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The themes for agreement in Copenhagen

The Bali Road Map, nearly two years ago, was the undertaking of the international community to reach an agreement in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, which would ensure action to reduce greenhouse gases, and would continue and intensify until 2020 the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol, in force between 2008 and 2012.

Today, therefore, we are speaking of the future, without forgetting that, at the same time, we are in the process of reaching the Kyoto objectives. The global objective for the first period established the obligation of industrialised countries to reduce emissions by 5% compared to 1990. We are all aware that the European Union has led this process and that, despite some difficulties, on the whole is on the way to achieving this. That the United States, the world’s largest generator of emissions (14.4% of the total), have not ratified this first agreement, although there has been a change in position with the new US Administration regarding this matter. And that China, overtook the USA as the world’s biggest generator of greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, in absolute terms, although they remain far behind in terms of emissions per capita.

The Bali Road Map, as well as a calendar, established three basic premises: a) industrialised countries would have to make more effort in this second period, and in the long term, according to the expert group report (a reduction in emissions of between 25% and 40% by 2020 and between 80% and 95% by 2050); b) emerging economies would have to make efforts to reduce their emissions, provided that verifiable and efficient technology and resource transfer is ensured, and c) support must be given to developing countries so that they can adapt to climate change.

Broadly speaking, this is the starting point. These two years of work at the United Nations have been very productive. A work framework has been established, and several operating instruments have been brought to the table. Red lines have also been set and the diversity of expectations and options. Now, though, the agreement must be closed. It is obvious that the situation is different from that of a decade ago. First of all, because the message from experts is far blunter in the fourth report of 2007: climate change is unequivocal, human-induced and its causes must be reduced intensively. Secondly, because the causes are more clear and the effects are already being felt. And, thirdly, and this is fundamental to our understanding the difficulty of the agreement, we are before a possible agreement that is not only environmental but also has important repercussions in world governance and in a profound change of the economic model, with obvious effects on geopolitical and food issues and on the distribution of energy and material resources.

Frederic Ximeno
Director-General for Environmental Policy
Department of the Environment and Housing
Government of Catalonia