Friday, March 5, 2010

The Resignation of Head UN Climate Change Negotiator Yvo de Boer

Last month, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, resigned. Mr de Boer's greatest success was the Bali agreement in 2007. However, the signatories of the Bali agreement failed to produce a worldwide treaty by the December 2009 deadline. Rather than the binding agreement everyone had hoped for, COP15 produced a much weaker political agreement known as the Copenhagen Accord. Even the toothless Copenhagen Accord could not garner the signatures of participants, instead they agreed only to “take note” of it.

Several key factors contributed to the failure of COP15, including disagreements between the United States and China over how to measure emissions. Progress on a binding agreement have also been hampered by the US Senate. Despite President Obama's commitment to emissions reduction, Climate change legislation does not have the support it needs to pass in the Senate.

Mr. de Boer has also been personally criticized for failing to produce a binding agreement at COP15. It is easy to assign blame as there is a lot of blame to go around. Most of the resistance comes from entrenched old economy interests and those who cannot envision the relationship between economic growth and environmental stewardship. "I think the biggest challenge with the job is to convince governments, for the sake of their national economic interests, to act on climate change and to show them that you can grow your economy in a green way while at the same time eradicating poverty."

Allegations of scientific misconduct and conflict of interest have been rampant. Although these claims do not contradict the massive body of evidence for climate change, it is enough to fuel the passions of those deniers who simply refuse to believe.

Some are interpreting de Boer's resignation as the failure of the United Nation's framework to address global warming. “The U.N. system has significant weaknesses and it is probably important to develop ways to have dialogues in other, more narrow forums where we don’t have 180 people around the table at the same time,” said Kim Carstensen, the director of the Global Climate Initiative of the World Wildlife Fund.

Others are more hopeful about the next round of UN climate talks in Mexico later this year. “It is probably the right time to get a fresh face in. It has been a pretty grueling two years from Bali to Copenhagen,” said Mark Kenber, the policy director for the Climate Group, an international organization pushing for a climate change agreement. “A fresh face would respark the whole process,” he said.

Despite the lack of binding agreement at COP15, there is important momentum. Many nations including those in the Major Economies Forum and the Group of 20, put climate change on their agendas in 2009. Wealthier nations have promised to pay developing nations $30 billion of "climate aid" over the next three years, increasing to $100 billion a year from 2020. They also set a two degree temperature increase maximum as the goal.

In addition to the agreements made through the UN framework, the US and China are also working bilaterally on emissions reducing energy projects.

“Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming,” said Mr. de Boer. In a statement announcing his departure, Mr. de Boer indicated that the solutions must come from the businesses that produce and consume the fuels that add to global warming.

Mr. Kenber said of de Boer, “His role as much as anything else was to be a cheerleader,” but sadly for Mr. de Boer, it is hard to be a good cheerleader when you do not have much to cheer about.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good work and excellent post! Cheers.