I've just landed in Copenhagen, where I'll join other EDF staffers and thousands of people from around the globe who are working for an international solution to climate change. It's a very exciting moment, and hopes are high for a successful summit.
But what, exactly, would a "successful summit" be? I can tell you how we at Environmental Defense Fund would define it. Here's what we'd like to see:
We want a final treaty — in 2010 — that is effective, measurable, inclusive, and adequately financed.
We know two weeks in Copenhagen won't be enough to achieve all this, but that doesn't mean Copenhagen won't be a success — it can still move us closer to a successful treaty next year. One that will reduce global carbon pollution in time to avoid the worst effects of climate change and drive investment in clean energy and jobs around the world.
The real test for Copenhagen is whether we can move forward toward these objectives, setting the stage for a final, legally binding agreement in 2010, after the U.S. enacts domestic climate legislation.
So what are the building blocks we need in Copenhagen to move toward a treaty that is effective, measurable, inclusive and adequately financed?
First we need to reduce emissions far enough and fast enough to keep warming below 2°C. An effective treaty must ensure carbon emissions decline across the globe, and that means we need a plan for all major emitters to implement pollution caps so global carbon emissions start declining during the next decade. Developed countries need to impose caps as soon as possible and major developing countries need to phase in caps in the near future, the sooner the better.
Second we need to know whether we're winning or losing the fight against climate change. That means we need a verification system everyone can believe in — a standardized and credible system for measuring, reporting, and verifying national emissions using a common and meaningful yardstick. All countries must measure their pollution reductions, report them in a way that allows "apples to apples" comparisons, and submit them for independent substantiation. Countries need to be held accountable for compliance.
Third, we need to establish paths for emerging economies to join the effort. Any climate change treaty must provide ways for emerging economies to enter carbon markets to speed their transition to low-carbon economic growth. Different nations will require different timelines for reducing their emissions under a new treaty. And one of these paths must be the creation of incentives to reduce tropical deforestation and forest degradation.
And fourth, we need significant and sustainable financing and, since the bulk of international climate finance will flow through the private sector, it's crucial that carbon markets work. If no one knows what they're buying or selling, markets for emissions reduction credits won't work, and funding for developing countries will suffer.
That sums up what we're working for in Copenhagen; now we'll have to see how we do. Stay tuned. We'll be updating this blog throughout the talks.