There is a world to be won outside the COP

Friday November 29, 2013 21:40

Blog from Donald Pols, International Climate Policy manager at ECN. This month he visited the COP meeting for the tenth time.

Pleasant is almost how you could describe the atmosphere in the hallways of the Warsaw stadium where COP19 is being held. Gone is the restrained tension that has characterised the climate negotiations for many years. This tension would usually peak in the week that the ministers arrived and decisions needed to be taken. Again the ministers are arriving, but this time I do not get the impression that the people present are getting excited about whether decisions are being made.

I doubt whether I should be happy with this pleasant atmosphere, though. Tension correlates with the awareness that there is something to be gained, or lost. This sentiment does not seem to be present in Warsaw.
One speaker at the High Level Dialogue on Market Mechanisms, representing one of the world's largest power utilities, wondered aloud about whether the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) still has any relevance to ‘the outside world’.  And he was supported by a member of the panel. He added that this growing irrelevance does not seem to have reached the attention of negotiators. Or perhaps they just don't care. He did not say which one is worse.

In the meantime, there are many developments in the field of climate and energy, in this ‘outside world’. At the moment, more than a dozen regional or sub-regional emission trading systems and other experiments have been put in place worldwide, covering about one third of all greenhouse gas emissions. If China pursues its plans for an emission trading system, this share will rise to 40 per cent. For the sake of comparison: the Kyoto protocol covered 13 per cent of the global emissions!

It would be too drastic, however, to dismiss the UNFCCC as a marginalised institute. The international negotiations do have an impact on the regional systems. However, here in Poland, it is becoming very clear that they are certainly not the only game in town. Perhaps they are not even the most important game.

The abundance of initiatives that are emerging everywhere demand a new perspective on the role of the international negotiation process. There is a need for a platform that harmonises the various regional initiatives. The UNFCCC could take on this role. However, the negotiators will first need to realise that there is a world outside the negotiations!

Category: November, Policy Studies, Corporate