Press Release17.11.2006, Berlin/Nairobi

A tiny step forward

Nairobi climate summit concludes

WBGU finds the United Nations Climate Change Conference which concluded this evening in Nairobi to have produced a small, but necessary step forward in the development of the Kyoto Protocol.

The climate diplomats have agreed a programme of work for the year 2007. This envisages that the industrialized countries, which have already adopted emissions reduction commitments under the Protocol, should negotiate new, tighter commitments for the post-2012 period. "Of course it is to be welcomed that negotiations on more ambitious reduction targets are now indeed to commence – hopefully within 2007! However, considering the urgency of climate change, this outcome in fact is only a tiny step forward in climate diplomacy. What is more, the world's climate can only really be stabilized through a global transformation of energy systems. It follows that the USA, Australia and the large newly industrializing countries must come on board very soon," noted WBGU deputy chair Hans Joachim Schellnhuber.

Concretizing the Climate Change Convention's objective

The ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is to avoid dangerous climate change. There has been a consensus among international climate researchers for years now that achieving this objective will require global emissions to be cut at least by half. This consensus was acknowledged officially for the first time in Nairobi. WBGU stresses that this acknowledgement is only a first starting point for further negotiations. A post-Kyoto regime must explicitly aim to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2050 from 1990 levels. That goal calls for a concrete emissions reduction commitment and a concrete target year.Current science shows that in order to limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere must be stabilized at a level corresponding to 450 ppm CO2. This threshold value should be enshrined as the objective of the Climate Change Convention by specifying it in Article 2.

Adaptation Fund agreed, but inadequate

Even a warming of "only" 2 degrees Celsius will necessitate major adaptation measures. To mitigate the consequences of drought, water scarcity and food crises, the Nairobi meeting agreed terms for the management of a fund which shall finance adaptation projects in developing countries. While such a fund is to be welcomed in principle, its anticipated financial resources, in the order of a few hundred million US dollars, are entirely inadequate.

Stern Review message not yet arrived in everyone's minds

"The Stern Review has left no doubt that action must be taken quickly, that only ten to 20 years remain in which to do so, and that the benefits of active climate policy exceed several times over the costs of inaction. The results of the Nairobi talks show that this message has not yet arrived in the international community of states," regrets WBGU chair Renate Schubert. "Agreement on a 5- year programme of research on climate impacts and adaptation in support of adaptation measures is little consolation in such a situation."