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UN Climate Talks Look to Copenhagen As Last Stand, EU Sets Climate Change Goals for 2020

by Jack Rosebro

Historical and projected energy-related CO2 emissions, by fuel, assuming no significant availability of renewable energies. Source: IEA World Energy Outlook 2008. Click to enlarge.

The 14th Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), which was attended by almost two hundred environmental ministers and secretaries, concluded last week in Poznań, Poland without significant action toward the establishment of concrete reductions in greenhouse gases, but with “a clear commitment from governments to shift into full negotiating mode next year, in order to shape an ambitious and effective international response to climate change[1] at COP-15, scheduled to be held in December 2009 in Copenhagen, according to the UNFCCC.

COP-15 is widely regarded as the last opportunity for world governments to agree on a common strategy to both reduce and adapt to climate change, and then ratify that strategy prior to the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

Such negotiations are likely to be complicated by increasing concerns expressed from within the scientific community that last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report[2], which provides an overview of current climate change science as well as potential mitigation and adaptation measures, does not reflect the full magnitude of change in key climate indicators, the rate of acceleration of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) production, or the mitigation and adaptation measures now required to counter climate change. The emissions scenarios used by the IPCC as baselines for calculating emissions reductions necessary to achieve a given target have also been criticized as inaccurate (earlier post).

While proposed GHG reductions have in the past reflected targets for 2050, much of the discussion had already shifted to interim 2020 or 2030 targets by the time the Poznań conference opened. However, significant gaps remain between the UNFCCC’s own assessment of necessary responses to climate change, as compared to the level of response agreed upon by the world’s governments to date:

Mitigation. Although the UNFCCC estimated in 2007 that it would take as much as US$210 billion to reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 25% below 2000 levels in 2030, and is of the opinion that as of 2008, requisite emissions reductions “are virtually the same as those presented in the 2007 report”, a 2008 UNFCCC review of capital costs, particularly in the energy sector, have increased that estimate by 70%.[3]

However, an analysis by Peter Sheehan of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University, Melbourne, published earlier this year in Climactic Change,[4] argues that no emissions scenario in use today accurately reflects the current and likely worldwide increase in coal use, particularly in developing countries, and that a realistic estimate of the costs of mitigation is therefore not yet available. The analysis, which was published prior to this year’s financial crisis and subsequent economic contraction, estimates that global coal use in 2010 may be as high as 60% higher than in 2000, and that greenhouse gas emissions from combustion of fossil fuels could as much as double from 2000 levels by 2020.

Although Sheehan’s analysis was published online in April, it was submitted for peer review in 2006.

By comparison, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2008 report[5] projects an almost 60% increase in worldwide coal production and consumption from 2006 to 2030, and estimates that China and India will respectively consume coal at more than seven and ten times their 1980 coal consumption rates by 2030.

Adaptation. One of the key goals achieved at COP-14 was the establishment of a climate adaptation fund for developing countries as well as countries hardest-hit by climate change, to be financed by industrialized countries. The UNFCCC Secretariat estimates that the amount of annual expenditures and investments required to implement adaptation to climate change is already “tens of billions, possibly hundreds of billions, of USD per year.”[6] Approximately US$80 million was committed to the fund at COP-14, an amount immediately criticized as inadequate by representatives of developing countries and indigenous peoples affected by climate change. The government of Poland has estimated the cost of hosting the two-week COP-14 conference at US$35 million.[7]

Deforestation and Afforestation. Agreement was reached to count future afforestation of depleted lands in China and India as a clean development mechanism, and to recognize “the full and effective participation” of local communities, although a proposed reference to the rights of indigenous peoples in forests was deleted at the request of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Although the UNFCCC is trying to reach a deal on Reducing Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation (REDD), agreement has not been reached on the calculation or pricing of emissions arising from the clearing of indigenous forests for agricultural use.

A recent economic analysis of tropical deforestation by Christian Azar and Martin Persson of Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden[8] questions the effectiveness of carbon pricing in reducing deforestation, concluding that forest clearing for palm oil bioenergy plantations could absorb the direct financial costs of future carbon emission schemes, yet still expand beyond Southeast Asian hotspots to the Amazonian and Congo basins. “A carbon price will also increase the demand for bioenergy, and make forest clearance for agricultural land more profitable” in the future, Persson said.

