Accra Climate Change Talks 2008

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The Accra Climate Change Talks 2008 are being convened by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and held in Accra, Ghana between August 21-27 as a preliminary meeting prior to the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen in November 2009. The official website states that the talks aim to develop further agreement on "a strengthened and effective international climate change deal under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as work on emission reduction rules and tools under the Kyoto Protocol."[1]

The talks are the third UNFCCC meeting this year, reflecting the complexity and difference of opinion over a myriad of issues that a future framework will need to address. The role of the talks has been to help lay the groundwork for the preparation of negotiating text by the December 2008 COP14 meeting in Poznan, Poland.

Issues under discussion

At the start of the Accra talks, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) outlined the central issues under discussion by the two central UNFCCC working groups, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (AWG-KP).[2]

The key issues canvassed by the AWG-LCA and expected to be raised at Accra were[2]:

  • Mitigation:
    • a workshop on "approaches and incentives relating to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD); and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. This workshop is expected to consider the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, as well as how to build the capacity of developing countries to reduce emissions."
    • a second workshop on "sectoral approaches and sector-specific actions." Japan has most assertively promoted "sectoral approaches" but has also encountered strong opposition from China, India and non-government organizations.
  • Funding:
    • discussion of a proposal to establish "a contact group on mitigation in the context of technology transfer and financing." This followed proposals advanced at the June meeting in Bonn by Mexico, Switzerland, Norway, China, and others. These discussions would address ways of funding adaptation strategies. Delegates had been requested by the UNFCCC to consider "institutional arrangements for delivering enhanced cooperation on technology and financing for adaptation and mitigation." The ENB noted that discussions would canvass "technical issues such as the structure and governance of any possible new funds or institutional frameworks under the Convention."

At Accra, the AWG-KP continued to analyze ways of reaching emission reduction targets by "the flexible mechanisms" of Emissions trading, Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism; land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); sectoral approaches; and greenhouse gases, sectors and source categories. ENB noted that in Accra, the working group "is scheduled to conclude its analysis, allowing parties to negotiate actual emission reduction ranges at the COP/MOP in Poznań, Poland in December 2008."[2]

While ENB didn't flag any specific discussions slated for Accra, they noted that at the June meeting in Bonn and earlier meetings the key debates had been over:

Responses to the Outcomes of the Accra Talks

UNFCCC Response

At the conclusion of the talks, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, was upbeat about the discussions. "“We are still on track, the process has speeded up and governments are very serious about negotiating a result in Copenhagen,” he stated in a media release.[3]

Mr. de Boer said progress had been made in a few areas, but added that the "absolute highlight of the session had been the mandate given by governments to the Chair of the Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action [AWG-LCA] to compile proposals made so far and that may be made in the coming weeks." [4] He cited the achievement as "providing a basis for real negotiations to begin in Poznan." [5]

Other areas where progress was made included:

  • a working group established by the AWG-LCA canvassed the need to "reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries." "Countries have made it very clear that issue of forests need to be part of a Copenhagen deal," de Boer stated in a media release. (See Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) for more information).
  • another AWG-LCA workshop on sectoral approaches "emphasized that such approaches should not lead to binding commitments for developing countries and that is up to a country to decide if it want to put sectoral policies in place or not." (De Boer was diplomatically referring to the overwhelming objections by developing countries which feared that by proposals by Japan in particular were a way of undermining binding commitments on Annex 1 countries and shifting them onto developing countries.)
  • discussions on financing and technology transfer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change;

Mr. de Boer was confident at the end of the Accra talks that the participants in COP 14 in Poznan would have "something pretty close to the first version of the negotiating text" to work with. [6]

Climate Action Network International Response

However, Bill Hare, Greenpeace International's Climate Policy Adviser and one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report which was released in 2007, was not as optimistic as de Boer. Speaking at the conclusion of the talks in a Climate Action Network International media conference, Hare posed the rhetorical question: "Has it [the Accra talks] taken things forward enough so that we can see the Poznan meeting developing the agenda for the very intense negotiations that have to happen in 2009 once the United States rejoins the real world?".

"I would say that for Accra there have been some positives and negatives. Progress has not been enough. There needs to be a much greater acceleration of effort," Hare said.[7]

In particular noted as some of the positives[7]:

  • a proposal from Norway that industrialised countries would auction or sell permits for part of their carbon emissions which would be used to fund international adaptation and technology transfer projects. Hare expressed disappointment, however, that the European Union didn't support the proposal. "We think the EU needs to go back and work on that"; and
  • "We found progress on REDD heartening" and that "there is a greater level of agreement here in relation to that mechanism to deal with the very large problem with tropical deforestation." He noted, though, that "much remains to be done of a fundamental character."

As for the negatives, Hare said that he found the behavior of many of the Umbrella Group members -- and Canada, Russia, Japan and Australia in particular -- "deeply disheartening."[7]

Elaborating on his concerns, Hare explained that:

  • "Canada and Russia last night insisted on deleting from some very important text on forestry under the Kyoto Protocol, reference to the fact that these activities should contribute to emissions reductions, as well they should. It is unbelievable that after 15 years of this business that these countries can still be removing fundamental provisions like that";
  • "We have to look with disbelief at Japan -- one of the richest countries on the planet -- which still pushes its narrow "sectoral approaches", which would be at the expense of an effective way of reducing global emissions";
  • "we wonder what is going on with Australia. Australia, under the Umbrella Group, klast week spent two days blocking the discussion of the formation of a very important contact group. Two wasted days. It managed to find ways of blocking or be unconstructive on many other things here";

The Umbrella Groups, Hare concluded, "haven't brought forward anything new to the negotiations. They are sitting there fat and happy and lazy now that the Bush administration is disengaged. They are not contributing to the solution to the problem at present. So we think that they have to go back and come forward with really constructive proposals to help solve the problem." [7]

Overall Hare believes that the "rate of progress remains far too slow. Parties have to accelerate progress or we are going to create a train wreck in Copenhagen. Otherwise we will not have had enough time to negotiate the very complex agreement that needs to come forward next year." Commenting on reports of recent increases in methane discharges from the Arctic, Hare stated that unless negotiations accelerated rapidly there was a risk that climate change would "accelerate out of our abaility to actively control it and that lies behind my sense of frustration personally at the foot dragging and blocking that has been going on" by the Umbrella Group countries.[7]

Contact details and links to official agendas

UNFCCC and NGO media conferences

Side events at the talks

See Accra Climate Change Talks 2008/Side Events

Daily reporting on the talks

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

UNFCC Bodies and Conferences

Issues under discussion

Other SourceWatch articles


  1. "Accra Climate Change Talks 2008", UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, accessed August 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Third session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 3) and the sixth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol: Thursday, 21 August 2008", Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Volume 12 Number 377, August 22, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "UN Climate Change Negotiations Speed up in Accra", Media Release, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, August 27, 2008.
  4. "Accra Talks Bode Well for Future Climate Change Negotiations", UN News Centre, August 27, 2008.
  5. "Press Conference Video Statement", Accra Climate Change Talks 2008, August 27, 2008.
  6. "Press Conference Video Statement", Accra Climate Change Talks 2008, August 27, 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Bill Hare, "Climate Action Network International Press Briefing", Accra Climate Change Talks 2008, August 27, 2008.

External articles

UNFCC Media Releases

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