Climate conference achieves goals

Montreal, Canada (GLOBE-Net) - The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal ended last Friday on a positive note as nations agreed to enter a dialogue on how to respond to climate change in the future. Over 150 nations signed a pact, The Montreal Action Plan (MAP), to open talks on mandatory emissions caps after 2012.

Another, weaker resolution was also passed, as the United States refused to enter any talks that may lead to caps. The watered down language they finally accepted includes a provision against negotiating on specific emissions caps. The non-binding talks will focus on any possible measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Given the challenge faced at the outset by Environment Minister and conference chair Stéphane Dion, any consensus is enough to declare the conference a victory. Opposition to hard emissions caps is strong, and Kyoto supporters are reluctant to accept other ways of tackling climate change.

Both agreements pave the way for the real challenge, which is reconciling opposing views on how to best follow Kyoto. The technology-based approach favored by the United States and Australia and supported by China contrasts against the hard-cap strategy of the European Union and Kyoto supporters.

Negotiations will begin with the aim of establishing a post-Kyoto climate change regime as soon as possible, although it will take at least several years to come close to a resolution. It appears that a combination of solutions will be the best option, as technology can deliver huge emissions cuts when deployed properly, and market forces can also be effective when harnessed for maximum economic and environmental benefit.

One noteworthy point came when former President Bill Clinton characterized the Bush administration’s view that emissions caps would hurt economic growth as “just plain wrong”.

Other significant developments at the conference included the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol rules, and clarification of the rules for earning and trading emissions credits.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which provides for companies or developed countries to invest in emissions-reducing projects in developing nations and earn the corresponding credits, was streamlined, and efforts began to make the process more accessible. Canadian companies that will have to meet emissions targets will be able to make use of the CDM in order to do so. The Canadian government is also expected to spend billions on projects of its own to earn credits.

International standards for the quantification and reporting of carbon emissions were also introduced, with the support of the Canadian Standards Association.

As the conference closed with a feeling of satisfaction, Dion also recognized that Canada has a challenge ahead to meet its Kyoto target by 2012. Pointing to a healthy and booming oil industry, Dion acknowledged that Canada’s emissions have actually risen, and that much work will be required to make the needed reductions.

He looked to market forces as the answer, and the domestic carbon trading scheme which will come online in or before 2008. The conference also marked the launch of the Montreal Climate Exchange, which will provide a platform for Canadian carbon trading.

So while an actual post-Kyoto agreement may seem far off, the current one is in full swing, and Canadians will soon start to see signs of government and corporate action. Clean technology may emerge as the winner of the day, as investment in that sector is expected to increase no matter what the future agreement is.

All told, the Montreal conference was as successful as it possibly could have been, and Canada now needs to implement its domestic plan to follow up on a landmark event.

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