COP15: China and US make their moves
27 November 2009: The temperature is rising, 9 days before Copenhagen. The hope I expressed last week about a secret China-US scheme for Copenhagen was satisfied within a week. Yesterday both China and the US published their first bids in the negotiations. That cannot be a coincidence. You can be quite sure that Presidents Hu and Obama pre-cooked this one a week ago.
The value of the US pledge
The US announcement - an emission reduction of 17% compared to 2005 - was basically nothing more than Obama already advocated during his election campaign. It copies the minimum bid of the Congress climate bill, but it is lower than the 20% pledge in the Senate bill that is still under discussion.
However, the confirmation by Obama was well-timed. Although the bid is considerably lower than the Japanese or EU bids, it is an important step towards further negotiations. Obama also announced to travel to Copenhagen, although he will leave before his colleagues will be there. Or will he attend Copenhagen twice?
The value of the China pledge
Also, yesterday, China presented its target: 40% to 45% less emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020, compared to 2005. However, nothing was said about the expected increase of the Chinese GDP, so 40% to 45% reduction of - what…? We are still guessing about the development of greenhouse gas emissions in China.
One thing is for sure: emissions in China will still rise. Analysis by Ecofys shows that - depending on the GDP-scenario of choice – the emissions will still be 10 to 11 billion tonnes of CO2 (including all non-CO2 greenhouse gases), instead of a regular 13 billion tonnes if business stays as usual.
Moreover, the pledge seems to be (a little) less ambitious than the energy efficiency and renewable policies that are already in place in China! Of course we should judge this bid in the light of the international negotiations. Everybody is keeping their cards close to their chest.
More important than the actual values of the targets: it is the first time that the US has announced a commitment and the first time China has commited to international targets at all! The US pledge is far less satisfactory, because we should expect more from a developed country.
Such a commitment really lifts the climate policy to a higher level. The US finally joins the international community. China will agree on guidelines for collection and verification of data, for instance broken down in provinces and sectors. Policies will be enforced more easily.
Of course Yvo de Boer, the chief of the UN climate bureau, applauds both pledges. "[This] can unlock two of the last doors to a comprehensive agreement.” The US/China news also helps him to upgrade the possible Copenhagen agreement again. During a press conference in Bonn earlier this week, De Boer tried hard to compensate for any pessimism. He announced ‘a historic turning point’ without any plan B. “I expect a set of decisions recorded in black and white. We maybe in need of a short time to finalise a treaty after Copenhagen, but there is no risk to postpone a decision.”
Let’s recall history in order to learn some lessons. In 2000, the sixth Conference of Parties convened in The Hague, the Netherlands. The main challenge was to work out the Kyoto Protocol, but negotiations about implementation of the protocol stalled on a text of some 150 pages. Halfway through the two-week congregations, COP-president Jan Pronk decided to rewrite the text into a ten-page political paper. This accelerated the negotiations very much, resulting in a further commitment in Bonn six months later and a final Marrakesh agreement during COP7, one year later. Maybe we can apply this to Copenhagen…
Posted 08/12/2009 by Rolf de Vos
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