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Poznan Preview

Air Date: Week of

The historic city of Poznan, Poland will host talks on the future of climate change.

International leaders will meet in Poznan, Poland next week to lay the groundwork for a renewed commitment to cutting CO2 emissions, adapting to climate change and fostering renewable energy. Jennifer Morgan, director of the Global Climate Program for the think tank E3G, tells host Bruce Gellerman that she’s cautiously optimistic that the U.S., with Barack Obama at the helm, will play a strong role in the fight against climate change.


GELLERMAN: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, This is Living on Earth. I’m Bruce Gellerman, in for Steve Curwood.

Poznan, Poland is the place to be if you want to help save the planet from climate change. For 12 days in December, Poznan plays host to eight thousand delegates from 190 countries, there to discuss what should happen when the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end in 2012. Kyoto committed most industrial nations - except the US - to deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Progress has been a mixed bag, but now a global economic meltdown and a change of administration in Washington dramatically alter the climate for a new treaty.

Jennifer Morgan is director of global climate change for E3G. It’s a think tank that focuses on international sustainable development and she’s on the phone from Berlin. Thanks for joining us, Ms Morgan!

MORGAN: Thank you.

GELLERMAN: So what are your expectations of what’s going to happen at the twelve days of Poznan?

MORGAN: Well I think my expectations are that the negotiations will be moved forward hopefully with a new sense of hope and momentum. This meeting falls within a two year negotiating time frame from Bali when the new round was launched last year to Copenhagen when agreement is scheduled to be reached in December of 2009. So it’s a bit of a middle kinda of a stock taking meeting. But hopefully one which will provide some hope for us moving forward in the final year of negotiations.

GELLERMAN: But no concrete treaty or agreements?

Jennifer Morgan.

MORGAN: No. The way that the negotiations are scheduled is that this one is really about getting all of the ideas out on the table and understanding countries positions more, but no final outcome is expected here. It’s just a year too early. We need one more year to get everything done.

GELLERMAN: But you know it’s interesting because the world hasn’t even met the commitments to cut emissions under Kyoto.

MORGAN: I think in the end we’re now just in what’s called the commitment period when countries are implementing their plans, and it is true that countries are not doing enough to reduce emissions, but I am feeling pretty confident that the European Union will meet its commitments, that Japan will meet its commitments and that pretty much all of the industrialized countries, perhaps except for Canada, will in the end meet the targets that they agreed upon in Kyoto. We’re just in the middle or kind of getting started on that. We’ll know in 2012.

GELLERMAN: But Italy’s emissions are actually up 13 percent. The United States, which is not a signature to Kyoto, had and increase of 14 percent over 1990 levels.

MORGAN: Yes. I think Italy and part of the European Union they – the way that the Kyoto Protocol works, is that countries should reduce as much as possible or meet the substantial part of their reduction targets domestically, through domestic reductions, but they are also kind of a made in the USA proposal that was brought into Kyoto allowed to invest in projects in developing countries that reduce emissions and then use those credits that they generate from those projects towards meeting their own targets. So it’s a bit of investment in developing countries. And I believe that Italy has a pretty ambitious program on that in order to make up a gap of what it hasn’t done domestically, so. And as far as the United States goes, well, that is the big question is how the new Obama administration will hopefully come in and turn around the tide of rising emissions in the United States.

GELLERMAN: Of course, Mr. Obama is not going to Poznan, nor is he sending a delegation there.

The historic city of Poznan, Poland will host talks on the future of climate change.

MORGAN: That’s correct. I think he has stated quite clearly that we have one president at a time, and in his video message recently that he gave to Governor Schwarzenegger’s meeting, I think he made it clear that he knows that the Poznan meeting is taking place, he’s noted that the work of the negotiators there is important for the planet, but we can expect him to engage once he’s taken office, and I think that seems like the right thing to do to me.

GELLERMAN: You spoke of hope and momentum – how much is pie in the sky? Yvo de Boer who is the head of the climate change secretariat for the United Nations has said that lower oil prices will mean less of an incentive to invest in renewables. The economies of the world are tanking. Will companies and countries want to invest in costly emission cuts?

MORGAN: Well I think that’s - number one, I think when you look at the state of the economy today and the types of short term, initial actions that can be taken to curb the climate crisis, you actually see quite a lot of opportunity. Because the things that we need to do to slow down global warming are things that save energy. For example, if you’re looking at the government pumping billions of dollars into the economy, then it would make a lot of sense for that money to be going into new train systems in the United States to get cars off the road and reduce dependency on oil and curb emission. Energy efficiency programs for low income housing to save money, create new jobs. Leaders really have to have all of these goals in mind. They cannot operate in a business as usual world any more where we just continue to pump money into old technologies, whether they be cars or infrastructure or anything else.

GELLERMAN: Do you expect the United States will become a signature to a new climate treaty next year?

MORGAN: I do expect that. I certainly hope it. I think that the way these negotiations were launched last year, even with a Bush administration, they were done so in a way that there is a space for the United States to engage, both in looking at what it’s own emission reduction targets could be, but also how it could cooperate globally with other countries to move forward on tackling climate change and building the base for a low carbon economy.

GELLERMAN: Ms. Morgan, you’re an optimist.

MORGAN: Well, I’m a tremendously worried optimist. [LAUGHS] I think I am optimistic seeing what a new U.S. president could do to transform this debate internationally. But I think that the moment is hopefully there where the economic realities come together with the scientific realities to move forward. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a massive challenge that won’t require all of us to come together and try to tackle it, but I think that the issue is so fundamental to the future of the planet, that my hope is that leaders will get it.

GELLERMAN: Well, Ms. Morgan, thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

MORGAN: You’re very welcome.

GELLERMAN: Jennifer Morgan is director of global climate change for the think tank, E3G.



Third Generation Environmentalists

For more on the conference in Poznan, click here


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