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After the failure of Copenhagen to agree a new climate treaty, expectations for this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP-16) in Cancún, Mexico are lower.  Cancun also hosts the sixth meeting of the COP/MOP – the same Parties, minus the US – meeting as Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Contrary to popular belief, the Protocol does not expire in 2012, only its first commitment period ends then. So the first big issue is the future of the Kyoto Protocol.  We certainly hope it will – not least it would waste more than a decade of negotiations. But even worse, what we would get now would almost certainly be weaker – no compliance, weaker accounting and targets for developed countries.

The other big question remains – what about the US and its mitigation? and what how far will action by  China and some other developing countries go?  Without broader efforts, the problem simply cannot be solved.  Which brings us back to a treaty, because without new obligations, there seems little chance that the level of ambition will be high enough to address the root cause – human emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).

However much is agreed, it is already clear that some impacts of climate change are unavoidable. Adaptation is therefore the other major issue.  Here, the key will be to create a more coherent legal framework to implement practical adaptation actions – and to fund them. The funding issue is particularly critical in the most vulnerable countries, which tend to be the poorest – Least Developed Countries, small island developing states and Africa.

A “set of balanced decisions” is how  many negotiators see the outcome from Cancún. Decisions would include REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries), technology transfer, finance and adaptation.  The question is whether that’s all, or whether that sets up “legally binding agreement” – a new treaty in future. Or even better, if Cancún can agree to launch a treaty negotiation – or indeed two – one to continue the Kyoto Protocol and another to have a new treaty that would include the US and some developing countries on mitigation, a framework for implementing adaptation, and new financial obligations by  developed countries to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.

For more info on the Cancún meeting, read

ECO, the NGO newsletter;

the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, with blow-by-blow accounts;


Climate change negotiations closed Saturday 19 September without reaching an internationally legally binding agreement. Re-reading them on the morning after makes for disappointment, given what was needed. But it also shows that key issues did move – for some.

The benchmark was high. South Africa  had pushed for a two-track agreement – amendments to the Kyoto Protocol setting up a 2nd commitment period, and a legally binding agreement under the Convention to bring in the US, bind finance for adaptation and mitigation and, in return, allow some developing countries to commit to actions on mitigation, with support.

These very substantial issues have not been capable of agreement in the UNFCCC for the last two years – four on the Kyoto track. In Copenhagen, Parties were still too far apart – and too obsessed with process rather than substance – to reach agreement in the formal negotiating process. Process is important, since it determines outcomes, but some ill-restrained interventions combined with poor decisions by those guiding the process meant that process problems caused the loss of three days – previous time indeed.

To move forward the process, the COP Presidency (taking over the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen from his Climate Minister, Connie Hedegaard) convened a ‘commitment circle’ of Heads of State and Government drawn from the UN process. These included chairs of regional groups and key interests (e.g. OPEC, small islands, least developed countries), but notably excluded Latin American Bolivarian countries – the ALBA group – not helped by the fact that Latin America has for years not coordinated the region effectively.

With the direct involvement of South African President Jacob Zuma and other world leaders, Copenhagen did reach a political agreement on many of the issues preventing progress. Those central to critical disagreements were able to resolve issues politically – but not all. And without representation from ALBA, the political deal could not – and indeed should not have been – agreed in the Conference of the Parties, the formal UNFCCC process. In the end, the Copenhagen Accords were put into a box – attached to a very short decision that also forwards the bracketed negotiators’ texts to the next meetings and to the COP in Mexico

In  particular, the political deal resolved important issues:
Bringing the US in, by agreeing how to record economy-wide binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, including the USA; these would need to be turned into commitments attached to a legally binding instrument;
Simultaneously, for the first time, creating a space to record at international  level the emission reducdtion actions by the more advanced developing countries. Information from  China, India, Brazil, South Africa, but also Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, as well as some small countries Philippines, Maldives was available, but formally must be submitted by 31st January 2010, at the same time that developed countries must put in their quantified emission reduction commitments
The leaders represented also agreed how to internationally measure, report and verify developing countries’ mitigation action, resolving a key dispute over review vs transparency;
Actions will be supported by transparently accounted finance $10 bn per year up to 2012, i.e. approaching $30bn immediately up to 2012 and $100 billion per year by 2020. The long-term finance is still beset by conditionalities, but it is the first time that this scale of money is on the table.
The broad institutional architecture for a technology development and transfer mechanism.

The Copenhagen Accord did not deliver on other issues. There was lack of agreement on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. An attempt by South Africa in the final plenary to get the Kyoto ratifiers to agree to continue the second commitment period was again blocked by the EU – even after the decision had been gavelled through. The level of ambition of developed countries targets remains low (14-19% below 1990 level by 2020) – which implies that developing countries must do more, or the finance will have to become real, unconditional and internationally verified. In short, there needs to be agreement on the equitable sharing of the remaining carbon development space (very little left), a long term target to cut emissions (the language on 50% reductdions by 2050 from 1990 levels was dropeed) and a comprehensive international adaptation programme as a priority. These gaps, together with process problems, prevented consensus agreement to adopt this deal by all 193 countries.

This first reading suggests that work can go forward.  Much more reflection and analysis will be needed to fully digest what really happened in Copenhagen.  Certainly it was not the break-through that the world expected and the climate needed.  It is weak, in that it is partial, and political rather than legally binding. But with some key issues resolved among world leaders represented should help move forward.  Where, how and when that happens will occupy us for a while.

