First week of COP18

As the end of the first week of negotiations is approaching, it’s time to review. Where are we now, where do we want to go?

Renewing the Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto protocol is ending on January 1st, 2013. Therefore it’s crucial that decisions are being taken at COP18. Every country is positive about new agreements. The real negotiations however are closed off to me, so we have to hope that next week around the same time, the atmosphere is still positive like this. Every country says to be willing to work hard to achieve a new agreement. The developing countries (G77+China) are very demanding about strong new agreements, and also demanded for a financial board functioning under the responsibility of the COP. The Annex 1 parties, among which most EU countries, the US and Canada, will decide if issues like this will take place or not. At the opening ceremony, Australia, on behalf of the US and other countries as well, said “We should make the promise of Durban a reality” referring to the promise to renew the protocol. Also the EU was positive, despite the enduring financial crisis. Everyone is aware on the risks of climate change, but how will the political game be played? Also, once agreed upon something it’s case to live up to it, which did not happen in the past few years unfortunately. The youth (through YOUNGO) and other NGOs are pushing their leaders for results, so lets hope for the best!
Side events
Many lectures and q&a sessions are being held. Topics vary from technical matters and finance, to gender, agriculture, youth, renewables, and risk management. Some highlights:
Risk management
The chair and vice chair of  the IPCC and the president of the the Red Cross (ICRC) climate center spoke about risk management, by referring to the IPCC report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and
Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” (to be found at http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/). The economic losses from climate related disasters have increased in the past years, though with large spatial and interannual variations. About 95% of fatalities following this are in developing countries. To address these problems, the ICRC has changed it’s policy from not only responding to disasters, but to preventing for them as well. They do this for example through early warning systems and focusing on vulnerable target groups. The ICRC did not start a separate organization for this but shares its advice with governments for example.
Renewable energy
The IPCC presented another topic in line with one of their reports: renewables.  Good news about this topic: the demand and capacity is increasing, and prices are decreasing and will remain decreasing. At the moment it represents 12.9% of the energy use, 10.2% of this filled with bio energy. Coal is the biggest obstacle to reach the limit of the maximum increase of the temperature by 2 degrees. Other challenges are generating flexibility, energy storage technologies, demand side management (as supply currently exceeds demands) and planning, amongst others.
John Christensen, head of UNEP Risø centre, connected renewable energy to sustainable development. Renewables can accelerate access to energy, particularly for the 1.4 billion people without electricity. Sustainable development benefits include health improvement, local employment and reduced energy imports. Renewables can also break the chain where economic growth means more energy use. Currently, the poorer you are, the less fossil fuels you use. Barriers to use renewables on a large scale however exist, namely socio cultural barriers, lack of information and awareness, issues in the market and economic. This is often based on outdated information. Opportunities are to implement policy on renewables in international and national strategies. Ilkka Savolainen, Research Professor, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland added that how fast we switch to renewables will depend on the price of fossil fuels, demand, and costs.

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