The top climate lieutenant to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that a major — though perhaps preliminary — international agreement to curb global warming is still possible in Copenhagen. One leading option is to set low targets for emissions reductions initially and to boost them if global warming gets worse.

Janos Pasztor, director of the climate change support team under Ban, told reporters that the Copenhagen global warming conference could yield a breakthrough on greenhouse gas reduction targets and financial aid to poor countries. A binding agreement would be written in 2010, he said….

Ban visited Washington last week to meet with Obama officials and with senators, and said he was optimistic about the chances for a bill to pass the Senate sometime next year. Two of the three senators working to build a bipartisan coalition for the legislation — John Kerry, D-Mass. and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. — said after the meeting they would try to release an outline of their proposal before the Copenhagen conference.

That’s the news today from The Washington Times Washington Insight/Energy (sub. req’d).

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It is no surprise to CP readers that “administration officials have stressed that it will not agree to a global treaty that cannot win approval in the Senate.”  For a related story, see the WashPost’s “U.S. weighs backing interim international climate agreement.”  And this is similar to the “Statement by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen at the GLOBE Copenhagen Legislators Forum on 24 October 2009,” which I’ll excerpt below.

First, more from the Insight story:


A potential agreement could set modest requirements in the early years, he said, but mandate more aggressive actions if the planet gets warmer faster than expected. “It’s extremely important to get this system going, in all countries, even if the immediate numbers, the mitigation targets are not as high as you’d like them to be,” Pasztor said. “We just have to find a way to ratchet those numbers up later, to respond to what science tells us.”

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“The fact that we cannot come to a conclusion on the legally binding treaty at Copenhagen doesn’t mean we are lowering the bar, that we’re lowering our ambition. It’s actually the opposite,” he added. “It’s actually the time to increase the level of ambition as much as possible, to get the best deal we can possibly get.”

He said countries can still agree on emissions targets, mitigation aid to poor nations and reporting requirements, while leaving leaving the details for later. “It is possible and we expect that it will be done,” Pasztor said.

Pasztor’s comments were more optimistic than the consensus of many observers. Despite extensive negotiations over the last two years, disagreements have persisted among nations over the level and pace of greenhouse gas reductions needed to halt global warming at an additional 2 degrees Celsius, a level that environmental scientist say will head off massive climate changes.

Here are excerpts from the recent speech by the Danish Prime Minister:

I suggest that we lock in the determination to act already by Copenhagen and seek political commitments for immediate implementation.
I believe that all the key components of the deal can be achieved in Copenhagen.

In order to achieve this, the Copenhagen Agreement should be ambitious; it should binding and it should be concrete.

It should build on the principles established by the existing legal framework, most notably the principle of a common but differentiated responsibility.

It should capture and encourage the contributions individual countries are willing to undertake within all areas of the Bali Road Map, including specific and binding commitments on mitigation and finance. In the context of immediate action, significant up front finance for both early mitigation and adaptation efforts of the poorest and most vulnerable countries will be of particular importance.

In order to ensure transparency and that the individual countries are standing behind their commitments and deliver on their promises, we shall also need a system of measurement, reporting and verification.

This is the agreement we must reach. It will both provide guidance for our lawyers to finalize the details of the internationally legal binding agreement and for world leaders to commit to specific immediate action, starting January 2010.

In this way, Copenhagen could provide for immediate action based on a comprehensive set of binding, political commitments from world leaders.

The Copenhagen Agreement would thus serve two purposes:

  1. to direct further negotiations towards concluding outstanding details in a new legal climate regime;
  2. to capture and encourage political commitment in order to provide for immediate action to combat global warming.

Political commitment to immediate action will also serve to focus and strengthen the negotiations on the legal agreement. It is important that these two purposes will merge in one decision at COP15.

The devil, as always, will be in those “outstanding details.”  Stay tuned.

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