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Bureau Seminar, April 8, 2010

Navigating The Climate Change Negotiation Process:
The Numbers and Current Progress


Link to streaming video: available 04.08.2010 at 1:55pm

Joseph Essandoh-Yeddu
Member, Ghana negotiating party to the UN Climate Change & Kyoto Protocol
Energy Commission-Ghana

The global climate has its own natural variations; but a new kind of climate change is under way. Compelling evidences suggest that levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) have risen steadily since the industrial revolution in the 1700s and that could be responsible for the incremental variations in climate change. The IPCC has concluded that anthropogenic GHG emissions are the leading cause of the climate change and that the annual CO2 emissions of 26-30 gigatonnes is likely to double by 2050. And this could lead to about 2 degree Celsius rise in global mean temperature which would cause catastrophic damage in many places of the earth. However, the 2 degree Celsius temperature would not be exceeded if the concentration of atmospheric GHG remains under 500 (±50) ppmv which could be achieved by reducing potential growth in annual global CO2 emissions by 45-80% by 2050.

An examination of the limits on GHG emissions over the long term necessary to keep the global warming temperatures to below 2 degree Celsius is an essential exercise for negotiating emission reduction requirements for industrialized countries as well as understanding the scale of efforts needed in developing countries. The Kyoto Protocol, commits and sets legally binding measures on GHG emissions for most developed (Annex 1) countries in order to reduce the global total GHG emissions to pre-1990 levels which is said to be about 350 ppmv. This target was to be achieved over the period 2008–2012 referred to as first commitment period. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 but the world has not been able to reduce its global emissions to the pre-1990 levels. Adhoc-Working Groups have been set up within United Nations climate change convention’s framework to amend the Kyoto Protocol for post-2012. Non-Annex 1 countries including China are proposing that the Kyoto Protocol is amended to allow Annex 1 countries to take on further cuts in GHG emissions. Annex 1 countries are on the other hand, demanding that the Kyoto Protocol is amended to include newly industrialized and fast developing countries, or, replacing the Kyoto Protocol with a new legally binding agreement altogether encompassing all countries. The world had hoped that the Copenhagen climate change talks would be a key step towards a new binding agreement but the net outcome was a non-legally binding Copenhagen Accord.

The author proposes an all-inclusive binding agreement to keep the global CO2 emissions stabilization at 26-30 gigatonnes per year by 2050. He will elaborate on what takes place during the negotiations, who is involved, the procedural issues, the Copenhagen Accord as the world sets eyes on conference of parties (COP 16) scheduled for Mexico in 2010. Also, expertise that the Bureau of Economic Geology of UT-Austin could bring to assist in the United Nations negotiation process would be suggested.


Department of Geological Sciences
Institute for Geophysics
The University of Texas
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