by Martin Khor
Monday 30 Nov
race to save Copenhagen
on climate targets by the US
and Chinese Presidents last week are part of the moves by world leaders
to save the Copenhagen conference on
climate change from failure. Developing countries are angry with the
downgrading of expectations.
Last week saw a
flurry of activities by some world leaders to give impetus to the Copenhagen
conference on climate change, after gloom cast on it when it was made
known that there would be no legally binding agreement to be expected
Obama of the United States and President Hu Jintao of China on Thursday
announced 2020 targets for their countries. For the US this would be cuts to Greenhouse
Gas emissions. For China, it would
be reducing the emission intensity of GNP.
by the two most important countries in terms of total emissions gave
a boost to the mood in climate politics just a week before delegates
arrive for the Copenhagen meeting.
In reality, the
chances of success of Copenhagen is in the balance.
The definition of what would constitute success has changed, in fact
downgraded. No longer is there any possibility of a final set of agreements.
There are deep divisions on key issues that cannot be resolved in time.
At best, Copenhagen will come up with a framework intended
to lead to a final deal. But many leaders hope that this framework
can at least have some key details. For example, the United
Kingdom's climate minister Ed Miliband says that
there have to be figures on the emission reduction targets of developed
countries, and on adequate finances for developing countries, otherwise
will be a failure.
At the APEC Summit
in Singapore, a breakfast
meeting of leaders that included US President Barrack Obama concluded
that there would not be a legally-binding agreement, but some kind of
“political declaration” that would somehow be “binding.”
To many analysts,
this constitutes a climb-down from the “seal the deal” goal that the
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has campaigned for. No one is sure
what a “political declaration” would look like and how this can be “binding”
or have legal effect.
The UN General Assembly
convened a meeting on 19 November to discuss the status of the climate
talks. At that meeting, the developing countries strongly attacked
the lack of commitment by the developed countries either to cut their
emissions or to provide financing to developing countries, or even to
retain the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol. This, they said, is what
has caused the downgrading of expectations for Copenhagen.
Ban tried to reassure the General Assembly that Copenhagen is still on track. He said that
news reports had recently portrayed that Copenhagen
is destined to be a “disappointment”, but this was wrong. He countered
this perception with examples of individual countries' pledges on emissions
However, the Chair
of the G77 and China, Ambassador Abdalmahmood Mohamad of Sudan, said the
developing countries were extremely disappointed that the Copenhagen
Conference did not seem to be able to result in the final outcomes needed
and this was a major setback. It said Parties should not pretend otherwise
by using words such as a “legally binding political declaration”.
For the G77 and
most important outcome should be adopting the second commitment period
of the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty that implements the legal commitment
of industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
Instead the developed
countries are moving to exit from this Protocol, and this is the main
cause of the present impasse. Without a Kyoto Protocol decision, Copenhagen
cannot succeed, said the group.
speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said the group
was concerned over attempts to water down results of Copenhagen. It insisted that an internationally
legally binding outcome at Copenhagen is both technically
and legally feasible.
At the end of the
2-hour session, Ban acknowledged the deep concerns of the developing
countries about there being a major setback or deep disappointment as
there would be no treaty agreed upon in Copenhagen.
But this should not be seen as a failure as Copenhagen will lay the
foundation for a legally-binding agreement, he said.
However, as the
meeting ended, the mood among many delegates, at least those from developing
countries, was that there would be a setback in Copenhagen.
Several delegates said they had the impression after listening to the
speakers that the conference would not result in a final legally binding
outcome, and they were uncertain whether there would be a clear decision
on the emission reduction commitments of developed countries, which
is the foundation of many other decisions.
The G77 and China highlighted their most serious
concern, that many developed-country members of the Kyoto Protocol want
to move away from this Protocol and move towards another agreement whose
nature is not understood.
“There is a danger
of a downgrading of the commitments of developed countries from an internationally
legally binding commitment in the Kyoto Protocol to an inferior agreement
involving each country pledging its national programme, with no aggregate
figure for developed countries overall, and which is not legally binding,”
said the Sudanese Ambassador.
The group was also
very disappointed with the very low overall reduction figure arising
from the national announcements from developed countries so far, which
is only 11 to 18 per cent (including the US).
“The main impasse
that has led to downgrading of expectations in Copenhagen
is the uncertainty caused by the actions of the developed countries
on whether they are willing to commit to a second period for Kyoto Protocol,
and whether their emission reduction targets are good enough,” said
the G77 chair.
He asked if the
Secretary General and the Denmark representative could assure the Group
that the developed country members of the Kyoto Protocol will remain
in the Kyoto Protocol and will make adequate commitments of at least
40% cut by 2020 (from 1990 levels), and will finish the negotiations
in the Kyoto Protocol track by the time Copenhagen is concluded. Without
such an assurance, it will be hard to see how Copenhagen
will be a success, he said.
The Copenhagen Conference
must not end only with mere rhetorical political statements. There must
be concrete commitments from the developed countries on their emission
reduction figures, and commitments on finance, as well as decisions
to establish a finance mechanism and a technology mechanism.
Mr. Ban said he believed that Parties will reach a deal in Copenhagen that sets the
stage for a binding treaty as soon as possible in 2010. He said that
political momentum was building almost daily. He urged Parties to stay
positive, come to Copenhagen and seal a deal.
Despite last week's
announcements by the US and Chinese Presidents, the prospects are not
so bright that Copenhagen
will “seal the final deal”. Hopefully the conference can agree to a
framework and basis of an eventual deal in 2010 that is both fair
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