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European Law Monitor newsClimate change: Continued momentum needed as formal negotiations on new UN climate agreement get under way

The European Union will be pressing for solid progress when formal negotiations to draw up a new United Nations climate change agreement start on 31 March in Bangkok, Thailand. The week-long meeting marks the first negotiating session since the UN climate conference in Bali last December decided to conclude the agreement by the end of 2009. The new agreement is intended to take effect once the Kyoto Protocol's targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries have expired in 2012.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The Bali meeting brought the breakthrough Europe wanted and now all Parties must keep up the momentum in order to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion by the end of next year. Climate change is the gravest long-term challenge facing the world today and we need a global agreement that involves bold action to prevent global warming from assuming the devastating proportions that are predicted. The European Union is determined to continue leading by example, as we have done with the ambitious Climate Action and Renewable Energy package proposed by the Commission in January."

From Bali to Copenhagen

Following two years of informal discussions on future international action, the Bali conference reached consensus to launch negotiations on a post-2012 global climate agreement and to complete them at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. Bali also agreed on a 'roadmap' to guide the negotiations which sets out the key areas to be addressed in the new agreement (see MEMO/07/588).

Like the previous informal discussions, the negotiations will take place on two parallel tracks. One involves all 192 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including the United States. The other brings together the 178 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in order to draw up future emission targets for developed countries.

The Bangkok meeting will mark the first session of the new Ad hoc Working Group on Long•term Cooperative Action under the Convention. The EU would like to see a comprehensive decision reached on a detailed and substantive work plan that addresses the central issues of the future agreement's objective (or 'shared vision'), reduction of emissions, adaptation to climate change, technology transfer and finance. The work plan should effectively engage, among others, the private sector and non-governmental organisations and should also prepare for the next annual UN climate conference in Poznan, Poland, in December 2008.

In parallel, the existing Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol will hold the first part of its fifth session. It will focus on analysing the means for developed countries to reach future emission targets, and in particular

       * the future role of the Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation mechanism, which the EU believes need to be reformed to remain effective,
       * the future accounting rules on land use, land use change and forestry, which should be improved in order to truly reflect their role in reducing emissions, enhancing carbon 'sinks' and developing the supply of sustainable bio-energy and wood material,
       * the greenhouse gases to be addressed and the sectoral scope of future action, which should include emissions from international aviation and maritime transport.

EU leadership

For the EU it is essential that the forthcoming global agreement sets the objective of limiting global warming to no more than 2 °C above the pre-industrial level in order to prevent climate change from reaching dangerous levels at which irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes could occur. Keeping within this temperature ceiling will require worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases to be cut by more than 50% of 1990 levels by mid-century.

As a first step, the EU is proposing that developed countries commit to reducing their collective emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020. EU leaders have committed the EU to making this 30% cut if other developed countries commit to comparable reductions and if the economically more advanced countries contribute adequately according to their capabilities.

EU leaders have also committed the EU to cutting its emissions by at least 20% over the same timescale, regardless of what other countries decide, in order to start transforming Europe into a highly energy efficient, low carbon economy.

January's Climate Action and Renewable Energy (CARE) package (see IP/08/80 , MEMO/08/34 , MEMO/08/35 , MEMO/08/36 , MEMO/08/33 ) is a major step towards implementing these goals and sends a clear signal to the rest of the world of the EU's commitment to serious action to combat climate change.

Next steps

Bangkok is the first of four negotiating sessions to be held this year. The next will be in June in Bonn, Germany, the third at the end of August (at a venue yet to be decided) and the fourth during the Poznan conference in December.

Further information:

DG ENV climate change pages