The negotiations between the world's largest polluters on how to fund the effort of Third World countries to cope with the effects of climate change received a boost last week as ministers reported as close a consensus as ever on the issue of finance.
The negotiations, organized in the newly launched Major Economies Forum, concluded last Tuesday with participants saying that they made progress on the subject of finance and financial architecture.
We had quite constructive discussions, candid, frank," said Todd Stern, the US special envoy for climate change. "We made particularly good progress on the area of financing, which I would say is one of the two biggest issues in the Copenhagen negotiations."
Stern also told reporters at the end of the two day conference that the US was pretty close to being on the same page as the EU in terms of climate commitment.
We are actually quite close to being on the same page," he said, alluding to the climate bill which is currently being hammered out in Washington (read Than Hansen's report on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate legislation).
The U.S. might cut carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. According to Stern, that equals a reduction of 4 percent compared with 1990.
Stern´s colleague, the French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo was also upbeat about progress achieved during the two-day MEF meeting:
It's not final, but one feels that there is a real consensus," Borloo told AFP.
The MEF was launched earlier this year by President Barack Obama to address complex issues concerning developed countries ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit in December. The forum is designed especially to speed up the finance aspects of global climate negotiations.
Negotiators focusing on Copenhagen also met last week in Bonn to agree on a negotiation blueprint, but they reported less promising developments. The commitment of countries to the levels of cuts in carbon emissions is a major thorny issue but intense efforts are made to redress this. And the MEF is crucial part of that process.
This is the best part of the MEF; whatever the forum agrees on gets passed on to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), who organizes the climate summit and is comprised of 192 member nations.
The forum has major clout because of the interaction between the top decision makers of the participating countries, of particular significance, for instance, in the case of Europe. The 27-nation European bloc decided last December (after much struggle and bickering) that it will commit to a larger portion of carbon dioxide cuts if negotiators manage to get developing nations to commit to more drastic cuts as well. At the moment there is agreement within the EU to commit to 20% Co2 reductions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, but this could become 30% if a deal is agreed on with poor countries. The MEF creates extra time and opportunities for such deals.
China argues that developed countries should commit to reductions of 40% and more. Some rich nations - most notably the U.S. - have long said that China and India, which both rank in the top five of most polluting countries, ought to commit to binding targets. Neither of the two countries are compelled to do so under the Kyoto rules.
A new climate accord, scheduled to be signed by international countries at the Copenhagen conference in December, will succeed the UN's Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.
Participants in the MEF account for around 80% of the world´s carbon dioxide production. Members include Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States, as well as the European Union.
Scientists say that if the developed world does not reduce its pollution targets by at least 50% by 2020, a 2% increase in global mean average temperatures can not be avoided with cumulative effects that are going to be even harder to deal with than the carbon reductions themselves.
The forum's next meeting will be in Mexico on June 22-23