Environment ministers from the BASIC countries–Brazil, South Africa, India, China–met in New Delhi over the weekend to coordinate their responses to international climate change negotiations in advance of the 31 January deadline for parties to communicate their emissions reductions strategies to the UNFCCC.
The meeting ended with a joint statement that reasserts their support for both the UN process and the Copenhagen Accord which has a tenuous and uncertain relationship to the global climate regime. The countries call on the Prime Minister of Denmark to convene five meetings leading up to the big, COP 16, meeting in Mexico. But they also indicated their intentions to submit emissions reductions targets by Sunday’s deadline.
Perhaps more significantly was their emphasis on the Accord’s immediate $10bn annual pledge for adaptation in developing countries. In news reports several of the environment ministers pointed to that pledge as a test of developed countries’ seriousness.
On related note, the Guardian reports today that the United Kingdom is contemplating reallocating money from existing overseas aid budgets to finance climate change adaptation. This, of course, is objectionable to developing countries who insist that climate assistance should be above and beyond existing aid.
Things aren’t much better in the United States where the climate envoy Jonathan Pershing said yesterday that the government is “currently looking at the financing in the budget” suggesting that the “fast track” funding is far from immanent.
It has been a month since the UN summit in Copenhagen ended amidst discord and uncertainty about the state of global climate policy. The dust has settled somewhat and we’ve had some time to reflect. So where do we stand at the beginning of 2010?
For the two years leading up to Copenhagen, the expectation was that the meeting would culminate with a solid framework for a new climate treaty based on the latest scientific evidence and poised to reform the shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol.
Instead, the meeting ended with little substantive progress and a vague, last-minute, face-saving political document (the “Copenhagen Accord“) on which key countries appear to be relying for action in the coming year.
The Accord asks countries to submit their voluntary emissions reduction targets for the year 2020 by 31 January. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol which only called on developed countries to reduce their emissions, the Copenhagen commitment will include reductions from “business as usual” by key developing countries.
On the issue of insuring that countries stick to their commitments and engage in measurable and verifiable reductions, the accord asks countries to develop domestic procedures, eschewing an international standard.
The accord also discusses a financial mechanism by which the rich countries responsible for atmospheric greenhouse gas buildup can help poorer countries meet the immediate challenges they face in adapting to a changing planet.
While the accord is commendable to the extent that it gets countries–including the emerging economies of India, China, and Brazil–to offer mid-term emissions reduction targets, its voluntary, non-binding nature makes the entire enterprise quite precarious.
Thus, as we move forward in 2010, there will be some key things on which to focus to see if adequate global solutions to the climate problem can be developed.
First, it will be key to see which countries formally sign on to the Copenhagen Accord, if they sign on by the 31 January deadline, and the nature of their commitments. On Wednesday, UN climate chief, Yvo De Boer called the 31st a “soft deadline,” suggesting that some of the countries which pushed for the accord may not even be willing to meet this modest provision. Last week in a speech in Washington, US negotiator Jonathan Pershing said countries were working on their commitments, including the US; but he gave no indication as to whether the US will meet the deadline.
Much of the holdup in the US brings us to the second key process to watch out for in 2010: the climate bill in Congress. The Obama Administration has used the need to get a comprehensive climate bill through Congress as an excuse for its coyness in its failure to agree to bold emissions reductions targets. The logic on the surface made sense: Kyoto has been ineffective because of US lack of participation and the lack of participation was due to Congressional rejection of the Clinton Administration’s targets which were presented to the international community without Congressional approval.
Obama’s representatives have said that they want to be able to stand by any numbers they put on the negotiating table. However, at this point, passing ANY significant legislation through the US Senate is looking to be difficult. Although Obama’s Democratic party has majorities in both houses of Congress, they don’t appear willing to exert any political muscle on potentially controversial legislation. As I write this, the future of the year-long effort at health care reform appears in doubt solely because the Democrats lost one seat from their Senate majority.
