COP15: deadlock until mid December?
19 November 2009: Last week, the world’s leaders present at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Singapore, and the environment ministers at the pre-COP15 in Copenhagen, publicly confirmed a downgrading of the Copenhagen summit. A ‘legally binding agreement’ about climate change policies will take at least 6 to 12 months extra.
Many bilateral negotiations are still pending, but as one source said to us: “they only seem to sharpen the edges. Nothing much can be expected before 17 and 18 December, when Government leaders will meet in Copenhagen".
But then again, the extreme pessimism in the media needs some nuance. Coming from absolute point-zero, Government leaders might like the idea of throwing themselves up as saviours of the world. Pleasant surprises can not be excluded. But those will only occur on-stage in Copenhagen, and not by phone from Washington or Beijing.
What’s in a word?
A ‘politically binding agreement’ is said to be the highest possible goal. But many countries are utterly puzzled by this phrase, because they don’t know what it means. ‘Political’ will be any outcome, and ‘binding’ will be no outcome until it will be ratified?
But it will make no real difference if Government leaders unanimously commit to some figures about reduction targets and funding. For instance: everybody is waiting for a US bid. And China is still opposing a commitment to a global 50% emission reduction by 2050. But there is still some room to move.
Communication lines will be short in Copenhagen. At least Government leaders don’t need a mandate from ‘someone above’, because they are the ones on top.
Obama and Hu
The world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases (together more than 40% of the world) met in Beijng last week. Barack Obama and Hu Jintao stressed that they want a real ambitious outcome from Copenhagen, “with immediate operational effect”, but they did not yet confirm that they will travel to Copenhagen.
But following Obama’s reasoning that he will only travel to Copenhagen if he can make a difference, can be reversed: Copenhagen will only have impact if Obama travels to the Danish capital and provides some figures. Logical conclusion: Obama will attend. But where do logics stand if politics prevail?
Kyoto Protocol revisited
The opposed ideas of China and the US are one of the main reasons for the negotiations’ deadlock right now. The contrast between the two has culminated in the last few months in the dispute about the Kyoto Protocol.
Opposed to what many think, the Kyoto Protocol does not end in 2012, only the first commitment period will be finalised. In a discussion that may be technical, China wants to continue the Kyoto Protocol, including binding targets for developed countries. The EU (among others) is supporting this. But the US, that never ratified Kyoto, wants a completely new agreement without the Kyoto elements.
Hu and Obama did not give any clues about attempts of reconciliation during their press conferences. One may only hope that behind closed doors these two heavyweights have pre-cooked a terrific dish for Copenhagen.
In the last week, three new offers have been provided by three countries. Yesterday, South-Korea announced a 4% emissions cut by 2020, meaning 30% less emissions than business-as-usual. Brazil pledged for a 36% to 39% reduction by 2020 (compared to business-as-usual), using its own target of reducing the deforestation rate by 80%. And finally, Russia, indirectly has promised the EU to increase the reduction targets from 15% - to 22%-25% by 2020 (compared to 1990).
Click here for details of commitments to date
Posted 08/12/2009 by Rolf de Vos
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