The UNFCCC Climate Change Conference is drawing ever closer (9 days at time of writing). But what are we expecting from this mass meeting? What is Poznan actually aiming at?

The answers to these questions initially seem obvious: to prepare the ground for the near-legendary ‘Copenhagen Protocol’. However, dig any deeper than this and it rapidly becomes clear that the Poznan Conference is a much more ill-defined event.

Central Poznan: Between the beginnning and the end.  Source: lamorimdgn, flickr

Central Poznan: Between the beginnning and the end. Source: lamorimdgn, flickr

At the most high profile level, Poznan is the fourteenth COP, the body overseeing the UNFCCC. This particular COP, however, is a rather unusual one. In mid-2007 many in government delegations and media houses were gearing up for an agenda-setting meeting in Bali, where climate change would be given a new mandate. The formal post-Kyoto negotiations were to be the start of a new stage in international climate policy, culminating in 2009 in Copenhagen. The focus was on 2007 and 2009. Not 2008.

It is here Poznan / COP14 finds itself: sandwiched between the beginning and the end. Officially, the meeting “provides the opportunity to draw together the advances made in 2008 and move from discussion to negotiation mode in 2009”. I.e. sandwiched. In practice, this means agreeing how the following year of negotiations will be organised. COP14 has potential, then, to be nothing but a talking shop, simply allowing parties to air their views before the climax next year.

Yet building momentum is not a bad thing on climate change. Prequels to COP14 show us that building up to a key time and decision can often apply the necessary pressure to sluggish negotiating parties (see the USA backdown at Bali). Further, the conference comes at a critical time for the incoming US government. The COP establishes climate change as an issue by default, forcing the Obama administration to reaffirm its position on climate change early on during the transition.

So in this light Poznan is about adding new momentum to the existing COP negotiation process.

But Poznan is not just about the COP. Logistically, the conference is also an agglomeration of various other bodies, committees, and working groups that are involved in the UNFCCC process.

Notably, the group established by the infamous ‘Bali Road Map‘ is due to convene its fourth meeting for the first ten days of the COP. Named in classic UNFCCC style, the AWG-LCA will report on what progress has been made on methods for implementation of international mitigation policy. 47 submissions have been made by UNFCCC parties on possible ways forward for implementation, making it an area of significant bottom-up interest. Time for a little lateral thinking has been widely appreciated, it seems.

Poznan is not only about adding new momentum to the existing COP negotiation process, then: it is also about bringing new issues and processes to the fore outside the more narrow Kyoto process. Ultimately, Poznan is about a difficult-to-define process of capacity expansion and capacity recharging. Both are no doubt essential as we enter the final sprint in 2009.

Well, ‘final’ until the next marathon is commissioned.

Poznan Potential is a series of blogs on Climatico to assess what to expect from the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland.

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