This article is written by Sébastien Burgess.
On the European front, many negotiators spent their days working on the controversial “hot air” issue which is increasingly becoming a major factor in the Kyoto Protocol proceedings. Basically, nations especially Poland and Russia are arguing that they should be allowed to carry over unused emissions allowances from the first commitment period to the new phase of Kyoto which hopefully will be signed next week. Everyone knows however that these reduction emissions would have happened anyways: remember that the Protocol for a country like Poland is constructed on a 1990 baseline and that after the Soviet collapse and the consequent economic ravages in Eastern and Central Europe, countries such as Poland were able to achieve considerable emissions reductions, not due to virtuous efforts but rather because of the massive downturn that it had to economically go through for a decade.
In the case of Poland, the country exceeded its 6% target compared to 1990 levels by achieving cuts of… 30%. This leaves our Polish friends with considerable surplus credits that they obviously wish to carry over to the second commitment period in order to be off the hook for substantial action to reduce their emission reduction goals. The fact of the matter is Poland islooking at the past in terms of energy and climate change policy. The country is looking to the past rather than the future in terms of its energy portfolio, 92% percent of electricity is generated through coal and under its latest “Poland’s Energy Policy Until 2030” document, Poland is planning on building 11,300 megawatts of coal power by 2020 and according to this report still plans on using fossil fuel for 74% of its energy generation by 2030.
Poland is quickly becoming a problem here. Their lack of ambition and selfish defense of polluting self-interest is throwing a wrench not only in the European decision-making process but more dangerously in the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period conversation by being on the torch-bearer for the defense of the irrational idea that emission credit surpluses (AAU surpluses in Kyoto jargon) should be carried-over. In a way it delegitimizes the entire framework, and further weakens Kyoto which already is an unambitious deal as a whole. 13GT of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of surplus has been accumulated in the first phase of Kyoto and another 3 to 10 billion tons is set to accumulate by 2020. 13GT of CO2e is the equivalent of three times the emissions of the European Union. In other words, if countries get to carry their surpluses over to the second commitment Kyoto will lose most of its environmental integrity since most developed country will just be able to buy surpluses instead of making real emission reductions.
Poland will host COP19 at Warsaw next year and its open contempt for the UNFCCC process, its systematic attempts to sabotage true European ambitions for substantive emissions cuts, and its utter disregard for responsibility and environmental integrity make this announcement particularly worrisome. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the current Qatari presidency of COP18 has left a lot to be desired and Poland is clearly showing right now that it is in no disposition at the moment to take on such a heavy responsibility next year to lead the process over the construction of a framing structure for the new climate regime to be signed in 2015. The COP process needs leadership since every negotiation is fraught with the risk of political deadlock. Qatar and Poland, given their domestic circumstances have no interest in fundamentally seeing the process come to a real positive conclusion.
After having two controversial countries host and preside the COP events, I would like to see an AOSIS country (small insular states set to be submerged in +2C degree scenarios) host COP20 and Paris take over the presidency for the crucial COP21 in 2015.
About the author: Sébastien Burgess, born in Paris in 1989. Graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Conservation and Resources Studies. Lives in Mexico City where he works as a cartographer on local environmental projects and sports commentator. Has been involved in environmental activism since his college years and is a proud member of CliMates since its creation in 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @BurgessSeb