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Warsaw COP - laying the groundwork for an agreement in Paris?

By Alex Hughes

In late 2011, the Durban platform was considered by many to have failed. It had achieved no formal agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol. Perhaps the one saving grace for the talks was an agreement for emission targets between all countries to be underwritten in 2015.

The last few weeks have seen ongoing talks in Warsaw for the UNFCCC 19th Conference of the Parties (COP). Although not expected to formalise and set new targets for reducing GHG emissions, the talks aim to lay the foundation for such targets prior to the Paris climate talks in 2015.

Whilst the ambition and optimism for a new climate agreement is evident in (the usual positive and passionate rhetoric of) opening speeches, various worrying developments in policy around the world have run in parallel with the talks. Japan withdrew its support for the Kyoto target for reducing emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2020. This manoeuvre is perhaps unsurprising in the wake of Fukushima and the closure of Japan’s nuclear capacity, but doesn’t send the best signal to other countries. A similar move was made by Canada back in 2012. Then there is Australia’s lack of representation at Warsaw, and its aim to repeal its carbon tax.

And as last week drew to a close, it was apparent many were dismayed with the lack of progress in Warsaw, with Thursday seeing a mass withdrawal of green groups and NGOs from the talks in protest.

Whilst the need to make stringent cuts is becoming ever more evident, achieving an agreement capable of keeping global temperature rise within 2°C will be no easy feat. The last thing needed in 2015 would be another failure like Durban.

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