US attempts to shift focus of climate negotiations

Pushes countries to address the problem of short-lived climate pollutants

By Uthra Radhakrishnan
Published: Saturday 01 September 2012

The last time the US decided to make a serious intervention, it drastically altered the course of climate change negotiations. Following a period of what can be termed as hibernation, the US has started asserting itself once again, at the ongoing Bangkok climate conference in the run up to the Doha Conference of Parties (CoP).

The US does not want to undertake binding commitments or be associated with anything under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which would involve making itself accountable for its carbon emissions. This is not new. Now, in keeping in line with its long, well-established position of inaction and manipulation, it has been pushing for all countries to address the issue of short-lived climate forcers, which it says “could be one of the major contributors to global warming in the future”. Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are a group of gases that stay for a much shorter while in the atmosphere as compared to carbon dioxide, which stays in the atmosphere for decades.

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SLCPs found repeated mention in all of the US interventions here at the ADP meetings under way to discuss how countries should meet the gap in ambition between current carbon reduction pledges and what is required to contain mean global temperature increase within the tipping point of 2°C.

The ADP track of negotiation started last year at Durban CoP mandated parties to come up with the architecture and substance for a post-2020 agreement and also ensure that parties, meanwhile, increase their ambition levels. Most developed countries have been using ADP as an opportunity to escape their previous commitments under the other two existing tracks (Long-Term Cooperative Action or LCA and Kyoto Protocol), increasingly pushing for developing countries to commit to more action.

This basket presently includes black carbon (soot), methane and tropospheric ozone. Among them, only methane comes under the purview of the UNFCC. The others are either addressed by bodies outside UNFCCC or through recent international initiatives such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), which was launched earlier in the year by the US Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. At a meeting convened in Sweden earlier in the year to discuss this issue, Clinton said: “reducing short lived climate pollutants is a win-win for sure. By reducing them we can avoid 30 per cent of current global warming, save millions of lives and tonnes of crops. Much can be done with existing technologies, some at zero cost. To act on SLCPs is however not enough. We must also address CO2 aggressively.”

According to the intervention by Pershing at one of the roundtables of the ADP, “we have to use every opportunity we can to act.”

Meanwhile the US has shown no cooperation in the LCA track, and attempted to block discussions on comparability of efforts where countries that are not party to the Kyoto Protocol have been mandated under the Bali Action Plan to turn in emission reduction targets that are comparable to those of Kyoto Protocol parties.


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