COP19 Warsaw: ‘Means of implementation’ is a critical issue for China

6 November 2013

Next week, COP19 in Warsaw begins. Changhua Wu, our Greater China Director, suggests this is the key moment for China and other leading countries to take urgent action towards tacking climate change - and begin the means of implementation.

Changhua writes:

Speaking to NGO groups in Beijing yesterday, Sui Wei, China’s lead climate negotiator and Director General of the Department of Climate Change of the National Development and Reform Commission (pictured with me here), stated that COP19 in Warsaw needs to be regarded as an ‘implementation’ COP - when the international community comes up with the means to implement the various commitments that have been made over the years.

"You can’t behave like a black bear picking kernels of corn," said Su Wei, “You can’t just keep walking, picking, and dropping the kernels. And in the end, you forgot about all the rest of the kernels you had picked and dropped." 

This is Su Wei’s vivid description of how the international climate negotiations have functioned. He added: “COP after COP, commitment after commitment, we seem to be used to making more commitments on paper, but not really implementing them”.

For China, Warsaw must be when countries come together to put on the table the means of implementation.

According to Su Wei, Warsaw is also a transition COP that should bridge the previous commitments with the 2015 agreement. Two things will be key:

  • First is to decide on a means of implementation of mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, financing and capacity building before 2020.
  • Second is to focus on the workplan of 2015 in order to reach agreement on commitments after 2020.

The past 12 months have proven to be very difficult - a slow year for climate negotiations, according to Su Wei. Only two sessions were convened and as a result there is much left to do in the two weeks in Warsaw.

For practical reasons, Su Wei said Warsaw should focus on fewer items or on such issues as revised mitigation targets between now and 2020 from both developed and developing countries as well as funding from industrialized countries to developing countries. On the issue of so-called new market mechanisms, Su Wei stated that without revised mitigation targets, there exists no ground for these because there was no demand for carbon credits.

Su Wei also noted that no climate funding has been provided by developed countries to developing countries in 2013, and new funding commitments need to be clarified in Warsaw. He said that extra funding was required between now and 2020 when the commitment by developed countries to mobilize US$100 billion a year is supposed to be met. Although some governments made commitments in Doha last year to provide more funding for developing countries to respond to climate change, so far little has been seen on the table.

Another financing issue requiring agreement in Warsaw is the budget for running the UNFCCC Secretariat. This needs to be decided at COP in order to keep the international process moving.

Su Wei explained that China is on track towards achieving the 40-45% carbon intensity target it set itself between 2005 and 2020. The country also achieved a 21% reduction in 2010 compared to the 2005 level, and is now on its way to achieving the 17% carbon intensity target by 2015 compared to 2010. If China could set an 18% reduction target by 2020 over that in 2015, then China should be able to achieve the upper end of the 2020 target, which is 45% by 2020 over 2005 level.

Besides the carbon intensity target, there are proposals on the table now to add an emission cap target as a reference on the side for further enhanced actions.

With the new leadership in office, and driven by the society's demand for better air quality, it is expected that China will make more aggressive efforts to address the fossil fuel issues. The latest Ten Actions issued by the State Council to tackle the pollution challenge in many of its cities would definitely speed up the efforts in emission reductions.

For an effective international process, Su Wei stressed that the commonly shared or agreed principles must be the foundation. Fairness, common but differentiated responsibility, transparency and equity must not be abandoned. Without these there is no foundation for negotiation. 

Read more from Changhua's blog

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