Delegates will meet in Poznan in Poland next month to continue negotiations on a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. An agreement from 2007 aimed to draft a successor agreement in Copenhagen late next year. Even if Poznan will produce no final treaty language, several provisions for an eventual treaty are on the agenda:
•'Common vision'. The disappointing performance of the Kyoto Protocol stems primarily from its failure to secure commitments from the most important emitters. While this might suggest a loosening of commitments, the scope of the climate problem calls for substantial action. This circle might be squared at Poznan by agreeing on goals but not mechanisms to reach them.
•Treaty provisions. Delegates will discuss a number of provisions for the treaty, and will return to the Kyoto Protocol to review its provisions in light of the best available scientific information.
•Timetable. Delegates are to agree on a plan of action for the coming year of talks. This may include an opportunity for the new US administration to articulate its position formally.
Continuing differences. Several countries and negotiating groups have submitted concrete proposals for consideration at Poznan. Some of these show continuing differences in approach among actors:
•The EU and others formally propose limiting global average temperature increases to 2 degrees centigrade. Bangladesh and other vulnerable countries argue for deep cuts in emissions.
•China and much of Latin America have reintroduced a long-standing provision of the UN climate agreements that developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change, a perspective that the EU echoes but the United States does not accept, citing a "changing social and economic situation in the world".
•The EU and New Zealand have proposed that global emissions should peak within the next 15 years, while the Maldives proposed a more aggressive freeze. Moreover, Brazil, New Zealand and the EU say binding emissions targets for rich countries need to be 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Russia, which stands to benefit financially under the Kyoto architecture, agrees with such targets but disagrees with penalties for non-compliance.
President-elect Barack Obama will not be in office for the conference, and will not attend. Nevertheless, he calls for meaningful climate change legislation in the United States, targeting a reduction in emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. He also recently promised to "engage vigorously" with the international community on this issue and help lead it towards a "new era of global cooperation" on climate change.
Instead of negotiating internationally first and then bringing a treaty to Congress, Obama will probably work to pass US domestic legislation initially before active international negotiation. If this is his strategy, meeting the Bali plan's target of an international treaty by December 2009 would be a challenge, but a new treaty could be enacted in 2010.