Climate Conference Kicks Off in Poznan, Poland

Delegates from 190 countries descend on the small university town of Poznan, Poland this week to discuss elements of a successor international climate change treaty to the Kyoto Protocols, which expire in 2012. This meeting is the halfway point in a two year negotiating process that kicked off in Bali, Indonesia last year and will conclude (hopefully!) in Copenhagen in December 2009.

It’s Getting Hot in Here, a fantastic blog about youth climate activism, runs down the top five issues at the conference.

5. Forests
Back in 1992, the Rio summit was originally supposed to develop a forests treaty in addition to the two well-known agreements which came out of the meeting: The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The forests issue is now coming back in the climate talks in the form of REDD – reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation. The UN does have a way with acronyms, doesn’t it?

Key challenges under REDD are the definition of a ‘managed forest’ for the purposes of carbon credits, what to do about reforestation, and whether or not developing countries should be paid not to cut down their forests. If you’re interested, Friends of the Earth has just released a major report on REDD ahead of the talks.

4. China
Although China is way behind in per capita emissions, the country is now, officially, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter on an absolute scale. This, not to mention being the world’s most populous nation, makes it one of the most important countries in the quest to stop climate chaos. Until recently, the U.S. and China were both at an impasse, with each country refusing to accept binding greenhouse gas emissions targets without the other. Now, with Barack Obama pledging a new chapter in U.S. action on climate change, the ball is in China’s court. The actions they take at this year’s meeting may influence international climate change policy for many years to come.

3. Money – for adaptation and technology transfer
Moving our great big resource-munching world to a low-carbon lifestyle isn’t just about political will (although that’s a big part of it). It’s about money. In this case, the money is specifically needed for two things: adaptation, to help poorer countries cope with the effects of global warming, and technology transfer, to help other countries grow their economies in a clean, green, lean sort of way. The UNFCCC has already established an Adaptation Fund, but it’s yet to be seen whether this fund will get the money it needs. The U.S. has tried to block proposals for technology transfer in previous negotiations, but this may change under an Obama administration – remember during the debates when he repeatedly mentioned exporting clean technologies to China?

2. The United States
Well, this is a bit obvious, isn’t it? But despite the fact that the country is under new management, the current occupant is yet to move out of the White House. Because the U.S. team at the climate talks is run by the state department, it’s under executive authority – this is why the U.S. delegation in Bali was politely but firmly told to get out of the way and let the world get on with the job of solving the climate crisis. For the past eight years, the U.S. delegation has been pulling out all the stops to prevent climate progress, and arguably there’s even less to keep them from being international nincompoops one last time.

However, the balance of power has shifted. The views from the U.S. congressional delegation, as well as from Obama’s transition team, may be more influential then the spastic flappings of a lame duck administration.

1. The Youth Caucus
This is the youth climate blog, after all. If you’re here, it’s because you already tentatively agree that the next generation is the one to watch. Youth from around the world have spent the last year preparing to hit the ground in Poland and speak truth to power – and you can read about it all here. We have one climate, one future, and one chance to avert disaster.

But you don’t have to take it from them. The UN’s top climate change negotiation moderator, Yvo De Boer explains what is at stake in Poznan.

On Red Green and Blue, Tim Hurst has more. You can view the conference webcast here.