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United Nations: Climate Change Conference Concluded

(Dec. 24, 2008) The 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 14) – the highest decision-making body of this U.N. Convention – was held from December 1-13, 2008, in Poznań, Poland, with the participation of ministers from 189 countries. COP 14 took place in conjunction with the 4th Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 4), which is the highest authority of the Protocol, as well as with meetings of subsidiary bodies. The two Conferences generally meet annually during a shared time period. (Meetings, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] website, (last visited Dec. 17, 2008).)

One major result of the meetings was that member governments gave a “clear” and “resounding” commitment to conduct full negotiations in 2009 “in order to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change, to be agreed in Copenhagen at the end of 2009,” at the next COP Conference. (The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, 1-12 December 2008, (last visited Dec. 17, 2008).) The first draft of the text on which the negotiations will be based, the parties further agreed, is to be available at the June 2009 meeting of UNFCCC subsidiary bodies, to be held in Bonn. (Id.) Some other highlights of the Poznań sessions are as follows.

  • The Adaptation Fund of the Kyoto Protocol – a fund aimed at financing projects and programs for adaptation to climate change in Protocol-member developing countries, which is funded by means of a share of the proceeds from clean development mechanism (CDM) projects as well as other sources – was finalized. It was newly agreed that developing countries would have direct access to the Fund. (Id.) This step was proposed by developing countries, which had been “generally unhappy with the prospect that the World Bank would be fingered to manage the Fund.” (Poznan Meets Low Expectations, 8:22 BRIDGES TRADE BIORES (Dec. 15, 2008), International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, available at Consensus was not reached, however, on financing the Fund through placing a levy on the other two Kyoto Protocol flexibility mechanisms, joint implementation and emissions trading. (Press Release, United Nations Climate Change Conference – Poznań, Poland Lays Foundation for Copenhagen Deal (Dec. 12, 2008), available at
  • The Parties endorsed the Global Environment Facility's (GEF) “Poznań Strategic Programme on Technology Transfer,” the aim of which is to increase the level of investment in technology transfer to developing countries, to help them acquire “environmentally sound technologies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.” However, some environmental groups criticized the lack of specific proposals by the developed countries on how much financing they would provide. Reportedly, “[t]he G77 and China have called on developed countries to divert as much as 1 percent of their gross national product (GNP) to help finance emissions reducing technology projects in the developing world” finding the right formula, “many observers say … will be key to reaching consensus in Copenhagen.” (Poznan Meets Low Expectations, 8:22 BRIDGES TRADE BIORES (Dec. 15, 2008), International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, available at; see also About the GEF, GEF website, (last visited Dec. 17, 2008).)
  • Establishing a “shared vision” for long-term cooperative action on climate change has been stressed as an essential basis for moving towards consensus on the issue, and a ministerial roundtable at Poznań addressed the topic. It was observed, however, that little progress was made on the issue, despite a commitment made by both developed and developing countries to advance the process. Developed-country Parties at the Conference stressed the importance of medium- (2020) and long-term (2050) targets, while developing-country Parties stressed the necessity of developed countries' first demonstrating implementation of existing targets under the Kyoto Protocol and giving “a strong sense of future commitment by agreeing to reduce their emissions by a minimum of 40 percent by 2050.” (Poznan Meets Low Expectations, supra). Nevertheless, there may now be some agreement for discussion of developing countries' future mitigation efforts “in a way that recognises a substantial shift away from current practice, and perhaps not in terms of capping of their emissions.” (Id.)
  • Another key issue to be considered at the Conference was whether carbon capture and storage should be permitted as a pilot program or, alternatively, a definite decision should be made on it under the CDM. It seems that the Parties just asked the CDM Executive Board to assess the implications of the inclusion of carbon capture and storage projects. (Press Release, supra.)
  • As for industrialized countries' post-2012 commitments, Parties meeting under the Ad Hoc Working Group under the Kyoto Protocol agreed they “should principally take the form of quantified emissions limitations and reduction objectives, in line with the type of emissions reduction targets they have assumed for the first commitment period of the protocol.” (Poznan Meets Low Expectations, supra.) In the meantime, on December 17, 2008, just after EU Member States had crafted a compromise package on climate change policy at a summit meeting in Brussels, the European Parliament approved it, passing all six proposals. The proposals cover: revision of the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS); a decision on effort sharing to reduce greenhouse gases from non-ETS sources; a legal framework for carbon capture and storage technology; a renewable energies directive, to achieve 20% renewable energy use by 2020; a regulation on CO2 emission performance standards for new cars; and a revised fuel quality directive that “sets a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions produ
    ced throughout the life cycle of transport fuels … of up to 10% by 2020.” (EP Seals Climate Change Package, European Parliament website, Dec. 17, 2008, available at

    However, it had been reported that the agreement on a new climate change package by the EU summit participants was conditioned upon the successful conclusion of a global climate change agreement at the scheduled 2009 COP Conference in Copenhagen, and that “[a] review clause that members agreed to would allow a review of the EU climate package in March 2010 to reflect the outcome of the Copenhagen conference.” (Poznan Meets Low Expectations, supra).

  • Some of the other important ongoing issues for developing countries that were discussed included finance; reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD); and disaster management. (Id.).

The next major UNFCCC gathering is scheduled for March 29-April 8, 2009, in Bonn. As was noted above, the next COP/CMP Conference will take place in Copenhagen in December 2009. (The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, 1-12 December 2008, supra.)