European Union Goals for 2020

As COP-14 was adjourning in Poznań, European leaders capped off a contentious climate and energy summit with a “20-20-20” agreement[9] to cut EU energy consumption by 20%, increase its renewable energy consumption to 20% of total consumption, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, with the proviso that the GHG reduction increase to 30% if a similar reduction is agreed upon next year in Copenhagen.

The EU summit also produced an agreement to revise the European union’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) to include the “full auctioning of permits for energy generators and a progressive shift to full auctioning for all other industries” as soon as 2013. The new carbon trading scheme was met with skepticism from many NGOs and environmental groups, who argued that the revised ETS proposal will give away too many permits to pollute, allow too many exceptions for high-polluting industries that competed with unregulated industry in the developing world, and be too dependent on questionable offsets in developing countries, rather than real reductions at home.

The original scope of the 20-20-20 agreement was bitterly opposed by Poland well before the summit began. More than nine-tenths of Poland’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants that are often fed with emissions-intensive “brown coal”. In support of its position, the Polish government cited the Poland 2030 report[10], produced earlier this year in cooperation with the Polish Electricity Association, which concluded that the proposed emissions reductions constitute a “serious threat to the country”s energy security, its fast economic growth and improvement of living conditions for its citizens.

An analysis of that report by the Gdańsk Institute for Market Economics (V), however, found “substantive mistakes” in key assumptions that supported the Poland 2030 report, and argued that Poland would have ample time to develop strategies that could offset potential negative impacts of the proposed EU climate package. The Polish government has discounted the Gdańsk report, and has announced that it will release its own analysis of the previous two reports.

In the end, Poland won significant concessions: a two-tiered system will require it and other Eastern European member states to secure emissions permits covering just 30% of GHG emissions arising from its utilities in 2013, the earliest year in which Western European member states may be required to secure emission permits for 100% of their utility-related emissions. The so-called “final compromise” expresses “a view toward reaching 100%” auctioning of the EU’s industrial emissions in 2027.

Poland’s position was bolstered by Italy and Germany, both of which had voiced concern about “carbon leakage”: the relatively weakened competitiveness of their own emissions-intensive industries as compared to those countries such as China, India, and the United States, should those countries not require emissions permits for such industries in the future.

The EU climate and energy package must be approved by the European Parliament before it is signed into law. Although European Commission President José Manuel Barroso expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the summit, stating that “Europe has passed its credibility test”, Nicholas Sarkozy, who currently holds the rotating European Union presidency in addition to the presidency of France, has raised the possibility of holding a second summit on 27 December, should the European Parliament reject the package. Sarkozy has been credited with engineering many of the concessions necessary to bring Poland, Germany, and Italy to the summit table as signatories. The World Wildlife Fund termed the agreement a “weak and ambiguous commitment to the 30% reduction in EU emissions by 2020 they had trumpeted just last year.

The University of Copenhagen will host a special conference[12] in March to address scientific knowledge about climate change subsequent to the publication of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Although the event is being organized by research universities in Europe, Asia, and the United States, and is not a UNFCCC or IPCC event, it will be attended by IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri as well as many IPCC authors.

The UNFCCC will convene COP-15 from 30 November to 11 December 2009, in Copenhagen.


[1] UNFCCC, United Nations Climate Change Conference Lays Foundation For Copenhagen Deal. (12 December 2008)
[2] International Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report (2007)
[3] UNFCCC, Investment and financial flows to address climate change: an update. (26 November 2008)
[4] Peter Sheehan, The new global growth path: implications for climate change analysis and policy.
[5] International Energy Agency, IEA World Energy Outlook 2008. (November 2008)
[6] UNFCCC, Fact sheet: Financing responses to climate change. (28 November 2008)
[7] UNFCCC, Fact sheet: Poznań-COP 14/CMP 4. (October 2008)
[8] U. Martin Persson and Christian Azar, Making trade-offs in the greenhouse; relative price changes, non-CO2 greenhouse gases and tropical deforestation in climate policy. Chalmers University of Technology (21 October 2008)
[9] Council of the European Union, Energy and climate change: elements of the final compromise. (12 December 2008)
[10] Report 2030 . EnergSys, Ltd., and the Polish Electricity Association
[11] Gdańsk Institute for Market Economics (GIME), Evaluation of the 2030 Report. (1 November 2008)
[12] International Alliance of Research Scientists: International Scientific Conference on Climate Change


Pawel Olejarnik

Dear Jack,

In the post you show an image of figure 5.3 from the IEA's WEO 2008 and as a title you say:

"Historical and projected fossil fuel demand, assuming no significant availability of renewable energies."