If the Democrats aren’t willing to push through their health care bill, there is even less hope for climate legislation given the fact that there are key Democrats who are not excited about reducing emissions. I’m not sure where this leaves us on the international side of the negotiations; but where ever it is, it is not a good place.
Thirdly, over the next few months we will begin to see where the UNFCCC fits into this uncertain environment. In last week’s speech, Pershing was quite dismissive of the UN process. He seemed to push the idea that the “major economies forum” might be where the action is in getting things done. On the one hand this makes sense, given that we need key developing countries to make reductions from business-as-usual to stay within the global warming limits that the science demands. However, the major economies forum leaves many important constituencies out of the process. Small island nations, poor African nations, indigenous peoples, NGOs, and global civil society have no seat at this exclusive table–while the UNFCCC, with all its flaws, does offer a modicum of accessibility.
In his news conference yesterday, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer looked positively exhausted. While he did his best to put a positive spin on the Copenhagen Accord, it was not convincing. In the immediate weeks prior to Copenhagen, people were hoping at the very least that a specific timetable for a binding agreement would come out of the talks. What actually emerged was a political agreement with a loose time line and voluntary targets.
Many of the key players behind the Copenhagen Accord–including President Obama–have said they view the accord as a step towards an agreement. But the question that needs to be answered is what kind and size of step?
There are many other loose ends stemming from Copenhagen that need to be scrutinized–the whole financing scheme, for example. But for now, these are just a few things we’ll be keeping our eye on over the next few months.
The UN climate change talks in Copenhagen ended in a dramatic flurry of activity, diplomacy, and negotiation early Saturday. The activity, however, did not translate into any significant momentum towards resolving the major impediments to a truly global response to the climate crisis.
The main takeaway from the talks was the “Copenhagen Accord,” [.pdf] a document largely negotiated by the large emitters, including the United States, China, India and Brazil. The details of how the accord was negotiated are still sketchy, although some the initial reporting suggests that world leaders were actually going line-by-line through the text–an activity normally reserved for lower level diplomats. Interestingly, it seemed as if China & India were savvy in keeping the EU and the US at bay. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sent his underlings into meetings with Western leaders and apparently rejected both the EU offer of reducing its emissions by 30% by 2020 from 1990 levels and the general developed country commitment of an 80% reduction by 2050 under the questionable guise that by 2050 they will be considered “developed” and subject to reductions.
After the accord was endorsed late Friday night by the few countries engaged in its drafting, it needed to be presented to the larger “conference of the parties” to the UN climate treaty. The floor debate began around 3:00am and was quite rancorous. There was significant opposition from Latin American countries and small island nations who were cut out of the accord’s drafting.
Decisions under the climate treaty generally require consensus from all participating countries and at one point it seemed as if the conference would break up without considering the accord. Apparently the head UK climate negotiator, Ed Miliband stepped in to defend the accord and the conference wound up “noting” the accord as opposed to “supporting” or “endorsing” it.
Such a tepid response sullies the accord’s significance within the context of the UN decision making framework.
So, what does the Copenhagen Accord say?
First, it is a political agreement, so there are no legal obligations on the part of signatories to follow its directives.
Second, the accord does say that “the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius.” This is in keeping with other political proclamations over the past year by developed countries–in particular the G8. However the use of the word “should”–rather than “shall”–doesn’t imply a significant level of commitment.
Third, instead of a timetable for a globally-binding treaty, the accord simply says that “we should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible.” Again, no “shall,” and more significantly, no mention in the accord of translating its framework into a legally-binding treaty–an outcome of Copenhagen that was hoped for by many before the talks began.
Fourthly, the accord asks both developed and developing countries to submit their own national emissions targets by 31 January 2010 to include in the accord. Significantly, developing countries’ mitigation targets “will be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting, and verification” procedures. This represents a strike against the US position, which had insisted throughout the talks that China and India–in particular–needed to be subject to international “MRV” procedures. The accord does say, however, that if a developing country is receiving international financing for a specific mitigation action then that particular action needs to be subject to international monitoring.
