Hotel Jalta, Prague, 23 September 2009
The conference organised by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Ministry of Environment provided good opportunity for exchange and debate among the climate diplomats, government officials, experts, business and NGOs representatives and interested public (over 160 participants). The main aim of the conference, the biggest of its kind in the new EU member states this year, was to assess where the EU, USA and other key players stay shortly before the Copenhagen Climate Conference (COP 15) this December. Far beyond that, three thematic workshops in the afternoon provided for an intensive expert discussions on the issues of the cost of the unabated Climate change, ways how to finance the measures against it and last but not least the economic opportunities stemming from the „green investments“ and mitigation measures.
The vote of the audience, initiated by one of the speaker, on whether the EU and USA represent a „driving forces“ for the Copenhagen conference, ruled „No“. As one of the speakers put it „the mid-term targets of the EU (until 2020) simply do not fit with science, as the IPCC findings assess the CO2 reductions needed for attaining „two degree“ target between 25-40%. The North – South equation is further still complicated by the Senate’s approval on the draft „American clean energy and security act“ on which the official US position in Copenhagen will or will not be conditioned on. The overall, rather sceptic, assesment of the conference expects from the COP 15 anything other than comprehensive deal, present climate negotiator expressing his hope for the Copenhagen conference to set the „right framework“ which will work not only on the paper.
In spite of this new US positron, though still not fully defined, constitutes a „major shift“ in comparison with the policy up until the end of the last year. Besides this the presentation of the US participant at the conference showed that beyond the federal legislation and large „green investments“ in the framework of the US government financial package some of the states (esp. in the Northeast) went a long way to cap the emisions and build the carbon market. There is also pending states` legislation on „feed in tarifs“ for the renewables, Vermont being the first one to already introducing it. Speaking about the EU and US one of the participants underlined that what really matters in the eyes of China and others is the US position and financial clout without which the EU carbon market and governmental contributions will amount to far too little to finance meaningfull adaptation measures.
From the audience the intriguing question of „what actually constitutes the minimum „acceptable deal“ from Kopenhagen“ was raised. Most of the speakers suggested that it has to stick to the limit of „2 degree“. None of the speakers left doubt on the importance of what is on stake. One participant even dubbed the Climate change to be „the biggest economic and development issue“ in view of the EU’s estimates that in 2020 about 100 bn USD yearly are needed only in developed countries for the mitigation measures. The cost of adaptation measures in the developing countries may well raise above the level of the official development assistance (ODA). The key principle for the succesfull adaptation on the Climate change should be that the available financing has to adapt to the national adaptation plans (NAP) and not vice versa. In the eyes of the present experts, the crucial for ensuring this astronomic volumes is to change the existing spending patterns of the governments and even more to set the right framework for private investments in the green economy. Additional government financing on actions against Climate change is far less important than that. Potential benefits in terms of lower energy costs, new „green collar“ jobs and lesser energy dependency should then far outweight the incurred costs.
A good Copenhagen deal and long-term reduction targets are therefore indispensable for ensuring not only the proper functioning of the carbon market but also for long-term public and private green investments and innovations. Unless Copenhagen deal shows the right path to stimulate this more public funds will be needed in the end to finance action to counter climate change, not speaking about the far higher cost of inaction.
All in all, due to the balanced mix of prominent speakers the Prague conference brought many interesting insights, debates, as well as the opportunity to reflect upon the long term perspectives of the Climate action far beyond Copenhagen.