There are huge expectations for 2009 – nothing less than a global deal to establish a framework within which the necessary emission reductions can be delivered. But a standalone deal is probably too much to hope for. Rather, the framework will bring together a multitude of approaches and ideas and hope to provide some much needed synergy to the process. That means we must look back at 2008 for the key elements of this deal, not just forward to Copenhagen as the solution. Looking back gives cause for hope. Whilst 2008 saw the global economy on its knees, there were significant steps forward in the climate change arena;
The new Australian government started the year with a mandate and a concept and by years end were close to delivering an economy wide emissions trading system.
The European Union delivered a complete package of measures for the period 2013-2020, not only extending the emissions trading system but underpinning it with carbon capture and storage legislation and fiscal support and bolstering its effectiveness with renewable energy targets.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the United States opened for business and the first allowance auctions were held.
President-elect Obama filled key energy posts with noted scientists and reaffirmed his commitment to a US emissions trading system.
Whilst energy efficiency remains a key motivation, China is showing early signs of a willingness to act decisively on CO2 emissions.
The UNFCCC COP 14 in Poland saw a number of developing countries pledge emission reduction targets.
New Zealand passed emissions trading legislation in parliament – albeit now in limbo under a new government, so one step back as well.
The Climate Change Bill was passed in the UK and a new nuclear energy mandate was established.
All of these steps and many more like them are the real elements of a global deal. As each year passes more progress is made, although the real shift in our energy system has yet to show itself. Whilst we still don’t have all the pieces in place to deliver anything like a robust solution, we are at least moving in the right direction.