Fifth, the accord does recognize the importance of forest conservation and endorses an “immediate establishment of a mechanism” to provide financing for stopping deforestation.
Sixth, the accord provides specific numbers for financing from developed countries to developing countries to deal with adaptation and mitigation. The commitment is collective–meaning the specific breakdown of each country’s share has not been established–and will be $30 billion for three years. By 2020, the number should rise to $100 billion per year. These aggregate numbers are lower than amounts discussed before the conference and the specific mechanisms on how money will be allocated are unresolved.
The accord discusses setting up a “Copenhagen Green Climate Fund” that will monitor climate aid and should be accountable to the parties to the UN convention. Although I’m not a lawyer, it is not clear to me what the significance of the parties’ lack of clear endorsement of the Copenhagen Accord might have on the governance of this fund.
Finally, the accord calls for its implementation to be completed by 2015 and a future “consideration of strengthening of the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.” This, obviously, was a rather torpid attempt to placate small island states and the growing body of scientists and activists who argue that the risks of accepting a 2 degree rise in global temperature are too great.
The summation of the Copenhagen Accord has been best expressed by Kim Carstensen of the World Wildlife Fund, who calls it “half-baked and unclear.”
It doesn’t really resolve anything, but brings up even more questions about how the problem of global climate change can be addressed.
Some of these questions include: If the signatories to the declaration really want to keep the planet from warming 2 degrees, what are they going to do to see that goal realized? What will happen if/when, at the end of January after countries present their mitigation goals, it becomes apparent that the voluntary commitments will be insufficient to stave off harmful global warming?
The accord says that it should be fully implemented by 2015. This is also the year that IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri said that global emissions need to peak in order to stay within the 2 degree warming threshold. How can can emissions peak by 2015 given the leisurely timeline for implementation?
What is the future of the UN climate change convention? If the Copenhagen Accord is the product of a backroom deal that fundamentally eclipses the Kyoto Protocol and the larger UNFCCC process, does this mean that the effort for a legally binding treaty is effectively over? Regardless of what happens to the UNFCCC, how can differences in the US, EU, China and Indian positions be resolved if we are to live on a planet safe from the risks associated with escalated global temperatures?
Is the financing adequate to help the most distressed peoples of the world avoid catastrophe? The numbers in the accord don’t seem to add up and are not nearly ambitious enough to deal with the crises many less developed countries are experiencing right now in their struggles to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
These questions were the ones that were supposed to have been resolved at Copenhagen. The fact that nothing has been resolved is testament to a failure in leadership of many countries involved and especially those who pushed through the accord, namely the US, China, and India.
The next few weeks will be crucial. Pressure from civil society on national leaders will be essential if actual progress can be made on mitigation. If the numbers presented on 1 February don’t hold up to scrutiny, each of the signatories needs to be quite explicit on how the international community will actually address the reality of the science.
That leaves the last unresolved question which comes out Copenhagen, namely the future of civil society in pushing for a fair, binding, and ambitious deal. The UNFCCC and Danish government’s failure to adequately accommodate civil society in Copenhagen leaves a bitter taste for many who had hopes for the talks. Expelling civil society observers from the Bella Center for the last days of the conference undoubtedly made it easier for the major emitters to push through a “half-baked” accord. It will be difficult, but the many civil society groups involved in climate policy will have to regroup and redouble their efforts to pressure national leaders to develop an actual deal.
It is 1 AM and reports are still coming out of the Bella center and around Copenhagen on the finalization of COP15. I am up because I want to sleep on the flight home tomorrow, so why not let the blog about what is happening.
What the news agencies are reporting is that 5 countries, the US, Bolivia, India, China, and South Africa have come to a “meaningful agreement,” as Obama put it.
As an environmentalist, I am disappointed that the negotiations did not come to a more fair and promising outcome, but what we have realized at this conference is that UN proceedings lack the transparency and fairness that one might expect.
