enhanced action on adaptation should be undertaken in accordance with the Convention; follow a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems.”
In this respect, the institutions established under the negotiating process will eventually provide opportunities for agencies and entities involved in climate change programming for children to receive support for their work, given that children has been identified by the IPCC as a very vulnerable group – either through the adaptation institutions, or directly from the financial mechanisms.
These agencies and entities can be involved either through participation and recognition in national adaptation programming, or as independent operating entities in their own right. An immediate area of focus is on the development of national adaptation plans by Parties, and it will be useful if individual countries can identify children as one of the vulnerable groupings to be addressed by the national adaptation plans. This is an area for agencies and entities to incorporate in their advocacy with national governments.