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Published

1 March 2013

Mistra researchers in the limelight at Doha

In November and early December, the latest (18th) United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Doha. The Swedish delegation included Mistra-SWECIA’s programme manager. Mistra Indigo’s latest report was noted favourably by the US climate negotiator.

The United States is well on the way to reducing its carbon emissions by 17 per cent between 2005 and 2020, this being the national target set by President Obama. This is the message of a report, US Status on Climate Change Mitigation, written by two researchers in the Mistra Indigo programme.

‘The US is seen as a “bad boy” in the climate context, since the country refuses to join binding international agreements. Outwardly, no one is allowed to tell the US what they should do, but internally a great deal is going on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,’ says Lars Zetterberg, head of research in Mistra Indigo.

Interest both before and during meeting

In view of the conclusions in the report, it was perhaps hardly surprising that the US climate negotiator, both before and during the conference, quoted this publication.

‘It’s pleasing that he mentioned the report. It’s a strength for the US to point out results from independent researchers,’ Zetterberg states, while emphasising that the US is still not attaining the emission reductions that have been achieved in Europe.

Mistra-SWECIA’s programme director, Markku Rummukainen, was on the spot in Doha in his role as scientific expert in the Swedish negotiating team. At a seminar held by the EU, he also presented information about Sweden’s work on climate change mitigation.

‘The question of adapting to climate change — that is, how society prepares for the changes ahead — is now included in international efforts to tackle problems alongside the issue of reducing emissions,’ Rummukainen points out.

Some encouraging aspects

The past few years’ climate conferences, headed by the UN, have been criticised for not going far enough in the agreements on emission reductions. Although the Doha conference represented an extension of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, this agreement covers only a small proportion of global CO2 emissions, according to
Rummukainen. Nonetheless, his attitude towards the outcome from Doha is cautiously positive.

‘As usual, there were many issues on the agenda. Still, they succeeded in completing two major negotiations that started at the Bali climate conference in 2007. This created more scope for developing the new climate agreement that is to be adopted by 2015,’ he says.

Lars Zetterberg, too, thinks the Doha meeting has ‘cleared the table’ and will make it easier to bring about a new emission agreement at future climate conferences. At the same time, he is sceptical about whether UN-led global negotiations are capable of getting emissions down fast enough.

‘The consensus model is going too slowly. I think something else is needed,’ he says.

Progress in various countries

Zetterberg points out that the US, New Zealand and Canada have decided not to join the Second Commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, but will nonetheless work nationally and regionally to reduce emissions.

‘There are hopes that countries and regions will introduce their own emissions trading systems and carbon taxes that can then become interlinked at global level.’

One objective in Mistra Indigo is to support local and regional climate mitigation. In a forthcoming research project, the researchers will work in a dialogue with industry.

‘We’re seeing industry reducing its emissions, for example, irrespective of what is going on in international climate policy. And we’ll try to support them in these efforts,’ Zetterberg says.

Text: Henrik Lundström, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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