Today Dr Sergio Casterllari came in to see us. He was heavily involved in writing the IPCC reports. He also talked about his experience and the difficulties of negotiating international agreements regarding climate change.

When trying to reduce the impacts of climate change, international agreements are very important because they can set binding limits for CO2 emissions. However, countries must come together to have a shared vision and targets about how to do this. This is of course very difficult – you’re dealing with countries who have different needs, wants, ambitions and a whole lots of messy politics.

The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) (an international treated negotiated by the UN with the aim of stabilizing climate change to prevent anthropogenic climate change) stated that countries would have “common but differentiated responsibility” for climate change. The treaty is non-binding, instead it provides a framework for negotiation that could set limits on greenhouse gases. In translating “differentiated” responsibility they separated ‘industralised’ (Annex A) from ‘developing’ (Non Annex A) countries. The classification is slightly more complicated than that but this is the essence of it. The Annex 1 countries, like UK, Australia, Belgium, Finland USA, France, Germany etc. have to provide financial resources to enable non Annex 1 countries to undertake emission reduction activities to help them adapt to the adverse consequences of climate change, they also have to take “all practical steps” to promote development and transfer all friendly technologies to non-Annex 1 countries. Non-Annex 1 countries don’t have to do so much because they are considered to have less resources and therefor it would be too difficult for them adapt.

The main problem in Dr Casterllari’s opinion was that the grouping of countries doesn’t make sense in todays world. China is the number one producer of green house gases in the world but it is classified as a non Annex 1 country meaning that under the convention it is non required to change its actions regarding climate change. Similarly India is in the same position. Now, there has been some proposals to change the grouping of the countries but because there needs to be consensus, that is, most countries would need to agree with the changing of the grouping and ultimately a change in how they manage climate change. Of course most countries don’t want a regrouping, and veto the proposition because if China was regrouped it would have to take more responsibility for its omissions. It seems that we’re in a really tricky situation…

Kirsty