Over 170 participants from 60 countries met for three days in Copenhagen from 7 to 9 June 1994 to discuss how the aims of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change can be translated into practical action. The Conference was organised by the UNEP Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment (UCCEE), with financial support from the Danish International Development Agency (Danida), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Risų National Laboratory, Denmark.

The main objective of the conference was to identify common approaches to national mitigation analysis for countries to use in meeting their commitments under the FCCC, and in setting priorities for national actions.

Although addressing a broader theme, the conference marked the completion and publication of the second phase of the UNEP Greenhouse Gas Abatement Costing Study. The UNEP costing study, coordinated by the UCCEE, along with the national initiatives undertaken by Denmark, the current interest within GEF and the recent ratification of the Climate Convention established the background for the conference, and ensured solid support.

Danish Environment Minister Svend Auken (since October 1994, Minister of Environment and Energy) in his opening address underlined the country's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below the 1990 level by the year 2005. Mr Auken also reconfirmed that Denmark would provide financial support to international policy and research projects aimed at pursuing the aims of the climate convention in individual countries.

The speech of the UNEP Executive Director, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, was delivered in her absence by Mr Peter Usher, Climate Coordinator at UNEP HQ Nairobi, and presented a summary of the international situation with regard to the Climate Convention, and in particular UNEP's role. Ms. Dowdeswell reminded participants of UNEP's long and successful experience in treaty development and implementation. While the secretariat for the Climate Convention has yet to be decided, by the conference of parties in Berlin in 1995, Ms. Dowdeswell pledged UNEP's continued support in climate-related work.

The first scientific session of the conference addressed the issues from the point of view of the international organisations. Mr Peter Usher (UNEP) outlined the work of the IPCC, the content of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), the activities within the World Climate Programme and other international activities that play an important part in influencing the climate agenda. UNEP's Atmosphere Programme was discussed in detail, highlighting the three components related to climate change:

Sources and sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs)

Methodologies for assessing climate impacts and adaptation strategies

GHG abatement costing studies

The Executive Secretary of the Interim Secretariat for the FCCC, Mr Michael Zammit Cutajar, presented an update of the FCCC and the international climate negotiating process. Referring specifically to the present conference, Mr Cutajar stressed the need for methodological development and was of the opinion that the deliberations at the conference could provide valuable pragmatic and useable advice to Convention negotiators, particularly on:

no-regrets energy options for developed and developing countries

how to apply concepts of cost-effectiveness and incremental cost in the FCCC context, overcoming the barrier between theory and practice.

Industrialised and developing countries see the Climate Convention very differently. At present the per-capita emissions of the dominant greenhouse gas, CO2, are three to five times higher in industrialised countries than in developing ones. The primary goal for industrialised countries under the FCCC will be stabilisation, and in the longer term, absolute reduction of emissions. For the developing countries on the other hand, emissions of CO2 will grow as a consequence of industrialisation, economic development and population growth. Reducing or stabilising GHG emissions in most developing countries without affecting economic development would be unrealistic. However a significant slowing of the rate of emission growth could be possible through the use of more efficient energy technologies and more rational energy use, for example, while maintaining economic growth, energy services, etc.

The problem is how to restrain emission growth in practice. New efficient technologies will not necessarily be brought into use automatically. There are financial, institutional and information barriers which must be overcome.

According to the Climate Convention, developing countries can be compensated for the so-called "incremental cost" of activities which lead to GHG emission reductions. The financial mechanism for implementing climate change mitigation options, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) - a cooperative venture among national governments, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - was described by Mr Ian Johnson, GEF Administrator. In particular the concept of "incremental cost" - a central notion in the FCCC - was discussed, and the principles outlined for determining such incremental costs with a view to financial support from the GEF. The crucial point is to identify the extraordinary costs which a country is subject to in order to reduce GHG emissions, for example by choosing some particular energy technology.

A first step in the Climate Convention process is that participating countries submit reports on their GHG emissions, and in the case of the industrialised countries, describe their plans for emission reductions. This reporting has to be carried out in a well documented and comparable way, so that countries have a clear picture of present and future emissions, and in order to facilitate cooperation towards reducing emissions in a "cost-effective" manner.

The current phase of implementation of the FCCC involves international negotiations on how this reporting should be done, not least with regard to the amount and cost of future emission reductions. The conference was seen as an important forum for the discussion of these questions.

Collaboration between developing countries and industrialised countries on GHG reductions requires a common understanding of the issues, as well as a common measuring standard against which to judge both financial support and subsequent verification. This process clearly involves a number of highly politically and economically sensitive areas. For example, reduction of GHG emissions is often intimately connected to essential economic activities in the countries concerned. The crucial question is how national social and economic development priorities can be reconciled with GHG reductions.

In spite of these politically controversial issues, the conference participants did arrive at a broad agreement on the necessity and advantage of a coordinated effort to achieve the goals of the FCCC.

There was general agreement among the participants that the methodology must take account of the potential and limitations of each country, while living up to the convention's requirement for transparency and comparability. The UNEP GHG Abatement Costing Project, along with similar efforts in which practical country studies go hand in hand with methodological development, was given broad support. In general the recommendation was that the methods should be extended to cover more sectors and gases, to take into account regional cooperation and to include macroeconomic effects.

The conference itself may be seen as a vital component of the FCCC process, with its high-level, and tightly packed formal programme of presentations together with intense informal discussion and exchange of ideas among researchers, national policy makers and representatives of the international organisations. The success of the conference in this regard was amply confirmed by the participants.

Organising Committee: John M. Christensen, Kirsten Halsnęs, Joel N. Swisher

Editor of Proceedings: Gordon A. Mackenzie

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