Bangkok Climate Talks Begin

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By Flickr user Adopt a Negotiator

We’re here in  Bangkok, at the year’s first meeting of the UN climate change talks.  It’s also my first as CAFOD’s new environment and climate change analyst. Apparently this is a low key affair and  many civil society groups aren’t here – due to the  distance and because it’s an add-on to the usual negotiations calendar.

Nevertheless, the setting for the talks, one of the world’s mega cities – where the traffic and the air con never stop (as I discovered when jet-lag woke me at 3 am this morning) – is a jarring reminder of the real issues underneath all the technicalities. After all the efforts at Cancun last December to keep the UN process on the rails, do governments want to focus this year on getting down to the business of cutting emissions?

Let’s hope so, because there’s a lot to discuss – and more importantly do- in the run-up to the next Conference of the Parties in South Africa.  The most obvious problem underlined by the workshop on mitigation is the gap of at least  5 gigatonnes of equivalent CO2  between the emissions cuts promised by developed countries and what’s needed to keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees.  Countries need to be much more ambitious with emissions cuts than their current pludges to close this “gigatonne gap”. There is also no clear and standardized accounting system to monitor cuts made.

Secondly, the Kyoto treaty will soon expire. By the end of 2012 , the signatories need to enter a second commitment period of the treaty. Unless this happens, we move into dangerous territory  without a top down,  legally binding  framework for reductions based on solid science.

The other key focus for CAFOD is making sure developed countries deliver at least $100 billion in finance to help poorer countries adapt to climate change impacts and access the clean technology they need to move onto sustainable development paths. This means moving forward with developing new sources to generate the money required from public funds and setting up a new Green Climate Fund to manage these flows. Apart from start up money,  the GCF needs a rigourous governance architecture to ensure the countries most impacted by climate change can access funds  – with equal support for adaptation and mitigation, to start addressing the current gap in funding for adaptation.

I am looking forward to seeing how the year’s work plan shapes up. Discussions have kicked off with developed countries sharing their pledges and the assumptions behind them. The ambition in these pledges is not enough and the assumptions still unclear in many cases but at least the dialogue has started.

Follow CAFOD in Bangkok on our tweet @CAFODwire

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