Developing countries exploring pathways to climate compatibility


Mitigation targets and actions at the UNFCCC Bangkok talks

At the UNFCCC climate negotiations starting in Bangkok this week, 30 August to 5 September 2012, there will be further workshops on mitigation. Some are about commitments, some are about targets for developed countries, and another about mitigation actions by developing countries. There are important issues for both:

  1. Workshop on developed country mitigation targets, or more formally quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets by developed country Parties. Key issues here will be how progress can be demonstrated against a clear target. What is clear is that rules and targets go together. So common accounting rules (CAR in acronym-crazy Convention-land) among developed countries are critical. For the target to be clear, it is essential to turn targets for single years (e.g. 17% below 2005 levels by 2020) into tons of CO2-eq over a period of time. The “supplementary information” also needs to include how LULUCF rules are applied – in plain language, how much is taken off for forests – and the use of market mechanisms. On the last point, there’s the question whether countries that do not sign up for commitments under the Kyoto protocol can use its mechanisms. You might think that some of these should not be questions, but they are.
  2. Workshop on NAMAS, or more fully again: further the understanding of the diversity of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAS) by developing country Parties, underlying assumptions, and any support needed for implementation of these actions. The issue here is how to both respect the diversity of NAMAS, and also provide some degree of helpful structure. A harmonized or rigid ‘common template’ is unlikely to be helpful, as the actions proposed by developing countries are really of very different kinds. A further reason is the difference in context – even among developing countries. An action that might look similar on paper (e.g. efficient public transport) may look different in a different context. To get a sense of that diversity, have a look at country studies produced under the MAPS programme, from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and South Africa, at Providing supportive structure should be aimed at facilitating a wide diversity of ambitious action in as many countries as possible, rather than shoe-horning all into a UNFCCC document. The Bonn talks agreed that this workshop should “pay particular attention to support needs”, though discussion will not be limited to it. (see report from that workshop, An emphasis of support is also important in relation to low-carbon development strategies, which developing countries are encouraged to adopt. Development in developing countries is aimed at addressing basic human needs. In short, it has to address serious levels of poverty. For a perspective on how little the low carbon economy/development/society literature addresses the issue of poverty, have a look at a paper written by the MAPS poverty team on The paper suggests that we need to focus on Poverty Alleviating Mitigation Actions (PAMAs).

Back to the workshops, there are more workshops than the 2 mentioned above. There is also another workshop on REDD, “various approaches” (market and non-market) and a new market mechanism under the Convention. Interesting that financing of REDD has a workshop all on its own, whereas NAMAs in energy supply and use do not have such a focus. Maybe I’m just a jealous energy researcher, or are those forestry credits just too deliciously cheap?

Author: Harald Winkler, Energy Research Centre (University of Cape Town)

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