The Copenhagen Accord was done between a smaller group of leaders, not in the full Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC

Herewith a brief summary of the main elements of the Copenhagen Accord – more analysis will follow tomorrow:
•    No clear statement on continuing Kyoto with commitments by developed countries for a 2nd period – but still references to Kyoto, who’s fate remains in the balance
•    No numbers on mitigation in the text. In earlier versions, there were tables with quantified emission reduction targets for developed countries (including the US at 17% below 2005 levels by 2020) and goals to reduce growth in emissions by several developing countries , but these numbers did not make it into the final document
•    Agreed to continue the existing working bodies.
•    Recognises scientific view of staying below 2 °C (does not mention ‘above pre-industrial levels’)
•    Reference to IPCC AR4
•    Review turned into “an assessment of implementation” of Art 2, “include consideration of strengthening long-term goal”, i.e. not mid-term goals. AT the time of reviewing, a lower temperature goal, 1.5 °C will be considered
•    Adaptation – mixed with response measures !  implementation in developing countries, esp LDCS and SIDS, and Africa
•    Annex I:  no numbers, not even long-term goal of 80% from 1990 by 2050; KP Annex I “will further strengthen the emissions reductions initiated by the Kyoto Protocol” – NO reference to a 2nd commitment period
•    LONG paragraph on nationally appropriate mitigation actions; deal done by US with China then sold to others. Art 4.1, 4.7 and 12.b; LDCS and SIDS voluntarily; MRV for supported NAMAs AND unsupported (latter with domestic MRV, reported through national communications). No more SBI review any more
•    REDD paragraph
•    Various approaches, including use of markets
•    Long-term finance – “developed countries set a goal of mobilising jointly 100 bn  – wide variety of sources, public / private, bi- multi-lateral, “alternative”; equal representation
•    High Level Panel – will look contribution of potential sources
•    Copenhagen Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the financial mechanism
•    Technology Mechanism
•    LISTS pledges
o    Emission reductions (NO commitments) made by AIPs; rnages with US at -14% to -17% below 2005 ‘under consideration’
o    Voluntary mitigation pledges of developing country Parties – SA at 32% from BAU by 2020, 42% by 2025 (conditional on support!)
o    Pledges for short-term fiannce – for 2010 – 2012: EU 10.6 bn, Japan 11 bn, USA 3.6  (does NOT add up to $ 30 bn)

See the full document in tag or below.  However, it will be attached as a shorter decision, not be a decision in itself, – to indicate its status as a declaration of some Heads of State, but not all.

Throughout the UNFCCC COP15 Conference the common call has been the need for the process to end with a Fair, Ambitious and Binding deal. Being in Copenhagen fills one with the sense of urgency to contribute towards clinching a deal. While us as observers are disappointed that we were not allowed into the Bella Center for the last two days, world leaders are expressing their frustration that we do not have a deal yet. So what can we do? Well, the simple message seems to be that countries need to be more accommodating of each other and we need to act now – in Copenhagen. The past week has involved a combination of working groups, high level segments as well as the unmistakable voicing of concerns by activists both inside and outside the Bella Center. Of our ERC team A/Prof Harald Winkler and Dr Andrew Marquard form part of the South African Delegation to the talks.

We’ve also seen the continued action by activists inside and outside the Bella Center with some of the outside protests turning violent. The clear indication is that people are no longer willing to go home empty handed.

The long-awaited arrival of President of the US President Barack Obama was finally over this morning. There has been criticism that the US and China were preventing a political agreement to emerge over climate change. In the backdrop of these criticisms, President Obama met with world leaders, prominent amongst these being from Russia and China. In his speech this morning he reinforced that if unchecked climate change will generate drastic negative impacts on the natural and human environment. That ‘…Our ability to take collective action is in doubt’, and that he ‘comes today not to talk but to act’, ‘as the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest emitter’ America is responsible to take action.

What has the US done? Obama highlighted that the US has worked with both internationally and domestically to undertake historic actions to support renewable energy and comprehensive and transformative action to address climate change. He indicates that the way that fuel is used in the US determines their economy and that the way energy is used determines how their economy will develop. Clean energy production can create employment and economic growth in the context of a financial crisis. Ultimately the way forward involves mitigating emissions and moving towards a clean energy economy which can only be done through collective global action to make economies stronger and better off. This is only possible if countries work together and hold each other accountable to certain commitments. After months of talk and two weeks of final negotiations accompanied by numerous side-meetings he believes that the pieces of that accord should be clear.

Obama closed his speech saying that ‘we can be part of making a historic decision now which determines lives of future generations or we can do nothing‘ and leave climate change to persist worsen our lives and those of future generations. Ultimately, he reaffirmed that there is ‘no time to wait’ that the US is ready to get a deal signed today but more importantly than a deal is that there has to be movement on all sides and it would be ‘better [to] choose action to inaction‘.

For the moment we’ll have to leave it to the world leaders to ensure that COP15 fulfills its intentions – to fulfill our hope for a better future for current and future generations…

Tutu’s famous words:
“We marched in Berlin, and the wall fell.
We marched for South Africa, and apartheid fell.
“We marched at Copenhagen — and we WILL get a Real Deal.”