Please note that this figure as mentioned in the title of the WEO 2008 is not showing fossi fuel demand but rather energy related CO2 emissions from fossi fuels.

All the best,

Pawel Olejarnik

Alberto G


THIS IS AN EMERGENCY, PEOPLE!!!! Since Global Cooling is now taking center stage we MUST get our solutions to Global Warming implemented NOW. Otherwise rational people may start to realize that our Global Warming fear mongering is a farce, designed to bring in research dollars and increase the power and size of government. If we can get our plans in place within the next year we can claim that the Global Cooling that has been taking place for the past, roughly, eight years, is the result of our excellent research and solutions. LETS GO, PEOPLE!!! OUR RESEARCH LIVELIHOOD IS AT STAKE!!!



the world is not cooling.


I propose we call it the global dimwitting as I think everyone can agree on that.


A better chart than the GISS linked one above would be Hadley one, preferred by the IPCC:

Which agrees far better with the satellite plots in not having the el niño peak of 1998 sneakily chopped off and the el niño peak of 2005 sneakily enhanced. So the world is cooling from 2003, has roughly plateaued from 1998 but is still warming from 1975. Take your ideological pick. Those earlier temperatures in the 30's were officially depressed by TOBS adjustments but you can ignore that anyway because the IPCC says only that the last 50 years indicate man-made warming. The current cool period is from another la niña depression just like 2000, 2001, exacerbated by the pdo shift. It'll rebound.


Unfortunately, though perhaps well intended, the decade's climate campaign chose to focus on a difficult to substantiate premise. It is being put to rest. But all is not lost. For reasons far more dangerous than CO2 we know we must end petroleum addiction worldwide. And we need to pursue the path to fully renewable energy. The watchword now is global energy independence. It can be accomplished by following the immediate plan to electrify transportation. By cleaning up our grid(s), diversifying the sources of energy production and increasing the renewable mix.

All of this is in the works. It would most likely not be so far along had not the alarmists raised the alarms. Unhappily at some point legitimate alarm gave way to political manipulation and "climate" became a religious-type crusade. That hurt many good, honest people - which properly cast the alarmists as fanatics willing to sacrifice the little guy for its "cause."

With electrification under way and the issue of sustainability a global premium - we have begun the most significant transition in human history. Global energy independence. We have the where-with-all, we have the tools, and dare we say the political will. By utilizing every technology at hand to convert/build power plants with clean, renewable resources we can, over the next half century, bring about the energy revolution.

Most importantly, all is not lost. The seas will not rise (catastrophically)and life will not end. It can and will continue with greater equanimity, technical caution, and concern for human rights. Altogether, not a bad decade's work.


"Most importantly, all is not lost. The seas will not rise (catastrophically)and life will not end."

Oh really? I was following your post with interest until that point. How do you know seas will not rise? If Florida drowned would that not be "catastrophic"? Or how about the economic implications of building a levee around all valuable land, like Florida?

It turns out that Greenland is actually 3 smaller islands with a big area of "sea" in the middle. This implies that it won't have altitude the keep the ice from melting. And the Canadian Arctic right next door is melting fast.

Greenland is undergoing significant changes, melting more at the edges and gaining more in the center, just as was expected, but at faster rates than was predicted.

Just recently a huge shelf broke off Antarctica (it's summer there), decades before scientists predicted it would.

Rob Weir


OK so we're agreed - we're either cooling or warming...

Either way - we need the climate science so we can turn the AGW thermostat up/down as required.

I don't know how much we're spending on it - do you have any links/data?




I think projected increase in coal use won't happen and I suspect updated statistics may show a levelling off in 2008. China until a few months ago was importing more coal having been an exporter. Countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa may soon lack any coal surplus to export. I don't see the US under Obama exporting coal to the Third World. Coal-to-liquids simply can't scale up quickly to the needed millions of barrels per day. Lack of liquid fuel will slow down the rest of the economy. Underground coal gasification experiments aren't that encouraging. Therefore I think the world could be running short on easily mined coal within 20 years, a view supported by the Energy Watch Group. Perhaps the Australian academic researcher should have analysed that report first.



Thanks for your comment. Having read your past posts I am not sure how serious you are about Florida "drowning." But while looking at a study of the world's longest observational sea level record I found this:

"Sea level changes due to northern hemisphere climate variations since 800 A.D. have probably always kept within -l.5 and +1.5 mm/yr, with an average fairly close to zero." Over the past century, however, the sea-level rate-of-rise as measured at Stockholm has been approximately 1.0 mm/yr."

This study uses the Baltic Sea data set going back to 1774 AD. The author states: "there is an understandable wish to identify a possible accelerated sea level rise due to the greenhouse effect." However, "We should point out here that this is very difficult," because "...during a shorter time interval, say one or a few decades, an apparent acceleration (or retardation) might very well be caused by anomalous winter wind conditions."

Clearly a 1.0 mm rise annually would give the Floridians a healthy millennium to build their ark.

ref. Ekman, M. 1999. "Climate changes detected through the world's longest sea level series." Global and Planetary Change 21: 215-224.


"Sea level changes due to northern hemisphere climate variations since 800 A.D. have probably always kept within -l.5 and +1.5 mm/yr, with an average fairly close to zero."

True, but at no time during the last 1200yrs has there been any great melting of land based ice. And it does refer to "northern hemisphere climate variations" which could have been countered by any opposing southern hemisphere climate variations. Now we are dealing with GLOBAL climate variations. We can't depend on the future being the same as the past.

Henry Gibson

France is foremost in reducing CO2 releases because of its nuclear electricity generation. This nuclear power is relatively immune from world wide illegal oil speculation pricing. It is also the fastest way to and cheapest way to reduce CO2 release for any country. The hidden costs of wind turbines make them more expensive and environmentally more intrusive. The Hyperion is a factory produced reactor that can be deployed rapidly. With nuclear energy, lower efficiency is not a big expense as it would be for natural gas. The administrative and operating costs for central generation is the biggest part of any electric bill. Free fuel would only reduce the bill by 20 percent for most utilities. Half efficiency would only increase the cost by about 20 percent.

The European government must be considered uneducated and irrevalent until all member states are required to use nuclear power plants instead of coal, gas or oil burning ones. All of their CO2 initiatives must be ignored by the rest of the world until then, because their CO2 actions are governed by personal opinions rather than facts.

The statistical dangers of automobile operation far outweigh any nuclear power plant danger including Chernobyl which proved that relatively few people were physically damaged by the nearly worst possible explosion and fire. Far more people have been allowed to meet their demise by the failure to built more reactors. The price speculation in energy markets was far more anti-biotic than a few thousand Chernobyls would be.

There is a lot of oil and a great deal more coal left to be burned. Considering the flared gas over the decades and the 23 gallons extra of fuel required to refine crude oil to yield 100 gallons of fuel and the pumping and transport costs et cetera it is likely that the use of crude oil for automobiles produces more CO2 than Coal to liquids facilities built right at the mine would. It is certain that electric cars run with coal fired power produces less CO2 than the gasoline cars do. The Coal fired power plants can generate heat for heating towns and cities for a further reduction of CO2. Glass foam insulation is very good for such hot water pipes.



Even the IPCC admits that as of the time of the last big report, they did not understand the dynamics of the ice sheet to predict how quickly it would respond to increasing temperatures. The linear mm / decade numbers don't have much meaning, because they are based on past CO2 concs which were well below what they are now. We are moving into uncharted territory, well actually not totally uncharted because Greenland ice isn't very old, a couple million years, and started at about the same time that CO2 concs were dropping down to about current levels. Now we're bringing them back up.


I hear a federal Govt "stimulus" announcement yesterday AUD$1billion to expand NSW Hunter Valley coal export rail and port infrastructure from 90million tons to 200MT.
Queensland, is the worlds largest coal exporter 77MT in 1994-5 to 154 in 2005-6 expected to reach 210 million tons by 2010.

A doubling there, Thats 100% I wouldn't be so hasty to dismiss the 60% forecasts.
Unless there was something inconvenient about the facts that we don't want to discuss.


"We can't depend on the future being the same as the past. "

In which case all models extrapolating past data sets would prove to be invalid.

At some point folks, we need to accept the preponderance of science and admit that climate complexity is far bigger than man-made carbon dioxide emissions. It does not make winners or losers - rather it means that there are natural systems that we do not understand, even marginally. Which means that we should respond cautiously, with humility - accepting that even bad anthropogenic behavior will not eliminate the geologic power of Earth's natural systems.

There are far more convincing reasons to mitigate anthropogenic atmospheric pollution - but a warming effect of "greenhouse" gasses is not one of them.

Thomas Lankester


"Clearly a 1.0 mm rise annually would give the Floridians a healthy millennium to build their ark."

Sweet line and you provided a link. You did not, however, provide the context and the link was selective. Measuring sea-level rise from tide gauges is notoriously fickle due to local marine currents and land movements. So extrapolating the legitimate findings from one set of tidal readings (however venerable) to a global rate is plainly, and disingenuously, invalid. This is particularly true for northern Europe where we have isostatic rebound (see This rebound was first measured by Celsius (of temperature scale fame) along the Swedish coast.

For a true global view you have to step back to low earth orbit and the use of satellite altimetry. From this perspective, the rate is currently over 3mm a year as reported at the ENVISAT Symposium last year (see I was there and listening to Dr Johannessen's keynote presentation was quite chilling (no pun intended). The rate already exceeds the IPCC low bounds and has shown an acceleration in the last 10 years as a glacial melting component has been added to the basic sea surface expansion component (that the ICCP accounts for).

So repeat after me Sulleny 'Context, context, context'. Out of context quotes and cherry picking results are very familiar, classic denialist, tactics that should have no place on this site


Andrey Levin

Silly. We all will be humped by our political elites to reduce GHG emissions even if the world will spiral into next ice age.


Have you seen this from Daily Tech?
"Satellite altimetry data indicates that the rate at which the world's oceans are rising has slowed significantly since 2005. Before the decrease, sea level had been rising by more than 3mm/year, which corresponds to an increase of about one foot per century. Since 2005, however, the rate has been closer to 2mm/year."

John Taylor

Is the first comment from Pawel Olejarnik .. from THE Pawel Olejarnik?

Pawel Olejarnik, Research Analyst for the International Energy Agency. IEA Economic Analysis Division, Office of the Chief Economist.




Thank you for your comment re: Dr. Johanssen's ENVISAT altimeter data. What we are seeing in the satellite data does not conform to sea level measurements in situ. Just recently the sea level data from the TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 satellite missions, published by the University of Colorado, Boulder was found to be slowing.

Dr. Vincent Gray, a New Zealand based climatologist and *expert reviewer for the IPCC,* believes that the accelerated trends seen earlier were simply an artifact of poor measurements. "The satellite system has undoubtedly shown a rise since 1992, but it has leveled off..., They had some bad calibration errors at the beginning."

The NOAA/NESDIS Lab for Satellite Altimetry published a (ENVISAT) review detailing the calibration problems and erroneous sea rise data published in Journal Science(2006.)

In an attempt to validate the 2.8 ± 0.4 mm/year rise indicated by altimetry, C. Wunsch et al, used a "2.1 x 109 observations of many different types, all individually weighted, during the period 1992-2004 and a 1° horizontal resolution, 23-layer general circulation model."

Their report found "a global mean of about 1.6 mm/year, or about 60% of the pure altimetric estimate..."

And they went on to say: "At best, the determination and attribution of global-mean sea level change lies at the very edge of knowledge and technology," and that "it remains possible that the database is insufficient to compute mean sea level trends with the accuracy necessary to discuss the impact of global warming -- as disappointing as this conclusion may be."

Wunsch et al, concluded: The altimetry result is "currently untestable against in situ datasets."

Wunsch, C., Ponte, R.M. and Heimbach, P. 2007. Decadal trends in sea level patterns: 1993-2004. Journal of Climate 20: 5889-5911.

FYI: Using the phrase "Say it with me..." indicates an elitist condescension that has damaged AGW claims from the outset.


It seems all this talk about how much the oceans are currently rising is pretty trivial since it is a simple cause and effect relationship - if ice melts, sea levels rise. The big ice sheets haven't started significantly melting yet, only the little glaciers all over the world. This is a fairly insignificant contribution to sea level change. So what's all the fuss about? Efforts would be better spent on studying how the polar ice caps respond to warm temperatures.

The silence is deafening.

Reduce Global Whining 80% by 2050!!!

Resume silence...


Great blog, good information, ensuring our habitat aligns with our ecology seems to be the key in preventing global warming and other issues

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