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BCSE In The News

The challenge for COP-16--show us your commitment

By Lisa Jacobson,BCSE President

Carbon Market North America

December 10, 2010

As the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) moves towards its conclusion, it is important to take a step back from the marathon of final negotiations and identify what really matters as outcomes from this process.

The aftermath of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations last year left many governments and observers questioning the path forward, despite the significant and historic commitments that many governments made under the Copenhagen Accord.  In 2010, we still faced a year of slow-moving negotiations, creating legitmate room to question the depth of the political will to tackle climate change and make the UNFCCC process work.

What we need to look for this year from Cancun are the signals that this time governments will follow through on their commitments. Clean energy industries want to see practical and actionable decisions from this process, which can be measured by three basic outcomes in Cancun.

First, governments need to adopt an overall agreement that expresses their collective commitment to the UNFCCC process and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement needs to be clear and easily understandable. Governments must affirm the pledges they made in Copenhagen on mitigation, finance, and transparency and adopt a process going forward to make these commitments operational.

Second, governments must show investors and the business community that they will support efforts to deploy commercially available technology to reduce emissions through transparent, stable, and predictable policies and market structures.

We need a decision in Cancún that puts questions about the future of existing market-based mechanisms to rest. Over the past week, the fate of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has been used as a negotiation tool and has created greater uncertainty on its role going forward. This is unhelpful for the multilateral process and sets a damaging precedent for market-based approaches in a post-2012 agreement. While imperfect, the CDM has resulted in new investment in clean energy technologies, with economic and environmental benefit on the ground in developing countries.

Third, the Parties must advance areas of practical significance to the private sector and governments alike, such as in the areas of technology and finance.

On technology, a decision should be adopted that advances the Climate Change Technology Center and Network, a collection of focal points for transmission of best practices, technology expertise, and resources on finance. That move would provide a near-term benefit to developing and emerging economies and turn decades-long political debates on technology transfer into action.

On finance, the advancement of a multilateral climate change fund would show the global community that nations are serious about meeting their long-term climate finance goals. It would also spur private sector investment. The long-term capital needed to address climate change is in the trillions of dollars and greatly exceeds the $100 billion dollar commitment made in Copenhagen. We need to move finance ahead now and leverage the private sector as much as possible if we hope to scale up climate mitigation.

If governments are serious about addressing climate change and if they wish to retain the UNFCCC as the primary tool in addressing this global challenge, they must take action in these areas. Progress in the past has been fueled by political will, and we need to once again see that political will in Cancun.
Lisa Jacobson serves as the President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), a coalition of clean energy businesses form the energy efficiency, natural gas, and renewable energy industries. The BCSE has been active in the UN climate change negotiations since 1992 and is leading a delegation of over 50 clean energy executives in Cancún.

This commentary, along with the full PointCarbon publication, is available online here.