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Africa: Nearly 100 Nations to Reduce Emissions Under Copenhagen Accord

Nearly 100 countries have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, a nonbinding agreement crafted in the final hours of the U.N. climate change conference in December 2009, meeting the first official deadline of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat.

The UNFCCC is the international agreement ratified by 193 countries to control emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) that drive climate change.

The Copenhagen Accord is a 12-paragraph document (PDF, 182 KB) developed by leaders of 25 major greenhouse-gas-emitting nations, including the United States, covering the actions needed by industrialized and developing countries to avoid the worst effects of global climate change.

The accord seeks to limit global temperature rise by pushing developed countries to make deep but unspecified cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and by setting global and national emissions peaks "as soon as possible," with a longer deadline for developing countries.

By January 31, countries that wish to be associated with the accord were to notify the UNFCCC secretariat of their support. To date, Todd Stern, the State Department's special envoy for climate change, said at a February 16 briefing in Washington, "slightly less than 100 countries have indicated they want to be part of the accord" but others may still sign on.

Many of the major developed and developing countries have associated themselves with the accord, including the United States, Australia, Canada, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and the European Union and its member states. The nations submitted proposed actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their countries.

The submissions were made in response to Paragraph 4 of the accord, which called on industrialized nations (referred to as Annex I parties) to submit a list of economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 and beyond. Paragraph 5 called on non-Annex I parties to submit proposed actions for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions for the same time period.

THE WORK AHEAD

In other progress on the accord, a new high-level advisory panel on climate change financing has been created. It will be co-chaired by U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

"The advisory group will develop practical proposals to significantly scale up both short-term and long-term financing for mitigation and adaptation strategies in developing countries," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki moon said in a February 12 press conference with Brown and Meles. "In particular, it will look at how to jump-start the mobilization of new and innovative resources to reach $100 billion annually by 2020. Funding would include both public and private sources."

Funds will support adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building in developing countries, with priority for the most vulnerable. Panel members will include a balance of representatives from developed and developing countries.

Ban expects the group to present initial findings during the UNFCCC parties' May 31-June 11 negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, and final recommendations before the 16th conference of the UNFCCC parties (COP-16), to be held November 29-December 10 in Mexico City.

"There are probably four or five elements of the accord that need further work," Stern said, "and those things need to be carried forward." These include:

• Climate fund: A Copenhagen Green Climate Fund will be established to support activities in developing countries related to climate change mitigation. The new advisory panel will study potential sources of revenue for the fund.

• Technology mechanism: A mechanism will be established to enhance ways to develop and transfer technology to support country-specific adaptation and mitigation efforts.

• Transparency: The actions of developed and developing countries will be subject to international measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines adopted by the conference of the parties. The guidelines have yet to be established.

"Whatever the ups and downs of this process at any particular moment, there is only one direction that this process can go, which is in the direction of action to reduce emissions," Stern said. "I very much hope we get there sooner rather than later, and we will be doing everything we possibly can to advance that goal."

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