UN negotiations have been under way since 2007 to agree on further climate action to be taken up to and beyond 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires. The negotiations have so far resulted in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, the 2010 Cancún Agreements, a package of decisions taken at the 2011 climate change conference in Durban and the 'Doha Climate Gateway' in 2012.
These results represent important steps forward, both in terms of promoting immediate action on the ground and as elements for the future global legal framework for climate action for which the EU has long argued. However, these outcomes are not sufficient to reduce global emissions to a level that can meet the goal of holding global warming below 2°C compared with the pre-industrial temperature.
At the initiative of the EU and the most vulnerable developing countries, the Durban conference clarified the timetable for the introduction of a global legal framework covering all countries by agreeing that this will be adopted in 2015 and will enter into force in 2020. The framework will take the form of a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all Parties. Through this process, under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, the EU is pressing for a new protocol that is ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding.
Durban also decided that there will be a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The details were finalised at the Doha conference.
These decisions mean that, until the new global framework is implemented in 2020, the regime for international climate action will comprise the following elements (in addition to the existing rules of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change):
In addition, under the Durban Platform a workplan has been launched to explore ways to raise the level of ambition of global emission reductions for 2020. This applies to all countries. The EU has set out several ways in which ambition could be raised. The targets of countries taking part in the second Kyoto period will be revisited in 2014.
The following sections summarise the outcomes of recent UN climate conferences.
The Copenhagen Accord is a non-binding document which was negotiated by the leaders of a group of some 30 major developed and developing countries in the final hours of the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference. The Accord was not adopted as a UN decision but was endorsed by 141 UNFCCC Parties.
All key elements of the Copenhagen Accord were subsequently formalised as a UN decision in the 2010 Cancún Agreements, which also further strengthened the international climate regime in terms of institutional governance and action.
The key points of the Cancún Agreements are as follows:
The agreements acknowledged for the first time in a formal UN decision that global warming must be kept below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. A review will be carried out in 2013-2015 to assess whether the goal should be lowered to 1.5°C, or some other level. A process was also established for defining a date for global emissions to peak and a global goal for substantially reducing emissions by 2050.
The Cancún Agreements anchored in a UN document the national emission reduction commitments for 2020 made so far. Cancún also recognised that these pledges are collectively not sufficient and that overall efforts need to be scaled up in order to stay below 2°C.
The transparency of national actions will be increased through stronger rules on monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions and of climate finance. MRV is important for building trust by showing that Parties are delivering on their commitments.
Developed and developing countries alike will report on their national emission reduction efforts every two years. These reports will be reviewed at international level (through processes of 'international assessment and review' – IAR - for developed countries and 'international consultation and analysis' – ICA - for developing countries). This will help to assure the quality of the information provided, allow open exchanges between Parties and build mutual confidence that all countries are seriously engaging in action to mitigate their emissions.
In Copenhagen developed countries committed to provide nearly $30 billion in 'fast start' finance over the years 2010-2012 to help developing countries take immediate action to strengthen their resilience to climate change and reduce their emissions, including those from deforestation. This pledge was formalised in Cancún. Donor countries are required to report annually to the UNFCCC on amounts spent and projects supported.
For the longer term, developed countries have committed to mobilise climate funding for developing countries totalling $100 billion a year by 2020, in return for meaningful and transparent action by developing countries to tackle their emissions.
A Green Climate Fund (GCF) has been established to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries. The GCF is expected to be one of the major distribution channels for the $100 billion a year in long-term climate finance. A Standing Committee has been created to improve the coordination and mobilisation of climate funding.
Further new structures and institutions were established to enhance the transfer of knowledge, technology and funds to developing countries in various fields:
Besides the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action - the conference's central achievement - other decisions taken made the Cancún Agreements operational and built on them, for example by:
Doha finalised details of the second Kyoto period and agreed a work plan for negotiations on the new global agreement and on raising ambition under the Durban Platform. See main outcomes.
The Doha conference also: