SENSibility12: The Copenhagen Top Ten

The fifteenth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Copenhagen on 6-18 December 2009. Here are my top ten questions in the lead up to the Summit:

1. Will there be an agreement? It is no secret that much of the content of any new treaty on global warming will have to be negotiated in advance of the Copenhagen conference. To this point, progress has been painfully slow, raising concerns that there will be too many obstacles to overcome for a final agreement in December.

2. What will the U.S. position be? President Obama has been making encouraging noises, but can he deliver with a strongly supportive and difference-making approach to put America in the position of being an engine, rather than a brake, on progress toward a treaty?

3. Will “developing” countries (especially China and India) agree to emissions reductions targets at Copenhagen, and will they be offered enough in terms of technology transfers or other incentives to do so?

4. What impact will the global recession have on the Copenhagen Summit? Will countries be reluctant to agree to deep emissions reductions targets because of shorter term economic growth priorities at home?

5. What will the emissions reductions formula look like? How deep will reductions targets go, and what will be the target time line for achieving these targets? Rio reductions were supposed to have been met by 2000. Kyoto targets were supposed to have been met by 2008-2012. The science is telling us we have less and less time to act, so how long will the time line be in any Copenhagen agreement?

6. How will the most recent science be incorporated into Copenhagen? Recent reports suggest that climate change models have been too conservative: climate change is happening at a pace faster than predicted. Will any Copenhagen agreement be obsolete by the time it is negotiated?

7. Will governments actually implement policies to fulfill their Copenhagen reductions targets? Almost without exception, states failed to meet their obligations under Rio and Kyoto: will Copenhagen be any different?

8. Will there be public resistance to government policies on emissions reductions? Public pressure to avoid certain policies will undercut the ability of governments (even the willing ones) to meet their reduction targets.

9. Will more financial support for the Adaptation Fund be forthcoming? The Fund is already falling short of donation targets.

10. Will political apathy set in after Copenhagen? If an agreement is finalized and signed and comes into force, there will be the need for further agreements and progress on emissions reductions and adaptation measures. Will Copenhagen lead to a new momentum or to complacency?

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