What it seems like to me is that this ending was planned by the countries that have the money, power, and wealth without properly consulting the other parties involved. There were around 119 heads of state at this conference yet this new deal was brokered by just 5. How is that equitable when those who were not consulted are going to be the countries that are entirely destroyed from the impacts of climate change in less than 100 years?
Adding to my frustration is that on the final day of the talks there were several draft texts floating around between the parties, and I don’t feel as though the small island, African, and other less prominent countries around the world have the man power or resources to keep up with all the changes. Reading and understanding those texts fully (I heard they can be around 40 pages long) is key in policy, because every way a word is used, or a sentence is phrased, is crucial in the meaning of the statement.
It doesn’t help my frustration that all the non-government organizations were restricted access (basically kicked out) when all this is going down. The activists and youth would have been there if they could have been. These delegates were crucial in assisting and supporting the marginalized parties, yet UN proceedings prevented that.
While the conference has not completely ended, it is clear that the text that the US has agreed upon will not curb the devastating effects of climate change. The AP is reporting that an Obama administrator said that the agreement requires each country to list the actions they will take to cut global pollution by specific amounts. It also includes a mechanism to help poor countries prepare for climate change by giving them billions of dollars. (which will probably end up going through the World Bank anyways, which presents a whole new level of problems)
The developing world needs more money to combat what the developed world has done to them, and this agreement simply won’t go far in remedying the problem, but at least it is a start and Obama being here did bring US news agencies attention to climate change, which educates the public, and makes polices to curb US energy use politically feasible in the US. Once this happens, we can help, along with the rest of the global community provide more money, technology, and sustainable growth to the people who need it most.
Most of our class has expressed interest in traveling to COP16, next year in Mexico City, which will be cheaper, warmer, and closer than Copenhagen and we will keep on trying to get climate change on the political agenda back home.
Barack Obama gave a pretty stern speech to other leaders at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen a few minutes ago.
Unfortunately, he yielded no ground that would make a fair, ambitious, and binding deal forthcoming from the deliberations over the last two weeks.
The main sticking point for Obama is Chinese resistance to agree to any specific cuts that will be verifiable to an international body.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao preceded Obama and basically said that China will make cuts from business as usual, and that they should be taken at their word.
President Lula de Silva of Brazil was sandwiched in between Obama and Wen and was quite impassioned in expressing frustration about the little progress seen thus far. As a way to show constructive action, Lula even indicated that Brazil would provide financial assistance to low income countries to develop in a low-carbon manner–a move unprecedented given Brazil’s position as a developing country itself.
These early speeches continue to dim the hope that anything substantive will come out of the negotiations
As world leaders poured into Copenhagen, negotiations continued Thursday in an effort to salvage some type of agreement from the UN-sponsored climate talks.
No new negotiating drafts were officially released, although a leaked document from the UN Secretariat has been circulating amongst NGO observers suggests the current policies on the table will only limit global warming to 3 degrees centigrade from pre-industrial levels.
This, obviously, means that much more work needs to be done if the pledge by developed countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees is to be realized.
Given the non-public manner of the negotiations–nearly all NGO observers have been kicked out of the conference venue–it is difficult to ascertain precisely how the negotiations are developing.
Some countries, however, are beginning to show their cards on key issues. Most notably, yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that her country would contribute to the $100 billion/year aid fund for developing countries that was first introduced by Gordon Brown earlier this year.
Key issues about the actual amount each developing country should contribute and how the funds will be distributed remain unresolved.
Aside from the financing pledge, very little else was revealed yesterday. This is highly problematic since the consensus of observers suggests that something will have to be produced from these meetings given the fact that over 100 heads of state are now at the negotiations. Simply in order for world leaders to save face, some document will be produced. The real problem is that any document or agreement at this point is not likely to seriously address the pressing policy issues at hand.
