September will likely bring cool weather to many countries, but for climate negotiators, the heat of August has hardly abated.
The 3rd intersessional UNFCCC meetings concluded in Bonn on August 3 with a negotiating text that was disappointingly unchanged from the last meeting. But prominent political voices from around the world weighed in on climate issues throughout the month, most calling on developed countries, especially the U.S., to show stronger leadership in setting emissions reduction goals. India’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, refused to commit to binding emissions targets until such leadership materializes, but did call for his country to pursue a low-carbon development path—out of its own self interest.
As the month drew to a close, the Swedish Prime Minister and current EU President Fredrik Reinfeldt concluded that “a lot of momentum has been lost” and expressed doubt at Copenhagen’s prospects of securing a strong international agreement. Reflecting the concerns of many people around the world, a group of over 800 youth delegates to the TUNZA International Youth Conference recently issued a statement that “We, young people–3 billion of the world population — are concerned and frustrated that our governments are not doing enough to combat climate change.”
Despite the dispiriting words from the man who will be President of the EU in Copenhagen, September’s Pre-Copenhagen Calendar indicates lots of activity if not clear momentum. The U.S. Senate has continued work on a climate bill, and Senators Boxer and Kerry plan to introduce a draft bill later this month. In the lead-up to the final round of UNFCCC meetings in Bangkok, a variety of international conferences will be held for business and political groups touting climate change as a major concern (the 3rd World Climate Conference just opened with strong calls for a climate agreement from both former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development Gro Harlem Brundtland). These events should bring out a much louder voice in favor of international climate action.
Expect the volume to be especially high on the week of September 20-26, when heads of state gather for the annual opening of the UN General Assembly. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has declared this to be UN Climate Week, to encourage world leaders to focus on achieving a strong agreement in Copenhagen. Also that week, G20 finance ministers are to present and discuss climate finance proposals at a summit hosted by President Obama in Pittsburgh. Climate activists are planning to seize these moments to demonstrate in support of success in Copenhagen.
September will clearly be a busy month for climate decision makers. Whether it will also be a productive one remains to be seen.