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Results of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen

The UN climate conference held in Copenhagen from 7 to 19 December was expected to develop an agreement to act together in relation to climate change.

The outcome of the UN Climate Conference, held in Copenhagen from 7 to 19 December, was "Copenhagen Accord", a non-binding document that disappointed all those who hoped to prevent catastrophic climate change impacts in the future. The Russian Socio-Ecological Union believes that the conference results do not meet the global challenge of reducing anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

The joint actions of countries are necessary in order to reduce the human contribution in climate change, to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases, and to slow down global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Greater warming will disastrously impact on many countries, especially island states, and tropical countries of the Southern Hemisphere. The most vulnerable countries need urgent financial help to adapt to already effective climate change consequences (floods, degradation of agricultural areas, hunger) and to reduce emissions, primarily through assistance from developed countries that bear the historical responsibility for human-induced climate change. The scope of this assistance has also been the subject of the negotiations.

The conference ended with the weakest possible result. The outcome of the conference is a "Copenhagen Accord”. This document includes no date when the states should adopt a legally binding document on the comprehensive commitments of states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and on adaptation measures after 2013, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

This document states the need for cooperation among countries to stop the growth of emissions as soon as possible. It recognizes the effects of climate change and the need for adaptation to it as a challenge for all countries. However, the document contains neither schedule for any actions nor commitments of countries on financial contributions in the adaptation fund and on emission reductions.

The document proposes each country in Annex 1 of the Kyoto Protocol (developed countries and countries with economies in transition, which include Russia) to submit, by 31 January 2010, their commitments to be filled in a table of emission reductions.

The "Copenhagen Accord" also offers the same to developing countries, on a voluntary basis, provided that emissions reductions in these countries need international support.

Given the preliminary figures from representatives of countries in their speeches, the total reductions will be absolutely insufficient to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

The document suggests that measures to reduce emissions by developed countries are subject to international monitoring, reporting and verification, as well as emission reductions by developing countries funded by international support. Since the document is not binding, the test procedures and reporting are also not binding.

Russia had fairly consistent position at the talks. President Dmitry Medvedev said at the summit that Russia was ready to 25% cuts of greenhouse gases by 2020, which will provide overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 billion tons over 30 years from 1990 to 2020. The President said the need for a legally binding agreement, comprehensive and based on principles of justice and the common but differentiated responsibility.

Also, in the opinion of the President, the global agreement must necessarily take into account the role of forests - the main greenhouse gas sinks, as well as reasonable conditions for the transfer of modern technologies to developing countries.

According RSEU, reduction targets announced by the President are certainly a step forward in the position of Russia, which set no targets until the summer of 2009. However, such commitments correspond to actual growth of emissions from today's level by more than 10%, and do not imply significant energy efficiency measures. The RSEU believes that by 2020 Russia should at least keep greenhouse gases at the pre-crisis level of 2007 (65% of the 1990 levels without taking into account the absorption by forests) and take action to reduce emissions, which means that the goal of reducing emissions should be -35 %.

The President said that Russia could achieve significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by improving energy and environmental efficiency of our economy, by introduction of energy-saving technologies and renewables. One of the first decrees signed by President Medvedev included plans to increase energy efficiency of Russia's economy in 2020 by 40 percent.

At the same time, at the press briefing in Copenhagen, representatives of the Russian official delegation said that the resources of energy saving and energy efficiency in Russia are not known fully yet.

Representatives of the Russian official delegations said at the talks that Russia has no plans to sell its unused quotas on greenhouse gas emissions from the first period of the Kyoto Protocol, reserving them for the case of economic growth above the expected level. Russia, as well as Ukraine and Belarus, blocked the issue of expansion of the adaptation fund by projects of joint implementation and emissions trading.

Alexander Fedorov, RSEU co-chairman, said: "The RSEU opinion expressed in the open letter to Mr. Bedritsky in Copenhagen, Russia should abandon the transfer of these quotas, and give a broad road to joint implementation projects that produce real results both in reducing emissions and in the modernization of the economy."

The RSEU believes the Russian President made important statements in his speech at the Copenhagen summit and in other speeches last week. The RSEU and other non-governmental environmental organizations promoted these views for a number of years. The main idea is that improvements in energy efficiency and renewable energy need to be addressed regardless of the climate agreement "for one simple reason: it is profitable to our country, and we believe that this approach should be used in other countries. We are all interested in radical improving of the state of our environment." However, to make these statements of the President an action plan, consistent decisions at the international level and within the country are necessary.

Olga Senova, head of the RSEU Climate Secretariat, believes that the action plan for the Climate Doctrine (which the President signed on December 17) is needed in the first place. This plan should include the schedule for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the country, i. e., numerical goals for each year. Appropriate numerical targets for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency should be included in the documents of strategic planning.

This is still missing. The Energy Strategy of Russia until 2030 (approved by the Government on 27 August 2009) is aimed at further development of the country along the scenario based on traditional and inefficient energy consumption. Development to energy-efficient economy is largely blind and, hence, insufficiently effective.

In this regard, the RSEU recalls that the nuclear energy cannot be considered as a renewable energy source and as a technology to address climate change in connection with its unjustified environmental and economic costs.