The New York Times is reporting that upon arriving in Copenhagen, Obama immediately went into a closed door meeting with the leaders of major economies instead of giving his planned public address to all delegates. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this meeting and how–in particular–the smallest, poorest nations that are likely excluded from the backdoor meeting react. Nations like Tuvalu have been steadfast in pushing for transparency and a strong deal. If a weak deal emerges from behind closed doors, I would expect Tuvalu and other small island nations to continue their vigorous objections.
Negotiators in a key sub-group of the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen worked through the early morning today which culminated in the release of a draft text that is supposed to serve as the basis of an agreement for world leaders to sign when they arrive here on Friday.
As the iteration which appeared on Saturday, the latest text makes little progress on key issues of mitigation for developed and developing countries while saying little about financing schemes for developing countries to adapt to climate change and shift to low-carbon technologies .
The consequence is that the high-level ministers will now have to get involved in the heavy lifting aspect of the negotiating process if any sort of agreement is to be signed by world leaders on Friday.
In other developments, Senator John Kerry addressed the conference in what amounted to a campaign speech for the US position. My impression has been that Kerry has a lot of respect amongst delegates for his long-standing interest in the climate change issue. However, his speech was a bit troubling for the negotiations.
He spent quite a bit of time dispelling climate skeptics–which was clearly geared towards domestic consumption. When you’ve been at a climate change conference in Europe for over a week, it is pretty easy to forget that skeptics actually exist! His impassioned plea for following the science wasn’t really needed inside the COP, so what it told me is that his Senate bill must be in at least a little trouble–although he equally forcefully said at the end of his speech that the US would pass climate legislation by the end of next year, with the Senate taking up the issue in the spring.
I would have to concur with Tan Copsey at China Dialogue, that the most troubling part of his speech were lightly veiled attacks at the Chinese position in the talks. He expressed a bit of protectionism by talking about “dumping high carbon” products into the US market. Additionally, he focused heavily on the idea that countries must have “measurable, reportable, and verifiable” emissions targets.
This is another swipe at China. The US seems quite skeptical about China’s recent pronouncements that they will reduce their emissions from business-as-usual projections and want to have some assurance that emissions mitigation can be quantified. China, of course, is hesitant to commit to reductions in the first place and wants to maintain as much flexibility as possible in the negotiations.
Thus with Kerry’s rather hard line speech and the minimal movement on the negotiating text, the only thing clear about the next couple of days is that they will be unpredictable and probably contentious.
Prime Ministers, Presidents, and other leaders descended on Copenhagen’s Bella Center today to try and develop some sort of agreement as part of the UN-sponsored climate talks.
The high-level segment, however, began at the expense of the “low-level” delegates. Yesterday, despite knowing for months that upwards of 35,000 delegates were registered to attend the negotiations, the UN climate change secretariat instituted a reduced-access policy for NGO delegates. Most NGOs received one third of their original allocations for Tuesday and Wednesday, with NGOs essentially shut out of the conference for the final two days. People generally understand the enhanced security measures needed for when heads of state arrive, but the restrictions were the culmination of a week of rather poorly-organized logistics. Our group arrived on December 6th and had a relatively painless experience getting accredited. However, on Monday–before the restrictions were introduced–new registrants had to wait hours before getting their badges.
Although the reduced allocation seemed to function on Tuesday, for some reason the secretariat shut out ALL NGOs from entering the building beginning around noon. This was preceded by a selective “deactivation” of NGO badges from the environmental groups Avaaz and Friends of the Earth. This is really significant–not only because it is unjust to de-accredit specific groups and that the text of the treaty that serves as the basis of the talks specifically “encourage[s] the widest participation in this process,” but also because civil society groups tend to act as a supportive voice for many of the smaller countries.
Many small countries can’t afford to bring a huge staff and rely on NGOs to monitor action, manage media access, and explain their positions to the greater global public. Youth activists, especially, coordinate rapid response actions in the hall so all participants remember the justice issues at stake in the negotiations. When these groups are arbitrarily excluded from the process, time and resources are spent assailing the process instead of being used to help push for substantive measures to be included in a deal.
The culmination of these decisions is not pretty. After the UN restricted NGO access, activists and others marched to the Bella Center where they were met with police violence, which was filmed by CYDCopenhagen:
With tension building up in all directions at COP15, access to the center is being reduced to NGOs Tuesday and Wednesday, 1000 civil society members on Thursday and only 90 on Friday. Additionally, the G77 walked out of negotiations at noon yesterday causing a suspension. With that being said, I was eager to ask Yvo de Boer and Connie Hedegaard what they thought about G77 suspending the negotiations. What are the next steps? I also wanted to take the opportunity to ask a question in regards to why there is no international talk and action taken in regards to Climate Change and public health?
Due last week’s experience waiting in line to enter the room for a high-level meeting with Yvo de Boer, I was determined to arrive early outside the room to secure a good seat for filming and was lucky that I was the first in line since a big crowd down the hall was going CRAZY over Al Gore walking by. Thankfully, I did not have to deal with the claustrophobic feeling of being shoved into the room by people behind me since security organized entrance better than previous events. I had the perfect seat at the front and was ready with my video camera to record the meeting especially since Linh Do, a fellow UNEP TUNZA youth advisory council representative for Australia was chosen to moderate the meeting.
The plan was for a 30 minute meeting. 15 minutes passed by and many youth in the room started to get concerned. 5 minutes later a UN staff member told us that Yvo De Boer and Connie Hedegaard were running late and still in a meeting. Finally, the UN staff member received a call notifying her to cancel the event. I understand that an unexpected walk out by G77 countries occurred at the negotiations, but if they both had to meet, strategize, and resolve the dilema in negotiations, they should have sent someone to notify UN staff to cancel the meeting before so many youth went out of their way to wait in line and attend this high level meeting.
I was not too upset about this yesterday. However, today I got an email from the UNFCCC secretariat stating that the high level meeting with Ban Ki-Moon was rescheduled to Thursday evening! First of all, who will even get to this meeting with further access restricted for NGOs that day. It is almost guaranteed that no one in our delegation will have access on Thursday, much less on Friday. Additionally, the majority of Youth will not be in attendance. How does UNFCCC plan to distribute the secondary badges aka “yellow badges” amongst NGOs? Why are they doing this in the first place? Perhaps, due to security reasons and heads of state arriving. However, having 90 civil society members on Friday is just unacceptable! That is not being transparent at all. It is being exclusive. This is not a conference for the people. It is more a conference about economic benefit than it is about paying an ecological debt, human rights. In short: Money>People. Throughout COP15, the admiration of youth organizing kept being highlighted with comments from high level figures such as “inspirational youth” or “It’s great to see a large number of youth involved.” However, they yet have to understand our message that we want a strong deal with 350ppm, human rights included in the text. We do not need to be complimented on how great youth organizers we are. We know we are great. But, guess what? We know that they have a lot of WORK to do before we can admire them.
On Friday December 11th, some members of our group (Kat, Renee, Dan and myself) were able to go on a boat tour to Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm. This unique opportunity put on by the EnergyTours network as part of Climate Consortium Denmark allows delegates at the UN COP15 Climate Conference to participate in free tours to different Danish clean-tech sites. The Climate Consortium Denmark “is a public-private partnership between the Danish state and five major business organizations” which include The Danish Wind Industry Association, The Danish Construction Association, The Confederation of Danish Industries, the Danish Agricultural Council and the Danish Energy Association.
Ten of the wind turbines on the tour were owned by the Energy Company Dong Energy, whose CEO we were accompanied by on the tour. While the remaining ten turbines belong to a cooperative, which are “a number of Copenhagen citizens own a share of the turbines.”
A few important facts:
- The Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm has a total capacity of 40 MW and consists of 202 MW Bonus turbines and is supplying approx. 3 percent of the electricity consumption in Copenhagen.
- Denmark is the first country in which wind power represents more than 20% of the electricity supply, and we believe that a realistic scenario for 2020 is one in which wind power represents 50%.
- More than 90% of all offshore wind turbines worldwide come from Danish companies.